Tag Archives: code-switching

Where the Environment Matters: the legacy of the Milton Hershey School


Courtesy of Milton Hershey School

Sometimes those ideals that have been ignored for years can still work—in spite of efforts to undermine them.

I was privileged to attend a screening of Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Cynthia Wade’s newest film, a documentary about the Milton Hershey School.  The film, at least partially, proved two things for me: (a) there are people in corporate America who actually care; and (b) the old-fashioned way can still work in education.

 MHS is a PreK-12 school for underprivileged children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, just across the street from Hershey Park.  Milton Hershey, the founder of the Hershey chocolate empire, and his wife founded the school in 1909.  Since they were unable to have children, the Hersheys founded a school where children in desperate economic or family situations can learn and grow in a safe nurturing environment.

The school is comprised of over 1800 students sprawled across buildings throughout the town.  The school is funded by the Hershey Trust Company, which owns the controlling shares of stock in the Hershey Company.  This is particularly helpful when similar ventures are struggling due to lack of funds: it’s nice when a school has a blue-chip company for a piggy bank.

Regardless of these resources, MHS does not pride itself on its riches, but rather its people.  The core of their philosophy is the house parenting system.  Students who enroll in MHS live in single-gender family houses run by house parents.  These parents act as the authority figures these children often lack: chores are done strictly, discipline is assertive and effective, and studies are monitored rigorously.  Furthermore, these parents are the students’ principle cheerleaders and advocates: they form a liaison with the school and their biological/legal guardians, to ensure the best interests of the children are met.

As I was watching the film, the emphasis was almost exclusively on the house parents and the student house system.  As interesting as it was, I was a little skeptical.  This is an academic institution, after all.  I didn’t see a whole lot of teaching.  Yet when the scenes in the classroom did appear, I was astonished.

Students were not in guided reading groups, but in rows. 

Old fashioned tests and essays. 

No mandated time for this or that, as far as I could see. 

The school seems almost entirely devoid of the theoretical nonsense that has clouded public education for the last two decades.  Calkins, Fountas, Pinnell, Wiggins, Marzano—the heavy hitters of educational theory for the last twenty years seemingly ignored.

Milton Hershey School teaches a valuable lesson.  Theories don’t work unless children feel safe and secure in their home environment.  MHS doesn’t need Teachers College or Bank Street to tell them what to do.  As long as the home environment is monitored and nurtured, it doesn’t matter what pedagogy or curriculum design you use.

To say Milton Hershey School is a success story is a severe understatement.  According to MHS, 90% of their graduates go on to some form of higher education.  MHS graduates have gone on to become CEOs, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, even high ranking officers in our armed forces.  I also had the pleasure of meeting some MHS students at the screening.  If these kids came from troubled homes, it sure didn’t show.  The alumni assembled look like a gathering of Ivy League swells: there’s not even a hint that these successful people were once in desperate situations.

The biggest concern is that the fruits of the MHS experiment seem lost on the grand poobahs of education.  To them, the opposite is true: the teacher makes the student, regardless of their background.  Simply train the teacher better in the newest theories—not necessarily the best ones—and that teacher can work miracles.  This is the thinking behind a lot of the methods coming out of the large schools of education.

What’s more frightening is that the wrong people, the people in power, take these theories seriously.

Public school teachers must deal with children as they come, with whatever baggage they take from their home life.  As such, teachers have to adjust their practice in order to connect to children that see the school as the only real form of structure in their life.  This is where the theories come in: it places the onus on the teacher almost exclusively since it is assumed nothing is provided at home.  The public school does not have the luxury of altering the environment of children as MHS does. 

Yet if the MHS experiment shows the value of a stable home life, regardless of the academic theories or methods used in the classroom, shouldn’t there be some effort on the part of school districts to help smooth out the rough edges of these kids’ lives?

The MHS experience shows how environment matters.  Districts across America should use this example and reach out more to families and homes–and work with teachers as a partner, not as miracle workers.  Many community programs exist that help parents to become successful along with their children.  These programs provide a huge help in changing what in many public schools is another intangible obstacle. 

Milton Hershey School is a place that’s going in the right direction.  More administrators in this country should take its example–and less from the academics who seem to go in every direction.

For more information about the school, visit http://www.mhs-pa.org

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

This Day in History 7/8: The “Black Ships”: The 1853-54 expedition of Matthew Perry

It is a term still used in Japan today.  “Black Ships” refers to any threat to Japanese culture from Western technology.  Yet without the original “black ships” of 1853, we would not enjoy our Hondas, Nintendos or Sonys.  It took a pudgy naval officer to bring Japan into the modern world–kicking and screaming.

To understand the reluctance, you must understand Japan.  This was a place that literally was “closed for renovations” for centuries.   For approximately 250 years, the Tokugawa shogunate, the dynasty of military rulers that held de facto rule on the islands, decided to sever almost all ties with the outside world.  After centuries of internal strife and outside interference by missionaries, traders and Chinese invasions, Japan decided to close up shop so it can get its act together. 

It allowed one port, Nagasaki, and one Western country, the Netherlands, to trade with Japan.  This suited the Japanese well: the Dutch wanted no part of colonizing Japan, Japan had no need for the Dutch spreading Calvinism and personal freedoms to the island.  Although other influences were able to sneak in here and there, particularly in relations with China, Japan would be in relative isolation for the next two and a half centuries.

Yet sometimes the renovations take too long.  It was time for Japan to open up shop.

The Dutch knew it, as they sent a letter in 1844 to the Japanese asking to open up trade.  The Americans knew it, too, as they sent unsuccessful missions to Japan in 1837, 1846 and 1849.  There was also technology to consider: a lot has changed in 250 years, especially in warfare.  The Japanese army and navy was woefully underdeveloped to withstand any conflict with a Western power, let alone an all-out war.

So on July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew C. Perry (No relation to the Friends actor, by the way) sailed into the Uraga harbor near Edo, now Tokyo to present a letter by President Millard Fillmore issuing terms for a treaty.  The Japanese government told him to head to Nagasaki, as that’s where the trading post is.  Perry was having none of it, insisting on delivering his message and returning for a reply. 

The Japanese have fended off these attempts before.  Yet the business end of an 18-pounder, multiplied by several hundred, makes anybody whistle a different tune–especially if your capital city is made of mostly wooden buildings.  Since these fearsome warships were pitched with tar to keep them watertight, they were referred to as the “Black ships”.  The Japanese had no choice but to receive his message and consider a response.

Perry returned in February of 1854.  He heard that the Japanese treaty would satisfy all American demands, but Perry was sure to hedge his bets.  So he brought twice as many frigates as before, to make sure the Japanese keep their end of the deal. On March 31, 1854, the Convention of Kanagawa was signed, allowing US ships to trade in Japanese ports and the establishment of US diplomatic relations with the Japanese government.  Perry came home a hero in 1855, only to drink himself to death in 1858. 

Although the approach was a bit heavy-handed, Perry’s expedition became a watershed in world history.  Japan, long isolated from the world, now had access to Western ideas, technology and military might.  It would cause major internal conflicts, culminating in the removal of the shogunate in 1867 and the establishment of a semi-constitutional monarchy.  In Japan’s hunger for new things, however, they managed to step on a lot of toes–let’s not forget World War II.  Yet in the modern age, Japan has become a technological, financial and industrial power in full openness with the international system.

The fear of the “black ships” always remains, however.  Japan is a society that struggles to maintain its own distinct culture in the overwhelming onslaught of technological innovation–mostly its own doing.  It is a struggle many societies face in the 21st Century, as streams of communication reduce or obliterate the barriers that made Japanese isolation such an enduring institution.

Come September, the fear of “black ships” and the cross-connections of cultures is definitely a theme to build on with your students.  How do we reconcile our own cultural identity with the modern world? 

Or, at the very least, stress that those Sony Playstations and Nintendo DS systems didn’t just spring from the Earth by themselves.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Importance of Being Earnest: Why Hypocrisy is the greatest danger in Education.

We’ve all heard the line before: “Do as I say, not as I do.” In education, this comes up more often than we realize.

How often do we see this scenario: A teacher is covering a lesson with the class when a student curses at another. The teacher admonishes the student about the use of bad language. Once in the teacher’s lounge, however, that same teacher will swear like a sailor–often with children in earshot of his/her salty tongue.

This is among the more mundane examples, but it can quickly spiral into other matters more substantive. I cannot stand how education programs stress to new teachers the need for complete impartiality in all instruction. This is impossible. Let a robot teach the class, and maybe it will be impartial–yet someone had to write the material for the robot.

So we’re reduced to saying one thing in class and believing something else. With my students, it was always more beneficial to express my opinions out in the open, as long as I make clear they are just my opinions. Kids respect honesty, even if they are often dishonest with themselves or other adults.  If you start lying to them now, they will either (a) mindlessly listen to every word you say, or (b) not trust anyone for anything.  This doesn’t make for an informed citizenry. 

Hypocrisy is the main focus today, as I reflect on one of my favorite artists.  One of the most influential singer/songwriters of the 1960s was Phil Ochs.  Unlike so many of the 1960s political-esque artists who wouldn’t attend an antiwar rally unless from inside their Ferrari, Ochs was a true believer.  Even though I disagree with many of his political views, I respect and admire someone who makes their opinions clear without the “base alloy of hypocrisy”, as Abraham Lincoln stated.

Below is an updated version of his classic “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”, along with a video. It was re-written by Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra and psychobilly pioneer Mojo Nixon to reflect the late 1990’s-early 2000’s.  Even if you don’t agree with these guys–and I don’t, not always–appreciate that they, like so many educators, strive to cut through the hypocrisy to be as honest as possible. 

We should all be mindful of how our words and actions are conveyed to children.  REGARDLESS of our own political viewpoint.

“Love Me, I’m a Liberal” – Original lyrics by Phil Ochs, adapted by Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon

I cried when they shot John Lennon
Tears ran down my spine
And I cried when I saw “JFK”
As though I’d lost a father of mine

But Malcolm X and Ice-T had it coming
They got what they asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me
I’m a liberal

I go to pro-choice rallies
Recycle my cans and jars
I’ll honk if you love the Dead
Hope those funny grunge bands become stars

But don’t talk about revolution
That’s going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me
I’m a liberal

I cheered when Clinton was chosen
My faith in the system reborn
I’ll do anything to save our schools
If my taxes ain’t too much more

And I love blacks and gays and Latinos
As long as they don’t move next door
So love me, love me, love me
I’m a liberal

Rush Limbaugh and the L.A.P.D.
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can’t understand where they’re at
Arsenio should set them straight

But if Neigborhood Watch doesn’t know you
I hope the cops take your name
So love me, love me, love me
I’m a liberal

Yeh, I read the New Republic(an)
Rolling Stone and Mother Jones too
If I vote it’s a Democrat
With a sensible economy view

But when it comes to terrorist Arabs
There’s no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me
I’m a liberal

Once I was young and had an attitude
Stickers covered the car I drove in
Even went on some direct actions
When there weren’t rent-a-cops to be seen

Ah, but now I’ve grown older and wiser
And that’s why I’m turning you in
So love me, love me, love me
I’m a liberal

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Perils of Classroom Discipline: or, Why The Superintendant took away my Hickory Switch

Sometimes fear, even perceived fear, is a powerful motivator.

Once in a while, when one of my classes gets particularly unruly, I like to pick up a pointer.  It is one of those old fashioned wooden jobs that makes a wonderful whistling sound when it hurtles toward someone’s backside.  I’d hold it, wield it, swing it here and there, and the children would stop and stare at me.  Some have a look of utter terror.  One child has the gumption to ask, “Mr. D, why do you love that pointer so much?”

My response: “Because it reminds me of a time when it was legal to beat you.”

Now, I would never hit a child, of course.   My students also know I won’t hit them, but it’s never far from their minds that one day…just one day…Mr. D could finally lose it and wallop someone into oblivion.   Perceptions of fear, violence, and even insanity have become cornerstones of my discipline–well, that and a good ear for the mood of the class.  Almost the entire school is convinced that I’m insane, or at least neurotic.  It could be because of my obsession with historical minutia and the need to look at details to get the bigger picture.  Or it could be my habit of talking to myself at times, which is often necessary to get my thoughts in order.  Whatever the case, it keeps students in check, and actually gets them to do work…although most probably finish assignments “just so that nutjob can get off our backs!”

Let’s face it, the days of Sister Mary Margaret wielding her Yardstick of Righteousness are over.  Classroom discipline, or “classroom management” as the educational establishment likes to call it, is a whole new universe of approachs, studies and strategies designed to encourage (not shame) children towards acceptable behavior.  Even instilling fear has become a no-no, although neither my kids, nor their parents, seem to mind it from me.  New approaches today focus on self-motivation–allowing students to figure out for themselves what is acceptable and what is not.

A recent Wall Street Journal article discusses these new techniques in early childhood classrooms.  According to the article, discipline problems in children are not only rising, they are also starting at a younger age.  The causes of this are varied, including “pressure on teachers to stress math and reading over emotional skills; family instability; a decline in playtime; heavy use of child care; or a rise in learning problems such as attention-deficit disorder.” 

In view of this dilemma, some classrooms have, according to the WSJ, resorted to a two-prong approach: an increase in time for dramatic or pretend play, coupled with lessons on self-control allotted through the curriculum.  Dramatic play lets children play out roles in society for various amounts of time, allowing them to figure out for themselves where the behavioral limits lie.  Using assigned roles in working groups for math and reading lessons helps children understand limits and appreciate respect for their peers. 

For younger children, especially in preschool, the PATHS approach is gaining in popularity.  While most students today are encouraged to verbalize their emotions, younger children who are just learning to communicate need different skills.  According to the article, “children are encouraged when upset to emulate Twiggle the turtle, a green puppet who pulls into his shell: They stop, cross their arms over their chests, take a deep breath and give a name to their emotions.”  As always, good behavior should always be encouraged and rewarded.

Dramatic play is a very good tool for discipline in that, like critical thinking, it allows students to gain ownership over behavioral issues.  A bald, fat know-it-all (like me) or a dictator dressed like a penguin (like Sister Mary Margaret) have often used discipline in an authoritative fashion, imposing our will on others whether they like it or not–and they usually don’t.  Playing out roles or scenarios allows children to make their own codes of behavior from an early age.  Thus, their behavior will not only improve, but those lessons will last longer into their schooling.

The other approaches, such as behavioral lessons in curricular workshops, or emotional workshops such as PATHS, are also effective, particularly in younger children.  They also allow children to figure out acceptable behavior with as little adult interference as possible.  Children often lash out because of a sense of no control, and these programs help to give that control.

My worry about these approaches is twofold.  First, these strategies have to be implemented at an early age or they won’t work.  With older children, dramatic play and emotional gestures just will not yield the same results.  While the results of these approaches will be seen in the future, there are plenty of discipline problems in the here and now.  Many children from ages 8-12 have already been hardwired to behave in certain ways based on a myriad of factors, including their home life and their neighborhood.  Are there no discipline approaches for these children, short of an extreme regression therapy?  I say this because it is my demographic, and I have to deal with these students–hence the insanity.

Furthermore, and I hate sounding like a union rep, but these strategies leave out the important role of good parenting.  Why must teachers essentially “mommy” other children when parents are, in essence, the ultimate arbiters of discipline?  It doesn’t matter which approach or strategy is used on a child: if it isn’t followed through in the home, it is a waste of time.  Unfortunately, many parents, especially in struggling communities, are simply overgrown children themselves–though there are many exceptions.  If we cannot trust adults to behave as such, there is little more we can expect from the children.    Don’t believe me?  I refer you to a previous post in the Neighborhood about a foul-mouthed toddler.  Enough said.

If you are a fellow teacher, you know that discipline is the hardest thing to master.  Even the best teachers are often saddled with classes forged by Lucifer–I’m familiar with a few this year.  The best advice I can give?  Keep the door closed, keep the kids busy, do what works–and if all else fails, ask for help.  There is no shame in asking to send Johnny for a time-out in another classroom.

Or just act as if you’re batshit insane.  It works for me.


Filed under Uncategorized

Royal Flush: Our Fascination with Royalty

obamas_queenFor a democracy, the United States still goes loopy over royalty.

No matter how successful or hard-working a “commoner” like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett may be, they still take second place to a paper sovereign with inherited riches and a genetic code taken from a Cracker-Jack box.  I’m convinced that in three generations, the monarch of Great Britain will be an incongruous blob with one eye and a deformed limb.  It’ll still probably qualify as either Henry IX, George VII or Blobby I.  The crown of St. Edward will be covered in protoplasmic ooze on its coronation.   I wouldn’t want to be its dresser at Balmoral–you try putting a kilt on a blob. 

We still have these people, in various capacities in scattered countries across Europe (the Asian and African ones tend to be a little more autocratic).   Their centuries of inbreeding have produced a virtual subspecies of human that is impervious to natural selection.  All of them could drop a semi-literate bubble boy at any time, and he’ll still be Duke of WhatdaF**k or whatever.  One thing is certain though; no matter how dim-witted or deformed, all royals are sticklers for etiquette and protocol.  They are the only things monarchs still control with an iron fist–and we Yanks can never get it right.

The most notable recent gaffe occurred in 2007, when George W. Bush mistook Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain for her demented porphyria-stricken uncle George III.  In a famous faux-pas, Bush suggested that the Queen helped celebrate America’s bicentennial in 1776, not 1976.  It resulted in a look from Her Shortness that would have cost Dubya a half-hanging and a set of boiling instestines a few centuries earlier.  He was not alone: who can forget the elderly elf speaking below the podium upon meeting Bill Clinton…oh, wait, that was the Queen.  Evidently, the advance folks forgot the tricky business of height differential–and knowing Bubba’s nature, Her Majesty should have had Handi-Wipes down there.

This week, Barack Obama becomes the 11th Commander in Chief to greet the octagenarian monarch, and this had to go right.  Gordon Brown’s still trying to find a region 1 DVD player that takes 220 Volts of two-pronged goodness.  But as always, we figure out how to screw it up somehow, at least according to the British press.  First Lady Michelle Obama did away with the “optional” curtsy (who knew a curtsy was “optional”?), instead going straight for the good ol’ American handshake…oh, the horror.  Poor Barack was so confused about the rules that he twitched his head up and down like a punch-drunk bobblehead doll.  At least the Queen took it in stride–it also helped that Prince Philip, Shorty’s main squeeze, did his own foot-in-mouth routine.

The American faux pas in front of a crowned head of Europe is a tired cliche.  Okay, we get it: the Yank in the ten-gallon hat slaps King ThunderJowls on the back, the nobility stands aghast, and monocles fly everywhere.  Thank God that the Queen never met Lyndon Johnson…he’d probably mention how his Haggar slacks ride his crotch like a wire fence.

The British press obsess about this perceived affronty, and they have a point.  Without a monarchy to kick around, Great Britain would just be some run-of-the-mill European socialist welfare state with lukewarm food and ridiculous fashion sense.  To be British is, for many, to be the Queen’s subject, and it behooves a subject to protect his/her sovereign from all enemies, foreign and domestic.  To save us some embarrassment, it helps that we Americans should learn at least the basics about meeting these people–the forms of address, whether to bow or curtsy, etc. 

Yet on the same note, Great Britain, and all constitutional monarchies for that matter, should cut us mere commoners a little slack if we fumble at the dinner table or offer the wrong hand.  We’re just not accustomed to treating people differently if they don’t deserve it.  Why couldn’t the Queen make money honestly like Bill Gates, crushing competitors like insects?  Or be a professional basketball/football/baseball player?  Even if you can’t make an honest living, at least have the common decency to make a fool of yourself in public–just ask Paris Hilton.  It takes hard work to flush a reputation down the toilet and not care. 

So give us a break, your Highnesses.  Rigid social order is a little foreign to us, and we need all the help we can get.

NOTE: This does not apply to absolute monarchies, especially those where the monarchs wear bedsheets and sit on huge stores of petroleum.  They always get the curtsy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What to do when a baby drops an F-bomb: a primer on code-switching


You know the only people who are always sure about the proper way to raise children? Those who’ve never had any.” – Bill Cosby

The parent-teacher conferences are an amazing way to see parents and children interact with no supervision.  More often than not, it is the parents that need the correction.

Take this example: as I was walking down the hall to a classroom, I noticed a young boy with his little sister, a child of about 2, in a stroller.  Mom was sitting next to them, filling out forms and waiting to hear about Junior’s lack of focus for the umpteenth time.  The little sister then drops her sippie cup and climbs out of the stroller. As soon as little brother asks her to pick up the cup, I expected a little cooing sound, or a soft laugh from the little sister–the kind of sound most of us are conditioned to hear from toddlers. I heard the following:

“Fuck you!”

Boy did you hear it. She blurted that f-bomb so loud you could hear it over the Bruckner Expressway. The whole hallway, a sea of parents with children in tow, stopped in freezeframe, waiting to see which unfortunate soul will claim parentage of this potty-mouthed urchin. Mom was not only embarrassed, she quickly snatched the offending child and whisked them all into the classroom to hide from the shame.

Our natural instinct is to blame the parents, and with good reason. Kids are a sponge at an early age, soaking in the sights, smells and sounds of their environment. That a toddler could cuss with such ease says a lot about the home life and the level of discourse. We never could blame a child from, say, Senator Kennedy’s flock to display such behavior, although young Patrick picked up a lot from his dad–saucy language and all.

However, it is also the case that Mom, like many parents in the neighborhood, have a difficult time establishing limits on certain language in certain areas. If everyone in the building, and everyone on the block, dropped curses and slang like a walking hip-hop album, then it’s no surprise that kids will pick up on that. In short, many parents know little about code-switching.

Code-switching was a linguistic tool in use ever since immigrants settled in this country, although it was not studied in depth until the 1940s. It is a tool of both assimilation and identity for individuals that straddle cultural divides or socioeconomic divisions. The code being “switched” is the vocabulary and linguistic nuances used in everyday life. Translated into plain English, this skill allows people to speak one way at a business meeting, another way at home, and even another way with friends.

One group that has become almost synonymous with this is African Americans. The predominance of a black middle class in this country has led many researchers to conclude that code-switching is an integral part of their success. It allows black professionals to excel in the workplace while still maintaining cultural ties through family and friends.  

Even African Americans in popular culture have used code-switching. Don’t believe me? Ask Clair Huxtable, the stern but loving mother from The Cosby Show, played by Phylicia Rashad.  Notice how she speaks to outside adults and colleagues as an attorney–it is usually in a bland, friendly, almost stereotypically “white” manner.  Now wait until Theo gets in trouble with Cockroach again (a popular theme in the series) and you see a very different Clair, one that would probably ruffle the feathers of the starched suits at her law firm.

Naturally, code-switching has its critics.  Many “old school” educators charge that allowing the choice of codes between situations legitimizes what could be considered incorrect or “bad” English.  This permissiveness would then hinder children from studying “correct” English as displayed in the accepted annals of literature.  Never mind that most of the accepted “classics” came from vernacular English considered filthy in its time.   Parts of Beowulf (especially the beginning) consisted of jokes on farting and urine.  Most of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales reads like a medieval Spring Break (complete with free-flowing beer and public nudity).  Let’s not forget William Shakespeare–his raunchier plays make a Penthouse letter look like the King James Bible.

On the other hand, many critics contend that code-switching is just another form of racial heirarchy.  They contend that changing language to suit environments unlike their own is tantamount to “acting white” or worse–being an “uncle Tom.”  The simple fact that a person must change their language in certain situations places a value judgment on certain environments: the whiter the people in an area, the more “proper” and formal the tone and vocabulary. 

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this one.  Until culture changes otherwise, professional attire and etiquette is dictated by European norms in this country.  As much as individuals should strive to celebrate their identity, the needs of the marketplace dictate that a person must act in different ways in different areas.  As much as it would delight me, Snoop Dogg would not speak to a bank CEO in the same way he would to Dr. Dre.  Conversely, President Obama would not bust out into rap and black vernacular in a press conference.  If he did, I doubt he would have gotten anywhere close to his majority of votes he received in 2008.

There are cultural values that are universal, regardless of the code we use.  Disrespecting adults is not allowed in any language.  Abusing peers is not permissable in any language.  Much of what is considered “foul” language is common across socioeconomic and cultural divisions.  Like it or not, no child should be able to drop an F-bomb without some sort of intervention. 

In general, most of my students understand how to code-switch pretty well.  Walk into my school and you’ll see students addressing teachers politely, with a hearty “Good morning, Mr. D!” and so on.  In fact, the children who have difficulty in this regard are considered crazy or obstinate by their peers.  It also helps that the teachers themselves cultivate this in each classroom, which makes teaching and learning that much easier.

If I were a parent, I would introduce a child to code-switching early.  That way, the kid will not embarrass the parents by using coarse language when its inappropriate. 

Instead, the child can focus on more important things, like studying hard, or reading a book–or flinging an eraser at your friend’s head just hard enough to leave a mark.  Now that’s a marketable skill.


Filed under Uncategorized