Teaching the unreachable

Stuart Buck recounts a conversation with a friend, a black man teaching high school English at a mostly black school in Georgia, about the challenge of teaching students who’ve made it to 10th grade without learning how to read. The friend says:

“It’s just impossible for me to spend one or two semesters and get someone caught up on 9 or 10 years of schooling. And then there are always some kids that just don’t care, and no matter what I try, they just won’t do the work. So the government is going to tell me that because of a handful of students that are unreachable, therefore I’m a bad teacher? No way.”

The teacher also talks about confronting a boy, who says, “You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not my dad.”

“Then I said, ‘No, I am your dad. I’m the only grown male who is willing to stand out here, before God and before anyone else who is listening, and to tell you that I love you and that I’m here for you. Now you tell me, if that’s not a dad, then what is?’

“That’s when the kid just started sobbing.”

The boy’s behavior improved. But he’s still going to flunk the class. He hasn’t done most of the work and has no chance of passing the test.

Update: On Right Wing Nation, the prof writes about trying to teach a bright, hard-working student who’d made it to college without understanding how to compute a mean or median or how to abstract an idea from an example. The professor wonders why nobody taught him math in high school.

About Joanne


  1. Oh yes, that sounds familiar. See here.

  2. Twill00 says:

    Nobody taught him math in High School because nobody taught him math in Middle School because nobody taught him math in Grammar school. Calculating averages is taught in second grade in good schools. There are days I think that letting a person pass sixth grade without knowing third grade work should be a felony.

    Actually, if you read the article, he knew primary math, just not basic statistics – average, mean, mode, distributions, and so on.

  3. Indigo Warrior says:

    Sounds like nobody taught him anything real in grammar school – just fluffy leftoid propaganda, including how your so-called peer group is more important than yourself. That’s par for the course.

  4. edgeworthy says:

    Ok, let me be the jerk: Why did they let him into college?

  5. My wife works for a textbook publisher. They sell elementary algebra textbooks to 4 year colleges. Let that sink in.

  6. “Ok, let me be the jerk: Why did they let him into college?”


    The answer, in case it wasn’t just a rhetorical question: colleges won’t use test scores as baseline requirements, only grades. Grades are a complete crock–there’s simply no meaningful correlation between ability and grades.

    So colleges set a GPA requirement, encourage high school teachers to commit fraud, and let in illiterates whose grades signify effort or teacher goodwill, rather than achievement.

    If they created an SAT basement of 500 (per section), or an ACT basement of 20, they’d achieve three things in a hurry: 1) removal of virtually all illiterates 2) elimination of over half of the Hispanic or black population from consideration 3) defendent status in a billion class action lawsuits.