Lying to the Young

One of the really interesting things about cleaning up the rest of the other house, to move, is that we’re hitting exactly the sort of things we’d even forgotten had happened/existed.

For instance, we opened a box last packed away in 1990, when we moved from our very first house together.  It would have been exciting if it hadn’t been packed by movers, who don’t seem to have the ability to distinguish between trash and office stuff.  So, we had Dan’s business cards hoard, now with a lot of names and addresses either no longer in the business or no longer at that address/number; we had some sketch pads with funny drawings which back then was his way of dragging me away from writing.  You know exactly what.  We were 27.  There were pictures of cartoon guys with googly eyes and “here’s looking at you kid,” etc.  There were also sheets of paper that from their crumpled look the movers rescued from the trash can.  You know what I meant.  Crumple marks on an old shopping list.

There is a certain factor of “Wow, really” to this, at least when you realize not only have you any idea what the party was you were hosting, but also when the number of apples and cucumbers required must have meant some sort of salad I no longer remember making or having a recipe for.

It is a reminder of both the permanence of who you are and the transience of many things that seem incredibly important at the time.

Take those business cards.  If we’d found them 15 years ago, we’d never have shrugged and shaken the whole mess into the trash bag.  We wouldn’t have done it because, even though we probably would never have contacted any of those people anyway (note we never felt the need to ransack the house for still-unopened boxes) we’d have had the feeling that it might “be important.”

Weirder still is finding evidences of me in that creature I don’t remember.  Like endless miles of rejections, that mean I must have submitted a lot of stories, but I can’t remember any of those titles, and the stories I DO remember I’d rather I didn’t.  (There’s miles and miles — and MILES — of twerpitude on the way to becoming who we are as the late Pterry (pbuh) said.  What he didn’t say is that who we are is marginally less twerpy and our future selves, still a little less twerpy, will laugh at us.)

But then there are other surprise discoveries that have more meaning for both our society and us.

We found Robert’s grade reports from sixth grade, for instance.  And I blinked at the grades.

For background, both our kids are brilliant, which in this case is defined as “sharper than old mom” or to quote PTerry (pbuh) again “So sharp they cut themselves.”  This means they have a ton of idiosyncrasies and that if I’d known what was really going on in elementary/middle school, AND if I’d known I could homeschool (listen bud, I was afraid of missing something essential.  My formation has HOLES) I’d have taken them out in a New York minute, or even a Colorado one.

But one of their idiosyncrasies is that, being very similar, they like to play opposites.  What I mean is, though their basic makeup is close to the same and though they are (like my brother and me) when not in contact likely to be reading the same book at the same time, or playing the same game for the same reason, when they are together they view it as their sworn duty to not be alike.  So, since older son was a straight A student (or close enough) who gave himself an ulcer in high school worrying about grades, younger son studies for what interests him and lets the rest go hang, which makes him an A/D student or an A/F student on rare occasions.  (Mind you almost everything in college at least interests him minimally, so last time I looked he maintained a B average, but he gave me white hairs getting him through K-12.)

So as I looked at the report card I thought “Marshall” but the name was Robert, and I thought “Robert never had an F in math” and “This must be a strange mistake.”

But I remembered, vaguely, being very worried about Robert all through sixth grade, until we moved and changed schools and put him in an advanced program which was not that great in retrospect but which, at least, graded him on what he’d learned and his homework and tests.

Because you see my husband found the sheet explaining that grade.  I.e. the sheet with the checks and points for various things during the semester.

I’m fairly sure I never saw that sheet, though I can’t swear.  It might have been at the back of our desire to move which was so intense we picked a house totally unsuited to us by the method of “it’s in another district” and “We can afford it.”  (There were other reasons, like that someone in the neighborhood was killing cats, and we didn’t know who.)  Also, this was the year coming off Dan being unemployed and while he still was suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea, which meant I was suffering from undiagnosed being kept awake (more than health issues were already doing) by apneaing husband, so heaven knows what I saw or what I made of it. The entire year is a fog.  Which is good as it kept the berserker from descending on the school to create the sort of scene where the police say “the bodies haven’t been found yet.”

Because that check list leading to an F in math read as follows: Items, three, tests, with perfect scores.  Item, “bring in x boxes of kleenex” with zero.  Item, bring in three lightbulbs, with zero.  Item bring in folders of appropriate size and 24 highlighter markers, zero.  Item inspection of locker showing it messy, zero.  Item, failed to organize his notes and use the appropriate colors to take them, zero.  Etc. etc.

Now younger son often managed to have cs in classes where he aced the tests due to an allergy to homework.  As the woman who grew from the kid who wrote her homework in the two seconds before class, whose stories of how her homework had disappeared (it was aliens.  A UFO, I swear. They paralyzed me with their rays and took my long division homework) became preparation for her current career and who, up to her Junior year in college, was known to read essays from a blank sheet, I couldn’t really come down like a ton of bricks on THAT.

But this wasn’t even homework.  It seemed a deranged combination of trying to stock up the school (okay, it’s a small village and I imagine they have trouble, but still, giving grades for it, and for that matter asking the kids for it isn’t cool) and trying to enforce blind compliance.

There were mitigating circumstances, too, that adults could have told the teacher about, but Robert couldn’t or wouldn’t.  First of all BOTH our kids have a marked aversion to spending our money.  Not their own, that they’ve earned, but ours.  And back then the money was all ours, or at least Robert couldn’t drive to the store and buy Kleenex from the money he’d earned helping my friends with gardening projects.  And we were broke.  Dead, flat broke, as we’ve only come close to being since.  Dan had lost his job in the middle of a tech flight from town, and we were scrambling and not sure when he’d find work again.  Now we didn’t discuss this with the kid, but kids know.  So he never even mentioned the shopping list to us, much less take the stuff in.  And btw, since this was the ONLY time (and only because we REALLY were at the end of our rope) our kids have been on free-lunch program (Yes, I know I disapprove of those, but you know what?  Part of the reason we were in the pinch we were in was the massive amount taken from Dan’s severance check.  So it’s not like we weren’t paying into the maw of the government, not-by-choice.  And it’s not like if we hadn’t used it it would have been returned to the tax payer.  It would have been spent in ever more creative ways.  It was, in fact, as the school (the shopping list notwithstanding) had a surplusage they spent on showy but useless equipment.  And when the school more or less forced us into it, we thought that if we didn’t have money to eat, we wanted to make sure the kids did) the teacher could/should easily have known that and SHOULD have understood not only that we couldn’t afford a lot of those items to stock her in-class cupboard, but that it was insensitive and crass to ask the kids to bring this stuff in with no regard for parental circumstances at the time.  (And these are the people who preach sensitivity.)  I’m going to guess if Robert had abased himself before the class and told them we were broke she’d have excused him.  Only, of course, he’d rather take the F and I can’t blame him, since I remember Middle School vividly.

Then there was the blind compliance of “dot this with this particular color” and “take notes in the approved manner.”

When we showed the list to Robert he said “I was near suicidal that year.  Because my mind doesn’t work like other kids’ I guess.  I just couldn’t see where that stuff mattered.  I mean, in college whether you take notes or rely on aural memory no one cares, as long as you KNOW the material, but it seemed in sixth grade knowing the material counted for nothing, and it was all how well I did these pointless tasks.”

This probably wouldn’t disturb me as much if I hadn’t gone through this, in spades, with younger son four years later and if school administrators hadn’t told me that the purpose of middle school is not to teach the kids anything so much as is teaching them “the process.”  And the process as described by these bright souls seems to consist of “Ve hav ways und means to make you OBEY.”  Seriously, with younger son, too the emphasis was on “You will dot all the is and cross all the ts in the color designated!”

Perhaps it’s just my kids (heaven knows where they picked it up, but they have slight problems with arbitrary, shouty authority) or maybe it is why all our friends’ BOYS (not the girls, not even in cases where we saw no difference in IQ between the kids) hit the wall in middle school and started lagging behind their sisters.  Girls (present typist and a lot of readers very much excepted) tend to be more compliant with group mores and authority.

This girl, of course, faced with that course of “study” would not only also have had Fs but would probably have thrown shoes at the teacher’s head and got expelled.  Fortunately her kids turned out calmer.

Anyway, the whole idea that middle-school is supposed to enforce blind compliance and that’s what they’re actually grading on (or was when my kids were involved) makes my gorge rise.  It might be a very good way to raise machine-operators, but it sucks when raising free-thinking citizens in whom (we the people) the power and the legitimacy of the state is supposed to rest.

If I had my time again those kids would never have seen the inside of a classroom till I put them in the dual high school/college program Marshall attended, in 10th and 11th grade.  (And for those in the area, Coronado Highschool.  Yes, they’re a magnet school and take kids even from out of district, though it’s a little harder.  And unless it’s changed all out of recognition in the last 3 years, highly recommended.)  Because colleges still prefer standard high school grades to portfolios.

But it’s past, and it’s past by a long time, and it was just a memory of gritting my teeth and a surge of annoyance at the items on that check list.

However, those of you with kids in school — check what they’re actually being graded on.  Then ask yourself if that’s why you sent them to school and if that’s the formation you want them to have.  Then see if there’s anything you can do, including but not limited to “teaching them at home after school.”

And cut our fellow citizens some slack.  They are the product of this system.  They’ll need to go through conditioning as well as twerpitude before they come out on the other side as free men and women.

And yet, I have faith a number of them will.  Reality tends to beat this sort of programing.

Just don’t pile on with the school and assume the teachers are always right.  This is not the school you went through (or at least I hope not.)  And what your kids are failing on might be things that would hurt them in life and work should they learn them.

There will be book pimpage later.  I’m on the home stage on the cursed book, so I’ll be doing that, now.  Talk quietly amongst yourselves while I kill a gross characters or so.


344 responses to “Lying to the Young

  1. “He’s not here to learn,” said Bill’s guidance counselor, after the nth detention or suspension in the n/3 weeks since he’d moved to that school district in seventh grade. “He’s here to learn to conform.”

    “I see,” his father said. Then took up little Bill’s hand and walked out, presumably because he couldn’t come up with anything to say that wasn’t profane.

    The phone call the dad made later caused it to be very clear that Bill was never, ever going to set foot in that school again, though.

    I don’t remember anything specific about my experiences. But… yours resonates,with me nonetheless. There’s a reason Bill and I have extended the promise of not setting foot in a public school again to any offspring we may develop. -_-

    • I can just about imagine the volcanic eruption that that “He’s not here to learn” line would have caused at any time during my school years. My father’s administrative bosses and fellow faculty members were scared to death of him, with the exceptions of the core who considered him an ally, and with good reason.

  2. Things seemed to have changed since I was in school, or maybe I was (and still am) one of those “please authority” types. I don’t recall the “must be done this way” in elementary and middle school. Then again, I went to Catholic school in middle school, so….

    I do remember getting dinged for not keeping notes in High School chemistry, though. The teacher was befuddled that I could do so well in class (aced everything) without any notes whatsoever. I am a far better “just listen” learner than note-taker – taking notes drew my attention away from the material. I found that my grasp of the material while taking notes was worse and the notes I took didn’t help, so I figured knowing my stuff was better than missing that one (significant) grade. I understood the idea behind it, college is tougher than high school. I found that not to be the case, but it was a matter of motivation more than skills.

    • Taking notes tended to make it easier for me to remain present in the classroom, in much the same way that I enjoy listening to music more while driving. Absent the secondary task the primary one fails to sufficiently occupy my mind to allow me to remain focused. Having taken the notes usually meant I remembered the material better and wouldn’t need them, an irony to which I was not insensitive.

      One of the biggest problems of modern pedagogy is that kids who would suck up learning like water from a fire-hose are forced to take it a drop at a time, causing their minds to wither from lack of sustenance (or to engage in plotting revenge, an activity which requires not sustenance so much as incentive.)

      I suspect girls* are less resistant to this conformational pressure because their natural adolescent impulses are geared to development and enforcement of social hierarchies based on conforming to an arbitrary standard while boys still cling to a performance based mode (it is not who has the most elegant swing on the baseball field that defines the outstanding athelete, it is who hits the effing ball hardest and most often. Even into adulthood, grading according to form rather than results tends to render the sport a little girlie, diving and gymnastics being the main exceptions.)

      *statistically and en mass; individually YMMV and almost certainly will.

      • I used to write novels while listening. It made the teachers think I was taking notes and it made them happy . They never asked me to see the notes.

        • I did, too – I was writing a novel about WWII espionage in Occupied Europe during a class in medieval history that was so dull it would make you want to slit your wrists! How can medieval history be dull, I ask you? You’d think it would be near-impossible, but this lecturer turned every session into an torturous exercise in tedium, mostly by focusing on a series of early medieval church confabs.
          He did assign some terrifically good books, though – so the class wasn’t a total loss. But I never did finish that novel…

          • I’ve had a couple of wonderful history teachers that made me wonder how history can possibly be the most cited “boring” subject. Seriously, how do they do it?

            • The only D I received in high school was history. I can not remember dates. Other than when the War of 1812 was fought, I’m pretty hazy. I finally realized after listening to Joan Baez, “The night they drove old Dixie down”, that the ‘In the winter of 65, We were hungry…’ implied that the Civil War ended in 1865.

            • Had two variations:

              One, the “high focus” sort. Pick a single aspect of a single facet of a single part of complicated situation, and focus on that in an inane way. Example: building a sugar cube “model” of what Japanese internment houses looked like, based on a one-line description. (My dad happened to grow up visiting one of them, and I offered to bring in some pictures and stories and stuff. That got swatted down.)

              Two: the strict dates-and-points version.
              Think like a timeline, but worse; ‘6 June 1944: D-Day’ and then never bother to explain what the bleep D-day meant besides landing fragging boats and lots of people dying.

              It’s like if someone covered the Princess Bride by saying “boy goes to sea, girl gets engaged to prince, girl rides off into sunset with first boy.”

          • Actually, most medieval church councils are full of riots and stuff. Or there are Interesting Local Issues, like “Why are you banning divination by spiders, and how do you do divination by spiders anyway?” Or rules about priests or kings doing bad stuff, which is always great for gossip.

            So yeah, he must have been pretty dedicated to boredom.

            • The man had an absolute gift …if there were an Olympics for boring, he would have placed at least a bronze medal, maybe silver.
              Later on, at the Defense Information School, there was a famously tedious civilian instructor whose forte was something to do the international relations, whose nickname was Professor Sominex. Nope – Professor Sominex couldn’t hold a candle to the CSUN history prof with the medieval church council fixation.

              • I had a Mr. Gohr, who I referred to as Gohr the Bore, or Sominex Man.

              • My only memory of the macroeconomics course I took at Navy is that the officer who taught it had the most incredibly monotone and monopaced delivery. I don’t even remember if he had prepared lectures or merely read the book to us.

            • “how do you do divination by spiders anyway?”

              The same way you do it with goats, by reading the entrails. You just need younger eyes to do divination by spiders.

              • I am reminded of a novel where the heroes are transported to an alternate world/universe where the Aztecs still remain. They plan on doing an reading of entrails. When the Earth folks confront the Aztecs, they are shocked by the idea of cutting open a living being. It seems the Aztecs use a MRI machine to ‘read’ the entrails. I think there was a cat as a major character, so you others might remember the book (which I don’t).

              • Apparently they were watching how the spiders built their webs or something. No signs of spiders actually weaving words a la Charlotte.

                • Hmm… if you burned some “ritual herbs” (including hemp, or “magic mushrooms”, or maybe some locoweed, you could probably come up with some interesting-looking webs.

          • Sara the Red

            I had a guest professor in college who managed to murder the history of the British Empire. The man made pirates boring. PIRATES. It was truly astonishing…

          • Bjorn Hasseler

            I’ve taught Church history a couple times, and when I got to the medieval councils I tried to keep the class awake by asking why the Council of Florence offered the Hussites much of what they wanted 18 years after the Council of Constance had Jan Hus burned at the stake. Because then I could talk about war wagons, and at least some of them would be interested.

            • Well, that would have kept some of the class awake. Conflict, drama, detail! All of that, alas, a closed book to that particular prof. At least he had the wit to assign good and readable and INTERESTING books.
              Sigh. I write historical fiction in an attempt to make up for certified clods like him.

              • Bjorn Hasseler

                I think one of the attractions of playing in the 1632 universe is getting to “fix” things. 🙂

          • Until college, I didn’t believe ANY History could be interesting, EVER.

            • I remember in Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis talking about the Calormen boys in school being taught something that was duller than the truest history, and less true than the most exciting adventure story. I always thought he had some real classes in mind.

        • Sara the Red

          Yeah, I did that too. I have ADHD, which means it’s nearly impossible for me to pay attention unless I have something else to occupy enough of my hands/eyes/brain. I did have one professor in college who twigged, and she hated me for it–she could not grasp that I actually was paying more attention than I would otherwise. (Learning to knit has been a godsend…)

          In high school, I mastered the art of reading a novel under my desk while “paying attention.” The few teachers who twigged were bright enough to leave me alone for the most part, because I could and did prove that I could still answer questions about the subject at hand…

          • In high school, I mastered the art of reading a novel under my desk while “paying attention.” The few teachers who twigged were bright enough to leave me alone for the most part, because I could and did prove that I could still answer questions about the subject at hand…

            Ooh, I got in trouble for that, too! High school senior English class, sitting in the front row, reading Dracula (on which I’d later be writing a paper for her), when the teacher asked, “Now, Steve, what did I just say?” She was very put out when I repeated it almost word-for-word.

            Then again, I have other complaints about her, too.

        • I wrote my first novel in 6th grade during math class because we had to be seen taking notes. I was also allergic to homework which made me a solid C student because I’d ace all the tests. Until my senior year, that is, when all the teacher stopped assigning homework and only graded the essays we turned in. Straight A’s.

        • I will never forgive the one history teacher who insisted that we essentially take dictation from him, as well as writing down anything he wrote on the blackboard. I can’t write fast enough to do such a thing, and every time anyone asked him to slow down, he made nasty replies to speed it up.

          There’s something in me that completely ignores any bad emotions I have toward someone when they are in trouble, so if I had seen him about to get hit by a bus, I would have tried to do something, but later, I wouldn’t have let it keep me awake at night if I failed.

      • I was so busy writing down the notes, I missed the next thing I needed to write notes for. It became a vicious cycle. I have a narrow focus; multitasking involves switching amongst multiple tasks for me. I also have to be directly addressed if my wife or kids want something if I’m reading – I won’t hear what they’re saying unless I turn my attention to them.

        However, I like to have noise in the background – I will put a tv show on, even if I’m not watching it,, while I’m reading or typing comments on blogs. Silence is odd to me.

      • “One of the biggest problems of modern pedagogy is that kids who would suck up learning like water from a fire-hose are forced to take it a drop at a time, causing their minds to wither from lack of sustenance”

        I have actually heard a person who had taught claiming that students will develop good study habits if their parents and others about them model them — without their actual having to study.

      • “One of the biggest problems of modern pedagogy is that kids who would suck up learning like water from a fire-hose are forced to take it a drop at a time, causing their minds to wither from lack of sustenance…”

        I hated high school for this reason. I had only one trouble subject that I could never get enough help on. I was near suicidal because of extreme bullying, frustration with that one subject and being bored out of my skull but expected to pretend to pay attention the other 5 hrs of the day. I can tell you that the stress relief was so great the day after my last exam of my senior year that I collapsed in my bed crying at 4:00 pm and did not wake till 8:30 pm the next day.

        Its a bad habit now that if I check out a class or workshop and find it to be too much busy work or does not respect my time or my visual disability I will drop it in a day or two. Drives my mom up the wall because she has a background in education and wants me to continue.

        I have a college diploma but because of a clerical error at my high school I am a high school drop out on paper. Makes it hard to find non freelance work. That in itself sums up the failure of our education system.

        • You are surrounded by really weird (not in the good way) nitpickers, apparently — my mother skipped her senior year to go on to college, and I don’t think anybody’s ever been fussed about her high school graduation once they knew about the degree.

          • Its a thing that’s happening in Canada now, employers don’t consider anyone who hasn’t gotten through high school on an academic track for office work, etc. Apparently there are too many university and college grads out there who can’t spell and do simple math.

        • If you can’t get the High School or the School District to correct the error, would a GED help (assuming you don’t have one because you didn’t mention it).

        • GED nothing. They should fix the error.

    • Only thing close to notes I took in Highschool was for 10th grade english. Words and Definitions at the beginning of almost every class. Teacher’s instructions were “Write down any word you don’t know the definition of or think you might have trouble spelling”
      Then after the flash cards were all up he went down the list asking what they meant. Then we went on to the rest of his teaching.
      at the end of the year I had maybe 4 pages of words written, and the pages had more scribbles and doodles than words. On the final exam, out of 100 words plus 10 extra for making up any of those you might get wrong I got 110 correct.

      • Vocab isn’t a bad thing for high school, but it shouldn’t be the main focus of English class. We had an elective class called “Etymology” which was really learning about Latin and Greek word roots, to help kids going for pre-med and such. I took it for the easy A, and also because it was interesting, relaxing, and kept me out of trouble. I did learn plenty of stuff from it.

        • Etymology. Thank you. For some reason was blanking on that word today.

        • It was maybe 5 minutes at the beginning of class, but all of the final exam. No idea why he did that. Mid Term exams were much more in line with what folks would expect a good english class exam to be.

          • It’s possible that he did that for the same reason my very good HS writing teacher did: many students think they know the meaning of the word, but they’re wrong. My teacher didn’t have a dedicated time at the beginning of each class but he would occasionally have a student look up the meaning of a very basic word to prove his point. (“Red: the color of blood.” I’d prefer a wavelength-based definition, but that’s me.)

        • wanderingmuses

          I loved Etymology! It was always so cool to find out where the word started.

    • I don’t recall the “must be done this way” in elementary and middle school.

      I went to a private elementary school and still remember the OCD list of what was required, down to the rule of the paper and the number two pencils and the type of folders each class required. Annoying to me in elementary school but I am actually good at following dumb rules I guess.

  3. Oddly enough, the melanin content of a kid’s epidermis seems to get factored in to teacher/school compliance expectations. Can’t imagine what the thinking is, but when the Daughtorial Unit was (briefly — grade six is when we opted out for Home School) there was clearly much greater latitude granted for those who had greater melanin amounts. It is as if they believed those kids would have easier lives and thus had less need for self-discipline or arbitrary compliance with authority.

  4. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Kill a gross (144) of characters or kill a gross (nasty) character? [Smile]

  5. Ah. That does kind of explain things. My bright and brilliant daughter hit a wall in 6th grade. As in, if this keeps up she will fail 6th grade (but they’ll move her to 7th grade anyway, where she’ll fail worse). So, end of third term, I pulled her out and homeschooled her from then on. Funny how they wanted her to conform, but the little shi… darlings who harassed her daily never had a problem.

  6. To a young relative with aspergers, who had been home schooled through the second half of public school, upon his entrance to high school, and upon discovering his Geography class consisted of coloring in “title pages” for each unit, his father gave the following instruction: “see if you can get an F.”

    Young Relative so enjoyed this instruction that he got perfect on several Geography tests, scribbled some title pages with a colored pencil as a provocation to the (really quite horrible unionist) teacher bench, and at the end of it all gloried in a “C”. Because of course the bench couldn’t fail Young Relative due to perfect tests.

    In this way Young Relative came to an understanding of the True Nature of high school and Socialism generally. Which is, nobody cares what you do, so long as you suck up properly and don’t question authority. The nail which sticks up will be hammered down.

    Not particularly useful knowledge to an Aspie kid who’s going to be sticking out all over the place no matter what he does, but at least he knows when to call in a Parental Air Strike.

    Shock and Awe has its uses when dealing with bureaucracies. Young Relative’s parental units have a reputation for nuking whole school boards from orbit, so they’ve trained the teachers to leave the hammer in the drawer.

    Never take bullshit from teachers. They are invariably time serving chair polishing Union assholes of the worst possible provenience.

    • Never take bullshit from teachers. They are invariably time serving chair polishing Union assholes of the worst possible provenience.

      My aunt, the teacher, will agree with this, and add Administration to the list.
      Her big bugaboo is the demands for set steps of learning and tight adherence to curriculum … for a randomly changing Special Needs class.
      It seems admin doesn’t think teaching an encephalitic with a lacking 1 yr old’s abilities to act more like the 15 year old it is physically is in any way unreasonable, and wonders why there is no progress.

      • JP, one of these kids went through school with my older kid. Essentially his “aid” got paid to do his schoolwork for him. NO ONE PROFITED. Eventually his mom got tired and sent him to a specialized place where they taught him things like how to hold the spoon to feed himself.
        But the ridiculous waste of an aid in a system that had no money to spare (see asking kids to bring lightbulbs) was mind boggling.

        • RealityObserver

          May have been slightly different, then (although I know it has been going on for a long, long time). The special education (whatever name they actually call it) is funded by the Feds, and usually the State also. Very specifically funded – you cannot spend one red cent outside of the “permitted” uses.

          And, yes, it is a nightmare of waste. Most of the people at the sharp end do their best (I except the one back-stabbing b*tch from New York that caused my wife to transfer schools mid-year when she backed up the special snowflake parent rather than her cooperating teacher). But there is not a single class where there is any rhyme or reason to the assignments – the range is from those who (like my son was) are slightly speech delayed, right through the extreme of the autism spectrum (throw in various physical disabilities, too, with the same mental range).

          Most of it is pretty much “parent relief” daycare, which nobody admits of course. (There are good arguments for providing that service, although obviously not via government.)

          Oh, the son – a mild (approximately 9-12 month) speech delay. We did have him in what is called here the “ABLE” program, preschool. Wonderful woman running it at the local school – but the main reason we had him there was that we needed an “official” diagnosis to get him into the program run by the local Masonic Lodge, which caught him up in just a couple of years.

          • My youger kid was WAY speech delayed, but it was sensory issues. He had speech therapy, acquired a British accent (to make himself conscious of each syllable) and he’s fine. He was never in those classes, though. But this kid that Robert went to school with was like a cat. Measured IQ 48.

            • RealityObserver

              Good God. That’s where I got my veddy credible British accent from.

              Therapy for stuttering, though. The alternative at the time was singing – which, after a very *brief* trial, was determined to expose me to *far* more social humiliation than the stuttering…

          • Many are run that way, and my aunt hates that they either do the silly like I explained or the daycare and ignore the kid otherwise thing.
            I’ve two cousins who were in Special Ed. One had a fever as a baby and it affected him, the other is Downs. The older, who suffered the fever graduated highschool but was 221 or so when he did. Now he is able to live alone for the most part, and has a job at McDonalds and I think Walmart cleaning doing janitorial stuff. He either bicycles everywhere, or Michigan has a Moped law that allows him to have a scooter and all he needs is a helmet, no license.
            The Cuz with Downs has a assisted living apartment and his job is tied to it (the place makes fire starters and some other things, and the more able do rustic furniture and whatnot).

          • I think it has been nearly twenty years now, but there was a series of articles in the Boston Globe about how Special Ed programs were being gamed by upper and upper middle class families, hiring therapists to ensure that their precious snowflake got as much extra aid in school and on tests as was possible.

            Poor families with actual “Special Needs” kids weren’t able to afford the therapeutic demonstrations of necessity and those kids got crowded out.

            Probably an anomaly, yeah. No paper would report on something like that, today.

          • California put me in special ed for being pig-headed.

            You see, I “couldn’t read.”

            Mr. Brown brought me into the room, pointed at the wall of books going from Hooked on Phonics intro level stuff to novels with cool covers and said I could pick anything.

            Next month, when tested, I was reading at I think fifth grade level?

            The next big fight took both him and my parents (and I think my grandmother, the news paper reporter) bullying the school librarian into letting me check out any book I wanted at the Library, instead of forcing me to pick from the ones I was “able” to read.

            Man, you should’ve seen my mom’s reaction when she found out that I wasn’t allowed to borrow any books that I wasn’t certified for…..

            I just realized the joke on that– they kept sending me to special classes once a month after that; other than my “speech difficulty,” they all evaporated when actually tested…

            • I am SO glad I never came up against books coded according to “ability.” In college, I spent a semester helping out with a classroom reading program. This was 1996, so the teachers asked us to actually help the kids learn how to use the Internet, since they had all the permission slips but not the know-how. So I found a few safe sites (one of them my mother’s, as it happens, because she had dinosaur stuff up) and proceeded to do one-on-one with the kids.

              And I noticed that when there wasn’t a sticker saying that thus-and-so was a particular reading level, the kids who were having trouble had NO issues whatsoever. All you had to do was to bypass that mental block that said that reading was hard (and probably boring, too; I’ve SEEN those books.)

              • +1
                Love how kids can do things when they just randomly decide it’s interesting… wish I had a picture of the pediatrician’s face when my daughter was reading off one of those “pictures with the words under them” books while he filled in papers for her appointment…and she hit “acrobat” and very obviously sounded it out, then said the word, then went back to sight-reading the rest of them.
                Next question:
                “She was in school this year?”
                “No, missed it a few months.”
                “Starts this fall?”
                “No, I kind of tried home schooling, and she seems to be doing pretty well.”
                “She’s smart enough that it’s going to be pretty challenging.”
                “Oh, I know. Believe you me.”
                “Good luck.”

      • Sara the Red

        Hell, one of the reasons my mother lost her last job as a teacher was because *she* wouldn’t take crap from the other teachers, her kids (she taught special ed) were actually moving into regular classrooms because they were doing so much better. Oh, and she disarmed the principal’s horrible son when he threatened her with a knife (and his mummy–another teacher in the district, did NOT like that, oh no indeed).

        • My 6th grade math teacher gave us Clocks for xmas break homework. You know, those sheets you give kids in kindergarten and 1st grade so they can learn to tell time? Pages of them.
          My dad threw them away and told me to tell the teacher if he had an issue with that, to call him, and remind him who we were related to. This was just after that teacher had a run in with others in my family. My cousin was a year ahead of me and he called her a stupid, fat b!tch in class, and was other ways very insulting.
          My aunt worked for the school system, and took time off from the middle school to dress him down (all 4′ 6″ or so of her) loudly, in front of the class. He also got a visit from my other cousins who were even less polite, and added what they would do to him if he was anything other than polite (both were state champ calibre in wrestling), but they had their discussion out in the school parking lot. I can’t recall if I was not the only one who had nothing to turn in, and I don’t think anyone actually got a grade from him on that “work” anyhow.

  7. Oh yes, I very much remember getting docked on my note taking in high school algebra. Tests – 99%, Daily – 98% (even though I did most of it on top of my locker after getting to school that morning), Notes – 33%.

    Teacher – why aren’t you taking notes? Me – because I already understand how to do this. I don’t take notes on breathing or walking either. Teacher – *stern eye* don’t get lippy.

    • Taking notes is easy.

      0 Teacher seems a little slower than usual today, probably hung over

      0 Teacher is wearing same outfit as yesterday, likely didn’t go home last night

      0 Teacher’s grasp of the material even more tenuous than usual

      After all, where is the requirement regarding the content of the notes?

      For that matter, when they teach To Kill A Mockingbird do they simply not process Scout’s commentary on pedagogical theory and the Dewey Decimal System in the classroom?

      • THIS was my younger son’s idea of notes, and why he got in SO MUCH trouble. He respects GOOD teachers, but there were so few of those.

        • You should see my notes from PT school. I’m a 40 year old man at the time, surrounded by 20 year old girls (which sounds like it should be Heaven unless you’ve actually done it) and some Ivory Tower slacker is droning on and on and ON about the New York Hospital System and how it’s changing from fee for service to Diagnostic Related Group billing practices. Or they’re droning on about the liver. Or how to do a SOAP note.

          Did you know it’s possible to construct a SOAP note that is at once obscene, profane and technically correct?

          I’m sitting in the back of these lectures where they take attendance like high school, drawing pictures of tanks blowing up the school like its grade 5 French class and passing notes to the Goth chick from Brooklyn sitting next to me.

          All the girlies are writing furiously. Turns out most of it is letters home, doodles of little hearts and flowers, etc.

          All the “keeners” are in th front, writing every word, and engaging the prof like it’s important and their lives depend on currying favor with this goof. Turns out they’re the dumbest girls in the class. They can’t remember anything unless they go over it six times, and they’re all process process process. Can’t do anything without a cookbook to read from.

          Gawd I hated that.

      • RealityObserver

        Sound like the notes one of my nephews took – in Catechism class.

        I really have no notion of how they managed to get him all the way through Confirmation…

    • I don’t remember taking notes in *any* math class; however, my senior year in differential calculus, I achieved a perfect score on all tests and graded homework. Fortunately, I am old enough that when I was a senior, results not process mattered.

      • I’ll note same kid has now completed calc III FOR FUN (not required in pre-med) as well as a bunch of physics FOR FUN with straight As or as he put it (taking classes with engineers and doing better than they do.)
        To be fair though, no class in college required him to bring in lightbulbs. He once took in figs, but it was to measure their caloric content.

        • If you don’t bring a light bulb to class how is the teacher to know when you have an idea?

        • A clear indication that his ‘problem’ in middle school was that he was bored sh*tless. When you select teachers for diversity over skills, and then lump all the kids in the one-size fits all curriculum, paced to the slow learners, don’t act surprised if some of the smart ones develop ‘behavioral’ problems.

          • FlyingMike

            This was the great shock between Junior High School (which was 7-10th grades back in my time, dodging triceratops on the walk to school) which had an active gifted program, and High School, where they took the gifted money and fed it into the College Prep sequence: In HS they expected the gifted kids to just bull on through all the dog-slow courses paced to not lose anyone, and then tag-up into College Prep English to finally get somewhat challenged the last year and half.

            I made it, but some of my classmates from the JHS gifted program did in fact not accomplish this feat, either punching out via equivalency when they couldn’t stand it anymore or just scraping along on raw talent with no learning invloved in order to get their time-served diploma.

            If I had been pushed a bit in High School, I think the wall I hit in college would not have been quite so solid.

            • My high school was a highly-regarded college prep private school. It was also small. I was called into the office for the first term in my senior year to explain why I had THREE study halls. I went down the available courses in each block, saying, “took it, took it, already took the class beyond it, thoroughly not interested*…” after which they admitted I had a point. They just didn’t have the size to offer certain upper-level classes, so I ended up doing an independent science study (credits based on coursework, so I squeezed out a couple). I also managed to get more credits than I did my other years due to a couple of after-hours classes, so it worked out well. (The administration went back and forth over credits for drama; I got credit for every play I participated in but other years weren’t so lucky.)

              *Frosh-level busywork classes. Not so much, no.

      • ravenshrike

        Reminds me of World History II in HS. My lack of homework, which consisted mostly of drawing and coloring in maps dropped my grade to a low C average. The Final was a 200 question multiple choice with essay. Got an A on the essay and a 98% on the MC. Which given the nature of multiple choice means I very well might have gotten a 100% without mismarking since I never actually go back and check those.

        • RealityObserver

          Hmm. My college professor in Western Civ actually MADE his students draw maps (well, one map, of Europe and the Med littorals).

          The one part of his classes that I ever stayed awake for, BTW. The rest of them, I dozed through on autopilot (wake up, answer the question, go back to sleep). Actually, that only happened one time; after that, the professor realized how foolish he looked trying to catch me out…

  8. School Administrator: “The purpose of school is to keep me employed.” At least that would be the honest answer.
    I think our problems started with forced integration, not that segregation was right nor that the moral imperative was to fix what was wrong, but the act formed the core idea that school was a place to ‘right’ social justice and to address other failures of society.
    Somewhere, in the free-lunch, head-start, child protection, sex-education and the other ‘for the children’ social programs, the concept of learning was forgotten. I blame the self-same school administrators. Part of their problem is that they were hired to document/support all the regulatory and eligibility requirements imposed by big brother DOE, not to teach. Process becomes more important than learning, and pupils become ‘check boxes’ instead of people with individual strengths and weaknesses and aptitudes in different subjects. Then pile on top of that the ‘social justice education’ where we have to promote the contributions of anyone except dead white males to pervert education from true learning to politically correct indoctrination.
    Since Administrators are subject to parent’s complaints, then each and every child must become a special ‘snowflake’ that excels in everything. Mix and bake for about 35 years, and you end up with the absolute mess we are in today.

    • Read the autobiographies of Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams to see what expectations were in the better run “Colored” schools: because your skin is darker you will not be allowed to get away with the minor spelling and grammatical errors that white kids can, so we expect you to learn this and learn it right.

      Whereas integrated schools tend to think believe that because society has such a history of discrimination it would be compounding the oppression to expect children from such deprived backgrounds to meet the same standards as their more privileged classmates.

      And, of course, when you start hiring teachers because of their ability to bring “diversity” to the classroom you stop hiring them on their ability to engage and stimulate (the only real function of education) young minds’ eagerness to learn.

      • Look how those two guys turned out. I keep seeing stuff about how behind African Americans are. Yet maybe if the Progressive Left stopped treating the African American Community like children that needed to be cared for they would grow up. When the society is white you need to learn how to “speak whitey” or be SO good at something that it doesn’t matter.

        • The progressive left treats African Americans as a reliable voting pool, and a good diversion with a riot or two whenever the news cycles have some bad news the progressives want ignored.

        • snelson134

          THIS, dammit. If I never hear the slur “acting white” it will be 20 minutes too soon.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Crud. That makes an awful lot of sense.

      It works disturbingly well in terms of the two sides talking past each other.

      The right dislikes the DoE controlled education because it is so dysfunctional that it is abusive. The left may still be thinking that if integration isn’t forced, schools will go right back to segregation.

      • In the mind eyes of liberals and the DoE, simply being in the same classrooms as white kids confers significant benefits to students of color. Comparable enforcement of standards of deportment and academic effort constitute impermissible discrimination.

        • Stooped end tagging!

          In the mind eyes of liberals and the DoE, simply being in the same classrooms as white kids confers significant benefits to students of color. Comparable enforcement of standards of deportment and academic effort constitute impermissible discrimination.

          • Indeed, the minority kids discover that white kids will pay more money for lower quality drugs than their peers will. Great advantage when you need another $500 pair of sneakers.
            Indeed, the left ‘feels’ that integrated schools are fair and equitable. And indeed, they are correct. Everyone’s standard is reduced to the lowest in the class.
            The right, relying on metrics such as the amount of remedial training required by businesses who hire the recently educated, realizes what an absolute disaster DoE has on education quality. Then, they do their taxes and realize how much they are paying for this ‘feel-good’ system. And then they move their business offshore.

      • U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”
        That statement was accompanied by a lot of explanation from the MSM, but those while suburban moms, many of whom are now home schooling, knew exactly what he meant. Your little darlings are making all As, they know how to read, making the inner city kids look bad? Wait till we get through with them.

        • The opposition does indeed come from white suburban Moms. They are the parents that make the time and effort to actually *know* what their children are being taught. When bureaucrats like DoE instill a new program like common core, the white suburban Moms examine the course materials and offerings and find them sadly wanting.

      • snelson134

        And they may even have reasons to suspect that, because anything resembling actual discipline that allows for learning will see a large number of kids raised in the 70% single mother environment left by 50 years of “help” thrown out.

    • Asides from all the obvious “educational” BS that is forced down to the classroom, including the days and days of standardized testing that takes away from, oh, I don’t know, maybe learning anything, there is a bigger problem. Following the integration of schools was the lowering/elimination of standards of conduct. (Watch ‘Lean On Me’ for a nearly perfect example.) It’s gotten to the point now that the DOJ is taking reports from DOE on school punishments, and filtering them by race, and bringing suit against schools that “discriminate against minorities” by punishing them out of proportion to their numbers.

      Heavens know that any group which is less well behaved shouldn’t be punished out of proportion to their numbers. To insist on individual justice for individual actions is racisss these days. That’s the whole point of ‘social’ justice.

      Integrating the ‘special needs’ (what we used to call retarded and sent to special schools of their own) kids with the general population hasn’t helped any, either.

      Learning doesn’t happen in a class where the teacher spends the majority of her time trying to get a few kids to stop running around, shouting and hitting the other kids.

      And to think I didn’t mind moving into a minority-dominated neighborhood when my kids were little because I thought ‘it can’t be that bad.’ I wasted two years of my children’s lives there, and finally left after my daughter was molested in school, in front of teachers, by another 8 year old. And the principal was going to punish my girl, instead of the nasty little boy who’s father didn’t see anything wrong with what he’d done. (We had words that shall not be repeated for legal reasons, which resulted in the boy being terrified of being in the same hallway with my daughter, and the principal not interfering with my right as a parent to protect my child, or he’d get some, too.)

  9. I cannot remember that from my schooling (only a decade out of high school) although most of it was in Catholic schools. I do remember some of the ‘creative’ book reports we had to do, although at least had to do them. I will admit that the teachers o learned the most from were all older, two of them having taught my parents

  10. There were other reasons, like that someone in the neighborhood was killing cats, and we didn’t know who.

    Uh…. yeah, that sounds like a really good reason to move. One of the kind that’s hard to justify unless you’re in the Mommy mindset (or maybe daddy, too, never been there) but definitely eeek-worthy.

    Sounds like the background to a serial killer piece. “Well, there were some odd little things, but nobody thought much of it….”

    • FlyingMike

      “He was a quiet boy, kind of a loner. Very polite, but not very popular. Never got in trouble. Who would have thought he’d do such things!”

      Works for either mass murderer or Nobel Laureate, based on how the kid treats small animals.

      • – But do you believe he killed Buckwheat?
        – Oh, yeah, definitely. It’s all he ever talked about.

        • You’d be shocked how often that conversation, or a variant of it, plays out in real life. The trouble is, nobody ever takes these lunatics seriously until they finally do something.

          The other thing that’s amazing is how family members and concerned friends often have documented history of trying to get them help, or committed somewhere they can’t hurt others, and have been turned down or not believed by the authorities and/or community. There was some father on one of those late-night “True Crime” shows that went on a ten-minute rant about the whole situation he’d had to deal with regarding his schizophrenic delusional twenty-something son, and how nobody paid the slightest attention to him or his wife until his wife was killed, and he was seriously injured. And, they didn’t do a damn thing about his son until he came out of his medically-induced coma to identify him, which allowed the kid to do serious damage to the family finances. The whole thing was so bizarre I can’t believe it wasn’t front-page news nation-wide for weeks, but I’d never heard of the case until that show, and haven’t heard of it since.

          • But “everybody knows” that mainstreaming the mentally ill is better for everybody, and never has any adverse consequences. Those nasty old asylums where we used to store the dangerously insane are closed for good! /snark

    • Yeah. Had one out here that when he finally killed a person, it took the jury half an hour to decide he needed to meet Old Sparky, and the only reason they needed that long was because one gal stopped by the ladies room and two guys got drinks at the fountain in the hall on they way back from the jury room.

    • It’s always struck me as bizarre how hard it is for people to grasp that the most dangerous things out there are the truly skilled sociopaths who are capable of presenting as though they were totally normal. “Oh, he was such a nice boy…”. Yeah. Right.

      Let me introduce you to one of these people whom I was reminded of, earlier today. He worked for or around me for years, and I always had a very high opinion of him. Always on time, always got the job done, and he seemed completely beyond reproach. Utterly, consummately professional. Never saw a thing wrong with him, and believe me, I later spent a bunch of time soul-searching about what I’d missed, and how I could have missed it.

      Now, you ask, how did this wonderful example of humanity ever manage to get himself into trouble? Well, it’s like this: One day, he was parked outside a grade school, furiously masturbating during work hours, and one of the parents happened to walk over to the car, witness what he was doing, and then that nice Ranger Battalion senior NCO broke out the drivers window with his fist, dragged my former subordinate out through the window and proceeded to do enough damage to his person that his facial features were permanently maimed.

      He went from pretty-boy to “Wow… Bad car wreck, huh?” in the space of about ten minutes, which is how long it took for the MPs to show up and stop the quite literal curb-stomping. Up until that point, I had never heard of an actual case where use of that term was other than hyperbole. Placing someones face on a curb, and then stomping on the back of their head does not do good things for their complexion or underlying facial structure, oddly enough. Made for interesting pictures, though.

      Here’s a tip for those reading this who might be considering a life of kiddy-watching perversion: Indulging in your pastime on a military base, in uniform and on duty, while parked in the same spot you’ve been parking while doing this for several consecutive weeks is just not that smart. Highly contra-indicated for survival, as a matter of fact. Especially when you’re doing it about 75 yards away from quarters clearly marked “SFC Smith, 2/75 Ranger Battalion”. Who has a little girl in the school you’re watching and perving over. And, whom I’m pretty sure was one of their unarmed combat instructors.

      Investigation ensued, of course, and they found notes and sketches of bound kids in his car, child porn, and a whole host of other things in his quarters–Which weren’t that far away from where he was parked, either. Apparently, he had a better view from the street. They came out and interviewed guys in his unit, and the bugs came out of the woodwork. While his superiors never had a flippin’ clue about him, he’d apparently been prone to taking his subordinates out with him on his little child-watching trips and making comments to them about the kids they saw. None of the people who knew about this aspect of him ever reported it until after the fact–They were that afraid of him.

      Apparently, this was going on while he worked directly for me, too. I never saw a damned thing that made me suspicious, either. I was long gone from the installation by the time it all came to a conclusion, and when I heard about this, I called the guy who told me a damned liar. That’s how sure I was. It was not at all easy to apologize to him, either, after he produced the evidence for me.

      Upshot? Court martial, dishonorable discharge, and a short term in the stockade. They never could prove anything else on him, and his wife (two daughters from an earlier relationship) destroyed evidence, fled post, refused to testify, plus took him back in when it was all over. I still shudder, wondering what was going on with and may have happened to those kids.

      I’d known her, as well, in a peripheral way. Never would have guessed she’d do something like that, either. Always seemed very solicitous of her kid’s welfare, and a model mom.

      You cannot tell. The truly successful and skilled sociopath will present as though they were totally normal. You will want to be friends with them, because that’s what they do–They observe and manage themselves so that you will, in order to lull you into a sense of complacency and trust. Particularly if you are one of their targets. They are personable. They are friendly. You will almost never identify who these people are, until it’s too late, and then you’re standing there in front of the news crew going “He/she seemed so nice…”.

      • I’ve worked with a sociopath or two … never to that degree.
        (scribbling notes for my next book… which features a manipulative sociopath)

        • Celia, I wouldn’t call that POS really “manipulative”, other than he was capable of hiding who he really was. He wasn’t someone who could “sell” either himself or an idea–He just had this knack of seeming to be so damn squeaky-clean. I swear to God, if you’d come to me when he was working for me, and told me that there was someone like him doing the things he did in my unit, I’d have never suspected him. Ever. I mean, you’d have had an easier time convincing me that I had multiple personalities, and that one of them did it. That’s how sure I was of this guy.

          I’d define manipulative as someone who could get others to do his wrongful bidding willingly. That’s what some people can do, but that wasn’t his skill. His was more the ability to appear above suspicion, especially in this regard.

          And, it’s not that uncommon a skill, when you start digging into the nastier aspects of human behavior. I’ve lost track of the number of times where I’ve read about single mothers who trusted someone to watch their kids that shouldn’t have been entrusted with the care of a wasp, and they all say the same thing: “I trusted them…”.

          There are deviant bastards out there that look like deviant bastards. The trouble is, they’re usually the ones we catch right away, and who make themselves so damned obvious. The ones that have the masking skill? Those are the ones you miss, the ones you never suspect.

          Sad thing is, after enough experience with them, you realize you can’t separate the sheep from the goats, and start suspecting everyone. I think this is what does in a lot of cops, to be honest, especially the ones who see this stuff time and time again. In order to really function as a normal human being, you have to maintain at least some illusions and delusions about your fellow man. Lose that, and your life gets a lot darker.

          I think I’d rather have my illusions back, to be honest.

          • Well … so would I. The one thing that ever kept me from seriously dating when I was a single mom while my kidlet was grade-school and jr-high age — aside from the fact that I just didn’t have the energy — was that I knew about scumbags who pitched woo to single mothers just so that they could get access to the kids.
            I didn’t want that to happen. So [ fifteen year celibacy kick, knowing that my fine judgment about men pretty much sucked. Better to be safe than sorry, especially when it came to my daughter.

            • Yeah, I feel your pain. I wish I had the wisdom to know who to trust as soon as I meet them, but the unfortunate fact is, I don’t. I know for a fact that I can’t separate the sheep from the goats in this regard, and it pains me to be so untrusting of others, but what the hell are you supposed to do?

              Friend of mine was once asked by someone in his extended family “Why do you always have a gun? Are you that afraid of other people, all the time?”.

              My friend took the time to explain to the naif precisely why he always went armed and trained religiously in martial arts. He got done, she went and vomited.

              Sad thing is, my friend tells me he gave her the severely edited version, leaving out the majority of the crap he’d experienced within their own family, growing up. She, apparently, had had the good fortune to experience the PG-rated version of their family. He got the one they left on the cutting room floor as being too violent. He made the comment to me that he didn’t think she had a clue what was going on at her country cousin’s homes when they were growing up.

              • I picked up my standard response to, “why do you always carry a gun?” From a friend of mine, he always replied, “because you never know when you will meet someone who needs killin’ and I would hate to not have a gun when the opportunity arises.”

                Yeah it is a smart alec retort; but if you parse it out, it is completely true.

                • For the guy I reference above, a lot of those people were related to him in some fashion or another. If you ever watched “Justified”, that whole series could have been based on his real-life family, just severely edited for television. One of his uncles has supposedly turned down release from prison twice because of what’s been promised him when he gets out.

                  He and I used to just sit and BS, after duty hours when we had all-night duty. I think he was on his second divorce, and had no personal life at the time. I swear to God, I thought he was telling me a mass of tall tales, and then he left a hometown newspaper at the duty desk and I found his latest story of insane relatives right there on the back page and in the blotter reports. I asked him once, “Just why the hell did you join the Army, anyway…?”.

                  His response was pretty to the point: “It was either this, or I’d have to kill most of my family for one thing or t’other, and I figured it was better to do a sure twenty for a pension than a possible twenty-to-life and have to go home again when I got out…”.

                  Raylan Givens may be a fictional character, but I think he’s probably the archetype for some real-life individuals. If I ever read about my friend going home and running for office or a law enforcement job, I may have to go down there just to watch the fireworks. From a safe distance. Perhaps, the Canadian border?

            • You are a good Mom, Celia. Not that you need me to tell you that. I had two childhood friends whose step-dad or mom’s live-in boyfriend fell in that category. Both moms stayed with the scum and claimed their daughters must be lying. One dad took his daughter in, the other couldn’t be bothered–the younger girls went to an older sister and my friend and the next youngest sister couch-surfed at their friends through high school.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I think I share your view about the need for illusions and delusions.

            I think I was in my teens when I was struck by the idea that part of what defined normal, as opposed to autism spectrum, was forming unwarranted conclusions about the mental processes of others. These assumptions, despite sometimes being horrifically wrong, are useful for people being able to trust each other enough to get along.

            • In the darker moments, you often find yourself having interactions with other people that leave you wondering if trust isn’t a diagnosable delusion, one that deserves documentation in the DMSV as an acute situational disorder.

              Of course, then there are the compensatory moments when you have the delight of discovering that there are decent people out there you can trust.

              Which is usually followed by experiencing an exemplar of the first situation, yet again, courtesy of the Universe reminding you that you can’t bloody well tell the difference between the two, can you, dumbass?

          • I would have to observe, honestly*. There’s a story going around recently about a family whose dog started reacting badly towards the babysitter, so they left a recording device and now the gal’s been put in jail. The interview with the dad mentioned that if they hadn’t caught her, he’s sure that sooner or later she’d have a dead child on her record, possibly his.

            *Kids are both easier and harder to fool than adult. Easier, because they don’t have experience. Harder also because of that lack of experience—they don’t have the preconception of “he should be nice…” If you can observe how an adult interacts with children, you can get a feel for who is genuine. For example, I have a friend I would totally trust, because his love of kids manifests as “Look at all the cool stuff I can show you!” (he’s a living-history instructor) rather than personal interest.

            • “The gift of fear” type things?

              Problem being, it’s hard to tell fears or wishes from what is really there– I’ve seen too many parents who “protect” their children by making ridiculous assumptions about everybody else.

              The “I have some vague reason to be suspicious– I’ll check” response is great, when you can manage it.

              • Mmm… more that you probably shouldn’t be hiring a caregiver without an observation period regardless. After all, they could be a perfectly good person whose style just conflicts with your own.

  11. Josh Kruschke

    This is why I was such and am such an ass on this subject. There is no since any kids should go through that.

  12. When I was 7, I almost flunked second grade because I saw no point in writing the book report. My reasoning was … the teacher knows the book, she also has read the book so why should I write it. Plus I already gave her a list of the books I read. I was pretty stubborn too. I saw no value in a book report. Now if she had asked me to write a story in that world … or something creative–

    Anyway, my mother didn’t know what was going on until she received a letter from the teacher in the last two weeks before the end of school. She made an arrangement with the teacher because she saw me reading every day. Also asked why I didn’t do the reports– reason above. Then she told me that there are times you don’t get to choose what you do… I still think that is a horrible lesson…

    Anyway I spent the rest of the summer, not allowed to read books to punish me. I had to write ten book reports of the books I had already read. I did them in two weeks after the end of school… I still see no point in book reports– reviews yes… The point is I did an entire year of school work in two weeks.

  13. The only classes I can remember making fits about following procedure are the ones where that really was the purpose– like the English teacher we had who’d quit teaching college because he hated politics, so he was teaching us college level writing. And it worked.

    Or the good math teacher who was perfectly open about the fact that you had to do it the way she was showing you, even if you could do it in your head or another way, because it was building up to something harder. (She’s still a family friend, and is one of the main math teachers for the online math help setup that Washington state has.)

    Some of that stuff they probably tried to have us do, but… um… you know how Wayne talks about being oblivious? Apparently I had that to stuff that was so silly they couldn’t possibly mean what they seemed to be saying, so I did it the rational way. And my parents taught me enough basic reasoning that I could argue it effectively, especially when I was honestly gobsmacked that there was an issue. It’s like throwing a fit, but calmly.

    There were a couple of teachers that tried to actively sabotage folks. *Sweet smile* After three years of my family, they usually had learned better…..

    • Incidentally, the probable reason that we didn’t have any pissing contests about note format is because grading notes would take time. And the teachers all had to do their own grading.

    • Marsh had to be dinged — by school and me — into “show your work” in math, and was okay once I explained what you just said.
      We’re not rebels with no cause. but those things listed in sixth grade math FOR GRADE were not of that order, but pointless cr&p.

      • More importantly, I’m pretty sure that “bring in light bulbs for a grade” is illegal.

        And most likely only went on until someone reported it.

          • FlyingMike

            Would three burned out bulbs have been okay?

            • Only up until the teacher demanded to know, “What am I supposed to do with a burned out light bulb?”

              • FlyingMike

                Answer: “How should I know. You assigned me to bring you three light bulbs. I don’t question my assignments. Besides, are you sure those weren’t working when I brought them in? How did you store them? Are you sure those three are mine?”

                Why yes, I was on occasion called a smart aleck when I was young. How did you guess?

        • RealityObserver

          I had that with two of the children, but I normally tried to comply with the requests (and they were requests). OTOH, it was a Catholic school – and, being on the Advisory Board for six of those years (term limits), I knew just how little money they actually had (and that virtually none of it was ever spent on non-educational garbage). It took us four years of determined fundraising to get A/C into the classrooms – in Tucson, Arizona.

        • Nonsense! It is part of ‘Graft and Corruption 101’. They start out small, and the kids that bring in the big articles are fast tracked to the congressional grooming program.

        • Part of my high school economics course was bringing in $20 to put into a class pool in the stock market. We picked the stocks to invest in the first week of class, then tracked them through the whole first marking period. During the second marking, period, we moved on to other projects. And stopped talking about the stocks the teacher had purchased on behalf of the class. And never got the money back. I didn’t even notice until months afterwards, and then just laughed at what a slick scam that teacher was running.

          I grew up with some mafia kids (our town was neutral territory), so this sort of thing didn’t seem so wrong to me back then. It was to be admired for the style and chutzpah.

      • There have been several cases in our area where schools were insisting on pooling resources– including backbacks– and issuing them out to the classes.

        Several parents have avoided the system by going in and threatening to report the teachers for theft by force.

      • A thought– the note thing might have two sources:
        one, it’s faster to just glance and see “did they use the right colors at the right places? Probably got the notes right, too, then.”
        Two, it might be like the “whole word” reading thing, where the original idea was to teach people to follow a procedure unless there’s a good reason not to. (The problem being that the folks designing the system didn’t catch the part where the lesson requires that it actually be useful, eventually; anything else is disrespectful, and respect MUST be two-way if it’s to be fostered.)

        • snelson134

          Or it might be a fetish comparable to a witch doctor shaking his rattles.

          • You insult witch doctors everywhere 🙂
            At least the fetish of the witch doctor has some basis, if nothing more than the placebo effect. I don’t believe pedagogical studies have any basis in reality whatsoever.

            • Could be because the concepts of modern pedagogy in America were formed by marxists, with the express idea of dumbing down the population, teaching them to blindly obey authority, and parrot back the ideology. Major centers are the University of Chicago and Columbia University. They came up with the idea that teachers need to be accredited by attending ‘teacher’s programs’, not by any actual knowledge of the subjects they teach. The Masters in Elementary Education programs (oddly enough, designed in Chicago and Columbia) focus almost exclusively on social justice issues, and have next to no course work on how to actually teach children so that they learn anything.

              Yes, I do realize I’m an anti-communist. That doesn’t mean that they’re not there. McCarthy was right!

              • Sigh. This. I came over with extensive training in teaching ESL. Could I take the test and start work? Nope. Why not? “the degree is not from an accepted college.” BUT if I could pass the test? “No college number for the test no scoring.” Yeah.

          • The witchdoctor shakes his rattles for a reason.

            The reason may be foolish, or it may be Headology, but dismissing it as worthless because there’s no immediate, obvious reason for it is not reasonable.

        • Jeff Gauch

          If you just teach people how to follow the procedure without teaching them why and how the procedure works, they’ll be worse than useless when they wind up outside the box the procedure was designed for. That’s why the nuclear Navy – which has “procedural compliance” as a foundational principle – spends almost a year teaching students how power plants work before they even seen their first procedure.

          • This is why I despise new mechanics, if they can’t plug the car into a diagnostic and have the computer tell them what is wrong, not only can’t they fix it, they don’t have a clue where to even start looking for the problem.

            • Those aren’t mechanics, those are technicians… or as the standards board calls them, ‘automotive maintenance engineers’.

              • I’ve rebuilt the “Non-servicable” Purge Valve on my Nissan twice. $139+ for a new one and all it is causing the fault is a bit of carbon holding the valve open so it spits out a code. The second time I put a pair of filters in the lines so the bits can’t float into the seat area any longer. End of issue.
                I also once had to rebuild my own water pump. No one had a 73 Colt GT 2.0 pump, so I used a bearing and seal set pressed from a ’75 and up 2.0/2.6 and very carefully pressed it into mine.
                These days though cars have issues one cannot just look at and guess the issue, and some even require a laptop or similar to fix (especially “fuzzy logic” and the like), but yeah, most techs these days cannot work well on the older stuff, but there have always been “Parts Changers” who claim mechanical ability, so they been around forever.

            • Joe in PNG

              The computer is a nice starting point, and can let one know that, say, the MAF sensor needs a shot of cleaner.

          • Someone that has to be persuaded that every single procedure makes sense before they’ll do something is useless all of the time, because they never do the job enough to learn it.

            And that’s before human nature– in this case, being lazy– kicks in. It’s amazingly easy for folks to decide that something which requires effort on their part is “silly.”

            • Jeff Gauch

              If they need to be persuaded for every single procedure, they don’t know enough about the system to really be operating it.

              • You’re tellin’ me, brother!

                It goes beyond even systems, though– any task, they’d ignore instructions on how to do it in favor of how they wanted to do it, and then argue with you about each and every step.
                *Literally* unable to accept that there might be a reason that the instructions say to do X, then Y, then Z…and then getting mad at you because they’d done the equivalent of baking the cake’s ingredients before mixing them.

                A large part of that is probably teachers who did give instructions for No Good Reason, especially if they randomly let people get away with not following the instructions if they were a pain about it. (Failure of responsibility, that– authority has a duty to exercise authority responsibly.)

                • Jeff Gauch

                  I call those people “shortbus” because they actually provide negative help. You spend more time fixing their screw-ups, keeping them from screwing up, or explaining why they’re about to screw up than you would just doing it yourself.

                  • The depressing thing is that the ones from the Navy were great practice for having small children…as long as I can remember that the goal is to make someone who doesn’t pulls that 2#$# without a good reason.

                    • Jeff Gauch

                      An aircraft carrier is nothing more than a floating nuclear-powered high school with enough firepower to conquer small countries.

                    • Please stop destroying my illusions about the efficiency of my sister services. I need them to function without turning into a catatonic mess, which is what I do whenever I think about what the Air Force has turned SAC into…

                      I want to know why we haven’t turned Curtis LeMay’s grave into a power source, because I’m sure that he’s spinning fast enough to run a good-sized generator, after that last fiasco with a live nuke going to Barksdale by mistake.

                    • *laughs* Well, they’re the exception, and they don’t usually last very long– but everyone meets them because every place they’re put wants to GET RID of them!

                      That help any?

          • There’s a term we used where I was about this sort of training: “Voodoo Engineering”. If your instructee couldn’t explain why he was doing something a certain way, and how it worked? You failed as an instructor.

            You can get a lot done with the “Voodoo bullshit”, but once the reality doesn’t match the example in the textbook or that’s on the graphic training aid, you’re screwed. One of the better trainers I worked for laid this out for me, and also pointed out that there was always going to be a certain percentage that couldn’t quite get past this stage, as well. Identifying them and winnowing them from further instructional efforts was crucial to not wasting time and getting the remainder up to the level where they could surpass the mere cookbook procedural. He taught me another term, as well: Educational triage.

            • There is an adage to the effect that “It isn’t when you can explain a thing to the teacher that you know it; it is when you can teach it to somebody new to the thing that you can claim to know it.”

          • When you KNOW that your own life depends on you and everyone else in the crew knowing their jobs, that’s incentive to KNOW your job.

            • Jeff Gauch

              It’s also an incentive to keep a large wrench on hand to make sure that those around you also know their jobs.

              • RealityObserver

                BMFW, actually. I always wished that was a tradition in computer programming.

            • — when you KNOW that your own life depends on you and everyone else in the crew knowing their jobs —
              you just described the submarine service, or how to get your dolphins (qualified in subs). your are taught every system onboard ship, the theory, operations, and damage control. DAMAGE CONTROL you are not expected to operate another depts. equipment, you are expect to (and required to), assist when things go wrong. you will be tested on your knowledge. you will be taught the difference between THEORY / REALITY. (the difference between school(s) and the fleet. you will be tested on your will power (we will f$%k with you) because if you are going to break, it is much better then, instead of when the BIG GREEN MONSTER comes on board. (also the BIG RED MONSTER)
              —– it takes one person to create a problem, it takes 150 to fix it—–
              8 years subs, left as a tm2/ss and proudly recall my time as a professional hide and seek player (world class) WE HIDE WITH PRIDE

        • I honestly just turned in a lab final in a 400 level geology class where I underlined all of the key words of my “short essay explaining the geological history of the cross section” in red.

        • What happens when a child (usually male) turns out color blind? Seems to me that a good application for Americans with Disabilities Act would be to require all schools to use only white paper and only black pencil/ink.

      • Yeah, there is a huge difference between “Establish this method for later use” and…. that junk.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      In the “good old days”, I was told to show your work with math problems so that if the answer was wrong, the teacher could give “partial” credit. IE if you did everything “right” except for a minor error, you deserve more credit than somebody who did everything wrong. [Smile]

      • I used to drive teachers nuts by handing in a list of answers and then when they complained about me not showing my work, claiming, “I did show my work, it’s right there.” “No, all that is there is the answer.”
        “Yeah, well 117/9=13, what is there to show?”

        I didn’t learn how to do long division, or long form multiplication until after I was out of school and learned it in order to teach someone else. I was maybe a little dense, but in school I couldn’t figure out why you would want to do that stuff. I mean what was the point? I just looked at the problems and did them in my head, I couldn’t really grasp that others couldn’t do that.

        • My younger son, yes.

          • We have been arguing this with the boy. They’re awful stubborn about it.

            Though most of the time they aren’t making it to the point of 117/9=13, they’re just writing down 13. So when they get it wrong, we don’t know if they misread the problem or misdivided.

            Telling them that they may get partial credit in college for incorrect problems hasn’t had an effect. Telling them we need to see where they screw up when they do doesn’t have an effect. Making them redo until they do it does.

            What worked for yours?

            • Don’t worry. From what I have read, the new ‘common core’ math involves drawing circles and boxes, along with math techniques right out of Byzantium. (Actually, the math is like using an abacus)

              • Saxon all the way over here.

                We’re not doing the Common Core thing. Even if the curriculum were perfectly innocuous (and I haven’t looked into it so can’t say) I would still object to the databases of students.

              • Ours is “graduating” from my homeschooling pre-school next month, but the math my niece brought for homework on their family trip spooked me off of any supposed math programs.

                Instead I’m drilling her on multiplication tables to 12 (…sounds more impressive than it is, she’s into the 3s now, with “be able to repeat back “N times one is N and give the answer for all of N” required to advance, after a year of that being what we do when we’re waiting around and she looks bored) and use mostly hash marks for adding and subtracting, with jellybeans on occasion to increase interest and fingers if we’re not near paper. Re-write it with whatever you’re using, then add them up. For subtracting, take the minus number and count up to the thing it’s being subtracted from, marking one hash for each count, and that’s the answer.

                This afternoon she demonstrated that she can add in her head… by visualizing the hash marks involved.

                I can’t even understand the formats I’ve seen for various math programs, other than the one urging estimation…without teaching you how to know what “looks right” in the first place. (It struck me as whole word reading for math.)

                • Estimation is a TERRIBLE thing to teach to young kids. It should only be learned after they learn the basics to actually get the correct answer. THEN they can learn that perfect accuracy isn’t always necessary, and sometimes good enough is… good enough. Once you know how to do it, then “looks right” usually comes fairly naturally for those people who learn to estimate on their own, and those who don’t figure it out on their own with minimal guidance, can probably never be trusted to estimate properly regardless of the quality of teaching.

                  • Once you know how to do it, then “looks right” usually comes fairly naturally for those people who learn to estimate on their own, and those who don’t figure it out on their own with minimal guidance, can probably never be trusted to estimate properly regardless of the quality of teaching.


                    Figuring out where you can be trusted to do estimates is important, too– I never estimate speed without some known point of reference, because I’m horrible at it. For driving, I pay attention to changes in relative locations, not “how fast is that going.” Eventually got pretty good at estimating speed of a car on the road next to me when we lived across from a speed sign that would flash the car’s speed if they were going over the limit.

                    On the other hand, prices I can estimate without even thinking about it.

                    • We start with cheerios for addition and subtraction. Some people use dry beans, I understand, but cheerios have the reward built in, and if they fall on the floor the dog eats them and the toddler doesn’t insert them in her nose.
                      Then we memorize multiplication tables. We do this in the car. I’m particularly mean about it–I make them add up to figure out the next number until they get it memorized. It drives home the point that two times three is two added to itself three times. We work all the way up to twenty.
                      Then we start Saxon with 5/4. Third son is doing this at age second grade. He does half a set each day. (This requires dividing by two. He has to figure out how many problems that is: there are 26 or 27 number problems and some number of letter problems. He usually ends up doing somewhere between fifteen and twenty daily.) Second son is doing 7/6, fifth grade by age. First son is reviewing Algebra 1/2–he’s done it before but we tried a different algebra program and it didn’t work, and when he started Algebra 1 he found he couldn’t remember everything and asked to go back. He’s sixth grade by age.
                      This kind of sounds like bragging, please don’t take it that way. This is just what’s working for us. Saxon entails more moaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, but every time we’ve tried a different math program it hasn’t gone well–the kids whip through it and retain nothing. (This happened with both Eldest and Third.)
                      Saxon is what’s called a spiral program: it introduces an idea and the concept shows up in the drill for a while before it introduces the next stage. So you learn to, say, solve X plus number equals number, and you do that for a couple weeks while you learn other concepts, maybe areas of triangles, spelling numbers to a trillion, etc, then you revisit unknowns and learn how to solve number times X plus number equals number.
                      I used Saxon when I was a kid. I hated it. But I tested into Calculus in college based on my SAT scores. Calculus is taught by a human still everywhere I’ve looked, not by video. That’s my goal for my kids: not to have to struggle with online math courses where you can’t ask questions immediately you have them. I think we’re on track for that.

                    • I figure if someone bothers to mention something, they’re either gobsmacked that it just happened (Sarah’s “and that’s when we figured out he was reading”) or it’s sharing hope after a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into getting any kind of result at all.

                      My tactics have largely come from reading about what other folks did, and trying different things until it “clicks”– like realizing that Princess was visualizing the hashmarks.

                    • It’s definitely got a bemusement factor built in. My first-grader does multi-digit multiplication in his head, as well as knowing an awful lot of geography, but he’s ASD, which has a certain amount of obsession built in. As far as math goes, we’ve been explaining how to do it (“23 times 13—start with 20 times 13, add in 3 times thirteen…”) but mostly we’ve been standing back.

                      Of course, any time it seems like we’re bragging, we add, “And he can’t tie his shoes…”

                    • In this crowd, you’re likely to get “Neither could Einstein.”

                    • Teach him about exponents — that way when he turns eight he can enjoy being “two to the third” years old.

                      Yes, when I was twenty-seven I did spend a lot of time going around announcing “I’m Three!” … and I am very much looking forward to reaching sixty-four in another few years.

                      You might also dig up Freddy Pohl’s essay on how to count on your fingers (published in his collection Digits and Dastards.) Think of his joy in being able to shout, “Yeah? Well, FOUR you, buddy!” or sneering “That guys a real nineteen, ya know what I mean?”

                    • ROBERT! He learned to tie his shoes at 15. Marshall might still not be able to. At least I haven’t seen any evidence of it. Both were way ahead of their cohort in everything else.

              • RealityObserver

                Wrong. I understand abaci. Common Core is not up to that level.

                • Abaci for Dummies? What I have seen it seems to involve using partial sums to achieve the next order of magnitude then dealing with the residuals from the power of 10 afterwards. It might be a good technique to properly make change (which seems to be a skill no longer taught) but I especially do not see how it easily converts to other bases say 8 or 16.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Other bases? Why should calculations in other bases be taught pre-college? Calculations in base 10 is what’s used in the vast majority of Real World calculations.

                    • In order to make funny jokes about things that require you to be a certain age when you’re much too young to do them. “But Mom, I’m 1000, why can’t I have a driver’s license?”
                      I think other bases are the treat for doing the boring stuff like figuring sales tax.

                    • I’m gonna nit-pick: The overwhelming majority of calculations are done by computer, in base 2. Yes, unfortunately: even financial calculations, though people ought to know better.

                      (The problem is that 0.1₁₀ = 0.000110011…₂—a repeating number which cannot be represented exactly, and therefore opens the door to rounding errors. These can be worked around with a bit of care, but the programs I’ve seen did not take such care.)

                      (The 2008 revision of the IEEE 754 floating-point math standard goes to a lot of effort to define a set of usable base-10 formats, but I haven’t yet seen them in use. The project for bringing 754-2008 to the C language might bear fruit, but it’s very much still a work in progress.)

            • yelling. By me.
              <is scary.

            • Well I actually never usually wrote down the problems either, I mean the teacher had the book with the problems already in them, why should I write them down?
              I just wrote that in the comment for clarification purposes.

              And I hate to break it to you, but nothing worked for me. I did learn how to do long form math later in life, specifically to teach someone else how to do it, but I hesitate to recommend that for kids, particularly if the ‘student’ would happen to be a younger sibling. I know as a kid what I would have taken away from that was not a need to learn long form, but rather the sure knowledge that my younger sibling was too stupid to do math.

  14. Also – sorry… there is more… I really enjoyed going to school in the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year I was over school. I would hear all the wonderful things that we were going to learn and then we would learn little descriptions of things and have to regurgitate them back.

    The next year (same school) when I went back they put me in the lowest class of the grade because of —hating to write book reports.
    I was bored. I read the entire reading list (it was pretty basic) in all the subjects, took all the really basic tests, and then brought a book from home to read because they wouldn’t give me more reading and more tests. Oh and wouldn’t let me go to the school library. I was three months ahead of the class by the first week. The next week they put me in a higher class. 😉 Yes, I was a pill.

    It was during the self-study and self-testing phase in 67 or 68. Also, if you went to the school library you were confined to your grade level. Now that was boring for me.

    • I meant to say that my interest in science was higher than my comprehension level and the teachers didn’t seem to be able to comprehend it either. I resigned my 8 year old self to go to college to get the indepth learning that I wanted.

      • You poor dear. Anticipating that college would be different only to find that 70-80% of the content was just as banal as high school only at a much higher cost.
        OTOH, at least in college you can ferret out the resources to educate yourself on your own hook if you have the skill and inclination.

        • Oh yeah, this. I dropped out of college at the end of my junior year when I noticed that I was tutoring the master’s degree students, and helping them with their thesis projects.
          I like to think that I’m highly educated, just not highly accredited. High school and college did achieve the objective of teaching me how to learn on my own, so that’s something I should be grateful for.

        • Fun solution I learned from my mom, the packrat:
          “Oh, you’re interested in that subject? Here’s an old text book about it.”

          I spent a lot of time looking at pictures and puzzling out interesting bits.

        • Yes… exactly… I now understand why Einstin and others dropped out of school…The problem is my math skills weren’t very good. I could fake it… but… it took a LOT of effort.

    • It was like I was seeing the wrapping paper and when I opened the gift, it only contained a rock. And not even a geological description near it. *sigh

        • College when I finally went in 2003 only had one class that I could enjoy– Senior level biology– and I wasn’t in the career choice. Aced the class and blew away the majors. But seriously I don’t think I have the stomach fortitude to cut open anything.

      • I remember being apalled in PT school at the narrowness of the teacher’s expertise. One lecture particularly regarding how muscles produce tension I recall, the lecturers didn’t even know where to look stuff up to find out who had done the research they were explaining as accepted fact. “This bit does this, and then this part here flips, and that’s what makes it pull.”

        My immediate question was “what makes it flip?”

        “What do you mean?”

        “What force makes it flip? Is it spring loaded, is it electrostatic, does it move by the will of the Gods? What causes it to move?”

        Well, they didn’t know. And they didn’t know how to find out, and shut up. This in a Masters program at an esteemed medical school that I paid a shitlocker full of my money to be at.

        Never did find out what makes the flipper flip. Now I don’t care, which seems to be the end result of most schooling.

        Home Schooling! Any parent with a BA has enough book larnin’ to teach a kid all the way through high school better than the public systems will. The average kid seems to go twice as fast at home as they do in school. Smart kids or gifted ones go warp speed.

    • RealityObserver

      Book reports are nearly the worst invention in the teaching of English. (The worst if you remove the teaching of what are actually foreign languages, like Ebonics, as proper English.)

      I was the opposite – I hated returning to school in the fall. I knew quite well that nothing new was going to show up until some time after Christmas, by which time I was completely tuned out. And I’d finished all the books at least three months before that, anyway.

      • Back in the day, I recall that our high school Lit classes (English, French, Latin and Afrikaans*) required NO book reports. Reading comprehension was tested by a very long, comprehensive (sic) examination delivered a couple days BEFORE the class began discussion of the book.

        *Yes, it was a parochial private boarding school for boys, modeled on the British public school system, Our brother school was Eton College.

        So imagine my surprise when I took an English Lit class at U.North Texas, and discovered that on average, about 90% of the students hadn’t read the work prior to the classroom discussion (ditto a couple of the History students, although they, at least, seemed to be more diligent in the “4-level” classes). I also earned the highest-ever pair of raised eyebrows from a professor when I apologized for an error in our discussion of “Death In Venice” by saying that I last read the thing in 1996, and my memory wasn’t what it used to be.

        Anyway, to return to the principal topic: we homeschooled our three offspring precisely because The Mrs. (an instructional designer by profession) looked at the way (and what) the kids were being taught, and pulled them out of public school a week later. They were aged 13, 12 and 11 at the time, and we took over their education.

        True story: when the kids went to college, their principal complaint in the freshman year was boredom because by simply doing what the professors told them to do**, they all got As and Bs — and couldn’t comprehend how other kids would fail to follow instructions, then complain about failing the classes.

        **I’ve probably written this before on these pages, but indulge me. When we sent the kids off to college, we gave them these simple rules:

        College is going to be your job for the next four years, Treat it like a job.

        1.) Go to the lectures. Do not cut class, not one. Show up for work every day.
        2.) Take notes and re-read them after every class to make sure you got it right. Ask the prof for clarification if you didn’t.
        3.) Do absolutely everything the prof tells you to do: submit your papers on time, do the homework and pre-reading as told.
        4.) Engage in class discussions. Have a couple of difficult questions pre-prepared for every class, so the prof will see you’re doing the work. A conscientious student is what all professors seek, and when they find one, they nurture them.
        5.) For every hour of class, you need to do an additional five hours of work: reading, library, prep for the next class, etc. (I gave the example that for my History classes, I would rewrite all my notes for the lecture immediately afterwards, so I could clarify and/or expand on the notes while the memory of the content was still fresh. A semester’s worth of lectures on a content-rich course should yield about 100 pages of typed, single-spaced notes.)
        .6.) Mid-term and final exams will require at least twenty (20) hours of study time per course. Schedule your time accordingly.
        7.) Other than “core” (required) classes, take only classes you’re interested in, or which may help your career (and therefore you should be interested in).

        Do all this, and you’ll not only pass easily, but As and high Bs will follow, as surely as night follows day.

        • Yow. At a standard 15 hours in class that would make for a 90-hour work week. I suppose one could hardly avoid learning everything soundly at that rate, and very dedicated people do put in that kind of time at their jobs, but still…..

          I was stressed enough by my high school teachers insisting we should be spending two hours on homework/study for every hour in class because that was what college was going to be like, until I realized that thirty hours in class per week would actually be somewhat unusual in college.

          • It’s what my older son did — with 23 hours and a part time job (volunteer, but it’s a long story.) — so it can be done.

            • Your son spent 23 hours in class and… was it 46 hours studying or Kim’s recommended 115, on top of a volunteer part-time job? Either way I’m impressed (although in the latter case I think he must have used part of that intensive effort to build a time machine).

              I did not. Defective work ethic, I guess.

              • No. My son is insane. I haven’t counted the hours, but he was either working or studying or in class. We took two or three days off a year and went to the zoo.

        • snelson134

          Kim, my only quibble would be with number 1…. because I learned quickly that an infallible relationship existed between strict attendance policy and inability to teach. I can read the d*mn textbook just fine, thanks, better than the biological text to speech module sitting in front of the class.

          • Jeff Gauch

            Trust me, you need to go to class. You don’t need to pay attention to the lecture, but you need to be there for things like “The exam will be next week in room 313.” Starting skipping the lectures is what led to my college GPA going from a 3.4 my first semester to a 0.5 my last.

            • Oh, now, I had some good lecturers, and very few of them just worked straight from the textbook. I don’t actually remember the textbook for my linear algebra class well, but the teacher elucidated the material clearly and produced the most orderly blackboard notes I have ever seen in my life.

              Admittedly I have not done anything relating to the class in a long time, but I loved it dearly then and should still have the notes… um… somewhere.

              • Linear Algebra…(smile) One of my favorite math professors announced that he was teaching that over the summer as a night class. Besides being one of my favorites (and a superb instructor), he also wasn’t the mad-scientist looking instructor with dual phd’s from MIT in math and physics…that was not the best instructor. 2nd night of class Dr. A said, get rid of the book – I was told it was a good textbook, but this books sucks! And he proceeded to teach the rest of the semester off the cuff – including making up his own homework problems that he worked out before assigning them to us. 3 hours a night, two nights a week for 8ish weeks. And everyone of us looked forward to going to class, even if we’d hit a tough spot with the homework. We actually learned more than was taught during the regular semester.

                • I know somebody who, with her friends, got around a “not the best teacher” problem somewhat at the last minute by finally, in desperation, turning to a good math teacher.

                  The day before the exam.

                  One of the reasons they had not done this before was that you couldn’t reach the good teacher’s office without passing the bad one, and… I never had him, but I understand they had reason to worry about his reaction.

                  …And that is how they ended up climbing in a math professor’s office window to basically retake the whole doggone course in a night.

            • I skipped lectures ALL the time. I also used up my supply of luck. The number of times I came in first time in a month and we were having a test… I still have the nightmares.

              • Jeff Gauch

                You are far luckier than I.

              • Lots of people have those nightmares. (Even those who never skipped a class.)

                • I eventually had one or two dreams about realizing at exam time that there was a class I forgot I’d signed up for… oh, years after the last class I took. I can only assume that after I eventually read about them, my subconscious mind decided to take the idea for a spin.

                  Oddly, the exam itself turned out to be both easy and completely unrelated to what the class was supposed to be about. Logic was clearly waaaay out the window.

                  • I can only assume that after I eventually read about them, my subconscious mind decided to take the idea for a spin.


                    Never been enrolled in a physical attendance college class.

                    Have had the pop-culture standard nightmares anyways. AFTER I’d stopped taking classes.

                  • I don’t remember ever taking the exam in a dream, I usually spend the whole dream trying to find the class (they usually keep moving the buildings on me).

                    • I’d definitely had can’t-find-the-class dreams, but they usually seemed to be set at the beginning of classes, when I had some reason not to know where things were.

                      I didn’t technically dream through taking the exam this time either, but I read the first few questions.

          • There’s a difference between a school or teacher imposed strict attendance policy and one that is self-imposed. Sometimes you have to miss class. Sometimes missing class is strategic (or at least tactical) and a trade off is made. Sometimes you get sick.

            But sitting in a class even when there’s nothing important coming from the teacher isn’t a hardship, and the text can be read there as well as elsewhere, and you won’t miss extra info or notifications of upcoming quizzes or tests, and you’ll probably get a better notion of what sort of test the teacher is likely to write.

            • Synova, you missed the part where I said that college was a JOB. “Showing up for work” means going every day, regardless of what happens. (In a real job, not every day is thrilling — in fact, most are deadly dull — but you show up anyway.)
              Snelson, the problem with just reading the textbook is that the good professors use the textbook as background material only, and provide opinions and insights during the class (which was my experience, where I had good professors). These, and not the textbooks, are the stuff of exams and papers, and more importantly, they’re the source of 90%+ grades. (I know that STEM classes may be different, but I didn’t do any STEM classes other than Math/Physics/Geology For Dummies in the core requirement.)
              PK, as far as the hourly study is concerned, I spent each day as follows: three or four classroom hours, 4-8 hours in the library or labs; then I’d go home and read for a few hours more. In other words, I treated it exactly like a job: 12-16 hours per day on work-related activity. As exam time approached, I’d step it up until I was studying for about a hundred hours a week. When I worked at my various jobs, that’s typically how long I worked. Even when I quit to become a full-time writer, I’d work for about 12 hours per day, whether writing, editing, or researching. I admit that I’ve slipped a little as I’ve aged; now, I typically only write for about 6-7 hours a day.

              • Kim, It isn’t a JOB unless they pay for it. In the case of college the student is paying the bill and should insist on a return on his investment. Frankly, I was on a STEM program and didn’t like paying to waste my time because of academic requirements.

                • Kim du Toit

                  “It isn’t a JOB unless they pay for it.”

                  JCC, you’re confusing “job” with “employment.” If you’re going to college, your job is to get a degree (and in my case, to graduate summa cum laude, because that was the goal I set myself, purely out of pride). By calling it a job, we wanted to impress on the kids that work was going to be required. Because both The Mrs. and I used to work from home, they’d seen us working all day, pulling all-nighters to meet a deadline etc, and so we wanted to put an equivalence on the task. The goal was to have them NOT be like all the other slackers in their classes, and also not have them be overawed by attending college as homeschoolers (in the mistaken belief that somehow, their education was less than that of their publicly-educated classmates).

                  Of course, they soon discovered that they were MILES ahead of their peers, particularly in writing skills, and even further ahead in terms of study habits. (Son&Heir: “Dad, if I don’t get 100% for a test, the Math profs don’t make me retake the thing, like you used to make me do. This is EASY! I can get 95% standing on my head!” Daughter complained about writing papers: “Three pages? Only THREE? Nine hundred words? The last piece of writing I did for you was 6,000 words! What the hell is this?”

                  More to the point, however, was that from an early age, we’d always treated the kids as adults. When they went off to college, we never asked whether they’d done their assignments — they all knew that the responsibility for their academic success was theirs, and theirs only. (It’s not that we didn’t care — anything but — we were just more concerned that they could stand on their own two feet. And they could, and still do.) Advice and coaching was freely given when asked for, and school supplies provided — home office = supply bonanza — but that was it. And they thrived, and still do.

                  • I’d had “You’re paying for college yourself,” drilled into my head pretty thoroughly, with the addendum of “if you do really well in high school and apply for every scholarship you’re marginally eligible for, you’ll be able to.” Well, I did what I could, and had a patchwork of scholarships that covered tuition quite nicely. But not living expenses. So I got student loans for those.

                    And in my junior year, some of the paperwork got messed up. I spent the first two months straightening it out. I ran out of money (after dropping my full payment for my credit card textbook bill in the mailbox, I realized that I probably shouldn’t have done that just then), I ran out of food. My check came on Halloween and I had a wonderful night, having actually bought FOOD.

                    And when I went home for Christmas, my parents heard about this and asked why I hadn’t applied to them, and I had to admit that it had never occurred to me…

                    • One aspect of the cost of college that is generally overlooked is the opportunity cost. Even if you get out in four years (a rarity, especially as many colleges seem to have figured out how to arrange prerequisite and mandatory classes in such way that only a rare few can be managed within any given four-year period) you have the fact that for that four years you were not earning as much as you would have by not attending.

                      Even if all you had been doing was working at 7.50 an hour, 40 hours a week for 50 weeks, that is $60,000 you forsook for your college attendance.

                    • Pre-requisites are part of the reason I have a degree in broadcast studies, of all things. (The other part was ooh, they’ll let me play with all this cool equipment. Thank goodness for the professor on the video side, a highly intelligent man who was driven to extreme sarcasm by the idiocy of a high percentage of his students.) After a year and a half of engineering, I didn’t have many options for graduating in four years (necessary because of those scholarships.)

                      I prefer to refer to my degree as a BA, Honors (which is a particular set of classes, not a GPA designation.) Broadcast Studies sounds too much like a joke.

                    • Oh come on, you don’t tell people you have a BA in BS?

                    • snelson134

                      First you go to college and become a BA (Bullshit Artist).
                      Next, you get an MBA, and you’re a Master Bullshit Artist.
                      Now get a PHD, so you can Pile High and Deep.

                      You won’t reach the pinnacle until you become a DBA, and all lesser mortals will bow before the Divine Bullshit Artist that is you.

                      Can you tell I’ve been in IT too long?

              • Okay. You are admirably diligent and responsible.

              • Yes, college is a job… but there are legitimate reasons to miss work at a job, too. Stuff like… my kid has a doctor’s appointment, is sick, or I’m sick. There are also reasons that have to do with the job itself such as training or other reasons. Luckily at a *job* you’ve got one employer so you don’t have to decide between them. But if you had four part time jobs and four employers there would undoubtedly be occasions where an emergency at one job meant calling in or making an excuse at the other job. I happens.

                And when it does, what you really don’t want and can’t afford is to already have taken off for some minor thing already. So as *policy* and a rather absolute policy at that… yes, you go to class *every day* and you do not *skip* and you never think of attendance as optional.

                That doesn’t mean you’ll never miss.

                • Meh. I missed my lectures because I could. Not the real stuff like linguistics or actual languages, but history and literature. I knew more going in than most of my professors, the result of being raised by dad. it wasn’t that I was slacking. I’d just done the work early. 😉 (yes, I graduated close to top in my class — actually fourth. So, pfui. And the last two years, when I attended less, I got the best grades. Double pfui.)

                  • RealityObserver

                    I always took those “harsh attendance policy” classes as a chance to catch up on sleep. Served me well when I had a (brief) stint working for County government.

                  • I knew more going in than most of my professors

                    Put “Failing Our Students, Failing America” in your search engine.

                    Or look at this:
                    Students Know Less After 4 College Years
                    By ANNIE KARNI, Staff Reporter of the Sun | September 19, 2007

                    Students at many of the country’s most prestigious colleges and universities are graduating with less knowledge of American history, government, and economics than they had as incoming freshmen, with Harvard University seniors scoring a “D+” average on a 60-question multiple-choice exam about civic literacy.

                    According to a report released yesterday by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the average college senior at the 50 colleges and universities polled did not earn a passing grade.

                    “At the most expensive colleges, they actually graduate knowing less,” the executive director of the Jack Miller Center at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Michael Ratliff, said. “Colleges and universities are not directing students to the courses that would educate them. We want to know whether after getting $300 billion to do their work, universities are actually educating their students.”
                    – – –

                    There’s more, and worth reading, but you get the gist.

              • I was one of those unfortunate “smart” kids who did well less because of hard work and more because I grasped the concepts more easily. I say “unfortunate” because while I had a decent work ethic, it took some refining in college to get it to where it needed to be. I did discover that quick deadlines were a marvelous teaching tool—both for art (“the paper goes to press tomorrow; could you give us illustrations for this, this, and this by 8PM?”)(Or the wonderful “I need this business card scaled up to trade banner size [painted] by tomorrow and I’ll pay you [good money] to do it,”) and for writing (two two-page papers a week, and that was a philosophy course. Jesuits don’t mess around.)

                I’d have preferred to be better at studying going in to college, as that would have saved me a lot of stress. Oh well, I pulled it off, and I even learned things. Not always the subject under discussion, though… it’s like reading spaces.

              • snelson134

                You’re right, Kim, the good teachers do exactly that…. and none of the good ones I had ever enforced attendance; you knew you needed to be there.

                Then there’s the bad ones……. who literally read the textbook aloud. No notes, no examples, waahh-waahhh-wah (Charlie Brown teacher).

                I never had a problem showing up for work because I GOT PAID when I did and not when I didn’t. That cause-and-effect was always clear. Paying for something I could do myself faster and better just grated

          • The Other Sean

            I found the correlation between strict attendance policy and inability to teach holds if and only if it was imposed by the professor. If it was imposed by the department instead (which was common for English just about everyplace I attended) it has no bearing.

            • snelson134

              We had one imposed by the university. Bad teachers enforced it strictly (miss 3 classes and flunk). Good teachers didn’t bother (if you weren’t there, you were flunking anyway).

          • For liberal arts, yes.

        • Most college classes, I took notes but didn’t really need them. Everything was so, so easy to remember, and there wasn’t much content.

          Language classes, now, those are real classes.

        • When I used my GI bill, I used that list. You are more succinct though.

      • I really ought to go back and apologize to a lot of my teachers. I broke a few of them. One never asked me for a book report again, after I turned in a 30-page opus on what was a college-level work when I was in the sixth grade. It wasn’t a bad piece, either, but you should have seen his eyes glaze over when I handed it in. I got an A.

        And, he never, ever again asked for a book report from me. He’d just breeze by, look at what I was reading, and move on after saying something like “That’s nice…”.

        As a kid, I learned that earnest enthusiasm scares the shit out of adults. Use that.

      • Book reports are the formula for making people dislike reading. I disliked books after I had to do a report on them.

    • I hit the wall hard in 4th grade and was so glad for the summer to come around. My dad still tells the story of taking me to the grocery store the first day of spring break and seeing ads for back to school sales. I broke down sobbing in the middle of the grocery store at the thought of going back.

  15. Seventh grade was where I hit the wall too. So much of what I was expected to do was boring and tedious, and seemed to consist mostly of them rolling out arbitrary hoops for us to jump through. And my parents were of the generation that still believed that Authority is Right by definition, so they decided I needed to be straightened out through stern punishment to impress on me that obedience to authority and conformity to the group were a moral duty.

    I learned to appear compliant, but I also learned a lot of cynicism about authority. And maybe if it had actually taken, I might have done better with my first full-time job, since it was full of arbitrary mickey-mouse rules, many of which seemed to be designed to let the employer have things both ways, whichever benefited them best (frex, we were nominally salaried, but we were treated as if we were hourly whenever it enabled them to nickle and dime us on time). Needless to say, it ended badly, and left a black mark that’s made it harder to get jobs ever since.

    Which is why I really want to get our business income to the point where I don’t have to worry about someday having to go back to getting an employer’s permission to make a living.

  16. Pingback: Kids in school? |

  17. Is it strange that I hit the wall at 2nd grade?

    • No. I might have in the US.

    • I made it to the fourth grade before I ran into real trouble. Early in the year I realized we were doing the third grade all over again. I even recognized some of the same stuff in the textbooks.

      With minor variations, across seven different school systems in four different states, I continued to repeat the third grade until I dropped out of high school in my senior year.

      Across the many schools, I was exposed to a great deal of “quality” education. Mostly the “poor” type.

    • clint02554

      Nope. 2nd grade for me too.

      That was the horrific, illusion-shattering year when I realized I was smarter than my teacher.

  18. RealityObserver

    I apparently started a bit earlier than most of you. I do not recall it, but a family story was that I called my first grade teacher an old bat (after pitching a chalkboard eraser at her). Back in those days, that meant a trip out to the hallway and an acquaintance with a chunk of wood.

    My veterinarian father had her as a client (poodles – which he considered to be blobs of mobile poor quality wool with no brains and a bad attitude).

    Next time she went in, she related the incident to him. His response was to ask whether I hit her with the eraser or not. When informed that I missed, his comment was that he needed to get me out in the back yard more to work on my arm… (Apparently joking, so far as she could prove – but I had no trouble with the old bat after that.)

    To be fair, I must have learned SOMETHING in that grade. The one thing I do recall vividly from that year was an “aha” moment when I got the concept of diphthongs. Whether that was the fault of this teacher, though, is debatable – Grandma had been a normal school teacher. I was reading the Oz books at age three.

  19. I was enough older than your kids that they weren’t YET, grading on total submissiveness. Through grade school (and possibly junior high, I don’t remember) they regularly gave you your letter grade, based on your tests and regular schoolwork/homework. Then they gave you a separate ‘grade’ based on your attitude, unthinking compliance, etc. These ‘grades’ were done differently, different years, I think they were experimenting with different styles, some years they were a number grade, 1 thru 5, some years they were a simple +, -, or check mark for in the middle.

    I regularly got As and Bs with -s for attitude and compliance. Oh and I refused to do any schoolwork outside of school, my opinion was that they wasted entirely too much of my time while I was in school, I wasn’t wasting any more of it on them when I left school. So if I couldn’t do homework in class, I never did it, period. Of course I could right an entire essay in the four minute passing period between classes and turn it in at the beginning of class. I might get downgraded for writing it instead of typing, but then I would point out that I didn’t have a computer at home anyway, and they didn’t provide one in class.

    • Once I learned to type, it was all over for handwritten essays. Even at my slowest I could type faster than I could write (and I consider handwriting a useful skill.) Heck, right now I’m typing faster one-handed (baby-holding) than I could write.

      • If I went over fifty words a minute typing, I started making mistakes. I could handwrite two to three times that fast. I could write a three page essay by hand in less than five minutes, as for the simple five paragraph ones that were the norm, well it didn’t take long.

        Of course my penmanship was nothing to write home about.

  20. The school system i went to high school in used a six-point grading system , and everyone else in the state used ten points. A third of your grade in any class was based on the turning in of homework, which i hated and often forgot… and i could do the work and get consistent Bs on tests… but if you didn’t do enough homework, you failed, with a grade that was passing at any other school system in the state.

  21. “What’s a dangling participle?”

    I didn’t answer. He went on, “Why did Van Buren fail of re-election? How do you extract the cube root of eighty-seven?”

    Van Buren had been a president; that was all I remembered. But I could answer the other one. “If you want a cube root, you look in a table in the back of the book.”

    Dad sighed. “Kip, do you think that table was brought down from on high by an archangel?” He shook his head sadly. “It’s my fault, not yours. I should have looked into this years ago — but I had assumed, simply because you liked to read and were quick at figures and clever with your hands, that you were getting an education.”

    “You think I’m not?”

    “I know you are not. Son, Centerville High is a delightful place, well equipped, smoothly administered, beautifully kept. Not a ‘blackboard jungle,’ oh, no! — I think you kids love the place. You should. But this –” Dad slapped the curriculum chart angrily. “Twaddle! Beetle tracking! Occupational therapy for morons!”

    — Robert A. Heinlein, “Have Space Suit, Will Travel”

    • Our calc teacher just went through how to derive a whatever-root. I think all of our eyes glazed over though I’m certain it’s not *difficult* my Russian teacher (she’s actually the best college math teacher I have ever had) just tutted and said, “that is not something they teach here”, and went on.

      I should be studying now since our final is tomorrow morning at 7:30.

      • Newton’s Approximation? I was taught a deterministic form for calculating square roots, but I didn’t know there were exact techniques for anything bigger.

        • Not exact, just derivatives. Approximations.

        • In high school calc, our teacher showed us how to do Newton’s Approximation on our graphing calculators (yes, we did it on paper first) and then assigned us a whole page. The next day, half of us were complaining about the tedious length of the assignment while the other half looked baffled. It turns out that those of us that had the prior model of calculator had to input the whole thing every iteration, making it no faster than doing it on paper, while the ones with the current model just had to hit the Enter key again.

          So that night I learned how to program my calculator, and since the program required an infinite loop, how to break that loop without turning the calculator off.

          Without knowing the exact “proper” way to extract a cube root, I’d just start dividing out the lowest primes and clumping them in groups of three. You’d get an idea with that.

          • RealityObserver

            There is a mechanical method for extracting a cube root (as “exact” as you want to take it to, assuming it is non-terminating).

            Probably the best explanation is the NIST page:

            Of course, I didn’t learn this method until I hit numerical analysis for computer programming (and would still need the cheat sheet for it, as it is not the best method – for computers, that is).

            Hum. Looking up that page, I note that there are supposedly three other methods that don’t require successive approximation. Want to look at those when I have more time (need to get pork chops on the grill soon).

          • In my High School math, our teacher showed us how to use a slide rule. Calculators were a few years off.

            • My Machine Shop teacher showed us. Well after calculators, but he had us all do one problem with it to show we knew how. My dad did use one way back. I’ve likely forgotten how to use one.

              • RealityObserver

                I was right on the edge between sleek mechanical perfection and totally unaesthetic black boxes. So I probably do still remember how to use my 14″ steel Pickett rule for the main thing I used it for then – whacking would-be nerd harassers upside the head (yes, of course, it was *always* in the leather case when I did that – didn’t want to put a nick in the *slide rule*).

                • was that one of the ones that is about 1/4 inch thick or so? Those are lethal.

                  • RealityObserver

                    It’s too deep for me to dig out easily – but off the top of my head, I’d say half that.

                    Got curious the other night and looked to see if it was worth selling on eBay (not). While there, I saw one selling the 5 *foot* classroom instruction rule. Made me think of if Monty Python had done a skit on “Conrad the Mighty Nerd-Boy.” Yes, it was rather late in the old sleep cycle…

                    • a few years ago the gift the Amazon folks gave Bezos(I think it was him… rotten memory) was a 6 foot slide rule pretty much hand made

        • ” I was taught a deterministic form for calculating square roots, but I didn’t know there were exact techniques for anything bigger.”

          Wing and a prayer? Or, by guess and by golly? That is the way I learned (taught myself) since by the time we got to calculating roots, they just assumed you would have a scientific calculator handy.

  22. I have a long standing theory that starting with the boomer generation a great many kids were given the opportunity to attend college who would never have even considered it in earlier days. Many treated it as a continuation of high school, only with beer, drugs, and more sex. Upon reaching Junior status many found that mommy and daddy’s largess would not extend to grad school so they looked at their transcripts and tried to figure out how to actually make a living. That far along with a liberal arts background about the only option was to hit education courses hard and qualify for a teaching position. Pay wasn’t all that great, but you got to wear clean clothes, take summers off, and hold a position of some social status. So a bunch of people with no calling for education and no particular liking for children entered the teaching field. And those who absolutely loathed kids and needed to be kept as far away from them as possible I suspect got shoehorned into admin.
    Add that even immediately post WWII the liberal arts arena was a hotbed for socialists we can start to see how seriously bent the American educational system truly is.

    • I knew a couple of guys that became teachers to avoid Vietnam. One of them hated children.

    • snelson134

      Not to mention that education courses are about as dumbed down as it gets, and the field was a natural for affirmative action.

      In Montgomery in the 80s and 90s, AL tried to introduce a teacher testing program. The questions should have been answerable by any HS graduate. There were 5 colleges in the area with education programs. The 2 HBCs (Alabama State and Tuskeegee) couldn’t break 50% passing. The 3 non HBCs were all over 90%; AUM was over 95%.

      The head of the AEA, one Joe Reed, promptly went out and found an affirmative action Federal judge, Myron Thompson, to rule that the test was racially biased. After 2-3 attempts at rewrite, the state gave up…. and kids started bailing out of the public schools in droves. Of course that was further evidence of “raaaaacism.”

      I’m tired of talking to these people as though they’re possessed of a room temperature IQ.

      • But ‘The Bell Curve’ is racisss pseudo-science and dubleplusungood badbadbad hatey hate crimethink! And treating all people the same and holding them to the same standard is also racisss!

        Cue the revenge of the copybook headings in 3 2 1 …

        • FlyingMike

          It seems to me the entrance cue for the larger copybook headings revenge is going to wait until the powers that be finish reducing the physical standards for the Army Ranger School and the Marine Infantry Officer Course.

          • Oh, yeah, there is a class of women going through ‘ranger school’ right now. If they pass, they didn’t take the real course, and the value of the training will have been reduced or eliminated. If they take the real course, they’ll probably all fail, and some of them will most likely die. That is, of course, an unacceptable outcome. They already waived the day one physical fitness test.

            (For those of you on the outside, Army Ranger School is a two month long test of endurance, perseverance, and leadership. The physical requirements are intense, and recovery normally takes months. The average trainee loses around 30 pounds during the course. The death of an occasional trainee used to be considered ‘acceptable losses’, but that has changed over the years as the PC revolution affected the Army.)

        • There have been plenty of times when black schools were more academically rigorous than white schools, just like Catholic schools used to be more academically rigorous than the Protestant public schools. The difference is whether the members of the minority group are proud and determined to prove they’re as good or better than anybody else, or if they don’t really care anymore.

          On the whole, a lot of black kids start out smart. These days, they don’t get rewarded in school for being curious, observant, or verbally proficient, or for having good memories, or many of the other skills I see being fairly common in school-age black kids. I don’t know what the heck happens, but it’s not good; and not having two parents in the house doesn’t help.

          • RealityObserver

            In the ’60s, the mines local to where I grew up would snap up any graduate of a Negro College. The only problem they had was that very, very few of them ever wandered into a small mountain town in Arizona.

            But probably 30% of the mining engineers were Black – and probably around 20% of the mid-level managers. (Top level were, of course, pure white, very Liberal “Yankees.”)

          • snelson134

            I don’t know what the heck happens, but it’s not good; and not having two parents in the house doesn’t help.

            Banshee, what happens (my mother was a 4th grade teacher) is that they come into school, and a) get teachers who don’t want to teach, b) if the teacher does want to teach, a class that can’t be disciplined so those who want to learn can, and c) worst of all, if they still persist in learning, their peers start picking on them for “acting white”.

            By 6th grade, that finishes 90% plus of them.

          • Look at the skills and intelligence required to perform extemporaneous rhyming (aka, rap) to music and you know those kids are smart. It is just that most of them have recognized that there is scant payoff for them excelling academically. Those who do achieve in school are likely to get “admitted” affirmatively to a school geared about three speeds to high for them and they’ll burn out within three years.

            • (Nods) in any decent college, all the brains in the world won’t do you much good if you never learned low-level algebra, basic sentence and paragraph structure, or basic reading comprehension.

          • What happens? they punished. by their schoolmates. who want an excuse for failure. I recommend Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed by Jason L. Riley. The author reports being harassed by his nieces for his command of English, with accusations that he was trying to sound smart.

            • Jason Riley’s wife, Naomi Schaefer Riley, is a regular columnist at the NY Post. Here she tells a tale about an aftermath of the fall of Saigon forty years ago, a story which would have once been taught in our schools:

              Living the American dream: A pregnant mom’s escape from Vietnam
              If you met Phuonglien Nguyen like I did, in the spring of 1995 when I was looking for a roommate, you would have assumed she was like any other multi-tasking, hard-working Harvard undergraduate. But this government major with a steady boyfriend and a list of extracurricular activities longer than her arm was literally living the American dream.

              Forty years ago last week, her mother Tung Nguyen, fled Saigon with only a purse in her hand, shortly after the American forces pulled out. She had been selling soup on the side of the road to help support her mother and six siblings in the countryside. She remembers being told by a friend that Viet Cong soldiers were coming.

              Tung, who was 28, followed a crowd toward one of the thousands of fishing boats leaving the country. “I didn’t really think about the decision. I was running for my life,” she tells me. The boat was pulling away from the dock as she arrived. She had one leg in the boat and the other one dangling over the side when one of the other passengers pulled her in.

              The boat had no food or water, and Tung had to throw her purse overboard so there would be less weight. Nine days later, an American ship found them adrift; most of the passengers were dead. Tung had survived only by opening her mouth when it rained.
              When she stepped off the plane, she was introduced to Cathy Manning, a 30-year-old school teacher who already had several refugees living in her house. “I scared, really I scared,” says Tung, whose English is still far from fluent. She had no friends and knew nothing of America. She had never been in a car before. And she was six months pregnant.
              And so was born the idea for Hy Vong. Cathy and a friend from church put in the plumbing and electricity themselves, and they opened with four tables in 1980. Today Hy Vong is one of the top restaurants in Miami — Zagats recently put it at No. 11 — and Tung and Cathy still go in most days, working from noon until 2 or 3 a.m.

              But their greatest accomplishment is Phuonglien, who now goes by Lyn. After she graduated from Harvard and got an MBA from Cornell, Lyn and her husband became successful tech entrepreneurs. Interestingly, Lyn recalls never feeling like she came from an immigrant family because Cathy, who became a second mother to her, “helped give me the American experience and fully integrated me into American culture. She introduced me to Pilates to help me with ballet. She found science labs where I could do research because I loved chemistry.”

              Tung and Cathy recently went to Vietnam to visit Tung’s family. Her sister asked Tung whether she was an American now. “Total American,” she told them. “I vote!”

              “Had I grown up there,” Lyn tells me, “it is highly likely I would not have been even able to go to grade school.

              My life is so different. People take for granted that you can become anything and do anything here regardless of your background.” But Tung and Lyn never do.

              • I heard so many stories like this … I worked as a volunteer with Lutheran Social Services to help resettle the Viet refugees who came out in 1975. Most of them (I exempt one particular fellow who was every cliché about conniving and corrupt suck-up that you ever heard, immediately post-war) were earnest, hardworking, and became fantastically and enthusiastically American.
                Some of my experience distilled here –

      • Is that room temp IQ measured in Fahrenheit or Celsius?

  23. Just a quick line to say “thank you”. I’m reading and filing all this away because I’m in the process of pulling together two classes for next year. For various reasons I don’t want to give more detail than that, but this gives me some idea of things to plan for and things to avoid.

  24. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    BLIND COMPLIANCE!!!. Blind compliance to WHAT???? I don’t have kids and I don’t remember any of this crap in middle school, but this seems like the best way to produce an unthinking dead society. shortly to be killed off for real by it’s enemies.

  25. Joe in PNG

    For most of my formal education, I didn’t really understand the “why”:
    -One writes reports to learn how to present information in an orderly fashion.
    -One does math problems & shows their work because science is mostly math, and you have to prove what you did.
    -One learns grammar and spelling to be clear and exact when writing.
    -Homework and long term projects allow one to learn disciplined use of time
    -Taking notes allows one to record the pertinent points of a lecture for learning later.
    And so on. Sadly, very few teachers explained this, instead most just dumped assignments on us with little explanation as to the why.

    • And worksheets full of practice questions can be a tool to review, practice, and demonstrate adequate comprehension of the material… but if you hand one back in less than halfway through class and are immediately given another on the exact same material, the substitute is probably just using them to kill time.

    • A good teacher conveys the purpose of an exercise.

      Not everything is as seems.

  26. Thinking back on it, I got away with an awful lot in middle school. That set of teachers, at least, didn’t seem particularly interested in blind compliance.

    I do know that we were required to purchase “planners.” Hated those things. I never used them properly. For homework, we were always required to have them on paper with our name, the assignment, and the date it was due written on them, so if I copied the assignments onto paper just that way, why did I need a planner? Blech. (I also loathe outlines, though I’m fine with outline-style directions.)

  27. If anyone wants home school advice, tell me. I will talk your ear off, virtually hold your hand, whatever you need. We’re a second generation home school family. I cannot fathom dealing with the stuff that goes on in the public schools, even on the days when my kids are pretending to be idiots.
    You won’t be the first to need a hand, you won’t be the last, and I’m happy to give one.

  28. Our June theme is Great Escapes. Nominate a work here:—-great-escapes

  29. I can remember a couple of good classes from middle school. One was 6th grade English. We did a book report every week. Every week for the whole year, we had to read a new book (of our choice – that’s the important part), write a one page description of it, and then give an oral presentation to the class on what the book was about, and why we liked it (or not). We also had to have a prop we had made, and explain how it related to the story. I made most of my props out of Lego bricks. We learned to do creative work to a deadline, and speak to an audience. Oh, yeah, we had to turn the book in with the report, so the teacher could check that we’d actually read it. We also spent a week learning about how advertisements work – and I’ve mostly been immune to them ever since. I look at them for their craftsmanship and technique, instead of paying attention to the message or product they’re trying to sell. He was a great teacher, I wish I’d had more like him.

    The other was 7th grade history. Not that it was a good class, but because we didn’t have any textbooks, and had to copy all the notes from an overhead projector presentation every day. About two-three pages of notes per day. That greatly improved my writing speed, and taught me to write without looking at the paper. (Which came in really handy doing military intelligence work later on.) I’m just not sure I learned much of the history. I’m terrible with names and dates.

    • Our 8th grade English was supposed to be a semester of grammar and a semester of literature. About three weeks into the first (grammar) semester our teacher had a heart attack and required bypass surgery. He recovered quickly except for losing his voice because of the intubation, so he was out for the rest of the semester. We started the second semester with a substitute and I remember nothing except that we read Johnny Tremaine, and this was the beginning of my hatred of literature classes. Our original teacher came back, having finally got his voice back. I remember on that first day he greeted us, announcing that he knew “this is your literature semester. Please take out your grammar books.” We spent the rest of the year on grammar. That he was the author of the textbook may have had something to do with that decision too.
      hat was probably the most fun (to me) and the most useful year of English I ever had.

      • Really? I liked Johnny Tremaine. Of course I read it in about third grade, so my memory is a little hazy, but I remember that I liked the book, but couldn’t find anything else by the author in the school library.

        • The problem wasn’t the story, but how lit was taught. The disections never really helped me appreciate the stories, and we spent waaaay too much time per book. (I read fast. I was also the kid who got skipped a grade and was still bored a lot of the time.)

          My English teacher for Leaving Certificate English in Galway, bless her, insisted on essentially translating our Shakespeare play, though in all fairness, even in the Honors class, a not insignificant number of the girls needed it. She also handed back papers with grades but never explained them, so I never, ever figured out why this essay got an A- and that one was only a C. She chose the most depressing Shakespeare sonnets of the options in the syllabus, and insisted that an implied subject in the Milton was something that wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the poem. We had to study “Avenge oh Lord, thy slaughtered saints”, and one sentence reads: “Their moans The vales redoubled to the hills, and they To heaven.” Apparently the “they” meant the souls, and in suggesting that rather, it meant the moans, I had forgotten that most important lesson:

          It is the duty of the student
          Without exception to be prudent.
          If smarter than his teacher, tact
          Demands that he conceal the fact.

          • Actually, I think it’s a case of:
            The vales redoubled their (the souls’) moans to the hills,
            And they (the hills) redoubled their moans to the heavens.

            But I get your drift, and yes, some teachers don’t like contradiction or correction. Since I’m the kind of person who was sure that everybody wanted to spell everything correctly, and that anything a teacher spelled wrong must surely be a typo… it took me a while to notice that.

            • lonejanitor

              My daughter had a teacher who broke down crying when I pointed out JFK couldn’t have ended the Vietnam war after Nixon started it. The order was wrong, among other problems. Then she got angry when the principal agreed with me (after coming in to see why I was ‘bullying’ her.) Then there was the Chernobyl thing, a few years later… Her latest batch aren’t much better, unfortunately.

            • The teacher had asked what we thought it meant and I told her that I thought it meant the moans bounced from the vales to the hills and then from the hills to heaven, only to get a look like I had grown a second head and to be told in no uncertain terms that it meant that the moans had bounced from vale to hill and the souls had gone to heaven. I did refrain from asking where the souls came from since they weren’t a subject, implied or otherwise in the entire damn poem.

              I was pretty quiet in English class after that.

              • Man, you really got a loser teacher for English class. Also, she missed the Biblical reference to sins like murder that “cry out to heaven” for justice, and Abel’s blood crying out from the ground. (Not that you can mention that in school, necessarily.)

                I had some odd English teachers, but they were all good ones. I was lucky.

          • Ok, I was never required to read it, and yes I despised the dissections and arbitrary rightness of the teacher. I mean why are we having a ‘discussion’ on the book, if what the teacher says is always right?

          • Yup, it’s the teaching. I know it’s that because I have liked certain books before and (long) after having had them in English class, but I hated them while I studied them.

        • Generally speaking, if we studied a book in English class that I had previously read and reread for pleasure, I wound up sick to death of it.

  30. Sara the Red

    Good gods, they gave grades on whether or not a kid brought classroom supplies?! That’s…wow. I mean, I know Colorado schools suck, they drove my mother to do homeschooling for a couple of years with my next-younger-sibs (there are large age gaps in my family) while I was in college, but…damn.

    Not that other public schools are much better. My mother used to have a yearly battle with principals over me (I was the gifted kid, and bored out of my skull). She’s also had fights with them over the youngest (who has just turned 18) here in Wyoming, and finally homeschooled him for six or seven years, at his request. They’ve apologized to me for not homeschooling me, but, well, they didn’t really know they *could* do that at the time. (They still bought into the “only really weird people homeschool their kids” and also my mother was a school teacher, so…)

    There are awesome resources available these days. Baby brother actually attended a virtual school (since the friction caused by accepting Mom-as-teacher rather than just Mom was something no one enjoyed), and did really, really well. The parents live in a ghost town, though (literally, it is officially a ghost town, and only has a population of 400), so they were limited in other areas. Which is why baby brother decided to go back to public school when he hit high school, on account of there being girls he was unrelated to there. 😀 By that point, though, bullying (the major reason he requested homeschooling previously) was no longer going to be quite as big an issue, since baby brother was 6’2″ at the age of 14, and all the puppy fat turned to muscle by the time he was 16. (They still attempt verbal bullying, but he’s on the speech team…)

    Between my own experiences and what I’ve witnessed the younger sibs go through…I fully intend to just skip the whole public school thing altogether with my children. (If I ever have them.)

    • “They’ve apologized to me for not homeschooling me, but, well, they didn’t really know they *could* do that at the time. (They still bought into the “only really weird people homeschool their kids” and also my mother was a school teacher, so…)”
      I do this to my kids at least once a week. And yep. I didn’t know I COULD.

  31. Pingback: Mental Math | Something Fishy

  32. Screwing Over A Annoying Teacher?

    “I got that beat… I got that beat.”

    8th grade, third quarter. Teacher is one of these types who insists on treating teenagers as babies — so we got a lot of idiocy like Spelling Bees, and pointless Reciting Aloud. One of the latter was a list of words — no actual context provided, just a list of words of a certain type, to be recited aloud in front of the class. Mindless, tedious Rote — no one was ever going to ask for this list to be recited; and in the many years since, no one ever has. (I will not specify the nature of the list, because I know someone wiseass will then say “Ok, recite the list — see, she was right; you *did* need to memorize it, tee-hee”. Kiss my naked, hairy ass.)

    Unfortunately, Teacher had also decided to teach us “Bartleby The Scrivener”, a story of a man who gets sick of being told to engage in mindless pursuits, and responds “I would prefer not to”. (He ends badly, but that’s another matter. >:) )

    I think you can guess where this is going.

    It became de rigeur: Every day, teacher would ask me, “Are you going to recite?”; every day, I would answer, “No”; every day, she would mark a 0 for the project. Matters were exacerbated by the simple fact that she hated me, and I hated her in return (I was smarter than her; she knew it; and I made it a point to make her look bad). End of quarter, I was pulling down an F.


    Some factors which teacher had reckoned without:

    1) Grades were a year-long deal, so a bad quarter could be cancelled out by a good one;

    2) Quarterly-grades were never officially registered on transcripts — only semester and end-of-term grades, and;

    3) I was acing everything else, so the “F” was just barely below a D-.

    Fourth quarter, I went on a tear — I think my lowest grade was a 94. By the end of the quarter, I was pulling a C- average… and when that was added to the A-grade from the first semester, I exited her class with a B-, well over the threshold needed to graduate.

    When next I saw her — when I was in *9th* grade, and she was still teaching 8th-graders — I just looked her in the eye, winked, and snapped my fingers… and another page in the Legend Of CF at that school was written (the page reading “Teachers Who Will Not have CF In Their Classes”…). >:)

    • Joe in PNG

      I’ve got a good one. In highschool, I happened to be manager of the football team. Anyway, I got cross-threaded with my English teacher one day, and was sent to the dean’s office… who was one of the football coaches. He closed the door, made a few poetic descriptions of the teacher’s character, and told me not to worry about the referral.
      Learned a very important lesson that day.

  33. Reblogged this on Mick On Everything and commented:
    Anyone who has followed my parenting blog knows i have dealt with school frustration. It is good to see someone else’s frustrations with the process sometimes.

  34. I once failed a 7th grade history class because i didn’t turn in my “semester project” about fashion in colonial america. Seriously? What seventh grade boy is spending time on that?

    Had some issues with my kids schools, blogged about it a bit, they are homeschooled now and it is WAAAAAAAAAAAY better.

    • Wow, fashion was certainly the *most* important thing going on in Colonial America. Patrick Henry, “Give me a grey silk ascot, or give me death”: Paul Revere, “One if the color is forest green, two if sea blue.”

    • For a college project, I could see that because consumption/non-consumption was a political statement for those who otherwise could not participate in politics (women, journeymen, those without sufficient property). But not for a 7th grade boy.

      • My dad made me do the project over the summer. He still gives me grief about it to this day. Said I did great at gathering info, but not very good at writing about it. I’m like “no shit, it’s colonial fashion!”

        • So he didn’t let you change it to something like “uniforms of Colonial militia units” or “stuff Indian tribes wore”?

          Twisting topics into something interesting was kinda my specialty, mostly because I was determined to write something different from my elder brother’s previous reports to the same teachers.

          • Jerry Boyd

            Actually got a report on hang gliders past a teacher in high school. She didn’t think I could come up enough references to make it work.

          • Pops allowed no wiggle room. I learned how to manipulate topics later, and ended up with 10+ page college papers on Metallica, Lovecraft, and the New York Rangers, among other things.

  35. In 1997, my 9th grader got an F in Algebra, and (foolish me) assumed that he wasn’t turning in his homework. Wrong! The homework warranted A or B, due to my son’s “amazing ability to get the correct answers” in tests & homework – written to his file by the Algebra teacher who gave him an F. She confirmed this by revealing she assigned him to the front row to make sure he wasn’t cheating.

    What was the problem? His methodology did not conform. I hit the roof.

    I have a BS Mathematics, cum laude, plus a masters degree, and probably have taken more diffficult math courses than anyone who teaches in the city or calls himself a math administrator. In a conference, I asked the counselor if we had to hire an attorney for our child to get full credit for accuracy. Son was forced to retake the course, but he did get FULL credit for his accurate answers. (Sigh). If this is pervasive, the country is so OVER.

  36. Pingback: Educational Crossroads | The Common Room