My Beautiful Wickedness


Just enjoy it.
July 5, 2008, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve been having a string of very happy days. I’ve had just the right mix between doing useful work that will outlast the day of its doing, thinking work as I try to figure out what couple of questions I might use to guide my thinking about the past, and just kicking back (watching a lot of sports/fireworks, playing long games of Monopoly with my Kid, etc.) I got a message from whoever it is that advises me while I’m sleeping — I woke up today with the idea “just enjoy it” in my head. Good advice.

Kid’s Iowa test results came in today. They were, as usual, beyond good. That doesn’t surprise me — she’s pretty much the kid that those tests are designed for (white, wealthy, private school, excellent attention span, rule following, interested in challenging herself). She tested in the 99th percentile overall and six to ten grade levels higher than she is in everything but spelling, which tested out at only three grades higher. They must have had her write an essay (the only thing I learned about the test itself from her was that the kid she sat with was flirting with her in that dumb little third-grader way), as the school was going nutty about her organization of ideas and paragraph construction scores (which are just shy of collegiate). Her dad and I have gone with the idea that it’s easier to teach a kid who thinks interesting complex ideas a way to express herself clearly when she’s little than to try to “fix” bad writing habits later. I guess that’s working. (I do teach writing as part of what I do, so it’s nice to see that the method works.)

The nice thing is that our teachers do NO prep for the test. Standardized testing is not part of the Montessori method (and in fact, Maria Montessori was actively opposed to creating standardized humans), so the kids just show up one day and the desks are arranged in funny shapes. The teachers grudgingly give up that week to keep the parents happy (we have some measurement freaks among us) and the adminstrators need to have bragging points as they talk to new recruits. I guess it also helps to keep the state accrediting agencies happy.

Now, as pleased as I am that Kid is doing well in school (we knew that without the test results), what this all means is that the national scores are distressingly low. A lot of students could be doing a whole hell of a lot more with their brains…but for parents without the wherewithal, teachers who either can’t teach or are teaching too damn many kids, an education-averse society…it’s a superficial measure, but even as shallow as it goes, it seems that it’s way way too deep for some children. I don’t see how this culture of test-taking is really helping anything. For kids at our school, it’s not going to change their curriculum because it operates peripherally to the curricular methodology — and I bet it’s like that with most healthy private schools. For low-performing kids in public schools, it’s basically going to confirm that the wheels are off the cart — and rather than addressing the core problems of class size and home-school partnership, some administrator will use it to dock some overworked primary school teachers pay and get rid of all their aides. I’m very pessimistic. I’ve seen a lot of bad parenting in the last few days (the four-year-old kid at the ballpark who repeatedly kicked his drop-in daddy hard in the leg while his evil momma screamed “you little bastard, I hate you” …oh, if I only knew where to send Child Protective Services…). I just don’t see how enough of those damaged kids can rise above.

Yes, that’s two Black Flag allusions in a single sentence. I’m not going to top that, so I guess I’ll go to bed.

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8 Comments so far
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Bridgett:

You are so right. Even back in the day when I was in primary and high school the ACT, PSAT and SAT were used to separate the “smart ones” from the rest. I was one of the kids who threw a wrench into the works by getting pretty high test scores while I was failing all or most of my classes. The result of me getting those high scores while not doing well in academic subjects was that I was branded as lazy and willful.

Of course when I was diagnosed–not once, but twice–with ADD and a couple of learning impairments, at the age of 43 (and again at 53) it was a bit late to put the lightning back in the bottle. No battery of tests gives the whole picture of what a child’s capabilities and difficulties are. That’s why we need the best teachers. Of course that would require paying them well and not expecting them to babysitting or warding duties along with class instruction.

Comment by democommie

Interesting. I too was “diagnosed” with ADD, placed on Ritalin, and then forgotten about. I had to deal with the addiction by myself. Like Demo, I had monster scores on every type of test, but no day to day discipline, I would not be standardized, it seems.

Wishing like hell I could find a school nearby that we can afford for Supermousey. He love of learning has all but been quashed.

Comment by Mack

The best education for your kids is one of those things that you just have to afford, just like you’d break your ass to get them emergency medical care. If they lose the love of learning, they’ve lost their human spark. Rebudget if you have to. Get an extra job. Sell off some crap. We’ve done all those things to make it work. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it to see her thrive to her full potential.

Honestly, make some calls and see if you can swing it. You might be able to get some scholarship assistance or trade work-in-kind for a portion of the tuition– some Montessoris are interested in organic farming experiences for their older students and you might be able to work out something by offering them space and mentoring on your farm.

Comment by bridgett

Mack:

Dude, U haz madskilz that pointyheadegghadz would kil 4; Bridgett’s on the bullseye. Or, if all else fails, send your kids up to live with me for, oh, a week or so. They will be much more interested in getting their bookworm on when they see the alternative to doing so. Have them bring some chili verde if they come.

Comment by democommie

It strikes me that there would be fewer kids diagnosed with ADD if the classrooms engaged the bright kids’ minds. My mom is beginning to worry that Kid will run out of road in the high schools around here — if she’s testing at a high school level in third grade, what are they going to be teaching her in tenth grade? I am naively confident that we’ll find something that works, but one of the reasons that she has been zipping along is that her “classroom” is really interesting. They do science experiments where things blow up. They put on unabridged versions of Shakespeare (and do it really well). They build a 1:3 scale longhouse on the back forty so that they can learn how to use basic tools and learn something real about traditional Six Nations values rather than some bullshit in a NYDOE curriculum guide. They grow their own vegetables and use them to cook meals for each other with their Spanish teacher (who is a cultural anthropologist from Madrid who also owns a local organic restaurant) and that’s how they learn a second (or third) language. They are encouraged to dance, to paint, to play violin — the arts are seen as critical to being fully human.

These kids are no smarter than any other set of kids. They have parents who want to invest in a good education and who are affluent enough (or willing to forego some of their own pleasure) to afford a different approach to education. I’m not convinced that there’s a ton of great parenting — it pretty much runs the gamut from people who are way too involved to people who drop their three-year-olds off at 7 am and pick them up at 6 pm. The difference is in how the kids are treated and what they do during the day. The kids are trusted to make sound educational choices and because of this, they become responsible and mature-for-their-age individuals.

Comment by bridgett

Bridgett:

I think you are absolutely right about how the differences in education make children better students. The problem, from my persepective is that much of the money and most of the resources available to “traditional” educational bodies (at the public school level) is improperly used. How to fix that? I do not know.

The city I live in, Oswego, NY, has approximately 17,000 people in it and a school budget of over $67M. The school system has, as near as I can determine, a bit under 5,000 students. This works out to a per student expenditure in excess of $12K. I can’t say if that is excessive, nor can I say that it is out of line with other school systems. I do know that almost everyone who pays taxes complains about the budget–and, conversely, they almost never attend any school board meetings. Like government, it would appear that folks get the school systems they allow as defaults.

Comment by democommie

Well, yes, you are both right…but it boils down to logistics as well. There isn’t a school close to us that isn’t christian based, and i ain’t havin it. Getting her into nashville everyday and keeping up here at the farm AND paying for it isn’t in the cards for Middle School. I hope to be able to get her into a decent private high school, we’ll see what happens.

Comment by Mack

Mack:

I’m not suggesting that you forfeit your own (and the rest of your family’s) benefits for the sake of one child’s education. I gather though, from your posts and comments on others that you are a very resourceful guy. So, I’m quite sure that when the opportunity presents itself you will seize it.

Comment by democommie




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