The PC Bandwagon

I promised more, so here it is:

I'm a practical person, and I'm also pretty old-fashioned when it comes to teaching.  As a student, I demand a lot of myself.  My grades have always been high.  As a teacher, I demand a lot of my students.  I don't like excuses.  I don't like whining.  And I really don't like entitlement.

The first night of class, my professor told us she thought teachers shouldn't be required to take tests to be certified.  ("Some people don't do well on tests.")  I asked, how would she recommend we determine whether a teacher is fit for a teaching job?  She mentioned Problem-Based Learning, which, once explained, sounded an awful lot like a test under a different name.

Another time, she told us we should never require a student to read aloud.  ("Only choose the ones who volunteer.  Some students can't read aloud, and it embarrasses them to try.")  How, I asked, were they ever going to learn how if they didn't practice?  Easy: I was supposed to tutor them outside of class, call their parents, lobby for an IEP and oversee the whole thing during, you know, my free time.

Even after these two experiences, I was unprepared for the Crowning Jewel of Political Correctness: ELL / ESL students.  These are immigrant children who don't speak English well.  Here are some of the tips we received during class:

  • Learn a little bit of the students' native languages so you can converse with them.

  • Allow the students to answer during class in their native language.

  • Add the works of artists, writers and scientists from their native cultures to your curriculum.

  • If they stop participating in your class, don't push them.  Allow them to integrate at their own rate.

  • Put flashcards around the room with vocabulary words in English and their native languages.

  • Allow students to be assessed in their native languages, or to select assessments in their strongest area.

As I typed the notes, I could feel my color rising.  One thought came back to me repeatedly: ELLs are going to be the next Prize Disability.  Already, parents are rushing to get their children diagnosed with ADD so they can have preferential treatment on tests and in class.  (And yes, it absolutely is preferential: they are seated in the front of the room, checked up on with regularity, and generally coddled by the administration, who knows their parents will protest if the concessions cease. God help these children when they go to their first board meeting and declare their need for a Notes Buddy!)  The students who really do suffer from learning disabilities are done a disservice, too: cynical teachers (myself included) and resentful students make life difficult for them, and in many cases, such as a private school like mine, we simply don't have the resources to give them the help they need.  It's a real mess.

And now we have another oppressed minority to handle with kid gloves.  I'm sure all those suggestions are great ones, but they amount to tutoring, not teaching.  It is preposterous to expect a teacher to learn another language for the benefit of a handful of students, and it is equally preposterous to allow the student to dictate the terms of his own education.  Like I said, I'm old-fashioned.  Let the teachers teach.  Let the students learn.  Abraham Lincoln taught himself to read by candlelight.  Joe Louis proved a black man could be an American icon.  Barriers will fall only if we face them without fear and without whining.

Okay, tell me I'm an insensitive jerk.  Seriously.  Am I wrong?