09 September 2010

Don't worry, public school makes America dumber too!

Into every life some rain must fall, as they say. And into every educator's life some directives must fall.

"Don't write passes too much"

"Let this kid go five minutes early to use the elevator"

"Give less homework"

"Give more authentic assessments"

"Call every kid who you teach who is getting an F"

I've received all of these directives at some point in my career, and many of them more than once. Sometimes, in an effort to foster that mythical "buy-in", the directives come from committees of teachers and administrators. Other times, the directive simply comes from on high. For the record, I prefer the one that comes from on high, because I find it less insulting, generally. The principals are my bosses, and they give me direction, that's how work works.

You see how I used generally there? That's for a reason. Because I don't like it when a directive is handed down from on high and is really dumb or repetitive. Or both.

And that's where I firmly place "Call every kid who you teach who is getting an F". Those of you who work outside of schools are seriously considering quitting this blog about now, but you're also thinking that this sounds like a reasonable directive. It's not.

Here's why:
I teach high school kids. Some kids who are failing my class are seniors. They can vote. They can drive. They can serve and die for their country.

They (and their parents for that matter) can check the Internets and see what the grade is. Or, they could look at the work they get back, do some simple math, and determine what their grade is.

They should know their grade.

But no, the powers that be want me to call them, and make sure they know. Because if they didn't, they might be surprised and bitch and moan when their kid didn't have enough credits to graduate. Never mind personal responsibility.

Do you have the expectation that you Kwik-E-Lube will call you to remind you that your car is due for service? No, because they gave you a sticker, and your car has an odometer, and you can figure it out. (and yes, I realize that many cars do remind you, but that part of the rant is coming up in 2 paragraphs). Better yet, would you complain to Kwik-E-Lube that the car ran out of oil and the engine seized? If you would, just stop reading my blog, because I'm disgusted by you.

Still reading? Good.

I'm going to throw some more examples and rhetorical questions in here, because I'm rolling.

Do you have the expectation that your doctor will call you, and check on how that diet plan is going? How about your bank? Should they call you to remind you to pay your mortgage? Maybe you'd like the restaurant to cut that steak up for you in the kitchen.

I think that this is part of a larger problem in America. We're not just allowing ourselves to get dumber, we're accelerating the process, and we're happy about it. We want our car to remind us that we need our oil changed. We want FoxNews or MSNBC to form our opinion for us. We want Word to fix our misspellings. We want to actively think less. Then, we're going to use that spare brain power to play Farmville.

I don't know when or where this started (though I'm tempted to blame Beavis and Butthead, or MTV in general, but I can't, because I secretly love Jersey Shore). I don't think it was like this when I was in high school (we'll call it 10 years ago, in a generous estimation). I feel like my teachers pushed me hard, and held me accountable. I could be wrong, though, because I was a good student, and even with this directive, they wouldn't have needed to call home.

In an amazing revelation, I don't know what the solution is. But I do know how I feel about it.I think it's sad. (not that I don't have the answer, but that we're spoon feeding everyone everything).

So, I'm going to do my part to make America smarter by not calling parents of failing students. Because I love America, and I want us to keep thinking.


  1. I HATE "have you called their parents?" when they are failing.

    Well, no...they are 18. They drive to school and to work and buy their own gas to get both places. Some of them have made a decision to join the military and fight in Afghanistan. They have the ability to check their grades online, and I hand back everything I grade. They are going to college next year, where the professor sure as shit is not going to call their parents for them. I am teaching them an important life lesson right now. More important than the names of the Supreme Court justices or that other thing they didn't turn in.

    I see this problem of "spoon feeding" a lot...these kids just don't know how to take initiative and responsibility and solve their own problems. I don't know how they got there, but I think the only way to fix it is a little tough love.

  2. amen...I won't call either...& the blog leaves aside the practical issue of...I get an hour and a half of planning/day which should also include grading & prep/copies (which aides can no longer do) & meetings w/ the very same admin - not to mention that most parents work, so - I will have to call after work, on my time - figure 10% at any one time will be failing - 200 kids total = 20 kids at 5-10 minutes/conversation, assuming no major complaining equals another 2 hours spent doing something they should be doing themselves, especially at the junior/senior level (I'll cut freshmen a little slack, but not much)