Providence teacher gives system ‘the finger’ on YouTube

Progressive educator and Brown department head Ted Sizer is surely cheering from the grave. Last week, a Providence schoolteacher named Stephen Round, fed up with teaching students how to take tests, quit his 13-year position as a 2nd grade teacher. Unable to read his resignation at a committee meeting, Round did what any relatively hip middle-aged teacher would do and posted a video of himself reading the letter on the YouTube. While a middle finger might have sufficed, Round’s condemnation of the “demeaning education” provided for students in Providence Public Schools is a more eloquent, and more brutally honest, alternative.

Round, depicting the lack of “enjoyment” in daily classroom life, describes a dystopian learning environment that seems more like something out of Orwell than a classroom in the same city as our beloved Brown. Students never socialized, recess was a privilege, and teaching focused on standardized testing rather than developing students’ interest in subject matter. The school’s culture of adhering to curriculum standards at the policy level had robbed Round’s students of all valuable education, and as a teacher he could literally do nothing to intervene. Moreover, Round claims that educational higher-ups forced him to stop offering additional reading support for dyslexic students simply because it was outside of the curriculum.

Such a “one-size-fits-all” education was exactly what Ted Sizer hoped to eradicate at the high school level by starting his Coalition of Essential Schools in 1984. In a final FU to Providence schools, the teacher claims he’ll be leaving his well-paid position to tutor for free in Connecticut. Many, including plenty of Brown students, will talk about how test-focused curricula are ludicrous, but Round’s simple and bold actions, which have since found national coverage on Gawker (yes, it’s Gawker…but still), have potential to move the issue forward.

Why you should embrace S/NC

By now, your advisor has supposedly discussed with you the S/NC grading option. A number of adults and upperclassmen have probably told you that if you take more than a few of your classes S/NC during your four years at Brown, you won’t get a real job. Besides, why take a class S/NC if you were smart enough to get into Brown?  Well Mr. High School Hot Shot, there is a lot more behind this semi-caveat in the grading system than the principle that an English concentrator can take an introductory physics course for shits and giggles and vice versa.

I’m personally taking two mandatory S/NC courses as a freshman. One of them is an introductory writing course that takes place three times a week at 9 a.m., and it is my favorite class in my life thus far.  The other is a seminar open to all undergraduates on Gender, Science and Society, where last week we read an article about female primates orgasming in relation to reproduction, talked about it for two hours and called it a day.  Did I mention that my final exam for this seminar is an in-class workshop on editing a Wikipedia article?  At this point you are probably overwhelmed with jealousy, but you too can experience the wonder of S/NC.

First off, there are some things to clarify.

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