kitchen table math, the sequel: The 'Choke Tester'

## Monday, April 28, 2008

### The 'Choke Tester'

Today was just too much to bear. This school year will not be over soon enough, if you ask me. Between the endless projects, back-to-back creative writing assignments, and Everyday Math in second grade, there just seems to be no time to learn multiplication or division, what a paragraph or pronoun is, or real science for that matter. I used to be able to laugh at some of the silly assignments my children would bring home from school, but It's not even funny anymore.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it does.

Right after he filled me in on how he got an incomplete because he didn't use partial products on his math work today (despite the annoying fact that all his answers were correct), my second grade son handed me his health assignment which reads as follows:

Directions: Using the 'Choke Tester' you made in class, make a list of items in your home that can fit through it. Make a plan with your family where to safely store the listed items in your home to prevent choking hazards.

[lines for the list]

Of course, that explains what the weird paper towel tube thingie covered in stickers, pipe cleaner, and heaven knows what else that he brought home today was supposed to be. I thought it was some strange art project. But no. It's a choke tester, of course. What else would it be?

Why, in the name of Zeus, does our family need to have a plan to store our choking hazards when we haven't needed to child-proof our home in at least five years? And why, oh why, is this considered homework?

If I should be worried about my eight year old son putting some random choking hazard in his mouth and trying to swallow it, I probably have bigger problems than I realized. Last time I checked, we were well past this stage.

Even my son knows how ridiculous this health assignment is. He said, "I knew you wouldn't like this, Mom." To which I responded, "You're right. I don't." Then he asked, "We won't do stuff like this when I'm homeschooled, right?"

Boy, you can say that again.

Anonymous said...

Boy, I feel for you.

I'm so glad to be done with the grade schools. Even though our middle school does too much coloring, it isn't quite as bad.

SusanS

Catherine Johnson said...

yeah, well, I've got you beat!

(But you knew that, didn't you?? I had a dear friend in LA who called this kind of thing "competitive misery." No matter what happened to her or her brother, her mom always had a worse story.)

My favorite public school perversity was the health assignment the 8th graders had to do last year (or was it the year before?)

Write an essay explaining how losing half of your tongue to tongue cancer would affect your career.

Catherine Johnson said...

Actually, I think your school is MUCH worse than ours -- although it's been a while since I've had an 8 year old child.

Our school could be just as bad by now given the Sweeping Constructivist Reforms we have been undergoing a a direct result of not one single person in the population petitioning the school board to hire a top administrator to implement sweeping constructivist reforms.

Catherine Johnson said...

These assignments are passive aggressive in nature. They are a veiled expression of contempt for parents who cannot be trusted to take care of their children.

I would refuse to do this assignment.

Catherine Johnson said...

I suppose this is the place to reveal that my own child, age 13, is to create a Chinese foldable-thingie with questions to ask his parents at the dinner table.

This is for Health, where the kids are learning the importance of having dinner with your family.

This is highly appropriate in a community filled with stay-at-home moms who've read every baby & child care book on the market.

Something I'm pretty sure our educators have not done.

Ben Calvin said...

This is highly appropriate in a community filled with stay-at-home moms who've read every baby & child care book on the market.

Always pays to know your audience!

concernedCTparent said...

These assignments are passive aggressive in nature. They are a veiled expression of contempt for parents who cannot be trusted to take care of their children.

I would refuse to do this assignment.

Yes, this is where I am right now. I believe I will refuse to have him do it.

I think I'll have him do something in the realm of health education that is appropriate for an eight year old and that has some educational value.

Suggestions anyone?

concernedCTparent said...

Actually, I think your school is MUCH worse than ours --

I'm afraid you're right.

I just cannot imagine who thinks that this is a valuable use of a child's time. And yes, it's absolutely passive aggresive, not to mention condescending, to make assumptions about what parents need to discuss at home with their children.

If I want to keep grapes, paper clips, and pushpins lying around my home, I shouldn't have to explain to anyone my plan for keeping them from turning into choking hazards. Most importantly, my kid shouldn't think that I should have to either.

concernedCTparent said...

Write an essay explaining how losing half of your tongue to tongue cancer would affect your career.

You win!

Who in the world thinks up this stuff?

Tex said...

This reminds me of the time my daughter asked for a photo of dad drinking wine so she could use it to decorate her DARE box. That is, she could use it after she drew a “NO” symbol over it.

I allowed her to participate in DARE because she would have been the only kid in her grade pulled out. And, because she really wanted to go to the pool party they have at the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

re: a health project for an 8 year old -- something about handwashing? Seems like an elementary topic but unquestionably child-appropriate.

I've seen it done by public health folks with special glow-in-the-dark lotion (to show off where you've missed) which was instructive.

http://www.tpchd.org/page.php?id=19

Catherine Johnson said...

Always pays to know your audience!

lolll

That's a major point, though.

I finished reading The Logic of Failure last night --- what an incredible book!

"Know your audience" would probably be a fundamental principle for him if he'd been thinking in those terms.

Catherine Johnson said...

The Logic of Failure, I would say, implies that K-12 will continue to be a disaster because of the way it's structured.

The key to managing any complex system well is constant experimentation, feedback, and a continual effort to connect cause & effect.

That's exactly the opposite of what occurs in public education where administrators implement things willy-nilly, without regard for local conditions and with outcomes simply assumed instead of monitored and measured.

Catherine Johnson said...

You know what might be OK for a hand-washing project: something about the HUGE amount of hand-washing you have to do in a NICU. (I don't know if that's too upsetting for an 8 year old?? I don't think it has to be...)

Andrew was in the NICU for about 12 days, I think, and Ed and I had to spend what felt like hours washing & SCRUBBING our hands AND OUR ARMS UP TO OUR ELBOWS before we could go inside and hold our own baby!

Babies like Andrew are called "growers"; they're not sick, they're just there until they grow big enough to go home. (This is why I don't think a NICU element to such a project would be upsetting, necessarily.)

They have all kinds of disposable hand-washing tools, as I recall. You use a little brush on your arms (can't remember the whole ritual now).

I think Jerome Groopman's book has a whole gory discussion of how many people drop dead in hospitals due entirely to bad hand-washing habits on the part of staff....(see! I could be a Health teacher, too! Write a report about all the frail old people and premature babies dying needlessly due to lousy hospital hygiene, little Johnny!)

Catherine Johnson said...

I must say: the tongue cancer assignment will stand forever as a highlight of my career in the public schools.

VickyS said...

Teach him the hand signals (left, right, stop) for riding a bicycle.

Or--

Show him where the home fire extinguisher is and how to use it.

Or--

Show him how to get out of a window on the second floor if he's caught in a fire.

Oh wait. If a second grader needs to be protected from choking hazards you'd probably get pulled up on child abuse charges if you taught him how to open a second floor window.

Catherine Johnson said...

Oh wait. If a second grader needs to be protected from choking hazards you'd probably get pulled up on child abuse charges if you taught him how to open a second floor window.

snort

Catherine Johnson said...

The thing I especially like about the tongue cancer assignment was that it was only half your tongue you were supposed to lose.

How would losing half your tongue to tongue cancer affect your future career?

Catherine Johnson said...

So I was told.

Kim said...

This is why it is so crazy for public school officials to have charge over how homeschoolers teach their kids. The point it THE PUBLIC SCHOOL WAS REALLY BAD!! So bad you'd rather do it yourself. When my husband and i were discussing homeschooling we finally realized how little time the kids actually spend doing work. Most of the time is spent on silly projects or transitioning from one subject to the next, or handing out paperwork and collecting paperwork, taking attendance...I just can't go on. Yet some states want homeschoolers to show they spend the same number of hours doing schooling as the public school. If that happens the public school will just look worse and worse.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this more, and wondering if the original choke-testing idea had a "protect your local baby" mission (rather than being about your 8yo child). I can't find deep info inside my local standards, but there's an overarching description in one section of the health and fitness mission about "protecting oneself and *others* from injury."