Focus, Kudos, and Education

So I was watching PBS last week, and this guy was on talking about how we talk to our kids, what we stress, what we want, and how all this affects their education. Well, he was mostly interested in their self esteem and comfort level with academic subjects. So I have split feelings about him and his little program–based on the “little” you can make a safe bet that I think it’s mostly a lot of touchy feely crap that will help no one do anything useful or good in life.

But . . . and it’s a pretty big but (no snickering in the Peanut Gallery), he did put a report card up on the overhead that had the following grades (or in my memory, anyway, as I couldn’t find it online in the two seconds I allotted for the search):

English A

Physical Education B+

Science A-

Math C

History A

Geography F

Then he asked the audience: If your child came home with this report card, which grade/s would you spend the most time on? Well, most people say the F, right? If they’re being honest with themselves and overthinking the fact that there’s GOT to be a catch (and the clever ones have already worked it out fully).

I know if I’d dared bring home an F, there would be hell to pay in the form of disappointed shakes of the head and long sad stares from my parents as they looked at me and saw prison stripes or perhaps a bit of drool forming at the side of my mouth. There would also be easier punishments to deal with ranging from phone and television restriction to the full-blown “no nothing” restriction. And it would work. No matter what the subject or how much I hated it or sucked in it, you can bet that after the full range of parental ammunition was tossed my way, I’d get the best grade the next time around. And I’m not screwed up (well, in that regard), nor do I hate my parents or myself, nor do I think they were wrong, inhuman, or anything but loving and concerned about me and my future.

But . . . yep, another big but headed our way . . . why does the F get all the attention? And I suspect that in most households those three A’s and the B+ might get a passing glance, like yeah, well, okay, so you did well there, but let’s look at this C and oh my god! that F! In some households, I would venture to bet that the kid him or herself would have to point out the A’s and the B+. Sigh. And in those households, my guess is that the I don’t comment when you’re doing as you should rule applies. Sigh squared.

This PBS guy who was peddling his wares on television went too far in the next bit, but on this, well, on this he has a point. Maybe it would be nice if we spent equal or near equal time recognizing the positives, and there are far many more positives here than negatives, right? But most kids wouldn’t see that or feel that or get that from their parents, right? Now, no one, myself or this guy out to make a buck, is saying that NO time should be spent on the F or even that a you’ll do better next time pat on the head is helpful, just that wouldn’t a full and fair assessment of the entire report card be . . . better?

So. Just in case you missed touchy feely boy on television, his next pitch was for all of us to focus ONLY on the things the kid is good at and that make the kid FEEL good. Yay! How supportive, how positive, how marvelous! So is Junior good at fingerpainting? Fabulous, let’s focus on that and forget all about pesky things like being literate. Does adding short columns of small numbers make Jane Junior puff up with pride? Well, that’s marvelous, stick her in the room next to the fingerpainting room, so we can tease out her ability in this area. No need to bother with anything that might lower her self-esteem like reading or writing just because she can’t do it yet or isn’t best at it, right? And coming in second or third (or worse!) is just so awful, makes a kid feel crushed and useless. So it’s best that we find something, anything they are best at. Even nose picking, so we can gush over the wonders of their pointy little fingers crammed up their pointy little noses.

Rolling eyes and feeling just a wee bit o’ steam coming out of my ears. I can’t believe that so much of this is . . . wait, yes, I can believe it. I just don’t want to. How horrid and what a wretched disservice to potential great minds and mediocre minds and even to dull minds (and yes, Virginia, there are stupid people and people not quite as bright as others). True story: I was really good at recess as a kid; I longed for it, ran straight out, talked with all my friends, played on the monkey bars (can we still call them that or is that unpc?), and was the last to come back in. But no one recognized my ability. Oh, no. They made me sit in the classroom and do . . . (are you sitting down?) lessons. I had to learn to read. And to write. And to do maths. Ugh.

It was all gruesome and horrible and my whole sense of accomplishment at being the very best at recess faded away into practically nothing. Sad. So sad. And now I’m stuck with all these skills that one would never use. I mean who reads? Who writes? Who does math of any kind, ever? Who needs to be able to think? Or analyze things? Who needs to know history and science and political theory? Who?


42 thoughts on “Focus, Kudos, and Education

  1. I think we do our children a dis-service only focusing on the positive or good, because, unfortunately that’s not the way life is. That’s not the way college works, or jobs work, or heck, even people work! Our kids are spoiled, face it. They don’t need to work for the material things they have and it is our fault….instant gratification, make them happy. Admittedly, I love to see the smile on my kids faces when I give them something they have been longing for. But there does need to be a line drawn…kids these days are spoiled!

    Unfortunately, my kids have come home with worse report cards than the one posted, and yes, unless they are struggling horribly in a particular subject an f or a d or even a c is plain unacceptable!!! The rule now in the house, in order to go out and socialize is “Bs or better”. If grades are bad, if you think you’ve got time to socialize, you’ve got time to improve your mind and improve your grade. But my daughter has expressed something that was stated above in that we did not acknowledge her bs but we most certainly made a fuss over her ds!!! Perhaps there just needs to be a balance of both positive and negative reaction.

  2. if i saw that card i would take the whole report and look at the average grades, also looking at that there would obviously be a problem with the lesson or the teacher. looks good report on whole but due to the Fwould put kid up for adoption

  3. I never really did very well and school and would never say that I was a brainy child and wouldn’t have been oen for university really but my Mum and Dad were always supportive in what I wanted to do so good on them! Hugs to you and your crew. x

  4. Math and Science are critical for Engineers. Without it, we suffer. Did I always do well in School? No. I sucked in High School. It wasn’t until I got out making my way in the world that I learned the value of getting an education and Engineering paved the way more quickly than the other alternatives, that is provided one could hack the math. Med School was a 10 year track, and the market is flooded with lawyers. But now, I’ve been out working in the practical world of Engineering for 25 years and academic math is in the distant past. At the University, we are all mandated to attend basket weaving courses and yes most folks actually get passing scores in those classes but I can say that for me, I didn’t see a financial future in it. When it has come to my own offspring, I had high expectations from them but I learned over the years to let them follow their own wills. My son’s dream is to become a great cook, like Emeril. But he learned that one thing that I felt important was to at least have something he could fall back on that paid better than minimum wage. He completed a mechanics school and now works on cars. In High School, I could see potential in him to do many things and he could still go out and strive for those other things, but if his heart isn’t in it, what will he have in the end?

  5. i can’t believe people are still peddling this crap. when is our society going to wake up and realize that telling kids they can do no wrong and never making them strive to be better is only making people stupid and giving them entitlement issues. this is the sort of thing that makes me want to hit my head against a brick wall very hard. although i think i’d rather do that to the guy from this program. ugh! i’m glad i didn’t see this program because we just got a new tv and i would hate to have ruined it by kicking my foot through it.

  6. Soooo, your into education huh Fuzzy? I didnt see that warm and fuzzy guy, but I think he was from CAlifornia. Yep, that is the motto here in our classes, focus on what they do best, and make them feel good about themselves. BS!When alex was in school, we paid him 10.00 for A’s, 5.00 for B’s, 0 for C’s and he paid us 5.00 for D’s. and 10.00 for F’s. If he got Fs or d’s, he was put on restriction and life as he knew would end. NO football, no friends, no games, no nothing. Stay home and do the only thing you are supposed to do, get A’s. WE told him that was his main job, to do good in school and learn something so he doesnt have to work for minimum wage all his life, or worse. And yes, I stressed the worse part. I told him in bold and bright detail waht would happen to him without an education. Or if he thought he could survive on bad grades. I told him he would never have anything, and he beleived everything i told him. And guess what fuzzy girl, he isnt damaged. NOPe. hes turning into a responsible adult. I am proud to say I threatened him with the F thing. Dont even think about getting them. They arent acceptable.

  7. When i go back and read that, it seems sortta silly to pay him for his grades, but for him it worked. from the time we started it in around the fourth grade, till he graduated HS. And he never got a raise, in all those years. He wanted to make money off his report card, and he did. NOw he wants to make money off his eduation, and he will

  8. A- could try harder, Fuzzy.
    Look, if he can’t read and write and add up numbers, buy him a PC and a calculator (Oh, and those nice speaking books on DVD). And what do Americans want geography for? Seriously, I agree wholeheartedly that these are the most important skills and should be drummed into kids. But they don’t seem to really need them these days, partly because of the ‘cult of celebrity’ – get in a film, sing a song, appear on TV or in a mag, make a lot of money, retire. It’s easy isn’t it? Well put anyway, I think you are using your obvious skills well!

  9. “I know if I’d dared bring home an F, there would be hell to pay in the form of disappointed shakes of the head and long sad stares from my parents as they looked at me and saw prison stripes or perhaps a bit of drool forming at the side of my mouth.” That’s exactly I felt, scared to get an F or a low marks (Thats what we had) and every time I used to get my mom’s signature on my report card instead of dad’s πŸ™‚

    I think kids should learn basic things first, and in College they can take whatever they like, because if you let them take their interests very early, they will change their interest to something else. So you can’t rely on that. Get a solid foundation in all the courses and once they are ready they can pursue their interests. As a parent if they are good in something they should be nurtured. Sometimes we criticize louder but when praise comes it becomes silent, it should be equal. πŸ™‚

  10. What’s up with coddling children into mediocrity? Bleeeeaaaahhhh!! I think that F should definitely get all the attention! We should certainly hold our children to high standards ~ to the very best of their capabilities. And I think America is headed for huge shifts in our world status if we continue this sort of coddling behavior. Hey! Maybe this guy you saw is secretly working for some other world power wannabe! *giggles*

    Of course, I have no children in this lifetime. But I was one! And I know plenty of them. And I consider ‘humble opinion’ to be my favorite oxymoron. So there!

  11. Wendy, I couldn’t agree more! I think it’s bullsh . . . oot to praise a child for sucking at something or for coming in second or last or whatever. It’s not realistic at all. Everyone moans about how awful Simon Cowell is but I’d rather hear him tell me I can’t sing than hear Paula Abdul tell me I “look good”!! What the hell use is that in a singing competition? Sigh. I could go on and on, but in short, I couldn’t agree more. :))

    Pilgrim, well, this DOES bring up an interesting angle, but one that I’ve heard before, so the kid does poorly and it’s the teacher’s fault? And when the kid does well? Is it the kid’s kudo only? Shrug. Not a big issue, but still . . . bears thinking about maybe?

    Well, you’ve turned out just fine, Snuggles, so no worries there! And thanks for the huggs for the clan, right back at you, of course. :))

    Having a realistic backup plan is good solid life planning, River, and I think that following one’s happy desire is okay. To a point. And it works out well. To a point. But the reality is that there can only be so many cooking shows and top chefs, right? What happens if it doesn’t pan out? I like your realism. :))

    Yeppers, you’re talking my language, Kerry; this sort of molly coddling crap makes us into morons (societally). People think it’s FUNNY to be ignorant and too stupid to do anything about it. Have you seen Street Smarts? It makes me crazy to think that people are proud to be stupid, giggle at their idiocy. Ugh. But yay! America the land of the free to fail.

    I don’t think that’s stupid at all, Lisa. Lots of parents do that to good effect, and it sounds like it works for your family. Yay! I do think that it’s important to do well, and it’s ridiculous to lower the bar too far. :))

    Hmph, Neil. Don’t know you well enough to know if you’re joking, so I’ll just assume you are as you seem rather too clever to believe this! :))

    See, Chris, I think this is key, too. How can someone in k-12 have any idea what they’re good at or what they’re interested in? I mean some people are just gifted or talented right away at something, but the majority of people are not. I often complain to my colleagues that even college freshmen should not have to choose a major right away; so many do, then switch once they learn more about it or learn something else that is more appealing or whatever, and they waste a lot of time and money in the process. People need experience to know what they are good at, not just an instinct or a “liking” it. Ugh. This guy had children on saying how much better they feel about themselves now that they only play the piano for their education. I wanted to slap their parents for allowing it. I should admit, too, that I switched off the annoying man and his annoying education plan, so if there was anything worthwhile in it beyond the need to celebrate good grades AS WELL AS punish bad ones, I don’t know it. I agree with you, Chris. :))

    Oh, Jillene, wiser words were never typed: we are indeed “coddling children to mediocrity” and it makes me crazy. An F? Omg! the horror. And I totally AGREE that our status is under threat with this fuzzy bs about how we need to hug the stupid and support the lazy. Grrrr. The oddity in all this is that we’ve more emphasis than ever on standardized testing, all the while telling kids that their academic prowess isn’t important. Blech. I get irritated with college students who complain that they have to take classes outside their major . . . I explain that there are vocational schools they can attend that will teach them ONLY what they want to learn in their field. They roll their eyes and say that’s not good enough. They want a university degree, but NOT a university education. Grrrr. What happened to loving learning, curiosity, motivation? What happened to a drive to learn, to excel? Oh, wait, I know what happened to it; all this liberal coddling, that’s what.

  12. I don’t see this as an ‘either … or’ situation – that you either focus on what a child has done well or you focus on the negatives. I must confess, my eye would be drawn straight away to that ‘F’ but I would (or at least, I hope I would) give at least as much attention to my child’s achievements as to its shortcomings. As for the ‘F’, it suggests a story but doesn’t say much on its own. WHY the poor grade? Why, especially, when the other grades are generally good? You cannot begin to address this as a parent until you have more to go on. If, as you say Fuzzy, people’s abilities vary – and I certainly agree with you there – you cannot blame the child for not doing what it doesn’t have the ability to do. You should, of course, encourage them to reach their full potential. If a mediocre grade is their full potential, they should be praised for that. If, on the other hand, they’ve coasted to a ‘B’ or even an ‘A’ without really trying, they should be admonished for that. Regrettably, there seems a tendency here in the UK to blame the teacher for the shortcomings of one’s little darlings. More than once I’ve seen a colleague (and occasionally it’s been me) pinned verbally against a wall by an outraged parent wanting to know why the teacher had not given their ‘child-genius’ a better grade. Never mind that said child-genius often doesn’t turm up and certainly never does any work. Of course, some teachers are better than others, but in my house blame-shifting is not encouraged.

  13. Yes, Jon, I do agree that we need to make adjustments based on abiity or inability. Pushing someone to excel when they just don’t have the grey matter has to be damaging to that person, no way it can be otherwise. And perhaps in attempting to protect the less than able, we over compensate and lower the bar for the able?

    And I do see what you mean about the “coasting” student and that not being good, either. That’s more tricky, though, because as you know, it’s impossible for a teacher to teach to the top people in one’s class, better to teach to the middle, more realistic to teach to the bottom. Sigh. What to do about that problem? And it is a problem to my mind. As to blaming the teacher, yes, that happens here, too. As you say, most teachers are decent at their jobs, and it’s unlikely, too, that a teacher would pick out one student to be unfair to or whatever. I imagine that must happen, but I’ve got no time for that, as I’m sure you don’t. I tend to assign earned grades not “give” grades to students. Anyway, thanks for your fab comments and the thought provocation! :))

  14. Oooh what fun…a post that I am totally qualified in and very able to comment on – being the mother of four wonderful kids. Now..that report card…I would absoluely gush over the A’s..all praise the kid that gets A’s, then we’d discuss why they only got a C in maths, why did they think they weren’t doing so well in maths, would they like their dad to help them more (I was an F at Maths and the second time around I only got a D!!!! but I can add up which is all I need in my life!!) and then we’d probabaly discuss the F and the possibility of giving up Geography because they are obvioulsy not interested in it and maybe they should take up a different course of study….. LOL ….but there won’t be any F’s in my family because I won’t allow them to struggle in any subject they absolutely hate….to date I have A and B grade students and I put it ALL down to parenting..a balance of praise, persistence and discipline..and early bed times so that they can wake refreshed for the day ahead, no telly before school and lots and lots of love and outings with parents and not too much hanging around with kids unsupervised anywhere!!! No daycare centres for this family – I have been a stayhome mum every day of their young lives and it shows and pays off!!!!!!! No payments for good grades but they do get rewarded as in we all do something wickedly fun together after reports come home and the biggest reward is LOVE.

    I am occasionallly an A grade mother and sometimes I get a big fat red F because I can be a real hellion – I even swear at them sometimes – but that’s ok as well as we have encouraged total openness at home and no subject is taboo – so if they can play up and deliberately push my buttons I can scream and swear when I get pushed over my limits – although I imagine there are many do-gooders who would say it was wrong – stuff ’em.

    That’s all FuzzyT….luvin ya as ever…Ali xx

  15. Well, I have strong feelings about report cards. I remember being a kid and hating report card day. It never matter what good things I did. The bad always took over.
    I as a mom am trying to be positive for my son. Now he is only 8 and so far has had excellent grades. He had a couple things he needed to work on and I found with positive talking and support he did much better. I found he was proud of himself when he improved. I did not need to scare him into improving.
    I think scaring or being to strict does not make the child want to learn. Taking the time to find out why they are not doing well in a certain subject. Trying to help them find the solution. Perhaps spending time at home with the child and helping them study. Talking to the teacher. Maybe it is the way the teacher is conducting the class. There are many reasons for poor grades.
    I am not sure if report cards still have a score for effort. For example a child gets a C in math but for effort he gets an A . Than the child is doing his best and just needs to work harder at math. But if the child gets a C in math and a C in effort. Than the child is not doing his best and needs to have some guidance.
    Speaking from experience getting all pissed at a child for what you think is poor grades is not the answer. Sometimes there are reasons for these grades. Look deeper into the problem. Also I think some teachers need to put more effort into children who are having problems. I don’t think teachers should assume the child is lazy, or not working hard. Sometimes there are other issues that may be preventing the child from doing well.
    Anyway, I am done preaching have a good day.

  16. Hmmmm.. why put kids through all this MUST DO hell, is the question. I believe curriculum ought to be interesting and flexible. As my own 360 page’s quote from Mark Twain reads, ”I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” We are always forced to do learn many things in school that are just irrelevant torture.

    I remember horribly boring Maths text books (Not that the text books of other subjects were all that great!) that I have dreaded all my life.. Stupid algebra crap over and over again for years. Needless to say I never burdened myself to learn most of that stuff and was happy with very low grades. Voot a waste of time school can be.

  17. Ali has a great point about discipline. In my best-loved book on parenting (Oh! I forgot to parent!), by Rudolf Driekurs, “Children: The Challenge,” the author suggests that the only way to teach a child discipline is for the parent to DEMONSTRATE discipline. What a novel idea! And when we show enthusiasm for even the difficult parts of our life, I think it rubs off on the kids around us. Capacity to engage seems critical, and that requires a motivation to begin the engagement process.

    OK, enough preaching out of this blogevangelist… You’ve posted a thought-provoking item, as usual…

  18. I love your blogs…so thought provoking. To stretch the mind is the goal of every teacher and it is critical (like Jillene says above). Low achievers, who are satisfied with less, albeit the student or the teacher are sad, in my mind.

    It is okay to accent the positive, that is great, but to studiously ignore the negative, that is like opening a whole Pavlov/Pandora’s box of problems…and my mind is going FAR ahead of my typing ability here… I will digress, and am afraid will never find my way of out that one…

    It seems that we should never let standards relax. We should always hope for better, higher, quicker, and faster and this how winners are made, while looking back and cheering on those who are trying to catch up. Kindness goes far. I hope my late night meanderings make some sense,,but we should never settle!

  19. OK, mixed views on this one. If Alex was already feeling disappointed with himself on account of the F, i’d sit him down and look at how we could help him out and find out where he was struggling with it. However, I would be enormously proud of the A’s and B’s.
    Some people aren’t academically smart, and yet are still very intelligent in their own way. Any other people are crazily booksmart and yet have no common sense. It’s all swings and roundabouts, really.
    I do think they push kids too hard. Alex is looking at taking his SAT’s this month…he’s 6 😐 how do they need that kind of pressure when they’re barely more than babies?

  20. I love this post. Well for me, just because one dosen’t do well in a particular course does not make him or her a right-off. I look with dismay attimes at how parents run down their children and terribly deflating their self esteem. I strongly believe that emphasis should be laid on the child’s strong points and not on his or her failures. Some people may not be so academically smart yet they may still b very intelligent all the same. and like Thalia said,”Any other people are crazily booksmart and yet have no common sense. It’s all swings and roundabouts, really.” so parents should learn to boost their child(ren)’s ego rather than pricking it all the time. Afterall, of what use is a bookworm who has no self esteem?

  21. *applauds Mercy*
    “Afterall, of what use is a bookworm who has no self esteem?”
    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  22. Yes, Ali, this is a large point that I was trying to make, that parents NEED to make a fuss over the good grades just as much as they make a negative fuss over the bad grades, that it’s good to acknowledge and celebrate success and not look exclusively at the failures. And I think it’s brilliant that you do that and with such enthusiasm! That’s wonderful, and I’m sure your kids are happy to know that while other parents are task masters, you and your husband aren’t. I do think, though, that you are very fortunate to be in a situation where you CAN stay home with and for your kids. So few people can do that anymore; I know both my parents worked, and I was a “latch key” kid. But they still showed an interest, they still cared about me, and I always knew it. My mom would go to all the parent teacher conferences, and she and dad both would get involved with school activities (plays, fetes, sports days, etc.). I guess all I’m saying and you probably already know this is that you’re part of a minority who can stay home and be involved as you are. Thanks for your comments, as always, and you are always “qualified” to comment, silly girl!! :))

    Hi Bert, and I guess that everyone is slightly different in this as in most regards. Sometimes “scary” and “strict” work on some kids, right? It may not be your style, but if it’s . . . say, my mom’s and it worked on me . . . well, maybe it’s not the worst thing ever. Spending time with kids is always important, and as I said to Ali, a lot of moms and dads just don’t have that luxury, you know? But you are so lucky that you do! And I also know that you are involved with your son’s school and things like that, which is also wonderful! :))
    And I think “effort” grades are very useful in lower grades, I really do. Let’s face it, early on, no one knows who can do what, or what someone might learn to be good at, right? So it’s useful to include effort in the mix, as you say, if a child is really trying and just can’t get a certain subject, that’s one thing, but if they don’t try or there is some issue that needs to be determined (either by the parent, a physician, a psychiatrist, a teacher or some combination of these), then effort grades can work well.
    The trouble with effort grades later on, though, is that “effort” will only get you so far. I mean imagine telling your boss that you tried really really super hard to do some part of your job but just couldn’t. Wouldn’t go over very well, right? It helps kids at some point, I believe, to move away from effort grades to result grades. And that gets tricky in education because how do we measure results? All those damned standardized tests, and that’s a whole other kettle of fish!
    As to teachers spending more time with struggling students, again, I think there’s a huge difference between k-12 education and college (where I work, have experience). I can only say that I’ve got friends who teach k-12, and once students start rotating classes (usually around junior high) those teachers have six classes with twenty to thirty students in each class. It’s not realistic to expect them to spend time working out whether or not Sally has a troubled homelife or Ralph is color blind. These things need parental attention, really, a teacher can only do so much. In earlier grades, it’s likely easier because teachers have the same kids all day long, and that really does make a difference. In college, students can come to office hours for extra help, or get help at a number of tutoring services offered on most college campuses, but here, the student has to be proactive, it’s not up to the teacher (lecturer, professor) to chase them and make them take extra instruction. Thanks for your fab and thoughtful and thought provoking comments, Bert. I just love it when you get into a topic!! :))

  23. Elmo, I have to admit that maths was never my strong suit! I really struggled with it for some reason, and the more formulas I had to memorize and then apply, the worse it got. I just didn’t have an aptitude for it, so I can rather sympathize with part of what you’re saying; however, much as I hated and dreaded and didn’t have an aptitude for it, I always managed to pass the courses (not that everyone can, of course, just that it IS possible to get high grades/marks in something you’re not loving).
    Obviously, though, school is most certainly not a waste of time, and that’s a rather silly thing to say (to my mind, but I’m a learner, teacher, lover of education). I think that some subjects are more difficult for some students than are others, but isn’t that the way it is? I mean in real life? I’m sure that someone is working on making a wicked fun and delightful algebra textbook, maybe with pop up illustrations? lmao And I hate to burst your bubble, but you use algebra all the time, you must just to make it through life! It takes simple algebra to work out what the sale price of an item is, right? And it takes simple algebra to work out what your mortgage rate is or how many eggs you’ll have left after you eat your breakfast omelet. So, however painful it was, you did absorb more of it than you think. :))
    As to Mark Twain, he was big proponent of formal education, despite the quote you’ve got there; he was a satirist, after all. Don’t forget that he also said, “The self taught man seldom knows anything accurately” . . . I had to google the rest of it, but here you go: “The self taught man seldom knows anything accurately, and he does not know a tenth as much as he could have known if he had worked under teachers, and besides, he brags, and is the means of fooling other thoughtless people into going and doing as he himself has done.”

    Thanks Kate for your great comments! :)) And I think it’s a very good idea to cheer on everyone, actually, just not (as I say in my blog post) to the exclusion of everything else. Ignoring A’s is just as bad as emphasizing self esteem over academics in the classroom. Classrooms are for learning, it seems to me, and if we can teach students to become well-rounded, yay! So much better than being a coddled, one-dimensional one note, don’t you think? :))

    {{{{ Tally }}}} You rock! I think that one of the things I was trying to do by juxtaposing the emphasis on the F on report cards with the man’s silly premise that we teach ONLY those things the students likes or that makes the student feel good was to show that there is no need for extremes, that extremes are actually dangerous. I don’t guess (judging from the commentary) that this was at all clear from what I wrote, but that’s okay. :)) No one, myself incuded, is suggesting that children should be taught to have only book sense. I honestly don’t know how to respond to that . . . hmmmmm. Anyway, I do agree that 6 is ridiculously early for standardized testing, and it sounds like that particular glitch in the education system is just as bad there as it is here. Sigh.

    Thanks for your great comments, Mercy, but again, no one is saying that we should ONLY condemn kids for failing or push them to succeed. I do think it’s just as ridiculous and useless to have an illiterate babbling idiot with high self esteem as it is to have a bookworm with none.

    No worries, Azad, it’s just lovely to know that you were here!! :))

    Huggs, Tally!

  24. Bert’s comment about the C in a subject but A for effort struck a funny memory in my head. My daughter did come home with an F but got the comment “pleasure to have in class” It just seemed so oddball and contradictory…..she may have been a failure, but she was a pleasant failure???? Guess that was the Paula Abdul side of the teacher!

  25. God Fuzzi you always have a stick in the hornets nest. That’s why I like you you so much.
    The biggest problem we have in education today is government interferance. Please reference “The Dumbing Down of America”. How do you make everyone equal, make them all stupid. If no one fails and no one is smarter everyone is equal. You just need a very big government to trake care of everyone. Of course there are those who are just naturally elite that will run everything for us idiots.

  26. I think an F certainly deserves most of the focus if it is in a critical area especially. Geography is not super critical but it is important for broader intellectual development, and has a number of tie-ins with the language arts.

    Beyond that, the amount of praise or blame given depends. If the kid wants to be an engineer, then a C in Math is not a good thing. More effort is definitely needed. On the flip side, thre are kids who are just lousy at Math. In that case, a “C” is cause for celebration. It goes without saying that there shuld be some positive affirmation for As and Bs.

    On the trendy self-esteem approach demonstrated by the teacher, it is a sad commentary on many Western educational system. US youths consistently lead the world in measures of self-esteem according to stats I read years ago, but is dismally behind other countries on things like Math and Science. Yet we keep pouring more and more money into the very system that produces such results.


    1)Doesn’t your criticism show gendered insensitivity- fostering blinkered patriarchal thinking that ignores female modes of understanding? Such narrow-mindedness fails to foster the cooperative and collaborative spirit critical for managing and interacting in an increasingly diverse world..

    2) You ask “Who writes? Who does math of any kind, ever? Who needs to be able to think? Or analyze things?” That everyone does is obvious. But doesn’t the tone of your questioning indicate a total buy-in to the dominant capitalist discourse, that fails to question its foundational aspects, and implicitly condones the oppression of women and minorities? Shouldn’t the “who” be directed towards challenging dominant discourses and creating new modes of thought leading to a less oppressive paradigms?


  27. Yay! Tally. Most excellent. I’m feeling a bit tired myself just now, so I totally know what you mean. πŸ˜€

    LOL, Wendy, yeah, sounds like. We do try to find something nice to say, and sometimes, I really really have to reach for that something. I actually told a student that his paper was beautifully formatted because there wasn’t much else positive I *could* say. Sigh.

    Hey, Man (hehe, that still cracks me up), I’ve not read that book, though I did read the Closing of the American Mind (which has only a little to do with this topic), but anyway, yes, there is a dumbing down. That’s why the hard scrabble for the standarized tests, no child left behind, etc. and etc. ;D

    Thanks Azad πŸ™‚

    What if the kid is 12, Sarge, and doesn’t know what s/he wants to “be”? You’re very focused on preparation for a career, and I suppose I am, too, but I think that it’s important to balance these things; praise the A’s but also ensure that Junior gets a well-rounded education and isn’t left to play the piano because he has a knack for it. Again, balance.

    If I’d been left to my own devices, to make my own educational choices, at the age of 10 or 12 or even 16, I’d certainly not have continued with school, as my child’s view was similar to Eskimo’s that education was a waste of time, that the “college of hard knocks” was all I needed. But that wouldn’t have suited me, not really. I’m a thinker, I just thought I could go it alone (as children sometimes do). The “trendy” touchy feely thing is one of the main reasons our kids are so ill-prepared for everything from course work to life to these tests they keep failing in droves. It’s embarrassing. And no one can convince me that everyone in America is suddenly incapable of doing well at academics; it’s a recent downward trend, so where’s it come from? Shrug. I don’t know. But I do know that letting a 10 year old decide what’s best for themselves in any area, even academics, is a recipe for disaster.

    As to you DAQ’s: 1. No, you’re talking a lot of nonsense that might make sense IF I were a man, which I can assure you I am not. As a woman, I do just fine in this “patriarchal” blah blah blah, and as I’m about to explain, I take a certain offense at your implications. And 2. I wonder if it’s possible that I meant what I said? I wonder if it’s OK to be OK with the dominant discourse given that I speak it fluently? Hmmmmm. I’m not an ismismist, and I feel certain that having a vagina does not mean that I am unintelligent; having a vagina and being able to get along, oooh, even buy into the “dominant capitalist discourse” (which is what, exactly?) makes me what? A traitor to women everywhere? Are they going to revoke my vagina? Can they do that?

    Or is it, quite possibly, okay for me to imagine (as have plenty of feminists before me, including the quite marvelous Mary Wollstonecraft) that women are just as intelligent, just as able as men, and even (gasp) on the same terms? I think that might just possibly be okay. What I refuse to buy into is the patriarchal myth that all women are nurturing flowers, running around emoting and “learning differently”; some of us don’t. And some of us resent the implication that NOT fitting the “feminine model” means that we are, by default, masculine OR too stupid not to see that we are “buying into” blah blah blah. What a load of crap. Do you know how many women for how many centuries have been repressed by just THIS line of reasoning? It’s a joke. It’s like saying to Freud, “oh, but I don’t have those impulses,” to which he replies, “but you do, you just don’t know it.” Hmph! I hate these topics because quite frankly it’s insulting to me that your suggestion that I’m not a maternal ball of nurturing jello makes me a “sell out.” So, Sarge, following my own train of thought, it’s not I, but you, who’ve sold out, bought into this “patriarchal capitalist discourse.” I’d wink back at you, but I just stuck a fork in my eye.

  28. Hei Fuzz.

    I am glad that I had teachers who MADE us learn and have only learned to appreciate them afterwards.
    This is the secret of the Finnish education system, that even today you have to do your stuff in order to pass from grade to grade. My siblings are all teachers and good ones, by the way.

    Another point, the education is as good as the teachers are. Meaning, the education of the teachers must be such that the best and brightest with the flair and talent to teach of the students want to be teachers!
    Tis me tuppence worth in Brit money of course as it is the strongest currency in the world!!
    Take care and do keep well. HuGGiz from Da Ikkle Finn Rii xx

  29. Oooh, Rii, that’s a good point, too, that the teachers need to be well-educated to do their jobs well. That’s very true, and of course, with the trend in this country toward a rather lax education, it makes you wonder who’s going to teach in the next few generations. I guess the kids who like it and are good at it and whose self esteem is . . . .ugh. Anyway, always good to hear from you and about that MARVELOUS Finnish education system; the more I hear, the more I like!! :)) Huggs Diggy Rii, xx

  30. Interesting post. Maybe you could branch off and hit the finer points of kids using calculators in school to get the A’s? How cashiers can’t count money with electricity to tell them exactly how much. It all goes back to theory of being politically correct and trying to make everyone feel good. Like giving every kid a ribbon because he participated. Sorry to be dragging up the rear hear lately! Guess I am gonna have to get up earlier!

  31. lol.. I think you pretty much demolished that paradigm parody there Fuzzy.. lol.. You would be unpopular on several college campuses.

  32. Exactly, Pris, it’s such a sad state of affairs! It really is.

    And Sarge, yes, the free thinking and innovative are very often unpopular on college campuses. It’s the curse of the liberals, to be open and accepting of all views. . . that are exactly like their own, you know? But what I’m saying here is not new, there are LOTS of gynocritics out there in universities, slowly but steadily chipping away at the patriacrchal, racist, sexist morass that is so called “liberal” higher education. It’s really quite exciting! :))

  33. Well Fuzz, my first thought while reading this post was, “man am I glad my kids are out of school”! And yes, attention should be given to the A’s and B’s, but the brunt of the attention should be shed upon the F because, first of all, the work level the student applied to that particular subject is way below average, and secondly, it is plain to see by the A’s and B’s that the child is capable of doing above average work. Computers, calculators, and other tools have really enhanced the educational system. At the same time it has caused a laziness among students.
    For myself, I wish I applied myself better in school. I was told I’d never use Geometry in real life, so hell, I napped! Unfortunately, I went to Catholic School, so it was an expensive nap!

  34. Hey Fuzz, thanks a lot for your explanatory and educative thoughts. Hmmm.. you know what, I’m a lover of formal education myself!!! Given a choice, I would be a student all my life, in college, University and then research etc. Indeed I’m certainly looking forward to going back to the academic life sometime in future. Phew…

    What I was alluding to was some stifling bits of education system, lots academic red tape, boring text books, CONFORMITY! Mind Control!! Oye! TEACHER! leave the Kids alone!! I’m hyperventilating, the rebel in me is twisting. LOL

    As for Algebra… Did I absorb some of it or any other Maths bits? Please… please don’t tell me that. I might kill myself! lamo.

  35. Ok I will hog this space, sue me! I forgot to add something. As for aptitude bit you’re right there. Same with me. I got No aptitude for Maths/ Geometry. I guess my parents forgot to pass me the Maths genes. This would lead me to drop subjects I otherwise adore: Physics, Astronomy, Geography. I was always a language guy (kinda girly trait, doh!). But one’s having no aptitude for something doesn’t mean inferior intellect. I kinda like to think of it as my left handedness. People/ teachers always forced me as a kid to hold the pencil with right hand but my left hand always took over. I’m a lefty. Can’t use right hand to write.

    As for aptitude, I’ve always had friends on the other end of the spectrum. GREAT Maths geeks/ lovers. I bet they were solving algebra and numeracy problems in their mother’s womb! But they sucked at writing and language. Even later in University years I met this guy.. his writing skills were so bad and his frustration due to his inability to write essays and good sentences drove him to tears. I helped him a lot in his assignments. AND when he was doing his maths papers I could not even read his question paper. But this seemingly DUMB person was tapping his feet and solving maths problems with one hand and eating an apple with the other. Gosh.

  36. Hahaha! I can’t write:P!
    But back to the topic… I guess it is good to focus on the F as well, but by focusing of the A and B areas we can see where the inclinations of the child are- not just to praise him but to give him /her a direction in life that they will happily and willingly take. I mean I was good at drawing and painting and I am still drilling my mum’s brains for not sending me to some courses in that direction or to an art school. it is important in life to do what you like and what you are good at. That way you don’t get to go to work and then come home and beat up your wife and kids- (I exaggerated with this example):P!

  37. Thanks for your fab comments, Michael, and honestly, I rely far too much on calculators and especially the computer, so I totally see your point on that one, too. :))

    Yay, Elmo, love the flash back with the Teacher, leave those kids alone Pink Floydness. Very cool. Okay. Um, no, it’s okay, you’re safe, you didn’t learn any maths against your will, you’re perfectly fine. (soothing voice) And yes, do hog my blog, not a problem to me at all. :)) And I don’t think that it’s fair to gender academic discourse as we’ve done, so stop feeling “bad” or whatever about your language aptitude and ability. I think it’s wonderful. Besides, all those writers we read and call literature . . . well, most of them, anyway . . . men. So where’d we get the idea that it’s for girls? Sigh. Anyway, aptitude does make a difference in how easily things come to you or how much you’re likely to like something, but it doesn’t have much to do with actual ability. The hard part, for me, was focusing on maths because I was frustrated it didn’t come more easily AND I wasn’t interested in it. It was up hill all the way to get those decent grades, but in a way, I think those are the high marks that I truly “earned,” you know? Oh well, just musing. Thanks for you very insightful and thoughtful (and thought provoking) comments. :))

    Hey Diana, and thanks for commenting, too! Woohoo. Actually, I think you’re saying pretty much what Tally and Mercy are saying, and also what I and Jon and others are as well, that interest and ability and aptitude do matter. But the thing is how much emphasis do we put on it? I guess that’s the question, do we, as the PBS loon was saying, focus ONLY on what the kid likes and feels good doing or . . . some balance? I’m not advocating tyrannical education practices by any stretch, but I do think that there needs to be some balance. And I think that as long as you were getting your other studies taken care of that drawing and painting still have room, you know? And yes, it’s a happier life if we’re doing what we love . . . now, do you know anyone who will pay me to blog, shop, and travel? ‘Cause if so, sign me up! Lol

  38. Ah, a very important subject, those grades are! Is it just me, or is one of the problems with bad report cards due to the fact that many parents don’t even seem aware what their kids DO in school let alone their performance?

    It’s convenient to point the finger at the teacher for poor grades, but it is equally (if not more so) the duty of the parents to take responsibility for the progress of their children in their formative years. If the parents do not instill a sense of importance and pride in learning, how do people expect good performances out of students? If a solid foundation of appreciation for learning is established, then the child can perform well and take responsibility for their own learning as they grow. Just some thoughts πŸ˜€

  39. I think it’s hard for working parents sometimes, Ceres, and then of course there are those parents who truly don’t know or care to know what goes on. If only our society would stop telling people they MUST have kids to be normal and successful humans, you know? Some people REALLY should not ever have children. But that’s another soapbox for another day. You’re a bright and wonderful Princess, and I love your thinking on this one! Huggs :))

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