Ideas on education, the English language, and the teaching profession.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tracking in School (Part Two: The Shortcomings of Inclusion)

In efforts to level the playing field and ensure everyone the right to an education, many public schools have practiced the philosophy of inclusion. Inclusions means having the sluggish kids, even those with mental handicaps and severe emotional disorders, sitting and working in the same classroom as the best and brightest of the school. This practice naturally inflicts a blow to the idea of tracking, which separates students into different levels according to their ability. Those who advocate inclusion reason that those sluggish students will benefit from a mainstream education that provides proximity to normal kids. They reason thus: Like someone getting better at tennis by playing with someone better than themselves, these students will improve their study habits by being with better students. They will also find questionable (though never actually questioned) studies to support their argument. Unfortunately, they forget that the tennis players playing with those worse than them leads them to stagnate in their progress and even make them worse tennis players. Almost all intelligent people who have endured classes with ignorant troglodytes because of a school’s mission to equalize what nature has left unequal will tell you how little they learned and how much time they wasted in that class.

Most public schools have forsaken the remedial and special education track, so they could put these students in regular classrooms. They compensate for the kids' handicaps by providing a co-teacher to assist the teacher in the classroom. In theory, the co-teacher monitors the progress of the sluggish students and assists them when necessary. In practice, most co-teacher hardly show up to work (most of them seem to be coaches) and the teacher has ten extra students in his classroom that slow down the learning process of that classroom considerably. Rather than having the same expectation maintained for the whole class, teachers lower those expectations to cut down the failure rate and accommodate the mediocre students who normally act out when asked to actually learn. After a few years of this, the regular students internalize the academic ineptitude of their “special” peers and they plunge into special education status themselves. Due to this inclusion procedure, the number of special education students grow exponentially and the regular level descends into a greatly remedial level with the title of "regular".

Fortunately, thanks to ratings of U.S. News and the administrators who desperately need a few smart students to redeem their feral student body, public schools will try keeping an honors level geared towards taking AP tests at the end. By necessity, this honors bubble that holds about ten percent of a school body escapes the onslaught of inclusion advocates and allows those teachers (who are envied by every other teacher in the building) to set some actual expectations for their kids and work at their level without endangering themselves to a high failure rate.

Naturally, most schools have tried expanding the honors level with the same ideas of raising the general level of student performance and earning a place in U.S. News by practicing inclusion while still achieving. Unfortunately, the same deterioration of expectations results from this. The Honors teachers have less freedom in how they evaluate their students because the administrators have set a higher quota for more honors students, which must not be violated. Once more, inclusion knocks down a level, making the honors track just regular.

Therefore, for the sake of a few knuckleheads, all the other students have been sacrificed. Parents now fear of their children become dumber by going to school, which happens depressingly often. Most kids in public school who actually tap their intellectual potential will do it on their own. Too many times, school only serves to bring them down by asking them to put down Jane Eyre so they can pick up a glue stick and colored marker.

Charter schools, private schools, and schools in affluent suburbs exist and thrive because of this simple phenomenon. Desperate parents will do anything they can just to keep away from the dullards that now dictate public school curriculum. These are the schools that nurture the leaders of tomorrow and offer a glimmer of hope in the future. They also expose a disturbing disparity between the fortunate and the less fortunate. Those less fortunate, which include many middle class families, have simply accepted public schools functioning as daycares for kids until they reach legal adulthood. Like the teachers, they have also dropped their expectations of what education should be.

Luckily, more and more parents now call for reform, usually in the forms of charters, schools that run outside the guidelines of a district but still receive government funding. These schools allow an outlet for parents who can't afford to live in a rich suburb or pay the tuitions for private schools. The trend of charters will rise due to the choice they offer kids who want to achieve without the heavy weights of kids impatiently waiting until they day they can drop out ruining their classes. Unsurprisingly, public school districts will do all they can to deter their success, so they can remain blameless of neglecting the young minds that overpopulate their ugly campuses.

However, a great majority of children will remain imprisoned in the public schools filled with the detrimental miasma of inclusion. These schools need tracking to restore quality learning back into the building. This would address the needs of the good students, the regular students, and the poor students. Moreover, it would allow teachers to teach the whole class instead the ones that require the most attention, who are coincidentally the worst students. Noting the shortcomings of the present system, tracking for the three levels seems like a much better idea to explore than the irrational notion of forcing all kids into the same physical proximity with the hopes that intelligence will somehow radiate from the good students to the bad ones.


Melody Cartwright said...

Wow, I cannot believe the outlandish insensitivity of Mr. Walker. "Sluggish", "dullards", "ignorant troglodytes", "knuckleheads"... wow. Be mindful, the discussion is all about PUBLIC education. If parents and guardians are not happy with their FAPE (FREE and appropriate education), perhaps they should go to private schools and pay handsomely for the education of their above average children. BTW, the term "gifted" is completely overrated. Less than 1% of the general population is truly gifted. And I personally know many learning disabled students who are extremely bright and creative, they just happen to have real challenges. Often, these children are called "stupid" by higher performing and inappropriately "entitled" students. Thanks to people and parents who think and act just like you. Hope this makes you feel bigger and better than a struggling child. Unbelievable. The real question is, how can we protect our children from people who are openly and blatantly discriminatory? For shame!

Melody Cartwright said...

If Mr. Walker were a lawyer, he'd be disbarred!

More than politically incorrect, he's an embarrassment to all basic tenements of education for young children. This new graduate (now a teacher!!!) is so off the mark, he is down right offensive. However, I do feel like he openly speaks what many small-minded adults and yes, teachers are actively thinking. For this he gets one lousy credit.

“Tracking in School (Part Two: The Shortcomings of Inclusion)” is a call for sensitivity training for all educators and parents.

Mr. Walker posts reading multiple books on Christianity. His harsh words do not reflect one who is spiritually gifted, in any way. Walker is elitist, pompous, and self-absorbed. Hopefully, he will only be hired at a charter school. Our public school children will continue to have fair and equal opportunities, as presently required by both law and basic human decency.

corbusier said...

Ms. Cartwright,

While I will admit that Mr. Walker's language may seem insensitive, I think that such coarse words reflect more truthfully the ire and frustrations he feels about a dysfunctional educational system to which he has made tremendous sacrifices of his time and talents.

As is sadly typical with much blog-based debate, you do not engage with Mr. Walker's points, but rather you choose to blanket your response with attacks on Mr. Walker's character, and that because the author's remarks are insensitive they are thus unworthy to be taken seriously.

It is evident that self-esteem influences your view on education, and that you see the role of educators as protectors of the weak rather than champions for overall excellence. In your view, what's important about public education is that it's "public", not that any real "education" takes place. Afterall, you say that if parents don't like the public schools they should send their kids to private schools, which means that the intent of public schools is not to ensure quality to the taxpayer's children, but instead to shelter kids, usually from families who pay next no taxes to fund the schools, from the reality of a world that demands people with mimimal employable skills and a mature sense of personal responsibility.

Melody Cartwright said...

May "seem" insensitive? Walker's treatise IS more than insensitive! I think his "talents" should be given strict oversight by administrators involved in his future tenure. That's what is so great about blogs: mainly written by people who believe they are more intelligent than others. Still, his caustic words can and should hold himself accountable for years to come. We are talking about CHILDREN and yes CHILDREN deserve RESPECT and protection. This "teacher" is neither "mature" nor "responsible". Self-esteem IS a big compenent of relating to and educating young, impresionable minds. And I simply don't agree with Walker's observations, especially regarding the manner and the words he has intentionally selected.

NCLB is the real problem here: an unfunded and unreasonable mandate. And the reason why I myself have recently looked into the private school system. However, I - like so many, am unable to afford this level of education. Tax payers can hope to demand but so much from their money.

I suppose Mr. Walker would prefer to go back to the days of segregation, because, as one "genius" professor recently proclaimed, African Americans don't have the same level of intelligence? He might as well say what's on his mind, because this statement is inclusive of the same level of discrimination, even racism he has published on the internet, for everyone to read. Walker's blog illustrates his brilliant lack of humanity and your last sentence does, almost as well.

corbusier said...

And another thing, Melody...

There are various statements in your posts that are quite typical the orthodoxy of the education establishment:

"How can we protect our children from people who are openly and blatantly discriminatory"- This statement seems to indicate that the purpose of an education is not to develop children into self-sufficient confident individuals, but to treat them as defenseless victims unable to deal with the rough, pushy and competitive reality in which there are winners and losers. To you, the problem in education is not that we are failing to teach our students, but that we have failed to eliminate discriminatory attitudes in society that help determine what is beneficial (being smart) and what is detrimental (being dumb).

“Tracking in School (Part Two: The Shortcomings of Inclusion)” is a call for sensitivity training for all educators and parents." - That seems to be the solution to everything, doesn't it? All such workshops do is to breed greater resentment and foster a suffocating environment for free expression and add stress resulting from being subjected to a police-state existence where one is constantly monitored. This all definitely echoes totalitarian political environments, which is essentially what public schools have become.

"Our public school children will continue to have fair and equal opportunities, as presently required by both law and basic human decency."- Sounds like a slogan from the most recent party rally. I wish the current law would require public schools to provide fair and equal opportunities, but the reality is that they don't. How fair is it for students of normal intelligence to be forced in the same classes with those of much lesser ability which prevents any educational progress to take place? What does equality of opportunity mean if all kids can equally read a simple sentence but some are discouraged to tackle Shakespeare and Twain?

This attitude you share of "screw the smart kids, we don't need their kind anyway, since they're just a bunch of elitist and prejudiced snobs" really makes it clear to me that you take our taxpayer money for granted. Movements for vouchers and school-choice, along with the growth of charter schools and homeschooling are not the result of people suddenly deciding to become elitist prejudicial snobs, but rather they are a response to a long dysfunctional system guided by naive and destructive ideas that you hold. How could I even think of sending my two young children to an educational system staffed by people like yourself...

Melody Cartwright said...

Poor, elitist "Corbusier": French (Swiss-born) architect, painter, and sculptor...
Your pseudonym is almost as pretentious as your writing. Embarrassed to reveal your true identity I assume? Most racists and people who regularly make discriminatory statements are. Still, feel free to lambast me in total anonymity.

BTW, I am not an educator, as you incorrectly assume, and I am hardly "establishment". Just a single mother/artist/activist who has often endured the actions and outcry from elitist parents and educators such as you. Every since NCLB, parents of the "gifted" have risen up to demand more than a piece of the cake from the feds. The problem is, the government has failed miserably to assist students who really need the extra assistance, those who aren't as fortunate as your enlightened and brilliant family. You are an architect, why don't you send your entitled children outside of the public school system? I hope Mr. Walker is there to teach them how to feel and act more intelligent than most other people. "Smart" children will do just fine, and I am not against higher level classes in the upper grades. BTW, I fully expect children who have disabilities to be allowed into these classes, should their testing and experience prove them worthy to do so. Now that's the equality I'm talking about. You seem a little upset, Corbusier. Poor dear.

corbusier said...

For someone who is not part of the educational establishment, it seems you have subscribed to their inclusionary philosophy hook, line and sinker. Though you seem disaffected by a major piece of legislation (NCLB) for not doling out enough money for your pet programs, it is counterproductive to hold an important constituency (the parents of "the gifted") to the success of a public education system in contempt. Again, you make it clear that you would rather have parents who can afford to send their kids to private schools to do so that they don't use of a public good that they helped pay for. To hear you put it, it's as if public education is should only benefit the kind of "public" you favor, and exclude a great swath of concerned parents and students who actually want to learn. And one wonders why these same people flee to suburban districts and leave Dallas schools to rot.

Interestingly, instead of coming up with solutions to the problems you have with how public schools support special ed, you instead admit to looking to private schools to find what you can't get. Isn't the raison d'etre of many private schools is to ensure academic rigor and performance to those parents who pay their kids' tuition? Will your cherished values of inclusion, equality over quality, and self-esteem be well received in such places? Once they do indeed embrace your value, they might as well close their doors.

corbusier said...

In addition, Melody, your commitment to enforcing disciplinary tactics against a teacher who freely expresses himself -"...I think his "talents" should be given strict oversight by administrators involved in his future tenure."- reminds me why the profession of teaching has been avoided by many of our best and brightest. What rational person would put up with threats to their free speech, particularly when it comes to determining what endemic problems are and what are the ways they can be solved? Who should be expected to tolerate working in an environment where stiffling mediocrity is good so long as we follow principles of inclusion? You seem sympathetic to the idea of a though police.

Mr. Walker makes a valid argument for tracking students, a standard practice in educational systems in almost every other industrialized country. Having studied in Germany and in France in addition to many years in U.S. public schools, it is obvious there is much we can learn from abroad in systems that have proved to make students of various learning abilityies better adapted to the needs of society and the economy. To reassure ourselves into thinking that the American educational system's embrace of inclusion trumps whatever advantages of student tracking in foreign countries will do absolutely nothing in helping America's international competitive standing.

It's a pity that you can't abstain from attacking my character and making unfounded assumptions about my dislikes. Regardless of how good it makes you feel to name-call, it only weakens the effectiveness of your arguments (which so far have been incoherent). For someone who prides herself in supporting equality and inclusion, it's apparent that you gladly segregate anybody who doesn't share your perspective by calling them elitist and entitled...good ol' class warfare.

By the way, look up who Le Corbusier really was and read a few more of my blog posts- my pseudonym is all irony...

MelD said...

OMG - Architecture and Morality? You guys are running in the same tight group, aren't ya? Christians and haters of people beneath 'em. Sweet. Do you REALLY believe Jesus would be as self-righteous and above the masses as you guys profess? Get a grip.

Again, "Sluggish", "dullards", "ignorant troglodytes", "knuckleheads" that's name calling. Clearly, innocent children don't need Mr. Walkers kind of "talent". Administrators and parents have plenty of documentation to keep him out of their institutions of learning and I for one would go straight to the school board. At least Walker has the bravery (or more likely stupidity) to post his name. Now THAT'S "ironic." The only name I've used is "racist" and the typcial complaint of having to pay for someone else's education, we understand what is being said, all too well. Your words aren't "incoherent", not at all.

We are just trying to get away from being tested to death. You don't make a pig fatter by weighing it all the time. No Child Left a Dime...

Consider these quotes, from a disabled person you might want to keep out of class:

Although the world is full of suffering,
it is full also of the overcoming of it.

One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.

I seldom think of my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times; but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers.

We can do anything we want to if we stick to it long enough.

Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope or confidence.

The highest result of education is tolerance.

– Helen Keller

MelD said...

Corbusier's quote:
And one wonders why these same people flee to suburban districts and leave Dallas schools to rot."

Hey, aren't George W. Bush and Margaret Spellings (the kick back queen, along with her under the table husband) from Texas? How about the college loan scandal? Hmmmm? Sometimes, you get what you vote for Corbie. Well, KNOW I didn't come close to voting for "W", either time. So, in this case I take absolutely no credit for the present mess our school system is under. Do you, take any accountability?

Most educated people know full well, N.C.L.B. was a calculated plan to disrupt and dishonor the public school system, constructed by self-assured and pretentious politicians [(including a "C"-"D" student and that's with tutoring and all the oil money in the world) who is now and will always be a recovering alcoholic yet "saved" Christian, yeah right. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. What is so hard to understand? Now he is clearly the most ridiculous and failing president of all time. All the while self-titled "the Education President". LOL!!!]

N.C.L.B. is all pavement and justification for vouchers towards charter/private schools. The solution is NOT to stop inclusion. The solution is NOT to go back to the days of segregation, which, is occurring more and more each day - thanks to conservative judges put in place by "W" and the legacy of the Bush Dynasty. N.C.L.B. needs to be completely abandoned, unless appropriate funding is included for ALL children, not just a favored few. Pet project my white _ _ _! What was the whole point of N.C.L.B.? To help the disadvantaged, not just the learning disabled and certainly NOT your pet project of the pitiful, left behind perpetually ADVANTAGED. O.K. send your kids to Europe, its where all the jobs are going anyway. Try China sweetie.

We need to give the power of education back to the states, as our founding fathers originally and clearly directed. "W" has stepped upon and ignored the Constitution, over and over and over. Its TIME to take it back. And if that is done by, gasp, a WOMAN or OMG, a BLACK MAN then so be it, A.S.A.P.

No Child Left Behind (N.C.L.B.) requires students spit out memorized facts without the joy of learning (or the process of analytical fascination and critical thinking). If a student's basic skills are poor, too bad. All emphasis remains on testing. It's what is evaluated, and the reward system is based on funding. There is no incentive to help the students who really need it. We need to give the power of LEARNING back to the TEACHERS. How 'bout those ideas?

Finally, how would you decide who will not be included in the regular classroom? Who among the list below will you and King Walker arbitrarily label a "dullard"? Bottom line, at NO time should an adult, especially a teacher, be allowed to describe CHILDREN any of the before mentioned hurtful and inappropriate names. NEVER. Got it?

Who among the list below would you not include in the classroom with your children?

Edison had a learning disability. He couldn't read until he was twelve years old and had a very difficult time writing even when he was older. EDISON WAS TOLD BY HIS TEACHER HE WAS "TOO STUPID" TO BE IN HER CLASS.
Wake up Walker!!!!

Albert Einstein
The Mathematician/Physicist who had a learning disability and did not speak until age three. Even as an adult Einstein found that searching for words was laborious. He found school work, especially math, difficult and was unable to express himself in written language. He was thought to be simple minded, until it was realized that he was able to achieve by visualizing rather than by the use of language. His work on relativity, which revolutionized modern physics, was created in his spare time.

Alexander Graham Bell
Had a learning disability

Christopher Reeve
Never has a person with a disability commanded so much media attention in recent history. Christopher Reeve, crippled after a horse-riding injury, wants to be up on his feet & wants to help others stand confident too. His life is now dedicated to harnessing the power of medical research to get up & ride again.

George Washington
Had a learning disability. He could barely write and had very poor grammar skills.

Spanish painter (1746-1828): At age 46, an illness left him deaf. He went on to create the most famous Spanish art of the 19th century.

Helen Keller
(Devoted Life to Persons with Disabilities) She was Blind, Deaf, and Mute

John Milton
English Author/poet (1608-1674): He became blind at age 43. He went on to create his most famous epic, Paradise Lost.

Ludwig van Beethoven
(Famous Musician) - known to be deaf

Robin Williams
(famous Hollywood Star) was diagnosed to be suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a child. He never refuses a role related to medicine e.g Awakenings, Patch Adams.

Stephen Hawkings
Physicist/mathematician has Lou Gehrigs Disease and is in a wheelchair. He needs a computer to speak.

Tom Cruise
(Hollywood Star): is severely dyslexic

Walt Disney
Had a learning disability

Woodrow Wilson
U.S. President from 1913-1921. Had a learning disability - he was severely dyslexic

Scott Walker said...

Well, I've been detected by the "thought police" as Corbusier has so aptly titled my determined critics. It's a little frightening that they’re out for my blood and livelihood for simply citing the problems with inclusion.

Please understand, I work with children of all intelligence levels everyday. I create, grade, and instruct children, everyday. I go over new words with them, listen to their problems, read with them, and try desperately to veer them away from poverty and crime, everyday.

And since I've been labeled a racist hypocrite, I should add that none of my students are white. For some reason, this really matters to you. From my perspective, they're poor and need all the opportunities they can get.

I simply advocate choice for these kids. Right now, their only choice is remedial. I want them to be able to fulfill their potential, which they aren't allowed to do at school. I want them to have a thug free classroom as I'm sure you desire for your children as well.

On the lower end, kids with emotional and mental disabilities that inhibit their academic performance (and there are MANY in poor inner-city areas) need extra assistance and care. Forcing them into crowded classroom and hoping for the best drives to act out and distinguish themselves through rebelliousness and not through achievement.

I wanted to continue my thought in a third essay that outlines a system that allows children more freedom in what they choose to study. I don't even posit a "high track" or "low track"; I'd rather consider a vocational track (for the Edisons), an artistic track (for the Beethovens), a science track (for the Einsteins), and a humanities track (for the Miltons). If nothing appeals to the student (which would be a workable minority), then they won't be forced with the others. We can consider a constructive alternative for them than the overcrowding disasters we have now staffed by policemen and security guards.

Forgive me for my derision towards the students that drag everyone down. I should clarify that those students aren't the benign daydreamers quietly doodling while the rest of class learns. I was referring to the little monsters that vandalize property, curse out teachers, and terrorize any student who shows the slightest sign of being engaged in learning. Maybe you're not familiar with them since neither of you are teachers. I am.

I have a strong urge to pursue this ad hominem strain of argument, which I could easily do, but I'll restrain myself.

I admire your sentiments to make life better for the underprivileged and the disabled. Believe me, I feel the same way. I want them to get the best education like any other kid. I approach it as an educator that deals with many different kids that all have different needs. The present system doesn't work; and it's not simply a matter of money as you vaguely alluded to in your posts. If it were, our kids would be among the brightest in industrialized nations instead of among the worst.

I'm just contemplating a solution to the problems I face everyday. Please, don't persecute me so viciously for trying.

Like my favorite Motown singer once sung,

"Don't punish me with brutality. Talk to me and you will see, what's going on."

corbusier said...


I am going to conclude my comments on this thread for now. It's obvious that we're talking past each other and that there is little chance you'll be convinced of a viewpoint other than your own.

What we can agree on at least is that the public school system is a mess and that it has become unresponsive to the needs of all kinds students, whether they be "gifted" or affected with learning disabilities. You seem to lay much of the blame against the political right (hence, the very hackneyed "It's all Bush's fault") though NCLB was mainly authored by Sen. Ted Kennedy and runs counter to the standard conservative view that education indeed should be more decentralized and that any national control of education should be abolished (could you be a conservative and not know it, Meld?).

I tend to side with Mr. Walker in believing that the incompetence of schools in answering the needs of all kids cannot be blamed on a handful of politicians or judges, but instead by a blind faith in equality over effectiveness that is embodied in much of the bureaucratic inertia that actually runs the schools. Although we would all love to be inclusive and give everybody the same chances, it is important to recognize that we are all different and that we thrive under different circumstances. Not being conscious of this latter reality and only subscribing to strict inclusion tends to yield educational abuses that disgusts those of us that expect more from our schools.

Having spent almost every school year as a kid in mediocre public schools, Mr. Walker's insights really hit home with me and my recollections. There were indeed numerous instances of students joining our class who were already diagnosed with a learning disability and my reaction to it was a mixture of impatience and pity for those people. Whether it is criminal to have felt this way as a young student is your call, but since those days I feel that an emphasis towards special ed and at-risk students has over time greatly outweighed efforts to enhance the learning experience for the "regular" kids.

Ever-rising sums of tax money has been going towards education as the years have passed, and there's been very little improvement to show for it. I can only conclude that the problem isn't a lack of money but a lack of freedom to try out what works best. Sadly much of the education establishment seems hell-bent on preventing the latter.

MelD said...

Just sent a note to a friend last night:
"There ARE teachers and parents out there who think like this! They usually they have the common sense to keep it under wraps, still seething in their poison thoughts. Its the children who suffer from this thinking: said or not said, children know when adults are so negative. No one will 'win' this argument. Neither of us will agree with the others' view. And these guys feel justified, covered and shielded by the cloak of morality. How sad."

Can easily flip C's statement and say, "... there is little chance you'll be convinced of a viewpoint other than your own."

Corbusier still doesn't offer any real suggestions to "fix" this problem. Other than follow the design of educators overseas and, of course, stop inclusion. I actually have some interest in the track system, to a degree. One problem is, sometimes children/parents/teachers don't know which placement they are (or more importantly, want to be), especially early on. Who will put Edison in the wrong class, because "he is stupid"? Thereby effectively preventing the invention of the light bulb! On the other hand, educators such as you can be of service ... by saying "no-you can't", this often provides a reason for the student with hope and self-pride to say, "oh, yes, I CAN!"

Mr. Walker has tempered his cruel words (and I am encouraged, maybe temporarily placated by them for now). Still, maybe he is "speaking" to his administrators, with his quiet voice of reason and sudden compassion, sans the crude labels, in order to KEEP HIS JOB. Still cringe to the term "monsters": the truth often bubbles up, does it not?

A few gifted children have regularly showed unflattering sides, often boasting, "I am gifted, and you are NOT." (ie: I am intelligent and you aren't.) What have the teachers and parents done? In the often brutal race to the best college money can buy, many have pumped their own children's perception of intelligence up so high that they forget the true indicator of knowledge: HUMILITY. If one is truly intelligent, we quietly understand it and will not feel the need to belittle others. I lay this issue onto adults, and hope they respond in a reasonable way. Teach your children social skills along with patience, understanding, compassion, and not least of all, manners. How are we going to live and work together in the real world, if we believe we are better, of higher intelligence, entitled, have the best and only religion, and are above most others in rank, be it class-ism or racism, etc? Tolerance, indeed.

Mr. Walker, it is YOUR brutality, your words which have cut to my very heart. The "thought police"? Oh, no, I am just a regular person of average intelligence, who has the common sense to understand your written words and the negative power they hold. These words are completely unacceptable to publish, especially given your profession. Shame on you and your constituents. Perhaps next time you should let irate parents of high achieving students speak for you, as there are plenty. The system is broken, but its the adults who are behaving like children. There are MANY good parents who have excellent students who are both intelligent and compassionate. Get on board!

Maybe Mr. Walker should listen to some other lines from the very same song he quotes:

...who are they to judge us?

Lori Ellison said...

There has to be some irony here in Corbusier quoting from Helen Keller, surely the most disabled student ever. I have never understood the idea that the public school system was failing - I remember very well the days of vocational tech tracking and have a Vietnam vet friend whose father didn't finish third grade. The literacy rates and the IQ scoring in this country have been rising steadily, especially due to progressive ideas in public education in the sixties. The NCLB has emphasized testing and those who can afford tutoring or take the time to help their children with their homework do better. Read Stephen Jay gould's excellent book about Intelligence Testing - it really is no predictor of anything much, the IQ. There are new theories about emotional intelligence, and bullying & mean children who happen to do better on elementary school tests are not learning anything about real world employment qualifications for after the schooling.

MelD said...

Lori, I was the person who quoted Keller. Still, your other comments are right on target. IQ has little to do with success in the working world. How does one test for creativity, confidence, and even charisma? Who knows, after an extended and expensive overseas college career, Corbusier's kids may end up returning to live at home indefinitely ... while Walker's rejects find a cure for cancer. Adults who want to pigeon hole young minds, are people who are surely frustrated with their own lives. Personally know children who are emotionally and socially superior to their sometimes mean and spitefull high acheiving peers. School should always include courses in social dynamics as a substantial component in a well-rounded education. Can you image three levels of segregated education translated to the working world? Laughable. Why not resort to the caste system: a division of society based on differences of wealth, inherited rank or privilege, profession, occupation, or race? These men need to get real.

Anonymous said...

I hope that with life and professional experience Mr. Walker may grow into some wisdom and kindness - and let's pray that it's soon. I daresay he doesn't realize how boorish and immature he comes across. Troubling, too, that his attitude no doubt transfers to the children in his class.

The issues of tracking and inclusiveness are complex enough without such polarizing language.

yo miss!, formerly in bushwick said...

"Forgive me for my derision towards the students that drag everyone down. I should clarify that those students aren't the benign daydreamers quietly doodling while the rest of class learns. I was referring to the little monsters that vandalize property, curse out teachers, and terrorize any student who shows the slightest sign of being engaged in learning. Maybe you're not familiar with them since neither of you are teachers. I am."

I had to respond to this comment. I am not opposed to the inclusion of students with learning differences et al. if they are able to be part of the classroom without causing major disruptions. I will teach any child with any challenge who is emotionally equipped to be in a classroom--that is, a child who can and will follow directions and respect the physical safety and right to learn of the other students.

I will use visual art, music, group work, pair work, solo work, reading out loud, whatever. I'm a young teacher and I consider myself pretty open-minded.

But I absolutely agree that there are children who are not able to be in a regular classroom. I have taught students who are genuinely learning disabled and emotionally troubled, but who desperately want to learn and can apply themselves. I will do anything I can to help those kids. But I do not think I should have to put with the kind of child Mr. Walker describes above.

And until you have tried to teach the learning disabled child who is desperately trying her best while some child, no matter how bright he or she may actually be, screams, threatens, and destroys property in the background, you have no right to deride someone who is simply calling for the return of realism to public education.

Anonymous said...

This person does HAVE A RIGHT, because I am a PARENT and the offspring of not one, but two educators, one being an administrator. Do you realize you used the word "I" over 15 times? This is a sure sign of inexperience and/or intolerance. Also notice you did not use your actual name. Is this because you fully understand your administrators would find your stance unacceptable?

You seem to be a young, relatively inexperienced teacher, as does Mr. Walker (who actually has the courage or rather stupidity to use his actual name). It is noted how free you both feel to use derisive and divisionary language with regards to some of the children you teach. The both of you need to go to your beloved private or charter school system and be HAPPY. So go. Be free of the public education system you complain so bitterly about... could it be they do not want your "talents"? Imagine that!

While it is understood a completely disruptive child needs help you are not trained to provide, we parents do not trust your inexperience to determine who should be inclusive and who should be sent out with the trash pick-up. Maybe when you become a parent, you will UNDERSTAND the pain, the sadness, and the rejection educators like you inflict on CHILDREN who do not deserve any of the issues you bring to the table. Have you tried counseling, “yo miss!, formerly in bushwick”? Is this even proper English? Great example, cool dude...

Scott Walker said...

To Melody Cartwright/MelD/Anonymous/whatever your name is today, you have made your point:

Name calling is forbidden.

Acknowledging any difference whatsoever in anyone is forbidden.

Any person using too many I's in their comments is forbidden.

Any person who has any thought that differs from yours should be banned from this universe altogether. (Though I wonder what you'd spend your time without monitoring the errant thoughts of bloggers.)

You are irrational.

yo miss!, formerly in bushwick said...

It is precisely because I care for the differently-abled child that I want a classroom that is quiet, safe, and orderly for him or her.

Let me illuminate my own personal situation. I teach one particular class in which I have two students with IEPs. Let's call them Ann and Bob. Both of these students are pleasant kids who by and large attend to their work and cooperate. I also have two students who repeatedly and thoughtlessly, despite many disciplinary interventions that have involved collaborations with parents, guidance counselors, other teachers, administrators and even peers, disrupt the learning process of my two children with IEPs. Let's call the troublemakers Cory and Dave.

Is it equally likely that Ann, Bob, Cory, or Dave could grow up to cure cancer? I doubt it. It's much more likely, to me, that Ann or Bob will cure cancer because they have--against greater odds, no less--developed some self-control and willingness to cooperate. Cory and Dave? Not so much. They will go through life coddled and cushioned by their parents, as they are now, while teachers teaching heterogeneous groups will struggle to reach the learning disabled children in the room with Cory and Dave, who are determined to mess things up on a near-daily basis.

Cory and Dave need some kind of intervention that I cannot and should not be expected to provide. I can and should be expected to set up rules and procedures in my classroom, and consequences for when they are not followed. I can and should be held accountable for involving parents, guidance counselors, et al. when my own interventions (that include positive reinforcement and so forth) are not enough. I cannot and should not be held accountable for teaching children with special needs (which I am not certified to do!) while trying to contain children determined to terrorize and disrupt.

I will take Ann and Bob over Cory and Dave any day.

jose said...

This was good. I see the comments have pretty much covered my thoughts, but I think we need to be more tailor-made as far as the educational needs of our children. Because we're not doing that, we get issues like this. Good post overall.

Jill said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa... slow it down there, Scott, with the name-calling. I bet your 2nd grade teacher would find your comments shocking and shameful. In fact, I bet most of your teachers would find such antics shameful.

Let's be clear, that this next part in no way validates or defends Scott, a teacher who is in close daily proximity to students, and chose to express his feelings in such horribly ugly, hostile terms. (Frankly, that is scray, Scott; we all have anger issuues associated with the daily grind, but you are involved with kids who trust you, so maybe you might want to just.. you know.. check that anger out... maybe through some counseling support...?)

Also, please don't misconstrue my next comments as somehow negating the fact that Scott has such a low understanding of how "inclusion" is supposed to work or of how Special Ed law should be applied.

So, here it is - Scott... "Inclusion" does not reflect what you have described at all, especially in terms of the lack of support in the classroom.

No wonder teachers are frustrated; shame on school administrators for not providing appropriate support to students and teachers as the law mandates, as well as for creating classroom situations that are clearly hazardous to kids and young teachers like Scott.

So, good luck, Scott. I hope you seek knowledge, support, and get your agression out on the basketball court. Or.. at the very least, sharpen-up...lest someone call you a mean name.


Emily said...

Interesting. I came upon this blog while perusing the Internet for information on inclusion and tracking. I am an inner-city public charter school 9th grade teacher, and while I have empathy for Mr. Walker's frustrations, I simply cannot agree with his exclusive suggestions. Students with special needs (ESL, behavioral, etc.) SHOULD be with their peers in regular-ed classrooms, but with support professionals and small amounts of pull-out sessions for additional subject tutoring.

Another writer commented that many other industrialized nations employ tracking in their schools. True, but also, they often don't include standardized test scores for "vocational" students in national averages. So when Japan boasts student test scores above those in the USA, you can be sure it's not an accurate sample of Japan's student demographic. In the USA, we test English language learners, autistic students, kids whose primary residence is a homeless shelter, etc. Not in Japan; they test only the elite and academia-bound. The same applies to the Czech Republic; students are tracked into specific high schools when they are mere pre-teens. (I lived and taught there for almost 3 years.) It's saddening.

Also, I, too, take issue with Mr. Walker's labels. To slap the terms "knuckleheads" and "dullards" on children is spiteful and abusive. I'm not intending to belittle Mr. Walker's character; I am decrying his choice in diction and his opinion of students in need. It's easy for a teacher to play the victim card -- I left a school because the staff room was so toxic, being full of self pity and complaints about students -- but you know what? If you are a diligent, non-neophyte teacher who works to differentiate your lessons and fills each child with a sense of self-worth, success will come. Teaching is not an easy gig. And the salary is laughable. That's what tends to keep talented educators away from the job, not the students.

Rather than herd "sluggish learners" or "ignorant troglodytes" into a cesspool of failure into someone else's class, perhaps Mr. Walker should take time to reflect on his his own pedagogy, or request more support from his administration and collegues.

I don't think mixed ability classrooms keep the top-end students from enjoying Tennyson, Twain, Mishima, Dickinson, Achebe or Shakespeare (all authors I teach). Rather, I believe that if I teach my subject well and with enjoyment, anyone can learn. Believe me. 90 percent of my students are in poverty; 65 percent are English language learners and many of my students have special needs, including autism and behavioral disorders. You can do it, Mr. Walker.

Scott Walker said...

It's nice to work in a charter school that has the right to take applicants of parents who want something from their kiddos.

It's also nice that they let you teach those materials and assign extra work and recommend tutoring. Teachers here couldn't even think of making those requests of their students without being spit upon and having an enormous failure rate.

I should also add that getting even a little support from special ed staff and administrators is a big plus. Asking for that in my school would receive a good deal of derision and eventually scorn.

Finally, you can use any euphemism you like if it lets you sleep at night. At some point, you'll have to recognize the slower kids for what they are. Any hint of inferiority is naturally discouraged, but equivocation will only delay any real approach to accommodating their many "needs".

However, once you reach that point, (and if you're a good teacher, you will) you'll see that those kids are grade levels behind in every subject and need a class of their own to cope with their failings. They can either catch up or find a more practical curriculum that will make them useful in something rather than nothing.

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