Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The National Association of Rubber Chickens for the Improvement of Public Education

I do not understand the power of the rubber chicken.

Jensen earned a prize at school the other day for meeting behavioral expectations. Woo-hoo! I guess he didn't bite anybody or pee on his desk or take a semi-automatic weapon to school. He damn well better not do those things, but according to his school, such remarkable behavior earned him a prize.

You know what he got? A friggin' rubber chicken. Public tax dollars at work.

But I should not belittle it. It's the best toy in the world.

The minute he touches it, he gets this smarmy look on his face and thinks he has been instantly transformed into The Funniest Person In The World.

The weird thing is, it has the same eerie power over the rest of us. The mere sight of it sends Evan into fits of giggles. Just talking about it cracks us up. "Jensen, take your chicken off the counter." "Your chicken smells bad." "No, you may not take your chicken to Cub Scouts." It's all too stupid. Jeff hid it in the bushes last night. A massive chicken hunt ensued. The kids collapsed with the sheer hilarity of it all. (I don't get it, either.)

So he got a prize for doing what we expect him to do. I'm not at all sure that sticker charts are going to counter the personal and societal demons that many kids wrestle-- the kids who do bite and bring weapons to school and other sad and scary things. Quite probably, rewards from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes are not going to provide enough incentive to motivate long-term success. But if they make day-to-day classroom management a bit easier, then so be it.

Now. I'm going to carefully back down off my soap box, go locate this chicken, and rig it up in a stock pot on the stovetop. That'll kill him.

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