In Which Detox Ends (Pt 1)

7 09 2009

Yes, summer has come to an end and with it the nearly 3 months a year in which children may detoxify from their educations. Let’s talk a little about that toxicity, and why the long break is important (I know that there are legitimate arguments for shorter, more frequent breaks for reasons such as how much progress is lost in many low achieving students, but for these posts t I’m dealing with average and above average kids).

Firstly, I guess I should at least a stab at showing that my premise (school wears kids down and is, in some ways, detrimental) is the case. All right, here goes.

Most American schools, or at least the public ones, are set up to foster uniformity. Yes, there is token “diversity,” encouraging diversity of race and background, gender and sexual preference. There’s even (supposedly) a push to creativity (hah. More on that later). But there isn’t a true encouragement toward diversity of thought. You are taught that you do math this way, and any other way is wrong, even if it works. You will write your essay such that it adheres perfectly to these thirty seven guidelines, and touches for exactly three sentences on 3 of these 5 topics, no fewer and no more. Your thoughts on those topics will fall within these parameters, and these boundaries. You will reach them by prewriting in exactly this manner. Have a science lab? Here are the instructions. Figure out things for yourself? That would waste valuable class time! We’re here to get you through the tests, not to teach you to think scientifically! Like music? Well then, you may do choral music, play chamber music, marching band, or jazz. What’s that, you like rock? Well, that’s just too bad.

And about that English paper, I hope you didn’t say anything that might offend anyone? After all, it’s much more important that you’re meek and inoffensive than that you’re cogent, or that you drive to the center of the issue. If that issue might offend someone, then school time should not be spent dealing with it, and you will be disciplined! And heaven forbid it wasn’t one of the five thoughts that the teacher anticipated, that would make grading it take an actual look at its merits rather than a look at the teacher’s outline of how they’ve graded the same thoughts for 20 years!

Creativity? Hah! You amuse me! We are here to learn facts! We do not learn to understand the beauty and elegance of an atom! We do not waste valuable test time to delve into its depths in order to learn the way to think to truly understand it, and how it was discovered, and why it is the way it is! We most certainly do not have free write time in English which might be used in writing a metaphorical story of an atom! And as for writing about atoms in science class, well!

Creativity in history? No, we will not spend time to read and discuss satirists! They are irrelevant to history! They did not shape it! Only the Great Politicians shaped history, not some lowly comedian! Use George Carlin to learn about the issues surrounding censorship? But he’s offensive! Read Mark Twain’s essays? But he’s for English class! And taking the time to learn about what satire is, and perhaps even attempt it ourselves? Positively absurd! That is not how it is done.

Subject integration is of course impossible. We could not possibly learn rhetoric in English and study historical examples in History. We cannot waste our time learning the history of Science, and how it began and developed. Learning about computer science and its impact on World War Two would be silly, of course. Alan Turing did nothing for the War!

Point made, I think. School is about compartmentalizing, and fitting our thoughts in approved boxes. The number of approved boxes has increased, but that is a far cry from removing the boxes and giving children the chance to swim in the ocean that is independent thought.

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2 responses

8 09 2009
Entle

To be perfectly honest, my school has fewer boxes. There IS progression. We’re encouraged to do math any way that works; even if it takes three times as long. We’re encouraged to have different answers and debate on our own, sans teacher intervention, as to which is the most useful answer or format. We create our own science labs, given set materials and goals. We have student-run music programs – admittedly, not during classtime, but during school hours, and with music teacher supervision and aid. In some of our English papers (not the ones concerning certain literature, for instance) we’re encouraged to voice our opinion loud and clear – as long as it’s supported well, which is the point, isn’t it? Our history TEACHER is satirical, much less the class – and we’re encouraged to make new interpretations about why historical events took place, not just regurgitate the ones that we are given.

Not all schools are cookie-cutter formats – some are, but there are always duds, and it will take ages to fix that, yes. However, there is only so much freedom that can be allowed before it stops being a learning environment and starts becoming a social scene. Yes, there are problems with toxicity in education, but in some schools it is addressed to, in my opinion, a sufficient degree.

8 09 2009
Perpetual Dissent

You’re also talking, for math, about calc, for science, a VERY rare science program, a self admitted very small portion of the english papers, and again readily admit that the history flex is due to the teacher.

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