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Thread: A call for educational reform...why we need it...

  1. #1 A call for educational reform...why we need it... 
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    I think I know why people aren't generally as motivated to learn as they should be in the United States. The problem is that people don't really devote anything to long term memory. Also, people are not required to work as hard as they should. The system in place right now is flawed due to:

    A.) Affirmative action, which places minorities in positions of power they sometimes don't deserve (I'm not racist and not claiming that all don't deserve to be where they are..it irks me to no end that people can't have these conversations in public due to "cultural sensitivities"...people will only let problems fester and ignore them out of pure fear or idiocy)

    B.) Political/personal agendas, which cause teachers to focus on certain aspects of the subjects they teach and ignore others (focusing on ecology and genetics instead of directly teaching evolution...teaching consistently about WWII in history courses in order to alert students to the dangers of racial prejudice, etc...this is good but students rarely learn to "think outside the box")

    C.) No idiot left behind-teachers tend to cater to the dumbest kids in class, which allows the most intelligent to do less work and get good grades

    D.) Teachers often mistake a heavy workload with teaching well...the way kids are tested requires them to often cram and devote much to short term memory...they often forget most of what they have learned...I suggest limiting the amount of material and allowing students to learn what they learn well...there is always time to learn new material in college and grad school


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    I'm in the UK studying A-Levels at 6th Form, however I strongly agree with all of your points as the system works roughly the same over here. I especially agree with point D, as- even in A Levels (actually, especially)- we cover far too much work for one term that isn't explained in depth enough, making the billions of exams (alright, I exaggerated, but there are too many exams) just memory tests and not actual representations of ones' knowledge.


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    Good to know I'm not alone.
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    A.) Affirmative action, which places minorities in positions of power they sometimes don't deserve (I'm not racist and not claiming that all don't deserve to be where they are..it irks me to no end that people can't have these conversations in public due to "cultural sensitivities"...people will only let problems fester and ignore them out of pure fear or idiocy)
    Don't understand the connect here. Both elementary and secondary teaching professions are predominantly white female in the US. Also severe shortage exist in several areas including math, science and special education.

    B.) Political/personal agendas, which cause teachers to focus on certain aspects of the subjects they teach and ignore others (focusing on ecology and genetics instead of directly teaching evolution...teaching consistently about WWII in history courses in order to alert students to the dangers of racial prejudice, etc...this is good but students rarely learn to "think outside the box")
    This was probably much worse in the past, before there were establish standards at the State and National levels, than it is today. Not saying it doesn't happen but just imagine what it was like 20 or 30 years ago when teachers could pretty much teach what ever they wanted with little supervision.

    C.) No idiot left behind-teachers tend to cater to the dumbest kids in class, which allows the most intelligent to do less work and get good grades
    Disagree here. Teacher quality both in terms of quantitative measures such as education and scoring as well as qualitative surveys by administrators have shown significant improvement of teach quality during the past 20 years. Of cousre there are still problem areas, such as Kentucky were I lived two years ago and could have walked into a classroom tomorrow compared to Washington state where it will take at least a year to obtain a teacher certification.

    D.) Teachers often mistake a heavy workload with teaching well...the way kids are tested requires them to often cram and devote much to short term memory...they often forget most of what they have learned...I suggest limiting the amount of material and allowing students to learn what they learn well...there is always time to learn new material in college and grad school
    I don't understand your first point. Unless the test are unannounced, students have time to absorb long term memory. Cramming is never a good idea and generally good students avoid needing to. How does the workload encourage short term learning. (Personally I think drills are mostly boring especially after the student understands the material--I hated them in school)

    Studies support your second point in some areas. Several that look at American schools compared to European science curriculum show American science classes are much broader but shallow. One indicator is we use the thickest text books. We don't score well.

    --

    I'm personally interested in your thoughts because I've started a high school certification program in WA state. I retire from the military this fall and hope to be teaching science and/or math in about about a year in a half.
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    Don't understand the connect here. Both elementary and secondary teaching professions are predominantly white female in the US. Also severe shortage exist in several areas including math, science and special education.
    Depends on the city. I live in Charlotte, NC. In WV it wasn't a problem at all.


    I don't understand your first point. Unless the test are unannounced, students have time to absorb long term memory.
    Well many teachers I've had in the past simply said, "ok, fill out this worksheet" or "research this subject" without supplying the proper educational base to understand the context of what we studied. For example, in Biology class Evolution was mentioned only briefly in my high school and in math classes we never learned practical applications which may have helped hold our interests..instead we were bombarded with busywork. I have, in fact had many pop quizzes in the past.


    Disagree here. Teacher quality both in terms of quantitative measures such as education and scoring as well as qualitative surveys by administrators have shown significant improvement of teach quality during the past 20 years.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/...in838207.shtml


    How does the workload encourage short term learning?
    The greater the workload, the more students are forced to cram and they tend to retain very little afterwards.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gottspieler
    Disagree here. Teacher quality both in terms of quantitative measures such as education and scoring as well as qualitative surveys by administrators have shown significant improvement of teach quality during the past 20 years.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/...in838207.shtml
    You're making the overly broad connection between teacher quality and the overall trends in education. A lot of things also effect education, infrastructure support, community support, societal issues and distractions that make it into the class room etc.

    Teachers are actually getting better, coming into the profession better educated, with longer internships with more maturity (older) and work experience.
    http://www.edutopia.org/important-tr...er-preparation

    I think in many respects they might be in the wrong places, the best teachers staying out of the schools where they are most needed, or just holding the line against broader societal problems--such as greater % of low income families, increasingly diverse populations, the anti-intellectualism sweeping the nation (particularly in the bible belt), and other problems.

    --
    I get your busywork point, and agree. You can have a heavy workload that reinforces long term memory retention.
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    Disappointed this isn't a more vigorous, or intellectually deeper discussion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Disappointed this isn't a more vigorous, or intellectually deeper discussion.
    Would you like statistics? Links to peer-reviewed studies? If so, look them up yourself. I have an annotated bibliography, three ten page research papers and a book to read within the next two weeks. I'm sorry but this isn't some vitally important scientific inquiry. I'm simply posting my own perception of what is going on. Maybe I sometimes miss the mark. I don't care.

    However, I have read studies on attention span and memory years ago. I don't recall the details of the studies in question but I remember enough to know that it is a scientific fact that multitasking too often and stressing are taxing on memory. Stressing b/c hippocampal cells die when exposed to cortisol over long periods of time, etc. Multitasking (obviously) b/c there is only a limited amount of energy for the brain to expend. Multitasking is forced upon one oftentimes when a heavy workload is involved.
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    My perception is that the material required to be learned by a high school student is less than that required to be learned in a technical role in industry. (I am not talking total volume, but acquisition rate) And the former is all you have to do; the latter is just an adjunct to getting the job done.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gottspieler
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Disappointed this isn't a more vigorous, or intellectually deeper discussion.
    Would you like statistics? Links to peer-reviewed studies? If so, look them up yourself. I have an annotated bibliography, three ten page research papers and a book to read within the next two weeks. I'm sorry but this isn't some vitally important scientific inquiry. I'm simply posting my own perception of what is going on. Maybe I sometimes miss the mark. I don't care.
    Fine I guess. Just odd when folks don't want to contribute to their own threads so early. Forums are for discussions not shallow rants (blogs are for that); that's all the more true in a science forum where we'd ideally we'd find anecdotes and other experiences mixed with peer review articles and at least an attempt at well-reasoned interpretations of that material.

    I found your opinions interesting and an opportunity to reflect on my own views with potential to learn more about what ails our elementary and secondary schools.

    (sigh. Tosses rest of cotton candy in the trash --looks good but has no substance.)
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    (sigh. Tosses rest of cotton candy in the trash --looks good but has no substance.)
    Haha. Really now? You have contributed little "substance" here as well. Why don't you leave the thread or simply delete it?
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    This isn't only a US problem either. In most of the OECD countries, except Canada and Finland, performance on the PISA tests have been poor(especially according to the media), while the quality of teaching, and spending, have increased (at least structural quality).

    Now, you can say a lot about the PISA tests and how relevant they are. Another thing is, if you look at the data, that it's not really that bad. Canada and Finland perform better, but not really that much, and it could just be that their students are better at the skills that PISA test for.

    Another aspect is that "developed" countries tend to perform worse with time, and developing countries do better. I think this might have something to do with the motivation of the students. Education, and getting it right right away, becomes more important when poverty is all around you. In Europe and North America, not getting good grades right away is not necessarily so bad.

    You can find all the data you want here.
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    All we usually hear about in the US about superior European schools is the longer hours and school years and far less money--neither of which necessarily translate into better performance. My guess is day to day activities, and amount of engaged learning by students, have much larger effect.

    I wonder if US schools are squandering too much money on computers seeing it as a panacea while ignoring many low tech school of past generations surpassed them as effective educators.
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    I wonder if US schools are squandering too much money on computers seeing it as a panacea while ignoring many low tech school of past generations surpassed them as effective educators.
    They do overvalue technological innovations which make communication and learning potentially more accessible. The problem is that people tend to copy and paste and or reword internet data when writing research papers or simply go to a website and pay someone else to provide a paper for them.

    Aristotle feared the innovation of writing and distancing of society from oral culture. He claimed that memory would suffer among other things. This is true today concerning the internet when considering the "search overload" phenomenon portrayed in numerous commercials (it highlights people spewing random facts that they read online and probably don't deeply comprehend). We have a lot of information at our disposal, thus rather than reading books and truly learning material as one was forced to do in the past, someone can read a summary online and sometimes miss the important or simply interesting minor details found in a physical book.

    Strong neural connections will never form for many people when material is cursorily browsed rather than slowly and efficiently digested. In fact, computers store so much information that we no longer need to memorize much of anything. People today have such short attention spans for this reason. I strongly disagree with teachers requiring computer use. Especially for people who already have attention problems such as myself. I am easily distracted and doctors have advised me not to play video games or stay online too long.
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    Canadian school systems vary pretty widely though, we have a British style system in Quebec (K-6, 7-11, 2 years of college, then uni), and the rest of Canada has an American style K-12.

    I know Canada tends to score very highly in language skills, like the Scandinavian countries we tend to emphasize a multilingual education. I think our public schools are probably just better funded as well, but this varies by province.

    I don't know what accounts for the difference in Canadian and American testing because our school systems aren't that widely different. It should be noted that one thing Canada doesn't have is national standardized tests. Every province runs education separately, although there is communication between provinces and attempts to keep standards similar.

    My last year of high school was 1 hour English, 1 hour French, 1 hour Math, 1 hour Physics, 1 hour Biology/Chemistry on alternating days.

    My first year of college (equivalent with grade 12 in US) was Calculus 1, Calculus 2, Organic Chem 1, Intro to College English, American Literature, Advanced French Composition, Physical Chem 1, Thermodynamics, General Bio 1, Existential Philosophy, British History, Environmental Ethics. Each course one semestre like in uni. (I forgot my physics courses, one in Mechanics, and the other in Optics)

    I don't know how this places us relative to other school systems. It should be noted that college is not required, but around 90% of high school graduates complete college. It should also be noted that your courses are picked based on a stream, mine was Health Sciences, others may do liberal arts and not have to take all the math and science.
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    I definitely think the curriculum needs to change.

    In my high school you had to pass English each year in order to graduate. And what this consisted of for the most part was reading old British books and poems and analyzing them for themes and symbolism and writing crappy essays on them.

    Obviously it's really helpful to be able to write, but, seriously, how many people are going to go on to be english professors?

    Why not focus much, much more on critical reading and writing and much, much less on symbolism and metaphor in Pride and Prejudice?
    Leave that sort of course as an elective.

    I also think a required course for juniors should be some sort of college prep course where they explain to you what being 100K in debt means so that maybe you'll think a little more about going to that less prestigious (but incredibly less debt-inducing) state school.


    The teacher's union has also made bad teachers way too hard to fire. My mom teaches French/Spanish at a high school and has been complaining for over a year about a totally incompetent colleague that no one wants to bother to get rid of because it takes so much effort. Tenure is bullshit.

    I totally agree that learning in general in high school is just memorization and regurgitation. Obviously you need to be able to do some of that, but that doesn't require reasoning.

    I think the problem is that teaching and testing in a way that requires reasoning takes a lot more time and effort and teachers in general just aren't paid enough money to make it worth their while to assign analysis homework rather than a worksheet they can grade in 5 minutes.
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    we cover far too much work for one term that isn't explained in depth enough, making the billions of exams (alright, I exaggerated, but there are too many exams) just memory tests and not actual representations of ones' knowledge.
    I agree... I would rather spend more time mastering a particular concept than cramming in as much as possible just to appease the people who write the curriculum; I find this occurs frequently in mathematics...we skim over a large amount of equations and formulas in a short period of time, and then we're tested immediately thereafter... The last section of the syllabus doesn't even make room for a proper quiz or exam, but rather the information is tossed into the final, leaving one to only have less than a week to prepare for the new material and review the older stuff.
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