Every Child Left Behind

A few days ago, The Teenager asked me to proofread her English essay.  I got as far as the opening paragraph, and could not go on:

When reading Shakespearean literature, sometimes the reader gets confused at the complexity of the piece, but when examining the text at a closer angle there is a whole new level of understanding.  In Shakespearean times, the people were used to seeing people act out the plays and dramas, however now in current times the context of Shakespearean literature is not as clear to the reader.  With more understanding of the text, deepens the readers knowledge of the culture background Shakespeare has presented to us.  Finding different ways of approaching the text assists the reader understand the setting of Shakespearean writing.  Depicting the thoughts and actions of the characters in Shakespeare’s plays gives the audience a whole new level of perspective of Romeo and Juliet.  The way Shakespeare incorporates his time period and events gives Romeo and Juliet a whole new meaning that we understand through his literature.  The complex literature written by William Shakespeare gives the audience a new interpretation of his famous play, Romeo and Juliet by using social commentary, plot development, symbolism and imagery, and them to give the reader a better understanding of Shakespearean Literature. 

It is now two months to the end of school and the end of The Teenager’s first year in high school.  She has been a straight A student, and I just assumed everything was fine.  Little did I know that this particular piece is only the second essay her English teacher has assigned all year — in fact, only the second writing assignment of any sort since school began in August.  The words may be bigger and longer now than when The Teenager was in middle school, but her ability to string words and sentences together into a coherent whole has not improved.  I admit it: I have no idea what she has learned in her English class —  and I’m not sure she knows either.  If reasonably good students are also falling through the cracks, then who is not being left behind?  To which DH says, “No one is being left behind because no one is moving forward!”

If you keep telling your child how wonderful and talented and smart she is, how does she ever deal with the real world of judgment and hierarchy and rejection?  One of our nephews is down in the dumps because he has sort of lost out on the college sweepstakes: Stanford, his first choice, rejected him.  He has been getting messages of the sympathetic and consoling sort: “Their loss,” or “They don’t know what they’re doing,” and “You’re so talented,” etceteraetceteraetcetera.  The truth, of course, is that “they” are never going to know if they had a loss (and it wouldn’t matter anyway),  “they” do know what they’re doing, and he is in fact not that talented.  But since no one has asked my opinion, I keep my mouth shut.

I am not actually ragging on The Teenager this time, because I think the teacher and the school are to blame.  An “A” in English when she can’t write worth a damn — really???  When she was in the 4th grade, The Kid came home with a binder of material that the teacher had given the students for their semester-long history assignment.  Mr. G had used the example of his pioneering ancestor’s adventures during the California gold rush to talk about American expansion during the 19th century.  I thought this was a wonderfully creative and engaging way to teach history, but unfortunately The Kid never “got” it.  She was not alone in this, for apparently most of the kids did not understand the point of the stories and assignments.  Anyway, we looked at some of the handouts in the binder and found page after page of reading material liberally highlighted in yellow.  The Kid told us the teacher had told them to mark up “important” information . . . .  Not much has changed in the intervening years, apparently:

. . . .  except she has a lot more markers now.

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