Jewish World Review Jan. 26, 2004 / 3 Shevat, 5764

Joanne Jacobs

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Consumer Reports

It's the Parents, Stupid | You, too, can talk like an "educator." The Washington Post explains.

At many schools, 6-year-olds don't compare books anymore — they make "text-to-text connections." Misbehaving students face not detention but the "alternative instruction room," or "reinforcement room," or "reflection room." Children who once read now practice "SSR," or "sustained silent reading."

And in Maryland, high schoolers write "extended constructed responses" — the essay, in a simpler time.

"Multiple choice" is now "selected response." ESL (English as a second language) became LEP (limited English-proficient) students and then ELL (English language learners) and now just EL (English learners). "In some schools, homeroom has become advisory or Achievement Time or even Time to Care."

I remember when our high school library was renamed the Instructional Materials Center, soon known redundantly as the IMC Center. Guidance became the Pupil Personnel Services Center. Students rarely are fooled, as the Post writes:

Robert Maeder, 17, a senior at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, finds the terms demeaning — especially "learning cottage," instead of "classroom trailer," and "assessment" for test.

"It's like renaming a prison 'The Happy Fun Place,' " Maeder said. "Tests should be called tests. 'Brief constructed response' — you just wonder why they don't say 'paragraph.' It doesn't really serve any purpose renaming them."

Educators complain that parents aren't involved in their children's education, but how can parents be involved if they can't tell an outcome-based authentic assessment from a criterion-referenced assessment?

In Defense of Dr. Laura

Dr. Laura may be shrill, arrogant and wrong on many issues but she's right about the duty parents owe their children, writes Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic.

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In a nutshell, Dr. Laura believes that many of the aspects of adult life that I had always considered complicated and messy and finely nuanced are in fact simple and clear-cut; that life ought to be neatly fitted around duty and responsibility rather than around the pursuit of that elusive old dog, happiness. This is what makes her the most compelling advocate for children I have thus far encountered, because the well-being of children often depends upon the commitment and obligation of the adults who created them.

. . . There are many of us who understand that once you have children, certain doors ought to be closed to you forever. That to do right by a child means more than buying him the latest bicycle helmet and getting him on the best soccer team. It means investing oneself completely in the marriage that wrought him, for there isn't a person in the world who won't date his moments of greatest happiness to the time his family was the most intact, whole, unshakable.

Flanagan is reviewing Dr. Laura's new book,  The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands . Flanagan calls it "a bit of a turkey," combining the "surrendered wife" idea with "men are from Mars, women are from Venus." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)

Moral relativism at home and multiculturalism in school are catastrophic for children, writes Elizabeth Nickson in Canada's National Post. She says left-wing boomers are turning right to save their children. She praises The Epidemic: The Rot of American Culture, Absentee and Permissive Parenting, and the Resultant Plague of Joyless, Selfish Children by Robert Shaw, a Berkeley psychiatrist. (Once you’ve read the subtitle, you’ve read the book.)

Dr. Shaw lays out what he has seen in his long and (trust me) glittering career, and the only way out, he says, is essentially to sheer off from contemporary culture, somewhat like religious conservatives, and make your family an island.

He warns about “ideal” homes ”where the child's every need is filled.”

The parents are too busy making money to supervise anyone. Caregivers change repeatedly, leaving the kids in charge of their own psychological and moral development. . . . "The human soul," says Dr. Shaw, "prospers by sharing, caring, relating, understanding, fulfilling. ... many children today are inadvertently being raised to take and never give back, to accumulate but never share, to own but never value."

While Nickson puts much of the blame on schools, I think this is a parenting issue.

My goal was to raise the sort of person that I’d want to live with for 18 years. I figured I was stuck with her one way or the other. It worked pretty well.

Cheaters as Heroes

As a testing expert, Kimberly Swygert rips a new movie that makes heroes out of students who try to steal their upcoming SAT exam so they can cheat their way to The Perfect Score.

In the movie's version of morality, the would-be cheaters are preventing the SAT from "unfairly deciding who they'll become." Like who you'll become is decided by where you go to college, not by who you already are. A cheater. "The only way to truly decide one's fate is to beat the system." Yeah, split those infinitives! That'll show 'em.

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Joanne Jacobs, a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer, blogs daily at She is currently finishing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. Comment by clicking here.

01/20/04: High School Blahs, Naked Math, Boys in Trouble
12/22/03: Saving the teacher, skipping a grade, paying for AP tests, laptops don't boost scores
12/15/03: Missing Columbine; tuned out; kindergarten kamikazes; Suffer the Little Children; ungot greats; dangerous rhymes
12/08/03: Desensitizing students to f-word; Like a Rock; Unmannered; Cool Christians on Campus
11/24/03: Integrating lunch; peewee athletes; The Promise
11/17/03: School Principals Gone Wild; School vs. Bloggers; A Is For Absent
11/10/03: Feeling history; no-sided history; passing on a record; winning respect; bright flight
11/03/03: Super Pay for Super Teachers?; ‘Failing’ Teachers; Dissect the Bunny; Yuck
10/27/03: Parent, teachers, parents as teachers; cramming in education; out of control
10/21/03: Go, Samaritan; 2 + 2 = ?; Majoring in Middle-class Status
10/14/03: To Gag a Mockingbird; saying 'hate' is hate speech; protest school
10/08/03: No Homework Overload; Self-centered Social Studies; The Boy Code; Codswallop; College 101: Don't Jump Out of Your Bunk Bed
09/29/03: Flunking mom; classroom classics; ritalin gag rule; lousy children
09/22/03: Order, disorder
09/08/03: No Child Left Behind: A Primer
08/29/03: The Decline and Fall of Social Studies
08/18/03: F is for valedictorian
08/14/03: Start-up success
08/11/03: Subliterate Superintendent
08/04/03: Alternative High School
07/28/03: Out of the System
07/21/03: Too Snobby for Shop
07/14/03: Be very afraid
07/09/03: Know-nothing nonsense
06/30/03: Affirmative action reactions
06/23/03: Overdressed Students, Underdressed Teachers, Dressed-down Exams
06/16/03: Paper 'Is-ness,' Excluding Awards, New Racial Consciousness and Politics
06/09/03: Racist math, red tape for charters, potty reading
06/02/03: Teacher Pay, Illiteracy , No Republicans Allowed
05/27/03: Research papers, athletics, reading
05/19/03: Soft America, plagiarism, Minutemen and Jets
05/12/03: Demographics, nerves, valedictorian, vouchers
05/05/03: Gender Bias, Banned Words, Helen of Troy
04/28/03: Tests, home-schooling, self-esteem
04/25/03: Lessons, American Pride, Iraqi Schools
04/14/03: Iraqi Textbooks and the English language
03/31/03:Teachers, hugging, text messaging
04/07/03: War talk at school
03/24/03: Watching the war
03/10/03: Classroom chaos
03/03/03: Teaching tales
02/24/03: Segregation stories
02/18/03: Writing Essays, America, Beyond Bert and Ernie
02/13/03: Size matters
02/10/03: Parental homework, cheaters and memoirs
02/03/03: Diplomas, academics, preschools and Ritalin
01/27/03: Head Start, Social Studies, Marx, Africa and Math
01/22/03: Teachers as targets
01/13/03: Big Bully's Feelings
01/06/03: School of 60's Whining and Communal Destruction
12/23/02: Teaching in
12/16/02: Chocolate city?
12/10/02: Mandatory Victimhood --- and when cleaning up a school is 'racist'
11/25/02: Multi-colored math, sensitive science
11/20/02: How to leave no child behind
11/18/02: The tummy track
11/11/02: Dysfunctional documents?
11/04/02: Why go to college? Why test schools?
10/28/02: Pride goeth before an F
10/21/02: Diversity adversity
10/14/02: Bad hat day
10/07/02: Inflated sense of worth
09/30/02: The Royal road to knowledge
09/24/02: Sierra's Club
09/20/02: Stupidity Watch
09/03/02: First, win the war
08/26/02: Out of their field, out of their minds?
08/20/02: Fun with failure

© 2003, Joanne Jacobs