Friday, January 27, 2006

Just Another Reason I Don't Like School

Mr. unclimber alerted me to this post, I don't think we'll be getting that book from the library. And, no, it would not make a funny gag gift for us.

Roger writes:
I'm reminded of a story Maurice Sendak told me about a time, years ago, when he and Else Minarik (the author of the Little Bear books) were doing a school visit together. Minarik was reading Sendak's Pierre aloud to an auditorium of kids, and, as kids will, they were all soon lustily shouting along with each "I don't care!" As Maurice told it, she came offstage afterwards and said "Jesus Christ, it sounded like the Bund."

We don't do school, but I've noticed in places as watered-down as Vacation Bible School that when kids are together, mob mentality rules. Whats worse, the adults encourage it. Our openings at VBS were a pep rally to get kids 'psyched' for the day (like they really needed that considering we were going to feed them a sugary snack within the hour). First, the kids were encouraged to get noisy. Later, they'd be admonished for being noisy and told to quiet down -- and the groups would be compared to each other. "I really like the way the first graders are being so quiet." And we complain years later when the kids are so dependent on peer pressure?

Back to the blog post I was discussing. I also agree with the first commentor on the post who had this to say upon visiting a school:

I felt far too many of teachers were spending more time focusing on making the children obey rules rather than TEACHING them the things the children need--and deserve--to know.

I only excerpted a small part of the comment, go read the rest.

By the way, the blog is written by the editor of the Horn Book magazine, which is a great magazine if you're interested in children's literature. There are some interesting articles on the website.


Anne Zelenka said...

VBS was unlike any school classroom I've ever seen. The kids don't know each other or the teachers. There's no sense of community. And as you mentioned, the opening activity hypes everyone up.

In our household, we rely on a few rules and it would be chaos without them. The best-run classrooms I've seen work similarly. I've seen difficult situations, usually when a couple incorrigible kids poison the atmosphere for everyone else. But mostly I see that teachers set up a few consistent rules, instruct the children about them, give them reminders as necessary, then get about the business of learning.

the Contrary Goddess said...

love this post. I do almost nothing oriented toward any schooling at all anymore, but when I still gave such a try (after all, cultural literacy was at stake), I went to a school performance of James and the Giant Peach. I don't remember exactly what they'd done to the story to require audience participation but it was horrid. All the school kids eagerly and lustily joined in, and there sat two rows of homeschoolers, wondering if it wouldn't be rude to shout in such a place. In a couple weeks, some people I dearly love will be attending a symphony's performance of "music for young people." No thanks for me and mine.

Marjorie said...

Thanks, CG -- I loved your example. Sometimes I wonder if I've lost my sense of humor about this 'kiddie' stuff, but the separation of children and adults by putting them in different classes [teacher vs. student] bothers me no end. I can't shake the feeling that the kids are treated like animals (yelling along) and then prisoners (sit down and shut up). I take Anne's point that a skillful teacher won't treat kids that way. I suppose it can work just fine, but I want no part of it.