kitchen table math, the sequel: thank you for your ongoing support and cooperation

Monday, January 15, 2007

thank you for your ongoing support and cooperation

Last week we all received a TRAILBLAZERS- & middle school math-related email from our superintendent thanking us for our ongoing support and cooperation.

That was a strange way of putting it, I thought. Ongoing support and cooperation where Math TRAILBLAZERS & the middle school math track are concerned have been noticeably absent here in Irvingtonland.

So I wrote an email. Because that's my job.

Today I find an even more egregious use of preemptive gratitude in this letter home to parents in Virginia:

Dear Families:

To honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s noble ideas and courageous acts, we worked together on a sensitizing experiment. They were all led to believe that one is inferior than the other. We initially divided the class into 2 groups –the blue and the green people. In the early part of the day, the green group was given preferential treatment. They were given privileges such as play centers, an extra special snack, and getting paid for performing a job. The switch occurred after an hour of receiving the special treatment.

At the end of our experiment, we talked about how they felt to be the preferred group and how it felt to be the group that was not favored. After which, we read a story on Martin Luther King Jr. (Martin’s Big Words) and talked about MLK’s vision and dream.

The purpose of this exercise is to educate and increase children’s sensitivity towards people and our differences. Furthermore, to treat others the way we want to be treated.

I encourage you to talk with your child about the events of the day as some of them ended up in tears for being treated "differently" based on the color of their shirt. I fervently wish that this exercise will impact your child’s life and that they learn to embrace their differences and celebrate their uniqueness.

Thank you for your cooperation and support in this endeavor.

etc.

I don't mean to be a killjoy here, but I'd say it's a safe bet this school is going to be receiving some distinctly uncooperative and unsupportive calls and emails in the days to come.

thank you for your ongoing support and cooperation
thank you for your cooperation and support in this endeavor
today's form letter from the school

22 comments:

Instructivist said...

Schools should stick to academics instead of playing these fascistic psych games with young children.

A woman who started this in the sixties made a cottage industry out of this. Her name escapes me now. She struck me as a self-righteous hex.

Catherine Johnson said...

The whole thing is appalling.

Telling the parents about it after the fact and then thanking them for their cooperation & support - it's just unbelievable.

Instructivist said...

Here is an article on the woman who started this sadistic experiment and turned it into a cottage industry: Sensitivity

Catherine Johnson said...

The other thing that's going on now, which has yet to rise to the level of Media Perception, is the departure of middle-aged teachers.

Our school now looks like a college campus. Zillions of young women in their 20s (very few young men).

They've been immersed in ed school tomfoolery and they have no countervailing life experience to serve as a check.

A mom I know has a child having some trouble in the 6th grade Phase 4 math (not taught by Ms. K this year, but by a brand-new young female hire).

The teacher told the mom that her goal is to get the children to "take ownership of their learning."

I'm going out on a limb here, but I suspect there are very few middle-aged parents who would tell another middle-aged parent that her goal is to get kids to take ownership of their learning.

Catherine Johnson said...

oh swell

Jane Elliott is our nation's long-reigning Dominatrix of Diversity.

Catherine Johnson said...

A friend of mine was just over. She looked at the "thank you for your ongoing support" line and said, "But we didn't have any choice. How can we cooperate?"

PaulaV said...

The teacher told the mom that her goal is to get the children to "take ownership of their learning."

The parents at our school hear "the children must take ownership of their learning" all the time.

My kindergartener is being graded this quarter on how responsible he is.

What I would like to know is when are teachers going to take ownership of teaching?

--PaulaV

SteveH said...

"A woman who started this in the sixties made a cottage industry out of this."

I remember doing this in the late 60's. We wore different colored shirts that represented eye color. Some kids followed the cues and gave the organizers exactly what they wanted. The rest of us wandered off and ignored it all. I would have preferred to watch "Reefer Madness".

Catherine Johnson said...

My kindergartener is being graded this quarter on how responsible he is.

speechless

Catherine Johnson said...

Paula - how old are these teachers?

What I think I'm seeing is very young teachers who have nobody older or more experienced around to advise or help them.

The fantastic qualities of youth are enthusiasm, speed, energy, quick intelligence.

But all good qualities have their drawbacks, I've come to believe.

A young person, almost by definition, cannot possess wisdom.

I don't know how easy it is for a young person even to have a lot of common sense. (I really don't know....though I do know that where children are concerned people always develop a whole lot more common sense the instant they actually give birth to one!)

The other problem in having schools filled with 25-year olds is "polarization." Any time like is surrounded by like people get more like themselves. (Cass Sunstein's study group polarization is useful.)

A young teacher who works only with other young teachers is likely to grow more convinced that having Kindergartners "take ownership of their learning," not less.

Catherine Johnson said...

A vote and a veto

That's what parents need.

Parentalcation said...

This reminds me of an event that happened to me in Sunday School when I was about 11 years old.

Our Sunday School teacher came into the room and told us that Russia had just launched a nuclear attack on us. This was 81 or 82 and we were old enough to know the consequences of a nuclear war, especially being in a major metropolitan area (Los Angeles).

Of course the first thing we wanted as kids was to see our mommys, but they wouldn't let us go and kept asking if we were "saved"... etc. I guess the whole point was to get us to think about whether we were true believers and to strengthen our faith.

Of course it backfired, and to this day I am a devout agnostic.

PaulaV said...

Catherine-

My son's teacher is twenty something. Actually my third grader's teacher is in her late twenties. Neither one have children.

Certainly the teachers must be under pressure to perform.
The young teachers want their kids to perform well to keep the principal off their backs.

If your kid happens to be slower than the others, God help you. You are judged as a bad parent and it must be something you aren't doing at home. Your kid isn't being a responsible student. It is his job to get the information down quickly!

However, all this stems from the top down. The principal is the first teacher. The young teachers follow her lead. If the principal has a condescending view of parents, what is the likelihood that the teachers will too?

--PaulaV

Catherine Johnson said...

Of course the first thing we wanted as kids was to see our mommys, but they wouldn't let us go and kept asking if we were "saved"... etc. I guess the whole point was to get us to think about whether we were true believers and to strengthen our faith.

Of course it backfired, and to this day I am a devout agnostic.


ok, that takes the cake

Catherine Johnson said...

Paula

Is it the principal's policy to grade 5 year olds on responsibility?

I suspect her interpretation may be too literal, age-inappropriate....too something, that's for sure.

Our school is obsessed with character education.

That's bad enough, but the way in which teachers are going about character education is completely out of whack (Ms. K sending Christopher to guidance because he said "Jewfro," the violence against women posters, etc.)

PaulaV said...

Catherine,

I'm not sure if it is mandated by the principal or if it is a county wide obessession. But not only must they "assume responsibility", but they must "appear to feel secure and usually happy at school." These are actual written objectives on his report card.

Actually, character education is a national obsession! My third grader brought home a worksheet titled..."Who is your corkpopper?" The exercise was to see who made you angry and what to do to handle the situation.

The other day when I asked what my kindergartener learned in school, he promptly said life isn't fair. I told him yes that was true in some cases, but he didn't need a guidance counselor to tell him that.


--PaulaV

Sam-Is-Mad said...

We had to watch the video of the original 'experiment' of this in ed school. I thought it was mean and a waste of time (and that was just for us watching it).

Apparently the parents ran her out of town shortly afterwards.

Then our teacher went on about how bigoted people are alway critising those with open minds... etc, etc.

Doug Sundseth said...

I think it's time to start swearing out complaints of child abuse in cases of this sort of nonsense. Encouraging arbitrary discrimination falls clearly in that category as far as I'm concerned.

Even if the complaint is dismissed, it should (both senses of "should") chill attempts at this in the future.

Catherine Johnson said...

Hi sam-is-mad!

Catherine Johnson said...

Doug

I'm with you.

I think this is appalling.

Making children cry on purpose.

This letter strikes me as a case of best defense is a good offense.

Most of the material coming out of our superintendent's office - and, now, our new principal's office - has this feel.

The expressions of gratitude are a coded threat.

Cooperate or else.

Catherine Johnson said...

The other day when I asked what my kindergartener learned in school, he promptly said life isn't fair.

They taught him that?

Life is unfair?

Well I guess he won't be asking any questions, will he?

PaulaV said...

The guidance counselor taught him that. As far as asking questions, I think he is afraid to. His teacher commented that the guidance counselor noticed he asked too many questions...in other words, he needs too much direction.

Perhaps the topics listed below will help him become a more responsible kindergarten student(I have also listed goals for third grade) capable of learning independently.

Kindergarten:
"Peace Making Skills for Little Kids"
Listening Hands Helping
I - Care Language
Feelings
Responsibility
"Second Step"
Empathy
Self - Control

1st Grade:
School Rules
I - Care Rules Respect and Diversity
Fairness
Deciding Who Goes First
De Bug
Solving Problems

2nd Grade: Being a Good Student
DeBug Feelings Identification
I - Messages
Academic Self Improvement
Goal Setting
"Simmons Hook"
Career Awareness

3rd Grade:
Getting Along
"Get Real About Violence"
Fairness
Test Taking Skills
Career Awareness