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Sunday, January 09, 2005


TCL Presents: Publik Edjakayshun - Round 1

School is teachers who don't know, teaching facts that aren't true to kids who don't care.
-Matt Groening - Life in Hell-

There you go. That's my article in a nutshell. See you all next week!

aside: "What do you mean, make it longer? What ever happened to Keep It Simple, Stupid?"


Well, I guess I should attempt to elaborate. American education is riddled with problems. According to a December 17th, 2003 study by the NAEP, in fourth grade math, in only three of the ten jurisdictions polled did the percentage of kids scoring in NAEP's "proficient" range rise above the teens—and in just one did it beat the national average. In eighth-grade reading, at least two-fifths of the students were "below basic" in seven cities. In the six lowest-scoring cities, the percentages of reading-proficient eighth graders were grim: Chicago - 15 percent, Houston - 14 percent, Atlanta - 11 percent, Los Angeles - 11 percent, District of Columbia - 10 percent, Cleveland - 10 percent.

Professors Diane Ravitch and Chester E. Finn, Jr. did some research, and published their findings in an book called, What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know?. They found that three quarters of the students polled did not know that Columbus discovered the New World before 1750. One third did not know that the phrase, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" comes from the Declaration of Independence; some attributed it to the Gettysburg Address. Seventy percent could not identify the Magna Carta. Forty percent are ignorant of the fact that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred between 1939 and 1943. Almost 75 percent can not place Lincoln's presidency within the correct twenty-year span. Almost 50 percent can not place Franklin Roosevelt's presidency in the years between 1929 and 1946.

All this erroneous information eventually leads to things like 41 percent of the public believing that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, or 37 percent of them believing that some of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi. Then we wonder why other countries label us "stupid Americans."

Internationally, how does our country rank when it comes to education? Well, we scored just above Lithuania when it came to math, but the Slovak Republic, Latvia, Estonia and Hungary all do better. Kids in high school today aren't much smarter than they were 10 years ago. We're a 'C' average nation. Mediocre is better than lousy, right? We may not be the brightest, but hey! We're not Mexico!

Part of the problem can be attributed to the money (or lack of) that we spend on education. Consider, for a moment, the 2004 Federal Discretionary Budget. Our budget was 782 billion dollars. Of that 782 billion dollars, The Department of Education only received 53.137 billion. We gave more money to the FCC (2.81b) than we did to Historically Black Colleges (2.77b). We spent 3 times as much money on funding for the V-22 Osprey Aircraft (30 deaths and counting!), as we did for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Museum and Library Services combined (.511b). How about Reading First programs (1.15b)? Nah, let's spend it on Foreign Military Financing (4.14b) instead.

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.

In fact, I learned so very little in high school, that I got incredibly bored and left after 3 years, took my GED (Good Enough Diploma), and scored in the upper 90th percentile in every subject but math. Even though I enjoyed most of my classes, I was bored stiff when it came to robotically memorizing facts that, in some cases, were completely erroneous. Watered down textbooks, reading assignments like "Go Ask Alice (outdated anti-drug propoganda), and authoritarian rules (I got in trouble for finding a few security holes in our school computer system, and suggesting how they be fixed. Punished for attempting to educate others, imagine that...) lead to me ditching school and avoiding any and all classes that didn't interest me. I learned more from my Science Fiction and Fantasy class by reading Bradbury, Asimov and Orwell, than I did from any of the other classes I took.

Public education is in need of a major overhaul. We can't continue on with things the way they are now. I'll get more into how things could be changed with my next article about private and home-schools.

On second thought, to hell with educating our children. Let's pick up a few TRIDENT II Ballistic Missiles instead.

Hi, I'm doing a social studies degree at college and conducting a study into people who make friends via the internet. I've used this site (make friends online) to contact potential contributers but wondered if you knew of any other way I could contact interested people.
Many thanks
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