Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More edumacation theoretorizing

The high school in our neighborhood, North, is the worst in Denver, and fingers have been pointing every which way about it for years. A couple of weeks ago in the Rocky a brand-new teacher at the school responded interestingly (I claim) to a veteran teacher who quit North last year in disgust:
On Jan. 13, the Rocky Mountain News published “North High teachers take fall for inert students, bureaucratic bog,” a guest column by former North High School English teacher W.L. Herrick. To say that Herrick’s attack on students at Denver’s North High School was misguided and inappropriate would be putting it mildly [Herrick described the school as having "a student culture of complete indifference."]

I was hired to teach English at North High School in December — to replace Herrick. I graduated from Metro State in the fall of 2006, so I am a first-year teacher. I completed my student teaching at another Denver Public Schools high school that is similar demographically to North, but during my short time there, I reached out to all of my students, demanded high levels of academic achievement and personal conduct from them, and would never accept anything less than their best efforts. My students responded better than I could have imagined.

Fine, fine. So you were (student-) teaching them--what? Grammar, spelling, the short story, Lord of the Flies, a little Chaucer? The usual, right? Well--

DPS recently implemented an inquiry-based education model, and “What is a Monster?” was the major question for first-semester freshman to ponder and answer.
Inquiry-based education model? What is a Monster? Freshpersons pondering things? Wuh-oh.
During my student teaching experience, my students and I studied the Holocaust and worked our way to the current tragedy taking place in Darfur, Sudan.
With a Jay Bennish-style halt at Chimpy W.M.D. McOilyBurton's Quagostatic Iraq-mire, no doubt.
The relationships I built with my students and the unwavering faith that I had in them, along with a tiny bit of nudging, allowed them to accomplish more than I ever could have hoped for.
Awwww. His unwavering faith did the trick. So what did your students accomplish academically, young Dumbleton?
They conducted a bake sale and a raffle to raise money for the victims in Darfur, and they initiated a campaign to raise awareness throughout the school about that terrible situation.
A bake sale. A raffle. Awareness-raising. Of course, Dumbleton's not teaching English, he's teaching what he learned at Metro, and what prospective teachers learn in schools of education across the country: "social justice."
The students took ownership (aaaaiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!) of the project, and they completed it almost entirely on their own (several volunteered much of their free time after school). Children are capable of anything when given opportunity and encouragement. All they need is an adult to simply believe in them.
Sorry, fresh out of barf bags.
Though I may be inexperienced and idealistic, I know that my students at North — Herrick’s former students — will make me proud with their creativity, effort and continued growth as good young men and women.
They just won't know how to read. Look, I like idealism as much as the next guy, but this is ridiculous. Dumbleton takes issue with Herrick's assertion that North has a culture of "complete" indifference:
Can one ever use the word “complete” with any certainty when discussing people? I doubted the assertion, so I asked my students if any of them were indifferent about their education. Out of five classes, five students answered yes. That’s an average of one per class.
Drunkablog (counts on fingers): He's right!
I don’t care about Herrick’s political views [yeah, sure] or what effect his words will have on the debate regarding the redesign of North. What I absolutely care about is the negative effect his words have had on my students, those whom he worked with every day, those students whose parents entrusted him to educate and uplift them.
As George Orwell once wrote, “Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Herrick attempted to make his wind solid.
Christ, Dumbleton, I just ate.
But I’m here to let him and everyone else know — in particular, my students — that his wind stops here.
We're doomed.
John Dumbleton is an English teacher [sic] at North High School.
Update: I'd link to Herrick's Speakout column, but the always screwed up Rocky search function is screwed up.

Update II: Blogger cliche number 3,110, edumacation, officially off the Drunkablog life-list!

Update III: I vote that we (the humyn race) ban the quoting of George Orwell by anyone under any circumstances for 50 years, on pain of itchy death.

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