Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Educating = infantilizing?

It’s bad enough when our elementary school spends the first days of the school year extensively lecturing the kids about behavioral expectations, including the now-standard restroom tour, in which groups of kids are taken to the bathroom and instructed on how they must flush the toilet and use no more than two squirts of soap and one paper towel. (These practices appear to have continued essentially unchanged from last year, as part of our school’s implementation of PBIS.) It turns out, though, that even our junior high school does this – the seventh-graders are taken out of science class and led in groups into one of the bathrooms, where a teacher explains that they must flush the toilet after using it, and then has one student wash his or her hands while the entire group sings “Happy Birthday,” to demonstrate how long you should spend washing your hands.

When did educating become synonymous with demeaning and infantilizing?


Chris said...

Wow, a reader just sent me the link to this YouTube video from a school in our district. Setting aside for the moment how patronizing it is, wouldn't someone question whether it's a good idea to be making YouTube videos of kids in the bathroom?

Chris said...

Uh-oh, I think I have stumbled into an entire world of PBIS videos which may permanently scar my psyche.

Check out this revision of the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feelin," ("I know that I'll do well, If I just follow rules") if you dare. (Compare the real lyrics here.)

Suzanne Lamb said...

I can't get over the first video and its "Think Two" slogan. How could it possibly be desirable to encourage students to finish using the bathroom in two minutes, without exception? Restrictive policies on bathroom usage have already been implicated in causing serious, even permanent, physical problems in some students. If my kid went to this school, I would raise holy hell about this concept alone.

Chris said...

Correction: that first video is from Twain Elementary in Bettendorf, not Iowa City.

Karen W said...

It's funny that the same people who push academic expectations down to younger kids (behave like expert writers and scientists, do statistics in elementary school) think that older kids continue to require preschool/maybe K level instruction on hand washing and flushing the toilet.

Why don't they just automate the restroom so everyone gets exactly the right amount of soap and paper towels if it is that important?

Chris said...

Suzanne – But if we don’t have tightly constraining bright line rules about everything, there will be anarchy! God forbid we should actually try to teach kids how to use good judgment about how long to take in the bathroom, or how to use their cell phones during passing time without disrupting classes, or how to play tag without getting too rough, etc. Why do that when you can just ban it all? It’s control, not teaching, that’s the paramount principle -- especially since that kind of teaching doesn't show up on standardized tests.

By the way, readers, Suzanne knows what it means to protest school policies. Check out her efforts to challenge her school district’s attempt to find some way around that pesky separation of church and state.

Chris said...

Karen -- I think the theory is that by babying them on all the behavior rules, they can then stay relentlessly "on task" and thus squeeze a few more standardized testing points out of the kids.

Forget about automating the bathrooms; why not just fit all the kids with diapers?