stephanie jones

Kids today aren’t dumb, they seem to know precisely when an education offered to them is worth engaging or not

In high school, politics, social class on October 26, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Dumber kids? Dumber schools? Dumber parents? Dumber policies?

Where does this all end? And when does one generation NOT look out at the younger generation and drop their jaws at the lack of enlightenment of the kids growing into adults? I would love to know what lmv over at adolescent literacies thinks about this.

Mark Morford, SFGate columnist writes this about today’s dumb kids. Toward the end he makes some good points that I might chisel down to “social class stratification folks!” but there are so many other issues I have with the assumptions in the piece that I couldn’t stop there.

TV is bad for us? Really? And bad for kids too? And video games? And smut journalism? And the Internet?

Come on, we can’t seriously be continuing to have these debates can we? Young people across the country and the globe are engaged in revolutions right now – starting them, leading them, pushing them. Check out Youtube and search for ‘justice’ or ‘social change’ or any other phrase that interests you.

Perhaps if teachers were not under the thumb of NCLB mandates they could encourage revolutions inside their classrooms! Perhaps this Oakland teacher that Mark writes about could have put video cameras in the hands of his students who wouldn’t “awaken” and tell them to film something that is meaningful, something they would fight for, something they dream of, something they want to change, dammit. And then connect them to the Internet to do research, to create their own version of moveon.org, to find a larger community that cares about the same issues, to read widely and deeply on the topic, and to find some purpose inside the four institutional walls other than to sleep or rebel.

But ah, some of the comments about Mark’s piece raise real challenges: How can government-funded public schooling ever encourage a revolution? If working-class and poor kids really get a rich, deep education in K-12 that leads to class mobility and even the challenging of the whole class structure, how will future generations be able to stratify themselves?

Please don’t be duped by the “dumber kids” mantra…

Even when they appear to be less engaged in classrooms, that’s more likely a reflection of the level of relevance, interest, and motivation inspired in the classroom than the kids themselves.

And when they don’t know how to form a sentence in high school? Well, that’s pure proof that whatever one-size-fits-all (most likely skills-based drill and kill) curriculum a particular district adopted is simply not working.

And when they don’t know how to hold and use a ruler to draw straight lines? Well, that’s when we better reconsider a paper-and-pencil math curriculum as well as the funding necessary to ensure all kids have access to and use a diverse range of tools and materials in their learning.

It’s about class folks, yes, but it’s not about the “parents” feeding kids too many Doritos or keeping the TV on too long or that steady diet of video games. It’s about the sickening way that states and districts make decisions about what will and won’t be taught in schools and to what teachers and students will and won’t have access.

One of the comments made about Mark’s piece notes that horrible decisions are sometimes also made in wealthy public school districts and even in private schools. I hear you – and that’s true. But then who suffers? Even if wealthy and poor districts have equally distributed oppressive curriculum policies, the status quo will be maintained. Rich kids have rich social networks and safety nets…you know where I’m going with this.
Are kids dumber today, or are education policymakers too dumb to realize that reductionist policies reduce everything – and everyone.

Kids today aren’t dumb, they seem to know precisely when an education offered to them is worth engaging or not.

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