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50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education Hardcover – August 21, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Expanded from an original list of 14 first broadcast on his Milwaukee, Wis., radio talk show, the latest book from Sykes (Dumbing Down our Kids) equips parents to help tween- or teenage children find success in life beyond school. Taking on the education system's "modern bubble-wrap mentality" of "no losing, no disappointments, no harsh reality checks," Sykes takes a hard-line but humorous approach to instilling the discipline, morals and good sense that keep kids from becoming "sulky, self-centered, spoiled brats." Consider Rule 19: "It's not your parent's fault. If you screw up, you are responsible"; or Rule 14: "Looking like a slut does not empower you." Rules are largely rooted in common sense ("Change the oil"), traditional values ("Don't forget to say thank you") and the wisdom that only time can bring ("Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could"), and get fleshed out in punchy, chuckle-worthy commentary. Though he can be harsh ("You are not a victim. So stop whining"), Sykes helpfully points out that "Grown-ups forget how scary it is to be your age," and also that "You are not perfect, and you don't have to be" (illustrated in an amusing story about Mother Teresa misapplying a bandage); parents will appreciate Syke's no-nonsense style, but teenage readers may find him condescending (see Rule 21: "You're offended? So what? No, really. So what?").
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Sykes takes a hard-line but humorous approach to instilling the discipline, morals and good sense that keep kids from becoming 'sulky, self-centered, spoiled brats.'” ―Publishers Weekly
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Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!
But striving to make the world more fair is one of the greatest aspirations we can impart to children. I value the better world we live in because of the Civil Right Act and all anti-discrimination laws that protect people of all sexual orientations, religions, and ethnicities. We still have a long way to go and I want my students to continue to fight injustice wherever they see it.
Rule 2: The world doesn't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
As your teacher, I do care about how you feel about yourself. And I care about whether you ate breakfast before you came to school and whether you have parents at home when you return and a place to study. I do not want to live in a world where we do not care about each other as human beings. And my caring for my students is independent of whether or not they have done their homework. I wouldn't want it any other way.
Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Earning money is capricious. Most of us have to work very hard for many years at jobs that that are often not glamorous. Others become pro sports stars or entertainers with little education. The best we can do is become educated enough have choices to make satisfying careers and not be envious of others.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Some teachers are tough; others are not. Some bosses are tough; others are not. Set high standards for yourself and meet them.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.
There weren't any fast food restaurant jobs when my grandparents were young. They would have no idea what this was about. But I see plenty of young people working hard at all kinds of low-paying jobs. More and more are paying their own way through college. I think my grandparents would be proud.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
If children today have learned that their mistakes are the fault of their parents, it's because their parents have not allowed them to make mistakes or suffer the consequences of them. Back off mom and dad.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
I celebrate this generation of young people who care about their environment and the suffering of people in distant parts of the world. They volunteer at a high rate; they participate in causes; they are a compassionate people. Who cares what the inside of their closets looks like?
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Every school I know has failing grades and high expectations for academic achievement. But learning is also about making corrections, learning from error, and revising poor work. Let's see in "real" life, you can be the CEO of an investment bank, cause the entire world economy to tank, and then walk away with a fat bonus. Is that what we want "real life" to be?
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
See Rule #2: Learning and working are intimately tied to working together in a collaborative healthy community. We should all be concerned with the welfare of others. As teachers, we need to get to know our students so we can work effectively with them. More and more businesses have also adopted approaches to improve morale, improve working conditions through training, workshops, seminars, retreats. Why? It improves productivity.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Television is entertainment. Everyone knows this. I'm sure my grandparents knew that the Cartwrights on Bonanza wouldn't have had time to sit around the ranch chitchatting. . . too much poop in the horse stalls to clean out. No one expects television to be real life and there is no research that shows that people are all that affected by television.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.
How about "be nice to everyone?" That's what we teach at school. Though the author of this list apparently thinks that we don't cover that.
Rule number one of imparting advice to anyone of any age - gain their trust first. If you blunder in, wagging your finger as Sykes does, you'll just get a backlash. It's actually worse than keeping your trap shut.
Sykes should try his material on a classroom of average eighth-graders and see if he can get them to do anything close to what he intends.
Sykes expresses resentment toward teachers for getting tenure and suggests that this is not part of the "real world." I envy teachers' schedules (but not their jobs) as well, but just because you resent these perks doesn't mean you can simply write them out of the "real world" unless you're in serious denial. Without tenure, how many people would choose to become teachers what with so many other options available? That's the real world.
It's ironic that he claims to want to instill respect for authority but encourages his young readers to devalue what they're learning from those who are acting in loco parentis. Teachers don't create the curriculum. Changes in curricula are driven by administrators and education colleges. Blaming teachers for teaching too much self-esteem doesn't make any more sense than blaming cops for giving illegal immigrants a pass. In both cases, the priorities are set elsewhere.
In one rule, he complains that kids are too materialistic. Then in another one, he complains about their idealism. Frankly, the Millennial Generation works hard, serves its country, and in general is the most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I've seen in quite a while. They've really done their best to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of a generation of broken homes left by Sykes' fellow Baby Boomers. But not many of them are going to respond to something this unfocused and mediocre.
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I think I was more bothered by the number of logical fallacies committed when the...Read more