Posts Tagged ‘grade’
My immediate reaction to much of what I read online or in the paper is usually of interest, disgust or fatigued exasperation. Even when my reaction is a combination of all three, I usually don’t also think of a movie I haven’t seen in a long time.
Then I read about those recent wild, graduation parties, opulently celebrating success and promotion — from the 8th grade. Interest; disgust; fatigued exasperation. Then, I thought:
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen The Incredibles.
Having seen animation from both sides of the Pacific, and a lot of it, I have some authority to say that among the Pacific-sized morass of crappy cartoons, The Incredibles stands out. Even years afterward, it remains one of the few that entirely avoids typical conventions: journeys of self-discovery, boneheaded comic relief henchmen and breaking into song. It’s also one of the few movies with substantive depth.
The Incredibles had novel, distinct themes, and, like few other animated movies, had them in the plural sense. The most central theme went to the effect that “if everyone is incredible, then no one is.”
When I first saw the movie, it resonated. It shouldn’t surprise me that it also resonates with the idea of full-blown eighth-grade graduations.
In the last few weeks at Community Middle School in Plainsboro, N.J., year-end activities have included a formal dance; the Cameo awards, an Oscars-like ceremony for students in the television and video production classes; a trip to Hersheypark in Pennsylvania; and a general awards assembly. On Thursday evening there was a salute to the entire class. On Friday, the class picnic.
Community Middle’s veneration of its young teenagers is neither unique nor particularly excessive (the dance was in the gym). Across the country, in urban and suburban school districts, in rich communities and impoverished ones, eighth-grade celebrations now mimic high school or even college graduations: proms, the occasional limousine, renditions of “Pomp and Circumstance,” dignitaries speechifying and students in caps and gowns loping across the stage for diplomas. …
In many towns the sophistication and expense of the graduations are surging. The Internet teems with teenagers seeking comments about dresses and hairstyles for year-end events. Party planners, caterers and invitation designers market themselves for eighth-grade parties.
The students at the middle school in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., an affluent community, enjoy a dinner cruise with a D.J. around Manhattan. And in the stricken schools of Chicago’s South Side, Mr. Cowling said, “It’s a big business event: everyone has on a new outfit, manicures, pedicures, the hair” for a ceremony that can last two hours. “And then,” he said, “kids go to 5, 10 parties in the neighborhood, in hotels.”
What damage do we do to our kids, when we celebrate moving from the eighth grade to the ninth? How do they develop a sense of distinction, when everyone is distinguished? Do we really want to devalue success, for the sake of keeping everyone feeling good about themselves? Why feel good about doing the absolute minimum?
Ego egalitarianism is the wrong path. We need to encourage success and recognize failure, rather than give everyone that gold star of triviality. If not, we might end up like Kurt Vonnegut foretold, Madeline L’Engle affirmed, and Bob “Mr. Incredible” Barr ranted.
It is not a graduation. He is moving from the fourth grade to the fifth.
It’s a ceremony.
It’s psychotic. They keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity.
Celebrating marginal success encourages marginal success. That’s bad any way you look at it.
What are the appropriate lengths for celebrating an eighth grade graduation, so that it doesn’t encourage marginal success? How much is overkill, and how much is ideal?
Neatorama turned me on to this nice little feature from The Times Online.
A Jew was stranded in a Moscow trainstop and needed to find a telephone. He turned to the man next to him, asking, “Are you anti-semitic?” “Of course not, what an awful thing to ask,” the man quickly replied. The stranded Jew asked several more Russians the same question, but they denied being racist.
Worried and exasperated, he finally turned to a disgruntled comrade in the back corner of the train’s bar.
“Comrade, are you anti-semitic?”
“Hell yes, I can’t stand them!”
The Jew paused for a moment, sizing up the hulk of a man that sat in front of him. Then, he said, “Finally, an honest man. Here, would you watch my luggage while I go find a payphone?”
There are more where that came from.
It occurs to me that jokes like these, while they’d at first go over the head of my students, would effectively cement everything they learned about communist Russia.
To get the jokes, they have to know basic history, and the quality of life back then. While many Soviet jokes run on the premise that everyone ate potatoes and had to wait a really long time for basic goods and services, there are some wonderful exceptions.
Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev are on a train crossing Siberia when the conductor comes back to them, saying that it broke down.
Lenin says, “Re-educate those responsible.”
The conductor comes back, saying, “This has been done, yet the train isn’t moving.”
Stalin says, “Shoot those responsible!”
The conductor comes back, saying, “The driver and the engineer have been shot — but still the train isn’t moving.”
Brezhnev says, “Paint the windows black and tell everyone we’re moving.”
What I worry first about is the student who sits in the back of the room, frankly not caring and not even pretending to be interested. With enough personality, and with enough preparation, this might work marvelously.
Thoughts on how this might work? Or, if you have no qualms, any favorite communism jokes?
I’ve decided to teach the bulk of 7th grade medieval and early modern history as a geography class. You heard me: geography. As in maps. I won’t ignore the standards — I’ll throw in a Holy Roman Empire here, a Reformation there — and yet the first few months or so will be purely geography.
… and that will the beginning of my job interview. It might also be the end. I’m required, you see, to demonstrate a 10-minute lesson to an small classroom of administrators.
And before those powers that be throw me out for being one of those insufferable standards ignorers, I will point to the standards. For every culture in the standards for 7th grade history, there’s a geography-related standard. Case in point:
7.2.1: Identify the physical features and describe the climate of the Arabian peninsula, its relationship to surrounding bodies of land and water, and nomadic and sedentary ways of life.
This pattern continues on, and so I feel justified in my example activity. I love how this assignment fit together so perfectly.
I will provide them with borderless physical maps of various regions in the world. Their assignment will be to place a given number of settlements, noting which two would be the largest. After this, they will be asked to estimate where the borders of their country end.
They need to know how geographic features affect human life, and so I provide this on the assignment sheet.
- Rivers and lakes supply food, water, transportation and trade. They can be a natural border between friendly countries, but are ineffective protection between dire enemies. Most major rivers and lakes are marked on your map.
- Coastlines supply food, transportation and trade.
- Plains are ideal for farming food, but are less useful the farther away they are from rivers. While they do not protect you, they do make trade easier.
- Deserts are too dry to sustain settlements, though nomads can live there.
- Mountain ranges are often natural barriers, separating you from other countries.
- For our purposes, seas are natural barriers.
There are also rules.
- The bigger your country, the harder it is to control it.
- Deserts and mountain ranges will produce very little food.
- You need fresh water. You will need lots of fresh water. (Hint: Oceans and seas do not provide fresh water.)
- Natural barriers (oceans, seas, rivers, mountain ranges, deserts) generally separate languages and cultures.
- For the purposes of our activity, your land area must be contiguous.
For modern world history and U.S. history, I would do a similar thing with tactics for my unit on wars. Always have the high ground; try to outflank your opponent; you need air cover.
If any of my 7th graders don’t know, for example, what “contiguous” means, they’ll put it on the Word Wall.
That’s my lesson for the administrators. Wish me luck.