From A School Superintendent, Authentic Frontier Gibberish And More Evidence Of Why Our Children Are In Trouble.

A nice, smart, passionate, and painfully progressive Facebook friend posted this letter with approval on his page. It was originally written and posted by a superintendent in Voorheesville in upstate New York, and has been circulating on social media for all the wrong reasons. The letter was directed to “All teachers and parents.”

I’ll have some observations at the end, if I can control my gag reflex.

Dear Friends and Colleagues: I am writing today about the children of this pandemic. After a lifetime of working among the young, I feel compelled to address the concerns that are being expressed by so many of my peers about the deficits the children will demonstrate when they finally return to school. My goodness, what a disconcerting thing to be concerned about in the face of a pandemic which is affecting millions of people around the country and the world. It speaks to one of my biggest fears for the children when they return. In our determination to “catch them up,” I fear that we will lose who they are and what they have learned during this unprecedented era. What on earth are we trying to catch them up on? The models no longer apply, the benchmarks are no longer valid, the trend analyses have been interrupted. We must not forget that those arbitrary measures were established by people, not ordained by God. We can make those invalid measures as obsolete as a crank up telephone! They simply do not apply. When the children return to school, they will have returned with a new history that we will need to help them identify and make sense of. When the children return to school, we will need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned. Remember, their brains did not go into hibernation during this year. Their brains may not have been focused on traditional school material, but they did not stop either. Their brains may have been focused on where their next meal is coming from, or how to care for a younger sibling, or how to deal with missing grandma, or how it feels to have to surrender a beloved pet, or how to deal with death. Our job is to welcome them back and help them write that history. I sincerely plead with my colleagues, to surrender the artificial constructs that measure achievement and greet the children where they are, not where we think they “should be.” Greet them with art supplies and writing materials, and music and dance and so many other avenues to help them express what has happened to them in their lives during this horrific year. Greet them with stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world. They missed you. They did not miss the test prep. They did not miss the worksheets. They did not miss the reading groups. They did not miss the homework. They missed you. Resist the pressure from whatever ‘powers that be’ who are in a hurry to “fix” kids and make up for the “lost” time. The time was not lost, it was invested in surviving an historic period of time in their lives—in our lives. The children do not need to be fixed. They are not broken. They need to be heard. They need be given as many tools as we can provide to nurture resilience and help them adjust to a post pandemic world. Being a teacher is an essential connection between what is and what can be. Please, let what can be demonstrate that our children have so much to share about the world they live in and in helping them make sense of what, for all of us has been unimaginable. This will help them– and us– achieve a lot more than can be measured by any assessment tool ever devised. Peace to all who work with the children!Being a teacher is an essential connection between what is and what can be. Please, let what can be demonstrate that our children have so much to share about the world they live in and in helping them make sense of what, for all of us has been unimaginable. This will help them– and us– achieve a lot more than can be measured by any assessment tool ever devised. Peace to all who work with the children!

Observations:

  • This is classic “Authentic Frontier Gibberish,” containing lots of buzzwords and feelgood phrases in an uplifting tone that create a mood rather than an actual message containing information. It is designed to make everyone feel warm and optimistic–and shout out “Rarrit!” like Gabby Johnson—without providing anything useful, just rationalizations and fantasy.
  • It is also one more example of “Yoo’s Rationalzation,” or “It isn’t what it is.” Our children, including college students, have been robbed (unnecessarily) of nearly a full year of crucial and irreplaceable social interaction and other experiences, and this sap wants us to believe that it was all valuable. Why is “lost” is quotes? Does the writer really believe that nothing had been lost in a year in which kids have attended school through computer screens while being robbed of normal recreation, socialization and interaction with peers?
  • Is it too cynical to suggest that the writer is attempting to relieve teachers and administrators of their responsibility for closing the schools and handicapping our children while simultaneously triggering a general society shutdown, by claiming”It’s all OK, just different!”?
  • What are those “stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world”? How would they be different from the stories and books that will help them make sense out of life generally, before, during, or after a pandemic?
  • What is it that children have to communicate about what is going on that will be so enlightening, when adults have been inconsistent and incoherent, continue to make decisions driven by panic, guesswork, emotion and politics, and still appear to have little sense of what’s coming next?
  • I detect in this screed the basis upon which we now allow children lecture us on various policy matters about which they know little except what their teachers have force-fed them regarding guns, climate change, civil rights and speech. “Listen to the children!” Why? Well, they are attractive vehicles of pre-programmed advocacy that cannot be criticized without bringing fury down on critics.
  • It is, or should be, terrifying that our schools are led by administrators and teacher capable of flabby reasoning like this, and that this is the quality of mind teaching our rising generations.

12 thoughts on “From A School Superintendent, Authentic Frontier Gibberish And More Evidence Of Why Our Children Are In Trouble.

  1. “What is it that children have to communicate about what is going on that will be so enlightening, when adults have been inconsistent and incoherent, continue to make decisions driven by panic, guesswork, emotion and politics, and still appear to have little sense of what’s coming next?”

    That’s when they find out which of their peers were stuck at home the entire year and which of them had parents that put them on a plane and vacationed in Florida!

    Those interactions should be interesting to navigate for a teacher whose students will want to know why some kids got to do whatever their families wanted and never got sick.

    (As an aside, my brother and his family – his wife’s a nurse – went on at least two trips out of state, had multiple gatherings with lots of people not wearing masks and only got COVID when their son brought it home from school after in-person learning resumed in the Fall. It was a mild case for three members of their household and one son never got it at all)

  2. I have serious concerns about what has happened educationally in this country and I am positive at this point that it is being swept under the rug. You can read into motive anything you like, but we essentially have a 2-tiered educational system at this point. Before the lockdowns, the public school children seem to be about 2 years behind their public school counterparts. I am talking on average. Well, the public school children learned nothing last year (the extended time without education has made them regress), but private schools have continued on educating. You can tell nothing is happening in the public schools because they have eliminated letter grades in my state. They have eliminated all standards. Meanwhile, the private school kids continue on with their education.

    So, now we have public school children who are 4 years behind the private school children. They are even further behind the elite private school children. I am talking 4 years behind the $500/month religious private school that does the best it can. How are the public school children ever going to compete? That is an entire high school or entire college education behind.

    Our public schools used to be good enough that there was a lot of overlap between the best public school students and the private school students. You could go to public school, work hard and still have a shot at the best programs. I see that time as over. Social engineers have been trying to remove education as a way out of poverty or a way to move up society’s ladder for some time. That is why the mostly-minority inner-city schools have been kept so bad. You can’t preach institutional racism and hopelessness if kids are getting ahead by doing well in school. You can’t preach that merit is racist if you see people getting ahead by merit. Well, those social engineers have had their fondest dreams fulfilled. The only people with merit now are those from public schools, from wealthy parents. The system is now truly rigged. The only way for inner-city kids to get into a good program now is racial set-asides. They cannot compete on merit because their education has been sabotaged.

    There has always been a small elite in this country that wants to set up a hereditary elite. You could see it with the people who wanted George Washington to be king. You can see it with the people who fawn over the British Royal Family or people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. You could see it when medical schools required the recommendation from a licensed physician and each physician could only give 2 recommendations in their lifetime (the reason my father couldn’t get accepted to medical school). You can see it in the unpaid internships used to screen out the poor in fields like finance and journalism (internships are all paid in science and engineering, as required by law). There has always been a democratic element that fought back against this movement, and education was the key.

    Well, education is gone. The best programs, the top jobs in government and industry are now the sole province of people who could afford a good private education. There is no way to compete when your education is 4 years behind. Your school won’t even COVER the stuff you needed to know to compete against the private schools at this point. The same will soon be true of colleges. Most colleges will just become high schools, they have no choice. The average college student today has to take 2 remedial math classes to be where the average student was 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, the 50th percentile freshman I advised was in Calculus I. Today, that student is in Algebra II. Next year, they will be in Algebra I or worse. The good private school students will be in Calculus II or III. There is no way to make up such a deficit without spending an extra 2 years in college and even that probably won’t do it. It is just too hard to learn this stuff when you get older.

    Of course, to cover this up, the biannual federal testing has been cancelled for this year. The last one was in 2019 and the next one will be in 2023. There will be no way to actually quantify the damage done by the educational policies of the last year. My state’s teacher’s union is pushing to eliminate the state tests this year as well (they had none last year). The rationale given in both cases is that the majority of schools aren’t capable of giving the tests in their current state. Well, that should be an even BETTER reason to give the tests! Federal law says that no school is eligible for federal funding if they don’t give the federal tests. As is common now, an unelected federal agency has just waived the law. In the immortal words of Daniel Musseg, “Laws are arbitrary!”. How can you have a society based on laws when we see over and over again that the laws only apply to some people?

    I don’t see any way to fix this. This is especially true when people keep insisting that public schoolteachers are worthy of respect. My governor has bumped public school teachers to the front of the line for the COVID vaccine because he said getting the children back in school is a top priority. I should have called Vegas that night and wagered everything I could that my state teacher’s union would come out against the vaccine the next day. The teachers are refusing to go back to teaching until there is no more COVID in the world. They will still collect their benefits and salaries, however.

    We now have the setting for the hereditarily tiered society the elites in this country have been slathering for for decades. They have done it by securing education only for their children with the full cooperation of the public educational system. If you don’t believe it, explain how someone can compete in a ‘merit-based’ system if they are denied a comparable education?

    • About 25 years ago, I remember Jane Pauley relating how professors that would have assigned her multiple books when she was attending IU in the ’70s lamented to her that, in the ’90s, they couldn’t assign half of those same books to their current classes.

      That was 25 years ago. Things have only gotten worse. A college degree in this country means nothing at all but a possible admittance ticket to an entry level job at a company somewhere.

      • That isn’t universally true. Standards have dropped, but there are still some good schools turning out graduates who actually are proficient in their field. I have had numerous students who did summer internships and found that they knew more about the job than the full time employees who had degrees and years of experience. I had a student get mad at me after such an experience, demanding to know why I gave them a ‘C’ in the relevant course. I was just horrified by the thought of the level of work being done in that state lab.

        One of the big problems is that the best instruction isn’t being done at the schools you have probably heard of. Despite this, employers seem to treat the quality of degrees based on the success of the school’s football or basketball team.

  3. You won’t find this surprising, but there are actually those who agree with this feelgood claptrap. (Note: I’m not one of them) F’rinstance, Diane Ravitch. Her brief introduction to the piece:
    https://dianeravitch.net/2020/12/12/teresa-thayer-snyder-what-shall-we-do-about-the-children-after-the-pandemic/

    Teresa Thayer Snyder was superintendent of the Voorheesville district in upstate New York. She wrote this wise and insightful essay on her Facebook page. A friend sent it to me.

    But that’s merely an amuse-bouche. The real story is in the comments to Ravitch’s post. With very few exceptions, the commenters are completely supportive of Snyder’s gibberish. To wit:

    Wow! Such wisdom regarding the real needs of our children. They are not vessels needing to be refilled; they are hearts and minds that need to be touched and nurtured with compassion and love. Then the rest will follow within the laws of how human development truly works.

    This is the perfect time to abandon the testing punishment model COMPLETELY. I would say we need to take this opportunity not to REstructure, but to DE-structure our classrooms. Children and teens can guide you to what they want to learn and teachers should develop their lessons of math, science, history, writing, speaking, investigating, art, music around children’s interests so that the students remain engaged and excited about learning all the time! I know it works. Convincing administrations, politicians of that is a different story entirely.

    How can we make sure you are our next Secretary of Education?!!!!

    Saddled with ‘educators’ who are so vehemently anti-education (i.e. tests are a form of punishment), I weep for the future of our great nation..

      • You can see what it means in their programs. How many programs do we have to create ‘safe spaces’? How much instruction is geared to tell them that America is racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic, and basically the worst country that has ever existed? How much is geared towards teaching them how ‘systemic racism’ is keeping them down? How much is teaching them that the government needs to come in and make everything better and until it does, they are doomed? It is indoctrination, teaching the children to toe the leftist line and learn to demand the government fix everything. Vote for the people who will make the government give them everything. Teach them that they are helpless to do anything on their own.

        Why do you think kids aren’t getting their driver’s licenses or buying houses in the last 10 years. It hasn’t been because the economy was bad or they couldn’t afford it. It was because they were programmed to stay children. They are told it is wrong if they can’t stay on their parent’s insurance until they are 26. They are told they can’t buy a house. They are told they can’t get a good job. They have been taught not to grow up. Read the ‘journalists’ of today, look at the new politicians like AOC, listen to ‘professors’ like Christine Blasey Ford. These are all very old children. Those are the people they are being taught to be. If they were taught useful information and skills, they could earn a living, provide for themselves, and they wouldn’t need much from the government. The last part is the key.

  4. The most alarming aspect of “the pandemic” is the feverish, teeny-bopper-like excitement it has stirred up in so many, for lack of a better word, enthusiasts. They act as if they are fourth graders and this is a snow day or a hurricane where we get to put up the storm shutters and stay home with our parents and listen to the radio. It’s so exciting! It’s historic! It’s unprecedented! Next, people will be wearing T shirts proclaiming, “I survived Covid-19!” Morons.

  5. I appreciate that they want to get away from the poorly-designed educational curricula and standards, but I don’t think they have any tools to replace them with.

    That’s why I created the Foundational Toolbox for Life. It’s what people need to learn growing up in order to become mature, capable, responsible, ethical members of society.

    I alone obviously don’t have all the knowledge and tools that should rightfully be included in it, but that knowledge exists, and I created the box to put it in and the means to help people understand how it all fits together.

    https://ginnungagapfoundation.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/the-foundational-toolbox-for-life-abridged-dictionary/

    We don’t have to decide between a bad status quo and a bad proposed alternative. We don’t have to decide whether to trust a foolish populace or a corrupt government.

    What we can do instead is create a beacon for everyone who knows we can do better and who is willing to learn how and to work together to make it happen.

  6. This REMINDS me of the CADENCE of the CRAZY people online that write EVERYTHING in long RUN ON SECNTENCES capITALIZE words strangely punctuate infrequently and incorrectly and never start a new paragraph all while putting in BUZZWORDS bumper stickers and emojies to carry the day.

    Peace.

    Amen.

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