Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Stupid Principal Tricks

Myer Elementary School principal gets slimed by 3rd graders Wednesday

Homework Blues said, in a comment to Pajama Day:

To add: Even more offensive are silly gimmicks the principal pledges to pull off if the kids read more. One local stunt had the principal lug her desk onto the roof where she spent the entire day.

Anonymous, lest you think I'm out to kill all fun too, what I hated about those ridiculous contests is each time the students read, they logged their reading logs onto a master graph. There was a goal and the principal promised to do something crazy if the kids met that goal.

No, I'm not out to ban fun. Hardly. What I didn't like about those condescending contents is that school keeps inventing new and ingenious ways to kill reading. Then, in lockstep motion, just as we predicted, the kids hate reading. Voila! Mission accomplished.

Now the school tears its hair out. The kids aren't reading! Oh, dear, we have NCLB, what shall we do?

I'll tell you what to do. Ban reading logs. Ban stupid assignments with dippy questions that cause children to groan in despair. Cultivate a love of reading. Then the principal won't have to die her hair green, climb a chimney or wade in the mud.

Reading is not a gimmick. It's a way of life. For some here, it's the only life!

Homework Blues, you said a mouthful.  You're giving me flashbacks to the days when I used to watch the local news (haven't for many years.)  Stupid principal tricks were a staple for "happy news" on the local broadcast.

Everything about this is wrong.  As you point out, we're telling kids that reading is so unattractive that it has to be "motivated" by those in authority with all kinds of gimmicks and tricks. 

Besides that, the assumption that it's fun for kids to see someone in authority humiliate themselves bothers me.  Do we really want to promote this?  Aren't we telling kids that of course they should enjoy making someone else uncomfortable?  We're encouraging their worst instincts.

Why should we be surprised if kids don't respect the principal, after she's engaged in some ridiculous stunt?  Kids know that they are at the mercy of the adults who control their lives, and it hardly builds their confidence to see the principal dye her hair a silly color, or spend a day on the roof, or whatever. 

There's an element of narcissism in there too, as if kids' lives revolve around what the principal does.  I don't see why the average kid would care what color the principal's hair is.  

It's just so wrong-headed.  Of course that shouldn't surprise me any more ...


  1. And to think that at my school the biggest reading event we had was on one day during Book Week. On this day we could go to school dressed up as our favourite characters from books while raising money for charity (anyone who wanted to dress up had to bring a gold coin donation to raise money for the Red Cross or something or other). None of this principal-humiliating nonsense. No reading logs either.

  2. The problem is that too many people have come to understand the word "teach" to mean only "force," "trick," or "bribe."

  3. More random thoughts ...

    Homework proponents claim that one of the purposes of homework is to show kids that "learning happens at home, too!" I always say that it has the opposite effect, and mostly tells kids that school has invaded every aspect of their lives, including their home and family.

    In the case of the principal who got slimed, notice that this was a reward for kids keeping a reading log over the summer! The message here is that the school owns reading, even reading for pleasure over what used to be the child's break.

    This is also a good example of how school violates the norms of good parenting. Can you imagine a mother saying to her child, "if you clean your room I'll let you throw a pie in my face"? Of course not! Who would do such a crazy thing?

  4. In high school, we got to put a pie in the face of the principal and a disliked security guard. Most people liked our principal, so I'm not sure what the point was, except to suggest that we should actually dislike him. Nobody liked the security guard because he always acted with the assumption that we were going to do something wrong, so we were quite happy to see him get pied.

    I can't remember what the contest was, but it may have been a certain percentage of students voting in the pointless student council elections.

    We did Book It in elementary school. I loved to read and still thought keeping up with a reading log wasn't worth a tiny pizza.

  5. FedUp, thanks for including my comment. I've been promising you a guest column. Thanks for surreptitiously getting it out of me!

    Much food for thought here indeed. Thanks, everyone, for commenting on my comment! Happy New Year, dear friends.

  6. Megan- I was the same way about Book-it. Avid reader, never filled out the forms. And looking back on it, it was such a big scam on my parents. They had to buy pizza for the other four of us if someone got a cert. So they usually didn't even get redeemed. About the principal stunts/ spirit days- glad to know I'm not the only killjoy out there.

  7. Here's one where I agree with Alfie Kohn. From

    A Closer Look at Reading Incentives:

    Asked about the likely results of "Book It!", Pizza Hut's food-for-reading program, educational psychologist John Nicholls replied, only half in jest, that it would probably produce "a lot of fat kids who don't like to read."