Thursday, March 12, 2009

Math students

Kitchen Table Math reports on a conflict with the local school administrators
I've just learned that the principal has faulted our Continental Math League for "widening the achievement gap."

It's been suggested that, instead of running a math club for gifted students, I instead run one for struggling students.

Maybe I'm being unreasonable, but I tend to think that it's the school's job, not mine, to educate struggling students.

The lack of ability of our public schools to deal with students who are interested in math isn't anything new.
I wasn't much of a student in elementary school , mostly a B and C student. I didn't much excel at anything, didn't show a lot of interest in anything they had to offer. I read a lot but it was mostly comic books and adult paper back novels (I got sent to the principals office once for reading a western novel of my dad's during "free reading period" instead of picking a book from the school library).
But I was a bright kid, you just never would have guessed by looking at my school performance.
When was in the sixth grade the University of Texas (I lived in Austin) had this special summer program for gifted 6 graders that they made available to the top two students at each Austin elementary school as determined by scores on a standardized achievement test. By that criteria I was one of the ones selected from my school (Wooten Elementary). I think it was 1961.
Although my achievement test score was very high, my school principal didn't think much of my actual achievement. She didn't think I was worthy of going to that summer program. But for her to be able to offer it to her preferred selection I had to turn it down. It turns out that she just wasn't smart enough to figure out how to manipulate an uninterested 12 year old.
She called me to her office and gave me a speech about how I wasn't deserving of this program and shouldn't go. Of course I was going to go if she thought I shouldn't. Maybe she was trying to double fake me into wanting to go, but somehow I don't think so.
Of course I just confronted more stupid administration when I got there. They had a science track with math at 8:30 and biology at 10:30 or a humanities track with english at 8"30 and history at 10:30. I wanted to take math and history. But that wasn't allowed -- students had to be either science nerds or humanities dweebs -- mixed interests couldn't be tolerated.
So I signed up for the science track, went to the math class and cut the biology class, just hanging out with the beatniks just off campus during that class period.
Learning how to cut class served me well for when I started junior high that fall.

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