Are You Smarter than a High Schooler?

What does it mean when the school district not only allows a sports event to take place on a school day — in this case, part 1 of the Class 5A Front Range League conference track meet — but also sanctions it being run well into the night (The Teenager did not get home until 9:30 PM)?  And what does it mean when The Coach insists that all team members stay to the bitter end — presumably because Good Sportsmanship trumps academic demands?

Oh, wait a minute . . . .  this assumes the school district actually makes academic demands!

Silly of me to believe you cannot outrun ignorance.

How utterly futile of me to even write about this.  According to a National Assessment of Educational Progress report, only 32 percent of eighth graders could name an advantage Americans had over the British in the Revolutionary War, and just 22 percent of high school seniors knew that U.S. troops fought Chinese forces in the Korean War.

Obviously, whatever the question, whatever the issue, people prefer to belong to the majority!

Letting Go, One Body Part at a Time

Having a teenager means thinking — a lot — about what “letting go” means. It is about letting go of control over her person — when she no longer needs you to clean her up, feed her, carry her around, when she does not need you to buy her clothes and shoes, when she goes to get her own haircuts, when she has her own ideas (no matter how erroneous) of what to put inside her body . . . .  The letting go, one body part at a time, has been ongoing for a while, but has become so much more visible of late as I realize how tired I am of doing certain things.  I am tired of hearing about her foot problems, so I have decided that what she chooses for footwear — aside from running shoes, which we agreed to subsidize until she is 18 — is no longer my financial responsibility  And I really wish she would go ahead and shave her head, as she has been “threatening” to do for a couple of years now.  I would love to have clear drains and clean carpets!

The biggest body part, and obviously the one I am most ill-equipped to let go of, is of course the brain.  It is my business in some ways — I mean, we have set up a very healthy college fund for her — but in the most real sense, her brain is none of my business.  A few months ago I had the minor epiphany that her failures and accomplishments are hers, and how she defines “education” is also hers.  Last night we had the latest round in the “what is education” argument: the Teenager’s  AP Human Geography teacher wants her to take the AP exam because she is convinced that the Teenager will score a 5.  Do I think the teacher has the Teenager’s best interest at heart?  That is debatable.  The whole AP industry is about making money, and the schools and teachers collude with the testing service because success on paper translates to more education dollars for their schools and programs.  Truly top tier colleges are not going to give a damn that an applicant got a 4 or 5 in AP Human Geography, while the schools that may give brownie points would admit the Teenager anyway.  So . . . .  I backed out of the whole argument and let DH decide, and being a Dad, he gave in and wrote the check for $89 (!) for what we both agree is actually a rather useless test.  I think the Teenager will in fact do well on the exam, but as with her grades, I hope she does not take the result (whether “good” or “bad”) to heart and assign it greater meaning than it merits.

In the meantime, the lines of the day:

Me: Have you fed the dog?

TT:  No; I am having issues with her.

Me:  I have issues with you, but I always feed you anyway!

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.