As I’m ramping up to start blogging full time again, I came across this one in the Teach4Real vault. I don’t know why I didn’t run it in April, it probably had something to do with STAR testing and wanting to pluck out my eyes with all the number two pencils they give out because the state doesn’t actually have my students write anything during state-wide assessments. Even though they are testing their writing ability.
Lets face it. This new generation, the one we cram into tiny classes with way too many students, has not been defined by the experts. This generation has its own culture just like all the generations before them. It is an American culture that is a unique mix of religions, practices, beliefs, morals, and all the other ingredients that create who we are. Unfortunately, that mix seems to be diluted by dumb.
For example, if our young women want to hear the highest paid speaker this country on abstinence, they will listen to the words of someone who has never practiced it, and has a child because of all the sex she had. If they dream of touring the country giving speeches, like Mark Twain, or Cornell West, they no longer need a PhD. Now Universities like Rutgers are paying the dumbest people on earth a year’s salary to speak to their college students simply because they were on television. In fact, the most popular of these “tours” is by a man who was born with everything, and has spent that everything on mounds of cocaine and porn stars. He even has a “winning” term for this behavior that is now an accepted part of our language—our culture.
I’ve already written about a lot of this, such as the aspects of today’s music telling kids to get retarded. Television is so ridiculous, I won’t even bother bring it up only to say I don’t have one, and I wonder how most people live with one screaming at them all the time.
And our culture is such today that if you want to write a book, you don’t have to actually write anything, just have someone do it for you.
This isn’t anything new. Critics of the direction of American culture have been pointing this out for decades. Whether you want to blame Elvis’ happy hips, MTV, or Reality TV, it seems we have reached the point of no return.
Lets take cartoons for example. The Simpsons took cartoons to a new level of satire, but the worst Bart Simpson ever did was steal from the local comic book store (at least ten years ago). But even our cartoons have taken humor and this nothing-is-off-limits-attitude and turned up the volume. Look at today’s Simpons—Family Guy. The show is funny, but in all honesty I don’t think it’s helping our youth in any way shape or form. The show is so ridiculous, it’s like you can feel yourself becoming a worse person after thirty minutes—and it’s a cartoon!
Even our politics, not that my students would know much about this, has become a world of extremes. In a gridlocked political system that used to find ways to agree on certain things, today’s politicians won’t even agree our President is a citizen of this country. I mean, when one out of four people in this country think the President is a foreigner, you have to wonder what is the point of debating anything.
We have become a country of extremes, and the discourse is continually being dominated by those who are not the experts, just the best looking faces who talk the loudest.
Here’s my problem.
Our students come to school and we try and teach them the exact opposite of everything our culture is telling them. We tell them that to practice abstinence you can’t be an expert on sex. We tell them that if you want people to listen to you, you have to know what you’re talking about. We tell kids that if you want to write a book some day, you need to learn how to write. But none of this is interesting. None of this is entertaining. So we find ourselves feeling like the adult’s in the old Charlie Brown cartoons, telling kids to study hard and be respectful. WAAAAWAAAWAAAA.
Why be respectful? That ain’t going to get them on television. They’d rather be like Chris Brown (seriously, I just had a conversation with a 14 year old girl who vehemently defended Chris Brown. She said quote, “Rihanna deserved it, the media doesn’t want to hear his side of the story. Nobody’s talking about that!” and she meant it in all honesty, that’s the very sad part).
As teachers we find ourselves trying to link up culture in the classroom. That’s why when I want to analyze characters in a play or a novel, I use Facebook Profiles. But we’re finding this increasingly difficult to do because our culture is so—stupid. I recently read an article in the Times about a college professor saying he’s finding a lot of success assigning shorter writing assignments because the kids aren’t as good as they used to be at writing long complicated papers—and he is lauding this idea like it’s a breakthrough. Pretty soon we’re going to be assigning essays on Twitter that are 140 characters long using text talk.
We are teaching against everything our culture is screaming, and we are losing. People want the easy path to success, and don’t want to have to work hard. So when we try to get them to work at all, they don’t see the value in it. They don’t see the value in education, and they don’t see it because our culture doesn’t put value in education either.
Think I’m exaggerating? Who are we as a society taking benefits away from even as we speak? Teachers. Who are already notoriously underpaid, and a laughing stock among professionals? Teachers. Where are we making cuts and sending out pink-slips? Education. The kids aren’t making up in their head that education isn’t important. Our policies and the way we treat those in education are showing it to them.
We live in a country of extremes. Our music is extremely ignorant, our TV shows are extremely repulsive, and our experts don’t have expertise, they are just popular and good looking—so that’s really all our kids want to be.