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.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, July 30. 2014
A while ago, a reader made the point that schoolteachers rarely teach kids to read and to do basic arithmetic these days because most people learn these things from their moms and/or dads, at home.
In a society with essentially-universal literacy, is it a school's job to do those basic things anymore?
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Parents ARE teachers.
That said, there is a need for schools and external learning services for ones offspring, but the responsibility lays with the parents, to see the 'learning' is effective, encompassing, and needed to prep for adult life.
I\Mrs. Zepp do visit the classrooms for our High Schooler, and our Elementary students, and do go to the various meetings (PTA, Parent\teacher, 'What's Happening', ect) and make our voices heard.
My big beef with the schools is the lack of 'life skills' (not how to use a condom, call Planned Parenthood, or how to tattle on your parents, nor the various guilt-trip assemblies to goad them along) - i.e. how to manage a checkbook, use of credit, bill paying, family management, personal time-keeping, relationships maintenance, ect.
They may sound quite and trite, but these are the things they need to know, not the psuedo-science of MMGW, multiple exposures to Rachel's Challenge, and the other personal minimizations they foster on our young, instead of nurturing their individualism.
Fred has it correct. I teach in high school and I think all of the students should be required to take a course in personal finance. A link on Maggie's Farm went to an article questioning why they teach calculus in high school, and not enough computer programming and statistics.
I think everyone has a gripe about what should be taught. As a history teacher I think we don't do enough on civics and economics. Especially civics. As the speech and debate coach, here is something everyone needs exposure to, especially proper, non-heated, non-personal - debate! The fact that in many colleges debate is squashed has hurt our democratic nation.
"In a society with essentially-universal literacy..." and this literacy appears because the Literacy Fairy waives his/her magic wand? It is the result of schools teaching so-called basic things. Maybe in some universe other than the one in which the vast majority of Americans live parents teach their children to read and write; in the one in which most of us live, that is believed to be the reason we pay school taxes and put up with otherwise useless, ignorant ideologues teaching our children. Do you genuinely believe that most children are taught to read by their parents??
I'd guess pretty much every kid hereabouts was taught reading and basic number skills - and lots of other things - at home.
Near-universal literacy is the norm in upper-middle class families; the only exception being those kids with LD/ADHD/other issues.
However, in the REAL world, where I teach, trust me - MOST kids do not enter near-literate.
Far from it - it's amazing, to me, how many kids were not taught at home:
- primary colors
- names of things (fruits, flowers, home objects, etc.)
- counting numbers to 20 - heck, even to 10
- how to sort by characteristic (buttons, coins, cutlery, clothes)
- practicing sitting attentively at times - NOT perfectly still, but not dancing, jumping, running around for at least brief periods - 5-10 minutes)
- being still and quiet - in a quiet room, listening for other sounds. Same with being outdoors - kids need to learn to LISTEN attentively to less noisy input.
- following multi-step instructions
- following directions, without noise or attitude
- saying thank you, please, and you're welcome. Practicing those courtesies on others.
- NOT interrupting
- NOT singing or talking at random
I could go on, but you get the point. All of those don't require great education or knowledge, but they are vital in preparing children to learn in a school. You're free to raise your child more spontaneously, but your kid will NOT fit into the classroom. The teacher will have to spend more time teaching what should have been passed on from the parent, and disciplining, than teaching literacy and math.
I think the public schools do a decent job of teaching the basic things. You could go to most schools across the country and find that most 8th graders read, write and do math at 8th grade levels. Where the system really fails is with the schools and students in areas where both the parents and the students actively disdain and resist education. We all know that this resistence to education by minorities and even non-minorities in some urban areas is the cause of the failing grade of public schools. We prefer to not lay the blame where it belongs and instead look at the impersonal statistics and indict the system and the teachers. Our favored choice of a "fix" to this problem is more money, more teachers and free lunches. As long as we choose to mischaracterize the problem we will continue to fail to fix the problem.
You might, as was I, be surprised. http://febp.newamerica.net/k12/rankings/naep8read
"The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. It is administered to a representative sample of students in 4th and 8th grade in each state every two years."
highlights: "On average, a higher percentage of 8th graders in the Northeastern United States and the Midwest scored proficient or above on NAEP reading tests than in the South and the West in 2009.1 In the Northeastern states, approximately 35 percent of 8th graders scored proficient or above in reading, while in the Southern states, only 26 percent scored proficient or above.
" Massachusetts ranked first in the country with 43 percent of its 8th graders scoring proficient or above in reading in 2009. In low-performing, similarly-sized (and lower-income) Tennessee, only 28 percent of 8th graders scored proficient or above in reading."
"The percent of white 8th grade students scoring proficient or above in reading increased from 35 percent in 1992 to 41 percent in 2009, and African American student proficiency rates increased from nine percent to 14 percent. Hispanic students saw an increase in reading proficiency from 13 to 17 percent. "
" Although poverty and student performance are not perfectly correlated, research by the RAND Corporation has found that NAEP performance is linked to student background and family characteristics."
I think what you are seeing is a combination of the power of statistics to confuse and the truth of the very facts I stated. That is there are 40% of Detroits students who actively resist education and nationwide the statistics are distorted to provide a reason for the teachers union to insist on more teachers being hired and better pay to attract and keep good teachers. But most people don't see this in their own community. I live in a small city (56,000 residents) and I would bet the farm that you could evaluate everyone of our 8th grade students and 99% can read and do simple math. This is true across the nation with the gross exceptions being inner cities and cities like Detroit. It is the large exceptions to this rule that distort the statistics. The illiterate aren't spread evenly across this country they are clustered in the obvious places for the obvious reasons. So any effort aimed at every school and every student will fail because the leaders of the effort either don't understand the problem or are simply using the problem to get what they want. We could fix this problem. We won't because the problem benefits a special interest with tentacles into the legislatures and congress.
If 'most' children learn from Mum &/or Dad at home, why is the literacy rate so abysmal among certain groups? Also, I would disagree that our society has 'essentially-universal literacy'. Ask any elementary teacher - there is often a significant disparity in the mastery of 'those basic things' amongst the students in a class. Further, with so many immigrants and ESL students, teaching English - including reading - is essential.
I don't think there's universal literacy in the U.S. I read a few years ago that more than 40% of the adults in Detroit were functionally illiterate. And many people coming in from Central America are illiterate in their native language which may or may not be Spanish.
I was taught to read long before I went to school, but I honestly can't remember being taught any arithmetic at home. I think I got that in school.
Kids are different. No way could I have taught my son to read...he had NO interest in learning letters or reading from me. However, he took off once he entered kindergarten. Some kids take instruction well from parents; some are stubborn and independent (like my kid) and perform better for strangers. Sad, but true.
I couldn't even get that kid to sit still to write the first letter of his name. Put him in kindergarten; he was placed into the 'slow' class since he came in with barely any skills (letter recognition, writing, etc.); 6 weeks after he went to kindergarten, he figured out the phonics thing and taught himself to read by sounding out words on his own with no help from me.
Forget math. I never tried to teach my kids math.