As I’ve mentioned before, my “schooling” was abysmally bad:
Now, admittedly (at least according to the Wikipedia article) Annville-Cleona school district has improved significantly in the 20+ years since I was subjected to their (dubious) “educational” approach.
The first thing that was genuinely cockeyed (and, in fact, borders on incomprehensibility), was the fact that I was subjected to the weirdest course of “schooling” they could devise:
See, I was (mis)diagnosed as simultaneously “gifted” and “learning disabled”.
Their “reasoning” was approximately as follows:
By the time I entered first grade, I was already exhibiting what they described as “college-level” reading comprehension. (This really isn’t that difficult: phonics (or at any rate, understanding that specific syllables are “mapped” to specific phonemes/phoneme-clusters solves the infamous “dilemma” involving monosyllabic vs. polysyllabic words.
(TL;DR: if you’re actually literate, then you won’t have any difficulty with polysyllabic words: monosyllabic words like “fox” are not inherently “easier” than, say, “long” words (antidisestablishmentarianism).
(As a side-note, wouldn’t “antidisestablishmentarianism” be equivalent to “Establishmentarianism”? It would seem – at least in principle – that one opposed to “disestablishmentarianism” would qualify as an “Establishmentarian”.
(At any rate: since I am vehemently opposed to collusion between “Church” and “State” (even such “ceremonial” viciousness as designating one particular superstition the status of “official” superstition — I am most definitely NOT an antidisestablishmentarian.
At any rate: the unfortunate thing in my case was: Although I actually knew how to read when I began my formal schooling, I was “only” doing “pencil and paper” arithmetic at *slightly* above “grade”-level.
I hadn’t spontaneously reinvented algebra/geometry/trigonometry/calculus on my own, in a vacuum, merely for the sake of doing so.
Quite frankly, I have never found the mere activity of adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing arbitrary groupings of numbers to be at all interesting – at least not as an “end in itself”.
To be honest, I have always (at least implicitly) viewed mathematics as a system of symbols, the primary use of which is to “model” reality. The whole “symbol manipulation for the sake of symbol manipulation”-thing (so-called “pure” mathematics) has always been genuinely uninteresting to me.
For example: the first time I genuinely became interested in what THEY claimed was “math” (which was merely arithmetic) was when they finally got around to introducing so-called “word problems” — hypothetical scenarios which we had to “abstract” into the typical arithmetic “problem”.
“Word-problems” immediately struck me as infinitely richer in “content” than the grinding idiocy of page upon page of “drill”-problems, consisting of mere “number-crunching”.
Now, here’s the thing: I barely even had any READING material at home. Both of my “parents” were (and remain) functionally illiterate. Oh sure, my Mom could stumble through Woman’s day and cosmopolitan, but that’s about it.
So, here’s the thing:
My “schooling” was irremediably fucked from the beginning, because they insisted on conflating “mathematics” (an amazingly broad palette of sub-fields) with mere ARITHMETIC (probably the least interesting of those sub-fields).
Then, they (mis)used the fact that I was performing significantly above “grade level” in some areas (reading comprehension) as an excuse to misunderstand any other level of performance as being indicative of some “deficit” or other – importantly, even levels of performance which would have been considered “age-appropriate”, in a less “exceptional” student.
Put bluntly: in my case, being at “grade level” was (mis)read as a ‘deficit”.
Think about that.
Also think about the necessary implications of their “remedy’ for the above (supposed) “problem”:
1. (Mis)classify me as *both* “gifted” and “learning-disabled”.
2. Arbitrarily divide my school-day into thirds: time with “normal” students, time with “Gifted” students, and time relegated to the incoherent dumping-ground euphemistically called “Special” education.
Now, that was interesting: I didn’t actually need any of the experiences (such as they were) from the “gifted” program: I was already a voracious reader who saw no difference between “reading for pleasure” and “reading to learn” – because learning is pleasurable.
Thus, class-time wasted on pablum (such as the Encyclopedia Brown and Choose your own adventure books) didn’t benefit me, at all. It was merely wasted time.
In the same vein, being relegated to the “resource room” and the dumbed-down pseudo-instruction provided therein, did nothing to solve the (nonexistent) “deficit”.
All it did was give them an excuse NOT to even attempt to teach me the subjects which I had failed to spontaneously reinvent on my own (algebra/geometry/trigonometry/calculus, etc.)
They systematically fucked me out of such instruction, by the following means:
First (since the “resource room” basically served as a dumping-ground for everybody from the kid with Tourette syndrome right on down to the kid who tortured and killed animals for ‘fun’, and used to brag about how much he loved to light stuff on fire, and watch it burn)- there was no possibility of anything even resembling systematic “instruction”.
Instead, we were tacitly (or explicitly) “encouraged” to slog through these truly godawful “textbooks” related to whatever our “remedial” subject happened to be – on our own, with as little involvement from the “teacher” as possible.
In my case, this consisted of repeating exactly the same arithmetic text every year – even though doing so bored the shit out of me.
At the time, the gimmicky bullshit onto which they had latched was something called “Touch math”. Essentially, this “method” manages to combine the worst aspects of “pencil-and-paper” arithmetic, with the worst aspects of “finger-counting”:
The following video gives you a glimpse into the “theory” behind this shit:
Let’s just say, I did not find this “engaging” or “fun” in the least.
Quite frankly, I found my entire “schooling” to be extremely grating:
- I was relentlessly bullied by pretty much everybody. (Being “jumped” at recess and being kneed in the groin until I vomited wasn’t particularly ‘fun’. The fucked up aspect of that was, the guy most directly responsible for doing so was one of my “school friends” from the resource room.
The guy was basically illiterate, innumerate, and came from a physically abusive home situation – so he tended to take out his frustrations on me.
2. The school had overhead fluorescent lighting. I hate overhead fluorescent lighting — especially when it does the sort of things which the guy in this video mentions in passing:
So, yeah: being stuck in a room where the only source of “lighting” was overhead, fluorescent tubes which (more often than not) were either: flickering, generating weird colors, making that fuck-awful buzzing sound — or all of the above, in a room where another student cannot restrain himself from making random shrieking/hooting noises, and another student tended to yammer incessantly about how much fun it was to kill stray cats — let’s just say, this was not anything even resembling an “educational” environment.
Now, the thing about the above approach to “special” education is: Although I *had* been performing (slightly) above grade-level at the beginning, it was essentially inevitable that I ended up “falling behind”, in terms of mathematics.
Why, you ask?
Well, while the other students were being instructed in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus etc. — *I* was merely run through exactly the same “Touch math” book every year – with no possibility for being permitted to advance any further.
At the beginning of 9th grade, the administration made an “error”, and placed me in a “normal” algebra class. During the two months that elapsed between the beginning of the school-year, and when they finally discovered their “error”, I was managing to get “A’s” and “B’s” on a consistent basis.
The fucking imbecile who postured as a “Guidance counselor” decided to take it upon himself to schedule a meeting with my parents – where he straight out told my parents and I that I was going to be taken OUT of that algebra course, and dumped back into the “resource”-room, because he didn’t believe that I was “prepared” for the course-work.
I looked him straight in the face, and said to him: “In other words, you’re removing me from a class which I am passing, merely because you believe that the course will actually require me to learn something.”
He sputtered, hemmed and hawed for a bit, and then claimed that he “wouldn’t have put it exactly that way”.
He didn’t have to: I SAVED HIM THE EFFORT OF BEING HONEST.
Relatively soon after that, I came to the conclusion that anything even approximating “education” was impossible, so long as I was forced to attend that abysmally shitty “school district”.
Since there was no chance of persuading my mother to move, and (virtually0 no chance of having myself emancipated, my most rational decision was to wait until I turned 16, and could “legally” drop out – and then take the GED.
I stood infinitely more of a chance with a GED, than I would have, if I had continued to attend that shitty school-district, and been “graduated” with a “special ed.”-tainted transcript.
As it was, more or less on my own initiative (and mostly using books I found at a library a few towns over), I was able to “cobble together” enough genuine mathematical knowledge to pass the GED. I’ll freely admit that it was “lopsided” (heavily in favor of my preexisting reading-comprehension, which had not changed substantially over the decade I had wasted via public “schooling” – except inasmuch as the disparity between my “linguistic” and “mathematical” skill-sets had – slightly – decreased – DUE TO MY EFFORTS, and despite that “school” having attempted to hobble me at every turn.
At any rate, I had absolutely no respect for that “school” whatsoever, by that point.
However, that’s not the primary substance of this post.
The primary substance of this post concerns a specific school assembly we had some years before I finally told them where they could cram their “guidance”. 🙂
The assembly consisted of some organization (I don’t really remember which one) coming in, and presenting some sort of explicitly Fundie Christian agitprop, after which they gave us all “free” copies of the (KJV) “New Testament”.
Now, I can already anticipate the yip-yap this is likely to elicit from “Fundies”:
“How can you possibly have anything against an organization giving out free Bibles?”
Quite frankly, I have a hell of a lot against that, actually. (Pun very much intended.) 🙂
Consider the following, hypothetical scenario:
An exactly identical school assembly, with one minor difference:
An explicitly MUSLIM organization, handing out FREE copies of the Q’uran.
I’m pretty sure “Fundies” would shit themselves from rage, if that happened.
That’s exactly the problem: Christians — particularly Fundie protestants — have a blatant “double standard” where religious matters are concerned:
They want free reign to brainwash ignorant and vulnerable children/teenagers into uncritically swallowing their specific variant of “Christianity” — during school hours, when the children/teens in question are FORCIBLY COMPELLED TO ATTEND.
Moreover, they expect that their (purportedly) “sacred” text will be treated with kid gloves. In the event that they get insufficient ass-patting from the “Secular” world, they typically start whining about how they’re being “oppressed”.
The most blatantly evil thing about the assembly in question was: no non-Christian group would EVER have been permitted to proselytize openly during school hours – let alone, at a MANDATORY school assembly.