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Saturday, January 15, 2005


Responce to Week 3 posts - The CO

First TCL

Perhaps if we spend more money on things like education and tools for education (libraries, museums, art, music and culture), we might get more kids interested in learning on their own. Back in Illinois, my school took us on field trips to Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. It got me interested in learning about things outside of school, and instead of sitting in class, staring at the chalkboard for 6 hours a day, we got to watch SCUBA divers feed sharks, and look at rocks that fell from space! I became extremely interested in geology for a number of years, all because of trips to museums. In turn, I went to the library to learn more about xeolinths, lava flows and geologic faults, which nurtured an interest about natural disasters and the earth in general, which is a hobby that I still pursue to this day.

I do agree that more hands on and participatory education is needed in the form of field trips, unfortunately with this you are again running into a nasty area. America, as I touched on is as much or more a fear ruled society as it is reason ruled one. The odds of a terrorist attack, or even ‘ordinary’ accidents are miniscule, yet many if not most schools have either severely curtailed or eliminated such trip since 9/11.

Now James

Our CO and the Cunning Linguist try very hard to escape the gravitational pull of this huge planet, this personal experience, but in the end they, too, crash and burn.

I beg to differ. My driving has got to be the closest thing to wingless flight one can accomplish, and I’ve not had an accident in oh, hours.

That is the genius of public education in America. We did have something in common back then, and we still do, no matter what academic track we were on, no matter what occupational destination we shared. Not because we came from the same class or race or gender, but because we were taught—not necessarily by our teachers--to negotiate our differences by reference to the inheritances we call American history and literature. (For some of us, yes, by reference to Mathematics, as well, a universal language, to be sure, but the fissures and consequences were narrower in that domain.)

While there is something to be said for shared experience in school, and I do believe to some experience it is needed, it is not the be all end all of education, not even close. Teaching children the mislabeled “three r’s” is the responsibility of the education system. Teaching children to be sociable like providing religious and or personal philosophical guidance is, and should remain the job of the parents.

The CO and Sidial agree on the need for what we used to call tracking. "Separate out the kids according to ability, intelligence, and zeal for learning," as the latter puts it. I wonder. My most boring moments in high shool came in my "honors" classes, and my most electrifying moments came after I was kicked out of them, after my junior year.

Doesn’t this go back to the personal responsibility that you were preaching about a few paragraphs ago? I reveled in my advanced classes. I could read on a high school level by fourth grade, and a college level by sixth. If you failed to learn in the more challenging classes it presents one of three major problems and their associated subsets:
1) The ‘advanced’ classes were nothing of the sort and only dubbed that way to stroke the ego’s of parents and some students.
2) You did not appreciate the challenge of the advanced classes and were content getting “easy A’s” in the mainstream classes.
3) You were on the borderline between ‘average’ and ‘advanced’

Of these problems number three is by far the murkiest, if that is for the sake of discussion the best answer it immediately raises several questions: “Could you have done better if you stuck to books and not sports?”, “Should students be enrolled in ‘advanced’ classes on a course by course level and not on an all or nothing basis?”, “Were you really motivated to be there, and did you understand enough of what being a part of those classes could mean to your future?” the list goes on and on, and varies quite widely from student to student. I for example excelled at English, history, and science but struggled with math classes, my brother was just the opposite, he did wonderful in math and hated English and history. There are differences including how people learn: visual, auditory and the other variations, that effect the outcome of how much people learn more than simple “IQ” explains.

Tom's responce to TCL

The only way to fix this problem is to create a societal situation where the consequences of having more children than you can support (from both the male and female prespective, of course) are unacceptable. How do we do that, you ask? We first warn everyone that we're about to take some drastic action. Then we give them a chance to shape up with continued warnings. Then, we follow through with our drastic action, namely we stop supporting them beyond what we are already giving away.

This one you are going to need to explain carefully. What kind of consequences? Not helping the kids? And if so isn’t that punishing the children at best, and potentially negligent homicide at worst? Taking the kids away? Sure, our foster care system is a lot better than the lack of safety net in a lot of countries but its already overburdened. Further we need to stop the revolving door that some judges and policy makers have put into place where the birth family is by default the best place for the all parties concerned. Not to be too crass, but I don’t give a $@#% about the parents, grandparents or the ninety-some cousins. They can all fall off the end of the planet. Putting a child back with a child molester is inexcusable, putting them back with people who have failed to complete alcohol and drug counseling likewise.

Derek (not quite in order)

The Democrats--well, they're lost. The Republican drift to the left has pushed Democrats somewhere to the far side of George McGovern.

Oh Boy is that one for another day...

I am no expert on education. I do, however, have a little insight into human nature. Those in power tend to consolidate power. Controlling the system of education is a goal of every despotic regime; if you lead them while they're young, they'll willingly follow you as adults.

I’m not a huge fan of government sponsored education, however, it does have a much better chance of getting people all on the same playing field than each city block having its own privately run school. Also, if for no other reason than making sure people are being educated there needs to be someone saying ‘the standard is here’. I happen to think that for a lot of things the standard is set to low in the public system.

Some of the friends I admire most teach in public schools, and our daughter has attended the local schools since kindergarten. I assure you, though, that we've been very aware of what's been taught, especially in the early grades. My wife used to volunteer at the school during the day and was on a first-name basis with the principals of the elementary and middle school.

It is good to see their are parents who pay attention. I work with a youth group where half the parents drop their children off and disappear, i think most of the parents have only met myself or the club leader once and yet they leave their kids there for 3-4 hours.


That touches on what the answer should be. Schools, above all else, should attempt to equip our children with the ability to think critically, with the ability to reason. All else follows. James' goals—literacy, social mobility, civic discourse—can only be achieved in schools whose pupils are able to think critically. Solving every problem on Sidal's laundry list is meaningless if students are still unable to think for themselves. Find students who can do that, and solving those problems becomes much easier, because the students will be right there with you.

Again this goes back to ours being a society of fear. No it is not to the extent of North Korea, China, or a few other hellholes, but one where fear is the preferred motivator. There are a lot of parents who want their parents to learn what to think, not how. I personally have several very, very good idea’s where this comes from, but I’ll leave that for later. Where it comes from is important, getting rid of it, is more important.

...enough cash to keep the student:teacher ratio at no more than 20:1—twenty-five, tops. A bad teacher with twelve students will teacher better than a great teacher with fifty-four. If any of you doubt that for a second, I will give you a tour of my old high school and prove it.

I think, that if public school alternatives got enough (non financial) support that this could go a long way towards shrinking class sizes.

And that folks is all i have time for right now, more later.

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