By Wild Chang
Recently, my 7th grade son came home with the HOME & SCHOOL COMPACT from Alvarado Middle School, as shown below, asking me to sign it so that he could return our signed copy to his homeroom teacher the following morning. Otherwise, he would not have any recess as a punishment by the homeroom teacher, also called “without any nutrition”. Since I was very busy running my campaign for the Rowland Unified School Board, I told my son that I needed time to review the Compact before I could sign it and before he was allowed to sign it. My son was very upset, because he did not want to be punished. I reassured my son that it should be alright as long as he relayed my message to the teacher that “I need time to study the school Compact and please do not punish my son. Please call my Dad, if he has any problem with my request.”
The following morning, my son told his homeroom teacher about my request, but was told by the teacher “You have to go to the office, because they are the ones who made this Compact.” My son was too afraid to go to the office that day. He came home demanding that we both sign the Compact to avoid the consequences.
On the way to school the second morning, I told my son to ask the office in charge of this Compact to give me a call. Very reluctantly, my son accepted. Shortly, my son called me from the office, telling me that the office could not call me, but I must call the office.
I called the office and asked the person answering the phone whether she was the person that just spoke to my son about the signing of the School Compact. After confirmation, I asked her politely if there was any reason she could not call a parent after she was asked by the student. I told her that I would need additional time to study and review the school Compact before my son and I could sign it. In addition, I asked her to relay to my son’s homeroom teacher not to punish my son for this request. She told me that my son would not be punished and that the teacher should not have warned my son with such punishment. A few minutes later, she called me back, confirming that the teacher had been notified of my request.
A few days later, finally having a break from my campaign, I was able to review the school Compact and given the solemnity of this school Compact consisting of a well printed original and a simultaneous-imaged carbon copy requiring signing and dating by (i) the guardian parent, (ii) the student, and (iii) the teacher, I decided to take a careful look at the Compact. And I discovered, notwithstanding the apparent good intentions by the school, the Alvarado School Compact was nevertheless a very Englishy, but un-English and improper, Compact in form and substance.
As to the form: legally speaking, only a school principal can sign a binding contact on behalf of the school, if so authorized by the school district management. Absent prior written authorization or approval, a teacher’s signature simply cannot represent or bind the school or all other teachers as indicated in the Compact, i.e., “All teachers have agreed to abide by this compact” right under the signing “Teacher’s signature”. Given the evasive answer by the homeroom teacher the previous day that it was the office that had the authority about the Compact, the signing teacher apparently lacks the authority to sign and bind on behalf of the school or other teachers, making this whole exercise nothing but another abuse of power and authority, and another waste of public funds by the school management, disregarding the fact that teachers have been complaining about lack of funds for classroom supplies.
Mentally speaking, this school Compact is yet another of the many examples demonstrating the imperial mentality of the school and district management treating teachers, parents and students as their colonial subjects that must sign and pledge to “all the school and classroom rules”. Somehow the school itself is immune from signing the same Compact, notwithstanding the title of the document being called the “Home & School Compact”. This is not fair, violating the fundamental canon of treating parents as equal partners by the school district as specifically required by the California Code of Education, Sec. 51100.
As to the substance: I discovered that all the pledges were rife with many mistakes in grammar, syntax, and operational attitude. Below are some examples. In the Parent’s Pledge, it is not correct or sufficient for a parent to get involved in the child’s education through “[p]articipation in school events” only, because a parent in a public school must be treated by the school as equal partner in the entire education process, more than just occasional participation in school events. This encompasses the formation and delivery of the curriculum, teaching materials and assignments. The whole mentality possessed by the entire school district of treating parents as subjects is wrong and unacceptable that must be changed to “[g]enuinely welcome the parents as equal partners to participate in the education process” as expressly required by law. The last “Have” should be “Having”.
In the Student’s Pledge, there are many serious problems. For example, it is incorrect to say “Arriving to school”. You can only arrive “in” or “at” a location, depending on the situation; you cannot “arrive to” a place in any circumstances. Furthermore, how can a student be responsible for his own behavior by following all school and classroom rules? A student can only be responsible for his own behavior, if and only if that student fails to follow any schools and classroom rules. Having witnessed many abuses by school personnel with illegal school rules, I will never pre-agree to all school rules, unless promulgated pursuant to due process under the Education Code. “Spending time” is often used to imply unwanted or undesirable waste or use of time. Therefore, it is incorrect to say “Spending time at home reading and studying”; it should be rephrased, “Reading and studying daily at home.” “Being honest, no matter what the circumstances” shall apply to all, not limited to students only, especially given the deceitful practices being engaged by some at the School District.
The Teacher’s Pledge is equally problematic. For example, how can a teacher correct and return “appropriate work” in a timely manner? It is one thing for a teacher to assign appropriate work for students to work on; it is wrong and impossible to characterize the homework completed by students as appropriate or inappropriate. Therefore, the “appropriate work” should be rephrased as “the students work”
To conclude, it is most disturbing and disheartening to see such a solemn school Compact printed with extra expenses, only to contain serious legal, academic and English usage mistakes throughout this Compact. It is more likely that this deficient school Compact must have been authored by pedantic bureaucrats for distribution year after year, exceeding the powers and authorities bestowed upon any school teacher, any school principal or any other school personnel.
This demonstrates nothing but the ongoing abuse of powers and authorities and the ongoing wrongful, superior, sovereign mentality of bureaucracy that must be stopped and eradicated from the roots forthwith. It is also alarming to witness yet another example of deficient English teaching on a wholesale basis, filling the entire community with many graduates that are mal-produced by the school district.
This is just another example of arrogance and incompetence of journeyman bureaucrats, wasting public funds under the pretext of public education that must be stopped or otherwise rectified forthwith for the best interest of the students, the teachers and the community.
I like disciplines and compacts, but only the ones that bind the School Management as well.
(Click for Alvarado Compact)