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« "And we all danced the night away" | Main | When Larry Summers speaks »

January 22, 2005


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Why limit it to math teachers. Shouldn't all of us in all walks of life just give up whatever useful thing we do best and devote ourselves to teaching "respect for human differences"?

It is not clear to me why the public schools have this function, except that we seem to burden the schools generally with the responsibility for making our society better. If we are going to teach this sort of thing, the places to do it are gym class and art class, where "respect for human differences" might actually have some applicability to the subject at hand.

I've always said that all these mandates for schools to do nice-sounding things should be required to say what, precisely, we are going to do LESS of, in order to do MORE of something else. Like, when they decide to devote an hour a day for a week to Garage-Door Safety lessons, specify that they'll do that much less of algebra. When they want to add a school holiday to celebrate the achievements of Jimmy Carter, specify that they'll pay for it with one day less of geography. And so forth.

We have abrogated our responsibilities and expect others who have no clue to teach our children what they should be taught at home. We need to get back to the basics of Reading, Writing and Arithmatic. Parents need to take back their authority and reponsibilites for their children and do the right thing. It's becoming an absurdity this tolerance for diversity!

It's all part of the communist plot to bring this country to it's knees. It's a 3-pronged attack. Infiltrate the media (already complete), infiltrate the government (congress & the judicial system), and infiltrate the educational system (Universities, NEA & school administrations). Once they do that completely, it's all over.

At least the schoold kids will have respect for the soon to appear conquerers who will put bullets into their parents heads. Why are all of our high-tech jobs moving off-shore? It's not just the lower salaries. Even if the salaries were zero, the jobs wouldn't move off-shore if the skills weren't in place to support the jobs. It's their acedemic infrastructure that allows them to compete with Americans. Our infrastructure is quickly going away, and theirs is growing by leaps and bounds. Heh.

Speaking as a math teacher I can say that it is hard enough to teach my subject under the best of circumstances. When all this extraneous material is loaded into the curriculum it is virtually impossible. I would like to see the layers of administrators cleaned out, so the schools would have more money for teaching, and the teachers would get less hassled for teaching.

For an idea of just how bad things are, check out some of the reviews on the Textbook League website. This is from one of my favorites:

We must try to find the arithmetic in an arithmetic problem that begins: "Bertha Thangelane of Soweto, South Africa used the political changes in South Africa to start her business. She is the co-owner and managing director of RNB Creations (Pty) Ltd., which makes school uniforms." (The arithmetic finally emerges when we determine how many uniforms this woman can cut from a 50-yard bolt of cloth. "Pty" and "Ltd." are never explained.)

The bit about Levi ads inserted into the text is also pretty funny. And scary.

There's some controversy about whether the original Newton Tab article is correct: http://www.chriscorrea.com/archives/2005/straw-mans-math/

The article by the columnist from the Newton Tab is not a surprise. This sort of "indoctrination" substituting politicized (leftist) agenda for education in our public schools has been going on for for over 30 years, and not just in the blue states of the NE. Liberal minded idealogues along with the powerful teacher unions have maintained control of the nations public school systems for more than a quater of a century.There are some very minor exceptions within isolated circumstances, but for the most part liberals have total control over the entire educational establishment, including higher education. There are those that would deny that politics is the problem in the school system, but then they would likely be on the left or totally uninformed of the facts.

There is actually a mathematical concept at the core of all this. It is the least common denominator.

You certainly hit the nail on the head. When these chidren become old enough to be adults, they will have childlike attitudes and be unable to function in the competitive adult world. I fear the disaster which may follow.

Foundational mathematics hasn't been taught in most American public schools for decades.

This is currently the responsibility of undergraduate institutions. Students who require real math skills, beyond equation re-writing and formula solving, often need to re-learn mathematics from its logical foundations.

If you'd like to provide a young student a proper mathematics education, introduce them to discrete maths.


You are all wrong.

The Socialist agenda indoctrination has been going on in the schools for over 100 years.

It started with the Pledge of Allegiance.

As to higher education: University of Chicago. Esp. the School of Economics. (Lot of UC bloggers on the right)

Ashcroft came from the Law School. OTOH Obama used to teach there. I guess that one is a wash.

Having served on a schoolboard and currently having contact with educ profs and students (especially grad students who intend to become admins), let me tell you that you have to talk to these folks to truly understand how godawful it really is. The best description of the average among this group (profs, admins, students) is that they are like educational Stepford Wives. Plastic, smiling, spewing out the (educrat) party line, oblivious to reality. They really buy and believe all that crap they spout.

I'm convinced it's because the ones that get paid not only get paid well (school supts here in Michigan evidently *average* over 130k -- many make 20k+ not counting benefits), they get paid regardless of how well the K-12 students do.

Until we forcibly drag them into reality, nothing will change, and few will learn.

This situation may be worse than it looks. At Newton (not far from where I live - ugh) they may have given up on one of the basic tenets of equality - that anyone can be taught universal knowledge like math, regardless of origin. It smells here like they decided that they can't teach students of some particular ethnicity, and rather than admit to poor pedagogical technique, now insist that they're supposed to be poor learners simply because they're [insert official ethnic label here], but that's "diversity" and so "good." In other words, the "soft bigotry of low expectations" leads to the worship of a perverted view of diversity as a limit, rather than an asset, and that excuses, or at least masks, the bigotry. Very ugly.

However, a major obstacle to even critiquing this weird view is that it's not obviously an aberration unique to the right or the left. Rightwing bigots will claim that "those people" are too dumb to learn, and leftoid bigots will claim that although they're too dumb to learn, that's because they're diverse, and it's therefore good. Both are despicable. But if the problem can't be pigeonholed as either a liberal or a conservative problem, where will it appear - not on right-wing or left-wing blogs. Are there any prominent blogs which are militantly and uncompromisingly moderate?

the socialist threat to education is not how education is financed as much as who decides what is to be taught/learned. this is why standardized testing is under such attack. when goals/standards are set outside the ed. establishment and evaluated for real results... we the people have a tool to keep the indoctrinators under control.

there is hope.

A number of blogs have done some digging on this story, and it really turns out not to have much substance. My favorite was http://www.chriscorrea.com/archives/2005/regression-to-the-mean/>chris correa, who pointed out that Newton had very high math test scores for the state in 2002, and that the decrease could have been regression to the mean. http://www.joannejacobs.com/>Joanne Jacobs is always a good place to start on education stories. Burying the focus on core skills under political goals is lame, but don't use this story as a basis for the argument.

Chris Correa blames it on "overcrowded classrooms"? I detect a lack of convincing argument there. "Regression to the mean" is a fancy way to say they were doing well at one time, and now aren't. So, what accounts for the decline? A pedagogical shift, or a change in demographics? An inappropriate pedagogical shift is what the original story was about - Q.E.D. The other alternative is to blame it all on [insert ethnicity of choice here], as they must be unteachable. If so, that's not multiculturalism. In some cases, it's just plain old racism. I don't buy it - do you?

And, if the Newton school superintendent and the multi-culti teachers can't explain the decline, then it's probably not plausibly blamed on one of the usual suspects, like classroom overcrowding, or that's the first excuse they'd have tried. They're the pros, after all, and have nothing to do all day except prepare excuses - if, as asserted in the original attack, they're not spending the time teaching any of the hard stuff, like math.

I don 't know where people come up with these concepts. I'm sure it's not from graduate-level seminars on "multicultural math" or anything. Perhaps a good place to start would be to abolish Education degrees. Design a major for special-needs educators; let the rest study a real subject before they go on to teach.

[ Are there any prominent blogs which are militantly and uncompromisingly moderate? ]

Right on, brother man! This world needs more moderates who are militantly uncompromising!

It's ironic that this is a post about math, and yet the author ignores the statistical rule that correlation does not equal causation.

Notice how the article never actually says how the priority is put forth over math.

This is a classic case of blaming it all on the people educating the children.

[ ... how the priority is put forth over math. ]

Why don't you learn to speak English?

I went to the Newton website and saw that they use Everyday Math as their program through the 4th grade. Everyday Math is extremely problematic because it is a language-intensive-based program that stresses the use of calculators, doesn't teach the traditional algorithms, (the methods that they teach break down when using large numbers, but there is absolutely no reason to be able to compute large numbers nowadays, is there?), and does not advocate drill in any form. Now, this means that some kids lose out: Kids who might have a language problem but would be really good at mathematics, kids who need the "rules" first and then they can come to the concepts (think phonics versus whole language), and kids who need drill in order to retain concepts. Furthermore, if your child is mathematically gifted and is good in language, this program is just not advanced enough. Marblehead uses this, and it is a disaster for both my kids. I am drilling my daughter in math concepts, and she has improved dramatically; my son is so bored it is frightening. (And it leaves out concepts that you need in order to go on to math at the highest levels.) I say that Newton has two problems (the curriculum and the emphasis on diversity), and I would love to know when they implemented the Everyday Math curriculum.

In an undergraduate mechanical engineering course I was required to write a paper about the environmental impact of various technologies. The course was "Mechanism Design" and had nothing to do with the technologies involved. ABET (the Accreditation Board of Engineering Technology) requires engineering schools to educate students about the environmental impact of technology among other not strictly engineering subjects such as ethics. It's debatable wether or not this impairs the teaching of actual engineering subjects though.

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