Democracy is a damn good thing, and the increasing democratization of the public chatterbox via the netroots and the blogs is certainly a net positive. But (to use an analogy from neocon mythology) in emerging democracies sometimes you gotta dodge the car bombs and the snipers before you git yer purple thumb.
The car bombers and snipers of Blogtopia are the legions of the uniformed. I compare these folks to Spacedark, Jr. when he was two or three years old. That was his “I help” stage. He wanted to “I help” with any and all chores: painting, dishwashing, whatever. (This is where I should say, “Now that he is in middle school that stage is sadly over.” Only, it’s not. He’s still a helpful kid, but instead of painting and dishes he now wants to help with the global revolution.)
At Panhandle Truth Squad, as at all blogs, we often discuss issues on which everyone believes themselves to be experts. Most of us openly acknowledge our own limitations or biases. But, amazingly, we have a troll (we affectionately call him RacistTexan) who apparently has no limitations or biases. Well, he can’t spell, or write a grammatical sentence, but that’s probably not his fault. He’d probably blame it on public schools. Some disturbing examples of his racism and bad spelling:
- So duh we really don't teach the three R's any more. At least not at the level white children are capable of.
- And black kids will never be smart in their own schools. Only by mixing them with the white kids will they grow a brain.
- But of course allowing a child to get to full potential would result in mostly White and Asians at the top and mosstly blacks and hispanics at the bottom and we can't have that. In the liberal world legislated equality is more important than full potential. Even if that equality requires a dumbing down of a certain white group of kids.
Expert that he is, RT has also demanded to know my qualifications:
do you actually teach literature or is it more english of one type or anouther? And is it a grade school or the college. I suppose Amarillo college could be considered public. Just curious as to the level you teach and if there is actually a pure lit course in high school not trying to insult you or anything.I don’t know RT’s motivations for sure, but I’m pretty sure that my employment in the public schools is sufficient to qualify me for insult in his book. But no matter. I am not insulted, if only because I do not care what RT thinks. For the record—and as many of you already know—I teach junior and senior high school English. RT’s skepticism of “pure lit” courses in high school reveals an ignorance of pedagogy—both contemporary and universal—that alone should make us question his rants about public education. For one thing, despite the fact that I am almost finished with my M.A. in History, I have yet to take any course at any level that was “purely” anything. Every course I have taken, for example, has had a writing component and every teacher and professor has taken her or his responsibility to help students improve their writing seriously. Additionally, contemporary pedagogy emphasizes “horizontal” and “vertical” approaches that teach across the curricula at the expense of purity but to the benefit of students.
Nevertheless, Junior English in Texas is traditionally American Literature and Senior English is traditionally Brit Lit. Grammar is traditionally addressed in-depth in junior high / middle school and research in high school, but these are mixed and matched in the TEKS. The manner in which specifics are specifically mixed and matched is a matter of individual teaching style. My classes contain some in-depth grammar review (because I still believe in diagramming, yargh), but generally teach grammar in the context of the literature. This approach is shown to be successful by most recent research.
Here’s how that works in practice. Yesterday, I conducted a lesson about the Harlem Renaissance. I taught the poem “Ardella,” by Langston Hughes. Since Hughes used the words “would” and “were” to make statements in the poem that were contrary to fact, I taught a mini-lesson on the subjunctive mood. Students’ knowledge of both a classic poem and a little-understood grammatical mood were improved. And despite RacistTexan’s racist claims I was able to teach Readin’ and Ritin’ to students from all sorts of backgrounds.
RT’s strange notion of “purity” strikes me as archaic at any academic level— as unsafe at any speed. The fact that he brings it up shows an utter ignorance of education so extreme that he probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a good school and a poor school. Not that he doesn’t try. He insists, for example, that schools should be segregated into “liberal” and “conservative” schools and the sacred marketplace should determine which is better. He tells us that current schools are liberal and that most educators are raving leftists, a fact which would surprise most of the Republicans I teach with in this small town in the Texas Panhandle. RT then describes what a “conservative school” would look like:
I think I should be able to send my child to a conservative school, that opens with prayer and the pledge of allegiance, and that then teaches conservative values.In accordance to a wacky Texas law, the school I teach at opens with the pledge of allegiance to both the United States flag and the Texas flag. Thanks to the same law, we also open with a “moment of silence,” which is a pretty thinly-veiled prayer. So our “liberal” school looks pretty conservative by RT’s own definition. And the ignorance of Texan critics of public education knows no apparent bounds.