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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
How Education Is Failing Everyone
This article looks at why education is not only failing our children, but everyone.

William Astore | Selling Education, Manufacturing Technocrats, Torturing Souls
William Astore, TomDispatch.com: "Hardly a week goes by without dire headlines about the failure of the American education system. Our students don't perform well in math and science. The high-school dropout rate is too high. Minority students are falling behind. Teachers are depicted as either overpaid drones protected by tenure or underpaid saints at the mercy of deskbound administrators and pushy parents."

When I was teaching at an online school, I made a point of including some "life skills" classes, art and music classes, etc. to offer as well-rounded an education as possible. It was a chance to make up for the patchy job done by public schools. And believe me, I saw exactly how patchy that education has gotten.

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fayanora From: fayanora Date: May 30th, 2009 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Dunno about the science thing, but when I was a kid, math was boring and I sucked at it. But I didn't try very hard to learn it because it was uninteresting and because I was like "why do I need to learn this crap when I can just use a calculator?" I wonder if the same might be true of a lot of kids. Because I know if a show like Numbers had been on when I was a kid, and/or they'd made math interesting with neat puzzles, codes and ciphers, and so on, I would have been interested and would have tried harder. Because I got more interested in math when I discovered codes, ciphers, and puzzles. I've improved somewhat over the years, but I still need a calculator to do most multiplication and division things, and it takes me several minutes to do math in my head on numbers with more than one digit each, unless they're round numbers.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 30th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)


All through school, math was boring and frustrating for me. I had an anti-knack for the concepts combined with a learning disability (discalcula: the numbers move) that I only realized had a name after I was long out of school. Nobody ever believed my descriptions of what was going wrong. I would have been far happier if 1) I could have learned at my own speed, very slow in math, and 2) I could have stuck with practical applications and not tried to do fancy stuff. Because the plain fact is, I wasted years trying to learn to do something that I would never be competent enough to use for anything important. Trivial math I can do myself. Important math gets done three times on a calculator, or I get someone actually competent to do it for me.

And then, adding insult to injury, about three years ago a separate intuitional knack for math sprouted. It is still disconcerting to me. I think I got it from my desertfolk, who are all math mavens. You never know what will rub off on you after a couple decades' of association, even if the people in question live in a different universe. So now the knack and the anti-knack are both active, but it's a toss-up which one will activate regarding a particular question. As if my head were not weird enough already.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: May 31st, 2009 04:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

And then, adding insult to injury, about three years ago a separate intuitional knack for math sprouted. It is still disconcerting to me. I think I got it from my desertfolk, who are all math mavens.


As if my head were not weird enough already.

Hon, your head can't possibly be as weird as mine. I have either 9 or "an infinite number" of people living in this head of mine, depending on if you count Shao'Kehn as an individual or as a collective - She's a collective consciousness inside of a collective consciousness. Then two of our frontrunners are children - one androgynous and the other one a female. We also have a little boy in here. We have a teenaged Goth lesbian who's a whitelighter Luciferian, and a grumptastic teenaged male who is an agnostic LaVeyan Satanist. We have three nonhumans (a shapeshifter, a Duenicallo, and an Ah'Koi Bahnis, the first two of whom are carnivores and the last of which is an herbivore) - four if you count Shao'Kehn, who is an Ah'Koi Bahnis Goddess. And Pi, Alex, and Negarahn are stronger than the rest of us. Seriously, same body but they can lift more than any of the rest of us can.
I could keep going, but I think you get the point. :-)
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ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 30th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC) (Link)


>>I attempted college twice, both times becoming so frustrated at the unnecessary courses and the condescending attitudes of the teachers that I threw up my hands and walked.<<

I stuck it out long enough to get a college degree, but I don't feel that I was very well served by the educational system. I learned far more own my own than I ever did in school. And the frigging college managed to turn me off formal study of linguistics because the first class was so clunky I never took another -- and now I'm far out enough to need more esoteric skills than I can readily pick up by myself. *snrk* Sounds like your experiences were even worse.

>>Instead I'm self educating and my recent move/resolution is to start reading a large portion of the books that I've heard mentioned as "classics" and to basically grasp a better understanding of history and societal configurations through the ages. <<

You're welcome to hang out here. My blogs tend to be very educational places. If you get stuck on something, you can just ask, and I'll answer if I can.

>> I'm also (just now) becoming interested in the "race issue" but really only because I'm living in a place where "race" is still a concern and people are treated differently for it.<<

I've been casually interested in that for many years, but it's rising through the levels of my attention right now because of the dogsbody story arc.

>>When I have my own children, I will be home schooling them at least part time to be sure the gaps in their educations aren't too gaping.<<

Good plan. My parents, who are public school teachers, did a lot to cover the gaps in my education.

the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: May 30th, 2009 08:32 am (UTC) (Link)
This may be of some interest to you: http://www.unicef.org/media/files/ChildPovertyReport.pdf

It is the 'Overview of child well-being in rich countries' report card for 2007. For those of you concerned about the state of the US education system, you may take some comfort that it ISN'T at the bottom of the chart. Rather, it's actually rather midling, for the richer industrial nations.

At the bottom? The UK. Again. My colleagues in BC have told me that if you can teach a year in the UK, you can teach ANYWHERE. They're not kidding.

I could go on a huge diatribe about what is wrong with the British education system, from what I've observed whilst teaching there (or, at least, trying to). However, the easy summary comes down to this: how well kids, as a whole, do in school, comes down to the sociolical attitudes towards education, and how much a society is willing to invest in it.

Though I can't really speak about the US education system, I can make a generalized statement about all of 'em. And that would be this: you CANNOT treat education as a business and expect it to do the job everyone wants it to do. More to the point, penalizing failing schools by cutting their budgets is a mistake of the 'beyond the pale' variety. One simply cannot assume that a school is failing because it's being mismanaged and/or is staffed by inadequate instructors. There are usually complex social issues at the heart of the catchment populations for these schools that lead to such big problems. Cutting the funding that could be used to mitigate some of these circumstances, like free lunch programs or after school ESL classes, is NOT going to solve them. And if a school DOES have more than its fair share of inadequate teachers? That may be a result of the a school is so impoverished and problematic that it cannot attract the higher quality teachers it needs. More likely, though, it's because the 'inadequate' teachers are so freaking beleaguered, stressed, and burnt out, due to overwhelming adversity and pitifully inadequate support, that they finally wind up too broken to their job effectively anymore.

Yeah, cutting the funding for these schools is really going to help them.
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