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Welcome to The Jungle! Nerd persecution explained

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http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

If you stop there, what you're describing is literally a prison, albeit a part-time one. The problem is, many schools practically do stop there. The stated purpose of schools is to educate the kids. But there is no external pressure to do this well. And so most schools do such a bad job of teaching that the kids don't really take it seriously-- not even the smart kids. Much of the time we were all, students and teachers both, just going through the motions.

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I read this file a few days back. For the most part, it's right on the money (all motivations for the kids sound plausible - and finally someone has the guts to post that kids are cruel because it's *fun*).

However, I respectfully disagree about most of the staff just going through the motions of teaching. Perhaps I just got lucky, but virtually all of the teachers I had in my high school days (at a public high school in Canada) did seem to care about the students' education. The amount of material they presented was limited not by apathy, but by the fact that they had to keep most of the class along for the ride. The smart kids still ended up bored; it's the cause I disagree with.

My high school education was very useful to my future career. You learn a lot more than the article's author seems to recall - you learn how to work, and you're at least *exposed* - kicking and screaming - to subjects you may have to learn more about when you get older. Even a student who doesn't want to learn (which covers most of the students) will at least learn that the material _exists_. A student who, against their better judgement, actually tries to retain the material will gain a lot of the "doesn't everyone know that?" class of basic math and science and literature/culture familiarity that we take for granted without remembering where we got it.

Given that high schools are dealing with students who for the most part don't want to learn, I think the ones around here, at least, do an admirable job of teaching them.

The social problems mentioned in the article, of course, made my school life a living hell from about grade 9 to grade 11 (and for the latter half of elementary school before that). The teachers helped by being friendly and by giving me safe havens between classes (did stock-room work in grades 7-8, and coded in the computer lab in high school). I gather that many people weren't lucky enough to have teachers that cared, but I seem to have lucked out for pretty much all of my school career (which makes it unlikely that I'm a fluke).

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Deuce, you were lucky. The school I was at (down here in PA) was an absolute dive. I was shocked when I left to discover just how little I actually knew -- and I was counted a good student.

As for problems with fellow students -- that wasn't too bad until they started busing the HUD scumbags in. Talk about career hoodlums!

You know, if it weren't for SF & Fantasy, sometimes I think I would've committed either suicide or murder before graduation.

Eric Hinkle

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If bad teachers were the exception for you, you really were lucky as hell. My school(in Victoria, B.C.) had a good number of decent teachers, but they were still indisputably outnumbered by the incompetent, the senile, and the obligatory excess of sport-specific gym teachers who spent the other half of their time screwing students up in subjects they didn't know how to teach. That said, it's definitely true that the good teachers are hobbled by the necessity of passing everyone, especially in mandatory classes like english. The improvement from English 11 to AP Lit 12/English 12 was almost as incredible as the dropout rate from the second class.

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Deuce, you were lucky. The school I was at (down here in PA) was an absolute dive. I was shocked when I left to discover just how little I actually knew -- and I was counted a good student.

There are enough schools and teachers involved that I have a hard time believing it's luck. In elementary school, I had two bad teachers out of a total of about a dozen. In high school, I had no bad teachers, out of a dozen or more across many subjects. In university, I've had three mediocre profs, and no bad ones, out of on the order of two dozen. That's three completely unrelated educational institutions where the faculty by and large was of high quality and cared about the students.

Either you un-lucked-out and got a horrible school, or there really is something different between the Canadian and American educational systems, because I have enough data points to conclude that the schools up here are pretty good (not perfect, but good).

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Hey Mach here.

I would say its a big difference between Canadian and American school systems.

It is of note that the school system is also vastly different from district to district even in the same State in the US.

For the record. I'm in Orlando, Florida. Graduated out of Apopka. School nearly drove me insane quite litterally and I too will admit I came very close to losing it in highschool.

I'm so damn glad I'm out of there.

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[or there really is something different between the Canadian and American educational systems]

Got it in one!

America's public schools work very simply: You know the old axiom about the chain only being as strong as the weakest link? Same for the education I received. The instructor would identify the slowest student in the class, and teach to that student. The rest of us couldn't go ahead. We pulled our hair out waiting for the one or two slowpokes to pick up on a concept before the rest of us could move forward. Maybe this is because the teachers feared reprisal for fear of "leaving anyone behind," but that doesn't excuse the decision they made. It left the rest of us with a severely lacking education.

Prior Lake, MN was my hometown. It was one of those farmtown-turned-yuppie-haven places, so there was tons of money (tax revenue from all the new developments being built up and bought out) cascading into the school district's coffers. Every last dime of it was mismanaged and misspent. I had an excellent teacher in kindergarten, and one in second grade. Good teachers were the exception in my district, not the rule. Most of them wanted to stamp you, file you, and move you along. One teacher actively challenged my parents -- she wanted me put on drugs for attention deficit disorder when she found me reading in class (I was bored as hell), claiming I wasn't participating and ignored the classwork (Man, if you haven't mastered 2+2 by the time you're in fourth grade, I don't know if you're ever going to get it). My parents disagreed -- they said they had looked at the curriculum and were appauled at how slowly progress was being made, and that they weren't going to drug me up just so she could continue plodding along.

I think this is a tune you'll hear time and time again about America's public school system.

-Feren
"We use them for divine retribution."

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I grew up in a more or less rural location- Northern California about a hundred fifty miles south of the Oregon border.

Redding/Anderson was a lumber industry area when I was growing up- and the school curriculum was clearly designed to teach kids to be able to read and write just well enough to balance a checkbook and follow basic written rules posted in the mill's lunch room..

The system was strictly concerned with only two things-
Keep the kids off the street, and make them obey the established authority of the school.

We were being processed strictly for work in the lumber mills- nothing else.

The mills shut down right about the time I got into junior high school..

Which changed the industry of the area to tourism and welfare.

Reading this thesis, the author could easily have been describing northern california- it was so precisely like what I went through.

I was always reading on my own, and I knew so much more than the other students that I could actually debate many of my teachers on an equal basis in class-
A fact that in some classes the other students actually liked, and in most cases made my life hell- but I was too socially ignorant to realise how deep I was digging myself in..
(Mrs. Duck's class was great- she was enthusiastic and didn't care what you studied- as long as you showed you WERE studying, and it was social studies related..)

I was held back for 2 years in high school, and my diploma withheld.

I finally took some night courses, and within about a week, I had the 5 or 10 credits they said I needed to qualify for one- and my high school principal looked like he was sucking lemons when I came to the school to collect it- he didn't even let me onto the campus- he met me in the parking lot to give it to me.

In essence, I had been punished for not being obedient to his will- not for neglecting my studies, and therfor being uneducated.
(The college professor who was teaching the night classes was amused by the whole thing- he gave me workbooks to fill out, I did it at the rate of 2 a night, and he graded them. And signed them off and gave me the credits on the spot.)

Bastard put me through 2 extra years just to try to put me in my place- and wasn't pleased when I found a way around him.
And bear in mind that people I knew who were barely able to read at all were being given diplomas and sent out into the world with clearly deficient educations....

So yes.
American schools are really nothing but babysitting services, and they are indeed run like prisons.

-Ironbadger-

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Kudos to Ironbadger and Feren. My school ran exactly like the ones they described -- crank the kids through for 12 years and hope they actually learn somethng. In my area, SE PA, the main employer was the Bethlehem Steel, which went belly up just like IB's mills, with much the same result -- on both the economy and the schools.

Something I'd like to ask here,concerning 'slow learners' and teaching down to them -- did any of you have two sets of Special Ed kids in your schools, like mine did?

The first set were the ones with honest disabilities. The second was the set you had to look out for, because they were thugs. They were stuffed into Special Ed because they kept disrupting every other class they were in, and they seemed to spend the entire day wandering the building and hassling the other students.

Once I had to run a message down there -- these guys had a freakin' video machine and free soda in their room, just to keep them in line -- meanwhile the school was teaching off textbooks at least ten years out of date.

YOU tell me how that makes sense.

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[The first set were the ones with honest disabilities. The second was the set you had to look out for, because they were thugs. They were stuffed into Special Ed because they kept disrupting every other class they were in, and they seemed to spend the entire day wandering the building and hassling the other students. ]

Yep, we had that exact same thing. I had frequent run-ins with the later class of miscreant/thug that you describe, too. Those were always tons of fun, because usually they brought along their football buddies to make sure the odds were stacked in their favor.

The part that steamed me the most was that these kids got rewarded with Nintendo just for showing up to class. Yep, they got rewarded for doing something that everyone else in the school were simply expected to do! Meanwhile I was busting my ass to pull in a 4.0 in Advanced Placement Lit&Comp, as well as Calculus, and my "reward" was more homework. Where was my popcorn and soda?

-Feren
"We use them for divine retribution."

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All my life I've been running from my 4th through 11th grade life and memories and now, for the first time, I really understand why. I also now realize in specific words why I'll make any sacrifice I will make for
private school or homeschool for my three children before I ever make them endure the
local public school system.

Like it or not, you can't deny this essay's reality and truth at least as far as the U.S. school system. I lived it. Most likely, you did too.
Rev. Boxer

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