by B.J. on 5/15/2005 05:47:00 PM 0 comments Print this post

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Could You Tell A Lot About A School From 20 Minutes of Sitting in on Orientation Day ?

He was selling computer classes all the way in East LA. I don't think anyone was buying right here in middle LA.

Entering from the side, it looked like something important was going on as a mass of people were hearing someone speak --- like immigrants on Ellis Island all cluttered together waiting for instruction to get into the United States.

Orientation day at John Marshall High School for the incoming Freshman class. Interesting opportunity for me to observe and ultimately "anthropologize" the happenings of the school. And that. . .is what I'm doing as I type this.

There was barely any room to enter as every tagged-on, even-leveled wooden seat stamped with numbers in the dank little 1000-seat auditorium was taken, with the walkways packed with parents and students. The roof was the kind of old school roof with holes in it that might've been the thing when googie was the architecture of choice. Googie was last seen barfing out its World War II-inspired tiny-hole-filled and extra sharp lettering on coffee shops and bowling alleys from the 50s. Think Jetsons with Googie. The lights were barely functional to operate a nightlight. It's not that we needed them at 10-11 am in the day, but they were on, I guess just to contribute to the decrepitness of the quality of education these kids would be exposed to the next 4 years. On top of this atmosphere that could drag, drub, and sweep the enthusiasm to learn from Sesame Street, the stage that these 1000 seats and parents were facing popped out one monotone speaker after another. And another. And another. That's why I left.

Taking this densely packed population, sitting down under a bare roof and dim lights, enclosed by bare walls, listening to and waiting for people to dictate what you're listening to and you're going to do next. Yep, this is where they would be serving their next 4 years. I guess it was their fault for having their parents.

When I walked in they were talking about computer classes, first in English, then Spanish. They were talking about satisfying computer requirements and possible trade school opportunities available from East LA.

I don't know that anyone was listening because it was all a very disengaging atmosphere between the scratched-up chairs, the people streaming in and out of the doorways, the mass of people lumped in and forced to listen to such crappery. And it was about to get a little more disengaging. Just a little.

That talk on computer classes wouild be the last attempt on Marshall's part to be bilingual.

That's also right when they decided to start talking about academics.

One about interdisciplinary work. One about honors programs. One about performing arts. Not only monotone and monolingual in the last three but these old white middle-class women were also making out-of-touch references to dead white guys in history and David Bowie. I had a feeling those references were supposed to "mix up" the program and be funny when she tried to laugh it up. A little more seriously, I also believe the one talking about interdisciplinary work was talking down on everyone because she spoke slowly and carefully --- not to make a presence, but as if instructing a bunch of 1st graders to in an arts and crafts activity.

So to recap. . .an auditorium, fully equipped with 1000 wooden seats all on one level, a stage fit for a dictator or two, no bilingual speakers to explain honors and college-related stuff, and some out of touch teachers from different cultures than the demographic they were speaking to. From all the direction-giving and the poor crappy, dense atmosphere, tt really seems like they're training kids, particularly Latino kids, to either be in prison, or some other job where they follow a long boring list of commands.

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