Rethinking middle school

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

District 97 is beefing up its social services staff at the middle schools because of a spike in the numbers of kids with serious mental health issues: rich kids, poor kids, in-between kids. I wonder why so many kids, why now?

Is it pressure alone? I remember hearing a group of seventh-grade boys standing on a corner comparing their GPAs (grade point averages). At the time I felt sad. I figured boys that age were competitive and would be talking about sports or TV or cute girls. It made me sad that their academic accomplishments were being measured at such an early age, and more, that they were so conscious of it.

Is it bullying? I think I only moved once in grades K-8, so I went to school with the same kids for most of those years. It had a lot of pluses. Sure, there are cliques — I guess there always will be — but familiarity cuts down on hostility. After several years together, everyone knows who's smart, who's not, who's pretty, who's rich, who's poor, etc. I think familiarity breeds acceptance. It didn't hurt to go to a religious school (although I'm a heathen now) because being mean to others was at least a venial sin.

Maybe the whole concept of middle school is a mistake — a worthy and understandable one — probably based on good research, but still a mistake. I have a huge commitment to public education, but I'm wondering whether the older K-8 model might work better. 

The concept of better facilities, a richer curriculum, more and more diverse opportunities is realized by combining smaller schools, but are kids ready for all that? Where's the joy? At some point, if you pursue higher education, schooling becomes a grind, but that shouldn't happen to preteens.

Mary Kay O'Grady

Oak Park

Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Leslie Roberts  

Posted: June 26th, 2018 4:42 PM

Yes, middle school years are hard with physical, mental, emotional changes. The social services should have been increased long ago. All those kids at that age need special attention and consideration. They come into middle school as children/caterpillars and leave as teens/butterflies moving into a much larger environment of older teens and a heavier work load, called high school.

Leslie Roberts  

Posted: June 26th, 2018 4:33 PM

Mary Kay, you made a good point. When kids are in K-8 they have become labeled and they need to be freed from those labels to grow in a fresh environment without old baggage and with new friends, new relationships, new teachers and a fresh start to be who they will become.

Neal Buer  

Posted: June 25th, 2018 8:27 PM

The middle schools are a good place to warehouse kids while their hormones rage.

Paul Oppenheim  

Posted: June 25th, 2018 4:53 PM

Thanks Mary Kay. Seems like there is frequent (and costly) experimenting with elementary and high school education, but it mostly seems like gimmicks. Are the kids really better educated and prepared as a result of middle schools?

Nick Polido  

Posted: June 21st, 2018 2:59 PM

Our three boys who attended Julian Middle School was basically a miserable experience. The wise people who thought it to be a good Idea to put 6,7,and 8th graders together in the height of puberty made a mistake.

Marty Bracco  

Posted: June 20th, 2018 10:45 PM

As one who never supported the idea of creating the middle schools, I concur with the thoughts presented here. A truly progressive approach would be to revert to the K-8 model that served Oak Park very well for over 100 years. It might even save us some tax money.

Jessica Mott Bullock from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2018 5:58 PM

Excellent thoughts! Thanks for sharing, Mary Kay!

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2018

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2018 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad