June 2, 2010

"I’m hopeful that a bunch of states with crummy standards will end up with better ones this way."

The new education standards for English and math, produced by the state governors.
[T]he English standards do not prescribe a reading list, but point to classic poems, plays, short stories, novels, and essays to demonstrate the advancing complexity of texts that students should be able to master. On the list of exemplary read-aloud books for second and third graders, for instance, is James Thurber’s “The Thirteen Clocks.” One play cited as appropriate for high school students is “Oedipus Rex,” by Sophocles.

Five English texts are required reading. High school juniors and seniors must study the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Also, said Susan Pimentel, a consultant in New Hampshire who was lead writer on the English standards, “Students have to read one Shakespeare play — that’s a requirement.”
You can read the standards here. This document lists the exemplary readings, if you want to see what got singled out. A 9th or 10th grader is expected to understand Shakespeare's Sonnet #73. Ah! If only!

88 comments:

El Pollo Real said...

You keep all your smart modern writers,
Give me William Shakespeare


~The Kinks, 20th Century Man

Scott M said...

More,higher, harder standards please, now! People need to graduate high school with the ability to think, not look forward to an overpriced daycare center in the college of their choice.

People will generally rise to challenges set before them. Unfortunately, we've been on an educational arc over the past 30 years that ends in mediocrity or worse.

Concentrate on what's truly important in class and allow kids/parents to do the multiculti thing on their own time/dime. Our window for error is slamming shut on is and we simply don't have the luxury any more.

It sucks that I'm (gen x'r) in a generation that realizes that the old phrase, "if we can put a man on the moon..." is becoming more and more like an ode to the good ol' days.

Scott M said...

"on is" = on us

traditionalguy said...

I suspect that this set of standards will educate a lot of teachers who never read them before either.

blake said...

But I think my love as true and rare,
As any she belied with false compare!

chuck b. said...

This fall/winter I'm going to call all the dormant trees bare ruined choirs.

Steve said...

It'll be fun explaining the etymology of Cunegonde to 9th graders reading Candide.

Scott said...

"You can read the standards here. This document lists the exemplary readings, if you want to see what got singled out. A 9th or 10th grader is expected to understand Shakespeare's Sonnet #73. Ah! If only!"

With the popularity of hip-hop, I think high school kids can potentially be receptive to Shakespeare sonnets, if the teacher is any good. That's a big "if" though.

Beth said...

Scott, back in my day (cough - the 80s - cough) it was Trees by Rush and Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Iron Maiden that led us into poetry.

Beth said...

Sonnets are fun to teach, and they appeal to students with different learning styles. The metric and linear structure is fun to figure out, and to emulate. With Shakespeare, they enjoy digging into the unfamiliar language, the imagery, and the irony.

One of my favorite undergrad poetry papers was by an engineering student who used a spreadsheet to analyze a Shakespeare sonnet, and then to compose his own.

I also had good results using Othello in a remedial reading course. We met in a computer classroom, so I had students put together a website (this was before blogs, but blogging would be ideal) as they worked their way through the plot, the conflicts, and the language.

You've got to have some Shakespeare if you're going to teach English.

Beth said...

whoa - two Beths. I'm Beth from New Orleans, and mine is the second post there, the one about teaching sonnets.

Hagar said...

Has it ocurred to anybody that Education majors may have a set of values that are not necessarily shared by the community at large?

Beth said...

But the other Beth has a good point. When I was little, it was cartoon soundtracks that introduced me to classical music.

chuck b. said...

“Students have to read one Shakespeare play — that’s a requirement.”

Ha. In high school, I remember we read Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, A Midsummer Nights Dream and The Tempest.

And then in college I read Richard II in a political theory class. We began the class with the killing of a king (Richard II) and ended with the killing of kingship (Locke).

It would be fun to read them all again as an adult, but I wouldn't want to do it on my own. And probably couldn't.

Lem said...

the secret life of walter mitty

Beth said...

Lem:

ta pocketa ta pocketa
pocketa pocketa QUEEP!

Bob_R said...

Hagar-

My experience is the ed majors are pretty representative of the population. Their (Ed) professors are politicized, and the pedagogy courses that don't involve actual classroom teaching are close to worthless, but the students are pretty average (in both some good and bad ways).

I think teaching the sonnets is a great idea. Understanding them at a superficial level is challenging and worthwhile for a weak student, and there is a lot for good students to dig into - and they can dig deeper as the grow older. It is very hard to find assignments that will work for kids with 85 IQs and 115 IQs. This is a good example.

MadisonMan said...

Maybe my memory fails me, but I didn't read many of that list in school.

Larry J said...

Beth said...
But the other Beth has a good point. When I was little, it was cartoon soundtracks that introduced me to classical music.


One definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger. Likewise, there are many great instances of classical music in the old Warner Brothers cartoons.

While I still laugh at some of the old classic cartoons, my grandchildren have introduced me to Disney's Phineas and Ferb series. Any cartoon that can include the rocket equation rates high on the geek factor.

As for the new education standards, bring them on and cut out the multicultural fluff and other crap.

edutcher said...

"High school juniors and seniors must study the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address."

If that happens, the little darlings will realize how their freedoms are being taken away and the Demos might end up as the Permanent Political Minority, so I'm not hopeful this will ever be implemented. Of course, studying the Constitution itself might be nice, but the journey of a thousand miles...

In any case, we are at this pass because of union teachers more interested in seducing their students and pushing political agendas and politicians who are so eager to kowtow to them - witness the $23B bailout the NEA wants.

Hagar said...

The teachers are actually the last group I would jump on of the people responsible for the mess of our public schools. The worst part about them is that being teachers (and that goes back to teaching the young the ways of the tribe in Neanderthal days, and probably earlier homo species too) have such a strong tendency to believe in those who taught them.

I do think there is way too much blind belief in conformity. Every person, very much including children is different, and allowance must be made for individualism.


I also think that American public schools are way over-dominated by female teachers. If the 85% ratio was the other way around, there would be a huge to-do about it.

Big Mike said...

This is a step in the right direction!

Now if only they'd start teaching math.

Beth said...

Sorry, I should have used Beth M., I forgot there's a Beth who regularly comments on here.

Anyway. We loved reading Shakespeare for all the innuendos, and laughed at the other students who just didn't get them.

I taught HS English very, very briefly in TX, it's all about whatever helps the students make a connection from good literature and their lives and the modern world.

A.W. said...

The problem, I have learned by bitter experience, isn't standards, but competance. Our education system is a socialist one by nature and suffers from all the classic socialist maladies. Of course quality goes down the tubes. When the the schools get your money whether you are happy with them or not, why should they actually put out the effort to do their job?

We should do a radical privatization of our schools. Those too poor to afford private schools, should recieve help--and i mean real help, not a band aid. turn parents into the customers, and quality will prevail. and please don't tell me that private schools will discriminate. i faced discrimination in public schools. but at least when a private school discriminates, you can take your money elsewhere. in the current system, even after i dropped out, we still had to pay for the schools. isn't that a sweet deal? you don't get what you paid for, but you still have to pay for it.

Joan said...

I can't see 2nd and 3rd graders understanding "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," and I speak from very recent experience when I say that 8th graders have a lot of trouble connecting to "O Captain, My Captain!" I had a blast teaching the poetry unit nonetheless.

I think this is, overall, an excellent list, and not just because I've read most of it. I especially think the sample works for the younger grades are terrific; Lobel is one of my favorite authors.

Richard Dolan said...

While there were several law-related entries on the list, the only judge that I noticed was Learned Hand, for his "I am an American Day" speech. It's a memorable speech (Justice Alito talked about it recently at the Fed Bar Council dinner in NYC). But surely the worthies who compiled the list could have found something written by a judge for his day job that merited inclusion.

Hagar said...

Has anyone here thought of the probable outcome of setting Federal standards for public education to be executed by school systems that already are suspending boys for bringing weapons, i.e. nailclippers, to school and prosecuting girls for drug peddling, i.e. sharing their Midol?

Joe said...

What a dumb list. It reads like what a fifty something was told was good while they were in school. I'm not surprised at how many [fiction] books on this list I utterly despise. (The list of non-fiction is decent, with some startling exceptions, though still absurdly limited.)

If the goal is to simply get students to read, pick popular literature. All The Odyssey will do is turn them off to reading. If they are already avidly reading, who cares?

What's truly evil about this list of [fiction] books is that far too many educators will present this as the only acceptable list of reading material and students will miss out on a vast amount of rich material.

There is a huge amount of absolutely fantastic YA literature that is being unfairly shunned (not just by this list but by most intellectuals.) Sci-Fi and Fantasy isn't quite as rich as YA, but has some great stuff which has also been shunned. Bastards.

Joe said...

My best literature class was eleventh grade English when the teacher taught Twelfth Night and explained all the dirty parts except the stuff about oral sex. We also read it (and Macbeth) aloud, which is how plays should be studied.

Not only did I enjoy this, kids who were otherwise just treading water got really involved (even the permanently stoned kid.)

This was 1979. I can't imagine a teacher getting away with this in most locales today.

Hagar said...

Actually, "Stopping by the Woods" is one of the few poems I think I can hear something in.
As for Shakespeares sonnets, if I were a teenager in high school, I think I would bring up the theory that they show Shakespeare was a homosexual, just to see if I could get some sort of a ruckus started and maybe even get myself kicked out of school for a couple of weeks.

Old Dad said...

The exemplary list is fantastic. Of necessity, it skips many equally fantastic titles, but that's a feature not a bug. Good teachers will supplement these texts, publish suggested reading lists, etc. Kids, once inspired, will find what they need on their own.

The challenge is execution. Gifted teachers have already figured it out, they can't be stopped, but they can and are being crippled by terrible administrators. Think Shakespeare's lawyers.

Provide workman like teachers with the resources simply to put these texts in front of kids and ensure that they get read, and we will see a Renaissance in American education. No PhD explication required. Point the reader in the right direction, help her through a couple of thickets, and watch them go--and make sure they get to the end. That's all that's required.

Rockport Conservative said...

I think our conservative Texas textbook committee has somehow taken over their brains and they want students to learn necessary math and literature. Is actual history next?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

One definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger.

Oh man...I fail miserably then. I can never hear Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries without thinking "Kill the Wabbit. Kill the Wabbit"

If they would also teach the kids some life skills along with the basics of math, history, English etc.

I used to volunteer to teach a senior high class how to balance check books, how to budget, understand credit applications, how to qualify for a loan, credit ratings and loan interest payments. We would do a scenario about pretending to buy a car. The kids loved it.

We did another one on basic investments, mutual funds and some time value of money. Scenario. What if you save XX dollars a month at XX interest rate...How long will it take to get XXXXX dollars.

Joe said...

Good teachers will supplement these texts...

That's a pretty big assumption.

...but they can and are being crippled by terrible administrators.

And state, federal and union regulations and rules. Add in the utter corruption of buying textbooks (at both primary and secondary education levels) and for college/university, the loan/grant scams. Finally, the banality and uselessness of education programs and licensing.

I wish I could remember the link, but there was a great essay a few years back when a respected college professor pointed out that we actually have a pretty good idea how to teach well, but starting with college education programs & professors and progressing through unions and governments and there isn't much hope in actually doing what we know how to do. In other words, our entire education system is locked in the dark ages and lists of books will do little to solve the problem.

Old Dad said...

Joe,

Gotta disagree--I think. Lists of books are a great opportunity. Once a kid is even remotely interested in a book, a story, a play, a good teacher will stoke that interest. In the olden days, we went to the library, but the internet might do as well. The idea is to feed, not starve the flame.

edutcher said...

Joe said...

What a dumb list. It reads like what a fifty something was told was good while they were in school. I'm not surprised at how many [fiction] books on this list I utterly despise. (The list of non-fiction is decent, with some startling exceptions, though still absurdly limited.)

If the goal is to simply get students to read, pick popular literature. All The Odyssey will do is turn them off to reading. If they are already avidly reading, who cares?


Baloney! This is similar to what was offered when I went through (50s and early 60s). The idea is to get them not only to read, but to understand where Western Civilization came from and picking popular literature makes as much sense as serving up a lot of female and black authors nobody ever heard of (or will) because 'educators' like The Zero's buddy, William Ayers, want to spoon feed kids what they want them to hear under the guise of weaning them off 'dead white men'.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

One definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger.

Oh man...I fail miserably then. I can never hear Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries without thinking "Kill the Wabbit. Kill the Wabbit"


Don't feel bad. George Orwell despised intellectuals and hated being called one.

Joe said...

Sorry, edutcher, but you're wrong. The first goal is to get people to read and you don't do that by pushing boring crap at them. Moreover, who the hell cares about half these books; it's a weird pagan worship of ideas that have little to do with anything.

I'm not sure what the obsession with reading fiction is about anyway besides a bunch of avid readers trying to push their obsession onto everyone else. Obama and Bush claim to be avid readers; big fucking help that's been.

Really want to help people? Do what DBQ talked about; teach them how to handle money, how to shop for and register a car, how to get a loan, what basic statistics are all about, how to look things up, how to read a newspaper and/or blog (and wikipedia.) How do to a job search, how to write a resume, how to write an email that makes sense, how to read an email. How to run an effective meeting.

Does anyone really need trigonometry? No. Don't need calculus either or geometry. College majors insist on it because they had to do all this crap, but how often do any of you actually use this stuff? Seriously, how much garbage from high school and college do you even use? Now think about how much better it would have been to have been taught stuff, like how to read a credit card application or a technical manual, that was skipped so some teacher could lecture you on some boring work of fiction?

Old Dad said...

Joe,

Of course we need trigonometry. There would be no internet without it.

blake said...

Joe,

I use all the math I have pretty regular and wish I had more.

Not that I disagree about high school being a waste. Same with middle school. Actually, I have my doubts about grade school.

chuck b. said...

"Does anyone really need trigonometry? No. Don't need calculus either or geometry. College majors insist on it because they had to do all this crap, but how often do any of you actually use this stuff?"

Only people who build things, discover things, and invent things. Nothing we can't have done more cheaply in India or China, I guess.

chuck b. said...

"how often do any of you actually use this stuff?"

Actually, it's hard to imagine very many Althouse commenters using "this stuff", isn't it?

Beth said...

I can't see 2nd and 3rd graders understanding "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

Joan, teach it to them to the tune of Hernando's Hideaway and at least they'll have fun singing.

DBQ - Kill da wabbit! Add to that the Rabbit of Seville (Yes, you're next. You're so next.)

Joe, I agree about YA fiction and sci-fi. I'm fifty, though, and my high school English teachers incorporated some sci-fi. Maybe I was lucky. I use sci-fi and fantasy stories when I teach undergrad fiction surveys, and I've done some special topics courses on genre fiction as well. That, and graphic novels.

El Pollo Real said...

gruntle-up Joe.

Sheesh.

Michael said...

I think the list is quite good. And my son memorized The Road Not Taken by the time he was in third grade and we read Stopping by the Woods nightly for years. I commend the book One Hundred Poems to Memorize for reading to/with small children.

We have such low expectations for our children. It is quite sad.

Hagar said...

"Put another nickel in, in the nickel odeon...."

That's the music I remember from a classic recital they made us go to in high school. The principal caught me in the restroom, stanching a nosebleed, which I was subject to as a child, and I told him it was from listening to his music.

H. Gillham said...

Next up -- the test that goes along with the standards.

Great.

Once again, Nebraska beats Alabama.

*giggles*

Big Mike said...

Okay, I got around to looking at the math standards, and they're pretty reasonable. I'd emphasize proving theorems in geometry a bit more, but otherwise they're pretty decent.

I also looked at the list of plays. No Romeo & Juliet? C'mon!!! When you tell the kids that, by the way, Romeo and Juliet were meant to be the same age that they (the students) are, it really helps bring it all home. In my opinion, anyway.

Beth, would you agree?

And I can never look at the English Lit list without remembering what one perspicacious teacher said back a century ago when I was in high school -- that the right way to teach English Lit was not to start with Chaucer but to start with very modern books and work backwards in time so that the students could adjust to the language changes as you go along and not have to wrestle with

"Wepyng and waylyng, care and oother sorwe
I knowe ynogh, on even and a-morwe,
Quod the Marchant, and so doon oother mo
That wedded been."

Hagar said...

and I got in trouble in basic training for objecting when they marched us off to what amounted to a sort of ecumenical chaplain's service.

I think what books to read or music to listen to are like religion; it's personal, and I object to have it rammed down my throat by authority.

Bob_R said...

Joe - There are lots of people who never use math. They are called parasites.

Beth said...

Big Mike, I do agree. Maybe the powers that be are afraid of sparking some tragic teenage love gestures. I think Hamlet is great for middle school kids. They're all full of new hormones, conflicted about their families, and unable to do squat about anything.

Joan said...

It's not that I have anything against Stopping by Woods, or any Frost poetry at all, actually. It's just a bit too deep for 2nd- and 3rd-graders to understand. You know, he's really not talking about tucking himself in that night. That's all. The language and the meter are beautiful, as is the imagery, and in that sense it is a very accessible poem. But 8 and 9 year olds don't have the kind of future-focus the poem is talking about. Kids don't really develop that ability until adolescence.

Just finished a stint student teaching Romeo & Juliet to honors 8th graders (because they're honors students, they get to do the 9th grade curriculum.) They understood it perfectly, although they pretty much all thought that Romeo & Juliet were both idiots. Can you blame them? My son studied it in 6th grade in his charter school; he declares it his favorite romance because "everyone dies in the end." He's a real softie, that one is.

Beth: I used the graphic novels of Beowulf and 300 in my poetry unit. Gorgeous language in both of them, and the kids were enthralled. There's a lot of great sf, fantasy, and YA out there -- but I didn't take this list to be exclusionary. I took it to be examples of the level of difficulty of vocabulary and complexity of plot and character development.

There's a reason the classics are classics -- they're great books. I read Tess of the D'Urbevilles because I wanted to, not because it was assigned, and I still think A Tale of Two Cities is one of the best books I've ever read. (Of course my absolute favorite book is Dune, which probably invalidates my other opinions in some people's eyes... LOL!)

Palladian said...

Joe's ideas will produce more "average Americans".

We don't need any more "average Americans".

When I was in high school and we were assigned a book or poem or play, I would go to the library (or my grandparent's basement) and find all the other works by the author and read them as well.

It was in high school that I began to hate the 19th century and fiction in general, the novel form in particular. Slogging through all of Thomas Hardy was torture. But I did it anyway, just in case something worthwhile might be there.

I do like Nathaniel Hawthorne, as an exception.

And I was overjoyed to study any poetry. There was once a project that required us to memorize and recite a poem of our choosing. I chose "The Waste Land".

I also memorized Shakespeare's sonnets up to number 43 ( All days are nights to see till I see thee, and nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.) I had intended to stop at 126, since he starts talking to a woman in 127, and I just wasn't interested.

Kev said...

Has it ocurred to anybody that Education majors may have a set of values that are not necessarily shared by the community at large?

I don't think anyone should be allowed to major in education. People should be required to major in the subject for which they have a passion--be it English, math, science, music, art, whatever--and take a basic set of general education classes to supplement them. If you only learn "how to teach" and aren't a master in your chosen subject, things aren't likely to turn out very well.

Gifted teachers have already figured it out, they can't be stopped, but they can and are being crippled by terrible administrators.

I know I've brought this up enough over here that I risk sounding like a one-trick pony, but the answer to this problem is to require all administrators to teach one class per day. That would not only tear down the proverbial ivory tower, but it would also rid education of a whole bunch of people who lost their hearts for teaching years ago yet continue to mess up the profession as non-teaching politicians and bureaucrats.

JAL said...

@ Joe Does anyone really need trigonometry? No. Don't need calculus either or geometry. College majors insist on it because they had to do all this crap, but how often do any of you actually use this stuff? Does anyone really need trigonometry? No. Don't need calculus either or geometry. College majors insist on it because they had to do all this crap, but how often do any of you actually use this stuff? Seriously, how much garbage from high school and college do you even use? Now think about how much better it would have been to have been taught stuff, like how to read a credit card application or a technical manual, that was skipped so some teacher could lecture you on some boring work of fiction?

I have only h.s. math (algebra, geometry, trig). I use algebra and geometry regularly. Really. And I am female.

For someone to read a credit card bill and understand the different way interest is calculated is a very useful life skill. That's algebra.

You know the old jokes about how the kid at the fast food place can't figure up the bill if the power goes off? Do you know how much the sales tax is in different places? Know how to figure it?

High school juniors and seniors must study the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

Woo hoo! Very cool.

My youngest daughter got turned on to classical music by watching Disney's Fantasia when she was probably 4 or 5.

Jimmy said...

"A 9th or 10th grader is expected to understand Shakespeare's Sonnet #73. Ah! If only!"

I showed this comment to my 17 yr old daughter and she snorted "we read that in 3rd grade".

"All The Odyssey will do is turn them off to reading."

Her 4th grade teacher read that to the class. She loved it.

This was at a public school in Houston, Texas. The school had/has a program for so-called gifted kids and she was in it.

When we moved here to Austin our neighborhood school did not have the same type program. All the kids were/are gifted. It didn't work out too well for her and she dropped out of public school in 8th grade.

JAL said...

Meanwhile, on Nightline Tuesday night they featured a NH family (mostly the mom) who does "unschooling." (google it)

She 'homeschools' her kids by letting them play. They find out about things that they want to know about when they want to know about it. They have no schedule for anything. The kids choose the meals also (based on what they have at home at the time). "Discipline" is non punitive (no sitting in quiet chair). She calls herself the unNanny and helps families. Her website makes it looks more normal than the Nightline interview in which she didn't see much value in math, the kids' higher education ["What will they do for high school? College? ..." ], the classics. I bet she voted for Obama.

Drove me utterly bonkers.

El Pollo Real said...

JAL: The unSchooling unNanny is preparing her kids for unEmployment.

Jimmy said...

JAL

My daughter is an unschooler. We thought it was pretty bonkers too when she asked a couple of years ago if she could unschool since--- mom...dad... "I am an autodidact". Amazing what a young'un learns on the internets. Thanks Al.

It is weird, but it works for her- for us. She studies what she wants when she wants. She uses her time as she sees fit.

She reads, writes, bakes, sews, plays violin, takes photographs, studies esperanto, and makes all kinds of crafts. She is also teaching herself web design using on-line tutorials and books.

The most common question we get when folks find out she is an unschooler (use to keep it hidden...we homeschool, but frankly I am really proud of her)--is concerning how she will get into college. It was/is a big concern of ours too.

How will it play out? We will see. We went to an unschooling conference last year and there were unschoolers who had been accepted into college and others who didn't go, but were doing productive things. No deadbeats, but then they probably would not have come to the conference!

Our daughter took the ACT last month and made in the top 5%, but her math score was horrible according to her, average according to the chart. So, she told me "I need to study some math". Really? I have suggested that every single time we have gone to the bookstore for her to buy books only to be shot down! "Math is boring."

That is the essence of unschooling ---that kids want to learn and will learn if they have an interest or see the value in what that are studying. She wanted a particular score (perfection). She did not get it the first time so she will study what she considers a boring subject to improve her score.

She is working this summer, but she plans to work on math in her off hours so she will be ready to re-take the test in September.

Ralph L said...

I use algebra and geometry regularly. Really. And I am female.
Sorry, that isn't allowed. You must become Chaz.

we've been on an educational arc over the past 30 years that ends in mediocrity or worse.
Make that 40 years. In my old school district, it had a lot to do with racial integration that began in 1970. They didn't want many of the black students to feel they were being left behind, so they eviscerated the curriculum for everyone. I had excellent teachers through the 6th grade, did practically nothing in 7th (disected a frog), and was sent to private school in 8th.

The school system lost half its students (mostly due to demographics) in 10 years but none of its employees.

I'm glad I wasn't forced to read Austen or Dickens or Wharton or (much) Faulkner in school--I was too immature and I'd probably have hated them. I have little use for the fiction authors we did read.

Hagar said...

@Kev

In the system I grew up with, high school teachers (lectors) were indeed required to have majored in their major course of teaching and have just a minor in education.

Here, the slogan really is: "You don't have to know what you are teaching; you only have to know how to teach!" It does not work.

It's a stupid slogan; people miss that J.P Morgan was an investment banker, so that in his case business was his business, so his dictum was circular.)

Bill said...

You won't get there with "No Child Left Behind" or with test-based standards generally, but I see no reason that a 15 year old shouldn't be able to read that poem and understand it with a little help from a capable teacher.

JAL said...

Well Jimmy, kudos for your daughter. And that's not sarcastic.

My guess is that "unschooling" works with certain types of people and their kids better than others.

But it is a great way for people with little discipline to con themselves into believing they are doing the best for their child. Because we all know the most important thing for them is that the child is "happy" and the kids gets to determine what makes them "happy" when they are a kid. There was no future thinking in this "happiness."

In the Nightline unschooling family I got the impresssion these children never did anything they did not want to do. On the website she talked about researching sea shells etc. -- so yes the internet is good. It is great.

Unschooling might have worked with some of my kids... one of them claims he read our whole encyclpoopedia. (Pre-internet.) He probably did. He also has a upper outlying IQ.

To get into collge from the homeschooling track is not so hard now, but when one takes the SAT, as your granddaughter found out, one needs math. Oh darn. (It is useful in understanding how much the Obama administration is putting on YOUR credit card every single minute.)

English grammar still matters. Communicating more than passably helps one get what one wants in this world as and adult. A basic awareness of the laboratory sciences isn't asking too much either.

And of course there is the idea that since we don't know what we don't know, the criteria of only studying what interests you limits one's ability (at a young age) to know what they might be interested in. A young friend ended up taking geology in college because she had to have a science course. {Yuck.} Guess what? She found out she loves rocks.

The underlying philosophy is that a child can teach themselves. All that info your granddaughter finds on the internet didn't just happen because someone had a whim one day. That knowledge came from a rich culture and world view which comes together from many sources and built upon years of other knowledge. To ignore that may not harm some people, but it will mean that others who might have developed their potential more will be left behind.

But hey, the kids were happy when no one made them do anything they didn't want to!

JAL said...

"encyclpoopedia"

heh. There ya go! Google doesnt't do spell check!

"encyclopedia."

JAL said...

Jimmy -- see that that is your daughter you were talking about. Sorry for the misread.

You are also a homeschooler (other kids?) so there is already a rhythm there. I would also guess that your daughter would be identified in a public school situation as gifted and talented.

As I said, it will work for some, but there was such a laissez faire attitude in this video about other knowledge, about the future.... Will her kids be happy? Do "all right?" Who knows? But there is another dynamic to this situation, I am sure.

But somewhere along the way ... when high school comes along, or jobs come down the pike, the deficiencies will show up.

blake said...

Pollo--

What's so great about employment?

The Boy hopes to be embarking on his MBA shortly. It was very tough at 14, should be a little easier now that he's turning 15. I 'spect he'll be able to get a job if that's what he wants.

Paul said...

The issue with education is the politicization of the system. Politicians get elected talking about education reform, but fail to understand that there is no magic bullet that will bring everyone to a level of average achievement. So, they dumb down what is required and it makes test scores shoot up, even though students have learned less.

Next, they have to tackle the achievement gap. Some of this is due to cultural, socioeconomic, or other factors. But none of those matter, all that matters is the gap needs to be closed. Now, the system could put in place a comprenehsive system to teach people to value education, learn self-discipline, and apply themselves, or it can remove funding and opporunities from higher achieving students and watch the gap narrow. Which is easier, and which do you think is being done?

Recently, a high school in california cut science labs to use the funds for "at-risk" students. The rationale was that only higher achieving white or asian students used those labs and benefited, and they'd still be ok without them. Did it matter that those students wouldn't learn as much without them as they had with them, or that it limited those students possibilities for future science paths? Of course it didn't. Those students would still be ranked average on the test, and the fact that they might have been gifted with the right support doesn't enter the equation.

Until politicians can realize that some students won't achieve to the same levels, some students will get their feelings hurt, and that self-esteem can't be taught to students, it has to be earned by achievements, the system will never change or improve.

Joe said...

Wow, amazed at the number of alleged educated people here who apparently can't read.

I did NOT say math was useless, I said high school Trigonometry, Geometry and Calculus were useless. Those who do need them will take them again in college. (Granted, if someone wants to be an engineer, all three are critical. However, odds are they will have to take all three again which raises the question of what is the point of high school if you have to take every damn class over again in college?)

So, what use was all this high school learning if you can't even read and understand a posting on a blog?

Paul said...

Many engineering programs start at mid level calculus, not taking over trig, geometry, or basic calc. Students that need to do those requirements wouldn't be admitted into engineering.

blake said...

Joe,

I never took math in college. So, yeah. Using high school math every day.

I agree with your general point, again, though: I was pissed at having to retake so many courses in college that I'd done in high school (and junior high). What was the point?

Joe said...

My point is that an awful lot of high school material is just filling time. An awful lot of university programs do the same thing.

An interesting exception in University is Engineering, which typically waves several general education requirements and even then it's relatively hard to graduate in exactly four years.

I maintain that much of this is done by tradition and because the people in charge believe it's useful independent of any empirical evidence that it is. Were education truly free, perhaps this wouldn't matter, but it not only isn't free, it's extremely expensive. Moreover, spending money on all these ancillary subjects takes money from the things that do matter and make a measurable difference in someone's life and/or career. The amount of these expenditures is extremely significant--billions of dollars significant.

Would a perspective engineering student benefit from having trigonometry and Calculus in high school? Yes. Would an art major or someone who goes to a trade school for nursing or cosmetology? No. Not in the slightest. So why do we insist on spending valuable tax dollars in such a manner?

I think we also need to be realistic. Introducing students to various forms of literature is nice, but if they aren't interested, why persist? What real benefit is there to having read King Lear besides bragging rights? (Most of us here are eggheads/nerds/geeks/intellectuals and likely read at much higher rates than the rest of the populace. But are we really more successful than the average person and did our eggheadness make us that way? IF we are more successful as a group, I'd suggest that reading etc. is not the causative factor, but the result of an inner drive and curiosity that simply can't be taught.)

BTW. My proposal: start public education at six and end it at sixteen and emphasize the basics. Get schools out of running clubs and sports. I'd further propose a massive increase in trade schools--an extreme idea would be that University admission would require a certificate in a trade. (My idea actually isn't all that original since it's how many countries already do it.)

blake said...

Joe,

Same thing used to be true of music degrees. Very expensive. Lots of 15-hour per week 1 unit classes. Private lessons. Performances (only a few of which make money).

So, when I was studying, the push was to take music out of the arts and put it into history. Way cheaper. Sure, nobody can play anything, but they can talk a lot about music....

Oligonicella said...

When my daughter was ten, I gave her War and Peace to read over the summer and the task of writing me a ten page report. She did very well for ten.

She now teaches high school.

She has no pity.

wv: squel - what many of her students do.

Kev said...

Blake, that's frightening; I hope they really didn't move the music department to the history area! (I'm biased, of course, having two music degrees and teaching music at multiple levels, from middle school to college.)

Thankfully, music at the place where I went to college hasn't been a "department" since the 1940s; it became a School at that time and a College since the 90s, so it's had its own dean and everything.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Joe reminds me of an exchange between a punk-ass kid and his professor in the kid's first philosophy class:

Punk-ass kid: Hey Prof, tell me what the hell can you do with philosophy.

Prof: Kid, you got the question backwards. The question is what can philosophy do with you.

blake said...

kev,

I don't think the plot fully succeeded.

The problem, of course, is that they charge the same amount for degrees, but not all degrees are (can be or should be) the same cost.

shakes fist at John Dewey

Jimmy said...

"My guess is that "unschooling" works with certain types of people and their kids better than others."

Agree. Just like public school works better for some than for others. I not an unschooling advocate, but an advocate for school choice.

I think parents should be allowed to decide what is best for their kids education. But what if parents make a bad choice...

Well, they will suffer the consequences... oh wait, we will all suffer the consequences which is why we mandate this and that and reform all day.

Personally I am looking forward to the new salt mandates, how about you? And I am certain I will finally lose weight once it is state mandated.

prairie wind said...

My fifth grader had to memorize the Preamble and he thoroughly enjoyed that. I didn't have to do that when I was in school, though my husband did.

For my seventh grader's reading class, she would read a book and take a test on the book. Then she would earn points based on the difficulty of the book. I told the teacher that I wished she would push my daughter to do more than read the easy stuff. She asked for suggestions. I said, "Treasure Island, Little Women..." and she said, "Well, those are pretty dated." Then she talked about how some writers like James Patterson now write for middle school readers.

James Patterson is nice for a beach read, but better than Treasure Island? I think not.

Kev said...

Blake,

Hmm. So you're suggesting that the cost of a degree should be somehow indexed to its average potential earnings? An interesting concept, but I'm not sure how it would work in practice.

For one thing, earnings can vary wildly between different people with the same degree. For instance, I have many friends with music degrees who earn their living only by playing, and sometimes it's a struggle; others complement their playing with a day job. Still others, like myself, play a little and earn the bulk of our livings by teaching.

On the other hand, the likes of Sheryl Crow and Roberta Flack have music degrees, and they've probably each made more in a year than I will in my entire career, so wouldn't people like that skew the numbers beyond usefulness?

Kev said...

One more thing--the idea of pricing the degree to its potential earnings also falls short when you consider that some people never actually go into the career for which their degree prepares them.

A few examples from my own experience: One friend with a music education degree works in computer systems (he never actually taught), while another works successfully in the mortgage industry (that guy, incidentally, considers his music degree as his "ace in the hole"--he feels that the discipline, multitasking abilities and time management demanded for that degree gives him the edge over many other people in his industry whose degree programs were not so rigorous).

Here's another example: A guy gets his music ed. degree, but to work his way through college, he gets a job as a lifeguard at a local water park. Fast forward a year, and he's become a lifeguard supervisor, and he eventually works his way up to operations manager of the entire park.

And now he's a minister. Never did teach a day of music.

blake said...

No, not at all.

I'm saying cost to the student should be comparable to cost to the school.

I had private lessons from world-class guitarists, for example. Does a history student have anything comparable, expense-wise?

And I'm one of those guys not using his degree. I was in computers before I went to college and during and after. I like music; I'm less fond of starving. :P

Lionheart said...

At least he properly said "I'm hopeful" instead of the ever popular "Hopefully"

prairie wind said...

"I hope" would be even better than "I'm hopeful" but you're right--at least he didn't say "hopefully."

And not to go off on a tangent, but when did people stop being sad and start being saddened?

JAL said...

@ prairie wind James Patterson is nice for a beach read, but better than Treasure Island? I think not.

Tell me that was a joke. James Patterson?????

My guess is the teacher has never read Treasure Island. I read Little Women on my own. (How old? Yonger than 7th grade for sure. But I was a prodigy ;;;-) )

I made it a preactice to read to all our kids out loud every evening as they were growing up. We went through the Chronicles of Narnia, an wide assortment of shorter books, The Lord of the Rings trilogy (English writers make my brain have to work). The youngest one got treated to (although I think she read some out loud too) Robinson Crusoe. The real one, not the Disney Cliffs version.

Are kids too ADD to handle real books? If they read or were read some classics growing up it might help train their brains.

The BEST TV show EVER for kids was the Wishbone series. My youngest (now in her 20s) knows almost all of the major classic stories and actually took some of them out of the library and read the real deal (Jane Austen anyone?) when she was in middle school. (The storylines features a classic tale being told using the dog - a jack russell - with a real life kid based parallel going on at the same time. Fabulous series.)

JAL said...

@ Jimmy 1:51

re the salt mandate

Mayor Blumberg needs his head examined, and all those people who voted to let him serve again should have to walk around NY with scarlet I's on their chest (for "Idiot").

I look at it this way. I have horses. Horses need salt to live. As do humans. (Did you know we need salt and sugar to live. Without them we die?)

I put out salt blocks for my horses. When they want salt, they lick the salt blocks.

The salt mandate idiots are trying to tell me I have less sense than my horses.

But come to think of it that's what they do think. According the them, the yearning masses aren't yearning to be free, we are yearning to be regulated because we do not know how to take care of ourselves in our daily living.

Deliver us please, in November 2010.

JAL said...

Jimmy, as for unschooling -- you may not be an advocate, but it seems for some it is a religion.

Kev said...

I'm saying cost to the student should be comparable to cost to the school.

I had private lessons from world-class guitarists, for example. Does a history student have anything comparable, expense-wise?


Oh, OK; I see what you're saying now. But that might be even worse to, for example, charge music majors, who won't on average earn large sums of money after graduation (Mmes. Crow and Flack notwithstanding) even more for their degrees than they're already paying.

And I suppose it's possible that physics majors study from world-class physicists in college, but what those guys do won't often land one in the guest chair of the Tonight Show the way music often does. (But yes, plenty of my old professors--and some of my classmates, who are now themselves professors at our alma mater--can be heard on CDs all over the place.)

And I'm one of those guys not using his degree. I was in computers before I went to college and during and after. I like music; I'm less fond of starving. :P

I hear that. I've been composing since I was around 13, but I never once considered majoring in composition, even as a college freshman, because I enjoy eating so much. (I always knew that teaching would be my major source of income; getting bitten by the jazz bug while in college was a very pleasant addition to the mix.)

blake said...

Worse for music majors, possibly.

But why should the physics students have to subsidize them?

Kev said...

Blake, I don't think the physics majors were subsidizing the music majors at my school. Why? Because, from everything we heard, our world-class profs were not being paid world-class salaries. In fact, they were almost shockingly low compared to what we expected they would be.

The profs weren't starving, of course; they supplemented their income by gigging, recording, composing, teaching privately, etc. But the school wasn't paying them anywhere near what they were worth.

As I've thought about it throughout the day, I think I like the idea that came up when I misinterpreted your original proposal--indexing the cost of a degree to the likely salary that having said degree should command--even if I still think it's unworkable in practice.