Friday, March 26, 2010

Off Track in Utica Schools . . .

From WKTV: Donovan Middle School teacher awarded $10,000 Toyota grant
Allen's students will become researchers and problem solvers while studying "brownfields"; a real-life local environmental problem. More than 400 students in grades six through eight will be involved in researching and analyzing the effects of Utica's historical textile mills on various sites throughout the city and will determine its environmental impact.

Through the study of environmental science, students will increase their knowledge in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and will feel a stronger sense of responsibility for the environment and a heightened connection to their communities.
Researchers? Problem solvers? Determining environmental impacts? . . . Sounds awfully impressive . . . impressive enough to get a grant . . . impressive enough for TV coverage . . . but who are they kidding?

These are 6th, 7th and 8th graders! They are still at an age where they should be . . . but in all likelihood are not ... still learning the basics . . .

Environmental science is not basic. Before one can understand the problems of "brownfields," one needs to know and understand the basics of chemistry, physics, biology, earth science, ecology, hydrology and other disciplines. It's a safe bet that 99% of these students do not. Its also a safe bet that those students who seem to do well at these activities likely have extensive help at home.

Without a thorough grounding in science basics, the students' "research" and "problem solving" activities are akin to children playing "cowboys and indians," "detective," or "cops and robbers" two generations ago. The difference is that two generations ago no one would have confused "cowboys and indians" with the study of history, "detective" with the study of forensic science, or "cops and robbers" with the study of criminal justice. The Board of Regents/Department of Education would not have written standards that require such "performances." Parents would not have felt compelled to assist in such play. And teachers would not have been paid to "facilitate" such play. . . but play it was . . . and play it is.

Students, parents, taxpayers and even some educators have been sold a bill of goods by teacher college intellectuals, government bureaucrats, big business hawkers of textbooks and technology . . . and now even discredited automakers.

At best, students may pick up a few interesting facts along the way that they can use to impress the old folks . . . and some students might be encouraged to take up science and pursue studies further.

The likely result, however, will be like the student sleeping in the back of the room on the story's photo. Students, hungry to learn how the world works, will instead be herded into tedious group activities where, if they are lucky, they might learn a few things about science, but no where near what they could have learned had they been taught science in the manner that their grandparents were taught. Bits and pieces of knowledge picked up along the way may or may not be relevant to what is learned from the next teacher, or the next after that. . . . lacking the cohesiveness that can lead to a deep understanding of subject matter.

At worst, the students are being trained to work for the good of their group . . . the collective . . . to accept the fact that slackers and doers will all receive the same "collective" grade. . . being programmed through group activities to respond to stimuli in a predictable fashion . . . to become dependent upon their group and "mentors" rather than themselves . . . perhaps even to police themselves for behavior that is outside the "norm." Students are deluded into thinking they have "expertise" that is lacking in the older generation . . . and they learn to be arrogant. And if they manage at some point in their lives to get into a position of responsibility, their gaps in basic knowledge could have disastrous consequences.

It should be apparent why students are shying away from majoring in science and engineering in college. Activities such as this one have turned science, which should be fascinating, into drudgery. Additionally, so little substantive science is actually learned in such activities that students find themselves ill-prepared for the rigors of science study in college.

Of course, that will all change when the current generation becomes the college professors of tomorrow. There will be no rigor there . . . except, perhaps, the rigor of conformance. They will have been groomed into the "group think" mode, knowing what will please their handlers and reaping their rewards for compliance . . . marginalizing anyone who thinks or acts differently.

The ignorant will be teaching the ignorant. . .

And when that happens, what will be left of our society?


Anonymous said...

The entire society is degenerating into a feel good, sound good mentality.

Anonymous said...

One can only hope that with the Governor's cuts to "educational" state aid, this kind of feel good nonsense will fall by the wayside. But, I doubt it. The feel good crowd needs to justify their existence in our schools, so it will be the textbooks, & other learning aids that will be cut. Not the social workers, administrators, beauracrats & other hangers on that clog our schools with their high salaries & their social engineering b.s. These are the ones that howl about cuts to school aid while the parents echo their concerns, & while our 12th graders can't read past a 4th grade level. The result? Parents having to hire tutors & colleges having to teach the basics to incoming freshman which adds to the cost of a college education because students have to spend more time in college to learn what they should have been taught years ago. It's a damn shame.

Greens and Beans said...

How pathetic is this? In my neck of the woods our rural school district places a premium on sports programs over academics. That’s correct! They will cut library books, close science labs, cut extra curriculum reading and math instruction, but when it comes to cutting sports programs, the parents miraculously come to life. This is when they lobby the legislators, shakedown the local businesses for donations and force the students to conduct car washes and bottle drives on very cold Saturday mornings to raise money to restore the lost sports programs. And our district has never produced one successful sports figure in all of its existence. How sad is it that sports will always trump any restoration to any academic programs. Our school administrators and department heads all earn from $80,000.00 to $135,000.00 per year plus benefits. Our students are not stupid, but rather they are improperly trained. With the assistance of some rather creative outcome based academic scores, our district fairs well in comparison with its peer school districts. But this is does nothing to help the students. Our students cannot read or balance a checkbook, but they can run and jump with a ball in their hands. After graduation, most of them end up flunking out of community college only to take mediocre jobs like working on the back of a garbage truck or working on a neighbor’s farm. The others become single parents proficient at sitting home drinking cheap beer, smoking cigarettes, and gambling the remainder of their public assistance at the casino. This is what our district so proudly produces.

There is no doubt in my mind that our society is in for a shocking decline as we allow the prevailing social agenda of the elitists to produce an uneducated welfare dependent citizenry. Globalization, with the amalgamation of the world’s economies, will expose our failure to properly educate our young and eventually serve to crush the American dream that our forefathers were so proud to bequeath to us.