Tuesday, February 3, 2009

NFL - No Fun Learning

In light of a recent rant I had as a comment for a recent entry in my wife's blog, Mom et al, I thought I'd make it the subject of my first blog post. I'd suggest reading her post as a prologue. It made me look back to see how teaching has changed over the years.

I grew up hearing stories from my parents about teachers hitting children with rulers, etc. I, like my wife, had a couple “desk dumpers”, and one particular teacher who was especially adept at hurting the child psyche by way of extreme embarrassment.

Teachers like these are far less common nowadays. Sure, there are still some abusive teachers out there, but they're far less prevalent. While abuse has most likely gone down, I think the changes have also gone to the extreme in many cases. While I don't have an extensive study to back up my contention that this kind of abuse isn’t as common, let's face it, nowadays if a teacher tells a kid he has bad breath, a nationally televised lawsuit would ensue with lawyers pulling expert witnesses linking the child’s ADD (don’t get me started on that) with poor oral hygiene.

My mother is a 2nd grade teacher at my former and most likely my children’s future elementary school. She has to run the gauntlet to do anything fun in her class.

It's the day before a holiday, you want to give the kids a break by showing them a movie, let's say…..Finding Nemo (no, it’s not a coincidence that I chose a movie which has an underlying theme of a parent that can’t let go). NOPE! It's not educational. Now, I can understand not wanting frequent usage of time to be spent on non-educational things. But what's wrong with giving the kids a little fun…..occasionally; especially the day before a vacation where, let face it, the kids aren't really focusing on their school work anyway. They're staring at the clock waiting for the day to end. I don't know about you, but from what I see, the same thing happens to adults at work. Nothing gets done at my workplace the last two weeks of the year. I have flex days every other Friday and when it falls on the day after Thanksgiving, I move the day because I WANT to work that day. Why? Because it's a wasted day off. We don't do anything anyway, and usually get out early.

When I was in elementary school (again, the same one), I remember long holiday parties with chocolate laden treats as far as the eye could see. I even recall my mother talking about parties for her class well after I left. She used to make some famous treats for parties, particularly chocolate covered spiders (thin pretzel sticks bunched together covered in chocolate) and Buckeye Balls (small ball of peanut butter covered in chocolate). I've seen kids who were in her class 15-20 years ago commenting on Facebook about them in the school’s “alumni” group. So, last month I was talking to her about the class Christmas party and asked her if she made the chocolate covered spiders (although for obvious reasons I think these used to be more of a Halloween item). NOPE. Can't do it anymore. No sweets at parties.

Now, I realize that the school system or the school itself put these rules in place, but let’s face it, you know it was in response to the parent of some lactose-intolerant kid who was outraged because his/her child would be irrevocably scarred for life with memories of crying in the corner while scores of smiling children were sucking down a lifetime supply of milk chocolate covered treats.

Kid’s sports kill me nowadays. "We don't keep score because it could hurt some of the kid’s feelings". Or, “everyone should get a trophy so no one feels left out.” Oh my god, shut the f@#$ up. There is something to be said about learning good sportsmanship and how to deal with disappointment. WAKE UP, your kid is not living in Utopia.

Let me preface my next point by saying that I am an atheist. I was raised catholic, but haven’t gone to a church service that didn’t involve someone getting married, renewing their vows, being christening into the church, or sadly dying since I was probably 8 years old. I’m not getting into a religious debate here. You are a devout Christian, Jew, Red Sox fan? And this isn’t meant to come off as confrontational (but it probably will)….good for you (oh, and I am a Red Sox fan by the way). It’s not a bad thing to have faith; I just choose to not have faith in this particular realm.

Okay, now that I’ve got the obligatory “anti-religious debate clause" out of the way, when did freedom of religion mean you can't celebrate it in front of people who celebrate a different one? What's wrong with having a Christmas tree (okay not really religious, but a symbol of Christmas nonetheless) or a Menorah or a f@#$in' Festivus pole for all I care in the classroom as long as everyone in the class is represented? Don't restrict it, CELEBRATE IT! Use it as an opportunity to teach kids about our country and the different religions of their classmates.

I cringe sometimes thinking about having to deal with some parents when our kids go to school. Parents are way too sensitive about things. Nothing is about taking responsibility for raising our children; it’s about whom else is to blame for ruining our children’s lives.

Sofia and Dominic at their most recent graduation. I say "most recent" as they have one every year. While I think it's cute in daycare, I always chuckle when I watch the scene in "The Incredibles" where Mr. Incredible rants about his son's graduation ceremony. "It's not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade. It's psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional... ". It kind of sums up the feeling portrayed in my entry.


  1. Great inaugural post, Tony! Well written and great points! We recently learned that our daycare provider has been intentionally *not* talking about Daddies with the kids during the day, because one child has a single mom and does not know of her father. I've been 86'ed from her discussions with my kids so that she and another parent don't have to manage a perhaps uncomfortable discussion (or comfortable were it managed well). We've since addressed this head on, but it was another example of how over-sensitivity trumped appropriateness and what might truly be better for the child.

  2. Thanks for being my first commenter! I'm not sure if I'm up for frequent posts. My attention span lasts about as long as the main character's memory in Memento.

    Remind me not to move to Framingham. I guess all father/daughter dances will now need to be cancelled? :)

    I could even sympathize, although still not agree with this course of action, if the father had died.

    Things like this are ridiculous in public schools, never mind private daycare providers. I wonder if the parent requested this course of action, or is it the daycare trying to be sensitive to the child?

  3. Thanks for stopping by my place, Tony.

    I chuckled when I read this post. My daughter is in Kindergarten and last year the daycare that she went to had a graduation ceremony and I couldn't stop crying. In fact, I cried so much I made her cry (while she was on stage). In my defense, I was pregnant so the hormones were raging. But, everyone kept asking me if someone had died. *LOL* I just said, No my baby is growing up! She was going to Kindergarten for Pete's sake! Hah. Too funny. Hope to see ya back around.