Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our school’s message to students

I’m afraid our elementary school’s recent message to students on its website is more revealing than inspiring:
Students: We are proud of your accomplishments so far this year! Congratulations on completion of the many assessments that have occurred: DIBELS, DRAs, Iowa Assessments, and the District Writing Assessment. Your behavior and academic achievements are to be commended!
I know a lot of kids at this school. There are so many things to be proud of them for. Being well-behaved test-takers is very, very low on that list.

(Via Doris.)


DG said...

What's worse -- the patronizing nature of the message, or the fact that they're incalcating passive voice into the next generation?

FedUpMom said...

Chris -- this article by Megan McArdle reminded me of your blog:

Why We Stopped Spanking

You'll like her conclusion:

I'd like to think that there's some alternative to raising children in a sort of well-padded, benevolent police state where no action is too small or large that it can't be managed with an appropriately placed gold star.

LAB said...

This is just sad. But it does remind me. I've considered starting a blog that does nothing but document the icky "messages" coming from schools lately.

FedUpMom said...

Wow, LAB, I hope you will start a blog. Your comments so far have been fascinating.

Chris said...

DG -- Thanks for commenting! The bureaucratic language of school newsletters and notes home sometimes drives me crazy. But the truth is that it wouldn't bother me nearly as much if I didn't think they were teaching my kids so many values that I disagree with.

Chris said...

Thanks, FedUpMom. Somehow the link was wrong, but here's the article you were referring to.

It's interesting to read McArdle's reaction not only to spanking but also to the "positive" forms of behavior management (gold stars, etc.). Too often people talk about those two approaches (which are really variations of the same idea) as the only alternatives.

I think the article McArdle quotes, by Darshak Sanghavi, makes that mistake, to some extent. It refers to "middle- and upper-class parents" who "to treat children as peers, with the pint-sized ability to make choices, respond to reason, and have valid emotions," and says that "It's not a huge leap then to see children as having nascent civil rights that conflict with regular corporal punishment." But then it says that "Such a view underlies the approach" of parents who "make behavior charts or create token economies for rewards." I disagree that that view is consistent with the use of behavioral reward systems, or that those systems should be grouped the practice of "answer[ing] questions with explanations, and encourag[ing] kids to accept and express their feelings." In fact, behavioral reward systems are designed to get compliance without the kids understanding or questioning, and the kids' feelings play no role at all in behavioral modification techniques.

Chris said...

LAB -- FedUpMom beat me to it, but I agree that you should be writing about these issues, on a blog or otherwise. Let us all know if you do!

LAB said...

This blog already hits all the hot button school issues for me!

Before I had kids, I had no idea that school, of all things, would be our undoing. When I was a kid we weren't forced to throw our lunch away every day so we could be rushed back to the classroom, we weren't kept inside all day because the ground was wet out on the blacktop, and we didn't "get our color pulled" because we spoke out of turn in the classroom. My mother didn't have to sign my behavior chart every day*, and I wasn't punished if my mother forgot to sign my behavior chart every day. I didn't have two hours of homework a night in kindergarten (or first grade, or second grade, or third grade, or fourth grade), and I didn't have to "earn" anything in school. I didn't even get real letter grades until high school! So imagine my surprise when my children started public school and I found out what the deal is today. I. Had. No. Idea.

Our public school turned my kids into nervous wrecks and went a long way towards destroying our family. That's partly my fault, of course. I have friends who hate this stuff just as much as I do, but they shrug it off. I couldn't shrug it off. I let it get to me.

Does anybody wonder why there seem to be so many for-profit private schools popping up designed to "fix" kids who couldn't cut it behaviorally in public school? I swear I see a new one of these every day. Places set up to house "problem" kids. We've always had these types of places, of course, but they used to be for juvenile offenders. Now some of these are for kids who've stepped out of line one too many times in the suburban public school classroom. It's creepy! And of course the tuition at these places is being paid in many cases by taxpayers. What is creating all these "problem" kids (mostly boys)? How did they get from point A to point B? I bet if you looked at individual cases at these places, you'd find kids whose parents would say, "He got in trouble a lot starting in kindergarten. Had trouble staying in his seat. He was talking out of turn. The teachers just couldn't stop him, no matter how much he was punished or rewarded. He spent a lot of time in the principal's office, even in kindergarten. As he got older, he got angry. By fifth grade he was hitting people..." Could this be fallout from mandatory "respect" and PBIS-style "behavioral support" child-control public school programs? Is this stuff destroying kids?

*There was no behavior chart, of course.

FedUpMom said...

LAB, once again, I totally agree. I would never have predicted what a headache school has been in our lives. My older daughter was driven to deep depression in the 5th grade, and we had to remove her from public schools. My younger daughter, after a bad year at private school, is now struggling to make up for lost time at the public school.

I wish I could just send my kids to school, secure in the belief that school would teach them all the basics they need to know without making their lives a misery. But I just don't trust school any more. They don't teach competently, and they stress out the kids to no purpose.