Friday, April 24, 2009

Aaack! And Student Bloomer.

I've been trying to post some pictures of our lovely cherry orchard in bloom, but Blogger and I are having issues. Or my computer is having issues. Or our ISP is having issues. Unfortunately, I know just enough about computers to get myself in all sorts of tangles and not have the faintest idea how to untangle myself. Sigh. When in doubt, try again! (That's probably NOT the best maxim for computers, but it seems better for the job than the surgeon's maxim, which Scott enjoys proclaiming sometimes: "When in doubt, cut it out!")

So, for your Friday pleasure, here is my favorite student mess-up of the week (there were several to choose from, but this one provided the greatest mental pictures -- of its aftermath, I mean:

[In an essay about the piece "Graduation" by Maya Angelou--an account of her 8th grade graduation in the Jim Crow South.] "The graduation speaker told them their only ability in life was to be like Joe Louise." Joe LOUIS, the boxer (you know, the Brown Bomber?), is who this young gentleman had in mind. The great mental picture was, as Scott said, wondering what Joe Louis would do to anyone who actually called him "Joe Louise." Of course, he (the writer) also identified "Jim Crow" as being the name of the graduation speaker. That, I felt, was rather sad. It put me in mind of that quote about those not knowing history being doomed to repeat it -- especially considering that this was a student of African-American descent. And Jim Crow was, in fact, recent enough to be in the clear memory of many -- and I don't mean 95-year-olds, either. My mother can remember where she was standing when she heard the news that Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot. My father can remember seeing the "Whites Only" signs on drinking fountains, buses, and restaurant seating IN WASHINGTON STATE (which shocked me).

I could wander on here into a damning critique of schools, or teachers, or parents, or "kids nowadays," but truthfully I think it's everyone's fault. Parents, for not really spending TIME with their children, teaching them. My parents took me to all kinds of museums and historical sites (including ones near to home -- it doesn't have to be a globetrotting adventure, though those are nice, too). They weren't too busy watching television to explain and discuss current events. It is, also, the fault of teachers and schools. I have students in the class -- in all my classes -- who should have been held back long ago. Someone should have said, "No, you can't go on until you really KNOW this stuff. And if it's happening in writing, I know it's happening in other subjects. I know this may be the fault of teachers, or it may be the fault of administration, but this post is long enough already, and I'll tackle that another time!

And, of course, students have to be responsible for themselves. Having a really bang-up and encyclopedic knowledge of Lost or The Simpsons isn't going to prepare you to have a very keen mind. Or to make you mindful of what's happening worldwide. Sigh. That thunk was me stepping down off my soapbox.

love, kristin


  1. so i can get on, right? of course this group is already converted, but it is sad when i mention an event from the recent past - the last 30 years say - to a student worker here (Willamette University) and get a blank look! consider yourself a small beacon of light, kristin - shine on, and know there are students every quarter who remember!rmw

  2. Kristin I couldn't agree more, though it is often not that easy to take kids willingly to museums and the like. I did drag mine around Gaudi's Barcelona and the Dali Museum in Figueras and Montserrat museum and monastery when we visited Spain, and they were sometimes reluctant companions - but I insisted and they did find interesting aspects. Nou Camp Barcelona football stadium went down well with the boys and they saw the museum with the history of the club through the Civil War and the Fascist repression of the language (Catalan) and the culture, as well as the flag and other emblems of the club/region. So that football had such history was news to them but also explained the intense rivalry with Real Madrid - which was Franco's team - which is as alive today as in 1936. So I hope they retain that for their own kids. I love your passion for learning and while I don't know a lot of American black history detail, I think I know what you refer to in this post (and I will find out if I don't!)
    I have one very funny video on my blog so drop by to enjoy it!

  3. LE -- thank you, I need some encouragement! I do try very hard to remember that not every student is oblivious, and that most of them are extremely sweet and trying their very best! I did find a note taped to my office door from a student I had the two previous quarters, in which he told me that he had enjoyed my class, and that I was able to keep his attention as a teacher, which is very rare for him. That always makes you feel better in your despondency!

    Catherine -- I had no idea that Real Madrid was Franco's team! That does explain quite a lot. Kudos to you for making history interesting for your sons by weaving it in with something that is of interest to THEM. I have to go watch your video now! Oh, and "Jim Crow" was sort of the popular/shorthand name for the laws and society norms that controlled Black and White behavior in the Southern US between the end of the Civil War and the late 1960s. While the end of the Civil War technically ended slavery, Blacks were kept in virtual subjugation through laws which did such things as forbidding interracial marriage; forbidding them to sit in "whites only" areas of restaurants, busses, theatres, etc.; demanding segregated (and extremely unequal) schools, etc. (It's very shameful.)