Just the Facts, Mom! I’m studying for midterms.
My daughter came down from her bedroom to talk to me the other night.
No, this sentence warrants a six-column headline:
My daughter came down from her bedroom to talk to me the other night
After all, she is 15. Aside from emerging for meals, school, and showers, she lives in her room.
In another astounding development, my brilliant, confident and extremely disciplined daughter came down to ask me – her mom (!) to help her study!
She asked me to help her study! She still needs me!
This week marks her first set of high school midterms. I admire her extra efforts for studying for them. Math and science is dad’s department. But current events and English, that is my domain. We began to review for her social studies exam. But as we started to review the material – and please – JUST the material – the thought-provoking documentary Race to Nowhere came to mind.
As she crammed the names and positions of 40 current world leaders into her head, was she truly gaining an understanding of current world events? I am a news junkie, so I couldn’t help but wonder – she was memorizing names with faces, but was she learning?
My daughter thrust into my hands a four-page study packet that had 40 mug shots of leaders of North America, Asia and Europe. Also included in the lineup were that week’s Republican candidates who were vying for the nomination for this November’s presidential election. We started with those:
I asked: “Can you name the candidates who are running in the Republican primary?’
“Sure: Gingrich. Romney, and, um — Santorum!”
Great, she had them down. And Perry had just dropped out. But for me, these answers aren’t good enough. After all, in by the time the 2016 Presidential election comes around, she’ll be old enough to vote. So I press on:
“Who is this Newt Gingrich and what position of government did he hold in the past? What was he known for doing in this position?
“I don’t care, mom, that’s not on the test! Just names and positions, Mom.”
I could in some ways empathize with her. The Social Studies midterm was just one test in a slew of tests she will face this week. She still had to conjugate lots of verbs in Spanish for another test. And tackle some tough algebra problems for yet another. Names and faces of world leaders, that’s plenty to know. But is it?
I pressed on.
“Who is the secretary of state?”
“Easy. Hillary Clinton.”
I couldn’t help myself: “And what does the secretary of state do? And what was she before she was secretary of state?”
“Not important, it won’t be on the test! Next leader, please….This is why I like to study with dad more than you!”
“Who is the leader of Venezuela?”
“No problem, Ces, Chavez…. he has a mustache!
“Yes. Now, which other world leader is he getting into bed with and why is this a problem?”
“Into bed with?!?”
“It’s just an expression. It means getting buddy-buddy with.”
“I don’t know! Who cares, it’s-“
“….I know it’s not on the test. But he is getting cozy with a leader in the Middle East in a country that starts with an I-“
“Okay, I know this one, the president of Iran is Ahmadinejad.”
I personally hope she won’t have to spell that one…
“And why is this a problem? What do these countries both have a lot of that we depend on?
“I don’t knoooooww, mom! Sugar? This will not be on the test!”
“Oil, honey, they both have oil and they are both consider the US as an enemy. Oh, and what other country does Iran consider an enemy?”
“This is not on the TEST!”
But she knows. She knows the leaders of Iran want to wipe Israel off the map. She knows this because it’s what we discuss at home. Just like she knew the leader of Israel was Benjamin Netanyahu before she got that study packet.
So, how many world leaders or members of the US cabinet can you recognize or name? And does rattling off these names make our high school students any more knowledgeable on current events?
On a final note, my daughter invited a friend home to study and have dinner with us tonight. Another source of midterm stress: the English composition.
“This could be on ANYTHING, mom. We just won’t know what we are going to have to write about. I mean, the topic could be: What are the social implications of when Neil Young walked on the moon?!”