Sunday, October 02, 2005

Some incidents in the life of a progressive school

Some incidents in the life of a progressive school:

--In homeroom, the kids are telling each other about themselves. One girl, a ninth-grader, says, "I am boy-crazy. And I love to eat! I'm hungry all the time." A twelfth grade boy says under his breath, "If you like boys, and you're hungry all the time, I'll give you something to eat!" He and his friends laugh. The teacher, who probably heard what he said, says, "I'm glad you're comfortable enough to have jokes." This teacher, in the previous period, had taught a lesson on institutional racism, as defined by Cornel West.

--During a similar "homeroom circle," one boy talks out, loudly, again and again. He interrupts people with renditions of his favorite rap songs. No one tells him to stop. Not once. It continues for an hour. No one talks to him after class.

--Someone's cell phone rings in class. There is a rule against cell phones, but there are no consequences attached to breaking it. Another person's cell phone rings. Two kids listen to music on a cell phone. They are told to stop. Two minutes later, it is out again.

--A student who has never done one piece of homework interrupts the teacher at the end of class, chanting "what's the homework? what's the homework?" Annoyed, but joking, she replies, "What do you care? You don't do the homework." The class laughs. The boy is not used to this kind of straight talk. He leaves the room a minute early. The teacher apologizes profusely. She decides she shouldn't be so hard on students. The boy doesn't turn his homework in on Monday.

--During group work, one girl is trying to do the assigned task. Three of her classmates are goofing around, annoying one another and her. There is no accountability for any of them. The girl, distracted by the others, does not finish the task.

--One boy thinks it is appropriate to call me "sweetheart." When he is told not to do it, he doesn't understand why. "I call everyone sweetheart," he says. That I am a teacher does not distinguish me from anyone else, in his mind. I tell him it is incredibly disrespectful, and that he cannot do it anymore. He doesn't.

--One twelfth grade humanities class will spend the entire quarter on the idea of "race as a social construct." Perhaps the teachers believe the students will be more interested in a topic that affects their "daily lives." Instead, the kids seem bored. The material is too theoretical, there is nothing for them to grab onto.


At October 02, 2005 6:09 PM, Blogger Instructivist said...

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At October 02, 2005 6:10 PM, Blogger Rob said...

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At October 02, 2005 7:03 PM, Anonymous crazytrainmatt said...

I tend to agree. I attended Catholic schools until college. They educated us the same way I imagine they did my parents. My first in-depth exposure to California state education was when I met its products at the UC. My impression was that they had a lot more AP Honors Accelerated bullet points, but very little depth of understanding. In fact, my Jesuit high school humanities education was even a bit more rigorous than most of Berkeley's (engineering was another matter, of).

All this has made me very suspicious of innovations in education. I think the methods of teaching the three R's were pretty well worked out decades ago. I think the largest space for improvement is in the organization, funding sources, and accountability.

At October 03, 2005 3:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure that the soft bigotry of low expectations has something to do with the fact that these minority students are not achieving, but don't rule out the possibility that different races and ethnicities are innately predisposed towards different levels and different kinds of intellectual achievment.

The evidence is piling up: - search for "BRCA1 variant" and "Microcephalin".

At October 03, 2005 7:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At October 03, 2005 12:43 PM, Blogger Norma said...

I hope they appoint you to advise on rebuilding New Orleans schools.

At October 05, 2005 12:15 PM, Blogger Cathy said...

I think I would go NUTS in a class like that. I have friends that teach high school and they share those sorts of things on occasion.

Give me preschoolers.... their innocence is still there!

I guess this is more than about education - it's a reflection on our society and what we are tolerating. And we expect these folks to become hard working citizens??


At December 03, 2008 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Cathy. It sounds like these problems are not rooted in progressivism, but in the teacher's (in this case) inability to establish a level of respect in the classroom. Do we need kids to LIKE us so badly that we sacrifice respect in the classroom, and therefore endanger their education?


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