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Education Reporter

13-Year-Old Tells What It's
Really Like in Public School

The following letter was written by a 13-year-old girl from Grant's Pass, Oregon. It is reprinted here with her mother's permission.

I am a 7th grader at Fleming Middle School. I transferred from a private school about three months before the end of the school year.

I expected a school where I could go and learn something, but I got a big surprise. Everyone was nice at first, but after a few weeks, I quickly found out that everything is not always as it seems.

First of all, the education level there is very low. My math work is similar to work I did in 5th grade, yet no one moved me to a more challenging class. I feel that I have fallen behind tremendously in the level of work that I was doing at private school.

The teaching methods are counter-productive to the way that I am used to learning. We are frequently asked to pick what we want to learn, then are sometimes expected to teach ourselves. A teacher's aide is sometimes supposed to help us, but often they just talk and disturb our work. The noise level gets out of control a lot which makes it hard to study or to get any of our work done.

One of my teachers is frequently late or absent due to "site-council" meetings. My class is so used to having a substitute, it is a shock to see our teacher back in class.

Group learning is used in all of my classes. It does not work because the smart kid in the group ends up doing all the work while the rest of the kids sit around and talk. When the work is finished, the kids who sat around and talked snatch up the paper like hungry wolves. Group learning also means that the individual student loses control over the quality of the work that she will be graded on.

In English class, we are reading and performing "Driving Miss Daisy." My group decided to call it "Driving Over Miss Daisy." In their version, Miss Daisy goes to bars, gets drunk, smokes and plays poker. The Piggly Wiggly store is a bar in their version. When Miss Daisy's chauffeur gets sick of her, he runs her over. I totally disagree with this because it adulterates the original play. But, to go against my group would make me "uncool." Our teacher has allowed this version as a "variation," and my group will be performing it the way they want.

Most kids use filthy language at school. The "F" word is the word that is used the most. Students who are heard using bad language are barely disciplined at all. Students also write filthy words in notes and on school property. Some students have pictures of barely-dressed women in their lockers, and one boy has his locker "wallpapered" with condoms. Feminine hygiene products can be found lying around by the locker rooms and on the nature trail.

I experienced sexual harassment every day. Both male and female students behave and speak very suggestively. Not only is this tolerated, it is expected in order to be "cool." Both male and female students grab each other in inappropriate places on their bodies. Sex is talked about all the time, and in nasty ways, such as "household pets and family members you might have had sex with." If a person has any values or morals at all, they are considered a "geek."

Some students spend time out of class to get counseling. They never seem to have to make up their work. We are asked all the time, "How are you feeling?" I am tired of all the self-evaluation and self-esteem building. My personal life is my business, and if I want to talk about something, I'll talk to God or my parents. I would rather talk to people who know me and love me than teachers and students that I am unfamiliar with. I have been made to feel stupid for telling my mom what's going on in my life. According to some of the students, that's not a good thing to do.

I tried to think of anything good about my experience at Fleming Middle School. I did like some of my teachers, but overall, I feel very disappointed. I would rather do real schoolwork than the unchallenging things we are asked to do. I feel a little confused because there didn't seem to be a clear line between right and wrong; everything got all lumped together.

I am looking forward to being homeschooled next year.

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