Monday, July 23, 2012

Breaking Bad

In another glaring example of my parenting skills I tempted AOD into starting a life of crime yesterday, and she took the bait. She has learned that using her super-powers for evil pays; in cash.

Demographic data suggests that there is a correlation between education/intelligence and the probability of engaging in criminal activity. The higher the level of education attempted the less likely one is to commit crimes. Drop out of high school and it is no surprise when you get popped for boosting a car. Drop out of law school and you’re expected to become a respectable citizen, and spend years developing a sizable ponzi scheme; get busted for knocking over a liquor store while on probation and people are going to talk.

For AOD her educational accomplishments have actually facilitated her early entry into the world of crime.

Over the past several weeks I have been assailing anyone who slowed down enough with boasts about AOD's accomplishments this year.

She had been stymied in her pursuit of academic excellence by an institutionalized vision of mediocrity in the Tooele school district. Late last year she had attempted to pad her schedule with a collection of advanced math, science, and language classes. She had also attempted to get into a classically male CTE class [for those of you not familiar Utah requires that all high school students take a number of Career and Technical Education –CTE- classes to graduate. These range from “shop-class” and “Home eck” type classes to PE. Included in this subsection of the Utah graduation requirements are those elements which are most strongly associated with classical gender roles]. After months of waiting she received her final schedule, and it contained shockingly few of her desired classes.

Some classes were simply not offered. Some were not ever scheduled to be offered at the school she was attending, but there might be a possibility of bussing her a dozen miles to another school in to take them; if she gave up a period for travel time. However, the district added insult to injury by suggesting that she had “plenty of time” to take statistics and calculus and needed to focus on her other requirements as a sophomore. She was given Social Dance instead of statistics; of course since she was denied so many classes I could say “instead of” a number of things.

The social dance issue became one of the more significant drivers in her decision to apply to schools in other districts. AOD was told that social dance required the female students wear high heel shoes. AOD is six feet tall in her bare feet. Wearing high heels would have her tower over most of the flat-shoed boys, and put her at eye-level only with the tallest boys in the school.

A girl should be allowed to carefully assemble her own personal body image without being forced to shove delicate parts of it into the faces of too-soon-weaned pubescent boys for a CTE grade.

The first school she went to accepted her immediately. Within twenty minutes of her asking she had every single class she wanted. She was convinced to take honors instead of AP chemistry, but that was the result of a discussion in which she felt like a full participant.

I am always slow to get on board with sweeping new ideas. When AOD pitched her potential schedule to me I was incredulous. Not only was her schedule full of college-level classes, but she had to catch a city bus every morning at 6AM, and take an hour and 15 minute bus ride so she could arrive in time to wait a half hour before school started (because the city bus schedule did not mesh with the school schedule). After school she planned on waiting almost two hours before the first bus could take her on an hour-long ride home. I did not think it was reasonably possible for a high school student to wake up so early every day.

But she did. She made it look easy. She had such a great time at school that she has enticed AYD to join her as she enters high school this coming year.

Because of the variety of classes available to high school students AOD’s straight A’s don’t mean much without reams of explanation about the relative difficulty or merits of each particular class. Though I may be eager to provide you with that intricate detail I’m going to stop myself. Instead I will rely on a handful of national test scores.

Four of the classes AOD took were Advanced Placement (AP) classes. These classes prepare students to leapfrog introductory college classes by serving as prerequisites for more advanced courses. The efficacy of an AP class is determined by the score on an annual AP test. The AP test is scored with a number ranging from 0 to 5; a 3 is considered an adequate passing score showing mastery of the AP subject.

AOD took four AP tests. This is more than most Tooele school district students take in all four years at any Tooele high school, and she has two more years of high school ahead of her. She earned a 5 –the top score- on each of the four tests she took. This earned her the distinction of being an “AP scholar with honors”, and opened the door in her future marked “crime”.

With official national recognition of her excellence the requests to have her help with this or that math class came pouring in. This person or that child was not “good at maths” or “hadn’t been bitten by the math bug yet” or “wasn’t math smart” and wanted her to help them. Because the AP scores represented college-level proficiency adults in college also sought her assistance.

The adults may have thought the assistance from a 16-year-old girl would be cheaper than that from some other adult.

Sometimes I get asked for help on this or that assignment from this or that returning student. I am usually happier to help than my schedule will allow. There have been times I have offered to really help someone learn something, and ended up just doing homework for them. Most people hate this and don’t ask me to help them again, and some think this is an optimal solution and jump at the idea of securing my help in the future. It was one such happy customer that asked AOD for assistance.

I do not charge anyone who I would bother to pretend to help, but I suggested she pay AOD a few bucks. We agreed on a couple-three of Jacksons in payment; she had actually suggested more, but would have to go to the bank.

AOD jumped on the idea. She does not make much in allowance, and has little time to do odd jobs around the house for cash. She set about doing the homework, and carefully wrote out a set of notes to help her explain the material to her first customer.

I gently explained to her that her customer might be more interested in the completed homework than the much more valuable tutoring she was prepared to give.

“You mean she is planning on paying me for doing her homework for her” AOD asked incredulously.

“pretty much..I mean I’m not sure…but pretty much…I think…yup” I replied.

“isn’t that wrong” she asked

“Yes it is” I said.

“Then shouldn’t I not do it” She asked

“Well…” I hemmed “She is asking you to help her with her homework, and you are offering that. Are you fully responsible if she decides to ignore your offer to help so she can get the completed homework without effort? Is it your job to police the motives of adults who would manipulate the honest offer you are making to gain personal shortcuts? “

“I guess not” she replied unsurely

“See what you can do with rationalization” I answered “It can be a powerful moral force”.

“Do you think I should bother to do the detailed notes for the second homework?”

“No” I sighed “Probably a waste of time”

AOD’s customer arrived with 12-year-old in tow. AOD handed over the homeworks, and pulled out her detailed notes for the first one. She began showing how the answers were obtained.

“That’s OK” said her customer “I’ll look them over later. It’s just that these math courses are kicking my butt. I mean, I get the homework and all, but when it comes to the tests I choke”

AOD accepted the cash, and her customer was gone seconds later.

“Dad…is that what a drug deal is like?” she asked “How does she pass the tests?”

“Well…what if they are take home tests?” I asked “Would you be willing to do them for say … a dollar a point?”

“Three” she playfully answered.

I tried to add “You know that would be wrong…” but she had skipped off down the hallway waving her cash in the air.

“Look AYD” she called out “I’ve got cash money!”


postmormon girl said...

Your oldest daughter sounds a lot like me - I took every advanced class my (small) public school would allow. I'm really glad she had the initiative to get out of that awful school and into one that was more acceptable to her talents.

Dear god, social dance? Are you f***ing kidding me?

adult onset atheist said...

I also had to work hard to find accommodation to my ambitions of excellence, but my story is not as compelling as AOD's, or presumably yours. I was the most serious impediment to my own advancement. It sounds like your's, like AOD's, were institutional. Yours sounds like a lack of resources in a small school while AOD's was a rigidly enforced mediocracy in a high school of a couple thousand students.

Girls also have a more difficult time of it because there are people who refuse to responsibly facilitate their advancement. AOD was "informed" by a Tooele guidance counselor that taking a lot of honor's classes would interfere with her being a cheerleader or joining the Sha-Rons.

There is a recent move to actually make K-12 schools less accommodating to excellence than they are now; especially in Mathematics. It is bundled with a new national curriculum called "common core".