Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Leaping Murderers and Priorities

I've started plowing through my stacks of student essays about September 11, and I'm kind of upset, and I'm not sure why.
It's not just because I'm reading about crying and trauma and fright, although that is a goodly part of it.
I think it's partly because my morning classes are held on the main campus, and those classes are made up of younger students.  These students were in the 8th and 9th grades on September 11, 2001, and in Indiana schools, in September, the students in those grades have to take the ISTEP test.
Most of them were, apparently, in the middle of the test when the news broke about the towers.  Even those students whose schools let them know what had happened were required to keep on taking the test.
I am reading about fear of terrorism and fear of test failure.  I am reading about young teenagers who were so worried about their test scores that they had no emotion left for strangers in a burning tower, and who are to this day feeling tremendous guilt that it was so.  I am reading about teachers who told these students to "not think about something so far away, and just concentrate on your test."  I am reading about principals who announced to the students that it was "all just a rumor, not true at all" while stage-whispering to teachers that "maybe THAT will calm them down enough to score big this year."  I am reading about principals who put the news on the speaker system and required the students to listen to it while taking the test.  So far, I have not come across a single paper that is telling me that a school postponed ISTEP at all; so far, all the students are telling me that the test went on as scheduled in spite of all the chaos in the very atmosphere of these buildings.  I can't read but a few at a time; my nerves are already shot.
I haven't started reading any essays written by my older students at the regional campus yet.  Most of these people were at work when the planes hit the towers, so their circumstances will be very different from the circumstances of these younger students.
Somehow, though, I can't imagine a workplace boss reacting as some of these principals did.  I'm sure some of them were just as immovable and unfeeling and inflexible, but I'm betting most places of business took a little time to truly watch and listen, and to allow their employees and customers to set aside business 'as usual' and pay proper attention to what was happening in our own country.
Knowing is always better than not knowing.  Alfred Hitchcock had it down to a fine art:  it's all about the suspense.  It's not the murderer finally leaping out from behind the curtains * that is the most frightening; it's all those long drawn-out minutes of knowing he's in the house and not being able to pinpoint exactly where he is, and then. . . . you see the tips of his shoes showing, under the drapes.  The leaping out is almost anti-climactic.  Almost.
*Although a leaping murderer is pretty frightening. . . . .
I think that a person in authority who considers a standardized test to be more important than a child's peace of mind, nervous system, value system, and dignity, has no business holding a position of authority over others.  That those others are children has nothing to do with it.
That didn't come out quite right.
That those others are children makes it even WORSE.
I guess I do know why I'm kind of upset, after all.
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wered By Qumana
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:32 PM | |


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