Education Rant


I have recently had to submit overall midterm grades for one of the schools where I adjunct…highest grade in the class? 92.5… lowest? 2.5. There IS something to be said for attending class and turning in work after all. Really.

I posted this comment to my Facebook and received a couple of comments from friends, professors, PhDs, professionals in their given fields. And there was a response from a new Facebook friend. She basically criticized –lambasted us for being critical, ok a little snide, about the student with the 2.5 average. Someone commented that said student needs to brush up on how to ask…Would you like fries with that? Another, commented that there is very little way a student with a 2.5 average in Composition would be allowed to deal with the public directly. That sort of grade requires such apathy, apathy that would make the American electorate looks absolutely engaged. Said former Facebook friend suggested that we were being “smart” — well ok college professors and professionals… She implied that being smart was a bad thing. She went on to say my friends were being rude, making assumptions about his issue, we were, in her eyes, arrogant and pompous…

Needless to say, I was forced to respond….

I don’t think anyone assumed anything here, as the original post inferred that no work was being done: “There IS something to be said for attending class and turning in work…”

And the implication that he will be serving fries, or not even able to get a job doing so isn’t far from the money. It is statistically proven that ON AVERAGE, a high school graduate will annually earn what a college graduate pays in taxes.

That is scary. And many “smart people” feel obligated to point that out. Do your school work, finish school, earn a living wage. Be smart.

I don’t know when being smart, or bookish became such a bad thing in this country, but it has. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that if you are smart and bookish, you don’t know anything about living life in the real world. And that’s just silly. Educators are not in that pesky troublesome 1%, we aren’t even high up in the 99%. We, as a group, know how to rob Peter to pay Paul. In today’s world many of us are children of the seventies, ok it’s a blur, but whatever. To teach one has to remain intimately connected to the real world.

I have been ACCUSED of being both smart and bookish, as though it is a bad thing. And it makes me angry. Smart bookish people have been teaching children to read, write, do math, know about the past… It takes smart people to be educators. When you take smart out of the equation bad things happen. The people of Texas edit history, eliminate slavery, minimize the import of Thomas Jefferson in American History.

Christopher Columbus becomes a hero while Americo Vespuchi is lost to all but the smart bookish people.

I find that I am obligated to bring into the classroom many things beyond video games, sports, and family guy. I have over 100 students, and last week less than half of them knew there was an election this year. And of that half, none was aware that there were debates going on, never-mind have any idea who was running.

None of them knew that we had officially withdrawn from Iraq, or that Iran had successfully launched a nuclear missile. None of them knew that our neighbor to the south, Mexico, had 13,000 people die in gang related drug wars in 2011. They had no idea that there was a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra last week — or WHY that would be so devastating to the people there, they had no idea there had been a horrific tsunami there some years ago.

Yes, smart people, educators, can be smart asses. We are charged with informing the population, giving them the tools to survive in today’s fast paced world… And when one of those students blows off what we work so hard to give… It isn’t the student who should be criticized? In The United States, it is always the fault of the educator–because it was the JOB and somehow the educator failed. A teacher cannot fail for a student who doesn’t even bother to show up for class or turn in work done IN class.

What that logic leads to is students unfit for work at McDonalds and frustrated educators. It leads to a population that thinks it is uncool to know what is going on in the world around them…

It leads to a population that thinks that just because you are in academia, you have no clue what is going on in the real world… That is utter nonsense. Dangerous nonsense. One of the groups that was targeted early by the Nazis was academics–intellectuals — because they were smart, because they looked at the world critically and thought about what was happening around them.

I, for one, hope that in this country smart people are revered — because they are the people that will carry us into the future. I would rather be surrounded by smart people with attitude, than people who don’t care enough about themselves and the world in which they live to be qualified to serve fries at McDonalds.

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5 thoughts on “Education Rant

  1. Time was when they had things like “honor rolls” and “Dean’s lists” for children in elementary and secondary schools who excelled. Over time, those things were abolished because NOT making them made students “feel bad.” Time was when there were things like “academic olympics” and scholastically based competitions in which the best and brightest competed for awards in intellectual excellence. Extra work was required to compete, on top of regularly assigned classwork — which in my private school was already copious. Slowly, over time, those things have been abandoned, because teaching to the standardized tests has become the prime objective.

    Jamie Lee Curtis tells the story of being called into a meeting with Milton Bradley game company as a potential spokeswoman for one of her all-time favorite children’s board games, Chutes and Ladders. Seems the game had been updated and MB was preparing to launch the spiffy new design to much fanfare. When Curtis was shown the game, she notice one glaringly obvious change that alarmed her. For those of you who’ve played the game prior to it’s current release, you’ll doubtless know of the dreaded Big Chute — the long chute near the end of the game where, with but an unfortunate turn of luck, a near-winner can suddenly be plunged back to the beginning of the game. When Curtis questioned the redesign, she was told that too many parents had complained about their darling little tots tear-stained faces after such a “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” moment, and instead of using it as a teaching moment about gamesmanship and the vagaries of games of chance, appealed to MB to change the game. Curtis, to her credit, politely declined putting her name to such a tepid redux of a childhood classic. I always liked her, that Jamie Lee Curtis.

    This is the world we live in. Coddled, prima donna little whiners who can’t bear to lose, don’t want to work, and are shielded from all forms of misfortune, even in the slightest doses. They don’t know that Bambi’s mother dies. They don’t understand that where much is given, much is expected. And they haven’t learned that, in times of genuine strife and hardship (as the freshman year in college can be, even for many students who received good grades with little effort in high school), you must work harder, and if that fails, then you must seek help from another source if you are still floundering.

    Under the best case scenario, given Mr./Ms. 2.5 the benefit of every doubt, the fact that the professor has not been approached for assistance or clarification is an indication of a lack of readiness for college-level work. College is not kindergarten. There will be no hand-holding here. Every campus I know of has an undergrad writing center, designed specifically for students who are having difficultly adjusting to university-level writing requirements. It’s not up parents or professors to shepherd young people to the resources made available to them to succeed. At some point, students need to take the academic wheel and steer that damn bus themselves.

    To the 2.5 students of the world I say, grow up. If you aren’t working hard enough, work harder. If you are working as hard as you can and you still don’t get it, seek assistance from the writing centers or private tutoring. And if you still don’t get it, maybe you need to take a couple of semesters off and go work at McDonalds and grow up a little on your own. I have sympathy, truly. But if what you’re looking for is coddling and spoon-feeding, you need to call your grandma.

    Off my soapbox now. 🙂

  2. Wow, I liked the blog and I liked Amanda’s reply. I don’t have the words to express myself as you two do, but I must say, ” Bravo to both of you….:)”

  3. I’ve definitely shared the experiences that you’re describing above, Mel. Usually, unfortunately, it’s been in a “college” setting. On the other hand, I now get to work on a daily basis with 100 high school students who, while there are certainly exceptions, almost uniformly endeavor to be the smart people this country will need in the future. I know that my students are special–but they’re out there.

  4. This one goes back to grammar school for my now high school senior. They were in second grade and learning about syllables. They were told they had to call them “parts” because not all of the children could pronounce “syllable”. Her response “Well that’s just stupid, of course we can, we can all say “pokemon” and besides, syllable has 3, parts only has 1, which one helps us learn it better?” And also second grade, “solve the following math sentences” Caitie: “These are equations, a math sentence MIGHT be a word problem, but these are equations, they come from the word, “equal” which should give us some clue as to what we need to do with them, why do you think we are this stupid?” Needless to say, she’s starting college in the fall as an English Writing major, and has already landed the part time job as “Grammar Nazi” in the Writing Lab. It’s very frustrating, but it’s not hopeless, as long as those “smart” (read snotty intellectual) parents just keep fighting for what their kids need, make them raise the bar and leap, rather than lower it and stumble. Mel, your essay makes me proud to be a snotty intellectual, and to have raised two more.

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