I am Proof of Thom's Claim About American Schooling

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Last Thursday Thom brought up the idea that American high school students don't learn about modern American history such as the Vietnam War. I would like to back that up by saying that I graduated from a high school that is ranked in the top 30 high schools in Illinois. Although I learned about American history three times before I graduated high school (5th, 8th, and 10th grade), I did not learn about any thing after World War II. We may have skimmed over a few topics in the last week of school but nothing was seriously taught. I think part of this is because the teachers take it for granted that many of them lived through these events and don't realize the kids they are teaching don't have the slightest idea about the. I think it is rather sad that this is the current state of American education.

-Eric

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ozolato
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Apparently high school sludents don't study Civics or current events either. The idea that young people are interested in what is going on around them other that the "immediate pleasures" causes me to suspect that Vietnam becomes some place on a map that they have yet discover. In fact the BP thing, or the Haiti thing for that matter, are there because they see it in between the other things they watch on the television, when they watch television.

The other issue is that tea baggers and other activist neo-cons may have the kind of pressure on school boards that affect how things are taught. That means a teacher who deals with the recent past, or, Vietnam, might have a hard time with a school board member who "wants his job". Reminds me of the McCarthy days when a teacher offered a debate on the merits of Communism vs Capitalism and told us right out, that this could get him in trouble.

That probably explains how the erstwhile intelligent young uns who spout Ayn Randian foolishness talk the talk, and, by golly, there are people with enough money to sponsor them in the media. The Commons?! wazzat. Its the . . . of the failed system that, or so the teachers who were educated in the same intelligent elitist schools teach.

Somehow, I have feeling you are better off attending the Christian Schools where they still try to instill the values of tolerance and equality than the "good" schools where public service and integrity have lost ground.

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upperrnaz12348
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Somewhat of a tangent, but I was traveling recently and discovered that everyone I've met has said their local schools rank in the top something of something. In my neighborhood, it was in the top 10 in the nation. I think this is just something schools come up with to make parents feel good and to get proper funding.

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Common_Man_Jason
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

This is sort of of topic - but still relevant...

...In my middle school world history class I did an oral report on Cuba and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Before I got past saying the title of my report the "most intelligent" kid in my class blurted out, "Bay of Pigs Invasion? What? Was that fought on Old McDonald's Farm?"

I was left speechless by the shear stupidity of his ignorant and immature attention seeking comment. I glared at him, shrugged, then I looked at my teacher and said, "Should I continue?".

My history teacher smiled at me and said, "I think we both know you should."

bonnie
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

The curriculum is likely a direct result of NCLB legislation, which ties funding to the standardized tests, which may not test recent history. Teaching the test is all that matters now.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Uppernazz, thank you for saying

'The other issue is that tea baggers and other activist neo-cons may have the kind of pressure on school boards that affect how things are taught. That means a teacher who deals with the recent past, or, Vietnam might have a hard time with a school board member who "wants his job". '

I am a teacher and I can tell you that in addition to that, teachers don't even set the curriculum they teach. The state boards of education set the curriculum and often these state boards don't have teachers on them. We are given a curriculum and told to teach it. If we deviate and try to add what we think/know is relevant, and it is not tested on the state tests, we are told not to teach it. Passing the state tests is what is stressed as important. Funding for public schools comes from how well students perform on these tests.

I have to say that what many people don't understand is that a test cannot possibly encompass all knowledge in a subject. So what you end up doing is spending hours pouring over the state listed objectives and past tests, trying to determine where the next set of test questions are coming from and focusing on those. The whole testing situation is insane. Some private schools are no better.

I'll go one better, many of the "non essential" topics are often covered only in AP classes. Sometimes they are covered in electives that aren't necessary for graduation. So basically only those students or their parents, who are really interested in their child getting a deep education, take these classes.

Education has been dummied down and not by teachers. The whole focus is on the teacher. Is the teacher making learning entertaining? What are teachers doing to make education fun? How about focusing on, "do the students understand the importance of a good education regarding their future?" I do believe learning should be interesting but that is different from a thrill ride at the local amusement park. If for no other reason than you use a different part of your brain (left/right) for each. Until the students want to learn and are encouraged to learn and study, until students are committed, we are not going to get very far in our quest to keep up with the rest of the world.

Our focus should be on reading at a young age first. It’s amazing that in some households people don't own any books. An interest in reading is the first step to the world of learning.

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scriber1
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

In High School, we had a whole semester we focused on WWII, Korea and Vietnam, one month was just on MacArthur alone. I will go and check with my old school, I did go before NCLB, and am curious how my old history curriculum differs.

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downix
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Oct. 12, 2010 11:04 am

There's a multitude of problems and not nearly enough solutions regarding public school education. Here's one.

Half of the population has an IQ of 100 or less. Studies show that it takes an IQ of 110 - 120 to earn a bachelor's degree at any university worth its name. Consequently, the half of the population with IQs of 100 or less are just not college material. That's not their fault. It's just a fact.

Vocational education for those individuals is completely neglected in the U.S. We should have comprehensive public vocational education for all who show no abilities or aptitudes for academic pursuits and higher education. It should begin with high school. There should be an academic track and a vocational track in American high schools.

One reason this doesn't happen now is that all parents think their kids can be successful in college. Consequently, vocational education is viewed as less valuable and unacceptable, even by those whose children have IQ's of 100 or less. They want to believe that every child has the ability to be a rocket scientist and should be educated as such, which, of course, is just not true. We don't believe that every child can be a professional athlete; beginning in junior high school, children are channeled into athletics at their levels of ability. This crystallizes in high school; teams in major sports are populated on a "trial and cut" basis, wherein those with the ability to play at the high school level do so and those without it are cut. We acknowledge athletic ability simply by watching and documenting performance; the same needs to obtain to academics.

Nobody wants to acknowledge that the extent of their child's abilities is to be a good auto body technician rather than President of the United States or CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation. If people were willing to acknowledge that, children could be educated to the maximum of their individual abilities, with no stigma attached, rather than becoming the victims of teachers being forced to teach to tests and then emerging from high schools with worthless, "social promotion" diplomas that represent nothing more than four years of seatwarming.

Some European countries have offered comprehensive, high school level vocational education since the end of World War II, and it's successful. It removes the burden of unfair expectations of high academic achievement from those who can't deliver it and allows much more accurate and productive application of resources toward both academic and vocational programs. It also eliminates the problem of teachers having to teach to the lowest common denominator of achievement, slowing down and holding back academically gifted children so low and average achievers can keep up and pass standardized tests, just to get funding.

After school is over, the "real world" is the ultimate grader, whether we like it or not. Employers' decisions and evaluations of "real world" achievement are not based on political correctness, because money is involved and lives are at stake.

Even if we had an economically just society and economic system, which we don't, this problem would not go away. It'll never go away until everybody is willing to honestly face the fact that no matter how politically correct we want to be, and no matter how much everybody wants to think their children are brilliant, individual academic abilities still vary, and there's no escaping that by trying to teach all children as though they're gifted. As we do that, we're letting all of them down -- the slow, the average, and the gifted.

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Ulysses
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

It''s not just intelligence either, there is also interest and other skills. If you aren't interested in academic studies, even if you are intelligent enough, then you are unlikely to benefit from them. And you can be brilliant at your preferred academic studies but not have the personality required for the jobs that make use of them.

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SueN
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

This is an interesting report [updated on a regular basis] on American schools.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Half of the population has an IQ of 100 or less.

Wow. I did not know that. That's kind of depressing - to say the least.

Studies show that it takes an IQ of 110 - 120 to earn a bachelor's degree at any university worth its name.

I'd like to read some of those studies.

Maybe I'm biased... ...or maybe jaded -- but I don't understand the "role" of organized education in creating a "knowledgeable" person.

I call my school years, "my academic incarceration" because school felt like nothing more than a jail sentence where I was expected to "serve" my time. I had a seething teeth grinding hatred for school. And I viewed most of my teachers as cogs in a system who were there for nothing more than a paycheck and three months off in the summer.

Yet, I've always had an insatiable love for learning. I loved learning on my own - where no one was "overseeing" me and telling me what was "educationally" relevant and necessary. I viewed school as intrusive and ignorant.

I guess when one really dissects it - it comes down to whether one is self driven vs. others driven in their approach to the acquisition of knowledge. I was so self driven I saw school as an impeding series of speed bumps that got in my way. And, whether I was right or wrong, I resented it.

bonnie
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Wow, Bonnie, I wonder what the numbers are of those that love learning that viewed school as intrusive and ignorant, I feel the same way. It's an obstacle course. Like in military training.

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dyslecliz
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Jan. 18, 2011 10:13 pm

IQ test ? to schools equals credit reports to Bankers.

I never liked to be herded into a shoot like a herd of cattle. (intelligence? personally, to me no one is better or smarter than anyone else.} Being dyslectic, I've heard wordy people say nothing,.empty words is what you measure. Then you are timed on top of it! If I'm rushed to do anything, I don't do it truly well with all the quality detail, I love. Can you measure an animal's intelligence? Or is it more in how you treat them? If someone found a cure for cancer. Very intelligent? huh? Animals with cancer have been known to naturally eat the food that will cure the cancer. Would you call that a talent? Actually our real wealth is in making things. whats of value here? If you are quick at thinking up schemes to cheat people for big corps, does that make you a genius? Ha, Seems, in the US it does? I love being old enough not to feel dumb anymore or ashamed. I am what I am. Take it or leave it. My mission is to be positive because I feel better & when I feel good, maybe I can stick around a little longer to enjoy this life more. This is what I want for all children to be free to do. Well all life on earth to be free to do.

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