Saturday, February 9, 2008

Galloway breaks Down, Part 2

Tony Galloway's outburst was a defining moment in the thirteen years I spent at that college prep day school in the comfortable shaded suburbs of Philadelphia. There were other similar eruptions -- crying fits, corridor fights, swearing and throwing tantrums, but this threat of suicide in a blind rage was the topper. And yet, it made complete sense. During the several minutes Bergstrom was out of the room collaring our classmate, we children decided that while Tony's reaction was overcooked, it was justified. We all knew what he meant and we all felt some of his outrage at our situation and treatment. We agreed that Bergstrom should have been more sensitive to the boy's limits, and should never have pushed them.

No one else in that class would have threatened to kill himself over one more incomplete homework assignment or reprimand or insulting comment by a teacher. Tony was, we agreed, strung a little tighter than the rest of us. He was odd, eccentric, focused on things we couldn't know about. He was not self-absorbed, but preoccupied and content with another set of ideas that he could not share easily with us.
Galloway had been chased into the office for a tense conference and the inevitable phone call and silent ride home. We never saw him again, but heard that he might have been sent to a military school for further torture.

We were all repressed children. Our school was not enlightened about children or learning beyond the neanderthal techniques of government schools. After all, they get their rationales from the same sources. We were trained to obey, to believe in an established order, not to question authority, not to think for ourselves, not to make our own decisions. In fact, our school did all the things to us boys that its literature would say it did not do, that it would never do or even intend. Its founders and leaders were blind to the contrast between what the school said and what it did. This, despite its motto: ESSE QUAM VIDERE - Be rather than seem to be.

Moral: Most, if not all, of what fifth grade children do in school and what teachers do in order to coerce them to do it, is a boring waste of everyone's time, if not intentional cruelty.

Back to the future:
Nothing has changed. School is as hellish now as then. All the children feel its torture in varying degrees, but only a few boil over in rage. Today, the reactions are more forceful. Kids have weapons.


christinemm said...

Yes it is true, today some have weapons.

And some bring them to school and use them or try, in Kindergarten or grades younger than 5th.

Also however, we have this new thing happening. This labeling of children and drugging them in an attempt to suppress them.

When I was in school in CT in the 1980s there was exactly one child in the high school (of about 1000 students) on Ritalin. Everyone knew he was on it and he was called "hyperactive" as the diagnosis. To go from that statistic in the 1980s to what we have now is downright scary.

My sons don't have ADD but I knew my five year old (older son) was not ready for full day Kindergarten as this town uses. I knew he was not ready to learn to read and to do math in the way public school teaches it. I knew he would be labeled ADD for wanting to move and play and to not sit and take orders.

The reality show on HBO Family called 'Kindergarten' breaks my heart. It first aired when my son was exactly Kindergarten age. I used to cry when I watched it, especially the boy who the teacher clearly hates and that she picks on in many episodes. That boy is small and seems 'immature' for his age. He probably should have been delayed entry to Kindergarten a year to 'grow up a bit more'. The episode where she tells him how bad he is and where the makes the principal tell him so was heartbreaking.

She also resents the largest boy in the class, who is very bright and talkative about what he knows. That boy either is on the older side compared to the others or may be gifted, or has a very rich home life filled with learning things. That boy has a hard road ahead of him.

And I saw how the focus was on group management not learning. And how so many questions the children had were ignored (i.e. the butterfly episode).

Since the show aired in 2002 I wonder what has happened to those kids. Depending on the filming dates they could now be in 6th, 7th or even 8th grade.

I see the show is still playing on HBO Family on reruns.

On the HBO site back in 2002 I read that the producers thought the teacher was fantastic and that this was a model classroom filled with children of different ethnicities. I thought the teacher was mean.

Regarding your Galloway story, it is heartbreaking. I have many stories from my public schooling in a CT shoreline town a stone's throw from you. I think part of my issue with schooling is that I was observant and saw what was going on. Although I personally was not a struggling learner I was very aware of what some other kids were going through and it was hard to see. I do not want that for my children. And that is a main reason why I homeschool and live this 'alternative lifestyle' which outsiders often judge and criticize.

Ned Vare said...

Thanks, Christine

Mark said...

Wow Christinemm. I did not get that impression of the teacher from HBO's Kindergarten at all. I thought she was patient and kind to all the students. Maybe you're a little over sensitive about the situation since it hits you personally. It's true some children take a little longer than others to adjust to a teaching environment, but I never noticed the teacher clearly "hating or resenting" any of her pupils. We as an audience didn't get to see minute by minute what exactly happened in the classroom. Maybe a lot of the kid's questions were edited due to time constraints. At any rate I sure hope you're not one of those parents that blame the teacher if your child is disruptive in class. When one child is disruptive, it affects the entire class and takes away valuable teaching time from everyone.

capri said...

I agree with you Mark, Christinemm's comment shocked me. I thought the teacher was patient as well, but then again I'm also the parent who makes sure my child is not disruptive in class. If she does misbehave I expect her teachers to let her know, whether in front of other students or not. Also, at the kindergarten age kids do not quite grasp the concept of talking out of turn so therefore I think by ignoring the questions that was a subtle way of reminding them that they need to wait to speak.