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Volume 1 • #8 • March 2002


Awhile ago I was searching around for a topic for this newsletter when the Supreme Court of the United States, no less, dropped a topic that smells like a rotten egg right in my lap. The stink comes from their decision that it is perfectly all right for a lazy or incompetent teacher to repeatedly humiliate students in order to save herself some work.

The question, of course, is the practise of having students correct each others' tests and/or read out grades for the whole class to hear. Back in 1974, Congress passed a law that protects the privacy of students' educational records "such as a transcript. " The Bush administration and the Supreme Court decided that Congress didn't mean things like classroom tests or teachers' notes. Well, they can't read the minds of the people in Congress, and neither can I. So my guess is as good as theirs. My reading of "educational records" includes anything that a student writes that gets a grade. After all, his grades are what go into his final transcript and they are nobody's bloody business but his.

Their Eminences had a variety of cute reasons why humiliating a dyslectic student in class is well worth saving a few minutes of teacher time. One of them said, "It is a way to teach material again in a new context, and it helps show students how to assist and respect fellow pupils." (Never mind that the case revolved on the problem that the other students ridiculed the dyslectic student's mistakes and called him a dummy. It is an interesting interpretation of assist and respect.) Another said, "Correcting a classmate's work can be as much a part of the assignment as taking the test, itself." He didn't explain what was to be gained by having a student see what mistakes other kids made. I thought that analyzing student errors was the teacher's job, not the students'.

With the possible exception of high school English teachers, who sometimes have a teaching load of 125 students, any competent teacher can figure out ways to keep her grading chores to a reasonable level. But the important issue here is not the teacher's work load, but the assmption that it is perfectly OK to deliberately embarrass a child because of something that is not his fault and is beyond his control.

It has been said that the most devastating and long-lasting human emotion is humiliation. To subject a kid to years of it, being called a dummy and teased by his classmates is, in my expert opinion, a particularly cruel form of child abuse, and a teacher who permits it to take place in her classroom should be fired. It is not a coincidence that many of the teen-age, middle-class murderers of our day are dyslectics who have been driven beyond endurance from a lifetime of taunts from their classmates and unfair accusations of laziness, stupidity, and bad attitude from their teachers.

These "justices"appear to find nothing unjust in forcing a child by law into a situation where he will be subjected for years to psychological abuse. This kind of abuse often has life-long consequences which are just as severe as the result of sexual abuse. Why is one form of humiliation illegal and the other tolerated?

I know why they decided this way. They all got good marks in school. I invite them to take off those black robes, step down from their ivory tower and take a look at the real world. Some of those "dummies" have IQ's that top theirs.

I am so mad that I have not left room here for a teaching tip. By next month I will have calmed down and will include one.


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