Thursday, November 14, 2019

Today's Grievances

I have a girl in my class who imitates me. Sometimes she stands behind my back and mimics my movements. Other times, she anticipates exactly what I'm going to say, stands up, and says it before I can. I have to say, I find this very disappointing.

The key issue, in my view, is having teenagers in my class who are smarter than I am. I mean, who the hell do they think they are doing that? Not only are they thinking faster than I am, but they have no reservations whatsoever about demonstrating it to the rest of the class. How disrespectful is that?

Now some of these kids are from a country in which students tend not to talk in class, ever. The teacher just stands up there like some mythical deity and spouts wisdom. They sit there and write down every golden piece of verbiage that falls from his mouth, like manna from heaven. Then they come here, get into my class, and talk faster and more cleverly than I do. What's up with that?

And don't get me started on the students who are taller than I am. I point out that I don't like it, and they nod their heads in agreement. But the next day they walk in just as tall as they were the last time I saw them. Sometimes they're even taller.

Clearly there is a breakdown in communications somewhere in our processes. We spend years carefully giving them tests that value self-expression not at all. We give them English classes in which we gloss over the great body of American literature it's taken us hundreds of years to build. Maybe we do The Road Not Taken. More likely we don't. Perish forbid we should go back to actual English literature, beyond perhaps a Classic Comics version of Romeo and Juliet.

No, we burden them with tedious essays. We make sure they read up on the history of cement, and they get to decide whether or not we should include rocks or shiny stuff among the gravel. These are the issues. We make sure to avoid discussing anything of relevance. Should teachers carry guns in schools? Should all Americans have health insurance? It doesn't matter, because you'll never see a controversial or contemporary topic that actually affects the lives of our students on the English Regents exam. In fact even if you did, there would be two prefabricated arguments and no room for students to create their own.

We do everything we can imagine to suppress their sense of curiosity and wonder and still they show up with eager minds and ready senses of humor. What more can we do to discourage their thirst for making sense out of what they see in this world? It's as though whatever meaningless soul-crushing tedium we inflict upon them has no effect whatsoever.

The only real solution, as far as I can tell, is to tempt David Coleman away from his job over at The College Board collecting an obscene salary for Whatever It Is He Does There. Sure, it will be expensive to lure him away, but he's the only person I know who can stand up in public and declare no one gives a crap what people feel or think. He managed to build that philosophy into a curriculum supported by Well Known Rich Guy Bill Gates. If Bill Gates supports it, it must be a good idea. Otherwise, why would he have all that money?

We have to take action now, and make sure school days have no relevance or meaning whatsoever. Also, we have to make sure students come here eager and willing to participate in activities that have no meaning whatsoever, beyond passing tedious exams. How else can we prepare students to work at Walmart or Target, with no benefits, no parental leave, and salary insufficient to rent a one-bedroom apartment in the crappiest part of town?

Otherwise, these smart kids will just keep showing up to my class with their humor and ideas, pushing their way out of the corrals we create to hold them, and there'll be absolutely nothing we can do about it.
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