Saturday, September 29, 2007

Trends?

I have a student teacher this term, or as they are now called, a student intern. Fortunately he's not hung up on terminology. He's a good guy, and I think he will be an excellent teacher one day. Sometimes we talk about the absurdity of teacher education, the ridiculous things education schools put aspiring teachers through in order to certify them. Sometimes we talk about other things. One day he told me about a professor who didn't like him and gave him a hard time. The professor was a self-admitted communist and my student teacher had the audacity to disagree with him publicly.

Last school year I had a student teacher from the same college my current intern is from. She told me about a children's literature class she took from a radical feminist professor. She thought this professor was an idiot. The professor managed to condemn many of our favorite stories as tools of the Patriarchy. Anti-woman bias was rife in children's literature according to this professor. My student and I both got a good laugh from what she told me about this professor.

I've read a lot about these types of professors running our colleges. I've been outraged that Larry Summers was forced to resign from Harvard while Lee Bollinger is still allowed to run Columbia. A year ago I was sickened at a panel discussion where a young journalism student spoke wistfully about "Mother Sheehan".

These two student teachers give me hope though, that not all students are buying into the freedom squelching, totalitarian agendas of their deluded professors. My son is going to college next year, and I hope I've prepared him well enough to face these dopes, should he have to suffer under any of them.

On another note, we are nearing the time, here in Michigan, when we have to administer the MEAP, our state's standardized test. Over the years the educational establishment, in order to cover up the fact that our students' basic skills have been sinking steadily lower over the years due to progressive educational programs, have dumbed down the tests. As skills slowly reach the level of nonexistence, these skills are deemed unnecessary. For example, since students haven't been taught the phonetic foundation of the English language for many generations, spelling skills have declined. The progressive solution was "invented spelling". Don't worry that nobody but the student could read it . . . until the next day when the student had forgotten what was written and had no way to decipher it, the important thing was that the student wrote something. In response, spelling is not tested.

The same thing has happened in math. Practice in basic skills is derided as "drill and kill". Students don't need to know standard algorithms, they have calculators for that. They have to understand the concepts.

In Michigan, the MEAP reflects these backward - oops - I mean progressive educational theories. On the math portion of the test, there is no computation test, only theory and concepts. On the writing portion, students can pass without being able to spell or punctuate a sentence. They need no understanding of syntax or grammar. All they have to do is get their words down on paper (as the newest latest and greatest writing programs teach), and if this writing can be deciphered as answering the question, they can pass. In response, we teachers have been repeatedly warned that we shouldn't get the students bogged down in nonessentials like . . . you know.

It is physically painful to read what most of my fourth grade students write. It makes my head hurt as my blood boils. It makes me angry that students haven't been taught what they need to know back when they needed to know it. Because of that, at least half of my fourth graders have first or second grade writing and speaking vocabularies. Many of them can't add without laboriously counting on their fingers. Over the course of the year many of them will get frustrated as I insist that they write properly and learn to compute. It will be painful for some of them. Students who spell "and" as "in" (I have a dog in a cat at home.) will get confused when I teach them the proper spelling of "and" and insist that it be spelled correctly in the future. Some will end up writing, "I put the money and my pocket. I will spend a lot of time in remedial education.

On the other hand, and in the spirit of making lemonade out of lemons, (and I may have even written this before) thanks to progressive education, I am able to make extra money as a reading tutor.

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2 Comments:

At 9:26 AM, Blogger jennifer said...

The light is the tutor job!


I had a whole lot of negativity towards the school in my first draft comment, but instead I just wanted to say Harry...thank you for continuing to stay in the schools. The children need you.

I am so happy to *know* that there are some that actually do see the changes and do care!
Jennifer

 
At 9:42 PM, Blogger Harry said...

Actually, as you've stated in your blog, it's the entire public school system that needs to be changed.

 

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