Monday, October 21, 2013

The Latest Partisan Educational Scandal: What Kids Are Learning in School Right Now

By  Barry Rubin

These are tales of contemporary America.

It began when I visited a family with children in Maryland in my son’s old school and the cute kid showed his school assignment. My friend took a photograph of it and wrote to me:

“PLEASE, if you want to publicize it do so, BUT please white out the handwritten answers, because in this age of totalitarianism, they could easily go after/persecute the child and his family. The school might be able to identify the child from his handwriting.”

Such is the fear now.

The fifth grade was learning vocabulary, supposed to choose the appropriate word from a list to replace the phrases in one of the words on the list.  The subtle indoctrination is horrifying.

1. The speaker called on us to take part in the organized refusal to attend performances of theatres that use non-union actors.
2. Greenpeace is taking part in a series of actions to stop the killing of whales.

3. The king of Norway presents the Nobel Peace Prize in a formal event in honor of the occasion held in Oslo.

4. The separate companies were brought together and formed into one large corporation.
5. The people in the courtroom eagerly awaited the decision at the end of the trial.
6. Conditions in the jail take away the self-respect of the prisoners housed there.
7. The immigrants were kept from going on their way by inspectors who demanded to see their papers.
8. Students felt that their privacy was being treated in a disrespectful and improper way when their lockers were being searched in a rude manner.
9. The separation of the different races in public schools was outlawed in 1954.
10. During the fire drill, students moved out of the school in an orderly way.
11. The children will remain in the state’s care and control until their parents can be located.

Just to make the point clear, I did not cherry-pick these examples. These are the first 11 which constitute the first page.
I don’t know if it is necessary to say this, but it is an extraordinary degree of politicization and it is all toward the left side.  If you need a list of why, I say this:

    Union activism (the teachers all belong to one; Right to Work states? Corruption, the union I was a member of betrayed the workers.)

    Environmentalist cause.

    Undeserved prize won by their leader

    Monopoly; evil corporations.

    Possibly neutral but law and order; no justice

    Prisoner rights

    Poor treatment of immigrants

    Poor treatment of students; the radical Weatherman of the 1960s called their school policy, “Jailbreak.”
    Racism! Injustice of America.

    But you have to obey our authority. We are only justifying rebellion when we tell you to.

    Remember we own you if we decide to do so.

Just to show some potential different questions:

5. Potentially dangerous problems in the jail, where violent criminals were kept, required strict conditions.

7. The inspectors did their job and protected the public by keeping immigrants from going on their way by demanding to see their papers.

8. Unfortunately, the amount of drugs and weapons in school required violating the privacy of some students because of a disrespectful and improperly behaving minority.

9. It was a proud day for America when school discrimination was ended in 1954.

Bonus story: One friend, who is a lecturer of sociology, said that the far right controls the media in America! She also teaches her students that the corporations are doing better than ever, making record profits, because they’ve downsized and are overworking everyone. [Obamacare makes it tempting to make workers part-timers so greedy companies get blamed!]

The pro-Obama people seem to think there’s an economic recovery, but then are telling me that they haven’t seen so many empty storefronts of businesses that have closed!


Boyhood is not a mental illness

All the employees of school districts on a witch hunt to expel and otherwise permanently punish young boys for shooting toy guns or forming their fists into the shape of a gun need to read “Back to Normal.”

The purpose of psychologist Enrico Gnaulati’s 2013 book is to argue how ordinary childhood behavior is often misdiagnosed as ADD, ADHD, depression and autism – frequently with life-long, disturbing consequences. But along the way he raises the taboo question of whether we “label boys as mentally unstable, behaviorally unmanageable, academically underachieving, in need of special-education services, or displaying behavior warranting school suspension just because their behavior deviates noticeably from that of the average girl?”

He adds, “In a sense, girl behavior has become the standard by which we judge all kids.”

He cites numerous studies showing that typical boy behavior – wrestling, rough games of tag, good guy/bad guy imaginative play that involves “shooting” – are condemned by preschool and elementary school teachers, the vast majority of whom are women,  without the behavior being redirected appropriately to release boys’ “natural aggression.” Boys who play in the way noted above are not on a path to mass murder, contrary to what zero tolerance school policies suggest. For the vast majority of them, they are simply on the path to manhood. I wonder how many of us who recognize that truth still stifle our boys’ rough play or cowboy shoot outs out of fear of the new rules – reinforcing the capriciousness of regulations in young minds who will one day asked to make them.

Without changes to rigid policies and attitudes about what constitutes good behavior, we will be on a path as a society to generating mass confusion and depression in boys whose natural tendencies are being relabeled as criminal traits or medical problems that need to be treated.

This is not just an existential threat. As unorthodox feminist Camille Paglia said recently in remarks at American University: “Extravaganzas of gender experimentation sometimes precede cultural collapse, as they certainly did in Weimar Germany.  Like late Rome, America too is an empire distracted by games and leisure pursuits.  Now as then, there are forces aligning outside the borders, scattered fanatical hordes where the cult of heroic masculinity still has tremendous force.  I close with this question:  is a nation whose elite education is increasingly predicated on the neutralization of gender prepared to defend itself against that growing challenge?”

If that sounds crazy, is it wrong to worry how the massive increase in the number of children taking anti-depressants and other drugs as a result of skyrocketing diagnoses of ADHD, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder will impact their lives?

Many drugs used to treat the above disorders cause serious problems, including mood swings, sleeplessness, weight gain, weight loss and slower growth. And then there is the long-term impact of a mental health diagnosis, which can create a sense that the child is not in control of his actions because it is purely a chemical imbalance in the brain.

As Gnaulati writes, however, in many cases it’s “causes—plural, not singular—that explain why a child behaves the way he or she does.”

“On any number of occasions in my practice over the years,” he writes, “I have seen how a mildly depressed or ADHD-like kid can be transformed by a change of teacher, a change of school, signing up for a sport, a reduced homework load, a summer abroad, a front-of-the-class seating arrangement, a month living away from home with an even-tempered aunt, or any of a host of other everyday steps.”

Many forces conspire to push a mental health diagnosis, from rules on health insurance to schools achieving certain goals under federal No Child Left Behind law. Gnaulati’s book should give parents struggling with a difficult child hope that their child may not be permanently mentally ill, but going through a difficult stage that can be treated without medication. And it should give school administrators perspective on how best to handle unruly boys and channel their energy without condemning their nature. At the very least, we don’t need any more boys suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into a gun.


Even Britain's  greatest luvvies are baffled by the Bard's writing

A complete educational failure.

Many of Britain's biggest stars of stage and screen admit they struggle to understand Shakespeare because of the way they were taught the Bard's plays at school.

Sir Michael Gambon, the star of the Harry Potter films, admits he is 'frightened' by England's national poet, while Mark Rylance, the former artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, says he sometimes shares that 'familiar feeling of giving up at a Shakespeare play'.

The stars vent their frustration in a new BBC Four documentary, Muse Of Fire. Sir Michael, who has played Othello, Macbeth and Coriolanus, said: 'I am very frightened of it (Shakespeare), although I know there is nothing to be frightened of.'

Other stars admit they struggle to understand the concept of the iambic pentameter, which is supposed to unlock Shakespeare's language by helping actors understand the rhythm of the words.

Zoe Wanamaker, who has starred in a string of Shakespeare productions at the National Theatre, said she found some of Shakespeare's words 'incomprehensible', adding: 'I don't know really what iambic pentameter is. Somebody has to tell me.'

Christopher Eccleston, who played Iago in a BBC adaptation of Othello, said: 'I have never had a formal lesson in iambic pentameter. I don't understand it.'

Eccleston added: 'My introduction to Shakespeare was in the fifth year of my secondary comprehensive school. You should not give kids Shakespeare straight away.

'You should give them drama and the ones who are really passionate about it will end up finding Shakespeare themselves because he is the greatest-ever playwright.'

Even Ralph Fiennes, who directed a film adaptation of Coriolanus, admits he struggled with Shakespeare. He said: 'I got E for English at A-level. I didn't know how to answer a complex question about King Lear.'


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