Friday, January 07, 2011

No Sloth Left Behind

The kids have been in school for a week and already Grace is grumbling about her new humanities class.

Apparently "humanities" means something completely different from when I was in school.  No, it doesn't mean studying the fine arts and culture around us--just in case there was any confusion on that point.

They've been assigned to read The Life of Pi.  I'm not sure why they're reading a novel in a humanities class (when I took humanities it was a lot of music and sculpture and painting and whatnot) and I have no idea why they're reading that particular novel, which seems to have about as much to do with humanities as my big toe but as if that weren't enough of a puzzler their first class activity was to cut out and design numbers. Big numbers. As in "pi." Each person took a different digit and they made their number big and pretty and then put them together to make pi. Probably because that activity is too stupid and irrelevant to be part of any math curriculum past . . . oh, I don't know . . . 1st grade????

Makes sense to me.

And then as a follow up to that humanities-related activity they decided to study sloths.  Help me out with this as I've not read the book but apparently in the book there is a sloth so the teacher told them to get their sloth moves on and to  . . . walk. . . very . . . slowly . . . like . . . a . . . sloth . . . and  . . .  get . . . down . . . the . . . school . . . stairs . . . in . . . no . . . less . . . than . . . twenty . . . minutes.

For heaven's sake she's got the SAT in two months! And they're playing sloth [here's me smacking my hand to my forehead].

Why did I decide not to homeschool you ask? Probably because things were going so well up until she hit high school and even then it's hit and miss as to whether you get a gem of a teacher [standing up and applauding Mr. Wright, Mrs. DePalatis and Mr. Kemper with every ounce of my strength] or a dud like Captain Sloth Lover here.  Grace knew what she was getting into though, this class was the only one she could fit into her schedule and the teacher is the sister of one of her past English teachers. The one who allowed a student to make a throne out of hockey sticks as his project on the Renaissance.

Sigh.  Where is the Spanish Inquisition when you need it?

20 comments:

Catherine said...

Wow. First of all, I read Life of Pi last summer (on a bus trip in Alaska, no less) and I am very surprised to read that they are reading it in high school. I would have placed it at a college level of study. That book seriously messed with my brain (just wait until she gets to last 1/6 of the book!). The sophisticated level of the book juxtaposed with the asinine "lessons" is more than laughable. Life of Pi is definitely worth a read, though. Being that the teacher thinks this book has to do with the number Pi, maybe she has never read it? Pi is the name of the main character! Geez.

CarrieM said...

Life of Pi is an amazing novel that I've read in my LDS book club. I really think you should give it a read. I loved it. When I took humanities (15 years ago), we studied english literature and US History. The title is a large umbrella under which many subjects fit.

Janelle said...

When I took Humanities my senior year, it was full of reading, but it was pretty intense reading -- Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Beowulf, The Bible (Old Testament primarily), Plato, and other Greeks. When I took it in college, it was more varied -- arts, music, architecture, etc.

Activities have their place, but they should actually accomplish something or have a point. Getting one's sloth moves on has no point. In ninth grade, we read Hiroshima, and as part of that unit, our teacher taught us how to make origami cranes. Later that year (same teacher), we read Great Expectations. At some point, it mentions a card game that a character was playing. For the last 20 minutes or so of class that day, our teacher taught us how to play it (a slightly updated version), and let us have fun. Educational? Not necessarily. But it was contextual, different, and interesting.

Derek, Rachel and Cadence said...

Wow, that's pretty lame! I can't believe that that's what's going on in high school!

Kerri said...

I couldn't eat meat for weeks after reading that book. The end gets weird to say the least.

I think your daughter will like the quick read as it is interesting.

The teacher sounds lame and has very questionable teaching methods for sure.

Christine said...

any chance you'd want to share which high school this is at? I only have children at one (local public) elementary here in Anchorage and I'm really thinking about sending them to private school for middle & high schools... we are really enjoying our local elementary though!

Scribbit said...

Christine--I was really frustrated with the HS her freshman year but I kind of realized afterward that it was because she'd got a bunch of bad teachers that year. Since then we've been careful to pick and choose which classes she gets and which teacher to take which has made a big difference. As I said there are some real gems (like the ones I mentioned--for English, Chem and Physics) SHe's got Mrs. Gray this year for English and we've been very pleased there too. So I don't know that the school is the issue so much as being informed. If you're considering a certain school (and you could probably do a search on the district site to see which school I'm talking about, I'd rather not mention it here) I'd start doing some homework and ask friends who may have kids in there already about which teachers to take. Our experience too, has generally been that unless a class is listed as AP it's very remedial. Only the AP classes (with regular Physics with Mr. Kemper or Chem with DePalatis as exceptions) seem to be worth the time. Sometimes even then you get zinged as her Freshman English teacher was a dud and it was an advanced class.

If you are going to be going to the same HS I'd be happy to email you what we've found if you contact me personally.

Anonymous said...

I do am surprised they assigned that book at a high school level. I still have not recovered from that book. It gives the term "strange" a new meaning.

Scribbit said...

Well she was surprised to see it on the reading list but consoled herself that it was on the SAT study list of books to read to prepare for the test.

I don't necessarily have a beef with the book--not having read it myself as I said--but the associated activities seem so remedial and pointless.

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Daisy said...

Sigh. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! But seriously, I haven't read Life of Pi, and you might pick up a copy and open up discussions with her at home. You might build an understanding that is missing in class - or find out there's more happening in class than it seems.

Sandra said...

Ha! I love the Pi activity. As a math nerd, I picked up the book a few years ago thinking it was about Pi. Turns out, I was wrong. But I loved the book. However, I was a little disappointed there were no numbers in it. I don't remember there being a sloth in the book though. Must have been a minor character. There is a tiger, a zebra, a hyena and an orangutan. I Wonder what the teacher will have the kids do next.

And I love that high school kids are reading stuff like this. It's thought provoking and it opens the doors to a lot of discussion you can have at home. And it's advanced for those kids who want it. I wasn't blessed to have these kinds of books in my classes. We read the same boring stuff that everyone has read for eons of time.

Headless Mom said...

Don't get me started on some of the ridiculousness that occurs in public school. (I suppose there are weird things in the private schools too, though.) I don't trust the majority of them to tell you the truth.

Anonymous said...

We know Mr. Kemper well and couldn't agree more. :)

Jennifer said...

I asked my hubby, who is certified to teach this course in FL, and he thinks a humanities course ought to teach art, philosophy, architecture, culture, etc...

But I am not surprised by the remedial activity. Our Chinese exchange student was in an junior level honors English class and was given a worksheet on how to identify nouns as homework. It didn't take more than a week before she was bumped up to AP English and was given appropriately difficult work.

Patricia L said...

That's a SHAME!! I loved Humanities in HS. We never cut out numbers or pretended to be sloths... our class included a lot of slide shows, note-taking and museum visits. I think we even visited a cathedral to look at the architecture (and pretty sure we all giggled as we had to point out the flying buttresses:) ) We could even critique any art form (movies, plays, art exhibits, books) for extra credit.

Blog O' Beth said...

I've had my kids in public school and I've had them in private and the truth is that there are bad teachers everywhere. As a teacher you have every right to be upset that your daughter is not doing appropriate activities for her age or education level - that is a valid criticism and one I would share (at an appropriate time) with the administration. The problem has more to do with the certification, training, hiring and firing of teachers in our system. The hiring and reward process makes little sense. Trust me on this one.

Kayris said...

I agree with Beth that there are great teachers and rotten teachers everywhere. In high school I had some fantastic ones and some real stinkers. I wouldn't worry too much about this one, as it's a humanities class. Not as crucial to college as, say, calculus.

The Library Lady said...

Yup, I'm with Beth. I went to what was (and still is) one of the top high schools in the nation and the number of incompetent, indifferent and just plain BAD teachers was as high as anywhere else. Probably higher, since it was also one of the least urban jungly schools in the city!
What made up for it was the students. We were bright (mostly), involved and interested in learning. We came to school ready to learn. It didn't matter if we had good or bad teachers--though the really good teachers gave us the sort of moments I still recall 30 (!) years later.

Come to think of it, the sloth thing is the sort of thing we would have loved--and probably carried out in a wonderfully creative way.....

Krista said...

I think this is probably fairly true of any school you go to, yes, sometimes even the private schools!
I was the oldest in my family, but pretty serious about school so I heard from friends and knew which teachers to avoid. That didn't stop me from getting a really lame math teacher my freshman year ("Let's talk about Suzie Triangle, walking down the sidewalk") where my friend and I actually had permission to sleep in class because otherwise we were so bored we were "disrupting" by whispering in the back row. And yes, I did take Calculus before I even graduated so I wasn't a math dud either! ;)

I don't think I ever took a Humanities class either, or at least it wasn't called that. I had art and band and English and History...

I hope it gets better for her... ;)