Wednesday, January 24, 2018

If You Win, You Lose

Following through on yesterday’s blog. If “exuberant outbursts of choreographed chaos” is the criteria, someone who passes the Conners Test would at the same time fail. Of course, as teachers we’re uncomfortable and not terribly happy to have our students defy us and question our authority and argue over every little thing we tell or ask them to do, but don’t we want to cultivate some of those qualities? Wouldn’t we rather feel the excitement in a student than the bland compliance? Again, I don’t want to oversimplify and confuse actual bad manners with Rosa Parks-like defiance. But neither do I want to entirely dismiss the value of some of the qualities listed below. So let’s turn everything on its head so we “stand under” the usual standards of behavior. Then we might better  “under-stand” the larger and more complex issues of the human being and the multiple ways our soul invites us to contribute to the world.

Here is an imaginary student who passes the test with flying colors, never doing any of the things that the creator of the test imagines as obstacles to success in school. But at what price? Consider:

1.     Easily distracted: Never. Always has head buried in book and didn’t notice the flock of geese flying overhead.

2.    Defiant: Never. Incapable of outrage and excuses bad politicians doing bad things. Stays silent and complicit.

3.    Restless, always on the go: Never. Stays at home rather than go out in the evening. Doesn’t own a passport.

4.    Forgets things he/she has learned: Never. Remembers all the state capitols and imports of Bolivia, can tell you about the facts regarding the rise of Nazism, but doesn’t know how to apply it to the 2016 election in the U.S.

5.    Argues with adults: Never. Trained to think that “father knows best”— or teacher or priest or politician or expert, doesn’t trust her own instincts or develop her own point of view. Doesn’t stand up for herself when something seems unfair.

6.    Only pays attention to things he/she is interested in: Never. Knows how to look like he’s paying attention to get a good grade or be a good student, but actually is not interested in anything.

7.    Lacks interest in schoolwork: Never. Always interested in every subject, but again, maybe not for the right reasons. Doesn’t cultivate any interests outside of school.

8.    Poor in arithmetic: Never. Fabulous solving numerical problems, but doesn’t know how to make a friend or play basketball or sing songs.

9.    Fails to finish things he/she starts: Never. Always completes every task, but can’t distinguish between a worthy task and a boring one or figure out when enough is enough.

10. Excitable: Never. Always calm and frankly, on the bland and boring side of life.

So there you have it. If you pass with one set of criteria, you fail with another. Food for thought.

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