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Monday, November 22, 2010

Glenn Beck, George Soros, FOX News, Florida, and Education

The other day, after my regular softball game, I heard two of the people I play with discussing George Soros. This was astonishing to say the least, because the people I play softball with are very unlikely to have ever heard of George Soros. I live in Florida where discussions of political issues are simplistic to say the least. But there it was. The issue was how Soros was undermining the country. I found this weird. I thought this was guy who tried to do good with his money.

It all became clearer when I heard that Glenn Beck had made one of his weird rants, and then I realized that the guys I had overheard were simply parroting what Beck had said and, more importantly, believing it word for word.

When you think about education, think about this. We have made people so stupid through our absurd system of memorizing nonsense and repeating it back on a multiple choice tests that we have set the stage for FOX News to simply say what it wants to say, and having millions of people believe it, because no one ever taught them how to construct or refute an argument.

We are creating a nation of people who can't think and who simply believe what they are told.

Yet we continue to obsess about test scores.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tom Friedman; wrong again, this time about education

I guess it wasn't bad enough that Friedman promoted the Iraq War in his New York Times column and then had to admit he was wrong. He actually is supposed to know something about the Middle East.

Now he espousing the nonsense theme of the day, that the problem in education is the teachers. I guess he saw "Waiting for Superman" and wanted to jump on the bandwagon.

So one more time for Tom: the problem is that school is boring and irrelevant and all the kids know it. They know they will never need algebra, or trigonometry. They know they will never need to balance chemical equations and they know they won't need random historical myths promoted by the school system. When all this stuff was mandated in 1892 it was for a different time and a different kind of student.

Change the curriculum to something relevant to modern life and you won't need to look for teachers. Teachers will rush to the opportunity to teach kids who actually want to be there.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How to build a culture of illiteracy

I was visiting my 5 year old grandson this week and he showed me the two books he had been assigned to read by his kindergarten teacher. Milo reads fairly well for a five year old, but this had nothing to do with his two months of kindergarten. I was surprised to see that they are teaching kindergarten kids to read. I guess the obsession with test scores has made New York City push the kids harder and faster. I would rather see him be doing other things in school but there is no harm in teaching him to read. Or so I thought, until I had him read these two books to me.

The first was about a nonsensical creature called a jiggeridoo. All the sentences were of the sort "jiggeridoos like to play." Each page had a picture and a sentence like that. I was bored and so was he. What happened to the idea that reading should be fun and even remotely educational. What was he learning from reading this nonsense?

The second book made me long for the first one.

The second was about a character named Eddy, who like to eat things based on their shape apparently. So Milo was busy sounding out words like square or triangle because pizza is triangular in shape. This book was both boring and annoying. It obviously was trying to teach shapes which is a dull, and rather unimportant task, and was doing so through a ridiculous book.

From this Milo is learning that books are boring and tedious. He will survive this because his parents are literate and will be his real teachers. But I started worrying about kids who have parents who don't encourage reading at home. The message the school is sending is that reading is a useless experience teaching nothing worth knowing. No wonder illiteracy is such an issue these days.

Perhaps we should stop worrying about test scores and start worrying about whether kids like to read. Just a thought.