Saturday, September 09, 2006


No Matter What You Do, Some Children WILL Fail

I remembered the other thing I wanted to complain about. Word has come down from the district that we will (aka must, aka are ordered to) produce 100% passage of the high school exit exam. Surely I can't be the only one to recognize the problem here. It can't just be me. Or can it? You be the judge.

I was not a math major. I am not an expert in the field of statistics. Still, I can't help but feel that a 100% passing rate on the exit exam is pretty much impossible. Every single student will pass? Again, I am not an expert on statistics, but I do have a number of years of experience teaching in an inner city high school. If I have learned nothing else, I have learned this: no matter what you do, some children will fail.

No matter how much money you spend, some children will fail. No matter how many hours you put in, some children will fail. No matter who your teachers are, some children will fail. No matter if your school is in a Richie Rich suburb, some children will fail. No matter if Chris Rock teaches social studies and every lesson is a highly entertaining laff riot, some children will fail. No matter if Jerry Rice and Michael Jordan team teach PE, some children will fail. No matter if God himself comes down from heaven above and teaches every single student one on one in every single subject, some children will fail.

I do not say that to be blasphemous (though it may be; I'm no expert on religion either). I'm not saying it with any sense of joy or happiness. I'm not saying it out of schadenfreude. I'm not saying it because that's the way I want it to be.

I say it with sadness. I say it with the same sort of sadness I felt when the possum came and ate the eggs out of that duck's nest up at the Hall of Elders. I say it with the sadness of things I wish wouldn't happen, but do happen, because, sometimes, they have to happen.

Bambi won't die of old age folks, sorry. One day he'll be a little too slow, and a pack of wolves will rip his throat out. Is that sad? Yes. Is there anything wrong with it? Not a single thing. Maybe this is the worst effect, perhaps an unexpected and unheralded effect, of the loss of family farms and agriculture as a major component of our society and culture. When I imagine what it must be like to grow up on a farm, the notion that some things must die, so that others may live, is a lesson I expect is taught often.

I sincerely hope you aren't now thinking that I want all kids who fail the exit exam to be put to death. This is not so. The point of the story is that growing up on a farm can teach you how to understand and deal with some harsh realities of life. If I live in a city my whole life, I am likely not to have any appreciation for where the finished products I consume come from. Nor am I likely to have any appreciation for those who create, deliver, and furnish those products to me. If I may be so bold, for purposes of this discussion, I would like to refer to these people as "citified."

A "citified" person has lived a clean life, in the sense that he doesn't have to get messy in order to live. All labor is done for him. All food is created for him and delivered to him (in the market or restaurant). He has not been exposed to the harsh realities of life. A person of this sort is like the person who wonders how so-and-so could possibly have won an election, since nobody he knows voted for him. The "citified" person lives in a sort of bubble, and does not appreciate what life outside of that bubble is like.

I believe that this is the sort of person who comes up with a mandate such as 100% passage on the exit exam. I believe this person is hopelessly naive about reality. If this person truly believes that it is possible to reach 100% passage on the exit exam, then this person is critically unqualified to hold the position he is in. If he doesn't truly believe it, but is demanding it of us to scare us into producing at least some improvement, then he is merely critically ass-ified, and still unqualified to hold the position he is in. Seriously.

Think about it. If you work construction, and your boss tells you to build a fireproof fence out of no other material but raw, untreated wood, would you have any respect for your boss? Would you think he is the right person for his job, or would you think him better suited for another job? These are just the kinds of ignorant people, who know nothing about the harsh realities of life in schools and classrooms, that are making major decisions about the future of education.

Or is it just me?
I hate to say this, but I didn't read that yet. I actually came to let you know I have a pretty big potential spoiler on the blog for tonight's rockstar supernova show. You might want to check it out. I haven't figured out if they preselected a winner or anything, BUT I did find something really interesting on a rocker's myspace profile.
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