Left behind

Just eat the damn marshmallow

In their zeal to produce self-regulating, calm, marshmallow-postponing students, schools are failing non-conformists, writes Elizabeth Weil in The New Republic. Do we want a generation of Stepford Kids?

In the infamous Stanford marshmallow experiment in the late ’60s, nursery school kids were left in a room with a marshmallow and told that if they didn’t eat it they’d get two marshmallows later. One third were able to defer gratification. The tots with self-control went on, “or so the psychologists say, to show the straight-and-narrow qualities required to secure life’s sweeter and more elusive prizes: high SAT scores, money, health,” Weil writes.

Her daughter is not a marshmallow kid. In second grade at a private school, she resisted “the sit-still, raise-your-hand-to-speak-during-circle-time program.” The teacher didn’t discipline her. He recommended occupational therapy.  Teachers don’t punish, Weil writes. They “pathologize.”

She met a Seattle mother whose son was referred for testing because he had trouble sitting crossed-legged. The mother “learned every one of the boys in her son’s class had been referred out for testing.”

Another family, determined to resist such intervention, paid for an outside therapist to provide expert testimony to their son’s Oakland school stating that he did not have a mental health disorder. “We wanted them to hear from the therapist directly: He’s fine,” the mother said. “Being a very strong-willed individual—that’s a powerful gift that’s going to be unbelievably awesome someday.”

Punishing students for misbehavior has been “problematic” for teachers since the 1975 Goss decision, says Jonathan Zimmerman, an education historian at New York University. The Supreme Court found that schoolchildren  have due process rights. “As a result, students can say to teachers with some authority, ‘If you do that, my mom is going to sue you.’ And that changes the score.”

Instead of controlling students through rewards and punishments, teachers are supposed to get students to control themselves. Social and emotional learning (SEL) teaches self-regulation to produce a “good student, citizen, and worker” who won’t use drugs, fight, bully or drop out.

However, there’s no evidence SEL improves academic achievement, Weil writes. Meanwhile, as small children are expected to show more self-control, diagnoses of attention- deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are soaring.

When I asked Zimmerman, the New York University education historian, if schools had found a way to deal with discipline in the wake of the students-rights movement, he said: “Oh we have. It’s called Ritalin.”

The push for self-regulation coincides with a sharp decline in measures of independent thinking, Weil writes.

The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking judge originality, emotional expressiveness, humor, intellectual vitality, open-mindedness, and ability to synthesize and elaborate on ideas. Since 1984, the scores of America’s schoolchildren have dropped by more than one standard deviation; that is to say, 85 percent of kids scored lower in 2008 than their counterparts did in 1984.

Suppressing feelings is mentally draining, according to Stanford Professor James Gross, author of the Handbook of Emotional Regulation.

The federally funded Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is pushing its model for social-emotional learning, pre-empting other ideas, some educators complain.

Self-regulation and “grit” may be “lost in translation” in the classroom, writes Sarah Sparks on Ed Week‘s Inside School Research.

Bi-Curious George

From The Onion Store:

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Brought to you by the letters S-T-E-M

Sesame Street will be brought to you by the letters S-T-E-M this season, reports USA Today. The show will focus on scientific inquiry.

Characters build bridges, launch rockets and think through problems that require trial and error, observation and data.

Young children are “natural scientists,” says Rosemarie Truglio, vice president for education and research at Sesame Workshop, which produces the show. “They’re exploring the world around them and trying to figure out how the world works.”

Slapstick will respect the laws of physics, promise the writers, who recalls the Muppet rule of thumb:  “When in doubt, throw a chicken.”

As any slapstick comedian will tell you, physics is a comedy gold mine, and the writers soon discovered — or, more likely, remembered — they could apply it to many earnest setups. In one episode, Elmo engineers an automatic spaghetti server with disastrous results. In another, Grover, pondering inclined planes, helps a cow climb a flight of stairs for a manicure.

Acknowledging Newton’s Laws of Motion, this season anyone who hits a brick wall will bounce back before sliding to the floor. “It’s more scientifically accurate slapstick,” says Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente.

. . . Invoking another Muppet rule of thumb — It’s funny anytime someone is thrown and lands painfully — Parente adds, “Nothing is funnier than gravity. Add some sound effects to gravity, and you’re golden.”

In the opening episode of the show’s 42nd season, characters help Hubert the Human Cannonball figure out how to launch himself from a cannon into a vat of blue gelatin.

Nation’s students to give schools another chance

Nation’s Students To Give American Education System Yet Another Chance, reports The Onion.

WASHINGTON—Despite years of putting up with underperforming teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and a gradually deteriorating educational experience, American students reluctantly announced Tuesday that they would be giving the nation’s public school system yet another chance this fall.

Students conceded they’d “probably kick themselves later” for deciding to enroll once more in a system that has let them down time and time again.

 

Nation’s schools will repeat the year

“Having continued to display learning deficits and a failure to reach basic educational milestones, the nation’s school systems will be asked to repeat the academic year,” reports The Onion.

“We know this is disappointing news, but we believe it’s for the best,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who pointed out that many underperforming schools glide under the radar for years without achieving any kind of proficiency in math, reading, or science. “An extra year will give America’s school systems some time to get a better handle on the subject matter so they can catch up with the other nations.”

This is satire.

‘Stop getting so many degrees’

Inspired by The Onion, Amanda Krauss of Worst Professor Ever imagines a news story: Education Secretary to Nation’s Youth: ‘Stop Getting So Many Fucking Degrees’.

WASHINGTON – Despite pressing budget talks, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan . . . took a moment to remind the “I’m special” generation that they are “basically a bunch of punk-ass kids” who have been victimized by universities selling delusions of grandeur. He urged the nation’s youth to adopt a more realistic view of the world and accept their place as helots in the Spartan tradition, sacrificing themselves in service of the nation’s competent elite.

Duncan also had choice words about post-graduate degrees. “More education is not the answer,” he said sternly, suggesting that if the piece of paper was “so goddamn important,” today’s technology allows us to print degrees at home and save thousands of dollars to invest in real economic growth. While he admitted that those already holding advanced degrees were “kind of screwed” he noted that there was still time for them to put down their copies of Marx and roll up their sleeves, already.

“Tea Party members cheered the President’s rejection of godless book learning,” while tenured professors applauded the new approach, Krauss writes.

“We’ve been trying to get rid of the students for years,” confessed one professor. “I’m just glad someone said it, you know?”

Via Lee Skallerup of College Ready Writing, who responds to the New York Times’ story on the master’s degree as the new bachelor’s:  It’s a way to keep young people out of the labor market.

On a Facebook post, Krauss calls the master’s degree “the new fry cook certification.”

 

Gadfly goes wild

Education Gadfly offers “a fresh flava from your peeps at the Thomas B. Fordham In$titute” for April 1.

Included is an report on “widespread cheating” in Finland, Singapore and Shanghai on international tests.

Finnish Minister of Education Henna Virkkunen asked unapologetically, “What did you expect us to do? We’ve got to protect our children from the emotional blow of bad test scores. They’re fragile creatures, you know, and we have fewer than a million of them.” OECD Directorate for Education head Andreas Schleicher released a statement embracing cheating as a “twenty-first century skill” and promising that this important capability will be assessed by PISA in the future. And U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tweeted “How do you like me now, Singapore!?”

And there’s more for April Fool’s Day.

If you’re calling to lie . . .

Here’s the (alleged) answering machine message at a school in Australia.

Ed study: Teaching is big waste of time

Teaching American children is a big waste of time, concludes a comprehensive, nationwide Education Department study revealed by The Onion.

“We remain committed to providing every student in the country with access to a high-quality education,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, adding that good schools are a key component to the success of American democracy. “But to be honest, none of that matters. We’re not talking about promising young scholars here — we’re talking about a bunch of fucking animals.”

The study, which analyzed the effectiveness of both public and private schools, found that efforts to enlighten these terrors on the subjects of math, history, grammar, and science are as productive as slamming your head into a goddamn brick wall.

A survey last month found “90 percent of all elementary school students resent being taught by pathetic losers who couldn’t get a decent job in the real world,” The Onion adds.