Sunday, December 10, 2006

How to Fix Schools?

I just love it when the media - in this case, CNN.com, decide that they're going to tell us what schools need to prepare for the FUTURE! Invariably, the answers are:

  • Too complicated
  • Too expensive
  • Written by people without children
Well, on that last point, I can't say for sure, but it does read like someone who's had no contact with anyone younger than 25 in years.

What is CNN saying?
Competency in reading and math -- the focus of so much No Child Left Behind testing -- is the meager minimum. Scientific and technical skills are, likewise, utterly necessary but insufficient. Today's economy demands not only a high-level competence in the traditional academic disciplines but also what might be called 21st century skills.
Yeah, that's what the current administration has been saying - basic competency is a STARTING POINT. Frankly, I'd have few problems if students had a "high-level competence in the traditional academic disciplines".

  1. Supposedly, CEOs are telling CNN that they need people who are
    global trade literate, sensitive to foreign cultures, conversant in different languagesM
    Well, that'd be nice, no doubt. Those last two things, I think we're getting, thanks to immigration - unfortunately, it's mostly Spanish, or Spanglish. To me, the "global trade literate" part sounds like something a student would learn in college, not high school.

    I do tend to wonder what the CNN staff was smoking, since they believe that US schools are
    where the social-studies curriculum tends to fixate on U.S. history
    Wrong-o, pal! The students are woefully ignorant of their own country's history, thanks to inclusion of all those other cultures. I'm a science teacher, for crying out loud, and I know more US HIstory than they do.

  2. They need to O-O-O-H! THINK OUTSIDE THE - can you guess where, boys and girls?
    less daring in the back-to-basics climate of No Child Left Behind. Kids also must learn to think across disciplines, since that's where most new breakthroughs are made. It's interdisciplinary combinations -- design and technology, mathematics and art -- "that produce YouTube and Google," says Thomas Friedman, the best-selling author of The World Is Flat.
    I don't quite know how to say it any simpler (as Tom Peters always used to say), but they don't freaking understand the math!

    I'm not talking discrete functions or calculus, guys, I'm saying most kids don't understand fractions and decimals - too often in high school.

    I REALLY don't want the art teacher trying to teach them math. We all specialized in stuff in college - that was the point of getting certified in a specific subject. I'll make a promise - I won't teach the art or music, if they won't teach the math.

    The interdisciplinary stuff comes AFTER they gain a basic competency in math and English.

  3. Developing good people skills - this, I have no problem with. Most of them SUCK at getting along with others.

    But, I can only do so much when their parents are telling them to hit anyone who hits them - or disrespects them - or looks at them funny.

    More of them than ever are only children. They have NO CLUE how to share.


I think most of the world has no idea what goes on in schools. We do understand what they need to succeed.

But we're working against a culture that sees no harm in a kid spending 2-3 hours playing video games, watching TV, playing sports for extended periods of time, and almost no time reading, doing homework, or just talking to someone who is not a kid. By high school age, many are working long hours for non-necessities - clothes, cars, media.

It's not hard to educate kids who show up prepared to work, on time, rested, having done homework, and functional in their native language. But, that's not the typical student.

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