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TorgoX (1933)


"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Saturday June 26, 2004
02:22 AM

Ragtime education

[ #19510 ]
Dear Log,

This is not a story with a particular point, or punchline really, just a few odd connections in my meaty brain.

In 11th grade, I got tired of English class, the way some people get tired of jury duty, or herpes.

So I told the high school counselor I wanted to switch English-class tracks from the "good student" track into the "not really good (rich), but not actually dim or poor (Mexican)" track, since I assumed (correctly) that this would mean less work and less bullshit.

The counselor was delighted by the idea of a student basically scamming the system, and so he let me do whatever I wanted. So I happily stayed in the blah-English track for the rest of high school. The whole experience was extremely educational, and in none of the ways that the school system intended. (I love it when a plan comes together!)

A notable part of the laff-riot was that early in 12th grade year, the State of California Education And Mosquito-Abatement Authority decreed that there must be another round of Standardized Testing. Standardized Tests up until then had consisted of a few days of unobtrusive multiple choice tests, and each year varied from the previous really just in having a totally different acronymic name each time.

But this year was to be different -- the 12th graders would be tested, with essay questions. When you test 9th graders, you can just tut tut at how dim they are and move on, since We The Community still have many long years left to teach them. But when it's 12th graders, the test results practically write themselves up as angry headlines about how "People are GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL without knowing _____!!!".

And the fact that there would be an essay section instilled true panic in the local school-district administration. One pictures hands shakily working Selectric typewriters, sending around terrified memoes. Of course, we the students didn't give a rat's ass.

All curricula in sight were scrapped under school-district orders, with the incidental explanation that the curricula were not being scrapped, just augmented, in a special kind of augmentation that means throwing away the thing you're augmenting to make room for the other thing. The other thing was: teaching to the test.

The English classes especially were "augmented" from their usual discussions of inane plot-points in The Scarlet Letter, instead to administering practice-runs of the dozen kinds of prompts that could be thrown at students in the essay section of the Impending Doom/Test.

I don't remember terribly much about those prompts except that one night's homework for everyone in the class was some a prompt instructing the respondant/student/victim to write a mock letter to their city councilman about I've-forgotten-what. The results from the students looked a bit worse than this mess (which is what dredged up this memory in the first place, the other day).

Our teacher's reaction to this was merely to announce that she was shocked, shocked at how bad our attempts-at-letters were. We, the students were shocked (shocked!!!) by the fact that she had not considered that there had been exactly no letter-writing in the entire curriculum (the curriculum being that thing she was supposed to know about, what with meetings and memoes and things); and this being the 1980s, of course we had no outside experience of letter-writing, so of course it was all very hit-and-miss for us, and that the results were no more shocking that what would be expected if we were asked to compose lyrics to a ragtime jig.

Before anyone could say this to her (in phrasing that have probably started out with "Oh yeah?!"), she showed us what a trooper she was by telling us that she had written something to that prompt too! (It's backwards day or something! Will my mind survive this role-reversal? Tear down the walls, man!)

She read it to us, her little essay.

It was bad.

It was bad.

It was poetry-slam bad. It was "open mic" bad.

We knew it. We looked at eachother and recognized that we all knew it. And she had no idea.

And that was when we, as a class, realized that Hell is full and the dead are walking the Earth, teaching school.

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  • My son's entering 6th grade next year, and the same kinds of last-minute curriculum changes still happen all of the time. The entire month of January at his school was spent in prep for the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. (His school does score well on the test, but only though coaching like this.)

    What I've done is do a bit of curriculum editing of my own. He brings home work and I advise him on what's going to be important, and what's not. I give him extra work where I want to enhance t
    • It sounds like you and him are following the saying that I too like to quote: "don't let your schooling get in the way of your education."

      I'm glad it's an idea that gets around. Otherwise, GAWWWD!!!