Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Ladders of Experience

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For Mab–most of the kids I teach would not be in university (or even in high school beyond a certain level) in most countries in the European Union.  I don’t know what Russia is like. 

But most American college students would not be admitted to university in the EU, not just my remedial kids–they’d never have passed the exams that are required there.

And that is, as I’ve said before, the real problem here–we are trying to force feed education to a group that isn’t interested in it, doesn’t want it, doesn’t understand it, and at worst resents the hell out of it, as nonsensical hoops they have to jump through to get something they want. 

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I was having trouble writing this post because the noise in this room was incredibly.  There was smeobody behind me on some sort of video thing blastingit away, and it was hard to think.

But that’s par for the course lately, too.

And maybe I’m getting old, and that’s all this is, but what I’m really getting, I think, is tired.    I’m tired of fighting with people who don’t want help and don’t care if they get it.

Never mind, like I said, being interested in an education.

I think I started in on this project thinking that I was in a position to do good–to provide a first class resource to kids who normally get the kind of teachers who can’t get hired anywhere else doing anything else. 

A lot of my kids come from school systems where there will be three textbooks for a forty-student class, where the toilets flood on a regular basis and are fixed only sporadically, where there’s no chalk and no paper, where teachers take the roll, put their earphones on, and listen to their iPods until class time is over, letting the students themselves cause havoc.

Logic says that there must be, in these systems, students who really want educations and can’t get them, and other students who would be interested if they were ever offered them.  In the ten years I’ve been doing this–well, nine–I haven’t found more than one or two.

And then I wonder if it’s possible that even the poorest kids who wander through the place I teach have managed to acquire rich kids’ disease.

And now I should explain rich kids’ disease.

But I’m too tired, and I should find something to read.

Written by janeh

September 17th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses to 'Ladders of Experience'

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  1. There is an old Ayn Rand essay, not in one of her novels, which refers to a medieval practice of raising children in a jar to deform them and make them more successful beggars. Once they were old enough, you could break the jar, but it made no difference. The kids had grown the way they would be. Maybe these kids too have already been in the jar too long.

    I’d say something more optimistic about K-12 education, but not tonight.


    17 Sep 09 at 3:27 pm

  2. My father and mother went to university in the early 1920s. They said only 1% of the population went that far and a BA meant something.

    I’m inclined to agree with Jane that there are too many students going to “higher education.” There seems to be no real need for 1/3 of students to go past high school. Especially if the high schools and elementary schools are not doing their jobs.


    17 Sep 09 at 7:22 pm

  3. It’s silly to say don’t feel bad, Jane, so I wont. But take some sort of comfort from the fact that it’s been going on a long time. It’s everywhere.

    My mother finished 4th Year high school and my father just 3rd Year (Intermediate Certificate). Both were better educated than I was when I finished my 5th Year (Leaving Certificate). I was better educated than either of my sons when they had finished their LLB and BA respectively here at the ANU.

    My maternal grandmother, with no high school education at all, was better educated than I was.


    17 Sep 09 at 7:26 pm

  4. I teach at a community college. Half my students are enrolled because after high school they must be full time students to be covered by their parent’s health insurance – their parent’s are desperate to keep them insured. The other half of my students are older and returning to college – to get that elusive piece of paper. Out of all my students only a few are there to learn.

    My student horror story today – a student walked into class and announced that she would be turning her paper in Friday – a full week late. Note – it was an announcement not a request.

    My administrative horror story – I just turned in rosters today – yes I have to account for student attendance. I no longer allow attendance to be part of a grade. My administration wants me to reinstate it – to give students a chance to raise their grades simply by showing up.


    17 Sep 09 at 9:56 pm

  5. Gail, the administration’s directive seems to me to amount to coercing an employee to participate in blatantly fraudulent behaviour – taking money under false pretences.

    I’m glad I’m not on the horns of that dilemma.


    17 Sep 09 at 11:06 pm

  6. I have no personal experience with Australian schools. I do know that some years ago 2 “Christian” schools opened, each with single small buildings. They both now have large campuses so I assume they are filling a need.


    18 Sep 09 at 12:53 am

  7. Wow. You folks always blow me away with this stuff. What kind of school, Jane, allows teachers to listen to the ipods during class? Are these New Haven schools? Or somewhere else?

    Over here it’s still more or less the old way. It’s really hard to get into an institute or a university. Kids who can’t go to pretty good (I think) vocational schools. The guy who is going to redo my old furniture is a graduate of that kind of school, and he is a dream craftsman come true: someone who knows all there is to know about wood, furniture, springs, upolstery and loves his profession. He makes pretty good money, too.

    Jane, maybe it’s time to find a place where what you have to offer can be appreciated?


    18 Sep 09 at 9:21 am

  8. There are almost certainly students from bad schools who want an education but can’t get one. I suspect their numbers are somewhat smaller than I would like. Even among quite bright students who get decent marks often want education for what it’s said to supply (jobs, money, status etc) rather than for its own sake. I’m reminded of the friend of a friend who joined the Mounties, and as is often the case, was assigned at first to some small rural post. Being young and idealistic, he wanted to have deep conversations with his new colleagues about social issues and such, but found that most of them got into policing because it was a good steady job with decent pay and didn’t require more qualifications than they had. They weren’t interested in how societies worked and their place in it and how they could make a difference. They’d have taken almost any job if it was steady, had decent pay, and they didn’t need much further education or training to do it.

    There’s also the possibility that people might not miss what they’ve never had. This doesn’t work in all cases – people can make themselves sick with envy over some things they never had. I doubt education falls in the same category as, say, a vacation home in the Bahamas or expensive jewelry. Education – particularly the type that doesn’t make you rich like some of the more vocational programs are said to do (med school, law school….) – isn’t as obviously glittery and attractive as the luxury goods the rich people on TV have. A student has to give it a chance in order to believe it can be pleasant and of value, and a lot won’t bother if they’ve never had any pleasure from reading and learning, and don’t know anyone who has.


    18 Sep 09 at 2:29 pm

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