Writing my way through the school year!

This morning I was sitting at the table, eating breakfast with my teenage son and his friend.  We were talking, (This is why I eat meals at the table any chance I get), and the topic  turned to the use of the “N” word, which led to who uses it and who doesn’t.  That discussion led to my son informing me that some students in his school call him “white.”  His refusal to lower himself academically  makes me proud because I have tried to instill in him a sense of dignity, pride, and most of all, knowledge that being intelligent is not a crime.

Growing up,  I too was subjected to the same ridicule,.  I will never forget using the word “prerogative” and being mocked for days.  Did I care?   No, I followed my path, earned my BS and my MS, their words , my  motivation, not  a hindrance. Fortunately, I had strong parents who cherished my education, and television only had 13 channels.

Nowadays, our kids are inundated with the message that “dumb is cool” at every avenue in their lives!  And believe me, this is not an issue about race, all of our children are receiving the same message.  “If you want to be cool, be dumb, or at least appear to be..” From the music they listen to, the television shows,  even  the news.  Why would  Snooki of  “New Jersey Shore” fame  get  paid $2,000  more to speak at Rutger’s University  than renowned author Toni Morrison?   What message was Rutger’s sending its students?  What  academic, or for that matter, life, wisdom could Snooki impart?

And although my son understands the importance of education, I am certain there are times when he has “dumbed” himself down to fit in.  I see it in my classrooms, year after year.  Who are the most popular students in my class, the ones who do not see education as a priority.  What do we call the intelligent students? “Nerds”!  How many students do you know like being addressed as nerds, no matter how many times we tell them what the future probably holds for them?

Fortunately, there are still students out there who are like me when I was a little girl.  They ignore the ridicule, and follow their own path,  recognized by someone, somewhere.    What can we do to make “being smart” cool again?  What can we do to help our students and children avoid the pressure that surrounds them?   Here was Snooki’s advice to the students at Rutger’s, “Study hard, but party harder.”  Need I say more?

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Comments on: "How Do We Separate “Being Dumb” from “Being Cool?”" (1)

  1. Richard Cottingham said:

    What self-respecting kid today would want to be identified as someone who thought the drivel put forth as curriculum was worth working to learn? I think many students today accurately assess classroom activities geared to passing a test as meaningless busy work that is not relevant to them. The meaninglessness of the courses of study make them almost unlearnable for many students. This is embarassing to them and they compensate by showing an utter disdain for school, school work, and learning. They often display this contempt for what they are being asked to do through disruptive and disrespectful behavior. Their antics are entertaining to the bored and weary students who are capable of learning and thus distracts them form instruction. It then becomes cool to be dumb. There is a clear, causal link between the “Dumb = Cool” culture and the “Teach to the Test” approach to curriculum.

    How do we separate being dumb from being cool? We could start by allowing teachers to be creative in responding to efforts of the learners. We start by letting teachers decide the pace of instruction. We start by allowing teachers to have discretion as to explanations, and questions used in classrooms. We start by ending the micromanagement that in many cases remvoes the teachers’ authority to even decide on room temperature or whether or not to assign homework. In short we start by permitting teachers to teach. When this is done more students will become engaged in the teaching learning process, feel secure in their abilities, and have no need to seek acceptance through misbehavior and disrespect.

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