Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hey Buddy, Pass the Glitter

Thanks to reader DRJ for pointing out this article in the Boston Globe about a 17-year-old boy, Doug Anglin, and his father, who have filed a federal civil rights complaint against Milton High School for bias against boys. Even the student body president agrees that there are problems for boys in the high school:

Anglin's complaint has set off a buzz among the 1,000 students at the school. Little, the student body president, said she disagrees with students who think Anglin is chauvinistic.

Of the 22 students in her honors Spanish class, only one is a boy, said Little, a senior. She also said that teachers rarely ask her for a hall pass if she is not in class, while they routinely question boys walking behind her.

As for assignments, she said, one teacher expects students to type up class notes and decorate their notebooks with glitter and feathers.

''You can't expect a boy to buy pink paper and frills to decorate their notebooks," Little said.

This reminds me of an education class I was forced to take as a requirement for my PHD degree in school/clinical psychology. The professor--a male--told us to keep a log of our activities with students or patients in my case on notebook paper and turn them in for a portion of our grade. I was out for the class when the instructions were given so got the assignment second-hand from other students. I was shocked when I received an F on the assignment--the reason? Writing outside the margins of my paper. The professor cared nothing about the content I had so carefully written out as best I could--he only cared about appearances. I can only imagine what the boys in this high school are going through with such prissy teachers.

Update: Dr. Tony has more thoughts on "boys behaving badly."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As for assignments, she said, one teacher expects students to type up class notes and decorate their notebooks with glitter and feathers."

OMG - I'd get an F in that class because I would NEVER decorate a notebook with glitter and feathers! Besides being repulsive looking... glitter sheds and gets on everything.

What is this High School or a pre-school My Little Pony class for girls?

5:15 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Jerub-Baal said...

And this is why we homeschool....

(living in the north suburban Boston area)

5:25 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Elam Bend said...

What was your recourse against the color-in-the-lines professor? Did you have any. I don't think I would have been able to hold myself together in such a situation.

5:27 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 8th grade son recently had an experience similar to those in your post.
In social studies class he scores 90s in tests, know history very well and is his school’s Geography Bee winner. But he missed high honor roll this past period because of the low grade he received for his social studies notes. His notes were not annotated correctly, some were missing and frankly they were very messy. He explained to his teacher that he studies from his notes just as they are.
I happened to see one of his female classmate’s notes and they were shockingly neat; all they needed were little hearts to dot the i’s and some of that glitter decoration. Of course, I don’t know if this classmate was also acing her tests.
Okay, okay. Note taking is a valuable skill and it should be taught. But this incident did make me think about how boys might get penalized more often than girls for being messy.

5:46 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad I went to a sane school.

8:05 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

elam bend,

The way I handled the professor was by reaching him through the student evaluation forms we filled out. They were supposed to be anonymous--but with my bad handwriting, he could tell who it was. I wrote in the margins of the form that I would have thought that an educator would have been able to think outside the box a little more and realize that content and analysis of the material was more important than appearance. Luckily, he had a conscience and gave me a C.

8:33 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son attended high school in a town right next to Milton, MA. It was absolutely horrible for him and his friends in the school. He dropped out, took his GED, and is now attending the local community college, which is working out far better. He's getting college credits at age 16. I wonder how long before the teachers' unions close that loophole.

8:39 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a business major our group was marked way down in business communication class for not using APA style on our final paper. We pointed out she had never mentioned APA style, and she said all communication majors are told about using APA style.

Fair enough, except we weren't communication majors; we were business majors taking the required communication course. It had never occurred to her to find out who her students were. Not a clue.

8:47 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ironically, when I was in teacher-ed' classes, I kept hearing that a good teacher ensures that she or he calls on girls at least as often as on boys; that girls are not lost in the competition with boys, etc., ad nauseum.

I did see anecdotal evidence of the need for such awareness: A young boy who was visiting a graduate class with his mom waved his hand in the air, saying, "I know! I know!" when the professor asked a question. When called on, this child did exactly what we had been told little boys do: He looked sheepish and admitted he didn't know.

But in my student teaching, at high schools, that was no longer true. Come to think of it, it was difficult to get *anyone* to answer a question, apathy having set in.

8:54 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son got a "check" for walking up the slide on the playground at our public elementary school. That disqualified him from going to any school assemblies for the entire term. We were just thankful they didn't put him on Ritalin for it.

8:58 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like both sides on in this lawsuit are off base on at least some points. Does the student's father/attorney really believe that it is in the best interest of teaching boys "that teachers must change their attitudes toward boys and look past boys' poor work habits or rule-breaking." As a college professor, I teach too many 18 year olds with poor work habits that had better improve them or be lost in the workforce. The disparity in honors students and style points for feathered notebooks seem like real problems, but letting poor work habits continue is not a smart strategy. Does he think that someone with poor work habits will survive at Holy Cross? It would be interesting, however, to see the courts twist themselves in knots trying to justify such disparity in outcomes for males when the courts have ordered remedies if women and minorities demonstrate the same type of disparities. But this lawsuit doesn't seem to address this point.

8:59 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


I agree that overlooking poor work habits or rule/breaking would not be in the interest of the boys if they are just allowed to get away with mayhem--but I wonder how much of this is just the boys' way of rebeling against feelings of bias. For example, if the boys are being asked to be neat and orderly or to use glitter and feathers etc., they may just shut down to everything. On the other hand, if they just have poor work habits because of lack of discipline, teachers need to be aware of this and find ways to teach the boys better habits--certainly not overlook them. But I would think the idea is to find ways to motivate the boys to want to perform better.

9:18 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This law suit must be dismissed and the student expelled. Otherwise we will never win the War Against Boys.

10:20 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A stray thought-- how much of this can be connected to the breakdown of the traditional family? We're discussing teenage boys here-- boys who used to be under the impression that they were about to become men, with the responsibility of not only providing for a family, but of actually being worthy to have one. With the disintegration of respect for men in general, across most of American society, how do we expect the boys to respect themselves, and honor their position and responsibilities, if society at large never respects them?

Caveat: I am only 25 years old, and I grew up in military schools, which, at least when I attended, were conspicuously free of these problems.

10:22 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

I was struck by several things in the article, but 2 items stand out that haven't been discussed yet.

First, I noticed the comment regarding Larry O'Connor - a Milton High senior who supports Anglin and is taking two honors classes and one Advanced Placement class - who said he is "surrounded by a sea of girls in his classes". I identified with this statement because my oldest son had the same experience. Of course, people were always joking with him how lucky he was to be surrounded by girls, but the fact is that it was intimidating to always be, literally, the odd man out. My son is a well-spoken, intelligent, confident young man, but it was uncomfortable for him to attend school year in and year out with young women and to basically learn everything from a woman's perspective.

Second, I was intrigued by the suggestion that "the high school give students credit for playing sports, not just for art and drama courses". I can't imagine a more politically incorrect suggestion, but I like it. Boys like sports and there was a time when they were encouraged to play sports - and not just for the exercise, but for the camaraderie, competition, teamwork and skills (mental and physical) that are required to play sports well. Obviously there are significant benefits to drama and art, but I don't view artistic ability as so much more valuable than sports that it should be rewarded with academic credit. It is a subtle form of bias that, once again, disadvantages and denigrates young men.

Perhaps some of you disagree with me. I don't have my mind made up on these points, so I'm interested in hearing what you think and especially why.

10:43 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

Denise @ 10:22 - I agree. Boys don't have the same motivation to succeed because it's less likely that they will have to provide for wives and families. Either their wives will join them as wage-earners and providers, or they aren't as likely to marry so they don't have to provide for anyone (except possibly to pay child support, but I'll defer to Dadvocate on that subject).

10:48 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Greg said...

I like to think that I didn't graduate high school that long ago (class of 1992). I attended a good public high school in the suburbs, and was in the honors and AP classes. I seem to remember the classes were pretty even split between boys and girls. I couldn't cite exact numbers, but the distribution wasn't bad enough to register as unusual.

11:15 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Some Schmuck said...

Interestingly in 1983 I attended the U.S. Army Signal Corps Advanced NCO academy at Ft. Gordon, Ga. A major part of our grade was based on neatness, format and spelling.

This was the early days of PCs and my roommate had brought his TRS-80 with him.

He and I used it to blow their scoring out of the water. We finished first and second in the academic portion.

They had to rejigger their grading standards after that.

11:33 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

It is absolutely true that there are a lot of soft-headed and heavy-handed teachers in the public schools. Depending on the crucial details, which are not reported in the Boston Globe, the Anglins might have a case against Milton High School.

But still, look at some of the things that the Anglins want. Less punishment for acting out in class. Pass/fail instead of grades for advanced classes. Course credit for basketball. If Milton High School actually made these changes, then in about two seconds they would be slammed as spineless liberals. With good reason!

Here is another story of unprofessional treatment by a teacher of a student which seems more clear-cut. A high-school student in Pennsylvania wore a Denver Broncos jersey to school. The teacher had him sit on the floor and had other students throw paper at "the stinking Denver fan". And this was during an exam! The really incredible part is that the teacher tells exactly the same story as the student, he just doesn't see what the big deal is. I would have expected the teacher and the school to spin, deny, and stonewall. But this time, the teacher has no shame.

Certainly this is no way to treat boys or girls in a high school. Notably, boys are more likely to wear football jerseys. On the other hand, this incident shows you that it isn't always about boys vs girls, or liberals vs conservatives. Sometimes it's as trivial as the Steelers vs the Broncos.

11:42 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Sarah said...

The last time I was in a position to be graded for neatness, I was in 6th grade. The student who got the best marks in that category was one of the Ben's -- his dad was a professor at either UCLA or USC (hey, I was 11) and had access to laser printers (it was 1991.) I was so proud of my dot matrix printouts with photos carefully pasted onto pages inserted at the appropriate spot: Ben used 14pt. Times New Roman and wrapped the text around the photos. The only day I felt sadder was the one where another girl's mother spent $300 on her Queen Elizabeth costume for the Renaissance Fair field trip, when I'd had to make my costume (including dying it myself -- thank you summer camp, the skills I learned from you earned me an "E"!)

There were also a few classes I remember where I was the only girl, or one of few: Physics (two girls, 20 guys; ironically, the two girls got such high scores on the tests that we were "pulled from the curve" so most of the class could get "B"s) and Introduction to Object Oriented Programming, another class I did well in (four women, 20-odd men, and I was the only one under 25, because it was a 7am class.) I find that sitting in the front row and answering a lot of questions lessens the psychological impact of being "the girl;" I imagine it'd do the same for men.

The class I remember girls doing better than boys? Honors freshman English, where the professor (female) swore up a storm the first day to disabuse everyone of stereotypical ideas about women and English teachers. But hardly any guys apparently wanted to take that class (it was an option for anyone who got more than a certain score on the English placement test, but who didn't take the AP test to get out of the requirement.) That teacher gave me an A-, but also refused to make eye contact on Thursdays (when I was in my ROTC uniform.) It was 12 students; 4 male and 8 female. The guys blushed worse than the girls that first day; I blushed least of everyone; I was 16, recently homeschooled and Mormon, and only knew they were swear words because of their reactions (my mother wasn't very happy when she found out; thought it was unprofessional.)

12:27 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

Greg K -

I am not surprised that the Anglin story in the Boston Globe doesn't bother you, but please don't cherry-pick the facts to suit your agenda. The article clearly states that Anglin has filed a complaint claiming that "girls faced fewer restrictions from teachers and boys are more likely to get punished". While this may not be the basis for the most important civil rights case in modern times, it does appear to state a claim for relief that is actionable. Further, there is evidence supporting the claim in the article itself - specifically the statements by Kelli Little, the student body president.

Obviously there are some trivial and even petty things addressed in this article, not surprisingly since it's a newspaper and controversy sells newspapers. But for you to summarize the Anglin's complaint as being solely about "less punishment for acting out in class. Pass/fail instead of grades for advanced classes. Course credit for basketball" is disingenuous and trivializes the debate. Is that your goal?

I hope not, because whether you are the father of girls or boys or both, your children will be far better off if they live in a country where everyone is educated as much as possible.

12:52 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

Also, Greg K - Thank you for linking the article about the boy who wore a Denver Broncos jersey to class. I agree - the incident seems very unprofessional and unfair.

12:58 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger drtaxsacto said...

I did a speech yesterday about the problem which is broader than just high school. The New Republic of January 23 has an interesting article about the problem - 57% of the students in higher education are female. We should be concerned about that. Not in the sense of trying to discourage women to enter higher education but in trying to understand why higher education is less attractive to males. But PC won't even let us think about the problem with any creativity or thought.

1:00 AM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice thread of comments!

Denise said, "respect for men." I was a little shocked to see those words so close together. I didn't know "respect" and "men" could be in the same sentence in modern English usage.

This gave me a great idea for entertainment. At the next family gathering I plan to ask my long divorced sister if she would say, "I respect men." I bet she will not do it. I bet it would make her stomach churn to even think about possibly saying it.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is for women! (D.I.S.T.A.I.N. is for men.)

Would she want to date a man that doesn't respect women?

And she wonders why she doesn't date!

It'll be fun at the next family party.

By the way, I love my foible-filled sister.

Apologies, way off topic.

1:11 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

DRJ: I was careful to say that Anglin's claims for relief could have merit. What I listed was the school reforms that they want, not their claims of unfair treatment.

I agree that these ideas for school reform are trivial, but it isn't clear who is trivializing the dispute. Maybe it's the Boston Globe, or maybe it's the school officials, or maybe it's the Anglins themselves. It isn't me, because I got it straight from the article.

Kelli Little could be an important independent witness in Anglin's complaint. Or she could just be a sympathetic friend of Doug Anglin. It's hard to know from the article as written.

1:34 AM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg, it's good that you've pointed out the fact that some of this is the result of different types of bias, however the boy who was abused for wearing a Denver Broncos jersey is still a product of sexual discrimination as I think I'm safe in assuming this would have never happened to a girl wearing a Broncos jersey here in Steeler country.

It's just another chapter in the book of "Men should be so tough, paying for their crimes, that they should even tolerate paying for crimes that aren't crimes."

2:50 AM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As i pointed out in the on the newsweek article, i think the problem is that boy are not ingrained with the fact that they should act like MEN as opposed to Males. by this i mean they should be taught and held to the standards of their grandfathers (the greatest generation). Yes there were bad things about that generation mostly the way women were treated (in the limiting of options not in the way they treated the individual women) and race. However the men in that generation were Men not males.
Further i would like to point out that hand note taking is not as big of a deal as it once was because of laptops. Also neatness is in NO WAY related to intelligence. I am a horrible mechanical writer do to a learning disability however i got a 33 on the ACT and a 1490 on the SAT. My teachers understood this and allowed me latitude in my note taking. The way teachers should judge students are on how much they learn(based on tests and homework and papers) not on notes.

3:17 AM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only person who finds these teacher's emphasis on notes and neatness thereof odd? When I was in high school, in that most ancient of days (1985), how neat your notes where, whether they were typed, or even if you took them at all, was irrelevant. Get good grades, nobody cared about your notes. Get poor grades, and the teacher will be talking to you about much more than how you take notes.

3:58 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger Milhouse said...

I don't understand - if art and drama earn credit, why on earth do sports not? Many commenters here seem to think that it's some sort of radical suggestion; it seems like plain common sense to me. I don't understand why the school hasn't already done so, without anyone having to demand it.

4:09 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger Tom Grey said...

The courts purpose to increase the justice in a society. It's time to have them look at the facts.

I also think graduates of most Ivy League Colleges, and Stanford (my Alum), should start a class action lawsuit for falsely advertising an environment open for intellectual discourse.

It would be fine for Reps to get their tuition refunded for being persecuted when not PC. Of course, maybe tapes of lectures would be required to win such a lawsuit. Why don't more students have tapes of Professors ranting in a PC way against Bush, etc. ?

6:21 AM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is odd. I NEVER had to submit notes for a grade and I never ask my students to submit their notes. As far as I am concerned, their notes and how they take them are their own business.

As for men. God love them! I had a brief but very unhappy marriage, but I'd never tar the entire male sex because of my former husband's bad behavior. I respect and honor men and would like to find a good one. But I'm pretty happy as a single right now.

6:41 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger michael farris said...

What's with deal with notes?

I've only ever had one class (graduate level though I took it as an undergrad) that I had to hand in notes (sort of) and then the main thing was being to prove that I could use them, no one else had to be able to understand them.

As for neatness in assignments to be handed in, the student needs to know that's taken into account, what they do with that knowledge is up to them.

But all things being equal, if I have to grade two essays and one is easy to read and I have to decipher the other as if they were hieroglyphics then the first is going to get a little better grade probably (it maybe not 100 % fair, but I'm human after all). I'll make an exception if I know the student has some kind of motor coordination problem.

7:59 AM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son attends Milton High School. He is in the Honors History Class that requires the decorated notebook. He moved from AP History(a higher level class) and his grade went from B+ to a D+. The same day this hit the press he was walking down the hall with 3 girls infront of or behind him. A female teacher asked for his hall pass and the bell to begin class hadn't even rung yet. He, politely reminded the teacher that the bell hadn't rung and then asked her why she hadn't asked any of the girls for a pass. The teachers response was' hurry up and get to class'.

9:17 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

milton parent,

You know, if the school was treating black children like this, everyone would be up in arms. Instead, your son and the other boys are just being told to hurry along. Hope the school can resolve these issues so that boys won't continue to be treated as suspects and/or pseudo interior designers for notebooks that suit their teacher's fancy.

9:50 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I'm very curious to see of Anglin's complaint is given any credence at all. It seems they could give at least phys ed credit for sports. My high schools in good ole Tennessee did in the Sixties. I never took a single day of phys ed.

I found the incident in Pennsylvania regarding the Bronco's jersey extremely disturbing. A teacher like that needs to find a different career. I blogged on it the other day.

10:09 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Yes I like this idea, we should require high school teachers to have at least a 25 on the ACT or an 1100 on the SAT.

I have to disagree. I can't remember if I had a 24 or 26 on the ACT and had below a 3.0 in high school. But I graduated with a B.A. with honors and a M.S. with a 3.97 GPA and a 1250 on the GRE. College scores and grades would be much more relevant. Plus, some people, as we've pointed out regarding high school students, just aren't good test takers. Or, like myself, hated high school and just did enough to get by and got serious in college.

10:15 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

You are absolutely correct about the GPAs and, where I went to college, education was the easiest major in the entire university.

10:46 AM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

High school grades are just no indicator of either intelligence or mastery of course work. I had students in my college freshman comp' courses who had dropped out of high school because they were getting A's and B's and didn't know why. They would write intentionally stupid things in essays and on test papers and get them back with high grades. The teachers weren't even reading the students' work, and the students weren't learning anything.

And then there are the students who get C's just for "seat time," and higher grades for doing the occasional assignment--which they turn in whenever. As for AP and Honors classes, those lost all meaning in our community, at least 15 years ago. The requirements for students wanting to enroll in them were so diluted, so as not to "discriminate" against anyone, that I learned (as one of my own professors had said) that when a student said, "I took AP English and got an A," it meant she didn't know how to write.

One such student tested below the level for freshman comp,' but asked her "refresher" course instructor to edit a piece she wanted to submit for publication. When the instructor declined (she'd seen the student's work, and she was, after all, teaching a full load), the student was offended; she had expected the instructor to be honored to do it!

10:52 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger michael farris said...

I HAVE IT!!! I know why the thing with turning in notes to be graded.

It's been argued that a lot of the traditional public eduction system in the US was to turn out docile factory workers. Well, that's not such a priority now (huge understatement). Now, the schools are tyring to turn out docile Office workers (where keeping your records so that other people can access them and use them can be important skills).
If schools are switching to secretary training school that would explain why more physically inclined/applied people would feel out of place.

11:26 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

In my experience, every discussion of education sooner or later descends into a cynical fuzzythink world in which the same slogans and criticisms apply to all solutions. The solutions become interchangeable and it becomes impossible to tell good from bad.

AP courses seem to me to be one of the few things in high school that actually work. Which is not to say that they are perfect by any means, but they do accomplish something. It doesn't matter who gets to enroll in AP courses — it could be anyone who wants to for all I care — and the letter grade doesn't matter either. What matters is your numerical score on the AP exam. I would not be surprised if you can be outright illiterate and get an A+ in English class in a disreputable high school. You can't possibly be illiterate and get a 5 on AP English. (Unless you find some way to flagrantly cheat.)

AP courses carry a key idea that can be applied elsewhere. Everyone is obsessed with setting the bar high enough in education. In fact, you don't need to set the bar at all. What is much more important is clear and consistent yardsticks for how high the students, or the teachers, can jump. If they can trust and understand the yardsticks themselves, then employers and admission committees will set the bars where they want them.

The problem with teacher credentials is that they are already up to their eyeballs with obscure requirements and test scores. In California, for example, they don't use SAT scores at all, they use a separate test called the CBEST. If they simply replaced the CBEST with the SAT, without any demand for a minimum score, then the scores could be so low as to cause a scandal.

This is also a pervavise problem with "No Child Left Behind", which should really be called "No Cheat Left Behind". The whole philosophy of NCLB is, "we will severely punish the school unless everyone jumps over a higher bar. But the yardsticks can be different in different states." So the states furiously repaint and bend the yardsticks so that the bar looks higher.

11:40 AM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I only had a few teachers that graded on "neatness," but my handwriting was so illegible, that I frequently lost points due to no one else being able to read it. That is a serious problem, and I can't fault my teachers for grading me poorly.

However, my poor handwriting forced me to learn to type, and I've found speed typing more useful than handwriting post-school. I doubt I would have been interested in computers (and had profitable careers in programming and game design) if I didn't already know how to type.

11:56 AM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The isolated case of one teacher requiring decorated notebooks is irrevelent; we might as well make something of the multiple teachers I had who counted showing movies with historical or literary themes as "teaching" or the one who lowered my grade in debate class one quarter because he was annoyed with me. That is to say, the school system is full of goofball teachers (as well as outstanding ones). A more important question is whether there is a consistent trend towards the type of silliness that hurts boys more than girls. The statistics suggest that this could be the case, though I myself wonder if the explosion in fatherless households is more to blame. The next question is what to do about it. I suspect it's true that grading positively for neatness will preferentially hurt boys, for example, but anyone who has had to grade 50+ papers will tell you the pain involved in trying to decipher messy text. Neatness isn't the only virtue, but it is a virtue.

12:16 PM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The teacher requiring glitter is just doing what she knows. I earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Education. Notice it is a Music degree and not an Education degree. But to receive a teaching certificate, I had to take several Education classes. These classes were the bane of my existence. Every one of them required a "portfolio." It was common knowledge that "portfolio with stickers = A." Content rarely mattered. In my student teaching semester, adminstered by the College of Education, I had to turn in a semester portfolio to document my work for the term. I got a 'B' on it with only two criticisms offered. 1) The title page was the first page in the notebook and not in the plastic sleeve on the outside of the notebook - minus 5 points. 2) Too much music - minus 5 points. Too much music?! I was teaching music! What did they expect? Spelling tests? There were not comments about the lesson plans or content or activities or anything. This assignment was supposed to make me a better teacher? The problem with glitter started in college.

1:19 PM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few posts have asked why art and drama are graded classes, while sports activities are not. This is a subject that really deserves its own thread. However, a few quick initial thoughts:

Most schools do have graded physical education classes (P.E.) and federal requirements do mandate them. However, due to lack of gym/outdoor space in some cases, and an increasing emphasis on test preparation in other cases leading to class cancellation, both P.E. and art and drama classes are being driven out of many public-school curricula. The same can be said for science, and history, and foreign languages, and any other subject that doesn't already have a standardized test in place to help meet NCLB standards.

A lot of the comments on note-taking in this thread might also apply to standardized testing. Students are 'right' only if they fill in the correct bubbles neatly enough to scan through computers correctly; knowledge is not enough. One of the reasons I agree with the AP poster that those tests do measure something of quality is because they are not standardized multiple-choice and require human graders.

1:44 PM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

Heather and Greg:

I understand your desire to use AP tests as standards. The year-long AP classes weren't around in my day, but we did have the chance to take AP tests when entering college and they were a big part of my children's education. If you do well on these types of tests it can be a big leg up in applying to and getting ahead in college.

My impression is that AP tests are difficult and they apparently do a good job at measuring ability on the subject, so it's tempting to see them as the answer. I may be wrong, but I have the impression that neither one of you are fans of No Child Left Behind. However, isn't standardized national testing the basic idea behind NCLB?

For the gifted or extremely motivated college-bound high school student, I heartily endorse your focus on nationally standardized AP tests. But that leaves out a lot of kids and, more importantly, what do you do for the first 6-10 years of a child's education? What's wrong with having a public education that wants to educate everyone, not just the disadvantaged group du jour? For that matter, what's wrong with reinstituting the things that used to work in public education - memorization, the basics, and (to satisfy the education bureaucracy) penmanship?

Listen to someone like Jenny. Too many teachers can't teach anymore, let alone teach "difficult" boys. If you really want national standards and testing, impose them on the teachers and not the students.

2:33 PM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

The fact that the question on AP tests are challenging are partly beside the point. The point is, first, that the AP tests are a national standard, so everyone knows what a particular score on the AP exam means. Second, AP exams, and even more the SAT exams, do not pass or fail, they only measure. It is completely unnecessary and even counterproductive to impose pass lines on standardized tests from above. As long as the test is designed to appropriately measure the students who take it, it can have hard or easy questions, or better yet, range from easy to hard. The same principles work just as well for Harvard-bound seniors as for second-graders in Podunk.

Is that the basic idea of NCLB? Yes, but not really. NCLB has national standards, and it also demands that students take standardized tests, but it does not put the two together. The meat of NCLB is to demand that schools jump over bars that the states themselves set. "Jump over your own bar, or else!" The results are as you might expect. The states are all good at jumping over their own bars. But come the other half of NCLB, when they gave the non-binding national test to a sample of students, the results were bad.

NCLB is similar for teachers, except that I don't know if they even bother with the national standard. "Jump over your own bar, else!"

You should never take the "basic idea" of a government program at face value. The program is what it is; the idea behind it almost doesn't matter.

3:53 PM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger David Foster said...

I think that a substantial number of K-12 teachers are just plain anti-intellectual, and focus on the glitter and the margins because they are not interested in the knowledge.

4:06 PM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with "drj." I am old enough to have been part of the California's "MGM" (Mentally Gifted Minors) program. There were parts that were great, and parts that were a crock of elitist nonsense.

The good thing for me was blowing a math placement exam in the 6th grade. My 6th grade class was all MGM, but I had to leave and go to a "regular" math class during those periods. So while my MGM peers were out forming geometrical shapes and set by holding hands on the playground (I am not making that up), I was sweating over that darned "x" in algebra---FOIL and all that.

The point is that, when we all entered middle school, my MGM peers had real difficulty with math. I didn't, which was nice.

Comments about the AP are fair enough. I think that they should be available to everyone, however....and this business of "AP Courses" in nonsense. They should all be taught a good level.

Or else we can go to one of those systems where they separate out kids at an early age---one college track, and one something else.


Final thought. We have spent gazillions of dollars on education. The scores keep falling. Clearly the old way of teaching worked better.

Something to think about, regardless of how much money we spend.

4:09 PM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the Greg Kuperberg comments. There is always, and I mean always a political level to his posts...and those posts are generally hostile to the current administration.

The previous poster made a good point. No matter who was "in power," we have spent loads of money and accomplished nothing. The Left violent opposes any standard for teachers. The Right wants to make sure that people who graduate can actually read by punishing districts that don't do their job.

Both sides have a point, but they are always political, and they always avoid the real problem. Teaching during the 1950s and 1960s worked better than it does currently. We need to know why.

I suspect it has to do with parental involvement, but I also think that there is an entire issue of lack of discipline in play.

But this isn't about GW Bush's "mistakes." The mistakes have been consistently made for nearly half a century.

Rather than fix blame, we should be trying to fix the problem.

4:15 PM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger Jerub-Baal said...

Dr. Helen

You might be interested in Gagdad Bob's essay

Friday, January 27, 2006

Children of a Lesser Godlessness: Reflections on Liberal Contempt for the Military

For some reason the permalink doesn't seem to be working right now, so you may have to scroll for it if he posts again. He has a number of interesting insights on how the feminization of boys (through schooling and other means) has effected society as a whole.

The effect he talks about can be seen already.

6:41 PM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: My son got a "check" for walking up the slide on the playground at our public elementary school. That disqualified him from going to any school assemblies for the entire term.

Jeez, was that all it took to get out of going to assemblies for a whole term? I woulda been up the slide twice a year like clockwork!

7:53 PM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that my son performed better and had less school stress when we transferred him to a private, Christian school starting with junior high. I doubt the religion had much to do with it beyond the fact that the school was Baptist, so tended to give more creedence to the idea of inherent gender differences. They had more male teachers in all grades than any of the public schools I'd seen, and I'm pretty certain it wasn't the pay that attracted them. Men and boys are Not Like Us, so it's helpful to have someone around who can help us (speaking of women) to understand them.

Another factor, imo, was the very orderly and traditional classroom setting. My son always knew what to expect from day to day, but he also knew what was expected of him. There wasn't a lot of experimentation with the educational fad du jour.

A third factor may have been that it was a smaller school (around 1000 students K-12) so that the faculty, students and parents had more "community." Everyone knew everyone, knew their parents, and knew their siblings. Kids had to do chores at school. This included taking turns at cleaning the bathrooms, picking up trash on the playground, cleaning the lunchroom, and even occasionally helping with the younger students. Like I said, "community."

8:02 PM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My reaction: What, boys are naturally discriminated against because they inevitably act out and break the rules? So there has never been any (army) historically male-dominated (navy) rule-oriented (air force) group (marines) which (SEALS) viciously punishes rule-breaking and rewards (green berets) obedience to hierarchy. Because men just don't do that sort of thing; it isn't manly.

12:34 AM, January 28, 2006  
Blogger michael farris said...

Don't forget learning how to make beds neatly, cause guys just can't do that.

4:32 AM, January 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What, boys are naturally discriminated against because they inevitably act out and break the rules? So there has never been any (army) historically male-dominated (navy) rule-oriented (air force) group (marines) which (SEALS) viciously punishes rule-breaking and rewards (green berets) obedience to hierarchy.

Could there be a reason why the last marine commercial I saw referred to these men as a "select few"?

The FEW, the proud, the marines...

6:03 AM, January 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody know what is the minimum age for taking the GED and enrolling in community college? My kids are only in 3rd and 4th grade, but it's something that's occurred to me as well. My son is a great athlete, so he would miss out on a couple years of fun sports, but it would still probably be worth it.

5:42 PM, January 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 5:42. As enticing as the thought is of having your child graduate early and go to Community College. Please remember the age problem you will be having to deal with. Nearly all of the kids in Community College are at least 18-22 years old. They are young adults starting their way into the world - going to parties etc. If you put a 15 or 16 year old in College with them - you will have to understand that they WILL want to hang out with an older crowd and do "older" things. Things you as a parent may feel they aren't quite ready for yet.

It's not over protective to realize that maybe you don't want your 15 year old daughter dating a 22 year old guy! Or your 15 year old son being looked down on as a "baby" by the 20 year old girls in his class. Much as high school itself can be a harsh place. Pushing you child into the adult world at a young age doesn't work for all of them. OTOH some kids handle this very well. It is something to consider.

5:02 PM, January 29, 2006  
Blogger Kev said...

Jenny--I got my bachelor's in music education as well, and I totally agree that the "regular" education classes they made us take were almost completely useless. One of the many problems of today's educational system is that too much time is spent on "teaching people how to teach" rather than helping them to fully master their subject matter.

I never had to do portfolios, but I can remember wasting an entire semester in "child development," which goes from roughly birth until the end of fifth grade. As an instrumental music teacher, we tend to first see students guessed it, the end of fifth grade. Everyone else in the class was either an elementary ed. major, a mother, or both, and the professor used to chide us music ed. majors--who all sat in the same row--about not participating in class! At least I never got the "too much music" comment; that would be priceless if it wasn't so sad.

8:58 AM, January 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"On the other hand, if they just have poor work habits because of lack of discipline, teachers need to be aware of this and find ways to teach the boys better habits--certainly not overlook them. But I would think the idea is to find ways to motivate the boys to want to perform better."

My question is, at what point are PARENTS/guardians responsible for instilling these better habits in the boys and motivating them?

Perhaps the whole "boys are doing badly in school" IS directly related to the absence of men in the home.

But, why do TEACHERS have to compensate in public schools for this absense of male rolemodeling? Why is it up to them to teach them when and where "boy" behavior is appropriate, instead of being able to concentrate on the SUBSTANCE OF THE SCHOOLWORK.

Yes, feathers and glitter are silly. For females too (we aren't all the pretty in pink types.) And appearance, as in clean notes, is silly if you can get the job done with what you've got.

Plus, more recess for all little bodies. More than an hour or two in the same seat, without moving around for classes or taking a small break can be tough no matter whether you've got a penis or vagina.

But following well spelled-out practical rules on turning in assignments on time and especially, enforcing rules on non-disruptive behaviour in the classroom? Sorry. No excuses or special treatment for the boys there.

If your school district is exteme (like they do not respond when parents request a special meeting to discuss why their child's written assignment won't be adorned with glitter/feathers), parents should think of either homeschooling if possible, or private/Catholic schools.

In fact, that is where your argument about the "essential difference of boys" falls down, I think. Many many years of educating Catholic boys show us it is possible for them to sit still for periods of time to learn bookwork, and respond to classroom discipline to keep everyone in line, none getting more special treatment than others.

So I doubt it is the biological factor that is key. Instead, perhaps we could more fully examine the home environment of these boys being treated badly in schools. Is there a male in the home? Does the child respond to HIS discipline? Or perhaps Mom is a well educated woman, divorced, who is looking for the schools to parent her children in a male way, instead of teaching them there is a time and place for everything, as is taught in Catholic schools. Sure you can still be a "boy". A full day of fishing, ball, hiking, and moving your body on Saturdays and Sundays, and after school before it gets dark, generally allows a student to sit still and understand their more "passive" role in learning new written materials.

Sorry, but not everything can be taught in an Action Jack way. Perhaps parents whose boys aren't getting the materials in class could hire an Action Jack tutor after class hours, if the child needs special ways of learning that are not accessible in the public classroom.

Turning some boys' school performances, in these affluent and undisciplined times (violent movies/video games anyone?), into a gender thing that schools are expected to compensate is way off. You will end up creating more problems in our education system then those you purport to "help". Again, look to these boys' homelives and ask the parents to do their jobs if their sons need extra help with their schoolwork. Expecting society to adapt to your personal needs and habits is just... unrealistic.

11:40 AM, February 02, 2006  
Blogger Serket said...

Kudos to the student body president for acknowledging this problem. We need more girls like her in our high schools.

7:03 PM, February 08, 2007  
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