Friday, July 14, 2006

Weaving is the property of few these days

And weaving has company:

While sharking around at a local thrift shop, I found a very old book, "Selections from the Poems of Ovid." My book is longer than the unavailable listing at Amazon because it has a 91-page vocabulary section (so you, too, can translate a Saint Ex book title to "volatus nox").

The book is small but wonderfully heavy, and wears its 120-odd years of living well. Old books rock.

As does old-school education. The book is "intended as an introduction to the reading of Latin poetry," which presupposes a level of knowledge that I am sorry is no longer widespread.

I can appreciate the view of people opposed to teaching only the old, white and dead, but I can't say the same about those opposed to teaching anything old, white and dead.

Having had an education inflicted on me at South Salem High School, then a nationally recognized school of excellence, I can say with authority that there is more than enough time to teach the new and old, white and non-white, alive and dead - even if that meant double the workload - without pushing students much beyong a reasonable amount of work.

To put it mildly.

5 comments:

Holly said...

Vol de Nuit et un bon livre, mais je préfère Terre des Hommes. C'est le mieux! N'oubliez pas Le Petit Prince: Dessine-moi un mouton! O peut-être un cochon? Je t'aime mon amour.

lulu said...

"Having had an education inflicted on me at South Salem High School, then a nationally recognized school of excellence, I can say with authority that there is more than enough time to teach the new and old, white and non-white, alive and dead - even if that meant double the workload - without pushing students much beyong a reasonable amount of work."

Well sure, if you get kids who read at grade level and have parents who are invested in their children's education. However, when students start high school reading at the 6th grade level and the parents aren't particularly concerned, Latin is not going to be a priority.

Alasdair said...

True, Lulu, from any point of view.

I don't think I've ever had a reporter return from a school board meeting with a notebook full of comments from parents who wanted much of anything, unless it had to do with athletics or taxes.

I suppose that by the time kids are old enough to be AP tracked, they've missed their golden opportunity to spend years learning dead languages, something that would probably need to be done wholesale, unless the kids were tracked wicked early.

I dunno about that, though. When do you have to start to be good at Latin?

Once again writing anecdotally, I can vouch for an interest among the smartypants at South Salem, about a dozen of whom volunteered for an early morning math class taught by a math teacher who was probably also volunteering her time.

The class was well received by the few who took it, but how could you mandate that?

I am certain (OK, semi-certain) that if a teacher who happened to be capable had volunteered to teach early-bird Latin, a similar number (probably the same kids) would have signed up.

So, I agree: Early childhood education and parental investment play a crucial role in setting the stage for a more demanding curriculum. How to get there from here, I can't say I've got a good map.

lulu said...

The same 40 kids at my school sign up for everything. It is an ongoing struggle trying to schedule club meetings etc., because the debate kids are the drama kids are the honor society kids are the art club kids are the.........So when it comes to something like play practice, any kid we cast has to drop all of his/her other activites.

I am not a fan of tracking. I understand the need in certain classes, like math maybe, and I agree that it can be a bonus for the smart kids, but mostly what tracking does is pull all of the smart kids out of the regular classroom, which lowers the level of discussion enormously. I would much rather teach two English classes that were inclusive than one honors class and one regular class. Without the smarter kids, the lower level kids have no role models.

In Chicago we have "selective enrollment" aka magnet schools, which effectively pull the top 15% of kids out of the regular neighborhood schools. None of the non-magnet schools have met AYP for NCLB, think there might be a connection?

Alasdair said...

Too right. From an academic perspective, I'm no fan of tracking either. I'm not so sure about this from a practical perspective.

I did see - again, this is a math example - a huge difference in the quality of in-class instruction between my lower-track geometry class and the algebra II class I took the same year. Granted, the saintly volunteer math teacher taught algebra II and geometry was, well, it was a class.

And in English, I know that at least one good candidate was turned away from an AP class because he hadn't occupied the right track up to that point.

Look, maybe I'm not the right person to ask about this, because I come from an academically privileged background (I hope you and I and the butterfly lady are the only ones who read this...).

The butterfly lady did not come from such a background, and said that she suspects she wouldn't have turned out the way she did (which is excellent-ly) if she hadn't been able to take advantage of a tracked system at her high school.

Be all this as it may, I caught a lot of shit for doing well on tests ("You ruined the curve again!") from my classmates in geometry. And you can be damn sure that didn't encourage me to ask questions.

So, a mixed bag. Which is about what one would expect.

As for AYP, yes, for certain.

I'm not sure how selective enrollment works there, but here we have something I suspect is similar: At the elementary- and middle-school levels (we have just one public high school, with a couple thousand students), Walla Walla residents may send their children either to the school in whose realm they live or any other school in the city that has room.

OK, it is first-come, first-served, but you just know that the parents who want their kids to go to the best-performing school are the same ones who parented your 40 thespians/artists/honorollites with a few outliers thrown in to confound the statisticians.

I've heard parents talking about "getting their kids into X" school, so I know it is done. I'll have to assign this story: Do the schools that draw the most out-of-area pupils have the highest scores on the state tests? I think the answer is duh, yeah, but maybe word of mouth and school performance dont' match up...