Friday, October 23, 2015

Why Johnny can’t read.

And why he can’t write a complete sentence.

And why he doesn’t know who Jane Austen is. Or Chaucer. Or Tolstoy.

Remember high school English, anyone over 50? You did two things, basically: they were known as “Lit and Comp” As in studying “Literature” (good books, plays, poems and stuff) and then writing things. That was Composition. (That included grammar, style, sentence structure, literary devices, rhetoric, all that jazz.)

No more. Now they study Equity, Ethics, Diversity, Inclusivity and a host of other diseases.

Yes, I homeschool, but when my kids reach the high school years, they usually opt to do (credited) online courses. This is so that they can get transcripts to get into post-secondary and so forth. Yes, I know there are other ways to do high school at home; that's a discussion for another day. 

The online classes vary widely: they come from a variety of different sources (individual school boards all over the province provide courses; there is no longer any such thing as the one-size-fits-all “Government Correspondence School”). There have been some good courses and many excellent teachers. Other times, not so much. 

Oh, the funny stories I could tell. Like the teacher who revealed (via a Power Point lecture) that he couldn’t read/pronounce “tuberculosis,” (but his version, “Turb-you-locus” kept us in stitches for months).

I can relate the anecdote below now that the child in question has finished high school and left home. In fact, I can’t even remember which school board in the province developed this English course. I just recall that it made my head explode on a fairly regular basis.

The first section “Equity and Ethics” of my daughter’s grade 10 English course dealt with "learning styles" (fair enough, since it helps students identify theirs) but then followed the questions below (keep in mind: this is the VERY FIRST ASSIGNMENT of the year, in a course meant for 15-year-olds.)

(I have taken the liberty of providing my own answers, in red. They are not the answers my daughter gave to the questions when she did the assignments.)

1. A student is blind, but wants to take visual art as a course in Grade 10. The student cannot see, yet a major portion of the Grade 10 course is all about the colour wheel and it is mandatory that every student in the class does a project involving the visual effects of colour on design trends. Ethically, how should that student be assessed on their [sic] learning for this part of the course?

1) Response:
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
Yes, should they so opt, blind students have the right to study visual art, just as a quadriplegic likely has the right to be on the track team. If they can’t “see” colour (what is “seeing” anyway?), there are ways to “feel” and “intuit” colour. You just need a teacher who is sufficiently imaginative, artsy or new-agey to assist with that.
A blind artist could not possibly produce anything worse than some of the modern art that is already out there. To demonstrate “yellow” for instance, one could submerge a photo of Jackson Pollock in a jar of pee.

Oh, and the [sic] in the last sentence? “Their” is a plural pronoun, and the antecedent (“the student”) is singular. But then it’s not as though we’re studying Grammar and Usage or anything. This is just high school English.

2. A deaf student is registered in the Distance Learning B10 course, in which there are a number of listening and speaking activities. It is required that all students demonstrate their skills with listening and speaking, but it is decided that this student does not have to do these portions of the course. Another student who is extremely shy to speak aloud is failing the course because she did not do any of those activities. What is the ethical thing the teacher should do here?

The teacher should take a leave of absence, possibly to university, and take courses such as Ethics and Equity, Psychology, and Curriculum Implementation: Brainstorming Solutions in an Inclusive World, instead of asking her 15-year old students to solve her classroom problems for her.

3. Johnny is a student who has extreme difficulty with keeping his hands still while in English class. Often, during reading time, he is disruptive and interrupts the quiet atmosphere the teacher has created in the classroom so all can concentrate. The teacher spends a lot of time trying to keep Johnny quiet, and his parents have refused the request to send Johnny to another room with a teaching assistant during reading time. Ethically, what should be done to provide an opportunity for Johnny to learn, as well as time for the rest of the class to read?

1) It had to be “Johnny”, didn’t it?
2) Johnny should be held down forcibly and given his dose of Ritalin.
3) Johnny’s parents are evil and stupid. It’s not a solution, but we do want to reinforce this point in the child’s mind.
4) Sentence two is self-contradictory: if Johnny is being constantly disruptive, then is it accurate to claim that the teacher has created a “quiet atmosphere” in the classroom? But then, they don’t teach Logic in Teachers’ College anymore.
5) Johnny’s parents (who are probably being maligned, since no parents in such a situation would refuse the one-on-one services of a TA, knowing that their child was a disruption) should withdraw him from school and home-educate him.

Wow. Is it just me, or is it absolutely INSANE to expect 15-year-old kids to be able to solve these kinds of dilemmas? What are we paying teachers and school counsellors and psychologists for (to say nothing of the gargantuan bureaucracies that develop curricula and administer programs)?

But as Gary Larson’s cartoon caveman would say, “It get better.”

The next section in my daughter’s "English" course was called:

We Want to Know How Superstitious, Anti-Choice, Reactionary, Conservative, Anti-LabourUnion and Bigoted Your Parents Are
Factors that Influence our Learning

Students are asked to answer the following:

1. What are your views on work?
2. What do you believe about death and an afterlife?
3. Summarize what you believe about criminals and the justice system.
4. Do you think terminally ill people should be allowed to end their own lives, or not? Please explain your answer.
5. Should Canada allow illegal immigrants into the country, and assist them financially once they “in”? Support your views with at least one solid reason.

For the love of Learning, this is NOT the study of law, sociology, class warfare, or contentious social issues! Can anyone explain to me what any of this has to do with the study of English?? This is ENGLISH (Lit! Comp!) not Political Correctness 101.

Equity and Ethics indeed.
When do they get around to studying “Sentence Construction”? I’m not going to hold my breath. 

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