Viewpoint: Back When I went to School – about 100 Years Ago

One teacher used to teach all grades first through eighth in one-room schools.

Back when I went to public elementary school, about 100 years ago, a teacher had 30 or more kids in a classroom.

The school was on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and the teacher would split students into groups. Those that got multiplication tables immediately were assigned extra sheets to work on. Those who looked like they might be understanding it were given more time, and those that were struggling had the teacher’s extra attention. They same system was employed for reading.

Not a perfect system, but at least we were in school 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week, with 15 minutes for morning and afternoon recess and an hour for lunch. Teachers took turns watching the play yard during those breaks.

Now Los Angeles public schools have a new system, keep kids out of school for as many days as it can, but continue to pay teachers and support staff.

In March 2020, the schools remained closed for in-person instruction because of Covid. Never mind that the CDC said early on that the virus didn’t seem to infect kids.

From January 1, 2020, through March 15, 2023, the number of children under 18, who died from COVID was 1,719. For all ages groups, total deaths on the CDC site are listed as 1,121,512. So, kids were less than .2 percent of casualties.

Then the excuse from the Los Angeles teacher’s union was, we have to “save” our teachers and the kids “grandparents” because kids could infect them. The majority of the people who succumbed to Covid were the elderly and the obese.

At this point, if my children had still been in elementary school, we would have “moved” to a relative’s home in South Dakota or Wyoming, where schools were wide open.

But that would have been short-sighted on this parent’s part because as Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles told Los Angeles Magazine last year, “There is no such thing as learning loss. Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup.”

A Mckinsey report wrote in a July 2021 story (“Covid-19 and Education: The Lingering Effects of Unfinished Learning) wrote, “Our analysis shows that the impact of the pandemic on K–12 student learning was significant, leaving students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the school year. The pandemic widened preexisting opportunity and achievement gaps, hitting historically disadvantaged students hardest. In math, students in majority Black schools ended the year with six months of unfinished learning, students in low-income schools with seven.

According to a September 8, California Globe story (After Denying Learning Loss, UTLA Opposes Teaching Days to Catch Kids Up), “L.A. Kids might actually be testing lower because LAUSD has skipped the Smarter Balanced exam requirement for two years in a row. . . .


“At every turn, UTLA aggressively blocked plans to reopen schools. In March 2021, 90% of UTLA members opposed reopening schools and remained in distance learning programs that were causing kids to fall behind.


“UTLA’s hardball tactics caused potentially irreparable harm to Los Angeles’ most vulnerable students. In April, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found that Los Angeles’ school closures and remote learning failed more than 66,000 students with disabilities, who no longer had access to special education services and individualized education programs.”


Now, teacher are honoring a three-day strike of cafeteria workers, custodians and special education assistants, and schools will be closed. How about honoring a commitment to children?


For many in the Palisades it doesn’t matter, because if it was possible during Covid, parents switched their children to private schools, or hired tutors to continue to educate their children. The poor were locked out of the schools, doing a zoom class—if they had a computer and Wi-Fi and not sharing a small apartment with the rest of the family.


Who’s left in Los Angeles public schools?  The economically disadvantaged – or maybe those parents who had hoped to save funds for college. At this rate, those public-school parents won’t have to worry about college, unless they invest heavily in private tutors.


The question that should be asked about LAUSD, has segregation returned, economic segregation?


Kids whose parents can’t afford private schools are at a distinct disadvantage. Why the teacher’s union has promoted the inequality of education by denying children access to the classroom is mystifying.


Horace Mann, who was instrumental in establishing public schools and allowing education for all, must be turning over in his grave. I am sure Mann would know not only his multiple timetables, but the difference between a riot and a protest – because education can be a wonderful thing—too bad more Los Angeles children aren’t getting it.

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2 Responses to Viewpoint: Back When I went to School – about 100 Years Ago

  1. Gretchen Arnold says:

    The teachers union in Los Angeles has demonstrated for years that it does not care about the students or teaching them the basics .. the leadership has only demonstrated that it cares about its own power and furthering their own agendas. It is appalling..

  2. Tom Meade says:

    You can sell more using honey, err history – than drilling it in. Good to sandwich your message re UTLA’s resistance to working in between historical observations – one of which you witnessed personally. But you’ve left one big factor out – fear of the unknown – which gripped us all in the sweaty days of 2020/2021.

    Respects to Mr. Mann – he used his head – such a studious leader was he.

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