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  • If You Can’t Dazzle Them with Audacity…

    Posted by John Jay on May 28th, 2009 (All posts by )

    David Foster’s post on the Blatherification of America, specifically based on this post over at Joanne Jacob’s site by guest blogger Diana Senechal, reminded me of my own problems with the American educational system.

    I have a daughter in first grade. Although Blatherification is evident in her classroom, it is probably the least of my concerns. I’m a physical chemist by primary training, but I make my living with my MBA in Marketing, so this is not a Snowian Two Cultures disconnect. The No Child Gets Ahead errr… No Child Left Behind standards have had a pernicious effect on education, and nowhere is this more evident than in the phenomenon of curriculum reorganization.

    What I mean is that the order of presentation of topics in the curriculum have been changed around since I finished Elementary School in the late 70s. This is a parallel phenomenon to Blatherification in the educational system was recently and forcefully brought to my attention. The primary purpose of this seems to be Baffling Parents With BS. Educators talk about what higher level skills they are passing on to children. Educational charlatans are counting on the fact that parents’ memories of school are somewhat fuzzy in order to pass off topic order shuffling as an improvement in instruction over time. Teachers and administrators often use phrasing such as “we didn’t do this or that so early when I was in school”. Yes. Neither did I. And maybe there was a good reason for that.

    Coinciding with this is an over-emphasis on some topics which do not need much repetition for the middle and upper tiers of students. The reason for this, at least in my state, is a total lack of “tracking” before 4th or 5th grade – each classroom has an equal mix of students with abilities running, at least at the beginning of first grade, from literate and numerate, to a bare ability to count and correlate letters with their primary sounds.* Behaviorally, the mix is just as varied.

    I would like to illustrate how both of these problems came to a head the other night when I attended an after school meeting to describe the mathematics curriculum. First, a little about the demographics of my town. I live in an area that is not very economically attractive. My company and one other high science concern are the major employers in the region. Most of the highly educated people in the towns surrounding my worksite are from other parts of the country. In fact, many are not from the US altogether.

    I noticed about half the audience in the math curriculum meeting were natives of the region from the lower economic strata. Their concern was that their kids were going to fall behind in math because they did not do well in school themselves, especially in math. They were happy for any bone the district was throwing in their direction. The other half were nearly all immigrants, and since I work with many of them, I counted at least 5 other Ph.D.s in science besides myself. The educators had a rough time of it. They were not prepared for this bifurcated distribution of abilities and interests, which pretty much throws into sharp relief my concerns about their lack of tracking of the kids of these very same parents.

    Things started off badly from my perspective. The math coordinator for the district began his lecture by talking about how bad rote algorithms were, and how we were not taught when doing long division what each columns (the ones, 10s and hundreds columns) actually represented. Not so fast. I remember clearly writing the numbers 1, 10, and 100 over those columns when first learning long division. I also remember those silly function engine exercises with the drawing of a machine with a crank and a gear for getting across the concepts of simple operators such as the 10s and 100s columns in multiplication and division. I clearly recognized BPWB from the start of the program.

    Unfortunately for the teachers at my daughter’s school, I’m the progeny of a 25 year veteran Elementary School teacher. I can spot BPWB a mile away. I remember what and how I was taught in school, in part because I wound up having my own mother as a teacher. We were a rural district without enough funding when we started getting an influx of professionals from DC into the area, swelling school enrolment. As a result, the top layers of classes in 3rd and 4th or 4th and 5th grade were combined into “split grade” classrooms. The administrators made sure that the kids in the split grades classrooms were smart and well-behaved enough so that while the teacher was instructing the other grade, the kids could be counted on to work independently. It was not an ideal situation, but the teachers made it work. My mom made it work. And because I had no choice but to be a good student, I was in my mother’s classroom. For three years straight, because she was also good, and always caught the split classes. Oh sure, we changed teachers for some subjects. But I didn’t catch a break then, because every teacher in the district knew who I was. The fortunate side effect of all this 30 some year later is that I have pretty vivid memories of the classroom.

    So the math coordinator pretty much got on my bad side from the start, but I held back my bile for the sake of my daughter’s classroom placement in second grade. The immigrants were muttering about how the old style of teaching was being misrepresented. I leaned over and whispered to my Russian friend that the US wasn’t really that clueless 30 years ago. He said we could not have been in order to get a man on the moon.

    The math coordinator was moving blithely on, getting questions about how to help kids study at home from the more educationally clueless in the room. We moved on to multiplication. The curriculum spends a lot of time on graphic representations or actual manupulatives to teach multiplication. You know, where you make a big square or rectangle out of little squares and then count the rows and columns to hammer home the idea of what you are actually doing when you multiply.

    I have no problem with this – in fact my daughter and I already do this at home. In the first grade, not the third, though. I certainly remember similar exercises back in my day. However, the school spends half a year doing this kind of prep work. I remember perhaps 2 weeks of that before we got down to facts, times tables, and longer problems. Why spend so much time? NCLB and the State standards do not reward schools for pushing good kids. Once the kid can pass the test, the school is done with them. Any elevation in the school’s scores once the middle and advanced kids can do the basic subject material is determined by how many slower kids can be pushed over the line. Which is fine, as long as the good kids still get pushed. But they don’t. No, in the Responsive Classroom, how you learn is as important as what you learn, and the good kids are expected to go back and help the slow ones. From a societal ROI on educational investment point of view, this is insane. From the point of view of NCLB school grading, it is a perfectly rational strategy.

    It does not stop there. They teach a modified method of the traditional multiplication and division algorithms, where each step and “times 10” or “times 100” is explicitly written, and only then does the curriculum go on to the standard algorithms adults use. The math coordinator actually had the gall to stand up there and claim that this promotes mathematical reasoning, and that having three ways to approach a problem type was a good thing. All I could foresee is kids getting confused about which approach to take, mixing the three, and either taking far too long to complete the problem or getting it wrong altogether. In practice, having the kids jump through three hoops lets the school look as if there is progress through the year, while staying on the exact same topic so that the slowest kids finally get it. And one should not worry about the wrong answer from a confused kid, either. Kids get partial credit for setting up the problem. On a third grade multiplication test. Accountability for correct answers has been blunted on these standardized tests. No wonder scores are rising.

    By this time the immigrants had had enough and were peppering the coordinator with questions. They contrasted this system with the systems they had used which were good enough to get them a Ph.D. in America, operating in a foreign language. The Principal, who holds an Education Ph.D.** said “why don’t you let the professionals handle the education”. Now I had had enough. I exploded. “That was not an appropriate comment”, I said. Then I thought of my daughter and calmed down again. And we continued on to estimating.

    Estimating. It’s on the test, they have to teach it. In my experience a good estimator is made by making someone solve exact problems over and over again until relative magnitudes become second nature. Then, with that knowledge firmly under one’s belt, a person may estimate with confidence. I see no reason why an 8 year old should even try to estimate what $1.95 plus $1.90 is in whole dollars, when the kid is shaky on three-digit addition because of the lack of drill on basic skills under this kind of curriculum.

    It turns out my instinct was correct, when I went to peruse the literature these “professionals” should be reading themselves. Young children tend to think logarithmically rather than linearly. They outperform adults on fractional estimation exercises, but somewhere as they mature, due to nurture more than nature, their linear estimation skills get better, to the detriment of their logarithmic skills. So it makes sense not to put linear estimation into the curriculum until children have some practice at linear operations:

    Lemaire et al. illustrate that the acquisition of numerical understanding is a long process. The 10-year-olds in their study were just beginning to use computational estimation on multi-digit numbers. To become successful estimators, children seem to require both some underlying computational arithmetic skills (LeFevre, Greenham, & Waheed, 1993) and large enough working memory capacities (Case & Sowder, 1990). Thus, the results of Klein and Bisanz and of Lemaire et al. converge on the conclusion that both experiential and developmental processes are important in children’s acquisition of numeracy skills.

    And yet linear estimation is part of the standardized test in 3rd grade in my state. This is clearly a case where the juggling of the traditional order of topics is detrimental to children. But it was pointed out specifically as an advance that teaches higher order thinking skills by the math coordinator.

    I left the meeting more convinced than ever that I was going to have to provide most of the opportunities for my kids to practice higher order thinking skills.

    Aligned with the out-of-order phenomenon is the ADD teaching methods employed now that textbooks are largely a thing of the past in the lower grades. I watch in frustration as the textbookless classrooms jump from topic to topic in order to cover an impressive number of themes, which bolsters the attempt to appear more rigorous than the education the parents received. The topic jumping is horrible for the younger kids, and unless they receive additional instruction at home, as does my daughter, there is not enough repetition to make facts stick in those little brains.

    The science curriculum for this year contained about 6 subjects, one of which I do not think will be covered. The unit on magnets lasted one week, with about 3 lessons on the topic. The students came home with two worksheets, one of which seemed somewhat above their level. At the parent-teacher conference, my daughter’s teacher commented on how well my daughter knew her magnet material.

    Of course she did. I knew the topic was coming. We read the Magic School Bus book on magnets over the course of a week in preparation for the school activities. We made a compass from a needle, a cork, and a bowl of water. We made chains of paper clips with different magnets and observed how some magnets are stronger than others. We magnetized things and then demagnetized them by hitting them, discussing how we were making the domains random again. We looked at magnetic fields with iron filings. And we made an electromagnet and talked about how electricity and magnetism are related. I know my daughter retains the information on magnets she learned this year because she did things with them, she read things about them, and we did that over the course of a month. (We re-read the book, too, to catch things we missed the first time). I highly doubt most of her peers remember much, two months after that one-week unit.

    I no longer count on the school to properly educate my kids, and I resent the huge amount of time they waste on morning meetings and other fluff. I have given up on the American public educational system. It’s only a matter of time before I seek alternatives.

    * I do not buy the argument that kids need to mix with learners of varied abilities at the lower grade levels. I taught college classes with similar distributions of abilities as a TA, with kids who did not know what a logarithm was mixed with kids who had taken calculus in high school. It was an impossible task to give a lesson that served both groups. While it is certainly possible in first grade to teach to such a spread of abilities, it is certainly not an optimal learning environment.

    ** One of the most useless pieces of paper on the planet. That and $3.50 will get you a small Starbucks in my world. I have a real Ph.D.


    27 Responses to “If You Can’t Dazzle Them with Audacity…”

    1. silvermine Says:

      So many people already have given up. It’s not possible to “change” it in any way. Maybe when it’s more obviously failing? But yea, there are lots, and lots, and lots of homeschoolers out there. It’s growing like crazy.

      I figure, why spend all my time and patience arguing with the school and teaching real algorithms after school, when we could spend less energy and stress just home together learning. :)

    2. John Jay Says:

      Well the reason my kids go is the same reason I was required to take ROTC classes in college – they said that something like 80% of engineers work on military projects at some point in their careers, so we’d better learn to understand the culture. (This was in the 80s, that figure may have been wrong even then, probably is now, but the sentiment is true. But I did wind up being a Defense contractor for a long time.)

      My kids will need to interact with people socialized in this system, so they need to understand it somewhat. On the plus side for me my career is likely to take us abroad by the time they hit middle school, and I’ll have more choices and likely subsidized private schooling. But if I start to see actual harm being done, I’ll yank them out right quick.

    3. pst314 Says:

      “One of the most useless pieces of paper on the planet”

      Pity we can’t put all the ed-school grads on Golgafrincham Ark Fleet Ship B. (But according to Douglas Adams *we* are the descendants of those passengers, which explains education schools, telephone sanitizers, etc.)

    4. John Jay Says:

      Hey, don’t knock telephone sanitizers during an AH1N1 swine flu outbreak. :D

    5. veryretired Says:

      I’ve run into that condescending “Why don’t you let us professional educators handle this” attitude several times over the course of putting 4 kids through a mix of public and private schools, and I have the same reaction you describe.

      What the “professionals” simply cannot seem to come to grips with is the fact that they are the ones who are failing, in spite of, or more likely because of, all the carefully constructed “modern educational theories” that they keep trotting out after the last big idea fell apart and was abandoned.

      Young people are coming out of our schools today who cannot read with any proficiency, do simple math, much less complex algebra/calculas, and cannot speak in any organized fashion, using complete sentences and ideas.

      As far as I am concerned, we have done to the last couple of generations of our youth something very similar to the Chinese experience during the cultural revolution—we have wasted their chance for an adequate education, and we will have to deal with the consequences as these generations move through the timeline of our society without the tools to make the kinds of cultural and ecnomic contributions we desperately need in a tumultuous global econmic system.

      In addition to that, their historical and scientific illiteracy makes them vulnerable to many kinds of rhetorical tricks, glib but illogical arguments, and failed ideological illusions which have been shown by past failures to be unworkable and dangerous.

      It is discouraging enough to repeatedly encounter high school and college age people who cannot make change or get through a sentence without several repetitions of “like” and “you know”, but it is very troubling to know that their grasp of the more complex ideas that undergird our technological culture and liberal democratic social structures is fragmented and inadequate.

    6. fred lapides Says:

      It gets tiresome to find all the experts telling us what our educational system needs to do. One huge problem is that the systems must suffer all the stuff they get told by parents, and they often are the butt of endless complaints and suggestions and demands and criticisms. Simple solution: if you really really are unhappy, then homeschool.

      My son and my daughter both got very fine education at their schools and my son is now in a very fine private university.

      Has there ever been a time when the all-knowing parents did not bitch about the school system?
      in fact, many of them went through the same systems and somehow managed to do ok later on….oh, I see: things have gone downhill since! Ah, blame the unions.

    7. HelenW Says:

      Congratulations on your daughter; condolences on entering the Education Blob. Many sorrowful days lie ahead. You can expect schools to deliver less than 2 hours of ‘time on task’ per student per day. Much of that involves the transmission of factual nonsense. Perhaps you can recall when a large school was burdened merely by the overhead of a principal, secretary, nurse, and custodian? Now the army of vacant, unproductive school staff is stunning.

      Abandon all hope that your child will get even a fraction of your education. The best you can do is to systematically enrich her experience and amuse yourself by puzzling out the gratuitous new nomenclature. Never, ever complain or suggest improvements to the school or other parents; your child will be punished for that. If you have any reason to drive to the school, thoroughly clean out the car lest a stray aspirin tablet or plastic knife be discovered during a zero-tolerance search.

      illegitimus non carborundum

    8. tomw Says:

      Perhaps the NCLB test is seeking the wrong information. If the desired knowledge is not being tested, or un-necessary knowledge is being tested, then we should modify the test.
      On the other hand.
      If the “teachers” [quotes intentional] really want their students to learn the class material, then they should abandon their desire for ‘creativity’ in forming their lesson plans. They should look BACK to the lesson plans that worked.
      Math and science and history and social studies and geography just haven’t changed that much. We’ve added 50+ years of history since my time in Miss May’s kindergarden class, and loads of TOP LEVEL science, but, but, facts are facts and this cohort of ‘educators’ have enabled Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy where the well-intentioned group ends up putting the EXISTENCE of the group ahead of the task the group was formed to accomplish.
      McGuffy Readers for EVERYONE!
      bah humbug.

    9. tomw Says:

      Please forgive my verbosity, but I forgot to add that I did not know the alphabet when I got into the 1st grade. Did not know numbers. Did not print nor spell. Played in the dirt a lot with little cars and trucks, looking much like Pigpen of Peanuts fame.
      My teachers stood me in the corner in a wastebasket … or in the ‘cloakroom’, for what, I do not remember. I used to do my homework during the time between getting the order to get out our workbooks and actually being asked to turn to page 43 and give our answer for question 1a.
      I am disgusted at non-performing teachers who ruin whole lives without apparent concern. Kudos to those who understand.

    10. pst314 Says:

      “Hey, don’t knock telephone sanitizers during an AH1N1 swine flu outbreak. :D”

      As a matter of fact, Douglas Adams wrote that the people of Golgafrincham were wiped out by a plague contracted from a dirty telephone.

      There is now a hand sanitizer dispenser in the lobby of my office building.

    11. onparkstreet Says:

      “One huge problem is that the systems must suffer all the stuff they get told by parents, and they often are the butt of endless complaints and suggestions and demands and criticisms.” – Fred Lapides

      Well, you have a point, but, what if the parents have, too?

      *Ahh, the immigrant comment got to me, the daughter of a math professor educated in India. Don’t get me started! The homework I had to do after school, at the instruction by my father, who didn’t like the teachers lessons. The horror!

      **One of the things I used to be jealous about was that my parents had all these cool little ‘tricks’ for remembering arithmetic, they had no problem doing ‘sums’ in their head. I was so mad as a kid that no one taught me those little tricks!

    12. onparkstreet Says:

      I mean, no one in school taught me how to do arithmetic the way they were taught.

      Three more anecdotal things (and sorry for all the mistakes in the above post)

      1. Dad says American kids (okay, young adults, he’s teaching in university) are great when it comes to being creative, so it’s not all negative, he says if he gives a math problem that he hasn’t really discussed in class before, the American educated youngsters get it faster than some of their foreign counterparts (this is very broad and general and anecdot-y, of course, so no one be offended please), but that the foreign students have basics that are bit better and they don’t get fazed by long drawn out math problems as easily.

      2. He can’t give a test with the same degree of difficulty today that he could in the late 60s when he first immigrated to the US. The students may not be up to it.

      3. His education students, taking their math requirements, often scrape by with Cs and Ds. “How can they teach math well?” Dad asks. How, indeed. He says, and KIPP says, and lots of people says, the teachers need to be taught. No offense to the awesome teachers out there – I know you struggle with the education system and bureaucracy, too. So say my friends who are teachers in grade school. They don’t like it either.

    13. Dan from Madison Says:

      I am not Catholic, but am VERY thankful for our local Catholic school that my children attend. My children are getting the same type of education that I received when I was young (I went to a Baptist school). They do multiplication tables, long division, etc. and are very good at it. They actually enjoy math and they have fun challenging dad with “big” problems at home. It is not a cheap date, but I will sacrifice other things so they can get a good education. But in the big picture, the schools in and around Madison, WI are pretty good, not like sending them to Chicago public schools or anything insane like that.

    14. Rignerd Says:

      All I can say is Thank God for Abeka. I still remember the readers from first grade and now my kids do too. They have a solid foundation in phonics, math, science and History.

      The only bad part about home schooling in my mind is paying school taxes and tuition at the same time.

      As far as socialization goes as an argument for public schooling, I don’t buy it. My kids have manners, are friendly and happy, if they can’t get along in the world with those skills then the world is lost. So they are going to miss out on preteen sex and experimenting with drugs, I think they’ll adjust.

    15. Mrs. Davis Says:

      The greatest threat to the national security of the US is the NEA.

    16. pst314 Says:

      “we have wasted their chance for an adequate education”

      Back in the 70′s whenever I told educationists that their ideas would be bad for the education of brighter kids, they said that this was unimportant compared for the need for “equality”.

    17. virgil xenophon Says:

      I grew up on a teacher’s college campus (East. Ill. Univ) in the 50s and attended the Lab school on campus. My Father was a professor and my mother a 2nd grade teacher in the public school system. I think I know what good secondary education is like. Today’s schools ain’t it–and haven’t been for quite some time. When I was a TA getting my Masters in the early 70s it was bad even then. It got to the point on my essay exams (we’re talking college Srs here) that I quit caring if they even got close to answering the question–I was just happy if they could string together three consecutive grammatically correct sentences. That was 36 yrs ago.

      But this has been brewing for a long, long time. As far back as the mid-50s the Dean of Tulane’s Education school was on public record complaining about the poor quality of education majors. Although numerically speaking there are always stellar exceptions, even today I believe the facts will show that the majority of Education majors in the majority of American universities comprise those scoring in the lowest quintile of both SAT scores and HS GPA as a composite of the entire student body.

    18. John Jay Says:

      Virgil, I talked about the low quality of ed major back in this post.

      Go here, and scroll down to the table. You will notice that the only group scoring lower on the GRE than future Ed School profs are the future profs in Public Administration.

      It figures.

    19. Helen Says:

      Well, all I can say, guys, is do not bring your kids to this side of the Pond. All the problems are here and have been here for many years. The private schools kind of manage to teach but they have to dumb down for the public exams.

      When my daughter went to primary school (I guess it must be the equivalent of elementary) I got into a lot of trouble with teachers who would rather superciliously tell parents that they did not know what they were talking about. For various reasons (social and educational) many parents accepted that though they could kind of see that it was rubbish and the kids were not learning anything. So, being articulate and with a degree or two to my name I thought it was my job to speak up and not be scared. I remember one class teacher saying to me pityingly that probably I did not quite understand what my daughter brought home as it was so different from what I was used to. I pointed out that she brought home nothing so, yes, it was quite different. The teacher’s tone changed somewhat. In the end I had to teach the three “r”s and wondered why I bothered with the school at all. But I do take the point about kids learning to socialize.

    20. silvermine Says:

      Yea, I wouldn’t worry about homeschooled kids not understanding the “system”. My kids just hang out in real life, so they understand real life. They interact with it all the time. Real life, in general, does not look like a school.

    21. david foster Says:

      I think the problems you talk about here are very real, but were not caused by NCLB, which they predate. Indeed, the primary reason for the emphasis on testing was the complete failure of so many school to deliver even the most minimal form of learning.

    22. Robert Schwartz Says:

      First the Plug. If you are interested in mathematics education, some one near and dear to me has written a book:

      “Number Sense and Number Nonsense: Understanding the Challenges of Learning Math”
      by Nancy Krasa, and Sara Shunkwiler

      This is a short, highly accessible book that explains what is known about how people learn math, what causes differences in how children learn math, what math disabilities mean, and how teachers can address the needs of students of all ages and abilities. This book makes recent scientific research about the brain circuitry and thought processes related to mathematics available and accessible to the teachers and psychologists who deal with students’ daily frustration. Written by a clinical psychologist and a middle school teacher, it discusses normal math cognition, typical math learning difficulties, severe mathematical disability, and the math deficits of students with better-known learning disorders. It features guidelines for assessing math learning problems, and also includes clinical case illustrations as regular examples. Throughout the text there is an emphasis on teaching, featuring many examples from and ideas for the classroom, and the final chapter is fully dedicated to addressing educational implications, incorporating the recent recommendations of the National Math Advisory Panel.

      * Paperback: 288 pages
      * Publisher: Paul H Brookes Pub Co; 1 edition (April 16, 2009)
      * ISBN-10: 159857020X
      * ISBN-13: 978-1598570205

      $19.77 at Amazon

    23. Anonymous Says:

      The math coordinator was moving blithely on, getting questions about how to help kids study at home from the more educationally clueless in the room.
      I no longer count on the school to properly educate my kids

      I do too. That’s why I’ve set as my objective to prepare printable resources for self-education. Activities that give students feedback about the correctness of their responses.

      Here is an example, it is a set of Sudoku puzzles, times tables edition.

    24. Tatyana Says:

      Then I thought of my daughter and calmed down again HA!
      You had me actually laughing at that point. [it's been a bleak day so far]

      Why, do you think, immigrants tend to settle in places with higher taxes, even though they can’t really afford it, counting pennies for a number of years, just to hung on there? Because we figured out: higher local taxes=better schools for kids. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard “we did for the young ones when we came here”. The other alternative is to stick to big cities, where you can move to a neighborhood with a good public school. Better schools being the ones with “Magnet” programs (or “advanced”, whatever the district likes to call it). We were fortunate, with my son, that after his performance at elementary in regular Brooklyn neighborhood he was selected for application tests to the “Mark Twain School for gifted and talented” (no kidding, that’s the actual name). Naturally, his good performance at the elementary was not thanks to the school…well, he has two university-educated engineers for parents, doesn’t he?

      But the school being in the Magnet category is not a guarantee either. While visiting my family in the Midwest, I came to my nephew’s school weekly Friday parents-children meeting. I can only say: OMG. 2 hours of endless quests for money under various guises, parents sucking up to clueless teachers, children sit on the floor in the gym (runny noses of some seem to be of no concern to their “educators”), bored to death. I looked at the homework he gets – it’s just appalling, it’s like they consider ALL children fit for the Special class! My nephew is a guy who, at 8, instructs his mother (Master Degree in Comp Sci) on finer functions on her cell phone. He downloaded some drawing program and paints on computer. He opened an account on Youtube and posted videos of himself there, protected by password- so his grandparents can see him online. All by himself. And this is a kid that gets talked down to in class for being “talkative” and “absent-minded”. Of course he is- he’s bored to go over simple additions for the third week in a row while he’s already through concept of metric system and works on decimal fractions at home!

      Sorry for the long post, JJ. Hit a nerve.
      [btw, I feel your pain: my mom is a Literature teacher. She wasn't teaching in my school, though...but I got the second shift at home, too...]

    25. veryretired Says:

      Tatyana, I know exactly what you are talking about. Because I have very good taste in women, (my requirements being attractiveness, intelligience, terrible taste in men), my kids are very gifted and generally do very well in school.

      I cannot even guess at the number of times they have mentioned the excruxiating boredom of sitting through yet another class on some basic element of a subject they mastered long before, or the tedius nature of so many of their textbooks, written for a level of reading skill several years under their age group.

      My youngest, who read at a college level in junior high, and who lives in a wired world very foreign to me, but connected to several of his buddies around the clock, invariably responds to any inquiry about his schoolday with some variation of ” It was ok, just boring, you know, it’s school.”

      I doubt the current 19th century factory school model can survive much longer, although the educational guilds will fiercely resist any meaningful reforms. Eventually, I hope, the victims of the current form of educational torture will demand a thoroughgoing re-evaluation of the system when they are adults with children of their own.

      In a totally computerized world, in which individual learning needs and abilities can be so well served by online systems, it seems utterly pointless to continue with a clearly broken model which handicaps the bright and mis-educates the majority in order to placate ideologically motivated groups demanding control of school policy for political reasons over educational imperatives.

      There are certainly roles for places where young people can gather for social and athletic interaction, but that is a seperate issue from the requirement that all children be gathered together in educational bootcamps to be spoon fed pc and multi-culi drivel disguised as an education several days a week.

    26. Henry Cate Says:

      John wrote: “My kids will need to interact with people socialized in this system, so they need to understand it somewhat.”

      This is the only major criticism people seem to throw at homeschooling any more. But you might want to step back and reevaluate just what kind of socialization happens in a public school.

      I think the major point of socialization is for my children to learn how to act appropriately in social situations. Public schools seem to do a very poor job in teaching this.

    27. okieqt Says:

      I thoroughly enjoyed this post! My children were beginning 3rd and 2nd grades when I realized their school’s curriculum was completely inadequate. They were classified as Gifted and worked with a special teacher 45 minutes each week (not an impressive amount of time!) As I sat through my son’s 3rd grade orientation I realized that History,Science and basic Math building blocks were not going to be taught. I was shocked! (Since then, a Science State test was developed & I understand they do cover general Science topics now.)

      There are options other than traditional homeschooling. My children attend a virtual school that (most importantly) includes a phenomenal & challenging curriculum (K12)including rigorous Math, English (Literature, Language Skills, Spelling, etc.), History, Science, Music & Art. I still don’t understand why my local school district cannot provide the same education for my child. Wonderful curriculum is out there – why is it not being taught?