Posted By: AnnaStrophic Declining standards in US education - 06/16/00 04:23 PM
I thought I'd revive this forum by starting a new thread, though I'm a little off-topic here. It's all Jackie's fault, and I quote her from another board:

>>I teach my kids the difference between well-written books and poorly-written ones. In my opinion, there is a widening gap between the intellectual people and the rest of the country. Somebody, please post that I am wrong!<<

You're not wrong.
Two friends, from totally different parts of my life, have sent me a test for eighth-graders from 100 years ago. Many US college students today would be unable to pass that test. I'll see if I can find a URL for it (unless tsuwm beats me to it! )

"Home-schooling" is a growing phenomenon here in the US; granted, part of the cause is a sort of racist reactionary backlash to the growing number of minorities and immigrants in public schools, but I believe most of it has arisen out of a genuine concern for the decaying standards in said schools. I come from a long line of teachers: my grandmother was a Latin teacher; my mother, a retired English teacher; my sister, a kindergarten teacher. She has a master's degree in education and earns the same salary as a hamburger-flipper. She does it for love.
Interesting: one of the most popular accredited home-school programs originates in Australia. I'd welcome comments on that from our free-spirited, independent friends down under.

Public education is a real sore spot for me. I'd love to hear what y'all have to say on this issue. Thanks, Jackie, for bringing this up!

Posted By: Jackie Re: Declining standards in US education - 06/17/00 06:36 PM
Well, I suppose you're welcome, but this is one of those cases where the truth hurts. God bless your sister, et. al.
I was fortunate enough to find out by the end of my freshman year that there is no way I'd want to be a teacher.
But oh, they are SO important in kids' lives! For a great number of children, their teachers may be the only examples of civilized behavior that they ever see.
In my opinion, the U. S. has a small percentage of people who care enough to get involved and make efforts to improve the quality of life for everyone. I just read about a prime example: Shirley R. Watkins, undersecretary of our
Dep't. of Agriculture. While visiting an Indian reservation (speaking of gaps in society--shudder), she
noticed an inordinate number of homes with ramps instead of steps. She learned that many Indians were amputees, due to
complications from diabetes, which was exacerbated by the
federal government shipping unhealthful food. She saw to it
that all reservations got a good supply of fruits and vegetables after that.
There is a huge percantage of people in what I will term the
middle class, though I mean in more than the economic sense:
people who are the "average Joes", just doing the best they
can with what they have.
Then the scary part: an as-yet-fairly-small, but I'm afraid growing, percentage who have been so deprived all their lives of any kind of guidance or sustenance (mental and emotional, as well as physical) that they are essentially anarchists. These include all kinds of addicts, many of whom were born to addicted mothers, and who
truly do not have the capability in their brain for such things as self-control or respect for others.

Teachers in public schools have to try and deal with these
kids, who are well-nigh uncontrollable. So much classroom time has to be spent on discipline, I'm surprised as much learning occurs as there is. And heaven help the kids who
are just a little slow or learning-disabled: the teacher
sure won't have time to.
I certainly do not have a workable solution. I don't believe that throwing money at the problem will solve it. We need a national resurgence of higher standards and
expectations all around, as in when the vast majority of society noticeably frowns on and does something about
out-of-line behavior. Even something as simple as most
patrons in a restaurant glowering at the one unruly table
would help.
I have not been to every school in our county, but I've
talked with enough staff at many to have formed the opinion
that teachers themselves now expect very little of their
students, compared to even one generation ago. I think this
attitude is handed down to them from administrators, which is truly sad.

Posted By: lusy Re: Declining standards in US education - 06/25/00 07:58 AM
A post in another thread, referring in passing to L.M. Montgomery, reminded me of something my wife asked me recently while she was reading (for possibly the 101st time) that wonderful book "Anne of Green Gables". The question related to the word "ebullience" ... was this a commonly used word? I assured her that it was one of several variations in the noun form (W.S. Gilbert uses "ebullition" in The Gondoliers) and asked her why the question. It appears that the novel has this word featuring in a primary school (possibly Grade 7 or 8, I'm not sure) spelling bee.
Good grief! How many Grade 7 or 8 students of today would be able to cope with this? It's a bit of a worry, eh?

Incidentally, it's not just North America, Anna. I can assure you it is perhaps even worse down under. We had a kind of "backlash" regarding education quite a few years ago, and many people had this great urge to "let the kids express themselves the way they want to", never mind those old stick-in-the-mud rules about English expression and so on.

We are still suffering the effects of this absurdity here, and University entrance standards continue, necessarily, to decline. So where do we go now?

Rgds, lusy

Posted By: Jackie Re: Declining standards in US education - 06/27/00 11:21 AM
Oh! Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite books!!
I have the whole series, and still read them occasionally
myself. Glad to know I'm not the only adult who still likes
to read books for youngsters. This one has so many human
truths in it--this is what makes it so enjoyble.

Posted By: jmh Re: Declining standards in US education - 06/28/00 10:49 PM
I know very little about education in the USA but that doesn’t usually stop anyone expressing an opinion about education, so here’s a few thoughts from across the pond from someone who is really trying not to join in …

I was involved in a discussion the other day about "Dumbing Down". One of the conclusions was that there is always a view that once, long ago, things were better; everyone could spell impossibly long words and multiply huge numbers without using fingers and toes. Everyone can point to something that is missing; they just fail to point out what has been added. It is the cry of those who are part of the establishment, waving goodbye to the days when their point of view prevailed.

Science teaching has moved on leaps and bounds in a generation. Non-specialist teachers often had rather vague ideas about science subjects and were allowed to teach however they felt best. Provision was patchy and learning resources outside the most respected schools were often scarce. For all those people who can talk about their inspiring teachers of Latin or history there were also many that can’t. Mathematics was geared to the brightest in the class and left many by the wayside. Children were not taught about computers at school because they were not part of daily life. The teaching of the canon of classics has had to take less time in the curriculum to make room for new areas of study. Teaching methods now focus on process at the expense of content, spending time acting out a play, rather than sitting in rows reading a paragraph at a time. I was always bored and (quietly) intolerant, hoping the slowest reader would get a move on.

One scientific paper I read raised the idea that it is only this generation that has relied so heavily upon literacy. It was possible to live a happy and productive life without reading until very recently, natural selection hasn’t had very long to place literacy above strength or fighting skills in the gene pool.

Of course, I was saddened by the newspaper article spotted by wseiber in his posting in "Words from newspapers of the world". It told about a school in the North East of England with very high levels of deprivation. It is, indeed, always possible to find such sad stories. It seems that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The idea of "trickle down" where as one part of society get richer it has an effect on the whole of society doesn’t seem to work. I suspect that what really happens is that those who have not are made painfully aware of what how much they are missing. Lavish entertaining and foreign travel might not matter too much but a child needs not to be hungry and to have parents who care that their needs are at least partly met. Those who's lives are blighted by the curse of drug addiction aren't always the best at prioritising the use of their resources, where they exist. It is sad and we must keep trying to improve things.

So as part of the “have’s” rather than the “have nots” I feel that the state-provided education my children are getting in their leafy suburb isn’t at all bad. They are encouraged to debate ideas rather than sit back and resign themselves to the rule that their teacher knows best. Some old fashioned teaching methods have been reclaimed. They are expected to learn spellings by applying rules, rather than simply rote-learning or, even worse, not learning spelling at all. They have had to learn multiplication tables and are expected to do a “mental maths” test every morning (aged 9 & 11), they say it’s quite fun. I asked the head-teacher why they read so few classics. Her reply was that there is so much strong children’s writing around these days that they would be considered to be classics of the future (the jury is still out on that one). I don’t think the teaching of grammar is all that strong but I don’t think I was taught grammar at all well. I learnt more about the structure of English by studying other languages than by studying my own language in any detail. Their project work has been quite fascinating and they have done much more than skim the surface of the subjects they have tackled using the power of the library (mainly out of date books telling them that the economy of Australia relies on sheep farming) and the Internet (CIA world fact-book – 1999 figures with full economic analysis and population statistics).

Here are a couple of points from people I know who have exchanged cultures:
I have some relatives who “swapped” with some English lecturers from California about five years ago. They said they were glad to come back (except for the swimming pool and the sunshine). They thought that students had too strong a say in the USA. Here the teacher gives a mark and that is (largely) that. In the USA the students would complain if the grade was too low and the lecturer would be told to adjust it, rather than the departmental head have to face the student. Their impression was that below grad school, the standards were quite low. At grad school and beyond the standards were very high. They feel now that we are heading the same way – they have been told here to give more high grades. A few years ago a First Class Degree was rare, a 2:1 quite rare and a 2:2 considered to be the norm. Now there are very more First Class and Upper Seconds distributed. A friend who moved her children between Canada and Germany felt that the German teachers had a lot more power over the pupils and were a lot more sparing with their marks. They felt that their children were expected to work a lot harder in Germany but their Canadian education allowed for more creativity and the children were less stressed. A teacher from Chicago recently worked at my children’s school. I asked how the childrens’ work compared at the same age – she said that they were about the same. I suppose that we are all different and all keen to generalise from our own experience without always being aware of the bigger picture.

So I’m not joining in. I suspect there is good and bad teaching. There are certainly parents who contribute to their childrens’ learning and others who don’t. There are useful and useless theories put forward by educationalists. There are governments (and parents) willing to fund education to a reasonable level and there are those who fail to provide sufficient resources for whatever reason. All we can ask it that every child gets an opportunity to get an education that enables them to reach their potential, no matter how high.

Posted By: Bridget Re: Declining standards in US education - 06/29/00 10:33 AM
I went to an independent and very academically focused school in the UK. It had an entrance exam and 85% plus of attendees went on to university, including me. Just about everyone had well-off parents - well, there were school fees.

When I graduated I went to teach English in rural Japan for two years. I taught at the only junior high in the town and the kids came from all kinds of backgrounds.

There was a general acceptance that girls did not need to go to university, but only to 'short university' - two year courses, often secretarial. Also some parents wanted first-born sons to do well but not outstandingly - if they did too well they would move away to the big city and no-one would be left to look after the farm.

The expectations were phenomenally different - far more different than the children, even though my school in the UK had 'weeded out'. And the expectations were set in both cases by much more than the school. I have huge sympathy for anyone in any education system - I think there is a tendency to blame the educators for things that have causes in wider society.

Are private (fee-paying) schools better educators, or do they just select better raw material by exams and/or by taking students who come from an environment that values education anyway? Let's face it, the parents are either paying money or making a conscious choice to opt out of mainstream, so putting some effort in.

I also agree with jmh that you have to think about what has been gained and what has been lost to get an overall view. Most of you are probably aware that Japanese students tend to score well in international comparisons on science and maths. These are 'right/wrong' subjects, which match the 'right/wrong' teaching and examination style in Japanese schools. Those same Japanese students have trouble stringing a sentence together in English or any other foreign language. Making a sentence is not a 'right/wrong' task, so they find it difficult. For comparison, I was stunned to find that 13 year olds in Japan could write a total of only 5-6 essays per term. I'm not talking about English essays here, I mean all essays, in all subjects, including creative writing, social sciences, writing up science experiments, anything. I wrote that many in a week! Once I discovered how rarely they wrote anything, I could understand why the Japanese students couldn't put a sentence together in English, let alone a paragraph. And I spent the rest of my time there awarding marks and praise to anything that had understandable meaning - communication - however bad the grammar was. After all, what's the point of perfect language if you can't communicate?

That said, better grammar, spelling, use of words and punctuation all help communication. It's a balancing act.

There is one thing I had that I would like for the education of any children I ever have. That's the overall approach. If I spelt a word wrongly or used poor grammar in writing up a science experiment, it affected my mark. The rationale behind this is that there's no point in having the knowledge if you can't communicate it properly - and in today's world I think that is truer than ever!

...unfortunately (in this context, not overall!!!) I am now in Australia and as someone else said in an earlier post, a whole generation went through school here without any formal training in grammar or clear expression. Many of these people are now teachers. It's hard for them to teach what they were never taught themselves. So I'll just have to make sure my kids get that in their society outside school.

By the way, in relation to changing curricula / needs, I have a 4 1/2 year old stepson who can type his name but can't write it. I am not sure whether to be alarmed by this or just consider it progress. Related to the comment I heard once about children who could no longer tell time by an analogue clock. Does this matter? How many of us can read Roman numerals? Let alone add them?

Posted By: emanuela language and communication - 06/30/00 01:52 PM
It seems to me that a good knowledge of the language is just a useful tool to communicate, but it is not enough.
For example, if you ask someone for knowing the way to somewhere... it is usually difficult to have good instructions - how many people are confused between left and right? - but obviously they KNOW how to reach that place - for example by walking. So, why are they not able to explain it to someone else?

Posted By: Jackie Re: language and communication - 06/30/00 05:43 PM
<<a good knowledge of the language is just a useful tool to communicate, but it is not enough.<<

Good point, E! I think about this every time I observe a
spelling bee. The rules are so strict that it is as much a
test of whether the child can say the letters correctly, as
it is a test of whether he/she knows how to spell the word.

Posted By: Jazzoctopus Re: Declining standards in US education - 07/13/00 09:39 PM
I must sadly agree with the notion that standards are drastically declining. I'm still in high school myself (I'll be a senior this fall) and I've seen first hand how people who really aren't that bright are getting straight A's. My local newspaper just listed the students who were on the honor roll and high honor roll for the final quarter and I felt embarrassed. I was on the list (of course :), but 140 of my colleagues were as well. My class is of 260 students, and when well over half of the class receives honors, there's something wrong. It seems to me that teachers have become afraid of disappointing students or making it look like they're not teaching very well, so they've made tests easier and inflated the grades.

I also feel a little disturbed when I see classmates who are taking honors classes receive a lower class rank than someone who is taking the weakest possible combination of classes.

Posted By: Brandon Re: Declining standards in US education - 08/07/00 05:27 PM

In my high school days, I took honors classes weighted by a full point: an honors-class B equalled a non-honors-A. The increased difficulty in the classes justified the weight. However, with transcripts not directly reflecting the "weight," those Bs and one C haunted me long after I graduated from high school.

Another note of interest: students who took just one honors course throughout high school were "honors students" on equal footing with those who took full schedules of honors courses. I know the Bell Curve is out of style, but the merits of equal distribution still weigh heavily on my attitude of scholatics.

Not everyone can be an A-B student. And when they are, the top 10% are definitely not being challenged like they should. Make school 20% more difficult, let everyone's grades shift down 10%, and work from there.

Posted By: Brandon Re: language and communication - 08/07/00 05:35 PM

>>>a good knowledge of the language is just a useful tool to communicate, but it is not enough.

I face this problem daily. I work as an interpreter and consistently see people who know both languages severely stumble their way through attempts at interpreting. In my arena, language proficiency does not immediately lend itself to interpreting. But so many people think that because one knows both languages, one naturally can interpret.

Ever try the Babelfish AltaVista translation service (http://babelfish.altavista.com/translate.dyn)? Imagine that kind of translation going on in a doctor's office when it is your kidney in question.

Wow! I never knew the US was having problems with education. I live in Canada and last year 1999 the government of Ontario came up with higher education standards. My generation was the first to start with the new highschool reform. I started grade 9 that year. Part of the reform was province-wide testing that ensured that children were not falling behind. I have to complete a literacy test this year. The courses are supposedly tougher since there will be no OAC year and everything must be learned in 4 instead of 5 years.

I attended an international school in Munich with a dynamic student body. American 'honour' students plucked from the state AND private schools in the US, found themselves failing courses in which they had never averaged lower than an A-. In addition the education at the international school was, on the whole, mediocre. I'm no genius and 12th grade was a bludge! Friends of mine from 'developing' countries snickered at the level of required maths and science.
A friend of mine was recently in LA and met a well educated high-school teacher, who ran into problems when he failed practically his entire class in English. He was packing his bags anyway.
Do the words regession and deterioration ring a bell! It's the most backward 'developed' nation I've ever heard of.

Grueße an euch alle!
Posted By: wow Re: US education, then and now - 12/25/00 04:05 PM
Goodness me oh my! So many good points in previous posts I want to lift quotes from nearly every one but since I cannot, let me ramble for a moment and try to cover some of them.
Communication as the reason to learn is valid, no doubt. Let me ask this : if people are making up the "rules" for themselves, how is another to understand?
Surely there has to be some attention paid to keeping all who want to learn a language on the same page, so to speak.
As to the demands of today's world : I think every generation has been under pressure. It is just different, not better or worse.
In my high school days (Autumn 1944 through June 1949) this is what I had :
History - four years starting with Ancient and moving up through the centuries to finally American History in senior year.
Math - two years algebra, one chemistry, one geometry.
Language - two years Latin, two years French (some students opted for Spanish instead of French.)
Arts- four years of art classes water color, oils, pastels, painting on fabric, etc. etc.
Music - we all had at least two hours of music a week in class. Additionally I had music lessons 45 three days a week. We all participated in the school chorus.
There was a war on so we had no gym teachers (they all went into the Army -WACS- or Navy -WAVES- or flew planes - WASPS) but we were expected to take a walk during our luch hour and to participate in some sport that could be done on our own without equipment -- I chose to swim! That was summer so winter it was walks!
Additionally we had a minimum of two or three hours of homework a night.
Marks were given as numbers 65% was the lowest grade you could get and have a passing mark. One third was class work, one third written work, one third test marks. Teachers kept daily marks in a book and we were allowed to consult them to see how we were doing on class work.The marks were averages to give us a mid-term and then a year-end grade.
Every Friday we were given a ten minute quizz at the start of each class to see if we'd gotten the gist of what had been taught that week. As an aside, those quizzes helped us overcome "test fears."
And on top of that we were expected to do special projects to increase our grades in a given subject.
I was in an all-female private school. However I had friends in the city's public high school and aside from classes in embroidery (which we were given) the public high school carrried a similar subject load.
That was a pretty fair amount of pressure. Oh, and because I went to private school, I had a 45 minute bus ride morning and afternoon.
Just so you do not think we were drudges, we also had an active social life, played with friends, went to movies, helped Mother around the house, read books, listened to Don Winslow and Jack Armstrong on the radio, read news of the war in newspapers and wrote to our uncles, brothers, fathers in the Armed Forces and prayed they would come home safe.
Now, I was an average student, generally got marks in the low 80s. The exceptions were English and History were I generally scored higher - 85 to 90 %. So, by most standards I should have opted for a typing course and gone into office work. Instead, because I had been gifted with a very good singing voice I went to college ... and there, because I could take courses that interested me, even though they were more demanding I got straight As and graduated with honors.
A friend of mine who has a Master's degree in Business is now teaching a class in Business English. She has found that her pupils (already earning a living in business)generally are eager and willing to learn but in every class there are a few who confuse spell check with grammar check. And they complain and often her marks are overturned by a higher up ... the school is afraid of losing students and the tuition they bring in.
On the other hand my neighbor's daughter attended our local high school, which is your average high school, and she attained marks that gained her a scholarship to college She is studying in the field of science and genetics. She was also in the Latin Club with my godson and they sometimes chat in Latin. He just got a four year scholaship to Boston University! Good heavens! The parents in both cases encouraged their children but are not slave drivers. And some other teens in the same classes are barely passing! Perfectly normal, no-drug type kids and they cannot put a compound sentance together.
I don't know what the point of all this is. Perhaps someone could figure it out and let me know, too.


Posted By: tsuwm Re: US education, then and now - 12/26/00 04:16 AM
>I don't know what the point of all this is.

well mom, you surely said (at least) one true thing: things don't get better or worse, only different.

Posted By: shanks Ahhh.... school days - 12/26/00 09:32 AM

The system in India is slightly different from the American High School one, retaining as it does vestiges of the ol' Brit 'O' Levels and 'A' Levels. So the equivalent of the American four-year High School period was split for me into two periods of two years each - one for my '10th' or ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) exams, and the next for my 12th or HSC (Higher Secondary Certificate) - before it was considered safe to let me loose on college proper.

For my 10th (the first big exam) we studied for two years to do 12 papers, which were then combined into marks on six subjects. The papers:

English Literature
English Language
Hindi Language
Hindi Literature
'Optionals' (Accounts, in my case)

The six subjects under which we received marks were therefore:

Social Studies

Then on to two years in the science stream for my HSC:

Basic French
Maths 1
Maths 2
Chem 1
Chem 2
Bio 1
Bio 2
Phy 1
Phy 2

again conflated to just six subjects in the end (oh my word - this was not that many years ago and I cannot remember the last 'subject' - eek).

For what it's worth, before 'high school' our curriculum included, along with English (yay) Hindi (boo) Marathi as well (for four years) and Gujarati (just one year when I was very young), Maths, History, Geography, and the three sciences - which we did for about 4 years as a full curriculum before that. Yes, I remember we also had art, music and PT (physical training).

I believe this intensive, exam-based system, is still used in India. It seems to work for some. But I'm sure there were just as many traumatised by its rote ruthlessness as we believe are 'let down' by the West's liberal-lax standards. I enjoyed it (except the homework), but that's just one opinion...


the sunshine warrior

ps. Aenigma prefers Matilda to Maths.

Posted By: wow Re: Tests...PAUGH! - 12/26/00 02:24 PM
I believe this intensive, exam-based system, is still used in India. It seems to work for some.

Hi Shanks !
Tests - Paugh! Massachusetts is currently in a turmoil about "M-CAST" test for all school children to test their knowledge. I'm not even going to touch that one.
I think when standardized tests are established teachers stop teaching subjects and start teaching the test.
If test must be given I think it should be prepared by teachers and be essay type.
Rant Rant Rant

Posted By: shanks Re: Tests...PAUGH! - 12/27/00 09:12 AM
If test must be given I think it should be prepared by teachers and be essay type.

Oh we had those too. First Terminal exam, Second Terminal exam, Final exam - three times a year like clockwork, except in our tenth, when instead of the 'final', we had a preliminary (Prelims) and then the Board (ICSE, as referred to earlier), so had the treat of four sets of exams in that year.

After all this, I did (for a laugh) the American tests (my mother fondly hoped I might get off my arse for long enough to actually do uni in the States) - SAT, ACTs, GREs etc. I have to admit that I was an arrogant little merde of a teenager, but by the end of it all, I was so contemptuous of the standards of the American 'tests' that I didn't bother preparing for them in any way (unless you count getting drunk the night before as preparation).

Yes, I think you miss out a lot with standardised, multiple choice tests. But you would, presumably, miss out a lot with a non-standardised system where teachers have all the power - one bad apple, or one bad interaction witgh a vindictive teacher and that's your career down the tubes. The choices aren't perfect, no matter which direction you head in, IMO.


the sunshine warrior

Posted By: wow Re: Teacher's pet or pest - 12/27/00 07:52 PM
But you would, presumably, miss out a lot with a non-standardised system where teachers have all the power - one bad apple, or one bad interaction witgh a vindictive teacher and that's your career down the tubes. The choices aren't perfect,

Point VERY well taken.

Posted By: of troy Re: Teacher's pet or pest - 12/27/00 09:53 PM
Ah--well i have stayed away from this thread-- I am a good example of a bad education.
My early childhood education was from dedicated nuns, all educated themselves, but saddled with classes of 45 to 50, to at one point, in 4th grade, 84 unruly students,(in one class!) Sometime not even enough desks and seats, let alone books. (I remember 4th grade well, as I came back to school late that year, having missed the first two weeks-- and was seated on top of the big old cast iron radiators for the first month! )

My home had one bookcase about 3 feet wide, and three shelves high. Both my parents lacked an education. I did grow up in house that read, but i don't ever remember my mother reading anything but novels..

We didn't have a complete dictionary in the house. A large multi volume edition of the Funk and Wagnols had been offered as a promotion in a store, and we had most of the volumes.. and no other reference books till i was in High School. There is a federal program to assist poor schools purchase text books, but Dictionaries are not considered text books, so, while my school has some, there were not enough to available to have a dictionary for every student.
(I currently at home have a shelf of dictionaries-- and the OED became a line item in my divorce settlement-- with my ex getting it.)

Since both of my parents are immigrants, i also did not have a large or extended family, so there was no kind aunt or uncle who came in to bridge the gap.

I was often bored at school, since i had a strong innate ability to read and learn. I was reasonable well behaved, and so got very little personal attention from teachers, who where busy helping the student who they perceive needed their help-- But this lack of guidance had long term effects..

When still in elementary school, I discovered science, and started reading books like "The Microbe Hunters"-- my mother thought it was morbid-- and while almost nothing was strictly censored, non-fiction science reading was not considered normal, and was discouraged. She never banned anything outright, but to discourage, she would "helpfully" return the book to the library for you–whether or not you had finished reading them. I also read "Anne of Green Gables", that was okay– but wanting to read science was not going to be encouraged– and there was no one to defend my desire to learn.

as shanks points out-- (seconded by Wow,)one bad apple, or one bad interaction with a vindictive teacher and that's your career down the tubes. The choices aren't perfect..

That was sixth grade for me.. I spent most of the year seated out side the principle's office. My most serious offence was existing... If either of my parents had been involved with my education beyond dressing me and sending me off to school, they might have realized something was amiss.. (actually my mother became aware of how serious the issue was a week or so after Easter-- and then rationalize, that there were only about 8 week left to the school year, so i could just spend the rest of the term on steps out side the principles office. she didn't think that it had done me much harm, since in spite of not attending any lessons, i was still able to get 80's and 90's on most of the tests. ) She never questioned--why was i able to get 90's with out being in class, and what where the social effects of being banned from class..

Bel, you spoke warmly of holiday's, and wow, you too, seemed to have a happy childhood.. I envy you a bit-- less now than in the past, since i have come to see that a terrible childhood is a wonderful foundation for life.. if you survive it! And i did-- just!

most of my education came in the between spaces.. school exposed me to subjects, and as they interested me, i learned about them. Books, newspapers, museums, all these where between the spaces.. Wow-- i don't know what features your paper included, but i learned to read long stories by reading novels serialized in The (NY) Daily News.. And while I was picking up the newspaper, I learned the habit of reading it. I learned vocabulary from "It pays to Increase your Wordpower" in the Readers digest..

as stated elsewhere in this thread-- this is the first time in history, that we have the expectation that everyone is going to get any education.. There are students, enrolled in NYC "school" program, that are in "light coma's"--with resources going to teach them. (I personally know of 2) Their teacher is expected to prepare a evaluation of the educational goals, and what is being done to reach them-- and at the same time, class size in "regular" classes keeps creeping up, school building keep deteriorating.. schools are cutting arts programs...I don't know if it is that we don't have the resources to teach every one– or that we, as a society are just not willing to allocate the resources (this is definitely an issue in US, I don't know about else where)

Like Mark Twain, i learned the best way to get an education is to read, read, read, and hang around with people smarter than yourself.. in HS, I started to hang around the local university campus– Fordham– and used to pass myself off as a student I hang out here too, ( thank you all! ) and lest you feel shock or sympathy for my somewhat Dickensian childhood--, the fact is, i was in many ways, very lucky.. I had a excellent library at my disposal, and for $0.30 round trip--(or less if i jumped the turnstile) i could be off to a collections of world class museums.. Both the Bronx Zoo and the Bronx Botanical gardens were within walking distance. and frequently visited...

Education, and the treatment of children in general is one way to measure a society. As we have become a more urban society, and children are more of an expense (rather than an asset) I think we have failed in how we treat them. In some ways, they are more "valuable"-- and far more protected than ever before-- but in other ways, much less is expected of children. In NYC over 1 million student take school buses to school, since any child who is more than .5 miles from school entitle to a school bus.. Since walking more than a half mile is considered "too far". Social promotions is the norm too, (but changing-- NY too has standardized test for 4th grade, 8th grade and graduation) since it too difficult for a child to be left back--(i look back at my own childhood, and while i would not wish it on a dog–) it hard not to think that there are no challenges available to these children. They sometimes seem wrapped in cotton wool. And at the same time, there is the movement to "Zero" tolerance– I learned as much from my mistakes as I did from any book– if we have a policy of "zero" tolerance– no mistakes allowed.. No child in their right mind will ever see the value in taking risks...

A comment from Jazz, again if you could-- Since you seem to have (or your parent to some degree) achieved a measure of success. Is it innate ability? your parents willingness to let you take risks, so you learned your own strengths and weaknesses? Good teachers? a rich environment? (by rich, i mean not things, but ideas) growing up in middle class environment, with ready access to books, and culture, not just in the public sphere, but at home?

Is there a defination of what is wrong? and if not, how can we formulate a plan to resolve and make right?-- and even if we can define what is wrong-- can we make right?

Posted By: Jazzoctopus Re: Teacher's pet or pest - 12/27/00 11:48 PM
A comment from Jazz

Well, I've never really thought, in much detail, about what made me like learning and subsequently led me to this board, but it seems to be a combination your suggestions. My parents both went to Ohio State University. My mom is now a work-at-home pension administrator (something with retirement plans and mutual funds) and my dad is a research scientist. I've lived in five places since birth until 5th grade when we moved to my current home 7 years ago. With never living in the same place for much more than 3 years I frequently got friendships cut-off. This probably caused me to be somewhat shy and make fun for myself. My mom is always reading and my dad watches Jeopardy! almost every night. Early intellectual interest, I guess, contributed a great deal.

I always found school rather easy. I don't know how to explain it. My teachers weren't always commendable. I couldn't stand my 2nd and 4th grade teachers. Miserable despotic folk, they were. My favorite teachers were all in high school: German, Jazz Band and AP Physics. For some reason or another, these three teachers just know how to teach their classes and make it fun.

Nothing recently has contributed more to my educational interests than this board, though. This is mainly in what I read. Because of these discussions I've been reading Voltaire, I just finished the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (crazy stuff, Tsuwm) and I just started Goedel, Escher Bach. My, what you people do to me. . .

Posted By: Capital Kiwi Re: Tests...PAUGH! - 12/28/00 01:18 AM
Shanks talked about tests ... when I worked for a university here, I sat the GMAT just for fun with a couple of lecturers in the department I slept in on a daily basis. Won't tell you what I got - partly because it was many moons ago and I don't remember the exact score - but it was a doddle to reach the minimum scores for the top colleges in the US. We prepared for it by doing one of those "Prepare yourself for the GMAT" type courses. That took us one day, less time, in fact than the test itself.

Taking tests, especially multi-choice tests, is more a matter of technique than of knowledge.

Tests effectively do nothing except test the tester. That's my controversial statement for the day!

Posted By: jmh Re: Tests...PAUGH! - 12/28/00 08:45 AM
>Tests effectively do nothing except test the tester. That's my controversial statement for the day!

We now have SATs at 7 and 11. They just give a range (eg level 2 by age7, level 4 by age 11) and seem to have little use for the children. In England (but not yet in Scotland) they are published in the press and their main use seems to be in ranking primary scools in order of the proportion of children reaching the expected standard for their age. If doesn't give any information about the number of children exceeding the standard, so schools are encouraged to focus on borderline pupils - this may or may not be a good thing, depending on the education standard of your child. Although there is support for low achievers, very few schools have support for high achievers who can become bored and disruptive. In most cases the results can be predicted from the relative wealth of the postcode area (zipcode). In many cases schools are offering a great deal to children with little home support but the praise tends to be short-lived, in some cases schools in "good areas" realise that they have to improve. Either way, the flow is still to better areas for those who want to give their children a good start and the published tables only help this process.

At seconday level, often one school from 11-18 but with variations around the country, we have tests at 16(ish) and 18(ish). At the top end of the school many pupils will take up to eight or nine GCSE exams at 16 and three "A" levels at 18. In Scotland it is different with up to eight or nine "standard grades" at 15/16 and five "highers" at 17/18, followed by an optional extra year with increasing specialisation or an opportunity to add more "highers".

I think we all regard the system as good or bad, according to out own level of success. I found the courses interesting and the syllabus wide enough for the teachers not only be teaching for the exam. The exams were often in three parts with MCQs, essay questions and then practicals/orals/aurals for sciences or languages.

I often cross swords with teachers, especially a couple who were not very bright (I was much more aggressive in those days, mild and gentle soul that I am), so in those subjects I appreciated the external markers who made sure that everything was fair. I'm a fairly lazy person, willing to dot he minimum, so I'm sure that I would have worked less hard at school or university without the thought of an impending exam!

Posted By: Capital Kiwi Re: Tests...PAUGH! - 12/28/00 06:45 PM
We used to have similar streaming tests here, school certificate and University Entrance. Then the politically-correct crowd got in on it and decided that competitive schooling was bad for kids. Exit exams. But the universities howled loudly about entrance standards (and their inability to apply them without a measuring stick). So, last time I looked, exams were back, but changed beyond all recognition.

You'd think that in a country with a total population of 3.8 million, we'd be able to organise ourselves at least as well as Singapore which has a similar sized population ...

Posted By: shanks Hush your mouth... - 01/03/01 02:11 PM
You'd think that in a country with a total population of 3.8 million, we'd be able to organise ourselves at least as well as Singapore which has a similar sized population .

Political I know, but I wouldn't want to be compared, favourably or otherwise, with a state claiming to be democratice that has an absolutely vile record with regard to human rights. I can only hope New Zealand does not take the nanny/police state of Singapore as its educational model.


the sunshine warrior

ps. Best of luck in the One-Day-ers against Zimbabwe. Already one down? Tut tut.

Posted By: Capital Kiwi Re: Hush your mouth... - 01/03/01 04:52 PM
Facetious, shanks, definitely facetious. I was talking about their education system, which is actually quite good.

And Singapore ain't so bad, really. I spend a lot of time there. Things are relaxing on the judicial front. Political dissent is increasing. The influence of SM Lee is waning as Goh consolidates power. The last ASEAN meeting showed that he's pretty much his own man these days.

The Black Caps do have this amazing and consistent ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and take great delight in proving it ...

Posted By: belMarduk Re: Hush your mouth... - 01/05/01 04:19 PM
CapK what is ASEAN?

There is an restaurant that opened up about two months ago near my house that calls itself that. Everybody thought they had simply misspelled Asian.

Posted By: Capital Kiwi Re: Hush your mouth... - 01/05/01 04:38 PM
bel, I would guess that your guess about the restaurateurs' guess on the spelling of "Asian" is probably right. ASEAN is the Association of South East Asian Nations. Oh well, maybe Chinese takeaways in Quebec need something odd to attract the punters in through the door!

NZ and Oz are not members of ASEAN - it's a very Asian ASEAN.

Posted By: belMarduk Re: Hush your mouth... - 01/06/01 01:28 AM
Mind you, perhaps it is correct since they tout themselves as cooking up an assortment of east Asian meals. Now see, I'm going to have to go in there and ask.

Posted By: Sparteye Re: Teacher's pet or pest - 01/12/01 04:07 PM
A note to Jazzoctopus:

Jazz! You're a Buckeye baby! I took note of that, since I went to law school at Ohio State. (Hence, the "[Buck]eye" in my nom de keyboard.)

How terrific that we all have this resource, a sort of electronic salon. I was isolated as a child, and I wish I'd had the web.

Posted By: Jazzoctopus Re: Teacher's pet or pest - 01/12/01 09:53 PM
I went to law school at Ohio State. (Hence, the "[Buck]eye" in my nom de keyboard.)

Am I correct in assuming from the other half of your moniker that you also went to Michigan State?

Posted By: Roibin Re: US education, then and now - 01/15/01 12:59 PM
I am new to this list and in my first year of teaching at the ripe old age of 46 (well I was 45 at the beginning of the school year, but I digress). I am teaching English in a very rural community in Western Arizona. We have very wealthy farmer/rancher children and migrant worker's children. The county I live in has only two high schools. One is in the county seat and only takes children that live in that town and then there is ours. Some of these children bus in from over 90 miles away. We are talking about 1.5 hour bus trips back and forth. This year we have a new superintendent, principal and 7 (out of 12) new teachers (now 8 as the Art teacher quit over Christmas break). I understand that discipline was non-existent before this year. The new principal taught PE here for 14 years and just recently graduated with his masters. The students are unruly, surly, insolent and some are just out and out nasty. You know what??? I am nice to them all. They cannot figure it out. But I learned a long time ago that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Last semester they hated me (I was new and they have a running rule that they have to try to get a teacher to quit the first semester). This semester I have students asking me to please remember them forever. This is a long story for a very short comment. Some of these students just don't care. They have lived a meager existence for so long that they expect to continue living one. They don't care. I have a few that are very intelligent and they just don't care. They hand in no homework and do no assignments in class. I have been told to fail them but not to write a disciplinary referral on them unless they are disrupting the class. I have one senior student who failed junior english with me this year. Was he ever surprised. This kid is a drug user and I believe dealer. He would come to class and sleep. I couldn't write him up because he didn't disrupt the other students (he was too stoned to do that). But you know what. I was the first teacher to fail him. He was taking Junior english his last year because he had other more interesting classes to take and the counselor lets them do this. So this semester I have him twice. I have him for "Vocational English - those students who failed" and since I do not have a senior English class this semester he is doing correspondence work and sitting in another class of mine (Yearbook). Standards in the US are declining. Why??? Because we have lost control over the students. They have way too many "rights". I am not talking about beating them within an inch of their lives, but to be afraid of disciplining them because their parents can sue???????????? Most of these parents do not pay attention to these students or they believe that "little Johnny" wouldn't and couldn't act this way. Example: The "drug dealer's" father is living with one of the other teachers. She has told him over and over that he is doing drugs. He will not listen to her. His son says he isn't>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Get a clue, DAD!!!! Okay, I said a lot and probably said nothing. I have a tendency to ramble. Drives the students crazy. LOL Have a good day.

Posted By: Jackie Re: US education, then and now - 01/15/01 02:18 PM
Roibin, how sad. How utterly, utterly sad. Teachers at my children's middle school and now both of their high schools say that the Advanced Program classes are the only ones
that they actually enjoy. These kids tend to talk more, but at least mostly have an interest in learning.

I wish I knew what the, or a, solution would be. A good friend of mine who pinches pennies to send her daughter to a parochial school full of rich kids tells me that most of her child's classmates are virtually unsupervised--both
parents work, or in some cases where the mom doesn't, she is too busy socializing to be with her own child. The parents give the kids rules, then take their word as to whether they've obeyed. The kids do whatever they want to.

So money isn't an infallible guideline to whether a child will do well in school or not. Many poor parents take a great interest in their children's education.

Our society as a whole has let our values get skewed, I think.

Posted By: bikermom Re: Declining standards in US education - 01/16/01 12:59 AM
Declining standards in the US----I totally agree. We seem to put all the emphasis on the really gifted child, the unruly and hard-to-control child and the severely disabled child. Those many average or nearly average children are totally lost unless their parents can afford some help in tutoring or they are willing to help their kids. Too many teachers are doing the job because they like the summers off and too many teachers are also burned out because they have to do two jobs--day teaching and evening sports coaching. Both the classroom and the sports are suffering unless the person has no other life beyond school. Parents feel that teachers should teach children morals, discipline, respect, economics, recycling, and kindness----when is there even time to teach the basics-reading, writing, spelling, math and science? And this volunteer bit in the schools----perhaps it would help to pay us volunteers 2.00 or 3.00 per hour up to a set amount of hours per day, unless the person wishes not to be paid. I also think that every classroom should have a teacher's aid at all times, not just for the special needs---and if their are special needs kids--then an additional teacher's aid would also be needed. Our German exchange students know 4 times as much at 17 than our brightest students of the same age-----why???? And this is attending an American school in English---if they could read and listen to the lessons in German, they would get even higher grades!!!!! Soooo sad!!!!!

Posted By: Roibin Re: Declining standards in US education - 01/16/01 04:58 AM
Bikermom, I did not get into teaching for the summers off and I know about them (my two older sisters are teachers). However, in the short time I have been a teacher I can assure you that every day off a teacher gets is well deserved. I put in 15+ hours a day (every day including most weekends). My students tell me that I don't have a life. This past semester 1/2 of my students decided to cut and paste from the internet rather than do their own research paper. I caught them. It took me days, but I caught them. One student who had to repeat senior english to graduate told the other students that he was there because "I had too much time on my hands and surfed the net." I caught him because he used a paper written by a college student from Ontario, Canada. Well, guess what the Brit's (including Canada) spell words differently than we do. His downfall "Defence" instead of Defense. I don't have a lot of time on my hands. I just want to do my job right. After I and the other English teacher (who volunteered to help me = she is only 26) determined the papers who were fake, I spent even more hours reading those that were determined to be original. She made me dinner and brought it to school for me. This is the FIRST TIME this has happened at this school (why? because I am the first English teacher to ask for a research paper). To make a long story short, I know why teachers get the summers off. WE DESERVE IT WITH ALL THE HOURS WE PUT IN DURING THE SEMESTER. Plus schools are now going to longer semesters (next year - instead of 3 months off we only get 2). Besides I am paid so little that during those two months off I plan to get a job. Probably at McDonalds or something like that at a town that is 40 miles away. As for sports. Yep, we teachers do that too. Do the sports suffer. Who cares??????????????????? The students aren't there to excel in sports, or am I wrong???????? I am also a volunteer for softball and I tell the students that I don't care. Sports is not an excuse for not having their work done. These kids travel for their games and get home at 3 am. I don't care. They are here to learn, not play basketball. Unless you ARE a teacher you cannot judge a teacher. I know there are bad teacher's. I know that. But most of us go beyond what is expected. Including drying tears from broken relationships and from starting a period (this is stuff they don't tell their parents). During the past semester I have heard it all. These kids write about drinking in the desert and doing drugs. I never would have admitted doing anything like that in high school. This is a new breed. I do not have children of my own and I am glad. They lie to their parents about everything, ditching school, doing drugs and of course if they are given a disciplinary slip to the principal? Well, "the teacher has it in for them" or "the teacher doesn't like them". Can't tell you how many students I have sent to the principal that I truly like and think have a chance. Bottom line:

STOP ASSOCIATING TEACHERS WITH SUMMERS OFF (THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN) AND SPORTS. Okay I will now get off my soapbox. Please forgive any mistakes in this posting. At the beginning I was not happy.

"What we do in life, echoes an eternity" - Maximus Decimus Meridias.

Posted By: ladymoon Re: Declining standards in US education - 01/16/01 07:27 AM
I agree. I have been a teacher and both my parents were teachers. My mother is still teaching. My Aunt is a teacher. In my last house we stumbled into a cul-de-sac with four teachers. I know a lot of teachers. To think it's possible to be a teacher just for the summers is not to know what it's like to be a teacher. Long hours, little pay, insolent children backed by insolent parents... just so you can get a second job in the summer. I know there are bad teachers out there. But I know a lot of teachers who do the job because they want to teach. Despite the endless paperwork, and the angry parents and everything else, they want to teach. Those who do deserve some respect. It's not an easy job.

Posted By: bikermom Re: US education, then and now - 01/16/01 12:50 PM
Standards in the US are declining. Why??? Because we have lost control over the students. They have way too many "rights". I am not talking about beating them within an inch of their lives, but to be afraid of disciplining them because their parents can sue???????????? Most of these parents do not pay attention to these students or they believe that "little Johnny" wouldn't and couldn't act this way. Example: The "drug dealer's" father is living with one of the other teachers. She has told him over and over that he is doing drugs. He will not listen to her. His son says he isn't>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Get a clue, DAD!!!! Okay, I said a lot and probably said nothing. I have a tendency to ramble. Drives the students crazy. LOL Have a good day.

Hello Roibin, I like your stamina. I am 47 and have been thinking of taking a two year course to get a teaching degree for K thru 3. It requires lots more travel and two more years for anything beyond that. Butthe cost is $3000. or more a semester and I still have a 10 yr old at home. Sorry if I sound like I do not appreciate most teachers. Quite the opposite. I respect them for their long hours putting up with what you describe as a new trend of unruly kids, parents who don't care or who think their Johnny wouldn't or couldn't do that. I have been a volunteer since 1988 and a high school janitor in the year 2000. Yes, I have seen and heard it all too and I still believe that there is tons of potential in today's teens---but adults, parents and teachers have to stick to their morals, not let the kids run them over and enforce the three R's==RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY AND RULES. And yes, this really does not include beating them with a stick, just respecting them as young adults and they will also come to respect you. When a teen opens up their heart to you----you know you have done things right. So I have decided not to go for a teaching degree, but to be home for my kids and all the other kids that seem to come here--on weekends we usually have 5 or 6 boys hanging around, refusing to leave---this makes me feel good and I will be home to tutor more kids in areas of my great love---spelling, reading, writing, talking, listening and cooking. Well I have 7 more years til my 5th grader graduates---and he was born telling me what he wants!!!! Keep up the terrific work, I admire you and what your doing----and it seems as if the Eastern Appalacian hills is not the only poor spot in this great USA Have a great day and hang in there all you teachers

Posted By: bikermom Re: Declining standards in US education - 01/16/01 01:07 PM
Hi and my apologies to all those good teachers whom I have offended. I am truly sorry, I guess because of my rambling on and on I fail to get my real point across and the wrong message is heard. So thanks everyone for will to set me straight---I read and understand better than I hear and understand!!!! I am not a lover of sports so I am sorry also. My real feelings are that teachers should NOT be even expected to do the sport thing after school, they have families too and even if they are single--teachers have a life other than school 24 hours a day. I have total empathy for today's teachers and what they are facing when they look at a classroom of 20 to 30 kids who really do not give a darn. And I think by telling teachers what they all do when not in school, just goes to prove that kids really want someone to listen to them and not judge, and even perhaps admit that they too were young and crazy once. Hey it is amazing that I am still alive 30 years after my high school days, and I would have loved to have an open relationship with my parents. What kids today hear is "Let's hurry, we are late" or "Not now I have NO TIME" and big beautiful houses with big dinner tables and NO ONE gathers as a family to eat at them daily!!!!! To much extra evening stuff running here and there. I think that perhaps the internet will make people at least want to stay home rather than run, run, run, etc. Maybe I am wrong again--

Posted By: bikermom Re: Declining standards in US education - 01/16/01 01:30 PM
Ladymoon, Perhaps you could answer another question of mine. Have the kids really changed over all these years??? And have the parents of these kids really changed also??? Maybe it is the fact that the media prints more rotten stuff and thrives on it than about printing the good things that some kids, parents and teachers are doing. I think that if the good stuff made the headlines, it would escalate into a steady stream of god things happening. Once again, maybe I am tooooo optimistic and naive!!!!

Posted By: Sparteye Re: Teacher's pet or pest - 01/16/01 02:47 PM
You are correct, oh perceptive one. "Sparteye" is probably not the most appropriate name for such a literate board as this, but I established my moniker in the context of sports boards and didn't want to develop another name. I have enough trouble remembering passwords and such without compounding the task with multiple identities. (Perhaps, I should call myself Sybil and be done...)

I've probably missed a prior discussion, but from whence "Jazzoctopus?"

Posted By: ladymoon Re: Declining standards in US education - 01/16/01 10:16 PM
I may be old fashioned but I don't believe that the basic "kid" has changed that much. But I do believe that there's so much going on that it's overwhelming. Like you said it's the rotten stuff that makes the headlines, and we know what's going on everywhere. The world has changed. While it makes it possible for me to have this conversation with you, the pace of the world is changing the world. I don't mean that there's been a huge shift in the balance of good and evil but that we're more aware of the world. The more I know the more I can understand. On the otherhand, that I can know more tragedy from around the world doesn't mean there's more tragedy around the world, just that I know about more. I hear that violent crime has gone down but when I hear about someone murdered almost every night that sticks with me longer than the numbers. And if you show their face...

If I think parents have changed, I think discipline has changed. While I don't think "beating them within an inch of their life" is an option, I think children should be expected to act in a reasonable manner. I'm a big fan of Teaching with Love and Logic. Or Parenting with Love and Logic by Jim Faye and Foster Cline. I believe even today kids have the capacity to make good decisions if we give them the tools. Parents who teach their kids not to respect their teachers, gasp, have children that don't respect their teachers. Then there's not a whole lot of learning going on.

I think being there for kids is huge. I don't believe everyone should quit their jobs. Both my parents worked but I knew they were there for me. I believe there are some kids wired to succeed no matter what. But the rest need some wind in their sails. Either a parent, a teacher, a neighbor,... someone who lets them know there's something good in them and helps them polish it to shine. If when kids look around and all they see is negative, it's hard for some to understand there's more out there. A good role model/example can go a long way. I'm still a big sucker for an encouraging word. Don't wait for the headlines to change. Start spreading the good stuff yourself.

Posted By: Satori Re: Declining standards in US education - 01/17/01 01:19 AM
I was lucky enough to have been taught phonics, to have had plenty of books on hand as a child, and to have graduated from an excellent school system.
I don't mean to cause any problems among so many excellent educators--but the problem in education has spread so that the same students who were poorly tossed through the school system are now preparing to teach a new generation of students. It is a horrible thing to say, I know, but the unfortunate truth is that many teachers do not know how to teach or do not know their subject matter well. (Present educators excluded, of course)
In my teacher education class, so many students are ignorant of grammar, spelling, history, simple math, etc. One can graduate with a degree to teach at any level and still not have a basic knowledge of (today's in class example) our Constitution or government. If a student at the college level cannot understand the language in the Federalist Papers (again, today's horrific example) then how is he/she supposed to teach History or English or Government?
Truthfully? I am somewhat afraid to let my (future) children attend school, as I see their (future) teachers struggle through class every Tuesday and Thursday.
Oh--forgive my own mistakes in this post please--I feel incredibly inferior among all this wit and words...

Posted By: slovovoi Re: Declining standards in US education - 05/01/01 03:54 PM
So much to respond to. I hope you all will forgive me if I write something that borders on the ... precipitous.

Part of the problem that I think cannot be overestimated is that the educational enterprise has changed radically. The business of education - to parse a quote - is business (not education).

Until December last, I was teaching Composition at a community college (2-yr. post-secondary) as an adjunct. On the surface, it seems a relatively cushy post: teach anywhere from 2-5 courses per term, design your own course and choose your own materials, escape much of the departmental politics that full-timers must endure.

The fact of the matter was, I had no office space (not even a desk), no support save what I could wrangle out of various departments (I browbeat the IT people into granting me a directory on the server to maintain web pages for my classes), and you are the red-headed stepchild (interesting apellation, that) of the entire college. Your pay on an hourly (class hours) basis appears good, but it doesn't account for the fact that you're working 50-60 hrs/wk for no benefits, and have no collective bargaining rights. It is, in short, a lousy, discouraging, and occasionally even a hateful, gig.

You are subject to intense administrative scrutiny in the event of any student complaint - and here I'm speaking not of complaints of impropriety of any kind, but of things such as "He assigns too much writing." and "I don't understand why I got a B in this class - I've always gotten As in English!" Not only has the bar been lowered, but the current "Customer Service" orientation of colleges and universities in the US puts faculty on the run, and discourages anything other than efficient, corporate, and altogether un-inspired, un-inventive, and un-believably irresponsible behavior on the part of anyone who dares step into the classroom.

Unfortunately, I went from someone who loved teaching the craft of writing, the subtle ebb and flow of critical thinking, purposeful and principled argumentation, and the joy of looking at old topics in new ways, to someone who has left teaching - quite possibly for "good".

We can point fingers at the media, at parents who don't read to their kids, at the overabundance of stimuli, and the ill-trained state of our educators at whatever level - all of which play some part - but we need to understand that much of what is the basic mission of our educational institutions at all levels is profoundly, heart-rendingly broken.

What, I wonder, other than the grand hypocrisy and roaring moral cowardice that withdrawing support for our public schools is, can we do? [The preceding is the most involuted sentence in the history of the language, and for that I apologize.]


Posted By: Capital Kiwi Re: Declining standards in US education - 05/01/01 06:40 PM
Your complaints are not unique to American schools, Slovovoi. I taught in a polytechnic for six years (and before that two years at a university), and the administrative pressure is unrelenting. I became what is known as a "course co-ordinator", "program leader" or "Studies Supervisor". The title changed every year that had a number in it. The reason the CEO (not Principal or anything academically-related, you notice) appointed me was that I turned out to have a knack for satisfying the demands of the external accountability vultures who were always hovering over us without our really having to do anything much. It's all in the words, don'cha know?

After a year or so of doing this, I found that I had been completely relieved of my teaching load. To make up for this I developed a new degree programme and a number of other programmes for our IT department but even this palled after a while.

Like you, I wanted to teach, but the system demanded that someone stave off the hordes of philistines who were tireless assailing the walls. And like you, I escaped in the corporate world, where I rapidly doubled my salary and my levels of work satisfaction almost overnight!

And, again like you, I find it highly unlikely that I will ever subject myself to that regimen again.

Posted By: satin Re: Declining standards in US education - 05/03/01 02:18 PM
I too am disturbed by the state of our schools. Not necessarily the curriculum, but the behavior problems teachers have to deal with before they can even teach.
I have experienced it from a different view point. I used to work in a day care program before and after school in two different school districts in the northern Illinois area. They were different as night is to day.

The furthest north school district was a much better behaved group of children because of the lifestyles/principles of the parents. The location was mostly rural 25 years before my time at the school. Now it has become more suburban-like as it is an hours ride (not during rush hour) from Chicago. They were a more family oriented, slower paced, church oriented community.

The other school district was located about 35 minutes (not rush hour) from Chicago and was mostly higher educated, career-oriented group. Higher salaries, more expensive homes, but also less time for family. A larger majority of the children did what they wanted, when they wanted, with no respect for adults at all. They were out of control. Children were pushed into extra curricular activities to eat up time until the parents got home.

There were Kindergarteners that were in our program from 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. It was so sad. There is a real need for day care of this sort but more importantly there should be a concern for what that extensive day care does to a childs life. There must be a way to change family schedules to make it so kids can be home with a family member for more than just a rushed breakfast and dinner and a shower before bedtime. I am a firm believer in no one can raise a child like its own parents. Children, especially that young, need to be a bit more mature before thrusting them into that kind of situation for the childs own sake.

The really sad thing is that I don't think it will ever get better because too many people are "thing" oriented instead of "people" oriented. I grew up in Chicago and I love any big city for a visit, but I think I will always live in a smaller people-oriented community.

Posted By: AnnaStrophic Time for kids - 05/03/01 02:38 PM
Well said, satin. Though I pretty much embrace a libertarian view of the world, the curmudgeonly side of me often wins out, as it's doing in this post:

[rant]I think raising kids is one of the most, if not *the most, important responsibility an adult has. We're not whelping here. Tests are required for driving a car, or practicing law. Would-be parents outta have to pass a test to raise kids. Yes, I know it's an Orwellian concept (and not to mention, unenforceable), but that doesn't stop the thought from rising. [/rant]

Posted By: of troy Re: Declining standards in US education - 05/08/01 01:48 PM
Satin-- if you are interested in living in a people oriented community-- you will-- it won't matter if it is in the middle of a busy city block, a small town, or even a rural farm area. The hardest place to find it will be in a "bedroom community suburb", but even there it can be found. Community exists-- all it requires is for people to get involved. You'll find your community in a church, or school group, or civic group or make it happen with your neighbors-- because you want it to happen. You find that you'll join the PTA-- and then move to the local school board-- which will put you incontact with local officals-- mayors, councilmem, aldermem, selectmen-- what ever they are called in you local government. And as a result, you'll learn about state or county work projects... and take a stand on them.

I think that rural and innner city in many ways offer children rich environments-- rural communities offer children the chance to "escape" in a field-- or up a tree-- and live in their imaginations, and rural live offers a a natural environment to explore, and frequently, responsiblity in the form of caring for animals-- And in many ways cities offer a play-scape that forsters imagination, and cities offer musuems, libraries and other enrichments. Both require responsibilty-- and give children a chance to move in adult spheres-- daily, children (as did my own) ride on the subway to school.. elementry school kids often with a parent, but by HS (age 13/14) my daughter was taking a subway by herself. Many adults are "fearful" of the subway..

Rural kids often find by 13/14 that they are permitted to drive a tractor, or work other large pieces of equipment that would scare many adults not familiar with there operation.. and living inner city--(which in many US cities has cesed to be an middle class option) you have shorter commute times.. so more time to spend with your kids..

While i am hardly inner city (I wish i could afford to be! In NY innercity is the most expensive place to live!) I do live with in the city limits.. and do not have an unreasonable commute. (and shared it with my daughter -- at just the time it was important to be able to "stay connected"-- Teen want to be grown up-- and she felt grown up as a commuter.. so we could "share the commuting experience" at equals. And while I love living in the city-- and like the country (rural country) to visit-- i would hate living there-- but I do recognize it offers a world of experience..

I think the saddest environment for kids are "suburbs"-- to built up and developed to allow kids to have a pony or horse, or calf to raise.., too spread out and lacking things that kids can do or get to themselves.. Teens have no place they can go to-- they depend on mom or dad or someone to drive them places.. there is little public transportation-- and no place of interst to go to even if there is.. and no adult responsiblites for them to take on.. they can't drive, they can't get anywhere by themselves.. So they end up in structured "teem sports" or organized activities.. and they are all run by adults.. Teens in suburbs have no autonomy! (and the same is true with kids of all ages.

Posted By: Jazzoctopus Re: Declining standards in US education - 05/10/01 09:55 PM
I think the saddest environment for kids are "suburbs"-- to built up and developed to allow kids to have a pony or horse, or calf to raise.., too spread out and lacking things that kids can do or get to themselves.. Teens have no place they can go to-- they depend on mom or dad or someone to drive them places.. there is little public transportation-- and no place of interst to go to even if there is..

Hmm . . . that's partially how I got here.

Posted By: Max Quordlepleen . - 05/10/01 10:03 PM

Posted By: of troy Re: Declining standards in US education - 05/11/01 03:52 PM
Is it already post track season? or have you just put us on your list of places to run to? But I am glad Jazz that you see the internet (and AWAD in particular) as useful. I am not quite old enough to be your grandmother (your grandmothers youngest sister-- maybe- so my thoughts on suburbia are mostly Pre internet. I had lots of cousins who where raised in suburbia.. Many in the post war boom town of Levittown. Some of them are still uncomfortable in NYC-- even though they grew up less than an hour a way-- and their grandmother still lived in NYC till the day she died.

They were in one of the worst school districts on Long Island-- Island Pines-- famous locally -- and even for 15 minutes nationally- for the School Board banning books--which contributed to my sense that the suburbs where sterile-- Of course, we always used to buy them the banned books as christmas/birthday presents.. They thought "Catcher in the Rye" was way out.. they had no idea what stories I was reading! O

Posted By: Jazzoctopus Re: Declining standards in US education - 05/12/01 04:11 PM
Track season is almost over but I still have quite a bit left to do with a final writing portfolio for English. I've been trying to lurk here as much as possible, obviously not posting much recently. I haven't broken into Q&A or Miscellany yet, which each have about 1000 new posts for me. Oh boy!

Anyway . . .
the School Board banning books--which contributed to my sense that the suburbs where sterile

I tend to think that schools now embrace the once banned books because they are applicable history lessons.

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/Web/People/spok/most-banned.html - This site lists books that were most frequently banned between 1990 and 1992. I just looked this up and I find it hard to believe because many of the books on this list have been used as part of the curriculum in my English classes. I don't think I know of any books that my school has banned. Maybe our school board is more accepting than others, but I don't know that any other schools in the area have banned books either. We even had to read parts of the Bible because of the innumerable allusions to it in literature. Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn were all used heavily in past classes.

JazzO, thanks for that link. Now:

That list of banned books is probably one of the worst examples of ultra-conservativism I have seen in a long time. It's hard to believe that a modern state bans books at all, and there is something seriously wrong when a bunch of bureaucrats and ill-educated parents (which I assume school boards are made up of) even has the power to ban books. How very fascist of the most "advanced democracy" in the world.

Two of the books on the list (Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies) were required reading when I was at school.

I could go on, but I suspect that the members of this Forum would agree with me anyway. [/rant]

I could go on, but I suspect that the members of this Forum would agree with me anyway.

And you'd be right.

When I was in high school (OK, in the early 70s, if you must know! ), we read an "expurgated" version of Romeo & Juliet (with all the maidenhead stuff deleted - not that we'd have known what that meant, anyway). My mom made sure I read the original at home.

Cap'nK continues: Two of the books on the list (Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies) were required reading when I was at school.

Moi, aussi.

It saddens me that books are still being nominally, if not officially, banned. Around here Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is "left off" reading lists. In my day, it was sex and swear words. Today, apparently, it's anything not PC.

Two of the books on the list (Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies) were required reading when I was at school.

They were required reading for me as well, Lord of the Flies this year and Of Mice and Men last year and that's why I don't totally understand how those books were banned so frequently only 10 years ago. (And I live in one of the most conservative areas in the country.)

How very fascist of the most "advanced democracy" in the world.

It is clearly time we had a new word to describe what this "democracy" has advanced into, for it is rarely democratic anymore!

...members of this Forum would agree with me anyway. [/rant]

I do!

Posted By: ladymoon Re: banned books - 05/14/01 05:08 AM
I've read almost half those books, without even trying. Just when I thought I was making progress at becoming a good person.
I've always been curious about banned books, not just which books but why? Why are some of those books on the list? I blithely read those books without knowing they should be banned. We should be warned. I know! What we need is ratings on books, like movies and music. The Lorax is rated PG-13 for violence. Romeo and Juliet is Obviously NC-17, violence, AND sex in the same story.

Posted By: Capital Kiwi Re: banned books - 05/14/01 07:33 AM
Why are some of those books on the list?

Because the narrow-minded so-and-so's who get themselves elected or appointed to positions of power over these things can't deal with concepts which don't gel with their idea of the way the universe is - or, at least, ought to be - in their not-so-humble opinions.

"Of Mice and Men" doesn't cast a very good light on life in the US at that time, and "Lord of the Flies" dares to suggest that a bunch of boys marooned on an island won't all turn into good little boy scouts, choose a leader and live happily ever after.

Reason enough, for moronic hicks of that ilk!

Posted By: Jazzoctopus Re: banned books - 05/15/01 10:15 PM
A number of books are banned because of the portrayal of racism. (Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird) The problem with this logic is that both of these books are anti-racism.

Many are banned because they contain the abuse or harassment of children. (James and the Giant Peach, How to Eat Fried Worms) Hmmm . . . David Copperfield isn't on the list though.

Grendel (#40) at least the part I read, was hilarious. And if they ban this then they have to equally ban all of Beowulf.

These reasons are obviously silly, un-enlightened reasons to ban books. It's absurd and obviously hypocritical for a republic such as this (were not a democracy and you know the difference) to deprive a child of the edification given by many of these books. How can a person learn about history and correct the mistakes of the past if he never learns about them? History is the weakest subject in American schools (I read that only 13% of people can correctly identify Andrew Jackson as the man on the $20 bill) and the banning of books is most likely partially to blame.

This is evoking images of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. I wonder if those were ever banned.

Posted By: Capital Kiwi Re: banned books - 05/16/01 06:18 AM
This is evoking images of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. I wonder if those were ever banned.

I don't know about those books, but I do know that "Animal Farm" was banned in the Soviet Union (and presumably, by extension, throughout the Warsaw Pact countries). And probably in the US, that well-known bastion of personal liberty (provided you can afford to pay for it)!

Posted By: william Re: banned books - 05/16/01 12:45 PM
we were shown a cartoon version of "Animal Farm" at school, and to my surprise the ending was different from the book. the donkey (Benjamin?) came back and defeated the pigs.
i felt this was quite a different message from Orwell's, and seem to remember that it was an american production.

Posted By: ladymoon Re: banned books - 05/17/01 03:00 AM
Some answers are obvious but for the same reason some are not. It's the books on the list I haven't read that I'm curious about. It's not on the list but I read somewhere The Lorax was banned in areas (heavy logging areas for obvious reasons to those who've read it) where as it would be greatly loved in others. When I look at lists of banned books it makes me want to read them to understand why they were banned. But that's the rebel in me I guess.

Posted By: of troy bowdlerizing and other censorship - 05/17/01 07:22 PM
Re: AS comment When I was in high school (OK, in the early 70s, if you must know! ), we read an "expurgated" version of Romeo & Juliet (with all the maidenhead stuff deleted - not that we'd have known what that meant, anyway). My mom made sure I read the original at home.

My school too had a bowdlerize version-- but our English teacher in order to drum up excitement told us to look up the word Expurgated-- and to buy/beg or borrow a complete edition and we could get bonus point for figuring out why the text had been expunged! --(this was an all girls public HS)

my HS school, a few years before your time AS, was stuffed to the gills with "baby boomers" (over 6,000 students in the school, and most students didn't start at the school till "sophmore" year). It ran on split sessions-- the first class of the day Period 0 started at 7:55 AM-- the last class, Period 10, started at 4:10 or so) I had English at 7:55-- In NYC, even with Daylight saving time-- we arrived at school when it was still dark! Many of us where interested-- but some students where still half asleep (and the rest of us half frozen-- Only 1 door of the school opened for Period 0-- directly across the street from a city reservoir--and the door didn't open till 7:50-- so if you got to school a little early-- you stood out side and froze!)

Posted By: Jazzoctopus Re: bowdlerizing and other censorship - 05/17/01 09:07 PM
the first class of the day Period 0 started at 7:55 AM

My first class is at 7:25 and many of the teachers get there at 6:30 to prepare. I personally like this more because we get out at 2:25, leaving more time in the afternoon. I'm pretty sure that most of the schools in this area have about the same hours.

My school is a little different though because we're on block scheduling which means that instead of 7 or 8 classes 45 minutes a day we have 4 classes per semester for 90 minutes a day. (There's also the option of having 2 45 minute classes all year for those of us in band or choir.) It sounds like 90 minutes is a long time for one class, but after a while we got used to it. It also means that one only has to think about 4 subjects at once.

Posted By: ladymoon Re: school opening - 05/18/01 04:43 AM
I went to school in Colorado. We too got to stand outside and freeze until the doors opened. But I wasn't a happy camper because it was the first year that the school bussed students from my area, before that students had been housed in town. The principal said he'd never opened the doors until the bell rang for twenty-five years and he wasn't going to change now, even though we were dropped off half an hour before the bell so that the bus could get all the students to their schools. Junior high and high school rode together in the morning. All grades in the afternoon. Before dawn, in the middle of winter, it gets pretty cold in Colorado. I came from a very small mountain community. As you can imagine school wasn't a big priority for many families in my area. It's hard to care about school, when you feel school doesn't care about you.

Posted By: Keiva Re: Declining standards in US education - 10/07/01 03:24 PM
Do others share my feeling that this is a lovely thread that merits reviving?

Posted By: Bobyoungbalt Re: Declining standards in US education - 10/08/01 12:57 AM
Yes, Ken, but this is the wrong place for it. Maybe a new thread in Miscellaneous? You could entitle it Rants about Education.

Posted By: jmh Re: time to yourself - 11/01/01 12:23 PM
>My first class is at 7:25 and many of the teachers get there at 6:30 to prepare.

Probably a little off topic but what the hell.

Why is there such an obsession with starting early in the USA? Is it something to do with daylight and coping with a country that runs across several time zones? Or is it just part of the work ethic that gives workers only a couple of weeks holiday a year (that would really hurt me)?

My school ran from roughly 9am - 4pm, with a 3:30 finish for the juniors. Even so, I had to leave the house at 7:30am to get there, which seemed far too early for me, when many of my friends were able to roll out of bed at 8am and hop on a short bus ride.

It fitted in pretty well with most office hours (9-5ish), although some there was some pre-school care for the few (in those days) families with very young children where both parents worked. Older children just made their own way to school anyway, I don't remember any school buses in our area, we just used public transport, few had the luxury of a second car for school runs.

As far as I am concerned nights are for staying up late (at least after 11, if not 12, after the late night film) and mornings are for a lie in, I think that getting up before 7am is slightly subhuman, I have to do it occasionally for an airline check in but would never dream of scheduling a work meeting before 9am (if not, 10am), although in my full time working days, I rarely left the office before 6:30 or 7pm.

Medicine in the USA seems appalling. I'm still recovering from the medical student who told me that he has to do his ward rounds at 4am to be ready to present cases at 5am. Are the patients allowed to sleep? The law doesn't seem much better, a friend worked in a New York office where people not in the office by 7am were regarded as slackers, especially those who take their "full" two weeks holiday, she didn't dare take hers. I'm not surprised that they are all so uptight, they all needed more sleep and a good holiday. [/rant - is that Ok for a rant?]

Posted By: Sparteye Re: time to yourself - 11/01/01 01:37 PM
Jo, the US school schedule has roots in our agrarian past. I think that school traditionally began early so that children could be home in time to help with chores, and recessed for the summer so that children could work in the fields. The fact that 90+% of current students have never even been on a farm hasn't stopped the inertia of that schedule.

I think that the inertia is compounded by the work ethic. You are right; people who take what vacation time they are given are regarded as slackers. Also, however, there is the problem of trying to make up the work if you take the days off. The last time I took a week off - 1995? - I spent such long hours before and after that week doing the work I couldn't do while I was gone, I told myself I would never do that again. It's just too painful.

There has been in recent years a slow alteration of the traditional school schedule. The school year is creeping later and later into June, and beginning in late August rather than in September, and parents are beginning to grumble about the early hours (when I was in school, I got up at 5:45). Suggestions to have school year around are receiving more favorable attention, in no small part because not having the extended recess would alleviate the learning atrophy which occurs in children and requires them to spend a significant part of each new school year reviewing the prior material and rehoning their learning skills. There are three major obstacles to year-round school schedules: in some areas of the country, the lack of air conditioning in school buildings (never installed because the buildings were closed during the hot months) would make summer sessions unbearable; teachers - at least, teacher unions, which are extremely strong in Michigan - don't want to lose their summers; and the tourism industry does not want the end of summer vacations because of the adverse impact on vacation travel (in Michigan, a few years ago the tourism industry tried to get a law passed outlawing the beginning of school before Labor Day, which is the first Monday in September; the compromise result was a prohibition against holding school on the Friday before Labor Day).

Always, there are vested interests in the status quo which slow change, even when the interests are not really pertinent to the issue at hand. Sigh.

Posted By: jmh Re: school holidays - 11/01/01 02:52 PM
Our school summer holidays are fairly long too, they are always under review but the possible move to a five or six term year with more regular short breaks seems to be on hold at the moment.

In English state schools they usually finish in late July and start again at the beginning of September. Scottish state schools finish at the end of June and start again in mid August, a period of around six or seven weeks. They usually get around two to three weeks at Christmas and Easter and up to a week off at each half term.

Some private (public) schools have very long holidays, as much as three months in the Summer and nearly a month at Christmas and Easter but they have school on Saturday mornings and only a long weekend for half term.

I feel a little guilty to hear about your lack of holidays. Most people that I know take at least five or six weeks a year, they don't always go away, sometimes they just have a break at home or with family. A few people that I know take four or five foreign holidays a year and hardly anyone I know takes less than one. How do we cope when we go back to work? You just expect to cover for people when they are away so that they will cover for you. In many offices, at any one time one or two people are away. I have never met anyone in the UK who has not taken a holiday in the last two years, they would be regarded as a little strange and probably be sent for counselling, funny how different our cultures are, isn't it?

Bye for now


Posted By: Wordwind Post deleted by Wordwind - 11/01/01 11:28 PM
Posted By: jmh Re: Extended School Year - 11/02/01 07:16 AM
>This will mean our elementary school children may have to go to school as early as 7:00 a.m. We have a limited number of school buses for a school system of over 50 schools, so we have to transport children in shifts.

Little children are probably better in the early mornings than older children but I feel sorry for all the parents to have to get them ready so early, especially those with pre-school children too.

Because people expect to take their own children to school in the main, that would be less of an issue here. There are some school buses in rural areas but I lived in lots of different places and there has never been one available for my children.

>to help students who need to repeat courses

I am not aware of any summer classes offered by schools here. Are they free or do parents have to pay?

We don't have a system where people repeat classes, you get one chance to do a school year, then move on. If a child fails at GCSE (England)/Standard Grade(Scotland) at 15/16, then they might have to re-sit but I'm not aware of any classes being offered by schools over the summer. There may be private colleges offering crash courses.

Most of summer provision is by the voluntary or private sector and is leisure/sport related, not academic. We don't have a history of residential summer camps although there are lots of activities available for those who live in or near cities or major towns. There are summer holiday companies specialising in activity holidays for children and the usual scout or guide camps for those involved.

Posted By: Wordwind Post deleted by Wordwind - 11/02/01 04:08 PM
Posted By: jmh Re: Extended School Year - 11/02/01 10:29 PM
Warning - long post

>Our school year is 180 days for students; 200, for teachers. Students are in school for six and a half hours, Monday through Friday.

I’ve looked up the official information. The current system in UK state schools is based on three equal terms of thirteen weeks, with a half term break, usually a week, although some have just a few days, some have two weeks in the middle of each term, it varies by Local Authority and on the timing of the easter break. Apparently the minimum number of days is 190, (so only two weeks longer) with a few more days for teachers.

It looks like the debate about switching to a five or six term school year has some of the same issues in the UK and USA if this Uk government website is anything to go by:

>Your own system sounds very different from ours. Do you move students on to the next level even when they have not some footing in the one they just completed? And how high is your drop-out rate?

I don’t really understand the concept of “moving up to the next level”.
Maybe a teacher would view it differently. The year group is based on age, not level of achievement, you move to the next year with your year group. At junior schools there tend to be different groups sitting at different tables within the class working on different levels. Once they have finished one part of the work, they move on to the next, in a continuum. There may be a maths book designed for, say seven year olds. If their particular group hasn’t finished the book by the end of the year, they carry on with it at the start of the next. If they finish the book before the end of the year, they either start the next one or find another book at a similar level. Subjects like history and geography are taught in blocks on a project by project basis, any given project eg the rainforest, contains strands of different subjects, once the project is finished, they move on, in the state primary schools that my children have attended there is no test. There is testing at seven and eleven but I have not yet worked out the contribution it makes to education. It was treated in a very low key way, more as a personal diagnostic test, at the Scottish school that my children attended but seems to be taken quite seriously in England, more for the positioning of school in a published “league table” than for the good of any individual child.

My daughter has only just started secondary school and is in one set for maths (there are eight sets), another for language and another “teaching set” for other subjects. I suppose that the higher groups get further in the course of the year. They can move up or down sets during the year. There are tests to check progress but no subjects are “passed” or “failed” until they take public examinations at the age of 15 or 16. They just move into the next year. After two or three years at school, they chose subjects to study for their exams. They usually have to take english language, maths and one foreign language and choose from the usual range of subjects like biology, physics, chemistry, geography, history, english literature, modern languages, ancient languages, art, music etc. The subjects are not divided into courses like university subjects (eg restoration drama or organic chemistry) but the exam at the end of the course will relate to a published syllabus. Some subjects now include assessed course work but I have not yet had any direct experience. Some schools have more adventurous options available depending on resources and whether it is considered to be an academic school. The results are published in "league tables", with results reflecting parental income of the catchments area (but then, I am a cynic) rather than anything very useful.

What do you mean by “drop out rate”? Do you mean at 16?

You have to go to school until you are 16, you can’t drop out before that without having been excluded for some serious reason. In the schools that I have had most dealings with, most pupils stay on to do “A” levels and then go on to university at 17 or 18, sometimes after a “gap” year. I know that in reality, a huge number of children leave at 16. You can leave with four “A” levels or just with one GCSE. I was going to say, “it is up to the pupil” but I suppose that that is unfair and depends on a huge number of environmental factors as well as ability and commitment. There are an increasing number of alternatives to the traditional school system, some areas have sixth form colleges where “A” levels are studies. There are Colleges of Further Education that provide vocational courses as well as traditional subjects. There are an increasing number of newer qualifications like NVQs and GNVQs that were invented since I went to school and my children are still too young for me to have to know about.

You don’t “graduate” from school, you just leave with whatever exam results you have picked up along the way. "A" levels and "highers" are graded from A-E(I think), different university courses will ask for different grades eg an English course may ask for three Bs at A level, one of them being English, only three "A" levels are usually studied, rather than five "highers" in Scotland, so the system is different. English Universities offer mainly three year full time degrees, Scottish mainly four years, Medicine is usually five years in England. Architecture is either five or six. Other long courses include dentistry, veterinary science. Some degrees, eg engineering are taken over longer periods with time spent in industry. Modern languages are usually a year longer to allow a year abroad. Teaching can be taken as a degree or as a one year post graduate course.

This British Council site gives the “official line” on the education system in the UK

Posted By: jmh Different National Education Systems - 11/05/01 09:25 AM
Here are a few current UK Education stories for anyone who is interested in the differences between the different systems::

OK, hands up all of you who are currently struggling with GCSE coursework. Thank you. Now, those of you who are still at school put your hands down. Hmm! As I thought, rather a lot of parents still with their hands in the air. A discussion of the inclusion of course work in the current GCSE syllabus and the “help” given by parents:

Just walking into the exam halls was enough to send a shiver of recollected tension down my spine - and it is many years since I last sat an examination in earnest. Such is the power of those deep-lurking memories. …
For the first time a higher proportion of young people graduate from university in the UK (35.6%) than graduate from the USA (33.2%). This may be partly due to the shorter length of undergraduate degree courses in the UK, but the main factor is the much higher drop-out rate in the US.


This summer, as in past years, schools in England and Wales are already having to accommodate and supervise around five and a half million GCSE exam entries and a further 700,000 A level entries. Now, on top of this, they must also oversee some three-quarters of a million AS-level entries. …
Contrast this to the United States where, although state-wide testing is on the increase, there are no nation-wide examinations at 14, 16, 17 and 18 as we now have.
Discussion of the introduction of a new layer of exams (AS level) in the UK.

Posted By: jmh Re: Different National Education Systems - 11/05/01 09:49 AM
Re: Exams or not

Someone will have to explain to me how the US system works, it looks like Australia and New Zealand operate similarly (or maybe not, I don't know). I know about the European Baccalaureate exams which are considered here to offer a broader academic base than our own system.

What I don't understand is the stuff about credit classes and grades. There was some discussion earlier where Shanks mentioned the problem of not getting on with a particular teacher. Are all grades down to the class teacher or is there any external validation? Is it all down to course work or are there end of year exams as well? How many subjects are students studying at the ages of: 16, 17 and 18? How do universities select pupils if there are no examinations? Could your future be affected by a bad relationship with one teacher?

A couple of links would do - I can't find anything general enough or PM me if you don't want to post.


Posted By: Wordwind Post deleted by Wordwind - 11/05/01 12:48 PM
Posted By: Sparteye Re: Different National Education Systems - 11/05/01 02:31 PM
Someone will have to explain to me how the US system works

In a nutshell, and based on Michigan's requirements:

The academic year begins in late August and goes through early June. Breaks are frequent, and include Thanksgiving and the day after, two weeks around Christmas and New Year's Day, a week in early spring, and various odd days and half days off. It is rare for the local school system to have two full, uninterrupted weeks at a stretch, because of time given to the teachers for training conferences, parent conferences and such. Through it all, the school must afford 180 days of instruction in the year.

Schooling begins at age five with Kindergarten, a half-day session primarily geared toward teaching the children to follow instructions, take turns and such. There is a limited amount of academic instruction, so that most children know the alphabet, counting up to 20 or so, and can write their own names and a few other words.

Full-time school days start in 1st grade. The public school system offers instruction from grade 1 to grade 12. The exact allocation of grades among school buildings depends upon fluctuations in student population, but generally, elementary school goes to grade 6, junior high (or middle school) encompasses grades 7 and 8, and high school includes grades 9 through 12.

In elementary school, a student is assigned to a particular classroom taught by a single teacher. That class and teacher cover all the different academic disciplines for the entire year -- reading, spelling, penmanship, science, art, arithmetic -- except for subjects like gym or music which require special equipment.

In junior high, the students go from classroom to classroom, according to a class schedule, and they have a different instructor for each subject. A typical junior high schedule might include: English, math, history, science, gym and home ec or shop. There are very few electives available in junior high.

In high school, the schedules become more differentiated, as students pursue courses suitable to their aptitudes and interests. To obtain a high school diploma, a student must satisfactorily complete minimum numbers of courses in English, science, math, history, government, gym, and so on, as designated by the local board of education. Students pursuing college prep tracks will take foreign languages, advanced science and mathematics and such, while students pursuing vocational tracks will take shop, bookkeeping, word processing, and such.

At each grade level, student grading depends largely on the teacher of the pertinent classroom or course. Usually, the grading depends upon both classwork (participation in class, homework, special projects) and examinations (some teachers quiz every week, some give only midterms and finals), but final examinations are usually a significant part of the final grade for a course. A student who cannot obtain a satisfactory grade in a course cannot get credit for it, and if he needs it to advance to the next grade level or to obtain his diploma, he must repeat the course or grade level.

On top of this layer of grading is the recently imposed state testing system, which now tests all students in the state on core subjects (math, science, English) at several points (I think something like: 3rd grade, 7th grade, and 12th grade). The results of the tests affect the funding and autonomy of the schools; schools with poor results are subject to state takeover. And, students who place highly enough receive special state endorsements on their diplomas.

School attendance is mandatory until age 16, which for most students is grade 10 or 11.

After graduation from high school, many students continue to college or a training school. There are hundreds in the US, both public and private, but all require substantial payments of tuition by the students. For a standard academic college bachelor's degree, four years of study is required.

Postgraduate study is required for certain professions. Physicians must attend medical school for four years; lawyers must attend law school for three years.

A list of requirements for a diploma from the local school district, through the adult education program, is here:


Credit Requirements: 2000 Graduation Requirements
English 4 cr.
Math 2 cr.
Science 2 cr.
Social Studies 1 cr. (Economics/Political Science)
U.S. History 1 cr.
Government 1/2 cr.
Electives* 7 1/2 cr.
*Must include 1/2 credit of Word Processing, Introduction to Computers, or an equivalent course. This requirement may be waived for some students. Please see academic advisor for more information.

Each credit represents one academic year of instruction at the high school level, so, one would need four years of English, two years of math, two years of science, one year of social studies, one year of US history, a half-year of government, a half-year of computer use, and 7 years of other. I believe that these requirements vary a bit from the standard requirements; I guess they decided that adults going back to school didn't really need the joy of gym class, stinky lockerrooms and public showers.

Thanks for that masterly summation of your system. I had never really understood how it all worked before, and now I feel that I have at least a fair idea.

But one supplementary question, please.
students pursuing vocational tracks will take shop, bookkeeping, word processing, and such.
What is "shop" ??

Posted By: Sparteye shop - 11/05/01 05:41 PM
Shop classes teach applied vocational skills. Common ones are: wood shop (build a birdhouse!), metal shop (build a tin birdhouse!), and machine shop (build the gizmo which cuts the metal to build the tin birdhouse!). Shop students acquire the knowledge and skills used in industrial manufacturing and repair, and to maintain farms and homes.

Posted By: Flatlander Re: Different National Education Systems - 11/05/01 06:38 PM
What is "shop" ??

How do you think Americans got to be such voracious consumers? We have classes in it!

Posted By: jmh Re: Different National Education Systems - 11/06/01 07:57 AM
>What is "shop" ??
>How do you think Americans got to be such voracious consumers? We have classes in it!

I did wonder ...

I think that the same thing here is called Technology. They got rid of the old woodwork, metalwork etc in the early eighties and created CDT (craft, design and technology) which incorporated home economics and computing. The girls grammar school that I attended paid lipservice to teaching home economics and we didn't have any woodwork or metalwork workshops, thankfully that has changed.

The website below gives a guide to the history of the subject and what is included:
Regarded as largely for pupils who were “dull in all ‘brain work’” 2, handicraft was from the outset bereft of status, view as the black sheep of the British educational system - a position not helped by the 1944 Education Act which effectively relegated workshop skills to the secondary modern sector, thus further reinforcing the established “gentlemanly culture”.
Britain’s post-war economic decline is seen as rooted in this culture: humanistic and aesthetic pursuits being regarded higher than practical and commercial activity, resulting in the more able youngsters being attracted away from careers in business and industry.


Posted By: jmh Re: Different National Education Systems - 11/06/01 07:59 AM
>Such tests given at various grade levels would be controversial

Why? That seems to me to be the main difference. Our externally validated exams are all about grades. I suppose that we accept them because they have always been that way.

Posted By: jmh Re: Different National Education Systems - 11/06/01 08:04 AM
Thanks Sparteye and Wordwind

I'm starting to understand.

Posted By: Wordwind Post deleted by Wordwind - 11/06/01 11:02 AM
Posted By: maverick Re: Phony warriors and worriers - 11/06/01 11:24 AM
Apparently, pay is good for such positions

I guess 'good' is a relative term - in the UK, the second largest (behind the USA) such market in the world, these facilities (originally known as Call Centres, but now corporately rebadged by the loathsome title of Customer Relationship Management Centres!) are increasingly widely recognised for exactly what they are: the sweatshops of our age. Having lead a team involved in 'proving the business case' for one such facility, believe me - I know whereof I speak!

To return with a language based remark, the industry has coined a less than delightful word for a less than lovely phenomenon: churn describes the massive turnover of staff endemic in such working hell-holes (frequently over 25% of staff within a 12 month period). That belies the 'wellness' of the pay in relation to the conditions of work, I guess

Posted By: jmh Re: Phony warriors and worriers - 11/07/01 08:49 AM
>Customer Relationship Management Centres

The former "call centres" are burgeoning in Scotland. Apparently Scottish voices sound more professional and reassuring.

Is it so in the valleys boyo?

Posted By: maverick Re: Phony warriors and worriers - 11/07/01 01:26 PM
in the valleys

oh yes indeedy - we have in Wales the 3 prime requirements:
1 Well-educated labour force, from a better-than average school system
2 Low levels of alternative employment
3 Atrractive regional dialect

(Can't somehow imagine a Brum accent working quite so well for many people, tho personally I love it!)

Back to school in the UK as a whole, I see our quaintly named ‘public school’ system continues to encourage initiative and independent learning….

With the Robbie Coltrane connection, maybe JK's next might be Harry Potter and the Magic Trip?

Posted By: of troy back to US schools. - 11/07/01 06:34 PM
Sparteyes descriptions was great-- but here is a big note– schooling is local.. each town or school district gets to set a lot of rules, with a state guideline... Like 180 days in the school year is a state minimum, but some school districts (say up Faldages way, or even out by Sparteye,) might schedule 190, or 200 days.. so that they can also have snow emergency closings... NYC usually on has 185 days in its school calendar, since we rarely have enough snow to close down the roads/schools.

and each local school district can choose its own text books -- but must meet a state standard for curriculum but there is a large leeway..

In NYC, there is Local control-- a big political issue.. but there are about 40 local school districts. they each get a share of state/city school funds basis on enrollment.. and they can figure out how they want to spend it. so some local schools have special curriculums.. they might offer journalism classes starting at first grade. or science classes with special labs, or language arts classes..

and these are open city wide.. so if your child has an interest in music, you can enroll them in a school that has a special focus on music.. the district get extra money for each out of district kid that enrolls, so each district tries to have one conveniently located school, that is a Magnet school. (drawing students to the school as a metal filings are drawn to a magnet.)

High schools are often in a separate school district. In NYC all HS are open to every student. some high-school, Stuyvestant, Bronx HS of science, Art and Music, Art and Design, and others have qualifying test to get in.. competition is fierce. as a ratio, its harder to get into Stuyvestant then Harvard.. (ratio of # applicants to # of admits)

my son went to "local HS" -- about 1.5miles from our house. my daughter commuted 15 + miles each day to Manhattan to specialty HS.

In less densely populated areas, several school districts might band together to have 1 large high-school. Jim the Dog has touched upon the problems of small HS districts.. You might only have 90 or so kids on a grade.. And total enrollment of 300 to 400– not enough students to have offer both spanish and french.

NY HS offer spanish, french, latin, german and russian..and maybe others... (or maybe different choices now.. But usually a very large assortment. But each HS usually only offers two.. If you want german, there might only be 5 schools in all of NYC that offer german. –

and about university/college levels most states offer at least some very inexpensive Jr colleges, (Community Colleges) 2 year programs.. These will sometimes feed into State colleges.. State colleges have varying fees, (cheaper for in state students than out of state) Until 20 years ago, CUNY– City University of NY was total free.. Its not now, but it is still very inexpensive. CUNY alumni include many Nobel prize winners, and pulitzer prize winners , etc. .

Posted By: jmh Re: Phony warriors and worriers - 11/07/01 09:17 PM
>Back to school in the UK as a whole, I see our quaintly named ‘public school’ system continues to encourage initiative and independent learning….

Yes, you get a better class of "prank", the more you pay. You have to note their innovation and the fact that they only put themselves at risk . The kids from the local comp on the other hand failed to burn
down their own school down last week (it was too busy on the designated evening) so they burned down the neighbouring primary instead, it just took a couple of petrol bombs. Only a few thousands of pounds and zillions of hours of work. Who'd be a teacher (or a parent)?

Posted By: jimthedog Re: Different National Education Systems - 11/07/01 09:19 PM
It's Technology at our school, too. It's fun, because we've got the coolest teacher in the world for it. In 7th grade, I remember, at the beginning he was pretending to be a caveman to illustrate why we started using tools. I'm laughing just remembering it. The only homework we had, ever, was to go home, take the top of the toilet, and flush it.

Posted By: Wordwind Re: back to US schools. - 11/11/01 11:50 PM
Here's a remarkable link to education that is live, well, and kicking in New York, if you have a bit of time on your hands to read through it:


And here's one from Tibet:


Posted By: jmh Re: Different National Education Systems - 12/04/01 04:31 PM
On the subject of different national systems. Here's an article about international comparisons, looks like we should all move to Finland.


Posted By: aphiblazer Re: Declining standards in US education - 01/18/02 03:07 AM
Roibin, I have to say that I understand where you are coming from, but do not totally agree with you. I am a 22 year old graduate student and a substitute teacher who, hopefully one day, will be a "real" teacher. I've learned so much in the past 5 months that I have been a substitute. (1) Teachers who do their job on a regular basis often forget what it is like for those just starting out. I have had teachers who leave no lesson plans and then complain that I didn't follow the lesson plans that they didn't leave. (2) Teachers may deserve the summer off, but so do many other working class people who make a whole lot less than teachers. (3) Society, not only teachers, blame children for their short comings. Well guess what, most of the kids that are labeled "bad" or "unmotivated" or whatever label is given them have had horrible childhoods. They've either been abused or neglected in some way, probably since they were born. How can we as a society expect children to grow up to be "normal," healthy, productive citizens when many of them can't recall a single happy moment from their childhood? Society spends much of its anger and disallusionment about education blaming the kids. They're disrespectful, arrogant, rude, have no motivation, no respect for others, etc. Stop blaming the kids and look at what they come from, who their parents are, who their grandparents are. Somewhere along the line, long before now, parenting dissolved into the job of the public school system which is poorly equipped to deal with such monumental frustrations. I've seen parents who seem to not only expect their children to fail but to want them to do so. For the past week I've been substituting in a special program called TLC, Theraputic Learning Center. Now I have to say that little about the program is theraputic and even less about learning. These kids, and their teachers, are literally put in a corner and forgotten about. They have no money for supplies and very few textbooks. But if you spend any quality time with any one child, you can easily see that they want to be "normal." They will work if you praise them, something they get so rarely, even for participating. Deep down these kids are severely psychologically wounded and maybe learning all the U.S. Presidents and what kind of food rabbits eat is not the most important thing.

Posted By: maverick Re: Declining standards in US education - 01/22/02 10:44 AM
welcome to the board, aphi.

good points and lucidly expressed. I particularly agree with your thesis about the foundations of learning depending on emotional stability.

Posted By: Max Quordlepleen . - 01/22/02 09:35 PM
Posted By: Keiva Re: Declining standards - 01/22/02 10:18 PM
Declining standards:where does one's own responsibility for one's actions begin? At what point does one's ability to point the finger of causation at someone or something else cease?

Max, would those questions, asked of ourselves, have relevance to the discussion in Jackie's Sadness thread?

Posted By: Max Quordlepleen . - 01/22/02 11:12 PM
Posted By: Capital Kiwi Re: Declining standards - 01/23/02 05:14 AM
Welcome to the madhouse, Aphi.

If it's any consolation at all, teaching in a polytechnic showed me that a lot of people whom the school system failed in one way or another realise their lack of success later in life and will go to considerable effort to catch up. Not all, of course, and perhaps not even a particularly high percentage. But a significant number.

Posted By: maverick Re: personal responsibility - 01/23/02 12:40 PM
Max, I entirely agree with you as so often!

It's always tough to draw that line between cause and mere influence - but I would guess we can all recognise the effects of severely disturbed young people bringing their problems into school. This highlights the importance of a degree of emotional stability in inter-generational relationships, as a foundation on which other learning and personal development can take place.

But if you were to say "yeahbut®
take 2 kids with the same emotional problems and see them perform in different ways ~ this is evidence of our own requirement to take ultimate responsibility for our actions", well, I would just have to agree with you again! But spit those words out and make your own for me - il migliore fabro - in honour of the week!

Posted By: Capital Kiwi Re: personal responsibility - 01/23/02 06:55 PM
So, Mav and Max (sounds a bit like Dad and Dave, down in Snake Gully ). Which is it? Does ontongeny recapitulate phylogeny in schools? Or is phylogeny an independent variable? Hmmm?

Posted By: Keiva Re: personal responsibility - 01/23/02 07:12 PM
As the previous post marks the 100th in this thread, the thread has been restarted at

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