Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Brother's New Girlfriend

My brother has a new girlfriend. For once, my parents and I agree on something, which is that my brother's girlfriend is in a persistent vegetative state. If one does not count my brother's prom date, who was never a bona fide girlfriend as they neither actually spent time together on campus nor went anywhere together off campus, my brother has had three prior girlfriends. The first one, though not in my immediate circle of friends, was someone I would have picked for him except that I would have thought his chances with her were marginal at best. She was (and still is if he ever comes to his senses) attractive, personable, and intelligent. Girlfriend #2 maintained a GPA of above 3.5 with just a few honors courses thrown into the mix -- a step down intellectually, but still respectable --but equally attractive. Girlfriend #3 maintained under a B average with a less than impressive academic course load. Her appearance was, predictably, quite stunning.

My mother, as an assistant superintendent in our district, has access to all student records. She and my father are not always as careful as they should be when they discuss things that they consider private. If they happen to be near the bathrrom that is attached to their bedroom, the vent leads directly to a small half-bath located close to our entryway. I've learned many interesting things there that, were I loose lipped, could have resulted in my mother losing her job. Fortunately for her, I am not loose-lipped. Even in the relative anonymity of this blog, I will not repeat anything here that is not common knowledge, as her income, while small in comparison to what my father brings in, is still substantial enough that its absence would impact my ability to attend the university of my choosing. Furthermore, repeating the information I picked up recently by listening in would be unkind. I'm not a mean person. (I am aware that by divulging in this obscure space that I can hear conversations my parents have in or near their bathroom, my source of information will dry up as soon as either they, who are infrequent readers, or one of their spies, who are numerous and are frequent readers, learn of my access. C'est la vie. I've probably already heard everything I need to hear of their private conversations.)

My parents, while they have dealt with me stupidly on occasion, are masterful in dealing with my brother. They know that if they say anything remotely negative about Girfriend #4, they will increase exponentially the chances that my brother will attend a college or university in this immediate vicinity in order to continue the relationship with this cognitively-challenged-but visually-appealing-to-my-brother woman. (She's already eighteen. She repeated first grade.)

One of my mother's doctoral research projects dealt with kindergarten entrance age and grade level retention. In her research, she learned that students who are older first-time kindergartners experience the greatest academic success. Those who start young and repeat kindergarten fare less well. Those who move on to first grade and then repeat that grade do even less well. Those who are not in the youngest segment of age ability and who repeat first grade experience even more academic dysfunction. The rationale is that if the problem is developmental immaturity presumably caused by young age in relation to a student's grade level peers, at least some of the difficulty can be remedied by having the student repeat a grade, thus removing the age disadvantage the student previously had. What is odd in her research and in other related research is that students who begin kindergarten at age four, then repeat kindergarten again at age five, do less well than students who remain at home or in preschool until they are five, then enroll in kindergarten. Common sense would dictate that the extra year of kindergarten would be more beneficial to a student than remaining at home or in preschool for an additional year, but such is not the case. This finding holds when controlled for education of parents, socioeconomic status, and other factors. Identical twins of similar birthweights, pre-tested to determine that the subjects' cognitive discrepancies were insignificant, have been used in the study.

Depending on the district and the school, kindergarten teachers can only request that so many of their students repeat kindergarten without damaging their own credibility. They reserve most of their retention requests for students, often boys because they typically mature at a slower rate, who are young in relation to their peers. Research has shown that the repetition of a year in school, or grade level retention, is most often successful when it occurs in kindergarten because an otherwise intelligent child is younger developmentally and chronologically than his grade level peers. (Most academic problems have no simple remedy. If a child's problem is simply that he is younger and less mature than his classmates, holding the child back for a year is a relatively easy fix.) In California, the present cut-off date for kindergarten is December 2. School begins in California as early as near the beginning of August. A student may begin kindergarten as young as four years, eight months in California. Thus, the bulk of students recommended for grade level retention in California are students born in August or later. Most of those children whose parents are reasonably intelligent will act on this recommendation and keep their children in kindergarten for an additional year.

Then first grade happens, and recommendations again are made. The students with the best chance of success in repeating a grade have already repeated the grade. Those who are recommended for retention in first grade generally are recommended for reasons related to difficulty in grasping academic concepts. Often grade level retention is not the answer to these students' problems, but is the only option short of special education placement. Grade level retention is frequently viewed as less harmful to a student's self-esteem than is special education placement, so the student is retained and repeats first grade. The student at first may appear to be succeeding in that initial year of retention, as he or she has seen all the material one time before. That initial advantage, however, even if it holds through the year in which the grade is repeated, usually soon disappears. By second grade, the child is being presented with new material, and the same academic difficulties that manifested themselves in first grade reappear. If the child could spend two years in every grade, it might conceivably work out, but at that rate, the kid would be twenty-nine and no longer a kid by the time he or she finished high school. Almost no one is willing to stick with school for twenty-four years or so before dropping out, and the system isn't designed to deal with students for that long or of that age, anyway. Sometimes the child will eventually be diagnosed as having a learning disability. This indicates that the child is in possession of average (or higher) cognitve potential, but that some neurological process is interfering with the child's ability to acquire, retain, or make sense of information as it is presented. When that happens, usually some sort of special education intervention is attempted, sometimes with success and sometimes not.

Girlfriend #4 has an early March birthdate. She started school at the age of five-and-one-half. She was retained in first grade. She is not placed in any sort of program for those with learning disabilities. Her grade point average dropped so low in her sophomore year that she was no longer eligible to particpate in cheerleading. The cheer squad isn't filled to the brim with budding Einsteins. I'll leave you to form your own conclusions.

Brother hasn't brought Girlfriend #4 to our home. She'd actually have to bring herself, I suppose, because brother still has almost two months before he can take the test to get his driver's license, and even then will not be legally allowed to transport another driver under twenty-one (I think) until he has been a licensed driver for a full year.*** My parents don't really encourage that sort of thing anyway, because they think it would give him reason to take the relationship more seriously than it should be taken at his age. (I've learned a great deal from the strategic placement of the vents in our home.) Even if our parents did encourage him to bring her to dinner, though, I doubt he would. He knows, whether or not he's willing to admit it, that the attraction is essentially physical, and that it would be embarrassing to be faced with her shortcomings in the area of intelligent conversation in the presence of his family. In addition to the physical attraction aspect of their relationship, I suspect there may be a bit of a Pygmalion thing, where he thinks he can take a diamond in the rough and transform her, and she must make him feel cognitively superior, which is a feeling he doesn't get at home because he knows, even if he's unwilling to admit it, that he's the least intelligent of the four of us living in in our house.

Maybe that's the answer. If the rest of us would all act stupid, perhaps it would give him the sense of superiority he must so desperately crave. I'll ask my parents, but I doubt they're willing to start speaking in double negatives and generally appearing dull-witted for any length of time. That leaves me. Am I willing to be an ignoramus by myself if it will
eliminate Girlfriend #4 from the picture? Furthermore, will it remove her from the picture? I'm not sure, but in the meantime, I bought a package of condoms and put them where my brother will find them. It's bad enough to have my brother dating a cretin. Were they to reproduce, the results could be disastrous.

*** Girlfriend #4 cannot legally bring herself to our house, either, unless it is on foot, on rollerblades, or by scooter, skatebord, horse, or bicycle, because she is no longer in possession of a valid California driver's license due to having been found at fault in six separate auto collisions.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I see your point if she has been found at
    fault in 6 auto collisions, I am afraid she is a
    bit slower to grasp things, than I thought. The
    best way to get your brother, to not want this
    girl, is to praise her to high Heaven, even if
    it kind of turns your stomach, a little, you may
    be saving your brother's future. If any of you
    criticize her at all he will only defend her
    more staunchly, but when you all start singing
    her praises, he will be rebellious enough to
    dump her just because you all think she is so
    great!!! Reverse Psychology, pretty handy!! LOL
    Good luck to you and it was a great article!! :)