Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ding Dong School . . .

It's the first Wednesday after Labor Day . . . The new school year begins. What will your child be learning?

Indications are ... not much.

Last week we were treated to endless repetitions in the media of Miss Teen USA contestant "Miss South Carolina's" incoherent response to the question "Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the United States on a world map. Why do you think this is?" Since the contestant was an honor student, it makes one wonder what kind of school she went to.

To be fair, everyone has good days and bad days, and we all lapse into incoherency once in awhile. But there are other signs of trouble in educationland as well.

In July, City-Journal reported that this year's almighty New York State American History Regents Exam was "
nearly flunk-proof." The writer explains how the exam was constructed, graded, and its content.
But the 15 document-related questions are ludicrously easy. The documents include some written passages, but are mostly political cartoons and photographs. Several concern the women’s suffrage movement, such as a photograph of a suffragists’ parade showing women carrying various signs containing the word “suffrage.” The exam question asks, “What was a goal of the women shown in these photographs?” Another photo shows a White House picketer with a banner reading, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” The exam asks the student to state “one method being used by women to achieve their goal.” A third document is a reproduction of a Massachusetts Women’s Suffrage Association poster listing “Twelve Reasons Why Women Should Vote.” All of the reasons on the poster begin with the word “because”: “Because laws affect women as much as men,” for example. The Regents question reads: “What were two arguments suffragists used in this 1915 flier in support of their goal?” To get full credit, all the student has to do is copy two of the reasons from the poster! Other photographs show 1960s civil rights sit-ins. One question: “Identify one method used by these civil rights activists to achieve their goals.” Another question asks the student to name one goal of the activists. And so on.
When the answers to the questions are in the questions, a correct answer means that the student knows how to take the test -- not that the student has mastered the subject. So when your child comes home with a good Regents grade, you can no longer be secure in the thought that he or she has mastered the subject (unlike when YOU passed the Regents).

Responding to the Miss Teen USA situation, Joseph Farah of World Net Daily had an excellent commentary about the problem with public schools.

I'm convinced the purpose of government schooling is to dumb down the populace and turn them into serfs and subjects rather than citizens capable of reason and equipped with a sense of morality.

Why can't Americans pick out the U.S. on a map of the world? Why can't Lauren Caitlin Upton and her friends answer the question?

This is what they've been programmed to do – or not to do.

Is this what is happening - programming rather than schooling? Is the objective to produce thousands of workers who are practiced in working together on group projects -- but too dumb to question the purpose of what they are doing? Is it to produce a society that can be managed and controlled?

The History Regents is a fraud - proof that good grades cannot be relied upon as an indication that your child is learning. Ask your child questions. Listen carefully to the responses. Do you hear substance -- or just rhetoric?

You may be surprised at what your children don't know.


Rebecca Mecomber said...

Almost 100 years ago, a dramatic change occurred within the public school system: John Dewey took charge. Dewey was a committed humanist (he signed the Humanist Manifesto) and socialist. He wrote numerous essays and books about his vision for American schooling. His goal of "social engineering" within the schools was not a hidden agenda. This has been in the making for decades, and now only as we see its fruit is everyone up in arms. Don't get me wrong-- this outrage is deserved and I am glad to see it. But to the Education Mucky-Mucks, there is absolutely nothing wrong with public schools and how dare we complain and hold back all our tax money!

To continue to ask questions like "could this possibly be happening?" is a day late and a penny short. These things are no accidents. And you can bet your bottom dollar that, even though the children cannot speak or write proper English or find Luxembourg on a map, they DEFINITELY know how to apply and use condoms, be "team players," and deftly express their "applied learning" in "opinion" essays. In other words, these kids are not only ignorant of important facts and skills, they are very crafty in expressing "their truth" as pertains to them at the present moment. I've read the standards and studied the education system, believe me. Any teacher reading this knows exactly what I am saying. Such is "student-based" learning, and it's right on schedule.

Reform will not come easy, if one believes that the system can be reformed. (I do not). This has been long in the making, and it is turning out exactly was planned long ago. Until parents and concerned citizens understand this, the machine will continue to chug along despite complaints by bloggers and editorialists.

Strikeslip said...

I agree completely with what you say, Mrs. M. The problem is that too few parents understand what is happening. If their child comes home with good grades, they ASSUME that everything is OK (and as far as the "system" goes, it is). The taxpayers and even school board members ASSUME that school now is basically as it was when they were in school. I too have read the new standards and find them long on rhetoric, long on subjectiveness, short on content.

School was once the means for one generation to transfer its knowledge to the next. But now many teachers no longer transfer subject matter knowledge from their brains to their students -- they "facilitate" the students in "discovering" or "constructing" their own knowledge through activities. Left on their own, you can be sure that in a few generations we'll be back in the stone age, reinventing the wheel.