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2001-12-11 19:36:59+00 by Dan Lyke 24 comments

So I got a panicked call from Alec yesterday evening, his teacher had announced a test for today and he didn't understand some specifics of the material (ahh, the joys of factoring polynomials). Besides reinforcing that I should not answer the phone when I have previous commitments for the evening, even when those commitments happen to be at home, it's got me thinking about Dori's assertion that high school is about teaching politics. Alec tells me that when he's asked for more advance warning on tests (so that I can help with material he doesn't understand) he gets a "I've got hundreds of students, I can't make an exception for you" answer. As an adult, I can't imagine that his teacher is being this unhelpful. As an ex-high school student, this perfectly mirrors my experience. As a third party to this whole transaction, and one who didn't figure it out in high school, I've no idea what course of action to recommend.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Politics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:40+00 by: TC

Yup, your right it's a political problem not an educational one. As a parent I'd come on campus and brow beat the teacher in a one on one scenerio with nobody around to cause them feel defensive. If they are a good teacher they will be immediately helpful. If they are not helpful, you make it clear that it will be much easier for them to exceed to your wishes than deal with the sh!T storm your about to rain down on them with a parent teach confrence and meetings with the school principal and eventually school board. This usually gets even the most slothful teacher to move. Since your not leagally Dad you may have to stretch the truth and become step dad pro tem...

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:40+00 by: Larry Burton

I agree with Todd here. If Alec isn't getting polynomials and he is putting out an effort it is the teacher's job to make exceptions, regardless of the number of students that teacher has. Just because an aspect of a job is difficult doesn't mean that that part can be dismissed.

Teachers meetings can be extermely productive in handling the politics involved in a classroom. Take plenty of notes, oh, and take plenty of notes. A good teacher will appreciate your attentiveness while a bad teacher will be intimidated by your documenting the meeting. In either case the notes will prove valuable in assessing what is going wrong.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:41+00 by: Dori

If they are not helpful, you make it clear that it will be much easier for them to exceed to your wishes than deal with the sh!T storm your about to rain down on them with a parent teach confrence and meetings with the school principal and eventually school board.

Okay, Todd... I don't know anything about you, or where you live, or what your experience is with kids in the schools lately, but here's what I've seen in my neck of Northern California: the schools are desperate for teachers who will work for the crap wages they're paid.

You can have all the parent teacher conferences you want, and meetings with principals, school boards, superintendents, whomever. What it comes down to is that there's lots of parents, lots of kids, and very few teachers. It's easier to encourage parents to pull their kids out of school (i.e., transfer or homeschool) than it is to find new teachers, so that's what (in my experience) the school system will try to make happen.

Dan: your best bet with Alec is to find a psychologist who will say that he's learning disabled in some fashion. If he is or isn't doesn't matter; he just needs a doctor's note. Then, the school is required to make allowances, which would include, well, all the things you and he want. The magic phrase to use for the school is "IEP."

Otherwise, all you're doing is saying that a ordinary kid needs extraordinary attention, and that's just not something that the schools will ever consider a priority.

Dan, as you pointed out in the first place, and as I've said before, it's all politics. Your choices are to game the system or to leave the system. Anything else is just banging your head against the wall.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:41+00 by: John Anderson

Dan, how about attempting to expand the number of available tutors? That way, you increase the odds of somebody being available on shorter notice without cramping your life too much. You, Alec, Alec's mom, or somebody else (not clear on the relationships here) could barter yard work, errand running, skating lessons, computer maintence, or whatever in return.

I guess this sort of falls under Dori's "game the system", in the "make your own system" sub-category.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:41+00 by: TC

Dori... that is my experience as well (both my daughters are in private school) but I have delt with the public school system and what I proposed was a possible solution to help with Dan & Alec's problem. I didn't even want to touch what's wrong with the public school system. You jumped to the endgame of "the teach goes or my kid goes". The real threat is all the hassle of dealing with angry vocal parent and meetings and review boards and marks on your permanent record!(where do you think the teachers got that threat from?) From Dan's snippet I get the impression the teacher isn't especially helpful or Alec isn't shooting straight. I don't know much about the lad except he's very good at counterstrike, he respects wile e. coyote and Dan has taken an interest in his development. Less I ramble on more, my point would be that you only pull out the stick if the honey doesn't work. Most people when you address them personally are very helpful.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:42+00 by: Dan Lyke

I don't know if the teacher isn't being helpful or Alec isn't shooting straight. I suspect it's a combination of the two; I know that when I was in high school there were teachers I had complete disconnects with, and I also know that I would've reported those disconnects to my parents in a way that would gloss over my own faults. And either way, now that he's in high school the way to make this lesson useful is not for me, or his mom, to step in and fix things. Something that I think both Dori and I agree on is that the lesson here isn't factoring polynomials.

I also know that with the wrong kind of noise both the teacher and the administrator realize that this kid will be out of the system in a few years, and the easier solution might not involve actually fixing the problem.

I guess the right thing to do is coach him on how to get his ducks in a row for a visit to the principal. Help him lay down a "here is my generic problem, here are the ways I've sought remedy, here is the solution I think is optimal, where can we go from here?" strategy that he can run with.

But I had a good conversational relationship with the principal at my high school (hanging out with those who had a reputation for... not getting caught... had its advantages), and without the "angry parent" fog I don't know if that's the right channel to escalate through. Are guidance counselors generally still powerless milquetoast sorts?

#Comment made: 2001-12-11 23:20:34+00 by: Dori [edit history]

Todd: I got the impression that the carrot had been tried, and you were recommending going for the stick. In my experience, that stick doesn't work very well in public schools.

I desperately wish that I could put my son in private school, but there's only one private secular high school in this county and they want $16,500 per year. I just can't see my way to paying $66K for 4 years of school before I even have to start dealing with college expenses.

Dan: Are guidance counselors generally still powerless milquetoast sorts?

In my experience, yes, but I'd love to be wrong on this one.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:42+00 by: Mike Gunderloy

Just want to say, keep posting this stuff. I need the continued endorsement of our commitment to home-schooling <1/2 g>

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:42+00 by: Larry Burton

Mike, every parent should home school their child regardless of whether the child is in public or private school. Most parents probably shouldn't pull their child from that public or private school while they are doing it, though.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:42+00 by: ziffle

The best school for youngsters in America is aquinasacademyofreason.com -- but you would have to move to Atlanta - - but maybe its worth it.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:42+00 by: Larry Burton

My kids are beyond the age Aquinas accepts. Still, if they were the proper age I would want some other kids being the guinea pigs for Mr. Heard. The curriculum sounds "reasonable" but there is no history of its implementation.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:43+00 by: ziffle

The term "guinea pigs" is not appropriate and seems to imply a negative connotation toward the school and I do not agree with that characterization.

I have known Kino for a good while and trust him completely.

I suppose it would require that a parent should reject the view that there is another world other than this one or the student might learn things not in accordance with the parents views, such as: reality is[Wiki] knowable and reason is our only path to knowledge[Wiki].

As for "no history of its implementation" (the curriculum) - probably true, and how refreshing that finally its being done.

Latin, Math, Classics, cognitive skills, conceptual thinking, critical thinking - how delicious!

I wonder how these students will feel later on, having been shown a clear view of reality and having been taught the cognitive tools to deal with it, when they confront the mystical, collectivist culture around them.

Dan: how are we supposed to get wordy if you keep the edit box so small?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:43+00 by: Larry Burton

Ziffle, I'm going to build an airplane like none that has ever been built before. I've never built an airplane before, though I've worked with mechanical things all my life, I've observed how all these things work and all the theories behind it are sound. Do you and your sons want to go on the maiden flight with me? No? Hunh, I would have thought different from your above response.

Look, Kino may be the finest person in the world and you may trust him completely, but I don't know him. Reason dictates that I see a little proof prior to placing trust in his abilities. Wouldn't you agree?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:44+00 by: ziffle

After seeing the curriculum, and then denigrating the school before seeing it is not something I would do, unless I had an alterior motive.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:44+00 by: Larry Burton

I have no alterior motives, only observations. I didn't realize I was denigrating the school. I've got no problem with the school. I think the idea behind it and the curriculum is sound. I just don't see how you could rate it best in the country before it has a history of performance. My use of the term "guinea pig" in the context that I used it was entirely reasonable. If you see that as derogatory, well, that's your perogative, but I see no reason in viewing it that way.

Look, prior to investing my money in it on my child's tuition and before I would entrust the school to educate my child I would want to see some of the results. Is that being unreasonable?

#Comment made: 2001-12-12 20:10:48+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

I have seen parents that have philosophies that I agree with turn out raving screaming monsters. I haven't had a chance to go read up on this school yet, but good curriculum doesn't mean good methods for an individual kid, and vice-versa.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:44+00 by: Jack

Ziffle, speaking as someone who did study Latin at age 7, I can tell you those students will feel furious when they graduate from the experimental school into the real world. There is not even one secular private high school in my county; no middle school either. There was (until recently) a grade school--a laboratory school. The curriculum was designed to let students advance at their own pace, and "gifted" students were given additional instruction in Latin, cognitive skills, etc. I had essentially a seventh grade education plus extras by the end of grade 3. And then they had nothing left to teach me, all elementary-ed people with no programmed secondary curriculum to administer. I was allowed to teach myself algebra, geometry, trig, BASIC, and PASCAL, which only made it worse on the public middle school that had to receive me. I despised them. School is hell for everyone; it's meant to be hell so employers know graduates are willing to endure it. I wasn't. It's even harder to endure when you know school doesn't have to be that way. Aquinas may have the best intentions, but it sounds ivory-tower to throw 9-year-olds who've learned to think into the system. Putting them with their age group where they will learn nothing is cruel, and putting them with older children who will abuse them is cruel. You'll get disaffected students desperate to get out ASAP ending up with professional skills at an age when they can't legally drive, get an apartment, or work full-time. Thus you develop conscientized Objects, which I imagine is not Aquinas's goal.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:45+00 by: Dori

Ziffle: if he's a friend of yours, could you tell him that he needs to work on his web site? Requiring Java just to view the site is ridiculous (and yes, I wrote a book on Java). Even if Java is on, his interior page still didn't display properly on my usual browser; for instance, the navigation didn't display.

I had to launch IE 6/Win just to see what it was he was trying to say. That's typical for most sites built in FrontPage, but it's not a good idea if you're trying to build a publicly-accessible site.

If you have personal experience with him, than I'm sure you'd be comfortable sending kids there. If all I knew about him was what I got from his web site, I'd run in the opposite direction.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:45+00 by: ziffle

Dori, I agree - he had a friend build it for him - it needs work. Maybe the author is (a student and ) only five and just getting the hang of it <g>

Jack, so is the answer to keep (e.g.) my children dumb? I am not sure I agree that they become Objects - except they do see things differently. Better to be alive than dead, intellectually. I connect so much with your views - its an aweful situation. There are many who relate to these fully conscious people, and the alienation is not a foregone conclusion. Pascal? Are you looking for work? <g>

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:45+00 by: Dan Lyke

Okay, Ziffle, at the bottom of User Info you can change the text box to any size you'd like.

#Comment made: 2001-12-13 06:13:23+00 by: Jack [edit history]

Ziffle, awakening children doesn't make them Objects; the State makes children Objects, awakened or not. The answer is not to keep them dumb, but to allow those who aren't dumb to sign binding contracts and start careers and otherwise take charge of their own lives. In the meantime, the answer is giving them a place to learn and work until the broader world acknowledges their self-determination. An ideal environment might foster critical consciousness in more than one student and might not abhor exceptions so they don't become alienated. But that's an ideal. Really, primary students taught to think for themselves will find themselves somewhere thinking for yourself isn't encouraged with the faculties to discern why that's wrong, and will feel furious yet helpless in a way only the Other can know. I don't regret having been there, but not everyone might feel the same way.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:45+00 by: ziffle

Dan: cool, except it didn't work... set to 24, 120 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 4 15 16 Last line visible

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:46+00 by: ziffle

Dan: now its working - don't know what happened. Why do you take out the carriage returns?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:46+00 by: Dan Lyke

I try to turn it into HTML. The various browsers disagree on a carriage return versus a soft-wrap, so the only line-break I allow is two returns.

It also makes it easier to copy from other buffers, like Emacs, which is my standard working style.