Sunday, January 31, 2010
Interview with Cloverdale School Board Member Melinda Mesherly on Entertainment and the Government's History Curriculum.
“The current curriculum’s videos and slide shows are focused too much on entertainment and not enough time on pure historical fact. Something must be done to ensure Cloverdale’s students received the best education possible,” said Melinda Mesherly, board member and founder of Cloverdale’s Scrapbook Plus Scrap booking Superstore located in her garage - open whenever the weather is good enough for her husband's car to remain parked outside. “I’ve reviewed several of the titles used in our schools and find them totally unacceptable.”
Melinda hesitated to speak when asked what teachers have to say about the apparent inaccuracies in the videos. After a moment’s pause she held up a finger and asked that I stop recording the interview. “I’d like to say something off the record if I may,” she asked.
“Certainly,” I replied, having no intention whatsoever of hiding anything from our readers.
“Most of the teachers just sleep through the videos anyway. Some just surf the Internet and answer emails. If I’m successful in getting these videos off the media center’s shelf then they’re left with nothing to show their classes until new, more accurate videos are produced. They lose their sleep time don’t ya see?”
“No,” I replied. “Are you saying the citizens of Cloverdale are not entitled to know many of their teachers are too lazy or apathetic to care about the content of their curriculum?”
She realized her comments were going to be used and straightened in her chair. Her eyes shot daggers at me for lying. I disregarded her soured feelings toward the press. Did she really believe Cloverdale’s Confederacy Times was such a small newspaper that it could be pressured into putting something ‘off the record’ that needed to be told?
“Let me say here and now that Cloverdale’s teachers are the best in the Confederacy; I'm saying they are under enormous pressure to educate our students well enough so they can pass the government mandated standardized tests. They must trust the Educational Ministry to do their job to deliver curriculum that is both factual and entertaining so student interest is maintained.” The Mrs. Mesherly sat back and smiled, obviously proud of talking her way out of a the mucky swamp of having misspoken.
“So, If I’m understanding you correctly Mrs. Mesherly - you’re saying that the job of a teacher is to teach to the test, because the standardized test is the final and end result of education, and furthermore, if I’m understanding you correctly, our students are so under motivated to learn that teachers and the government must producing entertaining curriculum in addition to being factual? Am I correct?”
Mrs. Mesherly squirmed in her chair. I could tell she was replaying what I’d just said over and over again in her mind. She raised one finger to speak, took in a deep breath and began. “I didn’t mean to say that all we care about is the standardized government test given at the end of the year, a test so important that if failed sends you to a remedial summer school program not funded by the province but by the local tax payers. I didn’t mean that. What I meant to say is that we care about the whole student. Every student is different and you must take into account the whole child. You must think about their likes and dislikes and their personalities.” She looked at me with a question mark outlined on her face. I could tell she didn’t know where she was going with that last statement.
“You said students today must be entertained. I’m assuming you mean that because of this electronic age, with everything students have access to, the media and music and texts and emails and video games etc etc that normal methods of education just don’t cut it any more.” She nodded as I spoke. “You’re saying that the government must make their instruction more entertaining. Sort of - take a lesson from Hollywood?”
“Yes. Yes! That is what I’m saying. I couldn’t have said it better myself,” she said with a bit of a bounce on her chair. I continued, “And if we follow that logic, that kind of curriculum - taught in an interesting and entertaining way takes more time than just lecturing fact after fact and story after story. Things must be cut out to get to the real skeleton of the matter. Agreed?”
“Yes, I think I can buy into that,” she said slightly confused.
“So, for the government to produce entertaining curriculum for today’s youth, certain things may have to be left out considering you can’t cover everything. Other things may have to be condensed, to squeeze as much as you can into the video while still making it entertaining?”
“Yes, I can buy that,” she agreed.
“Then in conclusion the historical videos put out by the government must be educational but still be entertaining. And to be entertaining certain things must be changed, condensed and modified to get the general flavor of the period and the very basic facts across to the students so they do well on the government tests. Correct?” I sat back in my chair and waited for her answer. I knew this would be my moment. She was about to back herself into a corner.
“I believe those things may be necessary to maintain student discipline and get the absolute necessary information out so the students pass their state examines. Yes, I believe you are right.”
“Then ma’am, what was the point of this entire interview?” I asked. My Check Mate was delivered. Her King was captured.
“Why the scandalous entertaining government history videos containing ................” She stopped. Her face lost all color. “This interview is over. Excuse me.” She stood, straightened her skirt and walked from the room. I closed my tablet and enjoyed one long drink from my water bottle. I knew this was going to make one interesting article.