To the Editor:
In his online Commentary “What Did You Do This Summer?” (Aug. 20, 2007), David Polochanin says that he is intrigued by the answers students give for the back-to-school question of the essay’s title. He also claims to wonder why some say they were bored. Yet what he writes does not reveal curiosity or wonder about the students’ experiences. It reveals judgment and dismissal of their activities, apparently because they do not match his as a kid.
Mr. Polochanin in fact validates the perception many of his students have that they “did nothing.” This is curious, because if they watched television and played video games all summer, that is far from nothing. They had many encounters with elements of story, of genre and format. It seems an arrogant perspective to deem his students’ experiences, of which they have limited understanding, as unworthy.
Much of modern society functions on symbolism and indirect experience—knowledge similar to that gained from reading. Wouldn’t it be more reinforcing in developing young people to help them make sense of the experiences they have had? As a teacher, why doesn’t Mr. Polochanin help them navigate the world of symbols, images, and narrative, rather than assume their activities were worth nothing because they weren’t like his? His students will know how he feels about their pursuits whether he is explicit about them or not; they will sense his attitude. How does this attract them to education and school?
Mr. Polochanin’s childhood appears to have had great meaning for him. What about assisting students, all students, in making their childhood meaningful, whatever it is? This judgmental way of seeing students’ lives hinders truly effective education. I am surprised to see it in your publication.
Monroe High School
A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2007 edition of Education Week