Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What? Where Am I?

Yesterday I was walking a couple of students through an exercise that had them providing a proper noun to go with a common noun. For those of you too far removed from your grade school grammar lessons, common nouns are the general nouns that refer to a type of thing and the proper nouns are the proper names of things. For example, a common noun is "house" while a proper noun is "White House". Most of the readers of this blog (at least the ones who comment) have spent time working in journalism and those last few sentences were pretty much a waste of their time. You'll understand later why I didn't just assume the knowledge was there for the rest of you, though.

One of the common nouns the students were given was "country". One girl asked me, "What's an example of a country?" I responded, "What country do you live in?"

The transcript of the interaction follows.

"No, that's the county we live in. What's the country?"
"No that's a state. Georgia's one of the 50 states that make up our country. What's the name of the country."
"I don't know."

This class had been doing a lot of debating of the virtues and vices of Obama and McCain, so I thought that might trigger the crack in the wall of what I assumed was a brain fart.

"Ok, Barack Obama and John McCain are running for president of the ..."
"I don't know."

This is when one of the other students finally breaks in and says, "It's the United States, you big dummy." Of course then the kids who knew or were at least able to pretend they knew start laughing and making fun of the poor girl. Before I'm able to jump in and settle the class down another girl jumps in to the first girl's defense.

"I didn't know it either, so shut up."

That didn't really help.

True, this is a remedial class, but none of the kids are considered to be in need of special education. Some of them have legitimate problems, but I had previously considered both of these students to be among the brighter bulbs in the class. They still carry the highest averages in the class and tend to have the least trouble picking up new concepts or putting their thoughts into writing. They were really just that oblivious that this information had never found a nest in their brains.

These are the people who grow up and get interviewed by reporters when a natural disaster strikes the rural South.


Mickey said...

Amazing. You always hear the statistic that so many people can't name the country to our north (or something like that), but that seems completely superfluous if you can't name the country you are standing in.

Really, wow.

Courtney said...

Seriously? Maybe your school needs to reconsider who needs special ed.

Jacob said...

The school can't define special ed. They have to follow state rules for what special ed is. Special ed is only for the truly retarded (down sydrome and the like) and those whose performance doesn't match their IQ in one or two areas. If you're just slow, you can't get into special ed.

Special ed isn't supposed to be for kids who just have a cultural deficit, which is what this is. They're not that slow. The just come from homes where there are no high school graduates, no discussion of current events outside of neighborhood gossip and the kids aren't interested in the news.

And the state discourages Special Ed designation. There can be civil rights issues and there is currently a tier system in place that requires over a year of observation and ample documentation before you can get a kid who needs to be in special ed into the system.

Julie said...

Screw special ed classes. I think you should hunt down their elusive "permanent records" and use it to hunt and track their former teachers. You should then pay each one a visit and kick them in the balls. Or knees. They have failed as teachers.