Friday, October 17, 2008

Is we or is we ain’t – educated?

Everyone has an opinion or two about the emphasis that should be put on education—especially during an election year. Things like standards, goals, metrics, ranking systems, and test scores--not to mention vouchers and charter schools--are all part of the education debate.

I’m not sure, however, if any debaters even mention that the 2008 meaning of the word, “educated,” may be somewhat different from what it was in 1950 and even different from what it was in 1900, etc. Things do change – really.

To think that we can continue to teach and evaluate today’s students in the same way that students were taught and evaluated in 1950 or whenever may be unrealistic. And, there seems to be special concern over whether or not students have “gained” from one year to the next. How this can be accomplished with a paper/pencil multiple-guess-type test has never been clear to me. Whether or not students have learned anything may not be apparent for a while. Students do not really learn according to someone’s time-table as might be inferred in the very familiar saying. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Or, as my daddy used to tell me, “Boy, one day you will understand.”

Kinda makes you wonder why sometimes students who struggled through and hated high school wind up doing very well in college.

And speaking of testing, the other nugget comes to mind. “You can’t fatten a pig by weighing it over and over.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Looking for the Elusive X

Apparently, algebra is a gift to us from the Babylonians. Now, that was a long, long time ago. Pretty good math stuff. I even passed the courses when I was a young pup. I still remember how to do some of the stuff.

However, it is amazing that after all this time students are still looking for X. You know: given such and such, find X. X=?

We need to remember what it was like when we old folks were 14 and how we were taught algebra. This must be difficult to do, however, because many adults go on and on about how much more difficult their schooling was. Please. I was there.

One of the joys of grand-parenting is that I get to help my 14 year-old grandson with algebra. Lots of fun -- really. Now, to you in reader-land who think American public school children are not working, may I suggest that you sit down with your children (or grandchildren) and regularly help them with their homework -- especially math (algebra). Let's see how many of you are driven to your knees in tears.