From the Simpsons episode Lisa the Vegetarian:
Principal Skinner: Uh oh. Two independent thought alarms in one day. The students are overstimulated. Willie! Remove all the coloured chalk from the classrooms.
Groundskeeper Willie: I warned ya! Didn’t I warn ya?! That coloured chalk was forged by Lucifer himself!
When I first started at Queen’s University fifteen years ago, it didn’t take long for me to discover that by and large, the most contemptibly stupid and narrow-minded students were the “education” majors. Paul Fussell, author of BAD, or The Dumbing of America, observed that the vast majority of degrees issues by faux “institutions of higher learning” like Oral Roberts University and Bob Jones University were to students who majored in education.
An old girlfriend of mine decided to take up teaching a couple of years ago. She, like many other people who make the best teachers, took the more honourable route of first getting a real degree — in her case, a B.Sc. in biology — and then getting a teaching certificate. She often told me about her experiences in teacher’s college and what a far cry getting a teaching certificate was from getting her B.Sc.. At teacher’s college, there were no wrong answers, and most of the classes seemed to be about creating a fuzzy-headed consensus among the other teachers-to-be rather than learning anything about pedagogy. From the sound of it, I probably could’ve gotten my accreditation if I’d simply gone there with my accordion and led a rousing chorus of Kumbayah.
Once armed with their diplomas — essentially pieces of vellum that certify that they can follow orders for four years — these education majors go to where they can do the most damage: grade school and high school, where they pass on their skills in rote memorization and following stultifying procedure. To make matters worse, the scum rises to the top. Just as those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach, those who can’t teach, administrate.
It may sound like a pat statement, but I’m going to blame society for this state of affairs. We’ve reduced teaching to a low-pay, low-prestige “career of last resort”, putting it just ahead of waiting tables or greeting the hoi polloi at the Wal-Mart entrance. I’m certain we give more respect to a Gap “sales associate” than a teacher, largely because “Do these jeans make me look fat?” is a more pressing question than “What was Mark Twain trying to say in Huckleberry Finn?”
It’s no wonder that that Simpsons episode is so funny, in a tragic kind of way.
Now that the preamble’s out of the way, let’s get to the story.
From an entry in BEACHtechie, the weblog of a 15-year old named Sam who’s attending high school in Virginia Beach City:
Just call me Dennis, I keep on getting in trouble at school!
I was in the office again today, balling [sic] my eyes out. Lets just say one of the options is to have me expelled from the school. I was gasping for air half the time I was in there. I had to write this affidavit telling them everything I knew about my blog, how long I had been posting from school, who else from my school had a blog and everything. I was crying the entire time. And don’t you dare joke me for crying. I mean, you’d cry too if you had a PERFECT perm. record and then have it screwed up in high school and mess up your chances of getting into the college of your choice.
I am going to hold back my anger and frustration for the wall in front of me.
Dad is picking me up in a minute, ttyl.
Apparently Sam violated the school’s Acceptable Use Policy by posting to his weblog from a school computer. I can understand that the school is concerned about liability and may have to exercise some pretty strict control over how their computers get used. However, the fact that Sam has a blog seems to be just as grave a concern as his posting to it from a school machine. Their making him tell them who else in the school has a weblog smacks of McCarthy.
Here’s an excerpt from an entry made later the same day:
The affidavit was just me saying what I knew about my blog, my signature didn’t go anywhere. But the school system has this “AUP” thingy, we do have to agree to it and sign it at the beginning of the year. So technically, I was in violation of it, BUT people in my school have done WAY WORSE than I ever have. All I ever do is post in my blog about MY FEELINGS, WHATS GOING ON IN MY LIFE, HOW TODAY WENT, got it? You all know that too.
Remember that entry the other day when I said “UPDATE: fjdsfjdslkfjklsdjf” (a bunch of letters)? Well, one of the people at the school thinks it’s “secret code”…what in the hell?
It’s time for your Good Deed of the Day.
Please visit Sam’s site and give him some words of support in the comments section. If you have a weblog, write a quick blurb and link to him — use this link button, if you like:
If you’re so inclined, you can even write a letter (a firm but polite one, please) to his school and the school board.