Reading, Writing, and Heteronormativity

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I'm as convinced of a "War Against Boys" as I am of a War on Christmas, but any society that encourages a high school student to sue on these grounds should be applauded:

Girls are outperforming boys because the school system favors them, said [high school senior Doug] Anglin' who has filed a federal civil rights complaint contending that his school discriminates against boys.

Anglin's complaint has set off a buzz among the 1,000 students at the school….Of the 22 students in her honors Spanish class, only one is a boy, said Little, a senior. She also said that teachers rarely ask her for a hall pass if she is not in class, while they routinely question boys walking behind her.

As for assignments, she said, one teacher expects students to type up class notes and decorate their notebooks with glitter and feathers.

"You can't expect a boy to buy pink paper and frills to decorate their notebooks," Little said.

I think we can take the integration of glitter into any academic endeavor as evidence that public schools suck equally for men, women, and anyone in between. Over at Slate, Ann Hulbert chimes in:

Viewing school issues primarily through a gender lens has a way of encouraging a search for one-size-fits-all prescriptions for each sex. But what the array of motley evidence about males suggests is the wisdom of being wary about just that.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: The Virtues of Chinese Censorship

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  1. Glitter and feathers? Oh, hell, no.

  2. This kid is a joke. First of all, the idea that men can’t ‘sit down, follow orders, and do what they say’ in order to get good grades is a joke. How does this kid think he is going to get through college?
    As far as decorating a notebook, so what? How hard is it to paste some crap on a notebook for a freaking grade? Big deal. And typing up class notes? Oh perish the idea! Half these kids cannot read their own writing anyway…I require all my students to type extended writing assignments and notes.
    Oh, and could it be the class president doesn’t get stopped in the hall because she is, you know, the class president?
    The kid’s father suggests that schools look past boy’s ‘poor work habits or rule breaking.’ I call bullshit. It’s possible to be a creative, energetic, and active student while actually not being lazy and breaking rules. The solutions he proposes are ridiculous, for the most part. Credit for playing team sports, I suppose I could accept. But allowing students to take advanced classes on a pass/fail basis so they won’t hurt their GPA? I call bullshit. And I realize that most here would not really support a requirement for community service, which I understand, but if you see service to the community as a burden, that is unfortunate, and if you are too lazy to read a book to an old person once a week, then you are also too lazy to, oh, I don’t know, play with the XBox.
    I’m sorry, this article really pisses me off as a teacher. WHERE IS THE RESPONSIBILITY? This kid comes across as a lazy brat that is looking for an excuse about why he can’t get into Holy Cross (his dad wants retroactive adjustment of boy’s GPA’s, and his son’s is 2.83.)

  3. As far as decorating a notebook, so what? How hard is it to paste some crap on a notebook for a freaking grade?

    Wouldn’t a better question be, “Why should you have to paste some crap on a notebook for a freaking grade?” The only way a teacher should require assignments to use glitter and feathers is if the course in on Las Vegas Costume Design.

  4. Maybe the kid’s just upset he didn’t get into Milton Academy where the gender relations are on a more adult level.

  5. Jennifer,
    Perhaps you have a point, but I would argue that we don’t actually know what the assignment was. Hell, it could have been freaking art class. And I say again, it’s an assignment that could be done in ten minutes without much effort, so why complain about it? Just do it and move on. I suspect, but don’t know, that it was probably a ‘first day,’ ‘getting to know you’ or extra credit assignment.
    Well, whatever the case, I really don’t think that’s that big a deal. To me, the biggest problem is the lac of responsibility that this kid seems to show. He accepts no responsibility for his failures, blaming it all on the school’s supposed ‘bias.’ And that, as I said, is bullshit.

  6. It’s funny–when I was teaching I would not let my students do their assignments in glittery inks; I told them “If I have to hold your paper at a certain angle in order to read it, I’m not going to bother.” I guess I was wrong–kids cannot learn anything unless their assignments are all sparkly.

  7. And I say again, it’s an assignment that could be done in ten minutes without much effort, so why complain about it? Just do it and move on. I suspect, but don’t know, that it was probably a ‘first day,’ ‘getting to know you’ or extra credit assignment.

    Even so, we have the shortest school year in the industrialized world, and no time to waste on stupid assignments involving notebook decoration. Even if it’s an extra credit assignment, what’s wrong with extra credit that is actually educational? I agree some of what this boy is demanding is ludicrous, but it sounds like there’s a lot of stupid, pointless day-care activities going on there.

  8. But Jennifer, how are girls going to learn their gender role properly if they can’t make sparkely, feathery things in school?

  9. Jennifer,
    I agree with you there. I really hate those damn fluorescent pens, with the pinks and greens. I tell my students that any color but blue, black, or pencil (gray-black?) is unacceptable. If they don’t have one, I give them one.
    Not sure where you get the idea that either I or the article said that kids learn best in glitter. The way I read it is as the outside of the notebook being decorated. Anyway, again, there is more to this than a silly assignment. It is an issue of responsibility and effort; this kid, like many of peers, probably makes little effort in all of his classes.
    A personal example: a couple of years ago, I taught two honors classes in history. One was fantastic, the other was full of lazy students who wanted the credit for ‘honors’ without the work. For example, I had a number of students in that class constantly complain because I made them write and read a ton; they said, and I quote, “This is honors history, not honors English. All this reading and writing is stupid. I didn’t expect this much work!”
    Every year, these kids get less and less willing to make an effort.

  10. Good point, Smacky. And if American students fall behind in their Glitter Application skills, then the Chinese will totally kick our asses soon. I’m just glad this teacher didn’t make students waste their time with bullshit stuff like reading and writing instead.

  11. Anyway, again, there is more to this than a silly assignment. It is an issue of responsibility and effort; this kid, like many of peers, probably makes little effort in all of his classes. . . . I had a number of students in that class constantly complain because I made them write and read a ton

    And students who complain about having to read and write are lazy idiots, but students who complain about having to use glitter and feathers have a damn good point.

    It’s not enough to expect kids to make an effort; they have to make an effort for things that actually matter. Reading and writing matter. Notebook decoration does not.

  12. “Even so, we have the shortest school year in the industrialized world, and no time to waste on stupid assignments involving notebook decoration. Even if it’s an extra credit assignment, what’s wrong with extra credit that is actually educational?”

    Looking at it that way, I concede the point. You are right.
    I hate giving extra credit. If you need extra credit, you didn’t earn enough regular credit, sorry! When I DO give it, it usually involves something like reading the Divine Comedy and writing a report on each book, or researching an epoch and developing a class presentation. Something that takes effort and is a legitimate example of student willingness to learn.

  13. Reason has limits, it seems.

  14. Steve, when I was teaching English I was actually required, in some cases, to let students do bullshit extra credit. Supposedly, if a student was judged to have poor reading and writing skills, I couldn’t give him assignments to improve those skills; instead, I had to let him make collages or dioramas in lieu of essays. In high school! That’ll really help him in the future, huh? If you want a particular job and can’t write a decent application letter explaining why you’d be a good candidate for the position, just mail Human Resources a shoebox diorama showing you doing the job.

  15. Today’s notebook decorators are tomorrow’s PowerPoint presenters.

    In other words, I agree with Jennifer πŸ™‚

    Come to think of it, I do feel a bit effeminate after giving a powerpoint presentation.

  16. While I may not agree with the lawsuit, I do think that the student has some valid complaints about some of the silly things that teachers force children to do. What is the point of forcing students to decorate their notebooks? It serves no educational purpose and it is absurd for a teacher to base a portion of your grade on a subjective review of your notebook’s appearance. What is the point of making students type class notes? If they are only going to be used by the student, the typing just seems like a ridiculous way for the teacher to make the students feel like subordinates. Community service should definately be optional, when were the schools given a mandate to force our children into servitude in order to graduate. It is clear that at this school, the teachers are in love with their authority and are wasting time that could be spent on actual teaching to make sure that the students know who is in charge by assigning a series of tasks designed merely to reinforce their power over the lives of the students.

  17. The kid’s father suggests that schools look past boy’s ‘poor work habits or rule breaking.’ I call bullshit.

    Amen! These people say, “poor Joey is being descriminated against” out of one side of their mouth and “boys will be boys” out of the other.

  18. Oh, I don’t think there’s much we can say about the school as a whole given the limited details in the article. But the father sounds like a loon:

    Gerry Anglin, Doug Anglin’s father, said the school system should compensate boys for the discrimination by boosting their grades retroactively.

    It sounds like he’s belatedly challenging the school for his son’s failure to apply himself.

  19. …while boys’ more rebellious ways are punished.

    and ‘From the elementary level, they establish a philosophy that if you sit down, follow orders, and listen to what they say, you’ll do well and get good grades. Men naturally rebel against this.

    Both from the original article. So, um, if you “rebel” (how is not defined) and you are punished, then this is wrong? It seems to me that this key argument was left out of the post above.

  20. Girls are outperforming boys because the school system favors them

    Slightly OT: Isn’t this the logic that feminists used at Harvard concerning the fact that women (or wymyn) were underepresented in the math, physical sciences, and engineering departments? There must be gender bias at play that keeps wymyn from acheiving tenure. It can’t be that men have more of an affinity to such subjects.

    Back to topic: How many Playstation games do you think this kid has at home? 20+? 30+??

  21. Jennifer,

    China nothing, the Japanese own glitter application. It seems they dominate the whole writing-implement space overall. The sparkly gel-based ink pens are Japanese technology.

    from http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blpen.htm

    “Gel Pens were invented by the Sakura Color Products Corp. (Osaka, Japan), who make Gelly Roll pens and was the company that invented gel ink in 1984”

    “The modern fiber tip pen was invented by Yukio Horie of the Tokyo Stationery Company, Japan in 1962.”

    Since the young dude doesn’t have the sack to pursue a science or engineering path (or otherwise he’d be in the AP classes straight up, no bellyaching), why not have him practice his glitter-application skills on the off chance he’d originate a US competitor to Hello Kitty?

  22. BD-If you are the type to resist sitting still and being passively indoctrinated, then the system has a problem with you. And that is a problem. The public schools, whether by intention or accident (I suspect the former) focus on inculcating obedience and passivity in the face of authority. And that is also a problem.

  23. It is clear that at this school, the teachers are in love with their authority and are wasting time that could be spent on actual teaching to make sure that the students know who is in charge by assigning a series of tasks designed merely to reinforce their power over the lives of the students.

    It might not be the teacher’s fault; it could be the administration. I was supposed to give notebook tests, which I took to mean open-notebook tests. So I’d have them answer questions like “Who founded the Church of England” and such. (Yeah, I know, they should know that without looking in their notebook.)

    But it turns out I wasn’t supposed to ask them about facts–I was supposed to ask them things like “What was the answer to question three on the assignment dated September 29?”

    I still miss certain aspects of teaching, but all the same I’m damned glad I don’t do it anymore. Making extra money and having more free time is just gravy; I mainly like the relative lack of bullshit.

  24. Public schools operate on the premise that there are some things that everyone MUST know. There are truancy laws to fine/imprison those who choose not to know these essential things (or at least pretend to know them by sitting in a concrete-block building for circa 8 hours a day.

    I guess this is a broad question, but what is the point of school? Are there things that are worth using coercive force to make others learn them? What good is a math class to someone who doesn’t want or, most probably need to use math (and ditto for science, english, language, and history)?

    I had to learn myriad shitty things in high school. I did so poorly in one required class (of which I attended every class meeting) that it almost prevented me from getting into college, even though I had A’s in the rest of my subjects and good SATs. Damn you, “smart track” statistics.

  25. Isn’t this the logic that feminists used at Harvard concerning the fact that women (or wymyn) were underepresented in the math, physical sciences, and engineering departments?

    Sauce for the goose . . . .

    I think its Ann Althouse who pointed out the iron law of gender studies:

    When females underperform, its because of institutional bias and discromination. When males underperfor, its because males are inherently flawed.

  26. oops, put a “won’t” between “probably” and “need” in the second paragraph

  27. “What is the point of making students type class notes? If they are only going to be used by the student, the typing just seems like a ridiculous way for the teacher to make the students feel like subordinates.”

    My students are expected to type their class notes because most of the time, they (and I) cannot read their handwriting! It also reinforces the material, based on the idea that if you see and write something enough times, it will stick with you. I hope.

  28. Obviously, I don’t really know enough about this school, nor do I have any experience with teaching, but a slight bias in favor of girls wouldn’t surprise me one bit. One must remember that for a very long time, the object was to make sure that girls succeeded. Boys are naturally more active than girls and obviously there’s a lot of shit that just can’t be tolerated inside a classroom. But from what I can gather, such behavior in boys isn’t treated as wrong but natural. It’s treated as an adverse medical condition that needs to be medicated. In other words, the feeling seems to be not that there’s something wrong with a boys behavior, but that there’s something wrong with the boy himself.

    All that said, this lawsuit seems ridiculous. The father probably read the recent Newsweek article and say his opportunity to pass the buck onto someone else. Even accepting a slight bias due to decades of gendercentric policy and cultural overmedication, there is nothing actually preventing boys from acheiving but themselves and their parents.

    Of course, the question remains, why are girls vastly outperforming boys?

  29. My students are expected to type their class notes because most of the time, they (and I) cannot read their handwriting!

    Then why not simply require notes to be legible?

  30. Of course, the question remains, why are girls vastly outperforming boys?

    I think part of it is the whole “sit still for eight hours requirement” is harder on boys, but the fact that boys tend to mature later than girls probably has something to do with it, too. In terms of maturity, the average 15-year-old boy is like a 12-year-old girl; put a class of 15-year-old and 12-year-old girls in the same classroom and the 15-year-olds will leave the younger kids in the dust.

  31. Steve M,
    That would be “kinetic” learning – brother to oral and aural learning, and most teachers usually use one and neglect the other two for their entire career. Another spot where the one-size-fits-all model is crap, since everyone has a preferred mode of learning, and it is very hard for an aural learner to learn kinetically, etc.

  32. “Isn’t this the logic that feminists used at Harvard concerning the fact that women (or wymyn) were underepresented in the math, physical sciences, and engineering departments? There must be gender bias at play that keeps wymyn from acheiving tenure. It can’t be that men have more of an affinity to such subjects.’

    No, not really. Or rather, only on the most superficial level.

    The hubbub at Harvard centered around the administrative practices at the school creating hardships that fell more heavily on women than on men – or, in particular, on women who have children. No daycare, inflexible hours, more trouble getting tenure when you spend a few years teaching part time. As well as on outright discrimination towards women – promising students being steered away by advisors, for example. The claim was that women are just as good scholars as men, or have the potential to be, but that requirements unrelated to their merits as scholars are unfair to women.

    In the Massachusetts case, the lad is claiming that achievement as scholar is, itself, discriminatory towards boys. Where the Harvard women were arguing that they can achieve in an academic setting just as well as men, young Mr. Anglin in claiming that boys cannot achieve as well as women in an academic setting. What’s more, he’s not claiming that the disparity is because of non-academic factors that are irrelevant to scholarship (like the women commenting on Harvard were), but that academeic study itself is harder for men than women.

    Or, at least, that’s part of his claim. The feathers and glitter stuff, for example, is something else altogether. Frankly, I don’t think lumping “sitting, reading and studying quietly” and “decorating homework assignments with glitter” into the same category is very honest.

  33. I kind of bought into the schools failing boys theory until someone pointed out to me that the more girls in college statistic probably just shows that we send to many people to college and girls are more likely to be effected by this. A lot of people are better off getting a useful trade such as computers or auto mechanics, plumbers, carpenters ect than they would be going to college. Since most of these types of fields tend to interest boys more than girls, more boys are quite smartly opting out of our over-priced college system and going instead to trade school and learning something useful. That seems like a pretty good explanation for the drop in the number boys in college. I do agree that there are a ton of rediculous things going on in our schools today and I am sure I would hate junior high and high school even more than I did if I were stuck in today’s touchy feely, zero tollerence post-Columbine education system. That said, I don’t think the nitwits who assign the Joy Luck Club to 9th graders and then are shocked that none of the boys in the class read it or cared about it, while stupid, are necessarily waging war on boys.

  34. BTW, going home and copying your notes over is an excellent study tool. It is an automatic review of the material covered; it provides you with neat, correct notes to study from when finals come up; and if you get to a point in your notes where you don’t understand something, you realize it right away, and can get a correction or clarification immediately, rather than stumbling through the remaining 10 weeks of class because you didn’t actually learn one of the key concepts.

  35. Of course those reasons make sense, Jennifer, but it’s been that way forever. It seems that boys are underperforming from where they were previously, though.

    It’s certainly possible that it’s a lot of bunk, or that the effort to put girls on equal footing has worked and what we see now is just a more accurate reflection of boys and girls at their relative ages. But if it’s true that boys are falling behind in absolute terms from where they were years ago, then something has changed.

  36. “My students are expected to type their class notes because most of the time, they (and I) cannot read their handwriting!”

    “Then why not simply require notes to be legible?”

    Honestly, because these students simply do not know how to write legibly. Their handwriting, even when they concentrate, is atrocious. Most of them did not really spend much time on that particular skill in elementary school, due to various time constraints, and they are so used to typing everything that if they have to actually write things by hand, it becomes difficult to read!
    I wonder how long until actually writing things in proper syntax and spelling becomes a lost art? In 30 years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see my students reading Shakespeare in text message form, and writing that way too. Ugh.

  37. John,

    I think mechanics and carpenters are well served by a semester of American History, Expository Writing, and Baby Bio, even if they don’t get very good grades, or develop an interest in following up with further study.

    College isn’t just a job training program.

  38. More importantly Joe, retyping your notes reinforces the ability to type, which will almost certainly be the thing that is most actually useful in the working world.

  39. joe,

    American History, expository writing, and bio are all freshman year requirements for almost everyone in the American school system. Why go to college for them?

    Also, the server squirrels clearly need a visit from the college-educated squirrel server mechanic.

  40. mk,

    True dat. Typing (Keyboarding, actually) was one of the two or three most important classes I took in high school.

    Randolph,

    College level versions of those courses are all much more in depth than high school. And taking them at 18 or 19 is quite different than at 13 or 14.

  41. Of course those reasons make sense, Jennifer, but it’s been that way forever.

    Not necessarily–“sit still for eight hours” is relatively new; schools today are far less likely to have recess, for example. And kids also used to walk or bike to school, thus giving them a chance to burn off some energy before they were expected to sit still for a long time. But not anymore.

  42. What an infuriating article. “Men naturally rebel”… especially when their parents don’t teach them how to behave. This kid needs a ruler-smack to the hand more than anything else.

  43. John,
    Six words mispelled, numerous punctuation errors, run-on sentences – it appears that your high school failed to educate at least one boy.

  44. Steve M,

    Who are the notes for, you or the students? I ask this as a person who has been penalized for poor note-taking but miraculously tested well.

  45. I always gave open note tests. If you write a good test that requires the application of concepts then the notes are nothing more than an anti-anxiety remedy. The students feel better for having them, but they still have to perform if they want a good grade.

    I used to let them use whatever notes that they wanted. Then I tried an experiment: They could only bring one page of notes. They could use the largest piece of paper that they could find, they could write as small as they wanted, they could even bring in microscopes to read the notes. I didn’t care. I just wanted them to go through their notes, think about what they had written down, and decide what the important points were.

    Grades improved.

    Another story about open notes: When I was a TA at the university, I was proctoring an open note final exam. A student pointed to a problem on the exam and said that he didn’t have the necessary equation in his notes. I basically told him that was his problem. This was Physics 4, and the equation that he needed was something very, very basic that he should have learned in Physics 2. His attitude was that he shouldn’t be expected to remember something from a prerequisite class. I told him that was too bad.

    So the professor comes in to see how things are going, and I whisper the story to him. I thought it was pretty funny. The professor said “Oh, I don’t want him to fail because he didn’t know that equation.” I tried to persuade the professor that the student should fail for that very reason. But it was to no avail. The professor wrote the equation on the board. (I don’t recall the student’s grade.)

    In that same exam, somebody asked me the mass of a proton. I’m pretty sure he misunderstood one of the problems. I could have told him to look in his notes, but I decided to have fun. I figured that if he wanted to know the mass of a proton it’s none of my business why he wanted to know. So I wrote it on the board.

    Finally, there was a guy who freaked out because he was misunderstanding a problem and I wasn’t going to tell him how to solve it. I came within an inch of taking his exam away and ordering him out of the room before he sat his ass down.

    The lesson? You’d damn well better study in my class, because making sure you pass is NOT in my job description.

  46. Crushinator,

    ha, ha! burn.

    “Men naturally rebel”… especially when their parents don’t teach them how to behave. This kid needs a ruler-smack to the hand more than anything else.

    Amen, Rhywun. I am all too familiar with this trite social falsehood. When my brother was bad, my parents gave him the carrot. When my brother was good, they gave him the carrot. Never the stick. People will bend reality to fit their narrowminded biases. When boys misbehave, people justify it with “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”, but when girls excel, there must be gender bias. Mike is totally right; these people shout discrimination out of one side of their mouths and chuckle “boys will be boys” out the other side of their mouths. WTF.

  47. I’m sorry, but I’m a bit biased against the “4-year college for everyone” idea. It is not because I’m an elitist or anything, I just think that college has always been used unfairly in determining how well one will do if hired for a job. The things college (just like high school) rewards are are attending classes and showing up on time. These are good qualities, but surely initiative (which I believe is unconnected to attendence and punctuality), intellectual curiosity, healthy distrust of authority, and breadth of interests are equally or more important for success in the work world.

    College now presents a 4-year time span in which people learn how to be highly functioning alcoholics. The piece of sheep skin you get when you graduate is no more or less important than the “perfect attendance” award you got in third grade. But now, magically, you are a “college graduate,” and therefore able to be trusted with sensitive information, difficult problems, and a much bigger salary. What the hell is up with our respect for magical pieces of paper in this country?

  48. And kids also used to walk or bike to school, thus giving them a chance to burn off some energy before they were expected to sit still for a long time. But not anymore.

    A couple years ago I read about a movement to reduce childhood obesity by encouraging kids to walk to school. Good idea, right?

    Well, things being the way that they are, it wasn’t that simple. Committees were formed, funds were arranged (some public, some private), routes were charted, parental supervision was organized, every single inch of sidewalk was inspected for cracks, etc. And lawyers were consulted to make sure that schools, cities, and property owners couldn’t be held liable for the kid who trips on the sidewalk.

    Now, I have nothing against parents walking their kindergartner to school. Little kids can get lost or cross the street at the wrong time. But do parents really need to form committees to facilitate walking a few blocks? Please.

  49. But do parents really need to form committees to facilitate walking a few blocks? Please.

    Yes, they do, because it is well known that if a kid spends more than thirty seconds out of sight of a parent, guardian or some other adult he will either be immediately abducted or spend his milk money on crack cocaine.

    And we can’t let kids walk on sidewalks with cracks, either. Do you want them to break their mother’s backs?

  50. Wow. I wish cracks in the sidewalk were the only things I had to worry about when taking a walk in Cleveland. I wouldn’t mind a committee to reduce the number of those pesky, firearmed street robbers and feral dogs, let alone cracks in the sidewalk. WTF. (

  51. smacky-

    The obvious libertarian answer is to allow concealed carry for small children in Cleveland πŸ™‚

    Or at least let train some attack ferrets and let the kids bring the ferrets to school with them.

  52. Or simply train the children in the art of blue druidry. That comes with ferrets!

  53. Drizzt-

    What about lightning jujitsu?

  54. Thoreau, it’s one thing to have open-notebook tests for college physics courses; it is a bit foolish to expect students to commit certain scientific formulas to memory, for example, when what really matters is that they know how to apply such formulas. But I taught high-school English grammar, composition and literature.

  55. Is that the reason buses stop every ten feet? No kidding, I’ve seen separate stops that were within easy walking distance of one another. When I was a kid, we used to have close to a mile (or more) between stops. Of course, my parents let me go trick-or-treating by myself from age 7 (and I rode the bus sans escort from Day One), so clearly I should’ve been liberated from my parents by the state. My parents didn’t even X-ray my candy! Egad.

  56. Fair enough, Jennifer. Not every teaching method will work for every class.

  57. Danged straight, thoreau. For instance, I’d have turned to violence if I’d had to endure the Socratic method in K-12, college, and law school. I hate that blasted Socrates as it is πŸ™‚

  58. The problem is that boys will be boys. That doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it doesn’t make them defective either. I went to an all boys Catholic elementary school and they didn’t take any crap, but they didn’t treat us like pariahs either. We were simply acting naturally, but we quickly learned that our natural behavior was not appropriate for the classroom. It seems that perhaps the goalpost has shifted from “boys will be boys and must be disciplined” to “boys shouldn’t be boys”.

    Again, regardless of girls performance, if boys have fallen behind their own accomplishments in the last 10 years, there must be a reason. It may have nothing to do with the school, but there’s got to be something significant happening.

    Not necessarily–“sit still for eight hours” is relatively new; schools today are far less likely to have recess, for example.

    No recess? I think I’m going to cry.

  59. If a student can’t read their own handwriting, then how are they going to type the notes later? Why should a good student that has no problem reading their own writing have to type notes just to please an authoritarian teacher? I think this is just another case of a teacher that is not as interested in what the students are learning as they are in making the students follow a bunch of useless rules because they feel that is the best way to do something. If success in school is determined by your ability to take orders and perform tasks without question, then it is not surprising that a number of children will rebel in that type of environment.

  60. Hey crushinator,

    Attention to detail on an internete BB should not be confused with level of education. Sorry you had nothing interesting to say about the topic of the forum. I guess your school forgot to teach you how to think.

  61. Why should a good student that has no problem reading their own writing have to type notes just to please an authoritarian teacher?

    To please an authoritarian teacher, of course. The answer is in the question.

  62. Yes, they do, because it is well known that if a kid spends more than thirty seconds out of sight of a parent, guardian or some other adult he will either be immediately abducted or spend his milk money on crack cocaine.

    Good point Jennifer. Perhaps if we didn’t obsess about every tiny risk in the world regarding children, maybe things would go better. Parents tend to be in one ditch or the other, completly neglectful or completely paranoid.

  63. If success in school is determined by your ability to take orders and perform tasks without question, then it is not surprising that a number of children will rebel in that type of environment.

    You know, I don’t remember exactly why–I think it had to do with an assignment I gave for the book “Huckleberry Finn”–but I remember talking with my boss about some rules, and I told her that I was explaining to the students WHY they had to follow certain rules, “rather than have them obey the rules just for the sake of obeying the rules.” And my boss-who was usually one of the better teachers there–gave me a sympathetic look and said that no, I should not explain to students the rationale behind certain rules, but just expect them to follow the rules. (These were eleventh-grade honors students, by the way.)

    I tried to explain why this was a bad idea–it’s not that kids hate rules; they hate rules which they think are pointless. I gave this example: suppose I tell the class to lie facedown on the floor and not make a sound. Chances are even the best-behaved ones will gripe about that. But if I say “lie facedown on the floor and don’t make a sound because there’s a guy with a gun standing outside the window then even the most disobedient kids will probably do what they’re told. It’s not rules people hate–it is stupid, pointless rules.

    But I wasn’t supposed to tell the kids “Do this because here’s why it is necessary;” I was only suppose to say “do this.” Like I was a boot-camp drill sergeant or something.

  64. To please an authoritarian teacher, of course. The answer is in the question.

    Isn’t it easier for a teacher who doesn’t know his subject to grade how well the students take notes rather than on how well they know the subject? My experience is that teachers who made such requirements had no interest in or much knowledge of the subject they were teaching. Instead of grading on content, they tended to grade of things that anyone could judge regardles of their knowledge of the subject, things like quality of notes and following directions.

  65. Why are you collecting your students’ class notes in the first place? Why the hell do you care? What’s the purpose of collecting notes taken by students in class?

    The purpose of note taking is learning the material, take crappy notes, fail the exam, fail the class, the end. Why collect notes? Always seemed damn pointless to me.

  66. collecting notes/books to check for annotations is standard operating procedure in humanities classes, as far as I know. The teacher usually says it’s to make sure the students read the material/were paying attention in class. That’s what you’re graded on. It’s also standard to grade drafts of papers, and factor the “drafting and editing process” into the final grade, usually to the tune of 30-40%.

  67. The purpose of note taking is learning the material, take crappy notes, fail the exam, fail the class, the end. Why collect notes? Always seemed damn pointless to me.

    I don’t think they’re allowed to fail people anymore.

  68. If the class involves teaching research skills and note-taking–a skill many students need to be taught directly–collecting class notes and making sure they’re typed, giving kids keyboard practice, may be perfectly appropriate. Again, we just have one girl’s assertation about what the teacher was doing.

  69. collecting notes/books to check for annotations is standard operating procedure in humanities classes, as far as I know. The teacher usually says it’s to make sure the students read the material/were paying attention in class.

    I always used these things called “quizzes” and “tests” to make sure the students read the material and were paying attention in class.

  70. Of course, I also got let go after my third year of teaching, too. Maybe I should have spent more time worrying about what twelfth-grade notebooks looked like.

  71. no, no, no… quizzes and tests are too stressful. We need to focus on the process of schoolwork, not the results. It doesn’t matter what’s in the final paper, just how many times you revised it and had the teacher tell you what to put in it.

  72. Recopying notes has cognitive consequences that have been shown to improve recall of the information. It is not just some stupid attempt to make a student obey (at least not always). Not every student needs to do it, but a teacher who requires it is demonstrating a learning technique for students so that they can evaluate for themselves whether it works for them. If it was not required, some who might benefit from the process wouldn’t have the chance to find out that it works for them.

    Fucking armchair critics, read a book.

  73. MainStreamMan,
    That’s what I meant when I called it kinetic learning before. It’s a technique that works for some, but has no results (and is actually very frustrating) for others. There are three pathways through which we can learn: repeating what we’ve heard until we remember it, hearing someone say something until we remember it, or writing it down until we remember it. At the moment, kinetic learning is in vogue, to the detriment of those who learn on the other two pathways.

  74. “College now presents a 4-year time span in which people learn how to be highly functioning alcoholics. ”

    Hear, Hear. I spent 10 years in college, finishing a degree part-time at night while I worked 2 jobs. Some of the students in my night classes were full-time, resident, younger students, but most were adult learners, mostly moms with grown kids who were taking up a college education for the first time, or people in situations like me, with no money to support a high-priced education and still afford to maintain rent, gas, food and clothing for themselves.

    Guess who were the better students, more focused, better workers, even better behaved (can you imagine that simple good behavior in college classes was a problem)? The adult learners, or those working full-time to support themselves while getting educated part-time.

    It killed me to know that in 2-3 years these kids would be graduating before me, with almost zero job-skills, getting higher salaries than I could command until I had my degree, and the primary concern of their lives was meeting up w/ boy- or girlfriend of the week for booze and sex (not that there is anything wrong with either). Four years of hard partying led to a piece of paper and a good job I could have easily held save for not having the requisite vellum in my possession.

    Not to say that all kids do this in college – but it seemed alarmingly prominent amongst the students on the various campuses that comprised the very large, highly respected university of which I am an alum.

  75. At least they don’t make students wear this hat

  76. Recopying notes has cognitive consequences that have been shown to improve recall of the information. It is not just some stupid attempt to make a student obey (at least not always). Not every student needs to do it, but a teacher who requires it is demonstrating a learning technique for students so that they can evaluate for themselves whether it works for them.

    That’s the problem–not every student needs to do it, but every student is required to do it, even the ones who’d be better off spending their time on something else.

  77. Recopying notes has cognitive consequences that have been shown to improve recall of the information. It is not just some stupid attempt to make a student obey (at least not always). Not every student needs to do it, but a teacher who requires it is demonstrating a learning technique for students so that they can evaluate for themselves whether it works for them.

    That’s the problem–not every student needs to do it, but every student is required to do it, even the ones who’d be better off spending their time on something else.

  78. Re: the education of boys. I went to an all-boys, Jesuit high school. The teachers, both preist and lay,(insert laying preist joke here) understood how to keep us in line. They treated us like boys, and walloped us if we got too silly. And, of course, there were JUGs-Justice Under God, a sort of hard-labor detention for the non-catholic school folks here. There were not, however, too many silly rules.

  79. I don’t think lawyer-daddy would go for the whalloping of his young boy by a public employee.

  80. They treated us like boys, and walloped us if we got too silly.

    Is that what they’re calling it nowadays? πŸ˜‰

    (Sorry for the snark, I just have a chip on my shoulder since I went to a Jesuit college full of self-righteous, arrogant little Jesuit-high-school-reared boys.)

  81. Smacky-I should have phrased that more carefully. Hmmm..They:
    beat our asses? Nope.
    Didn’t spare the rod? Even worse.
    Were firm, but fair? Really bad.

    Damn…

  82. Wasn’t Stevo Darkly educated by Jesuits?

    Yup, that explains a lot.

  83. “I don’t think they’re allowed to fail people anymore.”

    That’s a new one to me. I failed 8 students last semester, much to my dismay. πŸ™ They weren’t much upset about it, which really bothers me.

    Another interesting personal example of laziness or simply stupidity on the part of my students. For their midterm exam, I gave them a list of some 80 odd concepts and questions that they needed to be familiar with, and told them that 25 of these would be on the exam: 15 chosen by me, 10 of their own choice. I told them that they could outline their responses before the exam, and use their outlines on the exam. I have 100 students. Less than 20 of them took advantage of the opportunity, and the results were disappointing to say the least.
    I don’t expect my kids to memorize everything, but I expect them to be able to explain concepts and significant events, given a particular short answer or essay question, especially given that they have had practice with the concepts beforehand. And yet, they do not take advantage of the opportunity to do well when it is gift-wrapped for them. πŸ™

  84. One problem is grade inflation. If an A meant “Wow”, a B “Good job”, a C “OK”, and a D “Hmm. Do better next time.”, then a bright guy could just laugh off the colored paper and feathers aspects of his physics (or whatever) homework, confident in getting a B.

    But now B’s are the new D’s. Anything less than 4.0 is near failure.

  85. Steve M: no offense (and I mean that), but I think I would have hated having you as a teacher. I virtually never look back at my notes, and when I do it’s for a specific fact or theorem that I know where to find; recopying my notes would just be a waste of time (especially since if I’m typing math notes, I have to use LaTeX. Good Lord is that program a pain in the ass). I agree that methods like that are useful for some students; but punishing the students who know what they need to do for other students’ incompetence is unfair.

  86. Wasn’t Stevo Darkly educated by Jesuits?

    Is that what they’re calling it nowadays? πŸ˜‰

  87. collecting notes/books to check for annotations is standard operating procedure in humanities classes, as far as I know.

    I double-majored in history and philosophy, and in four years I never had to turn in my notes or books so the teacher could check them for annotations.

    Yet somehow I got into law school.

  88. I double-majored in history and philosophy, and in four years I never had to turn in my notes or books so the teacher could check them for annotations. Yet somehow I got into law school.

    Maybe “you would have gotten into a better law school if you’d had to turn in your notebooks.” Or perhaps “well, that’s okay for you, but what about your fellow students who failed because they were not forced to keep notebooks against their will, huh?” Or maybe it’s just “the exception that proves the rule.”

  89. Either way, RC, you should have had your grades lowered for keeping a crummy notebook. What’s important is not what you know or how well you do on tests, but how attractively your notebooks are arranged.

  90. Recopying notes has cognitive consequences that have been shown to improve recall of the information. It is not just some stupid attempt to make a student obey (at least not always). Not every student needs to do it, but a teacher who requires it is demonstrating a learning technique for students so that they can evaluate for themselves whether it works for them. If it was not required, some who might benefit from the process wouldn’t have the chance to find out that it works for them.

    And yet some of us learn things perfectly well through the act of just writing them down and looking them up later. I have a major problem with stupid, pointless homework. And, by and large, refused to do things I didn’t learn from for my entire academic career. I have the same issue with assigning 40 math problems that are all exactly the same as I do with forcing kids to retype notes: for many students it serves no functional purpose.

    Much has been made in recent years of “test anxiety”, and students who “don’t test well” are given projects in lieu of having to actually perform on exams. I seriously doubt “busy work anxiety” would fly, and I remember school well enough to know that “I taught myself about physics instead of doing your algebra homework because it was easy to the point of being stupid” doesn’t pass muster.

  91. They treated us like boys, and walloped us if we got too silly.

    In my crappy high school they’d often give swats (with a 3′ long board) to all the boys, but never a girl, who missed some certain question on a test. At least the discrimination was overt back then.

  92. Steve M, I would have learned nothing in your class. I only wrote down what I didn’t already know. I was always astonished at the volume of notes other people took. I couldn’t understand how they could follow the lecture when they spent all that time writing. And then their notes were nearly useless, since they were filled with stuff they should have learned two years ago.

  93. Timothy,

    And some of the fourth graders know how to do mulitplication, yet the teachers teach it anyway. My God, some the little darlings are actually doing repetitive work on basic skills!

    Much of what elementary, middle, and high schools are doing is teaching their students good academic skills. The note copying thing teaches good habits.

  94. “Steve M, I would have learned nothing in your class. I only wrote down what I didn’t already know. I was always astonished at the volume of notes other people took. I couldn’t understand how they could follow the lecture when they spent all that time writing. And then their notes were nearly useless, since they were filled with stuff they should have learned two years ago.”

    Honestly, I really could care less about the freaking notes or notebooks. It’s about 1% of their grade. But none of them read the text or sources, and I HAVE to write everything down for them. They dont know how to note and write only the impt stuff if I just talk. πŸ™

  95. Steve, you mentioned extra credit before. Instead of making notebooks mandatory, thus penalizing those students who don’t need to keep them, why not make them a mild extra-credit option instead?

    Seriously: if you want to infuriate intelligent and hardworking students, there’s no better way to do that then to force them do do things designed for the benefit of the lazy and the dumb.

  96. Jennifer,

    You are right, once again. I would like to point out that with this year’s Honors class, I don’t have to worry about whether they are reading and listening and comprehending, and worry about whether they are getting the big concepts that they need to know, and it bothers me that my approach with them is so different. πŸ™

  97. Wow. I wish cracks in the sidewalk were the only things I had to worry about when taking a walk in Cleveland. I wouldn’t mind a committee to reduce the number of those pesky, firearmed street robbers and feral dogs, let alone cracks in the sidewalk. WTF. (

    When I worked in the mayor’s office here in Cleveland, we got complaints about a pack of feral dogs near Rockefeller Park. I talked to someone in the safety department, who said that they had been trying for some time to trap the dogs, but the traps kept getting stolen.

  98. “I couldn’t give him assignments to improve those skills; instead, I had to let him make collages or dioramas in lieu of essays.”

    Jennifer;

    Now for my interpretive dance about how I spent my Summer vacation…

  99. For the interested, here’s a TNR article summarizing the extent of the problem:

    http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20060123&s=whitmire012306

    Boys are over 50 percent more likely than girls to repeat grades in elementary school, one-third more likely to drop out of high school, and twice as likely to be identified with a learning disability.

    Between 1992 and 2002, the gap by which high school girls outperformed boys on tests in both reading and writing–especially writing–widened significantly. Given the reading and writing demands of today’s college curriculum, that means a lot of boys out there are falling well short of being considered “college material.” Which is why women now significantly outnumber men on college campuses, a phenomenon familiar enough to any sorority sister seeking a date to the next formal. This June, nearly six out of ten bachelor’s degrees awarded will go to women. If the Department of Education’s report is any indication, in coming years, this gender gap will grow even larger.

  100. Wasn’t Stevo Darkly educated by Jesuits?

    Yup, that explains a lot.

    Comment by: Jennifer at February 2, 2006 05:01 PM

    Wasn’t Stevo Darkly educated by Jesuits?

    Is that what they’re calling it nowadays? πŸ˜‰

    Comment by: “why end a good joke when its returns are not quite diminished?” at February 2, 2006 05:11 PM [My keen detective skills reveal that this person is actually smacky.]
    ————————————–

    Heyyyy now!

    Some of my teachers in high school were priests (the ones who weren’t nuns or layfolk) and some of them were Jesuits. Then I went to Saint Louis University, which is run by Jesuits, who also taught some classes, mostly the theology and philosophy classes.

    I object strenuously to the snide implication that this experience warped me in any way.

    And know that, when you least expect it, I shall take my revenge for this insult.

    I have … so much … pain … in store for you. Both of you. So much pain …

    (as a black cauldron of noodles is brought to a boil)

  101. When I worked in the mayor’s office here in Cleveland, we got complaints about a pack of feral dogs near Rockefeller Park. I talked to someone in the safety department, who said that they had been trying for some time to trap the dogs, but the traps kept getting stolen.

    We’re definately talking about the same Cleveland, I know that for sure.

    I have … so much … pain … in store for you. Both of you. So much pain …

    You think I’m scared of that D.I.Y. Basement Dungeon your parents bought you for your 14th birthday? (…Well, it does creep me out a little bit…)

  102. I’m not familiar with current curriculums, but when I was a kid in elementary/high school (from about 1969 to 1981), here are some of the male-friendly things in the school system:

    – kids who were bright but had a hard time sitting still were given some flexibility. For example, since I got straight A’s and always finished my assignments early, I was allowed to go to the library and read whatever interested me, rather than sitting quietly in class waiting for other kids to finish.

    – In art classes, the little boys would often draw pictures of airplanes, tanks, guns, battles, etc. This was perfectly acceptable. For that matter, boys with drawing talent often had their notebooks liberally sprinking with doodles of soldiers, tanks shooting shells, etc. This was encouraged, because it got the kids thinking about art and expressing themselves. Boys don’t want to draw flowers and puppies.

    – Gymn classes had aggressive games like dodgeball and capture the flag. Gym was also split into boys and girls areas, and we played different games and did different exercises.

    – In middle school and high school, where we were able to pick optional courses, there were courses like hunter training, auto shop, electronics, ham radio, metal shop, etc. Plenty of options for a boy who liked to work with his hands and was probably headed for a trade.

    – In english class we had lots of male-friendly reading as well as female friendly reading. We might have to read Pride and Prejudice, but we’d also read Tom Sawyer, Kipling, and Hemingway.

    – Recesses were segregated between boys/girls so the boys could be more physically aggressive. We were allowed to play mock war games, ‘shooting’ each other with our fingers, etc.

    – Science classes leaned heavily towards hands/on experiments.

    – we had lots of field trips to places boys might be interested in, such as factories, radio stations, etc.

    – we had a lot of male teachers back then. Not 50%, but enough that there were always male authority figures around who understood us and who were intimidating enough to keep us in line.

    – You could get the strap if you stepped way out of line. It was rarely used, but the threat of it was always in the back of your mind.

    How much of that still exists today?

  103. – In art classes, the little boys would often draw pictures of airplanes, tanks, guns, battles, etc. This was perfectly acceptable. For that matter, boys with drawing talent often had their notebooks liberally sprinking with doodles of soldiers, tanks shooting shells, etc. This was encouraged, because it got the kids thinking about art and expressing themselves. Boys don’t want to draw flowers and puppies.

    How much of that still exists today?

    Wow, that takes me back. Lots of my classmates drew military hardware in action, bullets flying through the air, etc.

    I think that is discouraged today where there is “zero tolerance” for guns in schools. There was a fifth-grade student in Florida who was led away in handcuffs because he drew a picture with guns in it. Now, there may be more to it than that, because allegedly the picture was interpreted as a possible “threat” to the boy’s fellow students — not to any specific student, but to his classmates in general, officials said. Details were kept from the public, so it’s frustratingly difficult to judge whether this concern was justified or just loony. Story here.

    In school I mostly stuck to drawing dinosaurs and spaceships. Much more safe.

    A few years ago a former co-worker of mine got a call of complaint from his son’s Catholic kindergarten. No gun toys were allowed at the school of course, but his son took a crucifex down off the wall and pretended to shoot it like a machine-gun. Boys will be boys …

  104. You think I’m scared of that D.I.Y. Basement Dungeon your parents bought you for your 14th birthday? (…Well, it does creep me out a little bit…)

    Charming. I find your bravado amusing, girl. I confess, I expected no less from you.

    However, let’s see how brave you are when you feel the first stinging lash of the wet noodle!

    (Mine is an evil laugh.)

    (returns to stirring cauldron of pasta)

  105. I was supposed to give notebook tests, which I took to mean open-notebook tests. So I’d have them answer questions like “Who founded the Church of England” and such. (Yeah, I know, they should know that without looking in their notebook.)

    But it turns out I wasn’t supposed to ask them about facts–I was supposed to ask them things like “What was the answer to question three on the assignment dated September 29?”

    Funny, but I’m starting to ask my students questions like that, on my own initiative! I teach science to non-science majors in college, and I’ve found students either aren’t taking the care to follow simple instructions, or are repeatedly asking me things about the administration of the course they could easily look up in my course outline. So now I’m going to give them homework questions like, “What address should you use if you want to e-mail me?” or, “How much does the upcoming test count toward your course grade?”

  106. God, I’m weird.

    PS: I wonder where I can pick up some cyclobenzaprine, cheap-like?

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