Category Archives: Education

Insult to Injury


The old expression “adding insult to injury” might well have been coined with parents of high school seniors specifically in mind. Bison Daughter is in her senior year, and the nightmare of college selection is already fully upon us. The process is bad enough, what with the visits, the applications, the application fees, essays, and meaningless letters of recommendation dragged out of the hands of recalcitrant teachers, but when you consider that “success” merely triggers the sure and certain expectation of the forcible anal rape of your bank account for the subsequent four years, the fun factor really drops off.

Considering that, maybe I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to receive the package of glossy brochures from the school outlining all the wonderful things I might want to buy to commemorate said daughter graduating high school. For a start, there were rings. Lots of rings. Gold and silver and who knows what else, with blue stones, pink stones, green stones, engraved names, commemorative symbols and all manner of decorations. None of them seemed to cost less than a couple of hundred dollars, but you could drop a cool eight hundred, if you so desired, on a gold “Heritage Collection” ring. No need to stop there though – you could drop several hundred more on custom made class tags. You could buy class jewelry, apparel and commemorative pictures too.

But that’s not all. Just in case your friends and family aren’t aware that your little darling is about to leave high school you can order beautiful custom announcements, with ornamentally sealed envelopes, to be sent far and wide to broadcast the news. It really wouldn’t take much to spend well over a thousand dollars on commemorative graduation crap.

Remember – this is high school we’re talking about here, not college. You know what it takes to graduate high school? Show up until you’re eighteen, don’t be as thick as pigshit, and turn in a bare minimum of work. Unless you have a medical reason that gets in the way, (and there are people with real challenges, let’s be clear), about the only way you can fail to graduate is either to be a moron or to simply not bother to do the work. And since high school graduation is a pre-requisite for almost any job that offers any kind of a future, choosing not to do the work kind of puts you in the moron category too. So, in summary, you’re either “high school graduate” or “moron”.

So when a parent spends a couple of grand sending out gold plated notes, buying class jewelry and holding a party to celebrate little Johnny graduating high school, they are basically saying “Look, look! My kid isn’t a complete moron! Isn’t it great?!”

I suppose I should have seen this coming, in a land where graduating kindergarten is celebrated with a straight face as a rite of passage. It’s just one more facet of the “You’re all winners, everyone gets a trophy” mentality. And if it was just a fun “throw your cap in the air, celebrate with your friends” event I’d be all in favor. Parents with cameras, kids in gowns, cake afterwards – it’s all good stuff. But four figure jewelry bills and personalized gold embossed stationery? Are you kidding me?

It all makes me wonder what’s in store if my offspring manages to graduate from college? How expensive does that catalog get? If high school graduation (or “my kid’s not a moron”) merits a grand or two in cash outlay, I can only imagine the options available for the college graduation celebration. Maybe there will be personalized airplane banners, to be dragged over the ceremony by a gold-embossed biplane. Custom silver braided cakes, where a live dwarf leaps out and presents your college graduate with a platinum and diamond commemorative tiara. A fleet of Bentleys to hand deliver invitations to the graduation ceremony simultaneously to fifty of your closest friends and family. A choir, resplendent in robes custom-made in your college colors, to sing congratulations to junior as he takes his first shit after graduation. And what about post-graduate degrees? If Bison Daughter gets a doctorate I’ll have to file for bankruptcy, or face the shame of having her be the only not arriving at the ceremony in a silver carriage drawn by unicorns.

In the end Mrs Bison and I decided to go for a simple cap and gown, for twenty eight dollars I believe, and to keep our bank account as plump as we can, in anticipation of the financial ass-rape that college will for sure bring. I suspect, however, that we are in the minority, given that Jostens, a large purveyor of high school graduation crap, announced this week that it is being bought for $1.5 billion. That’s an awful lot of rings, shirts and tacky announcements, but unless either the moron count of kids in our schools or the good taste of their parents increases significantly the company apparently has a solid gold future.

Good Job

You can file this under “reasons to despair of public education”. I may have mentioned before that I do not understand why so much of the elementary school curriculum is given over to things that have absolutely nothing to do with education. The way I see it, the school should teach my kid to read, write and do math. Then they can move on to science, foreign languages, history and all that other stuff. Oh, and do some sport too, since that’s good for health and fitness, as well as teamwork. Meanwhile I can take care of all the other stuff – I don’t need the school to teach character or bollocks like that.

Instead, on the few days when the kids are actually in school for a whole day, they get parties. Endless fucking parties with junk food, for no good reason whatsoever. This week Bison Daughter has a gift-wrapping party, where they wrap gifts for “poorer families”, an end of term party and a reading reward party. Do they ever bother to do any actual teaching? It’s not enough that the fucking teachers only work six months of the year anyway, but now they spend half of that presiding over fucking parties.

And don’t get me started on the gift wrapping bullshit. The profiles of the people who will receive the gifts include sizes (so people can buy clothes for them). They’re almost without exception grossly obese. They can’t afford to buy their own clothes but they can eat crap to excess on a daily basis. Perhaps instead of attempting to instill “character” by collecting gifts (which actually just demonstrates the very different attributes of “peer pressure” and “competitive parenting”) the school could teach how important it is to get an education and take responsibility for yourself. And not spend all your time in class parties so you end up obese.

Today, however, the school plumbed new depths in educational time-wasting. My ten year-old daughter was given a test to determine what kind of career choices would be good for her. Are you shitting me? On how many separate dimensions is this absurd? For a start, no healthy, well-adjusted pre-teen should have the tiniest concern about what their career choice will be. Do well in school and you have options; screw around and you don’t, but you’re still a kid, so relax and enjoy it while you still can. What’s more, no-one at that age is in any position to know what they want to be. They probably don’t have any clue what jobs exist in the real world, what it’s like to actually do one, how much they pay, or how desperately you’ll want to end your life if you get trapped in a crap one. In fact the only thing they know is that teachers work a third of a year and eat a lot of cake. I didn’t know what job I wanted to do when I was twenty, let alone ten. In fact I had to do a couple of crap ones along the way in order to figure it out, so what possible benefit can accrue from making kids think about it at that age?

OK, so leaving that minor point aside, what did this fabulous exercise teach Bison Daughter about her future career? Bear in mind that she’s a very smart kid, in a supposedly good school district. A possible scientist? An engineer, manager, investment analyst, sales professional or supply chain expert? No. According to the school she’s ideally suited to be a cosmetologist, a hairdresser or a dancer.

Fuck me sideways! Why don’t you just list “pole dancer” as well, so we don’t miss anything? Apparently she’s a creative thinker, and that just screams “cosmetologist” doesn’t it? The school district tested her, identified her as an exceptionally bright child and sent her to special classes one day a week just so she could learn to do make-up. I’m so proud. It’s not that the world doesn’t need hairdressers (although it’s hard to imagine that it really needs a lot of cosmetologists) but the process is obviously utter bullshit.

When I was ten I wanted to be a goalkeeper for West Ham United and save a penalty in the FA Cup final. If you’d asked what I wanted in a job I’d have made “working outdoors” a must, but today I have to say I was sodding delighted not to have to work outside in the 15F temperature. In other words I had no bastard clue what I really wanted to be back then. When asked, I always said I wanted to work at the place my Dad worked, because it had a revolving door and an elevator. Plus he got chocolate biscuits with his tea. That was the sum total of my insight. And instead of spending half a day testing me to see if I wanted to be a cosmetologist, my school taught me to spell, write coherent sentences and add up numbers so I didn’t have to be one.

The degree to which I despair of the education profession is hard to put into words. The best advice I could give to a class of ten year-olds today would be “eat as much as you can at all the class parties, don’t bother about learning anything, and then someone else will send you food and clothes when you’re older”. Or, failing that, there’s always cosmetology…

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison

School Of Crap

When Bison Daughter went back to school after the long summer holiday I wondered how long it would take for me to want to tear out my own hair and eat it in frustration at the stupidity of the school district. Three weeks seems to be the answer. Of course there were all the usual politically correct memos from the school at the start of term: the Christmas party must have turned into a Winter Party long ago, but now the Valentine’s Party has become a Friendship Party. Why? There was never anything “romantic” about the event anyway, since all the kids were expected to bring in cards for everyone in the class. I always thought this was ridiculous and weird – boys all giving each other Valentine’s cards. Are you trying to make them turn out funny? Or does everyone have to act homosexual just to make the actual budding homos feel OK? The bigger question in my mind is why the school finds it necessary to have parties at all. I’m perfectly capable of deciding how much junk food and crap to meter into my offspring without teachers taking it upon themselves to help.

That’s another thing I find utterly stupid: the kids are subjected to all sorts of curriculum-based healthy eating indoctrination, presumably to encourage them to eat right. Then the school, at every opportunity, stuffs them with cake, pizza and soda in these unnecessary and gratuitous “parties”. What the fuck? Bison Daughter eats well at home, and never eats school meals, which is just as well because, in spite of the advice doled out in the classroom, the cafeteria only serves pizza, macaroni and cheese, corn dogs, burgers and other fatty, carb-laden shite. There isn’t a green vegetable to be found. Do as we say, not as we do…

Within one week of the new term starting Bison Daughter’s class was given a pizza party as a “reward” for getting “compliments” for good behavior, yet another instance of setting the bar so low that simply not being disruptive is seen as meriting special recognition. Of course the meal wasn’t provided for free – along with the news of the reward came the request to send money in to pay for it.

But do the kids learn anything useful in class? Do they bollocks! Last week they made banners for “bus driver appreciation day”. At the age of ten. They should have been studying math, learning grammar, exploring science, or even attempting a language. Why the fuck are they making banners for bus drivers? And who gives a shit about bus drivers anyway? They certainly won’t remember the banners next time they all go on strike and leave everyone in the shit. Again.

This week Bison Daughter started a drawing of a butterfly. Hmmm, art class – seems reasonable, right? Wrong. It’s another money-raising scam by the school district. The kids come home with their “special” picture and a catalogue of all the things you can pay to have it printed on, everything from fridge magnets to mugs and teddy bears. Which you have to order and pay for through the school, who obviously get a cut. Don’t want to be a heartless parent? Get your wallet out.

In fact, in three weeks back at school, I would suggest that the teachers have spent barely 25% of the time the kids are in their custody actually teaching them something. This on the back of a three month summer vacation after which you’re lucky if kids can still spell their names. What’s the fucking deal? If they actually used the time kids are in school to educate them, eliminating all the parties and other useless crap, they’d graduate two years early. If they didn’t have ridiculously long summer vacations they could be done with high school by the age of fourteen.

Of course this would require all the teachers to actually spend their days teaching, rather than stuffing their faces with cake and sitting on their fat arses while the kids color in pictures. I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath. Still, look on the bright side: with more than ten years’ experience doing very little actual work, this generation of kids will be thoroughly prepared for a fulfilling career in education.

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison

Honest Appreciation

Next week is apparently deemed to be Teacher Appreciation Week in our local schools. This seems to be yet another one of those Hallmark-invented non-events that we’re all meant to celebrate by going out and buying cards, gifts and other assorted crap. Thus does the greetings card industry sustain itself. It’s bad enough that I just missed Secretary’s Day (or Administrative Assistant’s Day, or whatever the fuck we’re supposed to call it now). It doesn’t show up on my Outlook calendar so how am I supposed to know that it’s coming, unless my admin assistant puts it on my calendar, which kind of defeats the object? I have an excellent admin assistant, one who’s well worth appreciating, but even then I feel the whole thing is ridiculous and arbitrary. What about marketing manager’s day, or account manager’s day, or even HR assistant’s day? I know there’s Boss’s Day (what fuckwit made that one up?) but I’d regard anyone caught celebrating that as a Grade A arse-kisser.

The designated Room-Mom (for all you Brits laughing at this stupidity, just you wait – you’re only ever a few years behind the bullshit here) has laid out a whole regime of suggested celebratory efforts to be undertaken by us and our offspring over the coming week. These include:

  • A book of handwritten notes to the teacher from the kids expressing their appreciation.
  • A flower bouquet.
  • Lunch provided for the teachers by the school.
  • Lunch provided for the teachers by the PTO.
  • Chocolate and fruit for the teachers from the kids. (Looks like there may be some fat-arse teachers by the time this is done.)

This charade is so utterly typical of the way these opportunities for appreciation are formalized, standardized and stripped of any real meaning. We can’t have any of the teachers being left out, can we? So let’s make sure they all get the same treatment. This means that any real appreciation that may be felt towards any particular teacher would be drowned out in a torrent of false gestures.

Let’s leave aside for a minute the fact that these teachers only work about thirty weeks of the year as it is, and when they do work they seem to get a day every other week for “training” or some such crap. Then half the time the kids are getting tested, so they don’t have to teach them anything. The point is that in teaching, as in any endeavor, there will be good and bad performers. Forcing the kids to show appreciation to all the teachers, no matter how good a job they do, just devalues the whole exercise. It’s as though “self-esteem” needs to be massaged and protected for the precious teachers as much as for the kids.

I remember some of the teachers I had as a kid. Mr Welch was one of those great teachers who go out of their way to encourage and develop their pupils. He was probably worth a whole week of chocolate. Mr Brodie, on the other hand, was a worthless cunt who couldn’t teach History to save his life. I’d have suggested a jar of urine as an appropriate gift. Possibly to be worn. The rest of them followed this same pattern of Good, Bad and Indifferent. And it’s no good looking to parents for guidance here – just because mum and dad think your teacher is just the kind of influence you need doesn’t stop you recognizing that she’s a psychotic bitch with control issues and a Napoleon complex. Not exacly “book of appreciation” material.

Oh yes, just to crown the whole event, there’s going to be a collection for a class gift. That’s a long way from my experience of teacher appreciation. There was a short period when that arse-wipe Mr Brodie was away and we had this beautiful blonde substitute teacher for a couple of weeks. That coincided with Valentine’s Day, and Daniel Bond gave her a card with the inscription “Roses are red, violets are blue; I can’t wait to get my —- up you.” He got sent to the headmaster for that one. He was lucky – in the US these days he’d probably be arrested for sexual harrassment and violating her civil rights.

But the point is that at least he was showing honest appreciation, and isn’t that a trait we should be encouraging in our children? I like to think so…

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison


It’s now a week since Bison Daughter was treated to “The Video” at school. In my ignorance I assumed this would be the point where the school lifted the veil on the mysterious and disturbing subject which is sex; after all, I was also ten years old when my school did it back in the UK. (Of course it wasn’t a video – it was a slide show, I think. Even audio at school was jurassic reel to reel back then. I’m just lucky they weren’t still scratching stick-diagrams of penises on the walls of the cave.) However it seems that in the delicate world of the US school system this is only the initial foray into the topic. The girls were separated from the boys and told about “hygiene”, in other words periods, sanitary protection and deodorants.

It seems that sexual education here is done on the installment basis, with each of the next two years bringing another episode so that eventually kids will get the picture. Of course by the time the punchline is revealed about half of them will probably be sexually active and several of the ones bussed in from the city will actually be parents. We didn’t wait for the school on account of Bison Daughter peppering us with questions at an early age and us being too busy to make shit up. It was easier to tell the truth (by this I mean it was easier for Mrs.Bison to tell the truth; I wasn’t touching the subject, obviously) so Bison Daughter already knows about sex. We had to swear her to secrecy in case she spilled the beans to one of her friends, causing them to run home, screaming, and their parents to regard us as the antichrists.

So there was no “aha!” moment for our child. In fact I’m thinking of writing a note to excuse her from future sessions on account of her knowing it already. “Please let us know when the class is ready to move onto learning about masturbation, girl-on-girl, dildos and oral, because we didn’t cover that.” Somehow I can’t see that happening…

I still don’t understand why the school doesn’t just get it over with in one session. I mean, what the hell sense do periods make unless you know the whole story? What a pisser that would be to learn – “I have to shove what up my clunge every month? What’s that all about?” And Mrs.Bison even had to sign a form allowing our child to hear about periods. It’s like “Carrie” out here. Is it the inherent discomfort that suburban American schools feel about s-e-x that prevents them disclosing the full picture? Are they worried that parents will rebel at the thought of their innocent children being inducted early into sexuality? Better hurry up; a third of 9th graders report having had sex. (Of course the statistics are not uniform across all neighborhoods; there are schools where the dumbasses repeating the tenth grade (again) are at risk that their own kids will soon join them in the same class.)

Hopefully this won’t apply to my offspring. One aspect of the sexual education process that is often under-emphasised at school but which can be given much more attention at home: “If I ever catch some boy so much as looking at you the wrong way I’m going to cut his fucking balls off, just remember that.” Yes, it’s important that this delicate topic is handled in a sensitive and caring way…

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison

10% Off All Teaching

It’s Presidents Day today, so Bison Daughter had the day off school. As a consequence she probably learned no less than on a typical school day, since they seem to be mostly concerned with class parties (involving excessive sugar consumption) and dressing up in weird clothes as a treat. In the coming weeks it seems that the little bastards will be given the opportunity to wear “Western Gear” to school, as well as going to school in their pajamas. (This I found especially strange, as it only ever happened to me once, in a dream from which I was very glad to wake up; it hardly qualifies as a treat.)

Just in case there was any time left at school which might involve actual learning, the teachers took the opportunity last week to hand out a fund raising project where kids are expected to sell “discount cards” to friends and family in order to collect yet more money. I’m not receptive to these things at the best of times, but it’s not that long since I paid my property tax, most of which seems to go to the local schools, so my immediate reaction to being asked to pimp out my daughter so that they can have even more money to waste was “No. Fuck no. Fuck off. Fuckwits.”

The basic idea is that you sell a card for $10 which entitles the purchaser to a number of “buy one, get one free” or similar offers at local businesses. These are mostly fast food outlets, which I find especially humorous; the school spends hours trying to educate kids about nutrition but then asks them to act as street dealers for addictive junk food just so they can extract more of your hard-earned money. This enabled me to explain the concept of “hypocrisy” to Bison Daughter, so I suppose it did constitute a learning opportunity. There’s no way, even if I had any family over here (or friends, for that matter), that I would abuse that relationship to peddle them junk coupons. The company behind the whole scam knows fucking well that almost no-one actually gets round to redeeming them, so the school gets a cut for acting as the front for a hard-sell of worthless shite that no sensible person would buy.

People come round at work from time to time with this kind of shit: “Can you buy some candy for my son’s baseball team so they can get new uniforms?” And these aren’t poor people, scraping by and trying to give their kids a bit extra. They’re comfortable middle class, minivan-driving, church-going citizens who seem to labor under the misapprehension that I exist merely to earn money for them to shower on their seemingly limitless progeny. Look, fuckstain, if you can’t afford to have kids try using a condom. And since you have no problem driving to work in a new minivan don’t come “office-begging” to me just so that you can save your own money.

I couldn’t resist looking online to see what grants the school (actually, technically a non-profit foundation that was established to support the school) has made with the money raised. One project, which received a $500 grant, “will begin to educate and build positive lifestyle choices in our youngest students by reinforcing the importance of good nutrition and daily exercise.” Better start by making sure they don’t use any of the fast-food coupons then. In another case:

“Students will have fitness balls available in classrooms as an alternative seating choice in order to stimulate brain function and increase physical activity and conditioning. This grant will fund the purchase of these fitness balls.”

Stimulating the brain by sitting in a different way? Do these kids have their brains in their arse or something? This all just goes to show: if you do give more money to your local school system there’s the very real possibility that they’ll just spend it on a load of balls.

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison

Field Day

Mrs. Bison and I are now looking at nearly three months of child-filled summer. The local school district, having fulfilled its duty of educating our child for the pathetically small amount of days that they bother to do it, has unleashed it on us for the next eighty-one days. Not that we’re counting, you understand…

The term ended with what they call “Field Day”, which is a bit like Sports Day, but without any actual sports, or competition. There were cakes, though, so all the fat-arsed kids wouldn’t be forced to endure an afternoon without lard. I remember Sports Day as an actual day of competition, when you found out who was the fastest kid in your year. We used to get little pieces of colored cloth on a safety-pin to show how we did: red for first place, blue for second and yellow for third. Not now though – don’t want the little darlings to have to come face-to-face with real life yet.

I wouldn’t mind if this was the only dumb thing they did at school but it seems to me that not a single week goes by without them having early dismissal, a day off, cakes for someone’s birthday, a school trip somewhere, a class party or some other event that doesn’t involve any bloody learning. If you compressed all the actual work they did it would mean closer to two hundred days off for the summer. (Which might be good news for the teachers.)

This isn’t a bad school district though. They do at least teach them some basics, like multiplication tables. I heard on the news last night about some concept called “Reform Math”, the basic premise of which seems to be that we should teach our kids to get sort of close to the right answer but not worry about them actually getting anything correct. What goat-brained, feeble-minded cockroach shagger thought that one up? I actually watched this female teacher with a vacant expression and a smarmy “we know what’s best for you” smile explaining that it was important to prepare our kids for all sorts of jobs that we don’t even know about yet. Two things you dumb bitch: firstly, if you don’t know what they are, how can you prepare for them. And secondly, technology is making the small things in life matter more, not less. Remember the Hubble Telescope, that phenomenally expensive astronomical instrument rendered myopic by the distinction between metric and imperial measurements? How well do you think that would have worked if the engineers had only worried about getting the measurements “approximately right”. The rocket wouldn’t have got off the fucking ground. Probably wouldn’t have even got it to light.

A whole generation is going to have their learning corrupted by shit like this, and by the insistence that we move at the pace of the slowest, most witless kid in the class. And by breaking for cakes and a class party every other day.

The problem is that you can’t argue with these educationalists and their fuck-brained theories, because they don’t have to justify them to you and me. They only have to persuade other educationalists, and as anyone who ever peeled back the lid on school politics will testify, no other facet of human life seems to attract so many fuckwits.

So let’s take a walk down Reality Lane: high-tech industry is crying out for more H1B visas so they can bring in highly educated employees from, say, India. This is because our colleges are turning out people trained and qualified, at ever-increasing expense, for precisely fuck-all. Media Studies, Politics and History, American Literature – nothing that requires you to be right, only to show up and pay tuition.

So next time you’re handing out the cakes at Field Day, listen very carefully. That’s the sound of the future passing by. Better run faster to catch up…

Copyright 2007 Edward Bison