America on the Edge — Politics, Culture, Education

28 02 2007

America on the Edge: Henry Giroux on Politics, Culture, and Education
reviewed by H. Svi Shapiro — January 29, 2007

“Giroux . . .has, I believe, correctly argued that we face today two
kinds of fundamentalism, each of which threaten democratic life.. .Such intolerance quickly becomes a license to suppress violently anything that appears to deviate or challenge the one right doctrine.

While education is considered in this book as just one part of his
larger analysis, he leaves us in no doubt as to its crucial
responsibility in breaking through the distortions, deceit, and
mystifications that pervade the dominant culture. . .”

(JJ’s note – and don’t miss how he ties in university sell-outs to child
beauty pageants!!)

Teachers College Record, Date Published: January
29, 2007 ID Number: 12938

Breaking News: Kids Bored in Class!

28 02 2007

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A majority of U.S. high school students say they get bored in class every day, and more than one out of five has considered dropping out, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

The survey of 81,000 students in 26 states found two-thirds of high school students complain of boredom, usually because the subject matter was irrelevant or their teachers didn’t seem to care about them.

“They’re not having those interactions, which we know are critical for student engagement with learning,” said Ethan Yazzie-Mintz, who led the annual survey by Indiana University researchers.

Half of the students surveyed said they had skipped school without a valid excuse at least once, and 22 percent said they had considered dropping out. More than half said they spent an hour or less per week reading and studying.

Yet, three of four students surveyed said they expected to earn a high school diploma and go on to college. . .

UPDATE – I just ferreted out the full study, see comments for link (and more comments!)

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

27 02 2007

New show with Jeff Foxworthy, on now because Idol ran short I guess.

So I am watching. We are watching, the whole singing, dancing, theatrical family of Idol watchers we are.

What a bizarrely schoolish show concept! The contestant kids even ran into the main set through a sort of hallway with lockers, or cubbies, on the walls of each side.

My unschooled kids age 11 and 16 are watching with great interest, and the first question was “in what month is Columbus Day celebrated?” Both kids just gave me the strangest look like, “huh?” — the dummy adult who looks at least 15 years younger than I (maybe they had dropped Columbus Day out of the curriculum in the 80s?) missed it and guessed September. The kid on his “team” got it right though so he got to go on to the next question.

Now they are doing the first American president to be impeached. The studio kids ALL got it right . . .

The dummy adult went to USC. He has no clue, thinks it might be John Quincy Adams. Even my kids know this is absurd and wrong. He is embarassed for himself and his alma mater, and is “dropping out” of school. Leaving the show in disgrace.

Good call.

I got it right, right off the bat.

My kids think I am a freak. And they are right about THAT! Smart kids.

(Smarter than fifth graders. . .)

How the Oscars Offended Me Today

25 02 2007

MORNING UPDATE – in thinking more on this, I think I’ll go with Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Language is the archives of history…Language is fossil poetry.”


I am offended!

FavD has been watching the Turner Classic Movies channel all this rainy day. It’s an Oscar marathon of winners, and before Gone With the Wind started, they interviewed black historians about black actress Hattie McDaniel (Mammy) winning the 1939 best supporting actress. How Olivia de Havilland felt robbed but was told to suck it up, that it was McDaniel’s one chance and America should have this race history moment.

Then the overture started, and we fondly threw the syrupy, dated lines of dialogue back and forth until I wandered off to play chess with the boy. I could still hear the movie even though I wasn’t really listening, the movie I know so well that if ever in solitary confinement, I’d likely choose GWTW to replay scene by scene in vivid and excruciating detail in my mind, to keep from going insane.But suddenly a disturbing note, something was wrong.

Read the rest of this entry »

School Socialization Should Shame Us All

25 02 2007

“The injustice of the lies,” she said, “is contemptible.”

The 23 members [evicted] included every woman who was overweight. They also included the only black, Korean and Vietnamese members. The dozen students allowed to stay were slender and popular with fraternity men — conventionally pretty women the sorority hoped could attract new recruits. Six of the 12 were so infuriated they quit.

“Virtually everyone who didn’t fit a certain sorority member archetype was told to leave,” said Kate Holloway, a senior who withdrew from the [Delta Zeta] chapter during its reorganization. “I sensed the disrespect with which this was to be carried out . . .I didn’t have room in my life for these women to come in and tell my sisters of three years that they weren’t needed.”

Ms. Holloway is not the only angry one. The reorganization has left a messy aftermath of recrimination and tears on this rural campus of 2,400 students, 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis.

The mass eviction battered the self-esteem of many of the former sorority members, and some withdrew from classes in depression. There have been student protests, outraged letters from alumni and parents, and a faculty petition calling the sorority’s action unethical.

DePauw’s president, Robert G. Bottoms, issued a two-page letter of reprimand to the sorority. In an interview in his office, Dr. Bottoms said he had been stunned by the sorority’s insensitivity.

“I had no hint they were going to disrupt the chapter with a membership reduction of this proportion in the middle of the year,” he said. “It’s been very upsetting.”

The school’s president is stunned and upset? One could argue this was a very effective object lesson, exactly the kind of learning experience school social systems were originally constituted to deliver and reinforce and have done ruthlessly ever since. If he doesn’t like it, he’s in a position to start changing it. Otherwise he needs to own it.

Everything about college campus life — from getting in to getting along, to getting through, to getting a job through those social contacts — imposes this same lesson *by institutional design and with institutional support* and college presidents must’ve learned it as well as any silly sorority girl or rejected chubbette.

Maybe better! – some university presidents are in practice shamelessly playing for institutional reputation, recruiting by rankings, weeding and culling and shuffling students like playing cards for the next bet, grasping for the top and misrepresenting the truth, all for institutional glorification bigger to them than the import of any individual students underserved, unserved or downright devastated by the “lesson”:

Howard Gardner makes the point less offensively, but he’s saying the same thing. Presidents have lost their way no less than status-focused sorority recruiters from the head office.

. . .the more I have thought about it, the more I have become
convinced that the goal of topping the international comparisons is a foolish one, and the rush to raise one’s rank a fool’s errand. In the process of pursuing a higher rank, educational leaders are ignoring deeper and more important purposes of education.

Not so different imo, from what Delta Zeta’s head office managers and PR administrator foolishly hoped to accomplish by this:

“They had these unassuming freshman girls downstairs with these plastic women from Indiana University, and 25 of my sisters hiding upstairs,” she said. “It was so fake, so completely dehumanized. . .”

School sports, clubs, prizes and privilege, including those passively earned via family wealth and status, from the Duke lacrosse team’s social behavior or FAMU’s marching band hazing mutilations to fresh-faced exclusive fraternities and sororities, carve this lesson deeply into the psyche (if not the very flesh) of America’s collective student body.

It’s never in the mission statement, but School teaches and perputuates such hard socialization lessons more thoroughly than anything else it attempts. . . and while that IS upsetting, it’s hardly a shock, at least not to anyone as well-schooled as I was, surely not to any university president or professor with the slightest ability to see, think, and speak about social truth.

“The injustice of the lies,” she said, “is contemptible.”

School Socialization: Not Good No Matter How It’s Served

23 02 2007

Living proof that real socialization is served up not by School, but our crass, crazy consumer culture everywhere else . . .

I’ll try to review this new book myself, after Favorite Daughter and I finish gobbling it up and savoring its flavors, but here’s a tasty NPR interview with its author for you to snack on at home right now, just in case you weren’t sufficiently socialized by School to sit quietly and wait your turn to be led to the cafeteria!
And here’s another snack of a socialization idea that belongs on the same tv tray, from my refrigerator raid to yours — Barack Obama, who apparently was *extremely* well socialized by Formal School, right up through Harvard Law to the point that, “His internal rhythm was set to ‘Pomp and Circumstance.’ ” suggests in a profile of Obama that decades of pricey schooling are worthless to acculturate even the most excellent Citizen of School to the real world. He was thoroughly, exhaustively socialized TO school, BY school, FOR school — but not to, by, and for the American people and their culture.

Is it our genuinely uncultured, probably unhealthy but oh-so-tasty, culture that serves up the secret sauce formally schooled immigrants find so tempting?

When as a stiff, pompous and esoteric professor of constitutional law in Chicago, Obama offered himself for public service off-campus, he failed miserably and learned how much he hadn’t learned in school. Heck, even the real-world SCHOOLTEACHERS found him poorly socialized for community leadership:

. . .no one appreciates how hard the man tried to earn his ghetto pass.
At a rally for South Side teachers, held in a dim, tiny nightclub called Honeysuckle’s, Obama lashed out at the critics who were calling him too bright and too white. . .”When Congressman Rush and his allies attack me for going to Harvard and teaching at the University of Chicago, they’re sending a signal to black kids that if you’re well-educated, somehow you’re not ‘keeping it real.'”

The air quotes hung over the silent gathering.

So he reportedly worked very hard educating and socializing himself from scratch to shed all that Schooling, to cultivate universal human connection and policy skills with authentic meaning off campus — so much so that he finally achieved un-school un-success and began to be seen as a “natural.”

Ironic, eh? 🙂

Today he drips with charisma and inspires fawning admiration from all quarters. But Obama began his journey as a [ed. note: PERFECTLY SCHOOL-SOCIALIZED YET] smug young man with little political future.

Picked Up On Campus

22 02 2007

. . . in the history building, says Favorite Daughter. Picked up BY her, that is!