These Damn Kids

I stumbled upon this (about a teacher who was suspended for blogging about her students) in the local news yesterday.  It jumped out at me because she teaches, or taught, at the high school I graduated from (she was in third or fourth grade when I was a senior, so no, I didn’t have the pleasure of being one of her students).  The post, or one of the posts, that led to her suspension was a sarcastic rant expressing the contempt, to put it mildly, she apparently feels for a lot of her students—not specific students, or at least none referred to by name.  Explaining her distaste for the “canned” comments that she and her colleagues are encouraged to use on report cards (in lieu of their own thoughts, of course), e.g., “cooperative in class,” “achieving at ability level,” etc., she wrote out a bullet-pointed list of remarks that she would prefer to use if she were able to say how she really felt about certain students.  She drops a “fuck” and an “asshole” or two, but what’s really striking, frankly, is the degree of cattiness; it reads more like a high school kid talking shit about her classmates than the 30-year-old woman who’s supposed to be teaching them.

Following her suspension, she wrote another post defending her right to express her feelings on her own personal blog and chiding the students and their parents for being either overly sensitive or else unable to face up to unpleasant truths about themselves.  She may have a point here.  I actually have no trouble believing that a lot of her students are assholes.  Then again, I can see where it might be a bit, shall we say, problematic to have a teacher who’s made it publicly known–in spite of her protestations that it was only meant to be read by close friends–that she can’t stand a healthy number of her students.

Honestly, I can’t say I care one way or the other whether she keeps her job–that’s for the parties directly involved to hash out–and if that was all she had had to say I’d probably leave it at that.  But then she had to go and make this remark in the closing paragraph:

There are serious problems with our education system today–with the way that schools and school districts and students and parents take teachers who enter the education field full of life and hope and a desire to change the world and positively impact kids, and beat the life out of them and villanize [sic] them and blame them for everything–and those need to be brought to light.

Now who’s villainizing and blaming?  Plenty of kids enter the schools “full of life and hope” and a desire to learn and have the enthusiasm beaten out them, too; the indifferent, lazy students and the “grade-grubbers” she despises so much are just symptoms of a system–that word pretty much says it all–that’s more about acquiring credentials than it is about learning in any real sense of the word.  Take away the mediocre strivers and the nerds on a fast track to the Ivy League and you’re left with a bunch of kids who are only there because they have to be.  What’s amazing to me is that she seems totally incapable of comprehending this.  Kids don’t like school for the same reason adults don’t like their jobs–because it’s a prison.

I can only imagine what comments Ms. Munroe would have had for me if I had been one of her students: “Lazy fuck with a chip on his shoulder who sleeps in class and turns in tests with nothing but his name written on them…destined for the custodial arts.”  She wouldn’t have been too far off, either.  The thing is, a lot of my teachers weren’t much better.

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5 thoughts on “These Damn Kids

  1. What startles me is the naivete in the hatred toward Munroe, as if they imagine all PS teachers unconditionally love their students, all of them, without ever a negative thought.

    Of course in America, we have a fraudulent social interaction template, where nobody is ever supposed to tell the truth about another’s negative qualities. Ever. We’re just supposed to think about them, but never act on them. Never ever. Sit tightly, be quiet, and seethe with frustration. Bosses, especially, love this component of American social interaction. And by “boss” I mean anyone with authority over other humans.

    The first link you offered showed a fairly immature woman who is both a poor writer and a horrible expresser of thoughts, which I guess is standard fare for a public school teacher of English. But it also shows a woman who is frustrated by the position of teaching in a public school to kids who would prefer to be elsewhere, absent a teacher who knows how to engage the students’ minds.

    And perhaps that’s the lesson Munroe should learn: that she has a responsibility to entice students toward learning.

    Conversely, she can only do so much, if the students’ homes are not the kind that encourage thinking… and many homes are that way. If not most.

    The response, escorting her out of the building, is well in excess of what would be prudent. But it shows what public school administration is about these days: not teaching, not tolerating different methods of teaching, but listening to parents who get pissed off when the school isn’t serving as a good servant/au pair to their kids.

    • Good points, Charles. Yeah, the idea that anybody would be surprised that a teacher can’t stand some of her students is pretty ridiculous. I thought the vitriol directed at Munroe from some of her students in the comments in the second link was telling. One of the comments was something like “Your job is to help us realize our academic goals”–which I’m guessing have less to do with “learning” than maintaining that 3.4 gpa so they can get into State U and eventually get that nice corporate cubicle gig and the McMansion in the ‘burbs. So that sense of entitlement she was complaining about is definitely there. On the other hand, the kids aren’t stupid. They realize on some level that the education system is to a large extent a dog and pony show and they’re reacting accordingly. So, yeah, they are assholes. But the system’s designed to churn out assholes.

  2. I just had a flip-side thought: has anyone ever bothered looking into the Facebook, MySpace, etc. comments of the kids who are Munroe’s students? Is there any parallel or equivalent consequence for those students who voiced their frustrations with Munroe? Probably not.

    The longer thread following your second link gives me some hope for the wisdom of my fellow humans in America. Some of the people criticized or only tepidly (formally, in hollow fashion) supported Munroe, but many of them are enthusiastic about supporting her ability to speak candidly about frustrations with the job. That, I think, is a good sign.

  3. My sympathies went out to this teacher, if only because if being a teacher and having to put up with those kind of kids was bad, being a kid in those classes trying to learn something — and having to deal with those dipshits disrupting and holding back the class — was even worse.

    To this day, I wonder why there’s all this obsession with dropout rates, when I think back to my high school days, and all those jerks who were nothing but a big pain in the ass and who I ferverently wished would drop out, already, so the rest of us could get something accomplished.

    Yer pal, Mike Flugennock, who was regularly commented on by teachers as “slouches in the back of the room doodling in his sketchbook instead of studying the Pythagorean Theorem”.

    • I was one of those dipshits in high school–although I didn’t disrupt class; I literally kept my head down most of the time–so I didn’t notice it then. I noticed it in college, though, when there’d be those kids in an English or philosophy class who’d say: “What do we have to learn this shit for?” (Usually these were business major types who had to take liberal arts classes to fulfill some bullshit requirement.) No doubt the atmosphere would improve if the jerk-offs were weeded out. Too bad dropping out is viewed as a non-option for most kids. A lot of them would probably benefit, too, from getting out of the zoo for a while.

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