The Bummer Award

Chestnut and I are in the midst of the hideous and byzantine New York City high school application process (shudder) (for more on how to survive it, according to us, see here). We were riding the subway home from touring Stuyvesant high school last night, too late and too tired, when we somehow got into the "Oh, the guy who designed the algorithm that matches you to your high school won the Nobel Prize" conversation.

Chestnut opined that perhaps he should instead have won the prize for making the most kids miserable.

I countered that the problem wasn't really him per se, but the matching system overall. But it got us to thinking: who would win the prize for making the most kids miserable?

We quickly realized that constant overwhelming forces, like hunger and disease, would win, so we changed it to: Who would win the prize for making kids hate school the most?

We nominated Pearson, designer of state tests in our fair state, as well as publisher of textbooks that suck the joy right out of learning. But we're not sure. For instance, a principal who terrorizes decades of students could arguably win, as could (for some people) various books, or even branches of subject matter (many besides Anne Shirley have met their Waterloo in geometry). We realized that, of course, we'd have to design an algorithm to figure it out.

But I wonder: do any of you remember (or know for your kids) what made school less fun? Was it the reading log? Was it diagramming sentences? For me I think it was middle school. But that's just me.

8 thoughts on “The Bummer Award

  1. For me, it was group projects. I was an anti-social kid who turned into an anti-social adult and all the group work in the world wasn’t going to change that.
    For my daughter, I think it’s the 7:15 a.m. start time. We are a legacy of not-a-morning-persons.

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  2. Right now, it’s the new common core math, where you write a paragraph for an answer in addition to writing out other elaborate ways of solving the problem. Luckily, the teachers are telling kids to bring in anything they don’t understand. I am at a complete loss as to how to help with the homework. I went quite far in math but I honestly don’t even know what they are asking…it’s another language. I am hoping that it is actually a revolutionary way to teach math rather than a strange convoluted way to learn math. I’ve looked a little online about it but it’s hard to find a balanced debate about it. Erg.

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  3. Oh my, back in the day we had a text book called ‘Let’s make English Live’ that purported to teach grammar. I had a second hand copy and the previous owner had scratched out ‘live’ and written ‘die’ over it and it prety much summed up what this book did to English as a subject.

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  4. Ah yes, the Common Core. Honestly, I don’t know what my kids feel about the common core math stuff, but I do know that they HATE explaining and/or showing their work, especially Diana.
    And yes, why is it that those hopeful titles always adorn the worst books?

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  5. Well I liked school most years (barring a few bad teachers). Based on my daughter’s experience, group projects would lead the list on increasing misery.

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  6. For my boys, it has to be projects (making mobiles for book reports, etc.) and homework — all homework. In middle school, I think it’d be annotating literature — it literally destroyed my avid reader son into someone who hates to read and who had a difficult time getting back to leisure reading because of it.

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  7. Taking turns reading aloud. For the slow readers it was excruciating being called on and for the fast readers it was excruciating listening to the slow readers. As far as I could tell no one enjoyed it and it seemed to continue far too late into grade school.

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