We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Saturday, April 24. 2010
Genius Stanford educational experts started a charter school. Their ideas didn't work.
But will they learn anything from their experience?
I continue to believe that the average schoolkid learned more in the US in 1830 in one-room schoolhouses with hornbooks and the teacher armed with a good paddle, with the teacher supported by donations either in kind (eg firewood, or housing a teacher or providing him or her food) or in cash, by the parents of the kids who ran, and paid for, their school.
And don't tell me "it's a more complicated world" now. It is not. Try training a horse, building a barn, making a living on a farm, making a winter coat from a couple of sheep, or smithing every iron item a family might need. Life is easier now. We don't even need to make our own beer, and 99.9% of us do not even understand how computers work. Including me.
Readin', writin', and 'rithmetic haven't changed one bit since then.
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Nice post, Barrie. It dovetails perfectly with your How did they do it? post from a while ago.
You had to read until the 14th paragraph, but there it is:
"while Stanford focused on academics and studentsí emotional and social lives"
Gosh, ya know, I don't remember any of the teachers worrying about my emotional and social well-being back when I was in school. Maybe it was run by stodgy old Non-Progressives with some crazy notion that we should develop naturally. I gather you went through the same horrific, uncaring experience.
One of the very few single-word oxymorons.
The results from the Stanford school obviously speak strongly to the tragedy of this feelings based and progressive education methods. I would like to slightly disagree with you, Doc, about teachers not worrying about your emotional and social well-being when you were in school. By NOT falling over themselves to boost your "self esteem", they encouraged you to experience the REAL boost to your self esteem by ACTUALLY accomplishing challenging tasks. Their not caring about our emotional development was the best thing they could do for your emotional development.
"readin', writin', and 'rithmetic haven't changed one bit since then."
But history has. My youngest son once asked me which subject was my favorite.
History, I replied.
Figures, he said. There was a whole lot less of it when you went to school.
Out here in the insular state of the Pacific, we get a number of Korean and Japanese TV stations (all subtitled in English).
My wife and I last night were watching a program on one of the Korean networks on what Korean kids in Seoul go through educationally. Not only do they go through a full day of public school, many of them then go to private "academies" located in office buildings around Seoul, that meet starting in the late afternoon and go to 10 p.m. at night, when they are then bused home on charter buses.
These kids would blow you away. They had one section of the program where an eighth grade group of students is going through discussions on English literature and science that would put most of our college kids here in America to shame. They are articulate, and are all able to make presentations to the class on projects they are working on.
The other thing is they all use books, and academic bookstores in Korea are booming according to the documentary. Didn't see a single kid playing on a computer game; they are all reading books, whether in class or in their spare time.
What's also interesting is it's all driven by private enterprise (the academies), there's no discussion about students' self-esteem, nothing about teachers unions and benefits and days off. The parents also go to classes on how to help their kids study and succeed.
Frankly, Korea (and I woud suspect the situation is the same in Japan as well) are blowing us out of the water academically.
I have tremendous respect for SOKORS and Japanese. What you wrote about them is 100% correct except, the gaming thing. SOKORS are in school or in study way way way more than Americans. They also play computer games way more. They have a TV channel there that plays nothing but Starcraft nonstop, 24/7.
I've been going back and forth to SOKOR for 15 years. That country doesn't even exist anymore. Seeing the changes is like what it must have been like watching the Germans rebuild.
It's worth looking at the East Asian model of education, but I think it's important to point out that it is a model that is particularly adapted to and supported by the wider culture in those countries, so it's dangerous to assume its success could simply be transplanted. When the whole culture is steeped in the Confucian assumption that dutiful, diligent study is the universal path to success, I suspect that students would achieve remarkably high levels of achievement no matter how the schools were structured.
The key thing the American one-room schoolhouse shared with modern Korean education (and, come to think of it, most successful education, no matter its superficial form) was the unity of purpose and mutual support between teachers and parents: teachers weren't expected to parent, and parents weren't expected to teach, but each side supported the other. Nowadays, my college friends who are now "educators" say the traditional note to the parents regarding a discipline problem is generally counterproductive, since all too many parents just respond with outrage directed toward the teacher. That's a cultural problem that won't be fixed by any reform or innovation in the superficial structure of the school. I suspect the successes of traditional-model charter and private schools (and the failure of the Stanford school) have at least as much to do with the culture of the families who choose to enroll their students in those schools as they do with the educational models in and of themselves.
The answer, of course, is to let a thousand schools bloom, and let parents choose based on their own priorities.
I think you are quite right about the quality of education, B.
Some of my cousins attended one room country school from grades k-8. That particular school lasted into the early 1990s, I believe.
Grandad attended the same school. Back then c.1915-1920 the school year was divided into Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters. If you were required to stay home for the Fall harvest, you could enroll for the Winter quarter. Anyway, Grandad's dad made him stay home and work and he missed a lot of quarters. By the time he was 18 he had only finished the 10th grade, but the education he received was good. He made a good living feeding cattle and farming, and he never stopped reading.
Another neat thing about those old schools was the Christmas program. All the parents and grandparents attended and jammed the schoolhouse and every kid had lines to recite.
In Nebraska, and I suspect other states, the counties were divided into townships. A township was 6 miles square. 36 sections of land. One section of land belonged to the country school. The land was rented to farmers and the income supported the school. And that was the entire school district. At one time there were over 3000 school districts in the state, talk about having local control over the school...
Country schools here originally went from grades 1-10, but were eventually cut back to grades 1-8. The kids went to town for high school and the district paid tuition for them to attend.
There are two one room schools still standing a few miles from where I live. Hard to believe anymore that there were once enough kids to fill them up.
Hogwash. Education was not better in those 19th C days, and certainly wasn't at the mill-city elementary school I attended. The memoirs of those glorious one-room days were written by a small percentage of the best students who went on to be writers. The retrospective analysis of Maggie's readers, or indeed the readers of any blog, is a highly unrepresentative sample.
We got some advantage because there were few careers that an intelligent woman could aspire to, but the other negative factors completely overwhelmed this. I can remember my fifth-grade teacher knowing less math than I did, my brother spending hours in the hallway because he couldn't sit still and being put in lowest-track classes (he is now a college professor), and half-a-dozen students in my class who could not read or do their times tables despite being held back, sometimes multiple times. They were publicly humiliated and told they were slow, unless they were lucky and were completely ignored. That was how we did special education in those days.
Measured IQ increased steadily throughout the 20th C, and the tests were repeatedly renormed.
Impressions and sentimentalism are not evidence. There's a lot of crap and wasted time in schools now, but there was then as well. Think penmanship. Think reading out loud, student by student, for an hour at a time, with no one allowed to do anything else other than sit with folded hands.
"Try training a horse" --a typical biped arrogance. Where do you people get off, anyway? Oh, i forgot, my left side. Grrrr.
Right on! I went to a one room school in the 50s with one teacher teaching 30-40 students comprising grades 1-8. I learned so much more than students today, and became a successful electrical engineer; and believe me, I was no genius. A few years back I read an article that showed tests taken by students in the 1800s and they were so much harder than what I had to take.
My mom has copies of my grandmother's report cards and schoolwork from her small Wisconsin school. (My grandmother was born in 1912.) My grandmother did not speak English until she went to school - her parents spoke Slovak. In 8th grade, my grandmother was making complex, beautiful drawings of a cross-section of the skin and of the heart and the lungs, all appropriately labeled. She analyzed The Merchant of Venice and wrote an essay on Wisconsin history.
My mom and her six siblings went to a one-room schoolhouse through 8th grade. One brother is a doctor. Another is an airline captain - he scored the highest score on the pilot qualifying test ever seen in the Coast Guard. A sister is a ESL teacher who speaks four or five languages.
Good genes, for sure, and education emphasized by my grandparents, who didn't go past 8th grade, but they all thrived in the one-room school.
As is so often said, no one can actually teach unless there is someone who wants to learn. It's all the difference in the world, really.
Dana, that article is based on an urban legend of what tests 8th-graders supposedly took. They didn't.
C'mon people. Do better than anecdotes of your wonderful selves and families here. This is an area where you either want the facts or you want the myth. Which is it?
The constant battles in the early 1900 were about schools being literary, bookish, passive affairs, with little business, mechanical, or even scientific content. What science there was was not hypothesis - experiment, but lots of rote learning. School curricula were designed to give elite children what they needed for college, with others catching on as best they could. That worked well for bright children of all classes, but utterly screwed the ones below the 75th percentile. That's an easy school to run, if you're just writing off 3/4's of the kids. The readers here don't get this because they and their ancestors were in that high group that the school was designed for. Family memory is just not evidence in this discussion. OF COURSE your people remember it as a good system.
Enrollment rates for 5-19 y/o's in the late 19th C was 50%.
Up until 1890, less than half the schools that worked from McGuffey's Readers had anything beyond the second book (4th grade reading level).
In 1940, only half of all adults had more than an 8th grade education. Even those who could read could not read well.
http://www.nald.ca/fulltext/adlitus/Page43.htm (click next pages and take the test yourself, then check the scores again.)
The illiteracy rate was 11% in 1900. In 1870, it was twice that.
All states had enormous institutions for the mentally retarded until quite recently. They weren't part of the equation in nostalgic, halcyon days. They are now.
Read the Little House books again, or the Anne of Green Gables books, or Tom Sawyer, and note what the average child (not the author) got for an education.
How is it the fault of one room schools that kids went to work by choice or circumstance? If they didn't attend they couldn't be educated.
When one room schools were established, it was the only practical way to educate kids. For crying out loud, it was 6 to 8 miles to town and there were only horses and wagons. Would you expect a child to make a two to three hour commute each way to school every day? Since you are so much smarter than us hicks in the sticks AVI, please tell me how would you educated the kids?
As for stats, I see stats on a daily basis saying the oceans will boil away if we don't do something about AGW, but my lying eyes show me evidence to the contrary. You may have stats to prove your point, but I personally know a lot of people that went to country school, and not one of them was held back in life by his elementary education. Not one.
As for the 75th percentile, I would argue a lot those kids have no business being in college in the first place.
As for science, there isn't much serious science taught in grades 1-6. Chemistry and physics is taught in high schools and that was clearly beyond the mandate of the one-room school.
Country schools did a good job at teaching kids to read and write and do their sums, and that is the minimum you need to be a productive member of society. Those are skills a lot of kids are lacking today.
Hee hee hee. An exchange between the feeble mind and the Assistant Village Idiot. That should give the casual reader pause on the merits of the debate.
Hehe indeed, feebs.
I don't say there was a better way than the one-room school at the time. I just don't see it as having accomplished the great things people say it did.
America was notable in that middle-class kids - even poor children - were able to get any schooling at all. It was a good thing as far as it went. But you wouldn't trade it for today. Schools today do a lot of stupid and useless things, especially in the area of educational fads. Yet somehow their graduates keep going out and dominating.
I am a believer in small schools, BTW. But there's a limit.
C'mon people. Do better than anecdotes of your wonderful selves and families here. This is an area where you either want the facts or you want the myth. Which is it?
IMHO, the myth --because it prompts improvement.
When exceptional teachers step forward to debate the issue, they can't help but beg the question of why they're so rare.
I started school just after WWII had ended and resented it fiercely - my dad had just come home from the war for good and I had been stuck in a houseful of women and I intended to go to work with him on the farms where he did contract sheep-shearing, fencing, treefelling, dug ditches, built barns and shearing sheds and cattle yards and races. And I was sent off to school with hundreds of other kids.
My dad was interesting, he showed me how to do stuff, he told me entire poems, doing all the voices in them and told wonderful stories and did all the voices and noises in those, too. I never got to like school as my teachers were mostly pretty boring people who had strict rules that made sure that anything interesting, like the caretaker's ladders and other stuff, were forbidden.
Eventually I left school at fifteen after working with my dad in weekends and holidays from when I was big enough to be useful, with no qualifications at all.
Over the years, the world changed, I became interested in kids through having some of my own. Watching them, I became fascinated with how they learnt stuff. I eventually became a primary (grade) school teacher, then went on to teach art and design, plus music, woodwork, engineering, science and technology at high school. I also acquired a university education along the way.
And now I'm out the other end, too old to employ and too young to stop painting!
And three of the four kids I raised have degrees, they all seem happy and are raising bright kids of their own.
And I'm happy too, with grandkids all over the world at various stages of their lives.
And I'm happy to paint and think about it all.
A university education is a fine thing to have if you need the ticket for the particular path you want to take through life. But if someone wants to do something that requires no bits of paper, my advice is...go for it!