Tuesday, February 01, 2005


A Go Big Ed reader sent these three anecdotes along that are just plain head-shakers:

-- The Wall Street Journal reported that a Haverford (Pa.) honor student was suspended and a notation was made on her permanent record for a Level 5 disciplinary violation: she took an over-the-counter, non-prescription type pain reliever, like an aspirin, for menstrual cramps.

-- The Journal also reported that the school district in Lincoln, R.I., has banned the annual spelling bee. Why? Because there can be only one winner which, in the view of school officials, makes all the other kids “losers.” District officials said therefore, the spelling bee violates the principles of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. How do YOU spell “a-b-s-u-r-d?” For the full story, see the fabulously-named online publication, the Woonsocket Call: http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=13834334&BRD=1712&PAG=461&dept_id=478996&rfi=6

-- According to an Associated Press dispatch out of Bismarck, N.D., there’s a move afoot in the North Dakota Legislature to outlaw undergraduate teaching assistants from foreign countries who cannot speak English well enough to make themselves understood in the college classroom. Who HASN’T this happened to? Sheesh. It’s about time. Bette Grande, a Republican representative from Fargo, was quoted as saying that tax-funded college teachers should be able to speak English reasonably well and understand students’ questions. The bill would require that their speech ability be screened at the job interview, and then if students still can’t understand them and learn from them, the students get a full tuition refund. If 10 percent of the kids complain, the unintelligible T.A. should be yanked from the classroom, according to the proposed bill. College officials are basically harrumphing, making defensive statements like: “these foreign grad students have a right to a job in the state college system and if taxpayers’ children can’t learn from them because of the language barrier, that’s THEIR problem.”

Here’s the grand finale for these ed follies:

1) We all take two aspirins and suspend ourselves from our workplaces, with pay, saying that nonsense zero tolerance policies give us a riproaring headache, until that honor student is reinstated.

2) Every college should have a “speech bee” for foreign graduate students who want jobs as teaching assistants. The winners, judged easiest to understand, get those college teaching jobs, and the losers have to suffer behind “left behind,” but not THAT left behind, because . . .

3) We can give those hard-to-understand foreign grad students jobs in our public schools teaching English as a Second Language to kids who ALREADY don’t understand English. They can learn it together, and then we’ll ALL be better off.

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