'Malice or Incompetence?' Yes
When I was at school I remember reserving a special place in hell for those particular members of staff – ‘masters’ as we termed them back then – who went round insisting we did up our ties properly and had our shirts buttoned to the very top.
I loathed these teachers first because of a condition I call “neckie”, which renders me abnormally sensitive to anything too tight around my neck. Possibly it was because I was hanged or throttled in a previous life. Who knows – I may even be the incarnation of one of the plotters against Hitler who got strung up with cheese wire. Whatever, the point is that whenever one of those teachers told me to do up my top button, I felt – in my self-righteous, solipsistic schoolboy way, like the victim of a vicious and unprovoked physical assault.
The other main reason that I loathed those teachers was because I felt that what they were doing was just, like, so totally uncool. Suppose, God forbid, but just suppose you’d been foolish enough to choose a career in teaching, surely the very least you’d do to make amends would be to be an inspirational teacher. Or a crazily eccentric teacher. Or a slacker teacher. But what kind of total loser spaz would you have to be to choose to be one of those stickler teachers who makes it his business bothering himself with crap like hassling kids about immeasurably trivial dress code details as they make their way innocently along from one class to another?
Anyway, all this week I’ve been back at my old school – Malvern College – as a teacher. And guess which was the thing that most immediately impressed me about my alma mater on my return. Yes. That’s right. How delightfully unscruffy the kids were. The general levels of smartness, I’d say, were much higher than they were in my day. This pleased me. It was a sign, I thought, that Malvern was a tightly-run ship: the kind of place I’d be more than happy to have one of my children educated.
That sounds a lot like my experiences at St. Mary's in the 1970s. As I've said before, I consider myself very lucky to have received an education before political correctness had completely dumbed the process down -- not to mention, hence the name -- completely politicized it, as well. In contrast, author Sarah Hoyt describes an absolutely horrific experience that she and her young son experienced at what she files away as "Malice or Incompetence?" -- But I'd argue that the modern education system proves that the two categories aren't exclusive to each other:
I think the other day I said it was in third grade that the school gave us trouble over Robert. I was wrong, it was actually in first grade. I sent them a kid who could read, write and was working on fractions. Imagine our shock when in our first first grade conference, the teacher informed us that Robert was learning disabled and would probably never learn to read and write. This was particularly surprising since one of her pieces of evidence was a worksheet that consisted of 1+0, 2+0 etc. across the top of which Robert had written in properly spelled words “this is stupid and boring. A number plus zero always equals the number.”
Dan and I threw a fit – we would – and they insisted Robert needed to be in Title One and remedial education. We insisted he didn’t. In the end, they had him IQ tested, after priming the school psychologist, who used a “set” that topped out at 107 IQ. Then they informed us his IQ was 107 and he needed to be in Title One and remedial education.
At that point I wanted to go raze the school or perhaps set it on fire. (I did say I’m excitable, right?) But Dan wouldn’t let me. Instead we burned around 1k dollars we didn’t have (we were so tight in those days we hugged each cent till it squealed. Considering whether to buy an extra head of lettuce was existential. We drove a $1500 car, and only had one for the two of us,) found the most reputable psychologist in town, and had him tested over Christmas break. (They were making noises about a “staffing” meeting in January and how they’d take our parental rights away if we didn’t sign Robert for “what’s best for him.”) We said nothing, just had him tested.
He tested profoundly gifted (which is a technical designation.)
So, next thing you know, Dan marches into the staffing meeting with the results, authenticated by a psychologist who was known and respected in the region. He first asked them what they thought of her, and they said she was very good, but of course very expensive. Then he laid the results on the table.
Shock, horror and confusion ensued, the most important – the teacher, who btw, we later found out did this every year to a kid she perceived as ‘minority’ (this, btw, in a town that is one of the most liberal areas in CO. I told this story to a leftist friend who absolutely refused to believe it. And yet it happened.) and her friend, the school psychologist were both present – reaction being BETRAYAL. “How could you go and do this behind our backs, without warning us?”
Then the meeting broke up in disarray, Robert got put in “gifted” classes and no more was said about it.
Which is all very well… except…
Except that not only did we have the right to have our own kid tested and no, we didn’t need to “warn” the school – but that I didn’t find out till this week that, before we had signed on to their diagnosis of him as “disabled”, they’d sent Robert into Title One. (This btw should NOT shock me, as they put Marshall in speech therapy before we’d signed an agreement to let him be put in – we never did, because the way it was worded, it amounted to signing our parental rights away, including giving them the right to put him in a foster family if they thought we weren’t making “the right decisions” for his “welfare” as determined by them. Instead, we again cut out other stuff and put him in a private speech therapist. Who, in six sessions, fixed what the school therapist hadn’t in a hundred.)
Read the whole thing. Oh, and note in passing, Sarah's reference to her son's "seventh grade ecology teacher." Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that class. Or perhaps, no need to. One of the chief reasons it exists is to send the kids home to reprogram mommy and daddy. Sort of along these lines, I imagine: