I always ask students how the Thanksgiving break was (and it is truly a break for the kids), and some of their answers reveal how truly different we view the five-day respite from school.
Most answers fall along the lines of eating way too much and doing way too little. Sandwiched between those responses are the rather revealing (sometimes too much) accounts of domestic debauchery and kindred kindness. Most students are proud to give voice to their traditions of thankfulness and generosity and a few students confess heartily their compliance in the less traditional acts of Thanksgiving.
Regardless of the particulars, the break seems to have an amazingly consistent effect on the consumer conscience of the young and old. Recounting the week’s events is part-and-parcel of each class that I teach, and students regale me with the latest Black Friday (which seems to be the longest “day” of the year) mishaps, miscues and mortifications (literally).
As teachers, we are hammered about discipline, nailed about test results and asked by many parents and community members to help keep kids in line (tell that to the Black Friday shoppers at Walmart), teach them some enduring values (other than the ones you can only get by lining up at 4 a.m.) and help them get a quality education (as long as it doesn’t take too long or can be accessed conveniently on a computer at home).
Maybe public education and the classroom are becoming old-fashioned and the technology that allows students the freedom to learn at their own pace and not depend on a teacher to deliver subject matter (after all, a computer can do the same for free) should be fully embraced.
But as I interact with students on a daily basis, I listen to what some have to deal with at home, what they are exposed to on the Internet or what they see in the actions of grown-ups, I’m not certain a public institution that has high expectations of behavior or demands that kids find a way to get along with one another — regardless of their differences and performs a service vital to our country such as actually reading the Declaration of Independence — is such an outdated concept after all.
At least that’s what i think.