Monday, September 29, 2014

“Like a meeting, a boring meeting”

Karen W. at Education in Iowa writes about a video intended to help teachers learn to teach “close reading” as part of the Common Core. One of her reactions:
First, if reading logs didn’t already make your child think reading is a tedious chore, close reading just might convince them. My eight year old couldn’t look away from the first video but also commented throughout, “I could not go to that school. It is like a meeting, a boring meeting.”
All I could do as I watched the video was shake my head at what some people think is a good idea to do to children. Hats off to any kids who can sit through years of this stuff without becoming juvenile delinquents.

Meanwhile, a friend happened to remind me of this passage from To Kill a Mockingbird:
The remainder of my school days were no more auspicious than the first. Indeed, they were an endless Project that slowly evolved into a Unit, in which miles of construction paper and wax crayon were expended by the State of Alabama in its well-meaning but fruitless efforts to teach me Group Dynamics. What Jem called the Dewey Decimal System was school-wide by the end of my first year, so I had no chance to compare it with other teaching techniques. I could only look around me: Atticus and my uncle, who went to school at home, knew everything—at least, what one didn’t know the other did. Furthermore, I couldn’t help noticing that my father had served for years in the state legislature, elected each time without opposition, innocent of the adjustments my teachers thought essential to the development of Good Citizenship. Jem, educated on a half-Decimal half-Duncecap basis, seemed to function effectively alone or in a group, but Jem was a poor example: no tutorial system devised by man could have stopped him from getting at books. As for me, I knew nothing except what I gathered from Time magazine and reading everything I could lay hands on at home, but as I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me.
It’s amazing, given all time and energy and money devoted to educational research, how little anyone talks about boredom. It’s as if we’re all supposed to pretend it’s not there, or that it doesn’t matter, or that the concept has no bearing on what kids learn. You’d almost think that the people who are paid to develop the latest educational “improvements” had never been children themselves.


FedUpMom said...

Chris, I've watched a few of these "close reading" videos now and even commented on them in my most recent post. The most amazing part to me is how compliant and well-behaved the kids are. Of course, a child who's being bored to tears will sometimes appear quiet and well-behaved. Even so, I'm amazed they're not running around the room screaming with their hands in the air. That's what I do when I watch the video!

Chris said...

FedUpMom -- Yes, I had that same reaction. Part of that, I'm guessing, has to do with which kids were selected for the video, and with the fact that they might have been told in advance that they were going to be in a video. (When I was about ten, I got to be in a bicycle safety film for an insurance company. I think it's the last time I ever properly used hand signals.)

But I don't doubt that many kids would be compliant in situations like that one, just because there's so much emphasis on compliance and sitting still in schools. Kids aren't encouraged to think critically about the things that schools do to them, and usually don't have much to compare them to. I guess some people like seeing kids docilely doing whatever they're told to do, but to me it always seems kind of creepy. I think most kids really do approach school with an attitude of good faith, and I don't think it's always reciprocated.

Anonymous said...

GREAT post. Agree so so so much!

Julie VanDyke said...

Unrelated except for the the title of the blog...last night's meeting was anything but boring. It was a bit like a fabulous dream. Rabbits were pulled right out of hats :-)