Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Six Public School Policies that Have Changed for the Better

I try to avoid posting anything provocative on Facebook. I have friends from across the political spectrum and I want to keep liking them, so I really prefer not to know how they feel about global warming and American immigration policy. Sometimes, though, I unwittingly post something that I think is just silly and innocuous but that takes on a life of its own. Here's what I mean:

The back story is that the Baby's school has a fall fundraiser and each class is assigned a different activity station. Our class was assigned to the obstacle course, until the class assigned to the donut bobbing race requested to be switched because some parent or parents didn't like the idea of feeding kids fried, processed food at a carnival. Now, my issue with this is the inconsistency. If you're going to take a hard line stand against donuts, go all the way. If donuts are so bad, then why not try to get the game changed to apple bobbing or tofu bobbing or kale bobbing? Just refusing to be the one feeding the children unhealthy foods, but being perfectly okay with someone else feeding the kids unhealthy foods just makes me think that you're sitting around clicking your tongue and feeling superior as I peddle trans fats to preschoolers. Although I don't know for a fact, I assume that the objector is one parent who has unusually strong convictions about diet and food. I think the position is a little extreme, but keep in mind that this is coming from someone who very briefly toyed with being a vegetarian, but then decided that it might inconvenience potential dinner party hosts. That is to say, I have no convictions.

My post received about 30 comments, many from people citing their own examples of how (as one friend put it) we're all losing our collective minds. Schools are banning balls on the playground to prevent injuries, all junk food is being removed from school vending machines, and school are suspending kids for making a gun gesture. So, have these regulations gone too far? That's a matter of opinion. I like to think that some school policies and traditions have changed for the better in my lifetime. I've been pondering (seriously) all the ways in which I think school policies are better now than they were when I was a kid.

No More Corporal Punishment - This isn't something that happened to me, but the K had teachers as recently as the late 1980s who still beat/whupped/paddled students. For reals. Of course, the K also received a smallpox vaccine, even though the U.S. stopped routinely vaccinating against smallpox in 1972, before the K was even born. Nice one, Mississippi. The K explained to me that school beatings were generally condoned by the community. If a kid got out of line at school, the principal would call the parents and say, "Do you want me to send him home, or give him licks." The parents would always tell the principal to give their child licks. Just in case y'all don't speak southern, this doesn't mean that the principal licked the child like a mother cat cleaning a kitten. It means hitting.

So, at least when a kid today makes gun fingers he gets suspended. It would be sending the wrong message for the principal to give him licks while shouting, "this'll teach you to make those violent hand gestures!"

A gallery of celebrity gun fingers:

Tom Cruise
Prince Harry

Miley Cyrus
How sad is it that out of the three pictures above, the redheaded fourth in line of succession to the British throne looks the most authentically gangster?

No Elementary School Romances - Both the Boy and the Girl have had instances in school of unwanted attention from a member of the opposite sex. I have been impressed with how quickly the school put the kibosh on this type of behavior. As the Boy's teacher said this year, "it's not cute and it's not funny." Amen.

This is one of my boring personal issues, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt. Just know that I was basically forced into therapy in third grade because a little boy in another class developed a massive crush on me. The boy was new to the school, had never spoken to me, but developed this insane obsession and sent other little boys to persuade me to talk to him or just profess his love on his behalf. Everyday. Multiple times a day. This was a lot for an eight year old and I handled it badly, but what tools do you have to handle this kind of thing when you haven't even been alive for a decade? At some point my teacher told me that I was overreacting and forced me to talk to the kid. It got so bad that I refused to go to school and all this time, all the adults acted like I was in the wrong for being upset about being stalked and harassed. As the K pointed out, no one was doing the little boy any favors by continuing to allow him to pursue and pester me. By not discouraging his behavior, the school was setting up the boy to become like Julia Roberts's crazy husband in Sleeping With the Enemy. It may sound silly, but I really suffered from this experience and it's probably caused me all sorts of permanent psychological harm. God, it's probably the reason I have this blog.

I know some parents think it's cute when their kids have little boyfriends or girlfriends, and, I suppose, if there is mutual affection between the kids, there's not much harm. Feel free to go all Irish Traveller, just keep my kids out of it.

I was going to include a picture of some Irish Traveller girls
but I was afraid that someone would mistake it for kiddie
porn. Instead I bring you the image of  Luke Bryan,
Country Megastar, carved in a pumpkin because it is
seasonal and a little strange.
P.E., Phys Ed., Gym Class - When I lived in Maryland in 6th grade I had to retrain myself to call it P.E. because everyone looked at me weirdly when I called the hour or so of organized exercise "Gym Class." It was like I was speaking with a British accent or something, "Cheerio, mates, off to take my A-levels and then to Gym Class during my gap year." (That sentence is just a bunch of British things strung together with some verbs and prepositions.) So, if I told you that I spent first and second grade P.E. dancing on the stage in my school's auditorium/gymnasium while the boys played football in the gym, you'd think I was born in 1950. But, indeed, this was apparently the physical education curriculum in the late 1970s in New Jersey. Way to go, New Jersey. By third grade, I guess the adults had watched Free to Be You and Me and realized that the girls needed to be included in the activities. It was either that or someone was threatening the school with lawsuits under Title IX. Either way, the girls got off the stage and started playing all the classic gym class games with the boys: dodge ball, bombardment, and pickle ball.

Now, what can I really say about dodge ball that hasn't already been said? Not anything, so I will quote from this website, "[t]his game is the rawest form of determining who in a select group is fit to survive and procreate (all those genital shots help decide this as well)...[I]magine if, instead of job interviews, a game of dodge ball took its place; there'd be no chance of success in this world for the weak. Also, the world would be a very beautiful and largely unintelligent place." I think we can all be glad that children today are playing less Darwinian games during P.E. I know that some people think teaching calisthenics to five year olds is crazy, but few things make me smile more consistently than watching little kids do jumping jacks. I dare you to be sad while watching them:

I have no idea who these kids are, but I love their jumping jacks form. Especially little brother. He looks the way I did when I had to dance on the stage. Confession: I used to feign having weak ankles so I could work the record player. Yes, record player.

Nicknames - I realize this isn't really a school policy. I just like any opportunity to talk about politically incorrect nicknames. My father-in-law sometimes says unintentionally hilarious things. An example of this is his take on nicknames: "When I was a boy," he says, "You just called people names based on how they looked. The tall kid was called, 'Stretch,' the redheaded kid was called, 'Red,' the kid with the big ears was, 'Jughead,' and the fat kid was called, 'Tubby.'" Then he'll tell us about the time that his gang of friends threw Tubby in a well. Those were the good old days!

Recently, the Boy started requesting a nickname. Actually, another nickname because he already has a nickname, he just wants a better one. According to my father-in-law's nickname formula, I told the Boy that his 1940s nickname would have to be either, "Freckles" or "Cowlick." He's since dropped the request.

Celebrities with nicknames:

Bryan Trout aka Skeet Ulrich
Elizabeth Phillipps aka Busy Phillipps
Stacy Ann Ferguson aka Fergie
Smoking - Remember when you walked by the teacher's lounge and the door opened and you'd catch a whiff of tobacco and a cloud of smoke would escape into the hallway? Well, no more. Most states prohibit smoking in public schools (Alabama, Indiana, and Nevada being notable exceptions). This is a far cry from my school days when not only was the teacher's lounge like an old ashtray, there was a designated smoking area for students at the front of the school. At some point, an administrator decided that a bunch of smoking teenagers (generally speaking, dressed in goth attire) did not project a great first impression of the school. By the time I graduated, the smokers had been moved to a more inconspicuous location by the garbage dumpster.

Spelling - Along with being stalked, my other major third grade trauma was spelling. I am a truly terrible speller. Just be glad that spellcheck was invented or you would have no idea what I was even talking about in these posts. (Maybe you don't have any idea what I'm talking about. If that's the case, I still blame spelling.) In 3rd grade through 5th grade our only assigned homework was to study spelling words. The class would take a pretest of 20 words on Monday and the words that you misspelled, you would write three times each and in a sentence and you would have a posttest on Friday. Most kids would get two or three words wrong and have about ten minutes of homework for the entire week. I would get at least ten words wrong, usually more like twelve or thirteen and have literally more than five or six times as much homework because of my spelling handicap. Plus, back then, the spelling words weren't grouped in any sensical way. They didn't all have the same roots or prefixes, they were just vocabulary words that we had to learn how to spell. Now the spelling words are grouped by letter sounds and roots. Another revelation is that classes are grouped by spelling ability because someone had the epiphany in the last thirty years that everyone doesn't spell on the same level. Genius! I mean, we've always accepted that kids read and do math on different levels, but somehow when it came to spelling, all kids were supposed to be equal in ability. I can't even imagine what a happier kid I would have been if spelling had been taught in this more humane way when I was in school.

School spelling fails:

Good to know that some of my fellow bad spellers have gone onto careers in education...or perhaps more likely, they're painting signs and putting up messages on the marquees in front of the schools. Note: Those of you who are laughing about my misspelling of "Travellers" as in the Irish Travellers - they really spell the name like that. 

So, that's my list: Six (five if you're a stickler) school policy that have changed for the better. Do you have any others to add to the list? Do you think I'm wrong and we are, in fact, losing our collective minds? Do we have a collective mind? If so, I'd like to share a mind with Tina Fey because she's really funny.

1 comment:

  1. You should send the donut bobbing story to free range kids. Funny, but ridiculous.