Merry Winter to You

In a school concert that includes a religious Hanukkah song and a Santa song, students will sing a de-Christmasized carol.

At Clover Creek Elementary, music teacher Mark Denison changed the lyrics in Dale Wood's "Carol from an Irish Cabin" to read: "The harsh wind blows down from the mountains, and blows a white winter to me."

Silly. The whole point of throwing in a few Hanukkah songs and generic winter songs is to justify singing the great Christmas songs.

Missing Columbine

In a generally positive New York Times Magazine story on misfits who choose cyber-schools, writer Emily White worries that virtual students miss out on school violence. Many of those she interviewed see school as hostile, coercive, distracting and dangerous. They don't see the beauty.

Before Columbine, the social Darwinism of the hallway was seen as character-building. Now we effortlessly imagine those ''characters'' hiding guns in trench coats, or dead. Promoters of virtual school promise that their Web sites are safe from online predators, and traditional school is portrayed as a haven for bullies, a brutal, corrupted environment in which violent confrontations are bound to occur.

Yet it is also true that there is a beauty in high school: those long, exhausting hours full of other kids, everyone trying to interpret one another. It's a beauty that Gus Van Sant evokes in his new Columbine-inspired film, ''Elephant'' -- kids break dancing and taking pictures and making out, even as the school day is headed for darkness.

Some students like the social interaction of school; others can't handle it or prefer not to or go to schools where the danger is too dangerous to be beautiful.

Tuned Out

By high school, many students are disengaged and drifting, says a National Research Council report, "Engaging Schools: Fostering High School Students' Motivation to Learn." Education Week summarizes:

Although the best high schools are filled with well-qualified and caring teachers in a setting where all students are valued, the book-length report says, for too many teenagers, high school has become an impersonal place where low expectations are common.

The committee recommended creating small schools within schools, pairing students with an "adult advocate" (counselor, I guess), linking curriculum to students' lives, eliminating tracking and connecting students to social and health services.

Number 2 Pencil comments on a Seattle Times' story on the disconnect between high school and college. Basically, if high school was easy, college will be hard. Even good students may discover they're not prepared for higher education.

Kindergarten Kamikazes

School violence is starting at earlier ages as an increasing number of unsocialized children are cursing at classmates, punching teachers and throwing temper tantrums in class. They spend hours each day watching TV but not enough time interacting with caring, responsible adults. Time reports:

Kids who are chronologically 6 years old are showing up in school with "emotional experience you would expect of a 3-year-old," says Dr. Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist who works with the nonprofit group ChildTrauma Academy, based in Houston. "Imagine a child with the terrible twos in a 6-year-old body. It's a huge problem in education and mental-health circles." This "relational poverty," he says, affects even the wealthiest kids.

Suffer the Little Children

Natalie Solent, a self-admitted fellow traveler who’s failed her libertarian parenting badge, writes about Learning by minor suffering.

Libertarian parenting? Hah! I've got merit badges for nagging and bossing, not to mention the much-coveted Order of the Imperious Order.

Ungot Greats

This Blowhards' thread asks: What great writers, musicians and artists do you just not get? You have to accept their greatness, but find it doesn't work for you. My number one entry is common to others: Henry James. He just doesn't do it for me. And I think all his characters should get jobs.

Dangerous Rhymes

Nursery rhymes are filled with safety hazards, write Canadian researchers -- facetiously.

Sarah Giles and Sarah Shea, from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, say Humpty Dumpty should have been put on a spinal board immediately after his big fall.

In a satirical letter to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, they added the presence of all the King's men suggests a "shocking lack of crowd control."

And what was that baby doing in a treetop?

They also criticise the rhyme about Jack and Jill for vagueness about the children's injuries and say that foul play could have killed off the old man in It's Raining it's Pouring.

That’s just the beginning: Jumping over a candlestick could cause a fire. Wee Willie Winkie risks a fall down the stairs. And Old King Cole really should stop smoking, drinking and, um, fiddling around.


Carson Sasser of Crestview, Fla., writes: 

We need more people like Stephanie Hightower. If we had more people like her I think there would be fewer misbehaving teenagers.

Landy Johnsonof  Carrollton, Texas, says: 

Part of the problem with children's lack of respect towards adults and authority figures is adults' allowing, and in some cases insisting, that children call them by their first names. Adults need to start acting like adults and stop trying to be friends with their children's friends. I'm not their "friend." I will be good to them. I will look out for them and protect them when I can. I will be happy for them in their successes and be compassionate in their failures. I will treat them with respect. But I can't be their friend. I'm an adult.

Richard Lasher of Minneapolis, Minn., writes: 

If I thought the hypersensitive egomaniacs who need my help would sign up, I would gladly create a web site and associated seminars. I would offer: "GET OVER IT," "GET A LIFE" and for the ultra-hypersensitive, "YOU POOR BABY" and its companion seminar, "BOO HOO."


Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at She’s writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.

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