Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Worrisome Trend

Thursday's post lamented the fact that opinion and personal beliefs are increasingly being regarded as legitimate challenges to facts. As was noted, accepting the facts of evolution and climate change are now often presented as a matter of choice. If the signs are any indication, these worrisome affronts to critical thinking are likely only to grow.

Toward the end of the post, I offered several possible contributing factors to this elevation of irrationality. One of them was this: Perhaps people take living in a supposedly democratic age as license to suggest that any view is valid.

Two columns by The Star's Katherine Porter suggest that this wrongheadedness may, in fact, be aided and abetted by the education system, at least here in Ontario. Her first column, entitled My kids' report cards get failing grade, criticized the increasingly cryptic and euphemistic nature of the report card comments that teachers are currently forced to use:
My son “has demonstrated having had some difficulty following a series of specific instructions or steps to establish priorities and manage time to achieve goals.”

I think that means he’s unfocused.

“At times,” my daughter “is reminded to stay on task, particularly for literacy centres, so that other peers also benefit from this work time.”

Does that mean she chats too much during reading time?
There is a simple and perhaps obvious explanation for such obscure and at times impenetrable language. They are designed not to offend parents who, over the years, have become increasingly confrontational and reactionary about their dear ones' academic and behaviourial shortcomings:

I was reduced to tears,” said one primary school French teacher, describing the call she had with an irate father. She had phoned to say his daughter was coming home with a D on her latest test. She had wanted to talk about what they could do to help her. I’d call that awesome.He screamed at her. “He accused me of not helping her and said I wasn’t doing my job,” she said.
While it has been almost a decade since I left the classroom, I remember the kinds of computer report comments that were coming into play at the high school level, and they were of a similar ilk, causing teachers much consternation for their opacity. And those comments were motivated for the same reasons that Porter identifies thanks to emails from irate teachers:

conflict-averse principals, school board policies and angry mother-hen parents.

Contrast this with 'the old days,' as recalled by Porter:
When I was in middle school, I spent a year warming the bench before I’d proven my volleyball skills were worthy of playing time. Now, every kid gets equal time. Every kid gets a soccer trophy, no matter how much time they spend picking dandelions on the field.
'Better a bitter truth than a sweet lie' is the philosophy by which I have conducted my life, but it is not one shared by all.

I won't launch into a tirade here with personal stories about the careerists in education whose sole motivation these days seems to be their personal advancement at the expense of educational principles, but rest assured they were much in evidence in the latter part of my career. Unfortunately, the advancement they seek often involves shielding parents from the truth, while upbraiding teachers for their candour. The effects, however, are and will be pernicious.

Which brings me back to my earlier post and my concluding statement. If people are now being inculcated with the idea that they are special, that the world revolves around them and what they think, how will we ever achieve a society that prizes objective and critical thinking over self-centred indulgences?

I suspect you know what my answer is.


  1. I retired at the same time you did, Lorne -- and it sounds like we both retired for the same reasons.

    1. I have not missed a day of since I left, Owen, although I still have bad dreams about those times.

  2. That my daughter had to ASK to get her daughters marked work returned to her so that she could see where improvements were needed says how far we have strayed from that model that you and I were made very aware of both good and bad "outcomes' (god how I hate that word)

    1. I blame the politicization of education, Rural and by that I mean so many of the 'movers and shakers' within the system are now behaving like politicians, telling people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.

  3. Maco evolution is certainly not irrefutable. Some people simply don't confuse conjecture with actual observed science :) . The lab-coat mongering is getting about as annoying as the terrorism fear....

    1. There will always be something, I suspect, Anon, to distract people away from the vital issues that the world needs to confront.

  4. this is just one more reason among many to be done with public school and opt for something better :) its no surprise that homeschooling and private schooling is increasing as public school continues to FAIL.

    1. There is little doubt in my mind, Anon, that if the public school system were dominated by administrators with the same integrity and sense of purpose as most of its teachers have, things would be much, much better.