Re: I'm An Adult. Leave Me Alone.

1

Holy shit, I want to kill that teacher. I would never, ever, not in a million fucking years do that if I were a parent. Not if I had all the time in the world and he had asked me one simple yes-or-no question.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:17 AM
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Hm. Although from an outcome perspective he's probably not wrong. I suspect I would have benefited from more parental involvement here or there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:19 AM
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Whoa.

To be fair, isn't that one of the richest school districts in America? The parents can just subcontract these tasks.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:19 AM
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I'd be tempted to give my kid's teacher a beatdown.

Word.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:19 AM
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Ogged - you and I need to have a kid just so we can send it to that guy's school, have him as a teacher, and find a way to crush his soul.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:20 AM
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Parents make the nastiest kinds of concern trolls. Teach is really asking for it.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:20 AM
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Oh lord, when I saw the photo that accompanies this article, I felt a surge of anger in my blood. I wanted to wipe the smirk off that teacher's face.

I'm generally not so violent in my reactions.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:21 AM
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I have no idea why this is generating the level of animosity that it is. This doesn't seem like that bad of an idea.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:23 AM
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This doesn't seem like that bad of an idea.

Um, yeah. Not genius, but not so bad either. Especially in a district where it seems like most parents have the social and economic resources that this is not a terrible burden on them.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:25 AM
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Especially in a district where it seems like most parents have the social and economic resources that this is not a terrible burden on them.

Meanwhile, it's also exactly the demographic that yields those parents who think that they should try to argue with their kids' college instructors about assignments or grades.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:27 AM
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I'd be happy to do this five nights a week in exchange for never having to deal with another goddamned fundraising project.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:27 AM
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you and I need to have a kid just so we can send it to that guy's school, have him as a teacher, and find a way to crush his soul

Now that's a proposal!


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:28 AM
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He wasn't smirking. Needs to shave, though. Or just grow the neck beard, already. Can't do half measures when it comes to neck beards.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:28 AM
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argue with their kids' college instructors about assignments or grades.

They're fun to deflate, those ones.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:29 AM
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Now we see the real divide, I guess. I read this article a while ago and thought hey, this is a good idea. I would do it if I were a parent (probably happily, but that's also because I am a dork and like school).


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:30 AM
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It's stupid blackmail -- jump through this hoop for me, or I'll injure your child. Now, parents who are susceptible to being blackmailed like that are probably better parents, and possibly there are some marginal parents for whom being blackmailed into attentiveness will make them parent better. But it still sucks hard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:30 AM
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The assignment is to comment on the teacher's parent blog. That doesn't seem like a very high bar at all, in an area where internet access abounds.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:31 AM
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I watched my nephew and his father put together an elaborate map of Europe that was simply beyond the capacity of a 13-year-old to do on his own. I was appalled. Schools are demanding that students take credit for the work of others. When my kids get to that age, I expect to have some conflicts with some teachers.

The teacher in the NYT story, on the other hand, strikes me as pretty benign and reasonable. Parents really should be involved in their childrens' schooling, and the teacher seems to have left an adequate escape route for cases where that isn't reasonable. I hope my kids have teachers like this.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:31 AM
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Meanwhile, it's also exactly the demographic that yields those parents who think that they should try to argue with their kids' college instructors about assignments or grades.

Huh? I mean, I don't disagree with you, but what does that have to do with my point?

(Also, I have a lot of anecdata showing that parents who read the same books as their kids for summer reading find it easier to have substantive, non-power-struggle conversations with said kids. Which seems like a good thing on the whole participating-in-human-society front, never mind grades or college admissions.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:32 AM
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Oh lord, when I saw the photo that accompanies this article, I felt a surge of anger in my blood

me too. did you see he spells his name "Damion", with an "o"? punchety punch.

Actually thinking about it, little Napoleon Adolf's school does this, but they have the wit to not call it "homework" or make the parents think they're being ordered around.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:32 AM
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16: That's the real problem with this. If a school teacher will put effort into helping parents get more involved, great. If the teacher has resources to offer, joint project suggestion, whatever ... encouragement in this area is a great idea. Holding your kids grade over your head? That's just asking for a smackdown.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:33 AM
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SB, did you read the article? This situation to me sounds closer to the former situation, in your hypothetical, than the latter.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:35 AM
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Did you guys read the part where it said he only ever docked a kid's grade once, and that it wasn't enough to affect the kid's overall grade? I guarantee you if there was an actual lowering of the final grade, there would be an uproar. This teacher isn't going to do that.

Anyway, I think that it's just making more explicit something that already exists: parents being involved in their kids' work helps them do better. I don't think whether a parent says "what's this assignment about" matters for the kids who are doing very well, or the ones who are doing extremely poorly, but for a lot of kids in the middle, it makes a huge difference.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:35 AM
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It's stupid blackmail

Right. Not to mention that he can only get away with it because no one else is doing it: no way would parents stand for having homework assigned by several teachers, and it's clear that he springs this on people mid-term, as opposed to letting parents know what they're getting into when they enroll their kids. Someone needs to have a violent talk with Mr. Frye about the limits of his authority.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:37 AM
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I'm just saying, as a kid I would have welcomed this. My dad and I had a lot of fun talking about/working on school related stuff when I was in elementary and middle school. When I got into high school, it was like "oh you're beyond me now, and I haven't read this book" (nevermind that my dad has a master's degree, but whatever). I would have found it interesting to read what he wrote, and would have enjoyed talking about it.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:38 AM
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Holding your kids grade over your head? That's just asking for a smackdown.

But the threat is clearly pro forma. Nobody's overall grade has ever been damaged by a refusal.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:38 AM
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It's as if Ogged got pissed that nobody wanted to do the assignments for his Being and Time reading group and decided to hold some commenters hostage.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:39 AM
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Ogged - you and I need to have a kid just so we can send it to that guy's school, have him as a teacher, and find a way to crush his soul.

That's a good plan, but by the time our kid gets to ninth grade, this guy will be buried under concrete somewhere in Jersey.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:39 AM
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But the threat is clearly pro forma. Nobody's overall grade has ever been damaged by a refusal.

A beating is called for on principle.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:40 AM
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Did you guys read the part where it said he only ever docked a kid's grade once, and that it wasn't enough to affect the kid's overall grade?

similarly I have never actually broken into the houses of any CT commenters, still less funnelled molten lead into any of their orifices, but the mere fact of my midnight telephone calls was apparently enough for the restraining order people.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:40 AM
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Getting parents involved in their kids' school makes sense, especially for the majority demographic in a high end District like Montclair, where most of the parents are capable of doing the work and the kids would benefit academically from working with them. I'm not surprised that the corporate lawyer dad finds the game rewarding, since literary analysis is close enough to his day job to be untraumatic, but different enough to be amusing. His housecleaner, if she has kids in the class, may not be so appreciative. Also the apparent assumption that all parents have web access may be 95% reaosnable, but that just makes it worse for the other 5%.

If the parental comments appear on a blog accessible to the entire class, then the teacher is humiliating the less literate (and less proficient in English) parents, and their children. Anyone whose parents can't read on the ninth grade level faces enough obstacles without this.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:40 AM
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I like the idea of somehow enforcing the principle that a kid shouldn't hand in an assignment if he'd be embarrassed to have his parents see how crappy it is.

This doesn't apply to situations in which the parents would get angry at the kid's political beliefs, of course.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:41 AM
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22/23:

Yeah, I read that. Doesn't matter. Stupid to even cast it as a possibility. Other than that, the program sounds pretty sensible.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:41 AM
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34

Pots and kettles, Ogged.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:41 AM
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I like 23 in the thread linked in 34. It appears to be unrelated to the rest of the thread though.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:43 AM
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Huh? I mean, I don't disagree with you, but what does that have to do with my point?

Just: oh boy! Let's get parents even more used to the idea that it's appropriate to think of their kids' grades as something that not only can but should reflect things that the parents do, especially if these are parents who are already likely to be too much, rather than too little, personally invested in their kids' grades.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:43 AM
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Not to mention that he can only get away with it because no one else is doing it:

Yeah, I can see where a lot of otherwise productive time could get soaked up in making blog posts, which would be intolerable.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:44 AM
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30: Yep.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:44 AM
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Pots and kettles, Ogged.

I never claimed to be laid-back, apo. Now prepare to die.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:46 AM
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To continue, the parents for whom this is not a burden are probably in little need of being encouraged to feel more personally invested in their kids' academic success. Meanwhile, the parents who could stand to feel more that way are probably also much more likely to find it genuinely burdensome. Wouldn't it be delightful if a kid or her parent were ashamed of the quality of the parent's blog posts?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:46 AM
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But the threat is clearly pro forma. Nobody's overall grade has ever been damaged by a refusal.

It may be pro forma, but it's unacceptable, not to mention flawed in several ways (as others noted).

I'm all for him putting effort in this direction, but it needs to be done in ways that don't add strain to any families who aren't able to play along, and in ways that don't overreach his authority. I'm actually a little surprised that nobody has called him on the carpet for this.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:47 AM
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My name is Danny Parsons. You killed my teacher, prepare to die.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:50 AM
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43

He wasn't smirking. Needs to shave, though. Or just grow the neck beard, already. Can't do half measures when it comes to neck beards.

I was just struck by the fact he was a guy. Last week, I heard mention of a school district who recruiting for more guys because there were so few. Whether that's true or not, I think it's crazy for a guy to go into the teaching profession these days. Hmmm, let's see, lower than average pay and a chance that someone will ruin your life with a false sex offense accusation. Pass.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:53 AM
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I think RFTS and I are reacting to almost entirely different situations. I don't give a hoot about the kids' grades, nor do I think they are likely to be affected more than minimally. I think that the active participation of the parents as co-discussants rather than enforcers will substantively improve the young people's education.

And I think in this particular case, the parents with lower literacy and/or English proficiency have reasonable alternatives for their participation. Per the linked article the teacher does allow people to e-mail comments to him privately or to leave him phone messages instead of posting on the blog.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:53 AM
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Becks sees assigning impossible homework to kids and assigning homework to parents as being similar phenomena. I suppose the goal is similar, but the means used by this teacher are infinitely preferable, for reasons I describe in 18.

The policy wouldn't work for all schools or for most subjects, but I'm not seeing the down side in this application.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:55 AM
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Hmmm, let's see, lower than average pay and a chance that someone will ruin your life with a false sex offense accusation.

As a statistical matter, I bet it's much greater risk that someone will ruin your hypothetical teacher's life with a true sex offense accusation.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:58 AM
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Parents really should be involved in their childrens' schooling, and the teacher seems to have left an adequate escape route for cases where that isn't reasonable.

Yeah, see, this is where it makes the parents' blood boil. Or mine. "Parents really should..." And Mr. Frye has decided to appoint himself in charge of supervising whether they do so in the way he prescribes. Well you know what? I work hard all day (commenting inanely on a blog... ) and my kid has a pretty long day between before and after school care, too. And when I get home, we make dinner and eat together and then have just a little bit of time left to hang out before she needs to go to bed. If I decide that watching Nickolodean together is the best use of our time, I'm the Mommy and I get to make that call.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:02 AM
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I don't care about the kids' grades either. Why would I? I care about the way that this project taps into existing dumb dynamics about grades and parental entitlement.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:02 AM
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46- That's not my argument. I don't know the answer to that. My point is that if a guy is NOT a sex offender, then there's that chance of a false accusation and that if you do get one, then chances are your life is ruined.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:03 AM
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The issues in this article are vaguely related:

However, what the study shows is that family involvement matters more than whether a student goes to public or private school, said Jack Jennings, the center's president.
"People commonly believe private schools are just inherently better," Jennings said. "We're forgetting that families are key to how well kids do. Maybe we ought to start to spend more time on families."
Advocates for encouraging more parental participation in schools say policy makers could boost funding for translators at schools in immigrant communities and could provide tutoring for adults who want to keep up with their kids' studies.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:03 AM
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Ooh, feel the outrage. Personally, I think it's a good idea to have the parents involved explicitly in a way that allows the student's contribution and the parent's to be separable. The "silent helper" role is well established and unhealthy for helped and unhelped alike. I also think you mostly had a violent reaction because the guy looks like a shit-eating doofus.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:04 AM
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Most of my hostility comes from the threat to grade the kids on it -- if I were going to start making overheated slippery-slope arguments, I'd say that it looks like a step on the road to academic tracking explicitly based on who's got the family that will back them up and who doesn't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:11 AM
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I wonder what his parent-teacher conferences are like.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:14 AM
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That's not my argument.

I know. But your substantive point does interest me, because it varies so much with my experience. The phenomenon of unpunished abuse of women and girls by authority figures is much, much more common than the phenomenon of false accusations - which, in my experience, pretty much never happen.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:15 AM
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I also think you mostly had a violent reaction because the guy looks like a shit-eating doofus.

Or perhaps because he spells his name Damion (though admittedly I hadn't noticed until dsquared pointed it out).

But no, that's not it. It's his "helping professions" condescension, in combination with the fact that the little twit is on some sort of power trip. He allows parents to leave him phone messages? WTF? By what right, or on the basis of what, exactly, does he presume to extend his authority from that which he holds over the children in his classroom to that which can be held over the parents of those children in their own homes?


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:18 AM
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the threat to grade the kids on it

Yeah, though it's clear from the text that in the bastion of privilege he teaches in, it ain't gonna happen.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:21 AM
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he spells his name Damion

Come on, people, that's probably you know, what his parents named him.

Don't blame the kid for what the parents did.

Oh, wait, shit...


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:21 AM
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I think we are in agreement that parents being involved in their children's education is a good thing. What would people suggest for getting the involvement that is better than this.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:25 AM
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59

This seems like the kind of district that needs less parental involvement, not more.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:26 AM
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60

Send money.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:27 AM
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58: Whatever, it had better not be coercion aimed at me by threatening the kid. I'd have buried this guy under so much legal crap he'd have died of asphyxiation. I did my time in schools, no one gets to add to that without my prior permission.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:31 AM
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59 is exactly right. These are kind of kids who show up at the school where I teach unable to find their own asses with both hands because that's mommy's job. Mommy said to bring you a doctors note about why I was gone last week! Daddy doesn't think that's what that poem is about! Mommy and Daddy read my paper and they thought it was great; who are you to give me a B? Are you calling my mommy and daddy stupid? And then there are the students, like many at Nerd U, who are in majors they despise and it has never occurred to them to find something they enjoy. They owe Mommy and Daddy a lifetime of misery in thanks for all that crippling homework help.

GROW A SPINE, teens of America! Developing a consciousness of your own will not turn you into a member of the Trenchcoat Mafia!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:31 AM
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59, 62: Exactly.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:32 AM
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Most of my hostility comes from the threat to grade the kids on it -- if I were going to start making overheated slippery-slope arguments, I'd say that it looks like a step on the road to academic tracking explicitly based on who's got the family that will back them up and who doesn't.

You know, chances are the kids are pretty much going to buy Junior's way into college via the review courses and SAT prep and admissions package counselors anyway and if Junior gets waitlisted, they'll just buy the school a new masturbation room. Might as well disabuse them of the notion that their own merit or hard work matters a whit to Harvard or Yale now. And for the kid in the district whose parents aren't as rich as everyone else's? Come now, they weren't Harvard material anyway.

I would have a hard time not pulling rank on a high school teacher who asked me to interpret texts.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:34 AM
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65

If I decide that watching Nickolodean together is the best use of our time, I'm the Mommy and I get to make that call.

Yea, right. Just be careful how you speak to your child or discipline her. No yelling or spanking.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:37 AM
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59, 62: This is the point in my thread where I mentally put on a top hat and start tapdancing to a showtune about the awesomeness of boarding school.

It takes you away from the folks at right about the time you should start doing complicated stuff on your own! Hurray!

(The chorus, ripped off some song I don't know but whose tune I probably heard in an old Looney Tunes cartoon goes "Boarding School! Tralalalala Boarding School!" and then musical interlude. It's quite catchy.)


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:44 AM
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54- Humbly pwned. Thanks.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:44 AM
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Actually, the teacher looks like the guy who comes up to your table who say "Hi, I'm Damion and I'll be your server tonight. Todays specials......"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:49 AM
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I think we are in agreement that parents being involved in their children's education is a good thing. What would people suggest for getting the involvement that is better than this.

I, personally, would suggest that we leave it the parents to take the role in their child[ren]'s education, life, etc. that they as parents deem appropriate. I mean, we're probably also in agreement that getting kids to eat healthy meals with less refined starch, sugar, etc., is a good thing, but that doesn't mean we think the school should be able to require parents to post comments on a blog revealing what they served their kid for dinner last night.

In an ideal world, I would also suggest some sort of radical structural change to the ways we live and work so that parents and children alike had more unstressed, unstructured time to be able to spend talking about school assignments.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:50 AM
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43: True sex offense accusations are even more damaging.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:52 AM
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65: Thanks, Will. I appreciate the advice.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:54 AM
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71:

I've got you pegged as a screamer and a beater. Poor Rory.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:55 AM
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72: True, but that's only when I'm stuck doing homework with her.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:56 AM
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68 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:58 AM
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Have I mentioned that my favorite custody battles involve heated testimony of each parent describing how much more homework they do than the other parent?

"And, your honor, HE cannot even do basic math with MY child."


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:59 AM
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Oh, fuck. If doing math homework is a criteria, I am sure to lose her forever! They do strange things with math these days....


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:01 AM
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"Your honor, on several occasions, I have heard her using swear words while she was trying to help Rory do her math homework. At one point, she was standing above the math problem, pointing at the paper, screaming 'F-You, M-Fng word problems!!!'"


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:05 AM
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Heh. I'm lurking eagerly until Sally or Newt hits some math they have trouble with. I love teaching math.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:23 AM
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78.3 Me, too. My wife doesn't seem to like it much when I try to teach her calculus, though.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:25 AM
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Spice it up a bit -- offer to integrate the area under her curves, IYKWIM. Girls like that kind of thing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:26 AM
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Yeah, until you discover that there are apparently "new!" ways of doing math and you find yourself with a furrowed brow staring at a page full of basic subtraction problems that you certainly know how to do the normal way and which your kid answered correctly doing the math the normal way, but which she has to do over because she was supposed to do them the "new!" way which for the life of you you have no idea what it is she is supposed to do.

Okay, I need to leave this thread. I swear, I was less worked up when I was just focusing on my stupid discovery motion.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:27 AM
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"If you get these problems right, I'll play with your Euler cusp."


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:30 AM
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Um, 81 to 78. Though, I suppose there probably are "new!" ways of integrating the area underneath the curves, too, and I am quite sure I have no idea how to do that the "new!" way either...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:30 AM
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Well, it isn't new, but you could do it like Riemann or like Lebesgue.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:31 AM
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Di Kotimy needs a math tutor. Ogged, werent you supposed to help?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:36 AM
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offer to integrate the area under her curves, IYKWIM. Girls like that kind of thing

Wish I'd realized that, I do.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:36 AM
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84: what kind of a half-assed paren't doesn't help their child learn Riemannian geometry, anyhow?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:37 AM
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87: those concerned with whether or not you actually can exchange the order of summation and integration. Duh.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:46 AM
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I'm going to teach my kid according to the Éléments de mathématique. It's self-contained!


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:47 AM
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Does it still seem as beat-down worthy if you think the point is equalizing social capital? Some children already get the benefit of parental involvement. While those parents might resent having to fill out the occasional blog entry, it might well serve as a helpful policy for the children of parents who aren't so involved, not because they're neglectful, but because that wasn't how they were brought up. (Think about research on middle-class vs. working-class parenting styles.)

Given that a) the teacher did MA work on reducing black-white achievement gaps, and b) he seems to have enthusiastic backing from his administration, viewing him solely as a petty bureaucrat looking to enlarge his fiefdom makes this sound more like a McArdle or Cowen-based thread.

Also, once the kids get the vote, I'd bet on all adults having to do homework.


Posted by: clark diversey | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:55 AM
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This seems much worse in theory than in actual fact, at least in the facts of this specific example. My gut reaction on Becks' post was similar to hers: "wait, this can't be legal, can it?" But after reading a little more of the article to see how lenient the actual requirements are, I agree with 18.1 and 51: this is happening in many if not most schools, so it might as well happen in an explicit and up-front way that does make it clear what is the parent's work and what isn't.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:58 AM
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I wasn't thinking of the guy as a "petty bureaucrat." I was thinking of him as a "patronizing do-gooder." I have no doubt his intentions are good. But parents and kids alike are awfully overscheduled nowadays and some of us do resent being told how we should spend the quality time we do have.

I'm not familiar with the research you are talking about on class-based parenting styles, so this may be misplaced, but it strikes me as worth questioning whether middle-class parenting styles are actually "better" as opposed to simply privileged. I did know a bit about class based correlations to various styles of learning and, no big shock, much education teaches to the styles typical of the privileged classes and standardized tests tend to reward the same styles. When selection for higher education, jobs, etc. is based on standardized test scores and other measures of the ability to perform according to the privileged style, it suddenly makes the privileged style seem "better" because that's what brings success.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:08 PM
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90: Probably well meant, and not all that onerous in practice, but the way it's done is still fucked up. Here's the blog, check in, please participate, it's very important for you to be involved in and aware of your children's work, all those things. But not even if it isn't serious 'do your homework or we dock your kid's grade'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:08 PM
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93: Yeah. I was trying to think of inducements that would be more carrot-like and less stick-like. Not much coming to mind. An iPod giveaway maybe?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:10 PM
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my parents would have probably told me to do it for them.


Posted by: BA | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:12 PM
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The idea of getting parents involved is great, but.... Yes, Montclair is a wealthy town, but there are areas of decidedly less affluence. I can't help but wonder what a drag this would have been if my parents had to do this (with low-tech stuff like pen and paper, of course). My father the factory worker never learned to speak English well. My mother the school custodian (that sucked when we were in her school) is a native English speaker and loves to read, so she might have loved to do this. But they had 6 kids, low paying jobs and worked part-time jobs and as much OT as they could. I just don't see where they - or today's equivalent family - could squeeze in the time for this.


Posted by: Annie | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:13 PM
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Wow. Count me with Leblanc and, like, one other person in thinking this sounds like a really cool idea. The outrage over "oh noes! he threatened mah kids gradez!" seems overblown to me.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:13 PM
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I'm actually trying to learn a bit of differential geometry and a tiny bit of topology: it's very cool!


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:16 PM
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I also wonder, if this weren't just one course's requirement and it became routine, it would become just another thing over which kids and parents argue and lose its efficacy.

But really, I do like the idea of parental involvement in what their kids are actually doing in school. I would just like the grade-related threat removed at least and possibly some other finessing.


Posted by: Annie | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:16 PM
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How about the outrage over "I have maybe an hour a day to actually spend with my kid, excuse me if I prefer not to spend it doing 'how to be an involved parent' homework."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:18 PM
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(I'm really not sure why I'm getting so worked up about this... )


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:21 PM
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I like the idea of parental involvement, and I know that there are differences in middle-class vs. lower class parenting styles. I'm just not sure that making someone's working class mother try to analyze Kafka is going to change that parenting style, and think it more likely that the kid that gets docked points is the bright working-class kid whose parents don't quite get it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:21 PM
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Right. You the school can make suggestions about my parenting style and it's probably good that you should do so. Purporting to mandate what I do as a parent is outside your authority, and I'd rather you didn't even if you weren't really serious about it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:22 PM
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Oh jeez. My parents were totally involved in my life and my education when I was a kid, but always from the background, and I can't imagine them having to deal with something like this. My mom's written English is terrible. My dad's is better, but not perfect, and he's shy around native speakers. The thought of some white do-gooder teacher kid assigning them homework just fucking kills me. They would do it, too, just because they would be afraid of putting their precious daughter at disadvantage. ARGH.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:24 PM
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Parents STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!!!

Try signing up your child for any extracurricular activity. The cost is $______. Then, you have to pay for the equipment.

Then, you have a mandatory fundraiser where they demand that you hit your office and neighbors up for additional money by selling ice cream coupons, candles, cookie dough, wrapping paper or some other trash.

I always just pay the cash and tell them that the fundraiser is stupid.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:24 PM
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Where is gswift???? Because this is where owning a gun is mandatory self-defense from fundraising nazis.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:24 PM
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103 to 100, and agreement with 102.

A big part of what pisses me off about this is that I really really really dislike anything that's supposed to be okay because we don't really mean it. (See the 'asking parents for permission to marry' thread). Nominally, this punishes a good kid with non-compliant parents. If that's not an effect you're going for, don't set it up in that format, even ineffectually.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:24 PM
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I always just pay the cash and tell them that the fundraiser is stupid.

Me too. I'll give them all the money they want, but I won't sell wrapping paper for them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:25 PM
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107: lots of things are okay because we don't really mean them, as long as people know we don't mean them. Wasn't this made fairly explicit in the racial slur thread?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:27 PM
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Me too. I'll give them all the money they want, but I won't sell wrapping paper for them.

All the money?? Care to donate to my kid's team, rich lawyer?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:30 PM
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Of course, part of the benefit is that I get to tell people in the office that I wont make them buy if they don't make me buy.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:31 PM
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109: I really don't like stuff like that around kids, and this goes for the racial slurs and the parents' homework, because they don't necessarily have the knowledge or understanding to figure out the 'just kidding' bit.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:32 PM
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I think 102 and 104 get at the heart of the problem here. Parental involvement is a good thing as a general matter, but the sorts of parents who are best-prepared for this sort of assignment (and least likely to resent it) are the ones who are likely to already be much more involved than the average parent, so the marginal benefit to their kids is minimal. The parents whose kids could benefit most from more parental involvement, on the other hand, are the ones who are least likely to be able to do this either well or at all.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:32 PM
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A tip: never have your parents sign the parental signature card at the beginning of the year. Then you have to spend all year trying to forge their signature. Instead, you sign the card, then you always know how to do "their" signature. Ta da!

This brought to you by the girl whose parents never even had the time/inclination to sign her assignments/permission slips, let alone blog about Kafka for her English teacher.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:32 PM
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lots of things are okay because we don't really mean them, as long as people know we don't mean them. Wasn't this made fairly explicit in the racial slur thread?

I missed that thread, I guess. But I would have disagreed with this premise there, too.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:33 PM
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I'm with LB: things we don't really mean are not ok. I may not think fighting is worthwhile but not ok.

Class analysis has the goals of knowledge, self-knowledge and insight, and the hope of solidarity arising from that knowledge. And there are rich and powerful forces who are threatened by that knowledge and solidarity, and who will work hard and pay big money to deflect and obscure it.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:34 PM
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A big part of what pisses me off about this is that I really really really dislike anything that's supposed to be okay because we don't really mean it.

Do you really think that this teacher wouldn't completely accommodate a parent who said, "Look, sorry, I get what you're doing here, but I can't participate"?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:35 PM
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In fact:

In fact, Mr. Frye has not penalized students whose parents have told him outright that they will not post responses. But in one case, when the parents neither did the homework nor explained why, a student did lose points -- but not enough to lower the student's overall grade, he said.

This takes all of the bite out of the grade "threat."


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:37 PM
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This takes all of the bite out of the grade "threat."

So why does he have it in the first place?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:39 PM
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I really don't like stuff like that around kids, and this goes for the racial slurs

You're no fun.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:39 PM
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Do you really think that this teacher wouldn't completely accommodate a parent who said, "Look, sorry, I get what you're doing here, but I can't participate"?

I suspect he's ask the parent to explain why s/he couldn't participate and would set about offering helpful solutions to enable the parent to participate. "Well, what if you just got up a half hour earlier in the morning to do those dishes? Then you could find time to do my assignment."

I also suspect the teacher would not be terribly willing to accommodate a parent who said, "Look, sorry, I get what you're doing here, but I think there are better ways for me and my kid to spend our time and so I do not intend to participate."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:40 PM
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119: to help parents understand that their participation is important to their child's grade, rather than being important in some more amorphous, goody-goody kind of way?

I mean, I'm not in favor of his strategy necessarily. But I would have liked more parental participation that wasn't of the "you go do that now" variety when I was in school.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:41 PM
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119: How else can he provide incentive for parents to participate?

120: I don't have enough invested in this to argue with you, as you seemed determined to think the worst of it (despite the fact that your second hypothetical is explicitly acknowledged in the article). Mostly, I just think it's a neat idea.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:43 PM
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118: So now it's a pointless waste of time instead of one that's wrongheaded.

My mother would be mortified by such an assignment. She doesn't consider herself to be an intellectual. She would be afraid of embarrassing herself.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:44 PM
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How else can he provide incentive for parents to participate?

Ask nicely?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:44 PM
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I repeat: iPod giveaway.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:45 PM
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Sorry, 123 -> 121, not 120.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:45 PM
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It looks like a lot of the disagreement here (as so often in discussions of education) comes from personal experience. The people who think this is a neat idea mostly seem to think so because they would have liked it when they were in school. Personally, I would have hated it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:46 PM
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So now it's a pointless waste of time instead of one that's wrongheaded.

Pointless? You don't think there's value in involving parents in this way, even if you don't agree with the method?

Ask nicely?

Sigh, OK: LB, please, how else can he provide incentive for parents to participate?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:47 PM
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You don't think there's value in involving parents in this way, even if you don't agree with the method?

See 113.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:51 PM
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127: fine, using racial slurs around kids is a great idea.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:51 PM
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130: I'd be interested to hear whether that turned out, in practice, to be true. Sounds like this guy got pretty good participation -- are all of his students' parents more involved than the typical parent? I think I'd be inclined to agree with you in theory, but the limited information we have from the article seems to suggest something different.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:54 PM
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mrh: I'm a very involved parent, and I think you'll be where I am in a few years. Trust me, we are reading this guy correctly, in his self-importance and obtuseness. I've got two issues with teachers at the moment, largely life/balance things, and while I'm trying to stay as much out of it and let my kids, now high-schoolers, handle it themselves, our suspicions are well-earned.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:54 PM
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What if it turns out that this works--i.e., this guy's class, which appears to have an at least somewhat diverse mix of students, ends up with more equitable grade distributions than average? Would concerns about interfering with the parent-child relationship trump that?


Posted by: clark diversey | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:55 PM
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Look, one of Rory's teachers did give this type of assignment (though she's too young for grades to mean anything and no threat was attached). What Rory learned from my mandatory involvement was how to go through the motions of doing an assignment that you think is sort of stupid and don't have the energy for. (We had to read a poem together and then I was supposed to write about what I thought. Poor Rory was mortified the day Mommy wrote, "Wow, I thought this was a pretty stupid poem. It did nothing for me. Just goes to show, everyone has their own tastes in art." I did get a smiley face from the teacher, though.)

Seriously, Rory and I both get way more out of dissecting the evening's episode of Drake and Josh -- was Megan really old enough to start dating? Why do you think Josh is so upset that his girlfriend got a better test score? Why won't Drake apply himself in school? You want science? We pop in Blue Planet or turn on the Discovery Channel. We surf the web to figure out whether we could actually take care of a pet. Sometimes I let her read blogs (not this one!) if it strikes me as something she might find interesting. That's how I want to spend my time with my daughter. I get that teachers can give assignments to kids, but the idea that they should tell me how to spend my time because they think it's best for my kid if they tell me what to do....

Argh.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:57 PM
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124: Since when do you need to be an intellectual to do high school homework assignments (let alone post to a blog)?


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:57 PM
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I'll give them all the money they want, but I won't sell wrapping paper for them.

I'm of the same mind, but then they brainwash the kids with lures of fabulous prizes if they just sell $750,000 worth of greeting cards. "But, but, but, I could get a skateboard!"

I can't begin to tell you how much I hate school fundraising time, even though I refuse to participate.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:58 PM
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Oh, I'm not arguing that he's not self-important and obtuse -- but what if he's on to something? On preview, clark seems to be asking the same question.

(I should also add that I don't want to be coming across as questioning the commitment level of any of you parents who think this is a horrible idea. It's very easy to like it from this side of the reproduction line. )


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:59 PM
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fine, using racial slurs around kids is a great idea.

You may as well teach them to use them correctly.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:59 PM
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Sounds like this guy got pretty good participation -- are all of his students' parents more involved than the typical parent?

Quite possibly. This is apparently a very wealthy school district.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:00 PM
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129: Not particularly, no. This isn't really encouraging parental involvement in a way likely to help ensure the child thinks about the assignment.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:00 PM
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I get that it's important and better for parents to be "involved" (whatever that means) in their kids' lives, yadda yadda. But I don't know if blogging about Kafka really qualifies. Wouldn't it be better to know if your kid is smoking pot with the teacher's aide, or fingerbanging his cousin Jenny, or stealing CDs from Best Buy? I mean, of the kids I know who need more parental involvement, it's not their English class homework that needs extra supervision.

Put me on the list of mortified-if-my-parents-had-had-to-do-this. My father would have been too drunk, and my mother too embarrassed, and busy, to try. Even though Mom is very smart, and an avid reader, she never finished high school. It was hard enough for me to hear the "remember where you come from" lectures when I was embarrassed by them. Imagine the horror of "Ain't that crazy talk, waking up as a cock-a-roach! That poor Russian, bless his heart!" on your English teacher's blog.


Posted by: Wrenae | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:01 PM
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138: Ditto on the respecting difference of opinion. My stake here is purely theoretical for now!


Posted by: clark diversey | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:04 PM
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136: You don't, but if you're nervous because you didn't go to college and you don't think of yourself as really belonging in this nice upper-middle class community, you might be a little worried about analyzing Kafka in front of all the moms who are businesswomen and lawyer and doctors.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:05 PM
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Dammit. At our last meetup, I was just saying how I find that whatever position Cala takes in a thread tends to be the right one. Stupid 141.

Quite possibly. This is apparently a very wealthy school district.

See, for that, I'd accept "most parents." But "all parents but one in three years"? That's a pretty damn good response rate.

I'm going to stop arguing about it now, though, lest Di Kotimy kills me through the power of her rage.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:06 PM
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It hadn't occurred to me someone identifying himself as "clark diversey" needed to add "for now," but of course I know better from my own experience. You will become familiar with this dilemma of how much help to give.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:07 PM
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142: Yeah, picturing my own parents' involvement just solidifies my (admittedly pretty solidified) stance.

Mom: Why don't you ever hang around joey Smith? His mother had such thoughtful things to say on Mr. Frye's blog...

My dad would have just railed about middle east policy, organized religion, the pharmaceutical industry, doctors, tort reform, etc. ad infinitum in a forum accessible to my peers, their parents, and my teachers.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:08 PM
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I won't sell wrapping paper for them.

That Sally Foster wrapping paper that my niece sells is the best, though.


Posted by: Annie | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:09 PM
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It hadn't occurred to me someone identifying himself as "clark diversey" needed to add "for now," but of course I know better from my own experience. You will become familiar with this dilemma of how much help to give.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:09 PM
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Someone invite Di's dad to an Unfogged meet up.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:09 PM
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sorry for the double.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:10 PM
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150: It would serve all of you right.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:10 PM
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Ditto Cala in 144. Also, in response to mrh above, a parent who feels a bit insecure (because of race or class or limited English or limited education) might not know the "rules" well enough to understand that you can beg out of the assignment. It takes a certain amount of social standing to know that your kid's teacher's demands don't need to be followed. For parents without that measure of confidence, these assignments just have the potential to create a lot of pointless agony.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:13 PM
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My dad would have just railed about middle east policy, organized religion, the pharmaceutical industry, doctors, tort reform, etc. ad infinitum

Send him here? (150 on preview)


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:13 PM
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Hey, you can't weasel your way out of being pwned just by claiming your comment is a number that it isn't.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:15 PM
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149: Plus I live in NY. Ha!


Posted by: clark diversey | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:15 PM
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Does it still seem as beat-down worthy if you think the point is equalizing social capital?

yes, because it's exactly the sort of twatty bossyboots behaviour that gets "equalizing social capital" a bad name.

the end product of a term of Damion's homework assignments is sixty well-heeled, influential, articulate adults who think that the latest wheeze in public schooling is some bearded ego-tripping little prick fresh out of grad school giving them homework assignments and threatening their kids' grades if they don't go along with his pet theories. Is this going to be a) good or b) bad for the long term health of public education. Answering this question is not compulsory, but in principle, failure to do so might mean that I kick your windows in, although I've never actually kicked anyone's windows in, except that one time when I did, just a bit.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:15 PM
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What kind of alcohol does he drink Di? I'm buying.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:16 PM
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154: Would serve you all right, and also, would be a bit awkward on those occasional (dare I say rare?) threads where I bitterly lament my underactive sex life and Will valiantly works to proactively pimp me out to any single Unfogged men out there.

"Um, hey daddy. Yeah someone else has totally been using my pseudonym. It's so embarrassing!"


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:18 PM
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I humbly suggest that non-parents' opinions of this policy really count less than parents'. I don't mean at all that one can't have useful insights about things one hasn't directly experienced; I happen to be brilliant on the subject of how to run a proper reconstruction of a country you've invaded under false pretenses. Nor does personal experience necessarily equal universal experience or good policy-making.

But I do think walking in parents' shoes is necessary on this one, especially before judging whether it's asking too much of them.


Posted by: Aunt (not Momma) Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:18 PM
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113: The parents whose kids could benefit most from more parental involvement, on the other hand, are the ones who are least likely to be able to do this either well or at all.

I remember reading a response to this, though. (I'm too lazy to see if it was upthread or in the article itself.) Sure, in the best families the students already work with their parents all the time, and in the most dysfunctional families the parents are neglectful or too busy or ignorant to effectively participate in this anyway. In the middle, though, are probably a lot of students whose parents would be capable of helping but wouldn't think of it on their own, or wouldn't do it often enough or in an effective way, or their kid wouldn't give them the chance if not forced. I agree with some of the arguments against this, but it's not like it would be totally ineffective either.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:19 PM
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What Rory learned from my mandatory involvement was how to go through the motions of doing an assignment that you think is sort of stupid and don't have the energy for.

That's a valuable lesson, which will serve her well when the mandatory "20/20" evaluations roll around at the office.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:21 PM
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145: I have power! I'm trying to think of good parental 'homework' that we had, and I'm coming up with an assignment in eighth grade where we had to ask our parents what their memories of Watergate were. I don't think it was graded. And then we talked about what they remembered compared with what we learned in the textbooks.

The bizarre thing is that my mother has absolutely nothing of which to be ashamed. She's literate and she's thoughtful and very intelligent, but she isn't used to thinking of herself as a woman who could have a life of the mind.

She sent me a mini-auto-biographical piece she wrote. Nothing big, just a little getting-to-know you piece from the gym in Smallville. And reading it, I was struck with my mother's gift with the language. She's a better writer than most Ivy League graduates, but she won't believe it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:22 PM
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156: I totally thought we were neighbors.

Thank you for bringing to my attention how many North Side intersections sound like romance novel heroes: Clark Belmont, Wrightwood Burling, Halsted Wellington, Sheffield Waveland.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:22 PM
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163: Yeah, now that kind of assignment I like. I think we had one like it where we asked our parents (or anyone alive at the time) about where they were when Kennedy was shot. Our kids could ask about where we were on 9/11.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:26 PM
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Will valiantly works to proactively pimp me out to any single Unfogged men out there.

My mistake was to try to pimp you out to Ogged. I should have known that wouldn't have helped your undersexed status.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:29 PM
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163: For the longest time, I thought "Watergate" was the name of a boring TV show. When I was a young child, and was serving as remote control for my mother, and I'd turn to a channel where the Watergate hearings were being televised, she would say, "Change the channel, that's Watergate."


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:31 PM
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164: Not to mention Damen Foster and his lovely mistress, Cornelia Sheridan.

This is an awesome game. The south side really gets the shaft, though. I can't come up with anything better than King Garfield.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:31 PM
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I would have hated this as a kid for the opposite reason. My mom never recovered from being a compulsive perfectionist all-A student. She would have written the best and longest blog entries which would have been embarrassing enough in itself, but would probably also have lowered my grade because my papers would seem so lame by comparison.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:32 PM
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165: What made it especially good was that the teacher collected all the responses and we talked about them collectively without singling out anyone's parents. I think that made it a lot easier for the couple of recent immigrants we had in the class.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:33 PM
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But I do think walking in parents' shoes is necessary on this one, especially before judging whether it's asking too much of them.

It's not just about the parents, though. The kids are part of this, too. While I'm not a parent, I was once a kid. This would have been a real stress on my moderately dysfunctional family. Not only bco parental time issues, but bco parental concerns similar to Cala's mom. My parents would have been mortified to do this and have it available for all to read. The class-consciousness-related stress they did experience trickled down to the kids; I'm sure this would have just been one more stressor. And each co-assignment would have been unbearable, embarrassing, stressful for me.


Posted by: Annie | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:35 PM
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The laydeez here are smokin


Posted by: Dearborn Goethe | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:36 PM
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What we smokin a hard question to divine.

My dad, I have to say, would have eaten up the Kafka assignment, posted a well-written critique, enjoyed the hell out of it, and corrected the teacher's grammar. And that would have mortified me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:39 PM
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165, 170: We were given a more general assignment to ask our parents about an historical event that affected their life. My mother wrote an essay about how World War 2 and the founding of the State of Israel affected her childhood. And my dad told me that he was at the wedding of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, but the orderbs were so-so.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:41 PM
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So maybe some adjustments would be:

1) reduce the number of co-assigments and give some freedom over which ones parents can do; e.g., ask for parents to submit one co-assignment per month.

2) make the parental submissions private, like most student work is. Yes, sometimes student work gets passed around or is explicitly designed for sharing. The point is to get A's parent involved with A's schoolwork. B and their parents don't need to know how the A family is doing.

3) get rid of the dumb threat thing.


Posted by: Annie | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:42 PM
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157: See, this is the exactly the aspect of the complaint that bugs me. Should Damion, or his principal, think twice about giving low grades to a significant portion of his students, or about disciplining them for cheating, for fear of pissing off powerful and articulate adults? No.

You reply, well, that's because those cases are legitimate exercises of authority. Here, he's overstepping his bounds. But why? I don't think it's purely a matter of surveying the neighbors (& note again, at least based on the article, that there seems not to have been a rash of outrage at the practice).

Like any other professionals, teachers should have some leeway to pursue educationally efficacious methods. I don't know that that's the case here, but it doesn't seem particularly burdensome to try it and find out. Given the last thirty years, the fear that people will cry "nanny state" is a relatively feeble argument against it.


Posted by: clark diversey | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:42 PM
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While I'm not a parent, I was once a kid.

Oh, absolutely, we all have ideas of what it would have been like for us as kids and for our parents, which are useful perspectives. I'm talking more about people who are saying they'd do it happily if they were parents; I think it's hard to predict what parenting will be like for oneself.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:43 PM
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168: Woodlawn Midway Plaisance? Kimbark the 47th? Yeah, not quite.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:45 PM
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the orderbs were so-so

Don't you mean the horse dovers?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:45 PM
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I often hesitate to comment when I see a thread starting to slow down bc I don't want to be the commenter that killed the thread.


Posted by: Annie | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:50 PM
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Shh nobody comment we can make Annie feel bad.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:51 PM
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I'll save you! I was just going to post this anyway:

And, for the record, Annie, my non-parental reaction is pretty much the same as yours.

And I seem to be an accomplished thread-killer anyway, so maybe I'll just embrace it and go for the record.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:54 PM
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Oh damn, Sifu; I wrecked it. But at least I didn't tell you about the surprise party.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:55 PM
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Ooh, party! Do I get to be the piñata again?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:56 PM
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Procopius Waldfogel.

The thing that gets me about the damn wrapping paper is that the money doesn't go into better subsidized lunches or ESL (or even babysitting to allow ESL or chores) for the parents that could use it, but for something inane.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:58 PM
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You reply, well, that's because those cases are legitimate exercises of authority. Here, he's overstepping his bounds. But why?

because he is a schoolteacher.

this episode of "easy answers to rhetorical questions" brought to you by, etc etc.

No he isn't allowed to "try out the most efficacious educational methods" if it involves bullying parents around by threatening (even joke-threatening) their kids' grades. Intervening in other people's families is like intervening in other people's countries - think twice, think three times, make sure that there's an urgent crisis which requires immediate action, and then still probably don't. Damion's little scheme of fine-tuning is very much toward the "pro-democracy intervention" end of things.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:00 PM
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Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb your parents.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:02 PM
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Imagine the horror of "Ain't that crazy talk, waking up as a cock-a-roach! That poor Russian, bless his heart!" on your English teacher's blog.
My dad would have just railed about middle east policy, organized religion, the pharmaceutical industry, doctors, tort reform, etc. ad infinitum in a forum accessible to my peers, their parents, and my teachers.

I want so very badly to cut loose at the intersection of these two comments and channel Di's dad. But I'll be good.

max
['I hurt myself giggling.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:11 PM
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186: It's only bullying as long as you accept that asking for parental participation is out of line. Is he bullying the kids by making them do homework? I'm sure some of them feel that way. Does the biology teacher bully the evangelical kids, etc.?

At any rate, it's not going to be much use now that the article's out. "You mean if you refuse, it doesn't really have any effect?"

I once saw a musician in an MTV interview say that he had tried heroin, but that he would never publicly admit to doing so.


Posted by: clark diversey | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:15 PM
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These points have been made, but I like to hear myself talk, so:

1) My mom would have been mortified by having to do this and I would have ended up doing her "homework." Way to put the immigrants in their place.

2) Parents can be plenty involved without knowing anything about the details of the assignments.

3) What dsquared said.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:16 PM
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Like any other professionals, teachers should have some leeway to pursue educationally efficacious methods.

Right, and like other professionals, teachers have to pursue methods that are within their authority to pursue. The police, for example, rightly think that certain methods might be efficacious in obtaining a confession. When they overstep what those methods exceed the authority the kind officer legally possesses, good citizens protest. Damion should think twice about lowering a kid's grade based on parental lack of involvement because grades are supposed to measure student achievement. Damion should think twice about "mandating" parental involvement because school teachers do not actually have any authority to tell parents what to do.

What might work would be having the same type of project, but offering it on a voluntary, extracurricular basis. Send home a flyer inviting interested parents to participate. Better, invite parents to a "Discuss Kafka Happy Hour." I might attend something like that.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:16 PM
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When they overstep what those methods exceed the authority the kind officer legally possesses, good citizens protest

In my defense, I just got back from a "Discuss Kafka Happy Hour."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:22 PM
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I actually sort of love that phrase, Di.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:23 PM
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If Damaon offered extra credit to children whose parents did the blog entries, would that be OK?


Posted by: clark diversey | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:23 PM
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Damion should think twice about "mandating" parental involvement

But what if the parent is really coming on to him?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:24 PM
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194: No.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:26 PM
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Kafka of course lived under the Hapsburgs, in a decaying surveillance-obsessed police state, where political discourse was permitted as comedy but not otherwise.
Typical that such effete irrelevancy would go over with urban elites today.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:27 PM
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But what if the parent is really coming on to him?

In my defense, I had just returned from a "Discuss Kafka Happy Hour."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:27 PM
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It's only bullying as long as you accept that asking for parental participation is out of line

noopety nope. There are lots and lots of things that it's nice to do, OK to ask someone else to do but not OK to try and make someone else do by using threats. As my wife has just rather forcibly reminded me.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:28 PM
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198 is very funny.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:29 PM
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#194: to try and ensure that we can all salvage something from the evening, can I reply to the general schema and tell you that however you ask this question the answer's still gonna be "No". It's the classic paternalist urge - it's not OK to push people around, no matter how convinced you are that the place you're pushing them to is the place they ought to be.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:31 PM
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178: Archer Pulaski's not bad.


Posted by: clark diversey | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:32 PM
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Totally OT: I'm home w/the flu but just checked work email. I work at the town library. Some kid just got suspended from the library for hitting another kid. Next email says he's suspended for 3 months for coming back into the library and running through Miss Cassie's storytime with the little kids, all the while yelling 'I need TP for my bunghole'.


Posted by: Annie | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:40 PM
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Next email says he's suspended for 3 months for coming back into the library and running through Miss Cassie's storytime with the little kids, all the while yelling 'I need TP for my bunghole'.

Gotta respect a kid who appreciates the classics, instead of whatever Captain Underpants- or Oswald the Polite Octopus-inspired catchphrases the kids are using these days.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:50 PM
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Discuss Kafka Happy Hour

Better to discuss him than actually read him. Kafka: fun to talk about, awful to read.

But this -- I would have a hard time not pulling rank on a high school teacher who asked me to interpret texts -- would be really hard for me if I thought the teacher was out of line. "Oh, I'm really busy this week, would you mind if I just posted my article I wrote for the Kafka Society of America? All the quotes are in German, I hope you don't mind."


Posted by: obnoxious | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:53 PM
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If I was a parent of a child in this dude's class, I'd have to have my kid physically restrain me to prevent me from writing smartass comments on teach's blog comparing Kafka's cockroach to the modern-day plight of the Furry.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:54 PM
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Annie will never phone in sick again. How often does a librarian have fun? And she missed it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:57 PM
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My advisor has a Gregor Samsa costume. She finds an event to wear it to at least every few years. Maybe I could use that somehow.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:59 PM
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As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic chipmunk with an obscure sexual fetish.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:04 PM
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The Metamorphosis sounds like a really weird choice for this parent-involvement thing, actually, given the family dynamics it portrays.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:07 PM
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All you libertarians and your concern about the coercive powers of the public schools remind me of the folks who complain about seatbelt laws. I always want to say: Look, if it's really that important to you, the risk of a fine can't really be that big of a deal.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:08 PM
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The article makes it sound like the text wasn't The Metamorphosis, it says they read a short story by Kafka.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:12 PM
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All you libertarians

Them's fightin' words.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:12 PM
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For the longest time, I thought "Watergate" was the name of a boring TV show.

My little brother was the same way with Gulf War I or, as he called it at age 2, "airplane news".


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:14 PM
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212: Probably The Judgement. That has healthy family dynamics!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:16 PM
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Homework has little to no benefit:

"the overall correlations between national average student achievement and national averages in [amount of homework assigned] are all negative."


Posted by: joeo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:23 PM
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All you libertarians

Hell I am kind of libertarianish and this doesn't even bug me.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:23 PM
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114: A tip: never have your parents sign the parental signature card at the beginning of the year. Then you have to spend all year trying to forge their signature. Instead, you sign the card, then you always know how to do "their" signature. Ta da!

I went to boarding school, and there were things (like weekend away slips) that had to get signed by one's advisor. One teacher, whose brother also taught there, and who's long since been retired used to teach his advisees how to forge his signature so that they could have it in a pinch.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:23 PM
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218 was I.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:24 PM
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178, 202: Drexel Payne?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:33 PM
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204: I *love* Oswald! It is so soothing. The music by Evan Lurie is what really does it.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:37 PM
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213, 217: I was considering "all you motherfuckers" but decided that wasn't strong enough to convey my contempt.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:41 PM
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I'm pretty sure it's The Metamorphosis; that seems to be the only Kafka story regularly assigned in American high schools. Though The Judgment would be equally bizarre (and hilarious).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:44 PM
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"In the Penal Colony" would be a fun one for today, no?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:00 PM
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I don't suppose they're going to read the letter to his father.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:04 PM
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Where is gswift???? Because this is where owning a gun is mandatory self-defense from fundraising nazi

I was out beating a twatty bossyboots teacher with a pipe.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:19 PM
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"In the Penal Colony" would be a fun one for today, no?

Definitely.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:21 PM
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Harry Mathews' Franz Kafka in Riga is a pretty interesting story.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:23 PM
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Speaking of teachers and guns...


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:29 PM
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Random thoughts:

1. I wouldn't be particularly bothered by getting this sort of thing from my kid's teacher. OTOH, I agree with those who worry about kids for whom parental participation would be cringeworthy for any of several reasons. OTOOH, the guy's apparently getting enough support that it's just conceivable that he knows what he's doing better than we do.

2. It's fun to see the comments along the lines of "the temerity of that man! a mere teacher, telling the likes of us what to do!" right next to the class thread. A teacher's job is to participate in the raising of our kids. Line-drawing is always tricky, as are methods, but he's not fundamentally off-base in trying to get the parents involved.

3. Grading kids for what their parents do is not OK, but he's apparently dealing with the demographic in which "this may affect your grade" is the accepted way of saying "yes, I expect you to take this seriously." Phony threats are lame, but so are grade-grubbing students and parents who don't give a shit about anything they're not graded on, so I'd give the guy the benefit of the doubt.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:43 PM
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Reposted from 118:
"In fact, Mr. Frye has not penalized students whose parents have told him outright that they will not post responses. "

In other words, if you are a parent and you don't want to do this, you can just say "I don't want to." And that's it. Problem solved.

Those of you freaking out -- schools desperately need motivated, innovative teachers. This guy is responsible for teaching 100-120 students, and guess what? this technique probably has overall good results. Because guess why? If not, he probably wouldn't bother. Because as pointed out, he's risking a lot by intruding on possibly hostile parental territory. If most everyone got pissed off, and all the disadvantaged kids felt shunned and this was really such a bad idea, why on earth would he keep doing it?
Even the parent who doesn't like the program has very good things to say about this guy, which implies he's not one of the (all-too-common) powertripping classroom assholes.


Posted by: CB | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:50 PM
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Eh. I still want to kneecap him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:59 PM
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Punishing children for the misdeeds of their parents seems wrong, even if it's unto the first generation and not the fourth.

Parents need to face the consequences themselves, personally. Failure to participate in their child's education constitutes child neglect. Let's throw them in jail. That'll make sure they stay involved, and it will help the economy by providing prison guard jobs for the uneducated kids we're graduating. Win-win!

Okay, enough with the trolling, a moment of seriousness.

We're looking at one of those moments when the informal system and the formal system have different rules. He's set up a formal system where the kids and their parents can - if they want - have a structure in which to jointly participate in the eductaional process. The kids who want more parental involvement can say 'the teacher says you have to do it'.
But the informal system says there's no penalty for blowing it off, so the kids and parents who don't want to do it don't have to.

I think it sounds clever. He's not only found a way to possibly encourage some parents to participate, he's teaching the kids about systems of rules.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:00 PM
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A teacher's job is to participate in the raising of our kids.

Right. But a teacher's job is not to tell parents how to participate in the raising of our kids.

It is fun to think of this in juxtaposition to the discussion of class, because this type of assignment does affect people differently based on class issues. The burden in a household with a stay at home parent is different from the burden in a household with two working parents, a working single parent, parents working multiple or shift jobs, etc. Which is probably why I am reacting so strongly -- because, by God, I'm tired at the end of the day, and I sometimes have "homework" that I'm being paid to do.

Nobody's denigrating the man as a "mere" teacher. But the idea that parents aren't going to be good enough parents if the school doesn't give them that assignment grates.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:03 PM
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That's what makes me so annoyed. I hate, hate, hate, hate, really dislike, am annoyed by, deprecate, and hate systems where the real rules aren't public, and if you play by them you're a chump. The public rules here are bad and unjust; the real rules are more humane, but only available to people willing to blow off the public rules. I don't like training children that playing by the rules makes you a chump.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:05 PM
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I don't like training children that playing by the rules makes you a chump.

My family didn't learn that, but I wish we had.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:07 PM
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My family didn't learn that, but I wish we had.

You should have been a Lur.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:10 PM
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235: I absolutely agree with you. I used to believe in the possibility of perfect transparency, of rules that were always clear and explicit and knowable. I thought that an ideal to strive for.

However, I no longer believe in that possibility. There will always be several sets of contradictory and incommensurable rules operating simultaneously. I really wish I had learned that lesson four decades ago.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:14 PM
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You should have been a Lur.

I don't know if you meant that seriously, but I seriously think you're right.

It tends to be the minorities and the oppressed who learn most quickly about the difference between the formal rules and the informal. It's when the oppressed think they've reached mainstream status that they forget the distinction and think the formal system determines the results. They're wrong.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:18 PM
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But the idea that parents aren't going to be good enough parents if the school doesn't give them that assignment grates.

This, I think, is something we do to ourselves. The world's full of messages about things we must do for our kids, from advertisers, politicians, churches, other parents, et cetera, ad nauseam. We have to try to tune out the judgmental shit and make our own decisions about whether what we're being told to do makes any sense. At least teachers have a legitimate interest in kids' education, and many parents really can use some help.

I hate, hate, hate, hate, really dislike, am annoyed by, deprecate, and hate systems where the real rules aren't public, and if you play by them you're a chump.

Me too, but that's the world we live in, and learning to navigate it is part of that social capital thing we want kids to have. We don't want them to grow up thinking it's OK to play silly games on their taxes because John Edwards got away with it, but we do want them to grow up to be able to work around petty authoritarianism. Understanding how imperfect rules and imperfect people actually interact is a pretty important part of education, and one that most of us don't get until long after we're out of school.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:24 PM
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Minorities, the oppressed, immigrants, people who live in corrupt societies, pretty much everyone in the world except Western Europeans and their descendants knows that there are rules and there are the real rules. That's one of the great but sometimes silly things about Western Europeans (and their descendants).


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:25 PM
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What's wrong with opposing and trying to end such systems where they're obvious, rather than tolerating them because they're educational?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:25 PM
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Those of you freaking out -- schools desperately need motivated, innovative teachers. This guy is responsible for teaching 100-120 students, and guess what? this technique probably has overall good results.

all sorts of people have good results. Harry Callahan was motivated and innovative and had excellent results.

Even a small expansion in the number of people who feel like they have the right to tell us all what to do is important. If you don't object to this guy and his "innovative" techniques catch on, may I point out that the "faith based" people will almost certainly have a fucking shedload of innovative techniques with great results, ready and waiting to be imposed on the lucky populace.

General principles exist for a reason, and they need big reasons to be bent or broken, which bending or breaking ought to happen as a result of a generally accepted process that everyone participates in. Somebody upthread compared this to the "libertarian" objection to seatbelt laws - I hope I am not being too much of a dick when I point out that *laws* are in general passed through a democratic process by people we can vote against if we don't like them. If random policemen had simply started stopping motorists and looking for excuses to put points on their licenses if they weren't wearing seatbelts, then even though their results would no doubt have been excellent, perhaps people would have thought that this wasn't the very greatest of ways to behave.

The point is not that if I can justify my decision not to participate to the teacher, there's no problem. The point is that not so long ago, I didn't have to go around justifying myself to teachers. This isn't a small point, and the failure to understand it is at the root of what a lot of people hate about progressives. I include by citation an earlier post of mine on this general habit of mind:

http://d-squareddigest.blogspot.com/2006/12/i-shit-on-progressives-of-this-planet.html


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:26 PM
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Minorities, the oppressed, immigrants, people who live in corrupt societies, pretty much everyone in the world except Western Europeans and their descendants knows that there are rules and there are the real rules.

any particular reason you're defining Italy out of Western Europe?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:27 PM
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They're swarthy?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:28 PM
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There are rules in Italy? I never saw one.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:29 PM
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What's wrong with opposing and trying to end such systems where they're obvious, rather than tolerating them because they're educational?

All social systems are always being contested. Informal system become formalized, formal systems develop informal work-arounds. Everything is always in flux. Systems that operate within one group won't necessarily operate within another, or between groups, and it's not always obvious which group one is acting within.

I draw the inference that therefore there will always be informal systems that contradict the formal, there's no way to end them. I believe (although I'm not sure I can prove) that the best one can hope for is to be aware of and to identify the various systems. On the other hand, I may be wrong. I'm decades out of date in the relevant fields. I'm also cranky, depressed, and perhaps unduly cynical.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:37 PM
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What's wrong with opposing and trying to end such systems where they're obvious, rather than tolerating them because they're educational?

If it were possible for rules to be clear, transparent, and easy for any person of good faith to apply and enforce, you and I would both have to look for new jobs. (Not really; the good faith thing is a deal-killer.)


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:39 PM
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I'm also cranky, depressed, and perhaps unduly cynical.

We gathered that from the fact that you're commenting here.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:40 PM
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all sorts of people have good results. Harry Callahan was motivated and innovative and had excellent results.

He was fictional, though. Are you arguing in favor of fictional teachers?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:41 PM
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D^2 is channeling Ronald Reagan.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:52 PM
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#1: Holy shit, I want to kill that teacher.

#29: A beating is called for on principle.

It warms my heart to see so many Unfogged readers embracing the need for righteous violence. There's hope for this country yet.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:38 PM
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I haven't read this thread, but I hate to tell you: parents *do* have a lot of homework when their kids are in school. Last year I was *required* to read to him for twenty minutes a day and record my doing it. I had to test him on spelling words and indicate which ones he knew and which he needed help on. I had to take him to the library, help him write a report according to detailed criteria, help him do a bibliography, for chrissake. This year I have to help him learn his times tables.

And the fact is that the parents who do it make a big difference for their kids, and the parents who don't fuck their kids over. The learning curve for me in public school last year was huge, and it continues this year. And it's very clear--and very sad--that the bright kids in PK's class whose parents are too busy to do the things I do with PK--help him with times tables, have him pay for things and count change, read to him, put him in situations where he has to read (restaurant menus, traffic signs, etc.), go over his homework with him, take him to the library to research his report, volunteer in his class so I know what's going on, etc.--really, really suffer educationally as a result.

So I say, hooray for the teachers who are willing to incur parents' wrath by telling them yes, you have to be involved in your kids education, yes you have to do this or that specific thing, yes, I expect to see evidence that you've done it. Ideally there will be rewards rather than penalties for it, and I'm well aware, believe me, that this kind of thing is *much* harder for a lot of parents than it is for me. But the research makes it very clear that having parents who are involved makes a huge difference for the kids, and so bully for the teachers who insist on that.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:48 PM
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Minorities, the oppressed, immigrants, people who live in corrupt societies, pretty much everyone in the world except Western Europeans and their descendants knows that there are rules and there are the real rules. That's one of the great but sometimes silly things about Western Europeans (and their descendants).

Data points against this: old boys' networks in hiring markets, college admissions counselors who know how to game the system vs. poor minority kid who thinks Harvard admits on merit.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:55 PM
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By what right, or on the basis of what, exactly, does he presume to extend his authority from that which he holds over the children in his classroom to that which can be held over the parents of those children in their own homes?

Presumably by the authority of his expertise in the matter of education? I'm a little bothered by (and believe me, I have it myself) the attitude that teachers are supposed to take orders from parents (and legislators) but no fucking way should it go the other way.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:57 PM
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parents and kids alike are awfully overscheduled nowadays and some of us do resent being told how we should spend the quality time we do have

Absolutely true. But I mean, the thing is, can we work on parking that resentment and thinking about working cooperatively with educators? Is the problem the teacher, here, or is it that your boss is a dick who thinks it's reasonable that you only spend an hour with your kid a day? (I do think younger kids need more involvement than older ones, but I'm not sure that's entirely accurate--older kids are pretty likely to suffer that whole alienation thing.)

Re. Stanley's question about incentives: the thing that really got PK to read on his own last year was the private-industry-supporting-education thing where Magic Mountain gave free tickets to any kid who read six hours in a month. Sad, but true.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:05 PM
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I always just pay the cash and tell them that the fundraiser is stupid.

Please don't. Pay the cash, that's awesome. But keep in mind that a lot of parents *can't* afford to just pay the cash, and the organization needs money, dammit, and how the fuck are they supposed to get it? The sad fact is that sending kids out to sell shit door to door *works*, because it's hard to say no to a kid.

I mean, if the affluent, educated parents want to offer to, say, write grant proposals to try to get money for X organization so that they don't have to do the fundraising, everyone is going to be grateful. But it's shitty to bitch about the parents who bust their asses trying to come up with crap that'll raise money for the activities that your kid enjoys along with all the others.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:15 PM
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253: "being involved" =/= "completing mandatory parent homework"

I really do resent the suggestion that there are certain specified activities you must perform to make a difference in your kid's life and if you don't do those specific things you are fucking your kid over. I don't find it at all helpful to send a message that if you can't juggle just this one more ball, you are hurting your kid. Yes, it is alot harder for some parents than others. And for parents struggling to keep it all in balance, the subtle or not so subtle implication that they still aren't doing enough is crushing.

I will add that a good portion of the things you list are not formal assignments, but teachable moments that you take advantage of. These are harder to come by, though, if what little free time you have left in a day is consumed by a bunch of mandatory homework assignments.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:18 PM
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Rory and I both get way more out of dissecting the evening's episode of Drake and Josh

Right, and PK gets more out of a lot of the stuff I do with him that he did out of a lot of his homework last year. But the point is, *most parents don't dissect television that way.* All you have to do if you're a parent who does is tell the teacher look, I don't have time, but we read/watch and discuss X together, and it's cool.

I have mixed feelings about the "ashamed immigrant/uneducated parents" thing. I'm sympathetic. But at the same time, one of the things that really breaks my heart is the kids whose parents are ashamed of "not being smart enough" and who have learned that kind of overachiever, perfectionist ethos. *Hopefully* part of what's going on with the teacher having the parents post publicly on a blog is to try to teach the kids that their responses to literature don't have to follow X or Y format; that you start with all *kinds* of responses and go from there. Because one of the hardest things in a literature class is dealing with the kids who think they're "not good at this" and getting them to realize that what they're not good at isn't reading/thinking; it's merely articulating what they think. Which is a skill that can be taught and that they shouldn't be ashamed of not having. And in fact, what you find when you make people's responses public is that the people everyone expects to be bad at it are usually much better than the folks who think they already know "how" to do it, and just phone it in.

Yes, it sacrifices the parents' feelings a bit. But that's part of what parents are for. I can get my self-conscious non-sporty ass onto the soccer field to scrimmage with PK's team, and in fact the mom who's the most willing to do it is the fat, maternal, immigrant mom who really takes seriously the idea that she should help the coach out--the wealthier blond moms just sit there. I figure it isn't going to hurt the graduate-degree-having parents to show that they respect their kid's teacher, and it isn't going to hurt the undereducated parents to teach their kids that sometimes learning means sticking your neck out (if, as I am assuming, the teacher isn't an asshole towards those parents).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:26 PM
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Is the problem the teacher, here, or is it that your boss is a dick who thinks it's reasonable that you only spend an hour with your kid a day?

Yeah, it sucks that having a job sucks up so much of my time and that the commute consumes the rest. The people I work for have been pretty good to me, truth be told, in accomodating my need to show up late or take off early or work from home on stupid holidays. Generally speaking, I'm all for saner working conditions in this country. But the fact is, if I want to continue feeding my kid, I'm going to have to continue doing what I need to do to continue having a job.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:30 PM
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These are harder to come by, though, if what little free time you have left in a day is consumed by a bunch of mandatory homework assignments.

Yes, and this was a big part of my problem with PK's school last year--that the teacher, when I tried to talk to her about this, said "well, he has to learn that homework is his job."

That said, well, she was right. In today's public schools, kids are expected to achieve, and the learning curve is pretty steep--steeper than it was for me. I was pissed, but since she wouldn't bend on the "what if we just didn't do all his homework?" question, I made myself do it with him. And after a month or two of this, she *did* start relaxing; she just wanted to see that I was willing to get my butt on board.

This year I'm doing a lot more, because he's in a school that requires a lot of parental volunteering. OTOH, there's a lot less homework, because the volunteering is meant to make more teachable moments; it's done *precisely* so that the teachers don't have to assign a shitload of homework to the kids to ensure that they're learning--instead, the work gets put on the parents. Which I think is appropriate at this age, and yes, I'm lucky enough to be able to do it (though there are a surprising number of heroic single moms at this school, too).

The thing is, according to the article, this teacher is willing to make exceptions precisely for parents like you--who say, I'm good at the teachable moments, but I don't have time to take on Kafka right now. Okay, cool. But a lot of parents, probably most, don't do either, especially not with high school kids. I think it's to this guy's credit that he's not letting them get away with that.

Like most of you, I don't like the "your kid's grade will suffer" thing. But I also recognize that that's about the only leverage teachers have, and that it *is* leverage parents take seriously; the fact that he doesn't really enforce that much suggests that he's doing it pretty much right--using the threat to make parents and kids pay attention, and then dealing kindly with the parents who come in and ask for exceptions to be made.

That, too, is something kids should learn--to respect the authority of their teachers, which also means going to them when you have a problem.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:33 PM
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261: You know, I just don't buy that all this is necessary. Tell me that "in today's public schools, kids are expected to achieve" anything all that different than we were expected to achieve by the time they get to sixth grade or so -- if not, the extra pressure they're getting in the early years is really kind of pointless.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:40 PM
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Honest to god? The stuff PK was expected to do by the end of first grade was *way* harder than what I was expected to do. The public schools my sister and I went to were doing *multiplication tables in fourth grade.* PK's school is doing them now, in second. The two kids in his class who are in second and third grade and are still learning to do addition and subtraction with two and three-digit numbers are far behind everyone else; when I was in school, that was what we were all being asked to do at that age.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:44 PM
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In today's public schools, kids are expected to achieve, and the learning curve is pretty steep--steeper than it was for me. I was pissed, but since she wouldn't bend on the "what if we just didn't do all his homework?" question, I made myself do it with him. And after a month or two of this, she *did* start relaxing; she just wanted to see that I was willing to get my butt on board.

This does not strike me as painting a complimentary picture of the school system of today. The homework and parental contribution expectations these days sound punishing and horrid, and frankly make me feel like it would be completely dreadful to have children. That is sad. And I truly think that there is something wrong with a system where letting your child deal with his English homework by himself -- even if you aren't as wonderful as Di Kotomy -- is "letting them get away" with something.

Because one of the hardest things in a literature class is dealing with the kids who think they're "not good at this" and getting them to realize that what they're not good at isn't reading/thinking; it's merely articulating what they think.

I don't see how forcing their parents to post on a blog helps with this, and also, sometimes people's ideas, not just their articulations of them, are not so hot.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:46 PM
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262: There's much more homework, more standardized testing, and grades on individual assignments and tests, even from 4th grade, are in the school district computers forever. It's really awful, and I'm 100% with Di on this.

I'm a much better educator than they are, and while I don't mind ceding them the school day, I resent their appropriating my evening when I could be teaching, less formally to be sure, more interesting and relevant content.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:47 PM
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I think my biggest problem with the assignment was that it seemed to be largely independent of the child.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:48 PM
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I agree that Sally and Newt are doing more, younger, than I did back in the 70s (reading, I notice. Being able to read in kindergarten was quite rare back then -- I did, but hardly any of my classmates, and I don't remember much of an effort to teach us. Reading was for first grade. Now it's really taught in kindergarten.) But if they aren't going any further by the end of grade school, there's no point to the extra pressure in the early years but setting the kids without the high-pressure parents up for failure.

Feh, I say. The academic workload should be teachable in school hours -- a school system that's relying on each kid's parents to do a significant portion of the teaching is doing it wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:49 PM
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Homework is required by law, including in the primary grades. Most of the teachers think it's godawful, and being pissed off at them about it is simply wrong.

I'm a much better educator than they are.

I am in many ways, but there are a lot of things I've learned about kids PK's age from his teachers. And again, I remind you: very few parents know as much about education as their childrens' teachers, and if those of us who do, and who are socially above the kids' teachers, act holier-than-thou about shit rather than supporting the teachers, we're a big part of the problem.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:50 PM
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Homework is required by law, including in the primary grades. Most of the teachers think it's godawful, and being pissed off at them about it is simply wrong.

We're pissed off at this guy for coming up with exciting fun new arenas for homework to invade. That's legit, isn't it?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:52 PM
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But if they aren't going any further by the end of grade school, there's no point to the extra pressure in the early years but setting the kids without the high-pressure parents up for failure.

Agreed. But again, this isn't the teachers; it's the law.

The academic workload should be teachable in school hours -- a school system that's relying on each kid's parents to do a significant portion of the teaching is doing it wrong.

Disagreed. First, because it isn't the school system; it's the legislators at the state and national levels. Second, because we all know that the "achievement" gap between the children of people like us, and the children of people who *don't* do a significant amount of teaching outside of school, is huge--and that the U.S. economy makes it very, very difficult to live a reasonable life without being on the high end of that gap.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:53 PM
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And again, I remind you: very few parents know as much about education as their childrens' teachers, and if those of us who do, and who are socially above the kids' teachers, act holier-than-thou about shit rather than supporting the teachers, we're a big part of the problem.

Oh, nonsense. If I'm telling my kid to disrespect the teacher, that's bad. If I'm disapproving of the way the school and the teacher run the class, and think it's burdensome and ineffective, I'm not doing the classroom environment any harm at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:54 PM
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When my daughter was in 8th grade, I had her skip a day of school to come to work with me. I was moving the admission of a friend at the Supreme Court, and we stayed for the oral argument in a Fourth Amendment case. She read the case summary, and some other stuff I put together on various issues raised by it, we talked about it before and after.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:55 PM
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Second, because we all know that the "achievement" gap between the children of people like us, and the children of people who *don't* do a significant amount of teaching outside of school, is huge--and that the U.S. economy makes it very, very difficult to live a reasonable life without being on the high end of that gap.

But that's an argument *for* making education teachable in school hours, not for foisting the workload onto the parents. If it's teachable in school hours, it doesn't matter as much whether mom works from home and has plenty of time to spare or if mom is working the late shift. If 'education' means 'mom needs to teach you the times tables', then the kid with busy parents is going to get even less out of school.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:55 PM
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269: I'm really not sure. I think this might be like the white flight problem in the 70s; what's going on might be a real sea change in what we, as a society, expect of parents in terms of the education of children. I'm inclined to think that it's a change for the better, in terms of parental involvement in education, and that what's got everyone's back up is that *we're* a generation who was raised in the 70s, by working mothers; we're the latchkey kids. But that isn't the norm, and the research seems to indicate that it works okay for kids who are relatively privileged, but it works like shit for kids who aren't.

I think the changes need to happen in terms of work hours and expectations, not in terms of what the teachers are asking parents to do. (Though I think a lot of the homework in the primary grades is crap--less worksheets, more actual doing shit with kids.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:56 PM
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I would like to wholeheartedly endorse 273.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:58 PM
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Second, because we all know that the "achievement" gap between the children of people like us, and the children of people who *don't* do a significant amount of teaching outside of school, is huge

That's exactly the issue. Assignments like this one penalize children specifically for having uninvolved parents. Now, the kids would be better off if they had parents involved in their schooling, sure. But shouldn't the school assume that they've got the kid, and that's all they've got, and gear their teaching to something the kid is supposed to be able to manage and absorb without parental coddling?

it's the legislators at the state and national levels

How does this preclude my saying it's a bad way to run a school system?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:58 PM
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If I'm telling my kid to disrespect the teacher, that's bad. If I'm disapproving of the way the school and the teacher run the class, and think it's burdensome and ineffective, I'm not doing the classroom environment any harm at all.

To take this point a step further, isn't challenging educational methods we consider burdensome and ineffective also a part of what it means to be involved in our children's education?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:59 PM
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272 continued . . . and while I wouldn't go over to home schooling, a system that counts this kind of experience as nothing, but instead is all about whether some stupid crap busywork workbook sheet got filled in, isn't worthy of much respect.

That said, I never complain to or about the teachers, and am as much a hardass about getting the assigned work done as anyone you can imagine.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:59 PM
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But that isn't the norm, and the research seems to indicate that it works okay for kids who are relatively privileged, but it works like shit for kids who aren't.

I actually haven't seen research showing a negative academic impact on children of employed mothers at any academic level -- point me at it, if you would?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:59 PM
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271: Sure, in terms of your opinion. But in terms of some of the stuff people said in the thread about being tempted to write (or writing) things that deliberately mock the assignment?

273: No, it's an argument for making education and children central, rather than peripheral, to our collective idea about what's important.

Which I hope you guys know I don't mean "so women should quit work and stay home with kids." What I mean is that we're living through the period when, I think, the pushback against both feminism and "productivity!" is beginning--when both moms *and dads* are starting to resent the expectation that their jobs are front and center in their lives. What I'm saying is, let's not blame the teachers for the crunch.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:04 PM
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Now I'm all riled up. And it's time to get unriled.

Here's a start: LB, if you want to come to DC some day, I'd be happy to move your admission to the Sup. Ct. Pick a day with something good on the docket, cause we get to sit in the front row.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:06 PM
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I have to assume B wasn't trying to say that working mothers are outside the norm -- because if anyone thought I was on edge before, my back would be way the fuck up if that were the assertion. Rory actually asked me earlier this week why only the dads work in most families and I had to try to explain to her that the little Stepfordesque social circle she has fallen into does not, in fact, define the norm. I will be shocked if this is what BitchPhD was intending to say. Shocked, and dismayed.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:09 PM
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279: I"m not talking about employed mothers at all, as I hope 280 makes clear.

Assignments like this one penalize children specifically for having uninvolved parents.

No; the article makes clear that it doesn't. The assignment is an attempt to force the parents to be involved, but it doesn't penalize the kids. It merely threatens to, because--unfortunately--that kind of threat is the only leverage teachers have over a lot of parents.

Seriously--PK is in this hyperdemanidng co-op type public school that "requires" 4 hours of parental volunteer time/week. The parents know this when they ask to have their kids in the program. Still, some of them don't do it. I'm *completely* sympathetic to those parents and think that the school should be more flexible about *how* the parental involvement works--but if you've got parents who are self-selecting for a program like that and still don't do it, doesn't that suggest that the "this will affect your kid's grade" thing is pretty much a last resort?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:10 PM
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What I'm saying is, let's not blame the teachers for the crunch.

See, I see this sort of 'crunch', and it looks to me like an effort to blame poor educational outcomes on family pathology, by making the public schools inhospitable to anyone who doesn't have well educated parents with a great deal of leisure. Upper middle class kids do fine, everyone else gets screwed, but they get screwed in a manner that's demonstrably the parents fault: if they wanted educated children, they would have educated their kids themselves like decent people do. Feh, I say again. 9 to 3 is plenty of time to get across the academic bases of a decent education.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:10 PM
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281: Ooo, really? Cool.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:11 PM
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283: What was the research you were talking about?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:12 PM
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282: Totally, and thank you--seriously. What I meant by "privileged" was educational level--I'm well aware that the kids who do best in school are the ones with the most educated (and therefore, professionally employed) moms.

By "less privileged" I specifically mean the kids who don't have mothers with graduate degrees (or, often, college degrees). Not that those moms aren't, often, fabulous parents--surely you guys know I'm an adamant defender of moms everywhere. But in terms of educational (and therefore economic) achievement, the fact is that most children, who do not have graduate-degree-possessing mommies--would benefit from the kind of parental involvement in their (informal) education that graduate-degree-possessing mommies pretty much insist on without even thinking about it.

E.g., discussing and analyzing television shows.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:14 PM
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I know you don't mean that women should stay home, B. But I'm not convinced that, say, your teaching PK the times tables (a good thing), or more generally, parents carrying a heavier teaching load, means that education and children are more central.

Here's the opposite spin. I recognize that I and many of my cohort are not qualified in the subject matter nor in the pedagogical methods, so instead of teaching my children myself, I outsource it to trained professionals. Expecting that I should do it in the evenings undermines the idea of teaching as a profession, and reinforces the idea that school really doesn't matter as long as your parents are bright. Which might be true, but I don't see making classtime less relevant and parental time more important as a good way to work against that assumption. And it doesn't help the kids whose parents don't have the time as much as a better curriculum would.

Not that this justifies animosity towards the individual teacher, but if the state is saying 'oh, have the parents do', seriously, state's got this one wrong.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:16 PM
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Pwned by 284. And LB. Again.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:17 PM
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Right. One point of the public schools is to make the same educational opportunities open to a kid with illiterate parents as to my kid. If the design of the school requires that the kid get a substantial part of their academic instruction from their parents, the kid with illiterate parents is screwed. That's bad design.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:18 PM
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284: I want to agree, but, well, it's not. Not in the US. If we had a functioning and healthy working class, it would be, but we don't. What I want isn't to blame or pathologize parents--and I don't think I'm doing that. It isn't parents *fault* if they don't teach their kids algebra when the kid asks how long it will take to get to grandma's house, and it surely doesn't mean that their bad parents. It *does* mean that their children are less likely to do "well" economically by American standards.

286: Do you mean the professional moms' effect on kids' achievement thing, or the achievement gap and parental education thing? In both cases I'd have to futz around and try to find it for you--I'll see if I can do that tomorrow because honestly, I'm going to bed (having spent half of the day at PK's school and the other half at the dentist again, with a good 12 miles biking to and fro in the bargain).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:20 PM
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Whichever you were referring to in 274.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:21 PM
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If we had a functioning and healthy working class, it would be

Wait, how does this follow?

It isn't parents *fault* if they don't teach their kids algebra when the kid asks how long it will take to get to grandma's house, and it surely doesn't mean that their bad parents. It *does* mean that their children are less likely to do "well" economically by American standards.

Okay, and what do you think would be a good solution to this? Coming up with more ways to pressure parents who don't know algebra into being "involved", or trying to diminish the degree to which having parents who do this is the only way to succeeed?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:23 PM
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Succeeeeeeeeeeeeed!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:24 PM
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288: Agreed, with the caveat that I don't think it needs to be an either/or thing. I don't think that expecting parents to supplement what the teacher's doing in the classroom--especially if the teacher (as is my experience) goes to the trouble of explaining it to the parents--undermines the teacher's professionalism at all, any more than expecting parents to teach their kids to brush and floss undermines the dentist's.

290: Depends what you mean by "academic instruction." Asking the kid to help by letting them practice making change? By letting them measure ingredients as you cook? That's something most parents can do (time permitting). And part of what I love about PK's current school is that, say, the mom who's a gardener and the mom who's a massage therapist *do* have significant responsibilities in the school, and they get a lot of respect for it (the gardening mom runs the school's garden). It's that whole "lifelong learning" thing, the idea that learning isn't something you only do in the classroom, which I think is precisely what we should be teaching kids.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:25 PM
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the kid to help by letting them practice making change? By letting them measure ingredients as you cook?

But that sort of thing parents are or are not going to do on their own; it's good parenting, and to be encouraged, but it's not what we're complaining about. A school that expects the parents to discuss Kafka online or drill their kids in the times tables is doing something entirely different.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:29 PM
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if we're trying to equalize things between more & less involved parents, the solution seems like good after school programs w/ the option of working with adults one on one or in smaller groups, not giving homework to parents.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:29 PM
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Wait, how does this follow?

I'll totally have to find the research on parental educational levels and kids' "success" to answer this.

what do you think would be a good solution to this? Coming up with more ways to pressure parents who don't know algebra into being "involved", or trying to diminish the degree to which having parents who do this is the only way to succeeed?

Wait, where did algebra come in? The assignment in the linked article is to read and respond to what one's read--yes, Kafka is challenging, but he's not Joyce, for chrissakes. Shit, *I* had a hard time with some of the terms they were using in PK's math *last year* in first grade--the new math problem is as old as I am (maybe older).

Obviously I'm for doing our damndest to close the wealth and earnings gap, and strengthen unions, and provide universal health coverage, and all the other things that would make being undereducated a non-crippling situation. But given that the job of *teachers* is to *teach*, and that (presumably) none of us want to fall back on the "well, some kids just aren't college material" shoulder-shrug, I think teachers that push parents to be involved in their kids formal, academic education to whatever extent they can are doing a good thing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:30 PM
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296: A lot of parents might not think to do that kind of stuff; doing it was part of the explicitly assigned stuff we were to do last year in PK's class.

And again, I really don't think that discussing Kafka is something we should assume your average parent--assuming they can read--is incapable of doing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:33 PM
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297: Amen, but where's the funding?

Okay, now, I really am going to bed, dammit.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:33 PM
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There's pushing parents to be involved, and there's setting up a pedagogical approach that doesn't work without heavily involved parents. The former is okay, I guess, but the latter seems like setting up kids for failure if their parents aren't compliant.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:34 PM
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Again, I think the worry here isn't whether parental involvement is good, but how much it is substituting for teaching in the classroom.

And to the extent that homework levels and 'parental homework' push us towards the latter, that's bad. To borrow your dentist example, if the dentist says, halfway through the exam, "you're going to have to fill this tooth on your own", the kid's a lot better off if his parents are dentists. If that were to become the standard for dental care, because it's so important that parents become involved in dental hygiene (they're the #1 line of defense against tooth decay!), we'd have a problem.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:38 PM
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And come to think of it, the assignment I got the least out of were of he go-home-and-build-a-diorama-with-parental-help-and-funding variety. I had involved parents, and they're great people who really helped me learn, but christ am I glad that was the only part that required parental involvement. Too much time, energy, and cash and that's with a middle-class background and a stay-at-home mom!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:40 PM
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My mom taught high school at a middle-class public school up until recently. Her big gripe was, among (1) parents that didn't care, (2) parents who wanted nothing more than to defend their perfect angel from this harsh grade/punishment/assignment/project that was assigned, and (3) administration that was picking its battles (and mom's battle wasn't ripe for the picking), it was fucking hard to change anything about the system in place.

I think that's why the teacher in-question, Damion Frye, is catching such praise. At least he's busted through that red tape a little bit. Sure, it's in a privileged school, but maybe we could figure out something similar (and better) in a second- or third-tier high school.

It's telling that there are few if any high school teachers weighing in on this thread. Because they're tired and went to bed long ago.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:46 PM
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Oh wait, just thought of something.

Let's think of it like this: okay, maybe not Kafka (depending on the parents--though I want to retain the "why not?" question). But like, I had an assignment I did with freshman comp for a few years that I really liked; the kids watched Western films, and we analyzed the way that the Western constructs masculinity. (I started doing that b/c all the kids one semester wanted to write about the Marlboro man in an assignment that was about analyzing print advertisements.) It was a cool comp assignment because it took something they were already literate in--images, films--and had them analyze it; they weren't dealing with new content, just with new skills.

Anyhow. One of my favorite reactions to the assignment was from a girl, first generation college, African-American, bright, but really underprepared in a lot of the formal expectations we have of college students (standard grammar, knowing what a 5 paragraph essay is, etc.). She watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly with her dad; he was amazed that this was her college assignment, she was amazed that she liked the movie, they both enjoyed seeing it together, they talked about it afterwards, and *her dad pointed out to her* some of the arguments she ended up using in her essay.

He was uneducated, but he wasn't dumb, and he ended up impressing her with what he knew, and she ended up with a door into something that he enjoyed that she'd always ignored before. It was fucking awesome, and I'd totally love to create assignments that "required" parents and kids to have experiences like that if I could.

I think part of "assigning homework" to parents could, ideally should, mean "teaching" them the habits that hypereducated parents take for granted, like watching stuff together and discussing it critically afterwards.

Okay, really to bed now.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:47 PM
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One of Rory's teachers -- 1st grade, I think -- used to send home great newsletters that said, "This is what we are learning about in class and, hey, here are some fun activities you can do at home to reinforce that." I liked this -- for the parents who would gladly get involved but wouldn't have thought of it on their own, boom, they're now thinking about it. For the parents who would gladly get involved but don't have alot of time? They have some ideas to file away for a spare moment, and haven't just been made to feel pressured or guilty. The parents who weren't going to get involved anyway probably didn't read the newsletters.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:49 PM
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"That's what makes me so annoyed. I hate, hate, hate, hate, really dislike, am annoyed by, deprecate, and hate systems where the real rules aren't public, and if you play by them you're a chump. The public rules here are bad and unjust; the real rules are more humane, but only available to people willing to blow off the public rules. I don't like training children that playing by the rules makes you a chump."

See,,,, this is like what gets me tweaked about feminist arguments that social structures are 'teaching' women how to behave. Rules aren't 'teachers'... the meaning depends on how one interprets the rule set one encounters, so the teaching isn't an external quality of the rules, its a dynamic play between teacher and teachee. The closest actor is the one involved in the rule-situation, not the promulgator.
Conclusion: don't use rules to 'teach' - they can help, but dialogue or other meaning-maker relating is how teaching is done.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:54 PM
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Funny, I was just thinking that what this thread really needed was a good "what ticks me off about feminism" analogy.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:40 AM
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Larkin, thou should be with us at this hour, as it happens, I tend to spend any spare time I have with my son playing, not working, or going out and about and meeting people. If I had a load more spare time, I would still spend it playing and not working and would strenuously resist attempts to make me spend it doing schoolwork, because that's how I want to bring up my boy. If this conversation is moving in the direction of saying or implying that parents who choose to play with their kids rather than doing schoolwork with them are "fucking their kids over", then be aware that it is moving in the direction of a fight.

And these are teenage kids, by the way? You don't really have "teachable moments" with sixteen year olds while you're going about your everyday life, because in general one doesn't write book reports on Kafka as part of one's everyday life.

My mom taught high school at a middle-class public school up until recently. Her big gripe was, among (1) parents that didn't care, (2) parents who wanted nothing more than to defend their perfect angel from this harsh grade/punishment/assignment/project that was assigned, and (3) administration that was picking its battles (and mom's battle wasn't ripe for the picking), it was fucking hard to change anything about the system in place.

So did mine, but that still didn't mean that she wa prepared to take shit from my and my siblings' teachers when they started overstepping their authority. Lots of teachers *are* the msot atrocious arseholes and the general social trend toward not allowing them an absolute claim on judging the conduct of others while never being judged themselves is utterly laudable.

Like most of you, I don't like the "your kid's grade will suffer" thing. But I also recognize that that's about the only leverage teachers have

well, about the only leverage that Harry Callahan had was his trusty piece of rubber hose, but he still wasn't allowed to use it. If Damion thinks that he should have more authority over other people than he does in fact have, then the correct thing for him to do is to run for office or start a petition, or whatever, and get the rules changed so as to allow him to do this, in a way in which everybody gets a look in. Not to just randomly start looking around for "how can I exercise some leverage on these parents?". Sorry to be Mister Democracy here but this is actually quite important. As I say, prepare for next week when a charming, innovative clerk down the food stamps office decides that he too is going to use his "leverage" in order to promote some desirable behaviour.

The point of these rules is to make sure that we don't have to make assumptions like:

(if, as I am assuming, the teacher isn't an asshole towards those parents).

because assumptions like this aren't always true - or true for one person and not for another.

Doctors (who are also experts in their own field) have had versions of this discussion for the last hundred years - to what extent it is legitimate for them to second-guess other people's lifestyle choices. The current state of the art is "basically it isn't". Every year some bright little Damion of the medical profession pops his head up to suggest a way in which docs could use some system of sticks and carrots to persuade some category of medical undesirables to shape up and live right, and every year he gets slapped back down again.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:29 AM
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There's a reason education has largely been outsourced from the family to professionals, because for the past 100-200 years we can no longer depend on the vast majority of parents being able to teach their children everything they need to survive in our societies. Also of course to drill them to be obedient little workers and soldiers later, but let's leave that aside for a moment.

Requiring parents to be involved with their children's education in ways other than make sure they go to school and do their homework is wrong because most parents just don't have the resources to do that properly. So instead of all children in the class getting the same education, some will get a much better one, but most will get a much less good one.

Requiring parents to be involved in this way is offloading some of the school responsibility on people largely unsuited for it. It means the school itself does not have the resources to teach everything it needs to teach, so it's a symptom of a failing school system, rather than a sign of how good a school it is.

Moreover, schools need to learn that they are not the most important part of their pupils lives.

Also: Americans are crazy for putting up with this shit.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 2:52 AM
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Lots of teachers *are* the msot atrocious arseholes and the general social trend toward not allowing them an absolute claim on judging the conduct of others while never being judged themselves is utterly laudable.

Yes, most of the teachers I knew were i) well-meaning, ii) hard-working, iii) narrow-minded judgemental snobs.* I'd be fucked if I'd be letting those people exercise significant control over children's lives outside the classroom.

Also, to return to your own
I shit on the progressives of this planet
, I'd bet that the right way to improve the lives of kids from impoverished backgrounds is money. Not coercion or attempts to control their lives.

* and because my ex-partner was a teacher, I knew lots.



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 3:19 AM
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And these are teenage kids, by the way? You don't really have "teachable moments" with sixteen year olds while you're going about your everyday life, because in general one doesn't write book reports on Kafka as part of one's everyday life.

I don't have a teenager yet, so technically I'm just guessing here, but I think you are wrong. Teachable moments with 16 year olds are different that with elementary school kids, but they're there. You might not test your teens ability to count change, but instead, when you open the newspaper or throw on the t.v. and see something about policy X or controversy Y, you can offer a thought, suggest some ideas worth chewing on. You can sit down and dissect a movie together. You can email the kid the latest Unfogged thread and ask what s/he thinks. And so on. Just the other day, I was talking to a colleague about a deposition and he piped up about an approach he found really productive -- a teachable moment! There are always teachable moments -- you just have to be paying attention so that they don't pass you by.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 5:35 AM
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(Sigh. Every time I try to get out of this thread, they just keep pulling me back in!)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 5:36 AM
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Very much a side note here, but B, you asked, "Wait, where did algebra come in?" The answer is: in your own example.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:05 AM
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I'd never seen "I shit on the progressives of this planet" before the link above. A fine, concise statement, and a very good argument for a kind of conservatism. Not a kind we'd recognize as such in contemporary American politics, because here the kind of people who call themselves conservatives are pushing radical solutions subject to most of the criticisms D2 makes.

People who try to base an American conservatism on our society as it is, not on a vision as unreal and utopian as any radical progressive's, people like Peter Vierek, have always been very appealing to me. Orwell, whom D2 cites, and Dwight Macdonald had a lot of that in them, and tended to call themselves something like Tory/conservative anarchist. The interwar American journalist Albert Jay Nock used that self-definition too, and he's fun to read, particularly Memoirs of a Superfluous Man.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:47 AM
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I think part of "assigning homework" to parents could, ideally should, mean "teaching" them the habits that hypereducated parents take for granted, like watching stuff together and discussing it critically afterwards.

I'm not convinced that the habits of the hypereducated are a model that other parents should emulate. The notion of everyday life as a series of "teachable moments," for example, where you can't even watch a movie together without deconstructing the gender stereotypes or whatever, is something I find highly distasteful. That's not how I want to raise my kid.

And anyway, it's not the job of teachers and schools to "teach" me, or any other parent. You would probably recognize this as an unacceptable expansion of power and authority if the teacher were trying to "teach" you something to which you objected on ideological grounds.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 7:00 AM
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To the extent that the habits of the hypereducated mean that the kid gets ahead, IA, it might not be good to dismiss them. I just don't think it's teachable by making parents do homework.

B, it's great that your student was able to find something interesting in her schoolwork to talk about with her dad. But I bet you'd get a different reaction out of her father if the movie hadn't been in one of his interests, and his daughter's grade had depended on his writing a thoughtful critique of the film.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 7:27 AM
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You don't really have "teachable moments" with sixteen year olds while you're going about your everyday life, because in general one doesn't write book reports on Kafka as part of one's everyday life.

What DK said.

314: I wasn't offering that as a "teachers should assign parents differential equations homework" thing, but rather as an example of the kind of "teachable moment" that hypereducated parents use with their kids and the reason why ambitious teachers who want to level the playing field might well "require" "homework" of *all* parents if they can.

316: You find it distasteful to hold the ideal that parents should discuss things with their children? I don't believe you.

it's not the job of teachers and schools to "teach" me, or any other parent

Sadly, it is. First, because the US school system has for many years been seen as the primary responsibility for all sorts of social engineering--teaching kids about healthy eating, sex education, driver's education, etc.--and second because the school years, for most parents, are a long time ago and we need to be aware of what's going on in schools today if we're going to support our kids.

if the teacher were trying to "teach" you something to which you objected on ideological grounds.

Happens all the time. Either I suck it up and go along (as in PK's homework assignments last year), or else I discuss with the teacher what my problems are, and discuss with PK both why I don't like it and what I think his teacher is trying to achieve and whether I think it's worth fighting over or not.

I bet you'd get a different reaction out of her father if the movie hadn't been in one of his interests, and his daughter's grade had depended on his writing a thoughtful critique of the film.

No doubt, and if I were teaching younger kids and were going to do an assignment of this type, I'd consider asking parents to watch a movie of their choice from either a list or a genre or a list of genres and discuss it with their kids, and then have the kids, not the parents, write up something about the discussion.

And I bet if I did that, I'd have parents like some of you in this thread bitching that I didn't have the right or authority to ask them to do jack shit with their kids. Which I'm sorry, but I just cannot see how that isn't on some level a lack of respect for K-12 teachers.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 9:12 AM
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I'd consider asking

would you consider "telling", which is what we're talking about here.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 9:41 AM
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And I bet if I did that, I'd have parents like some of you in this thread bitching that I didn't have the right or authority to ask them to do jack shit with their kids. Which I'm sorry, but I just cannot see how that isn't on some level a lack of respect for K-12 teachers.

Well, sure. I don't have sufficient respect for k-12 teachers to allow them to order my clothing choices, what I'm having for dinner, or how I spend my leisure time with my children. If I had more respect for them, I wouldn't mind total and complete obedience to them in all areas of my life -- but I don't have that much respect for them, and I really don't see any reason why I should. Having enough respect for them to make certain that I and my child treat them well in our interactions with them in the normal academic environment seems like plenty to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 9:53 AM
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LB, honestly, you're being a little hyperbolic. I'm not saying teachers should order adults about; I'm saying that we shouldn't get our backs up when they send home stuff recommending, say, more fruits and vegetables (which isn't arbitrary; it's based on research for crying out loud), or pass rules that children are not allowed to wear tshirts with offensive slogans to school, or ask parents to actively support and engage in their kids' education rather than treating it as some kind of babysitting/service job.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 9:57 AM
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319: Would *I*? No. I'm a woman, and women tend to be pretty diffident about telling other adults what to do.

But I can see that teachers ask *all the time*, and parents usually blow it off. So I'm not especially bent by someone using the language of "telling" to, effectively, ask in a non-diffident way, which is what's going on in the article we're ostensibly discussing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 9:59 AM
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recommending, say, more fruits and vegetables

Not a problem. Recommendations, fine.

pass rules that children are not allowed to wear tshirts with offensive slogans to school

Rules about inschool behavior, fine.

ask parents to actively support and engage in their kids' education

Asking, fine. Setting up a system that breaks down unless the parent is supplying a substantial portion of the academic instruction, not fine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:00 AM
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I mean, again, consider parallelish situations: the dentist *tells* me to make sure I'm brushing and flossing PK's teeth. She will scold me if I am not doing it. The doctor *tells* me to make sure PK gets his vaccinates, gets enough sleep, etc.--he won't scold (people tend to be less defensive about dental care than about lifestyle-type health issues), but he will explain to me why this stuff is important and encourage me pretty strenuously to do it. (As he does re. smoking, which pisses me off but *I know he's right*.) But if teachers try to tell us what to do with our kids educationally, we act like it's just some kind of mommy drive by and get the "how dare you!" vibe going.

How is that not essentially an expression of the belief that teachers are service workers, rather than professionals?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:02 AM
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Setting up a system that breaks down unless the parent is supplying a substantial portion of the academic instruction, not fine.

Hm. Is the guy in the linked article doing that? Am I saying we should require parents to volunteer 4 hours in the classroom every week?

I really don't think it's setting *up* a system to acknowledge that a kid's education will "break down," in a sense, if the parents treat education as something that happens in the classroom exclusively.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:04 AM
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Last year I was *required* to read to him for twenty minutes a day and record my doing it. I had to test him on spelling words and indicate which ones he knew and which he needed help on. I had to take him to the library, help him write a report according to detailed criteria, help him do a bibliography, for chrissake. This year I have to help him learn his times tables.

And the fact is that the parents who do it make a big difference for their kids, and the parents who don't fuck their kids over.

That's not necessary. In a school system that's set up that way, if you don't hover and tutor your kid, you're screwing them. But if the work given them is limited to what they learn in class and can reasonably complete unassisted at home, that's a perfectly functional way of educating a child. Most educated adults today didn't get anything like that level of tutoring from their parents, and the system didn't break down.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:10 AM
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324: The problem wasn't with parental involvment, or even with the role of a school teacher in facilitating that involvement. The problem is in the idea (even pro-forma) that there is a direct connection to the childs evaluation. That's where your parallel with doctors/dentists breaks down.

Of course there is an indirect connection --- I'm certain that children whose parents are involved with their education do better, on average.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:12 AM
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The doctor *tells* me to make sure PK gets his vaccinates, gets enough sleep, etc.--he won't scold (people tend to be less defensive about dental care than about lifestyle-type health issues), but he will explain to me why this stuff is important and encourage me pretty strenuously to do it.

the analogous situation would be if he or she said that people who didn't do what he said wouldn't get checkup appointments (or wouldn't get checkup appointments at convenient times or some such). And, thinking about it, if the doctor was asking you to do something which was generally regarded to be probably a good thing, but which normal opinion in the doctoring profession was that it was "nice to have, encourage in a general sense" rather than "got to have, best done in a structured way".

So now the doctor's saying that he wants you to post on a blog about exactly what vegetables you've been cooking, otherwise you can only have appointments in the middle of the working day. Even better, he wants you to blog about what you've been cooking and he'll give you marks out of ten. At what point do you tell him to get stuffed?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:14 AM
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The doctor sees the kid once or twice a year. The teacher sees the kid five times a week for most of the year. The doctor is not in a position to have any impact on what the kid chooses to do without enlisting the parents, whereas the teacher is.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:18 AM
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Even better analogies! "I, Doctor Mengele, have decided that it's important for you to get involved in your child's health. So unless you give up smoking, I'll be using a somewhat bigger and more painful needle and taking a little bit less care than usual with your kid's vaccinations! Come on, you do love your kid don't you? Have you seen the statistics about parents who smoke? What, your case is different? Well, if you come to me with a really good explanation about why you haven't succeeded in giving up, I'll probably be amenable! I only ever had to hurt one person's kid, a little bit, and he wasn't permanently harmed!"


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:18 AM
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How is that not essentially an expression of the belief that teachers are service workers, rather than professionals?

The doctor "tells" me to quit smoking all the time, but he doesn't pretend he has any authority to dictate that decision. He explains all the reasons why I should, gives me information on ways that I can, and tells me what to be prepared for when I do. And then we both know that the decision is mine. (Make that all past tense. The doc won this one.)

I'm a professional. I can tell a client that s/he should settle. I offer my professional judgment. But ultimately I realize that my client gets to make the decision. It does not undermine my professionalism whatsoever to not assume the authority to dictate conduct.

I have no problem with a teacher "telling" me that I "should" read with Rory, do math activities with her, whatever. But when the teacher crosses the line into presuming some authority to dictate the decision, yes, it gets my back up. (More in this thread than in reality, truth be told.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:24 AM
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331=me


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:25 AM
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and just for clarity here, could I suggest a ranking of imperatives by the answer to the question "what's the worst that could happen if I don't?"

asking:telling:ordering::"nothing":"something":"you'll be imprisoned or shot"


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:29 AM
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326: Well, again, a lot of that stuff is the result of federal legislation, rather than teachers just arbitrarily deciding to throw their authority around.

The problem is in the idea (even pro-forma) that there is a direct connection to the childs evaluation. That's where your parallel with doctors/dentists breaks down.

Are you kidding? Doctors and dentists don't have pro-forma connections to evaluations because they don't need them. If I don't brush PK's teeth, he is probably going to get cavities. Likewise, if I don't teach him to tie his shoes and tell time (which, in fact, I've done neither) it is going to make things harder for his teacher, and his teacher is entitled to complain to me about it (which he has done). If I don't do the "teaching moment" thing at home, PK is probably going to do much worse in school than if I do. *If* we care about kids doing well in school--not just the kids whose parents already have that cultural capital--then we ought to be in favor of teachers encouraging that kind of home reinforcement of formal education, rather than acting like somehow that's classist and presumptous.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:30 AM
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330: Well, studies have found that if you make lampshades out of the skin of just one student, the rest of the school improves its performance exponentially. Once every classroom has its own lampshade you don't have to do it very often any more.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:33 AM
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There's a 'warning' --> 'something bad will happen, but I the warner have nothing to do with it, I'm just telling you what's going to happen', in there somewhere.

I've got no objection to warnings or recommendations from my kids' dentist or teachers -- if they don't brush, their teeth will fall out, if they don't read, they'll be stupid. That's great. It's the 'I will impose a consequence on you for not doing it' that gets my back up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:33 AM
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243: [i]General principles exist for a reason, and they need big reasons to be bent or broken, which bending or breaking ought to happen as a result of a generally accepted process that everyone participates in. Somebody upthread compared this to the "libertarian" objection to seatbelt laws - I hope I am not being too much of a dick when I point out that *laws* are in general passed through a democratic process by people we can vote against if we don't like them.[/i]
I don't think you're being a dick, but I still don't understand your problem. There is a feedback mechanism in place -- parents still have phones, and school administrators are still spineless in the face of parental outrage. If actual parents from the class called this guy's school and expressed this much eloquent anger at his methods, the administration would insure that his methods stopped. If parents hated it enough to give him hell about it personally (notice he gives out his cell phone number), he'd quickly decide it wasn't worth the trouble. Teachers get reputations, and soon parents would be steering their kids away from his classes, which would cause problems in his department and again, lead to the cessation of the practice.

No one is telling parents to sit down an do algebra problems or their kid will fail because, yes, that would be fucking retarded. Thanks, staw-man builders! But asking them to read a poem and comment about it on a blog (in Montclair!), unless of course they don't want to participate, in which case they don't have to -- is not at all the same thing.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:33 AM
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It's the 'I will impose a consequence on you for not doing it' that gets my back up.

Typical big-city East Coast liberal Democrat.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:34 AM
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See if I let you date my imaginary downmarket sister. She's cute, too.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:36 AM
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334: What I'm describing isn't `encouraging', that's the problem.

Your parallel to the cavities is that if you don't get involved in PK's education PK will probably have a poorer education. If you dont' get involved in his health and nutrition he will probably be less healthy. Your doctor and dentist aren't taking marks off, or anything analagous. They may chide you about smoking, which would be like his teacher chiding you about his homework habits at a parent-teacher meeting. In exactly the same way that it is good for your dentist to encourage and facilitate dental hygene for you both it is good for a teacher to encourage and facilitate your involvement. That's where it ends.

There is *nothing* in these other situations analagous to the assigning of `homework' for credit. If a teacher asserted this to me, I'd set them straight. If a physician dreamed up something analagous, I'd set them straight.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:37 AM
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D2, you cunt, a child doing worse in school because his parents do not (say) read with him is not the teacher "punishing" the child.

Look, for the sake of comity, I'll say explicitly that yes: I think doing something like telling parents they are required to read and write a report or their kid will get their final grade lowered a point is shitty, and would get my back up too. But that is not what this teacher is doing. I can see the pedagogical goals he is trying to achieve here, and I approve of them. And apparently so do the parents of his pupils.

The collective problem here seems to be with the man's rhetoric--his use of "this is required, not doing it will lower your kid's grade" to communicate a Real expectation that's more than just some kind of casual "smoking's not good for you, you know" equivalent. He's a teacher: the system we have (which imho sucks--I hate the way everything's driven by grades) is one where the authority of the teacher and the performance of the kid both hinge on grades. This one guy is not in a position to change that (in the way that doctors *are* in a position to do more than simply say "I recommend you quit smoking"--and they do). He *is* in a position to use the rhetoric of Grade Threat to communicate what, in effect, we all seem to agree is desireable--that it's important and useful for parents to have certain texts in common with their children, that it's important and useful for them to teach kids that texts aren't "just entertainment," that it's important and useful for them to show respect for formal education not just through lip service but through action. The parents in his class do not have a problem with the way he does it; his rhetorical techniques are apparently understood quite well in the context he's operating in.

What's the issue?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:38 AM
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Your doctor and dentist aren't taking marks off

Marks ARE NOT REAL. They are merely indicators of a kid's performance at X task in X situation at X time. They do not "harm" children. And going from say, an 88% (B+) to, say, an 85% (B) is not going to fucking ruin a kid's life.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:41 AM
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342 continued: Which the teacher isn't even doing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:42 AM
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But that is not what this teacher is doing.

Yes it is. He appears to have been lying about the threat to lower grades based on parental non-participation, but I don't find the threat less shitty because it's false.

we all seem to agree is desireable--that it's important and useful for parents to have certain texts in common with their children, that it's important and useful for them to teach kids that texts aren't "just entertainment," that it's important and useful for them to show respect for formal education not just through lip service but through action.

I don't know that I do buy in to all of that, at any level of specificity required to take action on that basis.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:42 AM
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#337: I don't think it is a straw man. Social conventions start somewhere, and in general they start with someone doing something very reasonable, where everyone's happy to go along with it because they're getting a lot out of it. But the fact that these parents haven't drawn a line makes it more likely that other teachers are going to copy this example, and if this really catches on then, as I say, there are plenty of teachers out there who are going to set homework assignments which would make your hair curl (particularly the religious ones).

So it makes sense to form our opinion of this practice based on what would happen if it were to become the general rule. This idea is wholly original to me by the way, that Kant bloke is a fucking plagiarist.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:43 AM
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I'm frankly staggered that this thread has stayed unswervingly on topic for nearly 350 comments.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:43 AM
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I'm frankly disturbed.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:45 AM
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What's more bizarre is that the discussion has been "teacher: right or wrong" and not "teacher: to be shot, or thrown into traffic?"


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:45 AM
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347: No you're not.


Posted by: Frank Lee Disturbed | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:46 AM
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What's most bizarre is that I lost interest in the entire thing 250 comments ago and yet have continued to read every one thereafter.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:47 AM
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we all seem to agree is desireable--that it's important and useful for parents to have certain texts in common with their children, that it's important and useful for them to teach kids that texts aren't "just entertainment," that it's important and useful for them to show respect for formal education not just through lip service but through action.

I absolutely don't agree with this as stated, and reiterate that I'm potentially going to take it quite personally if anyone wants to identify these specific theories about child development with "caring about your children".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:47 AM
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Marks ARE NOT REAL. They are merely indicators of a kid's performance at X task in X situation at X time. They do not "harm" children.

Actually, at the high school level where this guy is teaching, marks ARE real and things that hurt ones marks DO hurt kids because that's a big part of what college admissions and even scholarships are based upon.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:48 AM
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Not only that, but there wasn't even a sodomy thread to take the brunt of any derailings. Is this a new Unfogged order brewing, one ruled by parents and parents-to-be?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:49 AM
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Let alone tracking, expectations from other teachers based on prior academic success, and so forth.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:49 AM
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343: I think we basically agree on almost everything, except that it is an unacceptable thing to even threaten to take marks off for parental projects, period.

I'm all for encouraging parental involvement.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:50 AM
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Oh, fuck. I really do need to write that damn motion. Can you all wait to say anything more until, like, 5?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:50 AM
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350: you realize we can completely blame B for it staying on topic. Things were drifting gently towards something or other last night until B showed up with a handful of rocks to throw at the beehive.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:51 AM
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344: You call it lying, I call it employing a rhetorical device that (apparently) his audience understands perfectly well.

345: Oh, so the problem here is that if this one teacher is allowed to get away with it, soon we'll all be required to read Kafka? You're kidding, right?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:51 AM
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353 to 346-350.

And 352 actually sums up nearly everything I wanted to say about this article. When I saw the summary I thought "stupid, but harmless." When I clicked through to the article and saw that it was actually a high school teacher, my thoughts were more "whoa... a grade point difference can actually matter somewhat there. It's 9th grade, but still getting into dangerous territory."


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:51 AM
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352: Um, I'm aware of the grades/college acceptance issue.

I'm also aware that, as I said, a B vs. B- in one class is not going to irretrievably keep Junior out of med school, and that parents who waste their energy getting irate about "unfair" grading practices and teachers asking "too much" are serving their kids very poorly. I bet in the time we've all taken to argue about this shit, we could have read some Kafka.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:54 AM
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I'm troubled by more than just this particular scenario. I believe strongly that the school system should be set up as much as possible to reduce the degree to which parental involvement is required for success. Obviously, there is no way to eliminate this dependency entirely, but it would be a real boon. Creating special public schools that only admit students whose parents are willing to volunteer a certain number of hours every week, for example, also strikes me as less than ideal.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:55 AM
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358: And he's lying when he threatens well off, well educated parents whose feedback has the power of influencing the school. Is a teacher who threatens less well-educated and influential parents also going to be lying when he makes the same threats? Hopefully, but who knows?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:55 AM
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And yes to 361.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:56 AM
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there wasn't even a sodomy thread to take the brunt of any derailings

Sodomized Ex-McDonald's Employee Wins $6.1M


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:56 AM
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(Choosing to enroll your child in such a school is of course perfectly reasonable.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:56 AM
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Oh, so the problem here is that if this one teacher is allowed to get away with it, soon we'll all be required to read Kafka? You're kidding, right?

you realise that there was a version of you twenty years ago laughing at the very idea that one day homework for seven-year-olds would be mandated by law?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:56 AM
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Why can't you all just accept the socialist paradise that Sister B is offering you? Maybe you all do need to be forced to read more German authors.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 10:58 AM
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So Kafka's off the list, then?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:00 AM
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parents who waste their energy getting irate about "unfair" grading practices and teachers asking "too much" are serving their kids very poorly

pop quiz - is giving the parents assignments directly going to lead to more of this, or less? incorrect answers will be penalised by a red badge of shame for your children to wear, which I confidently assert will not cause any real long term problems for them.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:00 AM
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Has anyone bothered to distinguish the question of whether this particular kind of "parental involvement" is desirable (answer: maybe), from the question of whether this teacher has the authority to demand it (answer: of course he doesn't)?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:01 AM
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Sodomized Ex-McDonald's Employee Wins $6.1M

Oof, what a tragic story. It's not like the Milgram experiment needed anymore independent confirmation, but there ya go. One of the best wholly unconvincing lines from a defense attorney I've ever heard though:

"There are a lot of questions unanswered in this case," Romines told The Associated Press. "The only thing I knew for sure was my client didn't do it."


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:03 AM
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371: We discussed it here back when it happened, but I haven't been able to find it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:05 AM
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unpacking what I mean by the "red badge" above, when we say:

I'm also aware that, as I said, a B vs. B- in one class is not going to irretrievably keep Junior out of med school

one might want to realise that Damion has, in nearly so many words, had a conversation with one of his students where he says "well, Sidney, I am going to reduce your grade for this term because your parents don't love you". That's quite a hand grenade to drop into someone's family life.

Next week's homework assignment is - how much detailed knowledge of the internal dynamics of a family relationship would you need to have before you could be sure that this was going to be harmless or positive in its effect? Answer with relation to the following text: "there is no history of ethnic strife in Iraq" - Paul Wolfowitz.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:05 AM
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Creating special public schools that only admit students whose parents are willing to volunteer a certain number of hours every week, for example, also strikes me as less than ideal.

FWIW, the economic diversity at this school is *much* more marked than it was at PK's school last year, which is one of the primary reasons I chose it.

I really do not think it's true, as people seem to be assuming, that rich parents are more likely to be actively involved in their kids' activities than poorer, less educated parents. IME, parents who are well off are *more* likely to feel entitled to outsource things, and that often extends to education.

366: Maybe so. I actually have very mixed feelings about NCLB. I hate the testing, I hate the way schools are punished by removing funds, I hate the fact that they're expected to somehow magically improve every year, and I hate the way that standardization undercuts teacher's ability to do innovative things in the class. I hate the way that these things, in combination with the way we've been cutting educational funding since the 70s, means that dedicated teachers are working their asses off to still do art in the classroom without financial or staffing support, and the way that while we in California have capped K-4 classes at 20, we *also* have a much-less acknowledged minimum enrollment, below which funding for teachers gets cut and teachers get fired.

But observationally? And coming from a family of teachers? It is absolutely true that holding children to higher standards--e.g., starting them on early reading in kindergarten, asking high school students to write something more thoughtful than a 5-paragraph essay--works for the vast majority of students much better than talking about what they can't do. Half an hour of homework a night for a six year old is too much; but sending home math worksheets a couple times a week, or better yet "requiring" parents to help their kids learn math by integrating it into some enjoyable parent/kid activity, *does* make a difference.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:06 AM
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So Kafka's off the list, then?

Classified by wiki as part of a German Jewish family in Bohemia, so he counts. (I checked prior to the comment; maybe a bit of a force, but jokiness before fidelity.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:07 AM
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371: We discussed it here back when it happened, but I haven't been able to find it.

Here.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:08 AM
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361 gets it right. So, so right. I believe strongly that the school system should be set up as much as possible to reduce the degree to which parental involvement is required for success. I quote it because it is so right! Parental involvement always benefits a child, but if the school system doesn't work unless mom & dad do homework with the child, the system's broken. Steps pushing it in that direction are to be discouraged if we care about equality through education.

It's similar to the arguments against making music and sports and arts optional. Sure, rich kids' parents can pay for private lessons and travel teams, but most people can't, and they just lose that if it's not in the public schools. It is not a plus if this also is the expectation in mathematics and basic literacy.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:09 AM
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works for the vast majority of students (emphasis added)

still basically not accepting this implied definition of "works".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:10 AM
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Damion has, in nearly so many words, had a conversation with one of his students where he says "well, Sidney, I am going to reduce your grade for this term because your parents don't love you". That's quite a hand grenade to drop into someone's family life.

This *really* depends on the teacher's affect, the kid's affect, and the teacher's relationship with the kid. I mean, is this significantly different from calling people on an internet message board a bunch of cunts and expecting them (quite reasonably) not to get all huffed up about how sexist and oppressive you're being?

But anyway, I grow tired. You guys want to hate this teacher and complain about how this is the beginning of some kind of apocalyptic undermining of Parental Autonomy, go ahead. I'm going to go get dressed so I'm ready to go have lunch with my friend the working single mom of two kids and talk about what's going on at our kid's school and what we can do to help.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:11 AM
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It is absolutely true that holding children to higher standards--e.g., starting them on early reading in kindergarten, asking high school students to write something more thoughtful than a 5-paragraph essay--works for the vast majority of students much better than talking about what they can't do.

Higher expectations for children is entirely different from 'a workload which expects and requires parental participation and tutoring.' I'm all for the first.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:11 AM
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hmm let's try that again:

It is absolutely true that holding children to higher standards--e.g., starting them on early reading in kindergarten, asking high school students to write something more thoughtful than a 5-paragraph essay-- works for the vast majority of students

still basically not accepting this implied definition of "works".

preview is for wimps.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:12 AM
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374.---You know who your Presidential candidate is then? Chris Dodd, baby!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:12 AM
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#345: "But the fact that these parents haven't drawn a line makes it more likely that other teachers are going to copy this example, and if this really catches on..."

Again, if this becomes a trend, there will be a quick and effective backlash. Powerful feedback mechanisms exist, as stated in #337.

You are now saying: "If we let one guy do this, soon they'll be passing laws..." But weren't you the one just championing the democratic process? If people start talking about enshrining this practice in law, I will joyfully join you and the everyone is voting that shit down and kicking the idiot who proposed it out of office. But you seem to be saying that it is completely unacceptable for this one dude, in this one over-privileged district to do this one thing, which seems popular amongst the people he's doing it to (who, after all, gave the times the idea to run this article? Probably some parents who loved the idea).

It's like me kicking down a kid's sandcastle because hey, if every kid in the world builds one, I won't have a place to lay down my towel.


Posted by: CB | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:13 AM
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Not only that, but there wasn't even a sodomy thread to take the brunt of any derailings. Is this a new Unfogged order brewing, one ruled by parents and parents-to-be?

Go to your room before I wash your mouth out with soap!


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:13 AM
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378: It doesn't work for, say, kids with learning problems or mental disabilities (who are very poorly served by NCLB--not directly, but inasmuch as their presence in a school pulls the school's test scores down and is not compensated for by adjusting the standards). And yes, there are going to be some kids who are going to struggle with higher expectations. But if higher expectations help *most* children, then they are a good thing.

Which does not mean continuing to work our asses off to teach the kids who are not helped by said expectations. But the lowest-common-denominator approach to teaching is crappy.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:14 AM
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Jesus, even six million dollars and teenage sodomy won't distract you fuckers.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:14 AM
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383: Again, if this becomes a trend, there will be a quick and effective backlash.

Be the backlash you want to see in the world, CB.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:15 AM
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Higher expectations for children is entirely different from 'a workload which expects and requires parental participation and tutoring.' I'm all for the first.

But LB, I would bet a great deal of money that you participate actively in, and tutor, your kids. Shit, you coach the damn soccer team and make homemade cakes and costumes and read awesome books with your kids. Expecting and "requiring" parents to do *precisely what you are doing with your kids* evens the playing field; deciding that it's okay that well, lawyer mama will do that with her kids, but Starbucks mama works too hard and is too tired to read to her own children so it's unfair to ask really strikes me as patronizing and unjust.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:17 AM
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ogged, those questions should be distinguished, and for me, the answers are 'no' and 'no.' Especially when you consider that many of the factors: an unstable home environment, lack of a quiet place to study, lack of educated parents, lack of nutritious food aren't really the sorts of things the teacher can order, or would be the sorts of things we'd be appalled at the teacher ordering. ("tell your dad I won't dock your math homework if he stops drinking and stops dating that ho, because stable families are great predictors of childhood success...")


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:19 AM
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Go to your room before I wash your mouth out with soap!

But MOOOOMMMMM! I'm at work!


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:19 AM
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#370:"Has anyone bothered to distinguish the question of whether this particular kind of "parental involvement" is desirable (answer: maybe), from the question of whether this teacher has the authority to demand it (answer: of course he doesn't)?"

No, he doesn't have the authority to demand it. I don't think anyone's argued that. He seems to KNOW he doesn't have the authority. That's why when parents say: "I'm not doing it," he says, "Okay" and doesn't actually lower their grade (or, in that one case, lowering it by a negligible amount).

The only reason he gets away with doing it is that his students and their parents must find it somewhat desirable. So, why does he deserve to get beaten up?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:19 AM
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You guys want to hate this teacher and complain about how this is the beginning of some kind of apocalyptic undermining of Parental Autonomy

Fuck parental autonomy. I'm sticking to the more baisc parental sanity. I don't hat this teacher. I think he means well. But I think this sort of "homework for parents" heaps yet one more expectation onto my back and one of these days this camel is going down.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:20 AM
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Tweet. No one's saying 'unfair to ask.' We're saying 'unfair to require.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:20 AM
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Expecting and "requiring" parents to do *precisely what you are doing with your kids* evens the playing field; deciding that it's okay that well, lawyer mama will do that with her kids, but Starbucks mama works too hard and is too tired to read to her own children so it's unfair to ask really strikes me as patronizing and unjust.

The point is that the school can't actually compel parents to do anything. They can request, and exhort, but they don't have (and shouldn't have) any coercive power over parents in this regard. What this means is that while they can't stop me (and shouldn't stop me) from doing what I do to support my kids academically, they should arrange their system as much as possible so that the sorts of things I do are pleasant extras rather than necessary to function within the school's academic expectations. Because a whole bunch of kids aren't going to get that level of parental support, and I want that lack of support to be as little of a badge of shame or academic barrier as it possibly can be.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:22 AM
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387: In case you haven't noticed, that's what I'm doing right now.


Posted by: CB | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:22 AM
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Jesus, even six million dollars and teenage sodomy won't distract you fuckers.

Teenage sodomy via telepresence! With bonus con man action, and a smooth-talking lawyer! That poor girl. I'm glad she's headed to law school.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:24 AM
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Perhaps a few lampshades could be made out of teachers, too. That way, everyone in the school would be at peak alertness. Not just the students.

And maybe an occasional parent, too.

I think it's time to return to the coot migration.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:25 AM
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a few lampshades

And soap! Don't forget the soap!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:26 AM
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You know who your Presidential candidate is then? Chris Dodd, baby!

y'wot???


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:26 AM
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they should arrange their system as much as possible so that the sorts of things I do are pleasant extras rather than necessary to function within the school's academic expectations.

Dude, seriously, how much can a school really do to make up for a shitty home life? Teachers really can't be expected to level the playing field that inequality created. Really, they can't.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:27 AM
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Why don't we shift to "Is education really the road to equality?" + "Are grades really important?" + "is it really true that cheating doesn't work?"?

Note careful punctuation.

Otherwise, you're all lampshades AFAIC.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:27 AM
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Hey, 400. OFE, I think I was referring to B's view about No Child Left Behind, which correspond astonishingly with Dodd's, making me think she should consider his policies and campaign. I may have been a bit obscure, however.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:29 AM
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400: As much as possible, I said. I know they can't do it all. But sending a kid home with an assignment that they're not expected to be capable of completing on their own, and telling them that their parents are going to help them because the teacher's plan relies on that help, is a shitty way to treat the kid who isn't going to get that help at home. The expectation should be that it's possible to function normally in school with instruction from the teacher in school followed up by solo work at home.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:30 AM
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#385: no, I mean that I don't accept that the criterion by which organisational structures for schools (or for that matter, parenting strategies) should be assessed ought to be solely or even mainly be with regard to levels of educational attainment, measured by grades or otherwise. If a genie told me magically that by spending an hour less playing with my kids and an hour more reading to them they could be guaranteed A*'s I would say "no deal".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:31 AM
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404 is right.

Also, re: 400

Dude, seriously, how much can a school really do to make up for a shitty home life?

A fuck of a lot, I would hope. Schools have kids for 6 or 7 hours a day for a minimum of 10-12 years. Furthermore, making certain levels of achievement conditional on a certain amount of parental involvement makes it harder rather than easier for those kids with a shitty home life.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:35 AM
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I knew someone from a rough neighborhood and problem family who spent almost all day every day either at school or in the public library. It worked very well.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:37 AM
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The expectation should be that it's possible to function normally in school with instruction from the teacher in school followed up by solo work at home.

What if that expectation is at odds with the evidence? Or if that expectation means that what's being taught in the schools is well below the abilities of most young people?

404: I agree with that entirely, partly because I don't give a rat's ass if my kid gets As rather than Bs, and partly because there are obviously a lot of things that are enjoyable or healthy or beneficial that are not formally academic.

But given that the job of a *teacher* is to help kids achieve in the realm of *formal academics*, I think it's entirely within a teacher's job to urge parents with effective rhetorical techniques to do what they can to improve kids' performance in that area. Just as it's a dentist's job to encourage parents to brush and floss with their kids. Neither one of them can *force* parents to do it, and parents are going to decide on their own whether or not they will. Some parents won't do the brushing and flossing because they are at work when the kid goes to bed at night, or because they are too tired, and some won't do the homework for the same reason. But we don't get all pissed off at dentists when they don't "accomodate" those parents by refraining from urging them to make time to brush and floss.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:43 AM
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405/406

definitely.

I knew a couple of kids whose parents (we eventually figured out) couldn't read very well. By which I mean, most signs probably, but forget the newspaper. Bet they'd love to help with such assignments.

I knew some other kids whose probability of any sort of academic learning in the house was approximately zero, on any given day. I mean that it was unlikely they would be able to do homework on their own, not that anyone would help them. So whatever they got at school was about it.

Situations like this suck for the kids already. Raising absolutely unrealistic expectation for their families and integrating those into the school system is guaranteed to make it worse for them, and for others even with an easier row to hoe.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:44 AM
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406: Absolutely, and schools and libraries should have the funding to be open at those hours, and to have staff available for those kids. It fucking sucks that they often don't.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:45 AM
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Or if that expectation means that what's being taught in the schools is well below the abilities of most young people?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:46 AM
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I'm not advocating unrealistic expectations for parents; I'm advocating that we not have unrealistic expectations for teachers. They aren't miracle-workers, and they don't have equality-wands.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:47 AM
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407: Bitch, you keep remphasizing that encouraging parental involvement is a good thing, and I think pretty much everyone has always agreed this is a good thing.

We're just disagreeing that the form of this sounds like `encouraging'. And definitely disagreeing that formally requiring parental involvement generalizes well.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:48 AM
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I'm totally agnostic about what this one teacher with the homework for parents is doing, btw.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:49 AM
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408: Surely it would depend on how you would integrate parents like that into the school system, and how you would support kids whose parents really were detrimental to their kids' education. Parent A can't read well, but he can garden, or speak another language, or knows how to cook--that kind of thing can be educationally useful. Parent B is actively hostile and throws his kids schoolbooks in the trash when they "clutter" the kitchen table--if that kid's in a school where some parents are actively involved and willing to lend a hand after school with tutoring or reading or just being a decent adult, probablly that's going to be a lot better for that kid than simply being handed an assignment he can do "on his own" and sent home at the end of the day because we don't want to interfere with his home life.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:50 AM
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411: of course they don't have equality wands. Generally speaking though, policies should decrease the effect of the inequalities you are stuck with, not the othe way around.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:50 AM
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407: there is no widespread disagreement among parents (or anyone else) about the desirability of clean teeth. On the other hand, the proposition that "the job of a teacher is to help kids achieve in the realm of *formal academics*" is most certainly not given, and looks to me like a very new and quite controversial basis for that profession.

If over a period of years dentists started deciding that their job was only to prevent cavities and that gun disease was someone else's pigeon, and the incentives and regulation of dentists gradually swung behind this new idea, then I think that it would be incumbent on us all when the dentist said "hey! a great new way of preventing cavities! rub arsenic into your gums!" to say "I think not", and when he said "well, novocaine is only for the well-behaved patients who rub arsenic into their gums!", to say "back in your box, cavity-man".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:50 AM
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btw,"I don't give a rat's ass if my kid gets As rather than Bs" usually means in practice "I don't give a rat's ass if my kid gets As rather than Bs, as long as he gets As".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:52 AM
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We're just disagreeing that the form of this sounds like `encouraging'.

In the face of the actual evidence? He doesn't dock kids' grades, he takes no for an answer.

Like I said upthread, I think what we're arguing about isn't whether or not he's "requiring" parents to do this stuff, but whether or not we like the rhetoric he uses to encourage them to do it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:52 AM
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414: All these are great things if you can do them. And we should try and do them. If you require them for the system to work, you've screwed up because it's guaranteed you aren't going to be able to cover all the bases.

For that matter, I think we do educational K-12 funding backwards, the resources should be distributed more to the schools where the parents don't have them --- at the cost of resources in more affluent areas. Not that politically this will ever be likely, but its the way it should be done.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:53 AM
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418: Well all I ever said was I'd take him to task for the rhetoric. Once he fixed that, it might be fine (I'd have to know more about the particulars). Setting assignments that you can't really do without parental involvement isn't ok either, but I'm not sure that's what he's doing.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:55 AM
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417: Well, not in my case. My gpa in high school was a B+, and in college it was a B-. And yet I have a PhD.

the proposition that "the job of a teacher is to help kids achieve in the realm of *formal academics*" is most certainly not given, and looks to me like a very new and quite controversial basis for that profession.

Whaaaaat? "Formal academics" doesn't mean "graduate education" or necessarily even college. It means academic subjects: reading, writing, 'rithmatec, science and (now that there's research supporting it) arts, music.

What do you think the traditional job of teachers is, if not that?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:55 AM
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if that kid's in a school where some parents are actively involved and willing to lend a hand after school with tutoring or reading or just being a decent adult, probablly that's going to be a lot better for that kid than simply being handed an assignment he can do "on his own" and sent home at the end of the day because we don't want to interfere with his home life.

It sounds as though you're arguing that the choices are either expect the parents to do the tutoring (regularly, not just when the kid's having a hard time with a particular concept) or dumb down the educational system. That just doesn't seem to follow.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:56 AM
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If you require them for the system to work, you've screwed up because it's guaranteed you aren't going to be able to cover all the bases.

It's guaranteed you aren't going to be able to cover all the bases no matter what you do.

I think we do educational K-12 funding backwards, the resources should be distributed more to the schools where the parents don't have them

Absolutely.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:57 AM
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whether or not we like the rhetoric he uses to encourage them to do it

which rhetoric, by the way, is totally toxic. As I say, you would want to have a very very good idea about the state of Sidney's parents' marriage before you decided to throw the idea that Dad didn't care about the boy's education into the mix.

(of course I will feel just terrible if it turns out that similar long term effects arise from calling people cunts on the internet, but at present I think that Iraq has few ethnic tensions and we will be greeted as liberators).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:58 AM
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which rhetoric, by the way, is totally toxic.

Yeah, I'm really thrown by calling lying and threats effective rhetoric.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 11:59 AM
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422: Right now, that is the choice. Unless you want to pull out of public education altogether and send your kid to a private school, and devil take the hindmost.

If you want to argue about whether schools should get more money, by which I mean several times what they currently get, then I have no argument with that whatsoever.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:00 PM
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btw,"I don't give a rat's ass if my kid gets As rather than Bs" usually means in practice "I don't give a rat's ass if my kid gets As rather than Bs, as long as he gets As".

Bullshit.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:00 PM
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Well, not in my case. My gpa in high school was a B+, and in college it was a B-. And yet I have a PhD.

the final sentence of that trio does rather detract from the intended atmosphere of insouciance about grades.

What do you think the traditional job of teachers is, if not that?

I am pretty sure that there used to be some stuff about personal and social development into happy, well-adjusted adults. This was pretty important as of the date of publication of "Tom Brown's Schooldays" so if it's gone now, I can narrow down the data of change to within a hundred years or so.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:01 PM
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Yeah, I'm really thrown by calling lying and threats effective rhetoric.

Eggs, omelette. Maybe Russian authors.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:02 PM
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Bah. I "lie" to students about "threatening" their grades all the time. "If you do not turn your papers in at the beginning of class on the day they are due, I will dock you half a grade point per day late, beginning with the due date." And then, if they talk to me ahead of time or afterwards about a foreseeable delay or problem, or an unexpected delay that was out of their control, I "waive" the penalty.

This method is a hell of a lot more effective than telling them that they can turn their papers in at any time on the due date, or that the "penalty" is assessed at my discretion ("but it's not FAIR that so-and-so's car accident means you let them turn their paper in late, but my trip to Bermuda doesn't!"), or setting "clear rules" ("if you're sick and bring a doctor's note...") because *I cannot predict every eventuality that may crop up in a student's life.*

So I set the "requirement," I back it up with a grade "threat," and then I don't enforce it if there's a half-decent reason not to.

And I am telling you, this is better teaching than other approaches, which ime end up with students thinking that they can get away with slacking (i.e., not learning) because you're so "understanding."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:06 PM
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426: I don't think it is. PK's school is pushing the times table down into first grade, but I doubt they're moving trigonometry into fourth and fifth grade. He'll be at the same place at the end of elementary school. So the curriculum hasn't gotten harder, just more compressed towards the front, which is fine if your mom can help you (or in some cases, do) the homework.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:06 PM
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the final sentence of that trio does rather detract from the intended atmosphere of insouciance about grades.

Hardly. I couldn't tell you what my grades were in graduate school, nor what my GRE scores or SAT scores were. Because as I said upthread, the point of learning is not grades--not even if you make a fucking career out of formal education.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:07 PM
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I love that people think of the range of grades as being B- to A.

I've seen things you'd never believe, boy.

I hate strategies like 430, because I always believe them, and am too ashamed to ask that the rules be changed just for me, and thus end up doing terribly in the class.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:08 PM
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Also being shitty at the whole "grades" aspect of learning has certainly negatively affected me plenty, school-wise. Good to know they don't matter, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:09 PM
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431: Things have gotten more compressed towards the front, certainly. I don't know if he'll be at the same place at the end of elementary (or high) school; I'm not yet familiar with the middle/high school curricula (and I expect that PK's teachers will teach me what it is when we get there). I do know that some of the things he does in writing now are the same kinds of things I have worked with freshman college students on, though, and that they will be doing some pre-algebra stuff before 6th grade, which I certainly did not.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:11 PM
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433: I am Sifu.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:12 PM
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I love that people think of the range of grades as being B- to A.

Maybe all these 47-year-old balding men really went to business school.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:12 PM
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because I always believe them, and am too ashamed to ask that the rules be changed just for me, and thus end up doing terribly in the class

Mine too. I always took teachers at their word. And now, finding it likely I'd have been given an extension if I'd asked, I'm mad all over again. Because I was trying to act like a grownup, and accept responsibility.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:12 PM
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Come comment 450, I'll be returning to the sodomy well, people.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:12 PM
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A strategy like 430 backfired on one of my professors when a girl came to him to drop the class because she couldn't turn in the first assignment because her computer died at 2am and he said 'no extensions ever.'

I've found for me it works better to make the threats only when I mean them; not following through doesn't look merciful, just inconsistent. I try to get it so the students and I are working a deal: I am reasonable about extensions, but the cool thing about being reasonable is that it gives me so much freedom to be a hardass if you're not responsible.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:14 PM
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this is better teaching than other approaches,

What about the approach of actually doing what you threatened to do? Hardly encourages slacking. I know of profs who allow no deviation from the rules, under the assumption that lifes not fair but it'll average out over your degree. I'm not quite that rigid about it, but no trip to bermuda is going to get you out of a requirement. I don't think it has ever required lying to them.

When was the last time you set an assignment for their parents? Ok, I'm not serious here but you are describing the ways that you manipulate your own students, which really isn't the same thing as manipulating `your' students parents.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:14 PM
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435: if my current experience generalizes to other disciplines, where they'll be at the end of high school is depressing. Nominally more material is covered, but in practice it's too weak (and hence has to be repeated in uni) and the fundamentals are progressively worse.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:16 PM
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I've seen things you'd never believe, boy.

How 'bout grades of `nonexistent' ?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:17 PM
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435 continued: and anyway, aren't we always griping about how entering college students are so stupid and don't know what they should?

433, 434: Yeah, that kind of thing is a real issue for students like you. My own personal way of dealing with that is to make the threat in public, *and* require students to come to office hours in the first week (because students like you won't, otherwise), where I can present a more personable approach and make jokes like "obviously your parents don't love you" (which I bet would go over well with you, if delivered properly). Again IME, "requiring" students to visit office hours makes a huge difference in bringing the shy or insecure kids (or returning adults) back to the office later to get help or explain things they otherwise wouldn't tell me.

434: I swear to you that grades do not matter. You know this; you're obviously smart and have been economically successful. Grades "matter" inasmuch as they serve as gatekeepers to higher ed. But your grades, by your own admission, sucked, and yet here you are, in college, and hanging out arguing with PhDs. Huh.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:18 PM
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Also being shitty at the whole "grades" aspect of learning has certainly negatively affected me plenty, school-wise. Good to know they don't matter, though.

It's been a constant near-problem of mine, too. I would always start to slip in grades as I got too bored to do homework around the third year of any school, but once I got an actual crappy mark, I usually kicked my ass back into gear just enough to keep getting good grades.

I think I've mentioned here how my college grades were completely abysmal due to this tendency and my college's archaic three-exams-determine-your-entire-degree ways. I was very very lucky that their equally archaic grading system rendered my transcript so incomprehensible that I could squeak into my current grad school on test scores and a good interview.

Long story short, grades can matter, a lot. I bet one C in high school (or maybe B-, I forget exactly) actually caused 2 out of the 3 colleges I heard back from to reject or waitlist me.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:19 PM
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which I bet would go over well with you, if delivered properly

hmmmm these bets are played for higher stakes than I am comfortable with. It's possible to cause huge amounts of damage and offence unintentionally with remarks that were meant to be funny and pleasant. You will no doubt be flabbergasted to discover that I have first hand experience of this happening.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:21 PM
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When was the last time you set an assignment for their parents?

When I told them that their sister's wedding in Bermuda, or their parents' planned vacation during the semester, was not going to get them out of the due date on the syllabus?

How about we agree that for me, the approach I use works (I will assume you all realize that I am a conscientious and excellent teacher who cares a hell of a lot more about the students who are not inclined to ask for extensions than about the assholes who feel entitled to them), and for you guys the approaches you use or prefer work, and that maybe the point is that *different instructors have different personalities* and that maybe they adjust their rhetoric accordingly?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:23 PM
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Grades in graduate school may not matter. But I'm sure I didn't get into a couple colleges because I had crappy high school grades (double-legacy at MIT, still not admitted). I'm also pretty sure that my crappy college grades would have prevented me from getting hired at my current place of employment, which I very much like working for, and was lucky enough to get in the back door.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:23 PM
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One place in high school rank was between me getting the scholarship and the kid one place below me that didn't. For him, it wasn't that big a deal: he went to another school. For me, it would have meant probably not going to school that year.

Because of this weird coincidence I have an irrational tendency to read 'grades don't matter' as 'we have the social capital and money to get EmmaJacob whereever it needs to go.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:24 PM
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I really hate 430. I always took teachers *at their word* and that rules meant something. Instead, you set up a system where personal relationships are whats important. B seems to think that INCREASING the marginal penalties is the way to get this into people's heads. Much like how conservatives think the way to get the idea that saving money for a rainy day is a good idea into the heads of working class is to take away their insurance. Lets just up the penalties, and everyone will learn!

Also, it mostly seems like a way to accumulate power to the teacher, who in this case may know better than the students, at least in teh realm of the classroom. But teachers knowing better than the parents, especially in some general area of 'how people should practice being' is not only offensive but not even comprehensible. Claims of 'I know better than you' should have a high standard of evidence, especially because the transmission of the knowing is inherently poor.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:24 PM
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Sigh.
'Doctor Anal' resurfaces in Denmark


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:25 PM
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435 continued: and anyway, aren't we always griping about how entering college students are so stupid and don't know what they should?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:26 PM
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Again IME, "requiring" students to visit office hours makes a huge difference in bringing the shy or insecure kids (or returning adults) back to the office later to get help or explain things they otherwise wouldn't tell me.

cf. homeless people.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:27 PM
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Grades do not matter in the same sense that success and money do not matter.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:27 PM
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I'm also pretty sure that my crappy college grades would have prevented me from getting hired at my current place of employment, which I very much like working for, and was lucky enough to get in the back door.

Yes, but your current employer is known to be unusual in that regard, and that particular quirk of theirs is a reason why a lot of people won't give them the time of day when contacted about a job. (Obviously, not everyone feels this way, but it's far from an uncommon attitude.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:28 PM
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I bet one C in high school (or maybe B-, I forget exactly) actually caused 2 out of the 3 colleges I heard back from to reject or waitlist me.

I actually got consistent C minuses in math, ended up repeating trig, got a B, then got an A first semester calculus (followed by a B or C, I think) and yet I got into some of the hardest schools to get accepted into at that time. I got C minuses *only* because my math teacher's established practice was to guarantee a C- to students who at least did their homework even if their grades were Ds and Fs.

I think it's because I wrote my entrance exam about why my grades in math did not matter, and how realizing that and overcoming the anxiety that was preventing me from doing well on exams and homework--which I did partly by repeating trig more for self-reassurance than because I didn't understand it--and insisting that I be allowed to take calculus *because I knew the material even though my grades suggested otherwise* was probably the single most important learning experience of my life.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:29 PM
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Apo, could you start the anal massage page? You might throw in Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize, which is the other big Scandinavian news.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:31 PM
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And yes, I'm sure the first-semester A reassured the admissions offices that I was not lying. But I am firmly convinced that without the essay, my uneven math grades, combined with my decent but not especially outstanding grades in everything else, would have meant sure, I'd get into the UC system somewhere, but not into Brown or Bryn Mawr.

And I know for a fact that that philosophy is a major part of why I am an excellent teacher.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:32 PM
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Also, yay Doris Lessing!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:33 PM
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Try that again 435: what 442 said. I don't think cramming in more material and requiring more parental tutoring necessarily means the kid will retain any of that. I feel like I'm picking on PK.. but he's just a handy example, I swear...but if he can't learn the times tables without hours and hours of parental drilling, he needs to be learning more about addition. If he needs mom to research how to write a bibliography and how to do research, he isn't ready to be doing them on his own.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:33 PM
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448: yep. I didn't get into 8 of the 9 colleges I applied to the first time around. I never had a snowball's chance in hell of getting into a good private school (let alone getting a scholarship), which meant I was more-or-less stuck with a large, impersonal (if highly competitive and well regarded blah blah) public school. I am now over thirty and still working on my first degree. Yes, I managed to find a way to achieve a lot of things I'm proud of despite never getting a damn bit of help from the formal educational system, but does that mean that I was somehow well served by having shitty grades, or that the educational system's utter failure to cope with me counts as a success just because I was able to work around it pretty well for a while? Does it mean that grades did not, in my case, matter? Hell no.

Even more simply, with my grades, how successful would have been if computer programming hadn't been my hobby? Of course grades matter. I'm an outlier, and they still mattered a lot for me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:33 PM
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Apo, could you start the anal massage page?

This very sentence is what got Mark Foley in trouble.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:34 PM
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447: Sure, people have different approaches. I'm not judging yours, but
this is better teaching than other approaches,
made it sound a bit like you were being judgemental.

I honestly don't understand why you seem to have a problem with some people not accepting this teachers rhetoric, while at the same time pointing out that different approaches work for different people.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:34 PM
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Mathphobes are frequently given a break. My college roommate had the lowest math SATs in the history of our (elite) school. Something like 450. He became famous in his required calculus class for asking, in December, for the definition about a basic concept which had been explained in the first week of September, and which had been needed to understand anything whatsoever in the rest of class.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:36 PM
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461: I'm also an outlier. It cost me some opportunities, but I've had enough good ones come my way I can't really complain.

You can't base policy too strongly on outliers though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:36 PM
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Even more simply, with my grades, how successful would have been if computer programming hadn't been my hobby?

This is incredibly important.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:37 PM
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456: I'd argue that getting into college in your day is probably not quite the same thing as getting into college today.

And this
But your grades, by your own admission, sucked, and yet here you are, in college, and hanging out arguing with PhDs. Huh.
is absurd. Hanging out on unfogged = success. Sure.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:39 PM
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Spotty grades (lots of As plus a few Cs and Ds) are usually taken as evidence of emotional instability or bad character rather than evidence of lack of talent. But emotionally unstable students (me) are not highly prized anywhere, unless they're overwhelmingly talented.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:39 PM
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460: Nah, I brought PK into it, he's fair game.

He is learning his times tables without "hours" of drilling, largely because I have explained to him the concepts behind multiplication. Which I do for the other kids in his class too, when I'm there on Wednesdays, and which I'm sure a lot of parents are not able to do--so they end up drilling. Which sucks, as it's an inadequate method of learning. The teacher focuses on explaining the *concepts*, which is the harder part, and I think hopes that drilling at home will help reinforce and make "4x4=16" automatic, as it is for most of us who do not think through the concepts when we do basic math like that.

Re. bibliography and research, I disagree. First, because the teacher sent home guidelines about how to do a bibliography--she didn't expect parents to know, or even to know how to find out. And second because, even if PK is not yet capable of constructing one on his own--he doesn't know, for example, how to read the publisher's info on the back of the title page--he *is* capable of learning and understanding the concept that one cites, somehow, information that one gets from outside sources. He could not (and probably still can't) use the computer catalog to look up books on toucans, but he could, and did, learn that libraries are a good place to go for information, and that librarians are people who will help you find what you need if you don't know how to do it on your own.

Those things are really important parts of education. They are more important than knowing proper MLA formatting, which can perfectly well wait until college (or indeed, never get learned--I still look shit up all the damn time).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:39 PM
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The question of the importance of grades is definitely interesting from my lawyer desk. Without question, the grades you get in college are a huge factor in what law school you get into. And the combination of law school attended plus law school grades will make a difference as to whether you get to be overworked and underpaid or overworked and overpaid. The grades and pedigree do not, IMHO, determine who will actually be a more gifted lawyer. And the fact that pedigree rather than actual talent is so often rewarded is irritating, to say the least. But that is the system no matter how idealistic we sincerely want to be that grades aren't what count.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:40 PM
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"Grades do not matter in the same sense that success and money do not matter."

This is a good post.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:41 PM
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Apo, get the anal massage post up. I'm dying over here. I might have to procrastinate elsewhere.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:42 PM
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473

Here's an interesting datam:

I just showed 456 to my daughter, who's home sick today. She says that she's been advised by her counselors to write just such an explanation. So this is a trick now known to have worked, enough to be part of the toolkit.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:44 PM
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does that mean that I was somehow well served by having shitty grades, or that the educational system's utter failure to cope with me counts as a success just because I was able to work around it pretty well for a while? Does it mean that grades did not, in my case, matter? Hell no

I don't think I said any of those things. What I said was that grades do not matter, by which I meant they are not a very good measure of what a student knows or is capable of. What I care about, educationally, is people learning--not people getting good grades.

467: You think? This was in the late 80s. I don't know what the standards are like now, but at the time I got into Brown over students *in my classes* with higher grades and SAT scores. I no longer remember the stats, except that Brown was the hardest college in the country to get into.

Anyway, let's say that standards have gotten tougher, so that today I would not get into Brown, but I would still get into my "safety" school (which was Wash. U.). Guess what? I went to Wash U. anyway, because they offered me more money.

Hanging out on unfogged = success.

First, I didn't say "success." What I meant was evidence of intelligence and intellectual equality. And second, really depends what you mean by "success" does it not? It sounds fluffy, but I suspect that most of us hanging out on Unfogged are smarter, better informed, and more engaged with the world we live in than your average person who may make much more money, have a higher status job, a pretier wife, whatever.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:47 PM
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B, you got into Brown because you were so wholesome. Someone had to tell you.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:48 PM
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The grades and pedigree do not, IMHO, determine who will actually be a more gifted lawyer. And the fact that pedigree rather than actual talent is so often rewarded is irritating, to say the least. But that is the system no matter how idealistic we sincerely want to be that grades aren't what count.

This is true, and after I've gotten my students on board with the "your grades do not matter" talk, I point this out.

I also find that for students like Tweety, differentiating between the idea that "my grades suck, I'm probably stupid" and "I'm smart, which means I'm also smart enough to figure out, with the teacher's help, how to get the grades that will 'prove' my smartness to people who are too dumb to realize that grades don't matter" makes it *a lot easier* to get better grades than just telling them "you have to work hard, because the only way to succeed is to get good grades."

Which is not only counterproductive, educationally, it is also, to borrow LB's word, a lie.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:50 PM
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What I meant was evidence of intelligence and intellectual equality.

'Regular commenter at unfogged' as a new line for my c.v.!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:51 PM
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B, you got into Brown

I put up the anal massage post already, John.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:52 PM
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it sounds fluffy, but I suspect that most of us hanging out on Unfogged are smarter, better informed, and more engaged

Are you sure it's not more about being inveterate procrastinators?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:54 PM
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Guess what? I went to Wash U. anyway, because they offered me more money.

Hey, me too.
Still not confident I would have gotten in just a few years later, though. Things there changed a lot.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:56 PM
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"Half an hour of homework a night for a six year old is too much; but sending home math worksheets a couple times a week, or better yet "requiring" parents to help their kids learn math by integrating it into some enjoyable parent/kid activity, *does* make a difference."

Six year olds should not have to do any homework what so fucking ever. It's no wonder American kids all end up shooting each other.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:56 PM
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When I was teaching, I always announced the penalty for late papers at the top of the class (and reminded them publicly of it once or twice during the semester), and then I by and large enforced it. I made a couple of exceptions each semester, though, for students who were having gigantic crises. Usually these were kids who had earned truly horrific grades, and the late penalties would have sent them into flunking territory. For the kids who just procrastinated or were having a temporarily hard time, I really did believe that sticking to the announced policy was better. This stuff is so hard to judge, though.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:57 PM
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Guess what? I went to Wash U. anyway

No lie? When? 84-88 for me.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:58 PM
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"Half an hour of homework a night for a six year old is too much; but sending home math worksheets a couple times a week, or better yet "requiring" parents to help their kids learn math by integrating it into some enjoyable parent/kid activity, *does* make a difference."

Six year olds should not have to do any homework what so fucking ever. It's no wonder American kids all end up shooting each other.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:59 PM
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I think it's because I wrote my entrance exam about why my grades in math did not matter, and how realizing that and overcoming the anxiety that was preventing me from doing well on exams and homework--which I did partly by repeating trig more for self-reassurance than because I didn't understand it--and insisting that I be allowed to take calculus *because I knew the material even though my grades suggested otherwise* was probably the single most important learning experience of my life.

You're very assertive and were brought up to know that authority figures are human beings who can be reasoned with.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:00 PM
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469: I just figure as an instructor my problem isn't that my students don't know how to cite or what a five paragraph essay is, but that their writing fundamentals are very, very weak, and no one's ever pointed this out to them. Granted, college is supposed to be harder. And philosophical writing is its own kind of bitch.

But it feels, from this end, like this is the first piece of writing that hasn't been overcoached by their parents (except when you get the kids e-mailing their essays to their parents to proofread/rewrite.) I'd trade drilling on the five paragraph essay for settling for writing a good paragraph.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:00 PM
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to know that authority figures are human beings who can be reasoned with

They're working on this. It won't be true in database nation; consider how easy it is to negotiate with your cell provider.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:01 PM
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485: which brings us back to middle/upper class markers.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:02 PM
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485 485 485
and 488.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:04 PM
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As a sophomore in college my "American Political Process" professor was a young, hip guy who obviously did not care about teaching and was always missing class for this or that reason. Even so, for the final paper I was absolutely petrified that I'd slept in and would miss the deadline by about two hours. I almost considered not even trying to hand it in, but I had written the whole thing so I went over there and prepared this whole explanation for him about why he should make an exception. But when I got there he didn't even remember what time of day he had set the deadline as.

So, it took me that long to realize that authority figures who seem like human beings are, in fact, human beings and don't consider themselves to be bound by principle 100% of the time.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:07 PM
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They're working on this. It won't be true in database nation; consider how easy it is to negotiate with your cell provider.

I mean when the people who you can physically talk to are also the people who have the ability to make decisions about what you should be allowed to do, which is generally not the case in dealing with either corporations or the government.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:09 PM
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I'm glad it worked out for you, B, but your experience really doesn't match that of the people in my high school class. I don't think anyone with mixed grades like that got in anywhere but UofI, which was the subject of many apocryphal stories about students getting in after submitting applications in crayon and so forth.

I think it's because I wrote my entrance exam about why my grades in math did not matter

And it just amazes me that this might have worked. As I said, one bad grade seemed like the main thing (aside from random bad luck) that resulted in a couple places rejecting me, though college apps require a lot of luck anyway. Still, I'll drop this as I have ultimate practice and discussion of my and my friends' histories with college applications only goes to show how big of pricks we are.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:24 PM
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I do find the anecdotal change in college admission standards since the late eighties bizarre. I had very high test scores, but a mediocreish A-/B+ GPA, and nothing impressive and non-academic, and waltzed in to MIT and Brown. I have the impression that perfection is much more necessary now, but I don't know where all the perfect applicants are coming from.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:28 PM
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It's no wonder American kids all end up shooting each other

Heh. Yesterday at PK's school we had a lockdown drill, which completely freaked me out. Also, so stupid: the likely shooter is someone associated with the school, who will therefore know what the lockdown procedures are.

486: You'd be surprised at how much of the critical thinking stuff is going into 1-3rd grade writing these days. I am.

485: I was, and yet I've still got plenty of gender normed bullshit about not asking for what I want going on, believe me.

I don't think anyone with mixed grades like that got in anywhere . . . it just amazes me that this might have worked.

Part of why kids with mixed grades don't get in is that they and their teachers think grades are the end-all be-all, which is why I'm such an asshole about insisting that they aren't (and then talking about how to put this into practice).

I was at Wash U from 86-90.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:33 PM
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Yeah, with a B average now you get into Pitt-Johnstown, not the Ivies.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 1:39 PM
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Wow. I can't believe this thread is still going on. I agree with B in every particular.

And: anecdotally, in the early 90s, you definitely didn't have to be perfect to get into Brown.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 3:51 PM
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Everybody take the link in 243 to heart, and quit coercing people into shit just because you think it's good for them.

Boy, what fun it is when religious nutballs think it's in everybody's best interests to make blowjobs and porn illegal. It's not any more attractive when it takes the form of helmet laws and "sin" taxes on things like cigarettes. And no, this isn't any kind of American conservatism or libertarianism. Let's have a nice social welfare state complete with universal health care, Social Security, and quality public education, and leave people the fuck alone. Really, it's not that hard.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 5:58 PM
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I had a friend whose life was severely damaged, or so he saw it, by not getting into Brown. This was in 2000. He wasn't very smart but his grades were better than we would have imagined by looking at him, and he was rich.

He ended up going to BU and loving it.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:02 PM
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How is that not essentially an expression of the belief that teachers are service workers, rather than professionals?

I would LOVE it if everyone just assumed they were service workers. Cops, doctors, teachers, everybody. Just do your fucking job, and assume you are no better than the person handing me my latte.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:04 PM
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I shit on the 500's of this world.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:04 PM
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Just do your fucking job, and assume you are no better than the person handing me my latte.

You know, respecting people's expertise doesn't mean thinking they are somehow superior. "Service workers," in this country, pretty much means "do what I ask you to do and no lip--the customer is always right."

The latte guy shouldn't be treated that way, and neither should people who know what the hell they're talking about in any arena.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:08 PM
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I had a friend whose life was severely damaged, or so he saw it, by not getting into Brown. This was in 2000.

Hey, I knew a guy like this back in the '80's. Pretentious as hell, but could be reduced to a quivering, resentful mess by a reminder that he wasn't at Brown but at URI with the rest of us idiots.

Of course, if you went to Brown in the late 1990's-early 2000's, you ran the risk of having the likes of me as your TA, which should have made you seriously question the promises of a great education the university offered you. Just remember the lesson I learned when I applied to grad school and got accepted into to places that nothing about my undergraduate institution and performance therein could justify or explain: it's really all about the connections.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:15 PM
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JL, I assume you TA'd in something art-related?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:26 PM
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"Just do your fucking job, and assume you are no better than the person handing me my latte."

You know, respecting people's expertise doesn't mean thinking they are somehow superior. "Service workers," in this country, pretty much means "do what I ask you to do and no lip--the customer is always right."

The latte guy shouldn't be treated that way, and neither should people who know what the hell they're talking about in any arena.

Nice how you elided from the arrogance of the worker, to the assholishness of the service recipient. I'm sure it unintentional.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:33 PM
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You know, respecting people's expertise doesn't mean thinking they are somehow superior. "Service workers," in this country, pretty much means "do what I ask you to do and no lip--the customer is always right."

The latte guy shouldn't be treated that way, and neither should people who know what the hell they're talking about in any arena.

Latte dude keeps his expertise and opinions to my latte, and my kids teacher can jolly well apply their expertise to teaching my kids while they're at school. Both are subject to my policy of "Anyone who tries to dictate how I spend time with my kids gets beaten with a pipe."


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:39 PM
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505: does that include your kids?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:41 PM
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"Want me to go to the zoo with you, do you?" (beat, beat)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:41 PM
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I have the impression that perfection is much more necessary now, but I don't know where all the perfect applicants are coming from.

Everywhere. I'm at Princeton, and the amount some of my classmates worked in high school astounds me. When I tell them how my extracurriculars were the only reason I got in and none of them were time-intensive or unpleasant, I get death glares.

Basically: if you're sufficiently insane, it seems quite easy to convince your kids to sacrifice their teenage years to succeed.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:42 PM
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Pretty much every rule in life gets bent for family.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:43 PM
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504: Or mmmmmmaybe I was addressing the "everyone should be a service worker, don't get uppity" thing that gswift said. Just, you know, a possibility.

Of course, you'd realize this if you'd gotten better grades.

505: Come *on*. Teachers encouraging parents to do x, y, or z with their kids is not some fucking encroachment on your precious, precious parental rights. It's them trying to help your fucking kids learn.

Anyway. Dropping it now.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:44 PM
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JL, I assume you TA'd in something art-related?

Yes. AH 1, several times, Roman art on a number of occasions as well, nineteenth and twentieth century painting, modern architecture. I have to say that Brown's AH 1, the basic pyramids-to-Picasso course, is the worst organized I've ever seen at any institution. Due to some obscure faculty infighting, they insist on doing the survey in one semester, instead of spreading it over two as most other places do. On top of that, they assign (or did when I was there) a very serious, heavy, reading list, way out of proportion to the amount of time we'd spend on any one area. You'd have kids who attend something like three (generally brilliant, but still) lectures on 17th century Dutch painting trying to make sense of Svetlana Alpers--and this just a week or so after we served them up some Wölfflin. Didn't work, but no one wanted to hear it.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 6:48 PM
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Pretty much every rule in life gets bent for family.

True, but at least in my case (if you were responding to my comment), that wasn't a factor. It's the professor network. Though I took nine years to graduate, including dropping out of college for a while in the middle, failing various classes, and generally not taking it very seriously, at the end I had performed sufficiently well enough when it counted to get certain professors to write enthusiastic recommendations. These professors happened to be well-connected at places like Chicago and Brown, and that turned out to be what really mattered. I was always very pleased to realize that some people had planned far earlier in life for goals I ended up pursuing, busted ass to achieve them, and found themselves in grad school at the same places doing the same thing as me. They had ground themselves down during their best years in dreary libraries while I enjoyed one of the premier party schools of its time, and yet, there we were together. Of course, in the end, many of those people were more serious about actually achieving those goals, so they went on to do so, while I took the opportunity to drink, sleep late, bullshit around, and finally luck into a job. But I can't complain much.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 7:04 PM
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there is really no point trying to sneakily have the last word on this thread as the slow pace of posting during US night time means that someone is almost bound to rumble the attempt. However, the marginal cost to me is also small.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-12-07 1:15 AM
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Yet if you could only have kept yourself from gloating about it in an active thread, I might not have been motivated to go find what ttaM was referring to. (Also, the last word in the obstetrics thread? I saw that.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-12-07 5:48 AM
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curses, that was nearly the perfect crime. As you and Sherlock Holmes both say, the fatal weakness of the criminal mind is vanity.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-12-07 5:52 AM
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