Today in the Atlanta Journal Constitution there was an excerpt (which I cannot find available online) of the new book by Jonathan Kozol titled Letters to a Young Teacher . The chapter excepted was titled Down with Middle School. I was especially interested in what he had to say, since I am a parent of a new middle schooler and I have previously taught in a K-8 school. He was talking about inner city schools specifically, but his suggestion was, do away with middle schools. Have K-8 schools, where older students can mentor or help "teach" the younger students, have the older students have a sense of responsibility for the younger students in the school. I have to say, that I agree with this. One of the things I loved about working in a K-8 school is that the middle school kids had younger "buddy" classes that they read to or did projects with throughout the year. My daughter is STILL in touch with her 8th grade buddy that she had in kindergarten, she is in 4th grade now and the "buddy" will be graduating high school this year.
He also touches on the fact that so many of middle and high schools are overcrowded. I am in the MECCA of large schools. My current school has an enrollment of about 1100 students (K-5), believe it or not, we are not overcrowded or even over the projected enrollment for our building size, we are just a HUGE school. Now, many of the middle and high schools in this area do not face the problems that Mr. Kozol talks about, such as the schools looking worn down since many of the schools in my area are new, but I am certain that many of the schools are affected in many ways because of their sizes. One of the quotes from the article that I loved was : "I believe aesthetics count a great deal in the education of our children. Beautiful surroundings refine the souls of children. Ugly surroundings coarsen their mentalities. It's one of the most decisive ways in which we draw the line of caste and class between two very different sectors of our student population." It makes me feel good about what I do in the media center in terms of making it a bright and inviting place to be."
I now have to go check the book out of the library, I am very interested in what else he has to say on the subject of education in America today.