The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Blackboard Jungle is in real danger of becoming one long linklog these days.
"Your child's school isn't perfect. That is a fact easy to acknowledge but difficult to accept. Your child isn't perfect either. That is a fact difficult to acknowledge and difficult to accept."
A previous headteacher of mine, one whom I had used to regard as rather a rhino-skinned bully, had a single marvellously realistic line she used on parents on first meetings, "If you try to be sceptical about every tale your child tells you about us, I promise not to believe everything they will tell me about you."

The remarkable, touchingly insightful Outer Life has spent some time on the thorny issue of parental attitudes towards 'gifted children' programmes, concluding that social pressure itself makes many of these programmes unviable for a school:
"There's a crisis of confidence at Shady Glen Elementary, a real potential for a run on the bank, as concerned parents begin to pull their kids out and send them to private schools. The cause? The principal's refusal to institute a gifted program.

The concerned parents point to their gifted children and worry they're being held back, forced to stand by in idle boredom while the teachers work with the slower kids.

The principal, surveying an auditorium filled with parents, responds that, by definition, most of your children can't be gifted."

Parents can be frighteningly counter-productive in the way they deal with the authority they percieve within schools.
A recent run of parents angrily responded to rote letters informing them their child has a detention (for kicking another child in the face) by informing me that they see no purpose to such a detention. This removes my only remaining sanction for such behaviour.
  • Actually, no, it doesn't. I still retain the power to humiliate or embarrass them, or the power to recommend they be formally excluded from school and the exclusion entered on their permanent record. Their choice.
The attitude I sometimes perceive in parents and in the media, of schools as some hellish destructive force for social ill, without which, a child would naturally, easily thrive does have a counter. A parent has ultimate responsibility for a child's well being (and will be the one who lives with the results of short term thinking and hasty undermining of authority when Junior has morphed into a lumping post-adolescent who can't quite bring himself to move out of the spare room and get a decent job).
Parents, I plead with you: if your child's school is injurious to your own undimming sense of your podgy overfed darling's wonder and awe, then: educate the little sod Einstein at home.

Perfection is an illusion. Parenting, too, is an achievement of maintaining such an illusion. Most of the education system in our country is run with the aid of smoke and mirrors.
"I blame the standardised tests, which upset the delicate balance needed to sustain the necessary illusion of educational perfection. [...] For our kids are all gifted, just not in a standardised way."
Apologies to Outer Life, whose original post does not make the same point as the quoted extracts here.