Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Public Schools: Problems and Solutions

By pHatidic in Culture
Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 08:43:44 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

This article uses examples from the American public school system; however, the ideas here are equally applicable in any country. What follows is not a comprehensive solution to every problem in public schools, only the ones that can be fixed by implementing The Keller Plan.

Anna, age three, currently works at a first grade level even though she cannot legally enter school for another two years. When she finally is old enough to enroll, she will be entering one of the worst school systems in the country. Presumably by this time she will be working at a third or fourth grade level, but will be forced to enter kindergarten with the other children her age.

Homeschooling is becoming an increasingly popular solution for such cases. For most parents though, this involves hiring expensive tutors. Homeschooling also runs the risk of socially isolating kids. Is there a way someone like Anna could get a topnotch education tailored for her own unique abilities while still enjoying the benefits public schools provide and avoiding the drawbacks of homeschooling?

Programmed Instruction: A Brief Overview

Programmed instruction (or PI) is defined in the dictionary as, "instruction through information given in small steps with each requiring a correct response by the learner before going on to the next step." (m-w.com). PI was first seriously studied in the 1960s by B. F. Skinner for use as a behavior modification tool. Today these behavior modification techniques are mostly limited to military use to train soldiers.

PI also has many applications in learning. Educational theorist Robert Gagne wrote a book called The Conditions of Learning, describing how PI can work for teaching as well as behavior modification. His system was based on the simple philosophy of PI: a student needs complete knowledge of subordinate skills before learning superordinate ones. Superordinate skills are broken down into their subordinate skills. For example, Gagne describes how the skills needed to balance a checkbook can be broken all the way down to the level of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Although this idea may seem like common sense, it has almost completely disappeared since the 70s and is currently in use almost nowhere1.

Training, Sorting, Socialization, and Caretaking

These are the four purposes of public schools. Sorting is the process where schools decide whether each student is on the college track or the vocational track. Some students are encouraged to enroll in honors and Advanced Placement courses while others are barred from them. Training is the process of teaching facts and skills, and socialization and caretaking should be self-explanatory. The following is an analysis of why the sorting and training functions of schools are broken and then how PI can fix them.


Normally in schools each course is presented linearly in a textbook and taught chapter by chapter from front to back. This is highly inefficient for several reasons. Firstly, all students are taught at the same rate regardless of how fast they assimilate the material. If you consider this trivial, try convincing that to a student who spent thirteen years in compulsory schools when he was capable of learning the material in nine or a kid so far behind that he was passed from grade to grade until he eventually graduated high school not knowing how to read.

Secondly, every student moves on from one chapter to the next regardless of whether they have mastered material. How can one be expected to fully understand integrals after getting a 64% on the derivatives chapter of a calculus test? Also, lets say that a student wants to learn a specific concept in chapter seven of a textbook. Clearly some of the content from chapters one through six will be required to understand the concept the students wants to learn, although probably not all of it will. This means that for every complex skill one needs to acquire, a large portion of one's time is inefficiently spent learning unnecessary material.


The system of grading used by schools has little correlation with what students actually know. If a student gets a C in high school Latin, what percentage of the curriculum do they know? It is impossible to say because in most classes homework, essays, and class participation are equally important as tests. Grading is done more out of religious faith than practicality; grades take into account both work ethic and knowledge. Students who understand the material without completing their homework are punished. As an example, students who excel in music often get bad grades because even though they are intelligent they spend up to six hours a day practicing their instruments. Consequently they don't have much time for homework and even if they understand the material it is difficult for them to get into top colleges despite having the intelligence and work ethic to succeed. If I want to hire a high school student to do web design and I see he got a B in a web design class, that doesn't tell me anything at all about what that student is capable of or what their work ethic is.

Furthermore, when a student performs poorly on a test what is to say they didn't learn more of the material after the test was given? Even if grades are comprised of only test averages they still don't correlate well with what students actually know under the current grading system.

It is telling that Craig Venter, head of the human genome project, almost failed out of high school and didn't go to college and Bill Bradley got 480 on his verbal SATs but won a Rhodes scholarship and became a senator2.

Although the SATs have been found to have no statistical significance in determining a student's success in college past the first semester of freshman year3, where they are just barely statistically significant, they are one of the most important factors for gaining admission into college. This shows just how meaningless grades really are.

Sorting and Training Using Programmed Instruction

With programmed instruction the situation is very different. The biggest difference is that a student is not allowed to advance to a new lesson until he has mastered the previous one. The calculus student could not move to integrals until he had mastered derivatives. Computers ensure the student does not repeat material he has already mastered while facilitating review to keep old lessons fresh. Adjustable pacing allows each student to learn at their optimally efficient rate.

Since a student wouldn't progress until they had mastered 100% of the material in each lesson, the need for grading would be eliminated. Instead each student would simply build a portfolio of their skills and knowledge. In this way there would now be equality in sorting and the college selection process. However, equity would also be increased since the same software would be used in every school district from the wealthiest to the poorest.

Choice, efficiency, Equity, Equality

These four categories are used to evaluate the quality of schools. Choice refers to how much freedom a student has in choosing the direction of their own education. Efficiency is the speed and cost at which students learn a given amount of material. Equity is how well schools compensate for the innate differences between students, whereas equality is the extent to which all students have access to the same opportunities. Traditionally it has been thought that if you increased choice, efficiency, equity, or equality then the other three would decrease. However with programmed instruction there is a clear gain in each of these four areas.


In a curriculum integrated with PI there would be a set curriculum for students to master, but they could tackle it in any way they wanted as long as they learned subordinate skills before superordinate ones. For example a student in math would start by learning counting, then addition, then subtraction, then multiplication, then division, then fractions. From there they would choose whether to learn proportions, mixed numbers, or long division. This `skill tree' representing the curriculum would branch and merge scores of times, giving students nearly infinite ways to go about learning the material, all equally efficient.


In most schools the only class taught entirely with computers is typing, and so it is no coincidence that most learn-to-type programs involve some form of PI. Think back to when you learned to type: most likely the software you used involved a series of lessons where you had to pass each lesson to go on to the next, with each lesson introducing a few new keys at a time. It is also likely that there were exercises at the end of each lesson where you were evaluated on both your speed and accuracy. Furthermore, each lesson probably started with a brief review of what was learned in previous ones. The students would progress through the levels as quickly as they learned the material, as the program would automatically adjust to the learning rate of each student. Through a PI course you were able to learn a skill as difficult as touch typing with relative ease. Could you imagine learning to type through reading a textbook or listening to lectures and how hard and inefficient it would be?

The role of teachers would shift away from teaching basic facts and skills toward using these facts and skills to stimulate discussion and higher level thinking. This would also ameliorate the severe lack of qualified teachers in many school systems. Of course not all classes would be suitable for this type of instruction, for example PI would be an inappropriate tool for writing seminars, science labs, music, gym, and other forms of hands on instruction. Although PI will never be able to replace all that schools have to offer, it is a highly efficient way of learning certain skills.

Equity and Equality

Equity and equality would also benefit. Equity increases because the poor would have the same level of access to learning as the wealthy. But at the same time there would also be more equality because access to higher education would be based on something more tangible than grades and SATs.

In the sixties and seventies, PI was thought to be the Next Big Thing in education. However, it turned out to be economically impossible to put such a system into place at the time. By and large, PI has been forgotten; however, advances in hardware and software over the last thirty years have now made PI a real possibility.

Economics: Hardware and Software

The first 100 dollar computers will be available in early 20054, and thin clients could be even cheaper. The amount of money necessary to equip a classroom with the needed hardware would be comparable to the cost of textbooks.

A software suite containing everything taught in the K-12 schools would have been prohibitively expensive if not impossible just a few years ago. In fact, it would still be very difficult for any private corporation to create this today (though some are trying) given that it would cost tens of millions of dollars to develop and have no guaranteed market or proven track record in the classroom. However, using the same wiki technology that has been used to successfully create Wikipedia, a professional quality product could be ready for a nominal fee in just a few years using entirely volunteer labor. This would then be translated into every major language and distributed for free to anyone who wished to use it as a tool for learning. Although this article focuses on PI in the classroom, it would be just as useful, if not more so, as a tool for adults to educate themselves at home.


In 1983, the Department of Education published the report A Nation at Risk, which said the American public education system was broken, and that, if a foreign power had imposed the system upon us, we would have considered it an act of war. Furthermore the average seventeen year old minority has the same test scores as the average thirteen year old white student. The solutions to these problems have been argued about with little progress for over thirty years. PI, used sensibly, has the potential to not only eliminate this equity gap but to increase achievement and equality across the board. PI will never be a replacement for schools and teachers and should not be seen as such. However it is another tool that can be added to our repertoire to ensure that every child gets the best education possible.


  1. PI is commonly used in computer games where it is used to simulate a character's skills and abilities. Examples of this can be found in Diablo II and Civilization III.
  2. www.johntaylorgatto.com
  3. There is one study that suggests SATs are a statistically significant predictor of graduation rates for students with high school GPAs greater or equal to 4.0.
  4. Steve Ballmer's $100 PC, Sans Windows

Further Reading:
  • The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto
    A very enjoyable historical account of the forces that shaped the creation of our school system and the problems with schools today. Written by an award winning teacher with over thirty years teaching experience. Available for free online at JohnTaylorGatto.com. A global history, not just United States centric.
  • Equality and Achievement by Cornelius Riordan
    A book providing an overview of all major studies about public schools with lots of commentary on them. The author weaves these together into an account of the factors which affect a student's achievement: socioeconomics, differences between schools, differences within each school, and differences between peer groups.
  • Education and Social Change: Themes in the History of American Schooling by John L. Rury
    A historical account of the history of public schooling in the United States.
  • Voices From The Hellmouth
    The first in a series of articles by Jon Katz on Slashdot about the reactions of students and schools to the Columbine High School massacre.
  • Elearning article on Wikipedia


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Slashdot
o The Keller Plan
o www.johnta ylorgatto.com
o one study
o Steve Ballmer's $100 PC, Sans Windows
o JohnTaylor Gatto.com
o Voices From The Hellmouth
o Elearning
o Also by pHatidic

Display: Sort:
Public Schools: Problems and Solutions | 246 comments (216 topical, 30 editorial, 0 hidden)
PI is no solution (2.12 / 8) (#2)
by Kasreyn on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 02:53:50 AM EST

unless you also do something about the political agendas pursued in American education.

I don't care whether it's PI or the current system, if a teacher tries to pass off "intelligent design" as an alternative theory to my child without so much as a snigger or wink, a "between you and me, this is bullshit but we have to put it in for the fundies", I'd pull their ass out and home school them. I suffered through 8 years of private religious school myself. No child of mine will.

Hell, even if they don't try to teach my child about an invisible old man living in the sky who's alarmingly interested in what they do with their weiner, there's still the batshit lying version of "American History" being taught. I would at least do enough homeschooling to prevent my children from sig-heiling the flag on command like trained puppies.

In general, the most important things for a child to learn, in my opinion, are how to learn and how to think critically (ie., independantly). Great lengths are gone to, in our education system, to avoid imparting these skills to children. If a person knew how to learn on their own, why, they wouldn't need to come begging as a supplicant, money extended, to the "higher education system". And if a person could think critically, they could become disrespectful of authority.

I could go on, but I'm already gilding the lily, as I have no real solutions for the public education system; that is, no solutions the public at large would actually accept. My solutions would probably only work in a nation composed of myself and ten million clones of me.

Fortunately, it looks like I will never be cursed with progeny. God, I love my woman. :D

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Yeah (none / 0) (#3)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:07:22 AM EST

I agree with what you said. This article isn't an attempt to fix every problem with public schools, only a sketch of some areas that can be made more efficient with PI. If there is a positive response to this article then I could write a sequel with other problems and solutions completely unrelated to PI.

[ Parent ]
Efficiency (2.00 / 3) (#4)
by Kasreyn on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:40:18 AM EST

Unfortunately, in my opinion, if the current system is made more efficient, it will simply become better at doing the wrong and harm it is already doing.

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
My point (2.80 / 5) (#5)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:50:36 AM EST

Any tool can be used for good or evil. That doesn't mean we should stop inventing new tools and become complacent with what we have.

[ Parent ]
Peter Drucker (2.60 / 5) (#137)
by Dyolf Knip on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 05:29:49 PM EST

"Nothing is less productive than to do more efficiently that which should not be done at all."

If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

Just out of curiosity (none / 0) (#82)
by curien on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:27:37 AM EST

What information do you think is added to/left out of US Hist classes that you feel should be changed?

This sig is umop apisdn.
[ Parent ]
OOOh ;-) (none / 0) (#201)
by The Amazing Idiot on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 01:47:08 AM EST

---What information do you think is added to/left out of US Hist classes that you feel should be changed?

Lets just focus from the 1700's to present..

1: Focus on what this country is built upon. Cover all basic legal documents, including the Constitution, Declaration of Independance. Also look at Federalist Papers and what effect they had on the US government.

2: Basic look at the people who founded this country, and what they believed and wanted for us all. Include political idealogies.

3: (fast forward). Reasons of the Civil War. Almost every book makes the life towards blacks to be absolutly evil and such. That simply wasnt the reason, and no SS book that Ive seen explains that. Some books even go to a length to say that having slaves wasnt "profitable". Large amounts of bull shit here.

4: WW1 (1910-1920) usually inadequately explains the situations leading up to and the cause of this world war. Most people have no clue what it was about..

5: Latter part of Great Depression: It's the forecoming of our humongous defecit-based governments. All books just say some "president" took it to himself to stop the great depression in its tracks. Lest to say it was a Democrat who reccomended it, and said it was a radical plan to even attempt to take. Who was this guy? Roosevelt.

6: 60's and 70's : Great amounts of hate and fearmongering in this time period, as the bookwriters usually avoid real issues and focus on the emotional "evils" of the Vietnam war, and the avant-garde hippies (bleh). Many times, there's just a paragraph describing the Korean war.

7: Usually does nothing but to talk the rest about the works of Clinton. Boring.

Take this and add it to the content about the evils of Hiroshima (with the watch picture), AIDS, womens' rights, slaves rights, and other various Political Correctness quips, yeah, there's a lot to change.

[ Parent ]

Not in my school (none / 0) (#202)
by pHatidic on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 02:22:01 AM EST

I know that I don't constitute a statistically significant sample, but I learned all about this stuff in public schools.

About the civil war we were taught that the south thought britain would support them since they needed the cotton for the industrial revolution, and they probably would have if not for uncle tom's cabin. As for WWI they taught us about how the schleswig-holstein war led to the schlieffan plan mentality. For the depressian they talked about keynes, and for the 60s and 70s they talked about McCarthyism.

It might not have been perfect but we at least talked about all the things you mentioned so none of them could really have been said to have been censored. I think the most striking thing not taught in history class is the history of compulsory education, you'd think that since kids were in school 6+ hours a day for 13 years someone would be curious but I have yet to hear anyone (not on the internet) question the system.

[ Parent ]

Learned all of that -nt- (none / 0) (#215)
by Woundweavr on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 02:55:49 PM EST

[ Parent ]
"I've been all around the world and..." (3.00 / 2) (#239)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Dec 19, 2004 at 06:55:02 PM EST

"...only stupid people are breeding... cretins cloning and feeding... and I don't even own a TV..."

Those who do not listen to the lyrics of songs are doomed to repeat them.

HAVE CHILDREN. For all our sakes.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Wiki's achilles heal (3.00 / 4) (#12)
by minerboy on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 10:15:59 AM EST

WIki style material will never be accepted by state or even local school boards for use in class - there is too many questions regarding quality control. Educators will always take a big shit on any suggestion of using material that did not go through a traditional review process. I can't imagine how this type of system would ever be able to make any in roads when the very credibility of the teaching materials is easily questioned by almost every educational professonal. Even if their wrong, It doesn't matter. They have the keys, and you can't drive the car without them - I say this after spending some time trying to encourage educators to use wiki technology for collaboration and teaching. But the very real possibility of having errors on a wiki based textbook makes it a difficult argument to win - Textbooks are sacred

The rest of the economic part is weak also. First, you didn't include costs of tech support for the educational network, or training costs for school personnel - which are huge and on-going.While you could piggy back on ISP for rich and middle class kids, you can't expect someone in athe projects or the trailer parks to have very good internet access - so it has to be provided

Last some subjects are not amenable to on-line teaching - lab courses, home econ. Shop, art Music, gym - these are some of the most important classes. Again, the haves can provide this for their own children, but not the have nots.

I agree (none / 0) (#19)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 02:21:59 PM EST

My idea wasn't that the schools would use a Wiki to teach, it was that the content would be developed using a Wiki and then it would be fact checked and turned into a software suite using traditional methods, either by a private company or with an open source solution.

[ Parent ]
good article (2.00 / 2) (#15)
by black orchidness on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 01:16:06 PM EST

Homeschooling is becoming been an increasingly popular solution for such cases.
Either homeschooling is becoming, or, homeschooling has been.

Just thought I would add something a speaker at our Lyceum series said a month ago. He was pushing homeschooling due to the fact that public schools don't provide adequate moral education. I had a few choice words to say about that, but I just thought I'd present it as an alternate reason why many parents choose to homeschool.

I like the idea of PI but minus one thing. The school. Remove that mandatory institution all together. As someone mentioned in an earlier comment, the two most important things for a kid to learn are how to learn and how to think critically. Everything is is just reading/observation. I would have loved to have grown up doing all my schooling at home with little programs on the computer supplemented with actual books and observational projects. The computer tests you, and you don't get the next little lesson until you complete that one.

There is one very large disadvantage and one very large advantage that looms over this. Advantage: only the truly skilled/motivated and intelligent people will complete school and be able to enter the workforce. This will mean a highly capable and effecient system. Disadvantage: Only, etc. etc, see last sentence. Those students who are unmotivated will either sit around lazily and unproductively or go to technical/vocational school. Actually I don't see much of a problem with that, isn't that what we essentially have now?

Ok so maybe mandatory schooling is a good idea just to prevent the 'unmotivated' from slipping through the cracks. But I still think school should be at home, at your own pace, whoever wants to do it.

I agree about the problem (none / 1) (#20)
by Pxtl on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 02:38:36 PM EST

One of the largest failings of the school system today is simply that it allows the students who have no interest in succeeding to drag down those who wish to succeed.  IMHO, the problem is that schools are being devided along the wrong lines - classes are divided into groups of intelligence and aptitude instead of classroom behaviour, when it is classroom behaviour that is what prevents classes from covering their material.

A good example: a local highschool has an extensive special-ed program for students with learning and intellectual disabilites (read: retarded but functional).  The students span a massive range of skill levels, running from borderline vocational cases to students that have difficulty forming sentances and will never learn to read.  In this varied class, students are not divided by skill level, but by behaviour - the students who are out of control are kept in separate groups from the students who can behave.  Apparently, managing a classroom where half of the students are trapped at a mental age of about 3 and the other half might have a career (albeit an easy one) one day isn't actually that bad provided that they all chip in and do their part.

Compare this to the mainstream education system.  Right now, stupid but hardworking kids take basic classes, where they are trapped in classrooms full of hoodlums and thus are unable to learn anything.  The end result is that they'll never amount to anything if they're stuck in that environment.  If they had a better environment, their hard work could pay off and get them a good trade.

As such, teachers at every academic level should have the discretionary ability to kick disruptive students out of class, provided they have sufficient documentation to support such a decision.  Students would be reassigned into a class of the same academic level (so their credit will be the same) and no IEP or permanent record would be issued, so the students can't complain about the impact that this decision will have on their education, freeing the educator from a substantial amount of angry-parent attacking.  The punishment fits the crime precisely - the student is disruptive, so they must deal with other disruptive students.  Their grades and record would only be affected insofar as the damage that a disruptive classroom will do to them.  They can still get into Yale if they work their ass off in the nutbar room, but they'll probably have to do a lot of homework because there's no way in hell that the teacher would be able to include all of the material to be tested in that kind of a classroom.

This way, the mandatory education principle (which is crucial for protecting kids from exploitive parents who would send them off to work instead of getting an education) can be protected without violating the classrooms of more dilligent students.

If one insists on homeschooling, that is still an option.

[ Parent ]

And the result would be... (none / 1) (#26)
by skim123 on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:41:20 PM EST

The punishment fits the crime precisely - the student is disruptive, so they must deal with other disruptive students.

And the result would be super thugs and super troulbe makers. Put together a bunch of misbehaving folks, and they'll get worse, not better. See the US jail system for anecdotal evidence.

Granted, this idea would be more fair to those good kids whose education suffers because of these trouble makers, but I can't see this approach coming to fruition. The best approach today, IMO, is home schooling your child with a group of local parents who also want to home school their children and have similar moral values.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
A relevant study (none / 1) (#48)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 06:57:53 PM EST

You are absolutely correct in your thinking, however this is already taking place:

Pallas et al. "Ability Group Effects: Instructional, Social, or Institutional?" Sociology of Education 67 (1994): Fig. 1, p. 3."

Basically what this study shows is that with tracking there is no difference in ability between the kids on the high, medium, and low tracks according to test scores. What this shows is that kids are basically segregated based on their behavior and not intelligence. The problem with this is that race is often used as a factor. Also, it doesn't solve the problem of have smart and dumb kids in the same classroom since they are grouped by behavior.

[ Parent ]

Supervision? (2.66 / 3) (#75)
by fenris on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 12:17:01 AM EST

The problem within removing the school from the equation is that you are removing the day-care aspect of schooling, which means that someone is still required at home to supervise the child to make sure that they don't burn the house down or start cracking into Daddy's good liquor.

That creates a situation where a parent has to be committed to their childs education by supervising them full time during their younger years, or paying for someone else to supervise their children for them, essentially creating a mini-school environment but with a five-dollar-an-hour babysitter instead of an otherwise (hopefully) qualified teacher.

If the parents aren't committed enough to assist with home schooling or supervision, then removing the school from the equation becomes a bit of a moot point.

[ Parent ]

Agreed, with one caveat. (none / 1) (#240)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Dec 19, 2004 at 07:06:28 PM EST

If kids learn exclusively at home, how are they meant to learn how to work together as a team?

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

The solution to the problems of public schools: (2.25 / 8) (#23)
by dharma on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:00:54 PM EST

Reposted as topical

Private schools.

I am a product of the private school system. I attended a small, private Catholic grade school and then a large private Catholic high school. About 1/3 of my high school teachers were Marist brother with the balance lay faculty.

They emphasized a solid education and not the latest teaching fad. Neither did they worry about raising our self-esteem or tolerate disruptive students. Fully 15% of the class was kicked out by the time I graduated because of bad behavior. We didn't have to wear silly uniforms but we were required to wear business attire (business pants, shirt and a tie). Students were segregated into 4 tracks depending on ability: below average, average, above average, and those who could get college credit from the local universities.

The school required you to attend 1 course a year on Catholic teachings but the rest of the time was dedicated to the core essentials: mathematics, science, literature, art, history, etc. In my sophomore literature class I read 18 classic novels, had to write an essay discussing the central themes of each and the teacher made sure to read the Cliff Notes and quiz us on material he knew was not in the Notes. That was 1 class of 6-7 I took every semester. My high school education was so good I took 6 AP exams my senior year and got a 5 on all of them. I went to college with a full scholarship and 20 credits already on my record because of the AP exams. Most people who are a product of public schools I find to be poorly educated and poorly motivated. I read more books in one high school semester than most public school kids did in 4 years.

My classmates went on to be: lawyers from Harvard, PhDs from Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, etc. I myself got two technical MS degrees and do research/engineering.

And the cost of this wonderful private school education? $3,000/year in the late 90s. Public schools turn out poor students even after spending 2x or more resources than my school ever had.

So what happens to those who are kicked out? (2.00 / 2) (#24)
by aphrael on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:25:33 PM EST

And how do we ensure that they get a good education, too?

[ Parent ]
You don't (2.66 / 6) (#27)
by nlscb on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:42:25 PM EST

At this point, America has a grim choice to make. Have 85% of its students succeed, or 100% of them fail.

Comment Search has returned - Like a beaten wife, I am pathetically grateful. - mr strange
[ Parent ]

Disagree (none / 1) (#54)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 07:25:51 PM EST

At this point, America has a grim choice to make. Have 85% of its students succeed, or 100% of them fail.

Success is not black and white. Each student should succeed to the best of their ability. To arbitrarily set a standard of success that 85% of kids must meet just means that the system will have to be dumbed down to the level of those in the 16th percentile.

[ Parent ]

Reality check (none / 0) (#179)
by dj28 on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 02:00:22 PM EST

Their employer is not going to let them "succeed to the best of their ability." They will get fired.

There is no such thing as "succeeding to your ability" in life. You are either a functional part of society or you aren't. If a kid is going to fuck up, kick him out and give the vast majority of others a real shot. America is falling too far behind internationally to make kid's self-esteem part of the curriculum.

[ Parent ]

Discovered the real world yet? (none / 0) (#243)
by Maurkov on Mon Dec 20, 2004 at 01:02:22 PM EST

Incompetence is ubiquitous. There is no penalty for failure, only for failing to cover your ass. Firing people is hard, and hard things don't get done right (if done ever). Instead, people are moved to projects where their failures cause the least damage. The point of "education" from middle school on is to hone a stable of facile excuses, and to discover the correct balance of shirking vs. procrastination. When an employer actually gets someone "succeeding to the best of their ability" they are lucky indeed.

[ Parent ]
Fuck 'em. (2.28 / 7) (#28)
by Dr Gonzo on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:48:07 PM EST

Let them try to find their own way in the world or just be miserable failures like they were going to be anyway. You can't help people who don't want to be helped, some people are just going to be fuckups.

"I felt the warmth spread across my lap as her bladder let loose." - MichaelCrawford
[ Parent ]

Let me get this straight (2.00 / 4) (#36)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 04:17:04 PM EST

So your saying that anyone who doesn't succeed in a private catholic high school is a fuckup? So for example if someone doesn't believe in catholicism and doesn't show up to church repeatedly and gets kicked out, they don't deserve an education? And since this is an all boys catholic school, if a 17 year old high school boy gets caught hanging out with a girl on campus and gets kicked out, he doesn't deserve an education because he is a fuckup and a miserable failure? I think you seriously need to rethink your position.

[ Parent ]
I went to Catholic school, and I'm not catholic (2.33 / 3) (#37)
by nlscb on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 04:48:41 PM EST

hell, half my class was Jewish (well, not half, but there were quite a few). Most of the people who get expelled from these places are expelled not for religious beliefs but for bad behavior. It is virtually impossible to expel misbehaving students from US public schools, baring a major felony (usually murder). At least at my school, non Catholics were permitted to skip religious services.

Comment Search has returned - Like a beaten wife, I am pathetically grateful. - mr strange
[ Parent ]

Huh? (3.00 / 3) (#50)
by ktakki on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 07:06:51 PM EST

It is virtually impossible to expel misbehaving students from US public schools, baring a major felony (usually murder).
Perhaps this was once true but, in this age of zero tolerance, students can and have been expelled for such offenses as giving another student an aspirin, carrying nail clippers, wearing a t-shirt with a political statement, or writing a provocative poem.

None of the above qualifies as so much as a misdemeanor, much less a major felony.

"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

[ Parent ]

Well, I did go to school in DC (none / 0) (#69)
by nlscb on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 10:29:24 PM EST

This may color my point of view slightly ;)

Usually, the kid gets sent to another school in the system, which causes a musical chair situation in which one school gets dumped with all the lousy kids.

I'm not saying there aren't nutbag situations in which good kids get expelled for the wrong reasons, but these exceptions to the rule largely act as a distraction from the very real problem of disruptive students about whom no one is allowed to do anything. If someone had had the courage to make reasonable decisions about truly bad students in the first place, chances are silliness like this wouldn't have to happen. Where I'm from, I'd gladly put up with a provacative poem as opposed to kids shooting each other.

Feb. 2, 2004: 17-year-old James Richardson was shot to death in Ballou Senior High School in Washington D.C. during second period. The shooting resulted from a confrontation with another student who was arrested.

Comment Search has returned - Like a beaten wife, I am pathetically grateful. - mr strange
[ Parent ]

Yeah, but (none / 0) (#116)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 01:41:24 PM EST

do they do anything with the truly disruptive kids? Most of the troublemakers at my school didn't have nail clippers, write poems, or give out asprin (though they did cause headaches).
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Comment (3.00 / 2) (#38)
by dharma on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 05:05:38 PM EST

Catholic schools accept people of all religions. My school did require you learn about Catholicism and attend two or three Catholic mass (for graduation and a few other special events) but no one was kicked out for being non-Catholic. In fact, many of my fellow students were not Catholic.

My school did not have a problem with girls hanging out on campus. In fact, we had a sister all-girl school with whom we planned social activities, etc. And right next door was a coed Catholic school. Catholic schools have become surprisingly less restrictive than they were decades ago.

I realize you were raising a hypothetical situation so I am not arguing with you. Just added my 2 cents.

There were some inherently unfair things however going on. A girl at my sister school got pregnant at 16 and she was expelled from the school. The nuns considered her morally unfit. That was ridiculous as every girl (well honestly many girls) had boyfriends and were sleeping with them. Most, however, were smart enough not to get pregnant. I had a girlfriend but I didn't need a public school course to tell me to wear a little hat.

[ Parent ]

They don't care (none / 1) (#90)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 09:27:57 AM EST

Catholic schools are generally more about the school part than the Catholic part. In my group of friends there was an openly bisexual kid and plenty atheists.

Except for one throwback guy there wasn't any attempt to "enforce morality" other than schoolroom discipline.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

That depends (none / 1) (#119)
by dharma on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 02:13:54 PM EST

My highschool was all male and we had an all female sister Catholic school. One of the girls got pregnant and she was expelled by the nuns because they considered her morally unfit. They thought it would set a bad example for her classmates to see a 17 year old girl pregnant.

I also heard of one incident at my school where a student driving a car with a pro-choice sticker was told he had to remove the sticker if he wanted to park on campus. Since there was no where else to park, he removed the sticker.

Overall though at least my Catholic school was fairly hands-off so long as you stayed under the radar.

[ Parent ]

Answer: (2.75 / 4) (#32)
by dharma on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:57:06 PM EST

I do not know. But I do know removing the obviously disruptive kids made those who were walking on the fine line start behaving better and doing better academically. The 15% that were kicked out were because of repeated and serious (for a private school) violations of the rules. They were causing problems for at least 1 year before they were removed from the school.

Once the really bad seeds were out, those students who were misbehaving because of their negative influence suddenly wised up. I'd rather save those than can be saved then condemn them all merely because of political correctness. Some people are just rotten to the core, others are simply easily influenced.

[ Parent ]

Unfair Comparison (2.25 / 4) (#25)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:37:48 PM EST

And the cost of this wonderful private school education? $3,000/year in the late 90s. Public schools turn out poor students even after spending 2x or more resources than my school ever had.

Where do you think the 15% of kids your school kicked out went to? Also, private schools usually pay their teachers lower salaries because they are considered to have more favorable working conditions which is in a large part why it is cheaper. Also, did your private high school offer band, orchestra, and a wide variety of sports teams and extracurricular activities? Also, how many special education students were in your private school? Remember that each special ed student costs twice as much on average to educate as each normal student. Public schools often have dozens of these students, and the less affluent the area the more special ed kids there are.

Yes private schools can do great things with a limited budget, but that is in a large part because they don't have to meet the needs of everyone.

[ Parent ]

Indeed (2.00 / 2) (#29)
by Dr Gonzo on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:52:32 PM EST

They also don't have to put up with extortionist teachers' unions and nearly any absurd unfunded mandates put forth by government.

"I felt the warmth spread across my lap as her bladder let loose." - MichaelCrawford
[ Parent ]

Extortionist? (none / 1) (#101)
by Democratus on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:14:37 AM EST

Do you mean to say that teachers have used their union to negotiate insanely high salaries?

Do you know how much the average public school teacher earns?  It's a pittance - and an insult to to the profession.

I can only speak for the US, of course.

[ Parent ]

right (none / 0) (#109)
by mpalczew on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 12:25:50 PM EST

when I saw the nice houses my teachers had, and the bmw's and lexus's my brother's teachers had, I realized that they don't get paid that little.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]
Nice anecdotal observation, but... (2.66 / 3) (#133)
by Democratus on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:38:09 PM EST

I come from a family of teachers (back 4 generations) that have taught in public schools in multiple states.  Never has one of us made more than 33k (indexed for current dollars) even after decades of work.  More typical pay is in the 20k-25k range.

I know scores of other teachers as well, and none of them are "rolling in money" as the extortion comment suggested.

Don't look at a few wealthy individuals and assume that their wealth came from a typical public school teacher's salary.  Wealth can come to someone from many sources.

[ Parent ]

Ummm... (none / 0) (#167)
by parliboy on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 02:55:32 AM EST

I've gotta ask where you they were teaching to never make more than 33k. Here in Houston, for example, HISD starting pay (as in year zero) is 35k. Not saying teachers are overpaid or anything, because they aren't. But if none of those four made any decent kind of money, even at the end of their careers, you must be in a truly impoverished school district.

Eat at the Dissonance Diner.
[ Parent ]

No problem. (none / 0) (#175)
by Democratus on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 11:27:25 AM EST

Indeed they are.  School districts in Hill, Bosque, Starr, and Navarro counties.

Rural schools suffer the worst from these problems.  But teachers, as a rule, are not a high-paid group.  Given the difficulty and importance of the job it is a sad demonstration of our social priorities.

[ Parent ]

Answers: (none / 1) (#30)
by dharma on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:52:35 PM EST

1. We had an excellent baseball, football and basketball team. We were actually known in the area for having one of the best baseball teams. Our football team and basketball team were pretty good. My school had its own indoors basketball court, a football field and a baseball field.

There were plenty of extracurricular activities. We had a debate team (one member came in 3rd in the nation senior year), a UN club, a chess club, etc. My school was not tiny. We had 1400 students and plenty of activities to keep us busy. But we did have a mediocre band and no orchestra.

I always found this line of argument to be specious. Why do public schools always say: "But we have many more extracurricular activities!" while ignoring the fact most of their students perform poorly academically. If I had to choose between having a school with an excellent core education and a great football team I am going to pick the core education any day.

  1. I cannot comment on the pay as I do not know. I suppose you are probably correct.
  2. We didn't have any special ed students. Even worse, my school was ~60% hispanic, ~39% white and  ~1% other. That was out of 1400 students (and it was an all-male school).

[ Parent ]
Yeah (none / 1) (#34)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 04:09:58 PM EST

I think I explained myself poorly and we actually agree:

I always found this line of argument to be specious. Why do public schools always say: "But we have many more extracurricular activities!" while ignoring the fact most of their students perform poorly academically. If I had to choose between having a school with an excellent core education and a great football team I am going to pick the core education any day.

What I mean is that although you would choose a school with better core academics over a football team, there are some people to whom football is very important. If all kids are forced to go to private schools, then all private schools will need a football team. Therefore there will be less money for core academics. Football is a bad example because of the stereotypes that go along with football players, but this applies to everything: all private schools would need special ed teachers, band, orchestra, football, school newspaper, etc. The reason why private schools do well for the money is they only have to specialize in a couple things, if they had to be a jack-of-all-trades then they would be a master of none.

[ Parent ]

"All" is bad reasoning (2.00 / 2) (#42)
by NaCh0 on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 06:11:57 PM EST

If all kids are forced to go to private schools, then all private schools will need a football team... all private schools would need special ed teachers, band, orchestra, football, school newspaper, etc.

Where do you get this ALL idea?

The reason why private schools do well for the money is they only have to specialize in a couple things, if they had to be a jack-of-all-trades then they would be a master of none.

Exactly. So have a couple of schools that emphasize sports to attract that demographic. Have some that emphasize the arts. Public schools around here do that and call them magnet schools. There is no reason that all schools need to offer all things. You (or your parents) would choose the school that had the best combination of sports, academics, and distance from your house -- where "best" will be different for different people.

K5: Your daily dose of socialism.
[ Parent ]

All (none / 0) (#52)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 07:21:52 PM EST

The original comment is titled "The solution to the problem of public schools: private schools." That is where I got the all from.

Having magnet schools as you described would work in urban areas where there are a lot of schools close together. However, even if a school is very good it may still be possible to find new tools to make it even better.

[ Parent ]

Government is still less efficient (none / 1) (#171)
by the womble on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 05:39:23 AM EST

My school in England in the 80s charged (at the time, its a lot more expensive now) fees that were only a little higher than the cost per pupil of state schools in London, it had MUCH better facilites, both educational and extra-curricular, better paid teachers, a bettter staff student ratio.

The only ways in which it was cheaper to run were the lack of disruptive and "special needs" students. bearing in mind that the extra costs of these would be teaching time, the better staff/student ratio reamins unexplained.

The Adam Smith Institute has some reasonably recent numbers. The comparision of cost per pupil is very intersting, independent secondary schools are 32% more expensive but have a 41% better pupil teach ratio, the differnce between primary schools is even bigger.

Does anyone in the UK seriously believe that increasing the education budget by 32% + a bit extra to cover the costs of special needs would close the huge gap in quality?

[ Parent ]

Should you compare Public + State schools? (none / 0) (#172)
by craigtubby on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 09:47:47 AM EST

No, the way for the state schools to close this gap would be for state schools to be as selective as independent schools.

The paper that you point to mentions that with regard to teacher ratios "This may be much of the reason why private schools, on average, achieve better examination scores too."

I would put it down to being able to select who is taught, and to easily remove disruptive elements - not just from the class room but from the school.

I'll take issue with "a bit extra to covers special needs" - A lot extra, a special needs pupil will cost more than twice as much to teach as a normal pupil, one because in a special educational needs class the pupil teacher ratio will be around 6:1 instead of 24+:1, and two will have a dedicated learning assistant for when they are moved into main stream classes.

try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money, then you die.

* Webpage *
[ Parent ]

Special needs (none / 0) (#193)
by BenjyD on Sun Dec 12, 2004 at 06:30:21 AM EST

I went to a UK private school with fees in line with those in the Adam Smith paper. While it was fairly selective (Common Entrance to get in), it did have a special needs unit, mainly coping with the needs of dyslexic children.
While there were kids there that could have been disruptive, there were few problems and results were very good. The main reasons I can think of were:

- Small, ability-selected classes. 10-24 pupils per class
- zero-tolerance approach. Get caught smoking(for example) and you'd be lucky to get away with being put on drill for a week; most likely they'd suspend you
- house system. You spent most of your spare time in your study in your house, made up of fifty students (ten from each year). House tutors looked after students' non-academic problems.
- Activities. There was no time to cause a problem. Between lessons, sport five hours a week,  cadets, community service and house activities, students were pretty busy.

[ Parent ]

Selection .. (none / 0) (#217)
by craigtubby on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 04:30:35 AM EST

There you go - you went to a school that was selective, that also in your own words had a zero tolerance approach.

If state schools were like that, then I think state school would return the same results.

State schools

a)  Don't get a choice on who they take - if they have spare capacity they *have* to take students that have been excluded.
b)  Often get overruled on exclusions.

And SEN includes far more than Dyslexia - some of the brightest people are dyslexic.

How many students without parents, without motivation, were troubled or violent did your school take?

try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money, then you die.

* Webpage *
[ Parent ]

Fair point (none / 0) (#218)
by BenjyD on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 10:42:09 AM EST

That's a fair point - private schools have the advantage of being able to select and exclude students for whatever reason. I do think the state sector could learn a lot from the experience of the private sector, though. Even simple things like school hours: private schools rarely finish before 4:00pm and many (like mine was) are basically 9am-5pm. Of course state school students who finish at 3:00pm aren't going to get as good an education.

I guess what annoys me is that so many bright people are forced to suffer a sub-standard education because of the needs of a minority who cause trouble.

I'm not sure why selection in schooling is such a dirty word in the UK: both the able and the less-able stand to gain from it through better targeted education.

[ Parent ]

Two things (none / 0) (#222)
by NoBeardPete on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 11:36:57 AM EST

First, I wouldn't assume that keeping kids in school longer gives them more education, it just gives them more schooling. Education and schooling are not the same thing.

Secondly, the "less-abled" students in schools are often not less abled, but less motivated. This means that they most likely do not gain through targeted education. Put a bunch of kids who think school is worthless in a classroom together, and how likely do you think they are to do any real work? They'll develop a self-reinforcing culture of not giving a shit about school, and there's pretty much nothing the teachers, parents, or administration can do about it once it gets going.

Splitting the student body up into groups based on ability, then, is likely to hurt the students at the bottom while helping those at that top. You could argue that it's worth it anyway, but don't claim that everyone benefits.

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Getting teachers working from 9-5? (none / 0) (#230)
by craigtubby on Wed Dec 15, 2004 at 05:55:42 AM EST

They complain enough about working 830-1500 with 23 weeks holiday a year.

try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money, then you die.

* Webpage *
[ Parent ]

Saturdays too (none / 0) (#232)
by BenjyD on Wed Dec 15, 2004 at 07:36:08 PM EST

Amazingly, we had Saturday school too: 9am-12:30pm, followed by a team game if you were in any of the school teams. Half-term was not having to come in on Saturday.

It was a very traditional school, with about 20% term-time boarders. I think teachers in the private sector have different expectations of working hours.

[ Parent ]

Not All Those Schools Throw Kids Out (none / 0) (#228)
by jameth on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 10:56:06 PM EST

As far as my Lutheran schools went, then had higher tolerances than any of the local public schools. One kid had gotten expelled from two local public schools in one year, but our school put up with him for a full year without expulsion (his parents sent him to a military school for a year, after that), even though he technically did worse stuff while going there. And our school was cheaper. And our school did better education-wise.

Also, almost all Christian schools accept all members' children and do tend to get quite the mix of whatever in their classes.

[ Parent ]

heh (2.00 / 2) (#31)
by codejack on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 03:54:33 PM EST

Chattanooga, TN has the highest number of private schools, per capita, in the the world. All of them have waiting lists, the shortest being about three years; the cheapest starts at $5000/semester, and then only if you're baptist or catholic.

Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
I think (none / 0) (#33)
by dharma on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 04:01:11 PM EST

The tuition at my high school is now also $5,000+. However, the school has also instituted scholarships for poorer families. When I was a student, the tuition was lower but everyone paid the same regardless of family income.

I believe Catholic schools accept students of all religious background but they do require you to learn attend Catholic courses.

[ Parent ]

Yea (none / 0) (#53)
by codejack on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 07:23:11 PM EST

They do the scholarship thing around here, too; Of course, you won't get one until your junior year of high school, and then only if you're really good at football or basketball.

And the catholic schools do accept all religious backgrounds (the baptist schools do not), but I think they also make you attend services. I'm not sure, though, the only people I knew who went to them were the ones who got kicked out :)

Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
Different perspective (none / 1) (#45)
by NoBeardPete on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 06:34:31 PM EST

I attended Philadelphia public schools from kindergarden through the end of high school. Although I had a few poor or mediocre teachers, most were very good, particularly in middle and high schools. I never felt that my education was based on the latest teaching fads. Tracking was not terribly explicit. Where it did occur, it wasn't across the board, but on a subject area basis. There were classes to cater to the talented artists, and classes for the budding mathematicians.

There was plenty of room for students to be actively involved in their education. My organic chemistry teacher asked me to teach a class several times. I read ahead, asked him some questions, prepared, and then taught. Likewise, in my senior year, I led a subset of my literature class in reading and discussing Plato's Republic. Several good friends of mine were in a program that placed them in research labs around the city, working alongside grad students and professors at universities, in hospitals, or in corporate labs.

Plenty of students took multiple AP classes their senior year. I didn't much see the point in loading up on them and making myself miserable, so I spaced them out, two each of my sophmore through senior years. My AP chemistry teacher was disappointed in the classes that averaged as low as a 4.

I attended one of the colleges you list. My experience was that I was much better prepared for the academic rigors of an elite American university than most of my collegiate peers, including plenty that attended private schools. There was maybe on class of school that seemed to consistently produce students who were better prepared than I - the elite eastern boarding schools like Philips Exeter Academy.

As far as my classmates from high school go, we were well represented in the Ivy League, and the other top tier schools. I don't know of any who have finished PhDs or medical school yet, but in a few years, some of them will no doubt be doctors.

Now, I'm not knocking private schools. There are plenty of good private schools. And it's certainly important that parents have some alternate choice to the public schools if they are for some reason dissatisfied with them. But I wouldn't be so certain that private schools are inherently any better than public schools. Some private schools are better than the average public school, sure. Some public schools are better than the average private school. As far as I can tell, the biggest factor in the quality of a school is how much controll the school has over which students they take, which ones they keep, and which ones they show the door.

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

mandatory subject. (none / 0) (#89)
by Harvey Anderson on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 09:23:02 AM EST

My classmates went on to be: lawyers from Harvard, PhDs from Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, etc.

My classmates went on to be: losers, dorks, nerds, geeks, assholes...

I have friends who went to private Catholic schools similar to what you have described.  One is a physicist on a host of pills.  Another has internalized a lesson that since he's not at one of these wonderous schools he's more or less a sucker.  A third is a Ph.D. but is socially retarded.

Another is raging alcoholic.

The point is that everything is a trade-off.  Your post is the perfect example of that, suggesting that you can get super successful students for a low investment without any downsides.  I wonder what is left unsaid?  That is not really a cue for you to tell me, as I will be skeptical anyways, as you are not an unbiased observer of yourself.

[ Parent ]

Sounds great, but what about the buggery? (none / 0) (#242)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Dec 19, 2004 at 07:15:19 PM EST

Surely that was the best part.

Joking aside, I agree. I went to a Catholic primary school, and with the teacher spending 30% of her time on me alone I topped the class every year until 6th grade, when I went to a public school, and the long slide started.

Of course, it's not the school's fault I have ADD, but it IS their fault that they didn't care.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

My experience (2.70 / 10) (#35)
by jd on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 04:14:27 PM EST

I went to Government-run schools in the UK. The system I grew up with may or may not be typical within the UK, I don't know. Anyway, whilst we certainly learned material from the start of the book to the end, there was some degree of slipstreaming from the very beginning.

"Slipstreaming" is where kids who learn faster are allowed to learn faster. Usually this means they go to a faster-paced class, with faster-paced lessons. Slower-paced kids went to slower-paced classes. This was done on a subject-by-subject basis, so if you were fast at maths, but slow at history, you went to the fast maths class and the slow history class.

However, in my primary school (elementary school to USians), kids who learned faster were simply told to continue on to the next page/chapter in the book. The classes were more an introduction to a subject and if you didn't need it, you were encouraged to just get on with the textbook exercises.

Both of these systems seemed to work extremely well. Indeed, the schools I went to remain in the top ten for their regions, so I'm inclined to believe they have maintained or improved on a lot of their educational techniques.

I've also been to two privately-run schools, and I wasn't impressed with either of them. They were militaristic in attitude, freely giving orders (whether they made sense or not) and taking zero input from anyone. They were not streamlined, the "discipline" they imposed served only to create hostility, and I saw ample evidence that the so-called "fag system" is alive and well in such places.

As far as Universities are concerned, there is almost no comparison. Government-funded Universities are often highly-regarded and have a solid history behind them. Polytechnics, on the other hand, are often trade schools that were (and sometime still are) run by specific businesses. They merely branched out into "real" institutions. Many later re-branded themselves as Universities, but they aren't comparable in depth or bredth.

At least, this used to be the case. This year, cuts have meant cuts across the board. At least one University is cutting 95% of its courses. The skills are there, the demand is there, but the money isn't. You can't run higher education on hope and pixie dust.

Without education, you have nothing. With poor education, you can actually end up with less than nothing. With good education, and a good support system to back it up, you can massively improve the skills of students, and the number of skills each student has.

Why would you need so many skilled workers? Well, automation has largely eliminated the need for many manual and low-skill jobs. In order to keep enough people employed to support the country as a whole, you've got to increase the number of skilled jobs and the number of skilled workers who can fill those jobs.

However, the job market is essentially a pyramid. To change the number of jobs at one point in the pyramid, you've got to increase both the supply to, and the demand from, that point. That means you can't just improve one sector and hope to have a stable system. You've got to improve a significant percentage, across the board.

Prince Charles is correct in arguing that you've got to see not only your strengths but also your weaknesses. A screwdriver makes a lousy hammer. A gifted artist who sucks at maths should be encouraged to develop themselves artistically and not to be pushed into becoming a nuclear physicist. (If they can make it as a nuclear physicist, despite their mathematical handicap, they have the right to try, but making them try won't make them any better at it.)

The only other thing I will say about education is that it takes money and manpower. Ideally, classes should be between 12-18 students in size, with two adults present. (One teaching, one helping.) Textbooks and other materials should be sufficient in number, in good shape, and (above all) accurate. eg: Evolution is a theory, but Intelligent Design (as it is both untestable and unrepeatable) is not. Putting the two on equal footing is foolish. If you want to have Religious Education, fine, but call it that and put it in a class of its own. Don't pretend that it's science.

Schools should be kept in good shape, teachers should be paid livable wages as a minimum, and sufficient additional staff should exist to ensure students are in a sound environment which encourages them to do things on their own.

Universities in England pay for students to run their own societies and clubs, provided there is sufficient interest. This is done via contributions to the National Union of Students. In many cases, more money really should be made available. If the Government needs to put more money in, to do this, then fine. Do so. Those societies and clubs not only provide a social outlet for students, they also provide an excellent forum for teaching management skills and responsibility within an organization. These aren't things formal classes can really cover.

The US has nothing comparable. Instead, it has highly dangerous, undisciplined sects. These are called "fraternities" by Americans. There are plenty of actual, documented examples of manslaughter during initiation rites to raise some eyebrows. (Indeed, the very existance of a "rite" makes the whole concept far closer to a religious order than a society by and for the students.) Allegations of links to bike gangs, street gangs and organized crime don't exactly inspire confidence, either.

If America really wishes to improve its University system, it needs to dump fraternities completely, Unionize the students, and follow the British model. Britain's model isn't perfect, but it's 100% better and 1,000 years more advanced.

Actually, I'd argue that the system of student-run activities should start at around the age of 11-12. Sure, have adult supervision at that age, but if they want to build rockets or race go-karts, then you're better off backing them up than forcing them to fit what you think they should do.

All this costs money. But if you change your pyramid workforce from a low-tech one into a high-end high-tech one, you'll earn that money back. Possibly many times over. but if you invest nothing in education, you won't just get nothing out, you'll end up paying out elsewhere.

If you fund education well enough, and force it to provide enough, then when it comes to paying for the next generation, the taxes earned off the additional revenue will be enough.

The only reason education costs more than it generates, now, is that it is simply inadequate in scale, imagination and resources. Ramp it up enough, and correct the more glaring defects, and you'll end up with a system that can support itself and the needs of the country.

UK schools (2.50 / 1) (#49)
by czth on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 06:59:06 PM EST

I also went to UK government schools until grade 4 equivalent (second form, man that takes me back). I also remember being able to move at my own pace; in fact, progressing through the math textbook was quite competitive in terms of pages completed etc., and the teacher would write comments based on correctness/volume completed in our workbooks (I once wrote an impolite reply to a less than complimentary comment, which earned me a trip to the headmaster's office - they didn't take nearly as much guff there and then as schools seem to here and now).

When we moved to Canada I was "skipped" a grade to grade 5 (but not knowing the term I didn't really know how to answer "Did you skip a grade?"). When I went through the system, it went to grade 13 ("OAC", which is now being phased out, probably to align with other provinces and the US; first year university duplicates much of OAC anyway). I suppose schools in Canada are better than their US equivalents, but OTOH there's nothing like the AP (Advanced Placement) classes in the US, and reading another post where someone got a fair number of college credits from taking them, I wish there had been.

Also, there are no sports scholarships in Canada, which is sensible (why should being able to throw a ball entitle you to a free education?) but brings in a lot of bucks for US schools (so I suppose it's justifiable if it brings down costs for academics, as long as academic integrity is maintained).

I got my BMath at the University of Waterloo (also in Canada), and now am considering doing graduate studies here in Massachusetts (probably at UMass; MIT would be nice but I'm just about done paying off my BMath, thanks all the same). I'm curious to see how it compares, as a lot of the grad courses seem similar to what I did in my undergrad - but what's in a two-line description? I'm also glad that most if not all courses are offered in the evening; quite convenient.


[ Parent ]

Cool, UW student here as well. (none / 0) (#102)
by Krakhan on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:24:37 AM EST

I'm currently in my second year at the University of Waterloo as well, working for a BMath in CS and Pure Math at the moment, though it could possibly change in the near future. Any relevant advice you could offer at all?

Recently at my old high school in Thunder Bay, they've been offering AP classes at least in the sciences and English, but have also extended it to AP Calculus and some other classes too. So, I know how it feels since I wish I could have at least taken AP Calculus, since I thought that the Grade 12 Calculus course I took, I felt there wasn't really a whole lot of Calculus in it. :P

Anyways, now to get past these finals coming up...

~ Krakhan
[ Parent ]
BMath in CS and PMath here too (none / 1) (#154)
by czth on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:44:08 PM EST

Nice :).

Since you asked: my advice would be, if you think there's any chance you want to do grad work, get to know your (upper year) profs well enough that they'd write you those letters of recommendation you need (also keep the marks up, even if the courses seem easy, put the time in - but that should be obvious). Given that you're in co-op, if you decide to look for a job after you graduate you've got a leg up on most people; try to get experience you can sell (design, documentation, decision-making; sample work is good; learn the business side of things not just code).

Speaking of calculus, I'm teaching my wife calculus now. We're not there yet but that's the eventual goal (gotta love the US education system; we're reviewing functions, graphing, etc. first). Teaching something is a good test of whether you know it or not, so I guess I'd also recommend doing some TAing/tutoring if you can get it.

I did some part time highschool tutoring (some private, some at Kitchener High I think it was), and was sysadmin and photo editor at Imprint (which was a lot of fun, also got me a job during one [school] term because oif an article I wrote). Also, extracurriculars look good, so do something outside of school. And you will have a co-op term in Ottawa, and when you do, stay away from 44 1/2 Ladouceur St. (I didn't stay there - stayed with a friend of a friend - but I knew people that did).

I'm quite looking forward to taking some grad courses; there's something about school that you miss after you leave, maybe the mental stimulation, or perhaps the panicked all-nighters :>. I've been studying some Galois theory from a book a bit recently, too, to keep sharp.

Have fun.


[ Parent ]

asdf (none / 1) (#85)
by cyclopatra on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:39:02 AM EST

However, in my primary school (elementary school to USians), kids who learned faster were simply told to continue on to the next page/chapter in the book.

I had the same experience in the US until I hit 2nd grade, at which point I became eligible for GT (Gifted & Talented; paleo-PC-speak for the faster-paced class). At this point I was reading the fifth-grade reader, although I hadn't been allowed to read ahead in math (probably just as well, as I was never a math whiz). GT was one hour, three times a week. I was informed by my teacher that because of those three hours I spent in GT, I couldn't expect to be allowed to read ahead anymore, since I could get that kind of stimulation in GT.

It was sometime around then that I just gave up on paying attention in class and started bringing novels to school.
All your .sigs are belong to us.
remove mypants to email
[ Parent ]

reading ahead (none / 0) (#96)
by tetsuwan on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 10:50:46 AM EST

I wasn't really allowed to read ahead until the seventh year. The first six years I got "extra books" that were really dull. I was never fast enough to get through them so quickly my teachers had to give me something else. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was always too patient to ever argue about this.

There are only a few places in Sweden were you're actually allowed to be clearly above average in math/science in the first 9 years of schooling.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Reading ahead (none / 0) (#98)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:02:03 AM EST

However, in my primary school (elementary school to USians), kids who learned faster were simply told to continue on to the next page/chapter in the book.
You were lucky. My teachers kept getting on me for reading ahead.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Uhm, no, the US has the exact same thing (none / 1) (#106)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:56:22 AM EST

Student organizations funded by the school (activity fees + other assorted sources) exist at every American college I've ever heard of. On the other hand, Fraternities and Sororities are present at only subset of American Colleges (and they're really not the same thing in any case).

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

[ Parent ]
Dump fraternities? (none / 0) (#110)
by NoBeardPete on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 12:40:49 PM EST

I'm unclear as to how you propose to do this. How can a university keep students from assembling as they see fit on their own time? They'd have to essentially become a police state to pull it off. Even if this was feasible, do you really think it'd be desireable?

Now, maybe you're just advocating that universities not give any official recognition to fraternities. This idea makes sense, even if it would be completely counter productive. The schools I know of that have an underground fraternity system usually have one with many more problems than those with an official system. Those individual fraternities at a given school that are underground are usually much more problematic than the official ones.

I think you should also reconsider what it is you think you know about fraternities. Plenty of them are terrible organizations, it's true. These are the ones that typically make it into the news. Plenty of them are wonderful organizations. You may not hear as much about them, but they definitely exist, and they greatly enrich the lives of their members. They typically even do some good for the communities they find themselves in. It would be a terrible case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater to get rid of all of them.

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

You're wrong (2.50 / 2) (#139)
by epepke on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 05:55:04 PM EST

Universities in England pay for students to run their own societies and clubs, provided there is sufficient interest. This is done via contributions to the National Union of Students. In many cases, more money really should be made available. If the Government needs to put more money in, to do this, then fine. Do so. Those societies and clubs not only provide a social outlet for students, they also provide an excellent forum for teaching management skills and responsibility within an organization. These aren't things formal classes can really cover. The US has nothing comparable. Instead, it has highly dangerous, undisciplined sects. These are called "fraternities" by Americans. There are plenty of actual, documented examples of manslaughter during initiation rites to raise some eyebrows. (Indeed, the very existance of a "rite" makes the whole concept far closer to a religious order than a society by and for the students.) Allegations of links to bike gangs, street gangs and organized crime don't exactly inspire confidence, either.

No, you're wrong about this. Universities sponsor a wide range of clubs. Most even have some form of "student government" consisting of students elected by the student body to appropriate the funds.

Fraternities and sororities are quite different. If you don't have them in the UK, good on you, because I don't like them much, but they're different. If anything, they are more similar to what you in the UK would call "public schools," with the old school tie and stuff like that. Quasi-religious, quasi-military, and quasi-eletist, but also providing some housing.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Yes and no (none / 0) (#41)
by debacle on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 06:05:41 PM EST

Great discussion starter on something that needs it, but Technology is prohibitive to learning the way it is used today. A wiki would be immensely helpful, but it would also contain holes.

Colleges, in some respects, teach using PI. You cannot take Math 419 unless you have taken Math 319 first, or some sort of system. The problem is that unless the school you are attending is using trimesters or quarters you've spent the last fifteen to twenty weeks falling behind, when all you needed was an extra week on one subject. It's hard to catch up unless you are fully committed to a single subject at a time.

It tastes sweet.

Disagree (none / 0) (#43)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 06:16:58 PM EST

Technology is prohibitive to learning the way it is used today. A wiki would be immensely helpful, but it would also contain holes.

Pens, pencils, and blackboards are all technology, do you consider them prohibitive to learning? If technology is prohibitive to learning, then it is only because it is being used poorly or in a situation where existing tools are better fit for the job. Currently, computers in the classroom are more of a hindrance to learning than a help, although this is because of the way they are used and not because of the computers themselves.

Also, the content would be developed on a wiki but then be distributed through traditional software. A kid wouldn't be able to sit at his desk and change the content on the fly.

[ Parent ]

Don't get all hissy (none / 0) (#44)
by debacle on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 06:27:00 PM EST

You're simply iterating what I didn't say.

"the way it is used today."

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]

Ahh (none / 0) (#46)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 06:42:37 PM EST

Sorry I didn't mean to sound hissy. I will agree with you on "the way it is used today." However just because it is used poorly today doesn't mean we shouldn't take steps to improve the situation, if anything it is all the more reason to do you.

[ Parent ]
I think teachers... (none / 0) (#47)
by debacle on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 06:55:08 PM EST

are still and always will be the most important tool in a classroom. Teaching is fundamental to learning.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]
Block Plans instead of Semesters (none / 0) (#178)
by rookkey on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 12:40:45 PM EST

The problem is that unless the school you are attending is using trimesters or quarters you've spent the last fifteen to twenty weeks falling behind, when all you needed was an extra week on one subject. It's hard to catch up unless you are fully committed to a single subject at a time.

One possible way to avoid overly long semesters is to have a college curriculum structured around block schedules. Colorado College has a block plan where each academic year is divided into eight three-and-a-half segments. It is a liberal arts college and I do not know if this could adapt to an engineering or science-based program.

I am unable comment on how successful these set-ups work in practice.

[ Parent ]
Homeschooling is not socially isolating. (2.50 / 4) (#57)
by waxmop on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 07:45:29 PM EST

First of all, a lot of public school is really just free state-sponsored day care. The kids are crammed together as much as the laws allow and generally they're taught to be quiet and obey arbitrary authorities, until the teacher is gone, and that's when the Lord of the Flies games start up.

Is that really socialization?

Home-schooled kids may miss out on the warehousing experience, but they certainly don't have to just stay in the attic all day watching creationist videos. When done right, homeschooling your kids is much better socialization. Kids play an active role in their own learning.

I'm not going to write too much more because homeschooling stereotypes are just too inflated to beat. It's like trying to convince some MSCE jackass that has never even seen KDE that Linux isn't that hard to use.
fuck meatspace man I gotta level my dwarf cleric lonelyhobo

Mixed Feelings (none / 1) (#60)
by pHatidic on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 08:33:11 PM EST

I'm not claiming that homeschooling makes kids anti-social, I am just claiming that it is socially isolating. That is, kids are separated from eachother which is the definition of isolation. In fact, I agree with you that this isn't a bad thing. You cited Lord of the Flies, and a the movie Rebel Without a Cause also comes to mind.

However, it is up to each person to decide for themselves whether social isolation is a good thing or a bad thing. In order to make a list of the pros and cons, one must first acknowledge the facts.

[ Parent ]

But they're not separated. (3.00 / 2) (#65)
by KnightStalker on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 09:46:54 PM EST

Physically isolating people from each other is not an integral part of home schooling. In almost every town, you'll find networks of homeschooling parents that hold classes and sporting events together. My sisters took Latin classes with a number of their friends, from a tutor that the homeschooling association hired. They have music classes, pottery classes. My littlest sister does math, geography, history, and English study at home, but I think that's all. You're simply wrong if you believe that homeschooling involves isolation.

Some home schooling is done entirely without interaction with other families -- I don't know how much, probably a minority but I can't be sure. Keep in mind, that sort of family tends to be large. One homeschooling family I know has eleven children. Three or more is quite normal. Having only one is unusual. (Not as unusual as 11...) So there's social interaction there, as well. And of course they still interact with other kids in the neighborhood.

[ Parent ]

it depends (1.66 / 3) (#83)
by cyclopatra on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:30:34 AM EST

Some parents homeschool because they think that public schools don't provide the highest level of education, in the sense of information-imparting, possible. Other parents homeschool because they want a purer education for their children, more in line with their (often religious) ideals (I am trying to be as nonoffensive as possible here, so if you're one of the latter, please bear with me).

I would guess that the latter are likely to be isolated, unless there's a decent-sized community of like-minded people around (which there probably is in a town of any size). The former don't seem to bear the same risk to me, as they're likely to be engaged in extracurricular activities that bring them in touch with other kids frequently.
All your .sigs are belong to us.
remove mypants to email
[ Parent ]

Stereotypes (3.00 / 2) (#91)
by tonyenkiducx on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 09:30:02 AM EST

"It's like trying to convince some MSCE jackass that has never even seen KDE that Linux isn't that hard to use."

Or like trying to convince some *nix zealot that all windows users are not clueless, and that windows can be a good piece of software.

I see a planet where love is foremost, where war is none existant. A planet of peace, and a planet of understanding. I see a planet called
[ Parent ]
Correction (2.00 / 2) (#94)
by hobbified on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 10:13:15 AM EST

"Or like trying to convince some *nix zealot that all windows users are not clueless, and that windows can be a good piece of software."

First half: very certainly true. There are plenty of people who have taken the time, mastered the skills, and have Windows under their control.

Second half? No. It's the same piece of software no matter who's using it, and it's never a good one. If you know how to rein it in, you can get it to perform a task decently well, but it will be due more to your effort than Microsoft's.

As for the degree of intersection between the set of people I mentioned above and the set of MCSEs, that's a matter for another discussion.

[ Parent ]

Thats more even handed than most *nix users (none / 0) (#234)
by tonyenkiducx on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 05:56:44 AM EST

And for that I dip my cap to you sir *dip* We'll have to agree to disagree on the windows being bad thing ;)

I see a planet where love is foremost, where war is none existant. A planet of peace, and a planet of understanding. I see a planet called
[ Parent ]
hear hear! (none / 1) (#131)
by CAIMLAS on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:25:55 PM EST

I was home schooled myself for a total of more than 4 years throughout my primary and secondary years (sorta) - all throughout middle school (6-8th), the first half of my 5th grade year, and pre-school.

When I was in pre-school, we'd have daily lessons that lasted roughly half the day (that is, the morning), and we'd have the rest of the day to do what we wanted - for the most part. We had a lot of creative toys (legos, erector sets, that kind of thing), art supplies, and a large yard in which we could run about and play. My brother (18 months younger than I) was also involved in this, and would partake in the same activities. We'd often involve ourselves in a fantasy role-playing game outdoors, and always had LEGOs strewn across the floor during the day. Once or so a week, we'd get together with many of the other home schooling families and do activities: visit orchards and historical sites, cook food and various other things. THe other kids were both younger (probably as young as 3 or 4) and older (as old as 2nd or 3rd grade I suspect).

Once we even had a re-enactment of the War of 1812  (which I recall with great pleasure even to this day). We each played one of the historically significant characters from various parts of the war (generals, ship captains, Francis Scott Key). This all went along with a history lesson and a craft project. By craft project, I mean we actually created 'garments' (out of paper, IIRC) and armaments. The creation of these armaments was a project in and of itself, as we had to create projectile weapons for both sides of a "land/sea" battle using limited supplies (cardboard tubes, rubber bands, paper, etc.).

When I did go to kindergarten when I was 6 (I was too young to enter the prior year due to an age cut-off), I remember being bored and upset by the ordeal. Bored, because most of the time I had to go through the formal "education" process. Doing basic math which I was well beyond, drawing with crayons when I'd been using markers, pastels, colored pencils, and non-water paints for years, and never doing anything more linguistic than my ABCs and minimal spelling was boring, and I didn't see it as 'school'. Then, play time was short and there was limited creative toys to play with (I recall a boxed table with very small blocks of various geometric shapes, and I was always the only kid at that table). Then, I was confused when the older kids were hostile towards the younger kids, and furthermore, interaction between grades was not only not encouraged, but they tried to avoid it on the playground. In retrospect, this was not in the least bit what I'd consider a "positive social environment". At this point in my life, I was always interested in doing creative, inventive things with my time - not driving trucks around on the carpet, hitting other kids, or stacking simplistic blocks, as the other kids all seemed to enjoy doing. My best friend during this period of time was an older kid (12, 13?) in my neighborhood who was more inclined towards this kind of thing. Granted, I may have been ahead of my peers because I very well might have been more intelligent - but it might also have been because I was actually taught things, and was also properly socialized instead of trained in pack mentality.

I was home schooled for the first half of my 5th grade year because we would be moving in December and my parents did not want to mess around with trading school systems. When I arrived at my new school, I was widely accepted as the new guy, and everyone liked me - for about a week. Then I was quickly villanized by the "mean kids" who wanted to be on the top of the social order, and nobody liked me much after that. Largely because I didn't fight back verbally, and just ignored them. (Turns out most of them never finished high school, some of them are in prison, and not one of them ever even went to college...) I asked my mom to take me out of middle school the second week of classes because the animal-like behavior was only encouraged in the middle school, and the education was horrible/boring/tedious (a -lot- of busy-work worksheets and hardly any interaction with the teachers).

I entered back into school again my Freshman year of high school, mainly because I'd entered that pubescent stage where males tend to go on the prowl. That was the primary reason, and I think it was a mistake. I could never settle for one of the dumb institutionalized people by that time. I'd also progressed academically well beyond what the schools would let me take, and was bored shitless. I ended up transfering to a different school my sophmore year, and again my junior/senior year. (IE, I graduated in 3 years).

I can't honestly say I benefited at all socially or academically from public schools. I really didn't form any friendships during high school (while I was there) that were in the least bit meaningful, because most high school students aren't able to form honest friendships within the artificially imposed structure of public education. I did make friends out of school, with people in public school, but it was without the trappings of the public education's caste system. I later developed socially much more fully after I got out of artificially-imposed caste environments (such as high schools and traditional/small colleges).

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#188)
by kerinsky on Sun Dec 12, 2004 at 03:57:04 AM EST

I also had a mix of homeschooling and institutionalized schooling growing up.  My social experience in institutions didn't seem to be as bad as yours, but I did HATE the segrigation.  For me the great advantage of homeschooling was that once a week or so I was thrown into a social environment with several dozen children from kindergarten through twelth grade.  If I went to a birthday party for a friend in "real" school every single child there was in the same grade (ie 95% within 1 year and a few outliers who skipped a grade or were held back for various reasons)  For friends from homschooling this wasn't unlikely to be a mix across 6 or more years instead....

Institutionalized schooling (private and public) was almost always stifling both socially and intelectually.  Homeschooling is clearly not for every (or even most) children and certainly not for most parents, but most of the complaints I see raised against it display an amazing amount of ignorance or extrapilation from a single anicdotal case.

[ Parent ]

I could argue both ways. (none / 0) (#146)
by student on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 08:00:21 PM EST

Based on my own limited experiance with homeschoolers I know, I think there are lots of good arguments for and against homeschooling.  Some arguments fit in both categories.  This is why I always use the word "oversimplification" in discussions of education.

Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.
[ Parent ]
Home schooling and social isolation (3.00 / 3) (#62)
by strlen on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 09:21:20 PM EST

Actually, don't surveys show that children that are home-schooled are actually better socialized than children that are public schooled?  I can't site URL right now, but it was mentioned in the study was mentioned in a sociology class I took for general education some quarters ago, the study was titled "is private education privatizing" but googling for it finds no hits right now.

The only socialization I gained from public high school (and mind you I attended one of the highest ranked non-magnet public schools in my state), is a) how despise people that are succesfully b) how to suceed by cheating and lying c) how to hate myself d) how if you don't care about sports, you must be a horrible anti-social loser and worthless to society f) if you don't drink yourself to half-death at the age of 16 nightly, you have no social life

I had may be 5 friends (and I say, friends, not acquitenances) total in high school, and the number certainly went up far higher when I started working and attending college. In fact, I was socially isolated because of public schools, and I know I am not alone.

I'm not particularly fond of home-schooling honestly myself, but if govt run schools didnt have a virtual monopoly, secular private schools (there are many that do exist and are excellent academically) as well as "religious in name only" (i.e.: accepting people of all creeds, and not proselytizing despite a named religious afilitation schools may have) schools would readily be able to provide a far better education as well as scholarships for the poor.

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.

Don't Knock the Trend (none / 1) (#68)
by Peahippo on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 10:24:48 PM EST

It's funny that we condemn social isolation in children, but when we adults do it time and time again, nothing further is said. When growing up, I always wondered why my mother didn't seem to have any friends. Now I know: on average, adults really don't. They go to work, come home and deal with a small set of family, and live particularly insular lives. It happened to me, and if you are in your 30s, it's likely to be happening to you.

[ Parent ]
Different sense of "friends" I guess (none / 1) (#70)
by strlen on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 10:33:14 PM EST

I didn't mean in the strictly "people you get drunk in the bar with sense" but people you could use as social capital. Mainly, people that you could feel comfortable contacting should a need arise. I do agree with you, that social activity is far to over emphasized, especially for the youth.

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
It depends.. (none / 0) (#200)
by The Amazing Idiot on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 01:17:56 AM EST

I socialize on different levels, though many of those levels have been cultivated from prior knowledge and experience.

I play in an orchestra and a band as lead clarinet.

I watch many orchestras, ballets, and operas with my SO. Many times, we head backstage when we know somebody who played in the group.

I meet people in my budding tech business.

I go to church, and meet people of like intrests there (other than the obvious religion).

I go to friends church services to be with them and meet their friends.

It really matters if you become somewhat a hermit and only go to work, and go home rather than actually involve yourself in something bigger than  yourself. It's quite a wonderful feeling to hear a symphony play a suite that you just played 3 months ago, and had a lead part in.

[ Parent ]

the problem I have (none / 1) (#81)
by cyclopatra on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:24:56 AM EST

with public school socialization is that it's all too frequently negative socialization. In high school I made real friends, some of which I still associate with today and would have no hesitation calling on if I got in a jam; but in elementary school I was the kid everyone always picked on. I once chased my sixth grade class across a field just by walking towards them at a normal pace. Yes, I was a geeky, weird kid, but I still can't accept that I deserved the kind of abuse that was heaped on me in school.

If I breed, I'll be homeschooling, at least at first, because I don't care to roll the popularity dice for my offspring. They can take part in other extracurricular activities with more supervision for their socialization.
All your .sigs are belong to us.
remove mypants to email
[ Parent ]

You're not alone (none / 0) (#97)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 10:56:38 AM EST

You had 5 friends in HS? That's 4 more than I had, and my 1 friend didn't even go to the same school most of the time. The only "social" skill I learned was whooping the tar out of the school bullies.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Home Schooling and Socialization: case study. (none / 0) (#127)
by claes on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 03:59:22 PM EST

We home school our kids. They do just fine interacting with other kids. The interesting thing is that they do fine interacting with anyone, from an infant (they both love babies) to an adult.

That's what you get for NOT spending most of your waking, thinking hours with kids of the same age.

We did have the advantage of living in a small, walkable city. My wife took the kids everywhere, and they are growing up comfortable with people of all ages and backgrounds.

-- claes

[ Parent ]

I forgot something important! (none / 0) (#129)
by claes on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:04:09 PM EST

One reason my home-schooled kids are comfortable around other people is that they were never subjected to periodic day-long separation from their parents. You might think that this would make them "clingy", always wanting to stick next to mom or dad, but it turned out just the opposite. They've never been frightened about mom or dad going away and leaving them, so they're much more confident about venturing away from mom or dad in public places, which just builds their confidence.

-- claes (forgetting too much stuff lately)

[ Parent ]

Then you are the exception.. (none / 0) (#184)
by JohnnyCannuk on Sat Dec 11, 2004 at 12:15:51 PM EST

I have had experience with relatives that are home schooled. While they certainly are more 'confident', they seem only to be able to relate to adults and themselves. They are, all 5 of them, incredibly arrogant and simly cannot relate to other kids their own age. Even to their older relatives they are rude and very mal-socialized.

Now the main reason for their "home schooling" is not because of any issue with the quality of the education received from the public system, but rather for "religious" reasons. That is, their parents (my in-laws) did want them in a public school system because they did want them to be exposed to any non-Christian ideas or receive information that was not filtered through their religious doctorine.

So, they've never met a Muslim, rarely seen a Jew, only see Hindus or Sikh's on TV or at a store. There is no diversity in their limited number of friends and aquaintences - they are also homeschoolers from their church (they don't even know kids from other Chritian denominations).

You see, the reason for home schooling was to isolate them and it has.

Public schooling is more than reading, writing and arithmatic, its about getting to know people like your peers, younger and older, teachers, custodians and others. When I worked as a Social Worker at a public school in Toronto in the 90's we always observed that more "learning" (socialization)went on a recess than in the class.

And despite what some of the other posters have written, most kids go through the school system and come out pretty good socially (I give yeah that math, reading and most importantly, critical thinking, needs to be taught more). I agree that private schools provide better acedemics, but all that tells me that if public schools were properly funded to the levels that the private schools are, they would also have better acedemics.

We have just religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another - Jonathan Swift
[ Parent ]

Not quite.. (none / 1) (#191)
by AMBorgeson on Sun Dec 12, 2004 at 06:05:07 AM EST

actually, it looks like the people you talk abotu are the abberation. They were home schooled for the purpose of isolating them, as part of a religious belief that seems to be rather non-tolerant.

If some one is home schooled by parents who WANT their child to be accepting of other culture's and religions, then they most likely will be, solving the problems you mentioned.

"It takes a Long time to count to '2' in Binary." ~Fourlegged

There are 4 boxes to use in the defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, ammo. Use in that order. Starting now.
[ Parent ]

I was home schooled... (none / 1) (#194)
by skyknight on Sun Dec 12, 2004 at 02:44:07 PM EST

for the sixth through eighth grades. Then I was dumped into the public school system for high school. Those three years were great, but high school was a pretty brutal experience. I think I might have been a lot better off if I'd just continued on through high school doing self directed study as I had done the previous years, and then had my re-integration with main stream education when I went off to college. High school just made me incredibly bitter and distrustful of people, and that sentiment has had an extremely long half life.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Problems with PI (3.00 / 3) (#66)
by balsamic vinigga on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 09:48:47 PM EST

Doesn't work with hands on stuff.

bye art
bye science

what's left is math & language

I never liked math until I had teachers that really had a passion for it, and were able to share their love of it.  You can't do that with computer instruction.

You can learn to read and write with a computer but speaking and hearing is best learned through conversation.

I don't know, i'm just not buying the whole PI thing and don't see how it's practical.

Please help fund a Filipino Horror Movie. It's been in limbo since 2007 due to lack of funding. Please donate today!

The problem with cellphones (1.83 / 6) (#76)
by pHatidic on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 12:17:26 AM EST

They can't weed my garden.

bye tulips.
bye roses.

what's left is crab grass and dandelions.

[ Parent ]

Eh? (2.66 / 6) (#84)
by Kwil on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:38:29 AM EST

So let me get this straight.. he comes out with a relevant point that the system you propose for eduation would not be capable of coping with non-binary skill sets (eg, those where it's not a case of either you know it or you don't)

Your response is analagous to saying that the system you propose isn't intended for that use.

Except you proposed it for eduction in general.

So this means either you were unclear in your initial article, or you're simply unclear on the concept that education encompasses more than binary skill sets.

In either event, I think it demonstrates that you need to move back a few of these PI steps (be it in langauge arts or critical thinking, I'm not sure which) before bothering to attempt writing an article about education.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze

[ Parent ]
OK (none / 1) (#118)
by pHatidic on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 01:52:03 PM EST

From the original article:

"Of course not all classes would be suitable for this type of instruction, for example PI would be an inappropriate tool for writing seminars, science labs, music, gym, and other forms of hands on instruction. Although PI will never be able to replace all that schools have to offer, it is a highly efficient way of learning certain skills."

[ Parent ]

Science! (none / 0) (#134)
by dribble on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:48:37 PM EST

I can think of a few uses for science. Imagine playing with virtual chemistry sets. Visualizing 3D models of molecules would be much easier than the 2D drawings they use in textbooks. Add animations and you've got a nice tool on your hands. What about physics? You could set up some great dynamics examples. Just tweak the initial velocity, and watch how the behavior of the projectile is effected... And biology could be fun: http://edheads.org/activities/knee/

[ Parent ]
art and science (none / 0) (#114)
by cronian on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 01:02:13 PM EST

Science is about discovering new things. I'm not quite sure you can teach that. However, you can teach what has already been discovered. As far as art is concerned, I really don't think that can be taught. You can teach the principles of aesethics, and how to draw things realistically. You can also teach about past art.

As far as learning about past discoveries, they could involve actually making things. Have a class, where you make your own computer from scratch. Repeat famous experiments.

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
Why not? (none / 0) (#150)
by student on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 08:10:35 PM EST

"I never liked math until I had teachers that really had a passion for it, and were able to share their love of it.  You can't do that with computer instruction."

What?  I don't follow.  Are you saying that human interaction is needed to learn mathematics?  Or that speach is a better medium for mathematics than text. IMHO you need both, but text is more important.  

I suspect that what you were responding to was not love, but higher level concepts.  There are many ways of thinking about (for example) solving an equation for a variable for x. One way is to memorize that when you see a number added to x, you subtract that number.  A second way is to think about what operations are performed on x, and then do the oposite to both sides.  A third way is to think of the equality as a balance beam, where you move something from one side to another.   I somewhat favor this click-and-drag meathod.  I'm sure there are others.  Some work better for some people than others.  Computers can deal with more than one learning style, if they are used properly.  Many teachers can never learn that skill.

Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.
[ Parent ]

PI Doesn't need to be done on computers /nt (none / 1) (#226)
by jameth on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 10:43:10 PM EST

[ Parent ]
I was with you... (none / 1) (#73)
by godix on Wed Dec 08, 2004 at 10:49:26 PM EST

right up till the 'wiki' part. While in many respects the wiki process has developed a decent encylopedia even the wikifanboys will tell you it should NOT be used as the primary, or even worse only, source because of inaccuracies. The community process is just too prone to errors to use as a major source of education material. Even if you throw in a layer of 'professional' factcheckers on the process it still isn't good, it's more likely that professionals would overlook an existing error than that they would put in an error if they just wrote the material themselves.

Now what SOUNDS cool is a wiki PI system designed for adults with well documented sources. Adults are (theoretically) better able to filter their information and more likely to recognize and ignore mistakes in the material.

Of course, while reading the article I kept flashing back to all the really horrible CBT programs I've used for various certifications and computer classes and suddenly my interest in PI dies. Care to elaborate on how your idea of PI is different from the many pathetically worthless CBT programs out?

NOTE: This is a repost of an editorial comment. I would go off on a rant about how moronic it is to have the default comment behavior be the exact opposite of what people usually intend their comments to be but somehow I doubt it'd be any more effective than all the whining about search so nevermind.

"Yeah, we rocked the vote all right. Those little bastards betrayed us again."
- Hunter S. Thompson on the 2004 election.

OK (none / 0) (#74)
by pHatidic on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 12:14:47 AM EST

The community process is just too prone to errors to use as a major source of education material.

I agree with your analysis that Wikipedia is currently a "decent encyclopedia". Lately though I am noticing that some of the articles are getting worse instead of better because everyone who reads an article feels like they have to add a fact to it without blending it into the overall flow. However, I still believe that the content of Wikipedia still provides the foundation for what will be the best encyclopedia ever made. It is just that it will require a lot of editing in non-wiki mode.

Using wiki to create curriculum though would likely have much better results than it did for Wikipedia for a number of reasons. Firstly, the content would be a lot more dry and as such it is much less likely to attract vandalism. Lets face it, vandalizing a latin grammar lesson just wouldn't be as fun as adding made up terms to [[Sexual_slang]] or defacing [[George_W._Bush]]. Secondly, because lessons would be divided into short chunks there would be much less collaboration per article. It is much easier to make a concrete lesson describing the differences between plant and animal cell walls than it is to write the perfect article on [[Tea]].

If you look at Word Processing programs as an example, OpenOffice.org was just translated into Swahili a couple of days ago. This is the first word processing suite to be translated into this language, which means the 50 million speakers have had no word processing program until now. If a PI system were developed by a company and not by open source means then the chance of getting it translated into other languages is very small because no company. There simply isn't enough money in Swahili to convince a company to pay to produce a product in this language, and this is considering that Swahili is a fairly common language. If this were a copyrighted product, it would only serve to help those who already have access to far too much information.

Care to elaborate on how your idea of PI is different from the many pathetically worthless CBT programs out?

Most of the books I have read on computer programming have been pathetically bad, does that mean books worthless? Any tool, such as books or PI, can be used well or poorly. Just because you have had bad experiences doesn't mean that PI is inherently bad. For example, I found PI a very good way to learn how to type in Qwerty as I describe in my article. My guess is that a skilled PI course designer could make a very good course covering the same material as the course you disliked.

[ Parent ]

So basically (none / 0) (#105)
by godix on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:53:50 AM EST

you're saying that the Wiki process would be fine for school material becuase it's too boring for trolls to screw around with? Considering the large amount of people that still think trolling K5 is amusing I don't think ANYTHING is too boring to attract them. If nothing else the chance to pound out 10,000 words about how evil microsoft is, screwing Rusty or his wife, or A Modest Search Algorithm Proposal and have it be taught to children would tempt even more trolls than normal.

As far as translating to Swahili goes, doing unprofitable things is one of the few true advantages of open source. However that doesn't apply here. As the textbook companies can tell you, eductional is a very profitable market. After all, how many other industries have a government mandateed captured market?

Most of the books I have read on computer programming have been pathetically bad, does that mean books worthless?

I've read books that are well presented and useful for education purposes. I haven't seen a CBT yet that is. I'll grant you that it is just a tool and is possible to be useful I just haven't it be done right yet. Considering you're basically proposing to put as much as possible with CBT I need stronger proof the wiki process would produce a good result than 'well, it's possible...'

"Yeah, we rocked the vote all right. Those little bastards betrayed us again."
- Hunter S. Thompson on the 2004 election.
[ Parent ]
CTB (none / 1) (#93)
by GenerationY on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 10:10:14 AM EST

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
or...Cock and Ball Torture?

Inquiring minds want to know.

[ Parent ]

Computer Based Training (none / 1) (#103)
by godix on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:38:07 AM EST

Ever see those CDs that promise after going through their program you're damn near guarenteed (no money back though) to pass the MCSE/CCNA/A+/whatever? Yeah, those things.

Actually, now that I think about it, Complete Bullshit Training also fits them pretty well.

"Yeah, we rocked the vote all right. Those little bastards betrayed us again."
- Hunter S. Thompson on the 2004 election.
[ Parent ]

Wiki as tool vs. Wiki as philosophy (none / 0) (#108)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 12:24:22 PM EST

Wikis are a simple and surprisingly effective tool for building collaborative documentation, but often ensuring the usefullness of the tool requires dumping some of the more idealistic aspects of the Wiki philosophy. Most of the problems you point out can be avoided by allowing only registered users to commit changes (and in the hypothetical case here registered users could be linked to real world indentities) and an implementation of ACLs to control read/write access in a more fine grained manner.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

[ Parent ]
True to a point (none / 0) (#159)
by godix on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 12:51:22 AM EST

Registered users and other methods of weeding out people who would shit on a rose just for fun would work for the obvious trolls. Wiki still has problems.

The wiki method is great for an online dictionary of stuff a community thinks is important. Which poses a problem because what the computer nerd community thinks is important is notably different that the type of thing that's important in education. For example, compare James Monroe (a US president known for the Monroe Doctrine (don't fuck with the Americas, that's our job) for any who don't know) to Slashdot (a website that exists solely to provide a place for gostse links for any who don't know). They're almost the same length although historically speaking one is a lot more important than the other.

A further problem of this is that group think sets in despite the best of intentions and no one even notices. For example, the Morality and Legality of abortion article spends twice as long in the 'Modern arguments' section talking about pro-choice arguments as it does pro-life arguments.

And a third problem is the simple fact that many who have the ability to edit don't have the knowledge to. Who would you trust to write an accurate article on black holes, an economist or a astronomer? Under the wiki system they both have the ability to write the article. Even if you limit your source with signons and the like that still doesn't stop the problem of people writing outside their area of expertise.

And the last problem is the wars where people knowingly insert blatant propaganda into the articles. Just look at the history of the George Bush article. Especially before the election. While I'm sure much of that were worthless trolls I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that people who are generally good contributors got involved because they had very strong feelings against Bush.

All of which means Wiki produces a decent encyclopedia provided it's viewers remember to not use it as a first and only source. However education is different, the source material for education is designed to be the first and only source of info. Educational material should be held to a high standard and I just don't see a way the wiki method could reliably match that high standard.

"Yeah, we rocked the vote all right. Those little bastards betrayed us again."
- Hunter S. Thompson on the 2004 election.
[ Parent ]

It's in the nature of the community... (none / 0) (#165)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 01:17:38 AM EST

...where community is defined by who has an account, especially an account write access. Maybe I misunderstood the article's author, but I understood him to be suggesting that Wikis be used within or between already defined communities, such as educational or research institutions, where the individuals involved are a known quantity.

Wikis are widely used for creating and maintaining documentation behind corporate firewalls for instance. I'm guessing that even with the absence of basic user accounts, not to mention fine grained access rights, most corporate wikis are probably pretty free of the sort of problems you're concerned about.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

[ Parent ]
It's not that complex (2.40 / 5) (#77)
by felixrayman on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 01:33:31 AM EST

School is bullshit. Got a wide variety of high quality reading material in your home? The worst school in the world will not retard your child's education. Don't have a wide variety of high quality reading material in your home? Your kid is a tard.

It's that simple. It doesn't take 4000 words of bullshit to present the truth.

Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

Yeah (2.33 / 3) (#78)
by strlen on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 01:53:50 AM EST

I should add, "Have the TV on 24/7 in your home? Your kid will be a tard.". I can't stand people who complain of being bored unless there's an image scrolling in front of their eyes -- I guess the root cause of that is constant presence of television and lack of reading.

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
You have a point I think <nt> (none / 0) (#92)
by GenerationY on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 10:09:20 AM EST

[ Parent ]
math (none / 1) (#107)
by mpalczew on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 12:23:39 PM EST

I don't believe that having a variety of reading material around the home will make your kid better at math.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]
But (none / 0) (#153)
by Gluke on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:20:33 PM EST

It just might. On the other hand, the absence of any reading certainly will make it harder to be good at anything, including math. Of course, if you're like Euclid, all you need is a sand beach and a twig. But then there's someone like Gauss, Riemann, Lobachevsky, etc. They saw something that Euclid couldn't draw, but not without reading, I don't think.

[ Parent ]
Or Do Anything Else to Engage a Child's Mind (none / 0) (#227)
by jameth on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 10:48:15 PM EST

Talk to them regularly. Tell stories to them. Travel the world and discuss what is there. Use well put-together educational tools.

Basically do anything but leave them in front of a TV.

Reading is a good way, but not the only way.

[ Parent ]

PI may well suck. (2.00 / 2) (#79)
by brain in a jar on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:10:18 AM EST

I remember well that my high school operated a system similar to PI for mathematics.

There were a series of little books with maths work in it and you could not move onto the next one until you had completed the previous one.

Sadly the learning curve was so shallow that anyone with half a brain (even one in a jar) got so totally bored with doing easy work that they stagnated in the system.

To make progress one had to slog through tons of very dull, highly repetetive work, and the school did not want to allow people to skip some books.

Personally I think mathematics should be taught based on problem solving. Relatively few people have a disposition that finds pure mathematics fascinating, and teaching mathematics as problem solving makes the field more interesting for most people. Not only that but it has the advantage of actually teaching people how to think, rather than teaching them a cookbook method and getting them to apply it to a huge number of similar problems. Only to find that when faced with a real problem the student has no idea which one of his mathematical tools is the right one for the job.

The shitty quality of the mathematics program (similar to the PI approach you describe) at my high school cost me a lot of time subsequently when I had to learn for myself the mathematics I need for my work.

Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.

on the other hand (none / 0) (#80)
by cyclopatra on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:18:45 AM EST

I took a self-paced course in math through the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth one summer when I was twelve. They gave us a textbook, and had two instructors on hand if we had questions (and they gave a brief "brainteaser" lecture at the beginning of each class). We had self-graded tests to take at the end of each chapter, and once we'd passed the last test we could take the final exam (well, you could take it any time you wanted, but it was kind of silly to do it early). A passing score meant we could go on to the next level.

I did Algebra 1 in three weeks that way. One kid in my class did Alg 1, Alg 2, and was halfway through Trig at the end of the course.

I did the rest of my high school math the usual way. Interestingly, algebra is probably the only thing I really retained. YMMV, though.
All your .sigs are belong to us.
remove mypants to email
[ Parent ]

Or in other words.. (none / 1) (#86)
by Kwil on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:42:45 AM EST

..like any education system, it depends on the quality of the instructional material (including instructors).

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze

[ Parent ]
Nah (none / 0) (#99)
by NoBeardPete on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:07:41 AM EST

I did Algebra II at Johns Hopkins' CTY program around the same age. As I recall, we were using normal textbooks. They were nothing special. And our instructors were bright, but they also didn't actually give us much instruction. Most of the day, they'd sit around reading or chatting amongst each other, waiting for someone to ask them a question.

The real lesson I take from this is that if you have a student who is motivated to learn, they don't need much to do so. And if you put a bunch of kids who are motivated to learn together, you quickly get a culture that reinforces this.

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

I had no idea so many people did that (none / 0) (#111)
by llimllib on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 12:44:33 PM EST

I did it too; Algebra II just like you. I don't recall asking the instructors a single question, though I'm sure I did ask a few. Then, as now, I've preferred to gut it out and find the answer by force of will.

Anyway, I *definitely* remember that we had the same textbook as my Middle School used, and the tests from the book. I think I would be a real lot smarter right now if I had always gone to schools like that one.

Instead, I went back to regular school one year ahead in math and became a pariah. I failed out of my first high school math course because I was so desperate to appear normal. It was one of the worst frustrations I've ever had.

[ Parent ]

Types of students (none / 1) (#136)
by Dyolf Knip on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 05:19:11 PM EST

I've heard it said that a big problem with schools is that there is virtually no equivalent to medical triage.  I.e., there are some students who will learn no matter what the teachers do, some students that _could_ learn, but require a signifcant investment in teacher-hours, and then those kids who will wallow in ignorance regardless of how much time you spend with them.  Thus, the best place to spend the bulk of one's finite resources in education is on the middle group, since the first group does not need (much) help and it would be more or less wasted on the third.

Now, while I'd be more than a bit ambivalent about simply giving up on what would be a significant portion of the class (they will vote someday, after all), the idea of putting the self-learners together is a very good one.

If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

It'd be nice (none / 1) (#161)
by NoBeardPete on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 12:57:40 AM EST

It'd be nice if we had a system that students could escape if they didn't need it. Earlier in American history, there were many examples of self educated men who became greate statesmen, thinkers, and inventors. Ben Franklin is a great example. He started several times at several different schools, and left each one after a very short while. He thought he had better things to do with his time.

Why don't we seen any modern day Ben Franklins? Is it because Americans have lost the ability to self educate like this? Is it because schools have changed, and are now less of a waste of time for motivated, bright children? Personally, I think it's more likely that the system is better at tracking students down and forcing them to attend whether or not it's a good idea.

I think it'd be great if bright, motivated children who had better things to do with their time could go do those things instead. When I bring this idea up, people generally object on the grounds that less motivated or less priveleged children need to be forced to attend school. Is there no way to differentiate between these two types of students? And how fair is it to force children to attend a school that is only detracting from their education, on the justification that doing so somehow helps other children?

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Not that simple (none / 0) (#163)
by Sgt York on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 01:04:20 AM EST

There is an added facet that all teachers are taught, but very few schools implement.

There aren't just differing abilities to learn among people, but also differing styles. I think they are visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Some people have to see to learn, others have to hear to learn, and others have to do to learn. Schools focus on visual and auditory, with little emphesis on kinesthetic, although it is a very common type. As a result, very bright kids are simply not taught effectively.

The sad part is that every education major learns this. It's just that almost none apply it.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#100)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:13:12 AM EST

though students do need practice problems.

to make a section more fun, the teacher should do things like have the students explain how to solve a problem from the book. Students should have to write what they think a theorem means and find an every day application that they themselves would be able to use it with.

I also think that the students should be given a project problem a few times a year that encompasses everything that they are learning for the next test and perhaps some concepts they learned earlier in the year.

a constructionist approach makes the class more fun, though, it does make it more challenging. but how many students would rather be challenged that bored?

[ Parent ]

pure math problem solving (none / 1) (#113)
by cronian on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 12:57:13 PM EST

You could easily teach pure math with problem solving. Give a few relatively difficult math problems. Where possible, you could precede the difficult math problems with a scientific experiment . For instance, you could start with experiments to show how physics works, and then come up the equations from them.

Next, give some suggested exercises, which help the student the understand the really difficult problem. Give sub-exercises of the exercises if they are too dificult.
For instance, look at how gravity acts on balls, or something. Next, have the student guided by various exercises to find the basic laws of physics. Next, formulate that into a math problem, which could involve something like deriving the quadratic formula. Next, give the student exercises to help them derive it. The unit would end, when the student finally figures out how to derive the formula. However, in the mean time they would keep working on various exercises that give hints in that direction.

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
that's a horrible way. (none / 0) (#229)
by gzt on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 11:50:41 PM EST

well, not really, that's a horrible example of a decent way. no no no, don't do it with physics and quadratics. this is a great way of teaching methods of mathematical thought, but it has to go parallel to teaching, say, algebra. this really is a great way of leading children through the basics of proofs, teaching them about induction and mathematical reasoning, but it's horrible for teaching algebraic methods. if you want good ways of teaching algebraic methods, we got that right 2000 years ago. really, you have to have some level of formality beneath your teaching of heuristics [and some teaching of heuristics above your formality], otherwise your students will turn out braindead. i've seen it happen, the life you save could be your own.

[ Parent ]
algebraic methods? (none / 0) (#235)
by cronian on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 10:23:26 PM EST

What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean the arithmetic of solving equations? Formally, all that can be done by understanding how to use the canonical and normal forms. Finding these forms for thes first type, can be interesting exercises.

In these type of things, the formal stuff can come right off pluggining in values, and playing with them, until it can be crystalized into a formal theory.

Other "algebraic techniques" may deal more with approximation type things. These are best understand by having an intuition, for what the comparison of the size of different algebraic expressions. I think this can be built by working on approximation algorithms for things.

I think the best way to introduce foramlity, is to have algorithms formalized into computer programs. In the case of geometry, constructions can work just as well. Euclid did pretty well with his axioms, which were basically rules for construction.

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
i meant the stupid little... (none / 0) (#238)
by gzt on Fri Dec 17, 2004 at 08:34:25 PM EST

...things like factoring equations and other piddly things they teach 8th graders. i mean, piddling around with teaching kids things, it seems more efficient to ground them a little in the fundamentals and then do fun problem-solving teaching proofs and such things, 'cause otherwise you have to stop and be like, "okay, you don't know the pythagorean theorem, all right, oh, you don't know square roots either, fine, we'll do that..." every two minutes. though it seems to be the right track to take, i was a little too harshly critical.

[ Parent ]
+1 section (1.00 / 3) (#87)
by jubal3 on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 07:28:41 AM EST

I'm not all that intrigued by the article (was going to abstain) but the comments add enough to make this worth reading.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
Web design. (none / 0) (#88)
by valeko on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 08:41:20 AM EST

If I want to hire a high school student to do web design and I see he got a B in a web design class, that doesn't tell me anything at all about what that student is capable of or what their work ethic is.

Heh, true. I currently do a considerable amount of web design/programming (mostly PHP/database monkeying) for my employer, and I failed web design in high school, my senior year. It was the only class I failed in high school.

"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart

me too (2.75 / 4) (#104)
by crazy canuck on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:45:09 AM EST

I failed my database class in kindergarden because I couldn't spell "relational". That and using the wrong Crayola color in my SQL joins.

[ Parent ]
Holy shit (3.00 / 2) (#162)
by Sgt York on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 12:58:45 AM EST

Web design as a high school class?

Shit. I feel old.

There wasn't a web design class at my college.

Damn kids. And their music. *mutter mutter* GET OFF MY LAWN!

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Well. (none / 0) (#166)
by valeko on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 02:27:39 AM EST

It shouldn't be overstated. It was just DreamWeaver and Flash monkeying guided by a thick, glossy (and confounding to anybody who actually wants to make a coherent vision out of its contents) textbook. It's not like there was some kind of conceptual instruction. It was very much what you'd call a "ghetto elective."

Either way, I just tended to write my pages by hand, which earned me low grades for not following directions. It's not that I had some arrogant, presumptuous principle about it; I just didn't understand Dreamweaver and was much too lazy to figure it out.

I also tended to make use of that class period for working on personal PHP projects, so I fell very far "behind."

"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart
[ Parent ]

Alluding (none / 0) (#168)
by Sgt York on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 03:54:06 AM EST

More to the fact that there weren't any webpages to design when I was in high school. HTML was some guy's bright idea at the time.

Just makes me feel old, that's all. I know most students can now take basic computer sceince, web design, and even some programming languages in HS.

It's really wierd, right now. I can vividly remember logging onto old BBS's via my 5600 baud modem and Tandy CoCo, and having these same kind of conversations in posts there.

Wow. Nostalgia. Makes you ramble.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Computers? (none / 1) (#112)
by pauldamer on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 12:50:36 PM EST

Why is it that everyone always thinks that computers are the answer?  Computers are not the answer.  More personal involvement and interaction with students is the answer.  

Kids need more feedback than just "You failed try again" and that takes more teachers.    
The solution is simple try spending at least 1% of the budget on education, maybe even 2%!

Oh (none / 1) (#115)
by pHatidic on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 01:28:15 PM EST

Well if its the budget, why is it we have the second highest per pupil expenditures (after sweden) but we ranked 28th/40 in a study that came out just two days ago? Clealy it is the teaching techniques, not the money spent. Washington DC has a much higher than average per pupil spending, and they have worse achievement than all 50 states.

[ Parent ]
Clearly? (none / 0) (#120)
by NoBeardPete on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 02:28:53 PM EST

The evidence suggests that our problem isn't insufficient funds. It's quite a jump to go from that observation to stating that our teaching techniques are at fault. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it's a social/cultural problem. If you have a bunch of kids who don't care to learn what you are trying to teach them, the best technique in the world is going to fail.

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

No, dumbass (2.50 / 2) (#124)
by CAIMLAS on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 03:26:55 PM EST

It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with how much of the money set aside for education is actually spent for education.

By that, I mean that the majority of education funds are spent on things such as sports, buildings, programs, lunch subsidizing, and administration. The lion share of that money going towards sports. In turn, schools spend a paltry amount of money and get the cheapest (and often worst) textbooks available and use them for 3, 4, 5, 6 years or more. They hire teachers that have no real credentials to teach the courses they're hired for ("It's high/elementary/pre school, any adult can teach this stuff. You're given a book with all the answers and don't even need to know the information, after all."), and are hired instead for which sports they can teach.

Compound this situation with the fact that education in the US is geared for the lowest common denominator of student, and you've got the current problem. The under-performers just keep going on and keep performing at the same level, the moderate students excell (get A's and B's), while the best students end up dropping out, flunking out, or simply getting in school suspension as much as possible so that they can get the tedious work done and sit around for the rest of the morning and afternoon and read a good book.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

Sports & Money (3.00 / 2) (#160)
by Sgt York on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 12:55:40 AM EST

Although by the "bloody freaking obvious test" I agree that the larger portion of money is spent on sports programs at the college level, it's not so obvious at the high school level.

Are there any statistics to back that claim, or is it anecdotal?

I think you hit the nail on the head with the last part. US schools are geared to the lowest common denominator, and people assume that denominator is lower than it actually is.

When I was 3, I was reading. When I went to kindergarten, I could do all four basic math operations without rote memorization. Then I started school so I could "learn". I spent hours every day with watercolors and "See Spot Run". I asked the teachers to let me bring my own books, and they wouldn't let me. It might intimidate the other students.

Atrophy set in. By first grade, I had forgotten how to divide, and multiplication was fading. This was simply because teachers assumed that there is no way a kid that young could learn that. I'm no genius. I'm of fairly average intelligence. I just had parents that knew how to instill the joy of learning in me.

In second grade, my parents realized what was going on. My Mom hit every used book store in the city and bought me encyclopedias, learning materials, things to take apart and fix, and whatever else she could find. I still remember what she told me as she showed me the growing pile of stuff on my new bookshelf, "From 8 to 3 every day, you go to school. Mind your teachers. Make friends. Get your social interaction. Then come home and learn."

Not to change the subject too much, but do you think education going down the tubes? Do you think it's just the schools?

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Eh... (none / 0) (#170)
by ubernostrum on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 04:25:01 AM EST

Although by the "bloody freaking obvious test" I agree that the larger portion of money is spent on sports programs at the college level, it's not so obvious at the high school level.

Are there any statistics to back that claim, or is it anecdotal?

My high school was a particularly bad example of this; we had a budget of several hundred thousand dollars per year for football at a school with around 600 students. And our team still sucked.

You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]
Can we get over the sports envy? (2.40 / 5) (#185)
by ibsulon on Sat Dec 11, 2004 at 12:16:23 PM EST

Disclaimer: I played basketball in middle school, but didn't make the high school team freshman year of high school.

I know that my high school's football team was self-funded. Not only was it self-funded, it helped fund many women's sports. Most major universities use their football and basketball teams to bring in revenue for the university, not the other way around.

Though I was never great at sports, I'm angered by the geek community's tendency to denegrate skills requiring kinesthetic intelligence. I would that we make all high school students get into a sport for the exercise it provides!

We have a public health epidemic with weight levels in this country in adolescents and teenagers. We're just seeing the studies trickle in -- Type 2 diabetes at earlier and earlier ages, adult weights with a high correllation of juvinile weight, which in turn leads to lower life expectancy.

Why, oh why, would we try to *remove* physical activity from our education rather than encourage it?

[ Parent ]

Cost of living? (none / 0) (#145)
by student on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 07:52:42 PM EST

Living in the United States is expensive (but far from the most expensive).  Washington, D. C. is particularly expensive.  The polititians also contribute.

Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.
[ Parent ]
Automation is always the answer (3.00 / 2) (#122)
by Maurkov on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 02:54:14 PM EST

Personal involvement is great, but it is expensive. A computer could present lessons and grade quizzes like a champ, freeing up the teacher to provide specialized instruction and one-on-one attention.

Your one or two percent quip is a crock. At the federal level in FY02, the budget guide says 45 billion of 2.2 trillion, ie, 2%. But most education spending is not at the federal level. Education is around 31% of state spending, and 61% of municipal budgets (in Maine, anyway). Furthermore, education spending is increasing much faster than inflation. I don't think I'm far out on a limb when I attribute the out of control growth to the lack of applied technology compared to other economic sectors.

You are too cavalier with other people's money.

[ Parent ]
Montessori (none / 1) (#117)
by thoennes on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 01:44:35 PM EST

Worked great for me.  By age 4 I could read and write and by age 5 had encountered fractions, basic algebra and had read hundreds of books (all the hardy boys, nancy drew, the three investigators, and any time-life book I could get my hands on)

Plus, it was fun.

Yeah Montessori rocks. (none / 1) (#135)
by waxmop on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:57:11 PM EST

One of Maria Montessori's big complaints against traditional education system was that kids ignore the intrinsic joy of learning because of the artificial reward and punishment system of grades. People oversimplify this idea and say "Montessori schools don't have grades," but that completely misses the point.
fuck meatspace man I gotta level my dwarf cleric lonelyhobo
[ Parent ]
Wasted! (none / 0) (#151)
by Wulfius on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 08:24:44 PM EST

And what have you got to show for it?

Another fscking average tard whos grease on the cogwheels of the industro-military consumer complex!


"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]

Plenty (none / 0) (#174)
by thoennes on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 11:13:16 AM EST

Money.  An awesome and gorgeous wife.  A small dog with an big attitude.  Plenty of world travel (for fun, not business).  A job that allows me a lot of creative and intellectual space.  Fun where ever I am or go.  The respect of some fairly intelligent people.  Cool toys.

A fair degree of happiness.

All in all, not too shabby.

[ Parent ]

And you think that all of this happened (none / 1) (#177)
by Sesquipundalian on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 11:48:21 AM EST

because of Maria Montessori?

Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
[ Parent ]
Not so simple (none / 0) (#220)
by thoennes on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 10:57:35 AM EST

No.  Don't be so disengenuously simple.

It has to do with my parents, both on a genetic level and in the environment they provided for me.

Montessori was simply one of the environmental factors early on.

[ Parent ]

file under (none / 0) (#208)
by Harvey Anderson on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 12:15:31 PM EST

dork trying to have pride. : )

[ Parent ]
Keep filing (none / 0) (#219)
by thoennes on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 10:55:09 AM EST

And I'll file yours under "dork trying to feel good about themselves by mocking others".

[ Parent ]
The difference being... (none / 0) (#223)
by Harvey Anderson on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 01:40:40 PM EST

that I'm not a dork, where you so clearly are.  It's obvious from your post that you are trying to compensate.  It's nothing personal, even, or a big deal.. I just want to express that I'm not buying the routine.

[ Parent ]
the most important thing that goes on in school (1.50 / 2) (#121)
by fleece on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 02:44:43 PM EST

is socialisation.

Even if you only have basic reading skills, you can get by. If you have poor social skills, your doomed, doomed I tells ya!

I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
yep. (3.00 / 2) (#138)
by Mizuno Ami on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 05:51:34 PM EST

Socialization. Nothing like learning that you're worthless.

[ Parent ]
According to some (3.00 / 2) (#158)
by Sgt York on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 12:33:32 AM EST

That's actually a good start. It introduces you to reality.

Intrinsically, we are worthless. We have to strive to make ourselves something of worth.

The place where your argument stands is in regard to the age at which the lesson is learned. Learn it too young and too harshly, and it crushes your idealism and drive. Learn it too late, and you remain naive and self centered.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Hey everybody. (3.00 / 2) (#140)
by waxmop on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 06:05:06 PM EST

Let's all zero this guy just to show him how well we were all socialized.
fuck meatspace man I gotta level my dwarf cleric lonelyhobo
[ Parent ]
typing programs (none / 1) (#123)
by CAIMLAS on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 03:20:17 PM EST

My experience with typing programs is this. I didn't have a computer of my own until freshman year of high school, and no computer use in schools (aside from Oregon Trail, number crunchers) until 5th grade. Computers were still a quandary to me, and just a peculiar box which displayed things on a screen.

I entered a new school system, where the kids had been learning typing skills for years already. I'd had no experience, but was thrown in and expected to perform the same as every other student, or I would get failing marks for typing. Being an A student up until that point, under-performing, or even doing as well as the norm, simply wasn't an acceptable solution.

So what did I do? I watched other people type, and I experimented with how to get a higher WPM. This particular software didn't gauge error rate, I found. So what did I notice the other students doing, and do as a result myself? I saw the others just typing, and noticed there was not a reduction made on the score for spelling/typing mistakes.

So I simply hit the keys quickly every couple 'quizes' and increased my average significantly by getting scores of 100+ WPM every 3rd or 4th try.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.

Your sig (1.33 / 3) (#130)
by jubal3 on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:16:46 PM EST

you MUST be joking.

So, let me get this straight. You'll defend my freedom of speech until I start saying something you don't like, then I should be silenced? and you call this liberalism? wtf?

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]

No. Not silenced. (none / 0) (#144)
by student on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 07:48:44 PM EST

You just have to fend for your self, or be helped by a liberal who agrees with you.  You Incompetent!  - HB Owen

Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.
[ Parent ]
*sigh* (2.16 / 6) (#125)
by meman2000 on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 03:38:02 PM EST

It's been over a year since I last posted, but this is a topic towards which I take particular interest. I'm going to assume you haven't gotten past the tour on johntaylorgatto.com, because if you'd actually opened the book you wouldn't be spouting this shit. To your credit, I haven't read the other books (thanks for the references!), but on nearing completion of Gatto's Underground History, I -can- point out that the problems go far deeper than you could possibly imagine in order to write this and even try to consider Kelley's ideas a solution.

As you wrote, Kelley inherited his work from B.F. Skinner, who was notorious among other things for his "empty child" work. He, along with Pavlov and other behaviorists, experimented on the assumption that given the proper stimuli, a child can grow into whatever you want. Incidentally, Skinner played with this idea by raising his own daughter in a "Skinner box", a closed container with a window rigged with a food chute (she killed herself at 21). Apparently you're looking to this ethic for a "solution".

The problem expands though. The fundamental elements of American education have twisted roots: school bells originated from Gary schools, using loud disruptive noises to instill a sense of industrialization and obedience in students (when these were incorporated in NYC in the early 1900s, there were riots in the streets); the structure of class levels (first grade, second grade, etc) forces onto students a sense of age maturity and supremacy, and enables the teacher to obtain an almost godlike status (for more on this, check out "Marvin Minsky on Schooling[1]" and Bakunin's essay "What is Authority[2]"); or perhaps you'd prefer standardized testing, which was developed to make the lower classes recognize their inferiority and allow their ambition to be killed (according to H.H. Goddard, one of the major pioneers of the tests, in his 1920 "Human Efficiency").

I see a lot of glorification of the UK system, though it isn't much better. Both were created as a result of Industralization. The UK system of tiered testing sustains the social class structure, and ensures that people branded plebians stay plebians. Everything lies in what you're expecting to get from public school in the first place. The entire purpose of it is to maintain artistocractic hegemony and keep the workers from questioning their role in the system. Don't believe me? Do research into early US history, especially around the mid 19th century (Civil War era) when public school systems were beginning to be incorporated, and the riots that broke out against them: there are stories of parents breaking into schools to rescue their children and schoolteachers being lynched and maimed. Then examine the gradual decline in both linguistic skill-- compare the eloquent speeches of Jefferson and Hamilton to modern presidents, or Ralph Waldo Emerson to the jammerings of Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club)-- not to degrade their ideas, but simply to point out a drastic difference between sentence formation.

I recommend reading up on Frederick Taylor or Horace Mann, two of the more influential thinkers in American education's history. There's a lot of lemming doctrine in some really bizarre places, and the problem you're trying to fix is bred even into the language we use for communication. Think about what you want. If you're going for a school system that encourages free thinking and idea prosperity, you're never going to get it. If you want a system that sounds slightly better than what we have on paper but ultimately serves the same purpose, you got a change. Sorry to be so cynical, but do your research before making outlandish propositions.

[1] - Minsky on Schooling http://www.rru.com/~meo/hs/minski.html
[2] - Bakunin on Authority http://www.panarchy.org/bakunin/authority.1871.html

Bzzt. Urban Legend Alert: (3.00 / 3) (#126)
by claes on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 03:54:56 PM EST

BF Skinner's daughter wasn't raised in a Skinner box, and didn't commit suicide.

Other than that, great stuff, great topic.

-- claes

[ Parent ]

Aaah. (none / 0) (#128)
by meman2000 on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:02:59 PM EST

Thanks for the clarification. Sort of a nitpick, but one that's really worthwhile to know. Incidentally, the reasons Snopes gives for the miscontabulation (people only looking at the picture and not reading the article) actually enhances the point I was trying to make :)

[ Parent ]
ok (none / 0) (#132)
by pHatidic on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 04:33:50 PM EST

I've actually read Gatto's book cover to cover. Gatto himself says the system is a tradeoff, that if you don't have schooling the way it is there will be less technology and stuff but you will gain freedom. Personally I think Gatto is wrong and that it is possible to have some sort of system of schooling and still have freedom. Of course this system of schooling would be almost completely different from what we have today. PI is not a solution to the big problems of school, however it is a tool that can be used to teach certain types of material more efficiently. Certainly if we did come up with a utopian school, the teaching would be as efficient as possible so that no time would be spent where something wasn't being learned. For this reason, even though as you say PI won't change the political structure of schooling, I still think it is a valuable tool that is worth investigating.

[ Parent ]
Indeed (none / 0) (#141)
by meman2000 on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 06:14:54 PM EST

Apologies for the ad hominems, but this subject kinda sets me off. I suppose my fundamental point was that we really shouldn't have forced schooling at all. The major problem with trying to incorporate any kind of solution is that you still deal with integration into the masses: if you homeschool your child on the virtues Gatto preaches (or however you wish) and he/she becomes autonomous at a young age, the most important step is finalizing, showing them how to properly interact with people who've been raised in the said public school system. As far as utopian schools are concerned, I pledge some allegiance to the Socratic method-- have an open door system for people interested in improving their intellect and debating-- but this too will ultimately fail (read Aristophanes' The Clouds for a good satire).

Honestly, this comes down to the fundamental question of whether you glorify the past (as Gatto does) or recognize that there is always some implicit tendency in human nature to deviate from the plan. There -will- be less technology, but honestly is that a bad thing? I look at things like cell phones and wonder the effects it has on society in general-- sure it's good for doctors who need to attend to patients, but it's annoying as hell if you're trying to watch a movie in a theatre. Of course, the main problem with technology is that, like knowledge, not everyone appreciates it in the same way, which is the beauty of knowledge in the first place.

Ok I'm drunk and kinda rambling, so I'll stop there before I somehow violate Godwin's law ;)

[ Parent ]

Corolary to Goodwin's Law: (none / 1) (#143)
by student on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 07:45:55 PM EST

If the first person to mention Nazis looses an argument, the first person to mention Goodwin's Law also looses.

Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.
[ Parent ]
mobile phones (none / 0) (#155)
by QuantumG on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 11:51:57 PM EST

I don't mind someone's phone going off in a cinema/lecture. What I do hate is anyone, anywhere, taking 30 seconds or more to answer their phone. How hard is it to reach into your god damn pocket and press the button. It's funny that precisely in the places where you shouldn't have your phone on people take the longest time to silence it. "searching for the off button" is often worse than just answering the damn thing and saying "sorry, I'm in a movie, I'll call you back later".

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
In fact, now that I think about it, (none / 0) (#156)
by QuantumG on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 12:06:08 AM EST

Cinema vs Home Cinema is much like Schooling vs Home Schooling. Perhaps the question should not be "why do you have your mobile phone on in the cinema?" but "why the hell are you going to the cinema to watch a movie in the first place?" All the possible answers to this question also apply to schooling:
  • I dont have the time/money to buy a home cinema.
  • I go to the cinema to have a social experience, not just to watch a movie.
As do the fallacies:
  • Cinemas give a better movie experience.
  • It's cheaper to go to the movies than to have a home cinema system.

So maybe your inane ramblings about cell phones really does make some sense.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]

However learned Mr. Gatto may be... (none / 1) (#147)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 08:04:50 PM EST

...he apparently never learned about the ontogenetic fallacy.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

[ Parent ]
I've researched some of this stuff... (none / 1) (#142)
by student on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 07:41:47 PM EST

I've read some of Gatto's book.  I think he is a bit of an extremist.  It seems he wants to decrease the power of public schools.  You would be too if you had been in public schools as long as he has.  That doesn't mean it is a good idea, though.  

I recommend "A Place Called School" by John I. Goodlad.  Goodlad conducted one of the largest statistical/qualitative studies of education ever.  Start reading with the last few chapters.  If you are intrigued (you will be), then read the statisical background and introduction in the rest of the book.  

I believe in two major problems with education:

  1.  Not enough money.  Simple but painful solution.  I know most people where I live would fight increased taxes all the way to the ends of the earth.  That's an attitude that will put the "Nation at Risk."
  2.  The core concepts behind schooling have not changed in the past several hundered years.  Example:  Schools are still organised into grades, which everyone starts at the same time and remains in for one year.  Goodlad recommends three year periods, where students enter and leave based on their birth date and achievement.  He recommends that all three years' ciriculum be covered each year, and that by the third year, advanced students should assist with teaching.  Example:  Power in a school is controlled by 1.  The larger Government 2.  A school board.  3.  A Superintendent 4.  A principle 5. Staff.  Note that the people who are actually involved in education, Students and Teachers (and somewhat parents) are low in the power structure.
"Fixing" schools is an ongoing process, and is very complex.  Just look at the number of variables Goodlad examined in his study, and the number of people in the credits of his book.  There is no simple solution, such as homeschooling, vouchers, or cheap computers and software.  I think schools should focus not so much on perfection, and more on evolution.  We need more change in our school systems.  An excelent example is some of the experimental schools associated with universities.  UCLA has one.  Every school board and principle should seek out researchers with new ideas to test on their schools.

Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.
So what IS the solution? (none / 1) (#152)
by Wulfius on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 10:02:45 PM EST

>  I think he is a bit of an extremist.

Do you believe that the current education crisis can be fixed with solutions that are other than EXTREME?

"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]

Crisis? (none / 0) (#182)
by student on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 08:40:41 PM EST

I think in order to use the word "crisis" there has to be something unusually bad happening.  I think education in most of America is near the best it has ever been.  My feeling is that some caution is needed, but a lot less caution than is used now.  The last thing we want is to remove the existing options available to our students.

Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.
[ Parent ]
All things Wiki! (3.00 / 2) (#148)
by alaplume on Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 08:06:41 PM EST

I find it strange that there is so much concern about inaccuracies in Wiki projects. The human brain is an excellent filter of random inaccuracies - like a neural network. Systematic inaccuracies such as those in your typical history book are the type that humans find more difficult to filter out.

The issue is (none / 0) (#173)
by minerboy on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 11:11:10 AM EST

Whether or not people in power accept it is accurate enough. There are plenty of mistakes in textbooks, but since they are reviewed by vetted (paid) "experts" they are accepted. The process is now so ingrained no one questions it - and its a good way for experts to make money.

Wiki allows editing by anyone - and is new, therefore the level of scrutiny is much higher. I suppose, that a screening of writers for the wiki would help, but without outside editing by a paid critic, the people with authoritah will not accept it.

[ Parent ]
Thats mad (none / 0) (#199)
by GenerationY on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 12:46:34 AM EST

The people who review textbook submissions are very concerned about accuracy and actually get paid relatively small amounts for doing the work. Its a terrible way for anyone with expertise to make money, its generally done for largely altruistic reasons actually. Your pananoia is misplaced.

However, in my exprience Wikis are filled with people bickering about nonsense and bringing their own personal axes to grind. Comensurate with this, the overall standard of Wiki accuracy and editing is uniformly quite low. Its too much of a big deal to try and correct mistakes unless you relish going twelve rounds with some anonymous imbecile (who will change it back as soon as your back is turned even if you prevail). Thus, those who shout the loudest or most provocatively generally carry the day, fuck the actual facts of the matter.

Contrary to your assumptions because academic editing is accountable you can't get away with being anything other than scrupulously accurate and fair unless you want your reputation to be destroyed.

[ Parent ]

wikis are great for student interactions (none / 0) (#187)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Dec 11, 2004 at 05:17:14 PM EST

but I would consider them more for documentation of research than for general usage.

[ Parent ]
I don't accept some of your assumptions (none / 1) (#157)
by mulescent on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 12:16:38 AM EST

Some scholastic experiences cannot be replicated using a computer program, no matter how cleverly designed. Two categories of experience particularly concern me.

1. Experiences that depend on interaction between groups of individuals - Computer based learning cannot afford the same learning experiences as a groupo discussion of, say, a literary work. Why? The interaction itself (deciding what to say on the fly, arguing with classmates, etc) is what is fundamentally important. Even assuming the information could be conveyed by rote learning using a computer, the actual experience of thinking critcally in a discussion setting would be lost.

2. Concepts that do not have a logical construction - A big part of school involves enligtening students about ideas like community, respect, and creativity. Students aquire these values by observing role models (teachers) and other students. I believe learning of this type occurs in a nonlinear, gestalt fashion.

Perhaps teaching math and science using the methods you suggested would be a good idea. Unfortunately, I don't believe they are sufficient to replace human interactions in all cases.
You better stop that laser game, or you'll smell my mule

Well (none / 1) (#164)
by pHatidic on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 01:07:02 AM EST

a)You are taking place in a discussion about a work of literature (the story) on a computer right now. Most discussions on k5 are better intellectually than real life discussions with more than one other person anyway because everything said is nested and in text.

b) I specifically said it would not work for everything, e.g. science labs, music, art, etc. Although in a lot of ways this is irrelevant since public schools don't teach community, respect, and creativity anyway though.

[ Parent ]

Um. (none / 0) (#169)
by ubernostrum on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 04:16:00 AM EST

A big part of school involves enligtening students about ideas like community, respect, and creativity.

When was the last time you were a public-school student, exactly?

You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]
Why school? (none / 0) (#183)
by mindstrm on Sat Dec 11, 2004 at 12:05:09 PM EST

Why presume that school is the only source of such learning?

Home-schooled children still get out, still play, still are involved in other programs (community groups, bands, choirs, boy-scouts, sports, whatever else turns their crank)

[ Parent ]

technology is an assitive tool, not a teacher (none / 0) (#186)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Dec 11, 2004 at 05:15:05 PM EST

teachers need to realize that technology is assistive technology, much like a chalk board or an overhead projector.

bad uses of technology include taking the kids down to the computer lab and telling them to run a program and write their findings on a worksheet.

a good use of technology is to use as a presentation system for multimedia lectures.

another good use is as a constructionist research tool for the children to find out information and use it to make presentations and reports.

Technology has saved a failing school district in the states (I have the source some where here) the literacy scores went from 30% to 85% or there about in just a few years. that happened because it was used correctly.

[ Parent ]

Schooling (none / 0) (#176)
by the77x42 on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 11:40:15 AM EST

For students who excel, the hardest problem is going to be socialization. Home schooling is fine if you are great academically and socially. For the rest of us, there are gifted programs and accelerated classes starting right from grade 1. This is nothing new. At least in Canada.

I definitely agree with you on the purpose of grading and testing, however. A mark received on an exam (at the university level especially) means absolutely nothing about your knowledge in that particular subject, only how well you were able to perform on that particular day. It's like judging in the Olympics, if you have a bad day, no matter how good you are, you're screwed. This is why I've always been a fan of projects, papers, or take-home exams.

So what does the BC government do? They introduce mandatory provincial testing at the grade 10 level and make the grade 12 (the final grade) provincial exams optional. This is the failure of the public school system right here. Grade 10 is not the time for kids to be deciding the rest of their lives. Neither is grade 12, but even then the age difference between a grade 10 student and a grade 12 student (15 - 17 years) is more akin to an adult and a child.

Eventually testing is going to be mandatory at all levels of education to determine if you are 'advanced' enough to move on to the next grade. Unfortunately for them, this is the time I can see everyone switching over to home schooling. Testing alienates us all.

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

Is "reply to this" written backwards (none / 0) (#180)
by HyperMediocrity on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 02:49:11 PM EST

on this comment for anyone else?


[ Parent ]

Yes (none / 0) (#181)
by pHatidic on Fri Dec 10, 2004 at 03:03:53 PM EST

weirdness indeed

[ Parent ]
it's not that weird. (none / 0) (#189)
by the77x42 on Sun Dec 12, 2004 at 04:00:29 AM EST

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
Nahh, it's common ;-) (none / 0) (#233)
by The Amazing Idiot on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 01:00:41 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Want real wierdness? (none / 0) (#231)
by Pxtl on Wed Dec 15, 2004 at 11:21:38 AM EST

Try copying and pasting the "reply to this" and sig into your comment box and typing.  Tried that earlier.  Apparently he's got a funny character in his sig.

[ Parent ]
There are options (3.00 / 2) (#190)
by kerinsky on Sun Dec 12, 2004 at 05:23:29 AM EST

There are places that offer more of a PI approach to schooling, I went to one and finished more than 2.5 years of high school credit in less than a year, got a regular diploma and went on to Florida State University.  I went to South Area Adult and Alternative Education Center in Melbourne Florida (After I graduated they shortened the name and made a crappy website)

In the program I attented everything was free-form.  Classes were weekdays from 8 AM to 9 PM (5 PM on Fridays as I recall) and you could come and go as you pleased and work on any class at any time.  When you first started a class you had two choices, you could just start it or you could take a comprehensive pre-exam.  If you got a high enough score on the pre-exam you could elect to have that be your grade for the course and you'd get full credit for it right then; it's a great feeling to get an A class credit for an entire semester after taking a one hour test.  A sane alternative to tradition institutional school where demonstrating mastery of a subject is rewarded instead of it being ignored that you've earned an A in a class based on assignments and tests and instead are given an F because you skipped too many days of class.

If you didn't score high enough or didn't take the pre-exam then you checked out a book and the curriculum and get to work.  Each class was split up into several dozen small sections, you'd read the material for one section, do some work on your own, perhaps a self graded quiz and ask the teacher for one on one instruction if needed.  Generally during peak hours there would be five or six students per teacher each working on a different class and I don't remember ever waiting more than five minutes for one on one interaction with a teacher.  After that you'd then take a test on that section.  As you pass each section rinse and repeat.  Once you'd passed all of the sections in the course you took a final exam and if the average grade of all those tests was high enough you passed the class with whatever grade you earned.

The selection of classes is not great, but to me the point of doing this was to get a diploma as painlessly as possible and to learn what I could along the way.  I've never had any problem picking up acedmeic materials and learning about pretty much any subject matter of interest on my own outside of school.  I could go to school starting at 9 or 10 AM everyday instead of waking up at 5 to catch a bus, I could work on whatever subject I felt would be most productive that day, work wasn't artificially sliced up into 45 minute incriments with artificial disruptions intrdouced between, I could leave for lunch and come back and finally I could leave for the day whenever I felt like it (sometimes noon, sometimes six or later) instead of literally being imprisoned for greater than seven hours every weekday.

Most students didn't do well at all, but then again most students were there becuase they'd done not very well at all in several other schools as well.  For an intelligent but bored student with a bit of self motivation and the ability to not get sucked into the counterproductive social climate it was a great alternative to a normally regimented institution.  Schools like this should be available throughout the state of Florida as all the testing material was developed by the state.  Other states and localities may have similar systems, I would recomend Kuro5hin parents to at least look into the possiblity if you have children bored at school.

I'd also love to here of any colleges that have similar approaches from anyone who knows about them, I'll be checking back here for responses for a while.


Basic Problem (none / 1) (#192)
by BenjyD on Sun Dec 12, 2004 at 06:09:21 AM EST

Isn't the basic problem the fact that so many US school courses seem to be taught almost entirely from a text book?

I spent two wasted years at a UK state school (public school to the USians) which used this approach. Everything was chapter-by-chapter - the teacher explained a bit, you read the chapter and then did some exercises from the textbook. I learnt nothing in two years.

Fortunately, I was taken out of the school and sent to a local private school from 13-16. Students there were well separated on ability on a per-subject basis, generally into five sets (classes) per year of one hundred students. In lessons, the text book was seen as additional to the teacher: it was mainly used for reference, homework and additional reading. If you showed ability, you could take GCSEs (age 16 exams) a year early and study additional subjects.

Isn't the solution to the problem one of reform rather than complete replacement? If you put people of similar ability in each class, the differences in speed are smaller. If the teacher actually teaches rather than relying on a text book, then the child isn't stifled and bored.

Teacher quality (none / 0) (#207)
by BenjyD on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 10:12:00 AM EST

Isn't the issue there the poor quality of the teachers? Again, not a basic flaw in the system, just a bad implementation.

Personally, we had no time to muck about. The more able kids at the private school did twelve or thirteen GCSEs (compared to 8-10 for an average student).

In areas where the official state curriculum was lacking, the teachers just went on and taught more complex ideas to keep students interested and challenged.

When I left the school and went back to the state system due to lack of money to do A-Levels (age 16-18, four subjects in depth), I found I had covered most of the first year of A-Level material already.

[ Parent ]

So (none / 1) (#195)
by pHatidic on Sun Dec 12, 2004 at 03:44:21 PM EST

Now that you have all read the story and other people's thoughts, I invite anyone interested to take steps with me toward putting this into action. Here is the plan: I am going to start making a sample PI math course on wikibooks. This is going to start at the kindergarten level and will go as far as people are willing to take it (up through the end of high school math). If we can complete this, find that the idea works, and we have support, then we can consider asking to become a full-fledged WikiMedia project. If you are interested, email me at Alex3917@hotmail.com.

No balls, no blue chips

I agree (none / 0) (#205)
by pHatidic on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 02:47:56 AM EST

There will be more, but this is only to establish the feasibility of the system. If the concept works as well as I think it will then it will expand to cover every other subject, including higher level math. Gotta walk before you can run.

[ Parent ]
"Socialization Idiocy" (1.80 / 5) (#196)
by Gravity on Sun Dec 12, 2004 at 04:56:39 PM EST

No Thank You, We Don't Believe in Socialization! 2000 Lisa Russell Used with Permission I can't believe I am writing an article about socialization, The word makes my skin crawl. As homeschoolers, we are often accosted by people who assume that since we're homeschooling, our kids won't be "socialized." The word has become such a catch phrase that it has entirely lost any meaning. The first time I heard the word, I was attending a Catholic day school as a first grader. Having been a "reader" for almost 2 years, I found the phonics and reading lessons to be incredibly boring. Luckily the girl behind me felt the same way, and when we were done with our silly little worksheets, we would chat back and forth. I've never known two 6 yr. olds who could maintain a quiet conversation, so naturally a ruler-carrying nun interrupted us with a few strong raps on our desk. We were both asked to stay in at recess, and sit quietly in our desks for the entire 25 minutes, because "We are not here to socialize, young ladies." Those words were repeated over and over throughout my education, by just about every teacher I've ever had. If we're not there to socialize, then why were we there? I learned to read at home. If I finished my work early (which I always did,) could I have gone home? If I were already familiar with the subject matter, would I have been excused from class that day? If schools weren't made for socializing, then why on earth would anyone assume that homeschoolers were missing out? As a society full of people whose childhood's were spent waiting anxiously for recess time, and trying desperately to "socialize" with the kids in class; It is often difficult for people to have an image of a child whose social life is NOT based on school buddies. Do you ever remember sitting in class, and wanting desperately to speak to your friend? It's kind of hard to concentrate on the lessons when you're bouncing around trying not to talk. Have you ever had a teacher who rearranged the seats every now and then, to prevent talking, splitting up friends and "talking corners." Were you ever caught passing notes in class? Now- flash forward to "real life." Imagine the following scenes: Your Employer is auditing the Inter-Office Email system and comes across a personal note between you and a coworker. You are required to stand at the podium in the next sales meeting to read it aloud to your coworkers. The Police knock on your door, and announce that because you and your neighbor have gotten so close, they're separating you. You must move your home and your belongings to the other side of town, and you may only meet at public places on weekends. You're sitting at a booth waiting for a coworker to arrive for a scheduled lunch date. Suddenly a member of upper management sits down across from you and demands your credit cards. When your friend arrives, you just order water and claim you're not hungry, since he stole your lunch money. You're applying for a job and in an unconventional hiring practice, you are made to line up with other applicants, and wait patiently while representatives from two competing companies take their pick from the lineup. You're taking your parents out for an anniversary dinner. After you find a table, a waiter tells you that seniors have a separate dining room, lest they "corrupt" the younger members of society. You go to the grocery store only to find that since you are 32 years old you must shop at the store for 32 year olds. It's 8 miles away and they don't sell meat because the manager is a vegetarian, but your birthday is coming up and soon you'll be able to shop at the store for 33 yr. olds. You'd like to learn about Aviation History. You go to the library and check out a book on the subject only to be given a list of "other subjects" that you must read about before you are permitted to check out the aviation book. You're having a hard time finding what you need in the local department store. The saleslady explains that each item is arranged alphabetically in the store, so instead of having a section for shoes, you will find the men's shoes in between the maternity clothes and the mirrors. Your Cable Company announces that anyone wishing to watch the Superbowl this year must log on a certain number of hours watching the Discovery Channel before they can be permitted to watch the game. You apply for a job only to be told that this job is for 29 year olds. Since you're 32, you'll have to stay with your level. In a group project, your boss decides to pair you up with the person you don't "click" with. His hope is that you'll get learn to get along with each other, regardless of how the project turns out. These absurd examples were created to point out how absolutely ridiculous the idea of "socializing" in schools is. Many people had a friend who they stayed friends with all through grammar school- WHY? Because their names were alphabetically similar, and they always ended up in line with each other. As an adult, have you ever made friends with someone simply because your names were similar? How long would such a friendship last and how meaningful would it be, providing you had nothing else in common? People often use the bully as an example of why it's so important to let kids "socialize" at school. If that's so important, then the bully needs to go to JAIL after a few months, because self-respecting society simply doesn't put up with that, nor should my 6 yr. old. Sure, there are crappy people in the world, but the world does a much better job of taking care of these things. A bullying brat in the first grade will still be a bullying brat in the 6th grade. He will still be picking on the same kids year after year after year, unless he moves to a new town. How long would the average adult put up with a bully? Personally, as an adult, I have only come across one grown up bully. I choose not to be around this miserable woman. So do many other people. THAT is real life. If she were a coworker, I would find a different job. If she worked at a business I patronized- not only would I refrain from doing business with that company, I would write a letter to the bully, her manager, the owner and the main office. A kid in a classroom has no way to emotionally protect themselves against such a person. I would never expect my kids to put up with bad treatment from a bully in the name of "toughening them up." For what? So they can be submissive wimps when they grow up too? So they can "ignore" their miserable bosses and abusive spouses? In real life, if an employer discovered that an employee was harassing the other staff members, that employee could be fired (pending the 90 day evaluation) or relocated. In real life, if you are so dreadfully harassed by a coworker you can seek legal recourse independently. In a classroom, the teacher and other children are often powerless. The idea of learning acceptable social skills in a school is as absurd to me as learning nutrition from a grocery store. As Homeschoolers, the world is our classroom. We interact with people of all ages, sexes and backgrounds. We talk to and learn from everyone who strikes our interest. We use good manners in our home and I'm always pleased when others comment on the manners my children have picked up. I believe good manners to be an important social skill. Respecting common areas is also of value to us. We often carry a grocery bag with us on walks, in case we find trash that needs to be discarded. When we're waiting at a bus stop, if there is trash on the ground, we make a point to carry it onto the bus and discard of it properly. Once, while waiting at a bus stop- we saw a grown man drop his popsicle wrapper on the ground. He was 2 feet from a trash can- My daughter looked up at me with eyes as big as saucers. I told her (out loud) "It must have blown out of his hand from that little wind, because no-one would throw trash on the ground on purpose. I'm sure when he's done with his popsicle, he will pick it up and throw it away correctly- otherwise, we can take care of it so we don't have an ugly world." He did pick it up, rather sheepishly. I can't imagine expecting my children to have a respect for the cleanliness of common areas in an environment where bathroom walls are covered in graffiti and trees are scratched with symbols of "love" of all things. Another social skill we strive to teach our children is that all people are created equal. I can't imagine doing that in an environment where physically disadvantaged children are segregated into a "special" classroom. Or even children who speak a different language at home. They are segregated and forced to learn English, while never acknowledging the unique culture they were raised in, and not enabling the other students to learn FROM them. Learning, in school, comes from the books and teachers. We will learn Spanish from a BOOK, not from a Spanish-speaking student; and not until 7th grade. I have never felt it would be beneficial to stick my 6-yr. old in a room full of other 6-yr. olds. I believe God created a world full of people of all ages and sexes to insure that the younger ones and older ones learn from each other. A few years ago, we were living thousands of miles from any older family members, so I brought my kids (then 5 and 2) to an assisted living facility, so they could interact with the elderly. Staff members told us that many of the older people would wake up every day and ask if we would be visiting soon. We always went on Wednesdays. My daughters learned some old show tunes while one of the men played piano, and the others would sing along. If I didn't have to chase my 2-yr. old around, I would have had plenty of women ready to share the art of crocheting with me (something I've always wanted to learn.) If a friend was too sick to come out of their room during our visit, we would often spend a few minutes in their room. I always let them give the kids whatever cookies they had baked for them, and I ended up cleaning a few of the apartments while we visited, simply because I would have done the same for my own Grandmother. Every room had pictures from my kids posted on their refrigerators. We called this "Visiting the Grandmas and Grandpas" and my daughters both (almost 2 years later) have fond memories of our visits. I'm sure that if we were still visiting there, my unborn child would have a thousand handmade blankets and booties to keep him warm all winter. I don't remember any such experiences in my entire School life, although I do remember being a bit afraid of old people if they were too wrinkly or weak looking. I never really knew anyone over 60. I never sped down the hall on someone's wheelchair lap, squealing as we popped wheelies and screeched around corners. I never got to hear stories about what life was like before indoor plumbing and electricity, from the point of view of a woman with Alzheimer's, who might believe she was still 5 years old, talking with my daughter as if she were a friend. I never got to help a 90 yr. old woman keep her arm steady while she painted a picture. And I never watched a room full of "grandma's" waiting for me by the window, because we were 15 minutes late. On a recent visit to an Art Gallery, we noticed a man walking back and forth, carrying framed artwork from his old pickup truck. I asked my 6 yr. old if she thought he might be the artist. We both agreed that was a possibility, and after a little pep-talk to overcome her stage fright, she approached him and asked. He was the artist, and he was bringing in his work to be evaluated by the curator. We all sat down and he explained some of his techniques and listened to her opinions about which piece she liked best. He told about how he enjoyed art when he was 6 and would "sell" pictures to family and friends. He recounted how he felt while creating a few of the pieces, and how each one has special meaning to him. He even let her know how nervous he was to show them to the curator and how he hoped she found them as interesting as we did. As he was called into the office, a group of thirty-four 3rd graders filed past, ever so quietly, while their teacher explained each piece on the walls. The children were so quiet and well behaved. They didn't seem to mind moving on from one picture to the next (The problem with homeschoolers is they tend to linger on things they enjoy). They didn't seem to have any questions or comments (Maybe they'll discuss that later in class). And they never got a chance to meet the gentleman in the pickup truck. I hope my kids aren't missing out on any "socialization." Lisa Russell; A Gen X homeschooling mom, writer, wife, daydreamer, U.S. traveler, hiker, poet, artist, web designer, and whatever else suits the moment. Lisa Russell can be contacted at: http://www.lisarussell.net or: lisa@lisarussell.net

Roffleoffle (none / 0) (#198)
by GenerationY on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 12:37:40 AM EST

An essay on "socialization" by someone who doesn't understand what the word means. In fairness this lack of understanding seems to extend to much of the English language and its attendent grammar; I hope the kids have someone else teaching them how to read and write.

The more serious point here is that its abundantly obvious the offspring in this case of woefully unsocialized, understanding little of the norms and values of mainstream society, how to behave in public and apparently having no grip on the realities of life (you know, crazy shit like people do actually drop litter on purpose from time to time).

Mad as cake.

[ Parent ]

Apparently (none / 0) (#212)
by hansel on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 01:37:21 PM EST

The use of paragraphs isn't common among the homeschooled.

[ Parent ]
After actually wading through all that... (2.00 / 2) (#213)
by hansel on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 01:43:23 PM EST

It's the best argument against home schooling I've ever seen.

[ Parent ]
Wow! (none / 0) (#244)
by Gravity on Sun Dec 26, 2004 at 11:31:36 PM EST

Wow, I cross-posted that some time ago - hadn't noticed that all formatting had been lost! Oh well, it gave a few folks an excuse to be judgemental, can't seem to have enough of that these days eh? THEY are indeed excellent proof that we wouldn't want everybody homeschooling their kids! Institutional learning is a huge improvement over what many of these kids would encounter at home! :) xxoo, Grav

[ Parent ]
Testing (formatting problem) (none / 0) (#245)
by Gravity on Sun Dec 26, 2004 at 11:32:58 PM EST


So even when using HTML formatting my line returns are not coming through?

I'll try this one simply plain text formatted.

[ Parent ]

Urgh. (3.00 / 2) (#197)
by famanoran on Sun Dec 12, 2004 at 06:51:50 PM EST

I was homeschooled my entire life. I have four brothers all older than me who attended a "real" school.

Trust me. Home schooling provides no real noticable benefit. I'm neither better educated nor smarter than my brothers. In fact, when I entered the work force nearly 5 years ago (at age 15, doing programming for an ISP), I had issues. Many many issues.

Socialisation was and still is a huge thorn in my side. It was hard for me to make friends with my colleagues, and not just because of the age difference.

I don't think public education is any good, but home schooling is NOT the answer.

If I ever have any children, I have no intention of home-schooling them. I believe a private school will be a better option, as they will be exposed to other people, and will have an education that I believe is worth paying for

Please note that I'm not an American, I'm in New Zealand.

Tough question (none / 1) (#206)
by c4ffeine on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 08:51:13 AM EST

I was homeschooled for most of my life, so I guess I have a bit or useful information to share. So I'll briefly go over the advantages and disadvantages I faced and see how they apply.

The biggest advantage is the incredible education I got from it. I was able to learn at my own pace, which seems to have been vastly accelerated largely because there was no one to slow me down. I don't know if this was unique to me, but 2 other people I know had the same effect. At any rate, being homeschooled means learning a lot at an incredible rate of you want to.

To be honest, that was pretty much the only advantage that eveyone would agree is an advantage. I'm going to be honest here: I had very few friends until I went to an extrememly good, unique high school ( http://www2.imsa.edu/ ). Even now, I don't work with people very well. However, now that I'm capable of looking at society, I can see that it often discourages intelligence and critical thinking. Even though I made few friends, I wasn't exposed to that at a young age.

Frankly, even though homeschooling virtually guarantees difficulty fitting in with "normal" people, do you really want to do so?

You miss the point (none / 1) (#209)
by cdguru on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 12:16:35 PM EST

Public school serves a number of functions in the US. The kind of changes you mention here would not serve most of these purposes, so they aren't realistic changes. While you think it might be fun if school was something different and free-form, please understand the functions being performed by public schools. If you don't like it, well, there are some private institutions that might serve your needs.

What is public school for?

  1. To provide a basic level of education for the electorate. Emphasis on "basic level". You do not need to have a grasp of the finer points of philosophy to be able to vote. You do not need to read above about the fourth-grade level. You do not need to understand calculus.
  2. To keep children out of the labor market, where they would compete with adults for the same jobs. Most people view "child labor laws" as something to benefit the childred when in fact it is mostly to benefit the adults. Sure, children would be exploited when in the labor market. Same as the adults are.
  3. Provide a structured environment where rules and respect for authority can be instilled. If you don't pass this class, you end up in jail. You don't have to like the cop that pulls you over for a traffic stop, but if you mouth off to him, you are going in front of a judge.
So, did you see anything about expanding the reaches of the mind here? No? How about ensuring that every child reaches their full potential, whatever that is? No? Funny, those sorts of concepts are things that are put down to justify the existance of the public school system after the first three objectives are met. Not before. Real "education" is secondary to these other goals.

One issue that has recently come to the forefront in the US and Europe is with manufacturing moving to locations with cheaper labor, what low-skill jobs are left? While it is really nice to envision everyone having some high-tech, high-skill job where they use their brains instead of their backs, it is beginning to be clear that not every child wants to, needs to, or even can learn to have a high-tech, high-skill job. Yes, there will always be a few that are driving the garbage truck, but what about the rest? 50 years ago there were factories employing thousands, if not tens of thousands of low-skill workers. Many of these were replaced with automation and larger machines - that needed higher skills and more training to operate. Today, there are no factories in the US employing tens of thousands - it simply isn't economically viable to do so. So, where do the people that cannot be educated up to the level of operating the new machines go? Or, do we just pretend that if we push everyone down to the same level that we can make sure there aren't any that are left behind?

Disagree (none / 1) (#211)
by pHatidic on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 01:24:59 PM EST

This is what Gatto writes schools currently do and he is correct. However the reason this is true is because our current school system was designed in order to make efficient factory workers during the industrial revolution. However most kids don't grow up today to work in factories, and our nations number one export is now intellectual property. Thus groups such as the Aspen group, which is the group with most of the CEOs and political leaders in our country, is pushing very hard to change the emphasis away from what you describe since its not longer relevant. We are about to go through the next great shift in public schooling, what we shift to is still up in the air though :)

[ Parent ]
Fuck You Dumbass (2.00 / 4) (#210)
by VandalMan on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 12:49:57 PM EST

School is a big ass waste of time. Plug this girl into the Internet. By her books that you think might interest her, let her chose books herself. Pretty fucking simple don't you think. Why force someone to learn what you want them to learn when they are above you mentally. Not even what you want them to learn, what Uncle Sam wants them to learn.

What the fuck is wrong with you people. Why do feel it is your duty to make certain all the youth of the nation are utterly fucking miserable and spend 5 days a weak bored out of their God damned minds being brainwashed? Conditioned to be robots, with the added help of drugs if conditioning is not enough.

Seriously, you people are sick in the head. Just let people be happy for a change. Or are you pissed cause your childhood was a miserable horrible chunk of your life. Making you want to take it out on the youth of today. That is what it is to. You think because you had to walk 5 miles to school everyday, kids today should. You want people to be miserable just because you were. Fucking worthless pieces of shit you are.

SAD BUT TRUE! - VandalMan

Rabid 12 year olds attack! (none / 1) (#214)
by Woundweavr on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 02:49:15 PM EST

Considering your aol email account, incoherent argument and lack of even a hint of understanding of basic grammatical concepts (or the ability to spell words), perhaps you should calm down before declaring yourself the brilliant iconoclast leader of the new educational system.

[ Parent ]
Read Frankenstein? (none / 0) (#216)
by Pingveno on Mon Dec 13, 2004 at 11:53:23 PM EST

Have you ever read Frankenstein? It makes an excellent point about people who are mostly self educated: no one has guided their learning. Frankenstein gets deeply engrossed in alchemy, not knowing that alchemy has no basis in fact. A certain degree of freedom is absolutely necessary, but a completely undisciplined education allows people to hyperfocus on one subject to their detriment.
And just how many kiddies do you think would be highly motivated enough to actually educate themselves well? Not many. Believe me, I'm a student who regularly sees students who wouldn't learn if they didn't have to around him.
In other news, more than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users.
[ Parent ]
And yet he produced results... (none / 0) (#221)
by Cheerio Boy on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 11:20:59 AM EST

Frankenstein gets deeply engrossed in alchemy, not knowing that alchemy has no basis in fact.

And yet he produced something no one in that storyline was able to produce.

Who are you to say what people _should_ learn? While I'm all for guided instruction it is far better to teach children and people how to learn for themselves. Then they can learn what they need to know as well as what they want to know.

From my experience of both poor and rich schools I will venture to state that you could:

1) Tell the children "Here's the list of things you will be tested on."
2) Here's where you can find reference materials.
4) Here's how much time you have to study what you want to study.

Everything else could easily be on a tutor basis where the school would have a ton of 1-on-1 tutors to help kids over the tough parts.

[ Parent ]
My 2 cents (none / 1) (#224)
by Ashalind on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 06:28:30 PM EST

I think the purpose of children education should be to help the child with finding out what he or she would prefer to do further, how to communicate with other human beings great or small, and how to achieve his/her goals so that nobody else would be hurt as a result. Of course, getting yourself well equipped to do the task you choose (and that means getting essential knowledge and skills) is also a part of the education, but there is no use in the skills if you suddenly discover that this is not the sort of things you feel like doing for the next 5-10 years, let away for the rest of your life...

I would say, there are 2 problems which are actually entangled. I do not know much about the American system because I've attended the school in the former S.U. and now my kids are negotiating  the passage through the educational system of the Netherlands. Also, I could say that I've probably been a bit like that girl described in the beginning of an article, because I've learned how to read when I was less than 3, I was a way ahead in math, never had problems with spelling in my native language, and was bored to death in school. I've got a physics diploma from a very good university. But now I am writing software, and I am sorry to say that most of the skills I am using in my job I have learned myself, without any formal training, like most of the stuff I've learned in principle. I never could sit on lectures, I was falling asleep, but I could read the course book in a couple of days and pass the exams without too much effort. I was attending the university mostly for the fun of it, I am afraid to admit. But I did learn something there, and most of it was about getting to know other people, learning to go on with different sort of people, and learning to go on with myself. These lessons I remember; the rest, mostly, is gone after a couple of years not using it.

Now, about the forementioned problems. Number 1: too early specialization. In the Netherlands, where I live now, the kids are forced to specify their educational interests when they are about 12  years (this is the time when the basic school ends). I think this is a way too early. I would prefer more or less standard education until they are 16 or so, like I had myself, may be with some extra classes for those who are interested. But I do not like this division: technical people, art people, and so on. And if I am interested BOTH in natural sciences AND in classical literature and I do not want to sacrifice either of those?.. And at the same time, NOT interested in chemistry or botanics (for example)?..

But, the interests may change. What if I suddenly realize that I would really prefer to do some other things than those I did before, and I know that I am capable of doing them well, but I need/am willing to get more knowledge? Then, there is a problem 2: little flexibility for the people who are already, even if just slightly, past the "student" age.

I think that for the human nature it could be even more natural to try this or that. There is only one life, it is so extremely boring to spend all of it doing similar things as soon as you are past your twenties. Especially taking into account that the human life is getting longer.

The early specialization, IMO, originated from the time when the people did not live long, the skills were difficult to obtain, and the people did not have mechanisms and electronic devices so their aid. But so much has changed during the last century. Wouldn't it be nice to introduce a real "life-long" education\working paradigm, when everybody is prepared to work for a while, to learn for a while, and so on?

Isn't it happening now, to some extent? The teenagers are willing to work because they want to have more money, and they've got some skills for sale. Then, after a time, they'll realize that they need more skills to climb higher, and are motivated to learn more. Instead of forcing the teens to learn when they do not want it, why not wait until they would?..

I think the main obstacle is the school system itself. It is very traditional and formalized. It is now sometimes more about grades then about its main purpose, actually transferring knowledge. Also, the lecture before a group of more than, say, 40 people IMO is more like a presentation than anything else. It is a conveyer-like education factory, to me.

Now I feel I should stop, before my posting gets too lentghy and unreadable :)

Subordinates Other Skills (none / 1) (#225)
by jameth on Tue Dec 14, 2004 at 10:41:59 PM EST

I think that PI needs to be integrated into the system somewhat, but it needs to be used in moderation. Trying to teach subjects in such a manner is very good for teaching specific skills, but specific skills often aren't what we are going for.

Much of the purpose of modern education is to make someone generally competent. Lately, educators have gone too far in the loose direction, giving lots of education in argumentation, speaking, and trying to think abstractly, but at the same time lost some basic abilities, like math skills.

What is needed is a proper balance between the two, so that the student benefits all around. PI works well for math, but not so well for reading. Reading is best learned by just doing it a lot. Similarly for writing and art. PI can be integrated into those a bit (learn some basic wordsets and some grammar, then go) but it dissolves fairly quickly as all things become equally accessible.

Typing class (none / 1) (#236)
by TheLaser on Fri Dec 17, 2004 at 12:00:54 PM EST

Yeah, my typing class was the only one that "used" computers.  But we pretended they were typewriters, and used typing books.

You're confusing PI with hands-on learning here.  Of course its impossible to learn to type without a keyboard.

Hmm (none / 0) (#237)
by pHatidic on Fri Dec 17, 2004 at 04:06:21 PM EST

My typing class was both hands on and PI. We used a software program called PAWS which was PI, but most other popular learn to type programs from ten years ago like Mavis Bacon Teaches Typing were also PI based.

[ Parent ]
elcoo (none / 0) (#246)
by elcoo on Fri Mar 18, 2005 at 01:32:33 AM EST

I recommend reading up on Frederick Taylor or Horace Mann, two of the more influential thinkers in American education's history. There's a lot of lemming doctrine in some really bizarre places, and the problem you're trying to fix is bred even into the language we use for communication. Think about what you want. If you're going for a school system that encourages free thinking and idea prosperity, you're never going to get it. If you want a system that sounds slightly better than what we have on paper but ultimately serves the same purpose, you got a change. Sorry to be so cynical, but do your research before making outlandish propositions.

Public Schools: Problems and Solutions | 246 comments (216 topical, 30 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!