Guest Commentary: What Maryland Students Really Can’t Afford

Editor’s note: This commentary was submitted in response to an op-ed published earlier this week by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Shea.

By Richard Jurgena

What Maryland students can’t afford is another year of Maryland and, in particular, Montgomery County’s political correctness. I have been watching the school system deteriorate over the last 30 years.

When I first moved to Montgomery County, young parents moved to our county and state because our school system was the best in the country and businesses used that to recruit new, well-educated employees, who wanted a better future for their children. Over the years that dynamic has reversed and young parents are seeing their children graduating from high school with such deficiencies in their basic education they have to take additional courses at the community college before being accepted at the college of their choice.

Jurgena

Richard Jurgena

This is the direct result of teachers not being able to teach more than a few minutes per day because of the lack of discipline in the classroom, which they are unable to remedy without being accused of racism, the mixing of children with special needs based on their age vs. their ability to comprehend the subjects at that level (i.e. children who not only cannot speak English, but cannot read or write in their own language), and the administrative burdens placed on them by the administrators trying to justify their jobs.

The idea that a teacher cannot hold a child back because they are not ready to move up to the next grade, unless the parents agree, is ridiculous. And, even more ridiculous is the idea they would be willing to hold a child back, whose only idea of going to school is to resist the teacher’s efforts to teach, and take the chance they would get the same child back in their classroom the next year.

Throwing more money into this pit is not the answer. The answer is to give the principals the right to send the malcontents home, set up special classes for children that need special help to catch up with their peers, and develop a peer review system that tests each child before they are moved up to the next class and get rid of the teachers who pass children up who are not qualified. The latter can only be applied after the first two conditions are put in place because it is not the teachers who are at fault here. It is the fault of our superintendents of the schools and our county and state school administrators.

Richard Jurgena, a retired naval commander, is chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party.

5 comments

  • Well I am disappointed, I keep waiting for honest minded conservatives to bring their viewpoints, backed with facts and analysis, to the table to help their liberal counterparts find the best way forward to the benefit of all. I am a liberal progressive, but I believe we really need a strong conservative party to help us, because we have blind spots as they do and our often clashing personalities and viewpoints can be used to “fill in the gaps” for each other. This is a large part of the essence of successful teamwork which is something I am sure Mr. Jurgena knows about. I keep waiting for it, and waiting… and waiting… I see hopeful flashes here and there, but then interests move in… and it’s gone… So I guess I am waiting on courage then, because it is going to take some real courage to do what is right.

    So while I am disappointed, I have to say I am not terribly surprised to see these comments coming from the GOP, who by and large (perhaps not all Republicans, but many who I read, or hear speaking out), for some reason, corporately, seem bound and determined to reduce things to myth not backed by data and then address the myths with emotional, gut level responses, again not backed by any real data.

    I hear way too many emotional responses to issues that are then later accepted as political commentary and analysis. This is simply unacceptable. If this were a post by some unaffiliated, cranky, old person, I’d just think to myself, “Well they have their opinion, I disagree.” But it’s not, it is posted by a retired Naval commander who also happens to be chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party, so although I am not a Republican, I still expect a heck of a lot more. If pressure is placed on you to say such things, then those pressuring are not serving you well, not well at all. If they are just your opinions, that’s fine you have every right to them, but given your position, I would just expect you would express them in a way that at least hints at a goal that is mutually beneficial.

    So I’d love to see you post some studies, facts, data, to back up your assertions. Not opinion pieces, but actual data which back what you are saying. Why? Not because I want you to prove you are right, or so that I can gloat over how wrong I think you are, but so we can make some, I don’t know… progress? We all want our kids to do well right? We all want schools to make the best use of the resources they receive right? We all want to live in a community where everyone feels and is, welcome and safe, right?

    Let’s start there then, because it looks like when we get into the weeds, something really bad happens and we become all dogmatic and emotional and start throwing around words which unfairly label people and cast people aside as worthless. No one likes that, not Democrats, not Republicans, no race, color, creed likes that. We all want better lives, there IS a way to work towards that together, not always agreeing, but not deliberately hindering or attacking each other either.

    So bring the data, and let us see if there are ways to address real, verified, shortcomings in the public education system that provide a level playing field so that no kid who works hard and tries, is allowed to slip through the cracks. Let us work together to find ways to help people, or get out of the way of them (when appropriate) being able to find their ideal place/part/role in our community.

    In our adversarial political system, the mechanics of which are supposed to be similar to our legal system, each side fights as hard as it can and puts forth the best possible arguments to allow justice, or as close to justice as we can get, to prevail. So the “sides” in politics are supposed to fight for their point of view, BUT TOWARDS A SOLUTION, not towards some pet moral judgments. When people act in bad faith and “game the system” in search of some mythical “good homogeneity”, nothing close to justice or progress can be made. Some people who are clever will get their way for a while and benefit financially, or win “the feels” in some way, but overall, society suffers. This is where we are currently, it is what it is. Neither side wants to loosen their grip on the bludgeon for fear of the other side beating them with it.

    Fine, it is understandable. So let us then start with data and facts. Bring data and facts, not twisted statistics, not dogmatic opinions, and we will listen. Otherwise, you are not helping, regardless of what you fervently believe. Jim Shea actually did highlight some facts and data in his piece, I don’t see any in yours. I expect you know the difference between a fact and an assertion and I’d like to see the facts and data on which you based your assertions. Because if there is something that we are missing, and you help us to see it, it will benefit all of us and will lend you credence, which will tend to bolster your party and encourage people to pay more attention, which is the way it is supposed to work.

  • “…because of the lack of discipline in the classroom, which they are unable to remedy without being accused of racism”

    The implication you seem to be making is that discipline problems are all caused by non white students. Is that what you mean Mr. Jurgena?

  • “This is the direct result of teachers not being able to teach more than a few minutes per day because of the lack of discipline in the classroom, which they are unable to remedy without being accused of racism, the mixing of children with special needs based on their age vs. their ability to comprehend the subjects at that level (i.e. children who not only cannot speak English, but cannot read or write in their own language), and the administrative burdens placed on them by the administrators trying to justify their jobs.”

    Who is “them” that have administrative burdens placed on? The teachers is the first part of the sentence or the children with special needs in the second part. Poor structure, clearly someone wasn’t paying attention during English classes.

    “The answer is to give the principals the right to send the malcontents home, set up special classes for children that need special help to catch up with their peers, and develop a peer review system that tests each child before they are moved up to the next class and get rid of the teachers who pass children up who are not qualified.”

    Peers is the first part of the sentence are children. Are the peers conducting the peer review also children? That would be a crazy idea. Again very poor structure.

    This is an embarrassing commentary when the subject is education. The Republican Party may want to find a new chairman, or at least proof his comments.

    • Well said. I suspect that the “commentary” was more an emotional response to things going on inside the commentator’s head than it was an actual commentary on the original post. Since these kinds of emotional responses are often not well thought through, it’s not surprising they are also not well formed “in print”.

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