Re: "Ooo look, 'e's fallen in de water!"
02/12/02 04:13 PM
02/12/02 04:13 PM
Joined: Aug 2000
Joined: Aug 2000
In UK, as, apparently, in Zild, we have recently adopted the Year n system, year 1 being when you first start and going on to year 12 (or something!) As a rule of thumb, you can work out the age of the children in any given year by adding 5 to it (e.g., year 9 is inhabited by 9 5=14 year-olds)
Re: Declining Standards, part 2
02/21/02 05:59 PM
02/21/02 05:59 PM
Joined: Jan 2002
Joined: Jan 2002
There are people who seriously claim that our school standards are not declining - that all the hullabaloo is really a plot to undermine public education.
For an interesting personal account with an education system outside the US, read Maxim Gorky's recollections of conversations with Chekhov at http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc6w4.html - Note that Chekhov feels shame that teachers make so little money and have to be timid and dress so shabbily. It's really a worthwhile read.
I do think that comparatively speaking, most of my foreign friends have been better educated than most of my american born friends. OTOH, the process of getting over here from over there is often highly selective.
One of my very best friends is Greek and we discuss education often. He's a bright guy, trained in computer science as I am, but his major interest is in history. He reads ancient Greek as well as modern. I shared with him my view that education is distinct from schooling. Schooling, I insist is roughly what gets done to you, while education is what you do for yourself. Education and Schooling interfere with each other, sometimes constructively and sometimes destructively. Long before I had read of Mark Twain's experience, I had come to the conclusion that one of the primary responsibilities of a person who wanted to learn was to avoid letting his schooling interfere with his education. Schools (and public institutions of 'education') concentrate on schooling and confuse their mission as one of education.
However, my friend, who attended college and a few years of K-12 in the US and the rest in Greece, disagrees. He doubts my observation is a fact. And, if it is a fact, it is pecular to the US and he asserts that in Greece (and possibly the rest of Europe) schooling is much closer to what I would consider an education.
I understand well that others will consider my distinction to be contrived or perhaps cavilling. But in my mind it's what distinguishes understanding from a sterile collection of facts and rules. For a sample of the distinction I'm trying to make, I refer interested parties to the passage in Werner Heisenberg's "Uncertainty and Beyond" in which he discusses a conversation he had with other boys while they were on a hike. It's the dialog, the hashing back and forth, that differentiates. Sometimes it's an inner dialog, and that might be sufficient for some people at some times, but also it's the exterior dialog, the conversation with others, outside the classroom, outside the pressure, the asking for knowing's sake alone that plants the seed, that sparks the flint, that entices the novitiate to tread her first intrepid step onto her chosen path despite the scarcity of breadcrumbs.
I wrote an essay some five or six years ago in which I chronicle from a self-centered and largely uninformed perspective a few highlights of my own schooling. It's a bit hokey at parts, self-congratulatory, and probably a bit more mean-spirited than what I would write today. Still, it will serve as an introduction, and provide context to explain, without pardon, my predilection for expressing eccentric opinions.
For those who prefer the short version to meandering, sesquipedalian tripe, it can be summarized by saying that the bad teachers are seriously crappy and deserve to be horse-whipped and dipped in boiling acid, while the good teachers should be put on pedestals and worshipped as gods.
So here's my own footnote to The Conversation.
I was pretty pleased with education in DoDDs
schools and pretty annoyed by the experiences
in the civilian schools. I never thought the
DoDDs schools were all that much into telling
us what to do and when. My recollection is
I had more freedom there and less harrassment
than any other place.
I never cared for most of my teachers. I had
a few really good ones and a lot of crappy
ones. I did, however, later come to realize
that some of the ones I didn't like all that
much were really pretty good, but I wasn't
smart enough to figure that out till it was
In fact, I had some really sorry teachers and
thanks to them I have a lasting loathing and
general mistrust for teachers in general--
but the great ones, well ... it's hard to
put into words what I feel about them. A single
word perhaps - cherish?
I attended numerous schools. My parents moved
around and I went to several in different
places. I came from Louisville, KY
originally. Then we moved to New Hampshire.
The teachers treated me like I was retarded.
I couldn't do anything. All I can remember
really (besides getting beaten up,
humiliated, and continually rebuked)
is that I was always - ALWAYS -
unhappy. I failed the second grade. In 3rd,
whenever they did math, they would take me
out of class and walk me to the other end of
the building to take math with the first
graders. At the time I really hated this, but
it might have been for the best in the long
run. By the 4th grade, we had moved back to
KY and I had begun to teach myself the
rudiments of algebra. Those early teachers -
well, they didn't seem to really understand
what they were teaching, even in retrospect.
But the thing I really hated about them was
the fact that they were liars. They
brainwashed you into not protecting yourself.
"If someone tries to fight, don't do it. Come
get us." Well, I did, and then they promptly
did nothing. I was getting beaten up every
single day in school until one day I brought
a knife in and shoved it in a guy's face. The
beatings stopped. I was still miserable. I
began to eradicate every nuance of 'southern
speak' from my habits of speech. It was bad
enough that the kids at school were making
fun of me without the teachers giving me 'the
tone' every time I opened my mouth.
My first really good teacher was Mr. Devine
in the 5th grade. He mostly just gave us SRAs
and these block thingies with papers kinda
like SRAs. Each paper had 3 views of an
object constructed from the blocks and you
had to make the object. I loved it. I was in
the advanced reading group already. I tested
at 12th grade reading level. I began to
realize I wasn't so stupid after all.
Mrs. Clarke, 7th grade math. When I took her
class, I thought I only learned 2 things:
canceling fractions and something else I've
forgotten. Later, I realized the gift she
gave me. Every morning, first thing, we would
do math drills. As a result I've never met
anyone who could do simple math quicker than
I could. Interesting sidenote: once in an
assembler (computer science) class, there
were only two 100s on the test. Both were
from people who didn't use calculators!
Mrs Rich, 8th grade math. Let me start on
algebra with two other kids in the back of
the room. We were 'together' in the back of
the room, but we never talked to each other
and we each worked independently. Went
through the whole book by myself. Worked at
my own pace. This was great.
Mr. Dewitt, 9th grade geometry. Taught the
class without a book. (They were locked in
storage just a few miles from the school!!)
Was really off the wall. If we didn't want to
work on a day, he would cancel class and
we'd talk about anything we wanted. But we
were all pretty highly motivated and
interested. He was also very accepting of
novel approaches to problems. No. That's an
understatement. Actually he was very
encouraging of them.
Mr. Sipes from 9th to 12th grade in h.s.:
algebra II, computer math, trig, analytic
geometry, calculus. This guy was just plain
great. Interesting, intelligent, very
patient. Really tried to get in your mind and
understand how you were thinking...didn't
just say, "Well, you're wrong." but would
help you understand exactly where you went
off track. Patient, PATIENT man.
Mr. Hockensmith, 10th and 11th grade...latin
I and II. "Bis dat qui cito dat." (He gives
twice who gives quickly.) "Qui docet,
discet." (He who teaches learns.) Another
amazing teacher. Very gruff sounding man, but
a regular softie. He really had a knack for
bringing everything together. Frankly, I
could do English, but I never really
understood my own language's grammar till I studied
Latin under him. He talked about History,
Culture, Latin in a way that brought things
to life for me. I don't remember much from
those years - vocabulary, grammar, history,
unused and long forgotten, but I still like
reciting sometimes, vestigial memories,
"Nox erat, et terris animalia
somnus habebat." (It was night and sleep
possessed the animals of the forest -- From
Vergil's Aeneiad) and "Quo usque tandem
abutere Catalina patienta nostra?" (How long,
Cataline, will you continue to try our
patience? From Cicero's orations against
Mrs. Speck, 12th grade honors reading (a 6 wk
course). She let us read just about anything
we wanted to. There were three lists. You
hadda pick two books from each list to read
through the course. You could pick all six
books from the last list, if you wanted, but
then you couldn't go back to the easier
lists. If you wanted to read something that
wasn't on the lists, you could tell her and
she would tell you which list it would apply
to. Before this class it didn't much occur to
me that I would actually like reading stuff
that wasn't either science or science
Mrs. Schlinker - here's one I didn't
appreciate until it was far too late. Old
school. Very old school. But she made us
think about what we were saying - not just
what we thought we were saying, but what we
were actually saying. If there's one teacher
I could go back and apologize to for having
been a jackass, she's the one.
Coming out of high school, my father sat me
down at the table and told me to give up any
hope of going to college. There was just no
way this was going to happen. I would have to
get a job instead. Meanwhile I earned a
presidential and a congressional appointment
to West Point. I went for a short while and
then decided I didn't care for the military.
Left, came back to Louisville and got a
master's at the local engineering school.
My degree was in Engineering Math and Computer
Science but I lazed around and studied lots of
things and didn't concentrate only on neural
nets and the like, but also on philosophy, sociology,
history, psychology. I was interested in
everything. Won a few awards throughout my
school career: first place latin translation,
first place latin poetry, second place in a
debate contest and 2nd in a poetry contest,
6th highest score in the state on the national
math exam, distinguished student award in college.
I'm moderately amused by my earliest recollections
from school when it was very clear the teachers
considered me a mentally retarded trouble-maker.
Fortunately, I eventually had some outstanding
teachers, most of whom I've listed above.
Every hope I had that I could succeed, I owe
to these gems. Some people are bedecked in
rubies and topaz and saphire, gold chains or
silver bracelets. Everywhere I go I too am
adorned, not around my neck or wrist or
crown, but around my soul, by precious jewels
bearing names like Mrs. Rich and Mr. Sipes and
Dec 9th, 2011
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