September 30, 2011

From a teacher ...

Commenter / schoolteacher Maya explains:
What educators do IS important. It allows people to concentrate on their jobs while someone else supervises their kids' educational progress. Sure, you could do it yourself just like you could give yourself haircuts, administer shots to your family and fix your own car. None of it is very difficult to learn. However, a society functions better if people specialize.  
Most teachers I know don't want more funds allocated to education. You are confusing us with upper administration (because that's how they get paid). Teachers yell about funds because they aren't allowed to even hint that the problem might lay with the kids and their families. What most teachers want is a different distribution of funds as well as a different work environment.  
I can do my job in any old room with a chalk board and a set of textbooks. Heck, I'll buy all the creative supplies since I'm used to it already. You can take away my smart board, but can you, please, hire someone to supervise the detention room? (Can we have a detention room?) Hire 10 of these people; I'll take a pay cut. Also, I deserve every second of my vacation time and more. However, if we could take all the special kids out of the regular classrooms, group students by ability, end social promotion, allow failing grades and put violent criminals somewhere else, I don't think I'd need two and a half months to recover. Two weeks would probably suffice.  
In conclusion, you are right. Schools aren't magic. They are just places where kids go to learn stuff. Just showing up won't change anyone's life, won't make up for shitty parenting or fix mental issues/emotional trauma/violent nature. And, as you said, having access to quality education (as ALL Americans do) won't stand in the way of one's dream of ending up in jail.  
However, schools are still important and educators aren't the enemy. I'd say we are the biggest victims of this politically correct bullshit. Have you ever been locked in a room with 30 kids who are at 8 different grade levels, some completely illiterate, more than a few initiating fights right in front of you (or through you) and several with severe disabilities and emotional issues? Imagine those kids ignoring you because their parents don't care what they do, the school doesn't allow any disciplinary actions other than calling the parents, the children know that they will pass no matter what and any peep from you about the kids' behavior is interpreted as prejudice. Imagine being required to make a lesson plan for every level of ability, learning style and disability, every day all the while knowing that the kids will probably not even attempt the work because they know they don't have to. Then, imagine knowing that you'll be blamed for the test scores while you bribe the kids with candy to stay awake, at least, during the high stakes tests. (Half of them will still fall asleep and hand in their test booklets without attempting several sections.)

89 comments:

Black Sea said...

Sounds like the university where I work.

RKU said...

Definitely a comment worth elevating to its own thread. Boy, do we have a crazy public educational system. And the "conservative" alternative of privatizing the schools so they're run by the WashPost's totally corrupt Kaplan School division is even crazier.

Here's an educational puzzle maybe someone can answer. I think the average American classroom has about 25-30 students, and average spending per student around the country is about $10K per year, implying $250-300K of inflowing tax dollars per teacher. Now this either means that teachers are *exceptionally* well paid, or almost all the money is "disappearing" somewhere. Does anyone know where it's actually going and who's stealing it?

Anonymous said...

This is so true! I am an ex-teacher, and my wife is still a teacher. Yes, there are lousy teachers, mostly due to affirmative action, but the problem is mostly not the teachers. It's the system, which, among many other ills, doesn't permanently remove incorrigible troublemakers from the classroom. Everything in this blog post rings so, so true! It's so true, it hit a nerve!

Anonymous said...

"And the 'conservative' alternative of privatizing the schools so they're run by the WashPost's totally corrupt Kaplan School division is even crazier."

Who on earth suggested that?!

retired teacher said...

It all changed after the 60s "revolution." After that, no one was ever again held responsible for his or her failure in anything.

Mitch said...

Maya's description of the classroom is a fairly accurate description of my life, particularly the 8 different ability levels. Last year, I taught algebra, and the mayhem was insane. I did better than most at keeping control, but was under constant, unceasing (and unspoken) pressure to stop sending kids out of the classroom.

It's impossible to describe the mindset of the low ability, low incentive kids who are in high school algebra. In most cases, this is the second or third time they've been in the class. They have no interest or belief in graduating, and they don't think it's possible.. At the same time, most of your class wants to learn and pass algebra--some with high skills (why they're repeating is a mystery), some with basic and below level skills who are caught in a mix of hopelessness and discouragement and still, god love them, willing to plug away if they can figure it out. It was for those kids that I risked not getting asked back by kicking out the troublemakers until they got the message and either quit coming or went to sleep (and a few, miraculously, started learning).

I'm not teaching algebra this year, and the difference in my life is extraordinary. I still am teaching kids of 8 different ability levels and kids whose parents don't really care, but these kids have made it past algebra. They have a future. When a misbehaving kid talks a bit too much or says something obscene, I flick a look at him and say "out" and the kid obediently stands outside until I have a moment to go yell at him (or her) and then they trudge back in and get to work.

I'm always reluctant to claim what "all" teachers want or believe, but I'd wager that what Maya attributes to "all" teachers is probably just about half or so. Many teachers believe that low achievement can be cured with more money. But math teachers in particular have strong opinions about the push for heterogeneity in higher level math, and are beyond disgusted that we aren't even allowed to teach pre-algebra or some interesting integrated math courses in high school without taking a huge hit in API.

On the other hand, I am unfamiliar with Maya's description of kids who are certain they will be passed. Quite the contrary, I see kids who don't care in the slightest if they fail, kids who resolutely do no work at all, who turn in blank tests, who could care less if they fail. They think of school as a time for socializing, and eventually they'll get into alternative school and do computer courses to get a degree. I see us spending far, far too much time and money on kids who fail classes more than once and get continued support and more time--at the expense of funding advanced classes--but I don't see kids who are certain they will pass. In all the schools I've ever been in, teachers are fully supported in their decision to fail students. In my opinion, teachers are often failing and giving As to the wrong students by grading on effort.

Maya seems really angry. I'm not. I love teaching. I understand the constraints. I understand why we don't acknowledge the real cause of the achievement gap. I understand the pressure to stop teachers from sending kids out of the classroom, particularly if the numbers are racially skewed (for the record, mine were not. My white kids had the same misbehavior rate as the Hispanic kids--I just had five times more of the latter). I don't like or agree with the reasoning, but I understand it.

We’ll never fix our schools until we understand our objectives are absurd. Until that time, we'll just have to wait it out.

But I take real satisfaction in helping kids. I ability group in my classroom so that everyone is learning something. I cut out as much of the bs as possible. I have a generous passing rate but I'm stingy in giving out As. And I tell my kids that tests really, really matter. I don't know if I'm making a difference, but it's satisfying.

Jehu said...

RKU,
I believe over half of the money is spent on administration at levels higher than the individual school level. I'm not convinced that decapitating school districts (i.e., you've got a school board with no paid staff who can fire principals at will and then nothing between them and the principals of the various schools) would be any worse than we have presently, and it'd cost less than half as much.

Thursday said...

A couple quibbles:

1. The research is pretty clear that kids with many types of disabilities learn language skills a lot better when they are around normal kids. Most of them should be in regular classrooms.

2. The research is also pretty clear that holding kids back a grade in elementary/jr. high accomplishes absolutely nothing. Social promotion is, in fact, the correct policy.

However, I agree heartily that schools do need to keep disruptive and/or violent kids out of classrooms. And grouping by ability is also a good idea. In fact, it is a key part of the most effective teaching method out there (for the basics, anyway): Zig Engelmann's Direct Instruction.

Thursday said...

Agree heartily that tracking needs to be introduced much earlier for subjects like math.

Anonymous said...

An enormous and growing percentage of the working population, of those who can, serve those who can't. I was called up for jury duty recently, and at one point lots of us had to state our occupations. Maybe half worked in what can be called the social sector - prisons, nursing homes, special ed, homeless shelters, child protection agencies, public housing, as home attendants for the old and sick, as public defenders, etc. As Maya illustrates, a lot of regular teaching now belongs in this category too. I'm sure that all of this work is depressing. It must be far more depressing than the factory work which was typical in past generations or than the farm work which was typical in the generations before those.

All of these occupations are demoralizing. People would naturally prefer to look at health and success instead. The morale of the working population must be at its lowest point ever.

Anonymous said...

What educators do IS important. It allows people to concentrate on their jobs while someone else supervises their kids' educational progress. Sure, you could do it yourself just like you could give yourself haircuts, administer shots to your family and fix your own car. None of it is very difficult to learn. However, a society functions better if people specialize.

That's right, but it assumes we actually have a functioning society. School should (try to) pass on the tradition of older generations to new ones, to give them an appreciation of the civilization they have inherited. Unless you have lots of cash (and many times not even then), you know that the only thing your kid will get out of school is an "A" in politically correct propaganda and moral degeneracy. Division of labor in education would be fine, but in these times, parents are well advised to avoid it if at all possible.

pigherder said...

Haven't finished reading the article or the comments but straight to writing regardless: she is of recent (Eastern Bloc?) immigrant stock, Teach For America material. Respect her - she has learned faster than many her age, found us, and shares what many of her co-hort hide. I was 25 when I began her trek - Educ grad of one of the top, and most liberal, universities in Canada, teaching aboriginal youth in significant numbers. I look forward to her posting. How I'd love to grab my nephew's girlfriend,toss her into Maya's life and say 'This is reality cutes - not what UBC-O is feeding you. And you're going to work it when you graduate, not hide from it behind your suburban liberal connections.'

Whiskey said...

I'm a former teacher, and yes Maya's comments and the others here ring true.

BUT ... the problem is that we CANNOT CHANGE the system. You will always have 8 different ability levels. Knuckleheads who need an intimidating guy to make them behave and the rest that need a persuasive teacher to ... teach them stuff. You will always have that. So ...

It is far, far better to go private. Teach your kids at home. Heck computerized, online stuff with drill by ability for most of the basics cuts down on a lot of problem. A kid may be a handful on his own, but with others he's total disaster. He's probably better off in front of a computer at home having to complete drills according to ability, with small cash rewards for advancing. Just getting rid of public high and junior high schools and having kids stay at home in front of the computer would be better.

Geoff Matthews said...

Thursday,

I am extremely skeptical of your claim regarding social promotion. I've seen the caliber of research ability among education researchers, and I doubt they could tell the difference between a dry paper bag and a wet one.
Plus, I've seen the result of social promotion. You have students who get progressively further behind their peers, and they know it.

Anonymous said...

"1. The research is pretty clear that kids with many types of disabilities learn language skills a lot better when they are around normal kids. Most of them should be in regular classrooms."

I don't believe this argument. Kids with disabilities have normal parents and normal siblings so why should being in a classroom with normal kids make such a big difference when the majority of their day/life is spent with their families?

Additionally, as long as the kids with disabilities aren't disrupting the classroom I have no trouble with them being in the class with normal kids but if that isn't the case, they should be removed.

europeasant said...

Things with the education system will get progressively worse as the demographics change starts accelerating.

Carol said...

I've done a 180 in recent years, from blaming teachers to blaming the students (and parents). I thought things had gotten much worse.

So I've come to view the teachers' demands as the combat pay they need and deserve. But since we can't afford to raise that anymore, why not go back to the sane tracking and separation of "special" students that the boomers grew up with.

Carol said...

Meant to say, I think people believe they are being magnanimous by blaming the (adult) teachers instead of the (innocent young) students.

That sort of dishonest sentimentality needs to end.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'd say the solutions here are obvious.

1. Home-schooling does not have to mean that you, personally, teach your kids every single darn subject at home. Establish a network of like-minded parents, group all of the home-schooled kids of a relevant age cohort together in a communal learning environment (a "class" I think they used to call it!) that meets in different local homes on a rotating basis, hire the appropriate tutors for each subject (you'll soon discover them becoming plentiful), set up a private home-schooling "community" between say 20 such families, then sit back and watch the magic happen.

2. Make this the norm, not the exception, and let local laws and procedures acknowledge this new norm. Rigorously reject all educational nonsense/"theory", esp. stuff that has the word "diversity" or the word "critique" in it.

3. Encourage all white families to completely withdraw from the entire public school system en masse and practice the strategy of (1) and (2).

4. Publish a series of pamphlets, both in print and online, which state clearly and sympathetically the reasons for doing all this.

5. Concurrent with (2) and (3), use organized political leverage to mercilessly drain all possible funding and resources out of the public school system, and adjust/reduce property taxes and all other funding mechanisms, with savings reverting to the home-schoolers, until the public schools are nothing more than storage facilities and pre-prison training for You Know Who.

It all sounds very cold, but the purpose of the exercise is not to deprive anyone; in reality the purpose is to achieve (6), which is...

6. Your Message Has Been Sent.

Wait as long as it takes for Message Receipt Confirmed -- Actual Message, Not Politically Distorted or Misunderstood Version. Then, and only then, can the real discussion begin about how to reconstitute the schooling system along rational, truly public-spirited and humane lines.

Luke Lea said...

Very interesting report from the front lines though hardly the first I have read.

As a first step towards the kind of reforms this teacher calls for I would recommend web cameras in all public school class rooms. As it stands now every serious reprimand for misbehavior in the class room, particularly where minority children are involved, becomes a he said/she said issue with all sorts of legal and civil rights implications. Principals and school administrators therefore naturally prefer to look the other way except in extreme cases of actual assault in the class room.

With we cameras if would be possible to document -- legally document, beyond a reasonable doubt -- the problems this teacher says are all-too-common in many public school class rooms. The public pays for public education. Shouldn't the public and its representatives have a right to see what is going on?

Thursday said...

I am extremely skeptical of your claim regarding social promotion.

This is actually a really simple experiment. Hold back some kids and promote others. Then test their skills.

And, guess what, holding kids back makes things worse.

Thursday said...

I don't believe this argument.

What you believe is irrelevant.

Kids with disabilities have normal parents and normal siblings so why should being in a classroom with normal kids make such a big difference when the majority of their day/life is spent with their families?

Putting disabled kids off in a separate room with other disabled kids at school severely retards their language development. Full stop.

Thursday said...

You have students who get progressively further behind their peers, and they know it.

The problem is that holding the kids back does nothing to solve this. And kids who are held back actually end up even more behind.

Average Joe said...

The research is pretty clear that kids with many types of disabilities learn language skills a lot better when they are around normal kids. Most of them should be in regular classrooms.

But what about the normal kids? Do they learn as well when their teachers are almost constantly having to deal with the needs of the special kids?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate Maya's input but her description does ring especially true and I went to an inner city high school with many Latinos. You are NOT allowed to fight, if you do, you will be removed from the classroom. These extremes are not permitted.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. It had never occurred to me that the end of tracking meant that teachers now have the onus of preparing multiple lesson plans to span the capabilities of all their students. In a typical classroom with Asians, whites, Hispanics, and blacks, that's typically a span of three standard deviations. It's the equivalent of having a seventh grade class with high school seniors and second graders mixed in.

This post makes me flash back to fourth grade, about forty years ago. We had a 12 year old EFL Hispanic girl in our class for 8 months before school administrators decided to socially promote her to middle school. The district had so few retards that it had been SOP to outsource them to a small private academy 4 miles away, but the arrival of a few puerto rican families, refugees from Newark and Camden, living on the town border necessitated creating a special education classroom where Hispanics and retarded white children were then combined. As I recall, most of the Hispanic girls got pregnant before 16 and dropped out. Occasionally, they would stop by during lunch period to show off their newborns to the other kids, but after that they would disappear.

James Johnson said...

Teachers are likely future converts to HBD because they see consistent and vast differences in ability and personality, not to mention physical maturity, first hand. Try to tell them about it in as PC terms as you can come up with.

School Choice as an issue is a HUGE winner for white people (for everyone really). Vouchers and local-controlled private(or private-ish) schools that are directly accountable to parents. EVERYONE wants this for their own children.

Some black "education professionals" are even starting to promote the idea of all-black schools, for the benefit of blacks. We MUST encourage this idea.

Aaron Baugher said...

Everything she says is true (except the claim that "most teachers" don't want more money thrown at the system), but she fails to come to the obvious conclusion: It Doesn't Work. You can't put 30 kids at 8 different levels together and teach them like it's a factory assembly line. It won't work. It can't work.

Maybe it worked reasonably well 60 years ago, when we had a homogeneous society with common goals, a strong sense of civic duty and obedience to authority, and lots of money to throw at things. After all, we borrowed the age-segregated "common school" system from the militaristic Prussians a century earlier, so it makes sense that it worked in a society that was patriotic and orderly. But we don't have that kind of society anymore, and most people wouldn't go back to it if we could. We certainly can't bring it back by forcing them to say the Pledge before class again, or letting them pray.

My grandfather and most of his brothers went to school until 8th grade, at which point they were educated enough to quit school and start working on a farm or doing construction. We didn't used to have to pay the schools for 13+ years before a kid could become a productive adult, and we didn't expect them to sit in the classroom through their teens if they weren't learning something that'd be useful to them. Now we've given their jobs away to foreigners, so we have to keep them all in class forever and try to turn them all into executives.

When the government creates a program to make sure everyone has something to eat, we don't expect it to provide everyone with free-range T-bone steak and organic asparagus for supper. When it creates a program to try to prevent people from sleeping on the streets, we expect functional apartments, not luxurious mansions. But when it comes to education, somehow we think the government can provide every single child, no matter how difficult or disinterested or disabled, with the educational equivalent of a steak dinner in a mansion -- and without bankrupting us or hurting anyone's feelings. It's ridiculous, and even talking about how to fix it misses the point.

It can't work. No amount of money, or teacher dedication, or technology, will make it do what we want it to do. If we lowered our expectations -- admit that schools are mostly a daytime storage place for kids, and be satisfied if they teach the rudiments of reading, writing, arithmetic, and a few basic life skills they'll need to get by on their own (like balancing a checkbook) -- then it just might work for most people. But it can't as it is.

Anonymous said...

"Many teachers believe that low achievement can be cured with more money."

In my experience (high school level), the overwhelming majority of teachers believe money specifically used to lower the student-teacher ratio can improve student achievement, but this same overwhelming majority, after years of non-tracking, agree that no amount of money can take the kids who are either too slow or too socially dysfunctional and make them succeed. They see this as a fool's errand that punishes all levels of kids.

No amount of "enhanced" learning opportunities, in the form of mentoring, after-school programs, summer programs, additional staff, has helped those kids who simply can't or won't achieve. It's money down a rat hole.

In the meantime, the courses in which these kids are enrolled have become zoos most of the time. The very best teachers, at their best, manage to keep the kids from acting their very worst, and a handful of the kids actually learn a little bit, but by the next year, our follow-ups show they have lost what few gains they made.

Tracking worked. At this point, even the people who once fell hook, line, and sinker for the notion that all kids can reach certain levels of achievement know better, but we all know the difficulty they have in publicly admitting their error.

Anonymous said...

"Agree heartily that tracking needs to be introduced much earlier for subjects like math."

Same for English and any other courses that require reading and writing skills.

Anonymous said...

Feed ritalin to all the black kids.

Jeff said...

I just quit teaching in Florida after two years; my wife is suffering in her fourth year as the district has implement the idiotic Marzano evaluation system. So much of what Maya says is dead-on accurate. In my District, you cannot fail a student without six parental contacts per quarter! At ~20 min per contact and 40 students deserving of F's you do the math. Plus, the administration is going to run you out of town if you teach and grade fairly.

As for discipline. Teachers are now required handle problems "inside the classroom." This is called your "classroom management" skill. What a joke. And for anyone thinking you need big men to control the classroom, you are deluded. Small, yappy women often have the best classroom management as they have the necessary "bite" and "spirit" to control the room. I am a man who could easily crush all of my 14-year old students, however, my classroom management was not good. Quite frankly, it goes against my ethics and moral outlook to serve as the whipping boy for a dysfunctional system. I will be damned if it is me who does all the hard work for 1/3 of the pay. And administering discipline for six consecutive classes is very hardwork if your natural outlook is not of the domineering "little dog" type. Lest anyone think a bunch of alpha males could control the classroom, it is simple not true.

Probably the worst aspect of the job is the notion that teachers should be evaluated upon the test scores of their students. Someone should never be evaluated based upon the volition of another individual.

Deeply Angry said...

Well, I live in a white+NAM high-income school district with the laziest, greediest public school teachers you could ever ask to meet.

They don't face ANY of the low-ability, bad behavior, slack parenting problems your commenter complains about.

Yet they are so "overworked" that many of them demand their students' parents volunteer to (a) prepare assignments and worksheets (which is pretty funny when the teacher sends home stuff prepared by eager NAM immigrant moms full of Chinglish and misspellings--naturally the teacher can't be bothered even to proofread), (b) grade the homework, (c) proctor the tests, (d) tutor the kids, and (e) throw a party to celebrate the teacher every year, with gifts funded by extortion [you wouldn't want little Johnnie to get a poor recommendation, would you?] from the parents (I am NOT making this up).

This year the school district and the union-run "PTA" have been sending begging letters to parents asking for donations to buy new science textbooks to match the curriculum standards set by the State school board several years ago. The reason the district can't afford textbooks is that the school board put the textbook money into the teachers' paychecks. That despite having a legal responsibility to purchase textbooks with the tax money collected for that purpose.

The teachers in my district called an illegal strike several years ago in the middle of their contract term, just at the start of the school year (so parents had to miss work to watch their kids). The District got a Court order against the strike, but then none of the Superintendent (a union member!), the school board, the state board, or the Democratic state governor would fire or discipline the striking teachers. Instead, they were given a new contract in which every single dollar the district had apart from paying the light bills and suchlike was given to the teachers, plus-- since the teachers didn't consider all of the money there was to be "enough,"-- the teachers were given additional paid-time-off (again to the great inconvenience of parents, because the bell schedule is now short one day every week and the teachers take a bunch of extra holidays that no other businesses or institutions share).

I might have some sympathy for teachers with all the problems your commenter describes if I weren't blinded by anger at our local cabal of lazy teachers and the politicians they own like collared slaves.

Every time I get another letter demanding a "donation" to purchase basic materials supposedly funded by taxes, I think how pleasant it would be to fire and blacklist every single member of the teachers' union, and hire real teachers subject to no more or less discipline than ordinary folks face in salaried white-collar jobs.

NOTA said...

Two alternatives to doing it yoursrlf are:

a. Send your kids to a private school. They automatically filter parents on being interested enough in their kids education to pay for it, and they dont have to let troublemakers stick around.

b. Move to a neighborhood where the local parents have arranged things so that their local public school is pretty good. If the neighborhood is expensive enough, this filters out the underclass, skews the ethnic distribution toward whites and Asians, and ensures that the parents have some resources of their own to spend on their kids--around where I live, its common to see ads for SAT prep classes and businesses that offer tutoring and various kinds of help with learning disabilities and such, paid for by the parents.

ExTeacher said...

Additionally, as long as the kids with disabilities aren't disrupting the classroom I have no trouble with them being in the class with normal kids but if that isn't the case, they should be removed.

I taught a freshman honors math class that had a special ed student who took her tests with the special ed teacher. I believe she was dyslexic. She was a good student and no disruption to the class whatsoever.

Unfortunately, it is not always that easy to remove disruptive special ed students from the classroom.

Ask any school administrator on that issue.

RKU said...

Jehu: I believe over half of the money is spent on administration at levels higher than the individual school level.

Well, ten seconds with Google indicated that the median teacher salary in the U.S. is $40-45K/year. Since teacher salaries probably have a low SD, mean and median are likely pretty similar, and even if we add generous benefits, I doubt the total cost is much above $60K/year. Thus, it looks like 75-80% of total public school spending in America is *not* going to the teachers. So where in the world is it going?

Maybe pencils and paper are just much more expensive than I realized. Otherwise, I'd think that our current educational system exhibits an absolutely astonishing degree of non-functional expense, best classified as the "parasite load."

From what I recall, under the old Soviet system something like one-third of all workers in the agriculture sector were administrators and bureaucrats. Given such vastly lower rate of USSR parasitism, perhaps we should hire old Soviet agricultural officials to run our public school systems, since they would probably produce astonishing gains in cost-effectiveness.

josh said...

Are the vibrant kids motivated to learn about computers so they can participate in "flash mobs"?

Anonymous said...

The kids from the short bus are HUGE time drains from a normal teacher's day.

As for school violence: you're looking at modern recreational drug distribution culture. These fellows are already Alphas of the street. Hence they have ZERO respect for civilization.

They've got their own sub culture - that of the pack-parasite.

Instead of detention: these lads need to be jailed in a youth camp -- and re-instructed by semi-retired Drill Instructors from Paris Island.

Anything less means certain failure.

Certainly they can not be taught by a woman.

Only Alphas will do.

Anonymous said...

"Maya's description of the classroom is a fairly accurate description of my life, particularly the 8 different ability levels."

Is that any different than the one room school house with 30 kids not only with different abilities but of different ages?

Anonymous said...

"Just getting rid of public high and junior high schools and having kids stay at home in front of the computer would be better."

We need to rethink schools. What do we want them to learn? What are schools for? Schools make interesting things boring.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in that last era of normal white functioning society. I went on to college and a so-called exciting career, but all of the boys who dropped out at 16 to work on cars and what not have turned out also to be more or less well adjusted men with families. I mean, to watch the school try and cage up boys with no academic potential in the same schools as students who want to pass algebra and do more academic things is an absurd drama that speaks to the unseriousness of our society.

helene edwards said...

... if we could take all the special kids out of the regular classrooms, group students by ability, end social promotion, allow failing grades and put violent criminals somewhere else, I don't think I'd need two and a half months to recover


OK, so then why don't you and your friends just stop voting Dem?

josh said...

Maya and I don't want more funds, but Maya and I read Isteve. I can't agree with her assessment of my colleagues. At the very least, *female* teachers think that teaching should be a much more prestigious job than it is.

Anonymous said...

"hink the average American classroom has about 25-30 students, and average spending per student around the country is about $10K per year, implying $250-300K of inflowing tax dollars per teacher. Now this either means that teachers are *exceptionally* well paid, o"

Get rid of the buildings, janitors, principals, asst principals, psychologists,air conditioning, sports teams etc..We could pay 5 teachers 60 grand a year each and they could each teach 6 kids in someone's house or apartment. Or they could meet at the library as last resort. It doesn't cut costs but it would eliminate these huge, impersonal schools and give kids more personalized attention.

Kids are wasting their time in schools either learning things they don't need or not learning things. The whole system is a joke.

Time in school doesn't correlate with better learning.

josh said...

Incidentally, I actually enjoyed working at a 95+% NAM school, becuase I found it genuinely funny. It's only frustrating to people who think they actually *can* make a difference.

Anonymous said...

"1. The research is pretty clear that kids with many types of disabilities learn language skills a lot better when they are around normal kids. Most of them should be in regular classrooms."

I suspect my age puts me a lot closer to the realities of high school than most of the commenters, so please realise that I say this with respect and experience:

(1) Please cite your sources and

(2) I don't give a flying fuck about what is - allegedly - best for the retards. My concern is for the average and above average students.

My apologies for the langauge, but I spent all of middle school and a lot of high school in mixed ability classes. Most of the "kids with many types of disabilities", while perfectly nice in the real world, made my academic life a living hell.

I spent most of my language classes around people who could barely read. They slowed the class down, took up all the teachers' attention and earned the emnity of everyone else.

In English, for instance, we couldn't trust that they would be able to understand the books assigned. This was "solved" by a mixture of assigning ever easier books and by spending class making everyone take turns reading them aloud.

You haven't seen humiliation until you've seen a dyslexic with about a 90 IQ trying to read Shakespeare aloud to a group of average and above average students who are chewing the table with frustration and boredom.

I see no reason why the majority should have their education harmed in this way. It didn't seem to help the below average students, not least because they became too embarassed to ask for help when they knew everyone else wanted to move on. It bored the living daylights out of everyone else and it fostered antagonism between the students.

For all the talk about how segregation by ability isolates and embarasses the less able, the fact remains that the only time we cared about each other's academics was when it affected our own performance in some way. (I've met people who seem to assume that segregated classes are the only way that students would recognize each other's strengths and weaknesses, which is garbage.)

I once complained to a teacher about this, and was told that I should teach the less able students - basically, that I should sacrifice my own education and do the teacher's job for her.

The result of all this forced mixing was not a greater sense of community. There was a great deal of withdrawal from official education - in my case, into a huge amount of independent reading, but a great many just stopped bothering.

Even if - *if* - what you say is entirely true, there is no reason that the majority should take a hit in their schooling for the sake of the less able.

Kylie said...

<"The research is pretty clear that kids with many types of disabilities learn language skills a lot better when they are around normal kids. Most of them should be in regular classrooms."

Most of them? Really? Decades ago, a teen told me everyone knew--and shunned--the retarded child who'd been mainstreamed into his class. I can't see where the social exclusion benefitted this child. I'm sure the situation is not unusual.

I knew a teacher who took early retirement the year they put a severely disabled child with a DNR sign around his neck into her fourth-grade public school classroom. This child was incontinent and had to have not a special tutor but a care attendent with him in the classroom. I can just imagine how much learning went on there, despite my friend's good credentials and intentions.

"And grouping by ability is also a good idea. In fact, it is a key part of the most effective teaching method out there..."

Really? So how do you reconcile your notion of grouping by ability with your other notion of including most kids with many types of disabilities?

I hope to hell you're not a teacher.

Kylie said...

"'Maya's description of the classroom is a fairly accurate description of my life, particularly the 8 different ability levels.'"

Is that any different than the one room school house with 30 kids not only with different abilities but of different ages?"


You cannot be serious.

Are you actually comparing people who truly valued education, enough so that they'd scrape together their hard-earned money to hire a teacher, with today's parasitical parents who do not even value their own children, much less the free education being offered to them?

John Craig said...

As far as judging teachers goes, here's an obvious solution: cross reference their students' test scores with their students' IQ's:

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2011/10/blame-teachers.html

Anonymous said...

I think the average American classroom has about 25-30 students, and average spending per student around the country is about $10K per year, implying $250-300K of inflowing tax dollars per teacher. Now this either means that teachers are *exceptionally* well paid, or almost all the money is "disappearing" somewhere. Does anyone know where it's actually going and who's stealing it?


There are vast numbers of non-teaching positions associated with American schools. These are frequently positions filled by political patronage. So the (usually Democratic) political machine is stealing it. Or recirculating it - the people in these jobs only hold them as long as they kick some of the loot back to the machine.

I could tell you some stories about the town I live in ....

map said...

"I see no reason why the majority should have their education harmed in this way. It didn't seem to help the below average students, not least because they became too embarassed to ask for help when they knew everyone else wanted to move on. It bored the living daylights out of everyone else and it fostered antagonism between the students."

Now you understand why. The system did as it was promised.

Anonymous said...

This injustice began because the baby boomers were too embarrassed/guilty to fight back. I was in fourth grade in the mid 90's. As one of the "smart kids" in the class (a 70-pound little girl) I was assigned the seat next to a hulking, 70 IQ oaf, the assumption being of course that my "good habits" might rub off on him. No one cared how this might affect MY ability to learn, since I was already doing fine on the state-administered tests! After months of being poked, mauled, threatened with scissors and generally tormented I broke down crying at home. My mother went to the school the next day. She told me later that the principal excused the boy's behavior with the caveat "You must understand that he is severely mentally challenged." My mother: "Why on earth isn't he in special ed, then?" He disdainfully explained that there was no such thing and admonished HER on "sensitivity". I can only imagine that the situation has gotten worse in the 15 years since.

Anonymous said...

Putting disabled kids off in a separate room with other disabled kids at school severely retards their language development. Full stop.

"Full stop." Well, that depends on the disability. Your initial comment talked about kids with "many types of disabilities", so fair enough.

I've a friend who's heavily involved in educational theory and most respects is a progressive-liberal SWPL. She strongly opposes putting Down's Syndrome kids into regular classrooms on the grounds that they can't establish friendships with normal kids and end up friendless when the leave the system at age 18. OK, maybe their language development is better than in a segregated program, but she has a point.

Cennbeorc

Geoff said...

"...any peep from you about the kids' behavior is interpreted as prejudice."

I don't believe "prejudice" is the word...

Anonymous said...

Teachers are like cops, they never rat each other out. As a result, the bad apples accumulate and the good ones leave for greener pastures.

Simon in London said...

RKU:
"the WashPost's totally corrupt Kaplan School division"

Kaplan, agh, I'm having trouble with them myself.

Baloo said...

Great post, and great comments! It's linked to by Ex-Army HERE.

jody said...

maya, that sounds terrible.

S.Anonyia said...

"1. The research is pretty clear that kids with many types of disabilities learn language skills a lot better when they are around normal kids. Most of them should be in regular classrooms."

But why do kids with disabilities need to improve their language skills? They are a disruption to the normal students who society holds stake in. They should either be supervised at home with caregivers or in schools specially catered to disabled people. Intellectually disabled kids aren't going to be productive members of society, so there is no need to waste anyone's time (including their own) educating them in a traditional public school setting.

S.Anonyia said...

"This injustice began because the baby boomers were too embarrassed/guilty to fight back. I was in fourth grade in the mid 90's. As one of the "smart kids" in the class (a 70-pound little girl) I was assigned the seat next to a hulking, 70 IQ oaf, the assumption being of course that my "good habits" might rub off on him. No one cared how this might affect MY ability to learn, since I was already doing fine on the state-administered tests! "

Yeah, this is similar to my own 3rd grade experience. Our teacher paired all the dumb kids together with the smart ones as classroom partners who were supposed to sit together, work on classwork or after-school projects jointly, and otherwise help eachother out. Of course, my partner happened to be this Mexican boy who spoke basically no English whatsoever. Because of all the time spent helping this kid out with the simplest assignments, I ended up accumulating a lot more homework than was typical for an 8 year old. Sometimes I ended up having to help him with math or reading through our recess period. I never complained about it or realized how unfair the teacher had been until many years later.

elvisd said...

Much of what Maya says is true. My 15 years of teaching a variety of subjects (I have multiple certifications) has brought out these observations:

Schools are places for people to vent their frustations about societal conflict. Some of the bitching about schools has to do with stuff we have no control over: increasing NAM to non NAM ratios, SPED laws, No Child Left Behind, youth crime, etc. We didn't create those issues nor did we "facilitate the climate" for them.

Pundits love to conflate the kooky fads of the Bay area with the rest of the country's schools: I've never seen a school or met a real teacher who advocated teaching ebonics. Even the most lib teachers from Yankee regions want classroom discipline, real standards, and a reasonable balance of accountability between teacher, parent, and student.

The disgraceful protests in Wisconsin don't reflect most of us. I honestly have heard little bitching about having to pay more of our insurance. I consider it fair enough.

Evaluating teachers on test schools is worthless when there isn't a stable testing system that has one company making a test that carries over across the grade levels. The two states where I've taught are in constant flux in test redesign. Hard to get a baseline, much less value added when that is the situation.

The dead weight in every school I've seen are the guidance counselors. They range from useless to being a detriment to the school. Many teachers see them as an untrustworthy adversary.

The most unappreciated issue that I can think of is the destruction of vocational ed. I taught for several years in a school with a solid, if unspectacular vo tech school. I did all kinds of good projects with the electrical and carpentry classes that were very productive, but the new principal didn't give a shit. He and the new school board rep both had voiced their hostility to vocational education, with all that crap about how everyone needs to go to college or be ready for "high tech" jobs. Idiots like this (one was a Dem, the other a Repub) think everyone's going to get 4 year degrees or be computer programmers. In other words, they welcome the hollowing out of our economy. They assume/welcome that all moderately skilled labor is to be outsourced to other countries or will be the province of illegals. This is a belief that this country is sick in the blood with, and a whole sector of education is the victim. I actually got the balls to call out the school board member on it, but he's stuck on his "vision". I left the school in disgust at the end of the year and I'm at a better school, about the same socioeconomic mix, but better led.

Anne said...

Anyone here know of any good group resources for (secular) homeschooling?

Thursday said...

1. Kids with disabilities are generally not a major disruption to the normal functioning of the classroom and usually benefit from integration. There are of course exceptions (duh!), but they aren't the rule. The vast majority of problems come from intellectually normal kids with behaviour problems.

2. It is obvious that there needs to be tracking for all academic subjects in high school and for some subjects, like math, even in junior high.

3. Only a person who has never actually given this any thought would think that you can't have both tracking and integration of disabled kids. This is not a black and white issue. Seriously, think about it for a moment.

Anonymous said...

I wunt learn but peepul like Maya dont care becuz he or she think studens like me not up for much in life but if we given chance, there is much I can learn in librery with little motivasion.

Anonymous said...

To fourth grader/mid-90s forced to sit next to 70 IQ oaf:

Yeah, that stuff is nothing new, it happened to me starting in second grade back in 1972. I was even forced to _tutor_ the worthless little punks.

The only saving grace was sort of straight out of "Androcles and the Lion" -- one of my "pupils" (imagine this, I was in second grade and I had pupils!) had a street-style sense of decency and honor, and when he grew up into a full-grown bad-ass, he put the word out that nobody on the street could touch me. And it was a rough neighborhood, so I was grateful for that.

But still.
Teaching other kids in second bloody grade? WTF?!?

pigherder said...

Putting disabled kids off in a separate room with other disabled kids at school severely retards their language development. Full stop.
Switzerland - Integrating the disabled - quick quote from my Xmas letter from a Swiss Elementary teacher/Principal/penpal of 30 years:"I really like my job.I have a great class this year with only 17 students, one of whom is Down's Syndrome - he is integrated into our class 2 days a week. A Teacher's Aid is provided as he is quite a handful.He cannot speak but does sometimes start shouting and often does foolish things - unrolls yards of Scotch tape, tips over paint containers, squeezes out tubes of glue, demolishes projects built by his classmates, throws stuff around the classroom, rips up library books, etc. He is not yet toilet trained so the Aid and I must change his diapers. On occasion, he can be adorable but we must keep an eye on him constantly."

Maya said...

"I wunt learn but peepul like Maya dont care becuz he or she think studens like me not up for much in life but if we given chance, there is much I can learn in librery with little motivasion."

Dude! I would be so excited if, at least, several students in each of my classes had that level of mastery of the English language! Actually, reading alone is the best I can offer to my high ability students, on most days. While, I'm busy trying every technique imaginable to get some students to, at least, attempt to understand, the school expects smart kids to tutor their peers. They are usually bored and restless. Now, I buy around 20 books/month from used amazon to cheer them up and buy their good behavior. When they are done with each book, we talk about it, they complete a fun project connected with the book (I bought a cheap video camera, so they could make movies), and then we pick their next book together, over lunch. Boys are willing to read above their comfort level if it's about zombies, mystery murders or bodily functions.

Kylie said...

"Kids with disabilities are generally not a major disruption to the normal functioning of the classroom and usually benefit from integration. There are of course exceptions (duh!), but they aren't the rule."

If by major disruption, you mean screaming fits, seizures, etc., probably not. On the other hand, a disruption doesn't need to be major to have a negative effect on the classroom dynamics. It might not even be disruption so much as continual interruption.

And integration does not equal inclusion. I have never known of any child with a perceived disability in a mainstream class who wasn't socially excluded, except those who were painstakingly included by those taking the moral high ground. In both cases, though, it's the child's disability, not his personality, that determines how he's treated by his peers. That can't be a comfortable situation for any child, particularly one who has more to deal with than most.

"Only a person who has never actually given this any thought would think that you can't have both tracking and integration of disabled kids."

Sure you can if you lump the disabled kids in with the kids who are so unintelligent that it amounts to a disability. I don't see how you can have tracking and integration of disabled kids with average or bright kids without the problems mentioned here: boredom and loss of motivation on the part of the latter two groups, social exclusion, etc.

Now if you're going to include minor disabilities like a slight limp or the need for a hearing aid or extra-strong glasses, then your point has some validity. But I was referring to more serious physical and mental disabilities, as were the other commenters here. So no loaded arguments, please.

Maya said...

Mitch,
I love teaching too. My message was meant as a comment in response to someone who generalized about educators, so I put emphasis on difficult, depressing and often thankless part of the job. Your district seems to be a little better than mine since, at least, you can fail those who deserve it. I, too, have had many students who don't care if they'll pass or fail, but there are always those who could have been motivated by fair consequences.
Yes, I'm furious. I became a teacher, in part, because I've always loved kids. Now, I care about my students more than I could have imagined a few years ago. They are kids, and it's not their fault that their school is a zoo. I'd like to have kids of my own, and if due to some tragedy I don't get to raise them, I hope someone will teach them impulse control, build their self-esteem by rewarding actual achievement, teach them personal responsibility and make them feel in control of their fates by providing consequences for their actions and respect them enough to require civilized behavior. I'm not raging at the students, but at those who completely disregard the students' best interests while nurturing the worst of human nature in them. If they are never required to sit down, be quiet and listen, what will they possibly succeed in come adulthood? Will they be able to maintain a relationship? Believe it or not, the kids tell me I'm their favorite teacher and ask if they could move in with me. I'm the only one who actually plays and engages with them during the before and after school duty. (I'm the youngest, so i have the most energy.) I lead a fun club that had the largest enrollment this and last year, and the kids have my phone number available to them.

The changes I'd like to see in the way schools are set up would make my life a lot easier, and I'd be less cranky. But the main reason I'd like to see those changes is that without them, it's impossible to do my job. I'll get paid anyway, but the kids can't learn in a loud, dangerous class where everyone has very different needs.

Maya said...

Thursday,

I'm very weary of education research. It seems to be cherry picked to fit current political ideologies, at any given time. For example, I'm being told over and over again in professional development and in my Master's in Teaching classes that research shows that kids of all abilities benefit from mixed ability classes. That's clearly not true. More so, no one can actually tell me where to find these peer reviewed studies, even though they are cited everywhere.

As for social promotion... Don't grade levels mean anything anymore? How can a child who can't add or subtract be expected to learn how to solve speed/time/distance word problems? How much sense does it make to teach literature to a student who can't read? What's more important than reading, addition and subtraction? As teachers we are now expected to create literature/chemistry/European history/French lesson plans with accommodations for students who are illiterate. WTF?!? If a student can't read, everything else should take the back seat. If we cared about these kids, we would direct of of their efforts into learning how to read, not chemistry and French. Social promotion is wrong because it sets kids up to fail by sending them on without the basic skills they need to succeed at the next level. It's strange to be defending something so obvious! School is a place where we learn stuff. Second grade is where we learn second grade skills. Can't learn second grade skills without the first grade skills. The end. Social promotion is the reason why more than a third of my district's graduating seniors couldn't read their own diplomas last year. That's NOT a joke.

sword said...

-----
James Johnson said...
Teachers are likely future converts to HBD because they see consistent and vast differences in ability and personality, not to mention physical maturity, first hand. Try to tell them about it in as PC terms as you can come up with.

Some black "education professionals" are even starting to promote the idea of all-black schools, for the benefit of blacks. We MUST encourage this idea.
-----
1. Can you provide a PC-ish template for how to talk to people so that they start accepting HBD?
2. Do you have links regarding all-black schools?

Maya said...

Thursday,

About the kids with disabilities... They are USUALLY a major distraction. I'm not talking about physical disabilities, but mental and emotional ones. Oftentimes, they have genuinely bad experiences in regular classrooms. Those who seem to have a good time are usually so retarded that they will never be able to lead anything close to normal lives. I let them sleep when they want, try to make sure they have a lot of fun activities like coloring and get the other kids to stop picking on them. Still, they act out from time to time, and otherwise require constant attention that's not in sync with the rest of the class. The autistic kids have the worst time, and the regular children tend to hate them. They scream, rock, act "weird" and are prone to violent outbursts. Some of the higher functioning ones can participate in some activities, but miss social cues, and end up setting all their peers against them. One little boy with asperger's laughed with the rest about some silly story where someone got spit on, and then he spit on as many of his classmates as he could. Some of these kids will never have a normal life. Others need very special attention to develop skills that would allow them to hope for a somewhat normal life. A regular overcrowded classroom isn't the place.

Maya said...

Elvisd,

Oh, how I would love to see high school students being offered vocational education! They do it in France and it works great. I teach high school in the summer, and many of those students expressed interest in learning a trade instead of French or algebra.
Personally, I think it's a great idea because:
A. I actually respect skilled workers and don't see them as somehow below me and
B. It's more realistic than college for a lot of these kids, and it's what they want.

But don't you ever bring it up in "respectable" circles. In one of my Teach for America seminars, we had to go around the room and share why we believe all kids should be taught a foreign language. When it was my turn, I said that I disagree and that, perhaps, the students should have an opportunity to explore plumbing, truck driving, culinary or auto repair, if they so choose. I was very careful in the way I phrased my views and was trying to be anything but confrontational. Thought I wouldn't make it out of there. Among other things, I was asked if I believe in the caste system and it was suggested that I am subconsciously racist (even though we weren't even discussing race).

Anonymous said...

"Maybe pencils and paper are just much more expensive than I realized. Otherwise, I'd think that our current educational system exhibits an absolutely astonishing degree of non-functional expense, best classified as the "parasite load."

Our district is in better financial shape than the nationwide average. Nonetheless, there have been cutbacks, such that all sweepers (high school kids paid minimum wage to come in after school for two hours to assist the custodian in cleanup) are discontinued.

But, the way the district spends money is mind-boggling. At a time-wasting, exceedingly expensive pep-rally meeting for all the employees of the entire district, we were given a diagram of the chain of command. Ours is a small district, yet there are dozens of people between the superintendent and school principals. What do they all DO?

Anonymous said...

Those who can't learn, leech.

Aaron Baugher said...

I suspect that Thursday's "education research" is worth about as much as smoking research funded by tobacco companies, and for the exact same reasons.

Chazz said...

The other side of this equation is that parents have also had their ability to impose discipline on the little darlings severely curtailed by the social police. The kids know from their pals that they simply have to mention to the principal or the school nurse that mom or dad has been unkind to them and their home will be visited by "Child's Protective Services". Expect no due process.

Anonymous said...

Affirmative action dream candidate: a black female fire chief... and her friend named Fagan... sounds Jewish.

Anonymous said...

Don't try to teach a pig how to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.

Maya said...

Chazz said:
"The other side of this equation is that parents have also had their ability to impose discipline on the little darlings severely curtailed by the social police. The kids know from their pals that they simply have to mention to the principal or the school nurse that mom or dad has been unkind to them and their home will be visited by "Child's Protective Services". Expect no due process."


That's true for the suburb where I grew up. However, here, in the ghetto, the opposite is true. It's common knowledge that a lot of our students are regularly beaten, and the kids talk about the abuse they get quite often. Just a couple of days ago, I saw some whale smack around her toddler at the local IHOP. Many kids come to school dirty and smell bad. Having neglected hair is one of the most embarrassing things a black girl can go through, apparently, and it's heart breaking to see so many little girls having to go through that humiliation. One little boy talks only through the chicken puppet on his hand, Mr. Chicky. Mr Chicky says that he's sad and that he doesn't want to go to bed at night because the bed smells so bad. Mom's in and out of jail. Grandma's on welfare. The adults here are not accountable. It's a different world.

Anonymous said...

Maya, black kids are dumped in foster care at very high levels. A lot of parents with functional children lose them to the foster system, because such resilient kids are obviously adoptable.

DanJ said...

@ Maya,

It is an enduring mystery to me why you Americans shun vocational education.

Go ask a German or Scandinavian dad if he´s embarrassed that his child is learning a useful trade! Kids in 2-3 year vocational school will learn skills they can actually use, get a solid education and be ready to get to work and make money.

Of course a high school/equivalent diploma is required for all higher learning and good for career advancement, and some vocational schools have teamed up with high schools to offer the diplomas in one package. Kids choose HS or vocational at 15/16 and generally have a good idea of what suits them best.

Over here, there is no shame for child, parent or teacher in opting for a vocational education only.

Anonymous said...

Maya says:

"Oh, how I would love to see high school students being offered vocational education! They do it in France and it works great."

Really? The strong impression I get from my French and German friends and relatives is that a lot of vocational education is a way of dumping the troublesome, those on the left of the Bell Curve and - especially - immigrants and their descendents.

It's a way of ensuring that these people don't sully their precious public education of those higher up the feeding chain.

I'm all for vocational education, but we need to stop pretending that there's no snob value about it in continental Europe. It's a weak argument in favor of it; there will always be people who don't want their children anywhere near a trade.

My European father, for instance, would have been happier in vocational education, but his (progressive) parents would not have taken the shame and pity from their equally progressive friends.

Anonymous said...

Bless you Maya. Hold out a little longer, change is coming. It can't go on this way for much longer. People like you just have to hold on until the .gov can't bother you anymore and you are going to be able to run the schools the way they should be.

Anonymous said...

"The kids know from their pals that they simply have to mention to the principal or the school nurse that mom or dad has been unkind to them and their home will be visited by "Child's Protective Services". Expect no due process."


I tell my kids to go ahead and call complain, etc. I tell them that social services is not going to buy them a a car, nice eat out meals, etc. And there will definitely be some real and true tough bastard kids down there that will kick their little candy asses for them. I tell them if they want to give foster care a try, they can be my guest. It ain't no party, and no one is going to be catering to their whims for them.

Maya said...

"Really? The strong impression I get from my French and German friends and relatives is that a lot of vocational education is a way of dumping the troublesome, those on the left of the Bell Curve and - especially - immigrants and their descendents."

I've actually lived and worked in France. I part of my job was preparing the vocational high school kids for their vocational Bac. Yes, a lot of them are poor and/or immigrants. So? They are allowed to transfer to a technical or academic high school, if they get their grades up (in their dumbed down academic courses), allowed to take the regular Bac and encouraged to apply to a higher education establishment upon graduation. They don't want to. Their favorite classes are their trade classes. Some students were just screwing around and doing nothing. They were just welfare moms and criminals in training. Again, so? Are you saying they'd be better of stuck in Latin and philosophy classes, at an academic high school? A lot of these lower class kids were excited about their prospects, though. The vocational high school where I helped out had a truck driving school, a pet extermination school, medical billing prep course and a secretary school. I met quite a few young men who commuted for almost an hour to get to that particular high school. A lot of the local students had siblings who chose to wake up early and commute to a far away vocational high school which offered diplomas in hair styling, culinary and musical instrument repair. Many of the students I encountered were very proud of their accomplishments and felt successful in their internships.

"I'm all for vocational education, but we need to stop pretending that there's no snob value about it in continental Europe. It's a weak argument in favor of it; there will always be people who don't want their children anywhere near a trade."

Huh? Whoever used the elimination of snobbery and the coming of a complete and total equality as an argument in support of vocational education? As far as straw men go, yours is quite a bizarre one. Yes, it takes more brain power to become a doctor than a plumber, and everyone knows it thus granting the former career more status than the latter. The people who aren't smart enough to be doctors aren't fragile emotional wrecks by default. A lot of them are perfectly capable of feeling proud and accomplished as plumbers, industrial cleaners and pest exterminators while fully understanding that an architect is more of an intellectual than they are. Not everyone wants to be an intellectual. Sure, there are always people out there like your grandparents who feel strongly about wearing brand names or steering their kids away from trades. However, I spent a lot of time among both the professional class and the working class French, and I honestly didn't pick up on prevailing snobbery towards the skilled trades, quite the opposite.

I'm not trying to create a society where everyone is equal, equally compensated and equally admired. That would be insane. I think a better goal is a society where as many people as possible can contribute to their full potential and feel pride and satisfaction in their contributions. I hope my son will be a doctor, but I'd be happy and satisfied as a mother if he decided that plumbing suits him better. I wouldn't be proud of a son who is a drug dealer, perpetually unemployed or in jail. I feel the same way about my students.

David said...

Thursday, how do you reconcile these two points of yours:

>The research is pretty clear that kids with many types of disabilities learn language skills a lot better when they are around normal kids. Most of them should be in regular classrooms.<

and

>grouping by ability is also a good idea. In fact, it is a key part of the most effective teaching method out there (for the basics, anyway)<

I agree with the point that social promotion is the correct policy. Schools should keep thugs and dullards around as little as possible. Regular, systematic flushing keeps the system from backing up.

Justthisguy said...

I thank the Lord every day for having sent me to elementary, jr. high, and high schools with lots of Jews in them.


Bullying and thuggishness were not tolerated, and industry and earnest studying were encouraged.

I started first grade in 1956, I think.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Pretty accurate. Used to teach jr. high history and it was the worst job experience of my life, and I also worked briefly as a truck driver and security guard.
If you're a new teacher at a jr. high like I was, 12-13 year old kids know how to work the system better than you do and it's very easy to wind up as dog meat.
Basically, you've had 0 years of experience dealing with bullshit from students, parents and principals, and they've had 7-8 years of experience being assholes.