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#16492 - 04/30/02 08:38 AM Re: peeves
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Ahhh, Max, if you saw my site on word pet peeves, this is one of them!

Would it continue to be one of your pet peeves irregardless of whether or not Max did or did not see it (or not)?


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#16493 - 04/30/02 08:43 AM Re: Kids and school
TheFallibleFiend Offline
veteran

Registered: 01/23/02
Posts: 1523
Loc: Virginia, USA

Ah, Max, ya spoilt muh fun! I wanted to see how long it would take till she figured it out. Anyways, thanks for the kind word and back atcha.

k



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#16494 - 04/30/02 10:27 AM Re: Kids and school
TheFallibleFiend Offline
veteran

Registered: 01/23/02
Posts: 1523
Loc: Virginia, USA

After rereading my post today, it seems to me I was a lot harsher than I should have been. I apologize if my tone was nasty.

This is a very current concern for us. For the past three years (ever since we got reported to the school), my wife has been nagging me to move out the neighborhood. At the time, I was pretty seriously pissed. But she was actually scared. She comes from communist China where at one time people reported on each other regularly. Everyone's activities were everyone else's business. She just doesn't want to be around people like this. I sympathize with her ... in fact, I agree with her ... but I'm not ready to move yet. But every night after I'm done reading, she's still up reading brochures about places she wants to move to. And I don't want to move. Aside from this incident (and one where some pissants spray-painted "chink" on our lawn and mailbox and one kid nearly putting my daughter's eye out) and a few other very minor things, this is a pretty good neighborhood.

Besides, unless one lives in a very small community, the odds are high one will have at least a few idiot neighbors. We have only a very few idiots. We know the idiots. The idiots know us. The idiots we know are less dangerous than the idiots we don't know. (But as I keep telling my wife, I agree 100% that people who use the school system like this should get the crap kicked out of them - physically and not metaphorically.)

A few odds and ends.

True story. One of my friends in college was another strong atheist. His view of religion was even lower than mine at the time. His father was also a strong atheist. Louisville benefitted and suffered from forced busing and my friend was one of its victims. He was getting beaten up every single day at school. (I strongly sympathize with this, because until I bulked up, I endured a similar fate.) Life was horrible for him, because the school wouldn't do anything about the bullies. They had already far exceeded their quota of black detentions and suspensions and so the bullies were given less than a slap on the wrist and sent out to beat him up again and again and again. He was verging on a nervous breakdown and was considering suicide. He broke down in front of his parents finally and told them he just couldn't go back again. His parents knew what was going on, but couldn't get the school to do anything. As a last ditch effort, they got him enrolled in Walnut Street Baptist Church's school. (I can't remember the exact name, but it's owned and operated by the church.) This is a big church in Louisville and their services are (or were) broadcast in Louisville every Sunday. He finishes school there, gets a national merit scholarship, goes to UL, gets a masters, goes to work for IBM in Lexington and earned a number of patents. Now my friend thought the minister at walnut street was a hypocritical lowlife. And his view of religion kinda grates on me at times - it's not enough that he doesn't believe, but he has to continually ridicule it. All the same, in rare moments, he'll admit he's grateful to that school. They saved his life, he says. And I believe him. I don't believe they got any vouchers. But they should have, imo.

Now there is a worry here that our private schools could turn out like the Madrasses in Pakistan. That's a legitimate concern. In fact, there have been a few like that to arise here in the states already. I'm not entirely averse to having some kind of standard for what is minimally taught, although I'm not sure we would agree on what should be included in a mandatory curriculum. Take evolution and creationism. Now, I'm not too keen on people being taught creationism with "public" funds, but I don't think it's *that* harmful for kids to not be taught about evolution - especially since I can think of at least one subject that's much more important that is given short shrift. Probability. Not one kid should get out of school without knowing something about this subject. It has immediate practicality regardless of how much further one goes with it, and its knowledge has lingering consequences to the long term understanding of other subjects (like evolution). Now, I came to this conclusion a long time ago on my own, but I read somewhere in the last year or two that S. J. Gould also touts prob and stats as an important part of the young student's diet (although I don't know his view on the relative importance of this versus evolution).

For as much evolution as kids are actually likely to get in K-12, they could easily spend a few weeks on their own learning at least that much. Note: I'm not making an argument to not teach evolution in PS. My argument is that no one should be forced to learn it.

Before I say another word, though, I will confess to something. I'm entirely unprincipled. (It's not that I don't have them, it's that I don't bother articulating them. Other people have told me that's the same thing as being unprincipled and I frankly have better things to argue about, so I'll just accept up front that I'm unprincipled.) I'm not going to let my kids be denied an education while people argue over things that are on the whole irrelevant (imo). And so, I'm not at all annoyed, for example, that they have this moment of silence thing in VA schools. In fact, I'm pretty happy about it. I will be very pissed if they get rid of it - not because I want my kids praying during that time, but because there are so many more important things for these guys in the capitol to worry about (budget shortfall in some school districts) that they shouldn't be wasting a single second of time on a side issue. Also, the moment of silence is a compromise and I'm all for compromise. There's just no need to draw lines in the sand or on the school playground.

What I would like to see more of is this: "We mandate as little as possible. We facilitate as much as possible." These parents who are homeschooling and private schooling (not talking about the filthy rich we all love to hate, but the borderline people we're merely envious of) and parochial schooling actually *care* about their kids AND are willing to do something about it. They're making an effort of some kind, which is a lot more than what some parents do. (They had a math night at school a few months back. I looked around. The only families that were there were the ones that didn't need to be. Tragic.) These parents have a lot to give, not just to their own kids, but to other people's kids if they're allowed to. We shouldn't be pushing these people away, we should be asking, "How the heck can we get them to harness all that energy for us?" We should try to embrace them, not by force but (for lack of a better term at the moment) by the continued exercise of good will.

I don't believe PSes fail because of home schools or private schools. I think there are a multitude of reasons for these failures, partly bureaucratic and partly parental indifference. (Complaining a lot does not disqualify one from being indifferent.)

For the time being, I realize this is just fantasy. It's easier to lay down the law for the dissenters than it is to compromise one's principles (one's own principles being infinitely more important someone else's principles).

Well, I've got more to ramble on about, but I find I've went over my time allotment. Heck, I'm not even finished divigating!


k



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#16495 - 04/30/02 02:06 PM Re: Kids and school
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
i don't agree with all your ideas and opinions, but, like Biker Mom, i recognize you are a real asset to your school system. Getting involved, staying involved, in one of the key factors for a child success! I am less involved now, since my kids are grown, and out of school. and my granddaughter age 18 months is still to young!

_________________________
my other obsession

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#16496 - 04/30/02 08:17 PM Re: Kids and school
Rouspeteur Offline
member

Registered: 03/10/01
Posts: 163
(It's not that I don't have them, it's that I don't bother articulating them. Other people have told me that's the same thing as being unprincipled and I frankly have better things to argue about, so I'll just accept up front that I'm unprincipled.)

My short answer to that is: "Res non verba" (you'll have to forgive any errors in my spelling of that motto)

My long answer: Your friends are wrong. I believe that when you watch someone over a long period of time you will get an idea of what their principles are, whether they articulate them or not. I would believe someone I see actively contributing to their community before someone who just professes it.

The concept of being a hypocrite can be a difficult one. I am Anglican, not Catholic, and I would never convert. I have many fundamental disagreements with some of its teachings, and yet, I attend a Catholic church and the children will go to a Catholic school. I strongly believe that religion can play a positive role in the children's lives and so I will not undermine it by expressing dissenting opinions (for about another 18 years). Children crave certainty and security; they will learn about grey soon enough. Does this count as being a hypocrite?

I sympathise you on the troubles with pinheads in your neighbourhood, but alas, they are everywhere. There is an old lady who walk her dog along our street. The children just love the dog. One day, out of the blue, she
asked, "Aren't you teaching them Canadian?"

"Yes, they speak French"
"No, I meant Canadian, you know, English."
"Well, my in-laws are all French, and they pay their taxes in Canadian dollars, so I'm pretty sure they're Canadian even though they're French." (She seemed immune to sarcasm.)

She also hated seeing French labels on packaging although Spanish on stuff she bought in the U.S. was ok.

Things like this have caused me to make a full-fledged retreat from reality (I've tried reality and found it wanting). No more newspapers. No more news on the radio. No more coming home from work to read about the latest war, scandal, or tax. Instead, it's Tonka toys, a sandbox, Thomas the Tank Engine, Caillou, and if it's raining, jumping up and down in puddles 'til we're soaked. I think reality is over-rated.




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#16497 - 04/30/02 08:23 PM .
Max Quordlepleen Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/12/00
Posts: 3409

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#16498 - 05/01/02 01:08 PM Re: Kids and school
TheFallibleFiend Offline
veteran

Registered: 01/23/02
Posts: 1523
Loc: Virginia, USA

There's this book called The Manufactured Crisis whose thesis is that problems with the US school system are exaggerated by some right-wing conspiracy. I haven't read the book, yet, but I know some people who would disagree. I'm skeptical of the book on the face of it. I know lots of people who have gone to schools overseas and in the US and they say from first hand knowledge that those schools are much tougher. (All but a very few of them.) OTOH, being tough and being good are not synonymous.

I hired a guy last summer who went to an almost all black high school in Baltimore (his description). He went through school with As and decided he would go on to study computer science. He started his program at university with high hopes and what he thought was a reasonable expectation of success. Within a few months, he was squashed like a bug. (I found this info out later. It did not come out in the interview.) He dropped out, completely confused by his dismal showing. "How could this have happened?" He came to realize that his As in high school meant nothing. That he had been allowed to coast. He didn't waste much time. He went back to school shortly and got an easier degree. We hired him based on his ability to perform in this second area of expertise. Things are beginning to come together for him, it appears. But he still feels cheated.

Interjection. I normally put this kind of failure squarely at the foot of the parents. There are very few excuses for parents not to be actively involved. You don't need a PhD to read to your kids when they're young. You don't need any formal schooling to take your kids to the museum or the library. It doesn't cost any money to ask, "How was your day? Did you learn anything this week?" With my own kids, I know they get good test scores and good grades, but I want to check myself. I hand them each a book and say "Read to me." And it's a hard book. They don't have to read the whole thing, but I want to know in my bones that they're ready. OTOH, by fourth grade my parents couldn't help me with my math homework. I reckon my intern's mom couldn't help him very much with calculus. Sometimes you're almost forced to take the school's word for it when it comes to evaluating your kid. If you don't even know what questions to ask, you're kinda screwed - especially if you've bought into the "Just sit tight and listen to the experts" point of view.

New subject. I tutor at a well-known high school (or I did until this year). For the previous two years I had tutored geometry almost exclusively. Several of the students were complaining about their geometry teacher's incompetence. Now I didn't agree with what this teacher's methods, but on the whole I thought she knew her subject and she genuinely tried to teach. I conveyed the later clause to the students who insisted that they had gotten good grades in algebra the previous year (in one case the girl had gotten an A in algebra) but were now failing geometry. The problem with their thesis was that their failings in geometry were actually failings of understanding in algebra. They could *do* the geometric part, but they couldn't do the most elementary algebra. Their incompetence was far more, I thought, than could reasonably have been accounted for by a summer of carefree indolence. No, I was convinced (and am still convinced) that the person who failed them was not their geometry teacher who was "failing" them, but the algebra teacher who had given them good grades when they couldn't grasp the most elementary concepts of the subject.

Interesting note here. Several of these kids had calculators that put mine to shame. My employer bought me a nice casio. I seldom use it, but sometimes it's just really handy. I think it was about $60. These kids were using $100 and $150 calculators. But they couldn't punch in the numbers correctly and they refused to stop and think about what they were doing. For example, they didn't realize that to divide by 10, you just move a decimal over one place. Using a calculator for this is a waste of time. (I'm really busy and I *hate* wasting time.) They couldn't figure out how to do anything with negative numbers. They were oblivious to precedence.

Now these weren't dumb kids. Some were stupid to the extent that they didn't want to learn. (Close to my personal definition of stupidity.) But they could actually do the work if they wanted to. On more than one occasion, I would come in and I would have these guys staring off into space not paying attention to a word I was saying (acting, it seemed to me, like gang members or something). I would persist, going to each kid in turn and asking him a specific question. After maybe 10 minutes, they would be glancing over at the work I had laid out in the center of the table. Ten minutes later they would be actually leaning over the work and soon they would be actively involved. We almost always ended with everyone contributing.

But usually the same subset of kids would show up: girls who had jobs after school, boys who had baseball practice, kids of either gender who were out partying 3 nights a week and so didn't have time to study. I couldn't help thinking, "What the hell are their parents doing?" Eventually I figured out that for many of the kids, they were out partying 3 nights a week because their parents were out partying 3 nights a week.

Of course these are all anecdotal. A bunch of anecdotes don't prove anything. I have done some reading in education, but it's sparse and disconnected. Still, I have opinions formed from my own experiences (as a student and as a tutor and as a college teaching assistant -- assist nothing, we taught the classes -- from the experiences my kids have had, and from those of my acquaintances).

It's not all bad. There are some things that I like about what the schools are doing these days - giving kids schedule books, for example. Great idea. And in my kids' school they have some great reading stuff going on. (I recently wrote a letter to the superintendent commending the school for their reading programs. This should mean something as I'm not the kind of person to give unrestrained praise.) Probably the best thing is the sports. Now this could be just because my kids are girls. I'm not sure. But they're actually *learning* in PE class. This is astounding to me. I have never, in my entire life, ever *not one time* EVER met a single PE teacher or coach for whom I had any respect whatsoever. Not one. Not ever. I have always loathed them as among the lowest, most comtemptible pieces of human garbage on the planet. (I've come to terms with the lie that when you're attacked you should tell the teachers, but this business about people learning sportsmanship in PE class is just too much.) OTOH, my kids had a birthday party a while back and I took the girls to the basketball court. I was genuinely surprised. There was a lot of traveling, but they were playing quite well, passing, dribbling (sometimes), being good sportsmen, being supportive to their team-mates, humble in victory, noble in defeat. "Where did you guys learn to play like that?" "Oh, we learned this in PE." (Wow! I'm not even going to go into my experience at basketball in PE. The only people who learned anything about basketball were the people who already knew basketball.) I'm considering writing another letter to the school praising the PE teacher (whom I haven't even bothered to get to know), but I'm just not much into getting or giving a lot of compliments. Still, I've pretty much resolved that I'm going to talk to the principal about this. I mean - if they were screwing up, I wouldn't hesitate to go down there and ruffle feathers. It seems only fair I should be willing to tell them they've done something very well. Also, I've felt for some time that we should just fire every single PE teacher and ban the "subject" from schools. But I could re-evaluate that position, if it could be shown that things have changed in general.

Unfortunately, while I went to a lot of elementary schools back in the day, I only have first hand experience with this single, elementary school these days. Also, it is one of the better school districts in the country. So it's not generalizable. But I'm hesitant to just write it off.

It's not that they're not worthy of some criticism. It's that the amount and severity of criticism due them is vastly less than I would give to some of the elementary schools I attended. Also, they've done some great things that ameliorate and overcompensate for any failures.

k



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#16499 - 05/01/02 01:24 PM Re: Kids and school
TheFallibleFiend Offline
veteran

Registered: 01/23/02
Posts: 1523
Loc: Virginia, USA

I'm a little curious. Do yer kids learn French in school?

I'm also a little envious. My kids only know English. Their mom promised to only speak Mandarin to them, but that didn't go anywhere. Caused us a lot of familial strife, but there's not a lot we can do about it now.

I agree. There are a few idiots most any place you live. And really we don't have that many of them near us. But, like idiots everywhere, they really stand out. That's why I vote we stay. OTOH, she just found out yesterday she's losing her job, so maybe she'll give it a rest for a while.


Are you saying that you feel hypocritical BECAUSE you are an Anglican attending Catholic school and sending your kids to a Catholic school?

k




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#16500 - 05/01/02 07:36 PM Re: Kids and school
Rouspeteur Offline
member

Registered: 03/10/01
Posts: 163
Do yer kids learn French in school?

No, they're too young yet (39 months and 20 months) but we speak French to them about 80% of the time and with the advent of DVD's, we can put most movies on in French. We also switched from cable to satellite tv last December so we could get more French channels. We read both English books and French books to them as well.

Language is a funny issue here as you might know. In Quebec you can send your children to French school without any restrictions, but must have English language rights to send them to school in English. The reverse it true elsewhere in Canada. Because I was educated in English and am not Catholic and my wife is both French and Catholic, we can choose any of the four school boards.

We chose the French board as opposed to a French immersion program at the English board because then they will have friends that will speak French away from school as well as at school. They'll never have problems learning English.

I am sorry to hear about your wife's impending job loss. I hope she is quickly able to find another job she likes.

Are you saying that you feel hypocritical BECAUSE you are an Anglican attending Catholic school and sending your kids to a Catholic school?

No, I don't feel that way, but the opinion has been expressed to me.


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#16501 - 05/02/02 08:47 AM Re: Kids and school
TheFallibleFiend Offline
veteran

Registered: 01/23/02
Posts: 1523
Loc: Virginia, USA



, but must have English language rights to send them to school in English. The reverse it true elsewhere in Canada.


You need permission to learn English? (Or French elsewhere?)


Since I play ethics by ear, or as I go along, I never worry about where I get ideas from. For example, being raised a Baptist, I've read quite a bit of it. And I still read it on occasion. Some of my atheist buddies consider me a so-so atheist (a likely back-slider) because I would defend The Good Book on occasion. But a few of them get it. (I'm particularly fond of Ecclesiastes.)

It's odd to me that anyone would consider your behavior remotely hypocritical. Wisdom is where you find it.

I'm reminded of a letter I once read from Benjamin Franklin to his daughter who was considering quiting her church because her preacher was a hypocrite. He admonished her to continue going since just as clean water can come from the dirty ground, so can wise words come from hypocrite. Something like that. I don't remember the exact wording.

Also, I remember reading of a stir George Washington caused during a stay in Canada when he attended a local Catholic mass. Apparently his troops thought this was pretty shady, but GW responded with some pretty conciliatory language that I should have remembered and didn't.



k






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