APs yet again!

27 08 2009

School’s starting around the country once again, and that means that all the AP pushing College Board minio…er, educators with an eye on college prep are back to pushing students into AP classes. The goal is, of course, to force students to Rise To Meet The Challenge and Unlock Their Hidden Potential. Excuse me for a moment while I go burn Micky Mouse in effigy.

All right, Micky Mouse is dead. Now, on to the question, why do so many educators suffer from Acute Disney Syndrome? Do teachers spend their summers strapped to a chair somewhere in a dark room watching Miracle?

The problem would be easily explained if we were talking only about elementary school teachers (the sort of teachers who want to teach elementary school kids are the same people as the ones who love the happy feel good underdog stories), but the one’s to whom I’m referring are neither in elementary schools nor teachers. They are a diverse group, ranging from education columnists to principals and department supervisors. They are in districts as different as the DC schools and upper middle class suburban districts.

Self interest (“My school is higher in Newsweek than theirs!”) really doesn’t adequately explain it, either. It appears to be a strange mix of self interest, delusion (they actually believe that the average kid just needs a challenge to turn into a wonderful scholar), and the truly bizarre educational culture in the United States (“I believe that evwywon is gifted!”) coming together in a sort of perfect storm of bad educational theory.


Here to illustrate the complexities of the situation, I give you the Perpetual Dissent Abridged Sock Puppet Company in their second performance.

Perpetual Dissent puppet: So what makes you think that pushing underachieving students into college level classes will make them perform better?

Administrator puppet #1: You’ve said it yourself! Putting gifted students in college classes helps them learn better!

PD: But most students aren’t gifted stude…

Puppet #1: EVERYONE is gifted! Everyone is unique and special and wonderful and amazing and important and significant!

PD: …do you even know what “gifted” means?

Puppet #1: It means that they deserve decent treatment!

PD: Yeah, um, no. Are you sure you got a degree in education?

Puppet #1: Yep,  that’s where I learned all this!

PD: Oh god why?

Administrator puppet #2: He’s dumb. But I’m smart, so here’s why everyone should do APs! See, if everyone does APs, then we get higher in Newsweek. And if we’re higher in Newsweek, then more people move here and pay taxes, and I get a pay raise. And if I get a pay raise, then I can go out to Vegas and…wait, what were we talking about?

PD: *blinks*

Administrator puppet #3: Admit it, Disney is true! Everyone just needs a push to unlock their hidden potential! Everyone’s just waiting to rise to meet The Challenge!

PD: Was the lobotomy painful?

*At this point the Puppet Theater was interrupted as Disney Commandos (Donald Duck knows how to use an M16, who would have guessed?) swung in through the windows and dragged puppet #3 from the room for violating their trademarks on “unlocking hidden potential” and “rise to meet the challenge.” We will mourn his loss. He was a good puppet.*




2 responses

31 08 2009

Heh, the thing about Disney cartoons and movies that annoyed me the most when I was a kid, was: “If you believe it strong enough, everything will come true, aaawww.” Or that stupid The Stupid Little Train That Could story.

24 10 2009

As a jaded adult and a pre-service teacher (no, can’t say “education major” because that lacks cachet), I’ve been reflecting on the dichotomy of teacher education programs in the US.

On the one hand, we’re taught to individualize instruction (implying that students are different from one another.) On the other, we’re not to make judgments about students’ abilities that might prejudice us in our teaching (treat them all the same!)

Keep tilting at the AP windmill. We’re living in an era where people seem to genuinely believe that all of our students can be above average (it’s codified into NCLB.) Someday, we’re going to realize that everyone doesn’t get a pony.

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