Lessons from the classroom

  • Article by: LYNDA MCDONNELL
  • Updated: June 10, 2009 - 6:07 AM

Since January, I have spent two hours a week at a charter high school in Minneapolis, helping students learn the basics of journalism and produce a school newspaper. I was student as well as teacher, learning from companions who are two generations younger. Here are some of the lessons I learned. 1. Labels don't describe what's in the package.

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bcollins747Jun. 10, 09 6:35 AM

Let's see if I have this right. This journalist learned by spending just TWO hours a week in ONE classroom that special ed -- and in particular bipolar disorder -- does not consist of a neurological illness and disrupted functioning of our body's most complex organ, but merely a way to put off doing homework? By my calculations, that left here at least 38 hours to do something about her insulting ignorance.

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davehougJun. 10, 09 8:04 AM

"Investing like this in poor kids is surely cheaper than paying the costs of prison, family violence, addiction and chronic unemployment." I LIKE my own money, spend as little of it as possible. I'd rather raise a person to be another taxpayer than shell out for police, prisons, courts, addiction, crime etc. davehoug@comcast.net

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futuricsJun. 10, 09 8:49 AM

the investment starts with classes for parents of newborns on discipline and the importance of reading to their children." In the U.S., we discipline our children by putting them on medication and then leave them to watch TV or play video games.

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g610125Jun. 10, 09 9:29 AM

All kinds of bad behavior can be niced up with medical terminology. And there are diminishing returns for all this expenditure. For a couple of years, North Dakota and Washington DC were first and last in dollars per pupil and scholastic achievement. That is, DC spent the most and had the worst results. ND the opposite. The argument can be made just as easily to invest in programs for gifted kids, as they will go on to change the world. Or the average kids as they will be the economic base.

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bcollins747Jun. 10, 0911:23 AM

One of the problems of the debate is people know so little about the subject they're debating. Take the gifted kids vs. special ed kids for example, which reinforces the notion -- as the original author did -- that "slow" and "lazy" are accurate alternative terms for -- in the case she cite d-- bipolar. In FACT -- if I may invoke a fact -- bipolar kids all tend to have far higher IQs than the "normal kids." And often times when you put them in the classroom with "normal" kids, their behavior is exaccerbated by their inability to be challenged, because the teachers are going slow enough for the "normal kids." People with bipolar ARE, in fact, quite often the ones who DO change the world. Van Gogh, for example. Alvin Alley, Ted Turner, Buzz Aldrin, Beethoven, Winston Churchill are all believed to have been bipolar. In fact, the brain that allows them to change the world is also the brain that gets them labeled in school by teachers and journalists who don't know what they're talking about as "slow" and "ungifted." That a journalist would so quickly embrace the ignorance surrounding the issue, and then present it as academic fact on an editorial page only compounds the tragedy of the illness. We should all seek to be more informed about this and we can't do it if we're being led by the uninformed.

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cailinJun. 10, 09 2:27 PM

I don't think this writer was demeaning special ed or bipolar students at all. Quite the opposite; she was commenting on how schools tend to use those labels/diagnoses as excuses not to expect "too much" out of students they assume can't deliver the goods, and how her experience showed her how wrong those sterotypes are. My own son is a special ed student, at the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum; I vividly remember a boy in my own fourth-grade class who displayed exactly the same symptoms that tipped us off to my son's conditions. No one knew what to do with the boy in my class; he was simply labeled a "discipline problem", stuck at a desk, avoided by everyone, and "automatically" passed from one grade to the next because no teacher wanted to be "stuck" with him. No one expected anything out of him. This writer is cautioning us against making the same mistake with the kids of my son's generations, under a different label.

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dakmarkJun. 10, 09 6:00 PM

At what point do you invest more in the kid who has the potential to become an engineer versus one that has the potential to drink from a straw? I know, I know... mean, cruel, inhumane on my part. It's an extreme example of what we are becoming. The schools cater to the lowest common denominator and those that show the most promise get short-changed. No winners. No losers. Can't we all have the same outcome? No. Life doesn't work that way. The most recent example of how crazy we are is having the Minneapolis schools pass kids who fail the math test 3 times. Must be the test... not the kids.

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