Ideas on education, the English language, and the teaching profession.
Friday, March 21, 2008
A rose by any other name might forget to smell as sweet.
“He’s smart but he’s just lazy.” Parents say this to their children. Children say it to themselves and their friends. Even teachers have to say it to irresponsible parents to abnegate any guilt on way they raise their young ones. Actually, in many conscientious districts, many teachers have to substitute the word “lazy” for something less accusatory like “unmotivated” or “unengaged.” While this little phrase happily obviates accountability from all parties, it has wreaked havoc on the developing minds of way too many students. Many sassy little urchins neglecting to read, write, or think early in life will fail miserably when they grow into adulthood. They read at lower grade levels, their maturity is greatly delayed, and they defy reality by claiming intelligence. It’s time to let these students and their parents learn the horrible but liberating truth: They’re stupid, and it’s their own damn fault; it’s up to them to change that. Otherwise a teacher will just be wasting a criminal amount of time for nothing.
This is literarily utter blasphemy for any teacher to even think, but it’s sadly true for a growing amount of students. Try as educators or parents might, their explanations for the struggling students are false. All students being intelligent in their own way is a myth. On the other side of the argument, people should recognize that intelligence being solely dependent on a favorable genetic code is also myth. Common sense can easily thwart the former myth. If one student can successfully read Moby Dick and analyze its plethora of symbols, allegories, and allusions while the other can only read Dr. Seuss and achieve comprehension through the charming illustrations; then there is a tremendous disparity between in their verbal intelligence regardless of how they approach texts. One knows more while the other knows less; this is undisputable. The latter argument parallels a similar argument that genetics determines obesity. There is truth that genes can increase the propensity of acquiring intelligence or weight, but practice and discipline play a far greater role in how a mind or body develops. Perhaps coincidentally, scientist work as ardently on a cure for obesity as they do for mental acuity.
Acquired intelligence does not mysteriously descend on some students; rather, it’s earned. Intelligent people acquire knowledge and skills through solving problems, practicing logic, reading a variety of challenging texts, and composing ideas. Stupid people disband the possibility of acquiring knowledge by turning their brains off at every opportunity. They do not read; they ask others to solve their problems for them; they fidget and daydream at the first mental challenge; they have a very difficult time following directions; they lack any sort of curiosity; they seize every conceivable distraction that will delay the anguish of the boredom to which they’ve irrationally submitted. In concise terms, laziness creates stupidity and exists in conjunction with stupidity. The moment the brain stops working, it starts to degenerate. The moment some youth decides to give up books of a certain grade level, he stays at that reading level until he changes his mind about his reading –unless the grade levels adjust to suit his inferiority.
People must understand that learning process does not skip any steps, but it’s a gradual climb. A student that neglects his children’s books, then young adult books, then some provocative classics, will not be able to read and enjoy Shakespeare. He will simply whine, fidget, and eventually fail –assuming the teacher holds steady on grading standards and doesn’t cave in to the student’s desire for the easy art project. The same thing applies to a student given complex algebra when he still clings to the calculator to do simple arithmetic. All academic disciplines come in steps. People often forget those illustrated children’s classics or those little math games that made a picture, but these types of activities set the foundation for the books or professions that made their life. A stupid person lacks that kind of development and pursues every mental escape from breaking pencils to boozing later on in life.
The debilitating effects of a mentally lazy life will always trouble the person suffering from it. However, just like this person escaped working their minds, they escape taking blame for their inadequacy. Psychologist make their money by whipping up new theories for incompetence like a new strain of ADD, a various learning disorder, a new mental disability, or any various emotional disorder. Most people, smart or stupid, can claim some kind of special education hindering label -and its accompanying “medication”- by the time the graduate. Only a small minority truly qualify for such categorizations. The vast majority of them suffer from nothing except their laziness and its resulting ineptitude. Some even take pride in it, saying how lazy they are but how they cleverly they get away with not being clever.
Teachers have taken on the most abuse for the misunderstanding of stupidity. Most of them can spot the problem quickly, but they have no right to call it a problem or to attempt to solve it. Obviously, solving a problem without acknowledging is simply illogical and thus impossible anyway. Therefore, many teachers avoid the problem altogether by lowering the standard for intelligence thus nullifying stupidity. The stupid kids keep their self-esteem and the teachers are spared from the impossible task of bringing an unwilling kid up to grade-level material. Even the standards for certain grade-levels will decline for the purpose of assuaging spoiled kids that hate thinking. A quick glance at a English textbook in the mid-twentieth century and a glance at one now will instantly show the frightening decline in literacy.
For many people, the epiphany that illuminates an ignoramus of his own ignorance will be the spark of curiosity and lead to a respectable livelihood. For others, they will have parents devoted enough to take away their televisions and leave them no choice but to educate themselves. Unfortunately, the rest often fidget and vegetate their way through life and eventually find themselves wondering at their poverty and ongoing depression. That is the fate of the “lazy but smart” kid. Many of them had a warning from their old-fashioned teachers about this reality, but they heard from their peers, the media, and their parents that they were always smart enough but only a little lazy.
Consciously ignoring stupidity inhibits the work of educators while simultaneously disenfranchising the students who unknowingly suffer from it. Only stupidity results from the vice of mental laziness. These two qualities should never be permissible in a school or home for obvious reasons. A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but stupidity by any other name might stink up a child’s opportunity for enlightenment.