PCism and the unused intellect

“Our” Julia has a rich vein to mine of human folly in the PC line. I’d like to direct her to Randy Cassingham’s This is True, which you can get emailed to you regularly.

Here’s an example:

Tyler Weaver, 9, is the self-titled “king of the reading club” at the Hudson Halls, N.Y., Public Library. He’s won the annual “Dig Into Reading” event for the last five years.

His reign was threatened, however, when the library’s director, Marie Gandron, declared Weaver “hogs” the contest every year and he should “step aside.” Gandron claims that “Other kids quit because they can’t keep up,” and announced plans to change the contest to choose a name at random from all the participants to select the winner.

One library aide, Lita Casey, disagreed, and called the library’s board to complain. “My feeling is you work, you get it. That’s just the way it is in anything. My granddaughter started working on track in grade school and ended up being a national champ. Should she have backed off and said, ‘No, somebody else should win?’”

Gandron and Casey were both fired soon after the incident, but Weaver will have to settle for four years of victory.

“There was a flyer in the library congratulating everyone on the summer reading program,” the boy said. “It had all the readers listed, but it didn’t say who won.” (MS/Glens Falls Post-Star)

And Cassingham adds:

…And thus the push of our students toward mediocrity expands.

At my place, I asked whether it is stupidity or “unused intellect” which is behind such things but clearly it’s also narrative. This sort of thing about not letting one child win all the time I had to put up with at school. I recall battles royal with the other pointy head in the class for the top spot and we did tend to hog the limelight.

Then things changed, became more matriarchal [or nannying if we prefer to be politically correct in our terms]. Now, whenever the hand shot up in class, we’d be ignored and some other kid was made to speak up, which was most frustrating because about four or five of us had the answer, it was bleedin’ obvious and here was this kid being forced to answer and he simply didn’t know.

I can’t see why the natural order of things can’t be allowed to prevail. A teacher can structure a lesson such that it didn’t require this hands in the air thing and the kid can “discover” the answer for himself as part of the materials – this is just basic teaching practice. And kids do get a buzz out of “discovering” the answer. The inverted commas are because of course it’s structured.

But there are things he or she is good at outside of class and any good teacher elicits and encourages the kid to speak of them outside and then tries to get him to give a little talk on them or else does it as a topic, knowing the kid will like the topic and be an expert.

There are ways, in other words. It doesn’t require exclusion in order to include. It doesn’t require the narrative. It requires the teacher, rather than being steeped in the “all must have prizes” narrative, to start using that unused intellect and go back to the good teaching manual of 1950.

But he can’t because he’s been through training college, headed by narrativists, school appointment boards are full of narrativists, the fellow teachers are now narrativists – it’s a vicious cycle towards, as Randy Cassingham says – mediocrity and I’d add the unused intellect.

And then there is OFSTED over here, dedicated to mediocrity and compliance.

Thank heavens for the Lita Caseys still but even there, it was only because of her son’s prowess that she acted and then was sacked for her trouble.

11 comments for “PCism and the unused intellect

  1. JimS
    October 20, 2013 at 10:02 am

    While I agree with you about the drive towards mediocrity I think Baden-Powell showed great wisdom in his book of 1908, “Scouting for Boys”, when he talked about the importance of structuring games etc to give the poorer boys more practice. Consider knock-out competitions like Wimbledon; the best players of round one move on to round two etc. so the best get pushed harder while the worst are discarded.
    When my two nephews discovered computer gaming the eldest created the rule, “you continue to play until you lose all your lives”. That meant that the ‘best’ player got an hour on the computer, then the in-experienced ‘worst’ was knocked out after five minutes!

    • October 20, 2013 at 11:53 am

      Quite agree – games and other activities can be structured so that the better still shine but the less able are not left out in the early stages.

      • October 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm

        Gandron and Casey were both fired..?!? 😯

        • ivan
          October 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm

          One would assume because they raised their heads above the parapet.

        • October 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm

          That one puzzled me too. No drama in that department seemed to be the overriding principle.

        • October 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm

          That was my reaction too.

  2. Bunny
    October 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    There are two ways of looking at it, either Tyler was getting a touch obsessive and needed to get out more, or the other kids had a more balanced life. Such as read and play football, go cycling etc, normal kids stuff. Structuring learning so the weakest get to learn and enjoy it, when it comes to competing I started to enjoy sport outside of school, I knew I was never going to be any good at it, but didn’t care. There was the social and fun side to it too, as well as the health benefits.

    +1 for the Baden-Powell comments, the PC brigade (well more like a corps these days) would love to have the impact that, that one man made.

  3. ivan
    October 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Idiocracy http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

    It would appear that it was prophetic.

    • October 21, 2013 at 5:42 am

      The Marching Morons by Cyril M. Kornbluth.

  4. October 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    There’s always socialist football.

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