Importance and usefulness of standard education in the near future

I am curious people’s thoughts on this and how it varies outside the US. I wonder a lot how much I will stress education with my kids. I have been through every level and have had a lot of gripes about how it was handled at each level.

  1. There is too much busy-work and baby-sitting even at the college level.

  2. There is too much spoonfeeding solely for a standardized test and not enough teaching of creativity and how to learn on your own.

  3. With the abundance of outsourcing, some of the safest careers are service jobs that can be learned at a trade school anyway rather than a 4-year college.

  4. There is too much teaching to the common denominator.

How much will you all stress education with your kids? Will you care if they don’t get straight A’s in elementary school? middle school? high school? college? Will you try to push them into a highly technical career that requires a lot of education or would you let them choose something that is safer, but likely not as prestigious? Do you think the education system as it is now will be similar in another 20 years or do you think there will be a lot of changes and a switch in emphasis from standardized testing?

I have even thought of homeschooling my kids if it was at all possible because the inefficiency in the current system is nuts. One part of me says to not worry about my kid actually doing the homework as long as they know the material because I’ve always hated doing busy work as most homework was. Although, another part of me knows that doing things you don’t want to do is a part of life and they should learn that.

There are a lot of questions. Does anyone else think about this stuff as much as I do?

I think a big problem is the teachers. I know that I never, ever, not in a million years had a teacher that did anything besides tell me that I was bright and should work harder. No teacher ever asked why I was failing, what they could do to help, never made me stay after school to study, nothing. Nada. And that is a really, really big problem.

Students are just kids, they don’t know any better and likely don’t want to be there. Education and schooling are the core essentials of a childs life - it’s what they do. I don’t think there is any alternative besides striving for excellence in your childs grades. I know I floated through the system until college and I’m paying for it hardcore. I know that when I’m a parent I’m going to sit down with my kids and watch them do their homework and check it - because if they’re anything like me that’s what’ll have to happen.

Home schooling is a horrible idea. You do more at school than just learn history and math, you learn how to interact with others, basic problem solving, conflict resolution and other basic societal norms.

To address your points:

  1. Busy work is part of education. The term busy work is a made up word by parents who are looking for a reason to denounce a teacher. All “busy work” is is the simple reinforcement of material through actually doing it. It’s essential. However, the way it’s administered could be changed. In my experience it was just work sheets handed out and then the teacher sat down and didn’t say anything or do anything.

  2. Spoonfeeding? Teaching creativity? You realize that creativity is rather difficult to teach someone right? If they don’t have an imagination well, creativity isn’t going to come easily. I assume you mean that teachers are spoonfeeding information on standardized tests so that students know exactly what to expect, right? Well the standardized tests are based on the curriculum. So, in essence, it’s just a test over what they should be learning anyway, so what you said doesn’t really matter.

  3. And? I don’t see how that’s impacted by the education system, or how it affects the education system.

  4. What the hell does that mean?

What I dislike about modern university is that it no longer teaches people to be social. It used to be that students had to write arguments and defend them in front of a classroom. Every class was effectively a ‘speech’ class. Nowadays, students can barely speak a thoughtful sentence without dissolving in a fit of ‘ums’, ‘likes’, ‘you knows’, and vague references. People still have sophisticated ideas. They just don’t know how to communicate them. If I taught a class, I’d make my final exam a half-hour long presentation.

Also, I’d give my students <i>facts</i> to learn, which literary professors rarely do nowadays. If they can’t remember the main events in Hamlet, for instance, why should I bother teaching about its postmodern-linguistic interpretations? It seems like no one gets the <i>basics</i> anymore except professors. The only thing students know about poetry is that Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter. All they know from classical literature are the Iliad, Odyssey, and Oedipus Rex. The only pre-modern novels they know are by Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Charles Dickens. The whole situation is dismal.

The only thing students know about poetry is that Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter.
Believe me, they don’t.

Haha, as Hades said, they dont. I’m in fucking med school and in a group of 20 people, I was the only one that even knew what the words “iambic pentameter” MEANT.

I think Hypharse makes some good points. There is A_LOT to be said on this topic so I find it a little difficult to know where to start. I disagree a bit with Sorc, but I also think he brings up some good points as well.

I’ll start where Sorc started: the teachers. I agree completely that a teacher can make all the difference. I made a point about what teaching meant in Doan’s peace bridge thread. That is the kind of teaching that we don’t see very often for a variety of reasons, the most important being , in my opinion, the kind of person that becomes a teacher. When I look at people in a University, the people that become teachers are rarely the top of their class, the best speakers, the most motivated people that want to change the world. Yet when we see teacher ads, that’s what they want a teacher to be. The reality is that the vast majority of teachers are bottom feeders and you get what you pay for. There are exceptions to this as I have had excellent teachers but in the grand scheme of things, this people are definetly the exception and not the rule.

Busy work: not giving homework is a new age philosophy that is part bull shit , part good idea. A lot of people like to be all sentimental and make up bullshit stories about how tired their kids are and how overworked they are and how atrocious it is nowadays when the reality is that the educational system is become easier and dumber than in the past. However, one has to ask what is the purpose of busy work. You can say busy work is like doing my organic chemistry homework. In 1 year, I did 125 pages front and back of organic chemistry problem just from the book. That is a lot but it was necessary for me to have a solid understanding of how it worked. Writing essays in English is necessary as it gives you time to properly lay down and formlate an argument, which is a necessary and universally applicable skill. Homework in different contexts can be useful, but the use has its limits. Studies (supposedly, I haven’t read them this is hearsay) are showing that smart kids don’t benefit from busy work because its stuff they already know how to do and that lazy kids don’t do the work anyway so ultimately the work doesn’t do much. I think that from the little I’ve read about how these studies work and the mentality behind them, that they’re fairly short sighted and the concepts they look at are oversimplified. They nevertheless make one think about the value of homework.

Now my personal opinion is that I HATE busywork. I hate it with a passion. There is a difference between bullshit like being given a “creative” bullshit project like “make a video” or “make a poster” to make high school an arts and crafts presentation of something. This is juvenile and pointless and it accomplishes nothing except gives people an easy grade to buffer their failures in a non-academic setting. What I loved about UCI is that it worked in quarters and you had no time to give busy work. All work that you were given was directly related to the class. What one would consider busy work like my 125 pages or organic chemistry, that was never assigned. It was up to the student to manage himself so he wouldn’t get fucked up the ass. And I liked that. Do a lot of people thrive in that kind of environment like I did? No, a lot of people get fucked up the ass because at no time are they ever taught the value of doing that kind of work or taught how to manage themselves. In fact, studies are showing that people aren’t even ready to manage themselves in real life. They’re showing most people can’t even compare different prices and sizes for 2 of the same item and make a decision as to what is the better value.

Sorc is right that you can’t teach creativity. Spoonfeeding refers to giving people what they need to know for the exam. While the exam is important as it evaluates if you know how to do something, ultimately, the exam doesn’t ask you if you know how do integrals or derivatives. It asks you if you know what the derivative of x^2 is. You don’t need to know how to do derivatives if you just memorize what the answer is. That’s the problem that Hypharse is talking about. People don’t learn, they don’t understand, they don’t retain material they can apply in other classes and situations. They just learn the bare minimum for the exam and it goes out the window after. This is not an education. Ok , so the problem is that people can’t think. How do you solve the problem that people can’t think? Can you even teach them to think? That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer to that. The more cynical part of me says “no” , that it has to be an individual effort, that someone has to grow and develop that skill and more importantly , want to do so. So is it the fault of culture and human nature or a deficient educational system?

The third point has to do with the value of a 4 year degree. I think that Hypharse makes a good point although , not very clearly. What he’s saying is you have a lot of jack offs going to universities, going into bullshit programs like “communication” to do a meaningless job that didn’t require them to even go to college. This is the reality in a lot of settings. The problem around all that is complex and it has a lot to do with culture in itself and it encompasses more than just how people are not even educated properly by the time they get to college.

The fourth point means that the classes are dumbed down to the students because they students aren’t performing to pre set expectations.

IMO busywork is by definition the useless creative projects you’re talking about Sin. It’s called busy work because it’s there to keep you busy, not teach you.

When your assignments are there to teach you or reinforce what you already know, it’s called practice. I don’t consider them the same things.

In classes like O-chem and Math, not doing your homework is the equivalent of not doing drills in Karate or guitar lessons, and I don’t consider those drills to be busy-work.

Sorc is right that you can’t teach creativity. Spoonfeeding refers to giving people what they need to know for the exam. While the exam is important as it evaluates if you know how to do something, ultimately, the exam doesn’t ask you if you know how do integrals or derivatives. It asks you if you know what the derivative of x^2 is. You don’t need to know how to do derivatives if you just memorize what the answer is. That’s the problem that Hypharse is talking about. People don’t learn, they don’t understand, they don’t retain material they can apply in other classes and situations. They just learn the bare minimum for the exam and it goes out the window after. This is not an education. Ok , so the problem is that people can’t think. How do you solve the problem that people can’t think? Can you even teach them to think? That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer to that. The more cynical part of me says “no” , that it has to be an individual effort, that someone has to grow and develop that skill and more importantly , want to do so. So is it the fault of culture and human nature or a deficient educational system?
This is what happened in my friend’s geometry class in HS. He didn’t know what he was doing. There were times when he’d go to me for help because he didn’t know how to add vectors or some other common-sense problem, and I wasn’t even in the course. He obviously didn’t know what he was doing on a basic level, but because he did the practice problems over and over, and his teacher liked using problems from the text on his tests, he aced the course by memorization. He’s now in engineering with a bunch of other retarded kids who did the same thing, and he’ll probably get through it the same way.

I vehemently hate busy work. You guys mentioned a lot of the reasons and another reason along with that is it burns you out. Looking back at my transcript for undergrad and grad school I see a rather strong inverse correlation between my final grade and satisfaction with the course and the amount of homework that course had. The classes that had a ton of graded homework I would have a worse grade in, hate more, and feel less satisfied with my knowledge in it. I have thought of a few reasons why this might be.

One is the burnout factor of the homework. I would just work hastily to get the answers down in the quickest way I knew without trying to understand the problem. In math this is especially relevant since, like Sin and Hades said, you have a lot of easy shortcuts that can get you the answer without you really knowing how that answer came about.

The second reason may be part of the spoonfeeding. The classes that focused around tests and not homework may have been so focused on the tests that the amount we had to learn was narrowed. This may have given me a false sense of how much I learned. That could be seen as a plus for the homework-side if true.

The classes I always enjoyed the best were ones that focused on tests or projects and offered a lot of homework that was either optional or graded on effort and not correctness. These classes I always enjoyed. If I felt I had a good grasp of the material I would not bother with the homework much, but if I felt I needed more practice I had plenty of problems to get that practice. I realize that teaching method would not work with everyone though since you have to be self-motivated to some degree.

I go back and forth on the creativity thing. I think it can’t necessarily be taught, but the way the education system is it is often supressed. In many classes creativity of any kind is looked down on and considered wrong. They want to spoonfeed you and then have you regurgitate that same information in the same way. I remember my 10th grade english class we were doing these brain-teaser like worksheets for actual grades. I have to give them credit for actually trying brain teasers, but one of them was on…I forget the word for it, but those words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Is it homonyms? One of the problems was this:

If you were unable to button your pants, one would say you could not

___________ your ______________.

I put down “close your clothes”. I get the paper back and it’s marked wrong. The actual answer in the answer booklet was “wear your ware”. There is an example of how they stifle creativity. It is a sign of bad teachers. They want an answer that fits the exact one that they know or is in their book and they do not like any other possibly correct answer. Also, in english classes 99% of the time they told us what exactly to read and what exactly to look for in the stories. I have talked with others and some HAVE had good teachers that allowed different interpretations of the story, but mine never did. If I did not follow the traditional choices for what the purpose of the story was I would be told I was wrong. I would always end up writing to what I knew the teacher wanted rather than about what I really felt.

So by teaching creativity I mean showing students how they can be creative and allowing them to be creative.

I did mean partly that college is a waste for those that go into typically easy majors “just to get a degree” as they say. I also mean it for the highly educated people too though. I am working in IBM research and there are a TON of brilliant minds extremely well educated people here. Everyone in my group has a phd and they got their phd in signal integrity from prestigious colleges. The problem is that they can hire 4 people in India at the same salary of one of these people. The only way they can justify their employment is by constantly pushing the envelope and developing new ideas. This is why my group aims for a patent, or at least 2 publications a month. This works well for them since they are smart and enjoy it, but what about those people with only undergrad degrees that can’t push the envelope? The only advantage they have over those in India is locality and understanding of the culture/language which doesn’t justify a 4x salary. These are also the people I was talking about. Is it worth it to go through all that education and constant pressure to advance in the field? Or would it be better to just go to a 2-year trade-school and become an electrician, mechanic, or plumber. I imagine we will need electricians and plumbers for a long while so you won’t have to worry about being outsourced.

As you know, I recently got my batchelors degree, and one of the first things I did when I came home was to visit my high school because I wanted to talk to some teachers (okay, basically gloat, but can you blame me?). Anyway, so I’m talking to my favorite teacher of all time, and it’s almost scary of how differently a teacher can speak to a person who is no longer their student. This man teaches an American Studies course (basically a two period class that combines Literature and History) and it’s horrible hearing some of the things he was saying about some of his classes. For example, this is a Junior level class, and there are students who couldn’t for the life of them say when the Declaration of Independence was written and by whom. This is coming from a public school teacher who is very well considering not enrolling his own daughter into public education.

But that isn’t really what I’m trying to get at, he said something to me that I will never forget came from his lips, he told me “Students like you are the only reason I can continue to teach like this, but it’s still killin’ me because in the end I can’t challenge the students who are trying to run while the rest are walking any more then I can help the students who are crawling behind.” It’s a horrible situation, and he said that the hardest part of his job is trying to create lesson plans that work with everybody, but it just isn’t possible.

On the other hand, another teacher (who was teaching the American Studies class along with the man I just mentioned) who we were both talking to, didn’t have the same perspective, but that was only because she taught mostly electives such as Psychology, so she believed the students taking her classes tended to be more interested and willing to learn then students in more general education classes.

I really don’t know what point I’m trying to make, but I’d at least like everyone to put it into a teacher’s perspective. It really isn’t possible to help everyone, nor does everyone want their help. Personally, I’ve considered becoming a teacher, but every time I think about it, I get a nagging feeling that I might not be able to handle seeing students this way, I might be cynical but I still think it would break me in the long run.

I agree with that. I am sure a lot of teachers go into teaching with the mindset that they will make everyone happy, but then get burned out and end up doing whatever makes their job easier. I know quite a few teachers and this has happened to them. They are under tremendous pressure by their administration and by the parents of the kids. Everyone has different views on how they should teach and the teacher is left having to please them all. I am unsure of how best to fix that problem. Smaller class sizes helps. Classifying students as gifted, average, special needs helps some, but also causes a lot of problems itself with jealousy some kids getting farther and farther behind.

I can sympathize from teaching at The Princeton Review. Basically, you get ten students with various scores from various high schools. What makes it difficult is that the strategies that are helpful to low-scorers are often detrimental to high-scorers, and vice versa. For instance, teaching a high-scorer in math to plug in the answers rather than solve algebraically could result in him not finishing the test, since it’s a slower method. Whereas, teaching a low-scorer how to solve trig equations will result in him wasting time during the test, when he needs all his time just for the easy problems. A gesture toward one group not only contributes nothing to the other group; sometimes it sets them back significantly.

I imagine it’s the same for high school teachers, when deciding whether to teach the basics or move on to advanced work.

That seems to indicate that separating students is good. I think overall I am for that, but it does have a lot of things teachers need to be aware of like the jealousy thing and confidence.

I am competitive in some things, but grades I have never been competitive in so I was never stressed by being put in the higher-level classes. I know that can cause a lot of problems for some people though. If you take a kid who is excelling among average students and then put him in an honors class and he can’t compete with the other students it could do a lot of harm to his confidence. I know some high-level classes/schools do away with grading for that reason. They follow the notion that if you are smart enough to get in you have proven yourself. This can work well, but there are some smart and lazy people that would eagerly coast and come out not knowing much.

Lots of good points flying around that I won’t address, just cuz I’m lazy.

On the topic of busy work and home work, back when I was in high school Sinistral and I were talking about… something, and he mentioned to me that in College, homework isn’t usually graded as it is in high school, but if you don’t want to fall behind then you should do it. This proved to be very true, as I never did my out of class assignments, fell behind and failed out. However, as suitable as this is for college (and I believe it is very suitable) it doesn’t work for high school. I read a Time Magazine article a few months ago that was talking about the amount of homework kids get these days and, while I don’t remember the exact figures, in 1990 elementary school kids had about 43 minutes of homework a night. Recently, the figure was estimated at roughly 150 minutes. Now, for an elementary school kid to have almost 2 hours of homework a night is ridiculous. At least in my opinion. See, I hated homework, but I never disregarded it’s value. Homework is essential, but I think it could definitly use some quality control. But to make a “homework standard” really diminishes the role of the teacher, regardless of how bad or good they may be. The same goes for busy work. I agree with Hades and Sinistral that busy work is probably more easily defined as those stupid poster board assignments we had to do in middle and high school, where as those reinforcement worksheets we did probably did more good than we realize (in retrospect).

As far as teachers are concerned, again I think we need some quality control. Teacher accountability is slowly coming into view here in Georgia.

Also, a note about burning out - yeah, it’s pretty easy to burn out. Lord knows it’s easy to fall apart halfway through studying for finals. But I think that’s more along the line of time management - students who know how to balance their studies with their recreation while still studying hard enough to ace the tests are the ones that succeed. That’s another thing - I have no idea how to do this. I don’t know good studying techniques, good note taking techniques or good time management skills. I was never taught these by anyone, which may shock some of you but that one I really just chalk up to Georgias spectacularly crappy education system.

As for dipshits in college, in my freshman english class there was a kid who didn’t know what an outline was. An OUTLINE. So, with that in mind I’m not sure he could even spell iambic pentameter much less know not to try to order it at smoothie king.