U.S. test scores vs. China’s

International testing data shows that American high schoolers perform at a distinctly mediocre level in reading, math, and science.  Our future imperial masters, though, scored at the very top.

After a decade of intensive efforts to improve its schools, the United States posted these results in a new global survey of 15-year-old student achievement: average in reading, average in science and slightly below average in math.

Those middling scores lagged significantly behind results from several countries in Europe and Asia in the report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to be made public Tuesday.

South Korea is an emerging academic powerhouse. Finland and Singapore continue to flex their muscles. And the Chinese city of Shanghai, participating for the first time in the Program for International Student Assessment, topped the 2009 rankings of dozens of countries and a handful of sub-national regions.

via International test score data show U.S. firmly mid-pack.

The top five in reading:  (1)  Shanghai-China (2) South Korea (3) Finland (4) Hong Kong-China (5) Singapore.  The USA ranked 17.

The top five in math:  (1) Shanghai-China (2) Singapore (3) Hong Kong-China (4) South Korea (5) Taiwain.  The USA ranked 31.

The top five in science:  (1) Shanghai-China (2) Finland (3) Hong Kong-China (4) Singapore (5) Japan.  The USA ranked 23.

Would this not be evidence of American decline and Asian ascendancy?  (Also, I suppose, Finnish ascendancy?)  Any ideas about what we could do to become eduationally competitive again?  Keeping in mind everything that hasn’t worked?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • BW

    Read more. Seriously. Our nation is becoming functionally illiterate with all this technology, unable to read or process long passages of text because they are being conditioned by the internet and text messaging, etc.

  • BW

    Read more. Seriously. Our nation is becoming functionally illiterate with all this technology, unable to read or process long passages of text because they are being conditioned by the internet and text messaging, etc.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    Yay, Finland scored high (6th) on mathematics, too. But I’m not cheering. (ok, I’m cheering a little bit. But only a little). Here’s why.

    I attended a seminar on math teaching in Finland a couple of months ago. Speakers were professors and researchers of mathematics at the University of Tampere, Tampere University of Technology and Aalto University. PISA was one of the topics and it was treated quite critically. Basically the point was that it is a very limited indicator that can give a false sense of things being okay.

    Professor Joutsenlahti presented a graph from Kilpatrick et al. that describes the aspects of mathematical understanding. PISA measures only computational, procedural skills, not so much higher conceptual thinking.

    (slide 12):
    http://math.tut.fi/mok2010/esitykset/JoJo_MOK2010.pdf

    Professor Pohjolainen presented one study on Finnish elementary school kids and their mathematical knowledge. in 20 years (1980 -2000) the number representing “numeric and conceptual skills” has decreased whereas the level of “modelling and applyig knowledge” has remained about the same. PISA measures the latter.

    (slide 8):
    http://math.tut.fi/mok2010/esitykset/Pohjolainen_et_al_MOK2010.pdf

    There’s huge gap between the 15-year old skills and the top Finnish university rankings. We always score top5 in PISA studies but for example QS gives the first Finnish university rank 75.

    http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2010/results

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    Yay, Finland scored high (6th) on mathematics, too. But I’m not cheering. (ok, I’m cheering a little bit. But only a little). Here’s why.

    I attended a seminar on math teaching in Finland a couple of months ago. Speakers were professors and researchers of mathematics at the University of Tampere, Tampere University of Technology and Aalto University. PISA was one of the topics and it was treated quite critically. Basically the point was that it is a very limited indicator that can give a false sense of things being okay.

    Professor Joutsenlahti presented a graph from Kilpatrick et al. that describes the aspects of mathematical understanding. PISA measures only computational, procedural skills, not so much higher conceptual thinking.

    (slide 12):
    http://math.tut.fi/mok2010/esitykset/JoJo_MOK2010.pdf

    Professor Pohjolainen presented one study on Finnish elementary school kids and their mathematical knowledge. in 20 years (1980 -2000) the number representing “numeric and conceptual skills” has decreased whereas the level of “modelling and applyig knowledge” has remained about the same. PISA measures the latter.

    (slide 8):
    http://math.tut.fi/mok2010/esitykset/Pohjolainen_et_al_MOK2010.pdf

    There’s huge gap between the 15-year old skills and the top Finnish university rankings. We always score top5 in PISA studies but for example QS gives the first Finnish university rank 75.

    http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2010/results

  • Tom Hering

    BW, look at the top five nations in reading: Shanghai-China, South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong-China, and Singapore. Their students use the technologies you mentioned as much, if not more, than ours do. So these technologies can’t be the reason our students under-perform.

  • Tom Hering

    BW, look at the top five nations in reading: Shanghai-China, South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong-China, and Singapore. Their students use the technologies you mentioned as much, if not more, than ours do. So these technologies can’t be the reason our students under-perform.

  • BW

    Good point Tom! Lesson Learned for myself: Don’t hop on the blogs till after after I’ve had my coffee.

    However, I still don’t believe we as a nation read enough at all. Reading comprehension and critical thinking are poor, like mine was in the previous post.

  • BW

    Good point Tom! Lesson Learned for myself: Don’t hop on the blogs till after after I’ve had my coffee.

    However, I still don’t believe we as a nation read enough at all. Reading comprehension and critical thinking are poor, like mine was in the previous post.

  • Tom Hering

    So maybe the problem is our students don’t drink coffee in the morning? :-)

  • Tom Hering

    So maybe the problem is our students don’t drink coffee in the morning? :-)

  • Tom Hering

    We know it takes two hours for the human brain to fully awaken. Maybe our kids shouldn’t do their homework the night before a school day, but instead get up three hours before their first class, and do their homework in the third hour. So they arrive at school fully awake and already engaged with their lessons.

  • Tom Hering

    We know it takes two hours for the human brain to fully awaken. Maybe our kids shouldn’t do their homework the night before a school day, but instead get up three hours before their first class, and do their homework in the third hour. So they arrive at school fully awake and already engaged with their lessons.

  • TE Schroeder

    How did we rate on playing Madden ’10? I’ll bet we kicked their butts!!!

  • TE Schroeder

    How did we rate on playing Madden ’10? I’ll bet we kicked their butts!!!

  • ELB

    What percentage of these other countries’ students take the tests compared to those in the United States? I have heard many times that the broad range of U.S. students are compared with the elite in the other countries. I would expect the top quintile or decile of one country to thrash the top half or third of another country, every thing else being equal.

    “What could we do to become educationally competetive again?” We could skim off the top 10-20% of students and assign them to the top teachers. At the end of sixth grade examine all students and only permit the top x% to take the honor-school route in middle school. Examine them again after grade eight, and only allow the top scores into prep school. We could then focus each student on their strong points and hold out the alternative prospects of free university or life as a department store clerk depending on how they did in their entrance exams.
    Somewhere in there only the top tier takes the exams to compare with Americans.

    That should get the test scores up. It won’t necessarily give us a well-education populace, but we would have a well-educated ruling class who is entitled to run the lives of the ignorant masses.

    (Irony detector ON.)
    That

  • ELB

    What percentage of these other countries’ students take the tests compared to those in the United States? I have heard many times that the broad range of U.S. students are compared with the elite in the other countries. I would expect the top quintile or decile of one country to thrash the top half or third of another country, every thing else being equal.

    “What could we do to become educationally competetive again?” We could skim off the top 10-20% of students and assign them to the top teachers. At the end of sixth grade examine all students and only permit the top x% to take the honor-school route in middle school. Examine them again after grade eight, and only allow the top scores into prep school. We could then focus each student on their strong points and hold out the alternative prospects of free university or life as a department store clerk depending on how they did in their entrance exams.
    Somewhere in there only the top tier takes the exams to compare with Americans.

    That should get the test scores up. It won’t necessarily give us a well-education populace, but we would have a well-educated ruling class who is entitled to run the lives of the ignorant masses.

    (Irony detector ON.)
    That

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I am a teacher. I can answer this one in a few easy points

    1.)Parents: turn off the TV and the video games. Cut back on the after school activities. Kids don’t need to be gone every night of the week, and if their grades are suffering, then pull them out of sports or theatre or whatever. Academics come before activities.

    2.)Stop coddling the kids. We have too many safety nets for failing students. I cannot tell you how many students absolve themselves of responsibility because they know that mommy and daddy will spin the matter into “It must be the teacher’s fault.” It’s very frustrating to have a parent come see you and say “What are you going to do about my child’s grade?” when the problem is that the kid doesn’t bring his notes, doesn’t bring a pencil, doesn’t even put forth an effort when I provide him with spare notes or a spare pencil, and sits there doing nothing.

    3.) Separate special ed kids from regular ed classrooms. This often (but admittedly not always) does more harm than good.

    4.) Restore control of curriculum to local districts. It’s interesting to note that the more government intrudes on education, the worse it seems to get-and I blame BOTH political parties for this.

    5.) Stop blaming the teachers for everything.

    6.) DON’T lengthen the school days or the school year. It does nothing to make kids smarter, it wears teachers out faster, and it becomes a babysitting service for parents. I point out that the private Christian school I attended was about three weeks shorter than the local public school, and yet our scores were 1 to 1.5 GPA points higher than theirs.

    Again, I’m a teacher. I see firsthand the results of these so-called “solutions” that are thrown out. Many of them are done by people who have no idea what my job entails. It’s angering and it’s frustrating. Make your kids responsible, make them work, and let me do my job unhindered.

    Thank you.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I am a teacher. I can answer this one in a few easy points

    1.)Parents: turn off the TV and the video games. Cut back on the after school activities. Kids don’t need to be gone every night of the week, and if their grades are suffering, then pull them out of sports or theatre or whatever. Academics come before activities.

    2.)Stop coddling the kids. We have too many safety nets for failing students. I cannot tell you how many students absolve themselves of responsibility because they know that mommy and daddy will spin the matter into “It must be the teacher’s fault.” It’s very frustrating to have a parent come see you and say “What are you going to do about my child’s grade?” when the problem is that the kid doesn’t bring his notes, doesn’t bring a pencil, doesn’t even put forth an effort when I provide him with spare notes or a spare pencil, and sits there doing nothing.

    3.) Separate special ed kids from regular ed classrooms. This often (but admittedly not always) does more harm than good.

    4.) Restore control of curriculum to local districts. It’s interesting to note that the more government intrudes on education, the worse it seems to get-and I blame BOTH political parties for this.

    5.) Stop blaming the teachers for everything.

    6.) DON’T lengthen the school days or the school year. It does nothing to make kids smarter, it wears teachers out faster, and it becomes a babysitting service for parents. I point out that the private Christian school I attended was about three weeks shorter than the local public school, and yet our scores were 1 to 1.5 GPA points higher than theirs.

    Again, I’m a teacher. I see firsthand the results of these so-called “solutions” that are thrown out. Many of them are done by people who have no idea what my job entails. It’s angering and it’s frustrating. Make your kids responsible, make them work, and let me do my job unhindered.

    Thank you.

  • ELB

    OR we could stop subsidising the destruction of the American family . That is the sine qua non of advancing anything like better education.
    Call it quits with the progressive education fiasco that recognizes no truth, no good, and no virtue.
    Eliminate the public schools system and replace it with a system of vouchers all round. School is compulsory, but so is the need to choose. Put the schools themselves up for sale. If the NEA thinks they have all the secrets to good education, let them bid along with everybody else.

    Yes, I know it’s utopian.

  • ELB

    OR we could stop subsidising the destruction of the American family . That is the sine qua non of advancing anything like better education.
    Call it quits with the progressive education fiasco that recognizes no truth, no good, and no virtue.
    Eliminate the public schools system and replace it with a system of vouchers all round. School is compulsory, but so is the need to choose. Put the schools themselves up for sale. If the NEA thinks they have all the secrets to good education, let them bid along with everybody else.

    Yes, I know it’s utopian.

  • Weslie Odom

    My wife is from Finland, so when Newsweek recently named it the “best country in the world”, I knew her family would never let me hear the end of it. It seems one of the big differences in the school systems is that the teachers…wait for it…expect more from the children than we do here in large portions of public education. I know it’s hard to imagine, but it’s true.

  • Weslie Odom

    My wife is from Finland, so when Newsweek recently named it the “best country in the world”, I knew her family would never let me hear the end of it. It seems one of the big differences in the school systems is that the teachers…wait for it…expect more from the children than we do here in large portions of public education. I know it’s hard to imagine, but it’s true.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Good point ELB @7. Also, to insure that we have a well informed citizenry we could command the UN black helicopters with storm trooper ATF agents to descend upon the Fox news studios and arrest Shean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck for treason. … Just Kidding! I just wanted to give my conservative friends something that could quote out of context.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Good point ELB @7. Also, to insure that we have a well informed citizenry we could command the UN black helicopters with storm trooper ATF agents to descend upon the Fox news studios and arrest Shean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck for treason. … Just Kidding! I just wanted to give my conservative friends something that could quote out of context.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    Ummm… why is my comment still “waiting for moderation”? Something questionable in it, dr. Veith?

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    Ummm… why is my comment still “waiting for moderation”? Something questionable in it, dr. Veith?

  • Tom Hering

    Did you use the words “soci@list” or “speci@list”?

  • Tom Hering

    Did you use the words “soci@list” or “speci@list”?

  • LAJ

    If our society valued education more than just getting a degree, we would have better students as well as better teachers. Teachers would be then be respected which would help with discipline and with attracting the best to teach our children. Parents would more often side with the teacher again since their goal would be the education of their children rather than their happiness.

  • LAJ

    If our society valued education more than just getting a degree, we would have better students as well as better teachers. Teachers would be then be respected which would help with discipline and with attracting the best to teach our children. Parents would more often side with the teacher again since their goal would be the education of their children rather than their happiness.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Jimmy, with quotes like that you just gave, why on earth would anyone need to quote you out of context? :^)

    One thing I noted as a math and engineering TA (including some grad level classes) was that far too many kids did not know how to do basic arithmetic without a calculator–at the college engineering level no less! Worse yet, practicing engineers I’ve worked with did not know how to do a “back of the envelope” calculation.

    Moreover, whenever I’ve seen someone who didn’t know how to do basic math comfortably, it was a pretty safe bet they had a teacher who didn’t understand or like it, either. So my take regarding math, at least, is that if you get rid of the calculators and start actually teaching arithmetic, as they certainly do overseas (Singapore Math is one of the hottest texts among homeschoolers, and stresses arithmetic), a lot of your difficulties go away.

    In the same way, if you want to fix reading instruction, “phonics.” We have a phonetic language, might as well use and understand that fact, eh?

    Points about family are well taken as well.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Jimmy, with quotes like that you just gave, why on earth would anyone need to quote you out of context? :^)

    One thing I noted as a math and engineering TA (including some grad level classes) was that far too many kids did not know how to do basic arithmetic without a calculator–at the college engineering level no less! Worse yet, practicing engineers I’ve worked with did not know how to do a “back of the envelope” calculation.

    Moreover, whenever I’ve seen someone who didn’t know how to do basic math comfortably, it was a pretty safe bet they had a teacher who didn’t understand or like it, either. So my take regarding math, at least, is that if you get rid of the calculators and start actually teaching arithmetic, as they certainly do overseas (Singapore Math is one of the hottest texts among homeschoolers, and stresses arithmetic), a lot of your difficulties go away.

    In the same way, if you want to fix reading instruction, “phonics.” We have a phonetic language, might as well use and understand that fact, eh?

    Points about family are well taken as well.

  • BW

    I smell an application for the doctrine of vocation….

  • BW

    I smell an application for the doctrine of vocation….

  • Sarah H.

    J. Dean@#8:

    What is this harm of which you write concerning special needs children being in regular classrooms?

    Disclosure: I am the mother of a child with special needs. I’m curious (not defensive) about your statement.

  • Sarah H.

    J. Dean@#8:

    What is this harm of which you write concerning special needs children being in regular classrooms?

    Disclosure: I am the mother of a child with special needs. I’m curious (not defensive) about your statement.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I have listened to my confirmads describe their classes in addition to teaching myself, and done some research and I must say I am not surprised our kids are not performing well. Even the children going to “good” schools are being taught feel good garbage. When I listen to the kids describing ecology as the topic of their science class, I wanted to scream. Ecology is a pseudoscience at best! To truly understand biology you need to start in the “boring” foundational details. I also couldn’t believe it when they told me a math assignment was a poster making assignment completely unrelated to learning math principles.

    When I evaluate Bible Studies, half the time I end up rewriting the complete study because they ask stupid inconsequential questions like how did that passage make you feel. I have a popular bible study that I run every other month where we watch a movie and critique it through a Biblical lens. I originally had based it on a Bible Study idea from Group (my first mistake) in the end the only thing we used were the recipes for the lunch because the questions were “which character did you relate to” and things of that nature with the barest mention of Scripture. I started writing my own questions drawing out different themes i.e. the fall, vocation, etc.

    The issue that I have noticed is that too often we are jumping straight to the fun application rather than spending time with the boring foundations. The students are not taught the foundational material they need in order to successfully apply knowledge outside of a contained and controlled sphere with cookbook problems.

    I also have a feeling that we have forgotten who is the student and who is the master. Teachers in an effort to keep control and interested a large group of kids have knuckled under and have started teaching what the student wants rather than what the student needs. All the while forgetting the student doesn’t even know what they need because they are the student. So we find ourselves feeding into the short side pragmatism that believes these foundational facts are useless and so does not want to waste time learning them. This is now being exacerbated by technology why do I need to learn math? I have a calculator. I like technology and think it can be a useful tool, but sometimes I wonder if it is doing more harm at the lower levels than it is doing good.

    Don’t get me started on parents coddling, I could not believe it when I had a developmentally normal 7th grader who believed in Santa Claus and the parents were mad at me for sharing about St. Nicholas of Myra while briefly covering the Council of Nicaea. Told me to, “stick to the script.”

    At the same time, we suffer from a glut of teachers who teach solely because they like kids. That’s nice but not helpful, because we have a bunch of teachers completely unqualified to teach their respective topics. Really one should not have an education major teaching science and math. They simply are not equipped enough in the foundational material to be able to understand it well enough to teach it effectively. It is far better to have somebody with a science and math background who has been taught to teach than it is to have an ed major who may have taken 3 sciences classes in college.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I have listened to my confirmads describe their classes in addition to teaching myself, and done some research and I must say I am not surprised our kids are not performing well. Even the children going to “good” schools are being taught feel good garbage. When I listen to the kids describing ecology as the topic of their science class, I wanted to scream. Ecology is a pseudoscience at best! To truly understand biology you need to start in the “boring” foundational details. I also couldn’t believe it when they told me a math assignment was a poster making assignment completely unrelated to learning math principles.

    When I evaluate Bible Studies, half the time I end up rewriting the complete study because they ask stupid inconsequential questions like how did that passage make you feel. I have a popular bible study that I run every other month where we watch a movie and critique it through a Biblical lens. I originally had based it on a Bible Study idea from Group (my first mistake) in the end the only thing we used were the recipes for the lunch because the questions were “which character did you relate to” and things of that nature with the barest mention of Scripture. I started writing my own questions drawing out different themes i.e. the fall, vocation, etc.

    The issue that I have noticed is that too often we are jumping straight to the fun application rather than spending time with the boring foundations. The students are not taught the foundational material they need in order to successfully apply knowledge outside of a contained and controlled sphere with cookbook problems.

    I also have a feeling that we have forgotten who is the student and who is the master. Teachers in an effort to keep control and interested a large group of kids have knuckled under and have started teaching what the student wants rather than what the student needs. All the while forgetting the student doesn’t even know what they need because they are the student. So we find ourselves feeding into the short side pragmatism that believes these foundational facts are useless and so does not want to waste time learning them. This is now being exacerbated by technology why do I need to learn math? I have a calculator. I like technology and think it can be a useful tool, but sometimes I wonder if it is doing more harm at the lower levels than it is doing good.

    Don’t get me started on parents coddling, I could not believe it when I had a developmentally normal 7th grader who believed in Santa Claus and the parents were mad at me for sharing about St. Nicholas of Myra while briefly covering the Council of Nicaea. Told me to, “stick to the script.”

    At the same time, we suffer from a glut of teachers who teach solely because they like kids. That’s nice but not helpful, because we have a bunch of teachers completely unqualified to teach their respective topics. Really one should not have an education major teaching science and math. They simply are not equipped enough in the foundational material to be able to understand it well enough to teach it effectively. It is far better to have somebody with a science and math background who has been taught to teach than it is to have an ed major who may have taken 3 sciences classes in college.

  • Tressa

    I agree with ELB @7. I was going to leave a long comment about the difference between our schools and Singaporean schools, but that about sums it up. Kids in Singapore are expected to perform. If they can’t figure out how to do that, they go to lower level schools. If they still can’t figure out how to do that by age 16, they go to work.

    While we lived in Singapore, I watched my friends’ kids sink or swim. If you caused trouble, you had to find your education somewhere else. They did not have time to develop IEP’s for every student that didn’t learn they way they taught. I watched local kids study in the McDonald’s late at night still in their school uniforms. What kids are we being compared to? The best of their best? It wouldn’t surprise me. I don’t see a lot of value in these studies.

  • Tressa

    I agree with ELB @7. I was going to leave a long comment about the difference between our schools and Singaporean schools, but that about sums it up. Kids in Singapore are expected to perform. If they can’t figure out how to do that, they go to lower level schools. If they still can’t figure out how to do that by age 16, they go to work.

    While we lived in Singapore, I watched my friends’ kids sink or swim. If you caused trouble, you had to find your education somewhere else. They did not have time to develop IEP’s for every student that didn’t learn they way they taught. I watched local kids study in the McDonald’s late at night still in their school uniforms. What kids are we being compared to? The best of their best? It wouldn’t surprise me. I don’t see a lot of value in these studies.

  • Que sera sera

    I like what ELB has to say.

    Another idea: ax the Department of Education. Go even further, and reduce state control of schools, giving the local people who know and love the children in the schools the greater part of control over curriculum, teachers’ salaries, school hours, etc.

    And because the foregoing scenario is never likely to happen, homeschool while you still can.

  • Que sera sera

    I like what ELB has to say.

    Another idea: ax the Department of Education. Go even further, and reduce state control of schools, giving the local people who know and love the children in the schools the greater part of control over curriculum, teachers’ salaries, school hours, etc.

    And because the foregoing scenario is never likely to happen, homeschool while you still can.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DRLit21C & others:

    Here in Canada, the strongest curriculum control is at school division level, followed by the provincial level. There are provincial and national standards as well.

    To teach K-6 (Elementary level), you need a 4 year degree, (basically, 2 years BSc/BA etc, followed by 2 years of majoring in education). For High School level, the preference is for 6 years of education (Bachelors + aforementioned 2 years of Education).

    There certainly are elements of the feel-good nonsense, but not nearly to the level you mention.

    My middle child is in Grade 6, and in their Social Studies (basically history+geography) class, they are currently studying the Second World War. So, the assigned project is to pick a participant, and then create a newspaper edition relevant to that player – that can be German, Russian, Resistance (Danish is a popular one to choose), English etc etc. This newspaper must include news from the front, death notices, advertisements, even movie reviews and cross word puzzles, all relevant to the nationality and era. My daughter, a creative soul, chose to create an issue of Pravda, which is, hmm, challenging… :)

    In my experience the modern tendency, more so in the US than Canada and other Frist world countries, is for inclusivity at the cost of quality – everyone must get a diploma, everyone must go to college, etc etc. That is simply not right, and does a disservice both to the intellectually struggling as to the intellectually bright students. I agree with greater local control, but that control must not be politicized.

    The other problems mentioned here, especially parental and societal culture and all that is certainly true as well. I am the last one to say that things today are not what they used to be, but if I might make the observation, I think people have succoumbed to an instant, egalatarian version of the pursuit of Happiness, or The American Dream, or something like that. No more – according to ones’ abilities and a decent measure of hard work, but the achievement of success is now seen as a right, and not a possibility. This filters down into all levels of culture, from diet to education.

    A psychologist friend of mine states that he finds increasingly that young graduates walk into the workplace and excpext 100K+ salaries and a consulting position immdediately – so that they can have all the goodies they want, and the accompanying status. In that, we might be the victims of our own success, accept that we succeeded in trivialising everything in our pursuit of wealth. Everybody wants a big home? Sure, we give you unwarrented credit to buy an imposing manison built to crappy standards, driving a big vehicle that will be irrepairable in less than 10 years, with a series of diploma’s on the wall that do not mean anything.

    It is a faux world, education included, and we created it.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DRLit21C & others:

    Here in Canada, the strongest curriculum control is at school division level, followed by the provincial level. There are provincial and national standards as well.

    To teach K-6 (Elementary level), you need a 4 year degree, (basically, 2 years BSc/BA etc, followed by 2 years of majoring in education). For High School level, the preference is for 6 years of education (Bachelors + aforementioned 2 years of Education).

    There certainly are elements of the feel-good nonsense, but not nearly to the level you mention.

    My middle child is in Grade 6, and in their Social Studies (basically history+geography) class, they are currently studying the Second World War. So, the assigned project is to pick a participant, and then create a newspaper edition relevant to that player – that can be German, Russian, Resistance (Danish is a popular one to choose), English etc etc. This newspaper must include news from the front, death notices, advertisements, even movie reviews and cross word puzzles, all relevant to the nationality and era. My daughter, a creative soul, chose to create an issue of Pravda, which is, hmm, challenging… :)

    In my experience the modern tendency, more so in the US than Canada and other Frist world countries, is for inclusivity at the cost of quality – everyone must get a diploma, everyone must go to college, etc etc. That is simply not right, and does a disservice both to the intellectually struggling as to the intellectually bright students. I agree with greater local control, but that control must not be politicized.

    The other problems mentioned here, especially parental and societal culture and all that is certainly true as well. I am the last one to say that things today are not what they used to be, but if I might make the observation, I think people have succoumbed to an instant, egalatarian version of the pursuit of Happiness, or The American Dream, or something like that. No more – according to ones’ abilities and a decent measure of hard work, but the achievement of success is now seen as a right, and not a possibility. This filters down into all levels of culture, from diet to education.

    A psychologist friend of mine states that he finds increasingly that young graduates walk into the workplace and excpext 100K+ salaries and a consulting position immdediately – so that they can have all the goodies they want, and the accompanying status. In that, we might be the victims of our own success, accept that we succeeded in trivialising everything in our pursuit of wealth. Everybody wants a big home? Sure, we give you unwarrented credit to buy an imposing manison built to crappy standards, driving a big vehicle that will be irrepairable in less than 10 years, with a series of diploma’s on the wall that do not mean anything.

    It is a faux world, education included, and we created it.

  • S Bauer

    Local control sounds good to me. The only thing is…the locality should then come up with the money to run their local schools. No more state or federal funding for schools. You can’t get around the Golden Rule: “Them that gots the gold makes the rules.”

    But then, you once again have a disparity in education funding between localities with different income levels. How does one square this circle? Or is the conservative answer just to ignore it? It’s a dog eat dog world, after all.

  • S Bauer

    Local control sounds good to me. The only thing is…the locality should then come up with the money to run their local schools. No more state or federal funding for schools. You can’t get around the Golden Rule: “Them that gots the gold makes the rules.”

    But then, you once again have a disparity in education funding between localities with different income levels. How does one square this circle? Or is the conservative answer just to ignore it? It’s a dog eat dog world, after all.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Sarah H @ 17,

    I am referring to students whose mental capacities prevent them from behaving in a way that is conducive to a learning environment. Let me explain…

    Next to my classroom is a room for kids with various special needs (Emotionally impaired, autism, Teachable Mentally Impaired, etc.). The kids in this classroom, under law, MUST be present in the classroom, regardless of what happens. So if one of these kids pulls a weapon on another student, that student must return to the classroom, unless the student carries out life-threatening actions (and when I say that, I mean that the student actually uses a weapon or something of that sort).

    Now, some of these kids are very good, and I’ve had them in my classroom. To tell the truth, quite a few of them function quite well and are good students. But some of them simply cannot and do not function well in an integrated classroom, regardless of what accommodations or help is implemented. Yet the administration and the law insists on putting these kids in regular ed classrooms, where they end up disrupting class and bring the class down due to their inability to control themselves or to function as a proper student. And it ends up hurting the rest of the class, as I’m forced to divert valuable teaching time to students who cannot and should not be in the classroom.

    Again, let me make clear: not all special ed and special needs kids are that difficult; I realize that. But there are students who are that difficult, and need to be kept separate for the good of the other students, and for themselves in some cases.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Sarah H @ 17,

    I am referring to students whose mental capacities prevent them from behaving in a way that is conducive to a learning environment. Let me explain…

    Next to my classroom is a room for kids with various special needs (Emotionally impaired, autism, Teachable Mentally Impaired, etc.). The kids in this classroom, under law, MUST be present in the classroom, regardless of what happens. So if one of these kids pulls a weapon on another student, that student must return to the classroom, unless the student carries out life-threatening actions (and when I say that, I mean that the student actually uses a weapon or something of that sort).

    Now, some of these kids are very good, and I’ve had them in my classroom. To tell the truth, quite a few of them function quite well and are good students. But some of them simply cannot and do not function well in an integrated classroom, regardless of what accommodations or help is implemented. Yet the administration and the law insists on putting these kids in regular ed classrooms, where they end up disrupting class and bring the class down due to their inability to control themselves or to function as a proper student. And it ends up hurting the rest of the class, as I’m forced to divert valuable teaching time to students who cannot and should not be in the classroom.

    Again, let me make clear: not all special ed and special needs kids are that difficult; I realize that. But there are students who are that difficult, and need to be kept separate for the good of the other students, and for themselves in some cases.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    S Bauer @ 22,

    Inequality is inevitable, even in the most egalitarian of systems. Believe it or not, more money put into a school does not always guarantee smarter students or a better education. I can tell you many tales of school districts who waste money they get on things that have nothing to do with educating kids.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    S Bauer @ 22,

    Inequality is inevitable, even in the most egalitarian of systems. Believe it or not, more money put into a school does not always guarantee smarter students or a better education. I can tell you many tales of school districts who waste money they get on things that have nothing to do with educating kids.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    S Bauer @ 22 – here in SK, the majority of the school funding comes from property taxes, and the rest from the provincial government.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    S Bauer @ 22 – here in SK, the majority of the school funding comes from property taxes, and the rest from the provincial government.

  • Van

    We Americans look for “silver bullet solutions”. (That would be a nice name for an online company.) The problem(-s) with the achievement of our youth goes beyond simple solutions, and since we are unable or unwilling to invest in a comprehensive solution, we will continue to lag.

    First consideration: who said that we must compete globally and adapt our curriculum to that goal?

  • Van

    We Americans look for “silver bullet solutions”. (That would be a nice name for an online company.) The problem(-s) with the achievement of our youth goes beyond simple solutions, and since we are unable or unwilling to invest in a comprehensive solution, we will continue to lag.

    First consideration: who said that we must compete globally and adapt our curriculum to that goal?

  • DonS

    J Dean @ 7: I’m glad that you are a teacher. :-) We certainly need a lot more like you.

  • DonS

    J Dean @ 7: I’m glad that you are a teacher. :-) We certainly need a lot more like you.

  • DonS

    Oops. That should be @ 8.

  • DonS

    Oops. That should be @ 8.

  • DonS

    ELB @ 7: “What percentage of these other countries’ students take the tests compared to those in the United States? I have heard many times that the broad range of U.S. students are compared with the elite in the other countries. I would expect the top quintile or decile of one country to thrash the top half or third of another country, every thing else being equal.”

    I think you are on to something here. I believe we are fairly unique in having a (misguided) policy that everyone who wants to gets to go to college. Other countries require rigorous entrance exams, and often at early ages to qualify for college-track grade school programs. So to some extent, we may be comparing apples to oranges here.

  • DonS

    ELB @ 7: “What percentage of these other countries’ students take the tests compared to those in the United States? I have heard many times that the broad range of U.S. students are compared with the elite in the other countries. I would expect the top quintile or decile of one country to thrash the top half or third of another country, every thing else being equal.”

    I think you are on to something here. I believe we are fairly unique in having a (misguided) policy that everyone who wants to gets to go to college. Other countries require rigorous entrance exams, and often at early ages to qualify for college-track grade school programs. So to some extent, we may be comparing apples to oranges here.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    “To teach K-6 (Elementary level), you need a 4 year degree, (basically, 2 years BSc/BA etc, followed by 2 years of majoring in education). For High School level, the preference is for 6 years of education (Bachelors + aforementioned 2 years of Education).”

    Our teachers are required to have a four year degree also. The question is what is the degree in. Too often our teachers have degrees solely in education and then are expected to teach subjects that require a high degree of specialization they did not get. In Texas, it used to be the standard to teach science was 12 hours of science courses (not really specified so geology 101 more commonly known as “rocks for jocks” counted). While one can get a reasonable overview in 12 hours, actually understanding the fundamentals and implications requires far more specialized preparation. What we end up with are people teaching these specialized topics who have only learned the new pet educational model and do not actually know the material they are supposed to be teaching via said model. My best teachers were the ones who studied their subject first and then learned to teach. You could tell which ones they were because they were the ones who could think outside of the textbook.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    “To teach K-6 (Elementary level), you need a 4 year degree, (basically, 2 years BSc/BA etc, followed by 2 years of majoring in education). For High School level, the preference is for 6 years of education (Bachelors + aforementioned 2 years of Education).”

    Our teachers are required to have a four year degree also. The question is what is the degree in. Too often our teachers have degrees solely in education and then are expected to teach subjects that require a high degree of specialization they did not get. In Texas, it used to be the standard to teach science was 12 hours of science courses (not really specified so geology 101 more commonly known as “rocks for jocks” counted). While one can get a reasonable overview in 12 hours, actually understanding the fundamentals and implications requires far more specialized preparation. What we end up with are people teaching these specialized topics who have only learned the new pet educational model and do not actually know the material they are supposed to be teaching via said model. My best teachers were the ones who studied their subject first and then learned to teach. You could tell which ones they were because they were the ones who could think outside of the textbook.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DrL – yes, the pre-Ed years, if you will, has to be in relevant subjects, as far as I understand. There is no way you are going to teach science with 12 hours of science education under your belt. Not even in South Africa’s (current) dismal education system. What the hell were they thinking??

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DrL – yes, the pre-Ed years, if you will, has to be in relevant subjects, as far as I understand. There is no way you are going to teach science with 12 hours of science education under your belt. Not even in South Africa’s (current) dismal education system. What the hell were they thinking??

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Can we see how the kids in Cambridge, Massachusetts did?

    Does anyone else find it odd that entire nations are being compared to a single city in China? Especially one where you have to have a permit to move there?

    How about we test the 15 year olds from the most expensive neighborhoods in Silicon Valley and see what we get there.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Can we see how the kids in Cambridge, Massachusetts did?

    Does anyone else find it odd that entire nations are being compared to a single city in China? Especially one where you have to have a permit to move there?

    How about we test the 15 year olds from the most expensive neighborhoods in Silicon Valley and see what we get there.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Our teachers are required to have a four year degree also. The question is what is the degree in. Too often our teachers have degrees solely in education and then are expected to teach subjects that require a high degree of specialization they did not get.”

    SAT test takers who indicate their intended major is Education have scores well below the 50th percentile. They also have the lowest GRE scores on average.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Our teachers are required to have a four year degree also. The question is what is the degree in. Too often our teachers have degrees solely in education and then are expected to teach subjects that require a high degree of specialization they did not get.”

    SAT test takers who indicate their intended major is Education have scores well below the 50th percentile. They also have the lowest GRE scores on average.

  • S Bauer

    J. Dean @24

    Inequality is inevitable, even in the most egalitarian of systems. Believe it or not, more money put into a school does not always guarantee smarter students or a better education. I can tell you many tales of school districts who waste money they get on things that have nothing to do with educating kids.

    “Inequality is inevitable”…was my point. My question was: “What is the conservative answer to this fact?” To shrug and do nothing? “The poor you will have with you always.” Is that the justification for Christians ignoring the poor? [I hope no one accuses me of using a Right Hand kingdom admonition to command a Left Hand kingdom action. That's NOT what I'm saying. I'm trying to draw an analogy.] Does the State have absolutely no compelling interest in “promoting the general welfare” of all of its citizens?

    I’m sure there is a lot of waste in rich and poor school districts alike. I know that more money is not the only factor in educating someone correctly. The fact remains that better teachers (and more resources that fall in the category of helpful, not wasteful) will be drawn to districts that can pay more for them while the poorer districts will be left sucking the hind you-know-what.

  • S Bauer

    J. Dean @24

    Inequality is inevitable, even in the most egalitarian of systems. Believe it or not, more money put into a school does not always guarantee smarter students or a better education. I can tell you many tales of school districts who waste money they get on things that have nothing to do with educating kids.

    “Inequality is inevitable”…was my point. My question was: “What is the conservative answer to this fact?” To shrug and do nothing? “The poor you will have with you always.” Is that the justification for Christians ignoring the poor? [I hope no one accuses me of using a Right Hand kingdom admonition to command a Left Hand kingdom action. That's NOT what I'm saying. I'm trying to draw an analogy.] Does the State have absolutely no compelling interest in “promoting the general welfare” of all of its citizens?

    I’m sure there is a lot of waste in rich and poor school districts alike. I know that more money is not the only factor in educating someone correctly. The fact remains that better teachers (and more resources that fall in the category of helpful, not wasteful) will be drawn to districts that can pay more for them while the poorer districts will be left sucking the hind you-know-what.

  • SAL

    It’s a dubious proposition that schools do much to educate most children past the elementary grades. Those children would probably do better going to work or learning a trade upon reaching 11-12 instead of sitting in classroom switching their mind off.

    Most adolescents feel their time is wasted in the classroom. It shouldn’t be surprising most choose mediocrity.

  • SAL

    It’s a dubious proposition that schools do much to educate most children past the elementary grades. Those children would probably do better going to work or learning a trade upon reaching 11-12 instead of sitting in classroom switching their mind off.

    Most adolescents feel their time is wasted in the classroom. It shouldn’t be surprising most choose mediocrity.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Asian students among California national merit finalists do very well especially for such a small minority.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Asian students among California national merit finalists do very well especially for such a small minority.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Can anybody tell me, what is the average salary of teachers in their states in the US? In 2008, the average Saskatchewan elemntary school teacher had a salary of $58 000, and High School teachers got $60 000. Now the Canadian dollar was pretty close to par with the US $ in 2008, if I remember correctly. Take into account that income tax is higher, but there is government health care, and other items, so take home pay after those items is probably close to similar.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Can anybody tell me, what is the average salary of teachers in their states in the US? In 2008, the average Saskatchewan elemntary school teacher had a salary of $58 000, and High School teachers got $60 000. Now the Canadian dollar was pretty close to par with the US $ in 2008, if I remember correctly. Take into account that income tax is higher, but there is government health care, and other items, so take home pay after those items is probably close to similar.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    sg@ 36 – pointing to the fact that culture does play a role, as per my comment at #21. Let’s not get into that other debate, please.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    sg@ 36 – pointing to the fact that culture does play a role, as per my comment at #21. Let’s not get into that other debate, please.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Most adolescents feel their time is wasted in the classroom.”

    Because it is. Schools do not provide appropriate education to many students because they are not academically inclined. That doesn’t mean they are lazy and can’t be competent in many tasks if they were trained.

    “It shouldn’t be surprising most choose mediocrity.”

    This is unfair. Students who are not talented do not choose not to have ability. They deserve an appropriate education and help with job placement. Also, there is no way for everyone to be above average. We need to emphasize work ethic, punctuality, conscientiousness etc. All students can learn and develop these skills. Not all students can be star athletes or excel academically. We are at fault when we blame them for things that are not their fault.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Most adolescents feel their time is wasted in the classroom.”

    Because it is. Schools do not provide appropriate education to many students because they are not academically inclined. That doesn’t mean they are lazy and can’t be competent in many tasks if they were trained.

    “It shouldn’t be surprising most choose mediocrity.”

    This is unfair. Students who are not talented do not choose not to have ability. They deserve an appropriate education and help with job placement. Also, there is no way for everyone to be above average. We need to emphasize work ethic, punctuality, conscientiousness etc. All students can learn and develop these skills. Not all students can be star athletes or excel academically. We are at fault when we blame them for things that are not their fault.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    DonS@27,

    Thank you. Believe it or not, teaching is a great job. It’s everything else that goes along with the job that makes the job difficult :(

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    DonS@27,

    Thank you. Believe it or not, teaching is a great job. It’s everything else that goes along with the job that makes the job difficult :(

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Louis@37,

    I’m doing pretty comfortably as a teacher. There’s a myth that teachers are dirt poor; not true. They may start off low, but the top of the scale for most schools is modest. I’m not rich by any stretch, but I’m not begging, either.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Louis@37,

    I’m doing pretty comfortably as a teacher. There’s a myth that teachers are dirt poor; not true. They may start off low, but the top of the scale for most schools is modest. I’m not rich by any stretch, but I’m not begging, either.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “sg@ 36 – pointing to the fact that culture does play a role, as per my comment at #21. ”

    Louis, it isn’t just culture. It is natural ability, like athletic ability.

    Also, why do some groups tend to develop certain types of cultures? Could that also have a biological basis? Or is it dynamic with each contributing to the other?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “sg@ 36 – pointing to the fact that culture does play a role, as per my comment at #21. ”

    Louis, it isn’t just culture. It is natural ability, like athletic ability.

    Also, why do some groups tend to develop certain types of cultures? Could that also have a biological basis? Or is it dynamic with each contributing to the other?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    SBauer@34,

    Believe it or not, a lot of teachers are willing to sacrifice pay for control. I point to my children’s private school as an example. The teachers there make very little in comparision to me, for example. But they have a disciplinary control and curriculum control that I don’t. If I could afford it, I’d gladly take the pay cut for the academic freedom!

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    SBauer@34,

    Believe it or not, a lot of teachers are willing to sacrifice pay for control. I point to my children’s private school as an example. The teachers there make very little in comparision to me, for example. But they have a disciplinary control and curriculum control that I don’t. If I could afford it, I’d gladly take the pay cut for the academic freedom!

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    J Dean – which State do you teach in? Do you have any figures for me (average, that is, not yours :) )

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    J Dean – which State do you teach in? Do you have any figures for me (average, that is, not yours :) )

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    “SAT test takers who indicate their intended major is Education have scores well below the 50th percentile. They also have the lowest GRE scores on average.”
    What is even scarier is the number of Florida math teachers who fail the math aptitude test.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    “SAT test takers who indicate their intended major is Education have scores well below the 50th percentile. They also have the lowest GRE scores on average.”
    What is even scarier is the number of Florida math teachers who fail the math aptitude test.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Yesterday I noted an article from Newsweek.

    ” The University of Utah recently tied MIT for creating the most companies out of its patented research: more than 80 since 2005. Provo, home to Brigham Young University, has the most high-growth companies per capita in the country, according to Inc. magazine.”

    http://www.newsweek.com/2010/11/08/how-utah-became-an-economic-zion.html

    It would be interesting to know how many companies were created out of the patented research from Shanghai University and compare it to University of Utah and MIT.

    Does the strong performance of students in China translate into something useful for society later? I am guessing it does, but it would be interesting to compare their rates to ours.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Yesterday I noted an article from Newsweek.

    ” The University of Utah recently tied MIT for creating the most companies out of its patented research: more than 80 since 2005. Provo, home to Brigham Young University, has the most high-growth companies per capita in the country, according to Inc. magazine.”

    http://www.newsweek.com/2010/11/08/how-utah-became-an-economic-zion.html

    It would be interesting to know how many companies were created out of the patented research from Shanghai University and compare it to University of Utah and MIT.

    Does the strong performance of students in China translate into something useful for society later? I am guessing it does, but it would be interesting to compare their rates to ours.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Interesting document from the administrators at OECD.
    It focuses on Mexico but includes graphs comparing many countries in 2003 and 2009.
    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/55/0/46638969.pdf
    Page 17, Figure 1.6

    Note that the US does very well compared to Asian and European countries at getting kids to at least a basic level. Also note countries that have a majority below basic.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Interesting document from the administrators at OECD.
    It focuses on Mexico but includes graphs comparing many countries in 2003 and 2009.
    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/55/0/46638969.pdf
    Page 17, Figure 1.6

    Note that the US does very well compared to Asian and European countries at getting kids to at least a basic level. Also note countries that have a majority below basic.

  • Grace

    sg –

    “Does anyone else find it odd that entire nations are being compared to a single city in China? Especially one where you have to have a permit to move there?

    How about we test the 15 year olds from the most expensive neighborhoods in Silicon Valley and see what we get there.”

    PERFECT choice – but it won’t happen, that would change all the scores – and of course there is the illegal immigrant factor that most people don’t want to address –

  • Grace

    sg –

    “Does anyone else find it odd that entire nations are being compared to a single city in China? Especially one where you have to have a permit to move there?

    How about we test the 15 year olds from the most expensive neighborhoods in Silicon Valley and see what we get there.”

    PERFECT choice – but it won’t happen, that would change all the scores – and of course there is the illegal immigrant factor that most people don’t want to address –

  • S Bauer

    J. Dean @44

    What you are saying is true in the current situation: Less Local Control + Higher Wages vs. More Local Control + Lower Wages.

    What I am talking about is what would happen if local control was returned across the board, i.e. More Local Control + Higher Wages vs. More Local Control + Lower Wages. If all teachers were in a situation in which they had disciplinary control and curriculum control, the better teachers would inevitably move toward the richer school districts and the “less-gifted” teachers toward the poorer ones over time.

  • S Bauer

    J. Dean @44

    What you are saying is true in the current situation: Less Local Control + Higher Wages vs. More Local Control + Lower Wages.

    What I am talking about is what would happen if local control was returned across the board, i.e. More Local Control + Higher Wages vs. More Local Control + Lower Wages. If all teachers were in a situation in which they had disciplinary control and curriculum control, the better teachers would inevitably move toward the richer school districts and the “less-gifted” teachers toward the poorer ones over time.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “If all teachers were in a situation in which they had disciplinary control and curriculum control, the better teachers would inevitably move toward the richer school districts and the “less-gifted” teachers toward the poorer ones over time.”

    Great minds think alike. That study has already been done.
    Published in the Journal of Labor Economics.
    http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=c_kirabo_jackson

    Kirabo Jackson does a lot of interesting work.
    http://works.bepress.com/c_kirabo_jackson/subject_areas.html

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “If all teachers were in a situation in which they had disciplinary control and curriculum control, the better teachers would inevitably move toward the richer school districts and the “less-gifted” teachers toward the poorer ones over time.”

    Great minds think alike. That study has already been done.
    Published in the Journal of Labor Economics.
    http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=c_kirabo_jackson

    Kirabo Jackson does a lot of interesting work.
    http://works.bepress.com/c_kirabo_jackson/subject_areas.html

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I really don’t care to wade into most of what’s being discussed here, but I couldn’t let Bubba’s comment (@16) pass without a reply: “We have a phonetic language, might as well use and understand that fact, eh?”

    Um, English is not phonetic. You can pretty much prove that using the sentence I quoted from Bubba, alone. How is initial U pronounced — as in “use”? How about in “understand”? How about GH, as in “might”? But what about in “enough”? How do you pronounce READ? Or POLISH? How about PH in “phonetic”? Now how about PH in “haphazard”?

    I will never understand why “conservatives” so frequently strike such ardent stances on the side of phonetics(-only) reading instruction. It’s like they have no knowledge of the history of our language. And how ridiculously un-phonetic it can get.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I really don’t care to wade into most of what’s being discussed here, but I couldn’t let Bubba’s comment (@16) pass without a reply: “We have a phonetic language, might as well use and understand that fact, eh?”

    Um, English is not phonetic. You can pretty much prove that using the sentence I quoted from Bubba, alone. How is initial U pronounced — as in “use”? How about in “understand”? How about GH, as in “might”? But what about in “enough”? How do you pronounce READ? Or POLISH? How about PH in “phonetic”? Now how about PH in “haphazard”?

    I will never understand why “conservatives” so frequently strike such ardent stances on the side of phonetics(-only) reading instruction. It’s like they have no knowledge of the history of our language. And how ridiculously un-phonetic it can get.

  • trotk

    tODD, you just waded in.

    For my part, and I am a principal of a classical, Christian school,the answer is obvious. The government should not be running schools. Ever.

    We believe that education is overwhelmingly valuable, and that is why we take away 12 or so years of freedom from our children. This is one of the largest intrusions into personal freedom that exists, short of prison sentence. I agree that it is this valuable.

    But the government has a bad track record of running and organizing schools. The last place we should want political divides and political agendas and political ambition involved is in the education of children.

    The normal private educates children better than public schools (there is loads of data to support this claim) for less money (there is also loads of data to support this). Go to a wholesale voucher system. All of the money taken in for education should be divided up, so that every child can afford a decent private school. And then close all public schools. Do away with standards and tests created by the government. Don’t let the federal government have anything to do with education.

  • trotk

    tODD, you just waded in.

    For my part, and I am a principal of a classical, Christian school,the answer is obvious. The government should not be running schools. Ever.

    We believe that education is overwhelmingly valuable, and that is why we take away 12 or so years of freedom from our children. This is one of the largest intrusions into personal freedom that exists, short of prison sentence. I agree that it is this valuable.

    But the government has a bad track record of running and organizing schools. The last place we should want political divides and political agendas and political ambition involved is in the education of children.

    The normal private educates children better than public schools (there is loads of data to support this claim) for less money (there is also loads of data to support this). Go to a wholesale voucher system. All of the money taken in for education should be divided up, so that every child can afford a decent private school. And then close all public schools. Do away with standards and tests created by the government. Don’t let the federal government have anything to do with education.

  • Booklover

    English is entirely phonetic. An example of a non-phonetic language would be Chinese. Those who have tutored reading for years have discovered that teaching phonics is the very best way to teach reading, so that children can decode new words that they’ve never seen before, because they know the *sounds of the letters,* and they know the *rules for how some letters influence other letters.*

    If a word does not follow the phonetic rules, the good tutor will label it an “outlaw” or a “funny” word. Children memorize those easily, because they love to learn their list of “outlaws.”

    Most of the “outlaw” (irregular) words contain *only one feature* which gives an irregular sound, while *all the other letters in the word behave perfectly normally.* When decoding these outlaw words, children are smart enough to make the most of these reliable letters, especially if they have a good teacher.

    Reading is a skill like playing the piano or building a house. You start with small, incremental, *orderly* steps. You trust reliable rules. You gain confidence the more you can apply the rules to new situations.

    Our 26 letters make 44 sounds with 200 spelling patterns. Children are smart enough to learn these phonetic rules if they are given in steps.

    There are many excellent books that explain all of this. A good one is *The ABC’s and All Their Tricks* by Margaret Bishop. She lists every letter and every possible spelling for the sound that letter or letter combination can make, with a list of words for each. It is also an excellent spelling reference guide.

  • Booklover

    English is entirely phonetic. An example of a non-phonetic language would be Chinese. Those who have tutored reading for years have discovered that teaching phonics is the very best way to teach reading, so that children can decode new words that they’ve never seen before, because they know the *sounds of the letters,* and they know the *rules for how some letters influence other letters.*

    If a word does not follow the phonetic rules, the good tutor will label it an “outlaw” or a “funny” word. Children memorize those easily, because they love to learn their list of “outlaws.”

    Most of the “outlaw” (irregular) words contain *only one feature* which gives an irregular sound, while *all the other letters in the word behave perfectly normally.* When decoding these outlaw words, children are smart enough to make the most of these reliable letters, especially if they have a good teacher.

    Reading is a skill like playing the piano or building a house. You start with small, incremental, *orderly* steps. You trust reliable rules. You gain confidence the more you can apply the rules to new situations.

    Our 26 letters make 44 sounds with 200 spelling patterns. Children are smart enough to learn these phonetic rules if they are given in steps.

    There are many excellent books that explain all of this. A good one is *The ABC’s and All Their Tricks* by Margaret Bishop. She lists every letter and every possible spelling for the sound that letter or letter combination can make, with a list of words for each. It is also an excellent spelling reference guide.

  • Grace

    Booklover – your definition/explanation should settle the debate. EXCELLENT, thank you! :)

  • Grace

    Booklover – your definition/explanation should settle the debate. EXCELLENT, thank you! :)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I will never understand why “conservatives” so frequently strike such ardent stances on the side of phonetics(-only) reading instruction. It’s like they have no knowledge of the history of our language. And how ridiculously un-phonetic it can get.”

    English is phonetic. However, there are several major competing phonetic systems represented plus many borrowed words etc. So, yeah it isn’t phonetic in the sense that Spanish or German is phonetic. Anyway, phonetic instruction works better for more kids than other approaches. No system is the best for 100% of kids. Really smart kids learn to read no matter how you teach, and slower ones do better with phonics because they don’t infer and internalize rules quickly and without explicit explanation, drill and practice.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I will never understand why “conservatives” so frequently strike such ardent stances on the side of phonetics(-only) reading instruction. It’s like they have no knowledge of the history of our language. And how ridiculously un-phonetic it can get.”

    English is phonetic. However, there are several major competing phonetic systems represented plus many borrowed words etc. So, yeah it isn’t phonetic in the sense that Spanish or German is phonetic. Anyway, phonetic instruction works better for more kids than other approaches. No system is the best for 100% of kids. Really smart kids learn to read no matter how you teach, and slower ones do better with phonics because they don’t infer and internalize rules quickly and without explicit explanation, drill and practice.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I agree 100% with trotk @ 53.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I agree 100% with trotk @ 53.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “English is entirely phonetic,” said Booklover (@54). Who obviously speaks English, and has mastered its many, many irregularities and overcome the frequent disparity between how words are spelled and pronounced. So that can’t be the reason you would make a claim like that. So I have to imagine the problem lies in your understanding of what it means to be “phonetic”.

    We’ll start here with a dictionary definition. Merriam-Webster, of course, has several definitions for “phonetic”, but the only one that really makes sense in light of Booklover’s claim is: “representing speech sounds by means of symbols that have one value only”.

    So, does English consist of symbols that have one value only? Obviously not, as even Booklover noted that it has 26 (regular) letters that make 44 sounds (for standard American English, that is). And, as I’ve already hinted — and as every English speaker knows — those 26 letters can each be made to (redundantly) encode quite a number of those sounds, in different ways, depending on context and combinations.

    Though not a language, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA, not the beer) is probably the most truly phonetic encoding system, with a one-to-one ratio of sounds and symbols. That is its point. For languages that actually are rather phonetic (Spanish leaps to mind, as does pretty much every other language I’ve dabbled in that wasn’t of Scandinavian origin), the IPA basically constitutes a different alphabet. But if you’ve ever spent time encoding English phonemes in the IPA (I took a few linguistics courses in college), you’ll quickly realize how infrequently English letters map to IPA characters. Which means it’s not all that phonetic, and definitely not “entirely phonetic”.

    Another way to put that is that, in an “entirely phonetic” language, spelling and pronouncing words would be entirely deterministic. There would simply be no question about how to do it. This is obviously far from the case in English. One page I found noted that there are at least 11 different ways to represent the “long U” (“oo”) sound with English letters, at least 9 of those ways can also be pronounced in entirely other ways. And to this system you want to apply the label “entirely phonetic”? Again, I have to assume you don’t know what that means.

    I mean, for heaven’s sakes, it’s considered a sport to try to challenge junior high school students to spell things correctly! And in those competitions, one of the things they’re allowed to ask for is the language of origin of their given word! Because you actually need to know that to know how to spell a vast number of English words. Is that “ch” sound from a C-H or a T-C-H or, if it’s of Italian origin, C-E, perhaps? People trying to spell “entirely phonetic” languages don’t need to worry about such things.

    All of which to say, Booklover, that you appear to be making a case for teaching phonics, not for English being “entirely phonetic”.

    And, once again, I really don’t understand the hang-up so many “conservatives” have with phonics and how it’s apparently the only good method to teach anyone to read. Yes, there are parts of English that are phonetic. Of course. But we are fundamentally speaking a language whose spelling was largely codified 500 years ago, before the pronunciation underwent many and vast shifts, not to mention acquiring huge amounts of vocabulary from many different foreign influences.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “English is entirely phonetic,” said Booklover (@54). Who obviously speaks English, and has mastered its many, many irregularities and overcome the frequent disparity between how words are spelled and pronounced. So that can’t be the reason you would make a claim like that. So I have to imagine the problem lies in your understanding of what it means to be “phonetic”.

    We’ll start here with a dictionary definition. Merriam-Webster, of course, has several definitions for “phonetic”, but the only one that really makes sense in light of Booklover’s claim is: “representing speech sounds by means of symbols that have one value only”.

    So, does English consist of symbols that have one value only? Obviously not, as even Booklover noted that it has 26 (regular) letters that make 44 sounds (for standard American English, that is). And, as I’ve already hinted — and as every English speaker knows — those 26 letters can each be made to (redundantly) encode quite a number of those sounds, in different ways, depending on context and combinations.

    Though not a language, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA, not the beer) is probably the most truly phonetic encoding system, with a one-to-one ratio of sounds and symbols. That is its point. For languages that actually are rather phonetic (Spanish leaps to mind, as does pretty much every other language I’ve dabbled in that wasn’t of Scandinavian origin), the IPA basically constitutes a different alphabet. But if you’ve ever spent time encoding English phonemes in the IPA (I took a few linguistics courses in college), you’ll quickly realize how infrequently English letters map to IPA characters. Which means it’s not all that phonetic, and definitely not “entirely phonetic”.

    Another way to put that is that, in an “entirely phonetic” language, spelling and pronouncing words would be entirely deterministic. There would simply be no question about how to do it. This is obviously far from the case in English. One page I found noted that there are at least 11 different ways to represent the “long U” (“oo”) sound with English letters, at least 9 of those ways can also be pronounced in entirely other ways. And to this system you want to apply the label “entirely phonetic”? Again, I have to assume you don’t know what that means.

    I mean, for heaven’s sakes, it’s considered a sport to try to challenge junior high school students to spell things correctly! And in those competitions, one of the things they’re allowed to ask for is the language of origin of their given word! Because you actually need to know that to know how to spell a vast number of English words. Is that “ch” sound from a C-H or a T-C-H or, if it’s of Italian origin, C-E, perhaps? People trying to spell “entirely phonetic” languages don’t need to worry about such things.

    All of which to say, Booklover, that you appear to be making a case for teaching phonics, not for English being “entirely phonetic”.

    And, once again, I really don’t understand the hang-up so many “conservatives” have with phonics and how it’s apparently the only good method to teach anyone to read. Yes, there are parts of English that are phonetic. Of course. But we are fundamentally speaking a language whose spelling was largely codified 500 years ago, before the pronunciation underwent many and vast shifts, not to mention acquiring huge amounts of vocabulary from many different foreign influences.

  • Grace

    For all those desiring a shorter version than tODD gave, let’s cut to the chase – definition from Oxford Dictionaries.

    phonetic (pho·net·ic)
    Pronunciation:/fəˈnetik, fəˈnɛdɪk/
    adjective
    Phonetics

    *of or relating to speech sounds:detailed phonetic information

    *(of a system of writing) having a direct correspondence between symbols and sounds:a phonetic alphabet

    *of or relating to phonetics:the teachers should receive phonetic training

    http://oxforddictionaries.com/view/entry/m_en_us1277608#m_en_us1277608

    This should ease everyone’s mind – WHEW, I thought we were in for another long debate over “phonetic” or…. well it could be worse :lol:

  • Grace

    For all those desiring a shorter version than tODD gave, let’s cut to the chase – definition from Oxford Dictionaries.

    phonetic (pho·net·ic)
    Pronunciation:/fəˈnetik, fəˈnɛdɪk/
    adjective
    Phonetics

    *of or relating to speech sounds:detailed phonetic information

    *(of a system of writing) having a direct correspondence between symbols and sounds:a phonetic alphabet

    *of or relating to phonetics:the teachers should receive phonetic training

    http://oxforddictionaries.com/view/entry/m_en_us1277608#m_en_us1277608

    This should ease everyone’s mind – WHEW, I thought we were in for another long debate over “phonetic” or…. well it could be worse :lol:

  • Grace

    I’ve given definition for “phonetic” so now it’s time for “Phonics” -

    “And, once again, I really don’t understand the hang-up so many “conservatives” have with phonics and how it’s apparently the only good method to teach anyone to read. Yes, there are parts of English that are phonetic.” tODD

    Sorry folks, …. I should have cited the piece above, to give credit for all the fuss.

    Just to be fair – below the definition of “phonics” – Oxford Dictionaries

    phonics (phon·ics)

    Pronunciation:/ˈfäniks, ˈfɑnɪks/
    [treated as singular]

    * a method of teaching people to read by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system.

  • Grace

    I’ve given definition for “phonetic” so now it’s time for “Phonics” -

    “And, once again, I really don’t understand the hang-up so many “conservatives” have with phonics and how it’s apparently the only good method to teach anyone to read. Yes, there are parts of English that are phonetic.” tODD

    Sorry folks, …. I should have cited the piece above, to give credit for all the fuss.

    Just to be fair – below the definition of “phonics” – Oxford Dictionaries

    phonics (phon·ics)

    Pronunciation:/ˈfäniks, ˈfɑnɪks/
    [treated as singular]

    * a method of teaching people to read by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Louis,

    A teacher can make upwards of 60k in Michigan. That’s a nice sum to make.

    S. Bauer,

    Now THAT would be an interesting scenario. If real discipline were to be given back to teachers, I’d bet $$$ that there would be better education in ALL schools, rich or poor.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Louis,

    A teacher can make upwards of 60k in Michigan. That’s a nice sum to make.

    S. Bauer,

    Now THAT would be an interesting scenario. If real discipline were to be given back to teachers, I’d bet $$$ that there would be better education in ALL schools, rich or poor.

  • Booklover

    Obviously Todd has mistaken my phrase of “entirely phonetic” to mean “most ideally phonetic” or “perfectly phonetic.” English is entirely phonetic in that each of its letters or combinations of letters stands for a sound. English does not have “pictures” which are symbols for a thing, but it has “letters” which are symbols for sounds, making it entirely phonetic.

    Perhaps one can think of it in this way: One can be “entirely saved.” That does not make one ideal or perfect. If that isn’t a good analogy, that’s OK. My intent is not to parse words, but to point out that children are cheated when they are not taught that letters stand for sounds. It is a tragedy when a child is in high school and he feels the system has failed him because he has not been given the tools to decipher new words. He has not been taught all of the sounds that the letters stand for; he has not been taught how to break words into manageable syllables. There is no greater vocation than to restore confidence and this skill to such a child. (Well, in my opinion, there is also the vocation of musician; and I am thankful to have the vocation of both musician and tutor/teacher.) :-)

    Cardiovascular surgeons are taught the normal functioning of a circulatory system. Then they are taught what can go wrong with such a system in cases such as aneurysm, atherosclerosis, or arrhythmia. Wouldn’t it be weird if the professors in the med school refused to teach prospective surgeons about the apparatus of the circulatory system because there are exceptions to a perfectly-running system? Yet that’s what we are doing when we abandon the teaching of phonics because of the relatively few words which don’t follow the rules.

    Interestingly, many websites give Martin Luther the credit for inventing the system of phonics, so that people could be taught to read God’s word in their native language. Other websites say it was his contemporaries who designed the phonetic system. Most agree that the system was invented in that particular century. It is interesting that wherever God’s Word is being translated, phonetics seems to be used.

    Western missionaries were the first to put Chinese characters, a not entirely phonetic system, into phonetic language.

    Letters stand for sounds, words are made up of sounds, and words mean things. A student trained in phonics can decode an unfamiliar English word, syllable by syllable, without having to guess. I am thankful for the tutor who finally taught the licensed pharmacist the difference between “chlorpropamide” which lowers blood sugar, and “chlorpromazine,” which is an antipsychotic. Yes, this really happened.

  • Booklover

    Obviously Todd has mistaken my phrase of “entirely phonetic” to mean “most ideally phonetic” or “perfectly phonetic.” English is entirely phonetic in that each of its letters or combinations of letters stands for a sound. English does not have “pictures” which are symbols for a thing, but it has “letters” which are symbols for sounds, making it entirely phonetic.

    Perhaps one can think of it in this way: One can be “entirely saved.” That does not make one ideal or perfect. If that isn’t a good analogy, that’s OK. My intent is not to parse words, but to point out that children are cheated when they are not taught that letters stand for sounds. It is a tragedy when a child is in high school and he feels the system has failed him because he has not been given the tools to decipher new words. He has not been taught all of the sounds that the letters stand for; he has not been taught how to break words into manageable syllables. There is no greater vocation than to restore confidence and this skill to such a child. (Well, in my opinion, there is also the vocation of musician; and I am thankful to have the vocation of both musician and tutor/teacher.) :-)

    Cardiovascular surgeons are taught the normal functioning of a circulatory system. Then they are taught what can go wrong with such a system in cases such as aneurysm, atherosclerosis, or arrhythmia. Wouldn’t it be weird if the professors in the med school refused to teach prospective surgeons about the apparatus of the circulatory system because there are exceptions to a perfectly-running system? Yet that’s what we are doing when we abandon the teaching of phonics because of the relatively few words which don’t follow the rules.

    Interestingly, many websites give Martin Luther the credit for inventing the system of phonics, so that people could be taught to read God’s word in their native language. Other websites say it was his contemporaries who designed the phonetic system. Most agree that the system was invented in that particular century. It is interesting that wherever God’s Word is being translated, phonetics seems to be used.

    Western missionaries were the first to put Chinese characters, a not entirely phonetic system, into phonetic language.

    Letters stand for sounds, words are made up of sounds, and words mean things. A student trained in phonics can decode an unfamiliar English word, syllable by syllable, without having to guess. I am thankful for the tutor who finally taught the licensed pharmacist the difference between “chlorpropamide” which lowers blood sugar, and “chlorpromazine,” which is an antipsychotic. Yes, this really happened.

  • Booklover

    Back to the original topic:

    Although I am skeptical that all of the other countries used test scores from every single area of the country as we would have (hopefully) in the United States, still I do see problems with our system.

    I went through four years of college to get my B.S. in Elementary Education, and I will have to say that those were 4 of the most excruciatingly disappointing years of my life educationally speaking. With the exception of my music classes, virtually all of my other subjects were entirely content-free. I was looking forward to learning much history so that I could teach it to my students. Not ONE history class was required!!!!! That was the greatest disappointment. In science, we spent a disproportionately huge amount of time learning about and building models of the theory of plate tectonics. In the classical model, children of elementary age (grammar level) do not spend huge amounts of time learning theory. Instead they are shown observable facts, which they memorize and retain due to repetition. Theory-learning should have been kept for the junior high or high school (logic or rhetoric) level.

    I do, however, remember one science teacher who made us graph the phases of the moon, and who showed us electrical circuitry. That was definitely something I could take to my elementary classroom. This also showed the wonders of God’s creation. Children learn best when the content is wonder-ful!

    Tragically, the reading classes never once mentioned phonics, except to say how outdated it was. Some mention was made of whole language instruction, but mostly we spent vast amounts of time making “work-jobs” or “centers,” education-speak for busy work. These “centers” took huge amounts of our time and vast amounts of material to make. Their only use was for the children to use up their extra time after they finished their seatwork. That was back when no one talked about being “green.”

    In the elementary level, we should have been taught what facts are important for the elementary child to know, and we should have been taught how to make the acquisition of those facts interesting. Instead we were busy tracing and cutting poster board for “work jobs.” I was depressed.

    I also remember that more physical education classes were required than any other subject in my college years. ODD.

    It wasn’t until I became a mother that I read homeschool catalogs and learned how to teach in the classical manner, the way I instinctively knew was right since I was raised in the Lutheran Church and had been taught to memorize my catechism. Nowadays memorization in the public schools is often laughed at. I hope that is changing.

    I substitute taught for several years in the public school system. I never thought I’d say this, but in the elementary level the math was too hard. By that I mean, there was a great deal of each assignment taken up with extremely difficult and involved story problems. Math in the elementary level should be preoccupied with the learning of facts and operations, working with them over and over again for speed and accuracy. One can’t do an intricate story problem if one hasn’t drilled their multiplication tables. Sure, story problems can be handled at the grammar level, but the intricate story problems involving much logic should be kept for the higher grades.

    Several college art classes that I took consisted of the instructor plopping a thing in front of us and commanding, “Here! Draw this!” I was helpless because I wasn’t given the tools to draw—the basic building blocks. I wouldn’t dream of putting a piece of music in front of my piano students and saying “Here! Play this!,” without first teaching them the notes. I wouldn’t dream of placing a story in front of a child and demanding, “Here! Read this!,” without first teaching him the letters and combinations of letters, and the sounds that they make.

    Writing is one subject that is often taught in an incorrect manner. Grammar level (elementary) children are often asked to write a creative story, when they really don’t yet know how to form a sentence. I was instrumental in the beginnings of the Classical Christian homeschooling movement. Here is a link to one of my articles, written 13 years ago:

    http://www.classical-homeschooling.org/grammar/writing.html

  • Booklover

    Back to the original topic:

    Although I am skeptical that all of the other countries used test scores from every single area of the country as we would have (hopefully) in the United States, still I do see problems with our system.

    I went through four years of college to get my B.S. in Elementary Education, and I will have to say that those were 4 of the most excruciatingly disappointing years of my life educationally speaking. With the exception of my music classes, virtually all of my other subjects were entirely content-free. I was looking forward to learning much history so that I could teach it to my students. Not ONE history class was required!!!!! That was the greatest disappointment. In science, we spent a disproportionately huge amount of time learning about and building models of the theory of plate tectonics. In the classical model, children of elementary age (grammar level) do not spend huge amounts of time learning theory. Instead they are shown observable facts, which they memorize and retain due to repetition. Theory-learning should have been kept for the junior high or high school (logic or rhetoric) level.

    I do, however, remember one science teacher who made us graph the phases of the moon, and who showed us electrical circuitry. That was definitely something I could take to my elementary classroom. This also showed the wonders of God’s creation. Children learn best when the content is wonder-ful!

    Tragically, the reading classes never once mentioned phonics, except to say how outdated it was. Some mention was made of whole language instruction, but mostly we spent vast amounts of time making “work-jobs” or “centers,” education-speak for busy work. These “centers” took huge amounts of our time and vast amounts of material to make. Their only use was for the children to use up their extra time after they finished their seatwork. That was back when no one talked about being “green.”

    In the elementary level, we should have been taught what facts are important for the elementary child to know, and we should have been taught how to make the acquisition of those facts interesting. Instead we were busy tracing and cutting poster board for “work jobs.” I was depressed.

    I also remember that more physical education classes were required than any other subject in my college years. ODD.

    It wasn’t until I became a mother that I read homeschool catalogs and learned how to teach in the classical manner, the way I instinctively knew was right since I was raised in the Lutheran Church and had been taught to memorize my catechism. Nowadays memorization in the public schools is often laughed at. I hope that is changing.

    I substitute taught for several years in the public school system. I never thought I’d say this, but in the elementary level the math was too hard. By that I mean, there was a great deal of each assignment taken up with extremely difficult and involved story problems. Math in the elementary level should be preoccupied with the learning of facts and operations, working with them over and over again for speed and accuracy. One can’t do an intricate story problem if one hasn’t drilled their multiplication tables. Sure, story problems can be handled at the grammar level, but the intricate story problems involving much logic should be kept for the higher grades.

    Several college art classes that I took consisted of the instructor plopping a thing in front of us and commanding, “Here! Draw this!” I was helpless because I wasn’t given the tools to draw—the basic building blocks. I wouldn’t dream of putting a piece of music in front of my piano students and saying “Here! Play this!,” without first teaching them the notes. I wouldn’t dream of placing a story in front of a child and demanding, “Here! Read this!,” without first teaching him the letters and combinations of letters, and the sounds that they make.

    Writing is one subject that is often taught in an incorrect manner. Grammar level (elementary) children are often asked to write a creative story, when they really don’t yet know how to form a sentence. I was instrumental in the beginnings of the Classical Christian homeschooling movement. Here is a link to one of my articles, written 13 years ago:

    http://www.classical-homeschooling.org/grammar/writing.html

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Booklover, I learned English as a second language. I like to think that I’m now close to fully billingual (ie, no first langauge), but I won’t debate the matter.

    English is partly phonetic, but not nearly as much as some other languages I’m familiar with, or studied the basics of at some point in the past. Examples:

    Afrikaans, German, Dutch, Latin, Zulu. Note that one of those isn’t even Indo-European.

    English, as somebody put it, is a language of exceptions to the rule. As a matter of fact, I’m aware of a program in the east (I think it was Taiwan) where they taught the student Afrikaans as an introduction to English!

    Then again I prefer “Phonics” over “whole language”, but as the son of an educator, one shouldn’t get too attached to any educational theory (including classical education and home schooling…. there I said it. Now I’m ducking :) ).

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Booklover, I learned English as a second language. I like to think that I’m now close to fully billingual (ie, no first langauge), but I won’t debate the matter.

    English is partly phonetic, but not nearly as much as some other languages I’m familiar with, or studied the basics of at some point in the past. Examples:

    Afrikaans, German, Dutch, Latin, Zulu. Note that one of those isn’t even Indo-European.

    English, as somebody put it, is a language of exceptions to the rule. As a matter of fact, I’m aware of a program in the east (I think it was Taiwan) where they taught the student Afrikaans as an introduction to English!

    Then again I prefer “Phonics” over “whole language”, but as the son of an educator, one shouldn’t get too attached to any educational theory (including classical education and home schooling…. there I said it. Now I’m ducking :) ).

  • Grace

    Louis – 64

    “as the son of an educator, one shouldn’t get too attached to any educational theory (including classical education and home schooling…. there I said it. Now I’m ducking”

    I agree with you Louis – both private and public schools can be a good choice, it depends on the school – my last choice would be home schooling. Too many young people have a difficult time fitting in .. social adjustment after being home schooled.

  • Grace

    Louis – 64

    “as the son of an educator, one shouldn’t get too attached to any educational theory (including classical education and home schooling…. there I said it. Now I’m ducking”

    I agree with you Louis – both private and public schools can be a good choice, it depends on the school – my last choice would be home schooling. Too many young people have a difficult time fitting in .. social adjustment after being home schooled.

  • Booklover

    Louis, I repeat that I never said English was an IDEAL phonetic language, but it is still phonetic. I sing in Latin and Italian, and I know the ease of those languages over ours. I was using “phonetic” as a descriptive word, not as the epitome of an example of one! And with that, I have tired of the subject. . .

    I agree with you in general about educational theories. I am the mother of four sons; each of them entirely different from the other. One memorized easily, one cried when he had to memorize. One thrived on anything to do with words, and I homeschooled him because his teacher requested me to since he was so advanced. (He had been typing his fellow classmates’ narrations into the computer in grade 1.) He was in Saxon 6/5 math in grade 2. The next son hated “doing school” but wanted to be in public kindergarten near the cage of iguanas, and near the cute girl “wif duh skin dat it’s black,” (his words) so that’s where he went.

    But I believe that future educators should be introduced to all methods and theories, or at least all good ones. :-)

  • Booklover

    Louis, I repeat that I never said English was an IDEAL phonetic language, but it is still phonetic. I sing in Latin and Italian, and I know the ease of those languages over ours. I was using “phonetic” as a descriptive word, not as the epitome of an example of one! And with that, I have tired of the subject. . .

    I agree with you in general about educational theories. I am the mother of four sons; each of them entirely different from the other. One memorized easily, one cried when he had to memorize. One thrived on anything to do with words, and I homeschooled him because his teacher requested me to since he was so advanced. (He had been typing his fellow classmates’ narrations into the computer in grade 1.) He was in Saxon 6/5 math in grade 2. The next son hated “doing school” but wanted to be in public kindergarten near the cage of iguanas, and near the cute girl “wif duh skin dat it’s black,” (his words) so that’s where he went.

    But I believe that future educators should be introduced to all methods and theories, or at least all good ones. :-)

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Booklover – I’m happy to see that you are not a one-theory woman! Unfortunately, in my personal experience, the majority of both homeschoolers, as well as classical schoolers (and the overlap between the two) become foam-at-the-mouth-fanatics if you dare say anyhting like I said @64.

    Yes, I’ve had some bad experiences.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Booklover – I’m happy to see that you are not a one-theory woman! Unfortunately, in my personal experience, the majority of both homeschoolers, as well as classical schoolers (and the overlap between the two) become foam-at-the-mouth-fanatics if you dare say anyhting like I said @64.

    Yes, I’ve had some bad experiences.

  • Que sera sera

    Booklover: That website has been of great help to me as I work to structure our homeschool and its environment. Thank you for your contributions to it.

  • Que sera sera

    Booklover: That website has been of great help to me as I work to structure our homeschool and its environment. Thank you for your contributions to it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Booklover, your comment (@62) appears to continue to confuse “phonetic” with “phonics”. And, moreover, appears to mainly base its claim of English as the former on a desire to defend the latter.

    Part of the problem is that you have yet to clearly define what it is that you’re defending. When I critiqued your claim that English was “entirely phonetic”, your defense attempted to differentiate that phrase from “perfectly phonetic”. But, again, if English is not “perfectly phonetic”, in what sense could it truly be argued that it is nonetheless “entirely phonetic”?

    I provided (@58) a dictionary definition of what I’m referring to when I say “phonetic” — “representing speech sounds by means of symbols that have one value only” — and I’m willing to abide by that. But English fails that definition, whether we use the adverb “entirely” or “perfectly”.

    In contrast, you have provided an apparent definition of the term that is almost entirely meaningless: “English is entirely phonetic in that each of its letters or combinations of letters stands for a sound.” Okay, but what writing system does not fit this definition? Is there a (natural) language that would be excluded by this definition? I guess if you’re emphasizing the word “letters” in a technical sense, it would rule out languages without an alphabet, but otherwise, what’s your point?

    You follow this up by saying that “English does not have ‘pictures’ which are symbols for a thing, but it has ‘letters’ which are symbols for sounds, making it entirely phonetic.” I worry that you might be (incorrectly) thinking of Chinese when you say this, but precious little of that writing system consists of pictograms, and what little remains bears little resemblance today to the objects being represented. So, again, what writing system are you thinking of that has “‘pictures’ which are symbols for a thing”?

    In fact, you called Chinese “a not entirely phonetic system”, but I believe Chinese characters more consistently map to phonemes (sounds) than do their English counterparts, yet you maintain that Chinese is less “entirely phonetic” than English. Again, my question is: why? On what definition are you basing these ideas?

    If I had to find a thesis in your comment, it would be this: “My intent is not to parse words, but to point out that children are cheated when they are not taught that letters stand for sounds.” Which was the point I made at the beginning of this comment. You are attempting to defend phonics with a misunderstanding of phonetics.

    Here’s the thing: phonics is certainly a useful tool in learning how to read English. It cannot be the only tool, because English is so chock full of irregularities (to the point that it’s not unlikely that most or all of a word becomes a phonic “rule” itself), but it will help with reading some or many words.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Booklover, your comment (@62) appears to continue to confuse “phonetic” with “phonics”. And, moreover, appears to mainly base its claim of English as the former on a desire to defend the latter.

    Part of the problem is that you have yet to clearly define what it is that you’re defending. When I critiqued your claim that English was “entirely phonetic”, your defense attempted to differentiate that phrase from “perfectly phonetic”. But, again, if English is not “perfectly phonetic”, in what sense could it truly be argued that it is nonetheless “entirely phonetic”?

    I provided (@58) a dictionary definition of what I’m referring to when I say “phonetic” — “representing speech sounds by means of symbols that have one value only” — and I’m willing to abide by that. But English fails that definition, whether we use the adverb “entirely” or “perfectly”.

    In contrast, you have provided an apparent definition of the term that is almost entirely meaningless: “English is entirely phonetic in that each of its letters or combinations of letters stands for a sound.” Okay, but what writing system does not fit this definition? Is there a (natural) language that would be excluded by this definition? I guess if you’re emphasizing the word “letters” in a technical sense, it would rule out languages without an alphabet, but otherwise, what’s your point?

    You follow this up by saying that “English does not have ‘pictures’ which are symbols for a thing, but it has ‘letters’ which are symbols for sounds, making it entirely phonetic.” I worry that you might be (incorrectly) thinking of Chinese when you say this, but precious little of that writing system consists of pictograms, and what little remains bears little resemblance today to the objects being represented. So, again, what writing system are you thinking of that has “‘pictures’ which are symbols for a thing”?

    In fact, you called Chinese “a not entirely phonetic system”, but I believe Chinese characters more consistently map to phonemes (sounds) than do their English counterparts, yet you maintain that Chinese is less “entirely phonetic” than English. Again, my question is: why? On what definition are you basing these ideas?

    If I had to find a thesis in your comment, it would be this: “My intent is not to parse words, but to point out that children are cheated when they are not taught that letters stand for sounds.” Which was the point I made at the beginning of this comment. You are attempting to defend phonics with a misunderstanding of phonetics.

    Here’s the thing: phonics is certainly a useful tool in learning how to read English. It cannot be the only tool, because English is so chock full of irregularities (to the point that it’s not unlikely that most or all of a word becomes a phonic “rule” itself), but it will help with reading some or many words.

  • DonS

    Grace @ 65:

    I agree with you Louis – both private and public schools can be a good choice, it depends on the school – my last choice would be home schooling. Too many young people have a difficult time fitting in .. social adjustment after being home schooled.

    You, of course, are entitled to your opinion. And 20 or 25 years ago an awful lot of people agreed with you concerning homeschooling. But, not anymore. The first generation of modern -day homeschoolers is grown now, and the results are in. They are doing extremely well as a group — outstanding academics and socially well adjusted. Why is this? Well, quite simply, two primary reasons. One is that they socialize within their immediate families. Homeschooling families tend to be larger than average, and homeschooling siblings, spending a lot of time together, tend to be very close (a side benefit of homeschooling!). Second, is that a lot of people homeschool nowadays, so there are plenty of opportunities for socializing with other homeschoolers. Our California PSP (Private Satellite Program) has 150 families. We have regular weekly classes, choir, speech & debate, sports, field trips, student government, service projects, etc. We raised five children, homeschooling all the way through. Two are college graduates and married, one in college, one in high school, one in jr. high. All doing great!

    Please don’t misunderstand. I am not advocating for homeschooling for everyone. Nor am I saying it is necessarily a better choice than other educational options. The reason why we chose it is because we knew we had a responsibility to raise and train up our children in the Lord, to disciple them. Christ demonstrated during His earthly ministry that effective discipleship is done through modeling. Modeling takes a lot of time, and we wanted our children to have the best part of the day with us, rather than with other teachers who may not inculcate our values.

    If you investigate Patrick Henry College, where Dr. Veith is Provost, you will note that 80 or more percent of its student body is homeschooled. It is a superb learning environment, and its graduates are extraordinary. You will see them in visible roles in our nation’s leadership in years to come!

    Of course, not every homeschooler is a success story. Some are poorly socialized, and some parents aren’t suited to the challenge and responsibility of the task. But that’s true with every educational option. Many in the public and private traditional schools socialize with very much the wrong element, as I’m sure you’re aware. In general, age-diverse socialization, where the pecking order is based on maturity, is a far better approach than peer group socialization, where the pecking order of similarly aged students is based on less substantive criteria, such as looks, athleticism, popularity, etc.

    Food for thought.

  • DonS

    Grace @ 65:

    I agree with you Louis – both private and public schools can be a good choice, it depends on the school – my last choice would be home schooling. Too many young people have a difficult time fitting in .. social adjustment after being home schooled.

    You, of course, are entitled to your opinion. And 20 or 25 years ago an awful lot of people agreed with you concerning homeschooling. But, not anymore. The first generation of modern -day homeschoolers is grown now, and the results are in. They are doing extremely well as a group — outstanding academics and socially well adjusted. Why is this? Well, quite simply, two primary reasons. One is that they socialize within their immediate families. Homeschooling families tend to be larger than average, and homeschooling siblings, spending a lot of time together, tend to be very close (a side benefit of homeschooling!). Second, is that a lot of people homeschool nowadays, so there are plenty of opportunities for socializing with other homeschoolers. Our California PSP (Private Satellite Program) has 150 families. We have regular weekly classes, choir, speech & debate, sports, field trips, student government, service projects, etc. We raised five children, homeschooling all the way through. Two are college graduates and married, one in college, one in high school, one in jr. high. All doing great!

    Please don’t misunderstand. I am not advocating for homeschooling for everyone. Nor am I saying it is necessarily a better choice than other educational options. The reason why we chose it is because we knew we had a responsibility to raise and train up our children in the Lord, to disciple them. Christ demonstrated during His earthly ministry that effective discipleship is done through modeling. Modeling takes a lot of time, and we wanted our children to have the best part of the day with us, rather than with other teachers who may not inculcate our values.

    If you investigate Patrick Henry College, where Dr. Veith is Provost, you will note that 80 or more percent of its student body is homeschooled. It is a superb learning environment, and its graduates are extraordinary. You will see them in visible roles in our nation’s leadership in years to come!

    Of course, not every homeschooler is a success story. Some are poorly socialized, and some parents aren’t suited to the challenge and responsibility of the task. But that’s true with every educational option. Many in the public and private traditional schools socialize with very much the wrong element, as I’m sure you’re aware. In general, age-diverse socialization, where the pecking order is based on maturity, is a far better approach than peer group socialization, where the pecking order of similarly aged students is based on less substantive criteria, such as looks, athleticism, popularity, etc.

    Food for thought.

  • collie

    Don@70, that is really a great report on homeschoolers; thanks for sharing. I agree that homeschooling is great for some but not all families. I would love to see even more school options out there, because as the educators on this blog have pointed out, students learn in different ways, but more importantly, have different abilities. I would like to see added: private tutors and apprenticeships in a skill or vocation that is hands-on. I also would like to see different education tracks, depending on a student’s interests and abilities. Why require the same subjects for high school graduation for students that do not have the desire or skill to go to college? I know that our society places great emphasis on a college education, saying in essence that one cannot support a family without a job that requires a degree, but I’m not sold on that theory.

    Am Spectator online ran an interesting article on one of France’s apprenticeship programs here:

    http://spectator.org/archives/2010/11/17/boon-companions

    You can skip the first few paragraphs, the interesting part starts somewhere in the middle, where they describe the program of les compagnons where students in hands-on skills such as masonry, carpentry and even culinary arts travel around the country to be tutored by the best in the field. It sounds rigorous but also exciting. I would love to see something similar started in the U.S.

  • collie

    Don@70, that is really a great report on homeschoolers; thanks for sharing. I agree that homeschooling is great for some but not all families. I would love to see even more school options out there, because as the educators on this blog have pointed out, students learn in different ways, but more importantly, have different abilities. I would like to see added: private tutors and apprenticeships in a skill or vocation that is hands-on. I also would like to see different education tracks, depending on a student’s interests and abilities. Why require the same subjects for high school graduation for students that do not have the desire or skill to go to college? I know that our society places great emphasis on a college education, saying in essence that one cannot support a family without a job that requires a degree, but I’m not sold on that theory.

    Am Spectator online ran an interesting article on one of France’s apprenticeship programs here:

    http://spectator.org/archives/2010/11/17/boon-companions

    You can skip the first few paragraphs, the interesting part starts somewhere in the middle, where they describe the program of les compagnons where students in hands-on skills such as masonry, carpentry and even culinary arts travel around the country to be tutored by the best in the field. It sounds rigorous but also exciting. I would love to see something similar started in the U.S.

  • J

    As an assistant basketball coach, I can tell you that nobody wanted to work hard on the fundamentals and conditioning, everybody just wanted to scrimmage (have fun). As a whole, our society does not respect authority and all truth is relative. The individual determines what is right and wrong and cares nothing for the advice, coaching, teaching, wisdom, etc of others. Youthful pride is encouraged, not confronted. The problem is the same we face in our churches…nobody is committed unless it appears beneficial immediately. We suffer from insatiable instant gratification syndrome. We place priorities on things that have no enduring value. What would remedy the education system is a cultural revolution that begins with Christians. At one time Rome was a pagan nation but it was the Gospel that changed it.

  • J

    As an assistant basketball coach, I can tell you that nobody wanted to work hard on the fundamentals and conditioning, everybody just wanted to scrimmage (have fun). As a whole, our society does not respect authority and all truth is relative. The individual determines what is right and wrong and cares nothing for the advice, coaching, teaching, wisdom, etc of others. Youthful pride is encouraged, not confronted. The problem is the same we face in our churches…nobody is committed unless it appears beneficial immediately. We suffer from insatiable instant gratification syndrome. We place priorities on things that have no enduring value. What would remedy the education system is a cultural revolution that begins with Christians. At one time Rome was a pagan nation but it was the Gospel that changed it.

  • DonS

    Collie @ 71: Thank you for your kind words and your insight. Yes, indeed, the main thing to remember is that we, as parents, are called to raise and train up our children. We are stewards of these precious lives, and we are accountable to our Lord for the job we do. Discipleship is the key, and Christ opened the window to discipleship by the way in which He trained up His own disciples, who were then tasked to preach the Gospel. None of us can tell others definitively which options to choose to accomplish this God-given task. But what we can urge is that each parent consider all of the available options, discarding none of them out of hand, and pray without ceasing over what will ultimately be a major life decision. Definitely, for many young people, vocational training is the right pathway. And homeschoolers LOVE apprenticeship :-)

    J @ 72: Good insight. You are right, and as a fellow past youth coach I have observed much the same thing.

  • DonS

    Collie @ 71: Thank you for your kind words and your insight. Yes, indeed, the main thing to remember is that we, as parents, are called to raise and train up our children. We are stewards of these precious lives, and we are accountable to our Lord for the job we do. Discipleship is the key, and Christ opened the window to discipleship by the way in which He trained up His own disciples, who were then tasked to preach the Gospel. None of us can tell others definitively which options to choose to accomplish this God-given task. But what we can urge is that each parent consider all of the available options, discarding none of them out of hand, and pray without ceasing over what will ultimately be a major life decision. Definitely, for many young people, vocational training is the right pathway. And homeschoolers LOVE apprenticeship :-)

    J @ 72: Good insight. You are right, and as a fellow past youth coach I have observed much the same thing.

  • Booklover

    Thank you, Que sera sera @ 68! Happy homeschooling!

  • Booklover

    Thank you, Que sera sera @ 68! Happy homeschooling!

  • Francesca

    When I went to my middle school, I was bored out of my mind. As a child of Eastern European refugees, education is priorities number 1 through a million. Yet, my school (which is super upper-middle class, gets superb test scores), is so stupid! Your education was basically set to you. The only advanced placement option was for math! And foreign language level 1 took 3 years, and there were no educational electives. Just to stay interested, I had to take Alg 1 and Geometry concurrently and French 1a and Spanish 1c.
    So, if our kids are “too challenged,” go into their lives. Most of them don’t spend most of their time on school or homework. Most kids go to the frozen yogurt shop across the way or text to their friends. Because I CAN GUARANTEE you that if you’re an upper-middle class family with a kid you spoil, they’ll think you will support them for their entire lives!

  • Francesca

    When I went to my middle school, I was bored out of my mind. As a child of Eastern European refugees, education is priorities number 1 through a million. Yet, my school (which is super upper-middle class, gets superb test scores), is so stupid! Your education was basically set to you. The only advanced placement option was for math! And foreign language level 1 took 3 years, and there were no educational electives. Just to stay interested, I had to take Alg 1 and Geometry concurrently and French 1a and Spanish 1c.
    So, if our kids are “too challenged,” go into their lives. Most of them don’t spend most of their time on school or homework. Most kids go to the frozen yogurt shop across the way or text to their friends. Because I CAN GUARANTEE you that if you’re an upper-middle class family with a kid you spoil, they’ll think you will support them for their entire lives!

  • hi bye

    hi

  • hi bye

    hi

  • hi bye

    I LIKE FLUFFY CAKES

  • hi bye

    I LIKE FLUFFY CAKES

  • HI BYE

    shut up #58 u have no idea wut u taking about dumby

  • HI BYE

    shut up #58 u have no idea wut u taking about dumby


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