Is your blood pressure too low? Read Bernard Chapin’s description of an alternative school that doesn’t even try to teach academics. The principal, known to the staff as Princess Sparkle, believes school should be fun, fun, fun.
We often refer to her as “Play Therapist in Chief” as it seems that she has no stomach for the three R’s or even the seldom stated fourth R, which is known in traditional circles as “responsibility.” Indeed, if our students followed her priorities in life, the only job they’d be qualified to work would be as the principal of a highly wayward alternative school.
When a student abandoned a math evaluation to go to the all-school tug-of-war on “Wacky Wednesday,” Chapin asked the principal’s supervisor to attend a meeting with several teachers to talk about the lack of instructional time at the school. All play and no work was denying students any chance for an education. Chapin, the school psychologist, argued the students had lots of play time at home.
The majority of our pupils are the offspring of permissive single parents who dress them in the finest gangsta wear and rarely monitor their neighborhood activities. Most college sophomores would be envious of the level of partying even our 14-year-olds engage in.
(The supervisor) informed me that Sparkle was doing an excellent job following his “community model” and that our children needed positive interactions more than they needed books or lectures.
Then, he shared something that I wish was broadcast on every talk radio program in America. The gist of it was that our students never tested well and that assessing their education was useless because they never improved. It was his belief that, through her de-emphasis of instruction which of course could have been gauged statistically, Sparkle had accomplished great things during her tenure. He claimed that we were building characters as opposed to knowledge bases — even though few believed that our students’ characters markedly improved under our care.
The school was designed to fail, Chapin concluded.