davidd (davidd) wrote,

Declining Educational Standards in the U.S.

Some people decry what they see as declining standards in American education. To a point, I agree. Today, however, as part of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, the banner of education at its finest flew proudly from the yardarm alongside the Jolly Roger.

The lesson outline, beaming from the overhead projector, appeared as follows:

1. B.H.O.P.
2. B.H.O.P.L.
3. B.H.O.P.M.
4. B.H.O.P.M.
5. B.H.O.P.W.

After an opening volley of hardcore pirate lingo (and an explanation of the term "lingo,"), we embarked on a Brief History of Pirates: 1600s and 1700s, sailing ships, robbed people, burned villages, didn't bathe regularly.

This was followed by a Brief History of Pirate Literature. There's only one work of pirate literature that really matters, the book that created pirate lingo, Stevenson's Treasure Island, from which we read, or tried to read, a paragraph, despite an A.R. level of 8.3 and a Lexile ranking of 1100. Think what ye will, I did me research navigatin' into these waters! As it happens, photgraphs of Ol' Bob Stevenson hanging out with King Kalakaua are readily available, lending that all-important element of "local relevancy" to the lesson.

Then came a Brief History of Pirate Movies: The Black Pirate (1926); Captain Blood (1935); and Treasure Island (1950). "How do you think pirates talked in The Black Pirate, I asked the class. "Silently," quipped a savvy youngster destined for greatness. After applauding the lad for his insight, I described Doug Fairbanks' contribution to piratical lore, the sequence in which he dives from the topmast and plunges his dagger into the mainsail to slow his fall. To this, too, the students could relate, having just this past week dived from the top of a 35-foot pole while at camp. The Captain Blood discussion centered around the pirates not yet talking like pirates, what with their mincing "What say you, lads? Into the fray, for King and Country, hurrah!" soliloquies. (Nevertheless, Captain Blood is the top pirate movie of all time, in my humble estimation). Then came, of course, the film that started it all, the film that taught pirates how to talk, Disney's Treasure Island. What Lugosi did for vampires, Robert Newton did for pirates; the high seas have never been the same since.

Our next acronym, B.H.O.P.M., was, confusingly, identical to the previous one; however, it stands for Brief History of Pirate Money. We talked of doubloons and pieces of eight, and this is where we addressed our mathematics standards, converting pieces of eight into equivalent fractions. Sharp as tacks, my motley crew: 100% accuracy on the three quiz problems among 50 students! Declining standards my eye! Or, my aaaaayyyyeeeee!!!

Finally, we reached the Brief Help On Pirate Worksheet, consisting of much "aarg-ing" and "ayye-ing" as we snarled and spat our way through contextually appropriate applications of the terminology.

Full fathom five my father lies... aye, that be the Bard, if ye dinna fathom the reference; aye ag'in, we covered "fathom" in its various forms of speech. Thorough, this lesson!

Despite the dearth of rum and grog, much fun was had, with two-score and ten seaworthy emblems of piratical tyranny (in the form of index card "flags") being generated. Of the more or less historical flags on our transparency, the one which inspired the greatest number of... well, outright artistic plagiarism, actually, but what the hey, it's Pirate Day, what do ye expect... was the Cutie Bunny pirate rabbit I scanned from Nina Kitade's CD... and which led to a later discussion about Japanese pop music and Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi. Multi-culturalism too -- this lesson had it all.

Later in the day, during math, working with square roots, the square root of 64 came up for discussion, offering an opportunity to link the earlier "pieces of eight" lesson to the math lesson. "You see," I told the students, "everything we learn fits together to create a bigger, broader, better understanding of the world." Or something like that.

Spongebob came up a few times, too.

A little bit of history, a little bit of reading and writing, some literary connections, plenty o' pop culture, mathematics, the arts... and all in about twenty minutes! A decline in the American educational system? Bilgewater, I say, at least on Talk Like A Pirate Day!


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