School Overcrowding

After completing a lengthy mortgage loan application to finance private secondary schooling for my eighth-grade son, I read two articles in the Orange County section--"Crowded Classes" and "Parent Seeking to Keep School Open" (Jan. 5)--that poignantly explain why my family is faced with this drastic and traumatic decision.

Classroom sizes in Fountain Valley School District, particularly in the middle schools, have expanded to unmanageable and unteachable proportions. Our school administrators and teachers spend too much time trying to account for and control large populations of unruly adolescents with little time remaining for teaching and guidance. Their educational creativity is also thwarted by imposed budget restrictions and inflexible time schedules. It is no wonder to me that the teaching profession has such a low career appeal and high burnout rate.

Many students, like my son, are unable to function in this overpopulated environment. They are overwhelmed by the competition and find a way to slip through the system, unnoticed in the confusion of the extreme behaviors and educational needs of other students. These young people are consequently scholastically and emotionally unprepared for high school, college and life beyond. they are at risk of becoming the drop-outs, the unskilled, the homeless.

One of the social phenomena of these teen-age populations created by large enrollments is the tendency to form subcultures (a.k.a. street gangs) in order to gain a sense of identity, self-esteem, and simply belonging that is absent in the impersonal environment of the public schools. The irrational behaviors of teen-agers trying to impress their peer group is well-documented by the media. The trouble is the peer group is a crowd that is getting larger and the actions necessary to gain attention and status must be dramatic and bizarre, often ending in tragedy.

The widespread negative ramifications of overcrowded schools are so obvious that its is incomprehensible to me that, in an affluent and progressive state like California, our state and local school officials blindly continue an anti-education, anti-child, anti-parent, anti-family, anti-society philosophy of public school management. and it takes a group of lay residents to fight the system.

BARBARA POWELL

Fountain Valley

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