Friday, September 16, 2011

BTS Night Debacle

So last night was back to school night at my son's school.  I like back to school nights.  I think they are a great way to get a feel for the school and the teachers as well as a great opportunity to get to know the other parents.  It's always interesting to meet the parents of the kids I hear so much about.  The parents seem far more normal that the texts I have read from their kids to my son about them!

Last night was my first BTS night at the school my son attends.  The last 2 BTS nights were in our old school district.  It was pretty interesting to see how two different middle schools approached the event.

Last night, our grade started by going to each of the classes on our kids' schedules.  I knew where to start, but son's mom grabbed up the paperwork so, I basically had to follow the herd from class to class since I didnt have a schedule.  No biggie.  It can't be that hard, right?

It wasn't. What was hard was the timing.  We only got 7 minutes in each class.  I was trying to figure out why we were being rushed from place to place, given that the last session was labeled as a "Meet the Related Arts Teachers" session.  Each of the 7 minute sessions was really about 5 minutes by the time we got settled.  It didn't leave much time for substantive discussions and it left NO time for personal questions.

Each teacher was great about making sure we felt comfortable with contacting them, but everything seemed pretty rushed and no one got through their entire presentation.  Once we we finished with the regular teachers, we were all herded into the gym for the "Meet the Related Arts Teachers" session.  Then it became clear why the rest of the night had been rushed. 

The school district, in its infinite wisdom, had contracted with a guest speaker to deliver a speech on all of the problems that are facing today's middle schoolers.  He got as much time for his spiel as all of the rest of the teachers combined.  It's 45 minutes of my life that I want back.  After a cursory point int the direction of the gym, art, music and Spanish teachers, John Kriger was introduced.

I've seen the standard 'The World is a Dangerous Place' talk before.  Last year, the community police officer in Mount Laurel did a great job introducing 5th grade parents to the dangers of sexting, Facebook and other issues.  He had real world examples drawn directly from our community and he was able to convey facts with authority as well as offer practical solutions. I don't live in Mount Laurel anymore, but I still have his name and number in my phone in case I have a question.

Tabernacle, though, doesn't have a home town police department, so instead went to a paid speaker.  I sure hope they didn't pay John Kriger much for his 45 minutes of fear-mongering and lecturing on 'the problems of this generation' of kids. 

Kriger presented in a warm, modulated voice, running though his slides and interacting in a friendly way with the audience.  He seems like a grandfatherly bank vice president when he's up there. A very competent seeming guy. It was his message that was just silly.

His basic theme was that technology has ruined kids.  He went on and on about the internet and being connected 24/7 and how it has ended family time, reduced concentration ability, endangered health and essentially made kids slobbering fools.

He also wanted to make sure we were terrified of bath salts (now banned), energy drinks (the same effect on the body as cocaine!!!!????), 4Loko (reformulated already) and of course Farmville.  

For every one of his pronouncements about technology and kids, I could imagine my parents sitting in the same gym 30 years ago hearing about the dangers of Movies glamorizing drinking and drugs, or their parents hearing about the dangers of television or my great grandparents hearing about the dangers of radio.

Humans evolve.  Technology changes.  Drugs of abuse have been part of human existence for eternity.  Growing up and parenting can have some scary moments, but the message last night was that kids can't possibly handle the evil place the world has become and parents are just not doing the job.

There were wild claims, unsupported statements, dated 'news' and questionable science.  And I was left wondering to what end this man was lecturing us.  He never really explained.  Just let us know that we needed to turn off our devices and be ever vigilant.

Never once did he mention how much more able this generation of kids is to collaborate, to sift though vast amounts of information to make decisions and to accept change.  Instead, he made blanket statements about colleges saying that kids are more unprepared than ever for the rigors of college work.  As a college enrollment officer, I can tell you that Kriger is dead wrong on that.  Students today are prepared for college in a different way than any generation before, but that's because the world is a very different place.

As the parents grumbled, Kriger pushed on, apparently oblivious to the fact that he had lost most of us.  A few brave souls, confident of their ability to parent their children, got up and left.  A hilarious moment came when several members of the audience spontaneously joined the volunteer fire company and bolted from the room when a fire call was sounded.

In the end my major issue was that this guy got way too much time for his alarmist agenda and the teachers got far too little time to talk to us.  He was a poor choice for a speaker, but the really poor choice was to maximize his time and minimize our potential to interact with the most important non-family members in their lives, their teachers.


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