It’s Time To Destroy The Middle (School) Classes

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I think whether or not high schoolers have enthusiasm for school or not depends a lot on the high school. In very academically oriented high schools, were its assumed that most kids are going to college rather than not going to college, I’d say that plenty of students still have enthusiasm for education and learning rather than just going to school because thats what teenagers do.Report

  2. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    I recall the school district I attended in High School had K-12 all in one building. The High school was segregated from the lower grades, but only by a long hallway, and the high school kids often had reasons to venture into the grade school area, just as the middle school kids did (no one had much cause to go to the HS area except HS students). The district I spent the bulk of my primary education in had 3 elementary schools, one giant middle school & one giant high school, all miles apart.

    I don’t recall my peers at the consolidated school lamenting their middle school days.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I went to a Cwtholic grade school so we were together for 8 years. It felt like family (most of the time). Were there incidents of bullying and mean girl behavior? Absolutely. Was it mitigated by having younger kids in the school? I can’t say I remember that being a factor.

    Having had two daughters hat have completed middle school now I can certainly agree that middle school is a special kind of hell. The concentration of all these kids going through a crazy transition period in their life must certainly amplify things considerably. I keep coming back to social media though. The effect it has had on kids at that age, especially girls, is profound. I don’t think it can be said too many times that there is an epidemic of bad behavior being among kids at that age.

    It seems to me that merging high school and middle school might be the better answer. When the younger kids (grades 6-8) are at the bottom of the barrel it might temper some of their behavior. Couple that with mentorship and maybe things would improve. I have talked about this on the site before but my high school alma mater now has a house system in which the older kids can play an active role in helping the younger ones. By all accounts the younger kids are having a much more positive experience. The question is whether or not this can be brought over to the public school system.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      It seems to me that merging high school and middle school might be the better answer. When the younger kids (grades 6-8) are at the bottom of the barrel it might temper some of their behavior.

      Interesting. I see another side to this coin; the proximity of the high-school students brings about earlier sexualization and drug/alcohol use; earlier experimentation with adult behaviors. I almost think the presence of the younger children makes it easier to stay childish a little bit longer, give yourself more time before you press into grownup land. The presence of the elder students creates pressure to mature faster, riskier behavior that younger kids in the grade level are often not prepared to deal with adequately. That said, I see this in rural schools where there’s only about a 50% expectation that any individual kid will go on to college; too. I’d imagine similar problems in a lot of inner-city schools.

      I agree with @leeesq, a highly motivated school with academic expectations is important; my time in Brookline compared to here clearly demonstrates that difference. But kids from well-educated and wealthy families have their own forms of negative influence, too; and it’s particularly difficult to navigate if you’ve less financial wherewithal. The brand of sneakers can really matter.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        The drug/alcohol thing bothers me, including something as simple as nicotine. Certainly a 13-year-old who really wants cigarettes can get them, but mixed in with 17- and 18-year-olds they’re more likely to be exposed to them. I’d still like to have a conversation with whoever made it possible for my 16-year-old daughter to get addicted to cigarettes. It took ten years and plans to become pregnant for her to finally kick the habit.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I think lumping them all together can be a very good thing, if a culture of responsibility is fostered. There are lots of examples where older kids, when tasked with being responsible for younger kids (in some capacity or another) rise to the challenge and act as positive mentors.

        Of course, if you just toss them all together in some kind of Lord of the Flies culture, yeah, it’s gonna be bad.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      Mike, that’s sort of my preferred solution as well. I think that from an academic standpoint, students will benefit more from subject-based classes that aren’t linked to grade level, which is something that doesn’t seem to happen at the middle school level. I feel like a huge problem with the way middle school students interact with each other is that they don’t have easy access to role models who have it figured out–and whether they’re in a K-8 school or a 6-8 school, the sixth graders are going to be looking at the 8th graders for social cues, and that’s a bad place to look.

      I’d like to see k-6 and 7-12 schools. But nearly every one of my education classmates I’ve discussed this with that is also a parent has said something along the lines of “I’d never allow my 13 year old daughter to go the same school as senior boys.”Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        “I’d never allow my 13 year old daughter to go the same school as senior boys.”

        That’s honestly one of my hesitations as well, and I figure that’s a reason why it would not likely happen.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        If I had a daughter maybe I’d feel differently but I can’t imagine that the average eighteen year old or seventeen year old senior would be interested in a thirteen year old, especially with societal training. It would just be to squicky to them.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I can’t imagine that the average eighteen year old or seventeen year old senior would be interested in a thirteen year old, especially with societal training.

        Seriously?

        The worry I have is that some parents actually think segregating 12th graders from 8th graders will prevent 12th graders and 8th graders from comingling. Where parents come up with these ideas is a mystery to me. It’s like they’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to be a kid or somethin.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        More generously, Lee – I completely agree that “your average” 12th grader isn’t interested in an 8th grader. Which reinforces my point. I think.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @stillwater, completely forgetting what its like to be a kid seems to be a requirement of parenting. Its why we keep making the same mistakes.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        But are they really mistakes?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Won’t prevent it, but does make it happen considerably less often than it works.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        First, I don’t believe that Will. Any evidence to support that claim? (I was in a school system which was heavily segregated by age, and I recall plenty of 8th grade girls hanging out with HS guys.)

        Second, if it is true, does it trump the positive aspects of getting rid of middle school and letting decent kids of all ages hang out together?

        Third, I think alot of this is driven by parents forgetting what it’s like to be a kid.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        One’s dating pool is heavily influenced by one’s exposure. Putting 8th graders in a school would lead to more exposure and more dating.

        I personally dated outside my school exclusively, but that wasn’t the norm.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Well, again, I don’t believe. And even if I did, I’m not sure why it’s a decisive consideration.

        Parents!Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Another way to say it is this: if you don’t want your 13 year old 8th grade daughter dating a 17 year old HS senior, then do a better job of parenting them. Or maybe it’s this: good parenting allows for that outcome in any event. Short of that, it’s just kids – people! – being people.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I can’t imagine that the average eighteen year old or seventeen year old senior would be interested in a thirteen year old, especially with societal training.

        Only a nice man with societal training would say such a thing! I’m awfully glad there are such nice men, I am married to one. But sexual drive often overwhelms societal training. A recent report from OK Cupid suggests that as women age, they are attracted to men their age; men who responded to the survey flat-lined at 20-year-old women. So there is a very large cohort of 17-year old boys who will seek out 13 and 14 year-old girls. Plus, girls tend to develop adult sexual characteristics earlier and seek out older boys.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        And administrators, who right now don’t need to involve themselves in the intimate lives of their students, but probably would be expected to if the eighteen year old were going to schools with thirteen year olds.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        19/14 was not at all uncommon in my (nontraditional) peer group. I think one of the things that made it less common among the broader population was that they were never at the same school and that interactions across the ropes was itself not terribly common.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        men who responded to the survey flat-lined at 20-year-old women.

        That seems about right, unfortunately. We live in a culture of emotional adolescents.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        It may not be culture, specifically, or at least not anything abnormal about our culture. Many peoples throughout history have married teen girls to adult males. I suspect something more fundamental than culture, or at least something in human nature that readily lends itself to that kind of cultural development.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        The iffiness of age differences tends to be a relative sort of thing. A 35 year old dating a 30 year old, not squicky at all. An 18 year old dating a 13 year old is very squick inducing.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Even if you’re right James, I’m not sure how that excuses emotional immaturity. But maybe I’m confused about what you’re getting at. Are you saying that emotional growth can’t overcome the biological desire of males to prefer 20 year olds as mates no matter the age of the males?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Half-plus-seven isn’t perfect, but it’s as close to a rule as there is.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @will-truman, a 19 year old dating a 14 year old raises all sorts of alarm bells. A 19 year old is either living an adult life or is much closer to adulthood than childhood. A 14 year old is a lot more like a child than an adult, still rather dependent on others in most cases. They can’t even drive and 19 year olds could do everything an adult can but buy alcohol legally. It just seems rather wrong.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Half plus seven might be a rule for the folks who exemplify it. How may people are in that group? Maybe the better question is now many men want to be in that group? My own anecdotal experience is that it isn’t much of a rule. Except for the men who continue to trade their wives for newer models.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        A few things about that OK Cupid study:

        First, It was a study of attraction, not of behavior. Older men on the site gave higher ratings to the profiles of young women regardless of their own age, but the women they contacted on the site were those closer to their own age, even if they’d rated them lower than the young women.

        Secondly, I’m not sure the finding that men (regardless of age) find 20-year-old women more attractive than women over 30 implies anything about the attraction of 17-year-old boys to 13-year-old girls. If anything, it suggests that those boys would be more attracted to 20-year-old women.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        a 19 year old dating a 14 year old raises all sorts of alarm bells.

        Who immediately thought of their grandparents?

        Just me?Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        @leeesq

        AFAIK, 18/13 and 19/14 pairings are illegal everywhere in the United States, assuming that they go past first base.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        In any case, I would agree that the culture has changed significantly since then. We want people to wait until they have sex until they’re at least old enough to drive, want them to make it through college before they get married (what is that? 22 these days? 24 for slackers?) and want them to have a decent 401k nest egg before the first born is ultrasounded (or adopted if we’re assuming non cis-het pairings).

        Well, in my part of town, anyway.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Jaybird,

        Heh. Just the other day I heard a woman run a girl-coworker down on the grounds that “she doesn’t even have a retirement account.” Not specifically related, but … you know … specifically related.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Assuming “gossip” has a point vaguely related to what the NYT article that first comes up when you google “evolutionary psychology gossip”, I’m wondering what societal norms are being maintained there. Or, specifically, what class’s societal norms are being maintained.

        I mean, to run with the title of the piece, I can’t help but wonder why we have so very many elementary school students and so very few high school graduates. Metaphorically.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @leeesq It… actually varies from case to case. Looking back, I’d deem at least some of them inappropriate, but others… worked. Or, if they failed to work, it wasn’t account of a disparity in age/maturity.

        @stillwater A lot of people don’t have a clear idea. The law in this area is of no help. Combine that with a lack of experience generally… and you don’t know where the lines are. Or why, in particular, they’re there. Other than the law as it is, and that society disapproves.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        @zic It’s not that men find younger women attractive—it’s that men find women in their early twenties most attractive. With adults in their mid 20s and beyond, this translates to men preferring younger women. But in high school, it’s the other way around, because girls get more attractive as they approach their early 20s. The 17- and 18-year-old boys who date 13- and 14-year-old girls are the ones who can’t get girlfriends their own age.

        Note that @will-truman says that such pairings were not uncommon in his social circle. Correct me if I’m wrong, Will, but does the above pretty accurately describe what was going on?Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Me, upthread:
        Plus, girls tend to develop adult sexual characteristics earlier and seek out older boys.

        It’s sort of interesting how there’s very little discussion on this thread of girl’s agency in all this. I have a theory here, too. One, most of you are not girls, so you’re thinking about this wearing your own boy shoes. Underneath, I wonder if there’s two other things. First, girls are traditionally supposed to be pure; so talking about our sexualization in terms of how girls develop violates that social norm. Second, whenever that unspoken norm rears it’s head, the conversation veers to how the conversation typically slut-shames girls for being sexual, so there’s this fear of talking it because you fear having the conversation derailed with charges of sexist, like being called racist?

        Wanting to hook up with an older guy is pretty normal for a younger girl. Boys your own age are still childish, and the discomfort of girl/woman pretty profound, no different then the discomforts of a changing voice; an older boy or young man who helps you feel comfortable in your new woman body is a pretty powerful allure. Once a girl develops curves of even the most minor sort, a lot of boys don’t see anything but the curves, that she might be 12 has nothing to do with their visual response to her, so her access to older boys is pretty much a given, if she so chooses. This is rather like the problem of boys who are bigger as they’re children, people assume they’re older and more responsible then they actually are; so they assume girls’ womanliness suggests sexual availability.

        Girls live with this incredible double standard; they’re supposed to be sexy, but they’re not supposed to be sexual; they’re to be desired, but not to desire. It’s rather like being in a closet, actually. I don’t blame them for being badass about it, that double standard pretty much forces you into a double life, otherwise. And the whole stew leaves little room for talking to girls about what respectful relationships are all about; and I highly recommend Friedersdorf here. He’s on a roll on in laying out some good, sane rules for sexuality in the modern age.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @brandon-berg That’s not wrong, but oversimplified. More accurate to be say that the younger girls they end up with tended to be more attractive than their age-appropriate equivalents. It was rarely the case where the guys couldn’t get someone their old age. If they were not dating material among their own age, that didn’t magically change with younger girls.

        The age difference did sometimes act as a bit of a lubricant, though. Guys that might otherwise feel more intimidated by girls their own age feeling more comfortable with girls that weren’t. To that greased the wheels a little bit.

        Some of the guys were just creeps. Or out-and-out pedophiles.

        Anyway, as is often the case when we talk about people that buck social norms… some do it out of a sense of conviction, but most do it because they are non-winners in the paradigms of the social norms they are bucking and go sideways essentially to escape the unfriendly dynamics. (In this case, the same being just as true of the girls as with the boys.)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The state of the law is that girls have no agency here. The fourteen year old cannot consent to sex with the nineteen year old. So as a practical matter, the discussion is constrained on that basis. (The same is true, though not necessarily quite as true, of a fourteen year old boy and a nineteen year old woman.)Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @will-truman The law says that she cannot give legal consent; this doesn’t mean that she cannot consent, it means that anyone have sexual contact with her (mostly some-years older, depending on jurisdiction) is still guilty of sexual assault, despite her consent.

        Girls have agency here.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I shouldn’t have opened with quite the sentence that I did. However, if a fourteen year old girl cannot legally consent to having sex with a nineteen year old guy, her desire to have sex with a nineteen year old guy is immaterial. Morally, of course, it is material if a nineteen year old guy has sex with a fourteen year old girl over her objections.

        But it’s seriously rather hard for me to put too much stock in what the girl wants (as opposed to what she doesn’t want, which does remain important) when the official line is that she does not have the ability to genuinely want it, and if it happened, it’s some degree of sexual assault regardless of her feelings on the matter..Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        I agree with this as well. I think some of the age corruption can be solved with minor seperation. My elementary school had K-6, but there was the lower elementary (K-3) and upper elementary (4-6). You could have lower secondary (7-9) and upper secondary (10-12). It seems just like reinventing high school and junior high, but having some, but not complete, segregation would probably be closer to the best of both worlds than the worst, IMO. The other advantage is that it would allow advanced students more access to classes. At my Jr. High, there were a handful of kids read to take the next class past Algebra I (Geometry), but couldn’t because they would have to find a way to schlep over to the high school in the middle of the day and then get back.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        zic,
        OK Cupid is not where I’d go for info like that. Pornography tells a far different story on what women are interested in… (Yes, one can find drawn art for women by women).

        Alan, Mike,
        Well, it so happens that my junior/senior high school wasn’t segregated, everyone was mixed together. ONE 8th grader dated a Senior — they even went to the prom together. It was a Major Scandal (and she was playing lead in the play beside him, so they had major exposure to each other).

        Seriously, guys, it’s not a problem! I knew of a 11th grade girl dating an 9th grader (they stayed together for a while… I think they were pretty serious).

        Now, I know of a different school district, where the 11th graders had the tradition of crashing the 8th grade dance (this was in a segregated school), looking for hankypanky. Seriously, this was totally “a thing that boys did” — and got lucky often enough to keep it going.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        zic,
        Sexual frustration is a powerful, powerful drive to behavior.

        Honestly? Most boys are pretty good puppies, who can be led around on a leash the live long day. The amount of social discouragement we give to seniors who date freshmen (or younger) is enough to keep most socially successful boys dating people near their own age.

        There is a subset of boys who prefer maids (not to be too crass, but there are “leg men” and “breast men”). But, mostly, you can find that body type throughout the lifespan — most guys don’t have an extreme fetish about “super young girls” (if nothing else, because they’re a lot harder for most guys to arouse).

        Some guys get pretty practiced with getting it on with young girls (and some are born with a native talent — the personality type i’m referring to here is rabbit, for what it’s worth). But these are generally guys who aren’t satisfied with what they can pick up from their own age group (note: they may have cute girlfriends who make them use condoms.)

        Sorry for the excessive detail, but I think it’s important that we know what we’re really talking about…

        There’s plenty of ways you can have a junior/senior high school and not encourage rabbits.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        As someone who’s older and dating, and using dating sites, I’ll confirm that fact that guys like to date, and by date I mean have sex with, women who are young, and early 20s women are the hottest. Much younger women, I’ve found, tend to be more drama laden though, something I find VERY distastefull. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t sleep with them, just that I’ll avoid them because of that and the fact that we don’t have much in common. I stick with the half +7 rule and that’s bad enough. But I’ve also dated women 10 years my senior so…maybe I’m a bit different than the average horndog?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Damon,
        If it were totally free of legal (but not social) consequences, would you be interested in dating someone younger than 18?
        That PUA who’s writing rape manuals is specifically targetting someone closer to age 16… (give or take a year or two).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        @stillwater

        Are you saying that emotional growth can’t overcome the biological desire of males to prefer 20 year olds as mates no matter the age of the males?

        If you want to badly confuse statistical tendencies with individual behavior, I suppose you could read it that way.

        Conversely, I’d read “emotional immaturity” as an unjustified normative stance. While I don’t date my students or my own daughters, I greatly enjoy associating with them, and sometimes find them less annoying than many of the adults around me. There’s an openness to new experience, and an interest in learning new things, that often diminishes as people get older. If that counts as emotional immaturity, then count me as emotionally immature (my wife also).

        Also, young people have often not yet become embittered as many older adults have. I don’t really see bitterness as emotional maturity, and lack of bitterness as immaturity, but this does track with age range.

        When I think of the bitterness of some (emphasis on some) of the never-married or divorced women I’ve known, I shudder at the thought of being on the dating market trying to meet single women my age. And when I think of the bitterness of some (emphasis on some) of the never-married or divorced men I’ve known, I realize it must be every bit as difficult, if not more, for women trying to meet single men my age. I’m sure some people are just emotionally immature, but think it’s cheap, easy and overly moralistic to just assume that description covers the range of human experience in mid-life dating.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        @kim

        Oh dear jeebus no. If I had any cut off that young, it’d be 21. How fun would it be to go to a nice resturant and have dinner with a bottle of wine while she had “a coke”. Nah. I like a little life experience in addition to my high SMV. I’d probably not go below 30 actually. I want a woman who has her shit together, has a car, lives on her own, has a job, etc.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      @mike-dwyer, I didn’t know that Cthulu had its own school system. Thats kind of awesome.Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    I love the middle-school years, too. My elder sprout attended middle school in Brookline, in a k-8 school; my younger here, one year in the elementary, and then off to middle school, in the same building as the high school, but segregated. And I totally agree, middle school is not good for kids in general; it’sLord of the Flies. And I think I know why; I agree with the notion of leadership; empathy, too, for those smaller and more vulnerable. Given that most children come from homes of one or two children, this might matter even more now then it did 50 years ago, too.

    My Sweetie thinks we should banish middle school, and send all the kids off to work on farms for that time; which also seems like a wise idea to me, having grown up farming I appreciate how it teaches the basics of self-reliance, but I suppose it’s impractical. I do think the physical labor — if it’s not too taxing — is beneficial.

    Kids age discriminate constantly, however; and our friendships with children of other ages seem to happen outside of school — during the sumer or visiting the parent you live with while you’re not in school or away at camp.

    My older sister and brother went to a one room schoolhouse before I started school; there’s a private school here that’s the same, a woman teaching k through 8. But she’s also a teacher; she’s taught in the public schools and at the private academy here; and she’s working herself beyond belief.Report

  5. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I’m wondering why we don’t scrap more than middle school actually. Personally, I think the function of school has shifted from a cultural/economic necessity (to educate future worker bees) to a baby sitting service. Most of the stuff kids learn in their 13 year long career as pre-college students could be learned in about 5% of the actual time commitment, it seems to me.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I agree with my brother that “lights have dimmed” depends on the socio-economics of the high school more than anything else. My public high school turned the home economic rooms into science labs during my senior year because of a lack of interest in home ec. Someone once said to me “What about the kids who don’t go to college?” My thought was “all three?”

    Now I don’t know if this is good or not that our towns are seemingly so segregated between the college bound and not.

    I think K-8 might make sense. In the UK, they put our equivalents of 6th grade to 12th grade in the same school and I think having 11 year olds with 17 year olds is a bad idea. I don’t agree with Zic’s ideas of sending middle schoolers to the farm but I dislike the idea of one thing being a cure-all and all-good for all kids of a particular age and I don’t see why we would send kids away from their parents at such a developing age just because. I also say this as someone who would have been fairly miserable on the farm.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      @saul-degraw forgive me if you read that as sending kids away from their parents; I meant no such idea. For you, ‘farming,’ means being sent away. For me, and for anybody in the ‘burbs on out, it might only mean going out to your yard or a nearby open space. In the city, you’d have to farm vertically; but park maintenance, wilderness stuff is all good, too; as are empty lots. And it doesn’t have to be farms; science labs, art studios, maker spaces. The implication that you’re going out to ‘farm’ should not be confused with a notion of unskilled labor; farming is not ‘unskilled.’ The notion hers is that children are doing skill-building labor where they have to put their growing ability to think abstractly to use gaining competency in real skill where people rely on you for something, you’re not just going to school because it’s supposed to do it for your own benefit or the honor of your family; it helps create a reason to do well in school for children who have trouble finding a reason in the standard class-room format. A variation of this is the success we see in technical programs in high schools.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @zic

        This reads very differently than what you wrote above.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @saul-degraw It reads differently to YOU because of what you bring to the reading. To me (who also grew up at least 50 percent rural), what zic says here was compacted in what she said above. When she realized you didn’t have that same nutshell to draw from, she explained more…Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      Saul, I’m curious as to why you think it’s a bad idea to have 11-year-olds together with 17-year-olds. Is it for the same reason Zic talked about above, or something else?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        My feeling is that many of the younger kids are going to be ripe bullying targets for many of the older kids if such things are common in the school. In the wrong environment, the results could turn out not well in other ways.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        Lee, I feel like bullying younger kids is a middle-school problem rather than a high school problem. That it’s the symptom of the deep social insecurities that exist in younger adolescents. By the time kids have been in high school a year or two, they don’t feel the same need to express dominance, or at least not in such a crude manner. One of the major reasons I support a change like this is that I think it would lead to less bullying.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Alan,

        I agree. I think it’d lead to less bullying. But the biggest reason for bullying, it seems to me, is poor parenting. All too many people think that physical power over others is a justifiable way to not only resolve problems but to assert and internalize a positive personal identity. It’s fucked up.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Stillwater,

        I don’t know if it’s fair to blame it on poor parenting. Some of the worst bullies in my grade school came from good homes with parents we knew in the parish. I think it was just a combination of factors. The worst three bullies we had came from the following dynamics:

        1) A girl who was pretty unattractive and awkward but somehow made it into the ‘cool’ group. It felt like she was doing it to make sure she didn’t end up in the lower social tier of the school. She actually ran two girls completely out of the school in 7th grade. She also happened to turn out to be a lesbian, so maybe there was a lot of internal conflict there.

        2) A popular guy who was also pretty small. I think he had a Napoleon complex going on. Interestingly when all of the nerdy kids he picked on had their growth spurts they actually started pushing back and it stopped. One of my best friends simply got nose-to-nose with him and said, “I’m bigger than you.” It stopped almost immediately.

        3) A not-very-popular guy who was a mountain of a kid. He started throwing his weight around (literally) and picking on the kids right below him on the social scale. That one I was involved with as I finally got tired of it. That was only one of three fights during my entire school career. Let’s just say that a bloody nose can work wonders for changing someone’s attitude.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Some of the worst bullies in my grade school came from good homes with parents we knew in the parish.

        What does the term “good homes” mean in this context?

        Some of the worstest parented kids I’ve met in my years have come from “good homes”. You know, the kind of folks who make a lot of money, have a nice house, do all the right things, present a good face in their community. All that. But once you get to know them you realize their complete Dbags. The kind of folks you want to run from.

        The thing I’m getting at in the earlier comment transcends class and socially determined acceptance. It’s about fostering and reinforcing a conception of self-worth in kids that isn’t dependent on being better than others. One that’s self-determined, so to speak.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Well of course you never know what goes on behind closed doors but it was a close parish and I feel like my gut is right with them.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Then why were the kids such horrible bullies?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        See my description of each above.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Those are just descriptions of their behavior, not accounts of why they acted that way.

        Maybe I’m missing something.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I think I provided some background. Two were basically trying to stay a step ahead of the lowest tier kids. One was small and needed to puff himself up. one realized his size gave him some advantages. This is just speculation on my part but I think all were contributing factors.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      Now I don’t know if this is good or not that our towns are seemingly so segregated between the college bound and not.

      With tracking, I’m not sure how much it matters. I went to a fairly socioeconomically and racially diverse high school, with large Iraqi, Mexican, and Amerindian populations. Virtually all of my classmates were white, with the occasional East Asian. For most of the time I was there, I thought “College Prep” was a euphemism, because I wasn’t aware that there were two additional tracks below it. My interactions with Applied Arts and Remedial students were basically limited to gym class and sports, where we rarely talked about academics.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        You’re not very likely to see extensive tracking like that anymore, though. The basic premise of No Child Left Behind and subsequent updates is that all students should have access to college prep classes and that schools will be tested and held accountable on delivering college prep material to their students.

        These days, students that fail CP classes may be placed in remedial or recovery tracks, but the vast bulk of students are now in the same track–or at least that’s how my state meets its NCLB obligations.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      ” My public high school turned the home economic rooms into science labs during my senior year because of a lack of interest in home ec. ”

      Speaking as someone who works in aerospace, I have to say that I’ve gotten more utility–at my current job!–out of the home ec class I took in middle school than I would have gotten from another science class at that time. Grade school science is potato batteries and baking-soda volcanoes, but the idea of “here are raw materials, design and construct a functional product” is ultimately what engineers are supposed to do.Report

  7. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Way off thread, but this whole Ray Rice/Roger(the liar) Goodell thing has me a bit steamed. Kazzy, you feel the same way? Maybe a thread for that?

    Hopefully this comment will self-destruct in 10 seconds. (IOW, feel free to delete!)Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      To be perfectly honest, the Fantasy threads don’t see much movement. If we want those to act as a “NFL Open Thread” in any given week, I wouldn’t see that as too much of a problem.

      (Unless we want a dedicated thread. I can see the point of that too.)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        thanks Jaybird. I’ll track one down.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @stillwater Also, for what it’s worth, Linky Friday is always an open invitation to share your thoughts on anything. (I have no problem with you bringing it up here. Just wanted to say for future reference.)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Thanks for letting me know, Will. I’ll remember that next time I’m steamin about something. ANd thanks for tolerating my off-thread comment.Report

      • Avatar El Muneco says:

        I don’t think that there’s any lack of people who would want to chime in on an “NFL Open Thread” or even more inclusively a “Football Open Thread” (which would allow for e.g. venting frustration that NBC has apparently shelved their AFL Game of the Week because a college gridiron rerun will get better ratings at 2am Pacific).Report

  8. Avatar George Turner says:

    My dad, who was born in 1918 and went to a one-room schoolhouse, said the learning and social environment was great because with the wide range of ages in the room, the older kids had to act a bit like parents and the younger kids had older kids riding herd on them. It also gave greater room for smart kids to advance, and he said that when he was in second grade he paid more attention to what the sixth graders were learning because it was more interesting than his own lessons. Grouping kids into age groups is extremely unnatural, and it lets thugs and bullies (because of a growth spurt) dominate because the teachers are forbidden from truly showing any dominance and now bigger kids are around, being judged by their peers as to how they treat children so that they don’t go overboard.

    Middle School age is crucial, because that’s when most children are figuring out violence, social position, and repercussions. Some recent psychological research indicates that middle school and early high schol is pretty much when our adult personalities and self-image get set in stone, and that people carry life-long scars from their experiences at those ages,

    I’d suggest we rethink our whole approach, because dividing kids up by age seems like a time-saver for the teachers, not a character or education saver for the kids. It makes great sense from a bureaucracy standpoint, but not much sense from a parenting or growing-up standpoint.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I’d suggest we rethink our whole approach, because dividing kids up by age seems like a time-saver for the teachers, not a character or education saver for the kids.

      When I look at any given problem with the school system as it exists, it seems to me that the reason behind the problem is a lot more likely to deal with the best interests of the teachers (or administrators) than the best interests of those being taught.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      @george-turner

      I’m inclined to agree, there’s something profoundly off about the way school children are socialised, and I wonder how much of the toxic culture we see in schools is driven by strange practices like age segregation.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      Dividing kids by age seems to be a natural inclination in education when you have lots of kids in a given school district or school and much material to go through. During the 19th century, urban schools were structured a lot more like your typical modern school with age divides than the one room school house on the frontier. Most people progress further in their education than people born in 1918 so more material has to be learned.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      When I was in elementary school, I really enjoyed being in split classes (two grades in the same class), because I could pay attention to what the older students were learning when I was done my own work, or when what I was doing wasn’t engaging.

      The split classes were almost certainly a pragmatic response to class-size limits (if you can only have a maximum of [x] students per class, and you’ve got [x + 10] in grade 5 and [x + 10] in grade 6, you stick the extras together so that you only need three classes instead of four), but I found them beneficial. And there seemed to be an effort to put the faster learners in the younger half of a split class.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        I was in a 2/3 split class in 3rd grade, created explicitly for class-size reasons, but no work was done to make sure it was the fast-learning 2nd graders with the slow-learning 3rd-graders (I was one of the two fastest learning 3rd grade students at that school). It was, somewhat predictably, a disaster, and it’s always made me wary of such split classrooms.Report

  9. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    My gut sense is that middle school is a terrible idea, because you’re concentrating all the puberty-age kids at one of the more confusing times of their lives (and the time when they tend to be most annoying – how middle schools find teachers is beyond me). Whereas when you split it up into grades 1-7 and 8-9, the grade 6 and 7 kids get the be the older ones, and you get them them to be lunch monitors and such and make them feel like they’re mature and responsible. And if you give them cause to feel that way, maybe they’ll be more inclined to act that way.

    But opinions vary, both among the students – some of whom like the middle school system a lot – and among adults.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      @katherinemw

      how middle schools find teachers is beyond me

      I’d previously thought along those lines, and easily feared middle school assignments the most going in. But if I decide to teach a subject, I might actually aim for middle school. Like I mentioned in the OP, much to my surprised they were some of my favorite assignments.Report