The entire point of school

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February 9, 2014 by Julia

I was always the kind of kid who liked school.  I liked learning new things, and I still do–I go out find read books and articles when I come across something I’m not that familiar with, because I don’t like not knowing.  I worry what my child will encounter in school, though, because it seems like the schools teach less about facts and more about feelings.

For example, this blog post has been making the rounds on my Facebook feed.  In it, a mother describes a tutoring session with her son’s teacher, as the teacher tries to explain the “new way” to do long division.  Apparently, the “new way” takes an hour, so keep that in mind when you send your kids to school.  What kind of terrified me, though, was the conversation they had after the tutoring ended:

Afterwards, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community – and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are Kind and Brave above all.

Huh?  Community, kindness, and bravery are more important school subjects than reading and math?  Now listen, yes, those things are important–and they should be learned at home.  I will teach my kid about community, I will teach my kid kindness, I will teach my kid bravery.  You teach my kid how to divide some numbers, preferably in less than an hour.

Now, that paragraph was something of a throw-away, because the real story was the teacher’s system for identifying students who may be lonely or bullied.   And yes, that seems like a good system, and I applaud the teacher for caring enough to spend time on a project like this.  It’s not clear if she understood what really caused Columbine (a predatory psychopath, not bullying victims), but certainly it can’t hurt to keep your finger on the pulse of your classroom.

The comments on the blog post are kind of mind-boggling, though.  A few people correctly point out that math and reading are, in fact, the main reason we send kids to school in the first place.  And these are the responses they get:

lisa [sic]:

Really. after reading how she is trying to make sure all kids
are included and trying to save the world from future attacks like
columbine all you could see is that she is trying to teach a new way
to division. i advise to read it again and if you have a child spend some
time with them and listen. really listen when they talk. praying for you

Jon:

Wow… After reaing [sic] such powerful words and amazing insights, your comment illustrates the challenges educators have. You got so caught up in your own pontification that you missed a sermon seldom witnessed by most. Thank you to the author for such powerful words. They will be shared with many this day.

Shaunette:

thank you for your love and commitment to our children we need more citizen,on teachers like you around our children, because it takes more than the mediated family to guide,sharp, and educated our young people, to be a responsible and loving generation.I will do my best.

Sarah:

I think you are missing the whole point. They aren’t saying these things are unimportant, what they are saying is that there is a whole lot more to it then just these simple subject kids are being taught. Teaching children how to work together and have empathy, amongst other things, carry far much more weight throughout the rest of their lives. This article is wonderful and thought provoking and it’s sad to see that your first reaction is a negative one. Having a teacher who is really looking out for the best interest of the kids that come through her classroom is few and far between and should be commended.

And my personal favorite:

Al:

The values that you teach your child are APPLIED at school, and if you don’t think that students learn values from every person they interact with, especially someone with whom they’re connected for more hours in a day than you, you are in denial. You are also spreading the values that bullying should be encouraged and tolerated; after all, your comments are specifically degrading this loving teacher (bullying). If you had only had a teacher like her, perhaps you wouldn’t be a judgmental bully today, and someone who is compassionate and caring.

That’s right, it was “bullying” for a commenter to say, “I don’t needs some godless, secular, liberal teaching my kids anything but the subject matter in the text book. Leave the teaching of “values” to those of us that actually have some!!!” [sic]  Disagreeing with liberal values (and even the fact that they are what traditionally are called “values”) is bullying.  Requesting that teachers teach their subjects (nothing more and nothing less) is bullying. Now, I personally know a lot of teachers who have values that I wouldn’t mind them teaching my child.  In fact, I’m related to some (and they’re liberal, without a doubt).  The problems are, though, 1. I have no way of knowing whether every teachers shares those values and 2. teaching values just plain isn’t their job.*  So, no, neither suggesting that all teachers are liberals, suggesting that liberals have no values, nor requesting that teachers limit themselves to their subjects is bullying.  But, of course, calling something “bullying” is a great way to dismiss it without having to articulate a response. You know, like “That’s racist!!!”

As a side note, since conservatives are apparently big fat bullies now, I wonder if the WWE, the NFL, the USA network, and all the other companies, networks, and people that have “anti-bullying” campaigns will start making “Stand up to conservatives!” commercials.  I kind of hope so–then I’ll get persecution cred.

I’ll leave you with this thought on teaching social justice in math class.  Like Glenn Reynolds says, it’s starting to sound like parental negligence to send your child to public school.

*I’m talking about specific lessons.  Modeling your values is something that cannot be avoided, because if they’re your values . . . you live by them.  I’d rather have my child learn from a teacher who demonstrates how to be kind through her actions than a teacher who tells students to be kind but is not kind herself.

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