by Gary North
A whining child is an annoyance. When parents allow whining, it will continue. When they tire of hearing whining, some of them capitulate to the whiner. The whiner learns that whining pays: no negative sanctions and occasional positive sanctions. The behavior continues.
When your child whines, you must intervene with negative sanctions, beginning no later than age three. The child learns this fact of life: whining never gains a benefit, and it may gain a spanking. Children learn about sanctions very early. They respond accordingly. Whining is curable at a young age.
It is now my self-appointed task to impose some negative sanctions on a group of whiners. Someone should have done it earlier.
A SITE FULL OF WHINERS
A reader sent me a link to a most remarkable website. This site is apparently a site devoted to whining. The whiners are all adults. They are parents of children who are enrolled in the middle schools of Gwinnett County, Georgia. The parents do not like the program in the local schools.
School officials have implemented a pass-fail program for the 7th grade. A student can flunk every test, fail to hand in any homework assignment, and still get promoted to 8th grade. How? By passing a final exam.
The parents are quite upset. Why? Because their children fully grasped the implications of this system of academic sanctions. Early in the term, they drew the correct conclusions: (1) you can slack off all year, cram for one exam at the end, and survive; (2) if you fail, you can go to summer school and pass.
Bright students catch on real fast. They know they are competing against equally lazy boneheads. The boneheads, being boneheads, will fail the exam, leaving the bright kids afloat. The district will not dare to fail too many students. So, the bright kids get a free ride all year. They go into neutral and stay there.
Their parents have created an entire website to whine about this system and its predictable results. "What a grotesque system! Where did these idiot administrators get such a bonehead idea?"
I suggest this answer: From Oxford and Cambridge. For centuries, these two universities adopted a similar system of academic sanctions. Students were not expected to attend lectures. They were not graded for courses. They had to pass exams at the very end of their years on campus. The results? (1) Teachers who were horrible lecturers and rarely saw their students; (2) students who paid no attention to course work. Adam Smith complained about this system a quarter of a millennium ago.
Whether parents back then whined about the curriculum, I do not know. What I do know is that they kept sending their children through the system, century after century, and the system did not change.
Parents, then and now, can always impose sanctions. If they do not like the program in Gwinnett County, they can send their children to private schools. They can teach their children at home. They can move to a school district that offers a different program. But all this would cost money. Parents prefer to save money. So, to prove that they are caring parents, they whine. They whine on-line, for all the world to see.
Any school administrator who visits this website knows the truth: the kids fully understand sanctions; the parents do not. The system will not change based on these parents' negative sanctions.
SLOW LEARNERS AND FAST LEARNERS
Let us begin.
My daughter is just finishing up 7th grade and it has been the year from Hell! We had the worst time getting her to do her homework. First of all, her homework didn't count as an academic grade but as an "effort" grade. She could work for hours on it, get it all right and it didn't count academically. Stupidist thing I've ever heard of. In addition, this using the Gateway as the only criteria for passing a kid on to 8th grade really sucks. We fought such battles with her about her school work, only to find out that it didn't matter what she did or didn't do and how many zeroes she racked up... as long as she passes the Gateway she's promoted to 8th grade! What's with that????
What is with this is that administrators can control the pass-fail rate. They can decide what percentage of students should stay behind. One exam decides this, and they grade the exam accordingly. Meanwhile, the teachers are now off the hook. "Your child refused to hand in any assignments. Don't blame me!" It is just like Oxford and Cambridge used to be: no responsibility for any student's performance, and the money keeps rolling in.
It is all about sanctions. The educators get paid. The parents in the district must fork over the tax money by law. Whining parents get to post their complaints on a website, and this de-fuses them. No muss, no fuss! "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but only funding cuts hurt us."
It makes it very difficult for parents whose kids are smart enough to realize that their homework doesn't count for much and that Gateway is all that matters. We grounded her, we took fun stuff away, we yelled, we talked softly...you name it we tried it and the response we always got was "Don't worry. As long as I pass the Gateway I'll get promoted!" We couldn't even threaten her with summer school because that's reserved only for kids who don't pass the Gatweay...and once again all the kids know this!
You bet they know it. These are bright kids. They are learning how socialism works by going through a high-cost, low-sanctions system of education. The bureaucrats who run the public schools are reproducing their own kind: paid bureaucrats who do not have to meet standards set by consumers.
We only have to deal with one kid regarding this issue... I can't even imagine the frustration felt by 7th grade teachers! They have to combat it times 30! I don't think the Gateway has helped Gwinnett County in their quest for better educated students. All it's done is teach kids that you can get by even if you only put in minimal effort, as well as it's forced teachers to "teach to the test."
This is exactly what it teaches. Socialism does not respond to market forces. Consumers have no authority in socialism. The system is compulsory. Why, then, should public school students or their parents complain when the tax-funded local monopoly school system teaches these principles to students? The educators say, "Learn by doing!" In the context of socialism, this means, "Learn by doing practically nothing." As the old workers' slogan in the Soviet Union put it: "They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work."
I'm thinking Superintendent Wilbanks needs to re-evaluate this whole situation. How about going back to the regular ol' way of doing things... you do the work, you get graded, it counts toward something and you pass. Simple!
Do these parents think that the schools are run by na´ve fools? School administrators know exactly what they are doing. This is an educational system designed by administrators and teachers who did not do well in their academic careers. Anyone who doubts this need only read any of the books by Professor Richard Mitchell. He quotes, word for word, publications written by professional educators. He then compiles books filled with these choice items: The Graves of Academe, The Leaning Tower of Babel, and Less Than Words Can Say.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead.
Dr. Mead was quite correct. She did not say, however, "Never doubt that parents who do not have enough sense to pull their kids out of the public schools can change anything in those schools."
We are having the exact same problem with our 7th grade son. The grades were bad all year, but once he realized that the Gateway would get him promoted the grades dropped further. No amount of loss priviledge made any difference. He'll just flat out tell you that he hates school. He's a very smart kid, but simply refuses to do the assignments. Last week we had a conference and it was clear that his teachers do not believe that he should go to 8th. However, they could not come out and say it when we asked the question. They all just looked at each other and refused to answer. You could tell that they have been told to not answer.
See? No negative sanctions. The kid has figured out how the system works. He knows how to beat the system with the lowest possible expenditure. Like most of us, he wants the best deal for his investment. He has made a cost-benefit analysis based on one year of school. His parents may think that he has failed to understand the system, but it is they who have failed to understand the system. This is what tax-funded education eventually becomes whenever it is granted a near-monopoly. The exceptions are institutional anomalies — rather like students who are self-motivated enough to work hard for no visible reward.
Liz, we had the exact same problem with our daughter when she was in the 7th grade. See this is where the problem starts — in the first few days of there 7th grade year, a couselor comes into the class and tells these students, that they can do nothing all year and get complete zeros for everything, but as long as they pass the GATEWAY they would pass to 8th grade. They have NO business telling these kids this, because what we have had now with her entire 8th grade year is no will to do anything, nothing but problems, arguements about everything, no desire to complete one assignment.
The audacity of these teachers! Telling the students in advance how the system works! Telling them how it works undermines parental authority. Never tell the complete truth to a kid. He might draw accurate conclusions.
When those of us who understand how tax-funded education works try to tell this to parents, most parents resent it. They do not like the conclusions that are logically drawn from such an analysis, especially this one: "Pull your child out of the system before he is destroyed." That one costs extra money. Parents prefer not to be told about sanctions.
Every day is a fight about homework and to turn in class assignments to actually get a grade. So now she is on the verge of failing 8th grade without going to summer school and I blame a lot of this on our wonderful school system. Of all people, they should know you can NEVER let up on a child, but by telling them they can sit and do nothing all year is for the birds!!!!!!! So these actions carried right over ot her 8th grade year and the teachers tell me they have major problems now with most 8th graders because they were allowed to do nothing for their entire 7th grade year!!!!!! What are we teaching these kids!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will tell you — — — BE LAZY, it will get you to GREAT places in life!!!! "NOT"
What are we teaching these kids? First, the schools are teaching them that they do not have to produce anything of value in order to survive in a tax-funded, bureaucratic organization. The teachers learned this when they majored in education, and they have the paychecks to prove it. Second, the parents are teaching them that if it costs extra money to buy something better, do not pay it. Let the kids pay the price for a rotten education by forfeiting the time lost in tax-funded institutions.
One parent has figured it out. She stands alone.
I have 2 daughters in Gwinnett County schools right now. This summer, I am home-summer-schooling both of them...I can tell you, my oldest will most likely finish 5th grade at Dacula Elem and then I am homeschooling her for 6th grade on, unless they give me any more reasons to pull her out earlier next year. She makes excellent scores on CRCT and they sent a letter saying "It looks like she passed the Gateway", they recommend her for gifted every year based on her testing scores.
However, she cannot spell worth a carp, do simple math (she still counts on her fingers for basic addition and subtraction), or easily tell time on a clock with hands. Every homework assignment she brought home this year was a chore for us, because we were having to RETEACH each math concept as she learned it. Their math book has more pictures in it than it does actual math problems.
I am so fed up with public school. I would encourage you to read some essays by John Taylor Gatto, 1991 Teacher of the Year in New York City, who quit because of his disdain for what really goes on in government schools.
I agree. The website of John Taylor Gatto is an excellent place to begin.
The children are fast learners. They have figured out how the system works. It is their parents who are in need of remedial education.
May 26, 2005
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