Here is my response:
Rebuttal to John Bennett
“I used to like math until I had
Mr. Johnson in third grade.”
This is Mr. Bennett’s rationale
for dropping math from the
curriculum. Because teaching it wrong
through elementary school creates fear and hatred, we should no longer teach it
after elementary school.
“Do you see English anxiety or
Spanish anxiety,” he asks,
then brushes that aside as though “of course you don’t.” Well,
that’s a crock. Yes, I have seen English anxiety and Spanish
anxiety. I see kids terrified of writing
a paper, totally paralyzed with anger about an ungraspable grammar, speechless
in Spanish. In fact, the name of the
education game seems to be “FEAR AND HATE”.
Hmm, according to Mr. Bennett, we should probably
the only question of importance is “do we need this in
real life,” then we could probably discard all education after third
grade. We don’t knead notthin in reel
As some eager person pointed out, if you can
read the last
sentence above, you are reading gud enuff.
But proving this is harder.
There is an entire movement of “back to the basics” or “if it was good
enough for Neanderthals, it’s good enough for me.”
You think not?
read every comment against education and trace it’s subtext in a logical strand
to where it is leading.
It’s leading to that undefinable phrase
that everyone uses
and thinks everyone else understands: “Real
What is Real Life?
Does Real Life include Shakespeare? IPhones?
Video games? Walks in the
park? Death by kidnappers? Holding
Define Real Life.
Is it the way you live your life or the way I
mine. It can’t be the intersection of
those two sets, because that kind of definition is going to have a limit of the
empty set when applied to everyone. It
can’t be the union of those two sets, because that kind of definition will have
the result tending to the universal set when applied to everyone.
Well, who gets to define Real Life?
Got a problem there, don’t you?
And, by the way, did you notice how I used a
example to make my point three paragraphs above, and how I used the accepted
definition of paragraph to get you to the right place, right now?
How much of the substructure of Real Life is
composite of all those subjects we don’t think apply – simply because they aren’t
apparent on the surface? Should we throw
out our endocrine system simply because no people know how it relates to their
It wasn’t until some scientist figured
out what caused
scurvy that sailors had a better chance of surviving long sea trips. And I bet
that very few sailors saw the
connection between citrus fruit and scurvy.
They just accepted there was a connection.
Imagine if Mr. Bennett’s TED presentation
was about the
worthlessness of Vitamin C based on its low ranking in the Real Life score
sheet of the average person, and how we can therefore drop it from our diets.
So where does Mr. Bennett go with all this? He leaps at the end to well there is the
benefit of learning inductive and deductive reasoning. And then, in less than
a minute, asserts that
these skills can all be learned by playing various games that challenge the
brain in such a way as to stimulate that growth.
The moment we start requiring students to solve
or pattern games or whatever you want to call it, you’re right back at the
start: Imposing a system of study on
students that they will find difficult, repressive, and … you guessed it …
unrelated to real life. Yes, even
questions that have the exterior of a real life situation (you are a detective,
and you are at the murder scene, and …) will be found to be artificial and not
related to the real life of sitting in front of a television set, watching the Rose
Bowl, eating food that will clog his veins and widen his pants, while shouting
obscenities at a man on the screen who doesn’t do whatever it is the viewer
thinks he should be doing.
Oh, come on now.
I’ll give a real answer to John Bennett’s
Yes, many kids come out of elementary school
hating school. Not all do, but way too many.
And, yes, junior high school and high school
exacerbate that hatred.
We need to examine the roots of that hatred. When we do, we will learn what most teachers
already know: There are many roots and
the hatred is not the same from child to child.
Some children hate school because school keeps
from their technology addiction. Take
this one seriously, folks, because it is real and it is documented and it is
the most important crisis of the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Some children hate school because it is at school
learned to hate themselves. That is, school
introduced them to feelings of self-doubt and of failure they have never felt
Some children hate school because it taught them
fear. Fear of grades, fear of the judgment of
others, fear of consequences related to things out of their control. So much
of elementary school relies on the
threat of bad grades, parental conferences, and the possibility of rejection by
those who are most important to these children – parents, other members of an
extended family, some friends perhaps, even their teachers.
Some children hate school because they are bullied
because they are isolated there, or because they singled out for some
difference in attitude or skin color or belief or background or dress or social
standing or …
Some children hate school because they have to
sit still at
a desk for longer than their own biological/psychological mechanism is
Some children hate school because they cannot
learn by “reading
over someone else’s shoulder”, which is my metaphor for following a
lecture. Or because they cannot learn by
reading a text for comprehension. Or
because they cannot learn from a group activity, especially one where the
others in the group grasp ideas first and steal any possibility of his participation.
Some children hate school because it starts too
early in the
day and their biological system is just more sensitive to this than the
majority of students. Or because they
can’t take a nap in the early afternoon when our Circadian Systems have the
second most powerful sleep period. And
these students just feel out of synch and can’t get into the instructional
Some children hate school because they just had
lousy teachers. Teachers who are rigid
and can’t accommodate differences among their students, or teachers who think
pizza parties are the answer to education and conspire with their students to
present the illusion that education is taking place by giving good grades for
Mr. Bennett is a fool.
He is a narcissistic fool who thinks that because his students hate his
subject, that somehow his subject is the only subject they resist and whine
about and do poor work in. Why doesn’t
he look at the book reports his students write for their English classes and
see what kind of spellers his students are, see how well they master grammar,
see what kind of vocabulary they have mastered.
Why doesn’t he visit their social studies class and see if they have the
slightest comprehension of what important events have contributed to the
important decisions they have shaped the important structure of human society
today, and whether or not any of those initial events may now be recurring?
People hate learning because somehow we, the
allowed that to come about. And that is
what we will pay the piper for.
But the solution is not going to be throwing
because educating humankind is all we have to save us.