Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bullshit in the Schoolhouse

So there's a kid in Texas who got suspended for four days because he wrote YOLO (you only live once) on a test, tweeted the picture out, then refused to take the test.

This, in a nutshell, is everything that delights me about school.

First there's the kid. I love teaching high school kids because most are looking for ways to screw with the system. When I was in high school, our principal, a guy named Loomis, was upset when my friends Tom and Todd printed up a Martin Luther style pamphlet entitled "The Holy Church of the Saint Loomis." It was creative genius right down to how it was printed on an old printing press. (I went to school before computers were widely available.) Had they been less than stellar students with parents who supported their creativity, they would have been suspended or worse, but Loomis couldn't make it happen. Instead, he turned himself inside out destroying copies of the pamphlet and delighting students and staff alike as he did so.

Kids push boundaries because they're supposed to. It's a function of learning. They're testing their bullshit sensors. This kid in Texas knows nonsense when he sees it and he knows how to respond to it.

Just so you get the whole picture if you didn't read the article, he declined to take a pilot test designed to collect data for test makers to create a "better" test for the future.

That's a steaming pile of bullshit. He knew what to do with it.

And the school knew just what to do to him because schools almost always do the same thing. They suspended him in school for four days because tolerating bullshit is half of what makes school go round.

Consider the New York State Regents exams. These are tests that determine high school graduation. years ago, there was Regents diploma and a non-Regents diploma, but it was decided that everyone should be a Regents scholar. So the tests had to be watered down. I remember one science test in particular that had to be curved over thirty points. The Regents diploma became bullshit but has to be sold as something worthwhile.

Didn't the SAT have to be rounded upward once or twice so scores would still fit the old model? The new scores are bullshit or maybe it's the new SAT. It's tough to tell.

The kid who called bullshit on the testing has to be locked up in suspension because his actions might incite other students. The school can't have that.

But, to misquote Scooby-Doo, the suspension would have worked except for those meddling Twitter users and Facebook folks.

It's easy to tweet a picture of your test paper on which you've written YOLO. You can even send it to the department of education and local news outlets. Your friends will pass it along, people will blog about it, and eventually someone will make a YouTube video.

of late, the bullshit in schools has been ratcheted up. It is named "Common Core" or "APPR" or "standarized assessment," but students know what's what and occasionally do something about it. Sometimes lots of people notice. The school responds in the only ways it knows how, but those ways are antiquated. I'm waiting on this kid tweets from in-school suspension.

This kid gave his school district a test and they failed it. Does the school still get to graduate? Does it get held back a year?

I don't know. All I know is that I hope this kid writes on and on.