George Sarant

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Posts Tagged ‘honor

HEY, TEACHER, ALL THOSE KIDS ARE SMART!

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There was a considerable amount of feedback on a piece I wrote previously about gifted students in city schools. One in particular alerted me to the fact that there is a kind of mirror opposite happening in some of the suburbs, but curiously producing the same kind of leveling results. In this case the number gifted, accelerated, honors, etc. classes are increasing, not being phased out. This might lead some to conclude that the kids have somehow gotten a lot brighter, but in reality it is more a matter of parents demanding their kids be placed in the accelerated classes, thereby diminishing their effectiveness, and thus diluted they in effect become the new “ordinary” class. As one teacher wrote me: 

 

Years ago, the accelerated classes were reserved for the upper 5% (give or take) of students who earned grades from 95%-100% during seventh grade in their Math and Science courses. In addition to their classroom grades, students were required to earn high marks on a placement tests to discover the truly gifted from those who were simply good students. In other words, if a student had a 95% average and scored high on the placement tests, they’d skip the general science and math courses and they’d start taking High School Regents classes ahead of time in the Middle School.  Today, since the placement tests are considered “biased”, parents can just call and ask to have their kids placed in accelerated classes. As a result, instead of one or two sections of accelerated courses in eighth grade, we now have four in Science and three in Math. This makes good publicity for the School Board, but with so many kids in accelerated classes (that don’t belong), the teachers are no longer challenging the highest 5%. Instead they’re spending most of their time trying to get kids to pass a Regents course, where their previous caseload was smart enough to pass the Regents from day one. In prior years it was assumed that the kids would inevitably pass the Regents, so more time was devoted to truly advanced lab and activities that would challenge the genuinely gifted. 

A a result, since all of the “good” students are now in accelerated courses, those who remain in the General Science classes tend to be our lower functioning kids who are now paired with Special Education students who have to take class in a general education setting as opposed to the old self-contained settings.

So here again the gifted students do not get the kind of education they should, being combined with what are essentially ordinary students, who have not suddenly become equally bright. While this gives bragging rights about all their “honor” students to parents and school officials, as the teacher further states, “Accelerated classes in 2014 are more like the “typical” classes of 15 or 20 years ago. The “typical” classes of 2014 would have been a Special Ed class in 1985.” Thus this kind of system also results in the general dumbing down  of the curriculum as in the city schools, only here the pretense is that most of the students are exceptionally bright, at least statistically, which is all that seems to matter these days. But in truth the end result is that there is essentially nothing for the truly gifted, with all the negative consequences  described previously. 

It is also unfair to the teachers to the extent that those with the “ordinary” students are evaluated the same way as those with the “bright” students, even though they cannot possibly get comparable results. Teachers have to do a lot more than produce statistics and it should definitely not be the only way to determine their effectiveness. To the extent this arises from federal mandates they are simply making things worse. I learned from another, unrelated context, that when you have to produce numbers you wind up not doing what you really were supposed to be doing substantively in the first place. There may be a “statistical” success, but little true progress. 

Written by georgesarant

February 7, 2014 at 7:42 PM

HONOR AND PASSION

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For as much as we are capable of reason, human beings are also creatures of passion. This is usually most pronounced in adolescence when a river of emotion and hormones can sometimes overwhelm us. At that age we usually do not have the requisite perspective to tame or control these feelings. We are subject to animal instincts that are difficult to temper. There are two possible mechanisms of control- external, under the supervision, restriction, or approbation of others, or internal, by way of self-discipline and conscience. If the latter are not sufficiently developed, passion will continue to reign in adulthood.

Passion can be all-consuming and once in its grip everything else becomes secondary as perspective is lost. The rush of emotion can be so intense it overcomes all other considerations, resulting in a total absence of common sense. We are all subject to it, even superficially; who is not drawn to an attractive woman? But mechanisms of control must be developed, and values we think ought to provide some restraint do not seem to. Love cannot control it alone; one may truly love their spouse and yet succumb to aroused passions. Rectitude, faith, reason, and the moral sense cannot ameliorate lust when the fire burns. Why do otherwise sensible men behave like lovestruck teenagers?

All of this is in play in the case of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina and the widely reported affair that seems to have effectively caused him to flip out and disappear to Argentina for a number of days. Republicans are far less tolerant than Democrats of errant behavior because we expect people to practice what they preach. Given that he heads what is just about the most Christian state in the union his position seems untenable to me.

I believe there is only one thing that suppress such passions, and that is honor. A well-developed sense of honor is what can keep passion in check. In the past it was honor that sustained unrequited love, based upon one’s sense of obligation and duty. Unfortunately in modern times it has fallen out of favor and self-aggrandizement is the order of the day. Honor can only be instilled by proper upbringing that enables one to resist temptation despite all that is going on around us. Unless and until we restore the value of honor to its proper place there is little to control an unchecked ego seeking to indulge itself.

Written by georgesarant

June 28, 2009 at 10:06 PM

Posted in morality

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