Monday, March 26, 2012

My father is very active in his American Legion chapter. He's been a member since about 1950, but never had any sort of leadership in it - joked that you had to be "Anglo-Saxon" to get the keys to the hall or have your son chosen for Boy's State. Fast forward, he is one of the few WWII era members who either 1) is in good enough shape to serve and/or 2) isn't a snowbird.

So, while he still hasn't ascended to top leadership (maybe when he's 90?) he now is Sargent at Arms for the Memorial Day parade and is on the committee to select the HS junior for Boy's State. Last week he went to the school to interview the candidates selected by the guidance counselor. The guidance counselor sadly reported that there was only one candidate. All the other juniors 1) have bad grades or 2) would not want to do it or 3) have parents who wouldn't want their kid to do it. The interviewed boy is the only kid in his class who stands for and says the pledge of allegiance during homeroom. All the others stay sitting and say nothing. My reaction: it certainly shows he is a dissenter, a leader. There may be other bright lights in the class but they are not brave enough to defy the norm.

(This reminds me of the generic, hysterical, threatening, far-right spam that my mother-in-law (RIP) would forward to me 10X per day. I mostly ignored those emails, but now believe I am going to miss them. Sniff.)

Anyway, not to be like those awful emails but this is crazy. It sparked Bob and me to reminisce that about 1/2 of school was spent with the teacher grabbing some smart mouth kid by the collar and dragging him (usually) into the hall. That the schools don't do that any longer, yes, maybe the awful emails are correct on that point. But teachers can't do that any more, and for the most part that is an improvement - all that crap wasted a lot of time and I'm sure sometimes was damaging to the more sensitive. But I'm not sure how much that matters. Yes, the school may play a role, but I'm guessing it is more of a family issue.

I'm not saying kids should be forced to say the pledge, btw -- I don't think they should. We were not forced, but you did have to stand and be respectful. Most kids said it, a few didn't, OK either way. We all stood, or in some cases, slouched. I don't remember too many kids being jerked out of the room by their collars during it. Anyway, it would be sort of disingenuous if public schools didn't bother to blast it over the PA system, wouldn't it?

If these kids truly were philosophical objectors - I'd say, great. They are intellectually alive. But knowing what I do about college students, I am sure the vast majority are simply slackers -- or else just going along with the school culture.

However - if teachers can't take those kind of actions any more, we wondered about the idea of getting rid of high school altogether. What is taught past grades 6-8 that couldn't be learned better elsewhere?

Added: Coincidentally, this is one of the readings for my class discussion this week. I have assigned the slacker group to present on it. Stay tuned.

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