If you believe some local school administrators and teachers, the arrival of spinners, or fidget toys, will bring our entire educational system, and perhaps even Western civilization, crashing down upon us. Why, some districts have gone as far as banning the heinous devices for safety reasons!
Safety of whom? The egos of folks who don’t want to have to compete with a simple toy? But before I aggravate you any further, please allow me issue some stipulations first.
Let’s start with the fact that classroom toy crazes are nothing new and none of them have done irreparable harm. In my 1970 sixth-grade Evanston St. Nick’s classroom, it was TV Magic Cards. In the 90’s it was Tomagotchi virtual pets. In the noughties it was Pokemon Cards. Now it’s spinners.
In the immortal words of that great philosopher Gloria Gaynor, “We will survive.”
And yes! There certainly is a fad element to fidget toys which can cause some classroom confusion. Despite what school districts try to tell the parents of boys, not everyone of them has ADHD.
Third, being a teacher – as my lovely and longsuffering wife currently is – is already difficult enough. Dealing with a classroom full of not-so-eager middle schoolers as they’re distracted by a bright, shiny object sounds a lot like Dante’s twenty-third circle of hell.
But those eminently evenhanded provisions in no way absolve these school districts from not only failing to understand the real lesson here, but issuing the kind of response that makes these toys more popular than ever.
I’ve been saying it in my columns for years!
Elementary, middle and high school classrooms are set up for girls to succeed and for boys to fail. And the raging Ritalin epidemic is all the proof anyone really needs. A whopping 20 bleeping percent of high school boys have been diagnosed with ADHD while only 10 percent of their female counterparts are similarly labelled.
Furthermore, the anti-boy education statistics cited in this Time article by “The War Against Boys” author, Christina Hoff Summers, are truly terrifying and they’re getting worse every day. In her book, Ms. Summers correctly argues that a “misguided feminism is harming our young men.”
So we’re faced with two possible conclusions. Either boys are defective or our school system is. And I’m fervently hoping I’m not the only one armed with a keen perception of the obvious. It wasn’t until my sophomore year at Loyola University that I finally realized I wasn’t the problem.
Just say no to drugs? Unless it’s Schedule II controlled substances Ritalin, Adderall or Concerta, right?
And, as usual, the minds of the folks charged with shaping young minds are set in stone.
Instead of embracing spinners and making them an interesting part of the curriculum, i.e., the economics of trading fidget toys, administrators ban them. Instead of learning from boys who desperately want to “heal” themselves in the face of an impossible standard, teachers refuse to get the message. Instead of questioning a system that’s based on a long-gone, low-noise, slower agrarian culture, superintendents do what they’ve always done because they’ve always done it.
You see, the truth is, administrators and teachers kinda like having the ultimate classroom control. Teaching boys kinetically not only means a massive mindset change, but a lot more effort too. It’s much easier to demand that boys be quiet and pay attention, and then administer the kind of discipline that sends them into a deep despair when they don’t.
Though I know very few will, every teacher within the sound of my voice should read “The War Against Boys.” C’mon! Even doctors have to raise their right hand and say “First, I will do no harm” before grabbing a scalpel.
As the wisdom of boys would suggest, spinners, correctly applied, are a not a bad thing.
I’ll talk a lot more about this on Monday’s podcast.