Posted By: bikermom Kids and school - 01/23/01 12:56 PM
This one is for today's teachers to observe or to answer. My gifted, exchange student, also intelligent with computers, told me, "Why should today's kids care" When I asked, "What do you mean?" He said "Because there is no hope for the future!!!" What have you teachers observed?? I have 17 and 10 year olds sons also, and they are very much excited about life and all it has to offer. The statement from this kid is rather scary, if most kids are thinking this way. I think there is more to do today than when I was in school during the 60's and 70's.

Posted By: botman Re: Kids and school - 01/24/01 04:47 PM
As a former English teacher who is now running the rat race of corporate IT politics, I recall the dismay I felt from many of my students who often displayed a general lack of desire to pursue anything. Often, I would hear comments that they have (had) nothing to do and that they were bored. As a new father (9 month old daughter), I often wonder what experiences I can control (and those I can not) that will shape my daughters imagination and desire to seek opportunities to improve herself, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Having taught in several rural (bedroom/farm) communities and several upper-middle class and upper class schools, I often ran across students who often claimed a lack of hope for the future, and several who were so self-defeated they wanted to climb back into their hiding spots so they didn't have to deal with it all. One scenario: In a rural community (many farms, no industry), I was in a 400 student high school, grades 9-12. One 9th grader asked why I was there. I replied that I was studying his teacher's methodology, process and procedure. I then asked him what he might want to do after graduation. Pondering for a moment, he deadpanned, "Mom and Dad will be around for awhile and after that there's my sister." As fate would have it, he in fact graduated and returned to his parent's home to work on a local farm and a nearby grocery store, never desiring anything more.

Though this is only one student's story among the hundreds I was involved with, I was continually amazed that so many of them felt degrees of hopelessness and despair wondering what they were going do after graduation. I always took this as an opportunity to share my breadth of academic (undergrad + grad), athletic (high school, collegiate, & professional), fraternal, entrepreneurial, and social experiences that have given me a tremendous amount of knowledge on many different subjects that I would not have received in any other fashion. I can only hope that they were able to see that life is about so many different things than just getting a paycheck to pay for a roof and some food.

I agree that kids have more to do today than at any other time in history, but most don't know what to do with it. Many are scared at the enormity of it all. (The more you know, the more you realize you don't know!) Hopefully, they have parents to guide and shelter them from things to allow them to succeed in several things to build confidence that will allow them to explore.

So many thoughts and so little time to discuss them all. More to follow....


Posted By: bikermom Re: Kids and school - 01/24/01 05:01 PM
"I always took this as an opportunity to share my breadth of academic (undergrad + grad), athletic (high school, collegiate, & professional), fraternal, entrepreneurial, and social experiences that have given me a tremendous amount of knowledge on many different subjects that I would not have received in any other fashion. I can only hope that they were able to see that life is about so many different things than just getting a paycheck to pay for a roof and some food."
Thanks botman, for the wonderful reply to my question about today's kids. Your statement above that I added to this post, is what separates the good teachers from the average. You are indeed one of the Great Ones. Real life experiences and stories are what kids need to hear over and over, to erase what the media puts into their heads. Your daughter will do excellent--I do not have a college degree, rec'd F's in math until 9th grade and now I love teaching and emphasize with those students who struggle to learn but put forth 100% effort. Welcome aboard to the AWAD word site where learning never stops.

Posted By: botman Re: Kids and school - 01/24/01 10:43 PM
Thanks for the kind words- what is frustrating is that I felt "marked" while in the public schools. What I'm referring to is that my department heads and colleagues would support my teaching style and my knowledge base but I consistently into problems with the administration- they hounded me to frustration and I eventually left teaching to pursue other interests. They wanted me to conform to their drab style and "stick to the basics", though when I did, my students revolted. Against the administration's wishes and to the dismay of my department heads, I often taught my own way regardless. Though it created havoc during my reviews, I felt it necessary to teach my students knowledge, not just have them absorb, regurgitate, and purge information.

This is only one example among many why so many students are turned off by learning- it is not relevant and is too slow to occupy their nimble minds. Sometimes the very nature of our compulsory education system turns off students who would otherwise blossom in an alternative program. I do not want to imply that our education system has not attempted to nuture these "fringe" students, rather, I suggest the system is much too slow in addressing their needs.

I desperately miss the students, though there are some I'd be willing to forget. Though I am often engaged in technical training initiatives, it does not replace the classroom experience.

Posted By: of troy Re: Kids and school - 01/25/01 03:06 PM
Botman-- don't dispar-- you might have reached one or two students-- and given to them a lesson they will remember forever--

When i was in 7th grade-- our class was introduced to pi-- and told to just accept the number 3.1214.... but we where antsy kids and some of us (guess who?) just keep nagging and nagging--

So one morning we were promised, if behaved, then in the afternoon we could do a special project–

Just before we where dismissed for lunch-- we where given an assignment-- one half of the class was told to bring back something round-- a jar, a can, a pipe, a hoop (for a hoop skirt)-- the other half of the class was told to bring back to thread, or ribbon, or twine, or rope..

That afternoon, 78 girls measured (using ribbon or twine, and then a 12 inch ruler) an assorted collection of jars and cans (38 pairs)--the circumference and the diameter-- and divided. Our crude answers where then averaged-- and lo and behold-- we came up with pi!

Teachers who think of creative ways to teach– open children's imaginations...

It is almost 40 years since I learned pi– but the lesson is as fresh as yesterday.

If you can do for language, what Mother Theresa did for me and pi–you will live on in a students memory!

Posted By: bikermom Re: Kids and school - 01/25/01 05:19 PM
Thanks, of Troy, for the beautiful inspirational words for many a teacher. It is too bad that more Administrators can not see this, and also Board Members, but maybe they do, but just get caught up with all the red tape. Maybe Bush would like a copy of this for his School Reform Policy????

Posted By: Wordwind Re: Kids and school - 11/22/01 02:49 PM
About botman's comment on the conformity of standards in education:

Standards are currently mandated in many states. The trick is to teach them yet use all the creativity you can muster to make your teaching dazzle. The best teachers are often dramatic and often extraordinary in the questions they pose and their ability to inspire students to pose equally interesting questions.

One of the best I ever had was one who admitted his errors in judgment, and showed us how a miscalcution had led to revelelations.

When the spirit is full of life, intelligence, creativity, and broad comprehension of how various mental inclincations express (and can be impressed by) subject matter and questions, there walks a strong teacher. But, better than that, is the scaffolding of exchange of ideas in an active classroom. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

It is extremely disenheartening to meet discouraged students, but it's far from being a hopeless situation--just a challenging one.

Best regards,
WW, a kid lover

Posted By: ewein Post deleted by ewein - 04/23/02 01:51 PM
Posted By: musick Re: Kids and school - 04/23/02 02:15 PM
I think competition shouldn't be taught or supported in schools. Society (aside from the educational *experience) promotes it enough. I'm not talking about athletics or personal physical development.

Private schools may show a better scoring student, but IMHO, one who has a either a lot of unresolved social issues or no *reason to develop further. It's hard to generalize, as you know.

Voucher systems, if they are to make sense, should then allow public schools to *start charging (the same amount of) tuition so they may work from or at least begin working toward the same playing field. Once that playing field becomes *level (ha) there will be no need for 'voucher' systems.

What do you feel the 'voucher' represents?

Posted By: ewein Post deleted by ewein - 04/23/02 02:25 PM
Posted By: bikermom Re: Kids and school - 04/23/02 02:53 PM
The voucher system is great, if there are other schools nearby, both private and public, that your child can attend. Or if you can move to an area near the school of your choice. However, when parents live in an isolated and/or poor area, miles away from another school, there is no other option. Abeit, to spend hours in the car transporting your child back and forth. Is this what you think is ideal? I still think that parents who are involved in their kid lives, their school, their friends, and interact with their children when at home, have children who succeed no matter what. But again, if you push a child in an area that is not his learning style, but your learning and your dream, then it is a struggle. Listen, be open, look at homework, (guide them, provide resources, but don't do the work) they will blossom. And above all, remember, a teacher can only present the material, it is up to the child to listen, be curious, and to think. We all have to learn we have to do things we do not like----the child should be free to express his opinion, either to the teacher and\or to his parents. The parents should not criticize a teacher, because teaching material to a class of mostly unmotivated, listless stones, is not easy, and neither is it easy to teach a class of disruptive, whining, complaining kids who strive for attention of the wrong kind. And this is what we are creating by parents both working and\or divorcing themselves from family, home and shifting the blame on everyone else but themselves. Kids are the most important resouce and their parents are the best teachers for values, beliefs, guidance and self-esteem. Be a good mentor, set a good example however you want them to be--and they will echo your values. Set your priorities---and things will work out OK.

Posted By: of troy Re: Kids and school - 04/23/02 04:47 PM
an other problem i see with a voucher system, is, public schools are required to accept everybody.
Your child is blind? --public school must provide a program.

Your child has an accident, or is in some way handicapped, and needs to use a wheel chair, (short term or long term)? public schools must make transportation and facilities available.

private schools? they get to pick and choose.. they can require all kids to be ambulatory, they can require parents get involved.. they don't have to have copies of braile textbooks, or other tools to meet a special childs needs..

but they do want to take public money, and then not really offer to meet the publics needs.. Like Musick, I am all for vouchers if there is a level playing field.. but if private schools get to take the easy students, and leave behind anyone who requires just a little (or maybe a lot!) of assistance to be able to meet their full potential.. not fair, and not right, and not legal!

Posted By: musick Re: Kids and school - 04/23/02 08:47 PM
...that the parents got a check from the state

What does this 'voucher' money represent? Isn't public education a benefit of being a US citizen, usually 'free' (I'm sure someone will provide the specific "words"). Do you get a check for not going to a public school? Kinda like getting a refund for taxes you shouldn't have to pay, but already have? Why don't they just reduce the amount of tax charged, assuming they can figure out how much school costs!

Why would anyone take their check and give it to a public school?

To bring this into a *somewhat word related discussion, what is actually® being 'vouched' for? [devil's advocate-e] hi, tsuwm

Posted By: jmh Re: Level playing fields - 04/24/02 09:25 AM
Edinburgh has in the last couple of years abolished the "assisted places scheme". This was a scheme where brighter pupils could apply for a grant to go to one of the many independent schools. The result, as far as I can see, was to bolster the results of the independent schools, by extracting many of the more able and better supported children from the state sector. This had the effect of making the results (we have league tables, based on examination results) for the state schools look even worse and making more parents keen to raft their children out. I suspect that the voucher system that you describe would have a similar effect.

In the UK in general there are very many excellent state schools. The problems tend to arise in places like London and the South East and Edinburgh where there is a long history of take up of independent sector places. In Edinburgh many of the state school buildings are poorly built and lack facilities - the school that my children could attend does not have a playing field, level or otherwise. I don't have any evidence of the children from independent schools in Edinburgh being any "less rounded", to my surprise, quite the opposite.

There was an interesting article in the Guardian last week which claimed that many of the results from state schools in London are skewed by parents paying for tutors to improve their children's results. I tend to agree with this as I have often heard my "professional but liberal" friends in London discussing where to find a good tutor, my "professional and less liberal friends" spend their time comparing independent school results. http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,5500,680734,00.html

It stikes me that, much as I dislike it, the "level playing" field concept works against the laws of human nature, where people are in favour of it until it starts to cause problems for the future levels of achievement of their own children and they have to put their hands in their pocket.

There was a report yesterday that some pupils were moving back into the state sector as Oxford and Cambridge were committed to increasing their intake of state school pupils, it remains to be seen if this will have a long-term impact. {I'll add a link to this news story if I find it.)

Posted By: ewein Post deleted by ewein - 04/24/02 06:54 PM
Posted By: Bobyoungbalt Re: Kids and school - 04/25/02 02:40 AM
WW notes, "Standards are currently mandated in many states."

In Maryland, not only are standards mandated, but the legislature (the biggest collection of useless pinheads on the face of the planet) has also, imitating other states, mandated tests at various levels (3rd grade, 8th grade, 11th grade, I believe) to check on the schools' performance in teaching the mandated content. This has resulted in the phenomenon of "teaching to the test". In order to have students score as high as possible, teachers, with the support (nay, the direction) of principals, spend their time teaching only what will be covered by the tests, so as to have maximum time to cram the kids for the test. Anything not expected to be on the test is rigorously excluded, as taking up valuable time for no good end.

Posted By: Jazzoctopus Re: Level playing fields - 04/25/02 03:51 AM
Just a thought,

I don't think the argument in the US against vouchers really has much to do with giving students state money to go elsewhere or that it will make situations uneven. The main problem people have with it is that almost every private school in the US is affiliated with a religious organization, generally the Catholic church I believe (at least most are around Cinci) and that raises the question of that wall between church and state. It's perceived by many (and not unjustifiably so) that giving students money to spend at a religious private school results in the state funding a religious organization, because obviously the funding they get isn't only spent on education.

Posted By: musick Re: Level playing fields - 04/25/02 03:54 PM
...And, no Musick, people couldn't use the check for something else thus the term "voucher".

No, ewein. You've misinterpreted if you think that was my intent. What I said was, "Why would anyone take their check and give it to a public school?(EA) Plus I added a "laugh" at the end. (Another emoticon bites the dust)

Jazz - Thanks for clearing things up for us.

However, being religious and going to a religious school are two clearly different things, and the mass (all puns intended) support from far reaching organizations (such as *religious ones) are clearly offering many advantages, and I believe this is the bigger issue. The church and state are as seperate as the people within seperate them, and the arguement of "seperation of church and state" is convenient for *'freedom loving people', but inherently flawed for those that actually do divide the church from their *state.

Posted By: ewein Post deleted by ewein - 04/25/02 08:56 PM
Posted By: of troy Re: Level playing fields - 04/25/02 10:31 PM
Yes, Jazzo, Catholic parochial school are a big group of private schools.. but only in the North east..and in NY, there are almost as many yeshiva schools--and comming up quickly, are islamic schools. Not to mention, at least on the elementary level, many other striped of christianity, Luthern, baptist, and jehovahs witnesses come to mind, but i expect there are plenty of others.

and yes, that is an issue.. should public money go to parochial schools.

which reminds me.. parochial1) of or in a parish or parishes; 2) restricted to a small area or scope, narrow, limited, provincial( a parochial outlook).

I attended a catholic elementary school, and public HS, and let me tell you, catholic schools are often parochial in the second sense, sometime even more than in the first sense of the word.

religious schools have a seperate agenda, aside from education and it is their first priority.

Posted By: jmh Religious Schools - 04/26/02 07:05 AM
> independent schools, catholic schools

Here, we don't have the same anxiety about the separation between church and state and (as discussed, elsewhere) have a lower proportion of the population who describe themselves as religious.

There are a relatively small number of independent (ie fully private) Roman Catholic schools in the UK (88 RC, cf 524 CofE out of 1271 listed [url]www.iscis.uk.net/[url]). The rest come under the banner of the state system and have to subscribe to the same National Curriculum and school inspection system as other state schools.

In England the vast majority of state-supported Roman Catholic are "voluntary aided schools", like Church of England Schools, as the state pays broadly 100% of tuition costs, 85% of external building costs. In Scotland, I think, they are fully funded.

I think that times have moved on from the "Anglela's Ashes" days of a few sadistic nuns venting their dislike of the human race on their charges. I did come across a couple of those as a schoolgirl but as post "swinging sixties" children we found them faintly anachronistic and paid them little attention. Discussions on morality and religion were wide ranging and we were encouraged to say what we thought.

In recent years, we moved around the country and I have experience of several Catholic schools. What I saw were schools with children drawn from all demoninations teaching a curriculum which left very little time for the specifics of Catholicism in a religious curriculum which was broadly Christian but included project work on all belief systems. In one English school, in particular, I remember that aspects of religious pratice had to be taught outside school time in church, not school, premises (eg preparation for First Communion). Some schools shared a sixth form (for pupils aged 17/18) with a neighbouring Church of England Schools. I had no experience of the schools operating to a different agenda than mainstream schools, they were no less racially mixed, for example. The main difference was that all parents subscribed to the view that good behaviour in school is important. This is not universal, I understand from some teacher friends that some parents give very little support on behavioural matters and that this is one of the reasons that RC and CofE schools in middle class areas tend to be over-subscribed.

I suppose the main argument against religious schools arises from the creation of a sectarian society as exists in Northern Ireland and parts of the West of Scotland. I had no personal experience of this, growing up in the North West of England, we mixed freely with children from other kinds of schools without being aware of any cultural divide. I was appalled by a recent television programme where people from both sides of the "troubles" in Northern Ireland were sent away together on a team-building week. It was the first time that some of them had made a relationship with someone from the "other side" and the first time that they were able to listen to another point of view without it coming second hand. They were amazed to discover the depth of their own lack of understanding of another point of view, which makes me wonder what on earth they are teaching in schools and churches. This seems incredably sad and must be addressed.

So, on the subject of church schools, the jury is still out for me. My personal experience of happy schools with happy non-judgemental children seems at odds with the experience in other parts of the world.

Does anyone have recent experience of RC schools in the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand?

Posted By: jmh A divided society - 04/26/02 07:36 AM
>I think the competition would make the public schools better. Maybe I am just dreaming, though!

As an antidote to my experience of education in the UK which has generally been good (partly by chance and the fact I have been lucky in where I lived). There is another side to the difficulties faced by teachers in the UK:

In some areas, competing academically is the least of the problems faced by teachers. See this report of crime by minors in Peckam, London where the trial of Damilola Taylor did not result in any convictions yesterday. There are reports that the area was controlled by a teenage mafia who describe themselves as the "untouchables". They are so well aquainted with the way that the criminal justice system works that they can be caught but rarely can any action be taken against them.

The death of Damilola Taylor prompted the police, Southwark council and the other agencies in the deprived south London area of Peckham to take a long, hard look at themselves. They were shocked by what they found.
For a start, the youth crime figures were startling. From November 2000 when Damilola died to the following November, 4,228 offences were reported in the borough of Southwark - which includes Peckham - when both victim and perpetrator were under 18. Children as young as eight were bullying or carrying out street robberies.

Little had been done to try to find out what young, disaffected youths wanted or needed. Facilities for young people in the area were inadequate. Gang culture was poorly understood. The way problem youngsters were dealt with was unsatisfactory. The various agencies - police, social services, education - were simply not pulling together.


Posted By: bikermom Re: Level playing fields - 04/26/02 01:58 PM
You got that right Helen. Parochial schools are very narrow minded, and it is not just the Catholic ones. Having attented one for 9 years, I do know----Education should definitely be foremost in the schools agenda--but sadly it is not--Politics and higher salaries take first preference. And there again--the old saying applies---"It is not how much you got that counts--it is how well you use what you have"--that creates inginuity, creativity and therefore, enhances the learning experiences into one more well-rounded. ALL kids will grow up to be someone who is in charge of us over 50 generation---so it is up to us to stop the power plays and selfish attitudes and talk equality nation wide

Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 04/26/02 04:24 PM

Life is not fair. Harrison Bergeron should be required reading.

When public schools are not living up to their commitments, good parents have an obligation to look after their own kids first. I'm lucky. My own kids' public school is pretty good so far. But a major factor in our move to this area was the quality of schools.

The very biggest problem to education is parents who aren't involved. I do my own part plus. And I'm grateful that there are other options available to at least a few of those who are failed by their own public schools.

I think vouchers should be expanded to cover homeschoolers.


Posted By: of troy Re: Kids and school - 04/26/02 06:00 PM
Yes, Life is not fair... and a job of democratic society, (not government!) is to help redress inequities.

i too moved to the area i live, so my children could walk to their school.. In NYC any child can go to any NYC school, provided there is room.

preference is give to local kids, but any spare seats are up for grabs by anyone.

so, some kids who live in queens, take the LI RR every morning with Mommy, and go to school a few blocks from where she works..
This makes is very easy for her to attend open school meeting, school plays, and to get to school quickly, should one of her children become ill.

School kids make up a big part of the "rush hour" commute.

its easy for us, (we tend here to be educated, and middle class-- we do all have computers or access to them) but many parents aren't.

Their income isn't sufficient to buy/rent a place to live with a nice schools (good school districts tend to have higher property values-)
There jobs often come with less (or no!) than 1 weeks paid vacation --so getting to school for activities is not easy.

In NY --and else where-- language is a barrier..parents often don't speak english, or know cultural expectations.. and (it border on racist to say) but not all cultures value education -- many do, but not all.. or they value other things more...

So a family gathering might be more important than school-- even if it on a Tuesday night.. and kids might be at a party till 10 or 11 pm.
Or a new dress or suit for a religious rite might be more important than paper, workbooks, or pencils.. so a child might not have the basic tools to do simple homework.
Or being a wife and mother might be seen as the ultimate goal for a girl-- so what does education matter?

schools teach more than the 3 R's, they also teach cultural values.. (and that is a can of worms in US, that standardized testing reflects middle class, norther european cultural values, more than other cultural values.)

Are there things wrong with some of these cultural values? yes.. but for the most part they include valuing educations, the arts (more is taught about european art than world art... but its a start), industry (and yes, this can have negative environmental effects), representative government -- more or less democratic.. (again, not always perfectly, but generally democratic) Altruism is values as well ( in some cultures, adopting children is unthinkable.. parent won't release them for adoption, and it doesn't matter cause others would never think to adopt) Civic pride is also valued
(de Toqueville made fun of it, but every little town in US has some claim to fame!)-- and towns people have organizations like the Elks, or Rotary clubs that support children's activities like little league, or they support charities, or they buy equipment for volunteer fire departments.

Other societies value family over civic/political -- Families live in enclaves, and keep everything in the family.

Carnegie (and the Rockefellers, and the Harringtons, and the Morgan's, and the Vanderbilt's, and Gugenhiems, and , and) have given billions to people of US; museums, libraries, concert halls, universities, hospitals, etc. Societies that do not value civic/political life do not generally do this..
are they bad? no, but are they what i want for my country? no. because if family are valued and political life is not, there isn't going to be anyone to run a democratic government.. and we won't have one!

so, to some degree, it doesn't matter that family A values family life... there kids still need to go to school
and family B, that want to spend their money on religious rites, go ahead.. but your child need to have the basics.. and need to attend school
and family C, guess what? we are going to educate your daughters, and your sons.. equally.

and by the way, we do also value family life, and we do value religious life, and we do values mothers and children!

Public schools are propaganda! they teach the American (or English or Ozzie, or what ever) way of life!

a failure of a public school is not just a problem for a child-- it a problem for all of us! and since they do have that public/governmental functions, governments should pay for them.. and the money should go to making sure kids share these values!

(i think of my self as a liberal.. but every once in a while, there is this streak-- that sounds down right conserative!-- beyond conservative!)

Posted By: bikermom Re: Kids and school - 04/26/02 07:52 PM
and by the way, we do also value family life, and we do value religious life, and we do values mothers and children!

Public schools are propaganda! they teach the American (or English or Ozzie, or what ever) way of life!

>>>a failure of a public school is not just a problem for a child-- it a problem for all of us! and since they do have that public/governmental functions, governments should pay for them.. and the money should go to making sure kids share these values<<<<
Well said--I read your very long post. Are you on a school board? You should be. So once again, I think we should go back to the basics---and perhaps redefine basics. EVERY CHILD and EVERY ADULT needs the basic reading knowledge, math knowledge, speaking and writing skills. These are pretty elementary And every child WANTS to learn these. That's not the problem. But what is lacking in today's society, is caring, understanding, compromise, going the extra mile for free these create the desire and the curiousity to learn and to learn more.
I think teacher's should be paid on a national scale, so that all 1st grade--first year teachers get the same salary, and all 10th grade 15 year teachers get the same etc etc. This would eliminate teachers leaving for higher pay, even though they like the kids and the area---Perhaps this consistancy would pinpoint problem areas and/or make it easier for problems to be caught early. We are all Americans, no matter what state we live in and no matter what economic level we are in or what kind of housing we live in--in fact it is not the kids fault that some families get to live in a 200,000. house and some kids get to live in a 15,000 house or worse or perhaps even better. All the kids in the USA will be our future leaders and will either contribute or destroy their area or another area. So do we want positive contributors and leaders in the US or do we want Negative thinkers, contributors and leaders in this US-----The choice is ours and it starts with todays kids ----birth to 20 and up.

Posted By: Sparteye Re: Kids and school - 04/27/02 01:00 PM
Well - look who came in from the cold! Welcome back, bikermom. Where ya been?

The national scale payment system is an intriguing idea, but there are several problems with it, beginning with the fact that schools are a state issue, and so there are at least 50 different systems for funding and regulation. Then there is the difference in the cost of living. A salary which would be luxurious in Michigan or Iowa might barely be a living wage in a large coastal city like New York or San Francisco. I think that part of the problem in some of the discussions we've had previously about teacher salaries is different perceptions of what is needed in a given economic area.

I don't know if I'm ignorant or deluded, but I have no significant complaints about the educational services provided to my children. Are there things I'd like to change if given the magic wand? Sure. But still, despite disabilities they are each learning fairly well, and are happy doing it. My older son, who is hyperactive and autistic, gets the usual academic instruction, plus physical and language therapy, and social skills training. In the summer, he attends a program - paid for by the school system, including the transportation - which maintains his social and physical skills through things like horseback riding and field trips. His art teacher is so good that three of her students in one AI class of about 8 have already had works accepted for state-wide or national exhibition.

Michigan has a voucher system, and there is a private academy available to us, indeed, it is physically nearer than the public schools, but we have no need of it because the public schools are providing as much and more than the private academy would. I suspect that I would consider the academy if my child was both academically gifted and nondisabled, and that does make me wonder at the drain on the basic level of student from the public schools, but in the end, I think that the freedom of parents to chose between the schools helps maintain the levels of all the institutions. That, indeed, is the premise underlying a competitive economy.

My biggest complaint with the school system is that second languages have not been introduced until well after the prime time for children to learn languages. When I was in school, the first opportunity to learn even a smidgeon of a foreign language was in junior high (7th or 8th grade; ages 12-13-14 for most kids). It seems that schools are exposing children to foreign languages a bit sooner now, but still, since the best years are the early years, it would be nice to start them right away through TV classes.

Posted By: Rouspeteur Re: Kids and school - 04/27/02 08:57 PM
So many things to comment on...

1. Musick: What do you mean by, "one who has a either a lot of unresolved social issues or no *reason to develop further"

I don't know that people that go to private schools have any more unresolved issues than others and I'm not clear on what the "no reason to develop further" means.

2. of Troy wrote, "but they do want to take public money, and then not really offer to meet the publics needs.."

Actually, many private schools do not want to take money for just that reason, they do not want the government to dictate what or how they should teach beyond meeting provincial standards. As to meeting all of the public's needs, no one school can do that. Most larger cities in Canada have schools for the arts. Obviously, such a school could discriminate against a whole variety of people. They system has to meet the needs of society, every individual school cannot.

Some school boards are allowing the creation of public schools that meet particular needs. For example in Surrey, (a suburb of Vancouver, BC) a "traditional" school was set up. In this case, traditional meant desks in rows, spelling and math drills, and uniforms. The uniforms I believe were just grey pants with a green shirt. The BC Teacher's Federation said the school would be discriminatory, restrictive, cater to the more well-off, and not be progressive. Further, they said that none of there members should accept transfers to the school. Unfortunately, parents started camping out days in advance so they could register their children at this public school.

3. Bobyoungbalt wrote: "mandated tests at various levels (3rd grade, 8th grade, 11th grade, I believe) to check on the schools' performance in teaching the mandated content. This has resulted in the phenomenon of "teaching to the test". In order to have students score as high as possible, teachers, with the support (nay, the direction) of principals, spend their time teaching only what will be covered by the tests, so as to have maximum time to cram the kids for the test. Anything not expected to be on the test is rigorously excluded, as taking up valuable time for no good end.

Ontario has gone this route as well, but the idea of teaching to the test is not new. When I was in high school I wrote the American SAT's just out of curiosity. I couldn't imagine how they could be of much use. Multiple-choice tests in English and math are not the best measure of a student's ability. Do U.S. high school teachers not spend considerable amounts of time teaching to these tests? Not all such testing has to be negative, Quebec has had provincial exams for the last two years of high school since at least the 1940's (they involved both multiple-choice and essay questions). My mother said she always liked the Provincial exams because she was being marked by someone who didn't know who she was and so the mark she got was based solely on her work.

4. Several comments made about religious schools, in particular Catholic ones. This is an interesting issue in Canada because of our Constitution. Ontario typically has four school boards covering every region. They are: English and French public and English and French Separate (Catholic). This is a constitutional guarantee and cannot be changed. Other religous groups (mainly Islamic and Jewish from what I have seen) are mounting a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (think Bill of Rights) to get funding for their schools as well.

5. ewein's original question: do you think the private schools (hard, I know, to generalize) do a better job?

My answer: Yes and no. When I went to public schools I was bored out of my mind. At one point, in grade 9, my math class had 34 students, but only 30 desks. My average hovered around 60% and I failed two courses. After that I went to boarding school for the remainder of high school and averaged 80% while being required to do sports every weekday and Saturday morning. It worked for me. One of my brothers, on the other hand, hated it and couldn't wait to get out. The difficult thing is finding the approach that meets the needs of the individual and no one system can be everything to everyone.

Ewein, I have thought about this a lot because I have two toddlers. My first preference is a private school especially because they are very active boys and many public schools are very hostile to boys in that they are expected to behave like girls; I will not stand for a teacher trying to prescribe Ritalin. I enjoyed the private schools I went to and, like most parents, want to to the best possible for my children. There are no suitable private schools near us though, so our oldest will be starting at the French Catholic (public) school next year. This school has a lot of parental involvement and demanding teachers who expect parents to be involved. There is a real sense of community around the school and everyone we have talked to who has children there have sung its praises. I feel this is due in large part to the fact it requires much more effort for families to maintain their French in a sea of English.

This is the kind of school we want our children to go to, one where the staff and parents are involved and engaged. No system, public or private, has a monopoly on good or bad teaching. We will go where the quality is.

Posted By: of troy Re: Kids and school - 04/27/02 10:39 PM
Because of the US constitutional division of state and church-- some weird things happen in US.

religious schools are exempt from many of the rules that govern public or even private non-denominational schools.

so nuns or priests, teaching in a catholic school do not have to
1) have a BA or BS.. they sometimes have as little as 2 years of college courses

2) does not ever have to pass any test, or become licenced.

3) in some circumstances (of late, in the news) is exempt from public laws governing behavior.
(priests do have graduate degrees, but not in academic subjects-- and are not required to have any specific skills in the subject they teach)

the ongoing scandel now in several cities, re: priest molesting children, has made it clear, a priest, in performing religious duties, are exempt to some degree from criminal prosocution for child molestation. They are supposed to be dealt with by the religious authorities.. in many cases, the powers that be in catholic church, decided that the church was more important than the children, and the priest went virtually unpunished
i should stop here, and say, there are two different scandels, that many news organization fail to distiguish,
1) priest who molest children (either sex) under the age of consent
2) priest who abuse power and come on to, or initiate sex with 17, 18, 19 year olds (again either sex)

the first should be turned over to civil authorities, which the church can elect to do, but by and large didn't.

the second.. something should be done, but their behaviour, while unprofessional, and offensive, is not really criminal.

getting back to schools, the exemption means nuns, can and do use corporal punishments with children, and other behaviours that would not be acceptable or legal in public schools.

Since they are really a very seperate system, they really can't be compared to such schools in canada, ireland, england, or france. There, religious schools are governed by the same laws. here in US, our government is barred from making laws that effect religious organizations. so religious schools can teach anything they want, and do not have to conform to any external standard. Many do, to some degree, but there is no requirement to teach science, and in religious schools, it perfectly legal to only teach creationism, and never mention darwin!

and any one, at any time can start a religion, and once they call it a religion, its is exempt! (ask L. Ron Hubbard, who's quasi science fictions stories didn't sell to well, but who made a fortune with scientology!)

many other countries do have laws (good, bad and indifferent) about religions.. the has been some press, about scientology-- it doesn't meet what ever standard is set in germany to qualify as a religion.

(wonder what they would do with sect that exist in US that use poisons snakes in/as part of services rituals!)

I attended catholic schools till age 14 or so, and went to public HS. in some ways, the catholic school was better, in many ways worse.. neither really met my needs, and my parents were too stressed out to make any effort to find a school that did.

my children went to public schools, and my son elected to go to the local HS, but my daughter elected to commute for 1 hour each way, and attended a special HS (dedicated to Arts and Design.) NY has many special HS's, each with different specializations. On, Automotive HS, for many years had recuiters coming from the big three automotive companies, and would hire top students! This was HS! If Bean lived here, she could have started studying oceanography in HS, and would have taken a class in scuba diving, and done a Lab on a boat, in the Atlantic!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** *
and Biker Mom, one problem with national salaries for teachers, is housing cost are so different!
Greenwich Conn. has a problem, it likes to have local (township residents) for teachers, but housing costs are so high, most teachers can't afford to live in Greenwich.. teaches there get about $80K max but the average house cost over 1million!-- NYC teachers might seem to get alot of money (max pay is up to $70K,) but again, housing in NY is very expensive, and we have rather high tax rate, and $70K doesn't provide middle, middle class life style! so a one size fits all solutions to salaries might not work..
one problems is teachers get educated, and often, they elect to live in an area that provides more in the way of cultural enhancements.. libraries, book stores, theater, etc, and these tend to be in cities not in small towns.
the enhancements of small town life are different..(not better or worse)

Posted By: bikermom Re: Kids and school - 04/28/02 02:36 PM
. >>>The difficult thing is finding the approach that meets the needs of the individual and no one system can be everything to everyone.<<<

Exactly my point--and it is the parent, teacher, administrator etc who should recognize this in kids and while not feasible to send each individual to their own special school, it is feasible to recognize a students learning patterns---And this takes interaction by parents, teachers, administrators, school boards etc. Don't sit behind your desk and dictate rules and leave a paper trail a mile long, that no one really wants to read. Human interaction and not the kind that certain priests and the like give. Kids are and should be our number one priority. And the schools, public or private that expect interaction from parents, teachers, administrators etc will in turn have many top students etc. No human, whether young or old, likes to be dictated to from a distance without the interaction----and perhaps this is what creates the school and other shootings on the rampage now, too many of us are being brushed off or put off and are never really heard. Take notice next time you are a customer anywhere---how many clerks and receptionists are so stressed out that they can not smile or give a greeting. And when dealing with the paying public, this should be natural, not fake or forced , but natural---No one likes dealing with a stiff personality either, for instance, when talking to a Rock, one does all in their power to make the Rock respond, and only the very confidant can walk away and accept the loss--the rest will scream,sue, or shoot, or violate private areas.

Posted By: bikermom Re: Kids and school - 04/28/02 02:53 PM
Thanks Sparteye for the nice welcome. I have not been out in the cold, but actually doing my part and plus in the school system where my sons attend.

Yes, Sparteye, I too, have no complaints because I stay involved. I also agree that a foreign language should be taught in 3 or 4th grade. They do this in Europe, I know, because I also host Exchange Students. This is our 3rd year. Our community in very small, so I feel that if the academics aren't there, I can bring the academics to our family, by hosting a student, this peer interaction has been achieved.
2 graduated last year and this year one is about to go from grade school to high school. And I have been tutoring many students both in school and at home. That is why I see so many kids, while eager to learn, are starving, not because of lack of food, but because of the lack of someone who truly cares about their academic acheivments. but perhaps it is because I live in Appalacia, and also one of the poorest counties in the state, and also the United States, and perhaps it is because I grew up in one of the Upper class States that enables me to see these differences.
We are again all people with the same basic needs and wants--and something to think about----Why were the kids who grew up with 5 or more siblings in a one bathroom house 100 years ago, happier than the kids who have 1, 2, or no siblings and a 3 or more bathroom house??? We have kids in our area who still have an outhouse, and they are excellent readers and A students, with a mom who cares deeply, but does not dictate to the teachers on how and what to teach, and threaten to pull their child out---why--because they do not have the resources or the prestige to do so.
Sorry if I got off the issue of your post---I have to type what comes to mind and I could continue on this

Anyway, thanks for the nice welcome.

Posted By: ewein Post deleted by ewein - 04/28/02 10:18 PM
Posted By: of troy Re: A divided society - 04/28/02 10:46 PM
Seperation of church and state is true in all states. and while we here tend to be a self selected group, and tend to value educations. (well, i think we do.. and i do) it is not true that parents will always select the best qualified teachers.. if they value religion more than science -- they might well chose to send their kids to sub rate religious schools, rather than top notch public ones. (and yes, i have seen it happen. there are lots of sub rate catholic schools in NY.. there are some great ones too, but the schools vary greatly in quality.)-- and No, state can not enforce the same standards for teachers in catholic schools as in public. NYC public school teacher must have BA/BS to start, and must get masters by year 5 of teaching. they must also pass a licencing test. Catholic schools are exempt from those requirements. Have i personally known catholic school teachers who held PH.D's? yes, and i have also known catholic school teachers who only had a junior college degree (2 years of college.)

many catholic HS, agree, volunteraly, to meet state standards, (it makes it easier for college admissions) but they are not required to.

Posted By: jmh Re: Competition - 04/29/02 06:59 AM
>re: competiton
jmh, my comment about more competition meant that the schools (not the students) would have to compete. That is, in the US the school system is rather like our mail system: Whatever the outcome, the schools continue. If schools had to compete, perhaps the outcome would improve.

Yes, I did get your point. In the UK, schools do compete. Parents have a lot of choice in selecting the school for their child, whether in the state sector or the independent (private) sector, for those who choose and can afford to pay. In rural areas there may be less schools within reach of home, in urban areas there wll be more. There is a limit to each school's intake and popular, successful schools tend to be over-subscribed. All schools results are displayed in league tables, where exam results (but no other qualitative assessment of pupil's success such as increase in self-esteem) are available for all to see.

Last year's results are here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/education/newsid_953000/953191.stm but they are likely to be unintelligible to anyone outside (and to many inside) the UK.

In addition there are school inspection reports, available on-line http://www.ofsted.gov.uk(for England) which go into more detail about the perceived quality of teaching.

Whilst there are claims that the league tables and other measures (such as a literacy hour and numeracy hour in England) have improved standards. It is very clear that many parents who can, are willing to move house into areas with successful state schools to increase their likelihood of gaining a place. Other parents are willing to drive their children huge distances to school.

Not suprisingly, this results in a postcode lottery - most of the best state schools are in the more expensive post-code areas which puts up house prices in those areas, which means that less people can afford the houses. So you start off with increased choice and end with decreased choice. The children from Peckham, mentioned in my previous post, are less likely to go to a school with high rating because disruptive, absentee pupils tend not to get good results and the school slides down the league tables. People who are able to make a choice because they have enough money to pay for housing in a better area don't tend to send their children there, so the downward spiral continues. There are some stunning, inner-city schools where children with very little support at home increase their self-esteem but the likelihood of that showing up favourably in the league tables is slim. When I went to school, we sat an exam at 11. Those who passed, were able to go to the grammar school, regardless of post code. Many argued that it was unfair to select children at 11, branding some as failures, and it was scrapped in the seventies for state schools in most (but not all) areas. I suspect that even then, the proportion of children passing the test from primary schools in "better areas" was higher.

So you are left with the age old problem that the simple act of observation changes what you are observing. Parents do not, necessarily, make sophisticated choices about the whole range of things that a school provides, branding some schools as successful schools for successful children and others failing schools for failing children. Schools do not exist in a vacuum.

Perhaps it is better in the USA? Helen says that there is parental choice in New York and that it is possible to match the child to the school. How are schools compared there? How do parents find out about the schools?

Posted By: jmh Re: Why do we fund education - 04/29/02 07:17 AM
>Public schools are propaganda! they teach the American (or English or Ozzie, or what ever) way of life!

I've been thinking about the fundamental problem with the voucher concept. It comes down to why we fund education at all. We don't fund education, just as an insurance policy so that it is there when we have children and need to make use of schools (for education, socialisation, stimulation, free child-care in term time while we go to work etc). We fund it so that all children get a chance, rather than being sent up a Victorian chimney. We fund it so that, at its best, there are well-educated employees available to make businesses operate well, dentists and doctors to look after our health, train drivers to drive our trains, the list goes on.

If we had a system of withdrawing money from the state to fund the education that we choose, outside the state system, then why shouldn't those people who do not have children withdraw money too, on the basis that they did not make use of the money that would have been available for them, had they had children. The slide down the slippery slope would imply that only those with children would be taxed to provide funds for education, when the whole point is that we are taxed to provide education for all.

Just a thought.

Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 04/29/02 02:05 PM
The value to society is not with a public schooled child, but with an educated child, regardless of the source of his education. If that can be done by religious people, it's just the same to me. If the problem is with the qualifications of the teachers, then let's address that. With the failures seen in the public school system, it seems ironic to me that anyone would be going after the private schooled kids. These parents want to use a small portion of the per child allotment to get their children a real education.

The fact that my own children get an adequate schooling under the PS system is utterly irrelevant to those who aren't. (The school system was one of the main factors affecting our move to this area.) The fact that I (and the rest of us probably) can afford computers, etc., is likewise irrelevant. My kids would be educated regardless of what my income is. My kids came to school anxious and ready to learn. They were completely brainwashed into believing that school was a great adventure. (I underplayed the boring parts.)

Again, I use the public school system. The state takes my money (they take whatever they want, might always making right) and they provide whatever it is they provide and I figure I might as well make use of the service, especially since the teachers my kids have seem marginally competent (and the particular teachers right now especially good). However, we did consider private or home-schooling once when the school investigated us without our knowledge. I was pretty irate at the time since they wouldn't tell us who had accused us (the constitution is null and void when it's inconvenient); however, in retrospect the principal saved our family a lot of misery by not immediately turning it over to the jackboots. Still, I'm very glad that I have a choice. We could afford private school, but why pay twice?

Until this year when my health problems became so severe I couldn't ignore them any more, I was a volunteer tutor at a local high school. I spent many, many hours helping kids learn algebra, physics, but mostly geometry. The biggest problem is failure to study - more important to talk on the phone, party, and hang out. I don't have a desire for other people's kids to do badly, no matter how incompetently they raise them. But it would be nice if, were the school system to begin to fail my kids, they not do everything in their power to prevent my kids from achieving. My opinion is that if the people who were complaining about this stuff spent as much time concentrating on education as they did on whining there wouldn't be any education problem.

Here's a story. I have this neighbor who is a really religious guy. Now, I'm a really, REALLY strong atheist. I just have no use for religions at all. But I get along with this guy. We just don't discuss it. He started a chess program at the elementary school a few years back and he's gotten phenomenal feedback. I was president of the Ft Knox Chess club decades ago and there were only 4 or 5 people who would show up every week. The U of L chess club (of which I was not a member) would have maybe a dozen or so people show up at meetings. This elementary school regularly has 20 to 30 people show up. This guy is really great. So he takes his kids out of PS and his wife starts homeschooling them. I don't know if she has any college, but she's much smarter than most of the teachers at that school. Things go well for them, but HE CONTINUES TO COACH CHESS AT THE SCHOOL. (Bear in mind, he doesn't think he should get a voucher for this, but I very strongly do.) After 9/11 he loses his job. He's out of work for months, but HE CONTINUES TO COACH CHESS AT THE SCHOOL. This is amazing to me. Life has got to be really hard for him, but he's committed to these kids - he's committed to MY kids (my youngest is in the chess club). I mention this as anecdotal evidence against the misimpression that people have that people who homeschool or use private schools are selfish. This applies to some precious few of them, if any.

It's true that having an educated society benefits us all, but I see no value in looking at things in extreme terms - that somehow we have to reach every, single "child." There are plenty of opportunities for most people to succeed if they want to.

As an aside, it struck me some years ago that public school has two purposes. The first is to raise the bar for the worst performers. The second is to lower the bar for the top performers. This became evident to me when the NCTM asked for comments on their Principles and Standards, which they have since adopted. I considered writing them a long note, but I only had a month and that wasn't long enough to craft a serious letter. It was a good thing I didn't waste my time, too, because I saw their responses to the responses they got from others. It turns out that this is more of a social manifesto than a standard. I'm not sure what kind of influence these guys actually have on the PS, but it would be hard to believe they will be ignored.

So long as the PS provides adequately for my kids, I'll keep them there. If they fail, I'll make other arrangements, hopefully including vouchers (which are not unconstitutional).


Posted By: bikermom Re: Kids and school - 04/29/02 04:57 PM
Fallible Friend's post has said it all in perfect plain English.

Fallible Friend is a plus to society and her children will be also. She is Open-minded and it is open minedness that fosters a growing knowledge of learning.

"Where there is a will there is a way" Consider this everyone, my student from Bosnia, Yugoslavia, born in 83, and growing up in a war-torn, 3rd world country, is appalled at the type of teaching that is in our schools. He says the kids are smart. It is the teaching that is way behind.

Yes, the value to society is an educated child--it does not matter how they get their education. And if most of the kids who fail spent as much time studying as they do skipping school, disrupting the class, partying etc then they too, would be one of the top students.
Yes, there are plenty of opportunities available to learn. Children can access these resources themselves or if they are lucky enough to have parents who value their children and edcuation, these resources will be provided or duscussed. In this computer age, there is no excuse for children anymore. Most libraries have computers for use and also many community centers. Parents, please take the time to surf and to supervise your child's rapidly growing computer knowledge--if you don't--you will be left in the dark---and that is when bad things happen-------
And yes, if many of those who complain would actually volunteer in the schools and do something--perhaps the schools would be much improved.
And again, do you think it is easy to teach a class of 25 to 30 kids??? Just imagine how easy it would be to teach and bake cookies with 25 kids who have never done it before, or have some prior knowledge. Or perhaps you think it is easy to teach 25 kids (of any age) to fish, with a rod & reel, hook, and from a boat?

Posted By: Max Quordlepleen . - 04/29/02 10:53 PM
Posted By: ewein Post deleted by ewein - 04/30/02 04:01 AM
Posted By: bikermom Re: Kids and school - 04/30/02 11:37 AM
Please accept my sincere apologies, Fallible Friend. Max informed me that you are not a mother, but a father. Anyway, my compliment still stands and it is even more incredible, that your statement comes from a truly dedicated father
Thanks Fallible Friend
And Thanks Max

Posted By: AnnaStrophic Re: peeves - 04/30/02 12:38 PM
Ahhh, Max, if you saw my site on word pet peeves, this is one of them!

Would it continue to be one of your pet peeves irregardless of whether or not Max did or did not see it (or not)?

Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 04/30/02 12:43 PM

Ah, Max, ya spoilt muh fun! I wanted to see how long it would take till she figured it out. Anyways, thanks for the kind word and back atcha.


Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 04/30/02 02:27 PM

After rereading my post today, it seems to me I was a lot harsher than I should have been. I apologize if my tone was nasty.

This is a very current concern for us. For the past three years (ever since we got reported to the school), my wife has been nagging me to move out the neighborhood. At the time, I was pretty seriously pissed. But she was actually scared. She comes from communist China where at one time people reported on each other regularly. Everyone's activities were everyone else's business. She just doesn't want to be around people like this. I sympathize with her ... in fact, I agree with her ... but I'm not ready to move yet. But every night after I'm done reading, she's still up reading brochures about places she wants to move to. And I don't want to move. Aside from this incident (and one where some pissants spray-painted "chink" on our lawn and mailbox and one kid nearly putting my daughter's eye out) and a few other very minor things, this is a pretty good neighborhood.

Besides, unless one lives in a very small community, the odds are high one will have at least a few idiot neighbors. We have only a very few idiots. We know the idiots. The idiots know us. The idiots we know are less dangerous than the idiots we don't know. (But as I keep telling my wife, I agree 100% that people who use the school system like this should get the crap kicked out of them - physically and not metaphorically.)

A few odds and ends.

True story. One of my friends in college was another strong atheist. His view of religion was even lower than mine at the time. His father was also a strong atheist. Louisville benefitted and suffered from forced busing and my friend was one of its victims. He was getting beaten up every single day at school. (I strongly sympathize with this, because until I bulked up, I endured a similar fate.) Life was horrible for him, because the school wouldn't do anything about the bullies. They had already far exceeded their quota of black detentions and suspensions and so the bullies were given less than a slap on the wrist and sent out to beat him up again and again and again. He was verging on a nervous breakdown and was considering suicide. He broke down in front of his parents finally and told them he just couldn't go back again. His parents knew what was going on, but couldn't get the school to do anything. As a last ditch effort, they got him enrolled in Walnut Street Baptist Church's school. (I can't remember the exact name, but it's owned and operated by the church.) This is a big church in Louisville and their services are (or were) broadcast in Louisville every Sunday. He finishes school there, gets a national merit scholarship, goes to UL, gets a masters, goes to work for IBM in Lexington and earned a number of patents. Now my friend thought the minister at walnut street was a hypocritical lowlife. And his view of religion kinda grates on me at times - it's not enough that he doesn't believe, but he has to continually ridicule it. All the same, in rare moments, he'll admit he's grateful to that school. They saved his life, he says. And I believe him. I don't believe they got any vouchers. But they should have, imo.

Now there is a worry here that our private schools could turn out like the Madrasses in Pakistan. That's a legitimate concern. In fact, there have been a few like that to arise here in the states already. I'm not entirely averse to having some kind of standard for what is minimally taught, although I'm not sure we would agree on what should be included in a mandatory curriculum. Take evolution and creationism. Now, I'm not too keen on people being taught creationism with "public" funds, but I don't think it's *that* harmful for kids to not be taught about evolution - especially since I can think of at least one subject that's much more important that is given short shrift. Probability. Not one kid should get out of school without knowing something about this subject. It has immediate practicality regardless of how much further one goes with it, and its knowledge has lingering consequences to the long term understanding of other subjects (like evolution). Now, I came to this conclusion a long time ago on my own, but I read somewhere in the last year or two that S. J. Gould also touts prob and stats as an important part of the young student's diet (although I don't know his view on the relative importance of this versus evolution).

For as much evolution as kids are actually likely to get in K-12, they could easily spend a few weeks on their own learning at least that much. Note: I'm not making an argument to not teach evolution in PS. My argument is that no one should be forced to learn it.

Before I say another word, though, I will confess to something. I'm entirely unprincipled. (It's not that I don't have them, it's that I don't bother articulating them. Other people have told me that's the same thing as being unprincipled and I frankly have better things to argue about, so I'll just accept up front that I'm unprincipled.) I'm not going to let my kids be denied an education while people argue over things that are on the whole irrelevant (imo). And so, I'm not at all annoyed, for example, that they have this moment of silence thing in VA schools. In fact, I'm pretty happy about it. I will be very pissed if they get rid of it - not because I want my kids praying during that time, but because there are so many more important things for these guys in the capitol to worry about (budget shortfall in some school districts) that they shouldn't be wasting a single second of time on a side issue. Also, the moment of silence is a compromise and I'm all for compromise. There's just no need to draw lines in the sand or on the school playground.

What I would like to see more of is this: "We mandate as little as possible. We facilitate as much as possible." These parents who are homeschooling and private schooling (not talking about the filthy rich we all love to hate, but the borderline people we're merely envious of) and parochial schooling actually *care* about their kids AND are willing to do something about it. They're making an effort of some kind, which is a lot more than what some parents do. (They had a math night at school a few months back. I looked around. The only families that were there were the ones that didn't need to be. Tragic.) These parents have a lot to give, not just to their own kids, but to other people's kids if they're allowed to. We shouldn't be pushing these people away, we should be asking, "How the heck can we get them to harness all that energy for us?" We should try to embrace them, not by force but (for lack of a better term at the moment) by the continued exercise of good will.

I don't believe PSes fail because of home schools or private schools. I think there are a multitude of reasons for these failures, partly bureaucratic and partly parental indifference. (Complaining a lot does not disqualify one from being indifferent.)

For the time being, I realize this is just fantasy. It's easier to lay down the law for the dissenters than it is to compromise one's principles (one's own principles being infinitely more important someone else's principles).

Well, I've got more to ramble on about, but I find I've went over my time allotment. Heck, I'm not even finished divigating!


Posted By: of troy Re: Kids and school - 04/30/02 06:06 PM
i don't agree with all your ideas and opinions, but, like Biker Mom, i recognize you are a real asset to your school system. Getting involved, staying involved, in one of the key factors for a child success! I am less involved now, since my kids are grown, and out of school. and my granddaughter age 18 months is still to young!

Posted By: Rouspeteur Re: Kids and school - 05/01/02 12:17 AM
(It's not that I don't have them, it's that I don't bother articulating them. Other people have told me that's the same thing as being unprincipled and I frankly have better things to argue about, so I'll just accept up front that I'm unprincipled.)

My short answer to that is: "Res non verba" (you'll have to forgive any errors in my spelling of that motto)

My long answer: Your friends are wrong. I believe that when you watch someone over a long period of time you will get an idea of what their principles are, whether they articulate them or not. I would believe someone I see actively contributing to their community before someone who just professes it.

The concept of being a hypocrite can be a difficult one. I am Anglican, not Catholic, and I would never convert. I have many fundamental disagreements with some of its teachings, and yet, I attend a Catholic church and the children will go to a Catholic school. I strongly believe that religion can play a positive role in the children's lives and so I will not undermine it by expressing dissenting opinions (for about another 18 years). Children crave certainty and security; they will learn about grey soon enough. Does this count as being a hypocrite?

I sympathise you on the troubles with pinheads in your neighbourhood, but alas, they are everywhere. There is an old lady who walk her dog along our street. The children just love the dog. One day, out of the blue, she
asked, "Aren't you teaching them Canadian?"

"Yes, they speak French"
"No, I meant Canadian, you know, English."
"Well, my in-laws are all French, and they pay their taxes in Canadian dollars, so I'm pretty sure they're Canadian even though they're French." (She seemed immune to sarcasm.)

She also hated seeing French labels on packaging although Spanish on stuff she bought in the U.S. was ok.

Things like this have caused me to make a full-fledged retreat from reality (I've tried reality and found it wanting). No more newspapers. No more news on the radio. No more coming home from work to read about the latest war, scandal, or tax. Instead, it's Tonka toys, a sandbox, Thomas the Tank Engine, Caillou, and if it's raining, jumping up and down in puddles 'til we're soaked. I think reality is over-rated.

Posted By: Max Quordlepleen . - 05/01/02 12:23 AM
Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 05/01/02 05:08 PM

There's this book called The Manufactured Crisis whose thesis is that problems with the US school system are exaggerated by some right-wing conspiracy. I haven't read the book, yet, but I know some people who would disagree. I'm skeptical of the book on the face of it. I know lots of people who have gone to schools overseas and in the US and they say from first hand knowledge that those schools are much tougher. (All but a very few of them.) OTOH, being tough and being good are not synonymous.

I hired a guy last summer who went to an almost all black high school in Baltimore (his description). He went through school with As and decided he would go on to study computer science. He started his program at university with high hopes and what he thought was a reasonable expectation of success. Within a few months, he was squashed like a bug. (I found this info out later. It did not come out in the interview.) He dropped out, completely confused by his dismal showing. "How could this have happened?" He came to realize that his As in high school meant nothing. That he had been allowed to coast. He didn't waste much time. He went back to school shortly and got an easier degree. We hired him based on his ability to perform in this second area of expertise. Things are beginning to come together for him, it appears. But he still feels cheated.

Interjection. I normally put this kind of failure squarely at the foot of the parents. There are very few excuses for parents not to be actively involved. You don't need a PhD to read to your kids when they're young. You don't need any formal schooling to take your kids to the museum or the library. It doesn't cost any money to ask, "How was your day? Did you learn anything this week?" With my own kids, I know they get good test scores and good grades, but I want to check myself. I hand them each a book and say "Read to me." And it's a hard book. They don't have to read the whole thing, but I want to know in my bones that they're ready. OTOH, by fourth grade my parents couldn't help me with my math homework. I reckon my intern's mom couldn't help him very much with calculus. Sometimes you're almost forced to take the school's word for it when it comes to evaluating your kid. If you don't even know what questions to ask, you're kinda screwed - especially if you've bought into the "Just sit tight and listen to the experts" point of view.

New subject. I tutor at a well-known high school (or I did until this year). For the previous two years I had tutored geometry almost exclusively. Several of the students were complaining about their geometry teacher's incompetence. Now I didn't agree with what this teacher's methods, but on the whole I thought she knew her subject and she genuinely tried to teach. I conveyed the later clause to the students who insisted that they had gotten good grades in algebra the previous year (in one case the girl had gotten an A in algebra) but were now failing geometry. The problem with their thesis was that their failings in geometry were actually failings of understanding in algebra. They could *do* the geometric part, but they couldn't do the most elementary algebra. Their incompetence was far more, I thought, than could reasonably have been accounted for by a summer of carefree indolence. No, I was convinced (and am still convinced) that the person who failed them was not their geometry teacher who was "failing" them, but the algebra teacher who had given them good grades when they couldn't grasp the most elementary concepts of the subject.

Interesting note here. Several of these kids had calculators that put mine to shame. My employer bought me a nice casio. I seldom use it, but sometimes it's just really handy. I think it was about $60. These kids were using $100 and $150 calculators. But they couldn't punch in the numbers correctly and they refused to stop and think about what they were doing. For example, they didn't realize that to divide by 10, you just move a decimal over one place. Using a calculator for this is a waste of time. (I'm really busy and I *hate* wasting time.) They couldn't figure out how to do anything with negative numbers. They were oblivious to precedence.

Now these weren't dumb kids. Some were stupid to the extent that they didn't want to learn. (Close to my personal definition of stupidity.) But they could actually do the work if they wanted to. On more than one occasion, I would come in and I would have these guys staring off into space not paying attention to a word I was saying (acting, it seemed to me, like gang members or something). I would persist, going to each kid in turn and asking him a specific question. After maybe 10 minutes, they would be glancing over at the work I had laid out in the center of the table. Ten minutes later they would be actually leaning over the work and soon they would be actively involved. We almost always ended with everyone contributing.

But usually the same subset of kids would show up: girls who had jobs after school, boys who had baseball practice, kids of either gender who were out partying 3 nights a week and so didn't have time to study. I couldn't help thinking, "What the hell are their parents doing?" Eventually I figured out that for many of the kids, they were out partying 3 nights a week because their parents were out partying 3 nights a week.

Of course these are all anecdotal. A bunch of anecdotes don't prove anything. I have done some reading in education, but it's sparse and disconnected. Still, I have opinions formed from my own experiences (as a student and as a tutor and as a college teaching assistant -- assist nothing, we taught the classes -- from the experiences my kids have had, and from those of my acquaintances).

It's not all bad. There are some things that I like about what the schools are doing these days - giving kids schedule books, for example. Great idea. And in my kids' school they have some great reading stuff going on. (I recently wrote a letter to the superintendent commending the school for their reading programs. This should mean something as I'm not the kind of person to give unrestrained praise.) Probably the best thing is the sports. Now this could be just because my kids are girls. I'm not sure. But they're actually *learning* in PE class. This is astounding to me. I have never, in my entire life, ever *not one time* EVER met a single PE teacher or coach for whom I had any respect whatsoever. Not one. Not ever. I have always loathed them as among the lowest, most comtemptible pieces of human garbage on the planet. (I've come to terms with the lie that when you're attacked you should tell the teachers, but this business about people learning sportsmanship in PE class is just too much.) OTOH, my kids had a birthday party a while back and I took the girls to the basketball court. I was genuinely surprised. There was a lot of traveling, but they were playing quite well, passing, dribbling (sometimes), being good sportsmen, being supportive to their team-mates, humble in victory, noble in defeat. "Where did you guys learn to play like that?" "Oh, we learned this in PE." (Wow! I'm not even going to go into my experience at basketball in PE. The only people who learned anything about basketball were the people who already knew basketball.) I'm considering writing another letter to the school praising the PE teacher (whom I haven't even bothered to get to know), but I'm just not much into getting or giving a lot of compliments. Still, I've pretty much resolved that I'm going to talk to the principal about this. I mean - if they were screwing up, I wouldn't hesitate to go down there and ruffle feathers. It seems only fair I should be willing to tell them they've done something very well. Also, I've felt for some time that we should just fire every single PE teacher and ban the "subject" from schools. But I could re-evaluate that position, if it could be shown that things have changed in general.

Unfortunately, while I went to a lot of elementary schools back in the day, I only have first hand experience with this single, elementary school these days. Also, it is one of the better school districts in the country. So it's not generalizable. But I'm hesitant to just write it off.

It's not that they're not worthy of some criticism. It's that the amount and severity of criticism due them is vastly less than I would give to some of the elementary schools I attended. Also, they've done some great things that ameliorate and overcompensate for any failures.


Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 05/01/02 05:24 PM

I'm a little curious. Do yer kids learn French in school?

I'm also a little envious. My kids only know English. Their mom promised to only speak Mandarin to them, but that didn't go anywhere. Caused us a lot of familial strife, but there's not a lot we can do about it now.

I agree. There are a few idiots most any place you live. And really we don't have that many of them near us. But, like idiots everywhere, they really stand out. That's why I vote we stay. OTOH, she just found out yesterday she's losing her job, so maybe she'll give it a rest for a while.

Are you saying that you feel hypocritical BECAUSE you are an Anglican attending Catholic school and sending your kids to a Catholic school?


Posted By: Rouspeteur Re: Kids and school - 05/01/02 11:36 PM
Do yer kids learn French in school?

No, they're too young yet (39 months and 20 months) but we speak French to them about 80% of the time and with the advent of DVD's, we can put most movies on in French. We also switched from cable to satellite tv last December so we could get more French channels. We read both English books and French books to them as well.

Language is a funny issue here as you might know. In Quebec you can send your children to French school without any restrictions, but must have English language rights to send them to school in English. The reverse it true elsewhere in Canada. Because I was educated in English and am not Catholic and my wife is both French and Catholic, we can choose any of the four school boards.

We chose the French board as opposed to a French immersion program at the English board because then they will have friends that will speak French away from school as well as at school. They'll never have problems learning English.

I am sorry to hear about your wife's impending job loss. I hope she is quickly able to find another job she likes.

Are you saying that you feel hypocritical BECAUSE you are an Anglican attending Catholic school and sending your kids to a Catholic school?

No, I don't feel that way, but the opinion has been expressed to me.

Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 05/02/02 12:47 PM

, but must have English language rights to send them to school in English. The reverse it true elsewhere in Canada.

You need permission to learn English? (Or French elsewhere?)

Since I play ethics by ear, or as I go along, I never worry about where I get ideas from. For example, being raised a Baptist, I've read quite a bit of it. And I still read it on occasion. Some of my atheist buddies consider me a so-so atheist (a likely back-slider) because I would defend The Good Book on occasion. But a few of them get it. (I'm particularly fond of Ecclesiastes.)

It's odd to me that anyone would consider your behavior remotely hypocritical. Wisdom is where you find it.

I'm reminded of a letter I once read from Benjamin Franklin to his daughter who was considering quiting her church because her preacher was a hypocrite. He admonished her to continue going since just as clean water can come from the dirty ground, so can wise words come from hypocrite. Something like that. I don't remember the exact wording.

Also, I remember reading of a stir George Washington caused during a stay in Canada when he attended a local Catholic mass. Apparently his troops thought this was pretty shady, but GW responded with some pretty conciliatory language that I should have remembered and didn't.


Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: I talked myself into it - 05/02/02 01:00 PM

They had a science night at the school last night so I took the opportunity to pull the principal aside and tell her what a good job I thought the gym teachers were doing. Gave her the one minute synopsis, too, of why it was utterly unexpected to me. She introduced me to the gym teacher (the only of my kids' teachers I've never met) and I complimented him in person.

I'm still not ready to change my mind on the general case, though. One decent guy doesn't compensate for a boatload of buttheads. The local school board is facing budget cuts and they're thinking of cutting the planetariums that some of the schools maintain. I've been sitting on a letter I wrote a long time ago that suggests it would be far better to ditch PE classes. I stopped short of sending it last time because the recipients would just toss it aside as kooky.

OTOH, if the general case is true, and PE classes are no longer the training grounds for bullies that they once were, then it would obviously be worthwhile to keep them over the planetariums. I don't know. It's a pretty big leap for me to think that IN GENERAL, kids really are learning good sportsmanship in PE. For the past 30 years I've been convinced that good sportsmanship was an oxymoron.


Posted By: Bean Re: Kids and school - 05/02/02 01:07 PM
You need permission to learn English? (Or French elsewhere?)

In Quebec, yes. Maybe we should get belM in here for the details. I think it's easier to get your kid into a French school (not the same as a French immersion school) outside of Quebec than to get into an English school in Quebec. I'm trying to find information on it for my old province (Manitoba) but can't seem to find anything. I had the impression you didn't have to be a "native" French speaker to go to French schools in Manitoba. Let me look into it further.

Edit: I realized that I left half of your question unanswered. You don't need permission to learn French as a second language (ie. one class per day) or even go to French Immersion schools, but to go to a school where life happens in French and all the kids there speak it as a FIRST language is a different story. Those schools are different than French Immersion schools, where the kids' first language is English and they are learning French as a second language.
Posted By: Bean Re: Kids and school - 05/02/02 01:26 PM
I managed to locate the information at the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine (of course). Looks like you either have to have French as a first language, or have been instructed for at least four years in French, to go to a Francophone school in Manitoba. So a kid with no French at all couldn't do it - quite understandably, since the other kids in that school would have learned French right from the womb - but if you lived in Quebec for some years and your kid went to French school there, or if you had them in a private school where they taught in French, then they could go there.

They do, in Manitoba, have a 50/50 program where some classes are taught in French, some in English, resulting in a 50/50 split, and any kid can enroll in that program. Mind you, they have similar programs in Ukrainian and German, too.

Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 05/02/02 02:13 PM
Ah, okay. That sounds reasonable.


Posted By: Rouspeteur Re: Kids and school - 05/02/02 03:14 PM

The requirements Bean articulated are roughly the same across Canada. I think it has to do with a provision in the constitution that services must be provided in the "minority" language where numbers warrant.

In Ontario:
English Public: Anyone. French classes start in kindergarten or grade 1. Immersion and bilingual programs available from kindergarten on.
French: Mother tongue must be French and at least one parent must have been educated in Canada in French.

In Quebec: Reverse the Ontario case except that they don't have English immersion and they do not teach English before grade 4. Some francophone parents to a case to the Quebec Court of Appeals (think State Supreme Court) to argue for their rights to have their children learn English. They argued that the children's futures were being limited by not being allowed to learn English. If you, as an American, moved to Quebec, you would not be allowed to send your children to English school because you did not go to school in English in Canada. French parents would get around restrictions by sending one child to private English school for one year and thereby get the right to send their siblings to English public schools.

Très compliqué, n'est-ce pas?

Posted By: Bean Re: Kids and school - 05/02/02 04:44 PM
I think it has to do with a provision in the constitution that services must be provided in the "minority" language where numbers warrant.

I found it in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Before that, and especially because education is under provincial jurisdiction, I don't think anything was guaranteed. For example, in Manitoba, in the beginning, there was French education, and the school board had a Catholic and Protestant Branch. The repeal in 1890 of the Manitoba schools act meant that the Catholic (and usually French) schools no longer qualified for government funding. Then in 1916 French-language education was abolished in Manitoba altogether. Tiny steps toward re-instating French were made on and off until 1970 when French and English were given equal status in Manitoba schools. When we learned about this (in French immersion school) it was always cited as one of the reasons that there was French-English animosity in Manitoba.

BTW, all those dates weren't just in my head. (It's been too long.) I got them from http://www.franco-manitobain.org/sfm/livret/en003.html.

Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 06/12/02 09:18 PM

I had an interesting and extremely heated argument with a few friends the other day. I like arguing with these guys, because at the end we can each just agree that the other is an asshole and then go out and have a few beers together (over which libation we generally find some other thing about which to argue).

One of them was arguing that schools are just completely screwed up these days - utterly worthless. At first I thought he was playing advocatus diaboli, or maybe just yanking our chains, but I gradually came to understand that he was serious.

There are a number of things I think have actually improved over the years. First, teaching seems to be a lot more organized than I remember. Students where I'm at get daily planners and the planners are checked. Second, and probably more important, I think school, etc. are coming to realize the importance of parents in kids' educations. (I've always thought the debate over homeschooling was silly, really. The question isn't whether good parents homeschool, but only whether they do it full time. Of course, all good parents homeschool in the general sense - the important sense.) Thirdly, and this is a big one for me, I think the awareness of and handling of bullying is improving. (In fact, everyone else present - all over 6" tall - didn't think this was an important thing at all.)

I'm ambivalent over technology. I think it's a great thing, but that there are other things more important. Further, I have reservations about technology when its place in the curriculum hasn't been well-established. Also ambivalent over testing. I'm actually in favor of standardized testing - but I think the number of tests taken is ridiculous- one a year should be plenty.

Ah, boogers. I've gotta go. Haven't even gotten to the meaty part yet.


Posted By: musick Re: Kids and school - 06/13/02 05:34 PM
TFF - Oh, you big tease!

You mentioned that schooling seemed to be more organized than before! This is for a number of reasons. Testing, testing and more testing (as you pointed out) needs results! These structures are gearded toward achieving these results. They also serve to hold the teachers accountable for not achieving these results. Structures keep the children busy and have less time for *bullying, etc. They are designed to move from one subject to another quickly so as to keep up with kids short attention spans (so *nicely designed by the tellie). Teachers planners were a blessing when I worked as a substitute teacher, almost as if the need for a substitute had been anticipated (note sarcasm there). There were some classes that didn't have them. They were the "looser" students, but you could tell they enjoyed learning, unlike the ones that followed strict structures. The teacher who didn't have them usually had their s**t together both socially (with students) and daily teaching requirements.

I think two tests a year help identify problems a little (but significantly) sooner...

...are coming to realize the importance of parents in kids' educations

The one's that truly do may be making a bigger effort, but I doubt if the actual number of realizers are increasing. Maybe.

Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 06/13/02 08:10 PM

Not trying to be a tease. Had to rush off and now I can't recall exactly where I was headed. I remember the real conversation starting with the bullying thing and then led onto the other stuff. (Once again they started on that baloney about kids learning "sportsmanship" in PE and I just was not going to let that slide without comment. I don't know that teachers actually do anything about bullying these days, but at least people are aware of the problem.)

I don't have an opinion of teacher's planners. As I was teaching in college I never used one. What I was referring to mainly was the planners they give the students and continually remind the students to write in ("everyone take out your planners *now* and write down the assignment on the board - XYZ, that means you too!") Back to the teacher's planners - I think the better teachers have a good plan, but know how to improvise. They don't need a whole lot of detail.

The testing thing is good and bad. I can see the need for, say, one real, standardized test per year (and even that borders on excessive). But, jeez, the kids sometimes get like three tests in one year. A special reading test, an SOL test (standards of learning), and some kind of aptitude test. The homeschoolers I mentioned previously were not homeschooling because of religion, btw (well, I don't *think* they were). I think they were particularly annoyed at all the tests the kids had to take. I think there view is that teachers are forced into teaching to the test. I don't think that's true in general, but I think it's what a lot of people believe. And I suppose it could be true in some subject areas (some of the questions on the VA history SOL are inane, e.g. "What year was tobacco introduced to Virginia?" and the answers are several choices spaced two years apart.) In our particular case, I like having an SOL as it provides a balance to the very nebulous-sounding "basic school" philosophy that our school uses. (Not 'basic school' as in the three Rs type, but basic school as expounded by the Cargnegie institute. It's a good thing, imo, but very nebulous.) So I like the idea of testing as a balance to nebulousness. I'm not sure I like the idea of testing to ensure accountability. Or, if they're going to use it that way, then I think parents need to be held accountable.

Whatever problems exist today (real or imaginary) I think are exacerbated by parents not demonstrating the proper interest. Interesting thing a few weeks back (or maybe it was a few months ago - time is a blur for me), they had a math night at the school. There were a *lot* of empty tables - in fact, most were empty. Most of the kids who were there did not need to be there. And most of the parents who were there, were also there at the previous gatherings on science, math, etc. (I will say that the science night was a little better.) Some parents convey to their kids that this stuff is important and others may or may not give lip service to it, but regardless don't seem to be really interested in demonstrating to their kids that it's important to them.

Another really good thing: at the high school level it used to be an infrequent thing for high school students to take college courses. I've noticed a pretty fair number of HS students taking college courses in differential equations, physics, etymology, history, writing, debate and a few other things. This is a good trend, I think - particularly the diversification in subject matter.

I'm not sure what you mean by "looser" students. Do you mean students who are less ridid in their learning strategies? Or were you refer to "loser" students in an ironic manner?

In general, the best classes I had in K-12 were free format - the "looser" the better. I heard a statistic a while back about testing they had done on prisoners - turns out that some outrageous percentage of them (like 70% or better) were kinesthetic learners. Which might explain why so many denizens of our prison system did poorly in school. A looser format might allow people to learn in their own way. I dunno. It also might let them goof off more. I remember teaching a class to 8th (or maybe 9th graders) once. Everyone was very interested except one student who just couldn't keep her mouth shut. It was amazing. Teacher never tried to put the student in line. I didn't realize it at the time, but the county had no procedures for kicking students out of class. Amazing how a single individual was allowed to disrupt an entire class.


Posted By: musick Re: Kids and school - 06/13/02 09:32 PM
My use of the term "looser" was not at all continuing with my history here of *toying with the spelling of 'loser'.

Looser structures, as you indicated here...

"I think the better teachers have a good plan, but know how to improvise."

...are the ones that inspire students and instill the ability to adjust, adapt and learn in different settings. They ask more questions because they are challenged in more ways than regurgitating "The year tobacco was introduced in Virginia". They are being exposed to useful concepts at an earlier age.

'Competition' and 'stress from testing' aren't two of those useful concepts...

Posted By: Wordwind Re: Kids and school - 06/14/02 12:39 AM
I agree that some of the Virginia standards are questionable. However, the state regularly examines its standards, and they are changed periodically.

I'm going to paste here my general philosophy of music education for anyone here to examine and respond to. I have to have it polished as part of a professional portfolio (a huge undertaking to be completed by July 24th). I offer this philosophy in hopes that any of you may react to problems with it that you identify. No thin skin here. I've given a lot of thought to the writing of it as the introduction to the portfolio, but it is a starting place. And I do welcome reaction. Here it is:

Philosophy of Teaching

Theresa Ranson
June 9, 2002

Education begins from the time an infant socially interacts with parents, relatives, and

friends to the end of conscious life. Formal education builds upon the sensibility each child has

developed during these social interactions. Students come into the classroom expectant, nervous,

sometimes belligerant, but each having the shared hope that the place into which he enters will

provide something new of interest, something reassuring of safety, and somewhere conducive to

friendship. It is in the control of the teacher to provide an environment that is physically rich in

ambience, one that speaks to each of the senses, and one that is original, pleasant, and

comfortable. The physical environment of the classroom requires careful planning by the teacher in

order for materials to be easily available, for visual aids to be well in view for each student, for

students with special needs to receive consideration, and for the execution of speedy room

rearrangement to be possible when needed.

Perhaps most important in the creation of an environment that students welcome is the

teacher's design of situations in which students may interact in cooperative learning groups.

Vygotsky (Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society. The development of higher psychological

processes), in his brief but brilliant career, documented studies in the early twentieth century in

which students learned from each other in a process he called scaffolding, a process that moved

beyond the traditional lecture format. I believe that the essence of his work, the scaffolding of

knowledge shared among learners, has developed into current studies in the advantages of

cooperative learning groups. When cooperative learning activities are developed with attention to

group cohesiveness, to authentic learning outcomes, and to levels of challenge that are interesting

yet achievable, students learn more. These activities require a great deal of preplanning by the

teacher, but student involvement is generated and learning becomes more widespread for all class


My own field is elementary music education. The Virginia State Department of Education

dictates music standards of learning to be taught at each of the elementary grade levels. Broadly

included in the standards are singing, dancing, playing of instruments, and reading of notation.

These standards provide the framework upon which I build my educational goals. I believe musical

performance of student work is the best possible motivator for student attainment of displaying the

standards in action, and I provide numerous opportunities for my students to sing, dance, drum, and

play recorders to a variety of audiences.

The best single method of documenting student achievement I have come across is use of

the videotaped performance, both as a means for students to examine and evaluate their own work

and as a way for them to critique and learn from past student performances. I have witnessed

sometimes stunning growth in my students' performances that I credit entirely to their analysis of

past performances, their setting of their own performance goals to equal or surpass past student

achievements, and their desire to receive praise from their audiences.

Students respond well when teachers make connections between units of study and the

world that exists beyond the school yard. In music, these connections are easier to make when the

music comes out of the student's contemporary culture. However, it is by far more difficult when

music is foreign to the student's experience. It is part of my responsibility to help students find

bridges between the music of the past and their own experience. In kindergarten, for instance,

students listen to Chopin's two piano concertos. My task is to help learners make the bridge

between Chopin's world of Romanticism and the sensitive one of their own limited experience.

However, these young children are very much in tune with their feelings and can readily identify a

variety of feelings and situations that have aroused them. The bridge is the heart and its language,

Chopin's music illustrating deep emotions typical of the Romantic period as one side of the bridge,

and the child's own experience of emotions forming the other. Teachers do well to take subjects

immediately out of the classroom into the living world and into the world of the past in order to help

students flesh out subjects and to make them real.

Although I offer a wide range of listening experiences to my students, I place most

emphasis upon student performance itself. I believe students learn most by doing, particularly

students who have problems in processing information strictly by reading and listening. I also

believe students learn most by duplicating actual performance habits of professional musicians.

Any technique I either read about or witness in the performances of professional musicans that may

be practiced in the classroom, my students will emulate. Again, this strategy builds the connection

between the classroom and the outside world. The two worlds become unified.

My mission is to develop and enhance my students' musical skills and abilities, based in

the state standards for each level, but, more important, to increase their awareness that music and

the lives of musicians are part of the fabric of our world's way of widening and deepening

communication of the mind, the heart, and the soul through an often complex, but always emotional

aural medium. The ways in which these children learn to communicate the message of the song, of

the drumming routine, of the dance, of the performance of a recorder melody to their audiences

parallel the methods of professional musicians. The beams and braces students place in the

scaffolding of what is communicated from individual, ensemble, or chorus to audience and from

musician to musician become part of the structure students will inculcate in many, if not most, of

their future musical communications inside and outside of the classroom. We hear, we think, we

feel, we perform, we hear performances, but, finally, we are connected to each other through the

mystical workings of music, the universal language and one of the ultimate emotional bridges

in communications among people.

Posted By: of troy Re: Kids and school - 06/14/02 12:54 AM
i am in awe. One phrase particulary struck me.
I also believe students learn most by duplicating actual performance habits of professional musicians.

i have a friend, who says, for him a career in science began in HS, when in biology, a teacher greeted each student at the door of the lab, and had them don lab coats..

"clothes maketh the man" was never truer, than in that class for him. in a lab coat, he could see himself persuing a life of science.. putting on the lab coat let him try putting on the career, and he liked the fit.

the effect might not be the same on everyone, but i suspect, doing what you do, letting children "try on" careers is a wonderful thing. letting them see in them selves a possiblity.. but even if only one child in 1000 is so effected, what an effect!

Posted By: Keiva Re: Kids and school - 06/14/02 02:55 AM
lovely by each of the two preceding posters.

Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 06/14/02 09:20 AM

If you're including this as part of a portfolio, I think you need a few (very minor) edits.

It's not something I would write (too mushy), but I enjoy your relaxed, semi-conversational style. It strikes me as very sincere. It's a nice piece. You might consider submitting it for publication.

I agree with the gist of the emphasis, too. Music and performing arts are about communication. (Theoretically, if students learned in PE classes what PE teachers claimed they were learning in them, that too would be at least partly about communication.) I'm not sure how much data is really available, but I know there has been some work done showing a correlation between musical training and mathematical ability. Further, as I mentioned previously, recent studies show our prisons to be populated largely with people who are not analytical learners, but kinesthetic learners who just might be reached by this. Not that you *should* necessarily mention these (and certainly not without looking into a bit yourself). I'm not really sure what my point is, except that these various mechanisms for communicating might be related - individually in our brains and collectively in our society.

I don't know. Anyway, thanks for submitting that. It's good.


Posted By: of troy Re: Kids and school - 06/14/02 05:26 PM
directly after my post, keiva posts
lovely by each of the two preceding posters.

trick 1,keiva tries to show that we are in agreement or somehow linked.

he is free to, and post his own opinions all the time,, but he is still using his tricks..
his wife tell me i should be thankful and happy that keiva is so nice to me, no one is nice to her. she doesn't understand why i don't want to be sweet talk to by him..

but i am an adult, and i reserver the right to chose for myself who my friend are. and i dislike saccarine post that are intended to mislead. i am not fooled by this sweet talk, don't you be either.

Posted By: TheFallibleFiend Re: Kids and school - 06/16/02 08:11 PM

kids short attention spans (so *nicely designed by the tellie)

I'm not sure. I like television. I especially enjoy watching television with my kids. But it's a very different thing for us than it "may be" for others.


I saw a report the other day which I'm inclined to accept because it agrees with both my prejudice and my experience. They examined children who watched violent TV shows and then tested the kids about how they felt about using violence to resolve issues. Unsurprisingly, the kids who watch voilent programs were more likely to think it was okay to initiate violence (compared to the control group). OTOH, they repeated the experiment, but this time they had parents talk to the kids about the violence they saw. Miraculously, the kids who saw the violent programs were no more likely to think initiation of violence was okay than those who did not see violent programs.

<= end of detour

I've been convinced for a very long time based only on my intuition about it and prior to having read anything on the subject, that much of what kids learn whether directly (acceptability of violence) or indirectly (short attention span) is the failure of the parent to interact with the kids regarding what they watch. I watch lowly shows all the time with my kids and they have very long attention spans and stay out of trouble at school. I've also played some really violent video games with them - still no problem. I'm not passing a judgement here on people who elect not to let their kids watch crap. I sympathize with them and am grateful (as a member of the larger society) that they are actually thinking the problem through and making an effort to do the right thing by their kids.

In general I get a lot of out watching tv with my kids and talking with them about what they see. And I think they're getting a lot out of it as well.

When my youngest was 4 I took her to a rated R movie (that one about the last dragon where sean connery does the voice - don't remember on what basis it took that rating). I've even made a point of watching Howard Stern and Jerry Springer with them - not on a regular basis, but enough to let them see that part of the world. While we're watching, I'm commenting "Do you think that was a good thing to do? Was there something else they might have done instead? Is that solving a problem?"

A good argument could be made, I think, that it would be better to teach kids these things from, say, the great classics of literature. I'm reading W&P as I mentioned previously (and this really could be the greatest novel ever written), but I think my kids would have been too bored by this - even the condensed version - when I started the process. (Just a guess.) Also, people read these stories all the time and don't learn from them. I *do* love this book - the sycophantic prince vasili who weasel's private gain from other's misfortunes, the gossipy Anna Mihalovna who uses rumor and innuendo to sew discord (but always with the most noble intentions, she believes, but really to maintain her position in society), the young rostov who keeps imagining himself a great hero on the battlefield, but habitually fails to live up to his ideal of himself (but then reinvents his failure into success when he tells his story), the bungling Pierre who wants to do the right thing, but is so incompetent from a youth squandered in dissipation that he can't get it right ... well, I love this, but it's so abstract sounding ... to a child. I mean adults can read this stuff and say, "Oh, yes, I get it! This is marvelous!" But then they go right out and act like Prince Vasili or Anna Mihalovna. That's because in real life, the process of embracing evil is gradual. (I think Tolstoy has this right over Dostoyevsky.) (My 9 yo asked me last year to read A Tale of Two Cities to her, one of my favorite books, but I've held off partly because I don't want her to suddenly get bored with it - and I want her to really get into the characters.)

I can watch the Springer stuff with them and they see it immediately and they understand in their bones. "Daddy, he's very bad." "Well, he's not acting very charming is he?" "No. Not at all."

Having a few examplae non gratiae is arguably a convenience for "reality-based" parenting, but why is it necessary to have 24 hours of continuous crap? And for that I offer no explanation. The vast majority of what is on is not stuff I find remotely entertaining.

I'm reminded of an incident with my oldest. I used to get home really, really late. If my kids were up, one would lay in front of me facing the tv on the couch, while the other would lay atop. On this occasion, the youngest had already gone to bed and the oldest (maybe 6 to 10 at the time) and I were watching Beavis and Butthead about midnight or so. It was one where they go to see a medium. She looks in her crystal ball and says, "I see you are not ze A students." BnB are not impressed. "And I see you are not ze B students." BnB are slightly alarmed. "And I see you are not ze C students!" BnB are utterly amazed now. My daughter turns her head to me and says, "Daddy, I love Beavis and Butthead, but nobody's that stupid. Not really." Poor kid. I didn't have the heart to tell her.

Aside from the refutation of bad examples, though, I think the television has helped my kids in their vocabularies. They learned a lot of made-up words from their mom. The freezer is "the frozen place" and the shade is "the shadow place." That's fine, but they failed to learn common words like "drapes" and "cupboard" (really, no kidding) and so forth. Playing games with them has helped a lot in this, but also I think they've learned a heck of a lot of common vocabulary by watching television.

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you. I'm uncertain, but my bias is to think that it isn't that television is the culprit by itself - it's that people are using the tv like a baby-sitter. Kids need interaction. TV by itself just isn't going to be able to do this (well, not now anyway).


Posted By: dodyskin Re: Competition - 07/01/02 12:59 PM
I was badly failed by the hotchpotch bodgeup they call the LEA as were most of the special needs children that were shunted around units with me. I honestly believe in fully comprehensive schools, with no child being excluded from any particular school based purely on their personal religion, wealth, or academic achievement. Having been to a church school, a hospital unit, a selective school, a girls school and an inner city comp I think they all could have been improved by a little bit of diversity of intake. Schools need to be place where kids learn skills like reading or woodwork, surely, not religion or their 'place' in life. Children who could achieve high academic standards can be failed in the comprehensive system by the scarcity of resources and the absence of similarly able peers. Conversely, kids in special interest schools can be failed by their exclusion from the rest of the world which, lets face it, they're going to have to live in eventually. I think if we stop categorising children at five or seven or eleven they might surprise us with what they can achieve, and what they can make of the world once it is in their hands. Many of the kids I went to school with left with no qualifications and now are rotting away on the dole or in the factory, including myself. The world is losing out on the contributions they could have made given equality of opportunity. Pool the resources I say.