Monday, September 18, 2006

No Wonder Johnny Can't Make Change

Ol' BC has carped and complained at great lengths about young people seeming to be much slower academically, in general, than previous generations.

Debra Saunders had a recent column that dealth with some of it. Consider this.

Instead of memorizing 5+4=9, students would look for creative ways to solve the
equation, such as that 5+5=10, but since 4 is 1 less than 5, the answer is 9. In
the name of creativity, new-new math was both time-consuming and boring.

Amazing. Much has been made of it no longer being necessary to be able to read lengthy texts and understand what you've read, but this is ludicrous. Here's where it leads.

Milgram found that the number of California State University students -- that
is, the top 30 percent of high school graduates -- who needed remedial math more
than doubled, from 23 percent in 1989 to 55 percent some 10 years later.

Think about that for just a moment. Over half of the top thirty percent required remedial math. What does that say about todays education system? I may be able to understand Bush's thinking in spending increases in education, but here's the problem. Spending for education has been increasing for decades and the performance of our students has continued to wane.

How about the average Joe, say maybe in the 60th percentile? Doesn't have a chance. He may never learn to count back change, but he can be schooled to ask, "would you like fries with that?"

Just an observation.


At 2:58 PM, Blogger Sir Loin of Beef said...

Studies like this can be a little misleading, though. Who is to say what other factors were involved in the low math ability? Perhaps the teachers themselves did not properly emphasize certain aspects of the program.

Teaching math at early levels has a lot to do with getting kids to understand what numbers actually are, that it, giving them context in order to make what they do more meaningful, and in the end, fun. Some teachers, I fear, however, rely on manipulatives and creative ways of doing math problems for too long before they begin to assess how the children are doing in their ability to finally understand math as a concrete abstract language.

Creativity is not a bad thing, and finding new avenues of understanding for kids is not a bad thing. Relying on them for too long, however, can be problematic when children are not asked to make the mental link between the context and the abstract.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Ol' BC said...

Beef! Welcome back. The article does address some of that. Most of it does get back to the "teaching" part.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Sir Loin of Beef said...

How ya doin'?

Yeah, teachers get blamed for a great deal, it would seem. So far my experience is that most of the teachers are good, but there are serious problems with the system as we have it today.

For one, everyone espouses that they support education, yet we only attend classes 182 days out of the year hearkening back to a way of doing things in an agriculturally based society of 200 years ago. No one wants to extend the school year for one reason: money. So, do we really care about education? Not enough to put our money where our mouth is.

The curriculum of public schools is thin and wide, rather than deep in certain subjects. Thus, kids only get a glossed treatment of most subjects.

Couple this with seriously flawed assessment programs (No Child Left Behind comes to mind), inclusion issues and neglectful parents, and you have a lot of tricky problems. It is too easy to blame just the teacher. The education system needs serious revamping. ;)

At 7:19 PM, Blogger RightWingRocker said...

I'd say the teachers' unions have a lot to do with these problems as well.

It's ridiculous the lengths I have seen these organizations go to to protect the incompetent.


At 8:19 PM, Blogger Ol' BC said...

Protection of the incompetent. That is indeed a big part of it in some systems. I happen to subscribe that any form of assessment, even if flawed, is better than none. It provides some level of accountability. At least NCLB starts with one premise - the child should learn something.

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Sir Loin of Beef said...

NCLB is not all bad. Accountability is good. But, it makes unreasonable and unattainable requests.

I have never been a big fan of union protectionism, either.

I just listed some key points that have been debated and discussed among teachers and students. The problem with these sorts of things is that first; there is never one answer and second; way too many people get involved in the process of dictating agendas, curriculum, programs and law.

At 5:12 PM, Blogger RightWingRocker said...

NCLB standards are quite attainable indeed.

The problem with NCLB is is severe lack of constitutionality. In a nutshell, it is illegal and should never have been passed in the first place.


At 7:14 PM, Blogger Sir Loin of Beef said...

The goal of 100% reader level by 3rd grade is definitely not attainable if we take into consideration the many problems that haunt our schools and our children's daily lives.

If Johnny's mother doesn't get him up on time and let's him go to bed at midnight every night, Johnny is going to fall behind. What can be done? According to NCLB, the school will be punished if Johnny ain't readin' at grade level by the third grade. There are many forces and contexts involved in children's daily lives that may affect them negatively that have nothing to do with teaching or the school system as a whole. In this way NCLB will fail to achieve its intended results.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger RightWingRocker said...

NCLB will fail just like every other federal intrusion into states' rights, simply because it's an intrusion into states' rights.

There was a reason the founders' included the Tenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights.


At 8:48 PM, Blogger Ol' BC said...

That reason must be to be disregarded by later generations. There is so much of the constitution that has been disregarded along the way. It's becoming the rule rather than the exception.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Sir Loin of Beef said...

Whether it is constitutional or not has nothing to do with whether it will work or not. It may very well be unconstitutional, but the fact of the matter, as far as schools are concerned, is that the goals it hopes to achieve are quite simply unattainable.

The fact of its constitutionality is not lost on me, but it is not productive to speak about it in this discussion. The issue is about how it is affecting schools right now, not whether it is legal. I am only trying to illustrate how it does not work on a purely utilitarian level.

Constitutionality is a completely different debate.

At 1:23 PM, Blogger RightWingRocker said...

Whether or not it is Constitutional has quite a bit to do with a lot of things, including whether it will work.

First of all, its unconstitutionality disqualifies it from being attempted in the first place.

Second, there are reasons for disallowing things in the Constitution, such as - it won't work. Look at all the failed unconstitutional socialist programs in America for your evidence.


At 7:22 PM, Blogger Sir Loin of Beef said...

So what if NCLB is disqualified from being attempted? The fact is, it has been attempted and real people have to deal with it, whether NCLB is constitutional or not. Let's be pragmatic about it rather than debate points that have little or nothing to do with the issue at hand, which is: Does NCLB work?

Disallowing a program because it is flawed has nothing to do with the constitutionality of the program, and failed socialist programs have absolutely no bearing whatsoever upon this debate. If a program fails, it is because the program itself is flawed, not because it is constitutional. There have been constitutional programs enacted that have failed too. Their constituionality was not a deciding factor in their overall merit.

Your point is fine. NCLB is unconstitutional. But the program should be evaluated on its own merits and not its constitutionality, since that is ultimately what we are talking about.

At 9:30 PM, Blogger Ol' BC said...

NCLB is a start. Could it be refined? Yes. Do not under any circumstances cave into the union of those who want merely to coast to a paycheck. Maintain the measures, just make them reasonable. Maintain the accountability. Too many people that couldn't make it in business or engineering are teaching our children. Too many that truly care about teaching are now selling real estate or insurance. Oops. That's another post.

At 4:02 AM, Blogger Sir Loin of Beef said...

Well, I don't know about that. All I know is that I am seeing the kids of a flawed public school system now becoming involved in the business of education and it is a bit scary.

Just because a person couldn't make it in business or engineering doesn't mean that they wouldn't make a fine teacher. There are so many factors involved, after all.

And yes, I can see why teachers get out of it. Yet, I can also see why they stay in it, despite the flaws.


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