Thursday, September 27, 2007

Isn't sloth cute?

I have a character flaw: I'm NEVER on time for anything. But, I'm also never LATE for anything either. Which means that I'm always EARLY. Since being born two and a half weeks premature, I've been keeping the streak alive ever since. In fact, if I'm not somewhere at least 10 minutes before I'm supposed to be, I feel I'm running late. But as I get older, I have begun to see that there are increasingly fewer people who are on time. In reality, most people are late. . . . and it drives me nuts. BUT, there is safety in numbers, so rather than repeat important information at, let's say, a meeting, the start time is usually delayed until all the "others" have arrived. Being late has become a way of life for many. I have also noticed that chronically late people are never ahsamed or embarressed, and some almost seem to savor the notoriety. But here's what their actions are telling everyone who has waited: "I don't respect any of you." What is so hard about leaving the house 15 minutes earlier? Some people live their lives 900 seconds behind. What is so difficult about getting up one day 15 minutes earlier and getting your entire life back on track?

Accepting tardiness is the seed of something much bigger in our society, though. It is the acceptance of mediocrity. It places value on sloth, hedonism, and narcissism. It cultivates the absence of accountability, self-discipline, integrity, and empathy for others. It propagates a deteriation in moral fabric and personal ethics. It is downright sinful and should be categorically unnacceptable. But instead of eschewing this decline in virtuous behavior, our public schools are espousing them, spilling over into our educational system, specifically our upper-level, college-bound secondary curriculum.

PreAP and AP classes have become the last bastion of hope in our school district for adequately preparing students for college, and providing them with the rigor, confidence, and level of expectation they will need to be successful in college and well beyond their educational careers. You would think that rigor, accountability, logical consequences, and repsonsibility would be traits supported by anyone in education, and that those qualities would certainly be the in the best long-term interest of the students, but apparently you (and I) are wrong. The trend has now moved toward empowering students to do less and get more, enabling them to shirk responsibility. The onus of learning has fallen off of the student's shoulders and onto the teacher's, who has now become the stopgap for "curing" every social ill and undesirable effect that is in direct contradiction to educational goals. Legislators, overbearing parents, and the pandering media have somehow convinced themselves that the "bar has been raised" while expectation have been lowering expectations. The incentive for teachers is to "do as they're told." "Free 100s for everyone!"

The latest to affect me personally is a midstream mandate which allows students to turn in assignments passed the due date, overturning a 10+ -year old proven practice of NOT accepting late work in college level courses.

"You're letting the student off the hook by giving them a zero," the argument goes. But what are we defining as the hook in college-level courses? Is this the trend in society? "Do it whenever you feel like, and it doesn't matter what the actually quality is, the whole point is to 'get it done'." What in the heck are we fishing for anyway? The waters have gotton so muddy, who can see clearly anymore?

As a dedicated teacher, I am disheartened by the fact that I am working harder than most of my students, and that the latest trends in pedagogical practice require that I do MORE and the student do LESS. I'm tired of being the only one who is tired at the end of a lesson.

But why do I still swim upstream against the educational current, in search of meaningful results and real nutrition? I'm finding it increasingly difficult to answer that question. Instead of seeking out real food, I am encouraged to simply go for the easy bait that is dangling right there in front of me. Chances are, I'll be let right back off the hook.

In the final analysis, public schools mirror what society values . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and society is getting what it deserves.

I still have hope, however; I refuse to believe mediocrity's time has come yet. I pray that, like so many these days, it sleeps in and arrives very late.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Oooh, Korpi. I feel your pain.