Friday, August 8, 2008

The Globe tries education

A periodic "middle schoolz sux" article came out in the Globe today. As usual, some accidental truths buried in the notes of somebody clearly unfamiliar with modern education. I agree with the statement that "there has been longstanding confusion of what the focus of middle schools should be". Mind you, the current trend to resolve that focus as mathmathmathMATH oh and ELA ifthere'stime isn't great, but at least we're determinig the problem.

However, the article is still stained by ignorance. As an exemplar, I present this sentence:

The findings are raising questions about the best teaching practices for students wading through the turbulent years of puberty, first crushes, and short attention spans.

This was middle school in the 1950s, but not anymore. I've taught third-graders with "crushes" and "boyfriends". While it's mainly mere words, I've seen adversarial behavior that makes it clear that "flirting" and "crushes" are a defining characteristic of child socialization since about 7 years old.

By middle school, students are way beyond first crushes, and are crashing through other firsts. Puberty is finishing up by grade 7, starting by grade 5 due to improved nutrition. We're not talking puppy love -- we're talking pregnancy. This is something to which staff and faculty at schools have adjusted, but our system has not.

For deeper, more complex thoughts on this subject including necessary contextualization of the "failing" middle schools of Massachusetts within the American spectrum, I shall merely refer you to Mark Bail on this one.

NOTE: Too many parents are implicated in some of these social changes. It is chilling to hear anybody refer to a baby girl playing peek-a-boo as "flirting" -- would you say that about a boy? It is not a good thing to give your toddler girl a purse and cell phone holder. To tease a kindergartner about "boyfriends". Most any girl will carve a place for boys within her socialization during adolescence, but encouraging an emphasis on looking pretty and flirting at a very young age does not lead anywhere good.

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