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Thread: Boys suffer in a culture without challenges

  1. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    Thanks Neely. Hopefully when the economy recovers, the Uni will be able to hire more.
    Yes, hope so.

    Here is a really interesting article that shows what life is like in a typical state school, probably a bottom 30% or so with the sound of it. It was in the Private Eye a few years back, I've managed to find it. Amongst other things it certainly shows the complexity of problems which exist amongst schools of this sort (and why I want to get into adult or post 16 ed ) which are not going to be fixed by a simple solution, or set of solutions. It is a very honest account I feel, and you get the sense that this guy has just had enough. You can see, I think, why just including more competition in schools is just not going to fix things in itself. It is certainly worth reading if you have the time, it is not that long:

    http://web.archive.org/web/200407180...ection.teacher
    Last edited by LitNetIsGreat; 01-02-2010 at 09:41 AM.

  2. #47
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    Interesting discussion topic, Virgil. As an educator I'm going to have to state that I agree with any number of the premises and concerns. There has been a concerted effort to assist girls in education... to utilize teaching strategies that favor girls, to invest heavily in girls sports, and to stress the notion of school as a competition free environment. We may add to this the gross overuse of medication (Ritalin, etc...) to sedate any student (primarily boys) who appear overly energetic rather than to attempt to focus or direct this energy in a positive manner. I'm not certain that I would blame the declining success of boys in schools or the declining numbers of male entrants into college and universities (and yes, these may certainly be documented) fully upon some PC anti-competition mindset. There are many other variables. One might consider, for example, that in the US a great majority of the poor urban students are being raised in single family homes... with the vast majority of these headed by a woman. This is not to suggest that many women cannot do a competent job at raising boys... but not having a positive male role model for a huge percentage of the population... leaving that role model to gangs and TV celebrities to fill may certainly have an affect on the maturity of many.

    Sharing, empathy, cooperation, etc... are certainly qualities worthy of being taught... but so is competition. Through competition one may learn the value of rules, playing fair, good sportsmanship... and one may discover the reality of success and failure. The reality is that the adult world is built upon competition. Contrary to feel-good notions of egalitarianism, academia and even the arts are every bit as competitive as the cut-throat capitalism of Wall Street, London, Berlin, Tokyo, and Shanghai. Public education in the US has a long history of attempted social engineering... attempting to reconstruct society according to some egalitarian ideal through the elimination of grades or other means of competition... social promotion... continual positive feedback and praise (often unwarranted) and even the banning of the use of red ink to mark wrong answers (lest a student become too distraught over his "failure" and his or her frail self esteem be unrepairably damaged. The result is that American students often have the highest... often unrealistic sense of self-worth and unrealistic expectations of what they are entitled to... in sharp contrast to their actual abilities in comparison to many other countries as measured on standardized tests. Entering into the real world with the same unrealistic expectations is most certainly not the most ideal of situations.

    Again... as Virgil first noted... I don't think the questions about boy's success in school is something that can be easily explained as being the result of a single element of education that can be quickly corrected... but neither can it be swept aside as a paranoid fantasy.
    Thanks StLukes. I pretty much agree with evcerything you say there. I'm not sure if the author of that article was saying the root cause was anti competition (I can't quite remember) but he was offering some solutions. I think we all can acknowledge that there is an issue in teaching boys. And intereting you bring up the ritalin. I had forgotten about that. The absence of role models is important. I still think forming boys into teams where they have to compete academically is an interesting approach to teaching.

    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    Yes, hope so.

    Here is a really interesting article that shows what life is like in a typical state school, probably a bottom 30% or so with the sound of it. It was in the Private Eye a few years back, I've managed to find it. Amongst other things it certainly shows the complexity of problems which exist amongst schools of this sort (and why I want to get into adult or post 16 ed ) which are not going to be fixed by a simple solution, or set of solutions. It is a very honest account I feel, and you get the sense that this guy has just had enough. You can see, I think, why just including more competition in schools is just not going to fix things in itself. It is certainly worth reading if you have the time, it is not that long:

    http://web.archive.org/web/200407180...ection.teacher
    Yikes, I skimmed through his blog Neely and it sounds horrible. I hear of horror stories like that here too. But that's an overall issue, not a boys specific issue.
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  3. #48
    Bat Country Hank Stamper's Avatar
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    I am going to wade in without reading all the responses, sorry...

    I agree that competition is a good thing (irrespective of gender) - although, like Neely, the idea that terrorists are 'licking their chops' at the prospect of underachieving kids is ridiculous hyperbole ("Don't worry Osama, they'll never detect this suspicious ticking package I'm carrying - they weren't challenged enough at school!")

    But I have always thought the old mantra 'it's not the winning, but the taking part that counts' does nothing but foster a culture where mediocrity is something to celebrate.. I don't like to see a bad loser, but that doesn't mean one should be happy to lose.. if you want a society that is high on aspiration, then this 'losers' mentality needs to be ditched... I don't think the likes of Usain Bolt or Roger Federer are motivated by just 'taking part'

    Academically I think underachieving kids (those who deliberately underachieve because it is 'cool' to be disruptive or 'uncool' to be clever) should be routinely humiliated, thus creating a culture where children are competitive because they want to do well and avoid public ridicule... obviously that will never happen, but certainly for schools in the UK, I think the real problem is not political correctness or lack of competition, but a severe lack of discipline
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  4. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by Hank Stamper View Post
    I am going to wade in without reading all the responses, sorry...

    I agree that competition is a good thing (irrespective of gender) - although, like Neely, the idea that terrorists are 'licking their chops' at the prospect of underachieving kids is ridiculous hyperbole ("Don't worry Osama, they'll never detect this suspicious ticking package I'm carrying - they weren't challenged enough at school!")

    But I have always thought the old mantra 'it's not the winning, but the taking part that counts' does nothing but foster a culture where mediocrity is something to celebrate.. I don't like to see a bad loser, but that doesn't mean one should be happy to lose.. if you want a society that is high on aspiration, then this 'losers' mentality needs to be ditched... I don't think the likes of Usain Bolt or Roger Federer are motivated by just 'taking part'

    Academically I think underachieving kids (those who deliberately underachieve because it is 'cool' to be disruptive or 'uncool' to be clever) should be routinely humiliated, thus creating a culture where children are competitive because they want to do well and avoid public ridicule... obviously that will never happen, but certainly for schools in the UK, I think the real problem is not political correctness or lack of competition, but a severe lack of discipline
    I certainly agree with your thoughts here. If you have had chance to read the article I posted above you can see the result that a lack of discipline and the "it is cool to be a moron attitude" has in state schools. Often competition is not the issue, several schools have lots of competitive events going on all the time, but discipline and the "cool to be a fool" attitude needs sorting fast.

    http://web.archive.org/web/200407180...ection.teacher

  5. #50
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    May i ask Neely what do you have against boys having a little competition between them? It seems like you're philosophically against it prior to even giving it a chance. I just did a cursory search and came up with more articles on boys thriving in a competitive environment.

    Boys Thrive in Competitive Environments

    I recently touched upon this issue in the article “Should Boys be Bribed into Reading?” What I failed to discuss, however, was the distinct difference between girls and boys when it comes to competing.

    The more and more I read and learn about how competition can spur boys to accomplish educational goals, the more I am inclined to encourage teachers and librarians to institute their own reading competitions in their libraries, classrooms, and even at home.

    Michael Sullivan discusses mixing reading with competition in his book Connecting boys with books: what libraries can do. (Forward is by Jon Scieszka!) He writes:

    “… mixing reading with competition- something boys are likely to respond to- may encourage boys to read more. It is reasonable to argue that rewards for reading are a temporary fix and that, in the end, boys will see reading as a chore for which rewards are necessary. But I am more inclined to view rewards as trophies for accomplishment, an acknowledgement of success.

    Boys shy away from reading largely from insecurity; the feeling that this is not the right thing for them to do. A well-designed reading challenge can counter this insecurity if the goals are kept in mind. We must convince boys that reading is an acceptable activity and that reading in quantity is, in itself, success.”

    Sullivan goes on to suggest that libraries ready to establish reading competition programs should base success on the quantity of books or pages read, not hours devoted to reading. He also encourages librarians and teachers to allow any type of book, even lower-level reading material, to be counted as a competitive book. Boys may be more likely to reading lower-level books in greater qualities than “better books” they are uninterested in and find boring. (However, monitor boys’ selections to make sure they are not choosing a book solely on the basis that it is an extremely easy and fast read!)

    He also warns librarians of pushing boy’s to pursue reading for the “pure joy of reading” where time spent in quiet, reflective reading matters the most. Since boys are more likely to read informational purposes, their particular method of reading may not be reflective and may not be… quiet!

    Create Your Own Reading Competition Just for Boys

    Are you ready to start a reading competition for boys? Here are some tips for making it successful:

    1) Have boys log books read… not hours read.
    2) Allow boys to choose what types of book to read. For instance, perhaps one month they can choose to read as many books about baseball as they can…
    3) Have prizes that they can look forward to receiving. (They might not want, let’s say, a book. After all, you’re teaching them they can read books for free from the library.)
    4) Consider what author Abigail Norfleet James calls “cooperative competition.” James observes, in her experience, that boys are more likely to participate in cooperative competition (where they work together for a common goal for the good of the group) when they are in a single-sex environment. They will treat the group as “an extension of their individual identity.” (Excerpted from: Teaching the male brain: how boys think, learn, and feel in school.) For instance, award prizes when the group as a whole achieves a specific goal.
    5) Have short-competition spans. Boys will lose interest in a competition that lasts an entire semester. Start with a smaller goal: a group prize or individual prizes when students read five books each. Try themed competitions: Perhaps each student reads a Roald Dahl book or scary books at Halloween time. (With parents approval, of course!)
    6) Incorporate games into the competition. If boys are all reading the same book, have them each create “quizzes” where they try and stump their friends.
    http://www.gettingboystoread.com/con...titive-reading

    and

    White working class boys need structure and competition to succeed

    By Janet Daley Politics Last updated: December 16th, 2008

    First the good news: British education is not institutionally racist (or sexist). The children of all ethnic minorities, male and female, do better at school than white working class boys who are proving to be the real losers in the academic race (which is the bad news).

    What is most interesting in the latest statistics is that the boys who do worst are those in isolated, inward-looking, deprived working class communities. Those who live in more mobile, racially and culturally mixed neighbourhoods seem to be benefiting from the stimulus of this social variety. Or it may be simply that they are not having their defeatist, anti-educational attitudes unfailingly reinforced by everyone with whom they come into contact. But the real question here is: why have the attitudes of these boys become so alienated from school, and what, if anything, can be done about it?

    The real reason, I suggest, for working class boys having lost almost all interest in education is that their two chief motivations for achievement were systematically removed from the primary school curriculum: competition and a clear sense of measurable, structured accomplishment.

    So determined was the education establishment to ensure “equality” in the classroom, that it banned any reference to winners and losers, to high achievers and lower ones, to being the best or the poorest in any capacity. So the thing that spurred on many boys to excel – the idea of being “top of the class”, or the best at maths, or the prize-winning reader – has now been eradicated in the very schools (those in deprived areas) where it is most needed. And thrown out along with this will-to-win, were the clear, identifiable signs of goals having been reached: in order to avoid any child feeling that he had failed in relation to his classmates or his teacher’s expectations, the steps to progress were obscured and the expectations lowered.
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/ja...on_to_succeed/


    By the way, that "cooperative competition" in the first of these two articles sounds just like the team learning I've advocated here.
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  6. #51
    Bat Country Hank Stamper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    I certainly agree with your thoughts here. If you have had chance to read the article I posted above you can see the result that a lack of discipline and the "it is cool to be a moron attitude" has in state schools. Often competition is not the issue, several schools have lots of competitive events going on all the time, but discipline and the "cool to be a fool" attitude needs sorting fast.

    http://web.archive.org/web/200407180...ection.teacher
    good link Neely thanks.. have heard of some proper horror stories about some state schools over here - a family friend quit her job as a teacher because of the abuse from the children (or at least a particularly unruly one) and the school's inability to do anything about it.. I forget what happened exactly, but from what I've heard (and what that diary reveals) most teachers are powerless to do anything about disruptive students anyway...
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro

  7. #52
    May i ask Neely what do you have against boys having a little competition between them? It seems like you're philosophically against it prior to even giving it a chance. I just did a cursory search and came up with more articles on boys thriving in a competitive environment.
    No, you misunderstand me totally, I'm not against competition at all, I'm sure that it could be a good thing, it is just that I initially reacted to the ridiculous hyperbole of the original article and then we got side tracked talking fun nonsense. However, above all, I only see it as a minor thing, certainly not a root issue.

    Hank hit the nail well and truly when he mentioned behaviour, or the B word as it has become to be known (because we are not allowed to talk about it) it is behaviour and the pampering of students to the ridiculous degree that for me, is the Major issue. Sure, we can put more sports days on and incorporate that competitive spirit in class, but when it has become acceptable for students to shout and swear in your face on a daily basis, then I think we should tackle that first. That's all. Of course things may be a totally different in the US, but I hardly think it could be all that different in reality.

    good link Neely thanks.. have heard of some proper horror stories about some state schools over here - a family friend quit her job as a teacher because of the abuse from the children (or at least a particularly unruly one) and the school's inability to do anything about it.. I forget what happened exactly, but from what I've heard (and what that diary reveals) most teachers are powerless to do anything about disruptive students anyway
    Oh yes, it doesn't surprise me. I work with a lot of good, experienced teachers and many are totally fed up, it is sad to see. Turnover in schools is high. One teacher left this Christmas without even having another job to go to, she just packed it in. Personally I have gone through the frustrated stage I think, or I am getting there. I can't change the world and have given up trying - besides many more people have got it much worst than me in other fields, I mean even poor nurses get assaulted too and they don't get the holidays?!! I do what I can in small ways, and for the most part feel OK, even if deep down I know that in no way should education have to be like this.

  8. #53
    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    The discipline culture in a school has to be built up over time. Neely's article was so familiar in that the small disciline issues are not addressed by the teacher because there was no structure to deal with it.

    One flaw in the article I thought was the assumption that some teachers just have it -discipline - and that others don't. It really is not true. It has to be built up over time. I have known a number of teachers who have changed school and seemingly lost all their disciplinary qualities. They didn't lose it. It worked in the old school because they had built up a recognised status, which brings confidence, which leads to a recognition by other staff and kids.

    The problem lies with management. Clearly lots of school kds are not managed well. Teachers make up the management team, and their skills are in teaching their own subjects, not managing a system.

    Of course none of this is helped by high teacher turnover, supply teachers, and a failure to deal with issues like swearing etc. School is also a one stop shop which does not fit a lot of kids. There will need to be a rethink about how education is managed. I reckon that it will become a scandal sooner or later. It has been too long coming as well.

    The tragedy is that lots of the kids want to learn and get on, and they are held back by the bad behaviour of the significant minority. In my humble opinion, the kids like this could almost be taught in much larger groups, as they could be trusted to do the business. If this was the case, then perhaps there would be space and time to address the needs of the disruptive kids, and perhaps they would be able to improve their skills enough to cope better.
    Last edited by Paulclem; 01-03-2010 at 05:32 PM. Reason: Rubbish typing

  9. #54
    The discipline culture in a school has to be built up over time. Neely's article was so familiar in that the small discipline issues are not addressed by the teacher because there was no structure to deal with it.
    Yes, a teacher has to try to pick the battles that they think they can win, and they have to let things go or nothing will occur in the class apart from discipline battles.
    One flaw in the article I thought was the assumption that some teachers just have it -discipline - and that others don't. It really is not true. It has to be built up over time. I have known a number of teachers who have changed school and seemingly lost all their disciplinary qualities. They didn't lose it. It worked in the old school because they had built up a recognised status, which brings confidence, which leads to a recognition by other staff and kids.
    Yes I think that is mostly true, but when you are in the heat of things, (like that guy was/is) it can often just look like some people just "have it". But I have know people who could stop a full blown riot with a raised eyebrow, almost fail completely when they move to a different school, so that adds weight to your argument.

    The problem lies with management. Clearly lots of school kids are not managed well. Teachers make up the management team, and their skills are in teaching their own subjects, not managing a system.
    Yes, predominately a teacher's job is to teach, and yes that does include discipline, but on the whole they are subject specialists, not army cadets. You could put William Shakespeare in a drama class and he would fail OFSTED.

    Of course none of this is helped by high teacher turnover, supply teachers, and a failure to deal with issues like swearing etc. School is also a one stop shop which does not fit a lot of kids. There will need to be a rethink about how education is managed. I reckon that it will become a scandal sooner or later. It has been too long coming as well.
    Within the year I'm sure that there will be a major scandal one way or another, and it is my guess that someone is likely to get seriously hurt into the bargain.

    The tragedy is that lots of the kids want to learn and get on, and they are held back by the bad behaviour of the significant minority. In my humble opinion, the kids like this could almost be taught in much larger groups, as they could be trusted to do the business. If this was the case, then perhaps there would be space and time to address the needs of the disruptive kids, and perhaps they would be able to improve their skills enough to cope better.
    Yes this is the real tragedy, and incredibly frustrating, though how much do we persevere with kids who constantly disrupt learning? It is my opinion that for the majority of those in secondary it is already too late - yes that is incredibly sad, but I have yet to be proved wrong in my personal assessment of individuals.

  10. #55
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulclem View Post
    The tragedy is that lots of the kids want to learn and get on, and they are held back by the bad behaviour of the significant minority.
    If I were a parent of a good kid who is not fully receiving a proper education based on the disruption of a minority, I would be blowing a fit. If a group of kids are preventing others from learning, they need to be removed.

    Actually, they (the disruptive kids) are being failed by the educational systerm as well as the good kids. To lay the blame on the kids is an abdication of responsibility. Obviously teaching methods are not getting through to those kids. These are the 20% that the author of the original article I posted is talking about. These are probably the kids that could best use a different teaching structure, say that comeptitive environment.
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  11. #56
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Neely; I'm somewhat surprised at the lack of discipline you describe in your schools, although I suppose I shouldn't be. We often think of the discipline issue as something uniquely American... related to our poverty rates and refusal to properly invest in public education. So what is the answer? Many of us believe that we should return to "tracking" children: placing those who have the self motivation and academic abilities in one environment where they can develop to the fullest of their abilities without continual disruption, while placing habitually disruptive students in another environment... with teachers trained in how to deal with the behavioral issues. Liberal egalitarian ideals have led us to place every child in the same environment so as to not "mark" them or damage their precious egos... but as Virgil notes, such an approach fails the disruptive and academically weak students even more than it fails the motivated and academically "bright".
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  12. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    If I were a parent of a good kid who is not fully receiving a proper education based on the disruption of a minority, I would be blowing a fit. If a group of kids are preventing others from learning, they need to be removed.

    Actually, they (the disruptive kids) are being failed by the educational systerm as well as the good kids. To lay the blame on the kids is an abdication of responsibility. Obviously teaching methods are not getting through to those kids. These are the 20% that the author of the original article I posted is talking about. These are probably the kids that could best use a different teaching structure, say that comeptitive environment.
    I agree. It needs some creative thinking and purposeful application by a strong leader. Some "Super" Heads have turned around failing schools, but they don't always succeed. They need the support of the staff, parents and pupils, and where that comes together with a vision for a good school, the usual model would work.

    It's the bog standard school where it just doesn't work for 20% of the kids. A significant minority who deserve to be better served, as do the ones they are holding back.

    Funnily enough Neely, the 20% are some of the ones who you'd be getting in Ad Ed classes should you find something suitable. They come with all kinds of stories of past humiliations and labelling from 10, 20, 30 years of schooling.

  13. #58
    Stluke, yes discipline is bad, but keep in mind that I am talking about the bottom 20-30% of state schools - I'm not saying they are all like this. Plus the chap in the article seemed to get an unfair crop of bad classes even in that environment, but even so it is not good in these bottom schools.

    The spilt you are talking about, talking the best and teaching them in one environment, and taking the bottom lot, and putting them in another used to be standard practice up until the 60s/70s. It was called the 11 plus exam, whereby students either went to a grammar school if they passed or a secondary modern if they failed. The grammar schools were more academic based and the secondary modern more hands-on and practical. This practice has all but disappeared and you are left with a one school fits all, though a few grammar schools do remain. I think this is what you are talking about with "tracking" students in your context of schooling. However like you suggest other problems come from this approach, not to mention the fact that you are all but deciding the entire future of a student based on one exam at age 11! So, I don't know, I think that in some ways a return to such an exam system would be a good idea and in other ways it wouldn't - there are no easy answers but that is the very nature of it and what I keep getting on at, there is no simple solution, it is a complex and messy problem.

    The current government’s “solution” is to privatise failing schools into what they call academies or trust schools, which therefore gets rid of the failing school from the government books, but of course doesn’t fix the problem at all. What they do is let them privatise the schools, throw money at them and hope for the best – it is far to say that it is an approach that I do not have any faith in. On top of this 95% of the special schools, which in the past dealt with children with extreme special needs or real behavioural issues have been closed down under the banner of “inclusion” within the last ten years or so. It has been suggested that these sorts of individuals now work better within a mainstream environment and not with specially trained staff at all. Of course the pessimists and realists amongst us would say that this is another cost cutting exercise, but what do we know? What the answer is though, I don’t really claim to know, to be honest I don’t think that there really is one without getting really drastic and that won’t happen.

    Do the bottom American schools suffer as bad behaviourally in your opinion as in the UK?

    Funnily enough Neely, the 20% are some of the ones who you'd be getting in Ad Ed classes should you find something suitable. They come with all kinds of stories of past humiliations and labelling from 10, 20, 30 years of schooling.
    Oh yes I can imagine. So many slip through the net as well. The problem is that the whole environment is shaped by mediocrity or defined by poor behaviour so that it affects absolutely everyone.
    Last edited by LitNetIsGreat; 01-04-2010 at 08:33 PM.

  14. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    Neely; I'm somewhat surprised at the lack of discipline you describe in your schools, although I suppose I shouldn't be. We often think of the discipline issue as something uniquely American... related to our poverty rates and refusal to properly invest in public education. So what is the answer? Many of us believe that we should return to "tracking" children: placing those who have the self motivation and academic abilities in one environment where they can develop to the fullest of their abilities without continual disruption, while placing habitually disruptive students in another environment... with teachers trained in how to deal with the behavioral issues. Liberal egalitarian ideals have led us to place every child in the same environment so as to not "mark" them or damage their precious egos... but as Virgil notes, such an approach fails the disruptive and academically weak students even more than it fails the motivated and academically "bright".
    I'm surprised that this isn't how American schools are operated, it certainly is the way that Quebec schools are. I went to a terrible public high school that was ranked second to last for academic achievement, although we did have a very good basketball team. There were numerous programs in the school for the more academically inclined students. For example I followed a high school program that certified me as bilingual by graduation. I did the same French language courses as the francophone students and wrote the same exams. Moreover, I did Quebec history in French and my biology courses. Likewise, I was in a special English class that was experimenting with computers in the classroom. On the other side of things, there were classes for the "special" children and our school also contained a program for the mentally handicapped to achieve a high school diploma.

    Anyway, despite all these special programs, our school did suffer a great deal from behavioral problems. While I was in high school two teachers were beaten up by students, there was a gang brawl that left one student blinded, and an incident with a knife being drawn in school. It reached a point where they started using dispersion tactics to fight the gangs, forcefully transferring students around the city. We also had a former professional football player who used to hang around the school as some sort of good "black role model" and we had a permanently assigned police officer who alternated between our school and the Francophone one in the neighbourhood.
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  15. #60
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Stluke, yes discipline is bad, but keep in mind that I am talking about the bottom 20-30% of state schools - I'm not saying they are all like this.

    Certainly... and the horror stories of American schools are largely centered upon the poverty-ridden urban and rural schools... which is unfortunate... even unconscionable when you consider that these are the children most in need of a proper education if they are ever to escape the cycle of poverty... but I somewhat suspect that such is not the intention. We can't have all those poor getting wise to us now, can we?

    The split you are talking about, talking the best and teaching them in one environment, and taking the bottom lot, and putting them in another used to be standard practice up until the 60s/70s.

    Yes. It was the same here. I was "tracked". By "tracking" I mean that students were placed in classrooms according to academic abilities and their progress was closely monitored ("tracked"). A student whose efforts slacked off might find himself/herself moved out of the classes with higher expectations or a student in one of the "slower" groups might work his or her way into the "higher" performing classes.

    It was called the 11 plus exam, whereby students either went to a grammar school if they passed or a secondary modern if they failed. The grammar schools were more academic based and the secondary modern more hands-on and practical.

    Yes.

    This practice has all but disappeared and you are left with a one school fits all, though a few grammar schools do remain. However like you suggest other problems come from this approach, not to mention the fact that you are all but deciding the entire future of a student based on one exam at age 11!

    This was the reason that it was all but outlawed. Parents objected to their child being marked as "slow" and the idealistic egalitarian impulses in education and the government were offended by the notion that some children might be smarter than others... or better suited to one sort of task than another. While a child could work his or her way out of a given "track" it was rare... and many suspected once you were there it was for good. Of course, the reality is that in many cases you can recognize the students who will do good or poorly quite early on. This is the main reason for the current push for quality education in the first few years of school. A child who falls behind then almost never catches up.

    What was positive about this approach was that it was realistic. It recognized that not every child learned the same way or at the same rate; not every student is made out to go on to college and a PhD. Students who were probably not going to make it in college were prepared with real-life skills for a career beyond flipping burgers (auto mechanics, electricians, carpentry, etc...) and any adult who finally hunkers down and wants to try the college route has the option.

    So, I don't know, I think that in some ways a return to such an exam system would be a good idea and in other ways it wouldn't - there are no easy answers...

    Indeed... yet it seems clear that the current approach helps no one. It disrupts the educational process of those who are focused and able to achieve at a higher rate... effectively penalizing them... and it clearly fails the students who are not able to achieve in the current context and leaves them virtually unprepared for life and a career once their schooling is over.

    The current government’s “solution” is to privatise failing schools into what they call academies or trust schools, which therefore gets rid of the failing school from the government books, but of course doesn’t fix the problem at all. What they do is let them privatise the schools, throw money at them and hope for the best...

    It we seem our education leaders are following each others lead. We currently have a push for "charter" schools. "Charter" schools are effectively private schools and need not follow the state and federal regulations concerning schools. They may refuse students who are too disruptive or who have learning difficulties that would make educating them too expensive. At the same time, parents are given vouchers based upon the tax dollars allocated per child with which they may pay part or the whole of their child's tuition to the charter school. This a charter school is effectively a "private school" on paper... but largely paid for with public money... yet not held to the same standards as the public schools. As a result the poorer public schools are stuck dealing with an inordinate amount of disruptive students and students with learning disabilities or other special needs.

    It is far to say that it is an approach that I do not have any faith in.

    Indeed.

    On top of this 95% of the special schools, which in the past dealt with children with extreme special needs or real behavioural issues have been closed down under the banner of “inclusion” within the last ten years or so.

    As here. Our federal government... congress... has legislated that "special needs" students be included in the regular classrooms with few exceptions. Any time a child is not to be included a huge slew of paperwork must be generated to document why junior cannot function in the normal setting... and this must be regularly followed up on. It never strikes them that placing blind children in the normal art class or students with an IQ of 70 (I've even had one with an IQ of 32 who essentially just laid on the floor... she couldn't walk... and flopped around like a fish... and I was to strap a marker in her hand a pretend she was learning something about art.) in the regular classroom is not an issue of fairness but essentially of neglect. There is no way that the average teacher can deal with a number of students with special needs while also running a class geared toward the abilities of the average student.

    It has been suggested that these sorts of individuals now work better within a mainstream environment and not with specially trained staff at all. Of course the pessimists and realists amongst us would say that this is another cost cutting exercise, but what do we know?

    Cost cutting at the expense of the students? Now that's something we know nothing about in the US

    Do the bottom American schools suffer as bad behaviourally in your opinion as in the UK?

    If anything... I would guess worse. The bottom US schools have the added issue of the sort of violence that is prone to the urban areas of all large US cities, the racial issues, gangs, etc... I teach in a pre-K-8 school... a school that houses students from Preschool through age 14-15. This is another cost-cutting idea... but one that exposes the youngest children to the poor behavioral examples of students at the worst ages (puberty). We have two full-time security guards in spite of housing just over 350 students. Police gang units have been called in on a regular basis and we have had more than a few incidents involving weapons. The only reason we have security now is because the entire district made the national news when one irate student at another school shot two teachers and two other students and then killed himself.

    Stluke, yes discipline is bad, but keep in mind that I am talking about the bottom 20-30% of state schools - I'm not saying they are all like this.

    Certainly... and the horror stories of American schools are largely centered upon the poverty-ridden urban and rural schools... which is unfortunate... even unconscionable when you consider that these are the children most in need of a proper education if they are ever to escape the cycle of poverty... but I somewhat suspect that such is not the intention. We can't have all those poor getting wise to us now, can we?

    The split you are talking about, talking the best and teaching them in one environment, and taking the bottom lot, and putting them in another used to be standard practice up until the 60s/70s.

    Yes. It was the same here. I was "tracked". By "tracking" I mean that students were placed in classrooms according to academic abilities and their progress was closely monitored ("tracked"). A student whose efforts slacked off might find himself/herself moved out of the classes with higher expectations or a student in one of the "slower" groups might work his or her way into the "higher" performing classes.

    It was called the 11 plus exam, whereby students either went to a grammar school if they passed or a secondary modern if they failed. The grammar schools were more academic based and the secondary modern more hands-on and practical.

    Yes.

    This practice has all but disappeared and you are left with a one school fits all, though a few grammar schools do remain. However like you suggest other problems come from this approach, not to mention the fact that you are all but deciding the entire future of a student based on one exam at age 11!

    This was the reason that it was all but outlawed. Parents objected to their child being marked as "slow" and the idealistic egalitarian impulses in education and the government were offended by the notion that some children might be smarter than others... or better suited to one sort of task than another. While a child could work his or her way out of a given "track" it was rare... and many suspected once you were there it was for good. Of course, the reality is that in many cases you can recognize the students who will do good or poorly quite early on. This is the main reason for the current push for quality education in the first few years of school. A child who falls behind then almost never catches up.

    What was positive about this approach was that it was realistic. It recognized that not every child learned the same way or at the same rate; not every student is made out to go on to college and a PhD. Students who were probably not going to make it in college were prepared with real-life skills for a career beyond flipping burgers (auto mechanics, electricians, carpentry, etc...) and any adult who finally hunkers down and wants to try the college route has the option.

    So, I don't know, I think that in some ways a return to such an exam system would be a good idea and in other ways it wouldn't - there are no easy answers...

    Indeed... yet it seems clear that the current approach helps no one. It disrupts the educational process of those who are focused and able to achieve at a higher rate... effectively penalizing them... and it clearly fails the students who are not able to achieve in the current context and leaves them virtually unprepared for life and a career once their schooling is over.

    The current government’s “solution” is to privatise failing schools into what they call academies or trust schools, which therefore gets rid of the failing school from the government books, but of course doesn’t fix the problem at all. What they do is let them privatise the schools, throw money at them and hope for the best...

    It we seem our education leaders are following each others lead. We currently have a push for "charter" schools. "Charter" schools are effectively private schools and need not follow the state and federal regulations concerning schools. They may refuse students who are too disruptive or who have learning difficulties that would make educating them too expensive. At the same time, parents are given vouchers based upon the tax dollars allocated per child with which they may pay part or the whole of their child's tuition to the charter school. This a charter school is effectively a "private school" on paper... but largely paid for with public money... yet not held to the same standards as the public schools. As a result the poorer public schools are stuck dealing with an inordinate amount of disruptive students and students with learning disabilities or other special needs.

    It is far to say that it is an approach that I do not have any faith in.

    Indeed.

    On top of this 95% of the special schools, which in the past dealt with children with extreme special needs or real behavioural issues have been closed down under the banner of “inclusion” within the last ten years or so.

    As here. Our federal government... congress... has legislated that "special needs" students be included in the regular classrooms with few exceptions. Any time a child is not to be included a huge slew of paperwork must be generated to document why junior cannot function in the normal setting... and this must be regularly followed up on. It never strikes them that placing blind children in the normal art class or students with an IQ of 70 (I've even had one with an IQ of 32 who essentially just laid on the floor... she couldn't walk... and flopped around like a fish... and I was to strap a marker in her hand a pretend she was learning something about art.) in the regular classroom is not an issue of fairness but essentially of neglect. There is no way that the average teacher can deal with a number of students with special needs while also running a class geared toward the abilities of the average student.

    It has been suggested that these sorts of individuals now work better within a mainstream environment and not with specially trained staff at all. Of course the pessimists and realists amongst us would say that this is another cost cutting exercise, but what do we know?

    Cost cutting at the expense of the students? Now that's something we know nothing about in the US

    Do the bottom American schools suffer as bad behaviourally in your opinion as in the UK?

    If anything... I would guess worse. The bottom US schools have the added issue of the sort of violence that is prone to the urban areas of all large US cities, the racial issues, gangs, etc...
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
    My Blog: Of Delicious Recoil
    http://stlukesguild.tumblr.com/

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