Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Monday mumblings

Fresh when it gets here from Julie Barrett
Monday, February 20, 2006

It's Monday, it's still cold, and I feel the vague rumblings of the Winter Bug Truck. I've taken some OTC meds, but I have a feeling that it may be the equivalent of hearing the truck too late to completely jump out of the way. So perhaps I'll end up with a couple of metaphorical broken legs rather than being metaphorically crushed under the weight of the metaphorical truck. Have I used that word enough? I think so.

Here is one big reason we do DI. The link may require registration, so I'll summarize it here. Over at the Dallas Morning News editorial blog one of the topics of debate has been No Child Left Behind. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? A local community college instructor wrote to Macarena Hernández about how NCLB fosters a lack of critical thinking skills among students. Teach to the test. Pass the test. Ready for college. The line that got me: "Students are afraid of thinking things through because they're terrified of being wrong (and BTW, terrified is not too strong a term)."

This is why, in spite of all of the whining, that I continue to herd kids through this program. DI not only teaches critical thinking skills, but also teaches that the real rewards are in the process rather than winning. Don't get me wrong: We all love to win, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. The problem as I see it is when we emphasize the end of the road over the journey.

I live in what's considered to be an affluent suburb. You've heard of this city. It made the cover of Newsweek magazine over Christmas, and not in a good way. There is a culture here of emphasizing winning. Parents do science projects for their kids (how else do you explain the abundance of 4th-grade projects written at college level?). Athletes take steroids. There is an over-emphasis on being the best. Years ago we had a spate of student suicides, blamed in part on this emphasis. Kids felt that they weren't living up to the expectations of their parents and teachers and some took the permanent way out.

Gads, that was depressing. While those are the stories that make the news, the parents and teachers who do understand that there's no shame in not taking home that medal get lost in the shuffle.

So that's the deal. As much as I'd like to see these kids get rewarded for their hard work by a trip to the state tournament, what I really want to see is that they've learned some life skills. These are the kids who have a better chance of success in the real world. Life is not a standardized test, and it's not a contest where Mommy and Daddy can do the work for you.

Okay. Off the soapbox.

Paul and I were both so dead tired last night that we went to bed early. No Britcoms for us. I had a fitful night of sleep and woke up feeling like...well, I've been through that already.

I've got a little work to do, perhaps another Flaming E-mail Of Doom(TM) to send out, and a LOT of laundry. Then get some DI paperwork done before our meeting this afternoon. Joy.

And a writing link before I go. Looks like I just missed out on the Publishing Idea Train(TM). Dang. (Note: I wouldn't click on this at work or school due to language. You have been warned.)

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Filed under: Life   Education         


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