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Board cuts sets S-S students back

By Tim Barnum|News Editor
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Posted 8/12/09

At the Board of Education meeting on Monday, a Spanish/geography teacher supposedly had to be hired to ensure that students can get a well-rounded education, and as was also pointed out, the class of 2014, eighth graders this year, will need two years of foreign language to graduate.

That’s correct, but Standish-Sterling’s (S-S for the sake of room in the column) School Board cut out the pre-kindergarten just minutes before hiring a new teacher for foreign language – the fourth one in the district now.

Superintendent Michael Dodge said that learning a foreign language helps students become better readers and helps them compete in a global economy.

No doubt about it he’s right, but being a better reader doesn’t start in middle school or in high school, when children can start learning foreign languages, but at a young age.

Or, to be specific, before starting kindergarten.

The average five-year-old in East Asia can count to 40. The average five-year-old in the U.S. can count to 15.

Now, take out that chance for a child to go to school prior to turning five, such as all the schools in Arenac County, with the help of the Michigan State Senate, recently did.

Maybe it’ll drop down to only being able to count to 10 for the average five-year-old. Then Arenac County and Michigan kids, when they need to learn the most to get ahead and make strides educationally, can be three-quarters behind children in Asia.

How can we say we’re setting up kids to compete in a global economy by putting them a year behind, when other countries already go to school longer and, such as the case in China, language make math easier (25 plus 35 in Chinese is read as two 10’s and a five plus three 10’s and a five, making the addition simpler)?

And the fact that Standish-Sterling has four foreign language teachers, to me, is amusing. A new one had to be hired so another could focus on French?

Let’s scrap French class altogether. And I’M NOT JOKING!

How many countries in the world speak French? Obviously, France, a few provinces in Canada, and a few countries in Africa that the French people colonized, exploited and left in poverty.

How many speak Spanish? Well, there’s almost all of Central and South America (plenty of developing economies), Spain, the Caribbean nations, Mexico, and whether or not you want to accept it, a large portion of the United States.

If we want Arenac County students to have a chance to succeed in, as Mr. Dodge put it, a global economy, the school district should focus on getting them schooling as soon as they can, and not simply offering them a luxury, such as French class.

And shame on the State Senate for being so ignorant. It’s as though this state’s government learns less and less, and wants children in Michigan’s down trodden economy to have pathetic schools as well. In case they haven’t noticed, and I seriously wonder if they have, we can’t just depend on the auto industry to employ our whole state anymore.

We need to raise kids that can communicate across borders, especially across borders nearby and in developing nations that are important to the future of our country.

We also need kids who can at least have a chance to keep up with children in countries that already go to school more, for longer hours, and have natural advantages from language.

What say you Board of Education? Parents?

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Again Superintendent Dodge demonstrates his lack of knowledge concerning educational issues. Perhaps cuts should start with him. He has proven he can throw power around but he has yet to show that he knows how to function for the students or the staff.

Mr. Barnum this is one of your finest pieces to this date. It illustrates an understanding of the issues that we can only hope the Superintendent of SS attains one day. Thank you for having the confidence to present this problem in such an eloquent manner.

Thursday, August 13, 2009 | Report this

I think foreign language classes have more to do with the stimulation it provides the mind, more than mastering an actual second language. It forces students to think in ways that other traditional forms of education tend to shy away from.

I took four years of foreign language in high school (french) and 2 years in middle school (spanish), and admittedly, can barely remember a lick.

But, foreign language isn't something that can be easily taught in home or in a daycare center.

While it is sad that pre-k programs across the state are being cut, the pre-k curriculum is something that even the average parent or babysitter can step up and teach in the privacy of their own home.

These are the types of cuts made in a recession, it is now time for parents to step up and help take an active role in their child's education.

Yes, you may be tired after a hard days work, or you might have to blow off your weekend golf game to work with your child, but nobody said having children would be easy.

Friday, August 14, 2009 | Report this

Webby,

Today's parents do not have adequate time to teach their child everything they should know by kindergarten. Especially with so many divorces and such, and in the recession I'm sure parents are doing everything they can to put food on the table which leaves even less time for their children. I could understand if these cuts were without any additions, but when you add a FOURTH special languages teacher over Pre-K and building trades, that is just pathetic.

In the words of the Huge Sports Radio Show — Michael Dodge is not the man for the job.

Friday, August 14, 2009 | Report this

I sure didn't see Mr. Dodge standing up at the SSC's latest school board meeting telling the audience he would gladly give up his recent 3 percent raise for the good of the students. Mr. Dodge talks a good talk but he doesn't produce the actions to show he is sincere.

Poor choice for a superintendent. Looks like Mrs. Harder was right after all about him!

Sunday, August 16, 2009 | Report this

Tim, I think your article is right on the money and expresses what many local tax payers feel.We are hiring a teacher for a non required program in the high school when we should be offering it to the 6 th grade who require it and already have those teachers in place.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 | Report this

I was at the board meeting this morning. I can not believe that a board member can call out a member of the community, in this case, Tim Barnum, and not give that person a chance to respond! It is just another case of the board doing things a certain way when the need fits them. It was certainly alright for Mr. McFarland to criticize an editor FOR HIS OPINION but suddenly NOT alright for Mr. Barnum or others to respond. If it were not for Mr. Barnum or letters to the editor or similar posts from the public, students would not have a venue where ADULTS were looking out for them or at least giving a different side to a story. I personally do not disagree with Mr. Barnum's last week's editorial, basically, because I believe what he wrote to be true and unbiased. That is not only my right, but I was at the meeting and do not believe the editor manufactured facts.

Cuts are eminent. We all know that. You would have to live under a rock to not know the economy is bad and for Michiganders, there is no relief in sight. However, when you KNOW cuts are coming, handling them in a manner which proves you took the time to look at all angles and proves you were being PROFESSIONAL goes WAY beyond rolling your eyes at the public and board members whose opinion is not the same as yours. The childish antics of rolling eyes and uttering phrases like, "I've had enough!" are not what we need from our superintendent.

I would personally like to thank Mr. Eagan, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. LeClair who's efforts seem to be student led. Mr. LeClair made a motion to to take the next several months to a year to come up with a PLAN. A well thought out alternative to what is going on now. He, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Eagan were out-voted 4-3.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 | Report this

I AM A TAX PAYER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I PAY YOUR SALARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I agree with the fact that parents need to start with teaching their children at home. THAT IS PART OF BEING A PARENT. But, the fact is we can afford to send non-resident foreigners to headstart when we can't afford to spend the money on our own kids. Freakin stupid!!!!!!!!!!! Are you kidding me???????????????????????????????????????????????????The state comes out with the facts that kids learn more in the first 5 years of life and they don't start school until that time has past...........................................

I GUESS I NEED TO RUN FOR SCHOOL BOARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE..........DO ANY OF THE BOARD MEMBERS WE HAVE NOW HAVE A DEGREE IN ANYTHING OTHER THEN STUPIDITY????????????????????????????

Thursday, August 20, 2009 | Report this

OMG...............kids these days can't even write a complete sentence in PLAIN ENGLISH..................but man they can text.....is one of the new foreign languages going to include signing up for texting 101.......get real!!!!!

LOL

Thursday, August 20, 2009 | Report this

We need to recall 4 of the school board members and replace them with educated folks that have the courage to reexamine the Superintendent's contract. IMO he needs to be replaced by someone that actually cares about the education of our children.

Saturday, August 22, 2009 | Report this

How sad is this article? Misinformation and not an educated guess is the result. This article shows how limited and narrow minded someone is.

I believe the other teacher was hired to reduce the number of students in her classroom (close to 50 students per class. Ask me! I am one of the students) to a reasonable number. We all use internet and French is the second language in the computer world, NOT SPANISH, but again if you have low expectation than just Spanish is fine.

It is ironic how the article talks about the future of our country, but let’s learns only Spanish.

I have a question for Mr. Barnum: Have you ever learned a foreign language or traveled abroad??? My guess is NOT!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Report this

Just to clarify Moonglow's misconception, French is not a frequently spoken language in the realm of computer literate countries. 20-30 years or so ago it was the second language in many major Euopean industrial countries but not today. In today's business world English, Mandarin and Spanish are the most frequently spoken languages. French would not actually be considered a business language outside of France, it's provinces and Quebec. I travel abroad monthly and run a global business and can relate this in first person. I have an interesting case in my office here in Chicago, where I have a colleague that was born and raised in France, he is teaching his children Spanish and not any French.

Monday, August 24, 2009 | Report this

Thanks to Mr. Barnum for a well written editorial. He describes the current situation in the district very effectively. It is true that a minimum foreign language requirement is in place for upcoming classes (I thought it was the class of 2016, but could be mistaken), however, there is also an ongoing effort to repeal this requirement. If the requirement remains in place, we will need to offer our students foreign language courses, however, should we not have the funds to appropriately staff two foreign language offerings, then we need to simply offer one. Although it may be nice to give the students options, it is not required, and we should not do so at the expense of the core curriculum. Moonglow was upset at the large number of students in French class, and I also am not a fan of large class sizes. However, I am more concerned that our elementary classes have more than 28 plus students per class (which will grow if the elementary teachers Mr. Dodge has chosen to cut have to leave- depending on pending buy-outs) and that core classes in high school will still be overcrowded.

Thanks also to bgmason to explaining the world as I know it to moonglow. French is rarely spoken in the world of global business, unless you are in France on a business trip. English is the language of business with Mandarin Chinese coming on strong. As a former French student myself, it was disappointing to learn that my three years of college level French courses were pretty much useless to me in my everyday life. I work for a large global corporation and speak to customers, clients and colleagues in other countries daily. In 10 years here I have only spoken to native-French speakers a handful of times. I have spoken more often to folks who speak Spanish, Arabic, Hindu and even German than those who speak French.

I also encourage folks to read CleverBob’s comment on the “S-S Board introduces buyout package” Article. Too bad he is not our superintendent. His comments on the ill timing of these cuts are right on the money.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 | Report this

Moonglow demonstrates the lack of knowledge concerning the world and our nation that is evident in our high school students today. The blame should be given not to moonglow per se but to our Superintendent and to the four members of our Board who seem not to want to have the basics emphasized in our school. Time for a change.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | Report this

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