Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Teacher Shows Kids Carpentry Tools, Gets Suspended on “Weapons” Charge

This is what truly perplexes me: Why do seemingly so many school administrators adamantly refuse to think like normal, rational human beings?

The other day I visited the Sudbury Valley School  in Framingham, Mass., and saw such a completely opposite world — a heart-soaring place where kids are trusted not only with tools but with their own educations — so now it’s doubly hard to read about cases like the one below.

    A veteran teacher at a Chicago elementary school has lost his bid to reverse a four-day suspension without pay because he showed an array of hand tools to his second grade students as part of a math lesson.

    Douglas Bartlett displayed pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, a pocket knife, and a box cutter in his classroom as part of the lesson. He also described and demonstrated how each tool is used by professionals.

    Mr. Bartlett, who has been a teacher in Chicago for 17 years, thought he was using physical objects to help his students learn the required course material.

    Instead, according to school administrators at Washington Irving Elementary School, Bartlett was guilty of wielding “weapons” in his classroom in violation of various school policies.

    School Principal Valeria Bryant cited Bartlett for “possessing, carrying, storing, or using a weapon on the job when not authorized to do so.”

    He was also accused of violating school rules, repeatedly engaging in flagrant acts, inattention to duty, and negligently supervising children.

The equating of “tool” with “danger” reminds us that we have become so focused on threats to kids, we can’t see anything else. Not a cool lesson. Not a future trade. Not a welcome breath of the real world in the classroom. Just DANGER DANGER DANGER.

Something there is that loves to hate, to freak out and to blame


Boys should be educated separately until they're 16 to stop them being 'intimidated' by girls, says top British head

Boys aged 11 to 16 should be educated separately to avoid them being intimidated by girls, according to the new head of the Girls' Schools Association.

Alun Jones, president of the body which represents independent girls' schools, said separating them in state schools could prevent boys falling behind girls in exam results.

Fears of a gender gap have been fuelled by recent statistics showing girls at state schools are more likely to achieve C grades than boys.

He told the Sunday Times: 'If you have a very bright, very driven, very focused, very articulate lady, which a lot of girls are, that intimidates a boy in the classroom, especially boys of average ability.

'The result is that boys don't put their hands up to answer questions or they indulge in immature behaviour to avoid being shown up.

'Boys will put their hand up if they feel safe; they won't if they are in fear of being ridiculed or humiliated.'

He called on boys to be educated separately from girls in the formative years of adolescence, and suggested more single-sex classes for boys in state schools could improve boys' achievement.

Fears of a gender gap have been fuelled by Department for Education statistics released in October which showed 61.2 per cent of girls at state schools scored at least five C grades including English and maths last year, compared with 50.8 per cent of boys.

But at A-level, boys did better than girls with 12.3 per cent of male students gaining three A*-A grades, compared with 11.1 per cent of female classmates.

Mr Jones' comments come as its revealed a huge gender divide in the A-levels chosen by sixth-formers is likely to continue as girls continue to shun 'masculine' subjects like physics, it is suggested.

Despite a number of schemes aimed at encouraging young women to take the science after age 16, there has been little impact on take-up so far, headteachers and academics said.


Stop treating black students as victims

After Ferguson, African-American students don't need special treatment

The fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner in New York City, after NYPD officers put him in a chokehold, have reignited a longstanding debate about police brutality towards African Americans in the US. One thing that this reignited debate does not need is the patronising pity of white middle-class students. Because ‘patronising’ is the only way to describe one particular student’s request for the postponement of exams for black students because of the supposedly inevitable distress caused by these recent deaths.

Della Kurzer–Zlotnick, a student at Oberlin College in Ohio, emailed her professor to ask if black students could have their exams postponed. She said her African-American fellow students were not ‘at all in a place to take their finals’ due to the ‘significant trauma’ caused by the deaths of Garner and Brown - trauma which has apparently been exacerbated by US grand jury decisions not to indict the cops involved. Kurzer–Zlotnick argued that, as a white middle-class person, she has the ‘privilege’ to remove herself from this situation and will be able to pass her exams. Following her professor’s simple and unequivocal ‘No’ to her request, Kurzer–Zlotnick posted the email correspondence online, prompting widespread media coverage.

But Kurzer–Zlotnick’s request is not a one-off. In fact, it followed a petition from Oberlin College students in which they asked for the college grading system to be adjusted for black students following the deaths of Garner and Brown. Elsewhere, Columbia University law students also asked for students who have been distressed by the police-related deaths to be able to postpone their exams. In a blog post, the Coalition at Columbia Law stated: ‘We have been traumatised over and again by the devaluation of black and brown lives. We are falling apart.’

In their attempt to speak on behalf of all black students, these requests represent a patronising response to issues that have divided the US. They suggest that black students, by virtue of having the same skin colour as Garner and Brown, will have been so traumatised that they simply won’t be able to cope with college exams. They suggest, in short, that black students are especially weak and vulnerable.

Moreover, such responses only further racialise the debate about police brutality. They present it solely as a black problem, which affects only black people and which has to be dealt with separately by black people. But as the chants in Ferguson suggested, ‘Fergusons’s Hell is America’s Hell’. Although the victims of the shootings were black, addressing the issue of police brutality and social injustice will require action and effort from all sections of society.

Claiming that students will be unable to cope with their college courses due to race-specific trauma will not help anyone. It will only divide and patronise. Students asking for black students to be given an easier ride at college will do nothing to deal with African Americans’ distrust towards the police or the problems many of them still face. In fact, it only makes things worse: it suggests that black Americans really are substantially different to white Americans, and should therefore be treated differently. This approach undermines the efforts of the civil-rights campaigners of the 1960s who fought for black students, such as political activist James Meredith, to be admitted to universities in the first place – on the grounds that they were just as capable as white students. Instead, asking for colleges to treat black students differently at exam time perpetuates the idea that African Americans are not quite as capable as white students. And it suggests that African Americans should be treated, above all, as victims. And that certainly doesn’t do African Americans any favours.


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