Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Glass Is Broken

I remember reading somewhere about a teacher railing against negatives, how we're teaching our kids to see the bad things in life rather than the good. For an example, she recounted the following: she wrote down a set of six arithmetic problems with answers on a large sheet of paper and showed it to her elementary school class. For example:

3 + 5 = 8
5 + 7 = 12
2+ 6 = 7
9 + 2 = 11
1 + 5 = 6
4+ 5 = 9

When asked to say something meaningful about this set of problems, all of her students pointed out that 2 + 6 = 7 is wrong. The teacher then went on to complain about how not a single student said that the other five equations are correct. This, she thinks, shows the negativity we teach our kids.

What a load of shit, in my opinion.

There is seeing the good in situations and then there is complacency. In a classroom situation, in which even the kids understand that the purpose is to learn, any good student will try to improve. Seeing the 5 correct equations and then just leaving them as is, that kind of an answer would worry me far more than the supposedly "negative" one. An adult interpretation would be: "Oh look, there are five gas mains that work! I'm being positive! Screw all you naysayers going on about the one that's ruptured a leak the size of me bum in downtown manhattan. You're all negative." [Petulance added for empahsis.]

Picking out what's wrong with a situation and leaving it at that is as short sighted as this teacher's interpretation of her students' responses. Picking out what's wrong and fixing, resolving, or improving the situation is what we should be teaching kids. As far as I can see, the real problem in this story is not that the kids are seeing the negative side of things, but that the teachers is.

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