Tuesday, February 08, 2005

"When High Schools Try Getting Tough, Parents Fight Back"

I laughed at my own demographic group, that is to say pushy obnoxious parents of teenagers, when I read Robert Tomsho's article (today's Wall Street Journal) on intimidated school administrators.

People complain that U.S. schools ask too little of students and prepare them poorly for college and/or life.
Even three-page papers are rare in English classes these days and 75% of seniors say they get no writing assignments at all in history/social studies classes... Employers and college professors overwhelmingly rated high-school graduates as 'fair' or 'poor' in basic math and clear writing in a 2002 study...
In particular, senior year is often considered a dead loss since the kids' minds are on other things altogether, as I'm sure you all remember!

In reaction, some high schools have begun to require semester-long "senior projects" which typically include an eight-page paper, an oral presentation and the creation of a related "product."

Hey! That sorta sounds like fun... and nothing kids on their way to real life (or college) shouldn't be able to handle. And creating a product, what a great idea! America is raising generations of people who don't know how to DO or MAKE anything! They just know how to USE and BUY stuff!

Here are some things people used to know how to do:
  • knit and sew their own clothes
  • grow their own food
  • fix their own cars
  • build their own furniture
  • cook their own dinner
  • repair their own plumbing
  • tie their own fishing nets
  • make papier mache models of castles for medieval day at school
Obviously this list could go on and on. How many things can YOUR children actually do? Do you have to run and hide from them when the power goes out and the computer and tv don't work?

Oh, well. Score one for the volcanic self-righteousness of my demographic. At one school, where three kids had been busted for plagiarism and banned from the graduation ceremony, parents wore black armbands in protest. Parents have staged walkouts, raged at principals, crammed their angry selves into school-board meetings, signed petitions, and leafleted church services, all to protect their darlings from having to write a paper and make something.

In one school Tomsho covers, parents even hired a lawyer, threatening a court injunction to suspend the entire program. In response, of course, the school administration caved. The incendiary "senior project" was demoted to a "senior seminar" and the length of the paper was cut to three pages.
Meaty papers about subjects like campaign-finance reform and corporate monopolies gave way to brief essays, such as the history of Barbie dolls and the significance of proms.
Way to go, America! That'll show them!

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At 9:08 PM, Blogger Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

I saw that article- it was stunning.

I suppose we can't have kids jeopardize their self esteem- and actually receive graded papers. Oh my.

At 10:47 PM, Blogger Paula said...

Here in Huntington Beach, California the schools give the kids a ton of work. I think it's great! And, yeah, the self-esteem comes from working hard, meeting goals, having success...not from getting praise for doing nothing.

Good post!

At 11:20 PM, Blogger Ole Blue The Heretic said...

I really like your blog. Thanks you.


At 11:27 PM, Blogger Tatty Tiara said...

Yep, just today I was thinking about how when i was a kid lo not that darn long ago if I needed something I'd ask my dad. We'd only buy it if he couldn't make it. There weren't a lot of things we had to buy.

At 12:48 AM, Blogger Charone said...

Don't you know, tougher schoolwork might lower GPA's, making it harder to get into a good college? Jeez.

At 1:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so true in this. I didn't learn anything valid in my high school. Most of my knowledge comes from personal research and not from a teacher. We had writing assignments in history though. Granted they weren't much but it still counts. Most of america's teachers aren't even qualified for the classes they're teaching which is why the kids aren't learning very much. Math teachers teaching english, english teachers teaching science, etc. It's sad really. And the parents who protested need to be kicked in the shins for aiding in the death of their childrens brain cells. *shakes her head* Makes you wonder what the world will be like in the future doesn't it?

Name: Melissa
Site URL:

At 9:52 AM, Blogger annie said...

We see some of this at my son's school , but thankfully so far the administrators and teachers hold their ground. I think here the pushy obnoxious parents who fight the administration over self-esteem (blech)issues are out-numbered by the pushy obnoxious parents who want our kids to get a good education and live productive, independant lives.

Found my way here via SC&A, and they're right!

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Karen said...

Oh my gosh, you are so right! I have often wished we would go back to the apprentice system, where people actually learn to DO something.

Have you read any John Taylor Gatto??

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Jessi said...

It -stuns- me to be reminded how much children aren't taught to do anymore. I can't imagine not knowing how to sew or knit or cook or grow vegetables or change the oil in my car. Granted, I don't actually -do- all of those things, but I know that if I needed to, I could.

Then again, it still upsets me to realize that most children don't know Goodnight Moon.

At 1:29 AM, Blogger j&c said...

Nice post! I definitely agree.

When we were looking at preschools for our son, I found one that was all into the self-esteem hogwash. They wouldn't even tell a kid that he did something wrong after he hit or bit another kid. Sorry, but I think little kids who are still working on moral systems should know that some actions have negative consequences. We passed on that one.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger coturnix said...

Your list of thisg people used to know how to do reminds me of a Heinlein quote:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects."

At 6:48 PM, Blogger BiggEdd said...

The biggest problem in America today is not the schools - it's the kids. Think about it. Kids are supposed to want to learn. Today's kids no only don't have the desire to learn, many do not have the capicity to handle heavy material. The Chinese talk about the opposites Yin and Yang. They say that one can change into the other. We also have the rise and fall of civilizations especially when most people start eating like fat cats.

Is it really the kids fault? After all, we ate badly when they were conceived, and, we provided the bad diet that they have eaten since birth. Whose fault is it?

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