Arizona Republic
 June 30, 2007


 The (Phoenix, AZ) Estimated printed pages: 2

Public schools teach their students at the learning pace of the second-worst student in each class.

Fifty-five years ago, when I was in elementary school, the second-dumbest kid would have been Joe.

Joe's family had a black-and-white TV and one car. Joe's mother stayed home and raised Joe and his siblings. Joe's father went to work in a factory.

Everyone in the home spoke English. The TV programs were in English. There were children's books in the house, all in English.

Joe's mom used a checkbook. She used it to pay the monthly bills. She balanced it at the end of each month. Once a year, Joe's mom would fill out the family income tax form. Joe saw his mom working with numbers.

Joe's mom read the morning paper after the kids were off to school. (Joe's father read the paper after dinner.) Joe's mom read to all the children when they were young, before they learned to read.

Joe's parents were both high school graduates. They both spoke English.

Joe was a slow learner, but it wasn't obvious to the rest of the class. It didn't seem to matter 55 years ago.

Today, Jose would be the name of the second-dumbest kid in the class. Jose's family has two cars and two TVs. Jose's mother works in a restaurant. His father works in construction. Everyone in the home speaks Spanish. Both TVs are always tuned to Spanish-language stations. Jose's parents don't have a checking account. They pay everything in cash. Nobody fills out an income tax form at the end of the year. They are paid in cash at their jobs. Jose doesn't ever see his parents using numbers.

Jose's parents don't take a newspaper, in English or Spanish. There are no books in the home. Jose was not read to as a child. Jose doesn't ever see his parents reading, in English or Spanish.

Jose's parents completed the sixth grade in Mexico. They don't speak English. Jose speaks enough English to get by.

Jose is a slow learner, but today it does make a difference. Jose is dragging the class down to the level of a primitive Third-World country.
Jose will drop out of school when he turns 15. His classmates will graduate from high school and go onto community college. If they study hard and graduate from there, they will then have the equivalent education of a high school graduate in Japan.

If Joe were here today and enrolled in Jose's school, he would be recognized for being the high achiever that he is, and placed in the program for "gifted" students.

After Thomas Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase, he said, "Now that our country extends from sea to shining sea, the only way we can be destroyed is from within."

He just didn't know that this would be the way it would be done.

-- Don Yellen, Mesa
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Opinions
Page: B5