Thinking Inside the Box

Apparently some of our leading lights have decided that “creativity” is as important as intelligence. That means, of course, that they have to devise more and better ways to quantify it, like everything else, because you can’t mine for a resource until you figure out where to start drilling, and schoolchildren are nothing if not little reservoirs of potential value to be tapped at the whims of “society, business and education.”

One of the test-makers made “an interesting discovery” while testing their test, though:

Elementary school kids scored better on it than high school kids did. “I think the expression that many people use is that the schools have a tendency to suck the creativity out of kids over time,” he says.

And that’s a problem — a problem that will require enormous creativity to solve.

I’m not sure if it demonstrates “enormous creativity” or not, but here’s a thought: If you’re looking for more creative kids, and more school tends to result in less creative kids, how about less school? Not likely to happen, I know. Something tells me it would be resisted as an example of “premature closure.” Instead, they’ll probably start teaching courses in creativity and bludgeon it out of them by the time they’re in third grade.


Compulsory Schooling is Compulsory Schooling

I stumbled upon this while link-hopping earlier.  In a post entitled “The Intellectual Underpinnings of the Charter School Movement,” the blogger writes:

KIPP’s new bumper sticker slogan: Work Hard. Be Nice.

Translation: SHUT UP (work hard) AND DO WHAT YOU ARE TOLD (be nice).

My question is: How is this any different than the intellectual underpinnings of public schooling?  I realize the quote above isn’t saying it is, but I’ve seen plenty of leftish types go on about Charter schools as if they’re self-evidently worse than public schools (usually it’s that they’re less accountable), and I don’t get it.  It reminds me of the hand-wringing over “private” defense contractors.  They’re both funded by taxes and they’re both ultimately accountable to the government, not parents (PTA show meetings notwithstanding) and definitely not the students (you’re joking, right?), and the model for both is basically authoritarian.  Charter schools are just public schools by another name.

Problem? What Problem?

Almost without fail, whenever there’s an article or blog post that attacks the “public” school system, you get some goo-goo type who chimes in with “but when all the schools are privatized, how are the poor going to get an education?”  Now, to be fair, I realize that in most cases this isn’t meant as some kind of blanket endorsement of the school system in its current configuration; it’s based more on an assumption that the likely alternative to shitty schools is no schools, and, given these two choices, shitty schools win by default.  For my part, I’m inclined to believe that herding a bunch of kids into dysfunctional day prisons is worse than pretty much any alternative, but I’m an incurable romantic and an incurable cynic, and therefore somebody who definitely does not have to be taken seriously on the subject.

Anyhow, here’s a pretty standard-issue analysis of “the problem with the schools,” which I heard on my local NPR affiliate on my way in to work this morning.  The gist is that “we” pay teachers at posh suburban schools too much money, and “we” don’t pay teachers at tough inner-city schools enough money; now all we have to do is pay the city teachers more money and, voila!, a happier and more productive—not to mention civic-minded!—citizenry.  It’s endlessly fascinating to me how this kind of tripe passes the laugh test, while the suggestion that maybe the system itself is the problem is merely the feckless jabbering of arrested adolescence.

There is no “we,” asswipe.  I’m sure there are plenty of good liberals in these affluent suburban school districts, people who take it for granted that “society” should pay for the education of the underprivileged, but watch how quickly they circle the Volvos at the slightest hint of any policy that might threaten little Reilly or Shane’s ability to get a leg up in the college admissions sweepstakes.  There’s no problem with the school system.  It’s working just fine for them.

Is frozen pizza a cruciferous vegetable or a leafy green?

What could possibly be more ridiculous than Congress declaring frozen, mass-produced “pizza” a vegetable?  Perhaps declaring that this particular act of Congress represents a BETRAYAL OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE and a FAILURE TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN!!!

But this is what Congress has done. It has let the American people down and failed to protect our children. As Michele Simon astutely points out, “Congress has hijacked the USDA regulatory process to do the food industry’s bidding.” How much longer will we allow Big Food and our government to propagate lies about food and compromise the health of our nation’s children for their financial and political gain?


In order to believe this, you’d first have to believe that Congress actually represents The American People(TM) and that they actually give a rat’s ass about protecting the children.  You’d also have to believe that the fate of the nation’s health hinges upon whether fresh fruits and vegetables are being served in school cafeterias, instead of the usual (literally) warmed-over shit (powdered mashed potatoes and these curiously spongelike “nuggets,” purportedly made from chicken, were a couple of the classics from my time in the adolescent daycare system).

You’d also apparently have to think that it’s a good idea for the government to be involved in deciding what constitutes a healthy diet.  “But,” I can hear some goo-goo saying, “the government’s already involved in deciding what we eat.  We might as well try to influence it in a better direction.”  Well, yeah, but that hasn’t worked out very well so far, has it?  Better get to work on that lobbying budget.  In the meantime, you could pack your kid’s lunch and make sure she gets some real food for breakfast and dinner and not waste your time worrying about what Representative Jones, D-ConAgra has decided to call a vegetable.

You could also reconsider your support for a school system that’s subject to the whims of a corrupt political system.  Please, think of the children!

I’m not drunk, I’m just drinkin’

The prosecutor argued that J.D.B. had never been in custody, only in school, and that no reasonable person would have believed he or she was in custody.  [emphasis added]

Wendy McElroy, “When Police Interrogate Children,” The Freeman

Yes, because no “reasonable person” would ever associate being held captive for seven hours a day in a state-run institution with being “in custody.”  Only a crazy person would think such a thing!

(Via Rad Geek.)

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.