Saturday, September 06, 2008

Saturday During a Tropical Storm

It's Saturday, and I'm at home while Tropical Storm Hanna is unleashing a ton of rain outside. Frankly, it's no worse than the average thunderstorm, at least not here. And as for the tropical storm wind warnings--I get bigger gales from my ceiling fan. I actually wish there WAS more wind--it would look cooler.

So, while I'm avoiding housework and 2 restless cats, I've been listening to more of John Foxx (mentioned in my earlier Ultravox post). I've been checking out more of his solo work, from "Metamatic" in 1980 to "Tiny Colour Movies" in 2006. Much of what I've heard is pretty sublime, and at the same time, very emotionally distant. I'm particularly liking it, because it goes along so well with some of the fiction I've been writing these days. In any case, I stand by my thought that John Foxx is seriously underrated; obviously he has a core of fans, but why he isn't more well-known as an artist is an absurdity to me. Then again--it seems like the best authors, musicians, and artists remain on the fringes, while a lot of trash ends up selling big (particularly true of music AND books). I don't know what this says about humankind, but it can't be good.

Speaking of absurdities--at work I've been working through cataloging a number of curriculum guides for our university's teacher education program. Maybe I'm out of the loop, but I was totally amazed to see that there are curriculum guides in science, math, social studies, and reading for kindergartners. These kids are 5 YEARS OLD. From what I've been told, this has been practice for quite some time now. The curricula get more and more difficult, classes are more and more structured--even their free time is overly structured. Who the hell ever heard of a "play date"? I hear that phrase often from my friends who are parents, and it makes me cringe. My Mom, who is one of the most paranoid individuals I know, would just turn us loose and tell us to be home by suppertime. We NEVER had schoolwork over the summer, not until high school--and that was just summer reading.

If you think all of this makes our kids smarter or more educated, you're wrong. I routinely deal with undergraduates who can barely put a sentence together. Scholarly research is pretty much non-existent (sorry, the first page of Google hits on your keyword search is not research). Most of them would not pick up a book to read for leisure if their life depended on it. My graduate students are a little better, but as I mentioned in another post, the worst offenders seem to be elementary and high school teachers. It scares me that these people do not have basic language skills.

My friend Liz (who used to teach elementary school kids until she became burned out) theorizes that most kids are burned out by the 6th grade. This is probably true. There seems to be little regard for leisure, spontaneity, or creativity in the education system (or kids' lives in general) today. Whatever happened to unstructured play? How do kids express themselves? I'm not encouraged by the kind of adults they seem to become. D.W. Winnicott is probably rolling over in his grave.

There is the whole issue of "protection" in the same way that the U.S. Patriot Act is an expression of "protection"--imposing limits in the name of safety and security. I don't buy either one. I'm sure there are some cases where kids need to be sheltered a bit more. But when I'm told that things "are worse now" than they were before--nope, don't buy it. We just hear about more things now than we did before.

I don't know what the consequences of building a nation of adults who are barely literate and can't fend for themselves will be, but I also imagine that it can't be good.

Ah well. I continue to marvel at the absurdity of humans. Creation science museums, Westboro Baptist Church, George W. Bush, the fact that the Eagles even exist as a band...the list could go on.

It appears that Shiva is shredding my paperwork upstairs. Enough speculation, back to reality...

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

You are right on the money about "the over-scheduling of kids"

It is a shame-

In terms of protection- you don't know how many times I deal with parents (especially mothers) who are offended by everything and don't want their kids knowing this or that. One mother was offended that her daughter who is 10 was reading a book that mentioned "jock itch". It was supposed to be a book for children, and the mother felt it was very inappropriate. They over-react to everything. It is crazy.
"The Abstinence Teacher" by Tom Perrotta- touches on a lot of what you are writing about. As does his other novel "Little Children".

Well, I hope this comment is coherent.