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School is about learning, not entertainment
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Q: My kindergartener brought home a questionnaire that asks: Do you like your class? Do you have friends in your class? Does your teacher treat you like you want to be treated? Does your teacher help you learn and do new things? I’m supposed to read him the questions, which he then answers by coloring in a face with a smile, a neutral expression (straight line), or a frown. I think that exercises of this sort only serve to undermine respect for the teacher. Am I right to refuse to let him complete this questionnaire? If so, what should I do about it?
 A: I think you’re spot on. This is the sort of silliness that defines the new “therapeutic school,” which is what all too many public schools are striving to become these days (and increasing numbers of independent schools are rushing to “catch up”). I’m all for non-academic kindergarten, by the way, but exercises of this sort are patently counter-productive. Effective teaching, like effective parenting, is not a popularity contest, but letting students rate teachers has the effect of undermining teacher authority and as you point out, student respect.
As for what to do about it, first find out from the teacher where the questionnaire came from. I very much doubt she was the author. Once the source is identified, go straight to that person. If your complaint falls on deaf ears (as it probably will), then go see if the local newspaper might be interested in exposing an example of how schools waste time and money and then cry poor.
 Along the same lines: A mother relates that her daughter’s sixth-grade science teacher assigned the class to watch “American Idol.” The daughter could not explain the purpose behind the assignment, only saying it had something to do with the science of sound. The mother writes, “We told our daughter to forget it, it wasn’t happening, and she expressed anxiety over getting into trouble. So I e-mailed the teacher the next day and copied the principal, telling them that we did not watch television on school nights and would not, in any case, allow silliness of that sort into our home. I asked how watching this particular program related to a science curriculum. The teacher’s response was that the class was studying how voice travels.”
Imagine that! “American Idol” is the stuff of science! Since Tom Delay was recently on “Dancing with the Stars,” perhaps that very intelligent and mind-expanding program can be turned into a civics lesson.
Folks, I am aware that stories like these do not characterize all or even most public schools (let’s hope), but the sad fact is that parents all over the United States frequently share such tales with me. I seriously doubt that the equivalent of this is taking place in schools in China or India, to name two countries that are poised to become the world’s next economic superstars.
 Clever observation of the week: A fellow writes that he and his wife recently visited in the home of a couple who have a 3-year-old. He describes the child as “snotty” and says it’s obvious who rules the roost. He concludes by offering the observation that “weak-willed parents produce strong-willed children.” That witticism deserves a free autographed copy of my latest book, which I am sending upon receipt of his address. Thanks much!

Rosemond, a family psychologist, answers questions at his Web site:
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