Empty Academics Insult My Intelligence

This week, college football fans were shocked to learn that UNC-Chapel Hill’s football players had access to sham courses so that they could remain academically eligible to  wear tight pants and throw themselves on top of unwilling victims.

Who says that athletes have nothing in common with the pleasant law-abiding citizens of fraternity row?

This was supposed to be the publicly recognized scene of the crime.  (Photo credit: yeungb)

This was supposed to be the publicly recognized scene of the crime. (Photo credit: yeungb)

This was done to help the athletes and not the school, right?  It’s not like alumni donations rise and fall with the football team’s win percentage, right?

I’m looking forward to the players’ lawsuits on this one.  They have no right to complain but I’m sure they will anyway even though they were the prime beneficiary of the university’s generosity.  What might a lawsuit look like?

“Your Honor,

I choosed Chapel Hill because they had done promised me good edjamacation. I trusted them. All they gave me is empty grades. I can’t get my edjamacation time back. I gots to learn to do a job. They stoled that from me because I play football.

Please give me ten million dollars for my brain damage.”

Unfortunately, the concussions and/or lack of education will prevent any UNC football players from trying this gambit. Too bad…

Advertisements

The Vagina Monologues Insult My Intelligence

You may remember recent reports that a second grade teacher had to prevent a parent from distributing vagina cookies to the class. I can’t deliver the story any better than the original, so here are a couple of excerpts:

Autumn Lily Speaker comes into the classroom with a pan full of treats. […]  “I decided you can use these to teach the kids about the woman’s vagina today”. Baffled and completely caught off guard I slowly peel the aluminum foil off the pan to behold a plethora of sugar cookie and frosting vaginas. Not just any old vagina, but ALL KINDS OF VAGINAS.

[…]

[P]erplexed I give the parent the most professional look I can muster and quietly reply “I’m sorry Autumn, but I can’t give these to my students. This just isn’t appropriate.” […] Autumn bursts with the fury of a thousand angry Andrea Dworkin’s and starts yelling in front of the class about how ‘I should be proud of my vagina’ and ‘I am settling for a women’s role in life’. Utterly bemused and frozen from shock all I can do is stand and stare at the woman as the word ‘vagina’ is yelled in front of my second grade class about 987,000 times.

It gets worse from there.  In a subsequent email, the parent implies that the children should learn how to pleasure the vagina and expresses hope that the teacher will be beaten by an abusive husband.

VM

This is what the Vagina Monologues ISN’T. Actresses proclaim the value of their vaginas; the genitals themselves don’t speak. Presumably. (Photo credit: Mattias Johansson)

News of the altercation eventually landed on Huffington Post and I’m surprised that HuffPost would feature a story that opens the floodgates for criticizing feminists.  I spent many years on college campuses and this incident reminds me of V Day.  “V Day,” or Vagina Day, is the campus feminists’ replacement for the standard February 14 holiday.  The feminists distribute vagina lollipops instead of vagina cookies and they urge “pride in your vagina” and the pleasuring thereof.  (In other words, the mother sounds like she just came from campus.)  V Day’s centerpiece is the performance of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” a piece that includes some value but also some pedophilia; however, proceeds are often donated to women’s support charities, which must be said in its defense.  Also to be said in its defense: Roseanne Barr performed the piece in her underwear a few years back, so there’s obviously some sweet stuff for the men too… in addition to the lollipops.  (Cool down.  This is a humor blog, remember?)

Long story short: this is what a lot of college students are being taught and the cupcake incident illustrates the unintended consequences of this well-intended V Day programming.  Just because it works in theory doesn’t mean it will work outside the university with young children, or with older children, or with adults, or with dead people.  (I take that back.  Maybe it would work with dead people because they lack brain function.)  It’s not the real world’s fault that the intellectual idealist’s ideas fall flat when removed from the academic cloister. Them students don’t remember the lesson right when they leave skool and then the kiddies hafta suffer.  The adults too.

The feminism that helps protect women on campus seems to have led at least this one mother to wish domestic violence on another woman.  The Women’s Studies professors would be so proud.

Grade Inflation Insults My Intelligence

I created this for a writing prompt I co-inspired. It’s based on the comics at Tabula Candida.

(Text version: Those who sleepwalk through their studies often find themselves on undeserved pedestals.  Eventually, they fall down the stairs in a bloody heap.  On the bright side, zombies will refuse to eat their emaciated brains.

History repeats itself every semester.  I’m not making this up, you know.)

The Common Core Insults My Intelligence

Originally posted on Facebook, this made it to the Yahoo homepage after making its way to Glenn Beck's website.  (Photo credit:  https://www.facebook.com/PatriotPost/photos/a.82108390913.80726.51560645913/10152143072400914/?type=1&stream_ref=10 )

Originally posted on Facebook, this made it to the Yahoo homepage after appearing on Glenn Beck’s website. (Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/PatriotPost/photos/a.82108390913.80726.51560645913/10152143072400914/?type=1&stream_ref=10 )

 

Dear Frustrated Parent,

We, the educational minds behind the Common Core, regret your inability to understand your child’s math homework.  Although your educational credentials impressed us, we don’t understand why you can’t comprehend one basic concept:  counting on your fingers.

It’s so simple that even a child can do it.

You start by taking the first digit that’s being subtracted, the one in the 100’s slot, and jump 100 on the number line for each 100 being subtracted.  Then you do the same for the 10’s slot and finally for the 1’s slot.  As you can see, the number line represents nothing more than a sophisticated version of the tried-and-true natural bodily mathematical apparatus (a.k.a. digits) that you conservatives claim to love so much.

It’s not scary.  It’s traditional.

Just wait until your child reaches Trigonometry and you’ll discover how much easier these methods make things.  Calculating sines and cosines to three decimal places will excite our teenagers more than it ever has!

Moreover, we are saddened that you chose to mock our interest in developing the children’s writing skills.  If more of you engineers were literate and/or competent in your field, you would understand the value of recognizing errors and being able to communicate them so that they might be rectified.  Your letter demonstrates that you have not progressed beyond a rudimentary comprehension of the English language.  Thank goodness your child has us to help him achieve.

We thank you for your self-incriminating gesture.

Sincerely,

The Department of Education

 

Blogger’s notes:

I do not have a math or science degree and I was able to figure out the homework assignment… which doesn’t exactly shed a more positive light on it.

For the less mathematically inclined among you, one would not use subtraction to calculate sines and cosines.  Judging from the common core authors’ ignorance of what will be needed in higher math courses, I assume they would not have known this either.

Perhaps I’ll agree with Glenn Beck again in another 100 years or so.  I imagine it will be something along the lines of “Gee, this dirt isn’t very comfortable.”

Educational Fun Insults My Intelligence

I’m not one to say that kids should suffer in school, but there’s a limit to how much pleasure they should be given outside of recess.

Case in point: I saw a homework assignment that was developed and presumably promoted by an educational company or nonprofit, not by a teacher who might be incompetent.  (Calm down.  I’m not calling teachers incompetent.  It’s just that some bad seeds get through the cracks and stick around forever.)

Because the assignment was surely copyrighted, I didn’t make a copy to show you.  However, I did find a nifty website that allowed me to create a comparable activity.  And so without further ado, here it is.  Let me know how much you think the kids are learning from this because, after all, fun is always educational.

Can you find all 12 words and figure out the overall theme?  I’m making it harder by not telling you the words in advance.  That way, the surprise will make this entire exercise even more enjoyable, just as it should be.  I’ll cut the sarcasm now, I promise.


S P A C T X E G P N U D H T G
H I R N Q X C J X I Z I H N E
C F N D N R P Z H T T E D M N
I P W O L E Y K I L R D O T O
E O C X I P F W E E S H Y P C
R X Z R A T H R S H G T B S I
D X K O L C A I A K H A C L D
R S M F S D E V O N O E O U E
I T N U I N V C R O K D H W I
H U A Y S R E B M A H C S A G
T Y A T N M H X E H T W K A Z
O K A H H O L O C A U S T J J
M D N H C Z P O L T S E D Q N
T O P R M A V O T T E H G Q G
X H K R M B D O W C B O K N A

			

The University Industry Insults My Intelligence

I was lucky.  One year after I finished my undergraduate degree in Subject With Declining Enrollments, Professor X had his career chopped off.  He didn’t even make it to a tenure review hearing; several years separated his departure and what he hoped might have been.  When I visited campus shortly after his firing, Dr. Y recalled with horror that he hadn’t published a word during his several years at the university.

Fair enough.  If your contract requires you to publish, you need to publish or face the consequences.  Pesky little legal issue, I know…

She also told me that Professor X was “scaring away students.”  Being a naive early-20-something, I couldn’t comprehend what she meant.  Dr. X was the friendliest member of the department, a fact that even Dr. Y recognized.  On the other hand, lots of students considered Dr. Y to be profoundly disturbing to their psychological health.  (I liked Dr. Y, but my regular readers already know how weird I am.)  How was he scaring away students while she wasn’t?

I should note that Dr. X’s job description also contained one unusual detail.  He provided pedagogical training to the new graduate students who staffed the introductory and mid-level courses.  He mentored them, observed their teaching, and designed the curriculum.  The homework load didn’t block my social life while the textbook, though being of a halloweenish orange color, could hardly count as ferocious unless the teacher decided to throw a copy at your head.  Damn hardbacks.

So how could this friendly little fellow scare away students?

I eventually went to graduate school and had the pleasure of partaking in an initial teacher preparation seminar; in that course, I learned that Dr. X’s instructional methods had become outdated.  Big time.  That’s not to say I didn’t learn from them.  I consider myself fortunate to have gone through the undergraduate system while he was in charge, before the department was overhauled to teach Rocksforjocks instead.

I hope this picture of "Rocks for Jocks" won't offend the distinguished geologists among you.  (Photo credit: somewheregladlybeyond at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecb/136287275/)

I hope this picture of “Rocks for Jocks” won’t offend the distinguished geologists among you. (Photo credit: somewheregladlybeyond at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecb/136287275/)

Are the new methods worse?  Not necessarily.

However…

Let the words of Dr. Y echo through your head: “He was scaring away the students.”  The new methods entertain the students much more (which, in itself, is not a bad thing) and that encourages students to take more courses in the subject.  That also helps the professors keep their jobs.  Few methods exist for firing a tenured professor, but eliminating a department is one of them.  So of course it didn’t seem to matter so much to Dr. Y that Dr. X’s syllabi didn’t meet departmental or university expectations for maintaining up-to-date instructional practices.  Suffice it to say that his classes probably inspired much gratitude from local espresso merchants but it’s the academic merchants who are trying to sell their wares.

So, out with the old!

The new methods, despite some legitimate educational advantages and antidepressant side effects, have also helped permit the major to become significantly more fluffy.  People graduating with that major today do not possess sufficient skills to tell a prospective employer that they can be of use in the workforce.  However, an easy A will attract students to any course and that’s why families sacrifice so much to pay for college.  That, and beer pong.

And then you’ll discover a few nefarious aspects.  (Yeah… I started with the kid-friendly version.)  In a major publication of the American Association for Rocksforjocks Education, a prominent teaching specialist encouraged college Rocksforjocks faculty to make convenient use of placement exams.  “Convenient” means letting students skip over as many of the boring introductory courses as possible so that they can get to the interesting stuff, making them more likely to select Rocksforjocks as a major which in turn maintains desirable levels of Rocksforjocks funding as well as (once again) the faculty’s jobs.

And make no mistake about it: students don’t complain about this arrangement.  If you inflate their grades in the advanced courses, they’ll never know how unprepared they were.  At least while they’re still at the university plunking down all those tuition dollars…

Similarly, the faculty would judge teaching methods based on students’ enjoyment and appreciation of them, not on whether learning actually transpires.  Some of the new methods created astoundingly positive effects but they were chosen for the wrong reasons.

But let’s fast forward a little, shall we?

Now that I have finished my education and have been unemployed for a while, I can only growl at what education in my former field has become.  Although my skills are up to snuff, employers surely look at my resume and assume the opposite.  The new grads can’t cut it, so why would I be able to?

And then I apply for teaching jobs at the high school level.  I’m competent to teach more than that one subject but I’m constantly asked about the one I majored in.  Even if a school isn’t seeking a teacher for that subject.  Today, a job applicant is believed to only be capable of doing what he majored in… even if the resume indicates otherwise.  But in my old field, applicants are now assumed to be incapable of performing within the major, for obvious reasons.

Needless to say, I am never going back to teaching Rocksforjocks.  Some people get desperate when they’re unemployed and they take any available position.  I’m desperate to not inflict the same fate I’ve experienced on any future students.  A few would surely benefit from the legitimate information that Rocksforjocks provides but it’s not worth the collateral damage.

Let’s leave the jock’s rocks at the docks.  They’re a crock.

I also know from observation that Rocksforjocks teachers in high school and college spend considerable effort recruiting students into their courses.  To anyone preparing for college entrance, I’d suggest never enrolling in a course that the faculty is actively advertising.  Professors have their own agendas and the associated needs do not always coincide with what will benefit you most as a student.  You don’t get to see the behind-the-scenes pressures that school administrations place on your teachers.  You should not assume that they are your benevolent advisers, although you will find some who will behave honestly and honorably towards you.

Just like banks and credit card companies, colleges are businesses and you are their customer.  If they make you feel happy with their product, they have achieved their goal.  Just be sure to maintain that idiotic grin as you’re being ripped off.

Self-Esteem Insults My Intelligence

Self Esteem Shop in Royal Oak, MI http://www.s...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now, I’m sure we’ve all heard the complaints about today’s educational practices.  Them kiddies are constantly told how wonderful they are and everyone gets a trophy and they feel all warm and fuzzy inside until the flu arrives.  That practice may improve results in the classroom but I’m lazy and I don’t want to belabor the point.

Instead, I’d like to tell a tale of how a subset of these kids all live happily ever after.  These are the honors students and I belonged to this group, as did many of my friends.  I consider myself lucky to have been horrible at sports because no coach in his right mind would have given me a self-esteem trophy unless it had been made of dog poo.  I really was that bad, but my ineptitude bred positive results.  Honors students don’t survive (and arguably thrive, at least psychologically) through extended unemployment unless they’ve had a few bumps along the way before that.  Failure keeps me sane.

Otherwise, we honors students were constantly told how we were the smartest, the most talented, the most wonderful person in the class, in the room, in the world.   This caused many of us (fortunately again, not me) to assume a superiority complex as our identities.  Woe to the college teacher who has to burst that bubble.

Been there, done that, never going back.

Unfortunately, some honors students are idiots and they only grow stupider with age.  And thus begins today’s tale…

Once upon a time in a college not far away there was an honors student with overly inflated self-esteem.  At meals, he regaled his peers with how he was the smartest in his class.  His term papers never turned out well in college, but that was never his fault.  He blamed his high school… even though he always waited until the last minute to start researching.  And then he’d confidently inform all of us how the professor told him he’d done well for a [insert one: freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, fifth-year senior, sixth-year senior, billy goat, etc.] when the horrors had ended.  And we’d hear story after story of these words that Mr. Self-Esteem couldn’t recognize as not-quite-praise.

And he didn’t graduate on time because, as I understand it, he wasn’t finishing his work as he was supposed to.  Nevertheless, he dutifully edified us on how he was outperforming all those freshmen and sophomores in his courses.  Impressive!  I’m sure his wife couldn’t contain her pride.

You read that correctly.  He married early in life and the couple had a pair of sons.  His wife had been the college sweetheart who always defended him when others would point out Mr. Honors Student’s poor time management skills.  I’m sure you don’t need to know the physical details on how those sons came into existence.

Or maybe you do, because the happy couple is fighting again and I’d be shocked if they don’t get a divorce this time.  I suspect he and his wife will immolate each other in the process, perhaps making the court decide that the sons would be better off in foster care.

I know enough about divorce to realize that soon-to-be exes often discount the amount of fault they hold for the relationship’s collapse.  But adults who were educated in the art of honors self-esteem face different problems.  My friend thinks he’s being insightful when he explains the situation but he reveals his incapacity for seeing that things were crumbling years ago.  He praises himself again but, as in college, he tears himself down in the process.

But…

This time he can’t escape or ignore the criticism coming from so many quarters because it so intimately affects his future life.  I visited him recently and he seemed to be litigating the case against his wife.  (Truth be told, the wife is another can of worms and she may have bigger problems than he has, again because of inflated self-esteem.  Maybe I’ll write about that another day.)  He also seemed to be litigating against me and occasionally against others he thought might testify against him in the event of a divorce.

Subtle…

This is rage.  This is realizing, perhaps all of a sudden, that people don’t hold him in as high esteem as he was trained to hold himself, realizing that so many people think he’s not quite there psychologically, remaining unable to let go of his self-esteem training and perceive things more clearly.

Then, add a dose of paranoia.  I had (and have) no intention of testifying against him in any future divorce proceeding because I’m not convinced the wife is any better.

Oh, and I think he may now believe I’m his sons’ biological father.

Newborn on scale

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I suppose I’ll never know what inspired him to question his paternity so late, but I have a hard time believing he’d bring up the issue if he hadn’t already been tested.

In case you were wondering, I am not the father.  But thank you for asking and for your vote of confidence.  (His wife is rather lovely, so it’s a show of confidence that you think I could be the culprit.)

And now it’s time for the moral to the story.  If you feed a child a steady dose of empty self-esteem, the world becomes a binary of praise and the rare catastrophe.  In the end, criticism becomes more than criticism; it is the stripping of an identity someone has had for their entire life.  And just as a kitten presumably screeches if you try to skin it with a pocket knife (presumably, I said…), these no-longer-so-young people take these negative words as an affront to their entire being.  And then they claw and bite and pee on you until you put away the knife.  And so you learn to remain silent and gracefully permit the status quo.

There may be more than one way to skin a cat but there aren’t many ways to skin an honors student who can’t let go of the past.  As for me, I’m just annoyed because potential employers see my educational credentials and often assume I’ll be like my friend.  They tell you in school that hard work allows you to become anything you want but they fail to mention that you’re tattooing your own scarlet letter as you build yourself up.  You are judged by the company you keep and hard work doesn’t win you great company.

And so…

The next time your children want to do their homework, tell them to play outside or try a video game.  And make sure they lose sometimes.  Badly.  Being unemployed is also a great way to catch up on some fun, but it’s not such a positive experience for the wallet.