The following is an article that I wrote for the T/E Now, the recently formed student newspaper of Tredyffrin-Easttown Middle School, at the end of my eighth grade year. It was deemed by the faculty sponsor of the paper (whose name I no longer remember) too controversial to be published in the paper. I haven't edited it at all, because there are lots of things I would say differently now, and I don't have the time to rewrite the whole thing. Therefore, it's not even polished, because it was rejected in first draft. I may, at some point, supplement this with a rewritten and expanded version that brings the ideas here up to date with my current thinking on these issues. However, I largely agree with the article as written, and I think that middle schools are the weak link in the United States educational system, I just think I could make the arguments in a better way were I to rewrite it. - LDB, 1998 October 17, Cambridge, MA

What's this middle school thing, anyway?

by David Baron, 5/1/1994

Now that its time again to think about moving up to a new grade, I am again reminded of how stupid the whole middle school idea really is. But, for the first time since it started, I don't have to worry about it, but others do, and I still think the old way (of everything) is better. There are too many disadvantages and too few advantages of the middle school system. First of all, it shouldn't even exist. The sixth, seventh, and eighth graders should be taught the same things even if the fourth grade in the school changes from ninth to fifth. The administration -- the people who make all these changes -- should have to stand up and explain what it really is until they realize that they are wrong. What is the real point of teaming? Why does the name matter? Why should we be given shorter lunch periods and shorter activity periods? Yes, and because the name of the school has changed, we can't carry our books around in backpacks anymore. I just don't see why they made all these changes when the system worked fine before. They could have used the same system for slightly different grades.

Teaming has a number of disadvantages and no real advantages. When I was in fifth grade (in elementary school, where we had L. A. for over two hours a day and were taught Social Studies, Science, Health, etc. by our homeroom teacher) , I would have loved to have had what I had in the sixth grade (which was the first experiment on teaming, but it wasn't as bad as what we have now). Now, the main point of the teaming concept is so that there can occasionally be interdisciplinary units, in which all (or most) of the teachers assign major projects, which makes our homework double for a few weeks. The other disadvantage, which has always been a problem with teaming, is that if your friends are on the other team, you don't get to see your friends for most of the day. Teaming has problems, but it doesn't help anything. Why it was implemented, I have no idea.

Because of the change in the “extra” grade, the people who started this think the other grades should be taught different things. The two main examples of this are in Science and English. In Science, we were going through a sequential curriculum. We had physical science in sixth grade, life science in seventh grade, and were going to have earth science in eighth grade. Now we have had extra physical science and life science (where we “learn” many things we already know), and we have not covered some major parts of earth science at all (geology). There is no earth science in the high school, so we will never learn about geology, or as much about oceans, climate, and weather as we should have. There is another disadvantage to “General Science.” The textbooks seem to be written for a younger grade level. Drawings about particles have yellow particles, with red feet, green arms and long noses. In English, they have removed the levels (they used to have one class on each team at the accelerated level), which means that the people who were in the accelerated level before are re-learning things that they learned before. The English teachers did do a good job of working this out.

Even if they had to make all of these changes, why did they have to change the name? A lot of money was spent because of the name change -- it would have been easier if it just stayed the same. New stationary and many other things cost the school above $11,000, according to Lindsay Clem. In addition, they changed the name even though people seemed to like the old name (Tredyffrin/Easttown Intermediate School) better. The money used could have been spent on something else.

I think, as do many others, that last year's activity period system was better that this year's system. We had a longer time, a time in which more could be accomplished. Core Enrichment seems to have taken over some of the functions of the Activity periods (making up tests, etc.), but last year's seemed generally better. With this year's system, most chorus and orchestra rehearsals are now before and after school, whereas last year, they were during activity. This, as many of the other changes did, seemed like it was better the old way. The administration spent years designing this system, and this is what they thought of. It would have been better the old way.

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