Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Rainforest Math" Meltdown: Seniors Can't Multiply

Summertime means school for an increasing number of high school students who have struggled in their math courses. But the system could be contributing to the kids’ poor performances.

In March, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel reported that U.S. students lack a deep understanding of basic skills, including a grasp of whole numbers and fractions.

One reason for teacher frustration is that the state's math gurus have de-emphasized memorization in favor of "conceptual thinking." The same philosophy has crept into English classes, where "creativity" has been elevated over knowledge of grammar, and into history classes, where knowing historical trends — "the big picture" — has replaced knowing dates of important events. The result is seniors who are not just incapable of multiplication, but also unable to identify the verb in a sentence or come within 100 years of placing the Civil War.

USAToday

HT:
NCPA

34 Comments:

At 7/09/2008 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The good news is that parents now have more options than ever available through the internet. You can leverage a few moments of your time google searching websites to find resources like:

Jump Math - a volunteer organization that provides enhanced math training and has some useful learning tools
http://jumpmath.org/

Lots of help with teaching your kids math at:
www.math.com

Courses including "The Joy of Mathematics" available at the Teaching Company at:
www.teach12.com

The future is fun.

 
At 7/09/2008 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prof. Perry,

The title of this post should more appropriate be "High School Seniors Can't Multiply".

The term "senior" is most commonly used as a short form for senior citizen. Senior citizens definitely can multiple having benefitted from a solid grounding in basic mathematics.

 
At 7/09/2008 10:18 AM, Blogger Sophist said...

The article avoids discussing the main issue, for staying politically correct possibly, although that may not the case and a real lack of understanding of the issue may be the case.

The fact is that we should not expect the majority of people to grasp math. Human brains are primarily pattern matching expert systems with a heuristic rule based database. A small percentage posseses the additional skill of grasping math and being good at it.

Where is the problem then? You have 100 horses but 95 of them cannot run in a race. You can use those 95 in other tasks and concentrate in developing the 5 ones to get maximum performance.

This cannot be called elitism. When China, India, even Germany are creating special schools for specially gifted students, others try to extend democratic principles to education.

There are plenty of needed tasks to be performed by pattern matching brains. I think the real problem is the eraly 1900s and with the Vienna Circle in Europe and Bourbaki, Math was elevated to a devine skill.

Math is just a special skill. If we try to change attitude and look at poeple as performers, and not as members of special classes, porr skills in math will pose no problems.

Thus, according to me, for whatever reason, the article tries to reinforce the age etched idea that math is something special everyone should understand. NO NO, we have enough people who understand math and we should concentrate on them. At the same time, we should try to demolish and abolish the view that undertanding math is a unique ability that differentiates poeple. It is as good as being able to sing or fly a plane.

 
At 7/09/2008 10:26 AM, Blogger Craig said...

The promotion of so-called conceptual and critical thinking have been only the most recent attempts by the educational establishment to justify their increasingly kooky experiments.

The originator of "whole language" reading, for example, observed that adults didn't sound out each word and therefore forcing children to learn the sounds represented by each letter was a waste of time. He ignored the fact that after having "sounded out" a new word several times, it became imprinted in the child's brain, eliminating the need to do it again.

The child had memorized the word -- only after having learned how to recognize it through its parts, the letters.

These new math programs which attempt to minimize memorization build on that mistaken observation. A human cannot learn concepts until he's learned the components that make up each concept. We don't learn the concept "furniture" until, as 2 and 3 year olds, we've had drilled into us its component parts: chair, table, sofa, etc..

The people we're depending on to teach our children don't seem to have the faintest idea of how children learn. It's really frightening.

 
At 7/09/2008 11:24 AM, Anonymous rvturnage said...

Sophist, there is no "special math skill" required for understanding basic math (whole numbers and fractions). That is one of the lines of thinking brought us to the point we are at.

 
At 7/09/2008 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sophist,

The teaching of mathematics has fundamentally changed. While I can agree that not everyone has the math ability to understand higher mathematics, the present teaching approach does not provide a sound base for ANY student even those who have a math ability to learn higher mathematics.

Craig is correct in his assessment that the "new math" does not provide the same foundation math skills as classical mathematics that are required to understand advanced mathematics. Typical of a unionized, public sector organization, the teaching profession has simply refused to accept that this approach is not working.

When a sales clerk doesn't know how to calculate 10% off an item of merchandise or how to make change unless the machine tells him/her what to give the customer, it represents math illiteracy not the lack of mental acuity. Older cashiers and sales staff have no trouble with such basic math because they received proper math training.

Math training is an essential part of basic personal finance. As a working adult, math skills are used on a daily basis for any management position, ie. budgeting, estimating, forecasting, loss prevention, etc.

I did not think you could come up with anything dumber than your last policy suggestion of offering individuals tax breaks based on the # of people they employed. Apparently, I was wrong.

 
At 7/09/2008 12:02 PM, Blogger Sophist said...

Anon cried:

"When a sales clerk doesn't know how to calculate 10% off an item of merchandise or how to make change unless the machine tells him/her what to give the customer, it represents math illiteracy not the lack of mental acuity."

I could call you stupid and behave the same way you do but instead I willask you if you live in a village in the Amazon.

Do you know of any clearks that figure out the discount themselves? All you have to do is teach them how to use calculators. I will teach you now since you have problems to get a 10% discount off 100:

(1) Press 1
(2) Press 0
(3) press 0
(4) press -
(5) press 1
(6) press 0
(7) press %
(8) press =

Where do you see the math? Why do you want to make people suffer just to learn to calculate a discount?

Anon continued crying:

"Math training is an essential part of basic personal finance."

I must inform you there is software for doing that. Just plug the numbers. NO math is required.


Anon continued rambling:

"I did not think you could come up with anything dumber than your last policy suggestion of offering individuals tax breaks based on the # of people they employed. Apparently, I was wrong."

You was wrong, for sure. You just dream of the wrong reasons for that.

 
At 7/09/2008 1:06 PM, Anonymous Fred said...

Dear sophist,

Math skills are required to use calculators and software because without math skills how does anyone understand the answers?

I would remind you, because of your trash talk response to anon, that this is a classy place, ya bum.

 
At 7/09/2008 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sophist,

Why do you equate math with suffering? You have provided no data to substantiate such a claim. Is all education suffering to you or just math?

Sure you can use a calculator and software but you have to understand what numbers to enter. In other words, you have to understand basic math principles.

Obviously, we don't live in the Amazon and hunt monkeys for a living. Outside remote wilderness areas, adults are responsible for earning an income, managing their career, financing their expenses, feeding their families, setting aside money for the kids' post secondary education and investing for retirement.

Your prior suggestion of giving tax breaks to people based on the number of jobs they create would spur the creation of low wage, service jobs such as dog walker, nanny, housekeeper, pool boy, grounds keeper, etc. These types of service jobs have little potential for leveraging productivity and therefore, offer lower wages.

Why should anyone wish to subsidize the conveniences of the rich rather than having them invest their money in companies that create higher productivity, higher wage jobs? I still think the idea is a non-starter, one which revealingly, you did not choose to defend.

The perfect example of why basic math literacy is important is on display right now...the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Perhaps, it's time you visited a bankruptcy forum:

http://www.albertabankruptcy.org/

Anyone who has experienced personal bankruptcy can assure you that it entails far more suffering and mental anguish than a few high school math courses.

 
At 7/09/2008 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sophist,

Perhaps, you missed these two points from the article:

"As a consequence, when he gets kids in algebra II and trigonometry, says Thomas, he is constantly having to backtrack to teach skills students should have learned years ago."

"Many elementary school teachers are notoriously weak here (ie. math)."

In other words, the staff is not capable of teaching math and the kids are not getting even the basics.

When any learning experience becomes a drag comparable to a trip to the dentist for rootcanal...it is symptomatic of uninspired, lacklustre, substandard teaching.

 
At 7/09/2008 2:51 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Well considering the investments made with extorted dollars from the productive is any wonder that millions of dollars spent on advancing the scienes and the arts in school is it any wonder the kids coming out of these government financed madrassas can't do simple arithmetic?

Q. What do you get when you cross a compassionate conservative with an alcoholic woman killer?

A. No Cretin Left Behind

 
At 7/09/2008 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are these the same techniques used in China and India? I doubt it.

 
At 7/09/2008 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you say, the result of perpetuating economic and financial illiteracy does seem to ensure that public policy makers are free to spend as they like. The average American is unlikely be able to pronounce let alone demand fiduciary responsibility.

 
At 7/09/2008 5:28 PM, Blogger Sophist said...

another anonymous said:

"The perfect example of why basic math literacy is important is on display right now...the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Perhaps, it's time you visited a bankruptcy forum: "

Perhaps you should stay at the bankruptcy forum. It seems this talk it's too much for you.

 
At 7/09/2008 5:50 PM, Blogger Sophist said...

Yet, another anon said:

"it is symptomatic of uninspired, lacklustre, substandard teaching."

I remember from high school all the dummies blamed the teachers.

Oh mom, oh pap, I can't understand this teacher. He is so bad.... I need a better teacher...

Then, playing poinball for the rest of the day while the good students were in the library studying.

 
At 7/09/2008 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is it that you are unable to address the issues raised in the above quotations from the article in question? Namely, the trigonometry teacher having to re-teach basic math that should "have been learned years ago" or the assertion that most teachers in primary school have adequate math skills. In the past, the teachers had no greater experience but they did have a proper curriculum. Teachers under the age of 45 reflect inadequacy of "new math" that they received.

Ironically, you suggest that it is the students that are lazy. (Could that be blaming I hear)

You have suggested that math education should be reserved for only those with a math acuity and everyone else can get by with a calculator. Perhaps, you could name a single public educational facility that provides aptitude testing to its students.

 
At 7/10/2008 7:21 AM, Blogger Sophist said...

anon wonders:

"How is it that you are unable to address the issues raised in the above quotations from the article in question?"

Because, these are not the important issues. These are red herrings, if you know what that means.

Nothing you say will change nature and the fact that people's brains are sophisticated pattern matching engines, they are not math processors.

If you fail to see that, a simple empirical test should convince you:

Can you calculate 17.865% of 53.543?

without using a calculator?

Yet, you remember faces for years, when you hear a song you remember it, you can immediatelly determine that two cars are of the same make.

Now, after you having digested this, my proposal is simple:

Teach people how to use calculators. It is right that memorization was abandoned.

Listen anon, I attended a very tough high school. Amongst other things, we had to memorize the values of the logarithm of the first 100 integers. I remember now none but that of 1.

But I still have occasiionally nightmares about it. You come out of my nightmares. Whatever you say, for whatever reason or hidden agends you have, nature will not make you a favor:

people do pattern matching. Calculators do math. Teach people how to use calculators.

 
At 7/10/2008 7:55 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> The fact is that we should not expect the majority of people to grasp math. Human brains are primarily pattern matching expert systems with a heuristic rule based database. A small percentage posseses the additional skill of grasping math and being good at it.

Back to your usual level of idiocy, I see, sophist, after a momentary segue into a rationally correct place.

ANY human can learn math up to at least high school ALGEBRA II with no issues. Calculus, maybe, is slightly less intuitive, but ALGEBRA ***IS**** nothing but "pattern matching" and symbol manipulation. It's learning to extend the basic concepts of arithmetic into a generalized form that emphasizes an understanding of the PATTERNS being applied.

It takes a singularly incomptetent teacher to make math hard for most kids, which says a lot for how many singularly incompetent teachers there are out there.

Your argument is nothing but the same sort of ignorantly stupid BS used to justify incompetent teaching everywhere for the last 50+ years.

In basis, ALL math is pattern matching and symbol manipulation. You learn the rules for proper manipulations, and learn how to extend those rules to allow you to manipulate still more things. The goal is to figure out how to manipulate something you don't know how to deal with into a form you do know how to deal with.

At the fringes, this takes a kind of dedication which few can handle, but the basics of it can be performed by ANYONE, if they are taught well enough in the first place that they don't get a mental block in place which says that they can't -- and even then, the trick is to get rid of the mental block and find a way to put it to them which they grasp.

Learning to manipulate symbols and ideas is exactly what humans are great at. It is what makes us different from other animals. While a chimpanzee can learn math -- sort of -- a 5yo child has a better grasp of numbers than a carefully trained and full-grown chimpanzee. Heck, you probably even can surpass the chimpanzee, if you actually tried.

> NO NO, we have enough people who understand math

It is not POSSIBLE to have "enough" people to understand math. Learning math properly teaches RIGOR in thinking processes. CLARITY and REASON (alien concepts to you, I realize) are greatly enhanced. Even if you never again utilize Algebra, you will always be able to think clearer and more rationally as a result of having learned it.

Just as learning history as more than mere "dates" and "ages" is valuable (not to suggest that knowing dates is a bad thing -- you tend to grasp those things as a consequence of learning how events all fit together into a whole), so, too, is learning math.

That public schools continually fail at all of these things is inherently reprehensible. As has been observed by others:
If any country attempted to impose a school system this incompetent on another, it would be considered an Act of War.

> We don't learn the concept "furniture" until, as 2 and 3 year olds, we've had drilled into us its component parts: chair, table, sofa, etc..

Anon, the original genesis of this stuff was actually correct, but abysmally poorly implemented:

Back in the 1960s, there was this concept called "New Math" -- the first such High Falutin' Concept they tried. And its basis was, in fact, sound. Humans (yes, even small children) have an inherent notion of "sets"... and from Set Theory, it is possible to derive the concept of Counting Numbers... And from there, Integers... and then Rational Numbers (i.e., fractions)... and so on.

The problem is, they introduced the concepts without teaching them in Ed Schools for a decade, first. So the teachers were getting this stuff, and the kids and/or parents would be going "Huh? What's this?" and the teachers were equally clueless.

So came the first utter and complete failure. Ever since then, they've been trying all sorts of new, even more stupid ideas, some of which might actually work if they weren't being imposed from On High, but that model doesn't work in Centralized Education System, where EVERYTHING comes down from "On High"...

Centralized Education, as you can guess, as well as see from the results, works about as well as a Planned (i.e., Centralized) Economy...

 
At 7/10/2008 8:10 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 7/10/2008 8:15 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Where do you see the math? Why do you want to make people suffer just to learn to calculate a discount?

A) See my earlier comment on the connection between basic mathematical reasoning and generalized reasoning and thinking. In an increasingly complex world, the citizen needs to be more intelligently capable in order to understand how to properly exercise their franchise.

B) Some of us are smart enough that we don't want the most utterly simple skills to be lost to the existence of a machine which can do the job, too. We grasp that being dependent on machines for everything might not be a Real Good Idea.

C) For those with more mathematical skill than a chimpanzee (that is, ALMOST ALL people over the age of 5) this is not REALLY all that painful to learn.

D) Considering the focus of our centralized educational institutions on "accomplishments" and "good feelings" and "self esteem", one would think that providing recognition for an actual accomplishment might be a Real Good Idea.

 
At 7/10/2008 8:39 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> You was wrong, for sure.

Hey, you made a factually correct statement!

How about that.

You had to screw up the grammar to make it, but, hey, at least the foundation was valid!

> Math skills are required to use calculators and software because without math skills how does anyone understand the answers?

More critically, Fred, how do you know if you got the right answers, or screwed up somewhere. A feel for numbers can strongly assist this even when you aren't doing the math yourself. I've had people BLATANTLY try to give me too much change, for example, and called it to their attention (mainly because I know they'll get screwed at the end of the day when someone "does the math"). On occasion, I've just taken it and run (mainly if it's a small amount), just because I don't feel like explaining it to them politely.

BTW, sophist:
E) It helps you recognize when you have screwed up, as humans often do.

In general, handing an idiot a number crunching engine without them understanding:
1) what the numbers mean
2) why the numbers work the way they do
3) how the numbers are calculated

...is a classic example of "How to create a cluster-fuck".

When you don't understand what is happening, it is easy to screw up and put in either numbers that make no sense, or translate what the numbers MEAN into something which makes no sense.

There's a Dilbert sequence highlighting what happens when the Pointy-Haired One starts playing with a spreadsheet.

As you can guess, he did exactly what sophist would do: He demonstrated his utter and complete cluelessness on a grandiose scale.

> The perfect example of why basic math literacy is important is on display right now...the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

VERY GOOD, real-world point.

Understanding the difference between "principle" and "interest" alone is worthwhile, and might have led to a few less bankruptcies.

And seeing how they behave over time is something a good spreadsheet can do -- but it requires that you understand the numbers, "and why", to grasp why entering a negative number as interest doesn't work, for example.

> Are these the same techniques used in China and India? I doubt it.

We'd be at war with them if we tried.
:oP

> The average American is unlikely be able to pronounce let alone demand fiduciary responsibility.

Well, since any organization which ran its financial setup by something other than GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices) would be brought up on charges -- unless it were a government -- I think the politicos are safe for now.

This can be easily demonstrated by two things: The Ponzi scheme called "Social Security", and the results of New York State's "Balanced Budget Requirement":
The State of NY created an independent bonding agency to sell its debt instruments. An independent, "non-governmental" agency kind of like the US Post Office is. Now, the State of NY has a legal requirement that, each year, the budget must be BALANCED. One year, they had a shortfall of ca. 200 million dollars (IIRC, amountwise). What did they do to fix this problem? They cut the budget!! (Believe that, and: Ya wanna buy some land?). Of course not! They sold Attica Prison to the bonding agency, and they now pay the bonding agency a rental fee to use it as a prison.

Nice trick, ain't it? Suppose the courts told you that you HAD to live within your means -- that you could not spend any more in a year than you made. But you went out and took out a loan on your house, so you could spend more that year.

Do ya think the court would be miffed?

 
At 7/10/2008 8:41 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Then, playing pinball for the rest of the day while the good students were in the library studying.

...And what were YOU doing, sophist? It obviously didn't involve the library.

 
At 7/10/2008 9:09 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Can you calculate 17.865% of 53.543? without using a calculator?

Um, Yeah?

You have a hard problem somewhere? Adding digits does not make a problem HARD, it just makes it longer.

Here's a quick rule of thumb calculation: 20% of 53 is
5.3x2 = 10.6.
So it's going to be less than 10, but close to it. This way I'd know if I made an really big error, at least.

I can actually do the math, too:
53.543
x .17865
---------
. 5.3543 (1x)
. 3.84801 (7x)
. .428344 (8x)
. .0321258 (6x)
. .00267615 (5x)
-------------
9.66545595

NOW I will use a calculator -- just to see if I'm right (do note, however, that this is very close to my rule of thumb calculation)

The correct answer is
9.56545695

I made a couple small errors in my
multiplications (I was doing them in my head entirely):
7x=374801
5x=267715
Which is the reason for the errors in the final result.

Now, keep in mind, here -- I haven't bothered with this sort of thing in about 20-odd years, so my own skills in that regard are rusty (plus my own tendencies make me prone to that sort of error) -- though I certainly got it very close.

I also grasped how to get a close approximation easily, which meant that I could tell, clearly, if I somehow screwed up (and this is still highlyrelevant with a calculator for recognizing the results of a misplaced decimal point on entry)

And, equally critically, though I haven't done this sort of thing in 20+ years, I still recalled the entire process from start to finish.

In short, If I was stuck somewhere with no calculator, I could damned sure calculate that number accurately (If really I wanted to be sure, I would have done it twice). And if I made an entry error that was significant, I had some chance to know it.

Unlike some people, I *am* more than a house-trained chimpanzee. And I'm glad of it.

Numbers are your friends. Instead of spurning them, sophist, you need to grasp that the reason you aren't taken seriously has a lot to do with that ignorance of them.

 
At 7/10/2008 9:14 AM, Blogger Sophist said...

"...And what were YOU doing, sophist? It obviously didn't involve the library."

Since you are good at pattern matching and symbol manipulation, can you figure out for me if pi+e is transcendental or not?

something to keep you busy from taking too much bandwidth out of this blog.

 
At 7/10/2008 9:17 AM, Blogger Sophist said...

"The correct answer is
9.56545695"

how often do they take you fishing?

 
At 7/10/2008 9:17 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> we had to memorize the values of the logarithm of the first 100 integers.

Thus demonstrating that you had an IDIOT for a math teacher.

Rote memorization is just as ignorant and stupid as ignoring the skills entirely. If you went to HS in the 40s, that memorization might have been useful.

Unless you're over 75, you had a complete moron for a teacher.

And even if you are, if they did not teach you the reasons for memorizing them (which HAS become useless by now -- it allows you to multiply the numbers by adding the logs and reversing and interpolating to get the result) then they were even more incompetent than it sounds.

You had lousy teachers, sophist. That might not be your entire problem, but it's obviously contributory.

 
At 7/10/2008 9:26 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> can you figure out for me if pi+e is transcendental or not?

Sorry, it's currently not demonstrable if constants of the form n+e are non-algebraic, beyond a few special cases. Clearly, someone told you this.

Nice of you to never actually refute ANYTHING said, sophist. You demonstrate once more that your reasoning and debate capacities are unparalleled in their simplisticness and lack of competence.

 
At 7/10/2008 9:31 AM, Blogger Sophist said...

By the way, your error, obloodyhell, on 53.543
million dollars face value of bonds accounts to about:

9.66545595 - 9.56545695 = 0.1

x 1 million = 100,000

This is how much your error costed to your firm.

I meet people like you every day. People who keep making mistakes but yet keep insisting that their way is correct. They cost a lot to society.

Why do you want to enforce math on the majority of young kids who ghate them and get sick when they hear the word?

Do you think you are Christ and Savior? Do you think that these people MUST learn math?

I suppose all this is against freedom of choice. Young kids should be told that learning math has many advantages in a modern society but:

(1) Don't force them, you get a reaction somewhere else
(2) Don't spend money trying to increase learning ability. I'm not willing to pay.
(3) Don't blame the teachers. They are not bioengineers. They have limits.
(4) If you cannot count, it's your problem, not mine. The original article tried to make the problem everyone's problem.

 
At 7/10/2008 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obloodyhell,

Brilliant posts. Although sophist consistently avoids addressing any of your arguments, it is nevertheless a pleasure reading a well-reasoned, intelligent post. A clear demonstration of clarity and reason in action.

My compliments to the chef.

 
At 7/11/2008 7:34 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> By the way, your error, obloodyhell, on 53.543
million dollars face value of bonds accounts to about:

9.66545595 - 9.56545695 = 0.1

x 1 million = 100,000

This is how much your error costed to your firm.


No, that's how much YOU would have cost the firm, were someone foolish enough to put you in charge.

Had I actually been RESPONSIBLE for anything at all, I would have checked my answers more thoroughly, and caught the error.

> Do you think you are Christ and Savior? Do you think that these people MUST learn math?

What the hell planet are you on that you equate recognizing that Math is one of the things that separates us (well, some of us) from chimpanzees and Delusions of Grandeur?

> Don't force them, you get a reaction somewhere else

You don't have to force kids to learn math. It's inherent, like enjoying puns. It takes BAD TEACHING to create the sort of idiot mental block you have. You haven't grasped that yet though I've made the point repeatedly.

> Don't blame the teachers. They are not bioengineers. They have limits.

I don't expect them to be bioengineers. I expect them to be teachers. All humans of average intelligence can learn anything that was known prior to about 1850. Until that time, there was pretty much nothing so esoteric that anyone could not follow the reasoning through which it was derived. Some people would certainly take more to learn some types of information than others, but everyone can learn it to that level, if it is taught reasonably well (i.e., within the capacity of 90% of all caring and devoted teachers) -- and learning is something humans take to so naturally that it takes 10 to 16 years of modern schooling techniques to beat it out of most people.

P.S., there is nothing being taught in modern high schools which could not have been taught in 1850, with the exception of a few historical and technical details most of which are glossed over without real explanation or understanding anyway. Even many modern computing concepts had their genesis in Babbage's Difference Engine.


----------
Note: in fifth grade, I recieved an "F" in reading. This was at the same time as I was reading -- for myself -- the adult novel "2001: A Space Odyssey".

This "F" was despite the fact that I then (and have always) read at a level defined as some 3-4 years beyond my own actual age.

Why? I had a bunch of imbecile "reading teachers" who picked out a bunch of utterly boring CRAP for me to read. I refused. Unlike many other kids, I refused to let them turn reading from something pleasant and enjoyable into something boring and deathly dull.

It's one of the reasons I continue to read as an adult, even beyond college (where I also worked diligently to avoid idiotically boring reading), unlike most people.

From what I have observed, the entire purpose of modern centralized education is to make learning and reading so utterly associated with pain and boredom as to make the very thought of doing either on your own utterly terrifying.

I expect teachers to teach. I expect schools to educated. No bioengineering required.

Centralized Education does not have these as a purpose -- Its purpose is indoctrination. The purpose is to reduce intelligent, versatile humans into lowing, stupidifed cows and sheep, ready to go in any direction the factory foreman, the political leader, or the corporate advertiser, points them.

This was spectacularly embodied by a commercial in the 90s:

Don't ask why. Bud Dry

I mean, can you get a more blatant example of bovine-oriented advertising? "Don't argue, don't think, just buy it!!"

I suggest that we should scrap the entire system, give people vouchers for the cost we spend each year for a student in each venue, and fire all the teachers and administrators. Rent the classrooms out to individual teachers to teach students of their own recruiting. Let those teachers form a collective to hire a small percentage of the umpteen kajillion current admins to actually and efficiently operate said facilities. Parents get to take their kids to any teacher who takes their money.

"Little Red Schoolhouses" are also entirely at the discretion of the teacher. If they want to set up one, then fine.

(for dealing with "exceptional" children one could add an additional stipend to pay for special-ed trained teaching and facilities)

End of issue. I predict that within 10 years literacy rates after 10th grade would be at 75%, and up to 90% within 20 years.

Because the system in question would get rid of the mass of deadwood administrators, get rid of the 10-20% of wretchedly bad teachers, and put the teachers and parents in charge of deciding what techniques worked in the Real World.

Nope, it's not happening any time soon, but I would lay you huge odds that putting the money into the hands of the parents will, in most cases, have kids getting proper educations within a few years, tops.

Give people the power to vote with their feet, and the whole world changes on its axis.

=====
Anon 11:09:
blush Thanks. I try.

 
At 7/11/2008 10:58 AM, Blogger Sophist said...

obllodyhell babbaged out:

"Had I actually been RESPONSIBLE for anything at all, I would have checked my answers more thoroughly, and caught the error."

Promises....promises...

I keep hearing these promises from people like you...

"had I actually been responsible..."

"had I actually been there..."

"had I actually seen it..."

"had I actually felt it..."

I guess had you actually not said that Pricing is kind of opposite to quantum mechanics

I would have (maybe) taken you seriously.

But I cannot...

 
At 7/11/2008 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obloodyhell,

I can understand that sophist had a very unpleasant experience. Most of us do have a rotten time in high school..it goes with the territory.

I can recall a grade 8 teacher who told us to do the questions in the book & ask our neighbour if we had a problem. He told us to only bother him if we could not get someone else to help us first. For an entire year, we received no math instruction. He read a book or put his feet up on the desk at the back of the class.

Grade 13 was no better. I had one teacher who could not see female students and a calculus teacher who would get lost in his own proofs and have to have help from the class math wiz to figure them out for the next 10-15 minutes while the class killed time.

Several years ago, I underwent aptitude testing. I have a math aptitude which blew me away. Physics was the only subject where this ability had shown itself because I had a great physics teacher.

Life is not perfect. Public education isn't customized to the individual. A teacher has 30 students not just 1 to teach and certainly, I would have to agree with Sophist's assertion that the emphasis is upon raising all students to a level of competence rather than developing areas of high ability to the level of high performance.

There is life after high school (or after any other negative memory) and it becomes our responsibility for addressing deficiencies in education, and parenting and moving beyond them.

Isn't like the beer commercial says:

Find what you don't do best and don't do that thing.

Sophist,

With regard to calculating 10% on a calculator, isn't it faster to just move the decimal place?

ie. 10% of 10.00 = 1.00

Working with small business owners, I meet many entrepreneurs who have been fleeced by dishonest partners and employees. Every year, businesses lose thousands due to employee theft. One cannot depend upon the kindness of strangers...not even family.

"The U.S Chamber of Commerce estimates that theft by employees costs American companies $20 billion to $40 billion a year. To pay for it, every man and woman working in America today contributes more than $400 per year."

http://www.inc.com/articles/1999/05/13731.html

 
At 7/12/2008 6:47 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Life is not perfect. Public education isn't customized to the individual.
> A teacher has 30 students not just 1 to teach

Public Education should not exist at all. Its absolute failures over the last 50+ years, including, most spectacularly, reducing black literacy rates from ca. 70% in the 1940s to less than 30% today are a flat-out crime committed against blacks across the nation.

I don't support "reparations", but I would gladly support a class action suit by blacks to destroy the modern Centralized Indoctrination system for its utter and complete failures.

When the French came over here to see what this new nation looked like, they found a people with almost a 100% literacy rate among its citizens (yeah, not necessarily including women and blacks, I'll grant -- but is there a reason to believe, which is not sexist and/or racist, that the same stat would not have been true of women and blacks of the time were such encouraged? I suggest not.).

What happened?

How did literacy rates plummet so absurdly in the general populace?

Modern "public education" happened, that's what.


> several years ago, I underwent aptitude testing. I have a math aptitude which blew me away. Physics was the only subject where this ability had shown itself because I had a great physics teacher.

*Precisely*.

The difference between us is that I had a couple good teachers around HS, but, more critically, my mother taught me to think for myself, and to not allow idiots to get in my way. And they tried... very hard. I literally and figuratively told them to go fuck themselves, and when they refused to allow me to take courses, I taught myself until I could get into the local community college at 16.

In my case they tried and failed to ruin my desire to learn.

> One cannot depend upon the kindness of strangers...not even family.

Actually, Price/Costco solved this problem two decades ago: They paid their employees particularly well (cashiers at that time made more than $20k, which, in the mid-80s, was not chump change). By paying so well, the employees didn't want to risk losing their jobs. The policy paid for itself with "shrinkage" rates (including customer shoplifting) under 2%.

That doesn't negate your argument against sophist's so-called "position", but it is quite interesting in itself.

 
At 7/12/2008 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obloodyhell,

You are indeed fortunate to have had such a great mom. The ability to say no and set limits is an incredibly important developmental skill.

It has been a pleasure blogging with you. Would recommend "Commanding Heights" for your summer reading pleasure.

You have any good reads you would recommend?

 

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