What is going on in our schools?

I see grade inflation as a big problem in Georgia. The state provides a scholarship that pays some of the college costs of anyone who has a B average or better. Parents put a lot of pressure on the teachers to give good grades.

You need at least 90% to get an A and 80% for a B. Because of the need to give good grades, that means that tests have to be very easy. The better kids are just not stretched by being given work that 80% of the class can get above 80% in. When I was at school (in the UK), 70% was a good mark.

My son recently had to produce a tourist brochure to encourage visitors to another country. He got 100% for his work. Apart from the fact that I found two mistakes just by glancing at it briefly, how can you get 100% on this type of project? You can always make it more interesting or more compelling. But no, if you gave this a 90%, then that would push far too many people down into the dreaded C territory (even though C is still claimed to mean “average”).

Thus grade averages are tarnished and there are no standardized qualifications, so kids end up taking a glorified IQ test (the SAT) to get a score that college admissions departments can at least understand. I wish more US schools would provide a qualification such as the International Baccalaureate. That is a) difficult, and b) meaningful.

Amazingly enough… I can’t think of all the planets. Offhand I can name 7 (Mercury, Mars, Earth, Venus, Jupiter, Uranus, Pluto and… I can’t think of the rest) and I can only put a few in order. I know I learned them. I just can’t think right now.

It does amaze me sometimes how little people know. It also amazes me sometimes how little I actually remember. I know I learned stuff, I know I know it. But I can’t bring it to mind without lots of thinking or looking it up and going ‘ahh that’s it. I knew that.’

Spanish American War? Mexican American War? I have heard of them. Outside of school, but I couldn’t tell you anything about them worth a darn.

Africa? The only thing that I can think of learning about it offhand is when Hitler invaded Egypt. I know a little from reading and the news, but not much. Oh and for the longest time I did think Africa was a country.

It always amazes me also how the schooling panders to the LCD. Some of us students need a bit of a challenge. I know I did. I can also see how the ‘no child left behind’ thing can mess up people. My brother was never much into reading. He can write, spell and does pretty good in math, but it was hell getting him to pick up a book. A lot can be double standards. In my family, my Mom was always an advocate of reading. My Mom passed that love on to me, but it seemed to skip my brother no matter how she tried to help him. My Dad and his family absolutely flipped on me. Because I read too much. My brother, they would sit down and force him to read.

When my parents divorced I almost dropped out of school, at the tender age of 11. I went maybe half the time and still came away with a 60% average. Right now I maintain around a 75% average and I still miss about 4 days a month.

Bah I’m totally rambling. But if the States is worse then Canada for it’s schooling I can see why people are shocked. I do recall often being told in high school, that our grade 12 students are at a higher level then American grade 12’s. Because the way the classes are structured we supposedly start doing what they term college level in grade 11/12. I say supposedly because I have never had the experience of grade 12 high school in the States so I can’t compare.

Some areas have public schools that are better than the private schools, and some areas have private schools that are better than the public schools. If I ever have kids, I’ll do my research on the schools before they reach school age.

I was in an area with better private schools, so that’s where I went (and I’m eternally grateful to my parents for it; with an auto mechanic and city clerk, sending to kids to Catholic schools was an enourmous challenge). My school taught almost everything two years earlier than the public schools in my area. Granted, a bit of my memory is fuzzy, since kindergarten was awhile ago and I already knew some things when I started (I learned to read when I was 3), but I remember having phonics and addition and subtraction in first grade. We had reading groups too. I was in the highest group (the ones who already knew how to read), so I don’t know what the other two groups did.

Second grade started out with us learning multiplication and division. That was the main thing I remember, since I still could read. We did little history things, like the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock and whatnot.

Third grade started … penmanship. This was in 1989, and we still had handwriting every single day for the next two years. No knuckle-wrapping or tying left arms behind backs, but godDAMMIT we’re gonna make you kids know how to write well! We continued math and added science to the curriculum.

Fourth grade featured (in my memory) learning about poetry types and earth science. Math was math, that’s a blur. We continued our spelling classes and did American history.

Fifth grade featured more advanced math, science, Spanish (optional, you did it during recess), Reading classes, more spelling, and history.

Sixth grade was when we had different math levels. Pre-Algebra was the highest in this grade (go me!), and we had huge sections on history, even though it was still under the heading of “Social Studies”. This is where we did detailed (for 11 year olds) reports on various countries and U.S. Presidents. It was more compartmentalised (“Now here’s our Kenya section”, “Now we’re going to learn about the Ancient Mayans”).

Seventh and Eighth grades blended together. We had a separate Reading class, and a Writing class. Writing was split half-and-half; one quarter was just creative writing, and the next quarter was solid grammar. We had Earth Science one year and Physical Science the next. I was doing Algebra 2 in 8th grade and we did U.S. and World History those years.

Throughout all these years we had religion classes. Geography was always included in some sort of social studies or history class. Spelling classes continued until 7th grade, I believe. I knew the proper order of the planets when I was 7 or 8. And I admit that my African geography is relatively poor; but at least I can identify 8 - 10 countries in the continent!

everton, don’t listen to Kyla, she obviously doesn’t know what she is talking about. If you bother to read a newspaper, you will get all of the international information you want. I read the Washington Post and before that I read the Los Angeles Times every day and there has rarely been some sort of international issue that I was unaware of. The problem is not the media, the problem is that people in the US don’t follow the news at all, national or international, beyond the top three or four headlines.

You’re probably right. I apologize for going nutso in my earlier post. Those are good newspapers and if you read them closely, you will be a well-informed person. My real quibble (which I didn’t get into at all in my previous post) is with the way TV brings us the news. An hour of local stories about your pets and “what common household item can kill you just by looking at it? Stay tuned!” and ten minutes of international news.

S’okay, Kyla. It happens.

But the problem with the evening news is how things are structured. There are two types of news, the national news covered by Brokaw, Jennings, etc. and the local news. The local news doesn’t do much international or national news, since they are the local affiliates own little division and just don’t have the budget. So that is left up to the national network news.

I don’t watch either one very often, so I can’t really tell you how good they are. Another problem is that the news is generally a half hour, I think. If you factor in commercial time, intros, etc., there just isn’t time to get to a lot of stories. I spend an hour or two reading the paper, and I can read a lot faster than most news can be presented. If I only had a half-hour (more like twenty minutes) to read the paper each day, I probably wouldn’t know much that was going on.

Tsk tsk. Shameful. You can’t remember the big one with the rings? The one that was named after a car?

Maybe this will help: My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizza-pies. Stupip mnemonic, I know, but it helped me remember not only the planets, but their order. I learned this when I was about 8, and have never forgotten it.

Oh, and I had to learn it at a planetarium. I doubt that even one of my teachers could have named all of the planets.

Anyway, I hope that helps.

Just FTR, my high school covered Africa and some discussion of individual countries, a very general history (colonization, mostly), exports, and so on. It was profoundly boring and I remember very little of what was taught; most of what I know about Africa I learned later by talking to Africans.

Public Schools may be trying, but they’re just not making the cut. My Honors English teacher is just plain incompetent. My Spanish teacher had a test worth 170 points, and she wanted to have it be 100 points. So she divided it 170 by 2. Sure, math’s not her strong point, but still! My last year’s Honors English teacher was just as bad as the one this year, if not worse. My World History I class was all busywork. My Spanish teacher wasted so much time doing so much unrelated stuff. And this is just in 2 years of highschool, and I only mentioned the worst ones! I didn’t even talk about teachers I’ve had in middle school, many of which were just as bad. (Oh, and I’m not complaining about these teachers because they didn’t like me; in fact, I was one of the favorite students of many of them.)

I’m not trying to say that there aren’t good teachers out there. I’m just saying that they are amazingly hard to come by. In the past 2 years mentioned above, I have had a total of 5 teachers (out of 16 classes) that I feel have been good teachers.

I have also never, ever taken a geography class. I used to think that Israel and Palestine were located somewhere on the Western coast of Europe.

In Honors English class, we are currently learning capitalization rules, btw. Honors English 10!

~ monica, a highschool sophmore in public schools.

Heh. My brother had a social studies teacher who thought Bosnia was in Asia, and didn’t bother to check a map when every kid in the class identified it as being in Europe on a quiz – just marked 'em all wrong.

I went to public schools that were very good overall, but geography was the big, gaping hole in the curriculum. My high school offered one world geography class, which was the slow-track option for ninth grade social studies; anybody who wasn’t dumb as a bucket of rocks took world history instead.

It didn’t really matter in my case, because I was fascinated by maps and old National Geographics as a kid (and had access to plenty of 'em at home), but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of my classmates are still among the geographically clueless.

I wouldn’t count on private schools being better than public. Last year, when I went to an a private school as a freshman, I took three sophomore level classes, two of which I had already taken in 8th grade (geometry and Latin 2). Most of my classmates were taking algebra one (which I had taken in 7th grade), physical science (which I had taken in 8th grade) and year one of a foreign language (I had already taken 2 years of Latin, but they couldn’t give me Latin 3 as a class because it was a junior level class. There was only 1 person besides myself who took Latin 2 as a freshman, and she came from the same public school as I did.)

Most of my classmates came from private schools, where the student body consites of mainly white Catholics, who were fairly well-to-do. I came from a public school where the student body was about 40% white, 60% minorities, came from all income levels, and were about as diverse as you could get.

I left the private school and returned to public school this year, and I have no regrets at all.

You’ll have to excuse this post’s format, I’m new at this.

quote JamesCaroll:

Oh yea, no one else has to deal with stuff like that. Boo hoo hoo. Boo hoo hoo for you…

Did I say I was the only one who had a tough job? No I didn’t, I simply stated that teaching isn’t easy. And I knew that going in; both my parents were teachers, in the same district where I now teach, for that matter. I knew it was going to be tough, but my personal experience has shown me a great many people outside of the field of education have no clue. I made an ‘honest decision’ when I chose my profession.


Then we step into the (crowded, broken down, poorly funded) room and have to make miracles happen with largely unprepared, unwilling, even hostile students. I love what I do and I understand that there are bad schools and bad teachers, but let’s not forget that the very best of teachers can’t teach a child who’s not ready and/or willing to learn.

quote JamesCarroll:

I have no doubt that schools need more money. But I hardly think basic knowledge of “reading, writing, and 'rithmatic” are miracles.

You’re right, those aren’t miracles (wait a minute, actually they ARE, but I digress), just that’s not the only stuff we’re expected to teach these days. State curriculum standards demand an incredible amount of knowledge be passed on to students. Breadth instead of depth is now our mantra, and I hate it as much as anybody else, but the world gets bigger everyday. It would be better to take some things off our plates, but lovely standardized tests demand students be jacks of all trades and masters of none.

quote JamesCarroll:

You have hostile students only because you (or the school district) have shown weakness and a willingness to give in.

Wrong! I have hostile students because I won’t give in and the kid just cannot deal with being held to a high standard. And their damned parents back the kids in their diploma-not-an-education mentality. I’m not even going to get into the students who are hostile because of things that have nothing to do with education, but end up in my face anyway.

Children are immeasurablly resiliant and adaptive and will repsond to any challenge given to them.

Bullshit. SOME kids are resiliant, SOME kids will respond to SOME challenges given to them. Take it from someone’s who’s actually been there.

Sincerely, I’m sure everybody here has raised great kids who value education and are the bright shining faces who remind me how teaching is supposed to work. Your sweeties are in classrooms with an entire system that manages by crises-- not because they want to, but because our society as a whole has very clearly stated it doesn’t want to accept any responsibility and wants the easiest, fastest ‘solution,’ not the best.[\b][\quote]

quote JamesCarroll:

Its everyone else’s fauly isn’t it? Society won’t accept any resposibilty? Well, step on up. How much are you, or the NEA, willing to accept?

Um, weren’t you paying attention? I have stepped up, I’m teaching my ass off but I can’t do it all. God help us, we end up raising half the kids ourselves. Kindergarten teachers routinely have completely unpotty-trained students they have to train themselves. It shouldn’t be the teacher’s job, but if you want that kid to learn it has to be done by the one person it seems cares. Then, while the teacher is potty training, the rest of the class is put at risk. And jezzly christ, what did the NEA ever do to you to tick you off so much?

School should not (and cannot) be some big building you send your child to, so that you can collect an educated being in twelve years’ time, never having darkened it’s doorstep the entire time yourself.

quote JamesCarroll:
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------Yes it should be and yes it can be. Of course, schools should not be factories on the line of those found in “The Wall”, but to send our children to an institution whose sole purpose is to educate them and we get out folks who can “read, write, or 'rithmatic” the system and everyone party to it has failed.

Schools not only shouldn’t be factories, they cannot be factories. The more we try to run them as such, the worse matters get. Too many people in the business sector think children=widgets and that what works in industry will work with schools. I will say it one more time; schools can’t do it all, completely by themselves. We’ve got to have support or, well, you’ve seen the result.

quote JamesCarroll:

Too tired to do homework or go to school board meetings or parent/teacher conferences? TOUGH! Its your kid! No one told you being a parent was going to easy. “Oooooo, life is hard. I don’t have the time.” Bullshit. Welcome to the real world that all your teachers prepared you all so well for.

Sound familiar? Parents who don’t go to school meetings aren’t even the ones I fret about the most. It’s the ones who are no more than sperm/egg donors, whispers in the wind, when it comes to parenting. Multiply that by 35 and you’ll have an idea of a fairly average class. Never mind the train-wreck years, with students who never bathe or change their clothes, steal food to eat at home, are being or have been sexually mutilated, etc. Mix a few of those in with the usual range of kids and you still won’t have a clue what it’s like to teach.

Can’t remember the exact quote, but it opened my eyes, years ago. American schools now educates more childen, at all levels of society, for more time, about more things than anyone could have conceived of a hunded years ago.
This could go on forever, and really it’s starting to seem a little silly now, but heck, I’ll post it anyway. Tilting at windmills? Just call me Don Quixote…

I do not place all the blame on the teachers, but since the age of 10 (more than a decade ago) I have had a profound hatred of schools. The education system in America (I have no information on foreign systems save Japan, which would be even worse for me) does not help someone who walks into school knowing stuff learn more stuff. I learned most mathematics (up to calc) outside of school, but still had to sit through the classes.

The mode of learning is also something I would like to rectify: every child learns in a specific way, and it’s a shame that there isn’t any aknowledgement of that fact. Having three categories (‘honors’, normal, and ‘special’) is not an aknowledgement. I didn’t start to learn history until I went out and tried learning it on my own, because their method was pathetic: dates and dry facts.

College wasn’t too terribly much better, IMHO.

For teaching world history & geography, by the way, I would really approach it with a kind of ‘Set the way-back machine!’ method. The imaginary journeys of a child through various places, told by a parent before bed, and at least partially directed by the child. I think that would be the way to learn geography and history: a globe and a story. It would require some reading by the parent, but I think I would enjoy that.


Disclaimer: I am not someone who is aware of the politics that shape the world. I had to be told that France’s genetically altered food ban was based around the fact that their farmers would lose profit, for example. I was completely flabbergasted at their behavior until it was explained.

Disclaimer the Second: I did not conduct the following in any really scientific way: it consisted of cruising around on-line reading random assortments of news and watching the international channel (when subbed in English or in English).

I looked briefly into other country’s news reports: I looked at France, England, China, Japan, Israel, and smatterings of Pakistan. They were all translated into some semblence of my home dialect by some human (as opposed to an automatic machine). Obviously, England was the exception. Out of the four, only the Pakistani news I saw was anywhere near as unbiased as American media (but damn, their long-distance calling is expensive!), which struck me as odd, not only because I had never pictured Pakistan as more unbiased than England, but also for the following reason:

I always thought that American media was horribly biased. I still think so. But unless I just happened to pick the wrong days to review news from these countries, their media is significantly more biased. We get so much more information on the same events, and the portrayal is shockingly neutral.

Their bias was almost universally directly related to their common political stand. In Israel, it was chock-full of what was practically propaganda: only China dispensed less reliable information on those days. France and England were more subtle, but you could tell exactly who their allies and enemies at the time were just by how the piece was written. And not just about the US.

I am sorry that I don’t have sites or cites, but if there is interest in re-running this comparison I would be happy to gather data again under someone’s experienced eye, perhaps of a world event that is covered by every nation. The smattering I got covered no contiguous event, so it was impossible to say ‘they left out this fact’ or ‘they portrayed it like this’.

hangs her head It’s not my fault. I usd to know. I learned it years ago, but I can never remember the mnemonic. So I missed Saturn and Neptune. One thing I find as I get older and learn more in school. Some stuff is relegated to the ‘not as important’ bin and I ‘lose’ it. If I sit there and think long and hard sometimes it will come back to me, but the older I get the more I ‘forget’.

At one time I could name off a bazillion dinosaurs (it seems at least) now I could barely name off 3 or 4. It’s not as important right now. Rather I have been stuffing my head recently full of social studies, biology and starting Monday, chemistry.

I think that happens with a lot of students. Especially with learning by rote. You learn stuff, regurgitate it for the tests and promptly forget most of it unless A you are interested in it or B it somehow sticks with you longer than the exams or end of the school year.

I’ve always been a bit of a joat but I don’t think anyone can be expected to remember everything they’ve learned in their lifetime without either having an eidetic memory or going nuts. That’s why we have things like books, encyclopedias and google. We remember a little and can look up what we don’t know.

Can we put you in charge of some kind of nationwide program? That’d be wonderful.

I did the same sort of thing for myself, back in the day. I had the best nightlight ever: a glow-in-the dark globe. I just gazed and imagination-trekked all over the place until I fell asleep. I think at one point I could correctly name every country in Africa (and KNEW that there were countries IN Africa).

Regarding the debate about parent and teacher accountability above, I perceive it this way:

Teachers are responsible for teaching students.

Parents are responsible for sending students to school, not just children.

Your offspring should be mature enough that a teacher can handle 20-30 of them (that means potty-trained and relatively obedient and polite). They should be ready to learn and ready to enjoy it. If a 5-year old shows up expecting Muppets to remain the font of all knowledge, we’re in trouble.

(Disclaimer: The ink ain’t dry on my high school diploma, so I have no actual ong-term perspective on K-12 education.)

Mother Very Thoughtfully Made A Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest. (Yes, I stole this one from Heinlein.)

What will we do when Pluto is regulated back to the Kupier Belt Objects and no longer a planet?

While I join in the hand-wringing about the appalling lack of knowledge imparted about geography and history and such in the school system, I think that memorizing the planets and their order is one of the more useless bits of information you can be taught. How many people will put this information to any use?

I went to school in another country. I remember working very hard through all my school years. Geography, world history, science - everything!
We were writing cursive in first grade, doing multiplications and ratios in second, history and geography from the third grade and up and etc.
Now, my fourth grader goes to the best elementary public school in our area. It is a great school by all american standards. Dedicated teachers, equipped classrooms, lots of extracurricular activities and etc. He is a smart, bright kid, but he does not write cursive (the teacher discourages usage of it, because he does not want to deal with “decoding” everybody’s handwriting), his fourth grade math program is in no way adequate to what I’ve been taught at his age and there is no history whatsoever beyond the state of Illinois. He, though, knows that Lincoln had been shot… Everything he knows about world geography comes from our home reading and studying…
I cannot say that an educational system I went through was the best in a world, but what my child goes through right now is just terrible!
Homeschooling seems to be the only answer, but I cannot do it, I have to work!

Not at a private school they don’t. especially on my dime.
It bugs the shit out of me that some failures get to send their kids to private schools on my tax dollars, while I have to pay the tuition for my kids to go. I’m not wealthy but I’ve done well enough to afford to send my kids to private school. Before we could, our kids went to public school. We certainly didn’t expect tax payers to front the money for private schools, but I guess some people do and it’s wrong.
My tax dollars should only be used for public schools. If they’re so bad, fix them. I rarely agree with the teachers union, but I side with them in opposition to vouchers.

As for your comment about not wanting my kids tainted my certain other kids, well…Duh!:rolleyes: Of course I don’t want them in school with trouble makers. How bad kids are getting in via vouchers is beyond me! Vouchers are bad enough, but if they’re going to be used, why aren’t only the best students getting them? I don’t get it.:confused:

I’m just thankful that I attended school before all the dumbing down occurred. Oh, and I’m also grateful for the fact that nearly all of my teachers in grade school were middle aged or older.