Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Yet More Stupidity In Education

The local headline says it all, really: Rules treat school art as fire hazard; Code also affects teacher postings. Seems the state Board of Fire Prevention Regulations decided that no more than 20% of any classroom walls may be covered with flammable materials, and subsequently "ordered schools to sharply reduce the amount of decorations and other materials they proudly hang up in classrooms and corridors." (Incidentally, the same rule has been in effect in our dormitories for years, due to the overzealous local fire marshall -- a man, we tell students, with the power to condemn our dorm and make us sleep in the gym, which to an adolescent boy is indeed a fate worse than death.)

Predicatably, teachers are calling the order a death knell for student pride in accomplishment, and for visual learning and reinforcement.

They're right, of course, but there's a bigger issue here: schools are significantly less likely to go up at all, and when they do, the consequences are most often less serious than other places. They have fire extinguishers and exits everywhere, and fire alarms conveniently placed. They are legally required to have good sprinkler systems, and, even more importantly, schools are spaces with extraordinarily low potential for sparks or matches. And what other kind of institution or building conducts regular fire drills with all its community members?

Here at NMH we have 3700 acres of forest, 1100 students, almost a hundred buildings. Yet there has been but one major fire in our five years here -- the barn, full of hay in the heat of summer, or a discarded illegal cigarette. In the dorms, kids can't smoke (that's why they do it in the barn); they're not allowed to have matches: one can get put on disciplinary probation for an open flame. We have fire drills three times a year in the middle of the night, but we never have a fire.

Posters in the chem lab may not always be the best idea -- all you really need is a decent elemental table. But let's chill out on the walls, guys. Let the kids have their art, their cursive letters, their dangling kitten posters. Hang in there, kid!

posted by boyhowdy | 7:36 PM |

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