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finding educated workers

...has the usual story we here every year about how a home-schooled student won the nationals in yet another academic challenge.

In the article we find that 50% of *high school graduates* aged 18-24 cannot find China, the UK OR Japan on a map -- can't even find one of them. Now clearly, this means that *at least( 50% of the general public and perhaps much much more is pretty much unqualifed to do anything other than shine boots.

THIS explains why interviews for developers go haywire, with architects sporting years of alleged experience unable to identify the language in two code examples -- one in C++ and the other in MS-DOS BASIC. Or the expect C++ developer who was a key man at microsoft according to his resume who was surprised to hear that statements end with a semicolon or that variables should be initialized before use.

The reason is because the US education system has totally an utterly failed the students. A few bad teachers would not account for these tests results year after year. Teachers in the US deserve to get paid what they do? Ha! what they deserve is to be put in prison for fraud and have a few dates with Bubba and learn firsthand what sort of life the unfortunate victims (students) of their own incompetance have to look forward to. This epidemic of teacher incompetence is disgusting ad it affects all of society. The kids who are victimized by these charlatans, the taxpayers who pay for nonperformance, and the companies desperately trying to find someone who can do more than tie his own shoelaces.

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Mmmmm. Edumacation.

Nat Ersoz
Thursday, May 22, 2003

I don't think that it is fair to blame teachers (in general) for the poor performance of US Students.  In the vast majority of schools in the US, teachers try hard and the information is presented to the students.  That the students don't choose to learn, what can you do.

The problem, as I see it is that parents, ultimatly, don't care if their kids learn or not.  Most say they do, but not really.  How many force thier kids to do their homework before playing video games or going to the mall?  How may check\review their kids homework?  How may actually punish their kids when they don't do well in school?

And if a school does fail a student, kepp him\her out of sports or even gives a bad grade ,you know they will here from the parents.  So will the principal, so will the administrators and the school board members.  All of whom, will give the teacher grief.  Sooner or later, the teachers learns that little Johnny and Suzy are of course brilliant and should get A's (since they are going to Harvard, after all) and just stops fighting.

Oh yeah, don't even think of giving a large amount of homework since that will affect the kist sports\social life.

And how about those parents who take their kids out of school for two weeks to go on vaction?  I guess vacation is more important than education.

BTW, I am not a teacher.  However, both my parents have over 30 years each in public education.

Eric Budd
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Before we advocate prison rape for teachers, we should note that a lot of them are well-meaning people who are unfortunately incompetent.

Those who are competent pass the blame onto parents.  Many good teachers are also filtered out by an education system that optimises mediocrity.  Textbooks are full of propaganda and chosen by politics.  (Wouldn't our classes be a lot more interesting if we could tackle the question whether our forefathers were sometimes nasty people?  Wouldn't we be more mature?)

Thursday, May 22, 2003

[Teachers in the US deserve to get paid what they do? Ha! what they deserve is to be put in prison for fraud and have a few dates with Bubba and learn firsthand what sort of life the unfortunate victims (students) of their own incompetance have to look forward to]

One of my good friends is a teacher and she would skewer you for saying that. Do you know the difficult conditions that thes people work under? Lack of funding, shitty books, scholl buildings that are faillling down, bad pay, The Politically Correct Police, terrible parents, etc.

It's easy to point fingers but what are _you_ doing about it? I bet nothing.

Ian Stallings
Thursday, May 22, 2003

[How many force thier kids to do their homework before playing video games or going to the mall?  How may check\review their kids homework?  How may actually punish their kids when they don't do well in school?]

Exactly. Ultimately YOU are responsible for your child's education, NOT the school system.

Ian Stallings
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Eric is right... It's the parents, not the teachers.

My wife is a teacher and she exhausts herself daily to keep up with everything she has to do. Time and again she stays late to meet with parents who never show up or cancel at the last minute.

Do you think the parents of these kids spend half this much time trying to shape and educate their kids? No, they expect teachers to raise their kids for them.

What you deserve, Dennis, is to have a child. Because from the sound of it, you will get to spend plenty of time with him before he moves out of the house when he's 45.

Jeff Turner
Thursday, May 22, 2003

"totally an utterly failed"

That should be AND.

I guess you were a victim too
Thursday, May 22, 2003

I would have thought Joel would have an opinion on this.  If I remember rightly, isn't his mum an english teacher.

Parents and kids are to blame.  Education is a state of
mind, not an institution.

Ben Grimer
Thursday, May 22, 2003

It's not the parents. It's not the teachers. It's not the
students. It's the parent-teacher-union-government-student system.

It needs to be blown up. Can we please try vouchers?
It can't be worse.

I don't think the teacher union  understands that
the way to get paid is for them to open private schools
so competition can raise their wages. The current
system is actually holding them back.

There is only so much money in a state budget. Once education gets 50% of the budget how much more
can they get? If they were at 100% of the budget i
think there would still be very similar problems.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

"The reason is because the US education system has totally an utterly failed the students."

Tell us what is wrong with it and how to fix it.

For every study that says our children aren't learning enough math and science there is another study that tells us that schools are failing at teaching personal finance [insert your favorite topic here]. The problem as I see it is that we as a nation have not been able to decide what we want from our school systems.

Beyond High School example of the strangeness of our education system
There are many companies that have a policy of hiring ONLY college graduates for while collar positions. The rub is that most college programs don't adequately prepare students for jobs in the real world -- primarily because many professors and administrators don't believe this is their mission. While we do have two year schools in America that do a fairly good job of preparing students for work in the real world, many companies won't hire people who graduate from these type of schools. India and other Asian countries have taken the curriculum from American two year schools and expanded it out to four years -- poof! -- these foreign students (who have four years worth of math classes but haven't had to take classes in African American studies or Anthropology) are instantly qualified to come over to the United States and work for companies that have a hiring policy that says you must have at least a bachelor degree to work for them.

Okay, so maybe I could have come up with a better example than I did. Anyway, my point is that before we start placing all of the blame on teachers we need a majority consensus in this country on what we really want our different school systems to teach students and then provide these organizations with adequate resources to help them accomplish the tasks we have mandated to them. The current administration seems to be promoting "teach students to pass tests" which is the way the Japanese education system currently works.

One Programmer's Opinion
Thursday, May 22, 2003

"Exactly. Ultimately YOU are responsible for your child's education, NOT the school system."

Then why are our taxes paying for compulsory education?  If we're responsible, why can't we take that tax money and use it to educate our children in the way we choose as parents?

The problem is the inability to reward success over failure.  Teachers who inspire kids to achieve beyond all expectation are compensated the same as a teacher who comes into class unprepared.  And any hint that money should flow to successful programs over unsuccessful ones, or that parents should have more control over where education money goes, makes the NEA squeal like a stuck pig.

Jim Rankin
Thursday, May 22, 2003

"This epidemic of teacher incompetence is disgusting ad it affects all of society. "

As several people have pointed out, who is a teacher?  Is it the person who spends 6.5 hours with your child or the people spending the other 17.5?  Why did a home schooled child do better?  Because their parents value an education running 7x24. They sacrificed for the child, so that at least one would be home and provide a continual education environment.

Schools today are being flooded with children barely potty trained.  Why?  Because dad and mom are working and school is cheaper than daycare.  Friends of ours have children who talk with their mouth full, shout over others who are speaking and interrupt without thinking they do so.  Is a teacher responsible for this?  If they cannot behave at home, how do they behave as school.  It's the 80/20 rule.  20% of the worst kids consume 80% of the teachers time.  I remember offending a friend, when she said the "teacher did not make the class interesting enough and that was why her son had problems."  She was upset the teacher was having him removed from class.  He should be. Why should the 80% be penalized?

This is going to offend many people who believe their two income family is working.  <>It's not<>.  You drop the kids off at daycare (also called the cattle station), where Pygmalion would be an understatement.  They are then delivered to school, "educated" and then returned to their stalls until mom/dad arrive to pick them up.  Dinner, cleanup and bedtime.

Total time overseen by wardens: 14 hours
Total time overseen by mom/dad: 2 hours

It's time for Americans to decide what is important.  Children or their professions.  If it is their profession, they should not be made to feel guilty for not having children.  At least they are not adding to the problem.  Stop blaming teachers, den mothers, and day care.  Take parental responsibility and choose to either be a parent or not.  Being a parent means a parent is working with your children 7x24.  But that's hard, and it is much easier to just put the kids in storage and then whine when the storage facility lets them spoil.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

I'm not so sure its an inability that prevents reward to success over failure, rather its a decision of the teacher unions not to do so.

Why?  This would promote competition between schools and between teachers to become better.  Not necessarily a bad thing; But 2 reasons against competition come to mind.
  -individuality - it's easier for the gov't to control thier employees if they all feel that they are equal.  Take away the thought of individualism (via standarized salary scales based on time of service) and you get a bunch of people thinking "thats just how it is" - much easier to manage then actually having to measure the progress of your employees abilities
  - taxes - always a constant stream of money coming into the system regardless of performance, and in some cases lowers performing schools get more money to burn thus helping to furthe the Democratic agenda.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

[If we're responsible, why can't we take that tax money and use it to educate our children in the way we choose as parents]

write your congressman.

Ian Stallings
Thursday, May 22, 2003

It's not the students, nor the teachers, nor the parents.  It's the culture.

It's not "cool" to be smart or to study in the US and that is the fundamental problem.  Kids who take an interest and try hard get lambasted by their peers.  The important thing is sitting at the cool lunch table, and you don't get there by getting A's.  You get there by having the right looks and wearing the right clothes and talking the right talk.

Now the kids who have support from home can survive this and do what they know is right and will buy them a good future, but most do not, and don't "get it" and by the time they do, it will be too late.

How do you change it?  I have no idea.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

It was suggested that we pay teaches based on their performance.  How do we measue that?

Do we base pay on test scores?  Then teachers will teach for the test. 

Dow we base pay on Grades?  Teachers will give easier tests and everyone will get an A.  Parents will love it, but will students learn?

How do we evaluate between two teachers one of which teaches college prep students and one who has poor performers?

Finally, can you imagine the chaos is students learn they can blow a test (which probably means very little to them) and they can cost a disliked teacher a raise or even his or her job.  Sure, it would take more than one student but I'd bet it could be done.  Talk about the inmates running the assylum.

One answer to measuring student performance in "High Stakes" testing for High School kids.  Pass the test to move-on\graduate.  Fail and you repeat next year.  We have that here in my local district.  Parent hate it.  It's not fair.  It's too much pressure.  Every excuse in the book.  Many parents do everything they can to insulate their children from the nned to performe and the consequence of failure.  Too bad in the real world you need to get the job done or you need to pack up your desk.


Eric Budd
Thursday, May 22, 2003

I agree with Robert.

The education system is (almost) same for everybody but oriental students do much better.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Recent blog posts of interest:

The Cambridge School System in NY Times

Why Nerds aren't Popular

Thursday, May 22, 2003

"Teachers in the US deserve to get paid what they do? Ha! what they deserve is to be put in prison for fraud ..."

Ever occur to you that one reason for an insufficient supply of good teachers is that they are underpaid?  You're not going to find crowds of smart people with Master's degrees applying for and staying in teaching jobs, given that they usually have many opportunities for better pay elsewhere.

T. Norman
Thursday, May 22, 2003

You really can't say "It's the teachers" or "It's the parents". It's both.

IMHO, it starts with the parents. It's their responsibility as a parent to ensure their children get a good education. Unfortunately, many parents just don't care.

However, the school system is hardly blameless, either. I think we have all heard the horror stories of teachers who can hardly do basic math or who can't even find Africa on a map themselves.

Toss in the political power that the Teachers Union has and you have a royal mess.

I don't have any solutions beyond that my children won't attend public schools. I was educated in private schools and my children will be too. It's a shame that in many parts of the country, you effectively have no choice: Private schools or send them to be taught by inept teachers.

Mark Hoffman
Thursday, May 22, 2003

There are a few options here.

First, remember that public school is not the only option.  If you're worried about cost, home schooling's cheap.  If you're worried about socialization, try private school.

I dislike how unfocused school life is.  If you were told you were going to be taken out of work and be taught abstract concepts for twelve years with very little practical application, how motivated would you be?

If kids had something to work towards, they'd be a lot more motivated.  They also wouldn't tend to split off into arbitrary cliques.

Brent P. Newhall
Thursday, May 22, 2003

"Do we base pay on test scores?  Then teachers will teach for the test."

If the tests are good, teaching for the test isn't necessarily a bad thing.  England and many British Commonwealth countries have a system of exams called O-Levels and A-Levels, and if the teachers teach to those tests, the students generally learn a lot.

O-Levels, which are normally taken at about age 16, are sufficient for acceptance to most US universities, often without even looking at the high school transcript.

T. Norman
Thursday, May 22, 2003

You folks talking about the educational system should look for a more fundamental cause.

The US is a repository of redneck intellectual non-culture. Brains aren't really valued. (To prequalify my rant, I am native midwestern US and I've never even been overseas.)

Basically, there are very few quarters in our society where a person is expected and demanded to know what they're talking about.  Our culture values "Letting it all hang out" even if you've got no clue what the f*** you're saying.
I find it interesting to watch BBC America's news broadcasts or listen to British people (including a few I know personally) spew passionately on a subject. My basic impression is that, even if the person is not educated, Brits have generally pondered long and hard before they bother to open their mouth. The style is entirely different than ours. A typical American (New Yorkers exempted, who are probably more European in their thoroughness :-) ) would be eaten for a snack and spit out when arguing with a Brit.
And commensurately, the US culture is real big on instant self anointing of qualfications based upon personal hubris and style. Witness a rant I posted months ago about the "senior SW architect" asshole whose code I had to pick up, who also taught C++ on the side, who didn't even use constructors in his code to initialize the objects.

We're also addicted to self esteem culture, but that's getting a bit afield of my main point. Which is that we're kind of a nation of shallow idiots.

It's no wonder that if you're modest in our culture, you get squashed like a bug, even if you're a paradigm of competency. The only thing that seems to matter is appearance and style, even in (and especially within) supposed meritocracies.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Dear Dennis,
                    So teachers are badly paid because 50% of their products are failures. You belong to a profession that is paid twice as much and which has a failure rate of over 90%. If teachers deserve to be raped by Bubba you deserve a concrete pylon stuck up your 'arse.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 22, 2003

"It's not "cool" to be smart or to study in the US" - Damn right Robert.

So what is cool? As far as I can see, its doing whatever the corporations (MTV, Nike, who-ever) say you should do. So yeah, lets privatise every school starting next week. I guarantee by 11am on the first Monday, they'll be giving burger flipping lessons to five year olds, trainer sewing to the 8 year olds...

Basil Brush
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Of *course* it's not cool to be smart!  Jiminy Christmas - news flash people: America is anti-intellectual.  Always has been.  Probably always will be.

The solution: help your kids understand that being "cool" is unimportant.  (No, really, it *is* unimportant.  You didn't *know* that?)  Despite what the idiots over in Marketing tell us 1000 times per day, life is not about being "cool": Life is about (fill in your own thing here).

In other words, first parents have to grow-the-fsck-up; then they can teach their kids to grow up.  Everything else follows from that...

Spaghetti Rustler
Thursday, May 22, 2003

It's not "cool" to be smart or to study in the US and that is the fundamental problem.  Kids who take an interest and try hard get lambasted by their peers.  The important thing is sitting at the cool lunch table, and you don't get there by getting A's.  You get there by having the right looks and wearing the right clothes and talking the right talk.

The thing is what gets rewarded in U.S. culture?
Its the sales and marketing type jobs. Mostly clueless idiots who attribute to themselves "leadership and Motivational skills" Who wants to learn all that complicated geographical (can't find china) stuff just to be some chump sitting in front of a computer all day.

I think the reason americans are not getting the science degrees, and are not studying very hard are very rational.
Intelligence and Hard Work ARE NOT the way to get ahead in America!

Daniel Shchyokin
Thursday, May 22, 2003

I think many here are missing the big picture.
The posts I'm seeing here are blaming one or two or three things for it. The problem is not any single thing, but a collection of a ton of variables.

First, the students: if a student WANTS to learn, he/she/it will manage to learn. However, how does one motivate a student to learn? Some posters mentioned that it's no longer 'cool' to be smart. That's certainly the case in many places, but not everywhere. My old high school had groups defined hardly at all by intelligence: many of the popular people did very well in school, and many of them did not. There was no pattern.

This is going to turn into an unorganized rant... damn, oh well.

On there being bad teachers: Yes, there are bad teachers. I've had teachers on all ends of the extremes. I'll say this: there are more good teachers than people think, but there are bad teachers, and they do inhibit learning.

Administration: The admins often get in the way of effective instruction. There are frequent cases of teachers being encouraged to pass students. Often teachers are told to do stupid things, like many 'bringing technology into the classroom' iniatives, which end up with teachers writing bad PowerPoint presentations (give me a good (white|black)board any day).

Parents mess things up in two ways: firstly, by not encouraging their kids to do well; by not caring if they fail. Second, by being offended when they do fail. Parents complain when kids fail because they don't participate (No, I won't just let your child do fill-in-the-blank dittos all period while I try to conduct a real class!). Parents sue when their child fails and isn't allowed to graduate/go to prom/do XYZ. And they win. They should be fined for it, but they manage to win, because districts can't spend the money to fight it.

Money, the cult of football, and friends: Many teachers don't make what they deserve. Many make more. Do you have any idea the hours a good teacher works? You think they work from 8AM to 3PM? Every single good teacher I've ever had came in early and left late. And do you realize the time they spend grading papers and tests? My mom will leave before 7AM, come back after 4PM or 5, make and eat dinner, grade papers, and commonly go to bed before 9, with maybe 1-3 hours free a night. How long do you work?

Many teachers are overpaid. They are incompetent. One teacher my mom worked with had tenure so was nearly impossible to fire. They bought out her contract and told her to leave: That's how they got rid of her, by paying her many many tens of thousands of dollars. There are no standards for teachers after they've acheived tenure.

A couple years ago, my highschool tried to cut the substitute teacher budget by more than forty thousand dollars. Our future problem solvers club made it to the state competition that year, and wasn't going to be able to go because they couldn't get a teacher to cover the sponsor's classes for two or three days. If our football team had made it to state, the school board would have a fucking parade down 55th Street, but they're not football, so they were going to get screwed. I went to that school board meeting and argued for the money; we got it.

Crime: No one has mentioned this in a while. I think many of you have been out of school for too long. How's this for a distraction? I'm not referring to your average potheads, which are a problem everywhere, but they aren't much of a problem: they are just unmotivated people.

A few years ago a kid brought a gun to my mom's school. A fucking *gun*. I am not a gun control freak, but that doesn't mean I like guns being brought there. This was not on TV. This is not something I saw on the news or read in the paper. It really happens. This wasn't an inner-city school, it was a god-damned suburb. It's a half hour from the third richest county in the nation.

Schools are the safest places you can be, above hospitals even. So this isn't much of a threat, but given the above, how the hell do you expect to attract good teachers when you pay them so little, and these are the sorts of things they hear about your school?

On attracting good teachers: my mom still works there even though she could likely land a position at a much closer and (theoretically) better paying school. This is because they'll start her off on the bottom of the pay scale again, because she is moving to a different district.

Low standards: Schools, even good schools, have incredibly low standards. Have you ever read the 'A' papers from a high school class?  They are not 'A' quality papers. (note: I realize some people are just not good writers, but if the class is to teach you writing, they should fail people who can't write. The question of whether to require said writing class is a different question altogether). That is what you get across the board: students are not required to learn the material and so they don't.

Perfection is not prized any more than mediocrity in today's schools.

On oriental schools: From what I hear (which is at least as reliable information as what hearsay has been posted thus far), their schools are *not* better. They fall into the syndrome of not creating good students, but failing bad ones. They simply have high standards, but not necessarily educational classes. Their graduates are good because only the good are allowed to graduate.

On them being good students: from observations of my own and those of teachers I've spoken with, the correlation between ethnicities and education seems to be this: Your average white students seem to be distributed the most evenly between good and bad students. Many other ethnicities seem to be not any 'better' or 'worse', but more 'extreme'. That is, students from say, China, are not all better students, but merely that they tend to be not mediocre: they are either good or bad.

That was not meant to offend anyone, and I apologize if it did.

There are no simple solutions here, but there are all fairly clear, identifiable problems, which would be solvable if it weren't for politics.

Mike Swieton
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Denis, stories like this are as useless as the stories condemning programmers as incompetents who fail to meet deadlines ( 2 weeks, dictated by managers) and whose products have "bugs" ( out of 10 million instructions, and even though the product improves the user's productivity 90 percent, 20 instructions fail if the user does something really dumb.)

I see Stephen Jones has made the same analogy, too.

Get this in perspective. Teachers have to deal with children in all neighbourhoods and of all sorts of backgrounds, including signficant proportions that don't come from English speaking backgrounds. They do an excellent job considering what they have to do.

These charges about unions are also naive. Unions are just representations of the people doing the work. They represent the people in much the same way many people on JOS would like programmers' interests to be represented.

Business hates unions, because unions challenge the worst excesses of greedy and careless managements. So regularly we see hate campagins against unions. Open your eyes.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

The culture of cool is a product of the school system
where we allow large numbers of kids create their own
culture. The social pressure of groups is all it takes.

Get rid of the large schools where the kids create
culture and cool will change.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

When I finished my degree with a math major, I thought I'd like to teach. I lasted 9 months. Poor pay, shitty kids (and some good ones too), crap parents, no resources, bells, classroom agro all contributed to my rapid exit into the world of IT where I earned 4x as much (literally) and where almost 20 years later I sit with financial fortune far beyond those people that I started to teach with all those years ago.

From personal experience I have seem teachers burn themselves to charcoal in an attempt to further the opportunities of students, would I do it again? No.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Warning: Bit of a long rant coming up.

The collapse of education seems to me not to be isolated from a more general societal decline. Looking for the causes in order to do the amends is very very difficult, but my gut feeling is that at the very centre of this are some pillars of the American way of life: individualism and equality.
Individualism results in a system where the needs of the one dominate over the needs of the all. Any action to regulate the individual into compliance with the needs of society are seen as bad, and only in the extreme cases should society intervene. Is a student making it impossible for the class to get an education enough to warrant “official” intervention? In the US the answer is no, since that would mean the teacher, representing the state of the “collective” would take action to limit the “freedom” of the individual. The fact that that one boy is taking away the freedom of all the others to get an education is ignored, since that one boy is an individual and not the “collective”. Should the teacher even try to intervene in any way there will be a host of litigators ready to try to plead that the  “action” of the teacher did harm to the individual, and get huge sums of money from the school. So the teacher is paralyzed in this system, having no choice but to become a passive spectator to the disruption of the educational process in his own classroom.
A said example of this was given before on this board. If you missed it then, here it is again . It is not a waste of your time.

Now for equality. Equality stems from individualism. If there is not collective that is more than the individual, there can be no judgement, and so all must be equal. Equality can be good. For example the principle of “equal opportunity” is a great thing. The idea that a society will at the start give every individual a chance to start from an equal footing is laudable. Once running it becomes a thorny issue though. What if the opportunity is blown by the individual? Does he get another chance? What if he blows it again?
Imagine we did run the 100 meters. At the start we are each given the same opportunity. Each one will have to go the full 100 meters, no one can get a head start. Once the race starts, equality is discarded and your position is dependant upon your own progress.
What if you fall behind? Should the race stop and put everyone on the same line again? Sure, in that way you would guarantee everyone finishing equal, but then why have athletes? Why train? Why even bother to have the race at all?
In current society this is exactly what is happening in the name of equality. We have a race, but no one is interested in observing the race to see whether the race is run in  a fair manner. We’ll just look at the results, which should be that everyone finished equally. Men can not be faster than woman, black can not be faster then white, Muslim not faster than Jew … If we discover we can slice it any way so that he results seem "unequal" than this is prove of “discrimination”. We need not see the race, the actions of discrimination happening, the result is sufficient proof.
In teaching this means: Why did Johnny not get the A? Because he is a lazy slob that didn’t pay attention all year and chose to sniff glue with his gang instead? No, it is because the teacher is a “discriminator”! Sue the bastard!

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, May 23, 2003


I wish your assessment of we Brits were close.  Honestly I do.

My partner teaches at primary school, and I have to say they are doing good things.

The Numeracy Strategy is excellent, you really should get yourself one of those.  Just helping my partner with her lesson plans has improved my mental arithmatic no end.

For those who put down the education system in our countries, please show me a country that has a high standard of living but does not have compulsory education.

Ged Byrne
Friday, May 23, 2003

Complaints about the dire state of the public education system have been around for at least forty years. As Realist has said, twenty years ago many schools were a real mess. Possible the advent of litigation has tipped the balance.

Before you go round criticizing parents who have two jobs and never see their kids it might be worth looking into how much some of these parents would have over after rent and transport if they just stuck to the forty hour at Walmart.

Even if the parents stayed at home it would not be a total solution. The French public education system was long considered among the best in the world but there are some awful reports coming out of the suburbs, and yet these are generally Arab kids from cultures with a strong family background - heck half the time they even marry their cousins.

Far from scholastic acheivment  not being rewarded in American society, the gap between graduate and non-graduate earners has never been greater in the UK or US.

Even in societies where the schools are still generally under the control of the teachers, such as China, the quality of students leaves much to be desired. There are thousands of Americans and other Westerners in Chinese schools and universities and their almost universal opinion is that the intellectual standard of the average undergraduate is abysmal.

The effect of rabid anti-intellctualism as received wisdom in the US and the UK should not be underestimated either. It is in fact a social control mechanism used to ensure that the poor don't realize how much they're being screwed, but it isn't coonducive to motivating indifferent students.

And on a purely pragmatic viewpoint you are not going to make any teacher better by saying teachers are useless; you may not improve teaching either by saying that teachers are wonderful, but it could improve the students' attitude.

(And has anybody actually looked at the questions that started Dennis's rant off - the new name for the capital of Kyrigistan for the love of God!) I got four right out of eleven and will accept being criticized as a scandalously ignorant teacher, but only by those who get more than I did :)

The link is

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 23, 2003

"Far from scholastic acheivment  not being rewarded in American society, the gap between graduate and non-graduate earners has never been greater in the UK or US."

Trouble is that kids don't look that far ahead - and scholastic acheivement isn't rewarded at the time. Football players get talked about in assembly and the team are the school heros: if the computer clubs were talked about the same way, they might be more popular.

Katie Lucas
Friday, May 23, 2003

Caveat: I haven't read the Yahoo story (I don't Yahoo, ta very much).

I'm going to comment on it anyway though :)

The fact is that if a child is very bright, putting them into a normal school is a waste of time because the teachers have to teach the other 29 kids in the class as well, and rationality demands that they all be taught at roughly the same speed. In such circumstances that child will never reach his/her potential (and as a teacher once said, the purpose of schools is not to try and turn out 30 kids who go to Uni and become doctors, it is to allow all of those 30 kids to reach their full potential, whether that be Uni or GCSE woodwork). On that basis it is really hardly surprising that a child who is home educated wins such competitions.

FWIW I left school with very poor exam results, but I now earn... well, way too much for what we do :) which is because I caught up later on in life.

Friday, May 23, 2003

18 year old LeBron James just signed a $93M dollar deal with Nike, he hasn't even shot one ball in the NBA.

Did the educational system in ths US fail him?  Doesn't look like it...  It has taken his talent and given him the means to excell at it.
In the same breath it probably does a diservice to the rest of the kids by re-enforcing notions that furthering your education may not be very important.
For every Lebron James there are hundreds of thousands of kids that will never make it to that level, what are they going to do?

Oh and the union thing:  the only thing unions do for workers is re-enforce some silly notion that employement is a *right* and that they *deserve* high pay/good benefits/ blah blah blah, for most often mediocre work,  I don't see those rights in the Constitution anywhere.

Friday, May 23, 2003

While it may be easy to bash schools, realize that a great deal of the "US schools are horrible and should be destroyed" comes from the right wing opponents of all things governmental.  Required reading:

Most of the figures used to denounce US schools are misleading at best and don't reflect the economic reality of how people live in our nation.

Yes, there is a great deal of silliness being done in the name of creating equality, but this shouldn't be used as an excuse to dismantle free education.

Contrary Mary
Friday, May 23, 2003

"free education"???

A big chuck of my paycheck is seized to pay for  "free education".  Crap that is being passed off as education; then sold to the taxpayers.

Friday, May 23, 2003

[18 year old LeBron James just signed a $93M dollar deal with Nike, he hasn't even shot one ball in the NBA.

Did the educational system in ths US fail him?  Doesn't look like it...  It has taken his talent and given him the means to excell at it.]

Lebron James went to a private school, Akron Saint Vincent-Saint Mary, The Yahoo article cited is talking about US public schools and their failures. I think we can all agree that US private education system is good. But not everyone can afford it.

Ian Stallings
Friday, May 23, 2003

they probably could if given a choice.  i.e. through vouchers

Friday, May 23, 2003

that's great, apw, no right to a job or an income... but you can own a gun. God bless america.

Basil Brush
Friday, May 23, 2003

Yea, but with a gun you can get an income so why bother with the job :)

Stephen Jones
Saturday, May 24, 2003

The point wasn't that 50% of students don't know the new capital of Kryzykistan, which is obscure trivia suitable for the geography bee.

The point was that 50% of students can't find China, Japan OR the UK on a map.

It's not that 15% can't find all of them.

It's 50% that can't find any of them.

12, 13, 14 years in school. And you don't know where China is? You don't know where the UK is? Come on now! 12 years of "education"!!! What are they doing in there all that time? Not 15%! 50%!!!

Likewise, statistics showing significant numbers of high school *graduates* that are functionally illiterate.

If a diploma means ANYTHING at all then graduating a functional illiterate is FRAUD!!!

12 years in school and NOT ONE teacher neticed that Johny can't read? How the heck does that happen unless EVERY SINGLE TEACHER that encountered Johny in those 12 years was completely incompetant? How? If any one of the 78 teachers they had had noticed the kid was functionally illiterate, they could have brought in a specialist for a few months and taught the poor kid to read.

This is child abuse. That's what it is. Plain and simple. Teachers in prison. An idea whose time is ripe.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, May 24, 2003

I only got three right. Ouch. I chose Chinook as I thought it was a fish and summised the others were all winds, if not for that I might have got four.

I need to brush up on geography.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

To be honest I would suspect that none of the countries on the map could have been labelled (a geographic rather than political map), otherwise the kids just point to the places without names (duh! even I could do that!). I wouldn't have a clue where China is in that situation, either, because (and this is really quite important) people tend to remember things by relating them to other things. Now, I know China is between Japa, India, and Russia, but hell, if I can't find them either...?

Saturday, May 24, 2003

You could check out the syllabus before you go criticizing the teachers.

US adults are notoriously ignorant about geography. Part of it comes from the fact that the US is so big and "abroad " is so far away.

Another reason is the almost total lack of foreign coverage on US network television, unless the foreign news has a domestic agenda.

I'm perfectly certain that if little Johnny was put in a cell and gang raped every time he got a geography question wrong his geography would improve immensely (unless he found he quite liked it).

Unfortunately at present teachers get put in jail for that and not Johnny's failing to identlfy somewhere on a map.

I rather suspect that a lot of teachers knew Johnny's faults but that Johnny was not exactly co-operative in getting the answer.

After all, your parents and friends have known you for years and yet don't seem to have stopped you from being a loud-mouthed jerk.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, May 24, 2003

Dennis, do you notice you're going weird on us?  Children are not as simple as our programs.  If we could have one teacher per student, we wouldn't have these problems.

US education is a HARD problem, and I can only see technology providing a solution.  Certainly nothing else did...

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Dennis, did you invent the Atkins diet? That was a fucking stupid idea, too.

Basil Brush
Saturday, May 24, 2003

> If we could have one teacher per student

Or a parent, or educational (not simply "play-based") pre-schools. I learned a map of the world before grade 1, using a wooden jigsaw map.

Christopher Wells
Sunday, May 25, 2003

Up until the mid-sixties education (in the UK at least) was predicated on only a relatively few going on to a degree or even diploma level education.  The rest of the population was educated to the level at which they could get a job, at 15.  If they were lucky it would be an apprenticeship which would involve Technical College and they'd have a craft or trade which would last them their working life.

Following the political decision to provide equal education to all (in itself a laudable goal), the necessary resources were never made available.  That with the change in industries to the almost complete removal of apprenticeships and changing to a college based education and almost saying that if you don't go to university and get a degree you are a failure for life; that again has forced the education system into failing.

Its always easy to pick at some quiz and point out that illiteracy is rampant and geography is one of the easiest targets.

Our values are now distorted where a degree in Media Studies (always another easy target) is considered of more benefit and use than a plumber's or electrician TEC qualification.

Simon Lucy
Sunday, May 25, 2003

One of the reasons for the geography "problem" is the way US schools are set up.  There is no norm for what kids should be learning in each grade.  Therefore, the third grade teacher (or whomever is developing third grade curriculum)can decide that geography is a fourth grade level subject, while the kids arrive in fourth grade with a teacher who thinks they are all behind because they don't know geography yet.

I recall many occasions where teachers would berate us for not knowing something that we had never been taught previously.  Grammar is notoriously bad this way.  In the early years, teachers want to inspire kids to read without "ruining" it with grammar, while high school teachers berate students for being ignorant of things they have never been taught.

Contrary Mary
Sunday, May 25, 2003

In related news, protesters in Florida are fighting against a test of 10th-grade-level material required of 12th graders before they can graduate. They are first tested in 10th grade and can repeat the test four more times in 11th and 12th grade, and can continue to repeat it indefinitely after finishing 12th grade.

That's the typical response of the public whenever standards are put in place -- dumb it down so more can pass.

T. Norman
Sunday, May 25, 2003

Maps of the world are not the most important part of Geography. When I used American textbooks I saw some very nice "Geography" lessons in Grade 3 Social Studies textbooks. Stuff like making very simple maps of where you live.

Arab students can do a good job on namng things in maps, of their region at least, but get them to give you directions or draw a map and you can forget it.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, May 25, 2003

I thought this was a flash in the pan, but reading the article...

"About 11 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 cannot find their own country on a map,"

This is just wrong. Shows a lazy, and un-inquisitive mind. Definitely not someone I would want to employ.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Maps of the world may not be the most important part of geography, but they are a fundmental tool. Likewise dates are not the most important part of history, but it's hard to imagine someone having a good understanding of history without knowing roughly when things happen.

For example, a lot of people, shown a map of South-East Asia, might fail to distinguish Vietnam from, say, Cambodia or Malaysia. But if you thought Vietnam was in Africa then it's fair to say you are uninformed about an important piece of history.

Incidentally, you might like this 'news' item. Which would probably apply to most Western countries.

David Clayworth
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

"Incidentally, you might like this 'news' item. Which would probably apply to most Western countries. 

--- the ultimate Democrat's wet dream

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

It's a question of lack of interest. But interest in other countries does tend to be in inverse proportion to the power of one's own.

And most western teachers in Japan or Korea reckon that things are much, much worse over there.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

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