THE LEANING TOWER OF BABEL

by Richard Mitchell

VIII
THE MAKING OF TEACHERS

Awareness Grows in Cincinnati!
Department of Gaga
Voodoo Educology
The Glendower Glitch
The Sound of One Eraser Clapping
The Ballons Nodule
Yet Another for the Gipper!

Awareness Grows in Cincinnati!

WE'VE been reading this really neat sheet from Cincinnati. The public school system out there gladly subsidizes the life of the mind by setting its leading intellectuals up in a Department of Curriculum and Instruction, where they need never be troubled by the sight of an actual student. This leaves them free to think deep thoughts about new ways to share out the taxpayers' money, and to put out "The News from Planning and Development," an esoteric journal of difficult ideas suitable for great minds. Most of it, naturally, is way over our head. It's heavy stuff, all about on-going interaction and models whose components are modules. Well, shoot, we can't even figure out how to devise the guidelines with which to pilot our parameters, which is, according to TNFP&D for July 1981, very de rigeur for something or other.

Even the easy parts are hard to grasp. Here's a piece of "Writing Improvement Project Funded":

The purpose of the training will be to make teachers aware of the substantial body of existing research concerning the teaching of writing, enable them to develop and implement a range of instructional material and writing activities for improving their students' composition skills, and provide them opportunities to practice these strategies in a classroom setting.

Subtle. And professional. Real professional. An ignorant amateur--someone like you, no doubt--would want those teachers to know what has been discovered in that "substantial body of existing research." (The body of nonexisting research is, of course, insubstantial, and thus slightly less likely to be funded.) The professionals know better. In the first place, as any fool can see, it doesn't matter what that "research" may or may not have come up with, since it obviously hasn't done the least damn bit of good. That's why these teachers don't know it now. Teacher academies have better things to do.

And that brings us to the second place: This is school business, and school business trafficks in stuff much more important than mere knowledge. Anybody can find some knowledge, even without so much as a facilitator, to say nothing of a whole department of planning and development. Sometimes, even without funding. And knowledge without awareness is dangerously anti-humanistic; it may even lead to conclusions that suggest that it is madness to imagine that we need yet more "instructional material and writing activities" concocted by a workshop full of teacher academy graduates who have yet to be made aware of all that "research."

After things like awareness, development and implementation, and the practice of strategies, professionals prize most those collective exercises which, like cold baths for monks, dampen the anarchic flames of individualism. Now that the time has come for a few of Cincinnati's certified teacher academy graduates to try to learn how to write English, the professionals have provided that

teachers will participate in the composing process itself. They will write compositions and critique their writings the same way as their students would do the activities in their English classes. The rationale for this approach is that teachers must experience the writing process before they can successfully teach the process to their students. In other words, teachers of writing must write themselves.

Ah, the great Composing Process Itself! Always, like the wild dance of the quark, always going on somewhere. How wonderful to participate in it. Lucky, lucky teachers, to experience it. Such awareness. And lucky, too, that they will "do the activities" just as their students will do them, in the warm nest of participatory democracy, where any opinion (or awareness) is as good as any other, and where self-esteem runs no risk of injury in the hands of elitist authoritarianism armed with mere knowledge.

The blind, you see, can lead the blind, provided only that they all wander together in a dense mass. Only those few way out on the edges will fall into the ditch.

[V:8, November 1981]


Department of Gaga

WHEN teachers in Santa Clara County get homesick for that scholarly life they came to know and love in teacher school, the local Dept. of Ed. is happy to provide them lots more of it, real neat stuff like this:

We will explore both theoretically and experimentially [sic] how to develop positive self-esteem in the classroom. We will create a positive and validating climate, in which we can relax, recharge and reinspire ourselves, and reaffirm our own essential self-worth and learn numerous classroom methods for facilitating positive self-esteem in our classrooms.

We will use such methods as guided imagery, positive focus, the language of responsibility, physical nurturance, communication recognition, strength identification, relaxation, and many others to help our students learn to accept themselves totally and learn to take action in the world. (Fee $30.00)

And here's a cheapy ($17) called "Science as a Verb." which it may be in their "language of responsibility":

Basic principles of science will be experienced through activities appropriate for classroom instruction; instruction will use common, easy-to-come-by materials.

How they experience principles, we don't know, but we'd sure like to see it, maybe just as they get to osmosis.

[VII:1, February 1983]


Voodoo Educology

Department of Temporal Plasticity

IT is a poet's luxury to sit around and wonder what the vintners buy one half so precious as the stuff they sell. For us, it is harsh necessity to discover what the school people learn one half so preposterous as the stuff they teach. It's not all that easy, for the stuff they learn usually turns out to be twice as preposterous as the stuff they teach.

We continue, nevertheless, to compile our Katalogue of Kollege Kredit Kourses, in which the following travesty is 4302.7Q. At the University of Bridgeport, however, the very same thing is advertised, to practicing and incipient schoolteachers, as a course in tensory awareness, worth three kollege kredits, and maybe a little raise:

This course is designed to increase the participant's ability to read, interpret, process, and respond to day-to-day sensory stimuli; to give participants a literacy in the many peripheral areas related to sensory perception and awareness; to prepare teachers to help their students expand the sensitivities of their eleven senses.

The above has been taught to high school seniors, to elementary and secondary school teachers, school psychologists, counselors, and social workers. The temporal plasticity of the course comes from its great material depth. This flexibility allows for an alteration of the subject profile to better fulfill objectives for participants.

We can explain some of that. The "great material depth" of this kourse comes from the fact that only the dead or deeply comatose suffer any shortage of "day-to-day sensory stimuli." The rest of us have quite a few. And we can, if we please, and if we can find a sap who will listen, natter about our stimuli. Since such nattering has the same value whether it persists for ten minutes or for ten weeks, those who persist in it enjoy the blessing of temporal plasticity. They can knock off early. And the instructor, who could also find something better to do, can always "alter the subject profile" so that the participants can get plenty of flexibility out of the temporal plasticity of material depth and drop in on the class only when they have some really neat sensory stimuli to interpret and process--good stuff from way out in the tenth sense, maybe.

Some of it we can not explain. We do not, for instance, understand those areas, the peripheral ones that are said to be "related to sensory perception and awareness." We sort of wish that the person who cooked up that description had named maybe three or four of the areas he had in mind. We can't come up with a single one, and the more we try, the more our sensitivities seem to contract--in all eleven senses.

Nor is there any clue, as once there would have been, in the assertion that those mysterious areas are accessible to something called "literacy." This is, of course, the New Literacy, a far more democratic skill than the old, of which many innocents were deprived either by native ignorance or induced stupidity. To the New Literacy, which offers scads of neat options very much like Bridgeport University's "peripheral area literacy," ignorance and stupidity are no impediments.

We found Sensory Awareness described, along with a full dozen other kourses of like ilk, in a brochure put out by a certain Redecision Institute for Transactional Analysis. (Analysis of the transaction in which the University of Bridgeport agreed to give graduate credit for these kourses is not provided.) RITA offers more lessons than Madame la Zonga. From her, if peripheral area literacy is not your bag, you can also learn: "using stroking as a major stimulus to human motivation"; "pupilometrics"; "techniques to establish and maintain rapport with students and elicit desirable responses"; and "strategies to produce behavioral changes in colleagues, peer group, couples, family, students, and parents." Exactly what a teacher needs. No nonsense about math or literature or science--schoolteachers already know all that stuff--just a heady compound of Dale Carnegie and Dr. Goebbels. And all that for a lousy three hundred and sixty bucks a course.

In the old days, one of the day-to-day stimuli well known to teachers, and right in a peripheral area, was the sensory perception of sitting on a tack. Those old pros, without having taken a single course in sensory awareness, were nevertheless able to "read, interpret, process, and respond," frequently managing to expand a few student sensitivities at the same time. They had what we would now call a kind of natural tack-sitting literacy.

Nowadays, when the schoolteachers come, as the excellence commission puts it, "from the bottom quarter of graduating high-school and college students," we have to nurture in them what teachers seem once to have had by nature. So, if only they would use plenty of tacks, a kourse in sensory awareness would be right to the point. We could think of it as a way of sensitizing the bottom quarter.

[VII:4, May 1983]


The Glendower Glitch

WHEN our zany educationists call spirits from the vasty deep, the damned things actually do come. If you so much as whisper, within the hearing of one of those Porseffors of PedaGog/Magoggery, the dread name of Area-Awareness-Enhancement Modular On-site Methods/Devices, you can be sure that a year later you will find that very demon courted in classrooms and workshops required for certification. If you could name about four hundred such spooky spirits you could summon up a whole teacher-training academy. But don't do it. We have enough trouble now.

We were reminded of the awesome demonic power of educationistic wordplay while reading The Official* Grapevine. (That asterisk is in the title, and it leads to this: "Published for the Mounds View School District Staff," of Arden Hills, Minnesota. The next asterisk is ours.*) In an article called "Process Completed" we found:

Dennis Peterson, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, has become one of 200 administrator perceiver specialists in the country as certified by the Selection Research Institute (SRI) of Lincoln, Nebraska.

The process toward certification, which Peterson began in 1978, was completed on Friday, November 14, at the conclusion of an "intensive" 2 1/2 day training session held by the SRI in Hopkins. "The process and basic skills which the training develops are used mainly to identify strengths in potential and existing administrators and to focus on these strengths in future personal development," said Peterson.

See how easy it is? All you have to do is stand in the mystic diagram of existing aspects and potential parameters, swivel slowly for about two years ("intensively" for the final two and a half days), relating to felt needs and chanting aloud the subset of secret synonyms for the Great Perceiver, and behold--a mere and humble Assistant Superintendent of Instruction (surely he must be destined for better things than that) is robed in the greater glory of Administrator Perceiver Specialistship!

Ah, the life of the mind! Where else but in the schools could such wonders be worked? And just think of what the future must bring. Quis percipiet ipsos perceptores? By next year this time some canny necromancer will have conjured up that gaunt and grisly specter, nothing less than the Great Perceiver Perceiver Himself. Then, while Perceiver Specialist Peterson prowls the precincts of the principals, perceiving administrators, both existing and potential, hard on his heels follows the furtive figure of a former facilitator turned Perceiver Specialist Perceiver Specialist, perceiving Peterson's very perceivings, also both existing and potential. And next year. . . . The mind reels. It even boggles a bit.

But the educationist dances and jigs. You get grants for that sort of thing in the education business, where it is presumed, and maybe with good reason, that only a certified perceiver can tell an industrious and effective administrator (there must be some) from an overbearing imbecile. In fact, any routine act of judgment performed habitually by millions and millions of only slightly observant citizens can become, if given a spooky name, a "skill" to be taught and eventually required. How, after all, can we trust the perceptions of one who has never taken a single course--not even one lousy workshop--in perceiving? And how can you expect a schoolteacher to relate to students without training in relating? Indeed, how can you even expect a teacher to answer a simple question in class without a thorough appreciation of the concept of microteaching in the classroom situation.

Microteaching. A potent demon. As it happens, we do understand microteaching. We've been reading all about it in an essay, or something, "Understanding Microteaching as a Concept," by one Robert J. Miltz, who admits that he is the director of the microteaching laboratory in the school of education at the University of Massachusetts. What it might mean to understand something "as a concept" rather than as some other thing, we do not understand, but the man says:

Most educators know microteaching as a scaled down encounter where a teacher teaches for a short period of time (5-10 minutes) to a small number of students (4-5), with the typical microteaching sessions including the teaching of a lesson and immediate supervisory and pupil feedback. This model has been useful over the years to demonstrate the concept of microteaching. The unfortunate aspect of this model is that it is usually interpreted as the essence of the microteaching concept, this interpretation has severely limited the use and development of microteaching. Microteaching, as a concept, is not simply a scaled down teaching encounter, it is much more.

There is nothing a laboratory director deplores more than an unfortunate aspect interpreted as an essence, especially when such an obtuse misinterpretation might severely limit the use and development of exactly that potion that he cooks up for the taxpayers, who already seem restless in Massachusetts. What we deplore is the failure to understand, as a concept, or even as a precept, the logical outrage of run-on sentences. But Miltz has better hope of remedy than we. We've just never been able to build up a market for coherent and conventional prose among the educationists, while they can easily sell one another (bills to the taxpayers) any old remnants or seconds they have lying around. Maybe it's packaging. Notice how astutely Miltz relabels his product, lest all the schoolteachers in Massachusetts tumble to the fact that they've been microteaching all their lives, by gum, and that it's no macrodeal:

What then is the microteaching concept? In its fullest sense the microteaching concept is an opportunity for a person or group of persons to present or develop something to another person or group and then take a look at what was done. This model opens up a wide range of possibilities not available in the more traditional model of microteaching.

There. That should do it. Now we can understand as a concept that almost anything, anything from football in Foxborough to a message from E. F. Hutton, is really just a form of microteaching, and that Miltz is about as far out on the cutting edge as you can hope to get.

But, of course, it's not to the point that we understand. The other educationists have to understand, and that, as Miltz obviously knows, requires reinforcement mediated by expectable parameters of learning disabilities in both individuals and groups:

First, unlike the traditional model, the definition does not limit microteaching to one person presenting information. There can be more than one.

Our definitive studies have shown that three out of five educationists at least eighty-two times out of a hundred will, having carefully read that passage, exhibit certain behaviors that may be perceived, by some duly certified perceiver, as relevant to an appreciation of the concept of microteaching as a definition unlike a model limited to one person. That Miltz knows his audience.

Miltz takes the last "unfortunate aspect" of microcity out of microteaching by pointing out that "the idea that any size or type of group can be utilized as the receivers eliminates the belief that one must have only a small group of students." How true. And the idea that a pig could be called a cow and bread, cake would eliminate an unfortunate aspect of that tired old belief that if we had some ham we could have a ham sandwich if only we had some bread.

And bread is cake. Miltz makes that clear by telling us that "the idea of presenting or developing something frees the restriction that it must be a teaching lesson." And now, that captive restriction free at last, we understand as a concept that microteaching need be neither micro nor teaching. It need only be funded.

But there's one more thing. Feedback. Without videotaping machinery, which takes lots of funding, "it must be honestly stated that [microteaching] can't be done as effectively." So, whether we have "the holding of a problem session," or "an administrator [who] can gain useful insight into his effectiveness" even without the help of an administrator perceiver specialist, or even "a teacher who wants to investigate her relationship with a student on an individual basis," "for small groups or even larger [that should just about cover it] groups," "the real power and benefit comes from being able to actually see yourself doing something." And furthermore:

There is no restrictions [sic] on the way one receives feedback or the type of feedback one receives. It is simply stated that the person or persons have an opportunity to see themselves in action. . . . A person may look at the videotape alone, or with peers, or with an outside supervisor, or with students, or with any number of alternatives.

Well, we don't yet have our own microteaching laboratory here at Glassboro, but we have discovered that everything recommended by Miltz can be readily provided, contingent only on a little funding, at this really neat little motel just this side of Atlantic City. They've even been known to provide, at no extra charge, an occasional Microteaching Encounter Perceiver Specialist.

__________

* Luckily for the rest of us, the people who operate the schools are as noncognitive about our Constitution as they are about everything else. They don't know that the Fifth Amendment would excuse them from sending out all those silly newsletters and poopsheets. Well, their ignorance is our bliss, so we urge our readers to keep sending us that junk. back

[V:1, January 1981]


The Sound of One Eraser Clapping

Every Monday I listen to sundry administrators lecturing the faculty on how we must employ the various aspects of curricular media to enhance the quality of education within the context of modern techniques and facilities.. . . The faculty is thinking of asking for nap rugs and milk during the films.. . . Burn this letter! If my principal finds it, she'll make me clap my own erasers for a week and cut my audio-visual access for a month.

YOU have just read excerpts from a poignant letter--nine pages, with footnotes--written to us by a public school teacher somewhere in the United States. That's all we are willing to tell you about him, except, of course, for his name. His name is Legion.

We get hundreds of letters like his every year from schoolteachers driven to frenzy by jargon-besotted, half-witted administrators, the officious noncombatants of the school war. You may recall the type. Twelve miles behind the lines, in neatly pressed uniforms, they drank fresh coffee and told you exactly how to enhance operational outcomes through implementation of alternative modes.

The teachers in the trenches are not educationists. Some of the least able do, of course, want to improve their lots by taking more education courses and becoming either junior assistant curriculum facilitators or teacher academy deans, whichever comes easier. Most of them, however, know all too well that the battle in the classroom is only with ignorance, a beatable foe, while the enemy back at headquarters is armed with intransigent stupidity, the vast, dead weight of established educationism, pavilioned in jargon and girded in cant. Even more than the children in their classes, the teachers are victims of an institutionalized anti-intellectualism, dazed and ragged survivors of the values clarification concentration camp. Some children, therefore, will have the inestimable advantage of having for teachers resolute dissidents devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and the practice of thought, which depend absolutely on reading and writing.

Those who write to us, of course, are dissidents. We wish we could help them all. We wish we could print and dissect all those documents they send us, the mindless maunderings of the ignoramuses who set standards and make policy in the schools. We wish we could tell every tale told us out of school, funny but excruciating accounts of that militant mickeymousery called teacher-training.* But we can't do it all. We do, however, have some advice and comfort for desperate dissidents.

Remember that you are not alone. The others are waiting for someone else. And even if they are slow to surface, remember that one working mind with a mimeograph machine can demoralize a whole platoon of superintendents and curriculum coordinators armed with bizarre mail-order doctorates.

Find that mimeograph machine, or make a deal with a friendly printer. Tell him Tom Paine sent you. The unspeakable acts of that rear echelon are detectable, as mental acts must be, in language, so publish abroad the very words, with brief, suitable comment, of those inane and ignorant memos and directives. Comment only on the words, for which the public has paid, but do name the wordmonger. Leave batches of broadsides in the faculty lounge while your colleagues are unconscious, immersed in hair care and motorcycle magazines. You will be amazed at how far and fast the word will spread.

Go to the public, who pays you, remember, for the work of your mind. Take a lesson from a high school English teacher in Philadelphia, one Ronald James, who is willing and able to do the work of his mind on the editorial page of The Bulletin. Here is what he says, for instance, about some visitation by one of those HQ wonders:

The greater part of this specialist's presentation was devoted to providing teachers with . . . "accomodative strategies" for teaching students with reading and writing problems. He urged us to permit such students to "meet curricular objectives" (read: pass the course) with such "project activities" as charts, collages, mobiles, models and drawings. We were also instructed to provide our students with "alternative response modes" (read: don't insist that they write) including tape recording of lessons as well as oral tests.

One Ronald James, in one column, will tell more truth about the Basic Minimum Competence Hoax, or anything else, than the District Department of Information Services, busy "educating" the public, will disgorge in a decade. Go and do thou likewise. Pay no attention to your union, whining in chorus with administrators about the natural and proper appetite of the press for bad news about schools. Feed that appetite, and test your union's pious devotion to whatever it means by "quality" education.

At the very least, you can send a copy of this article to your favorite curriculum facilitator or superintendent of schools. He won't understand it very well, of course, but he will feel an enhanced awareness of doom.

_________

* Nevertheless, we do intend to print and circulate a little anthology of appalling anecdotes, anonymously or not, as contributors choose. Please keep sending them in. Stick to the facts--who, what, where, when. We have the other eraser. back

[IV:8, November 1980]


The Ballons Nodule

CITIZENS out in the real world, usually but not always parents of schoolchildren, write to us complaining about the bozos who run the schools. The complainers often send evidence, which we are delighted to have, of course, but all too many of them go on to whine about their supposed helplessness and frustration. That puzzles us. We thought every American would know what to do with evidence of official malfeasance, even when, as in the case of the schools, the presumed protectors of the public interest are themselves the miscreants.

We have, for instance, a letter from an irate father in Wisconsin. Although he was relieved to learn that his son had not in fact been put into a nodule, he found that his tolerance of typos did not extend to big black caps:

A handout (of material, of course) was given to my son in his kindergarten class. It was a picture of a clown holding a bunch of ballons. I knew right away that they were ballons because the instructions on the top of the page said, "Color the Ballons." I had intended to send the original, but I can't bear to part with such a treasure.

And he asks, with this and other similar matters in mind, "What the hell should I do!!!!" (That's right: 4 !'s.)

Another irate parent sends Update, the newsletter of the Keystone Central School District in Lock Haven, PA, where the molders of young minds say:

All incoming seventh grade students will be tested during the first two weeks of school in mathematics and english. The purpose of this testing is to find out at what competency level the students are functioning. This will allow the teachers to pinpoint specific weaknesses a student may have and help him to improve it during the year. In order to determine the progress a student may have made during the year, they will be tested again in June.

OK. Here's what you do. Do not bother going to the schools. The people who make policy there are ignorant or negligent or both. How do you think such things happen in the first place? Besides, the school people lose nothing when you complain and gain nothing when you approve; they get your money either way.

But do go to your local newspaper. With any luck at all, you'll find there a gnarled editor who once learned to diagram sentences, or a smartass young reporter fresh from the minimum competence circus. Newspapers don't get tax money, and juicy stories about ignorant educationists are happily popular just now. So strike while the irony is hot, or shut up and color your ballons.

[IV:9, December 1980]


Yet Another for the Gipper

"SPORTS," as Heywood Hale Broun astutely observed, "do not build character. They reveal it." And that gives a new insight, perhaps, into Vince Lombardi's penetrating analysis of the fearful danger implicit in the academic enterprise: "A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall." And that, of course, would be the end not only of American education as we know and love it but probably of the Hula Bowl as well.

Well, it's high time somebody just said it straight out, so here it is, ready or not, as the case may be: In spite of Roger Staubach's terrific grade-point average and Howard Cosell's truly awesome vocabulary, and in spite of all that the Pacific Ten and the Football Mothers of Wellsburg, West Virginia, have done to show their support for the American way of life, there still exists, in this great land of ours, a mean streak of anti-athleticism. And some of it, sad to relate, is right in the schools.

But don't you worry, because we can guarantee you that there's one place that won't deteriorate into some dreary study hall, not while Head Football Coach Paul S. Billiard is around. Now while we don't have the figures, we'd guess that Head Coach Billiard's Bruins at Brooke High School in Wellsburg must have some phenomenal record, for we have been privileged to read the coach's letter to the new football parents. He's a man who came to play, and right at the opening gun he tackles the dilemma of anti-athleticism by both horns:

Please impress upon [your son] that he is about to take a giant step in his young life, that of entering high school and participating in interscholastic athletics.

Now that's to lay it on the line, reveal character, and clarify values, all at once.

Coach Billiard has not, like some others we could name, knuckled under the mystique of intellectualism that still runs all too rampant even in some good high schools with very fine teams. Educator though he is, the coach does not flaunt his erudition around by talking over the heads of the parents and Football Mothers, which is just what happens all too often with guidance counsellors and curriculum facilitators and other such members of the higher-up intelligentsia in the public schools, who don't often seem to have the knack of finding easy words that laymen can understand. Even when he has to use the highly specialized technical language of the professional of education in order to describe something very subtle and complicated, Coach Billiard can find a way to make at least the gist of it clear to almost anyone of any educational level:

We have raised over $12,000 to help improve facilities in our strength room. Our strength facilities are second to none, but facilities must be facilitated (used).

You see? It can be done.

And, unlike some academics who always seem to think that their subjects are more important than any others, Coach Billiard recognizes that there's more to high school than just football. There may be basketball and baseball as well, and the coach favors the basics for any sport at all:

We are saying that the strength improvement phase is a very integral part of our total program. It is a fact that a stronger athlete is a better athlete regardless of what sport he is involved.

Athleticism, unlike such cold subjects as biology and algebra, teaches the warm human values. You don't see physicists patting each others' bottoms, and microbiologists don't even have awards banquets where they can express their gratitude to all the wonderful people who made it all possible. But in one sentence from Coach Billiard, a bright boy can learn some real human values that he might never pick up in your standard English course:

I would be remissed if I neglected to mention the outstanding cooperation and support that our program receives from our Principal . . .

Now can you imagine some math teacher writing to the parents of new students actually giving due and proper credit to the principal of the school for supporting the teaching of math? Probably not, because the people who end up teaching things like math, even if they aren't consciously anti-athleticists, do tend to be lacking in team-mindedness. They're off in their own little corners perusing esoteric special interests like history and literature.

Hardly anyone, of course, would deny that there is a place for such things in the high schools, especially for that certain kind of student. But we do have to remember that such studies do not tend to foster team-mindedness. Actually, they usually have the opposite effect. After all, we do have to admit that there is something basically selfish and unsportsmanlike about learning such things as trigonometry or French. Those things may be all well and good for the person who learns them, but can you imagine what would happen to team spirit if all the players wanted to learn things only because of what was in it for them?

Furthermore, many of those subjects are unrealistically difficult, and even a very good player can find that the self-esteem that he loses in the French class doesn't always come back on the playing field. That's the sort of thing that brings on a bad attitude, the worst possible of all educational outcomes. And it is the Coach Billiards of this world, and not the teachers of French and trigonometry, who know exactly where bad attitudes come from and how to guard against them:

We discourage those individuals with poor attitudes to "shape up or ship out." A young man will not receive a bad attitude from participating in our system. If he is in trouble at home or elsewhere, his potential of carrying that characteristic into athletics is highly possible. Therefore, we are not about to base our program around individuals who are going to deter from the success of the team. (If the family can't handle the situation, don't complain when the coaches or school has to.)

And isn't that really the problem in so many of the non-athletic portions of a high school education, which are, in fact, based around individuals who do deter from the success of the team?

Coach Billiard hits the old nail right on the old head when he closes his letter with:

We hope that the preceding material has provided you with some needed information and supplied you with incite of the basic philosophy . . . of our program.

We'd like to believe that the parents were as incited as they should have been, but you know how parents are. Some of them don't even care who wins, so long as the kids are off the streets.

But if those parents will do just one little thing, there may be hope. Let them at least follow the advice in the coach's P.S.: "Please allow your son to read this letter so that all of us are speaking the same language." On that great day when we all speak the coach's language, there will be no deterring from success whatever sport we are involved, and anti-athleticism will trouble us no more.

[IV:8, November 1980]


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