First graders under contract

A mom named Erica writes:

Dear Beloved Edublogstress,

Am I totally out of line here?

Eldest daughter just arrived home with her first recycling homework of 1st grade. She had to list which items we recycled, how we recycled them and what we do to protect the world.

At school, they all watched The Lorax today and each child was required to sign a contract pledging to take care of the earth.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m so ticked off, but does it strike you as odd that 1st graders are signing “contracts” about these matters?

Erica’s daughter told the teacher that President Bush’s Forest Restoration Act is a way that we protect the world. Way to flunk first grade, kid.

It all reminds me of Serial Mom in which the only inexcusable crime is the failure to recycle.

About Joanne


  1. Nerver to soon to indoctrinate…..

  2. Ouch: Two errors in five words!
    We’ll Write it off to passion…

  3. “How do we recycle at home? Mommy buys all our clothes at the second hand store, and Daddy builds all our home computers from parts he dumpster dives.”

    Just as well my son was home educated; this wouldn’t have gone over that all well.

  4. Andy Freeman says:

    What happens to students who break the contract?

    Heck – who determines compliance with the contract? What about students who think that the best way to protect the earth is something not-PC (such as reducing the amount of communal/govt ownership of resources)?

  5. Andy, Andy, Andy,

    The school system has an army of lawyers to make sure of compliance….. (remember the kids in jail discussion??????)

  6. When I get that crapola, I’m going to suggest they stop sending home so much paper.

    No contracts are valid for those under 18.

  7. ***Julie*** says:

    My neice had the same assignment, in 3rd grade. I thought it would be cute at first, she was all excited about it, but after about 3 days, she started to stress out about it. I don’t think that it’s ever a good idea to give a kid a contract, legal or not, until they have the savvy to accept the real responsibility that goes with it.

  8. PJ/Maryland says:

    As Sandy says, contracts aren’t binding for kids. But it would be nice if the teacher took a moment to teach kids not to sign something without reading it first and understanding it completely.

    It would have been much much better for the kids to take the “contracts” home and show them to their parents. They might have learned a bit about the adult world and how important written documents can be. As it is, it was just a touchy-feely moment for the class.

  9. The “contract” is not binding for a reason additional to the minority of the kid: failure of consideration.

    The most distressing thing about the assignment is the requirement to tell the teacher the recycling habits of the parents. That’s all I need, my kid ratting me out!

  10. Steve LaBonne says:

    And I feel sure the teacher knows nothing of the actual state of recycling markets- for example, that in many places mandatory recycling put in place without adequate thought or planning has so glutted the market that it has strangled the recycling industry in its cradle, with the result that almost everything collected by these “recycling” programs ends up incinerated or in landfills anyway.

    This kind of ignorant touchy-feely substitute for teaching any actual science in elementary schools is a plague- it would be better to eliminate the pretence of “science” instruction altogether and save it for middle school where there hopefully are teachers better qualified to do it. Reading and math are much more important in the early grades.

  11. Wacky Hermit says:

    If your mom made your school blouses and nightgowns out of bedsheets and your winter coat out of an old wool blanket, would your teacher consider that “recycling”? How about sending you to school with your lunch packaged in washed-out cottage cheese tubs? Or does recycling only count when trash is put into carefully labeled matching bins? If the teacher really wants to reduce consumerism, she should establish a classroom environment where children with homemade clothing and ingenious improvised lunchboxes are not only accepted, but praised.

  12. Wacky Hermit says:

    I couldn’t resist one more wacky recycling idea: find some old school papers of yours, and send your kid to school with them instead of their regular homework. Tell the teacher you’re “recycling”.

  13. Heck, if the teacher really believes in what she’s teaching, then she should be the one wearing the homemade clothing and using improvised lunchboxes.

  14. Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    Even better: the teacher can become a beacon of recycling correctness by recycling the use of McGuffy’s Readers, thereby sparing the poor forests which are raped wholesale to produce the bloated picture books that pass for texts these days. Also, using McGuffy’s, kids actually learned to read.

  15. Excellent suggestion, Wacky Hermit. It is never too early to teach academic dishonesty. I’m sure you think you’re being funny, but parents do that, and I’d love for you to have the delightful experience of calling a parent and telling them that you’ve flunked and disciplined their child for plagiarism because they wrote the paper for the child. It’s a hoot.

  16. My daughter (Grade 5) came home with an assignment that asked her to figure out how much electricity she uses in a day and then to figure out how best to reduce her consumption. We filled in the blanks (which required an extracurricular explanation of how to calculate watts from the amps marked on various appliances and the voltage across the wall outlets) and totalled her share of the family consumption. We hit a snag when I tried to explain that all the electricity we use ends up as heat in the house and that the only way to use less energy (in Canada in winter) is not to close unused lights or to watch less TV, but to turn down the thermostat or better insulate the house. This clearly wasn’t the expected answer, and she therefore found it useless. I’m trying to ease her into the idea that sometimes people speak with authority on topics they know nothing about and that people don’t get B.Ed.s by accident, so we did the assignment in a way that maximized expected checkmarks. Oh well.

  17. Daughter had her recycling group yesterday in class, following up on her homework. She came home upset. Apparently, everyone (led by the teacher) laughed at her homework.

    — E(rica)

  18. LibraryGryffon says:

    E –

    I’m so sorry for your daughter!

    Perhaps a call to the school office to talk to the principal/superintendant about the inappropriateness of a teacher laughing at a student’s work?

  19. Erica,

    Your daughter’s teacher (and I use the term loosely) is a swinish lout…. Ask her if her mother taught her how to be boorish, or is it something she picked up on her own during her formative years in the gutter…..

  20. BTW, perhaps this would work for your daughter:

    “Whenever I go out into the woods to obliterate the small-animal population with my Uzi, I always pickup and recycle my ‘brass’.” 🙂

  21. Robin Roberts says:

    Steven Landsberg in his book “The Armchair Economist” has a great chapter where he rants about these kinds of cirriculum – calling them religious indoctrination.

  22. Mark Odell says:

    e wrote: Apparently, everyone (led by the teacher) laughed at her homework.

    Please tell me this isn’t the same teacher I recommended you fire.

  23. Heh. You should have your child tell them that daddy recycles wheelweights by making them into bullets. That should go over really well. 8^)

  24. Caffeinated Curmudgeon says:

    Rod wrote:

    “My daughter (Grade 5) came home with an assignment that asked her to figure out how much electricity she uses in a day and then to
    figure out how best to reduce her consumption. … I’m trying to ease her into the
    idea that sometimes people speak with authority on topics they know nothing about and that people don’t get B.Ed.s by accident, so
    we did the assignment in a way that maximized expected checkmarks. Oh well.”


    Did you consider helping her explain to the teacher that every electron that comes into your house is recycled back to the power company?

    That might have the, um, potential to impart a positive spin on her conservation efforts.

  25. Actually, Rod, you did the teacher and her future students a disservice. You’ve just given him/her false feedback on the project. If it doesn’t work in some cases, the teacher needs to know that in order to adjust or replace it with something else.

  26. Mark,

    ‘fraid so. I’ve now had two meetings with the principal, who keeps promising to put pressure on this teacher.

    This week, I’m re-visiting the other religious day schools in our city, Montessori, and having Eldest child tested for the public school gifted & talented program. (I doubt she’ll make it. She’s an achiever, but not past the 130 cutoff as far as I can tell.)

    I really feel committed to keeping her in a religious school, but the problem has spread from the teacher to the utter passivity of the administration. I met with her teacher first in September, then at Parent-teacher Conferences in October, then with the principal in tow just before Thanksgiving.

    As of this week, when I talked with the principal alone, none of the action items from November had even been addressed except one: the teacher now offers Eldest extra enrichment materials, but only if she behaves during the parts of the class where she already knows the material.


  27. Erica, I had a bad experience with my daughter in a parochial school. Kids who were typical in every way seemed to do fine there, but the school seemed to not serve well any kid that wasn’t typical. My child is *thriving* in public school because the staff is trained to teach children like her — if your parochial school was like mine, the teachers were mostly uncertified or teaching the “easy” kids to earn a salary on top of their state teacher’s pensions. Over half the staff turned over each year we were there. That wouldn’t be the case in any public vs. parochial choice, but it has been my experience. My daughter jumped two grade levels in reading within three months. She’s mildly LD/borderline Gifted according to early testing (which makes me cringe as a teacher, because that’s a very hard combo to teach). Her religious instruction isn’t perhaps as strong, but I think we’re doing an adequate job “home-schooling” that part.