Let’s set the record straight on progress

In last Saturday’s Federal Way Mirror, D. Hagan, a teacher at Panther Lake Elementary School, criticized me. She then continued to mention the usual suspects, Charlie Hoff and Bill Pirkle, as just a bunch of negative naysayers, so let me set the record straight:

• I volunteered weekly in her class working with children at risk.

• I helped raised $500 to buy much-needed books for her class.

• Charlie, Bill and I continue to tutor children of color.

• Four days after surgery, I was back working with the same at-risk children.

What surprised me the most was that did she never said thank you for helping out. If this teacher spent more time teaching and less time criticizing volunteers, maybe the achievement scores would be better.

Dr. Martin Luther King said “there can be no great disappointment without great love.” I love this district and the children who go to school here. You can get a great education if you pay attention to the opportunities here.

I thought that we where making progress with the new math standards. However, after reviewing the new rules from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, I am not so sure. The standards are still allowing the use of calculators for 8-year-olds who do not even know their multiplication tables. Why in God’s name would they continue this sham? If these children are allowed to use a calculator but do not know their multiplication tables, how do they learn division?

We have spent millions of dollars on this “so-called fuzzy math” that includes this test called the WASL. The so-called experts have made a lot of money and our scores keep getting worse, which is why we continue to lose ground when we are tested against other countries.

There are parents, teachers and politicians who know that we can and should do better on behalf of these children, but we have failed them. The world has changed but our K-12 system has not. We continue to believe that we are the richest country in the world and we are the best at everything. That is true in a lot of ways, but most Americans in their heart believe that something is terribly wrong in this society. Parents believe that their kids are not learning. The politically correct crowd makes fun of old-fashioned values. That people who believe in God are weak. They also believe that the sanctity of life and patriotism are not important.

The reality is that those same values have made this country the last great hope for mankind.

Mahatma Gandhi said the roots of violence are wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, worship without sacrifice and politics without principles.

We must find the courage and the vision and the money so that our children can have a future that we can be proud we left them.

Walter Backstrom is a Federal Way resident. Contact: wkbackstrom@aol.com.

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