Malice or Incompetence?

Recently I came across a news article estimating that 80% of NYC graduates cannot read and write and are functionally illiterate.  I’d bet those numbers are not far off across the country, and it wasn’t a surprise.  What was a surprise was what my son told me when I discussed the matter with him.

Five years ago, those numbers would have shocked me.  Then my blog got invaded by “children” in the eleventh grade of a gifted and internationally respected program in the high school my son was attending.  They seemed to have erratic spelling, the vaguest of acquaintances with grammatical rules and a thorough lack of ability to think.  (If you tried to challenge their assumptions or what amounted to received dogma, they reverted to profanity, in the hopes that it would make you pass out or go away and stop saying things that made them uncomfortable.)  It was clear their reading comprehension was iffy and their writing ability shaky.  (And the scary part is half of them were accepted into Ivy League schools a year later, which put paid to any idea I had this was a meritocracy.)

As bad as those kids were, they were at least semi-functionally-literate and, yep, they were the “cream of the crop”.  Since then, with the kids being in college and my having contact with kids the same age, I’ve got to see the work of the average student.

I’ll just say that I once screamed at Robert for three hours for writing something about half as bad as what I see from college students.  He was in third grade.  I told him unless he improved he would be an illiterate peasant at the mercy of people who could express themselves better.  (More on that later.)  He took it to heart and improved.

Anyway – it is neither a brag, nor preening – to say my kids are better than that.  Robert is gifted with words, and Marsh is gifted with storytelling.  But beyond all that they WERE TAUGHT to use language.  We were reading to them from before they could talk (Ray Bradbury is as effective as lullabies) and they watched us read, write and discuss writing.  More importantly, I corrected their grammar and taught him rules of exposition.  While they attended public school, I mostly used it for what it does well: babysitting.  Robert once let the cat out of the bag by telling his seventh grade ecology teacher that the only reason I sent him to school was to have 8 uninterrupted hours to write in, and that his real learning took place in three hours after school.  It was true, of course, but stunningly tactless of him to say it.

And yes, both the kids are high IQ.  However, that’s neither here nor there.  So were the kids invading my blog, and they were writing at the level of D students in my day – and I was in an English as a Second Language class.

Look, we all went through school and we all saw the kids who came through.  About 1% were “natural born” learners.  (Though in most cases those might be from environments where learning was facilitated.  It’s hard to tell where genetics ends and environment takes over.)  The next 5% or so were strivers who, in varying degrees and for varying reasons (either love of learning or an interest in an intellectual profession) were determined never to have less than B and if possible to have A.  After that came the large, lumpish, group of C students: some of which might have very high IQ but who had absolutely no interest in academics.  Most of them, at least in my day, were intending to get jobs in that vast non-intellectual middle class, from retail onto auto mechanics or other specialty, non-academic professions.  Depending on how smart they were, they were either aiming for clerk or manager, but they had their life planned and reading Shakespeare wouldn’t really have helped it in any way.  Nor would quadratic equations.

So they made a mental calculation and applied their effort where it mattered, learning about life outside school.

THEN at the other end of that, and as rare as the 5 or 6% top learners, were the hopeless – the addicts, the petty criminals, and the apathetic.  The ones who had already charted a course to government dependence and had no interest in ever making their way by themselves.  They too had made a rational decision and since what they wanted was to drift through life, learning anything beyond basic reading/writing and how to count wasn’t in their interest.

I will note though that even most of the hopeless, unless they were impaired in some way, could read fairly fluently and could write at least enough for every day life.

So – how do you take most of the youth of a country, a country, moreover, rich enough that most kids have no major developmental disabilities, and make them functionally illiterate?

You WORK at it.

And this comes to the part I didn’t know, and the part that shocked me.

My son happened to be loitering in my office (they do this a lot) when I read that headline and I said “I’m not exactly shocked, and I’d be surprised if it were much different across the country, because I sent you and your brother to the school reading, and then spent the next three years screaming at you to sound out words and stop guessing them.  So they took kids who COULD read and would have made them illiterate, if I hadn’t stayed on top of it and made you re-learn.”

At which point my son said “Oh, you have no idea.  Let me tell you what happened in Title One.”

Here we break to explain that Title One is – afaik – a Colorado program for children with learning disabilities.  To my knowledge, neither of the kids had been in it.

However, as I’ve learned over the years, my knowledge is often far from complete, and what happens OFFICIALLY is also not what happens in truth.  (For instance, if I’d known both the kids were sent to the school psychologist once a week through elementary, to fish for stuff that might be considered “abuse” – probably because Dan and I were troublesome – they would have been out of there so fast that the school’s head would spin.  Unfortunately both kids assumed this was “normal” and didn’t tell me till high school.  On paper, it never happened.)

I think the other day I said it was in third grade that the school gave us trouble over Robert.  I was wrong, it was actually in first grade.  I sent them a kid who could read, write and was working on fractions.  Imagine our shock when in our first first grade conference, the teacher informed us that Robert was learning disabled and would probably never learn to read and write.  This was particularly surprising since one of her pieces of evidence was a worksheet that consisted of 1+0, 2+0 etc. across the top of which Robert had written in properly spelled words “this is stupid and boring.  A number plus zero always equals the number.”

Dan and I threw a fit – we would – and they insisted Robert needed to be in Title One and remedial education.  We insisted he didn’t.  In the end, they had him IQ tested, after priming the school psychologist, who used a “set” that topped out at 107 IQ.  Then they informed us his IQ was 107 and he needed to be in Title One and remedial education.

At that point I wanted to go raze the school or perhaps set it on fire.  (I did say I’m excitable, right?)  But Dan wouldn’t let me.  Instead we burned around 1k dollars we didn’t have (we were so tight in those days we hugged each cent till it squealed.  Considering whether to buy an extra head of lettuce was existential.  We drove a $1500 car, and only had one for the two of us,) found the most reputable psychologist in town, and had him tested over Christmas break.  (They were making noises about a “staffing” meeting in January and how they’d take our parental rights away if we didn’t sign Robert for “what’s best for him.”)  We said nothing, just had him tested.

He tested profoundly gifted (which is a technical designation.)

So, next thing you know, Dan marches into the staffing meeting with the results, authenticated by a psychologist who was known and respected in the region.  He first asked them what they thought of her, and they said she was very good, but of course very expensive.  Then he laid the results on the table.

Shock, horror and confusion ensued, the most important – the teacher, who btw, we later found out did this every year to a kid she perceived as ‘minority’ (this, btw, in a town that is one of the most liberal areas in CO.  I told this story to a leftist friend who absolutely refused to believe it.  And yet it happened.) and her friend, the school psychologist were both present – reaction being BETRAYAL.  “How could you go and do this behind our backs, without warning us?”

Then the meeting broke up in disarray, Robert got put in “gifted” classes and no more was said about it.

Which is all very well… except…

Except that not only did we have the right to have our own kid tested and no, we didn’t need to “warn” the school – but that I didn’t find out till this week that, before we had signed on to their diagnosis of him as “disabled”, they’d sent Robert into Title One.  (This btw should NOT shock me, as they put Marshall in speech therapy before we’d signed an agreement to let him be put in – we never did, because the way it was worded, it amounted to signing our parental rights away, including giving them the right to put him in a foster family if they thought we weren’t making “the right decisions” for his “welfare” as determined by them.  Instead, we again cut out other stuff and put him in a private speech therapist.  Who, in six sessions, fixed what the school therapist hadn’t in a hundred.)

More shocking yet is what happened in Title One.

Remember, Title One is supposed to teach kids who are disabled to read at normal level.  Remember too, the kid they sent to Title One was reading The Life of Caesar at four.  (Though he did get stumped by the meaning of “incest.”) While they were sending him to Title One, one of the books confiscated for reading in class was one of our signed Pratchetts (can’t remember which now, but might have been The Color of Magic. I remember because instead of telling me – he wasn’t supposed to take those to school – he broke into the teacher’s closet and stole it back.  He was never caught.)

He told me last week, when I said I had to fight his and his brother’s tendency to “guess” words for three or four years until they got it through their heads that these are not ideograms and you don’t “guess” (I think every other sentence out of my mouth those years was “Sound it OUT”) that when he was in Title One, they FORCED him to guess.  He said, “No, look, I’d read the word correctly at a glance, and then they’d shout at me I was supposed to GUESS.  And I’d have to come up with words that sounded like it, before they TOLD ME the correct one.  They trained you to NOT read.”

This explained Robert’s best friend in elementary who was at least as smart as Robert but who got sent to Title One by another teacher.  I tried to tell his mom at the time there was nothing wrong with the kid except maybe needing glasses.  But she was working class and respected teachers.  That child left elementary school unable to read.

Right here, let me tell you that if your kid is in school, chances are he or she is being taught to “guess” words, aka, “whole word.”  If you ask him if they use whole word, they’ll act shocked and say oh, no, they use phonics “in combination” with other methods.  They told me all of this too, at the time.  However, the entire lesson plan is geared towards guessing words, sometimes working from the meaning.  (I.e. Terribly and Therapy are the same word at a glance because they begin and end with the same letters, so you’re supposed to “guess” one of them, and then work out which it is by the meaning of the rest of the sentence.  [This was referred to, ten years ago, as the “whole language” method.])

Do I need to tell you that in a language that is largely phonetic – yes, I know all the exceptions, but it’s easier to work to the right word from a mispronounced version than it is to do it from “meaning” or “guess” – this is NOT only the way NOT to teach reading but is, ultimately the way to teach kids not to read.  By turning words into ideograms, which they were never meant to be, you make reading too difficult for all but the most dedicated strivers.

I’m surprised the literacy rate is 20%  I’m surprised it’s not 5%, and I wonder how many of those kids read well enough to read for pleasure.

Now, I realize that an illiterate peasantry is needed for a proper neo-feudal regime, but I wonder how many of these people are actually malicious, and how many are just full of their own self-importance and convinced that they are doing what is best for these children?

Judging by those I dealt with, most of them aren’t bright enough to see any overarching social aims in this.  They are simply full of their own “good intentions” and they’ve been TAUGHT this is the best way of teaching to read.  In fact, if you push them they become either irate or lachrymose and tell you that you don’t UNDERSTAND, you’re not an expert and you weren’t taught the latest METHODS.  (This reminds me of when we stayed in NYC in a new hotel and every night our bed was, essentially, short sheeted – it’s more complicated than that, but that was the effect.  When we complained the maid, with an accent stronger than mine, informed us it was “latest, Russian bed-making technology. … that one too didn’t end well, at least as soon as I stopped rolling on the floor laughing.)

Dave, yesterday, made a comment that the public school system for all its flaws might teach a kid to read who would otherwise not know how.  Since I don’t know every teacher in every corner of the US – but I know from other contexts that at least some of them will be decent and competent and tell the system to stuff it – nor every kid, nor every school, this is POSSIBLE.  What I guarantee and would put my hands in the fire for is that the percentage of those is dwarfed by the MASS of what would otherwise be competent “middle brow” C students, who could read and express themselves passably in writing, if they were left alone/had online teachers with just a class supervisor/were taught by anyone (retirees? Mothers?) BUT people who had been convinced they were education experts and that teaching children to read – something that village teachers managed for centuries.  (And BTW my first village teacher was a discarded fallen woman, whom some guy had seduced and set up in a little cottage with no running water and only two rooms.  She was, it was rumored “of good families” and left with no other means of support, taught the kids to read and fancy work (needlework, guys!) to the girls and died respected and almost revered in her eighties.)

But whether it’s from malice or misguided credentialism and do-goodism, what I can tell you is that our system of education is accomplishing the “miracle” of turning out a population MORE illiterate than the poor never-taught people in Tudor England.

Malice or incompetence, it comes to the same.  If you have kids in the system, look to their future.  If they read by “guessing” (the signs are easy.  They’ll think words that start and end with the same letter are the same) stop that right now and teach them to sound it out.  They’ll hate you for a month, but the hatred will pass and the literacy will remain.

However remember most parents are too busy living their lives to follow the kids that closely/teach them after the kids get home (it doesn’t take very long.  Most of the school day is filled with cr*p.  You can teach them the essentials and more in two/three hours after school.), and even more most parents think they’re not qualified to teach the kids.  Which leaves us in the mess we’re in.

As a nation founded on the consent of the governed, we can’t afford to have a school system that turns out illiterate peasants.  Whether it’s by design or incompetence, it doesn’t matter.  We simply can’t afford it.

If we are to survive as a people and a culture (and our “methods” have spread across most of Eastern Europe) SOMETHING else much arise in place of public anti-education.

Local systems, with trustworthy people, known to have succeeded in other fields, would be better, as would practically anything else.  It’s time we realize that the Public Education System is designed to do the exact opposite of its stated goal.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit Readers.  Thank you to Glenn Reynolds for the link!

1,184 responses to “Malice or Incompetence?

  1. I frequently say that I was educated in spite of, not because of, the California education system.

    Most of what I know I learned on my own, once I had learned to read. My parents (who were probably as cash-strapped as you were, Sarah) invested in a set of encyclopedias for me (this is before the web and Wikipedia, or even before computers and Microsoft Encarta), and if I asked my dad a question he couldn’t answer, he’d refer me to the encyclopedia.

    As for malice or incompetence, I’d say the leaders are malicious, and their followers are incompetent, having been carefully kept so by the self-anointed leaders.

    • My parents bought a set of American People’s Encyclopedias in 1953, the year I started second grade. By the time I’d graduated, I’d read about 4/5 of them. I could only go to the library once a week, and I could only check out five books (which I finished by the second day, even with household chores), so the encyclopedias was my last resort. You can get a pretty good education that way.

      • Every time we got a new librarian I had to train them regarding The Daughter. She was allowed to bring home as many books as she could easily carry. She was not limited to what the librarian considered the age appropriate sections. I restricted her from only one section. (You know the one, it is labeled as adult, but contains what I will assert caters to a certain kind of extra extended adolescence.) I don’t know how many times I said, ‘We will back next week, if not before, when she has finished reading these.’

        Once we got past that breaking in period every librarian liked working with The Daughter. She even developed a special friendship with the woman who headed the catacombed stacks at the main branch. She introduced The Daughter to inter-library loans.

        • I’m working on teaching the three year old to use the mouse on the computer; she plays with Starfall as a “reward.”

          Next step is to teach her to type, probably with one of those little netbooks that cramp even my hands because they’re so small.

          (Considering using typing as part of reading, actually.)

          Then I teach her to use the local public library’s website, and they never know who I’m checking books out for….

          • Sounds delightful. And well considered.

            The world keeps changing. The Daughter got a personal computer early because her fine motor issues, but the general availability of home Internet at the time? Well that came later.

            If you check out the early readers, writing practice was usually included. Reading and writing were considered as distinctly related and properly learned together.

        • Ah, yes, the “adult” section.

          I have recently read a writer talking about the necessity of filthy language and how without it SF is trapped in a niche suitable for eight year olds. . . along with at least 90% of all world literature.

          • Sigh. This idea that swearing is adult is bewildering to me. Mind you, don’t put me in front of a TV with politics, but…

            • Mind you, don’t put me in front of a TV with politics, but…

              There is a time and place for strong language. Responding in kind is one of those.

              Telling a story, not so much. (Unless it’s the one about the sailor on his first leave home who notices everything got really quiet at dinner, and when they go out for the cigars after dinner his dad and uncles quietly suggest that he not ask his mother to pass the f*ing potatoes.)

              • Someone complained about the “language in DST”. I honestly didn’t remember putting in ANY swearing. Then I was doing a reading at a con — the one where she wakes up strapped to a bed…

                yeah, there’s swearing. You know what? If you wake up strapped naked to a hospital bed, and your husband is missing? You can get a little heated…

                • Can almost guarantee that it wouldn’t be “counted” by those complaining about the lack of strong language.

                • A friend of mine would say that there is a purpose for swear words. Studies indicate that using swear words can work as a release valve. But is you use them all the time the valve doesn’t work anymore.

                  So, if you have used them for everything at anytime what do you do when your children present you with a huge whole in the back yard? Or, as my friend’s father experienced, the pneumatic log splitter takes your thumb? (Actually, I gather he was in shock and simply walked into the house and said, ‘I think you had better drive me to the hospital.’) And, I think that the situation in DST was one of those that cussing was made for.

                • As a writer and former US Navy Petty Officer, I find myself inserting “those words” into stories and usually have to make at least one edit pass looking for them. Then I have to decide, for each instance if it stays or goes. We moved from Iowa to Missouri so that we could home school.

              • Hah, I remember reading that same line in the memoirs of a female nurse from when she got back from Vietnam.

          • That’s because our “educational establishment” is under the misguided idea that SciFi (and Fantasy) can’t be “literature” by definition.
            And as “educated people” (iow anyone who completes their programs) will only ever read “literature” (or so they think) SciFi can only be for kids or for the unwashed masses. And as the unwashed masses wouldn’t want to read childrens’ books, there has to be profanity galore put in SciFi to make it interesting to them.
            Of course so much is now seen as “inappropriate”, “profane”, “pornographic”, etc. that you’re almost guaranteed to have that in any work of fiction (read only last week that kissing is now considered to be rape, which would mean that an author writing that 2 of her characters are kissing is thus producing porn).

            I’m not interested in hardcore gratuitous sex, but sex happens and writing that it happens without going into detail (where it serves the plot) imo doesn’t mean the book is now “filthy” or “inappropriate”.

            • I too cannot understand the aversion most upper elementary teachers have to Sci-Fi and fantasy. When I ws in Fifth Grade (long long ago) we were told we could select and read any book and write a book report on it for extra credit. On my father’s bookshelf I found the ERB trilogy A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars. I read all three in about two weeks and dutifully wrote book reviews on them. My teeacher (whom I loved otherwise) disallowed them and would not give me the promised extra credit.

              Years later I taught Sixth Grade and I introduced the Burroughs books to my classes. Most of the boys and one girl fell in love with them. One of my colleagues at that school informed me that I should have gotten permission from the Principal before allowing the children to read them. No problem ever came of it.
              During my career as a teacher (42 years) I believed that anything the kids would read they should read. Hell, in 10th grade I got away with doing a book report on Peyton Place. it was new and the teacher had not heard of it.

          • I absolutely hate that with a burning passion– it’s not bad enough that the juvenile minded have to pollute the areas around me, they want to drag all my reading options down into their sewers.

            Just because someone’s imagination cannot figure out something has adult topics unless it’s obscene or blasphemous should NOT mean that I’m forced to deal with the pathetic crutch.

    • I grew up in California, too, (mid 50s – early 70s) and also seem to have survived. In third and fourth grade, I took to reading dictionaries for fun. My father one day, after a series of increasingly rapid questions stopped me. Then he turned to the set of Collier’s Encyclopedia and showed me the proper way to handle a bound book of that size, reminded to always wash my hands before going to the book case and turned me loose. Same for my sisters. We never heard of whole language; didn’t seem to damage us much.

      I ended up as a technical writer for 30 years (so far), younger sister was a publishing editor, and middle sister became a systems analyst and programmer/manager. (?? She’s the one who didn’t like math, go figure.)

      Our two girls began reading before they were school age (and ended up mostly home-schooled until 11th grade, both graduated with BA in english lit-ish something. Their brother went from non- to voraciously reading in what seemed to be about six weeks when he was seven or so, but we worried about his lack of speech until he was almost a year older than his sisters had been, then it was like a switch flipped and we couldn’t get him to stop. (He claims he just didn’t have anything interesting to say.) They never encountered any whole language sort of instruction, either.

      Chomsky and pals have a lot to answer for.

      • That’s exactly what my dad did for Lockheed, at least… probably GE as well… technical writer.

        He used to explain it laughingly as having to explain that you turn the “ON-OFF” switch to the “ON” position. ;)

        • No, sometimes you turn to the OFF position, when you want a Poughkeepsie Reset, as we said when I worked for IBM. A little documented feature that will solve 90% of all software and hardware problems, at the price of losing some temporary state data.

        • I used to claim that it meant I made my living writing fiction:

          Fantasy (software documentation), because the product didn’t actually exist while I was writing it, and often changed after we had to go to press.

          Science fiction (hardware documentation), ditto. The saddest part for me was watching as we repeatedly were required over the years to lower the target reading level, ending up somewhere around fifth grade eventually. (And we spent quite some time developing and producing 3D-animated service documentation for the field service guys who really preferred to not read if they could help it. That actually worked out well, until the budget went away.)

          I don’t think anyone bought it for the reading experience, but for more sordid reasons. On the other hand, it supported us and put two kids through college, so there’s that.

    • We had a similar experience with our daughter. We taught her to read well before kindergarten. We were in a public CA school in a middle class neighborhood (Almaden Valley in San Jose) and everyone ranted and raved that the school was great, etc. The teacher taught my daughter it was OK to spell cat K-A-T (they had them “writing” in their little cutesy journals each day, but refused to correct spelling, because it “stifled their creativity”). Even K-A-T was not corrected until about third grade, when they would say “Oh, no, it is C-A-T.) I kid you not. I raised hell at a parent conference and asked, “Why then don’t we teach all music students that the key of C has two flats and then correct them four years later?” Silence. Glares. After a meeting with the principal, who told us they would not do anything for her they could not do for ALL THE KIDS, we yanked our daughter out and put her in private school. But there was a nice environmental and multicultural flag and poster on the wall, with Maya Angelou poems and Greenpeace stickers everywhere. It was at the first meeting I learned all those things “made the kids feel good.”

    • Apparently had the same education. Ironic that her grammar and syntax were every bit as bad in this post as the young people she alluded to.

      “Then my blog got invaded by “children” in the eleventh grade of a gifted and internationally respected program in the high school my son was attending. They seemed to have erratic spelling, the vaguest of acquaintances with grammatical rules and a thorough lack of ability to think.”

      Ouch.

      • OUT OUT DAMN’ED TROLL!!

        “Apparently had the same education.”

        Grammatically, this should be “Apparently, she had the same education.”

        “Ironic that her grammar and syntax were every bit as bad in this post as the young people she alluded to.”

        Let’s see, hmm.

        “It is ironic, that her grammar and syntax were every bit as bad, in this post, as the young people to whom she alludes.”

        Did no one ever tell you, oh troll, that one should not end a sentence with a preposition?

        One might also remember, that English is not our host’s first language — nor even her second. When one is fluent and literate in multiple languages, it is standard for grammar and syntax to get a bit mixed up.

      • Kitteh-Dragon

        No, Karl. There is no comparison between a woman with multiple post-graduate degrees in several languages who puts out a daily blog that is understood to not be worth her time to polish (it’s *free*, she lives off her other writing) and a bunch of children. You, however, don’t even compare with the children. You had two sentences that weren’t direct quotes, and you messed one of them up. You felt we should all be enthralled by your deathless ability to pick at the pimples on your backside, or what? Don’t show us what you found, just lick it off your fingers and carry on. Elsewhere.

      • A few points to consider:

        * As Pat pointed out, English is not our lovely hostess’ first language. That she writes as well as she does in English is a testament to my friend’s intelligence.

        * Blog posts are, somewhat by design, rather more informal. Sarah’s are more or less train-of-thought propositions, as evidenced by their somewhat rambling tone (that’s not a dig, I like the way her mind wanders).

        * Given Sarah’s day to day workload, which includes writing her books, taking care of her home, and acting as wife to Mr. Hoyt and mother to three boys, she doesn’t take the extra time to do a heck of a lot of proofreading of these posts.

        All in all, I think we can cut her a little slack, especially since she’s proven that she can — if she takes the time — write well enough to be published, and be published over and over and over again. Personally, I’m still working on writing to that level. Have you proven that you can write well enough to get published, sir?

        • Oops, Pat tells me Sarah has two boys, unless you count her husband as one of them.

          My apologies for the error.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          “mother to three boys”?

          Sarah, is there something you haven’t told us”

          The last I heard Sarah has only two sons. [Wink]

          • VERY oddly, that was what my first public bio (from Berkley) said.

            I think I’m supposed to have three boys. I want my missing son.

            • Well, is Hubby one of the boys? ;)

            • Sometimes you are supposed to adopt.

              • I know. Two things deterring me — money — yes you can go the route Mike Weatherford went, but that takes a LONG time and you know what my time is like. I could afford raising a kid but years of volunteering is something else (though I’m going to volunteer to cuddle babies at the hospital) — and the infernal bureaucracy afterwards.

                • Yea– the bureaucracy is a b*tch. My brother and his wife tried to adopt when they had problems getting pregnant. They went three years with nothing. Then they had a son. My brother and his wife are vanilla color– which I think was part of the problem. But you might foster– I know that my hubby revered his foster parents just for the fact that they got him out of a bad situation. (His first foster parents were dead and he was put in a barn to live– so that his foster sister could collect the money). His foster parents took the others to court and made him a part of the family from 12-18 (his age), when he joined the Army. I don’t know if you will have the energy to do that– I know that I don’t.

            • Before you say that you must first consider why he is missing.

              It is likely – even probable – that the missing son is the one who is an evil genius (given demonstrated intellectual abilities of the two you’ve kept, this is quite a feat. My speculation is that, while still in utero and before you recognized the gestation as ongoing*, he calculated the formula for manipulating the Space/Time Continuum and used it to escape to alter-where, there to build his zombie army for the coming invasion and subjugation of Earth.

              *Alternatively, he developed this formula sometime after his birth, gaining control of Space & Time (LLC) and used his power to erase his passage from the timestream.

            • I think I’m supposed to have three boys. I want my missing son.

              I believe poetic licence requires that he be the one you’re writing books for.

              • Weirdly, we have always had a phantom older son, Michael. When the kids were bad we’d go “you know, Michael did that and…” Some years ago Robert asked what happened to Michael. We said “He’s a lawyer in NYC. We thought we’d raised him better than that.” Since then he’s become a rhetorical presence in the house (look, we’re all writers, okay?) I mean, the kids wanted to know how Michael fared through Sandy.

                Yeah, in case you wondered, my family IS nuts.

                • My daughters are being told not to put their fingers up their nose or the boogers will bite them off.

                  It’s a joke from my mom’s uncle (her mom’s little brother), Three Finger Jack, introduced to us exactly once, at mom’s folks’ 50th wedding anniversary.

                  We also have a family catchphrase from something cute her oldest brother said during WWII, when asked who the guy he’d just had a long conversation (for a three year old) with was: “I know he, but I no know he name.”

                  Stories are important. Asking how your phantom older brother doing is not nuts, it’s just cool.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Chuckle Chuckle

                  The story is that “way back when” my dad was getting serious about my mom, his brother started to get serious about one of mom’s sisters. Well there was another Huggins sister still unmarried and somebody said something about “wishing there was another Howard brother”. The story goes that Dad and Uncle Walter just glanced at each other and created “Brother Harry” who they didn’t talk about (except when they did). [Very Big Grin]

          • I added a correction after Pat smacked me upside the head. :)

      • I just love it when trolls come out to play. You know how we recognize them? They come driving by, make their disparaging remarks and then disappear because they know they can’t debate the facts. Maybe this one will return and we can all play a rousing came of whack-a-troll.

    • This is exactly what happened to me… except, because my grandmother was a little red schoolhouse teacher, my mother had absolute faith in the public schools. Now I have to wonder if my arithmetic ‘disability’ was entirely fabricated.

      In those “special ed” classes, for spelling, I learned how to write words along a traceable line that you subsequently filled in with colored crayon. It had zero value except that we were taken out of regular classrooms and learned even less. The only reason I learned phonics is that my grandmother taught me during the summers what I failed to learn in school– because it was never taught.

      IN my school, they called what is actually guessing “phonics”. but my grandmother actually taught me that those letters together actually have a consistent sound.

      Not only that, but “child rearing experts” will still tell you that teaching your child how to read “too young” or even letting her learn on her own before the Public School gets it’s dirty mitts on her– will lead to severe cognitive and learning disabilities. They may have escalated the phenomenon to include autism. *rolls eyes*

      There is a tradition of children teaching themselves how to read at 3 or 4 in our family. Books were banned in my early household because mom did not want me to learn how to read, lest I become autistic. So the public schools switched my handedness when I was learning how to write– which really can cause problems. Ironically, I knew my right from my left *until this happened*.

      The only reason I am minimally functional is that my grandmother had me during the summers where she filled in some of the gaps in my “liberal education”.

      In high school, they had to work harder– and used the psychology angle to cure my faith and conservatism. Don’t get me started.

      • Yes, that warning was thrown around when I was a kid in the 60s, too. It’s a good thing my parents weren’t listening at all. We all learned to read at home before we entered kindergarten, and it made us neither illiterate nor autistic.

        • My parents never heard that warning (I think) and besides, the only way to make me shut up and stop thinking up creative things to do (my poor mother about had a heart attack when she found her uncoordinated daughter on top of an unstable eight foot stone wall. And we won’t mention the confiscated sling shot [me? A Tomboy?] or the horrible things I did to my poor brother) was to cover me in books.

          • The reason kids who enter school already able to read end up autistic, learning disabled or viciously anti-authoritarian is simple: the schools freaking break such kids by forcing them to a) unlearn an effective method of reading and b) learn instead an ineffective method of reading. Rather than accepting the child’s natural ability to (intellectually) run, the schools break and bind their feet to force them into an artificial standard of development. (ref.: Procrustes)

            Read To Kill A Mockingbird for Scout’s response to the precepts of John Dewey.

      • Couple of things – I started “school” in 1955 (K). I’m not really sure who taught me phonics – but they did a good job. When we home schooled our kids, we didn’t stop there. We also taught them “Latin roots” and now they can not only figure out words, but have a pretty good idea what those strange words MEAN without looking them up.

        As to “handedness” – they tried to switch me to R when I was in first grade – but fortunately I was smarter than the teacher. I distinctly remember looking at the other kid’s papers. The right-handers angled the top of the paper to their left, so I figured I should angle mine to my right. Every time I did that, here comes the Wrath of the Ruler. (Yeah… they hit us in public school then) So since I sat in the 2nd row of kids, I figured out that the teacher couldn’t SEE my hand, and was – HAD to be – keying on the paper tilt, and tilted mine to the left – just like the right handers. She never caught me again.

        But doing that has some side effects. For example I am now ambidextrous. Also, when you go to the chalk board you HAVE to write with your right hand. So now I write beautifully on vertical surfaces with my right, and on flat surfaces with my left… but when writing with my left I write what some refer to as “upside-down”. (With my hand crimped inward at the wrist. And due to an injury, I had to sign my Navy contract with my right hand. ( I thought it might invalidate it ’cause it wasn’t really my signature, but no such luck.) ;-D

        And if you want to really AMAZE people at how observant you are, and how much you know, you can note that MR OBAMA also “writes upside-down” with his left hand!!! (Watch him the next time you see him signing some crappy new law.) And you can tell them WHY so many left-handers write that way.

        • And you can tell them WHY so many left-handers write that way.

          Because you are sinister, duh.

        • I thought you meant LITERALLY upside down. Lefthandedness runs in the family and I’m fairly sure I was “switched” at school. (It’s hard to remember. And I had more trouble with having to write with a quill pen after learning to write with ball point at home. Also, you CAN’T write left with a quill, which is why that rule used to exist.) Anyway… My older son tended to switch hands as a little boy, and I paid no attention. He writes with his right hand, but when he started writing, until he was about five, he wrote upside down. (I figure he learned from watching us write?) Then when he was five, to mess with our heads (I THINK) he wrote mirror image for months. Freaked our handyman out. He thought it was a sign of the antichrist…

        • Unfortunately for me, after the *first* time “slipped up” and wrote left handed… she stood over me until she saw me write right handed– repeatedly. She was an assistant teacher, so she could do that. This happened until it became a habit– because I kept trying to switch hands.

          FYI, I this was around 1980. Supposedly I was in a “good” school, where the children of NASA scientists sent their kids.

        • My first love was a man who wrote upside-down like that. He never said he was forced to switch– allegedly they were supposed to have stopped switching people in the late 1960′s– or so I’m told. But since it happened to me, I can’t say I credit the theory.

          • To be fair to teachers, it probably has less to do with “left hand bad” than “even more illegible than everybody else’s is bad.”

            My grandma simply taught us to keep our hands off the blanking paper, no matter what hand we wrote with– if you brace your arm at about the wrist, you don’t smudge anything.

          • I’m left-handed, and I don’t recall them trying to switch my writing, but I do recall people trying to switch the way I did other things left-handed. I’ve been called a lot of things, but I believe stubborn is the polite term, so it didn’t work. The only thing I learned to do right-handed is run a chainsaw, and I taught that to myself after already running one for years left-handed. I still prefer to run one left-handed and usually do unless falling bigger trees, but would recommend anyone learning to use on to learn right-handed, because all the safety features are designed for a right hander, and running it left handed means the only thing keeping you from cutting yourself, is yourself, none of the safety features are in a position to help.

  2. I am deeply saddened, and the more I read of this topic, the more I realize my parents did the right thing for my sister and I, homeschooling. I wish I could with my kids…

  3. My wife and daughter are professional educators in the Dallas area. I can assure you that here, they are actually trying to teach reading and writing. They don’t have some goof-ball left wing political agenda that they are trying to forward. Texas is using rigorous (perhaps too much so) testing to measure performance of students, teachers, and schools. I have only lived in Colorado for about a year in 1994 to 1995, and can’t really say that I know anything about their schools or their agenda.

    • I don’t know where in the DFW area your wife and daughter are teaching, but I grew up there. I am a product of a local school system and so is my son. There are a number of issues facing Texas education right now. Teaching to the test and funding are tied together. If a school doesn’t perform up to some arbitrary level, the school faces oversight by the state and the loss of funding. If that doesn’t improve things, the school — and even the district — can be closed down. The end result: too many districts instruct their teachers to teach only so they improve the test scores.

      Gone are the days when a teacher could adapt the curriculum to meet an individual student’s needs. Too often, curriculum is based on the lowest common denominator. Those teachers who do want to help the student who is either having trouble with the lesson plan — or the one who is bored because it isn’t challenging enough — has to go through weeks of justifications before any change can be done. Then guess what? The term is over or the damage has been done.

      Ask almost any teacher today and they will tell you they spend a vast majority of their time doing justifications and other paperwork instead of teaching. Then there are the districts like Irving where — at least for awhile, I haven’t checked this term — homework wasn’t to be graded and students were given the option to take tests over until they got the grade they wanted. WTF?!?

      Or talk to students like my son when he was still in school — he is about to graduate TAMU now — about how teachers used reading as a punishment. Then there are the required reading lists that are “socially relevant”. How many kids want to read about “socially relevant” issues over summer break? How many of any of us want to read book after book that is depressing and not entertaining?

      Frankly, teachers need to have the freedom to teach. Government needs to quit tying standardized testing to funding. I know too many students — I was one and so is my son — who do poorly on such tests. Not because we don’t know the material or because we aren’t smart enough but because we just don’t do those types of tests well.

      As for political agenda, I applaud your wife and child if they don’t have one they are pushing and if they work for a school or district that doesn’t, but would suggest you look at the textbooks that are being used. The agenda is there. Don’t believe me, read the transcripts from the committee that approves text book selection for the state.

      • Teaching to the test isn’t a problem, IF you have a good test. It is crafting a good test (and, more importantly, a good answer key) that is the linchpin of holding educators accountable. In a perfect world parents would monitor their children’s education and complain about any teachers that weren’t doing their jobs. We don’t live in a perfect world, so we have to make do with the next best thing. Teachers, like bureaucrats, politicians, police officers, and service-members are not given to us as perfect gifts from On High. They are human, subject to the same foibles and faults as the rest of us. Moral hazard is in full effect, and we need some set of tools and incentives to ensure teachers are doing their best to be effective, and that those who aren’t effective are encouraged to find work more in line with their skills.

        • True, as far as it goes. My problem with the standardized tests the state uses right now is they assume all kids are equal and they aren’t. So, when you tie funding — and even the continued viability of a school — to how well students do on a test, it means you test to the lowest common denominator. Add to that the fact that teachers are then given the task of teaching their students how to pass the test and not to focus on giving an overall education and, well, there’s my problem. Sorry, I’m tired and probably not making a lot of sense right now.

          • I’ve taken more than my fair share of tests over the years, and most of them have been terrible. It isn’t easy to write a test on a narrow technical field for a small group, much less the general K-12 population. I think we’d be better off basing teacher and school evaluations on student improvement. Assign each student in the state a unique ID number they put on the test. Test the kids every year and reward those educators whose students have the highest aggregate improvement. And increase oversight if there isn’t any improvement.

            • The Law of Unintended Consequences is at work. The institution of funding tied to testing was supposed to keep schools from socially promoting students and giving out diplomas to students who could not read them.

              When I participated in an online forum on education, the sponsoring site is now sadly defunct, I was able to correspond with one of the developers of the North Carolina Writing Test. If the teachers taught their students the skills they were supposed to be teaching the students in their normal course work — basic grade level reading and writing — they should be able to pass the test. The test was designed and intended to see if students were in fact learning the skills they needed to be able to do the work in the next grades.

              But the schools, fearing loss of funding, began to emphasize teaching methods for taking the test instead. We continue to push students up the grades and into classes that require skill levels they have not acquired, condemning them to further failure.

              True, sometimes the failure of a given student belongs entirely that student, and hat should not be held against the teacher. But the level of failure in the system indicates that in many cases it is the system that is not doing its work. So far all we seem to have done is throw more money and more of the same and hoped for a different outcome. I have heard this called by a bad name…

              • This is an instance of applying the wrong form of solution to a problem. The proper form of solution would involve parents holding schools accountable, not parents imagining they’re holding politicians accountable for holding schools accountable for holding students accountable.

                But school systems are too d*** big these days, for one parent to have much influence, too many parents don’t want the bother of dealing with their kids’ educations, too many parents who accept the bother typically do it in foolish and counter-productive ways (what do you mean, giving Johnny a “C” on that project? He stayed on the computer researching it for hours!) Inserting a new layer of accountability insulation won’t add value because it fails to address the real problem.

                I have long thought we should eliminate graduation exams, at all grade levels. Institute, instead, admission exams. Let Sixth grade teachers determine who gets in, rather than who gets out. Base teachers bonuses/pay on the number of their students admitted to the next grade level.

              • Not sure when you corresponded with the Writing test developer but did you ever read the rubric? The focus (at least for 4th grade) was not on basic reading and writing. I remember when my son was in fourth grade (the writing test was only given in 4th, 7th and 10th grades), his teacher was concerned because my son wasn’t being creative enough (the 4th grade test was supposed to be a creative narrative) and wouldn’t do well on the test.

                I read the story that concerned her. My son isn’t a particularly imaginative kid but he had written a story about a race on ice between personified dogs. Essentially it was a play-by-play of an exciting race. There were a number of lead changes, slips, twists and turns. It was logical, contained complete sentences and was basically grammatically correct. It was however action oriented and did not contain a lot of adjectives or fluff. The lack of descriptions is what concerned the teacher. I remember thinking that my son would do just fine writing to communicate. However when I read the rubric, I understood the teacher’s concern. All the emphasis was on creativity and following some predefined format with very credit being given for sentence construction and grammar.

                In the end, my son didn’t do particularly well on the test (I also remember the prompt that year sounded pretty “girlie” to me) because his essay wasn’t “creative” enough. However, I read his writing and felt fairly confident that while he might never write the great American novel, he could communicate clearly and concisely. I was just very frustrated that a fourth grade test was more interested in “creativity” than in basic, good writing skills.

                Overall whenever I’ve read a sample NC test for reading or math, I’ve found that the tests are often looking for an “expected” answer rather than a correct answer. I remember one question that was a multiple choice asking a student to choose “Why they would recommend a reading passage to a friend”. As an adult, I knew what answer was preferred but I remember thinking that most students would probably be flummoxed as their initial response would be “I wouldn’t”. Beyond that at least two of the responses were reasonable answers depending on your point of view.

                By middle school both my kids were complaining about the NC tests — one called them “opinionated” and the other just said there was often more that one correct answer. As they had experience with other well-respected nationally normed standardized test, I asked them if they had similar problems with the other tests. Both were clear that the other tests were fine — the problem was with the NC tests.

                • I have no problem believing that this was what became of the test. When The Daughter took it, the fourth grade test required descriptive writing, not creative.

                  I was stunned by the prompt the daughter was given for her practice test. It asked that she described the most embarrassing situation she had experienced. Her entire reply was, ‘It is none of your business.’ The teacher did not understand why I had no trouble with her answer. The Spouse suggested that she might have written: My most embarrassing experience is being asked to explain my inner life to a bunch of intrusive strangers.

              • Money cannot solve problems. True, money can acquire the resources necessary to solve problems, but if those resources aren’t available -because they don’t exist or the people in charge are too dumb to know they exist- throwing more money at the problem doesn’t work. If there is an organization with a lower ROE than the US Dept. of Education I don’t want to know about it.

                Frankly, I suspect the “teaching (poorly) to the test” is a deliberate attempt by the education establishment to discredit and punish the people who dare to think educators should be held accountable.

          • It is not exactly that the standardized test assume that all kids are equal, it is the fact that it is politically incorrect to do your overall analyses of the test in any other manner.

            It had been quite common to see either the IOWAs or CATs used to assess a given students progress. That student was then placed the in a classroom according to their perceived abilities and progress. Because minority students often did not perform well on the tests such tracking became viewed as discriminatory and was therefore eliminated.

            The goal became to see that the proper representative numbers of each group were in a class, and progressed through the system — because otherwise it would be viewed as proof positive that the system was practicing discrimination.

            Don’t ask about the logic. Remember, we stopped teaching that to most students long ago. While it particularly speaks of faith the point is most relevant to this conversation, from the opening of C. S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters:

            I note what you say about guiding your patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naif? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false,” but as “academic” or “practical,” “outworn” or “contemporary,” “conventional” or “ruthless.” Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.

      • Amanda,

        My children were educated in Irving schools, just not public ones. My Older two children went to St. Luke’s (then on to Ursuline and Jesuit) and my younger two went to St.Luke’s and then to North Hills (and on to Jesuit). All were educated well. My daughter had a 34 ACT score, full scholarship to college and full scholarship to law school (U of T). My oldest son received a full scholarship to A&M (ROTC). Younger two went to A&M (one graduated). All three boys are Aggie Engineers (good? bad?). Irving education is not bad. Can’t speak to IISD, though.

      • A_Nonny_Mouse

        Please check out Michelle Malkin’s series “Rotten to the Core”, especially (in regard to Texas) this one:
        http://michellemalkin.com/2013/03/01/rotten-to-the-core-part-iii-lessons-from-texas-and-the-growing-grassroots-revolt/
        Even though Texas rejected Common Core, their CSCOPE is also a product of Big-Edu; and parents and “real” teachers are having a heck of a time fighting the progressive curriculum.

      • I think that with me there were two things that helped me get through the public schools – 1. I was VERY intelligent and had a really good memory – (I was smarter than most of the teachers – which isn’t saying a lot. My 1st grade teacher had to keep a dictionary on her desk to look up words that I used.) And 2. I was then and am now an iconoclast. The iconoclast stands alone. So I pretty much did my own thing and ignored theirs. Sure – there was friction but what were they going to do? KEEP me in their class another year? Not in this world! They wanted to get rid of me! I passed 6th grade with 3 F’s. ;-D

        • Yeah, older son is less socially inclined, and therefore had a much easier time than younger son, who wants to fit in and have friends. (Which for a triple niner would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.)

          • Fitting isn’t about the group you find yourself in, so much as finding the right group. It took me nearly thirty years to get to my first fandom event. Speaking of teaching grandma to suck eggs, I’m not explaining anything any of us don’t already know. I’m coming to realize that part of my writing blocks are an unconscious attempt to work out my own (thwarted at the time: spent ages 8-16 “enjoying” general ostracization by my erstwhile peers, which – given the formative nature of those years – likely means I’ll be dealing with this until I finally shuffle and trip off this light fantastic mortal coil) desires for inclusion in the tribe. It’s happening now, slowly, but it’s affected my writing. Which is what really pisses me off. Trying to write “normal” people, with “normal” fears and desires. Instead of the immediacy and urgency that everybody’s own problems have. Excuse me, I need to go furiously beat things. LIke my head against a wall.

            • My wife, also a writer in her “spare” time (and MUCH better than I am as she NAILS the characterization thing!), tells me that all of my characters are just different versions of me… Well… I guess that means that I’m well adjusted because I LIKE all of my characters! :-) But when I saw that a magazine was paying $1,000 for one I tried to write a romance short. I thought she was going to die laughing!!! ;-D

            • Yes, but it’s kinda nice to know we’re not alone.

              Part of why I fangirl so hard about Dr. Pournelle is because one of the books he co-wrote– “Fallen Angels”– was the first hint I had that I really wasn’t alone, there were folks with similar interests whose minds worked in a similar way.

              I think I turned out OK anyways, and I KNOW I turned out better than my “peers,” but I hope for my girls to actually learn stuff instead of spending their school years being taught how to calculate the IQ of a mob. (Dumbest member divided by total number.)

    • Jim, I wish I could say the same of my area district up in the Panhandle, where high school students are failing the science exams because they cannot read enough to understand the question being asked. These are all English-as-first-language students from a variety of economic backgrounds. You might also look at the piece in the Saturday (March 9) Wall Street Journal editorial section about attempts to reduce the number of passing scores required on the end-of-semester tests in Texas.

    • Even though we live in Plano, we still homeschooled our three kids. One is a senior in college en route to a master’s in the fall, the next will be studying (in French) at the University of Caen in the fall, and the third (the autistic one) is a contract software tester living by himself in another city.

      Our homsechooling consisted of what is called “existential” learning — the kids pretty much studied whatever took their interest, and only those things — and the only thing we insisted upon was a minimum of four hours’ reading every day. Most of the time, they read for over eight. The biggest problem they faced in college was boredom in the classroom. (“Jeez, it’s like they’re teaching retards, not college kids!”) along with amused contempt at the other kids’ utter inability to follow the rules we gave them:
      1) show up for class every day, don’t skip
      2) take notes and participate in the class / interact with the professor
      3) do exactly what the professor tells you to do (i.e. homework, deadlines, study for tests, etc)
      They did all that, and sailed through college. I cannot imagine how they would have turned out if we’d sent them to government daycare.

      • Well done madam. well done.

        • Kim is a man, actually – he’s white and literally African-American (born and raised in Africa, came to America and earned citizenship legally).

          Bloody crap, now you’ve got me missing the blog he used to run…

      • It’s also called “child-directed learning” or “unschooling”. Basically, you let the natural curiosity of children direct how you teach. For anyone unfamiliar with the unschooling method, it demands creativity and patience on the part of the teaching parent and a holistic understanding of how all subjects are interconnected.

        For example, I was very much into Egyptology when I was about 7 or 8. Had I been homeschooled in this method, my parents might have used that to teach reading, research, language, art, and geometry in addition to the obvious history. Rather than setting aside 3 PM to study arithmetic, the necessary lessons would have been applied to things like how the ancient Egyptians had used mathematics to construct the pyramids, as well as their particular counting method. When my curiosity was finally sated, I could study something else and explore a different subject.

        It’s an extremely demanding method that demands critical thinking and creativity in order to nurture (rather than crush) childrens’ curiosity, You can see the results, but it requires fully-committed, thoroughly-involved, and patient parent-teachers. I applaud you, sir.

        • We held “school” when ever and where ever we were. The grocery store was reading and math. Driving down the highway was speed reading (signs and billboards) and critical thinking. etc.

          For those who need an idea of how to teach listening skills and critical thinking at the same time, I used to play a game I called hogwash. The kids never knew in advance when I was playing, tho. They’d ask me a question, and I’d answer it. But as the answer went on and I gave them more and more details, sometimes those details would get further and further from reality. When they finally figured out that the baloney was flowing fast and deep, the first one to start grunting like a pig (Hogwash!) won. Then we’d back track and straighten out everything. (Once they figured out that “the game was afoot” – they could usually figure out where it started straying.)

    • In spite of having various problems with teachers only once did I conclude that the teacher in question was incompetent. Not only was the woman incompetent, she proved to be verbally abusive and criminally negligent. (That last enabled us to get The Daughter removed from her classroom.)

      • Come on CACS, you can’t drop a teaser like that and just walk away…

        • This was The Daughter’s second grade teacher. She is the same lady I described on a recent post, the one who informed The Daughter’s class that a snake was an invertebrate, and that was on one of her better days.

          Things had gotten so bad that I was told by other teachers that I should take up dropping into the classroom unannounced. I took this up. As part of the PTA board and in my capacity as a tutor for at risk kids I fortunately had some freedom of movement in the school. Once I was just in time to hear the teacher give a student an amazing tongue lashing. The tirade was over something which the child had absolutely no control — the child’s mother. The teacher knew I was in there, but did it anyway. I can only conclude that she did not see anything wrong about her behavior.

          She eventually left The Daughter in a class room all by herself giving her verbal instruction which included eight steps. The teacher then took the rest of the class to room at the other end of the building for their Spanish lesson. The Daughter tells me that she had been able to follow the instructions, but the teacher had failed to tell her what to do once she had finished. She was in classroom totally unsupervised for a substantial period of time.

          • My youngest daughter had several teachers that drove her crazy. One in third grade would mark correct answers wrong, and wrong answers right on a MATH test. Another in high school thought she “knew too much”, and went out of her way to try to fail my daughter (she ended up failing three-fourths of her class, which got the principal involved, which got the teacher to seek other employment). At the same time, one of her teachers would PAY HER to grade her tests for her, and was always happy with the results, even after DD graduated from school. There are good teachers, indifferent teachers, and bad teachers. The problem is distinguishing between the different types, and buffering/helping/teaching your child when they encounter any but the best.

        • Oh, I should warn you that I could have walked away. I done so in the past. In fact, I did it to our most esteemed hostess. This time I chose not to.

  4. Harry the Horrible

    Yes. Malice AND Incompetence.
    I worry a lot about my daughters, esp. my oldest. She is 13, and I sometimes have doubts about her reading and math; yet she has “A”s or their equivalent in everything. I’d help but she seems geared up to resist help.

    • Harry – grades mean nothing. Did you read the book “Freakonomics”? One of the sections in it is “What do Sumo wrestlers and Chicago teachers have in common?” The answer is, “They both cheat.” The book goes into much detail about just HOW both sumo wrestlers and teachers cheat, and why. I knew a girl in HS who got straight A’s. She was dumb as a post, but was on the marching squad, in the band, was always in plays, etc etc etc. What her A’s actually represented was that all the teachers LIKED her, not her academic competence. Not saying your daughter is like that – just sayin’ “grades mean nothing.”

  5. Sarah
    I must admit I could not make it all the way to the end of this post. In part because it made me sputteringly angry. But mostly because….I know this story already.
    My other shortcomings as a parent notwithstanding I was the King of Bedtime Stories. All my kids have verbal and writing abilities that are way out on the skinny right hand side of The Bell Curve.
    One of my kids had a few minor speech glitches in early grade school. Helpful hint, consider this when picking a baby name full of Rs and Ls.
    So we allowed the Speech Therapy person to do a little testing. Our experience was benign….she said the sharp consonants would arrive on schedule in a year or so. Oh, and did we know our 2nd grader had the vocabulary of a 17 year old? Indeed we did…he once called his Preschool Teacher “Yuppie Scum”. (A saintly woman, all concerned had a good laugh).
    Well, this is the kind of kid who will absolutely be bored in conventional school, and yes, we had more than a few hints that maybe he should be on some sort of Meds. Luckily I have a modicum of professional standing in the community and could deflect this. Once I just had to tell a particularly recalcitrant 7th grade teacher that she simply did not have much experience dealing with a kid like this…..he is that atypical.
    The best summary of parenting this one came from one of our Robot Pals. You see, when he was in 5th grade we started building and fighting Battlebots together. I was commiserating with another builder and said: “It’s not easy raising a kid like that”. His response was: “You mean, Scary Smart?”
    The only thing really to do was to get him out with the least amount of damage to all parties. He took every Tech Ed (Shop!) class in the catalog, graduated early and went to Tech School to learn micro machining. Then and only then was the kid ready for the world, and the world ready for him. He is now in a Manufacturing Engineering program in college. He helped set up their Fab Lab and can actually understand 3D printers, and various levels of esoteric robotics far beyond my ken.

    Public School did not do him much damage. In that regard I suspect he gave more than he got.

    Persevere!

    Tacitus

  6. This is scary stuff, Sarah. Very, very scary.

  7. This is why I say, in all seriousness, that the Education degree is the most destructive thing ever created in our nation. And if I had my way, I’d hang every Education doctorate I could find.

  8. Kitteh-Dragon

    And if you have a child that tests into “Gifted and Talented” in pre-school (in tests run by the public school system) in our area there is NO PROGRAM for them. Because, “by time they hit third grade, it’s worn out and there’s no difference.” Which really means, by time they’re in third grade, they’ve learned to do the bare minimum and be robots.

    We couldn’t homeschool our kids – my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and we made the commitment to move her and my father to a handicapped accessible apartment nearby. (She was 80 years older than our youngest, who was 3 when they moved here). We sent the kids to Lutheran school, where there were smaller classes, and terrific emphasis on academics.

    The state-run schools still scare the heck out of me.

    • We got the same statement from the principal of the school our daughter was supposed to go to: “it doesn’t matter where they start, by third grade they are all about the same,” and it scared the h*ll out of me! It may be okay with you, lady, but you aren’t getting my little girl – she’s been reading since 3, like her brothers – and smooshing her down like that.

      We homeschooled – almost unschooled – and a major portion of that was the visit to the public library and filling the cart with as many books as we could carry every two weeks – supplemented by the encyclopedia at home and everything else there was to read.

      My DH was NOT in favor of homeschooling, but reluctantly went along when the eldest’s Kindergarten teacher supported me taking him out of school to learn three days a week at first.

      I didn’t realize it was so bad – I just knew that, with me having CFS and no energy, I was NOT in a position to go up against the establishment on a continuous basis – they outnumbered me so badly. We snuck in under the radar in NJ (a state where parents didn’t have the state supervising their homeschooling or their children because the few court cases had gone in favor of the homeschoolers); I couldn’t have done it across the river in PA with our homeschooling friends – they had annual reviews, exams, and curriculum supervision.

      I guess you’re telling me we escaped by the skin of our teeth (go brush your teeth, lady).

      You might have tried it, Sarah – too late now – by just supplying the little darlings with enough material to read for those 8 writing hours. Maybe – I didn’t manage much writing those years, but it was because I was having a lot of fun making the limited energy stretch like the cutting techniques that make a square-inch skin graft cover a square foot of burned area: cover a dot here, and a dot there, and it will all grow together.

      I always say we homeschooled by accident – my illness both led to me being home, and prevented me from trying to improve the school environment so that a little bit of it could trickle down to my own children. I have always been satisfied with the results.

      The bigger question is: “What do we do about the situation?”

      • IF I had to do it again, I’d have homeschooled them. Part of my issue was making sure they saw “normal” people because as was Robert thought a good conversational gambit was “What do you think of Augustus’ monopoly laws” by the time he was four.

        I found out long after they were in high school that I could have put them in art programs at the local art museum, etc, where they could have met “regular” people without the other stuff.

        HOWEVER — mine are now both in college — what worries me is this: what do we do about the kids whose parents aren’t that engaged? Dave Freer is right. We can’t just abandon them or worse put them through this system. They deserve at least SOME chance. And MOST parents aren’t that engaged: dual career, all the stupid laws, taxes, etc. People are BUSY.

        • … what do we do about the kids whose parents aren’t that engaged?

          Remember, those kids will vote and they constitute the vast majority of the population. We cannot protect the Liberty of our own kids by homeschooling, then leave them as chum in the water for the piranhas coming out of the public (and many private) schools.

          • DRAT! Thought I’d slashed that second blockquote, not left it to nestle the response:

            … what do we do about the kids whose parents aren’t that engaged?

            Remember, those kids will vote and they constitute the vast majority of the population. We cannot protect the Liberty of our own kids by homeschooling, then leave them as chum in the water for the piranhas coming out of the public (and many private) schools.

        • Actually the kids whose parents aren’t engaged might come out better through an abandoned homeschooling method than through the system. I have known some kids that were raised in this method, now I am thinking of kids from three or four different families, so it all wasn’t exactly the same. But all the kids I am talking about were ‘home-schooled’ without their parents teaching them.
          The one family told their kids basically, your going to be homeschooled, because mom wants you around the house to do various work and chores she doesn’t have time (aka doesn’t want to) do, here is your work for the year, have it done by June. Not necessarily the method I would recommend, but all four kids turned out literate and reasonably functioning members of society (all four had a period in their lives where they had drug issues, usually in their late teens/early twenties, but all overcame those), and two of the daughters becames nurses, one working in a nursing home, and the other providing at-home care for the elderly and mentally/physically disabled. Since their mother was getting paid to care for both elderly and disabled members of extended family, and this is one of the chores the children had to do because she ‘didn’t have time’ this isn’t terribly surprising as a career choice. The boy ran a business building and installing custom car stereos. While the youngest girl was happy as a housewife, and last talked to her, was vowing to do a better job of teaching her kids than her parents had. The other kids I know who had the abandoned method of homeschooling had variations on this ranging from their parents handing them their work, and telling them, “here is your schoolwork, if you don’t understand something ask me on my days off and I’ll try to help you,” to one family who had several kids who didn’t even have birth certificates, so they didn’t officially exist. No they weren’t illegals, their parents were/are (last I knew their were seventeen kids, rangeing from early thirties to around five, I am assuming there will be no more, but their mother is blessed with slow aging and still looks in her late thirties, so it is possible she is still fertile) harworking, religous, libertarians, who had all of their children at home, and those not attended by a midwife were never reported or got birth certificates, until the first of those without birth certificates got old enough for them to discover how difficult it was for them to attend college/get a normal job in the workforce with NO documentation. At which time they decided the rest of their children when born would get birth certificates. Their parents must have taught the eldest (whom I don’t really know) but from then on what the parents taught was morals and a moral obligation to look out for your family/siblings. The elder children taught the younger ones, and as each got into their teens was basically left to continue learning or not as they desired. Some desired to go to public school, and did, some continued their education and got GEDs and went on to college, some joined the workforce, and a couple spent a few years living with their parents and neither continueing their education or joining the workforce. All were however functional at basic STEM levels, literate, and understood math to at least Algebra levels. All were also living on their own (or with older siblings/friends/spouses or boyfriend/girlfriend, they tended to marry early except a couple who rebelled against their parents religious teachings but who still got into mature longterm relationships at a young age) before the age of 18 and had at least a semi-functioning knowledge of how the world works and a complete understanding of TANSTAAFL.

          The fact that kids abandoned by there parents and left to sink or swim as they see fit, come out better educated than those ran through our public ed system is disturbing thought. The fact that this is so, and those in power are attempting to remove parents ability to teach their own children (regardless of how much time and effort a parent puts into teaching) and force all kids to be educated solely through the public education system is downright terrifying.

          • bearcat: “The fact that kids abandoned by there parents and left to sink or swim as they see fit, come out better educated than those ran through our public ed system is disturbing thought.”

            Not really — one part of the problem is the inability or unwillingness of The System to tell a child the two most-important words he will ever hear:

            “You Failed.”

            Your best effort was not good enough — how do you propose to deal with this fact? Throughout History, the Truly Great have been those who have been confronted with failure, dealt with it, and kept on coming.

            I’m reminded of “Ace” Rimmer’s appearance on _Red Dwarf_, and how he differed from the Arnold Rimmer everyone knew and despised:

            LISTER: Well, good luck, man. And, look, don’t be too hard on Rimmer. You got the break, he didn’t. He’s just bitter.
            ACE: D’you know what that break was? At the age of seven, one of us was kept back a year, the other wasn’t. (Gestures to knot on his arm stitches.) Put your finger on that, will you, Skipper? (Tugs sharply on thread and breaks it.)
            LISTER: And that’s the only difference? Rimmer went down a year, and you stayed up?
            ACE: No, I was the one who went down a year. By his terms, he got the break. But being kept down a year made me. The humiliation… Being the tallest boy in the class by a clear foot. It changed me, made me buckle down, made me fight back. And I’ve been fighting back ever since.
            LISTER: While he spent the rest of his life making excuses.
            ACE: Maybe he’s right. Maybe I did get the lucky break… I’ll grab my things and be off, Dave. Smoke me a kipper, Skipper, I’ll be back for breakfast.

            [ http://www.ladyofthecake.com/rdscripts/season4/Dimensio.txt ]

        • Also, the unengaged parents vote. Which kinda limits what we can do.

        • In the course of saving others from institutional incarceration, it’s a matter of building under, like you’d said. Build/Integrate into a solid homeschooling network yourself, and then turn around and sell the idea to anyone who’d listen. The great thing about the ignorant and unengaged is that it isn’t difficult to appeal to baser instincts, and they can be more easily sold a bill of goods. Convince them of the merits of your system, and they’ll gladly turn their children over to you. After all, isn’t that how the schools managed to keep their rooms stocked in the first place?

          Of course, if one is dealing with less of an ovine population and a more equine (and especially asinine) one, you could always appeal to the children themselves. If your child has friends whom constantly complain about how “boring” or “stupid” school is, have them sell how awesome their curriculum is, and make an offer to skip school and check it out. I’ve found that it’s possible to more thoroughly and quickly spread an idea via the grapevine than any “official” channel, and there are few stronger grapevines than the ones strung amongst children.

          Of course, the problem with enticing the children out from under the noses of their supposed keepers (exceptionally so once you’ve gathered a small following) is that it’s a good way to end up incarcerated. Because as soon as the school wardens realize that their prisoners are no longer showing up to their cell blocks on schedule, a jailbreak will be declared, and the recovery teams (of heavily armed men in heavily armed vehicles) will be dispatched. And then they’ll break down your door to find that you’re brainwashing the missing children with such heresies as proper grammar, the quadratic equation, and an understanding of cause and effect.

          • Convince them of the merits of your system, and they’ll gladly turn their children over to you. After all, isn’t that how the schools managed to keep their rooms stocked in the first place?

            The public schools are seen as “free” (or at least already paid for) and the state requires that you send your child to a school. This worked in their favor for years. People have now largely accepted that their child’s education is an appropriate part of the business of the government. The state of Oregon even tried to eliminate competition from private, particularly religious, schools, with the Oregon Compulsory Education Act which required attendance at public school with few exceptions. The Supreme Court said no. (See: Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary)

        • … what do we do about the kids whose parents aren’t that engaged?

          What I’ve done is to get on the board of a small elementary school (it’s been run by our current church since 1923), and volunteer to do IT work for the school and otherwise volunteer where appropriate. (Hey, we don’t have any grandkids yet…)

          It’s been interesting watching. Watching fourth graders be let loose doing math at their own speed (two were finishing 8th-grade level math by mid year, and dabbling beginning high school work); they weren’t held back by the teacher focusing on those who were having trouble getting up to speed.

          The teachers understand that boys and girls don’t learn the same way, or at the same rates, and they’re using that understanding, and it works. (Sort of surprising the first time you find a boy or two up and walking/moving in the back of the classroom during lecture, if mostly quietly.) And they’re getting the material down sooner and better than before, even if they’re not sitting quietly like we were usually told to do.

          I expect this will be fun to watch for some time, if I survive the field trips.

        • When your four year old child considers “What do you think of Augustus’ monopoly laws” a fine opening gambit, and has actually thought about them himself, know you are dealing with truly rarified air.

          Even among the profoundly gifted there is a small group that is more so. For those, if you are fortunate enough to find a system with a gifted program, it will not really challenge them. For a number of years our county, home to two universities and a number of colleges, had a model one. (We lost it when the state mandated gifted programs throughout the state and it had to be reorganized accordingly.) To get in you had to test in the top half percentile in all four core subjects. There were children who found it unchallenging in one subject, but there were a very few who remained unchallenged in all subjects. These children are so few and far between that short of a specialty boarding school it would be impossible to create a classroom for them.

        • “… what do we do about the kids whose parents aren’t that engaged?”

          A lot of people have tried to answer this. My answer: nothing.

          I harp on my blog a lot that most of the problems in this world are caused by well-meaning people trying to “fix” things — usually whether people want to be “fixed” or not.

          You attend to the education of your own children. They are the ones that are your responsibility. They only get one childhood. In the time it takes you to get politically active, run for school board, press for changes, argue with the teachers — their childhood and early education is half over! If you’re lucky! There’s no time to be screwing around with what other peoples’ kids are doing! In my case, we home schooled. To the devil with every one else, so long as you are allowed to opt out.

          Woe be unto the establishment, however, should they one day decide not to allow home schooling (so far, not looking likely) for my kids.

        • :-) And I am afraid, this is my line in the sand. My religious convictions are my own business, but they are deep and this they dictate: I will not personally just pass by on the other side of the road and merely look after my own kids. Just because I may detest the parents, their politics, their way of life, just because I know it will not help many of the kids who don’t want anything but to be feral like their parents… if I can give any kid a chance at something better, to read, to live, to think, I will. I put my money and time where my mouth is, and yep, if the state system can be improved to where it gives kids a chance to do that, I think it a good thing to do.

          • I agree with you, although whether it is more beneficial to try and fix the current ed system or scrap it and start over is up for debate.

            Unfortunately the current administration has so poisoned the ‘just one kid’ line that I have a knee-jerk reaction opposing any arguement using it. So I have to back up and reread your comment to see that I do agree with it.

            My question, and it is debatable either way, is would we be giving more kids the chance at something better by continueing with our broken system and trying to fix it, or by scrapping it and forcing parents to choose another way if they want any education for their kids? We are going to lose kids either way, I just am not sure which way we will lose more. If we can successfully fix the system that would be the best route, but if we can’t how many are we going to lose in the meantime? Would we lose more by scrapping the system in which those kids and/or parents who don’t really care would be lost; or would we lose more the way the current system is actively sabotaging learning?

            • My question, and it is debatable either way, is would we be giving more kids the chance at something better by continuing with our broken system and trying to fix it, or by scrapping it and forcing parents to choose another way if they want any education for their kids?

              I’d argue doing the first two at the same time– drop control to the lowest possible level, no higher than regional, preferably by county or individual school. Ditto for funding, although I’d argue that state wide would be the proper place for (some of) that.

              Until such time as the control level is dropped, tie (federal) funding to the child. No kid, no funds– those schools that will allow home schooled students to come in can get proportional funding. Parents cannot get the funds if they home school, but they can be forwarded to colleges or other accredited education businesses. (That’s against my own self interest, but the same kids who need the help the most have legal guardians who would gladly leave them to rot in the back room so they’d get another stream of income.)
              Probably have to limit that to normal funding– not “special needs” or other such programs.

              • Yes, in a country this size it does need to be regional. STATE at most.

                • Bingo. It’s time to get the federal government out of education and return the money it’s currently using for same to the states. (This is pretty much true with any sort of government agency: Nothing should be larger and more remote if it can be smaller and more local.)

            • Scrap it and start over even if it’s a network of subsidized charters.

              • Probably the only way to disrupt the bureaucracy. (not destroy it– the people who cause trouble will reform, largely, but the driving forces will do in-fighting and some areas will get lucky as better options sneak in while they’re distracted)

          • Just because I may detest the parents, their politics, their way of life, just because I know it will not help many of the kids who don’t want anything but to be feral like their parents… if I can give any kid a chance at something better, to read, to live, to think, I will.

            That’s exactly what got the system into the mess it’s in right now; people who detest my family, most of the mainstream political spectrum, our ways of life and who believe they know the best outcome hammered it into a machine to get that outcome. Part of that is cutting off other options.

            • “That’s exactly what got the system into the mess it’s in right now”

              Exactly. The moment you start thinking, “I’m going to harness the power of the state to help these kids,” you are assuming that you are wise enough to wield the power of the state against another person’s children, whether they like it or not.

              Humility is very important. Few of us are wise enough to deserve to have power over other people, and that’s all government is, power: the power to tax, the power to force. If you’re using government as a component in your solution you are, by definition, using coercion. If you didn’t think you needed to coerce anyone, you’d just start a charitable organization and rely on voluntary contributions, or start a business and rely on voluntary sales. Because even if 99 out of 100 people agree with you when you pass a government law, you’re having to impose yourself on the 100th.

              Taking care of your own kids in the way you think they should be taken care of, and allowing other people to take care of their kids the way they think they should be taken care of is the moral choice, in my opinion.

              I go into the general topic in quite a bit of detail on another controversial topic in Who Owns Your Body.

              • It could be argued that real humility is a willingness to admit we got wrong, and admitting that we might get wrong next time, and watching for that, and being prepared to accept that we get it wrong, we have to try something else, rather than never trying again. I wouldn’t have got very far with driving an automobile (or learning to walk) with your prescription, and I bet you wouldn’t have either. The obvious answer is a scattergun approach, merely requiring basic literacy and numeracy and letting people work out how they do it and fund it themselves. And the best will spread, and there will a lot of variation.

                Perhaps one of the best things about education is that we can learn from the mistakes of others, rather than having to do it ourselves each time. With that in mind: As for leaving education to charity and/or commerce: There are countries which have done this. There are others which used that coercion. Mali would be a good example of the former (by all means trawl history and geography for better examples. There are plenty. They’re all dismal). The UK an example of the latter. Yes, the UK education system has many of the problems of the US latterly. But as a choice of a society to live in or have children in… I know which I would choose. Of course if you feel that you should make that moral choice, and live in society that is happy to let make that moral choice, there are still flights to Bamako from Cote d’Ivore.

                • “As for leaving education to charity and/or commerce: There are countries which have done this. There are others which used that coercion. Mali would be a good example of the former (by all means trawl history and geography for better examples. There are plenty. They’re all dismal)”

                  I would argue that America would have been a good example of that in the 1800′s (at least west of the Mississippi). Yes there were schools in many of the small towns, but they were supported locally, usually by the parents of children attending them and charity, sometimes by local taxes that were decided on locally. Attendance was also voluntary, and many of the frontier children did not go, what education they got was recieved at home. I would argue that the results were not dismal.

                  • Yes there were schools in many of the small towns, but they were supported locally, usually by the parents of children attending them and charity, sometimes by local taxes that were decided on locally.

                    Also land-grants.
                    The school I went to was still getting funds from their “school grant”– my family still rents it for cattle. Those lots with timber in Oregon generally still sell the trees, too.

                    I like the land-grants idea.

                    My grandmother grew up going to an “Indian School”– it was run by her father, a shepherd, and all his kids went because his wife was the teacher. Did a good enough job educating her that she went to college at either 16 or 17, graduated and became a newspaper reporter. (Not bad for the daughter of guy who moved to the country dirt poor as a teen, with a family to ship over.)

                    Local solutions work very well; it’s trying to force them into a framework that’s far too large where problems show up.

                    There were also schools run by various religious groups, especially the Catholic Church, aimed at those who had no other opportunities.

                    • The size of this country is hard to fathom from the outside. What it means is that there is HUGE graft opportunity in the Fed. Dept of education. It was established late, and since it was established, education has been going to h*ll. Because… graft. And hairbrained ideas from the top, from people who’d run screaming from a real child or teen.
                      Taking control from the “professionals” (who know a lot of things that just ain’t so) and giving it to parents and the city who doesn’t want a wave of illiterates hitting the job market is probably saner.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Heck, the size of this country is hard to fathom from the inside, and I’ve been pretty much to all the corners of the continental US.

                    • Getting people in Seattle to realize that Okanogan County (right of the Cascades, left of Seattle, top of the map) is not a Disney World variation, but a place where actual work– real work, even if the people doing it don’t wear fancy suits and go on TV– is pretty dang hard; getting folks like my mom to realize that “five miles” in Seattle can be over an hour of driving when there’s not bad traffic can be hard.

                      Comparing countries to states can be kinda fun, too. ^.^ Washington is better than twice the size of Austria, and nearly a quarter of the size of France…and it’s just Washington. Heck, Okanogan county is half the size of Belgium.

                    • I have driven through Seattle (actually the hubby has) going through the subdivisions in central Seattle. Now that is a pain in the butt. I have two step-daughters living near Seattle (one in Everett). We visit about every ten years lol. or less. ;-) Seattle and surrounding areas are too big for us.

                    • Let us be just. It started before that. When the Departments of Education started to get a serious grip on the teacher supply.

                    • Schoolhouse Sections, I’m not sure exactly when it was decided that Section 16 in each township should belong to the state and be used to support local schools, but it is that way all across the west. I assumed it was probably around the beginning of the 20th century, since most of the west wasn’t surveyed by GLO and broken into sections until the end of the 19th.

                    • Very likely. I’d try asking next time I go home, but: 1) they probably don’t know, and 2) any date they gave me would have a good chance of being false. (Not because the person answering gained anything from it, but because whoever put the information there had something to gain– even if it was just “now the question has an answer.”)

                      Most probably, formal control came much later than functional control.

                    • “Getting people in Seattle to realize that Okanogan County (right of the Cascades, left of Seattle, top of the map)”

                      Umm, what map are you looking at? Okanogan should be east (right)of both the Cascades and Seattle.

                    • Bah, meant to write “Spokane.” I do this in person as well– when I’m not switching BOTH out for the valley my family hasn’t lived in for nearly 18 years, just because they all start with “S” and we lived there for a while. To make it worse, I thought I double checked that I wrote Spokane, not Seattle. Probably switched it then.
                      On an utterly unrelated note, I hate daylight savings time.

                    • Oh Spokane– I haven’t been there in a long time. I do have family there. Bagleys, Larsons, Allens– all related to me in some form or fashion. lol

                    • Daylight Savings Time was designed by imbeciles, there are 24 hours in a day, no matter how you number them there are still the same hours of daylight. You aren’t saving a dang thing, your just trying to screw with people’s heads.

                    • I gotta defend… I THINK it made some sense with the whole blackout curtain thing, at least theoretically; the folks in cities would actually get up crazy early to go to work, in large numbers. Not so much the case now.

                      The “it’s for farmers” thing is just an urban legend, though.

                    • I will continue to contend it is for idiots. If daylight affects your work, you start at daylight, it doesn’t matter what the clock says, the sun still rises and sets at the same time on the same day every year (for all practical purposes, I realize it changes a little bit, that is why we have a leap year).

                    • While still agreeing with your conclusion, it’s less a matter of depending on daylight than being tied both to the clock and to available light.

                      Sunlight is relatively free.

                  • Hmm. While that has parallels in many frontier societies, including Australia, NZ and South Africa, Mozambique, think you’re omitting a few things 1)they were ‘fed’ on the education of immigrants 2)All of them turned to some form of mandatory education – if it was working well – or better than places that didn’t have the same system why did they change, Not just in the US but across the world. Many were in a position to resist such change. 3)The history of such places is written by the success stories. Have you ever met the failure of those places? (I have with various black South Africans who were able, and yet couldn’t read or write or do simple arithmetic. My folks were part of their church teaching group, who used to teach adults these basics. You might say I have seen the positives of giving people who didn’t have that chance a tool that changed their quality of life a hell of lot. Yes, it was voluntary teaching and learning, but it was an example of where the state did not enforce minimal education standards, had let them pay or get taught by volunteers, and made people whose only fault was to be born in a tribal area easily ripped off by every shopkeeper, just for a start.)

                    I’d guess that it is a phase in the evolution of frontier societies, and the ones that don’t go to some kind of mandatory minimum for all kids end up like a lot of South American countries – Venezuela, Colombia, which started pretty much like you describe, but never moved to mandatory education for long time. They gradually slipped down the competitive and productive rankings. Of course now it has become a political indoctrination tool, but really making sure everyone able can read right and do basic math makes places nicer to live in.

                • I am not necessarily against public schools, if they are chosen by the locals and controlled locally. I am against Centralized control by the feds, and think the Dept. of Education should be abolished with extreme prejudice.
                  Localities should be able to choose their own methods of education, as of right now in many localities I think the number of kids successfully educated would go UP if they got rid of the public schools, on the other hand if control of the public schools were put in the hands of the locals the success rate might go up more.

                  • I can endorse eliminating (over time) public schools. Privatization over time would be achievable easily enough, especially if the government switches the funding to vouchers which follow the student, as an increasing number of states are doing.

                    Curricula would have available to be public review, of course, and certain reasonable limits established in order to be eligible for public funds, method of challenge to be determined.

                    At a minimum, no school receiving public funds can teach violent revolution or doctrines contrary to the individual rights expressed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. You are free to live your faith but must recognize rights of others to live their faiths (or lack thereof.)

                    Federal and State boards (possibly separate from the government, as the College Boards are) could establish graduation standards, certifiable by examination the way SATs and various professional groups (Bar, CPA, Medical Certification) administer their tests. Every effort should be made to make these tests as objective as possible (meaning, nobody should be able to pass the Civics portion — if such portion there be — by electing the most Politically Correct option.) Schools failing to achieve satisfactory (for some value of satisfactory) pass rates would lose eligibility for vouchers, possibly on a sliding scale such that a pass rate of 75% (within three tries) entitles the school to 100% of the value of the voucher while a 50% pass rate (within three tries) limits them to receiving only 67% of the voucher’s value. Make that for the subsequent year or require them to rebate (probably necessary for the home schooled), or some other variation.

                    Merely a series of possible ways of approaching the matter. The current mass production, central command and control plan is manifestly not working. Given the costs entailed under the present system I am not especially concerned about potential costs of an alternative. The ship is sinking rapidly; while we probably can’t walk on water we might be able to get enough lifeboats in the water to save a majority. As Butch said to Sundance, “Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.”
                    http://klipd.com/watch/butch-cassidy-and-the-sundance-kid/the-fall-will-probably-kill-you-cliff-jump-scene

                  • :-) I’d say you were preaching to the choir here. That would be my ideal.

                  • There’s one more thing in addition to local control that would dramatically improve public education: Require all administrators to teach one class per day. This used to happen all the time (the term “principal” used to refer to the principal *teacher* of the school, not the principal administrator), but once admins were no longer required to teach, many of them morphed into bureaucrats and politicians, making decisions that were more adult-centered than student-centered. This would go a long way toward the necessary dismantling of the ‘ivory tower” as it exists today.

                • When I was growing up the family moved in to center city Philadelphia, it was before the state had taken over that school system the first time for its utter failure. Still, if you cared about seeing your children educated and could not place your children in the middle and high schools for the gifted, you looked elsewhere.

                  Even now, facing bankruptcy, the Philadelphia administration is fighting the teacher’s unions (and certain special interest groups), who do not want to see any cuts. Google and see what is going on as the administration is trying to consolidate half filled schools and close older buildings which are in need of extensive and expensive repair and rebuilding.

                  BTW: The Catholic schools work on shoe string budgets, but somehow the children who attend them learn their reading, writhing and mathematics, as well as self-discipline…a smashing blow to the proposition that more money and more programs is always the solution.

                  • “The Catholic schools work on shoe string budgets, but somehow the children who attend them learn their reading, writhing and mathematics,”

                    I am NOT sending my kid to a school where they consider writhing one of fundamentals to teach.

                    • As all commenting here for any length of time ought be aware, many authors spend much of their time writhing — writhing their hands, writhing under the pressure of the voices in their heads. It is important they learn to do it well so as to avoid injury.

                    • As Lewis Carroll said, that’s what they teach schools of fish: reeling and writhing.

                    • Yipee! A chance to quote from Alice!

                      “Ah! Then yours wasn’t a really good school,” said the Mock Turtle in a tone of great relief. “Now at ours they had at the end of the bill, ‘French, music, and washing — extra.’ “

                      “You couldn’t have wanted it much,” said Alice: “living at the bottom of the sea.”

                      “I couldn’t afford to learn it,” said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. “I only took the regular course.”

                      “What was that?” enquired Alice.

                      “Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,” the Mock Turtle replied: “and then the different branches of Arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.”

                • Humility? To work from humility would require a paradigm shift in the basic view of how our world works. Right now the American politic is split between a number of groups, but there is a prevailing zeitgeist. With rare exception Americans think that there is a system that man can institute where everything will work and we will have paradise here on earth. Albeit, for some this seems to require the elimination of man.

                  Living with the promise of we will do our best, admitting it may not be good enough and promising to keep trying seems to be a rational grown-up way of dealing with reality. How do we get people to vote for a candidate or support the appointee whose promise is to try their best — rather than one who sells the idea of real solutions deliverable?

            • Shrug. For years now the Islamic fanatics have used the tenets of Western civilization and philosophy, particularly tolerance, against us. Does this mean we should abandon tolerating differences? Say there is one true right way, and off with the heads of anyone who doesn’t – just as they do? They would have destroyed us then as effectively as turning a blind eye would have. We adapt and think around them, and sometimes outright fight against them. The same holds true of education: They have taken the very good idea that any child should have access to the opportunity to read and write and do math, and thus form their own conclusions, and choose their own directions, which will not always be that of their parents or teachers, and perverted that into something entirely different using that as cover. ‘and that’s only by our recipe, because that is the only right way, and it’s for the children we do it, and its only right if the outcome is exactly what we want.’ What they’ve done to your education system is to use it against the ideals of Western civilization and philosophy – which has at its core a freedom of choice. And what you’re doing is conflating my belief that any child, regardless of who their parents are, needs access to the tools – reading, writing skills and mathematics – to make those choices, with the prescriptive narrow indoctrination which is hopeless developing in these skills that seems to schooling in the US is becoming. It’s rather like your totalitarian and intolerant left hijacking the word ‘liberal’ – derived from free, which is what the writers of your constitution probably thought they were – and making it into something narrow and intolerant and prescriptive. They’re not liberal, and your school system is not one which provides the tools for learning, and the choices that opens up.

              • For years now the Islamic fanatics have used the tenets of Western civilization and philosophy, particularly tolerance, against us. Does this mean we should abandon tolerating differences?

                I do not consider “tolerating differences” to be one of the tenets of Western Civilization– it’s a simplification of a much more complicated thing that is more like “don’t mindlessly hate things only because they are different.” The false choice just makes the problem even clearer.

                Amusing that you confuse me of conflating your stated belief, when you’re quite willing to open up by doing so– and do not actual respond to the problem I point out.

                If you wanted to say, “we should have education that does the bare minimum so that even those whose views are antithetical to everything I believe have a chance to be lifted into an objectively better life situation,” or something similar, you should’ve.

                • “For years now the Islamic fanatics have used the tenets of Western civilization and philosophy, particularly tolerance, against us. Does this mean we should abandon tolerating differences?”

                  Interesting example. No I don’t think we should abandon tolerating differences. On the other hand should we tolerate someone who by definition will not tolerate anyone different than themselves?

                  When you start dealing with the Constitution and Muslims you start getting into gray areas real fast. The constitution says we must have religious freedom, and tolerate all religions. But Islam by its own teachings will not tolerate any other religion, soooo, we must tolerate it, that is the law. But followers of Islam must not tolerate followers of other religions or athiests. So does that make all Muslims in the US criminals? If they follow the teachings of their religion it does, if they don’t follow the teachings then they are heretics and not true Muslims. So does that make Islam illegal?

                  • I don’t think we should abandon tolerating differences. On the other hand should we tolerate someone who by definition will not tolerate anyone different than themselves?

                    Some things are intolerable. The Bill of Rights establishes a minimum standard.

                    Religions which are not able to tolerate other faiths are forbidden to use violence or the law to enforce conformation with their beliefs. If your faith calls for slavery you will have to find a way to accommodate America’s 14th Amendment ban on the practice. Same with treating women and children as chattel. Same with forced conversion (or making conversion from your faith illegal.

                    Polygamy, that we seem on the way to allowing. Boy, I bet any Mormons* who fought against accepting the ban on that feel pretty stupid.

                    *N.B., no offense intended toward members of the Church of Latter Day Saints through use of that term. It fits the rhythm of the line far better than any alternative known to me.

                  • Heh. ” So does that make all Muslims in the US criminals? If they follow the teachings of their religion it does, if they don’t follow the teachings then they are heretics and not true Muslims. So does that make Islam illegal?” – You’re a bright man. I’ve said this before too. A point which I’ve often felt OUGHT to be excercised. Publically, and in writing. A sworn declaration would do. Of course they would lie – their religion permits this. But they’d still be holding that up to society’s mirror -and Adam Smith is right.

                    • Ah, but here you have it. We do not have whole sale anything goes religious freedom. And the courts have said so more than once. The state of Florida can ban animal sacrifice from the public beaches. Those whose religious beliefs call for girls to marry as they enter their teens will just have to wait a couple of years in most states, or the state can pursue abuse of a minor charges. There are other examples.

                • I don’t really have time to give you my views of Western philosophy and it shaped Western civilization, and how that philosophy was shaped by Christianity, or really explain in depth. However, I can recommend Hegel’s Science of Logic and Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral sentiment as important to my viewpoints. I suspect you’re interpreting tolerance in the once again hijacked sense of so-called ‘diversity’, not in the real sense of ‘putting up with differences’. And no, just because a relatively small part of the English speaking population are confused, doesn’t mean the rest of us are wrong ;-/. That’s intolerance.

                  • I don’t really have time to give you my views of Western philosophy and it shaped Western civilization, and how that philosophy was shaped by Christianity, or really explain in depth.

                    In that case, I really wish you’d just responded to the point actually made, instead of changing the subject.

                    • I had originally stated precisely what you were now trying to say I should have. Foxfier, I wish you’d actually read properly and think of possible interpretations, especially given different backgrounds and bluntly a wider, very different set of experiences to yours, before you wrote. Those perspectives sometimes actually add value (that hybrid perspective been of huge value to the US, as compared to Europe IMO). Outsiders not all right of course, but they have different perspectives which avoid not seeing trees for the and getting lost in local weasel jargon. You’re capable of quite intelligent comment and debate, but most of the time you seem to just want to bicker. I’ll pass on that.

                    • Mr. Freer, I directly quoted what I was responding to, and in response you ran off in multiple different directions. (While complaining you didn’t have time to actually discuss the topics you were changing the subject to.)
                      While it is a lovely– and highly effective!– rhetorical tactic when you wish to impress people with how much you know, and it’s a sheer delight when you are listening to someone giving a speech, it’s just annoying when done in a combox with a sneer and no actual relevant to what it is supposedly responding to information imparted.
                      It is absolutely no shock at all to anyone who has paid passing attention that politics outside of the US use similar labels for utterly different parties, nor that what exactly are the base elements of Western Civilization are very subject to debate, and quite possibly counts as “basic knowledge”; it also has nothing to do with what was actually directly quoted and written about, and your willingness to accuse others of doing what you do when they notice you have not actually responded directly to their statements is far from flattering. Very common, especially if someone has paid attention in comboxes, but highly unbecoming, especially when it’s a commenter rather than the blog owner who is trying to behave like a college professor that feels a student isn’t giving him enough respect.

                  • “Western philosophy and it shaped Western civilization, and how that philosophy was shaped by Christianity,…”

                    Your timeline is a little off. Christianity is a rather new or late comer to weastern philosophical thought.

                    • Josh K.

                      Bullsh*t. 2k years is not late. And Judaism before that.

                      Define Western Civ. Show your work.

                    • Yes Mam.

                      Working on to replies now.

                      1. On my thoughts on language, and…

                      2. now this one.
                      ;-)

                    • “Western philosophy and it shaped Western civilization, and how that philosophy was shaped by Christianity,…”

                      http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/timeline.htm

                      http://christianityinview.com/timeline.html

                      http://www.roebuckclasses.com/time/philosophytime.htm

                      1. “Western Civilization” is not monolithic.

                      2. What does Davefreer mean by Western Civilization? European? American? It’s just just a catch all that means what ever the speaker wants it to mean. Is Judaism Western or Middle Eastern?

                      3. Layers upon Layers. Civilizations are layered upon the ashes of the old.    

                      4. What can be said to be a bigger influence on the other? Was Christian or the Greek/Roman culture more shaped by the other? We do celebrate Jesus’ birthday on the solstice by placing gifts under a tree.

                      5. Even in the founding of America Christianity was only one of many influences in how we organized our society/civilization. Was Whitefield or Locke more influential in shaping us/US?

                      6. As the only influence mentioned, being  Christianity, that might lead one to believe that the author feels it’s the only relevant one, or that it was the primary influince.

                      7. Christianity only got a strong foot hold mid 4th century AD a good 1000 yrs after the big three Greek philosophers were on the scene.

                    • :-) I thought Greek might be a bridge too far for her. Seriously that did color Christian philosophy, but it also had other roots, and it was very revolutionary for the time, and had a profound effect on European history – and actually served as vector Ancient Greek philosophy.

                    • Condescension not a pretty side to be showing.

                      Whether or not you feel someone is capable of understanding, a point not fully made is open to interpertation.

                    • Dang, I apparently lent my copy of Copleston’s A History of Philosophy, Vol. 1 to The Daughter. So this is IIRC: Western Philosophy is consider to have begun with the Greeks. The earliest recognized group are the Pre-Socratics, and the earliest of them was working in the 6th century before the birth of Christ. That would mean that the early Jewish philosophers predate them. Nor is Christianity a new comer.

                    • Augustine is far from the first important Christian philosopher. You do not take into account Ignatius of Antioch and Clement, who were both in the first century and 30+ other notables that also proceeded Augustine.

                    • So are we now a predominantly latin American country in the USA, because demografics are moving that way.

                    • er… they’re moving entire peoples, including Europeans (lifts hand) into the Hispanic category. It’s not the demographics moving, Josh.

                    • Sorry, was trying to show that just because a group is growing doesn’t mean it is the automatic shaping of society anymore than any other force or influence.

                    • The Largest U.S. Ethnic Group? It’s Germans
                      Bloomberg analysis of census data identifies Teutonic tracts
                      March 18 2012
                      As we examine the “New America,” it’s important to also remember that the ethnic make-up of the “Old America” still has a significant influence on the demography of the U.S.

                      Amid the surge of Hispanics, the largest ethnic group in the U.S. is still German-Americans, with a population of 49.8 million, a jump of 6 million between 2000 and 2010. In fact, the number of Americans more than half of the nation’s 3,143 counties contain a plurality of people who describe themselves as German-American, according to analysis of census data by Bloomberg.

                      Americans of German-descent top the list of U.S. ethnic groups, followed by Irish, 35.8 million; Mexican, 31.8 million; English, 27.4 million; and Italian, 17.6 million, analysis of Census and American Community Survey data shows.
                      [MORE: http://www.adweek.com/sa-article/largest-us-ethnic-group-it-s-germans-138988 }

                      Don’t even start to open the “Latino” can o’ worms. In spite of what the census bureau racists claim, Portugese are as welcoming of being called Hispanic as the Irish are of being called British.

                    • Yes, RES, I was trying to point out how cultures/societies shift with a current example, but I flubbed it.

                      ;-)

                    • Self identification would also bias against those cultures that don’t have a strong sort of pride thing– both German and English would, going off the folks I know, have their religion strongly tied into their nationality. My family can’t actually trace our paternal line for sure to Ireland– yay, having an outlaw great-grandfather whose respectable lady wife divorced him very early on– but the Irish Catholics thing meant that everybody identified that way. If I’ve got it calculated right, the girls will be more British than anything else (English, Scottish) but will identify as either Italian or Irish, depending on if my family or TrueBlue’s makes a bigger “national” impression. (Probably Irish. St. Pat’s day is just too fun.)

                    • Germans! I KNEW IT! (picture me doing the happy dance … or maybe not!)
                      There was a reason that I started writing historical fiction about the German settlers in Texas – they were EVERYWHERE! Barbeque, conjunto music, sausage, brewing beer, designing the railroads, founding newspapers and businesses that still exist! They’ve just been flying under the radar since those unpleasantnesses in 1914-18 and 1939-1945.
                      (And just as aside, I have no ethnic dog in this; my family is English-Welsh-Scots-Irish)

                    • Josh,
                      Do you not consider the Old Testament part of Christianity? I do, and it has shaped philosophies for a lot longer than 2000 years.

                    • For much that time Judaism was local to a specific region. Other than trade merchants and war there wasn’t a lot culturial shifts.

                      We had this big discussion on the cultural differences just in the US.

                      Hmmm….

                      Take Israel is it Western or Middle Eastern; there is 5thousand years of history.

                    • Take Israel is it Western or Middle Eastern; there is 5thousand years of history.

                      Oooh, that sounds FUN!

                      Totally the wrong place for it, but so, so fun.

                    • Your points of disagreement are weak. When the earliest Christians referred to scripture they meant the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. That is what Christians call the Old Testament. The thought of the various Greek philosophers had been limited to their various city states until the Romans conquered Greeks. (And the Romans, of course, had also conquered the Middle East…) According to your argument Western though did not exist until the Romans spread it.

                    • Actually Greek culutre was brought to the middle east by Alexander the Great Mid 7th century BC incidentally the same time as the great three.

                      For most of Judiasm early history it was just one of many cultures & peoples.

                    • Study your history. Poor Alexander was quite a conqueror, but he failed to live to rule the territories that he had acquired. (It could be argued that his greatest achievement was creating a common Greek tongue. This he did to ease command of the troops who spoke quite a wide variety of distinct dialects.) For the most part the influence of the succeeding Greeks served primarily to anger the peoples they were attempting to administrate.

                      The reason the Maccabees lead the revolt was that they saw their society becoming tainted by those Hellenistic idea. (Bugger all and roast a great big pig.) The Feast of Dedication, or Chanukah celebrates the rededication of the temple (and a recommitment of the people) following victory.

                    • “Maccabees lead the revolt was that they saw their society becoming tainted by those Hellenistic idea.”

                      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellenistic_Judaism#section_2

                      Yes, a schism between Orthodox & Hellenistic Jews.

                      So, who’s the true Scotsmen here? ;-)

              • . It’s rather like your totalitarian and intolerant left hijacking the word ‘liberal’ – derived from free, which is what the writers of your constitution probably thought they were – and making it into something narrow and intolerant and prescriptive.

                When a group calls itself by a name for long enough, it is silly to throw fits because their actual characteristics do not fit the original meaning or are in direct contrast to it.

                The word is not “something narrow and intolerant and prescriptive;” a group which self-describes using the word fits those characteristics.

                As to what your beliefs may be, I did not claim to know them. I responded to what you actually wrote, specifically the portion that I quoted.

                • I suggest that you do a little reading about politics outside of the US context. A good starting point would be the Australian Liberal party. The Progressive Federal Party in South Africa (which is also a Liberal party) is another example. There are lots of others. Liberal implies neither left wing nor totalitarian, but the opposite in most of the rest of world, in several languages. It carries, as a word, a lot of valuable baggage in American and world history that your US ‘Liberals’ are trading on. Letting your socialist totalitarians hijack it is stupid. I take every opportunity to point out they’re neither liberal nor progressive.

                  • I suggest that you do a little reading about politics outside of the US context.

                    When speaking on a sailor’s blog, about a Naval topic, I speak Navy.
                    When talking on a Star Trek blog, about a Star Trek topic, I use Star Trek terminology.
                    When speaking on an American blog, about an American topic, I use American vocabulary.

                    That the words mean something else in a totally different context doesn’t matter unless one is trying to avoid communication.

                    • Ummm… in the US I’m a “conservative” (old school). In Australia I’d be “Liberal.” (And I actually subscribe to a blog down there… or is it UP there? I guess that would depend on which end your bum’s on, eh?)

                    • Speaking of bums up:
                      On March 19, 1998 Gore called The Washington Post’s executive editor to tip him off about an ”error” on the front page of his paper. ”I decided I just had to call because you’ve printed a picture of the Earth upside-down,” Gore said.

                    • I read a pretty good selection of bloggers and papers simi-regularly, though not as often as I use to Before Kids– including the blog of a PI diplomat’s daughter, who dabbles in American politics and recently moved to Australia.

                      The idea that they should write utterly out of context on the theory that someone might show up and might be interested enough to read it, but too ignorant to figure out that there could possibly be a difference in what terminology means… other than trolls, not probable. (the trolls are there for an audience, and would find a way to misunderstand no matter what. Hm. Didn’t the late Breitbart mention something about that?)

                      And we are talking about politics, for goodness sake– not like it’s utterly entrancing for someone who’s not interested enough to pay attention to where the writing’s from!

                    • BK- before kid
                      BC- before children ;-) Glad a started something. Of course BC for me is before chemo.

                    • Hehe, considered it, liked the way the other one looked.

                  • Yes, the rest of the world still has a more clasic liberal understanding of the word liberal. So? Conservitism also has different shades of meaning depending on what is being conserved & where tou are at in the world.

                    • Josh, my point is there is huge value attached to history of the term – a proud and valuable set of shared knowledge and implications which are being exploited by a bunch of jerks with no claim to that. I’m a public and vocal supporter of the US – there are plenty of bits of public record to that effect. I do get very irritated when some Americans forget this is the world wide web and what is said here is read anywhere in the world and behave as if they were in their house in middle America, where actually it’s not important to look like world leaders, and you can be a narrow parochial twit. I cringe seeing people I keep defending doing the equivalent of scratching their bums and farting because they think no one else is listening. Much of what is being discussed here applies just as much elsewhere in the world, and is being read by people across the world. Some of it has already gone wrong and been fixed elsewhere. And some of it we’d benefit from learning.

                    • Well this is Sarah Hoyt’s house (blog) and we are talking mostly American Politics here & how it effects us/US. You are a guest, I to learned this the hardway. You need to take that into consideration, if you want to be welcomed here.

                    • I may disagree with Dave at times (not that often, but tonight we seem to disagree at least on semantics, on every subject brought up) but I don’t think Sarah is so small-minded that she is going to ban one of her old friends for disagreeing with some of her newer commenters, especially when he is not being rude. That would be akin to disowning your brother because he disagrees with your children’s friends.

                    • Oh, …. hadn’t ran into him yet. Didn’t realize he was regulare.

                      Was just tring to pass on the excilemt advice RES gave me when I got here.

                    • Yes, Josh K, Sarah and I are old friends and allies – I think about 10 years now. She is one of my best friends in the US, we often talk – outside of blog comments, and have met, and publish with the same publisher. While we disagree on means sometimes, we tend to agree on ends. Forgive me if I am being more obscure and terse than usual, and expecting you to be follow my erratic jumps in logic (believe me please, they are logical, reasonably well researched, and I can actually have a good go at proving them. I have a history of doing this well, I’m just too tired and busy to give it the length it needs right now. The logic is sound and with a little effort you could follow it, despite my poor writing of it). I’m mid harvest (and that is our food for the winter, which needs gathering, canning, drying, freezing and a bunch of stuff to get fit to do that with), I’m also taking a bunch of scouts rock-climbing every day, frantically busy with edits, trying to finish one book and get going in another, all of which has me at about 4 hours sleep a night. I’m also coping with a bust computer which means I have use webmail for these replies, which is awkward because I can’t read a comment and reply but have to try and remember it. I have no problem with people disagreeing with me, but I’m never too gifted at suffering fools gladly. I mostly find them easier to cope with than people imitating my super-bright son at his most annoying age – 11 – when he took vast delight in pretending to be stupid and misinterpreting everything he could for the sake of an argument. So please don’t.

                    • Dave,

                      I never doubted you had a reason or internal logic for stating what you did; we all do. It just did fit into my understanding of world history. So, when I said that I thought your understanding was off I was probing for more details.

                      Sarah then called me out on not providing the same.
                      :-)

                    • Dave,
                      It irritates me to no end that they have hijacked the term liberal, but the fact of the matter is that they have done it successfully. Should we pretend that Liberal actually means liberal, just because it should, or should we face reality? Liberals are known as Liberals, because they subscribe to their philosophy that has nothing to do with actually being liberal. We may know they are fascists, but unless we explain in detail that we are talking about those on the left end of the political spectrum when we say fascists, that is not the political party that comes to people’s mind, while they know exactly who we are talking about when the word Liberal comes out of our mouth. I am all for explaining that Liberals aren’t liberal in an indepth conversation. But in the interests of conversational brevity and a relative clarity without a definition of terms they should be called Liberals, and everyone will know exactly who you are talking about. As for those in other countries, if they read enough of American politics to understand a discussion they will know that Liberal does not mean liberal in the classic sense.

                    • ‘Liberal’ or ‘ so-called Liberal’ I have found serves me well, as it undermines their case, and irritates the hell out of them. Look I spend my life explaining to non-Americans that the US is a huge complex country, and that they should not assume any one American voice to be all of it, or even very important in it. I find to my regret that I want to do the same to some of my American friends. It’s a huge complex world, and the minute you speak on the web, you’re outside the US, out in the world wide web, of which the US is just a part, an important part, yes, and a leading part, true, but still just a part… being looked at by the rest. You can’t stop them, and if a post is popular, it will increasingly be read by people who do not speak English as a first language, have poor grasp of US history and politics, eventually – because there are so many of them, far outnumbering US English speakers. It’s not actually a bad thing, provided you do well at communication, and are clear to them. Some of the people posting here do a great job of it -You do, RES is always good even when I disagree with him, Mike Weatherford is excellent, CACS is too, to think of a few that stand out. These are people that make the US slightly stronger, gain her friends and frighten her foes. If a poster behaves as if the only person to read them is going to be from their country – well that may work if your country is Mali, but not if it is a country people look to – both as an example and as something to criticize. To those outsiders, liberal doesn’t mean US ‘Liberal’ and the war is anything but lost, so I think it is worth remembering them :-). Everything from jobs in the US to conflicts that affect it rests on the impression that the US makes and the opinion the world has. They’re certainly affected by you, and you by them. I’d rather it was in the favor of my friends.

                    • Dave,

                      Hmmm… It appears that I have missed judged you.

                    • No worries :-). “People always misjudge me,” said Benito. “Is it my face?”
                      Antimo Bartelozzi looked long and hard at him. Then he nodded. “Yes.”

                    • When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less. That’s why I pay them extra.

                      Oops – wrong data load. Sorry.

                      When I visit a site, I take note of the culture whence it originates and try to view terms and concepts as they are used in that culture. When I go to a British website such as the Telegraph, the Globe, or the Sun I expect the terms Liberal and Conservative to carry their British meanings, not the American ones.

                      When I go to the Jerusalem Post or Ha’aretz I interpret the information according to my understanding of Israel’s politics.

                      When I read the Sydney or Melbourne papers I don’t assume I understand much of anything in them, for all their being in English.

                      The world is welcome to observe and even comment on American public affairs. The world is not entitled to having its views deferred to as if the world’s head wasn’t well ensconced up its patoot. I do not look to the UN for approval (given what that august body tolerates, its approval is a badge of shame) so much as I wish they would stop demanding anybody care about their approval.

                      It reminds me of those who criticized George W Bush’s policies as arrogant on account of him not turning to them for advice.

                    • (smile) RES IF most of the people in the world (or even the US) were just like you… then your post would make sense. Unfortunately, if you’re not… unique (dangerous word given its similarity to those describing politicians), you’re part of a very very tiny minority. As you do go to sites which are not American (and even ones that are), then you know that what I say is true. Most people do not view (or post, but view is the important part) through the eyes of any culture or linguistic understanding but their own. And if they’re confused about a word, they look it up in a dictionary or encyclopedia, or just give it their muddled best local understanding (mostly the latter). In the case of this word in particular, the dictionary and encyclopedia and their local understanding will always be wrong for the use its being put to in this small corner of the world wide web. That would also be fine, if it wasn’t damaging to you. Far from my worrying that it will affect their ability to stick their oar in your affairs, what was irritating me was the fact that behaving like you’re at a family fight when you’re on world display (put that button on those longjohns!) affects the US’s ability to stick its oar into the affairs of others and influence them. From what I have been told by a friend whose research field this is, there are anywhere 10 and 100 viewers per commenter. Given the way search-engines work and are developing, and the fact that all this will be available for years, that leverage can be considerable, and it piles up, year on year, and search engines stop it being buried. And if you think being able to influence the rest of the world is worthless, well, then I despair of you, and the US is in a worse position than I thought. No-one is expecting ‘deference’ from you, for heaven’s sake. In fact the only deference being shown is by the American conservatives who are saying ‘oh we give up. We’ll call you what ever you want, even if actually it benefits you with a legacy our party deserves and your current behavior doesn’t.’
                      If anything it’s like a guy putting his street number on the address card in an international competition for a gold bar backwards, because he got told to by his unpleasant smart alec neighbor, that actually he wanted to be number 12, and even if Joe put 21 Main Street as his address, everyone on the street knew where Joe-the-loser lives. And Joe says accepts it meekly and is proud that only the people in his street know he lives at number 12, because he writes 21 on everything. Joe’s entry is best and the winner of the grand prize, but guess who is getting the gold bar? But he didn’t give no ‘deference’ to them outsiders, no sirree!

                    • “You can’t stop them, and if a post is popular, it will increasingly be read by people who do not speak English as a first language, have poor grasp of US history and politics, eventually – because there are so many of them, far outnumbering US English speakers. ”

                      What are you implying, that this post is popular or something? It only has a little over 900 comments so far.

                    • grin. heh, yep. and read by 10 000 Chinese, 7000 Indians, and heaven knows who else. You guys are superstars and didn’t even realize it. You’re on center stage.

                    • Really? I’m stunned.

                    • Center stage??? I better replace that button for the flap on my longjohns.

          • State run, state funded public schools are a failure ab initio. They were INTENDED to be a failure, when the subject is education, since their entire purpose is to indoctrinate the young, not educate. Conformity and obedience, not learning and independent thought, are this system’s desired outcomes.

            And in that purpose they succeed, brilliantly! (moronically? herbivorously?

          • While The Daughter was in the public system I was quite active. I was on the boards of the PTA and a gifted learners group, a member of a group advocating for the learning disabled and tutored at risk children. I had also worked with the school board and administration during state mandated redesign of the gifted program.

            I did not ‘jump ship’ when we pulled The Daughter from the public schools for home education. I remained quite active in the school system for some time. As I explained to those who questioned my continued participation: 1) we pulled The Daughter in order to meet her needs, having recognized that you cannot ask the public system to be all things for all people, and 2) we live and work in a world where most people go to the public schools.

            • (Nod) Look we did the same for many of the same reasons cited – pulled our kids out of public and went private, and had a lot to do with starting and funding the school (and in a country a long way from the US, so these things are far from unique), but my principles aside, I saw – as RES pointed out earlier – that sooner or later my kids will go out into a world where most of the other people are the product of the state system. Therefore being involved, purely from a self interest point made sense.

        • We gave ours the choice of dance classes or karate classes – and they had to agree on which. (karate) They also went with me once a week to the “nursing” home where they socialized with the old peeps, and church. Now we have a room full of trophies and a LOT of good memories.

          • *lights up* Oh, that’s brilliant!

            I KNOW that there’s got to be some old folks homes that would allow it, in our area… I need to ask Father Vietnam when the girls are old enough, I think he organizes taking communion to shut-ins and should be able to give some leads.

    • Because, “by time they hit third grade, it’s worn out and there’s no difference.”

      We had to have The Daughter retested as we approached fourth grade, as she had been identified as profoundly gifted at so early an age. (The thing that had caught the attention of the people who referred her to be identified was when she, on being asked where did bread come from, proceeded with the planting of wheat and continued to a choice of the home oven or the store.) It was explained to me that in the early years an engaged parent can educate a child so that the knowledge base will produce a differential that will appear gifted in the tests available for children of that age. But, if the child is not in fact gifted, but simply very well prepared, this difference will disappear by third grade.

      Now this leaves me to wonder if such a child had continued to receive individualized attention they, even if not particularly gifted, could have continued to work at more advanced levels.

      • That is I think talking out both sides of their mouth — I had to fight so the kids didn’t start hiding their intelligence by 3rd grade. The more honest teachers will tell you by that time the kid is supposed to “fit in.”

      • I’d guess the answer is “more often than not,” if only because they’d stay ahead of the kids getting nothing.

        I halfway think that’s the only difference between me and most of my classmates, really– even a weed will be much more beautiful than a rose if it’s in well-suited soil and has the right attention lavished on it, while the rose is poorly located and starved of what it needs.

      • Windy Wilson

        Because, “by time they hit third grade, it’s worn out and there’s no difference.”

        I recall THAT phrase being used about children who went through the old program, “Head Start”. The benefits of that program were only seen in Kindergarten and First Grade. To apply that principle of “so what” to gifted children is almost criminal. Of course it isn’t the first time the wrong teaching method is used by people who have been trained in teaching methods and should know better. Ask Kim Du Toit about using the “Boy’s Town” method on autistic children or children with some other learning disability (Boys’ Town is of course the famous foster home for boys with behavioral problems, not learning problems. Talk about the wrong model resulting in wrong results!).
        Damn! Now I’m missing his insightful and well reasoned blog!

    • Before 1970, education was seen as an investment by the state in its own future. There were Gifted & Talented programs because a small extra investment in the smartest students has a huge return to society, as those students are the inventors, entrepeneurs, etc. There were also many academic scholarships at nearly all universities up through 1956.

      After 1960, there were no more academic scholarships to any of the ivy-league universities (mainly because of football; long story). After 1970, there were few academic scholarships anywhere; a typical university now has one full-tuition scholarship per year where in former decades (when they had only a fraction as many students) they had dozens; a top-ranked school has NONE. They were almost all replaced by scholarships for minorities or underprivileged students. 1970 is roughly when people stopped thinking of education as an investment by society, and started thinking of it as a right, and as a political tool for creating an equal and just society, by making sure everyone came out of the educational system at the same level. People today don’t WANT gifted & talented kids to do better than others. That’s seen as counter to the purpose of education.

  9. I was going through school (first grade in 1968) and I was in the last class to learn with phonetics. My sister (a year later) was started with “programmed reading,” which is the first program that used “whole language.” She is functionally illiterate. By the time my parents took us out of school, (she was 12 going on 13) she resisted any type of learning. I saw that entire generation in Utah lose big time. From what I hear Utah schooling is slightly better than some places (from my nieces and nephews– reading learning has changed again– and they are actually learning how to read).

    Plus there was a companion class for spelling. There was no such thing as spelling errors. If you as u, then you were right. Spell as you hear the word. Those two programs were designed (maliciously I think– because of when it was used 1969) to teach children. I think they were designed to cause illiteracy.

    • Cyn, I’m one of the victims of phonics. The only benefit I can see is that I spell very well in German, Latin, and Spanish. Too bad my primary working language is English. Spel chek is my phrend. ;)

      • Oh yea– it was definitely a disservice.. Sounds like you are a great spell-checker. ;-)

        • Actually that’s not phonics for reading that is something like “real language” spelling. (I don’t remember the real name.) Our ESL teacher told us that proper spelling was considered racist and sexist in the US. Then she shrugged, and taught us proper spelling, anyway. As dyslexic as I am, imagine if she hadn’t.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            I’m not “dyslexic”. Just a terrible speller. [Wink]

            The funny part is that I generally *know* that I’ve misspelled a word but just can’t think of the correct spelling.

            Plus I’m terrible with “sounding out words”.

            • I noticed that my spelling got much worse as I was exposed to more and more bad spelling– now, half the time, unusual words “look” wrong when they’re right.

              • Holy mother of kittens — it’s *infectious*…. :)

                • *arms up, dragging a leg* Braaaaaaiiiiiiins…..

                • One of my history professors had a junior freshman class with an essay on medieval monasticism. And every year just before she started grading those essays, she would take a note card and copy the correct spelling of the word “monastery” on it and pin it up at eye level in front of her desk. Because by the time she had gone through 50+ essays, with close to 50 variations on the word, she’d forget how to spell it herself, and they would all look equally right (or wrong – take your pick).

                  I find that with grammar too. I *loath* the use of impact as a transitive verb with the proverbial passion of a thousand burning suns, and yet over the last year or two I’ve caught myself using it as such on occasion.

              • librarygryffon

                One of my history professors had a junior freshman class with an essay on medieval monasticism. And every year just before she started grading those essays, she would take a note card and copy the correct spelling of the word “monastery” on it and pin it up at eye level in front of her desk. Because by the time she had gone through 50+ essays, with close to 50 variations on the word, she’d forget how to spell it herself, and they would all look equally right (or wrong – take your pick).

                I find that with grammar too. I *loath* the use of impact as a transitive verb with the proverbial passion of a thousand burning suns, and yet over the last year or two I’ve caught myself using it as such on occasion.

          • Yea– I was astounded when in one of my college English courses, a professor told us that the use of grammar and spelling was sexist. I was dumbstruck. So I asked if that meant she wouldn’t grade on them on our papers. She just said “nice try.” Okay so I was almost 40 at the time.

          • Our fourth child is extremely dyslexic. As she is home schooled, this became apparent early on in her phonics lessons. We persevered. Thank goodness she was home schooled. In a traditional one-size-fits-all environment she would have been shunted to remedial classes and quickly fallen behind. What people don’t understand is that coping mechanisms for dyslexia take time to develop, and that the organization of the young brain changes over time. Rushing them to fit into an arbitrary schedule of achievement only frustrates them.

            It’s only now that she’s thirteen that she’s really come to terms with it quite suddenly and is reading adult-level material for pleasure, but it didn’t come as that much of a surprise (though it was a relief!). The teenage brain is different than the childhood brain, and each of our children would suddenly shoot ahead about that age on a skill or trait they’d plateaued on in earlier years. The educational establishment simply isn’t equipped to deal with a child who, one month, is struggling to sound out “philosophy” and the next is devouring novels (and much thanks to her older brother, the third child, for getting her interested).

            Each of our five children is profoundly different in the ways they learn and the ages that they become ready to absorb different topics. Each one of them would have been ill-served in some way by the one-size-fits-all system that says “In first grade you do this. In second grade you do this.” And so on. Our second oldest had read all the great Greek philosophers and classic Greek plays and could discuss them readily by her mid teens. Normal schooling would have bored her to tears. The third child, a boy, just wants to work with his hands. Every one of our older children has completed “high school” by their junior years (17) and started pursuing interests in an adult career at that age (whether the military, college or a trade).

            The traditional educational model is a trap and killer of individuality.

            • “The traditional educational model is a trap and killer of individuality.”

              Sadly, that’s what it’s *supposed* to do. Even if you win the luck of the draw and get capable teachers who actually teach the subjects they’re supposed to (in lieu of “self-esteem”) they’re still stuck in a system that’s a relic of the Industrial Revolution. The education system the government uses was designed to train the next generation of factory workers; obedient employees just literate enough to do their jobs operating machinery…certainly not independent thinkers. The children who would go on to discover a cure for cancer would obviously be lucky enough to be born into wealthy families who would send their gifted children to good private schools.

            • I am friends with a home educating family with six children. The first four have now graduated and moved on in the world. The first child, a girl, took to reading with a passion and read up a storm. (She was once punished by being restricted to only her assigned reading for a week.) The third was a girl, and like her sister read, but also loved writing stories.

              The second child was a boy, and while anything to do with numbers came easily reading just did not go very well. The poor boy fell behind his younger sister and he took this hard, but it did not help him master the skill. His sisters would talk about the books they shared and he was left out. He flew through his at math and labored at assigned reading. Fortunately, at some point, it clicked and during the year that followed he put everything else aside and caught up on all the great things (nearly a decades worth) he had heard his sisters discussing.

              One advantage of home education is that differences in development can be accommodated without simply moving the child off the tracks altogether.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        I read that at least 5 times, but I don’t quite understand the meaning of the phrase, “victim of phonics”. Could you clarify?

        • She means teachers accepting phonetic spelling. They did this to my kids too. u for you. Which is why we had copy and dictation at HOME. (I did say I’m a horrible mother right.)

        • Wayne, we had to learn the dictionary symbols for sounds (upside-down e, u with a carat or a line over it, that kind of thing), then spell based on those codes. Except English does not work on sounds alone, so when I dutifully spelled what I heard, or sounded out from the symbols, I spelled the words incorrectly. I can sometimes spot misspellings in my work, because of reading so much, more often the spell-checker has to catch them. Leading to (among other things) fun with homophones. Or utter chaos when my errors are too wild for the spell-check to comprehend.

          • THAT is insane. I finally learned to spell because of writing with spellchecker turned on.

            • I don’t always trust the spell checkers. WHY? Because there are words that I KNOW are spelled right, that the spell check programs in the computers and the word suggestion programs in the search bars[yes I’m lazy enough to do that..”am I spelling this right? *types it in google search bar* ayup I is! I is spellin that right!”, tells me is wrong. yet I’ve gotten into the habit of sometimes just looking shit up in my unabridged encyclopedic dictionary I keep here in my room. Next up for my collection? an equally encyclopedic thesaurus. yes they do exist I’ve seen them. I got my encyclopedic dictionary used…its almost as old as I am; and I intend to find an equally old one in the thesaurus. Hmmm…maybe I should also invest in an older encyclopedia set but where the hell would I PUT IT. *grumble*

              • Double-left-click, right-click, search is my friend…. Seriously, I’ll EVENTUALLY train my Chrome spellcheck to something sane!

              • Your spell-checker hates you and wants you to look like an idiot. Your grammar-checker and your thesaurus, too. Here’s your whip, and here, for your other hand, is the chair. Do not go into their cage without it.

                (Unless you’re doing something like Atlanta Nights. In my chapter, whenever my fingers fumbled, I chose a wrong suggestion that the spell-checker gave. People have commented on the “extreme malapropisms” in my chapter. It’s not easy, writing that bad.)

                • It seems like it would be extreme hard work.

                  • I grew up with a photographic memory for words, won spelling bees without studying because I can just see the word. This is what happens when you read pretty much all day :)

                    • Windy Wilson

                      I was just thinking that phonetic spelling and it’s new version, ‘Brave spelling” is the equivalent of baby talk, if at a certain age the teachers will suddenly start grading misspellings. To cite a trivial example: “KAT” is fine until 4th grade and then he has to learn it’s supposed to be “CAT?” Why teach children to write like Charles Russell or some 17th century person? Words are like keys to unlock ideas and images in the reader’s head, and misspelled words are like a key you have to jiggle to make work. Why make the problem of communicating harder?

                    • This was a huge issue with older son. He learned horrible spelling in school — and I had to make him do endless copies (it works.) to correct it.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Thanks for the explanation. I only understood phonics to be for reading. For spelling, we were taught the eleventy-seven rules for spelling in English, plus umpteen-hundred exceptions.

            • I don’t recall how we were to taught to spell (if we were) I just remember the ‘spelling tests’ where we were given words and had to spell them correctly. Since I was WAY overgrade in reading level, the words they gave us always struck me as very simple one that even an imbecile would be able to spell. So my reaction was much like Robert’s to the idiotic math test.

              On the other hand I am like Paul in the sense that there are a certian number of words that no matter how often I write them I can’t remember how to spell, I can look at them and KNOW they are wrong, but from one time to the next I can’t remember how they SHOULD be spelled.

              • (Because I am including links I am splitting this.)

                Charlie Brown: I Before E Except After C, from A Boy Named Charlie Brown. A song of spelling rules for the English language, as used in the United States.

                • I remember that saying (from my mother, I refused to watch cartoons as a kid) but it seems to me that there are more ei words than ie words.

              • Hocus Pocus, in which Stephen Fry explains that one of the most commonly known spelling rules is no longer.

                • *laughs*
                  Because of my parents, I want to ask: whose list of “English” words are they going off of?

                  • Probably Louis L’amour’s, I believe that is the only place I have ever seen hacienda and Madeira in the same chapter.

                    • The English language is a mugger. It sees a nice comely word, say, wandering around the streets of Jaipur or a hearty hunter in the woods outside Vancover they will happily impress them into service.

                    • Since this is a thread on spelling, I will point out you misspelled Vancouver ;)

                    • Thank you. I dare say I did. I am dyslexic. I will state my emphatic agreement that spell check sucks. But, in this case, I will fully admit that the mistake is entirely my very own fault for having failed to type it out first in a write mail form.

                      Interesting, I can spell Jaipur but not Vancouver? Well, I do read a lot of Indian cookbooks.

                    • “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”
                      –James D. Nicoll

                    • This one made me laugh ;-)

                    • Windy Wilson

                      It was pointed out to me in 10th Grade English that “Foreign” did not fit the rule, either, which was why “Einstein” did not fit the rule: He was, of course, “foreign!” ;) And that’s the best I can do for a smiley, I guess!

          • Since English is, for me, something I mostly only read and write, the part I have problems with is speaking it. I don’t know or remember how to say lot of words I know how to spell. Combine to that the problem I have of losing words – I’m perfectly capable of forgetting a word one uses daily even in Finnish – and I can sometimes sound somewhat low functioning when I’m speaking. :)

            (BTW, I mostly have that ‘forgot the word’ problem when speaking, it happens less when I’m writing and then, when it does, I can usually find the forgotten word again a lot more easily)

            Thank heaven Finnish doesn’t have that problem with different sounds for the same letter in different spellings. Since the sound for a letter is always the same (or close enough) in every word once you have learned the letters you can say the word. I was taught with something that’s called KÄTS here, which means you learn the letter and the sound for the letter, then you are taught how to put them together for syllables, and then to put the syllables together for words, and that’s what is still in use here. Who knows, might have something to do with the fact that our schools tend to rate high in those global surveys for education (as our newspapers are fond of reporting, usually in a rather gleeful manner).

            • I have found that because English is an aggregation of at least three major languages it helps to have a knowledge of a word’s etymology when attempting to pronounce the word. The French derived words, for example, often have letters left unpronounced. Words coming from the frugal Germans, OTOH, get ALL the letters pronounced. Accented syllables, dipthongs, many other elements vary according to the language where the word originated.

              • It’s the other way around. French-derived words often are pronounced very similarly (after taking into account an atrocious English accent) to how the French do. Nearly all the old Anglo-Saxon gutturals have been dropped, though (<- example) they still exist in the spelling.

            • heh. I thought I was the only one with that “forget the word” problem. it happens to me mostly when I’m typing up something in my blog or on long post on facebook. I’ll be typing along…hammering out the words in my head as they hit and…”*POOF!* WTF was the word I was just going to type? *struggle struggle* Aw dammit I’ve lost it. Oh well…time for a quick rewrite. *grumble*” It’s frelling infuriating.

    • Rob Crawford

      Must have taken a lot longer to penetrate rural Ohio. We were having spelling bees and being graded on spelling well into the ’80s.

      • I finished high school in Stow Ohio as an exchange student, in 1981. Either the idiocy hadn’t hit there, or I was really lucky. Teachers were engaged and creative, and even the “shop students” could write better than ivy-league candidates today.

        BTW younger son finished high school locally in a high school that reminded me of Stow in that time. Sure, he had a couple of annoying teachers there, but the others were top notch.

        Any of you in the area ping me. The school takes out of area transfers by request. And it gives preference to D11 because they are D-11.

        They have dual college matriculation, and overall the kid was very happy there. IF I had to do it over again, I’d matriculate them there for 11th & 12th grade. It makes college applications easier, and it is still a decent school.

        As I said before, I KNOW there are pockets of sanity. They’re just way outnumbered.

        • I grew up in Colorado and went to a Jefferson County “School of Choice” – I think that’s what it’s called now – from 3rd grade on. I went to a regular public school in 2nd grade and the teacher didn’t know what to do with me because I was better read than she was. I got moved into a Gifted and Talented program that was mostly used to get the troublemakers out of the regular classes “They’re causing problems because they’re bored, they must be gifted in *some* way.” The GT teacher didn’t know what to do with me, either.

          Honestly, I blame my dad. *grin* He bet me I couldn’t read through the thickest book on his bookshelf in a year. Well, by god, I was gonna give it a shot. So, armed with a dictionary, I sat down and attempted The Complete Works of Shakespeare one day when he was at work. He came home to find me struggling through All’s Well That Ends Well. The fact that I got into the school that I did was a freaking miracle as far as my family was concerned. It was the only school in the district teaching anything worth learning. I think my parents would have tried homeschooling if I’d had to go through another year of public school. I also know I intimidated the hell out of my mom with how fast I was learning and I was frustrated because I couldn’t go faster.

    • Ironically enough, I only finally started to learn spelling after I discovered BBS’s. People would take you seriously if you knew how to spell and use punctuation, and those things sure didn’t have spell checkers.

      I took to writing the post in the post block, copying it into Word for spell checking, and directly correcting the errors in the BBS entry based on what Word had flagged. After enough of that, you begin to learn how the words are spelled.

      I’m afraid I’ve slacked off a bit since browser based spell checkers came in. Still a handy skill.

      • I find lots of mistakes in my comments, I’m usually only typing out a few sentences, so I don’t bother to spellcheck it or reread it. My brain works faster than my fingers, so when I look at it later I often find misspelled words and words or partial sentences that I skipped entirely, or that I typed twice because I lost my train of thought.

        • Do not place your faith in spell check systems. I once ended up posting about a school cemetery lab when the spell check helpfully did an auto-correct for me. ;-)

          • Yes, but unfortunately you gave me a story idea with that one.

          • You could have written a report about rabbis and gotten it back with a note from the teacher about how rabbits were not kosher.

            • That brings back a memory–I worked in college radio, and our news came off a wire machine in all caps, which made even simple words capable of being misread. One of our better newscasters once started out a story by saying “Three Catholic priests and two rabbits met today…sorry, make that three Catholic priests and two rabbis.”

              (I could just imagine the setting if his misreading had actually been true: “Father Flanagan, Father O’Shaughnessy, Father Callahan, meet Flopsy and Cottontail.”)

    • Teachers that ignore or excuse spelling errors in the early grades (or anytime!) do their gifted students a positive disservice. One of the characteristics of gifted students is that they are exceptionally observant and motivated to do well early in life. Even as first-graders they know that there are right ways to spell and wrong ways. They figure out pretty quickly that the teacher is not doing her job correctly. I know more than a few gifted kids and have seen the consequences of this educational approach.

      Even more disturbing is that teachers have been taught to use the “guess” approach to math instruction as well.

  10. Wayne Blackburn

    You weren’t here at the time, but around 40-45 years ago, “Whole Word” or “Whole Language” was developed as the new thing in teaching children to read. It was supposed to be better than phonics because it did away with all that boring repetition of sounding out the parts of a word. It was supposed to be “more fun!”, or “more interesting!”. So, in its origins, this was thought to be a Good Thing (TM) because it would get more children to read. I suspect later on it became a tool of reading oppression.

    I was lucky in that I live in an area that takes a long time to incorporate the new trends, so I was never exposed to this horror, because otherwise it would have probably broken my reading, too.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Perhaps I should point out (especially since I shared the link here on FB, and have some teacher friends who might, possibly, read this) that I also know some very good teachers, but I have met many who were complete asses and had no concept of what to do with a child who was outside the norm.

      • A TON of the teachers are handicapped by administrative “rules” too. I watched the exceptional teachers first son had all retiring or finding other jobs three years later. Even the ones who were my age.

        • There is a whole array of cartoons on the theme of “What the engineers designed, what marketing sold, what installation delivered, what customer wanted.” This is a major problem in the education trade. What parents think they are receiving, what teachers think they are doing, what kids think they are experiencing, what educrats think they have designed a system to provide … all lack connection to reality. Most teachers succeed in spite of their educations, not because of them.

          The system rewards mediocre teachers and penalizes exceptional ones. I leave it for others to debate whether that is feature or bug.

          • What parents think they are receiving: insert picture of happy graduate holding diploma
            What teachers think they are doing: insert propaganda of josef stalin leading the masses
            What kids think they are experiencing: insert picture of chain gang in orange jumpsuits
            What educrats think they have designed: insert picture of printing money

            Kudos to anyone who can edit the above into an actual image (or develop a template for the rest of the commenters to modify)

        • Those who can, do; those who care, teach; those who can’t, administrate!

        • The best teachers seem to fit into two categories:
          considered total pain in the necks by the chain of command, because they keep not being good cogs;
          constantly exhausted, because they try to do absolutely every possible option inside of the system to help kids out– and are often on the cutting edge of trying out new stuff, which is a lot of work.

  11. I forgot to mention that both my wife and I read to our kids every single night — I mean EVERY SINGLE NIGHT — until age 12 or so, when adolescence kicked in and we parents became Stupid.

    • Ah — I found a run around with younger son. While I was cooking or had my hands busy, I made him read to me. “Yes, honey, I know, but I need to research this, and I can’t have the book on the counter or dad will throw a fit. You know how expensive those history books are.” (I’m a horrible person. I lie for a living…)

      • If ya ain’t cheatin’ . . .

      • Good grief. It would probably not be a lie at our house. I believe that The Spouse only barely tolerates having cookbooks on the counters. They are mostly mine and they are for cooking. But one still needs to be careful — very careful.

        I once gave a lady a paperback that I had loaned her. I could not bring it home. The Spouse would have had a conniption fit if he had seen it. She pressed me and I told her why. She looked at me like I was crazy and said, ‘But its just a paperback.’ Giving credit where credit is due, at least she attempted to return the book, but I never leant her another.

        • Once again, I think our spouses are related. No, it’s true to an extent. I used to be glared at for “breaking spines” even of used paperbacks. BUT we’ve established a category of “books Sarah can abuse” (they have to be bought used, and have to already be somewhat skivvy when we get them. Also, they have to be cheap.)
          The lie is that I didn’t ALWAYS need to research while cooking.

          • Ah yes. Quite.

            Oh, yesterday while cooking dinner I listened to the first part of a lecture series on the Founding Fathers and the formation of our government given by Joseph Ellis. It was nice. Though about you. ;-)

          • I refuse to loan good books to my mother, because she dog ears pages or sets them face down to save her place, breaking spines. The worst however had to be a book I loaned to a kid I worked with. (an out of print book valued around $150) He somehow managed to spill battery acid on it, eating part of the spine and burning little pinholes through the pages of the first couple chapters.

            • I never loan books to somebody who doesn’t already have a record of returning them in proper condition (i.e., that in which it was received, to the extent practical.)

              I give books away and am happily welcoming if they come back.

  12. I knew it was bad, but your description truly made me nauseous. The time change may have played a part as well, though.
    Been a member of Mensa off and on for over 30 years and can state with some authority that high IQ and the ability for critical thinking are far from synonymous. Mostly don’t attend functions any more because of the prevalence of liberal progressives at most meetings, all convinced that the world would be ever so much better if everyone were forced to follow their direction. Of course that attitude is common most everywhere today without even a claim of high intelligence to back it up.

    “but I wonder how many of these people are actually malicious, and how many are just full of their own self-importance and convinced that they are doing what is best for these children?”
    And here you summarize quite nicely the prevalent attitude of most teachers and all school administrators. Most are not inherently evil, though long term the exhausted and burnt out can sometimes come close out of anger and resentment. But there is still that overwhelming belief and justification that they must receive credit for caring and every attempt no matter how wrong headed and harmful must be rewarded. And every new school year is yet another fresh canvas with new eager students to experiment on. And there is the true evil, the almost religious belief that old reliable techniques that at one time worked to make us one of the best educated countries in the world must be discarded in favor of new shiny theories that fail dramatically yet must be repeated with increased vigor in the vain attempt to finally make them work as expected. Of course we all know what performing the same action repeatedly while expecting different results is a sign of.

    Have I mentioned how completely I loathe school administrations?

  13. I have a number of friends that teach and are excellent teachers. One of the biggest problems is a child can become eligible to monies from the federal government if said child is eligible for a program like Colorado’s Title 1. I know of a person that had a party when her child was accepted for the SSI program because of the educational diagnosis. She then started getting her other child ready to be diagnosed with the same thing so she could get double the monies. Our tax dollars at work. The other problem is parents who blame the teacher for their child’s lack of whatever….that can be from doing their homework to showing up for class. My niece is a high school English teacher in a very well to do suburb of DC. She has to write on the top of each and every test “Computerese will get you an automatic ZERO.” Of course, there is one child, usually a boy, which I KNOW you will understand, who has to test this pronouncement. She has parents in complaining that their child was treated unfairly and she has to give them a better grade. Said parents will often try to go over her head to the principal. Many parents have put the teachers in a position of doing everything. They do not, from lack of information, laziness or apathy, advocate for their children. Look at the increase in attention deficit. Throw the meds at them and that will help. I totally agree that we are selling our kids short with education. Educational neglect is rampant. Good for you for advocating for your kids. Homeschooling has it’s own problems. I have seen it work, but when it fails, it fails spectacularly!

    • Public school when it fails fails spectacularly ALSO. And it fails horrifyingly often.
      Look — one of the things we had issues with is neurological discrimination against boys. Did you know boys CAN’T — not won’t, can’t — remember future dates (not in the sense of when they’ll hit and plan for them) in middle school? Most of them can’t do it till 17. HOWEVER Middle schools in our area require kids to remember when to turn in homework. And I don’t mean every day (which is doable) I mean “this is due in two weeks. The basket is there. Turn it in.” We explained to the teachers they were asking the impossible of boys. We showed them the reference books. The boy who CAN do that at 12 is very rare. We got “All the girls can do it” and “it prepares them for work.” What it did is that I watched our friends’ kids enter middle school and most of the boys started failing while their sisters sailed through. If you don’t wish parents to complain, it would make sense to actually know how kids develop. (And I’ve been a teacher and been on the other side — however, when it’s wrong, it’s wrong.)

      And I’m reliably informed Title I is federal. And yes, we had to fight not to get Marshall classified as disabled after he no longer needed it — because the school got monies.

      • Older son was in the “needs help” group (can’t remember the acronrym) from about first grade. It didn’t help that the first grade teacher insisted on whole word reading with a boy who still didn’t have the alphabet down. In 8th grade he accidentally took the regular English standard test and scored at a perfectly normal level on it. We had to force the high school to let him take normal English classes. They tried to keep him in special ed classes that would have graduated him with a “special” version of a HS diploma that wouldn’t allow him to attend college.

        Once you’re on the “special” track, their whole effort is on keeping you there. They get more money for those students, the “accomodations” don’t cost them much if anything and those students’ test scores don’t count against the school ranking.

      • Ori Pomerantz

        [citation needed] My oldest (4th grade boy) teacher is trying to get the advanced kids in her class to do project management. Do you have evidence I can show her that Itai should focus on other things?

      • GIrls get Title IX.

        Boys get Title One.

        (FWIW: I was one of those boys who could remember future dates, or pretty-much anything, so long as I wrote it down first. Didn’t matter if I ever looked at the paper again — written was “burned in”.)

      • “boys CAN’T — not won’t, can’t — remember future dates (not in the sense of when they’ll hit and plan for them) in middle school? Most of them can’t do it till 17. ”

        Boys and girls process hearing language differently, too, depending on who’s speaking. Basically, boys process female-spoken language in the same part of the brain used to process music (…a pretty girl really is like a melody). If the speaker slows down and pitches her voice lower, they tend to get more of the meaning without working much harder at it.

        I wonder if the seemingly extreme over representation of women in teaching, particularly elementary level, has some unexpected consequences.

        • That would certainly explain the tendency of husbands to not hear what their wives say. And women who complain about not men not listening seriously to them need to place the blame where it belongs: evolution.

          Obligatory tweak now out of the way, I recently noted a Glenn (Instapundit) Reynolds link to an article about (mostly female) teachers (especially in lower grades) grading of kids being significantly determined by classroom deportment. That would be discriminatory against, say, second-grade boys in a way that would bring down the heavy Hand of the Civil Rights lobby if the victims were “minority” — that is to say, anybody but white boys.

          As a consequence, many boys learn to expect failure in the hostile environment that is the schoolroom.

          • That’s why I’ve been encouraged by watching the teachers at our school making allowance for exactly those aspects of behavioral differences.

            As for hearing my wife… BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front), she states the problem in brief, direct outline (which the guy gets), and then get on with the socialization/bonding/relational stuff that she’s mostly interested in in the first place. I get to think about problem solving, and she has someone with which to commiserate. All win.

      • This is nonsense. I was a procrastinating boy among a lot of other procrastinating boys, and I can assure you, we knew it was due and when, we were just consciously choosing to bet that we could squeeze it in at the last minute or wring an extension out of the student teacher.

  14. As you know, I’m trying to avoid the internet for Lent, but I can’t help but comment on this one:

    Tutoring is my day job. I work in an affluent suburban school district where the schools are reputed to be excellent — and YET, I have seen the very same things you’re talking about when it comes to basic literacy and numeracy in kids who certainly do not suffer from organic disabilities. Do kids guess at words here? Yep! Are they unable, even in high school, to write grammatically correct sentences? Yep! Are they completely reliant on their calculators for such simple calculations as 16X2? Yep!

    If you are on the skinny right end of the bell curve – or you are a striver – you can exit the schools in this area with a decent education. It’s not completely impossible. The average student, however, is usually short-changed — and for the most part, I attribute that to incompetence rather than malice. Teachers, even if they are reasonably intelligent and well-meaning, are PROFOUNDLY maleducated in this country.

    Personally, I think we need to burn every ed school to the ground. Future teachers shouldn’t be segregated in their own little departments. They should enroll in schools of Arts and Sciences and major in the subject (or subjects) they plan to teach — ESPECIALLY if they plan to be math or science teachers!

    • THIS is probably the only time you’ll hear me say this — Portugal does “education” of educators right. Or did, when I went through it. You learn the subject you’ll teach. The option for “teaching degree” involves an extra course in the laws. (And in my case — languages — some extra philology.)

      After you come out you go into the system as a student teacher, and are supervised by a panel of experienced teachers for something like five years, before you fly solo. It’s all hands-on and learning to teach by teaching. Shiny theories still come in (Total immersion — which isn’t — is the language-teaching equivalent of Whole Word) but mostly they get defeated by real world experience.

    • hi Steph (my daughter). Must of you probably know of this as you read SF, but Jerry Pournelle’s wife Roberta has a “Tech Your kids to Read” program
      http://www.readingtlc.com/
      that he talks about on HIS blog. I didn’t get to use it because Steph is in her 30′s and we didn’t have blogs when she was prepschool. But she got an interest in reading for fun from me, and grew up with SF juveniles and historical truth and fiction works. We both think home shcooling is the only way today to have your children be successful in reading adn math. (You can be like Sarah and do the home-schooling after “school” and keep an eye open to thwart the malice and misplaced good intentions of the education experts.

      • As I said, if I had to do it over again…

        Of course, my dream is to send my mind back, ala By His Boot Straps. I’ll be writing but “for the drawer” except for Baen. And now I’d have TONS of books to bring out.

        Oh, wait. I do, since copyrights for almost all non-Baen are back in my hands.

        Mwahahahahahahah.

      • Warning: I’m cheap.

        That said… I am seriously considering buying this program.

        That’s a pretty dang big endorsement for someone who’s not entirely sure she’ll homeschool.

        • Foxfier, odds are you will homeschool. Either you will homeschool to supplement the regular school, to correct the miseducation perpetrated by the regular school, or instead of the regular school. It is possible your regular schools are actually sufficiently good this will be unnecessary; possible but increasingly improbable. At some point you will find yourself trying to mediate between a frustrated resentful child and a frustrated resentful school system; at that point you will choose to stop fighting the school system and discover you no longer have to fight your child (at least, not quite as much and not in the same way.)

          Healthy children are eager to learn. It isn’t that difficult to encourage them in this; the schools today (even private schools) often seem eager to discourage it.

          • Either you will homeschool to supplement the regular school, to correct the miseducation perpetrated by the regular school, or instead of the regular school.

            *laughs* I don’t even consider the second one schooling!

            I didn’t realize it for years, but my folks did that– they considered it basic interaction, or acted like they did. I’ve actually offended a few folks because I consider what they hear as “teaching” to be “enthusiasm about a subject” or “making small talk.” (Only some of these cases are purely the other person be a tootaloo.)
            I accidentally gave my new neighbors the impression that I know a lot about plants by making small-talk about the stuff in our shared lawn, and knowing about half of the plant names. (I only learned what the heck a primrose looked like two years ago, but I was pleased as punch to find them in the yard.)

            If we include “imparting correct information” and “correcting incorrect information” as homeschooling, I really am the schoolmarm my Marines were always accusing me of being!

          • Honestly, if I hadn’t been doing six books that year, I’d have been SO happy the year I homeschooled Marshall. We got into all sorts of impromptu joint projects (creating a series of clay figures for if Earth were completely underwater — mermen, dog fishes, etc.) Walking in the park because “it’s a lovely day, and I don’t feel like working either” — and then finding out the kid is telling me everything about the Pandora myth and its influence on SF — WITHOUT any prompting… And making sense.

    • Are they unable, even in high school, to write grammatically correct sentences?

      To give more detail:
      what drives me nuts is not the violation of some-folks-follow-this-rule things like split infinitives, (A quick search will show the internet battles over that!) but the way that so many certified educated kids can’t write grammatically correct common-use sentences. I know adults who are still highly uncomfortable around me– at 30– because I don’t talk “like a kid.” (Actual meaning: like their kids.)

      My folks’ theory is that it’s because so few parents talk to their kids, or have their kids around. Growing up, I adored having a chance to sit around while the adults talked. Probably made a pest of myself while I was at it, but all and all the adults were really nice about it, and the biggest negative effect is that I couldn’t interact with kids my own age quite as well as I may have otherwise done. (Part of it is that I’m a geek, but if I hadn’t talked “wrong”….)

      • That and reading is how I learned grammar, I pick it up much like I do accents. Which means I can pick up some ‘interesting’ grammatical uses by being around multiple people with different styles of grammar. I don’t recall EVER being taught grammar in school.

        • Oooh! Oooh! I do! I do!

          It was the same week we learned about nouns and stuff!

          In our Junior Year, the she-woman-man-hater English teacher brought in the “Schoolhouse Rock” tapes on thos subjects……

          • “And I unpacked my adjectives. He was a hairy bear, he was a scary bear and we soon fled from his lair . . .”

            What can I say? Imprinting works. *shrug, wry grin*

            • My daughter has been walking around mangling the “Interjections” chorus all week.

              Including during the songs at Mass….

            • Ooh, reminds me of another source for history! The guy whose name I can’t remember at the moment, but who did “PT109″ and well over a full record of other historical songs gave me a better history education than school manage– and they’re fun to sing! (Mom had a record full of them– and I say “more than” because PT109 wasn’t on it.)

              So I’ll be teaching the girls with songs…but they’re in single digits, not close to graduating…..

              • This will teach a six-year-old the basics of physics in around 40 five-minute lessons. The math is easily picked up later.

              • I was going to recommend Johnny Horton for his songs like ‘Sink the Bismark’, and ‘The Battle of New Orleans’, as long as you forget such lines as;
                We fired our cannon tell the barrel melted down,
                So we grabbed an alligator and fought another round,
                We filled his head with cannonballs and powdered his behind,
                When we lit the powder off, the gator lost his mind,

                But he also sung ‘teaching’ songs for the KKK that you DON”T want your child learning.

                • The former was pretty obviously “tall tale” stuff even when I was tiny, and the latter I’m almost positive I couldn’t find, even if they’d been focused on the Catholics-and-immigrants thing.

                  • Maybe I’m wierd, but songs like the former would stick in my head, and cause me to want to know what actually happened, and try and figure out what part of the song was written from what part of history.

                    As for the latter songs, believe me you can find them, I didn’t know about them until I went to look up some of his songs (that I had on vinyl, with nothing to play them on) to download on the internet, there are plenty of them on the web.

                    • Reverse order:

                      That’s either awesome, or depressing…..

                      I think it’s just different orders of normal; the classic “Paul Bunyan” tall tale stuff was very popular in my home town because we were at an end for the Oregon trail, in the High Desert, and because my grandmother didn’t do fairy stories. (too much magic)

                      OTOH, I’ve met a surprising number of folks who have no idea what “bumpershoots” are or why one might wear them on their feet.

                    • I always thought “bumpershoots” were umbrellas . . .

                      On Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 10:35 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > ** > Foxfier commented: “Reverse order: That’s either awesome, or > depressing….. I think it’s just different orders of normal; the classic > “Paul Bunyan” tall tale stuff was very popular in my home town because we > were at an end for the Oregon trail, in the High Desert, and bec” >

                    • They are, just the first thing I could think of that was tied tightly to the Bunyan stories!

                    • Totally off subject, but were the Oregon Trail computer games still around when you were in school? They were popular when I was younger because of us being at the end of the trail, and were the only games allowed in the computer room at school.

                    • The racist songs are by someone else and mis-attributed to Johnny Horton.
                      From Wikipedia:
                      Some racist songs have sometimes been incorrectly associated with Horton. These songs are by a singer calling himself “Johnny Rebel,” who did not began recording until after Horton’s death. The mistake is apparently because Horton recorded the historical song “Johnny Reb.”

                    • “The racist songs are by someone else and mis-attributed to Johnny Horton.
                      From Wikipedia:
                      Some racist songs have sometimes been incorrectly associated with Horton. These songs are by a singer calling himself “Johnny Rebel,” who did not began recording until after Horton’s death. The mistake is apparently because Horton recorded the historical song “Johnny Reb.”

                      Interesting, and I’m glad to hear it, I always liked Johnny Horton, and when I looked for his songs on the internet I was surprised to find all those songs. The fact that some of them were accompanied by his picture as well as his name made me not question that it was actually him. That and the I think he did sing a couple non-racist duets with David Allan Coe, who is fairly well known for both his racist and his ‘dirty’ songs.

                    • That makes a lot more sense– a KKK guy would be unlikely to support JFK, unless he was a very odd subgroup.

              • *THIS* is how one teaches History with music:

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01IaKb6DmTw .

                >;)

                • Random Passerby

                  Might I also suggest the Historyteachers channel on youtube(yes it is one word there).
                  they cover a wide span of time and use contemporary music to keep teeners attention.(of course an arguement can be made for saying they use contemptable music YVMV)
                  But the lessons are firmly embedded a la Scoolhouse Rock

      • I gather you mean basic stuff, such as simple verb-noun agreement? Not things like the usage of a gerund? Yes, I have noticed that. I believe I many have been among the last wave of students who were introduced to the practice of diagramming sentences.

        When I attended a somewhat prestigious Quaker school in the city, I was introduced to a proposed new system of grammar. It consisted of only 4 classes of words and intensifiers. Daddy was livid when he found out what it was he was paying for. He did not consider that helpful education.

        I learned to pay a great deal more attention to grammar when I took Koine Greek as an adult. Not that the structure in Koine is the same as that of English, it has declensions and cases. What I learned to consider structure and how it effected meaning. This habit then reflected back in my usage of English.

        The issue of infinitives comes from an attempt to apply a grammar derived from Latin structure, or so I have been told. One of my favorite grammar tales, probably a myth, goes to Churchill’s note to a someone who attempted to tell him he could not end a sentence with a preposition. Churchill purportedly quipped, “That is the kind of nonsense up with which I will not put.”

        • I still have problems with verb-noun agreement because of the colloquialisms in Northeastern Utah, where I spent most of my childhood. My dad who used to speak well has degenerated to You was–

        • The issue of infinitives comes from an attempt to apply a grammar derived from Latin structure, or so I have been told.

          I’ve been told by folks who actually learned Latin at school that it makes total sense in Latin, and comes from trying to rein in some of the more atrocious grammatical issues of the day. It’s simply not possible to do in Latin.

      • My oldest child entered public school in 1987. He and later his brother attended the local elementary, which had children of the wealthiest city neighborhood, plus bussed in kids, They used whole language, and the results were so bad even the affluent parents had to have their kids tutored, Now, if the kids who heard sophisticated language at home needed massive and costly tutoring, you can imagine how this failed system devastated the bussed in kids,

        Here is a March 12 article by Breitbart’s Ace of Spades on the failure of Whole Languate:

        http://www.breitbart.com/InstaBlog/2013/03/12/Whole-Word-Reading-Like-Hell-Is-for-Children

  15. Sarah, I can tell you that this nonsense started much earlier than the present generation, and occurs even here in Texas. I spent my middle-school years and my freshman high school year in a private Christian academy in Dallas, back in the late 70s-early 80s. My folks couldn’t keep paying the tuition for my sister and me, so they put us back in public schools. My sis was delighted, as she hated the private school (she ended up quitting school and running off to get married, anyway), but I was mortified. As it turned out, I had good reason to be.

    In the academy, I had been a 9th-grader who was working at sophomore- and junior college levels in all subjects. This new public school decided that the academy was somehow not a real school, and demanded that I be subjected to a very rigorous testing–administered not only in the middle of summer break, but at 7 in the morning, with NO opportunity to study beforehand! My sis was barely functioning, even in the academy, so no one bothered to test her. I took this test and was fairly confident I had done well, as it was all stuff I had been over in the other school. Somehow, I FAILED the entire test, though no one would ever let us see which questions I had gotten wrong. They claimed I had failed the whole thing, which means I must have even gotten the questions like “What is a noun?” wrong!

    So they placed me back in the lowest possible levels of every subject, and my parents just shrugged and said nothing. Either they were afraid to make a fuss, or didn’t care, since it was me instead of my “perfect” sister who was being treated this way. I was so bored in these classes that I began skipping school, and the teachers couldn’t figure out how a boy could miss 56 school days in a single year and still make straight A’s. I was helped by having a naturally high IQ (measured at 186) and a lot of autodidactic tendencies, but I feel sick every time I think of that school and those mean-spirited teachers who simply did not like me. What could I have done, had I not been held back? Where would I be, now? At the time, I had an interest in computer programming, and when I visited the counselor to talk about colleges, she told me, “There aren’t any good computer schools around here. But McDonald’s is having a job fair here, next week!” I watched all the “pet” kids leave her office with arms full of college brochures, whilst I got told to be sure and go to the McDonald’s job fair. I saw that same favoritism in the public elementary school I had attended before I went to the academy, and had more than one teacher single me out and harass me, with one even disliking me so much (for no good reason, as I did all the work in her class as I was supposed to) that she took me aside one afternoon, shook my arm HARD, and said, “I’m going to see to it that you FAIL this grade!” Why? I still have no clue, unless missing ONE book report was enough to fail me for the entire year.

    It’s true that some teachers are great; others are mediocre, and a few are downright hateful and mean and will do all they can to destroy the kids they have decided are worthless or subhuman or in some other way unworthy. I seem to have had an extremely high number of the last type, throughout my school years, with the exception of the four years I spent in the Christian school. :/ Had I ever had children of my own, they’d have either been homeschooled or put into a private academy, even if it meant I worked three jobs to keep them there. No public school will ever have the chance to ruin a child of mine!

    • I got put in the below average math class in third grade because of a speech defect. Anyone who talked that badly had to be stupid.

      Meanwhile, they were using my little sister to show off how well they taught students to read. They hadn’t taught her to read. I had taught her to read before kindergarten.

      • Marshall, who was doing math in his head — mind boggling math in his head — for amusement at three, got rejected by a private school at five for “not knowing how to count.” It had nothing to do with his counting. He had a severe speech defect (which we were willing to pay a therapist to resolve, mind). The test consisted of counting to 50. When he said thirteen, they decided he’d said fifteen and “skipped a number” so they failed him. This was a year before he told Dan he’d figured out a new method of finding primes. He was wrong. It wasn’t new.

    • After EdD degree holders, Dick the butcher and I, go after the counselors.

      I run into a lot of students in community college, who keep enrolling in classes and dropping out – running up student loan debt that can’t be discharged – without any progress on an actual degree or certification in anything that has any chance of repaying the time. All from counselors and advisors steeped in a false view that any education is good and valuable. They do great harm and succeed only in feathering their own nests with that “free” money.

      • Any education is good and valuable. The question is: good and valuable for whom?

        • I can’t find it right now, but somewhere I saw an analysis that suggested that most of the gains in income being seen by college graduates were being sucked into the colleges’ treasuries by tuition increases that exceeded the rate of inflation/wages.

  16. We have a real problem with children. We teach them to read early, and force them to read at “age-appropriate” level, not pap. I’ve had so many fights with school systems I must be legendary. We’ve also run into some fantastic teachers, and some horrible ones. We’re beginning the battle over now with Timmy. He’s going to be a REAL challenge, due to his brain injury. I don’t expect to get ANY help from the school system.

  17. I think both is at work. I remember when I was in middle school, I had a student teacher. One would hope that at that point they still have some gleam of newness, but my parents were pretty certain she hated children especially smart ones. She ended up using me as a in class tutor for our special needs students. Then when I thought I was being funny, I decided to do an essay for her in my smallest handwriting possible and filled the whole space given. She then convinced the teaching team I needed to be held back. Since in two of my classes I was “under-performing”. When at the meeting with my parents I gave them lip about being bored and their classes being stupid, the head teacher got an attitude, and said, that since the standardized tests had just come back they’ll see how smart I really was. Since I tested at a college level she had the grace to admit that boredom may be a factor. The student teacher on the other hand spent the rest of her time there making me miserable. So in that one instance I can see both malice and incompetence.

  18. Rob Crawford

    After reading this, I want to search for every one of my grade school teachers — even the ones I considered useless time-wasters — and thank them. And the school administrators. And the school board. And the PTA.

    BTW — One of the reasons they’d push students into Title 10 and speech disable classes is that students in those programs bring in more money. The school system I went to had agreed (then) to take on all the seriously disabled students for multiple districts, because tobacco-growing land isn’t much of a tax base. But those kids were seriously disabled, not “hard to teach” disabled, not “doesn’t learn the way teacher wants” disabled.

    Today, I get the impression it’s a “revenue enhancer” to declare as many kids as possible as “disabled”. I wouldn’t be shocked if it were a career enhancer for the petty tyrants, er, treachers… I mean “teachers”! who do it.

  19. I was taught to read with phonetics; whole word hadn’t arrived in my neck of the woods yet, thank G-d. Unfortunately for me, new math had. My father was an engineer who’d passed every math class Virginia Tech offered, and he couldn’t help me with my third grade homework. Once, at a PTA meeting, he asked my teacher if I was passing math. She couldn’t tell him. She was teaching pre-packaged lessons containing concepts she didn’t understand. She knew I had passed “level 10,” but was failing “level 11.” She didn’t actually know what any of that meant. Then she made the mistake of trying to give my parents her diagnosis of my “emotional issues.” When Mom told me about that meeting years after the fact, she said she had never seen Dad so angry. Unfortunately, Mom and Dad both came from rural and working class backgrounds. Three people they were raised to never second-guess were preachers, doctors, and teachers. Mom actually apologized for that. I eventually worked my way up to college algebra and geometry. Still, I count myself lucky. They started whole word not long after I had safely learned to read and write. A few years later and I’d be illiterate as well as nearly innumerate.

  20. Even when I was growing up (grad. high school 1971) and going to an optimal school (small country day prep in the mid-west) and the teachers were all benign and non-neurotic (the good old kind w/o the ed fads), still the best thing about the experience was “benign neglect.”

    They couldn’t do much for me on my end of the bell-curve, but they were more than happy to get out of the way. I ended up taking all the levels of all the classes that could be fitted into my schedule (who says you can’t do Latin III and Calculus II at the same time), and then getting rides to the local college for advanced math when they ran out. My end of the bargain was to tone down my native wiseassery and not disrupt the classes I was in.

    It was a deal. I still remember my 7th grade history class (I had read the material for the year in the first week, as usual) when I was nicely settled in to some SciFi (never went to school with fewer than half a dozen books on me) and realized everything had gone silent. Standing behind me was not just the headmistress, but her incoming replacement being given the tour. “Good book?” the former asked. “Very good,” I said, letting the front legs of my chair hit the floor again. Titters from my classmates. No punishment.

    That’s what you need. It would have been better if my parents and teachers had paid enough attention to bury me in other optional education outside of school (a couple more languages, for example), but it could have been a lot worse. Auto-didact isn’t so bad.

    I’m sorry for the salt-of-the-earth C-students, I really am, because it’s hard for them to help themselves when they receive the damage of the modern edu system (god knows I tutored enough of them, they were my friends) but I despise the waste at the high end of the student population just as much. Many of those never came near their full potential, not just for the usual character-flaw reasons we all face, but just for lack of capitalizing on talent and interest.

    • Oh, yes. What we’re doing to the gifted is CRIMINAL. I got told that “gifted people already have an advantage. They don’t need extra help.” This when younger kid is at 99.9% in IQ and DOES need extra help (most people at that level end up as recluses/social outcasts/suicides) because he’s bored out of his gourd ALL THE TIME is not helpful.

      • Explains me, maybe. I don’t know what my IQ was as a kid — that information was secret, and not even my parents were told — but when I was tested individually by a psychologist, he calculated the results on the spot, and they evidently surprised him. His eyebrows shot up so high that for one brief, glorious moment, the apex of his head was no longer bald. But the damage had already been done: I had been certified a permanent and irremediable waste of space by the school district, and duly expelled therefrom. And right on target, I turned out to be a recluse and a social outcast, and had a long period of flirtation with suicide.

        It may bear mentioning that the last time I took an IQ test, though the results were not official, my percentile ranking was alleged to be 99.984. This would certainly put me in the range you refer to as being at risk. On the other hand, it is probable that the test was wildly mistaken, since it is well known to all right-thinking persons that I am a complete congenital idiot. Ask any of your other commenters; ask RES. He’ll tell you.

        • PFUI on your last sentence. I am a mother. I have said this before “Stop it. Just stop it. Don’t make me stop this car and come back there.”
          I’ll note though that it’s typical of triple niners to act like complete idiots half the time. I LIVE WITH ONE. Normal people don’t get that, so I imagine a lot of triple niners get put in classes for the sub-normal and any genius is discounted as savant behavior.

          • I’ll note though that it’s typical of triple niners to act like complete idiots half the time.

            How, then, I ask myself, do I account for the other half? The going theory is that it’s because I really am a complete idiot. I would have to be a bigger fool than I am not to be aware of this.

            • From contact with you — you remind me a lot of younger son. He says stuff like that too… (rolls eyes.)

            • “Insanity is Logic the Masses are too stupid to understand.” >:)

              • To an extent that’s right. One thing I’ve noticed is that you can’t evaluate the intelligence of someone more than two deviations from you IN EITHER DIRECTION. It will all seem like nonsense to you, and elicit “oh, he’s stupid/crazy.”

                So, when we were having issues with Marshall, I told Dan honestly “he’s either brilliant or slow, and I can’t tell you which.”

                The problem is that tripple niners don’t SEE when they have insufficient information. So, the three year old didn’t see WHY he shouldn’t make an explosive in the bathroom, or show it to his brother, and was very upset when his brother took it away and threw it into the backyard (fountaining dirt at second floor level and leaving a crater we could never fully disguise.) I.e. it was a cool thing to do, he did it, real world be d*mned.

                My consolation? One day he’ll have a daughter* who will be just like me* (or him) only smarter. And then he’ll rue the day he was born

                * I’m just like dad, who was just like his mom, and Marsh is just like me — aka the kid wished on me. Only I must have been especially bad, because he’s way brighter than me.

                • Wayne Blackburn

                  I just want to know why I couldn’t have gotten the curse that everyone else is supposed to fear. I want to know why I couldn’t have children like ME??!?

                  In case anyone thinks this is mere denial of the truth: everyone who knew me as a young boy, and knows my sons, would tell you the same thing.

                • Oh please do not put upon his head any variation of the universal parental curse. I finally called Daddy and told him he had succeeded. He laughed. ‘But,’ I asked, ‘was this really fair to your grandchild?’

                  Note: it can be turned into a blessing, i.e., ‘I hope one day when you are a parent you, too, will know how good it is to watch your child take on a challenge and win.’

          • Wayne Blackburn

            I found the only way to get through my boys’ heads that I wanted them to stop was to threaten to “come back there” without mention of stopping…

            • LOL. You know, they finally stopped (except for minor squabbles) on the day I almost crashed, because I left the grocery store at dusk, forgot to turn the lights on because of their screaming argument, and almost crashed because I couldn’t see and was THAT distracted halfway home. I’m night blind. No lights was a bad thing, and halfway home it was DARK. (It falls fast in the shadow of the Rockies.)

            • All right, that made me laugh. My damfool brain immediately began to script the situation:

              ‘Don’t make me come back there.’

              (Squabble continues.)

              ‘Right, then. Under the front passenger seat you will find a brick. Please pass it to me.’

              ‘A brick? What for?’

              ‘I’m going to put it on the accelerator before I come back there. The car won’t keep moving all by itself.’

              (Squabble ceases. Sepulchral quiet ensues.)

              • Beautifully worded. I can SEE that car and the look on the faces of the back seat occupants.

              • Heck, I almost did that one night with two flight medics.
                Medic 1: “He’s on my end of the plane.”
                Medic 2: “Well he started it!”
                Medic 1: “MooooMMM!”
                Pilot: “Don’t make me come back there.”
                Medics 1and 2: “Heh, heh, heh.” (Channeling Bevis and Butthead)
                Pilot: “I warned you.” “Denver center, [Redacted] Two requests off frequency.”
                ATC: “Off Frequency Approved {Redacted} Two.”
                Pilot engages autopilot, removes headset and undoes safety harness, starts getting out of seat with big, fat, heavy book of approach plates in hand . . . Blessed silence for the rest of the flight.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Chuckle Chuckle

              I heard a story about an airliner that had a bunch of unruly kids on board. The airliner captain announced over the loud-speaker “You don’t want me to stop this plane and come back there”. Apparently, the kids stopped being so unruly. [Wink]

              • It’s only very rarely done, but a Captain does have the authority to land at the closest airfield rated for his aircraft and put a disruptive passenger off his plane. Generally into the hands of authorities to face charges.

                • I have also, personally, seen it happen on Amtrak trains, though in that case it’s the Conductor, not the Captain, who makes the call (on a train, from what I understand, the Conductor is The Boss).

                  In the case I saw, the train stopped at a crossing with no traffic… just a lone cop car sitting there on the road. The ringleader of the disruptive group was escorted off by a gentleman with a badge and a gun. The rest of the trip passed in peace.

                  • That’s why airline pilots are “captains” — it’s from the same tradition as ships… and the Captain is God’s Right Hand.

                    Historic Item: In Old-West-era Wyoming Territory, train conductors had the same Law Enforcement Authority as any other sheriff or marshal — which meant if someone got out-of-line on a train, the conductor could *KILL HIM*, and be within his rights…. >:) (I think the conductors of modern Amtrak trains would love to see that law reintroduced. :) )

                    • Actually, I’d just be happy if we had a train travel system that was profitable on its own and didn’t need gubment handouts.

                      I absolutely love train travel… it is so much more relaxing than airplanes, and you can see places out the windows that you can’t see from the road (though I also love road trips).

                    • I love road trips. I have to admit that after a few hours crossing Oklahoma, I agreed with The Daughter’s nick name for the great plains: miles and miles of miles and miles. Then I remind myself, I am crossing more of this in a hour than a horse drawn wagon would in a day … how must it have seemed?

                    • The nice thing about train trips is that I don’t have to worry about what the elderly person in the 70s boat in front of me is going to do.

                      I can just sit back, let the engineer do the driving, and watch the scenery.

                    • While it runs against my libertarian leanings there are times that I think that all RVs with FLA plates should be banned from any two lane mountain roads.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  I don’t think the kids were thinking about him *landing* the plane. [Wink]

          • Scott Adams, writer of Dilbert, explains it something like this: We are all idiots, it’s just that we’re idiots about certain things and generally only for short periods of time.

            He gives the example of the time when he replaced the battery in his pager (this is when pagers were big and cell phones yet to achieve ubiquity), and the silly thing wouldn’t work. He drove to the service center, demanding that it be fixed. The guy behind the counter took the battery cover off, removed the battery, turned the battery around, replaced it and the cover, and handed the now-perfectly-functional pager back to Scott.

            Now, he was an idiot regarding the pager, but he’d managed to drive all the way to the service center without getting in an accident.

            • I’m an idiot with software. I spent most of the morning trying to restore the “recent comment” thing. It just wouldn’t take…

              • It was working this morning (in fact I was going to congratulate you on fixing it)

                *scrolls to top*

                Yep, still working on my computer, but it is alongside your book covers and looks really funny compared to the old one, still it works, so I’m happy.

            • Overheard while eating breakfast at a motel in Springfield, Mo., “I used to really enjoy the pointy headed boss in Dilbert, until I realized it was me.”

        • Tom, since you cite me specifically, I will note: You are not a complete congenital idiot. Eschewing the opportunity to crack wise over the terms “complete” and “congenital” I simply suggest that, like most of us here, you are capable of acting the part. The real asshats get run out of here pretty viciously, but those merely wearing the asshat usually get teased until they take it off.

          Mostly your comments around here are informative and witty, occasionally they are pugnacious and trite. I think that same description could be applied to almost everyone amongst Sarah’s regular commenters, so don’t be putting on airs.

          • Darn it, and I liked the air I was trying on today. Now RES says I gotta take it off. :p

            • CW, I say about your air the same thing I advised Daughtorial Unit when she (briefly) considered dying her hair bright purple: You can do what you like, but you’re likely to get teased if you do that.

              • RES, if I couldn’t stand a little good-natured teasing, I’d sure as heck never come anywhere near this group!

                Besides, it’s almost St. Patty’s Day, tell her she needs to dye her hair green for it.

              • AS I recall it once she discovered anime, it was bright pink, like that of Mayura, a character in Matantei Loki Ragnarok. To do so she would have had to strip the color from her hair, which is down to her knees, before applying the color. And, at that time, you said that you would fall on the floor laughing every time you saw it. Of course, that was when you were a bit more limber.

                I vaguely contemplated a dark purple, like Faye Valentine in Cowboy Bee-bop, but I would never have actually done it.

      • They thought Iwas learning disabl;ed in 1st grade because I was staring out the window and always fiddling with things… until one of the teachers noticed i would *finish my work* and then have nothing to do…

        • Let’s just say there’s a reason that I have a print-out of the basic trouble shooting steps for a computer problem and still do them again when I’m on with the help line. (the first time, anyways)

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Most fun story of any similarity I have is taking Spelling test and just sailing along, when the teacher clears her throat behind me. I looked up, and she was very pointedly looking down at my desk. When I looked back down, I realized I had my spelling book open beneath the notebook I was writing the answers to the test in. I said, “Oh” and closed it. She didn’t say anything about it, because I had just recently finished second in the regional spelling bee.

      • My funnest one was when I forgot the homework for English. We were supposed to have written a short story. Third year in college. Teacher calls me first. This is when I remember the homework. So I pull a sheaf of pages out of my book bag and start “reading.” Halfway through the teacher came and stood behind me. I continued “reading.” She said nothing. I said nothing. I got an A.

        • My only memories of high school chemistry involve playing Yahtzee for months. I have a few flashes of electron transfer. No clue how I got an A. Good lab write-ups? My english teachers never called me out for reading in class. Same for algebra. Band director did, so I had to get clever. Crank down on the nut on older music stands and they’ll support a hardback doorstop no problem. I mostly benefited – I think – from the aforementioned benign neglect. The only B I got in high school was from a teacher I fought with, on about a daily basis. I decided early on that she didn’t know what she was doing (she may have confiscated a book of mine or something equally heinous) and refused to do her assignments. In retrospect, I don’t think I was being fair to her. Not entirely, at least. Honestly don’t remember.

    • Yeah, one of the things public school taught me was to remember what was recently said even though I’m not listening. So I’m reading a book in the back of class (always sat in the back of class), things go quiet, I rewind what was just said, answer the question the instructor asked, and go back to reading.

      This did almost get me in trouble once, but for the most part, yes, benign neglect probably saved me.

  21. I would love to hear more about the “educating” that you did after “school” with your children. My children are currently in an honors/magent school program, but I work full time (no options for sahm right now) and after doing the “standard” homework/commute/etc…its time for bed. I would love to add addtional learning (and I am constantly “teaching” my kids facts whenever something comes up- to the point that the youngest complained yesterday- Mom, its the weekend, I don’t feel like learning!) but I constantly worry its not enough….tips/advice would be GREATLY appreciated!

    • I typed a long answer. WordPress ate it. I’ll try again later. One thing, though, most of it was providing them with TONS of books. Another thing was making learning fun. Even when dead broke, we spent about $500 a year on local museum memberships. But that worked for us because we also enjoy it. So it was “family fun” and conditioned the kids on the idea that learning was “fun.”
      (For instance, one thing the whole family still does is watch stuff like Walking with dinosaurs. Of course, at their ages now there are jokes and heckling, but…)

      • Thank you…(and I can spell, just was typing fast!). My girls know that my rule is: if its a book you want, I’ll get it. Everything else is conditional. (toys, clothes, etc).

        • As the boys got older, we also started buying stuff for things they were already pursuing. This is why at one time we had a microscope “for playing CSI” but also, incidentally to get a pretty good grasp of cellular structure. Also art books, pencils, etc. If it’s remotely something that in the long run would serve learning or occupation we get it, even if we had (sometimes did) to eat pancakes for dinner for a week.

      • The rule is thusly:

        1) IF you remember to Select All, and Copy All (and preferably Paste somewhere), WordPress will NOT eat your entry.
        2) The opposite.

        I now ensure no WordPress ‘snacks’ by Pasting the comment into a text file – stupid as that seems.

        No exceptions.

        WordPress is hungry.

      • My nieces and nephews loved Walking with Dinosaurs. It did lead to the awkward question of “What is mating?” though.

        • ROFL. Marshall and I doing a grocery run when he was five… I park under the tree in front of the house “Mom what are the squirrels doing?” “Uh… Uh… playing. Yeah. Playing.”

          • Meanwhile, my girls have simplified knowledge of AI in cattle, preg checking and birth. (Death, not so much. People, not so much; we’re on the “the baby is in mommy’s tummy. No, daddy never had anybody in his tummy. Boys don’t have anybody in their tummy” type stage with people…which I like as a dividing line between “people” and “animals.”)

            • The look on the lady at the gas stations face when my friends little boy (about 4) explained that, “Sadie is in heat, so we are taking her over to see her boyfriend so she can have babies.” was priceless. I’m not sure if she eventually figured out Sadie was a dog or not. ;)

              • ….do folks in other areas regularly talk about women being in heat, in something other than an indirect way of saying they’re a female dog and have the morals of the same in breeding season?

                • Not to my knowledge, the last line was sarcasm, I’m sure she figured out that Sadie was at least some type of animal. But Dakota was one of those kids who never met a stranger, and I still crack up everytime I remember this prim older lady behind the counter asking him what he was doing today, and him piping up cheerfully with that explanation.

                  • I can remember with great glee being the only kid in my age group who knew about sex, and reproduction — and the looks on the other kids’ faces when they tried whipping out porn on me, and I responded “Big deal — my parents did that to bring me here… and I’m pretty-sure yours did, too.” >:)

                  • Given some of the quite serious misunderstandings I’ve seen, I thought I’d better ask.

          • The Daughter and I were at the zoo one lovely early spring day when we noticed a commotion at the otter area. There was also a commotion within the otter area. One family group was struggling to distract their children and explain it away. Another was trying to more straightforwardly explain it. A few adolescent boys were standing at the back — I do not know the relationship they may or may not have had with the aforementioned families — sniggering.

  22. I suddenly feel thousands of times better about sending my daughter to private school & bringing my son home to homeschool him this year. I also feel deeply grateful & extraordinarily lucky that my dad teaches at a private school: my sister & I got to go to “his” school instead of the public school (she for her entire academic career, me from 4th until 11th, when Dad deciding that having me in class would make him homicidally frustrated). I graduated from public school, but the 2 years I was there was “just right.”

  23. On the fly, no time for a rant, and short of energy anyway: Two words: Malice, Dewey. Have Kim du Toit’s Mrs. rant on the topic. She can do a good one.

    M

    • ‘Malice’ and ‘Dewey’, you say. Are you quite sure those are actually two words, and not variant spellings of one?

      • Growing up in South Texas (San Antonio) I used ‘damnyankee’ as one word. It wasn’t until I was in the navy I found out it was two words. I can understand the confusion.

      • Actually, no. I’m not sure they’re not — or that they’re not components of a compound noun — deweymalice.

        Yes.

        M

  24. Teachers who use ‘gifted’ classes as a dumping ground to get troublemakers out of their class.
    Teachers who worry more about ‘Here’s the test that’s coming up, you have to make the school look good’ than about actually effing TEACHING anything.
    Principals who care more about peace and quiet(by their definition) than anything else. For my daughter, this included having a nutty kid in her 3rd grade class who was violent and attacked other students. And the teacher at least once. The principal left him in the class because the parents demanded he be in the mainstream, and they’d sue if he was put in a special-needs class. The principal didn’t have the balls to stand up to them, and the parents were idiots making sure their kid didn’t get the help he actually needed.

    Went round & round with a guy once who didn’t like my view: “A good teacher is a treasure to be cherished and paid as much as we can. A bad teacher is a threat who should be kicked out of that classroom before they do more damage.” He insisted “I’ve NEVER seen a bad teacher!” Really didn’t like it when I started listing some of the bad ones we’d dealt with.
    Oh, and he turned out to be a teacher’s union rep. Surprise, surprise…

    As to ‘malice or incompetence’, I’ll borrow from the Dresden Files:
    “He’s Black Council,”, I said.
    “Or maybe stupid,” Ebenezar countered.
    I thought about it. “Not sure which is scarier.”
    Ebenezar blinked at me, then snorted. “Stupid, Hoss. Every time. Only so many blackhearted villains in the world, and they only get uppity on occasion. Stupid’s everywhere, every day.”

    • “Teachers who use ‘gifted’ classes as a dumping ground to get troublemakers out of their class.”
      When I was in high school, they used vocational ed for that. The city had one trade school; student spent half the day there and the rest at their high school. On paper it was supposed to train the students for a trade; anything from electrical technology to key punch (did I mention this was pre-1980?). In practice about half of the students were there for the training. The rest were divided between academic underperformers that were sent to trade school so they wouldn’t drag their high school’s averages down, and chronic disciplinary cases who weren’t quite worth the effort of expulsion. As the years went on, the place became more of a dumping ground and less of a school. The city finally closed the place and sold the property in the 90s.. It wasn’t needed any longer, because now all students would be going to college.

      • The voc-ed classes were in another city where I went to school. They were useful for a lot of kids that were probably not going to finish high school and so were going to enter the workforce shortly. A couple years of autobody repair, desiel mechanics, or computer repair would be a lot more useful when looking for a livable wage job than a failed 10th grade educate and an ability to flip burgers. Unfortunately they were also used as a dumping ground, many times the troublemakers wer given a choice, voc-ed or expulsion for the year.
        I actually wanted to take voc-ed for half the day, but wasn’t allowed because I was ‘too smart.’ This decided by the administrators, somehow I doubt many of my teachers were consulted on this decision, as at least some of them would have jumped at the chance to get rid of me. Unfortunately I had made the mistake of taking the SAT in 7th grade. Kids in gifted classes had an option to do so (still not sure why) and many of them studied for months for it. I had no plans on doing so and really figured on having a screwoff day in some of my classes while many of my classmates were gone for the day taking the test. On the day of the test I discovered what was planned for those not taking the test, and our regular teacher had had a nervouse breakdown and we had a substitute I couldn’t stand. I got caught skipping out and tried to bluff my way out by explaining I was on my way to take the SAT, I got ‘escorted’ there and bluffed my way in (taking a stupid test was preferable to dealing with my parents over getting suspended) I blew through the test and came out with a 1420. This score went in my records and caused me a lot of extra work in highschool convincing the ‘guidance counselor’ that, “yes I wanted to take metal shop and bodybuilding not some stupid college prep class, because I wasn’t going to college, college is for idiots to stupid to make it in the real world.” This logic totally confused them, but I managed to get my guidance councilor to agree to whatever classes I wanted (except voc-ed) so he didn’t have to deal with me anymore. He pointed out that I scored higher on my SAT in 7th grade than he did at college entrance*, I politely asked him if he had studied for it. Exasperated he informed me that yes, he had studied hard for months. I then informed him that I already knew he was stupid, but that I didn’t realize he was so stupid that he had to study for months to manage to score over 200 points lower on a test than I did, when I took the test to escape suspension and hadn’t even looked at the materials until they were set in front of me, why would I possibly want to listen to advice from an idiot like him? He gave up in experation and told me he didn’t care if I ruined my future, sign up for whatever I wanted. I never saw a guidance councelor again, I just filled out what classes I wanted next year at the end of the year, and if there were any problems the secretary dealt with me, the councilor had written me off as a lost cause, but didn’t want to have to deal with me again, so I got such an eclectic schedule as Advanced Biology, Advanced Chemistry, metal shop, bodybuilding, and bounced back and forth between advanced and regular English depending on which teacher I preferred, without ever having to justify my reasons for why I should be in what class again.

        *I realize, and realized then, that test scores do not necessarily reflect intellegence, but the councilor was to stupid to realize that, and I was smart enough to use it to my advantage. I have always tested well, instinctively understanding when I need to get something right, when I a educated guess and going on to the next question is the best solution, and when to baffle’m with BS. Also I work fast and have never came even close to the time limit on any test I have ever taken, which is where a lot of people struggle on standardized tests.

    • you know, I’ve known any number of parents who insist their kid be mainstreamed and I DON’T GET IT. I can see having borderline kids mainstreamed, but the kids went to school with a kid who had an IQ of 48. After Kindergarten, he was learning NOTHING. His aid did the work for him.
      Sweet kid, and all the kids liked him, but he had fits, and it would stop the class cold. Sometimes he ran away and they all had to go find him. And again, he was learning NOTHING that he could use. His grandmother, who was the guardian, was smart, though, and had him transferred to another school that had a class for special needs kids at his level — they taught them stuff like how to bathe and dress themselves and how to use silverware and stuff. IOW things to facilitate his survival.

      • I’ve heard of kids with a mental age of 3 and violent tendencies where the parents insisted on the mainstreaming. I suspect delusional parents.

        • I think they don’t want to admit the kid is in special classes. It’s a social thing, you know “My child is in 7th grade at North” sounds better than “My kid is in special classes at North,” which opens a whole other conversational gambit. Yes, this is “sin level pride.”

  25. Reminds me of something that happened when I transitioned from Catholic grade school to public high school back in the late seventies. The high school sent an administrator (school counselor, as I recall) over to help us choose our Freshman year courses. He actively discouraged us from taking Algebra from who turned out to be the far better math instructor, actively disparaged her. The instructor they did recommend barely got us through half of what we needed in order to take Algebra II in Sophomore year. I took the time to go through rest of the textbook on my own, but of course most of my classmates didn’t.

    • Yes, those of us who actively try to teach mathematics and acheive a modicum of success are invariably the most hated people on campus.

  26. I also was in the gifted ed program starting in fourth grade. By the time I hit Jr. High the program was geared toward the math gifted. I’m bad, like BAD, at math.

    One of the problems with that high IQ is that often you excel in one area — for me it was reading and writing and to some degree science — but struggle as bad as the special ed kids in other areas.

    Ask Charlie Martin, who sticks his head in from time to time, I do very well with understanding the implications of advanced concepts in science, but have trouble with basic algebraic problem solving.

    In any event, by the time I had a new staffing in HS, my IQ somehow “dropped” from 175 to 120ish. “Above average but not gifted.”

    That, by the time I was 16, I hated and distrusted shrinks, most teachers and the gifted program had nothing to do with the results, of course *rolls eyes.*

    I wanted to be an engineer, but was lousy at math, being a tactile learner and struggling with learning from lectures or instructions. Had the so-called gifted-ed teachers (one of the problems with so-called gifted ed teachers is that more often than not they are dealing with kids who are smarter than they are and who have very little respect for anyone not on their level) actually tried to help me with my issues, while finding curricula which would challenge me I might _be_ an engineer rather than a journalist.

    • I did well across the board, but math was my strong suit. I tended to know people that were better than me at any one thing, but not as good as me on most other things. The fact that I despised a large percentage of my teachers and fellow students in my ‘gifted’ classes, having nothing in common with them outside of class, the fact that they looked down on me in turn for being poor, rural, and proud of it, probably contributed immensely to my viewing them as stupid because not only didn’t they know anything about things I concidered important, but they were only smart in one subject and idiots everywhere else (my blunt teenaged opinion, which I expressed much more often and forcefully than was politic). This resulted in me viewing the education system very dimly, and viewing teachers and ‘gifted’ students as moronic imbeciles until they proved otherwise, and virtually no overlap between my social circle and my STEM educational circle. I had no friends and only a few friendly acquiantances in the ‘gifted’ classes, most of them looked down on hick who chewed snoose, skipped class, showed up just often enough to take tests and do a bunch of the classwork in a quick cram, and still managed to get grades good enough to stay on the honor roll, always managed to skate out of serious trouble, and would obnoxiously argue with the teacher when said teacher tried to catch me on knowledge of stuff I had skipped out on, being right in the arguement as often as not, and the rest of the time usually managing to weave such a convoluted web BS and contradictory facts that they didn’t know if I was right and just being obnoxious, wrong and trying not to admit it, didn’t know what I was talking about, or actually knew the answer but found it more entertaining to tie the rest of the classperiod up in illogical arguements than just give a straight answer. Since I used all of those methods regularly, most of them threw there hands in the air, gave up, and ignored both me when I was in class, and the fact that I usually wasn’t there. I in turn returned the students disdain with interest, despised the teacher, happily skipped out of class as much as possible, and hung out with my friends who were mostly C-average students, although they varied from those who breezed through at C-average with no effort, to those that had to work hard to maintain a C-average. I respected teachers that could maintain my interest and earn my respect, but I could count all those teachers on my fingers.

      • Oh trust me I get it. By my senior year I just didn’t care anymore. I failed badly at math, none of the people who were supposed to help were willing to. I just quit caring. I barely graduated, had to take a typing class in the summer to get my diploma.

        I hated, well, pretty much everyone. There were a few teachers I cared about, but mostly I realized they were incompetent idiots and because I wasn’t a jock and was, kindly, a nerd and wasn’t trouble for the most part (I hated class it bored me, so I sat in the back and read with a book or magazine in my text book) I got ignored.

        • “wasn’t trouble for the most part (I hated class it bored me, so I sat in the back and read with a book or magazine in my text book) I got ignored.”

          Most teachers quickly learned that if they ignored me, (which explicitly included allowing me to read to occupy myself, otherwise I found OTHER ways to occupy my time) I was no trouble and when I wasn’t in class I was no trouble also, so they ignored the fact I was gone more often than I was there. This did absolutely nothing for my opinion of them, but since I already had the libertarian philosophy of ‘leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone,’ it worked out well for both of us.

          • Ori Pomerantz

            I was a goodie two-shoes. I just asked teachers for permission to read in class, starting with 7th grade English and Math.

            • I tried that, they said no. I did anyways.

              • Ori Pomerantz

                I guess your teachers did not consider Chutzpah a virtue the way mine did. One of the few benefits of growing up in Israel.

                • Honestly, shortly before we pulled The Daughter for home education, her history teacher asked us to teach her how to read her outside reading hidden inside her textbook. The teacher had no trouble with her outside reading, she had quite mastered the necessary history. The problem, she explained, was that other students, who did not have the background and were not so capable, would get the wrong idea by watching her.

                  The teacher did give us one piece of great advise when we left the system. She suggested that we have The Daughter read biographies — all sorts of biographies. Which is what lead us to Dead Men Do Tell Tales a working biography of Dr. Maples one of our country’s foremost forensic anthropologists — which greatly influenced her thoughts about where she wanted to go with her life.

        • I ended up getting my GED.
          Took it *while in Basic Training*
          scores said A/B student…

          • I finally took my GED (I had already had two years of college before then) because I was in a new State and they wouldn’t let me go to college w/o a GED. The test was ridiculous– I had learned most of the stuff by the time I was in sixth grade. Math up to fractions– so my GED score was extremely high (I had already done algebra and been through electronics.) ;-) Yep– they said I had the best scores they had ever seen. Then I went to Germany and finally earned my degree. That school, UMUC European Division, never asked for the GED.

            • Oh I had to take the GED, because at the time, I was in one of the last basic training cycles they would accept people without ‘a high school diploma’, and also the last time they would accept GEDs… (for awhile…. this was, of course, rescinded during the Clinton years)

              • Last I knew they still don’t accept anyone without a high school diploma or equivalent (ie GED), as well as not accepting anyone who has been in trouble with the law (the writers who STILL have their characters being sentenced to a choice of jailtime or military service cause bookbindings to break upon immediate forceful contact with the wall). The pretty much have to accept GED’s or get accused of discriminating against homeschooled kids, in many states your only option as a homeschooled student is either a GED or going to school for your last couple years of high school, and hoping you can find one that will accept your homeschooling as credits needed to graduate.

                • During the Clonton admin they started taking people without a HS education if they were over 18, again. GWB put a stop to that fairly fast (and they really didnt need to anymore either)

                • I was accepted into the Navy w/o a high school diploma or GED because I had two years of college. They accepted the two years as high school equivalency.

                • As of August of 2001, the Navy was taking people who didn’t have their GEDS, but you had to get it in bootcamp before you could start full training. Minor crimes– or at least stuff that went down on the books as minor– were also allowed.

                  With all the cuts to the enlisted ranks, they’ve been turning away people for any reason they can find, depending on the area.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              A guy I went to high school with ran into a similar problem. He had started taking classes at the local college when he was a Junior in high school. He wound up not finishing his senior year and simply started college full time. A couple of years into this, an audit of the school’s records showed that he didn’t have a diploma, so they forced him to go get his GED.

              • One of my college biology teachers, a PhD specializing in ornithology, never finished high school, nor did the GED, either. Didn’t seem to slow him down much, and he was one of the best teachers I ever had at any level of school.

                • Largely ignored in discussions of education is the fact that college level instruction and high school type instruction are very different animules. College demands a much higher level of personal time management and organization than does high school. The instructional format is generally different in manners qualitative as well as quantitative.

                  Brighter students are less likely to be bored in college classrooms, even in large lecture courses.

                  • RES

                    Why do you think that is? What different between 18 & 19 that necessitates the different teaching styles?

                    Just a thought.

                    • It’s not a difference in age, it’s a difference in attitude, that causes the change in teaching styles. High School is geared towards forcing people to learn, while college is geared towards teaching people who WANT to learn.
                      I wonder how much that is changing now that the college diploma is beginning to replace the high school diploma as a mandatory requirement for so many jobs.

                    • Sounds about right.

          • I’ve taken a perverse pride in how far I’ve managed to get, 20+ years after dropping out of high school, without a diploma or GED. So far I’ve gotten to a Master’s degree and a commission in Army Military Intelligence.

            Bonus irony points: It’s an Masters in EDUCATION, and I arranged to do my student teaching at my old high school. Where the administration and I quickly got on each others’ nerves and I decided this was not for me. (They do say people who have been traumatized keep recreating the trauma in their later lives — I guess I took that a bit literally.)

            Teachers are a mixed bag and some are very good. When it comes to bad ideas and abuses of power, I’m more inclined to point fingers at administrators, especially as you get farther from the actual classroom. When someone uses the word “educator” rather than “teacher” to describe his/her career, watch out.

  27. Clark E Myers

    I have no current knowledge of the systematic education of children in the U.S. of A. today. The mostly high school teachers I know socially are mostly marginally competent and their students less so. Results clearly vary by demographic. A friend who fronted for Yale in Idaho lamented that the typical Idaho high school graduate who was intrinsically Yale material would have distinguished himself or herself in an area of particular personal interest – which could be anything from 4H to nuclear physics (lots of Navy labs in Idaho here and there from time to time). The same student would settle for first in the class in other subjects – which means a couple years repeat years behind the typical Yale freshman.

    I do know that students in the college education schools – future teachers – were on paper pretty average that is hard to separate from the general student population in the 1950′s. I also know that today the students of education in college are on average below the general student population – grades, test scores – coming in.

    Arguably the worst educational abuse of children I’ve heard was in a freshmen orientation I kibitzed when I was a grad student teaching large section economics (roughly 10% were up to going on in the subject) – the counselor said that students who were math phobic should major in a program with no rigor such as journalism. Not much of a future career for that major – and hard work with a great portfolio to go anyplace at all – and that was obvious even then – though today’s journalist do seem to have never learned any math or logical rigor to go with their bylines.

    • 4H is not a bonus. A study found that the Ivy League penalized students for belonging to 4H, especially if they held leadership positions. Jr. ROTC was also bad.

  28. I keep hearing the supposed evil of “Teaching to the Test” and frankly, I don’t buy it. Sure, “teaching to the test” is a bad thing … but its not as bad as not teaching anything at all because there is no objective testing going on to measure learning.

    I see far too many kids who never learned anything because of getting through classes that were too focused on “teaching” subjective values like esteem.

    Far too often, those teachers bemoaning “teaching to the test” are bemoaning having accountability and I’m not sympathetic.

    • Yes, except in TX there is this case because see, the tests are exceedingly politically correct (how exceedingly? EXTREMELY) and so is the curriculum (Students in burkas, need I say more?) and when parents complained about some of the more egregious anti-Americanism, they get told “Well, it will be in the test.”

      CENTRALIZED systems can get corrupted. This includes centralized tests.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Actually, I went on a rant a few months ago about teachers complaining about “having to teach to the test”. I said, “Wait. What is wrong with that? Don’t you test students anyway, and aren’t you ‘teaching to the test’ for that?”

      It took some long, hard questioning of the teachers in my Facebook friends list, but I finally dragged it out of them, and I will try to put together all that I gathered into a semi-coherent format:

      The phrase is just a shorthand for the overall problem. The full problem is that they are required, by the way the system is designed, to simply rote-impress the information that will come up on the tests, and there is no consideration for putting this information into context, or teaching the theory to go with the raw information, or anything that will allow the student to put it together into a coherent whole. Some students, naturally, especially the ones with parents who will discuss their school work with them, will integrate the parts, but to the majority, it’s just meaningless drivel that they will forget quickly, because it doesn’t tie into the rest of their world.

      • As someone who had the whole “make it fit with the world” which meant for us “another chance at Marxist indoctrination” this rings my bells, too, Wayne.
        OTOH I KNOW it gives administrators more control over the classroom — and giving bureaucrats a lever is ALWAYS bad.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I must have reading comprehension problems today. Do you mean that NOT fitting into the rest of their world gives them more control over the classroom? If so, how?

      • Wayne, that is a very good description of the problem. Now add another level to it where some districts then require their juniors to take courses that teach them how to take the SAT and ACT tests. Why? Not to pass on more knowledge or make them better students but so the district — and I have one in particular in mind right now — can continue to claim it has the highest scores in the state and nation. It has nothing to do with helping the kids. It does have everything to do with politics and prestige, at least in the minds of the administrators.

        • I have another take on that. There are smart people who take SAT-type tests well, and smart ones who don’t.

          I once had ETS as a professional client, and I can tell you that the tests are designed for fine discrimination in the middle part of the bell curve. They don’t really care at all about accuracy at either end. Oh, sure, they bragged on their subject matter experts but lots of the conventional language-skills questions were submitted as piece work by well-educated housewives to earn a little extra dough.

          So, when you’re smart, and the question is, um, trivial, you have to decide whether or not the correct answer is the subtle, interesting one that requires brains to see, or the one that people dumber than yourself believe to be the correct answer. If you’re of the former persuasion, proud of your insight, you don’t test well.

          It’s not all that easy to put yourself in the head of the people writing the questions, given the automatic assumption that they’re supposed to know more than you do. I remember how disappointed I was when I figured this out in my early teens. Grown-ups were supposed to be better than that.

          • Oh, yes. Any parent with smart kids gets “the test was too easy.” #2 son is notorious for this. He thinks “it can’t be that simple” then complicates it… wrongly.

            • Did you read Cryptonomicon? There was a great description in the book about a standardized test.

            • Any teacher knows that if you want to get pupils to give the wrong answer, give them more info than they need.

              Though I know a woman who prepped students for the Physics Olympiad lab portion. One year, she told the people that she needed the labs set for experiment x — instead of the first half. That year, she easily sorted out the merely brilliant from the truly astounding — the truly astounding students saw something, figured out it was unneeded swiftly, and went on without it. The merely brilliant puzzled over the superfluous.

              Didn’t have that sorting mechanism the next year, because she instructed them not to use stuff because it’s there, to figure out what was needed. Which meant that all of them figured it out quickly.

      • I have heard that explanation before, Wayne, and I don’t buy it. If true, it shows that there is a disconnect between the curriculum and the test at best.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          If it weren’t coming from people I have known over 30 years and have respect for, I might be inclined to be skeptical, too. And no, it’s not a disconnect between the curriculum and the test, it’s a disconnect between the curriculum and actual teaching.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Let me back up and try to approach it a different way.

            I work in the I.T. field. When I started, being a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) was considered to be a high status achievement. It meant you had studied hard and passed some fairly difficult tests, and could generally be counted on to know what you were doing around a computer. However, starting at about the same time that I got my first I.T. job, there appeared a bunch of “Study Aids”, often called “Brain Dumps”. A person could go through these “Brain Dumps” and pass all the exams required for MCSE certification, and come out having no clue how to work on a computer, because they didn’t take in the theory and didn’t learn how things interacted. We referred to these people as “Paper MCSEs” because that’s all their certification was good for: paper. I never got the MCSE because I didn’t have the money for all the courses and tests at the time, but I knew two of them on the same Helpdesk I was working on who I wouldn’t trust to work on anything I considered to be important.

            The school system has been turned into one vast “Brain Dump” with emphasis on the “Dump”.

      • The phrase is just a shorthand for the overall problem.

        Don’t know why, but a way of explaining it that makes sense to me popped up at that comment:
        “teaching the test” is to real teaching what my toddler getting multiplication flash cards are to someone who can add from looking at numbers memorizing multiplication tables.

        The tests involved are multiple choice, and the questions chosen (in theory) as examples of stuff you’ll know if you were taught the stuff. Rather than teach the whole thing, there’s emphasis on teaching only the exact questions asked.

        That can actually be a very good way to teach– in the Navy’s advanced electronics classes, as of a decade back, that’s how each section is taught, sort of; thing is, the tests are sometimes less than a week apart, and never more than two school weeks apart. I can remember something like two or three tests where they taught us the right thing, but then said “the test will say X, Y and Q. X, Y and Z is correct, but you you must write Q for the computer to get it right. They’ve been supposed to fix it forever, but keep screwing up.” In one case, the test we got FINALLY had it fixed and there was no ‘X, Y and Q” option listed.

    • The problem with teaching to the test is that the kids aren’t being taught anything but how to answer the test. What is the best way to determine the correct answer to a certain type of question? There is no foundation being laid. Students aren’t being taught how to study or research. Hell, they aren’t being taught to think.

      I agree there is too much effort spent teaching subjective values. Unfortunately, that is what is still going on. Our kids are being taught to be “socially conscious” and — heaven help them if they are male — being told how guilty they should be because they are the oppressors.

      Honestly, most of the teachers I know who bemoan teaching to the test do so because they aren’t allowed to teach. They don’t have the freedom to do what needs to be done to help a student keep up or to keep from being bored out of their mind.

      Sorry, but I’ve watched the system in Texas implode over the last several decades between TAASs and TAKS and whatever the hell they call the test now. If you have any doubts about how much damage the testing has done to our system, ask yourself why the state now guarantees a top 10% graduate admission to a state university. That never happened before we had standardized testing to graduate. The reason we have it now is because our graduates, in far too many cases — and I am including those in the top 10% — wouldn’t be admitted to a state funded university because they don’t have an education that is well rounded enough to let them pass the admissions testing (and yes, there are some universities here that do require more than the ACT or SAT to be admitted).

      • I’m not convinced of the linkage you have between testing and poorly educated students. Post hoc ergo prompter hoc is a fallacy.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          Have you ever read Plato’s thought experiment about the people living in the cave? It’s the same kind of thing.

          • Wayne, I’m not opining utterly without a basis for my opinion I’m not in Texas but I’ve been teaching part time at community college for over a decade. So I see the “C” students who have theoretically graduated from the local K12 system. I see how these students show up in my class room and act astonished that I expect them to be able to do the basics of exposition in their assignments to me.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Perhaps we’re not understanding each other’s points, because in my opinion, that just proves what I said.

            • SPQR,
              I understand Wayne and Amanda’s arguements, I would have to some personal knowledge of the current education system to agree with them however. I’m not going to argue with them, because I don’t have that personal knowledge, but my off the top opinion is that it isn’t ‘teaching to the test’ that needs to be changed, it is the test itself, that needs to be changed. If they can pass the current tests, but are still poorly educated, the test needs to be changed until only a well educated student can pass it.

            • I am speaking from experience. I’ve seen how teachers are forced to completely set aside approved curriculum for a month to six weeks to teach the kids how to take the test. I’ve watched districts cancel phys. ed. in order to use that time to cram testing techniques down the throats of elementary school students. I’ve seen principals cancel GT classes without telling the parents in order to put the GT students into non-GT classrooms in order to bring up the percentages for those classes. (Remember, the standardized tests are just that — standardized. They aren’t meant to challenge, or even test, the knowledge of advanced students. So those students are harmed in the process.)

              The fact that you have graduates coming into your classes who aren’t prepared to do basic exposition on their coursework is just one more indicator of the problem with the system today.

      • I feel about “teaching to the test” about the same way I feel about SEC staff attorneys surfing porn on the internet.

        1. It is terrible

        2. It is probably better than what they would be doing otherwise

        3. It is a d*** shame they aren’t able to spend their time doing what people think their job descriptions ought be

      • Here’s a link to an article that might give you heebie-jeebies.

        Short version: science project where presentation alone is 50% of the grade.

        • I had Adv. Biology as a senior and the final was 50% of our grade. This was one of the few teachers I both respected and liked. At that time there were only 6 schools in the state that taught genetic engineering, and the other five were colleges. The whole semester except the first two weeks was a lab, and the final consists of every individual being given a different problem. The problem basically consisted of, you need X gene, placed here. Figure out how to do, and do it, hand me the finished bacteria when you are done, you have two weeks.
          I loved that teacher, he was a great teacher, who had to lobby extensively and hard to get to teach a subject that he was passionate about. The final basically covered the entire semester’s course in one problem, if you had learned what you were supposed to during the semester (including critical thinking) then you could do it, if not, well you better figure it out fast, because you could do the lab work required on most of the problems in four or five days, so it allowed a little time to figure out what you needed to do, and fix an errors, but there was no way to bluff your way through (possibly you could have cheated and paid someone else to do your lab, but everybody else was busy with their own problem) you HAD to know the material to do it.

          This worked great with that teacher, I shudder about giving the same amount of autonomy and pass/fail on was assignment power to less qualified teachers however.

          • That at least makes sense– it’s a huge risk, and needs to be used carefully, but the class was on X subject and 50% of your grade was showing you could do What It Says On The Tin.

            The example in the link was, basically, building in the requirement that you have “Fake It!” ability in order to get a passing grade, no matter if you could do an amazing job on the supposed subject of the class.

            Functionally, that means that the teacher can flunk you with an awesome, perfect project, or pass someone who gets everything wrong.

            • I was in a rush earlier and wrote my comment and ran, before reading the article. We did have to do some of these type presentations when I was in school, but they didn’t consist of a large portion of our grade. Since I refused to do homework, I usually slapped something together during class if we were allowed to work on it there (and I was on at least one occasion only because my parents threw a raving fit, informing the teacher, principal and Superintendent of the school district that a)we didn’t have home computer (at that time home computers were a new fad) b)we lived 20 miles out of town and had one vehicle my dad used to drive to work, there was no way I could be dropped off early or picked up late at school and c)their kid wasn’t as stupid as the teacher (at this point not only was smoke coming out of my moms ears, but flickers of flame were becoming visible) and had all the schoolwork assigned for the next several days done, when the teacher explained I would be disrupting the class that was working diligently to finish that schoolwork, they were informed that d)I would disrupt the class a lot less if allowed to go to the library and work on the project than my parents would instruct me to if forced to remain in the classroom and be bored to tears. Later as I got older I either slapped something together between classes, or told the teacher how stupid such projects were and just didn’t bother.

              • Meanwhile, I was always stuck doing all the work in the “group projects” and writing scripts for everybody to do… seem to remember I usually got marked down for not talking enough, too.

                • I know, I was the type that created lots of extra work and stress for people like you. On the plus side, by the time I was in high school if you weren’t snotty about it, and particularly if you were good looking, I wasn’t shy about telling the teacher that you should get the credit, because you did all the work on the project because I wasn’t wasting my time on something that stupid.

                  • I was the type that created lots of extra work and stress for people like you.

                    No, because you weren’t someone the teacher wanted to get an easy A.
                    It was to the point that it was totally obvious what they were doing, and the only reason it wasn’t worse is because I had a pretty strong personality and no idea that I had it. (There’s lots to be said for the “doing things because you don’t know you can’t” school of interacting with school authorities– and I always knew my folks would back me up if I was right, so the metrics were more “is this worth my folks being bothered for?”)

        • In our school district, the science projects were all done by the parents. So were the visuals. My kids refused to do them after the first since I wouldn’t “help”.

          • See, I made my kids do their own projects, some of which were amazing, but Robert always got better grades than Marsh, no matter how good Marsh was (for one project he built a miniature hovercraft and tested it) because Marsh is an introvert, so he tended to rush through the presentation and then sort of hide.

            • While we helped The Daughter, such as providing transportation to get supplies, lessons in how work with wood, and questions leading to decisions on how to adapt to fit into the restrictions of the local science fair, the project on Mass, Momentum and the Transference of Energy was hers.

              The following year I blew up and told her that I would not drive her all over the county for pieces for her proposed project on electricity. So she declared that she would work from the postulate that, unless balanced, dice would come up more often on the six side as they were marginally lighter due to more pits. We acquired some thirteen sets of dice of various sizes and that year we simply served as recorders and The Spouse helped her with programing the math. Both years she won.

              The following year she had moved to middle school and we were told that she certainly could not work with more than one variation in her experiment with her cat. Sadly she only came in second.

              • Forgot to mention, year she did the project on Mass, Momentum and the Transference of Energy the night before the fair we asked The Daughter to give us her presentation. She looked at us, shrugged and said, “You know.” I took her into school the next day expectation that she might learn a valuable lesson on the necessity of proper preparation.

                That afternoon when I went to pick The Daughter up the teacher in charge of the science fair came rolling out of the building frowning, and headed straight for me. I thought, ‘O G-d, what did she do now.’ No, it wasn’t bad. It appears that, in spite of her speech impediments and corresponding communications problems, the child had charmed one of judges, a physics professor from the local Tech university. You never know.

                And her conclusion after her work with the cat? Cats are not the most cooperative test subjects, and that this cat was a particularly poor subject.

              • I have always wondered whether dice were really, truly balanced, for just that reason. What did she find?

                • Unless they are ‘professional’ dice they probably are not balanced. We were working with standard cube dice, the kind commonly used with board games, in a range of sizes. The Daughter rolled each of the sets of dice 300 times and found that in every case the larger numbers (5 and 6) were more likely to show up and that the larger the dice the more noticeable this difference was.

        • Doesn’t surprise me at all. That ranks right up there with the “we don’t keep score because we want everyone to think they’re winners” argument. Save me from political correctness.

        • The last year I was in public schools I had a paper for English class, where I determined it was possible to get a passing grade without even turning in a paper.

          That same year, I had a research paper due for my biology class, so I talked with both teachers and got the ok to do the same paper for both. I ended up not doing that because the requirements for the English paper were becoming actively damaging to the quality of my biology paper.

          I’m pretty sure that the biology teacher in question had not started out aiming to be a highschool teacher. Among other reasons, when he handed us the research paper assignment, he also had us doing it to a style guide used for publishing papers in certain major research journals.

          Thing is, nearly half of the really great teachers I had were people who I have the very sneaking feeling, failed at their chosen field, and ended up teaching so they were at least somewhat close to what they’d originally wanted to do. My best teachers, who had been trained as teachers, were, by contrast, those sort of unbreakable souls and forces of nature who nothing stops.

          • Among other reasons, when he handed us the research paper assignment, he also had us doing it to a style guide used for publishing papers in certain major research journals.

            *considers*

            …Why wouldn’t that be the way to do stuff? My favorite English teacher– the one that actually taught– was a failed college teacher that did the same sort of thing with his English classes. My sister forgot about an essay until the morning it was due the first year in college, whipped out one that would barely have kept her from being kicked out of his class, and the teacher praised it to the skies. It wasn’t like the style was hard….

            • That is the right way to do it, but it is also completely unlike anything I ever go from any of my other gradeschool teachers. It was a strong indicator that he had dealt with the world outside of highschool.

              There were some other things that lead me to believe that he had been unsuccessful as a biologist. I spent a considerable amount of time going back and forth on whether to include or not the faults I had later seen. In the end, I decided not to. It makes the flow of the post a bit weird.

              I’m currently struggling with the question of relative difficulty. I find myself wondering if the basic requirements for even getting admitted into a hard science degree are far beyond the basic requirements necessary to effectively teach highschool science? By selecting for those who could have even attempted to launch a STEM career, have I already restricted the sample set to a pool of candidates who already have more potential that 80-90% of the people who could teach?

          • Robert’s favorite teacher was a retired military officer (I want to say Marine Commander, but I’m probably wrong — I make rank salad, which is very bad for writing any type of mil fic. Robert knows, but he’s studying.) He taught them REAL history, not the sanitized stuff and sent them looking for primary sources. Admirable man.

          • When i was in high school, just enough of the grade was based on ‘homework’ that if you didn’t get 100% of everything else, you’d fail the class because you didn’t turn in ‘homework’. The county i was in also used a six-point grade ssytem while everyone else in the state (practically) used a ten-point or eight-point system, thus ensuring the ‘GPA’ for our graduates was artificially lower than the rest of the state if they only looked at letter grades.

            • Yep. That’s the kids had starting in fourth grade. If you don’t turn in your homework because it’s four hours of ridiculous button counting every night (in middle school it was) you fail, even if all your tests are A.

              • And the teachers kept telling me they *had to* do it that way, because that’s the only way everyone else would learn the stuff. Also by sixth or seventh grade history classes became incredibly booooooorinngggg to me unless the teacher made in interesting because i wasn’t learning anything new, just the same stuff over and over and over and….

                • History should be interesting and exciting, it should be one of the easiest classes to teach and keep the students undivided attention. Instead most of my history teachers were so zombie-like that I don’t even remember them.

                  • I had the same experience in high school.

                    It got so bad that I actually flunked my second semester of senior US history. To this day, I believe it was at least partially because I had Reagan bumper stickers on my (required) notebook, and of course, you can imagine the political leanings of the teacher in question.

                    I went to the local junior college in the summer, took the “equivalent” course, and aced it — thus adding more weight to my suspicion listed above.

                    However, I am also convinced that part of the reason I aced the college level course was likely because the professor made it into a story rather than an endless list of names and dates to be memorized and regurgitated at need (i.e. on test day).

                    I took several more history courses from that professor, and enjoyed every one of them.

      • Amanda, that “Top 10% get admitted” was put in for exactly ONE reason: it was a way to get around various court decisions disallowing affirmative action. Grades can be “tailored” so that the proper quota mix is obtained.

        • The problem is, the grades are being tailored and that supposed justification doesn’t work. Why? Because it doesn’t take into account those students who quit taking advanced courses their last year in school in favor of advanced basket weaving. So the students who do continue to try to find challenging courses are penalized. Worse, too many high school counselors are telling the students to do just that.

          Also, while what you say is true, it is also only part of the story. Unfortunately. Another part is the fact that the powers that be felt too many students from the “less advantaged” districts weren’t getting into our colleges, so the 10% rule was put in to “assist” them.

      • What few may appreciate, unless they are also teaching in Texas community colleges, is how poorly TAKS or other measures correlate with actual skills. The state law seems to be that when some poor shlub takes the TAKS or Compass or THEA or some other spoonful of alphabet soup, and gets a high enough score in math, we have to place him in a college-level math class. To the people advising these students, that means throwing them into college algebra, which means a final exam that is a unapologetic rat bastard of a test if you aren’t both intimately familiar with the mathematical techniques and rather skilled in problem solving generally. But about 50% of students I see seem to be about ready to try pre-algebra after extensive remedial arithmetic. Most can’t add 2+3 reliably without their calculators. Forget knowing the multiplication tables. They also don’t know the calculator well enough to evaluate any but the most basic of formulas (too many could not estimate circumference of a circle from its radius when shown the formula and told to use 3 for pi). But they passed that test… Meanwhile the math department is under constant scrutiny because of our low success rates.

        Last month the state legislature stepped in and told us how to teach the stuff. The new pre-algebra class amounts to independent study. The elementary algebra class can only be offered in an emporium model. All that with no testing of the ideas other than they seem to have worked at the college down in Austin.

        I can only imagine how bad it is for good teachers at primary and secondary schools. Then again, interactions with the teachers of my 8th-grader convinced me that they are little more than babysitters. The good ones may have already been driven out.

        On the other hand, the parents most certainly do not help. Stories abound about principals caving, and throwing teachers under the bus, when the parents complain that rigorous evaluation of their child’s actual academic progress might disqualify him from the football team. Doesn’t matter what they learn, so long as they can be on the field on Friday night.

        The educational mess around here is sadly predictable, and there’s plenty of both ineptitude and malice to be assigned.

      • The top 10% rule has to due with affirmative action, not testing or standardized learning. This is Texas’ solution to giving minorities more points than whites in admission decisions.

        This is currently being argued in front of the Supreme Court. You can read about it here:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/22/us/justices-to-hear-case-on-affirmative-action-in-higher-education.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  29. Sarah,

    May I please, pretty please with brown sugar on top, post a link to this or cut and paste it onto my facebook page?

    This is a subject that angers me far more than any other subject – and I include politics in that.

    I was subjected to some of this abject stupidity as I progressed (regressed!) through school, until I finally quit in grade 10.
    My third grade teacher reported that I read at an adult level when I was nine years old – so I was placed in “special Ed” classes. As an adult (age 18) I tested as a natural speed reader at 800+ wpm with 90% comprehension.
    I had one friend in particular in grade school who was a mental math type. Show him the problem, and he’d give you the answer immediately. No, he didn’t like wasting time by ‘showing his work’. So guess which class he wound up in?

    My children NEVER attended public school. I consider it child abuse, even though I have dear friends who are teachers (mostly STEM classes, aamof).

    I appreciate your topic today very much, and couldn’t possibly say it better, so I’d like your permission to steal it with full attribution.

    Well SAID!

  30. Education has become like health care. It has ‘providers’ who are paid by flappers who regulate who gets what, and you pay for it indirectly with no way to cut off their income if the service is not satisfactory. Any time the pay doesn’t go hand to hand so you have control, service suffers.

    He who pays calls the tune used to be the rule. When the pay is filtered through the government we have bagpipe bands sent to Polish weddings – and we had better like the tune if we know what’s good for us.

  31. The Dick and Jane readers were introduced in the 1930s. When I went to school we had the new modern revised 1950s version. The ‘see and say’ method has been in use for over 80 years, which means that many parents or grandparents will not notice anything is wrong with how their children are being taught.

    The early versions were constructed introducing words with consideration of phonetic progression. I know that by the time I entered school there was absolutely no discussion of this element in the classroom. I am not sure, but I think a good argument can be made that the use of weak methodology resulted in worse methodology.

    • Those @#$@##@ things got me classified as needing special help in Cali– and I’m actually sort of glad, personally, while still being disgusted.

      I wouldn’t read them, you see; so I wasn’t allowed to check out anything of higher level at the library, and got scolded if I wandered off to stuff that looked interesting….like the high school level stuff.

      They classified me as unable to read, the teacher let me pick anything I wanted, figured out that I was just a stubborn twit, and ordered the library to let me check out anything I wanted. Shot from “can’t read” to something like Jr high level (I can’t remember, exactly– it may’ve been 6th grade that year, and junior level two years later) in less than a month.

      In defense of my folks, who trusted the teachers at that point, I also tended to try to memorize books I’d been made to read three or four times before and my memory is really bad. (They paid attention to the special ed teacher– God bless Mr. Brown!– and stopped trusting folks just because they were teachers.)

  32. On paper, it never happened.

    This is what I really, really hate about how the gov’t actually functions– it works fine when it’s small enough for personal accountability, but when it’s bigger… well, a good friend was given a steroid prescription for a staph infection while in the Navy. It induced a heart attack in him, at age 24, because he weighed something like 120 pounds in bone and muscle and the 250 pound muscle and bone medic that responded wasn’t given a third as high a dose. Thank God we were in port when it happened, and he was on liberty at the base.

    It went in his record as a “panic attack” because the Naval officer doctor clearly didn’t commit malpractice, his buddy at the base made sure of it. Just to make sure, his medical records “got lost” (including from his smart card) when he transferred off ship.

    • Oh, yes. When I had concussion, because I couldn’t explain it clearly, (DUH. CONCUSSION. But I have an accent so they figured I always talked at two words a minute.) they decided what I was talking about as “blackout” was the moment after you blow your nose REALLY hard — this is in my hospital records, which makes me sound like a crazy hypochondriac. EVEN THOUGH MY DOCTOR a week later, diagnosed it as concussion, and even though my glasses prescription went up — and my eye doctor ALSO diagnosed concussion. What I fear with electronic records is that the hospital would be the one kept (because otherwise it would be severe malpractice to discharge me without a scan. — guys, I was leaning on Dan to walk because the floor kept swaying and they told me it was all in my head.)

      • I have a story quite similar– This was before I was dx’d for my disease. I went into the Landstuhl hospital ER because I was vomiting and had diarrhea for two weeks. I was weak. The ER doctor told my hubby that I had a mental problem because I was dehydrated and suggested that I should see a psychologist. Well–duh– my kidneys were failing — Eventually I ended up in a German hospital– (talk about total immersion) and they dx’d me with Wegener’s Granulomatosis with kidney involvement. I almost died because the ER was not used to dealing with kidney patients.

      • … they told me it was all in my head.

        Well, Duuuh! … Concussion!

        (Deploys fish neat, starts heating pot for bouillabaisse.)

        • ??? Retract fish neat, deploy fish net.

          • You take your fish neat?

            • Yes, they taste funny in ginger ale or club soda. They’re okay on the rocks but that requires an ungainly large glass.

              • sometimes battered (the fish)

                • I batter my fish in a 7up batter.

                    • Beer should never be battered. It should be stunned lightly before pouring, and drunk before it regains unconsciousness.

                      Cruelty to beer is a mortal sin, you know. It’s listed in the Ten Commandments — though they describe it with the euphemism, ‘Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.’

                    • I thought the beer batter was the guy on the men’s softball team who was built like a keg and only hit home runs because of a tendency to collapse if forced to run.

                    • Try it with 7up instead of beer sometime, I don’t know exactly what it is but something in the 7up/Sprite makes it even better than a beer batter.

                    • Okay, bearcat, you got me really curious now.

                      Can you either post your batter recipe, or if you’d prefer, email it to me? Just run my username all together and stick @gmail.com on the end of it. :)

                    • I have used a couple different recipes, one is just pancake mix mixed up with 7up instead of beer to make a batter, I usually add a dash Johnnies or Cajun seasoning to the batter. The other one that is good on fish, but I absolutely love for deep-fried wild turkey nuggets is:
                      Cut turkey or fish into nugget sized chunks

                      2 cups Krusteaz Bake & Fry coating mix
                      1 egg beaten
                      stir in 7up until batter is slightly thicker than molasses
                      add Cajun seasoning to taste (usually about a tablespoon)

                      Dunk turkey, fish, onion rings, cheese sticks, etc. in batter and then drop in hot oil. When batter is a medium to dark golden brown meat will be cooked clear through, remove and place on a paper towel covered plate and immediately sprinkle with Johnnies.

      • “wasn’t trouble for the most part (I hated class it bored me, so I sat in the back and read with a book or magazine in my text book) I got ignored.”

        It was, if anything would have been leaking out it would have been a skull fracture, not a concussion.

  33. Judging by those I dealt with, most of them aren’t bright enough to see any overarching social aims in this. They are simply full of their own “good intentions” and they’ve been TAUGHT this is the best way of teaching to read. In fact, if you push them they become either irate or lachrymose and tell you that you don’t UNDERSTAND, you’re not an expert and you weren’t taught the latest METHODS.

    It seems like a lot of the ‘methods’ are a sort of cargo cult attempt to make everybody the top 1%– as you’ve mentioned elsewhere, you went into school having learned a lot of stuff so long ago that you didn’t remember what it was like to learn it, so you were clearly gifted.
    I look at “Constantinople” and don’t have to consciously sound it out, I just know it as far as I can tell.

    Trying to turn that into a teaching method is kind of like the brilliant public policies that look at home ownership and say “wow, those folks are successful”– so they try to make it so everyone owns a home. Going back a bit further in the same theme, they look at houses, and notice that folks who live in nice looking places have less crime, so they destroy the old ghettos and put in nice looking buildings…which aren’t very nice ten years later, because the criminal folks that were part of that population, and the enabler-folks, trashed them.

    There’s even some support for the cargo cult thing– to extend the metaphor, if a plane’s in trouble and the runway is there, they can use it– in that some portion of the folks who aren’t already there will be pulled up to the desired level…but there’s debate on if they would’ve gotten there anyways, just a bit slower, and the cost/benefits ratio is, ah, poor. Switching cliches, low hanging fruit doesn’t cover the entire tree.

    I don’t know if “confusing cause and effect and caused-by-the-same-cause” is covered by the “incompetence” thing or not.

    • I had made the same argument to Beloved Spouse, except I termed it Magical Thinking. It represents a confusion of the symbolic representation of a thing for the thing itself. And it invariably does not work out well.

      • Voodoo, sympathetic magic, and a phrase I can’t think of at the moment that covers that thing where you act like what you want to be, the thingie that G&S wrote that song about a “not too French french bean” about… technical term for being a total poser?

        It’s gotta be pretty deep in human nature, the negative side is very popular.
        (the positive side is the “poor but proud” thing where you work and sacrifice in secret to keep up appearances- the Mr. Vimes effect)

        • Oddly, there is a basic truth at the root of this. Studies claimed that if you “donned” a smile you would be happier. The logic was that the human mind monitors its system for indicators of system status: there’s a smile on this body’s face, I smile when I am happy, ergo I must be happy, activate endorphin production.

          As I read about those studies about the time you were conceived it is entirely likely they have been proven wrong — part of the way bad science lingers and people of my generation still visualize atomic nuclei using the orbital model. Even if valid, it is of very limited applicability. For example, if you know you are smiling to try to induce happiness you are likely to despise yourself as a hypocrite and a poltroon. That will probably not make you happy … unless you enjoy deceiving people … at which point you are no longer lying to the public, you actually are happy and thus your pleasure in deception is destroyed by awareness your deception is …

          • I think it’s a sort of “element of truth” thing– in the case of smiling, if you do it for reasons like “I want to be happy, so I’ll smile and that will help” then that’s different than “I’ll smile even though I’m miserable;” likewise, “put on a happy face to make folks think I’m happy” is different from “put on a happy face to help others.”

            The effect is real, the “why” that one accepts is different.

            Hm, and yet again Sir Pratchett got something that is very right on odd consideration, since “Mr. Vimes” started out a gutter rat that was forced to go to school by a Keeping Up Appearances mom, and ended up highly successful. (And a better man than his theoretical new “peers.”)

            • Rob Crawford

              The problem is with reversal of cause and effect. People have taken the correlation — “home owners tend to plan for the future and budget carefully” — and decided the effect will drive the cause — “getting these people into homes will let them plan for the future and budget carefully”.

      • Rob Crawford

        ” It represents a confusion of the symbolic representation of a thing for the thing itself.”

        Thus the fetish for “ending violence” by “banning” guns.

  34. If they read by “guessing” (the signs are easy. They’ll think words that start and end with the same letter are the same) stop that right now and teach them to sound it out.

    Possibly unrelated observation– my three year old treats spoken words this way; possibly that’s part of the origin of the “guess from the beginning and end” method. (Slightly complicated by her habit of considering all words from the way they sound to her– “hiccup” and “pickup” are the same, for example, as are “poop” and “pop.” Yes, we do have some interesting conversations.)

  35. Going over the comments, I realized I don’t really remember *how* I was taught to read, since I was already reading to some degree in kindergarten. To the point the teacher thought I was faking it somehow and gave me a text she hadn’t read in class, and I read it– to her great astonishment. (Now, I did have to struggle with cursive. The cursive forms of G and Q puzzle me to this day.) Was it all the reading my parents did with me? Not sure. At least that teacher was pleased, if a bit puzzled. The first grade teacher who discovered I had been “cheating” on multiplication tests using a ruler (that is, fooling HER) threatened to hold me back a grade just for that. Then my parents found an experimental school which had mixed grade “units”, so one unit had grades 3-4, one had 4-5, and you could sort of skip grades but only for the classes you were doing well in, and still get help in the lower grade class for the others. Except when I ran out of upper grade classes, but even then they found a “special aide” who came once a week to work with me (I found out much later she was a judge who liked to volunteer in the schools). So, there were some good bits.

    And in high school, the physics teacher was *also* a education theory PhD using his classes (benignly!) as lab rats to understand how and why students learn physics. He discovered part of the problem is students are TOO observant, and know perfectly well a ball won’t roll forever if not stopped by a wall. Knowledge I later put to use as a physics teaching assistant…

    • Robert also says he doesn’t remember not being able to read. I first twigged he could read when he was three and a few months. I also don’t remember teaching him to write, but a few months later, he was correcting the grammar (!) in the picture books my MIL bought him. (“The sun shined.” Really.) And putting snarky comments on the side like “The sun shined what? His shoes?” in horrendous but legible letters. Part of the issue though is that his first writing was imitating print. Not block capitals, but the print in a book. To this day he writes in Times New Roman and doesn’t get cursive very well.

      • Think how handicapped he now is that your books were not sans serif …

      • I also don’t remember learning to read, I remember when I first discovered I could read big books, my mom used to read to us (my dad and I) in the evenings, I was not at school for some reason, and bugging her to read me the next chapter of Swiss Family Robinson, she was busy and told me to read it myself. I finished the whole book that day. I’m not sure how old I was, but I was fairly young, because I remember having a Louis L’amour book I wasn’t supposed to take out of this being confiscated by my 3rd grade teacher, so I had to be probably in about first grade, maybe second when I started reading novels.

        • n 7th grade I needed a book for a book report and asked my father (a voracious reader, I swear there were some years he single-handedly kept the SFBC in business) For a good SF book. H e brought home Dune from the library. Not a hard read at all for me, but the teacher didn’t believe I read the book til after the asked on-the-spot questions about it

        • I remember discovering I could read portions of the comics my brother HADN’T read me, or that he’d read stuff wrong. (He was so bored, he made up stuff…) I also remember my dad teaching me to read question marks for a school play, but that’s something else. I mean, I knew how to ask a question, I just didn’t know how to read a question. (I know, makes no sense, but it was this big puzzle to me.)

        • Heh. I was reading “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” in 6th grade English and the teacher saw no problem because it came out of the classroom bookshelf. She had a problem with the murder novel I brought that had cuss words in it.

      • To this day he writes in Times New Roman

        Argh. Augh. Ugh. I am almost strangled with sympathy.

        Robert Slimbach (who is, in my humble but infallible opinion, THE type designer; all others are poltroons and poseurs) went into typography by way of calligraphy — probably knows a couple of hundred different calligraphy styles. He has said that the Roman style (which is what ‘roman’ typefaces are ultimately based on) is the hardest of all to learn. The font family Brioso Pro is based on Slimbach’s own Roman script. It’s utterly lovely, but I wouldn’t want to do it by hand.

        Meanwhile, Ma’am, you have resurrected a recent trauma. For several nights recently, whilst troubled with writer’s block, I had a ghastly recurring dream: I was copying out someone else’s novel into a notebook, by hand, letter for letter, in the same font as the printed book. I have never done anything so tedious in my life. It bored me till the tears ran dry; I took up insomnia as a refuge.

  36. Suddenly those tens of thousands of teachers Obama was warning were going to be laid off by the sequester sounds less like a threat and much more like an enticement.

    • One of the fascinating results of recent decades is that a lot of money was spent to lower class sizes and no real improvement was found as a result. So maybe.

      • Smaller class sizes means more teachers required; more teachers required means the average teacher quality goes down, obviating the benefit of smaller class size.

        • There you go using LOGIC again….

          • “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?” ―Digory Kirke

            Professor Kirke was asking this in Britain at the beginning of WWII. And, yes, I realize that I am quoting a fictional character, but it remains a good question. The answer may well be that it is because they themselves have failed to study the subject, no less master it, and fear those who do.

            • The genesis of my desire to home school was the logic class I took from home after I got out of the Navy.

              So much stuff made more sense if you recognized the connective web of formal logic….

            • Digory Kirke may have been a fictional character, but he was also C.S. Lewis’s self-insert. (Compare Digory’s experiences in The Magician’s Nephew with Lewis’s childhood experience of his own mother’s death: the self-insert goes quite far.) And that line about logic might as well be Lewis’s: it comes straight out of Lewis’s own heart.

              • I’ve always heard that Professor Kirke was a version of C.S. Lewis’s old tutor, Professor Kirkpatrick. (Young Digory might have been a version of himself, I don’t know.)

                On Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 9:14 AM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                > ** > Robin Munn commented: “Digory Kirke may have been a fictional > character, but he was also C.S. Lewis’s self-insert. (Compare Digory’s > experiences in The Magician’s Nephew with Lewis’s childhood experience of > his own mother’s death: the self-insert goes quite far.) And that line ” >

                • You know, now that I see that name, it makes complete sense. I knew Lewis respected his former tutor extremely highly, but I’d forgotten the tutor’s name. Of course, since Lewis learned so much from Professor Kirkpatrick, the Professor in the Narnia books was probably also a self-insert. The best students do become very like their best teachers, after all.

        • Considering the involvement of the teachers unions, I’d bet on that as a feature, not a bug.

          Also–and this just occurred to me–smaller classes and more faculty means MORE CONTROL. And if we know anything about these mediocre, infantilizing WEENIES (I think calling them “vile progs”, while accurate, is too dignifying–go Alinsky on ‘em, make mockery) it’s that they love to manage other people’s lives.

  37. Are you certain literacy is that bad? (Shocking headlines like to play on schadenfreude too, you know). What sort of standard are they using? (I might be functionally illiterate for a sufficiently opaque grammar test designed only to prove a point.)

    I can’t imagine how people with functioning brains can *not* learn how to read in this country, regardless of what the schools are trying to do to them. Our whole world is covered in text. Wouldn’t every bulletin, every street-sign, every restaurant menu be constantly impinging on their awareness. Wouldn’t not being able to make heads or tails out of these messages drive someone to either correct this interruption in their awareness or go crazy trying?

    I remember hearing about some study or another that claimed 90% of graduate students were functionally illiterate. But I can’t believe that. We read and write papers about our research for a living. Even the foreign exchange students here are fluent, well read, and literate in English. That has me mistrusting other statistics along the same “everyone these days sucks” lines.

    Of course, there could be a problem. I have tutored math at schools where math was apparently very poorly taught. (But 80%? Seriously? The middle ages were that bad because almost no one encountered text) How does anyone use a computer without being able to read?

    • Wouldn’t not being able to make heads or tails out of these messages drive someone to either correct this interruption in their awareness or go crazy trying?

      Nope.
      Figuring that “functionally illiterate” is similar to “legally blind”– I can see pretty clearly to the palm of my outreached hand without my glasses, if that was my corrected vision I’d be legally blind– then it would be something like my time in Japan, where a lot of things are in some form of English or have picture options.
      I think I could read the phonetic Japanese way of writing “coffee,” but that’s about it, and that’s as someone that’s interested in trying to understand. I was usually too busy trying to get things done to be too curious or learn too much, especially with no way to get help.

      If you people watch enough, you’ll notice that a lot of folks sort of… scan stuff for key words, not paying attention to the rest of the words. (Ignore the times online that this is the smart thing to do, that’s another special case.)
      I noticed that in my sister’s friends’ arguments, and then noticed that the mistakes folks make in lower income areas often make a lot more sense if you assume their ability to READ the words is similarly limited.

      Part of it is going to be issues with the test, but for a known-bad school system, with known-bad bias on getting and keeping teachers AND it being a sanctuary city… one in five folks being able to function as a fully literate adult isn’t that hard to believe.
      Part of the reason I didn’t go with the “Troops to Teachers” program is because I’m not going to volunteer to go anywhere that someone may attack me and I’m not allowed to fight back, and might be prosecuted even if I don’t because of a contrast in our skin colors.

      • Oh, yeah — in Germany, me, third year (but I was taught “full immersion.”(sic) Only language I was taught that way, and only one that vanished COMPLETELY) college student, minor in German… I got by by guess and golly and once bought a tub of lard thinking it was ice-cream… :/

        • I had the opposite experience. I picked up practical German very quickly when I realized that despite two and a half years of class, I couldn’t tell what was stew in a can and what was dog food! :)

      • Are you referring to the students, or the other teachers? :D

    • I glanced at the article and noticed it was a report from the community college about the students they received from NY’s public schools. It was unclear whether the population referenced were the graduates of the public schools, or just those applying to attend the community college.

      Presumably, High School graduates who are highly literate are not applying to community college in large numbers.

    • MRS — I hate to say it, truly, but from my contacts with kids my kids age — even those who are in college — I’d say the literacy is WORSE. I know the symptoms from taking over language classes where the kids were taught by reflex to mouth answers to questions they don’t understand. Most of the kids in college are doing this with the simplest text-interpretation questions. Part of the reason their grammar is so terrible is the same reason my calligraphy was bad in elementary. If your a could be an a or an o, then the teacher won’t mark it as wrong. And I agree with you on the difficulty of NOT learning how to read in this country. This is why I ask malice or incompetence. Because I think they’re VERY competent at turning kids off even trying to read.

    • Timmy can’t read because of some kind of processing problem he has, coupled with a very bad short-term memory problem. I can understand him having a problem. What I can’t understand is a 40% or higher dropout rate (NY public schools – COS dropout rate is around 25%), more than half the seniors reading at 3rd grade level, 75% of the seniors unable to make change, 90% of the students have so poor an understanding of geography they can’t identify or locate five European countries, and think the Declaration of Independence has something to do with the Internet. THOSE are the “citizens” that scare the h*ll out of me.

      My career field in the Air Force required a score of 80% or higher on at least three parts of the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests. The tests were completely re-written in the late 1970′s because they were too hard, and too few people were passing them. The Air Force provides remedial reading programs to bring recruits up to 9th grade reading because that’s the level all the manuals are written at. There are also remedial math classes for people with the ability but not the education.

      • And this is why I tell people “Public Education should be in the hands of the Department of Defense”.

        For one: Look at the educational history of LT William Calley. (It’s been proven: Better-educated troops are less likely to commit atrocities; they’re not sure why, yet.)

  38. Geeky Dragon

    I don’t know if it’s my naiveity or the school, but I believe that New Hampshire schools have it lucky. Most of my older teachers are competent and were taught well, there are maybe two younger ones that reach just the edge of that standard. A few are bit biased, but do not read straight out of our books (which are even more skewed.) Only in substitute teachers have I seen total incompetency. One swore at our class, got us calmed down, then brought in a police officer claiming he volunteered to come (he was posted at the front office because of voting that day). Another incompetent sub loses (yes this idiot somehow taught my math class and then went to teach the one next door when teachers went on maternity leaves [one was for his wife] T_T) student’s papers, gives them incorrect grades, grades incorrectly, tells the student to keep work she intends for them to pass in, then blames it all on the student. In my class’ case, if you were male, in the other class’ case…I have no clue.
    As mentioned earlier, there are some fabulous teachers. I was given a book to read (I’m in honors option, extra books XD) that my teacher had four (of the same) extra hard books for the higher level students to read, and schools don’t buy books at Borders, especially not for 9 bucks a pop. Also I am an Honors level student. That means that I am expected to do higher quality and usually more work than others. In years past that has been easy, this year was a challenge. Between the book-buying teacher pushing me, and pushing me hard, and Geometry (Algerbra is more my cup of tea) I have been a busy and hard-worked puppy. I have felt that middle school was kinda a joke to my assumed intelligence until this year, elementary school pushed me as far as they possibly could starting in about third grade. I’m excited for High School and AP classes (not until summer after Freshman year) and an advanced schooling program called V-Lex or something along those lines.

    • This is my eldest… she’s in 8th grade, doing tenth grade work in school. I am rather pleased with her, overall. :-)

      • And so you should be. This is significantly better quality than anything from the elite seniors who invaded Sarah’s other blog.

        Although I will say I did have fun playing whackatroll there when they started trying the insults. Poor dears had anything resembling the ability to think indoctrinated out of them. They couldn’t understand that calling someone an “amazing teacher” might in fact be true but not in any positive sense.

      • Your daughter can come to me any time for help in geometry. As suburbanbanshee said, it’s the key to learning Trig – that and algebra. I’m also fairly proficient in geography, history (US and foreign), most of the sciences, and a few other subjects.

    • Don’t give up on geometry. It’s not as intuitive as algebra for us algebra types, but you’re going to need it later when you get to Trigonometry and the like. Also, challenges are good for you!

      • I’ll second not giving up on geometry. I’ve noticed that there are (well at least) two different ways of understanding math. There is symbolic manipulation, and there is a more visual way of understanding what is going on. Each path has it’s own advantages.

        I’m an almost entirely visual thinker though. I can’t say I’ve really understood how a given set of equations or laws work until I can visualize it. If I have a “guiding picture” for what the math means in my head, then what I should be doing with the equations in terms of manipulation becomes much clearer.

        Later on, with calculus, being able to understand what things like an integral mean geometrically (summing up the evaluation of a function over a ton of very small differential elements times the support of the differential element), or what a derivative means geometrically (taking the difference of a function or curve between two very closely spaced points, divided by the measure of your interval) can help you use the math natively. (Not as a bunch of random rules.)

        That’s how I understand math. I get the impression that certain other mathematicians are more comfortable dealing with math as applying a set of specific well understood rules to symbolic expressions, and composing those rules to turn the expression into a form they are seeking. (I just can’t figure out how they navigate doing that without a guiding picture of *what* they are doing in mind). To me, seeing (geometric reasoning) is understanding.

        • PS – good luck with your AP classes.

        • PPS – not to imply that neglecting algebra is a good idea.

          If you’re doing well there, then congratulations. That’s an important skill. You will eventually need both to be able to progress, I think. (At least, I did)

          ((And I’ve tutored 12th graders who couldn’t solve for x in simple linear equations. They were in trouble wrt the SATs.))

          • I actually found both geometry and algebra easy, but I really see/do math best as story problems. Most people hate story problems because they have to figure out what numbers they need to use in what equations. I had a friend in high school that saw math the same as I did, even though she struggled with math she enjoyed it, and when bored we used to make up story problems for the other one to solve. (the more bored we were, the more outrageous the story problems.
            When I hit Calculus, failed to see the use for it in the real world, and while I could do it I quickly lost interest and dropped it after one semester to take some elective I liked better (Calculus was considered an elective in my school, since it was not necessary to graduate)

            • It’s for exactly that reason that I was unable to teach myself calculus from books. It’s one of those things that I can’t learn unless I have a real application for it and can interpret the answers in a meaningful way.

              (I never got to take calculus in high school — expelled too early — and by the time I got to university, many years later, they had changed the rules and I couldn’t take calculus there without having taken high-school calculus first. I still want to learn it and don’t know where to go.)

            • I do not do math, unless it is a story problem. Give me a real world situation and I can figure out the answer. Give me an equation and I look for someone who can do math.

            • As to what Calculus is for:

              Calculus describes certain operations that form the building blocks for understanding ordinary differential equations (ODEs) (for things involving particles or finite numbers of degrees of freedom) and partial differential equations (PDEs) (for fields). These are the key to being able to truly work with and understand college physics. Even the graduate physics I have seen haven’t really extended too far beyond the familiar ODE/PDE/Variational calculus.

              Anyway, PDEs and ODEs are the true language of physics.

              A simple example: The 3 body problem. Suppose you have 3 particles (points, planets, protons, etc). Newton’s law of motion for each particle are F = ma (F and a being vectors). Acceleration is the second derivative of the position vector with respect to time. (In an inertial frame, for your physics geeks.)

              But the forces experienced by each particle are also functions of the position of each other particle, assuming they act on each other with something like gravity or electrostatic forces.

              Fi = k*qi*qj*r_ij/(mag(r_ij))^3

              d^2/dt^2 r_1 = F1(r_1,r_2,r_3)/m1
              d^2/dt^2 r_2 = F2(r_1,r_2,r_3)/m2
              d^2/dt^2 r_3 = F3(r_1,r_2,r_3)/m3

              These equations are easy to state from whatever force laws you are working with, and the basic force/acceleration relationship. They are a system of ordinary differential equations. They actually don’t have what is called a “closed form solution” though. But even with this limitation, you can work out what each particle does for some finite stretch of time by doing the following: (numerical integration):

              start with initial positions and velocities of the particles r_i,0; v_i,0; (where i is your particle index ranging from 1 to 3)

              r_i,1 = r_i,0 + v_i,0*dt; (where dt is some small increment in time)
              v_i,1 = v_i,0 + Fi(r_j,1)/mi*dt
              t_1 = t_0 + dt;

              r_i,2 = r_i,1 + v_i,1*dt;
              v_i,2 = r_i,2 + Fi(r_j,2)/mi*dt;
              t_2 = t_1 + dt;

              and so on. Here you can see that you can use the definition of the derivative (the rate at which something is changing over a very small increment) to walk forward in time, adjusting the direction of each force, velocity, and acceleration vector as you go.

              More sophisticated methods may be used in calculating things like the influence of all the planets on each other, but the basic idea is the same.

              That is one of the many things you may want to learn calculus for in the future.

        • I rubbed elbows in grad school with a brilliant Ph.D student who considered mathematics nothing but a game of applying rules to expressions. This person also decided that niceties like showering regularly wasted too much of his time, and limited that to the breaks between academic quarters. Frankly, his philosophy of mathematics stank as badly as his person (though not as bad as his metaphysics – that conversation was like a bad trip).

      • I just wanted to echo this. Geometry and trigonometry are the language of shapes and things, algebra is the language of value and computation. You’ll need a good understanding of both when you encounter dread calculus, the language of computing the values of shapes doing things. As an algebra person who neglected their trig in the past, I’m having to do double work in order to puzzle through my calculus classes. Don’t make my mistake, this stuff will all count in the future.

      • and trigonometry is one of the pleasures of life. No, I’m very serious about this…

        • Yes, it is. Now all I want for Christmas is someone to help me learn spherical trig.

          • I cannot be the only person here who thought “spherical Christmas tree”.

            • Why, yes, now that you mention it, that’s why I want to learn it. I’m planning on putting up a spherical Christmas tree and need some Christmas spherical trig. You see, those suckers are expensive, and I need to do the math to see if I need someone to cosine.

              • The hardest thing is finding one of those trees spherical in 19 dimensions. I thought I’d found one one year — it was spherical in 18 dimensions, but in that 19th it went off on a tangent and there was just no point.

        • “and trigonometry is one of the pleasures of life.”
          You trig and geometry people are sick! I think algebraicly and geometry is a real, actual, headache for me. I scraped through, just barely qualifying to take calculus I (which I loved, but then I ran out of both money and time, so I haven’t touched any of it in decades).

          Reading and replying late, as usual.

      • Geeky Dragon

        Geometry is not really hard, just more difficult than other classes. I loved the bit of Trig we did, Algebraic and Geometric!

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I’d echo the encouragement on geometry and trig. I struggled with those subjects. Even to this day, the calculus involving trig functions used for AC power is not my favorite. (Probably partly because I haven’t gone deeper into that field.) Some of it wasn’t very fun at the time, but I am very happy with the end results. Reading and writing are probably more essential to my day to day happiness, but I need the math also.

      I hate being lost and confused.

  39. Kind of wish I had someone like you, Sarah, in my life when I was a kid.

    Was left on my own to deal with school, since the 8th grade. Dad worked in the oilfield (100-120 hour work weeks) and left me and my brother a lone for days at a time.  The result is I’m mostly self-taught. Sadly, if it didn’t interest me it didn’t get any effort put forth to learn it, and english was one of those.

    This annoyed me at first:

    “Most of them, at least in my day, were intending to get jobs in that vast non-intellectual middle class, from retail onto auto mechanics or other specialty, non-academic professions.  Depending on how smart they were, they were either aiming for clerk or manager, but they had their life planned and reading Shakespeare wouldn’t really have helped it in any way.  Nor would quadratic equations.”

    There’s a difference between putting tab A into slot B factory work and highly technical repair, machining, and manufacturing work, that requires problem solving, critical think and an advanced understanding of math. Take for example, I wonder how many academics can trouble shoot and fix their car when it breaks down?

    “So they made a mental calculation and applied their effort where it mattered, learning about life outside school.”

    This gave me a clue as to your intent. Which I beleave is that they chose to focus on knowledge that has real world application, and not just knowledge for knowledge sake. 

    I could have (see I learn) really used some structure and a mentor in my early education. Hell, I could use structure now, and maybe my thoughts and ideas wouldn’t be so disorganized. 

    I could of (kidding) used a little more

    “…because I sent you and your brother to the school reading, and then spent the next three years screaming at you to sound out words and stop guessing them.”

    Our education system is doing exactly what it is designed to do; which is, turn kids into put slot A into slot B drones. You don’t needed to think for yourself we will do it for you. 

    I feel this is why I wrote this: http://the-tao-of-josh.blogspot.com/2011/10/if-i-was-in-charge-of-education.html
    Rule 3 is going to get an update to included “Antifragile” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Reading it now, and it’s pulling a lot of my thoughts into focus. 
    :-)

    • No, that’s what I meant — people who have Cs because they don’t need to do more. I KNOW there is a vast differentiation, and if I went into all the degrees of skilled… the guys at Jiffy Lube aren’t like the kid who used to pay me to read the books his parents bought him and give him the summary and who now OWNS a highly specialized car repair shop. (He was always smart, just not book-smart.) But even they were WAY better educated than even the top kids now.

    • Josh, the modern K12 belief that everyone is both (a) entitled to a high school diploma and (b) ought to be prepared for college, means that our K12 system is failing those people who could be usefully educated with knowledge and skills for futures that don’t include a college degree.

      There are a lot of very good paths for such people, and BTW many of those paths pay better than careers with all to damn much university work (take it from me).

      Plus the cheapening of the high school diploma now means far too many employers use college degrees to sort out who can at least show up. Making other paths too expensive for people. I saw a piece somewhere recently that a law firm required a B.A. for considering someone as a file clerk – a job that required nothing more than knowing your alphabet.

      • Thinking back to the days when I worked at the college radio station, a B.A. is no assurance of functional knowledge of the alphabet.

        Mind, it takes more than knowing the alphabet to file things, as anybody forced to look for a Rolling Stones album in the R, S, T and J sections could attest.

        • a B.A. is no assurance of functional knowledge of the alphabet.

          Reminds me of the old joke about the snot-nosed new graduate. He climbed the highest hill in the district, diploma in hand, and shouted: ‘Look, world! I just got my B.A.!’

          The tired old World yawned and said to him: ‘That’s A.B., kid. Now get back to me when you learn the other 24 letters.’

      • I’m totaly on the same page with you. There are about 8 to 9 million tinkering jobs, to paraphrase John Ratzenberger, and not enough people to fill them.

      • What’s worse is that you can use a college degree much more easily than your own in house test to avoid discrimination lawsuits. It may not work as well for picking employees, but it has its upsides.

    • “I could have (see I learn)”

      What little remains of my sanity thanks you. :)

  40. “[The juniors] were at least semi-functionally-literate…”

    The semi-functionally-literate English graduate student Stephanie Meyer made millions by pandering to that group. I shudder at the thought that most future “literature” might resemble Twilight.

    • Don’t fret it – only the best of it will resemble Twilight.

    • “Pandering”

      Meyer wrote to & for her audience, I think that is what you are suposed to do? Maybe some young women, will be hooked on reading that might not have been before? Maybe they will be interested enought to read Jane Austen who is mentioned quite a few times throughout the books.

      It’s a first book….

      • Yep. I find it repulsive, but I’ll say this — it’s beautifully targeted to teen female fantasies.

        Mind you, they’re more likely to graduate to Laurell Hamilton.

        • What’s wrong with Laurell Hamilton?!?!?
          ;-)

          Just finished read reading Steve Perry’s The Madador series for old times sake. Moving on to this up and coming author name of Hoyt…. wondering where I should start?

          Need something to tyde me over till the next Jim Butcher book comes out.
          ;-)

          • Objectification of young men. But it only bothers me since the boys entered adolescence, so it’s probably fine for most people. I just meant that it’s more likely to be Hamilton than Austen.

            • ;-)

              A joke, and I got what you ment.
              :-)

            • Objectification of young men.

              And anyone that isn’t the main character, really.

              Mercedes Lackey has a similar problem with those who aren’t protagonists, but it’s not even nearly as bad– at least, I don’t find it so, it doesn’t hit any of my weak spots or sensitivities and may simply be cardboard characterization in action. Beats cardboard “romance” with loving detail about various tab As and Bs in slots C through S. (Yes, I kept reading after it got really bad, for a while– I just couldn’t believe it was really that bad. Every so often, I check to see if I could’ve possibly been exaggerating.)

              • I read LKH when it started to get bad because I did like her stories in the beginning. Then when kindle came around I stopped the madness and started looking at indies. Every once in a while LKH will come out with a story instead of paranormal porn. But I am tried of trying to guess which one so I quit reading her.

                • I keep playing with the idea that it’s all to make a point that the Catholic Church was right!

                  She opens by saying she left her mother’s Church because it said that she couldn’t be a dead-raiser, it would corrupt her.
                  She’s now having sweet, sentimental three-somes with a guy who’s barely legal and another guy she considers just a friend…. (And the BAD guy is the one that wants to marry her and provide her a stable home to base her career from.)

                  • ROFL– yea– what is it with that? And the bad guy “wants to give her a stable home.” *snort– oh yea that made me laugh.

                    • It has been a while since I read any LKH and what I did read were random books out of the middle of this series or that, none consecutive. One of the main reasons I tried several of them was that I would read one and see the shadow of a good story in it. After a while I would kind of forget that the shadow never materialized and pick up another one. I’ve never read any of her early books, but from what people have said they were actually good stories instead of shadow stories hiding behind a bunch of BDSM and female angst.

                    • It was her first three books that made a fan– they did have stories. You saw her job– necromancy. Plus the character was likeable. Now– the plot is completely gone… and it is just character and panties. ugh–

                    • One of the main reasons I tried several of them was that I would read one and see the shadow of a good story in it.

                      Infuriating, isn’t it?

                      If you started from the beginning, you’d probably find yourself flipping past more and more pages, then eventually realize you were skipping entire chapters waiting for the story to restart.

                • I liked her first three when I read them… then I re-read them a couple of years ago. The “men as pieces of meat” thing REALLY upset me and I couldn’t finish the first book. Which is a pity because she has great TIMING.

                  • Yea– it is a bad message. When she was writing in that genre, it was really hard to find paranormal stories… there weren’t too many choices then. I was reading Sonja Blue at the time then (can’t remember the author’s name off the top of my head). Nowadays I wade through paranormal. lol

                    Because I couldn’t find much in the genres I liked to read (80s-90s), I re-read a lot of stories. I am so happy that the publishing has changed so that I can decide if I like a writer and not have the decision made for me by a publisher.

                  • I liked the first ones. Perhaps because she was a rare bird among urban fantasy: she didn’t have the Masquerade where all this supernatural stuff is happening all about oblivious mundanes.

          • Honestly, go to the Kindle books section of Amazon and look at some indy writers. If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry, they have free apps for both PCs and smartphones.

            I recommend checking out, for example, the Sorcerer’s Path series by Brock Deskins (he’s working on book 7 now), the first book of which is The Sorcerer’s Ascension. It is his first series, and it shows, but he still managed to weave a tale that kept me interested, and I tend to toss aside books that don’t grab my attention.

        • “Mind you, they’re more likely to graduate to Laurell Hamilton.”

          Your probably right, but I think she attempting to provide an alternative to Laurell Hamilton. Who in all actuality is probably better and CLEANER than most of the current paranormal crop. You know the ones that all follow the same outline.

          MC sees hot paranormal, MC immediately drops panties, after twenty pages sex MC asks paranormals name.

          • Bearcat,

            The Twilight books have a pretty good message; be who you are, true love… the main character doesn’t even have sex with her bo till after they’re married. A lot worse out there.

            • Actually that was exactly the point I was trying to make, that Meyers was writing an alternative to pron. I read one of them, and was impressed with her research (I used to live in Forks) and actually thought they were fairly well written, just not on something of real interest to me. I mean I would read another if sitting in a waiting room, but they’re not something I’m going to go buy to read.

              • Wrong emotional buttons? Or just general “not my thing”?

                • They were in general just not my thing, in matter of fact it pushed no emotional buttons, right or wrong. (probably because I’m not a teen girl, so it was punching the desk about a foot away from the keyboard).

              • Bearcat,

                I’m the type of person that just has to know how a story ends. So, when I wandered into Twilight, bored saw evething else, and noticed that there was books I looked them up for my Kindle app. read them over a week. Wasn’t sure if you had read them, so…

                Wheel of (F’n) Time.

                I, also, don’t like reading stuff out of order.

                P.S. for Sarah. just bought the Sarah Holt bundle from Baen of the Ill Met by Moonlight series, so let the adventures begin. :-)

                • I don’t know who Sarah Holt is and get very annoyed when I’m called by her name (runs.)

                  You might hate that one. It’s literary fantasy. It’s one of the things I do, but it can be fairly impenetrable. One of my friends who is a lawyer says the words are too difficult for her.

                  • No worries, new kind of what I was getting into when I got them.

                    And, I’ll have to talk to my iditor about the typo….. Oh wait that’s me.

                    PS 3 chapters in so far so good. Always been a fan of the Bard (in every sense of the word. Mmm….tasty).
                    ;-)

                  • PS PS I’ve always love the use of a good turned phrase, but never was into learning the strongly worded sugestions of gramar. Some like to call them rules.
                    ;-)

                  • You used difficult words in Ill Met by Moonlight?
                    /scratches head/

                    I never noticed them, and I thought your Shakespeare trilogy was good, but no I wouldn’t want a steady diet of it. A trilogy and then moving on to something else is about right IMHO.

                    • I will EVENTUALLY write the last two books (it is a retelling of Tam Lin, of course, and was supposed to finish with Shakespeare walking into fairyland.) BUT it will take being in the mood…

                      The idea of writing those forever made me want to shoot myself.

          • Why are the main characters always freaking female? (at least, the ones that look enough like real books for me to pick them up before I realize it’s Pr0mance.)

            As best I can tell, if you tried to write a book as a parody of what pr0n is supposed to be like, in a supernatural setting, it’d be exactly that…..

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Perhaps thus explaining why so many people seem to really badly hate the books? Can’t take a parody of a favorite genre?

              • Most geeks I know hate it because it’s tag-teaming us with the “hipster” movement for removing actual geekyness from stuff– you have a sort of vaguely geeklike form, but no substance when you’re full of “Twilight Moms” and hipsters.

                On the flip side, I saw a red Jeep on base the other day with a fan stamp and a “Guns & Coffee” starbucks parody logo. (The mermaid is holding two guns and has a big grin.)

    • Good Lord, darling, no. The kids who read Twilight for pleasure are in the top 5% EASILY. Most of the kids graduating high school don’t read for pleasure. Reading is hard. There’s all those words to guess at.

      • Reading for pleasure probably has a lot to do with how I taught myself to read. I don’t remember much of the details, but it involved a lot of those Goosebumps horror books at the local library, and the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, which my uncle got me for Christmas.

        I’m pretty sure it was before 3rd grade, because I can remember looking up the Celtic and some Nordic rune alphabets then so I could decode all the funny writing on the cover jacket and inside. Partly to understand what those wacky dwarves were getting up to in Moria. Partly so I could have a secret code language to write in in all my notebooks. :-P Celtic Runes definitely weren’t on the curriculum, but I managed it anyway because it was fun. (PS – those things are the anti-cursive. They might be good for carving into the pillars in your long-hall, but they sure don’t flow very well. :-P)

        That’s partially why I can’t imagine anything the school could have done to me (short of the year they tried to drug me into submission. That was a *bad* year) to make me give up reading. If reading is fun (and it is), the kids reading for fun can’t fail to be literate eventually.

        I’m sure Twilight is eminently mockable, but then so were a lot of the things I read early on.

        • Heck, so is some of the stuff I read and write now. :-P

        • Really, I think teaching someone how to have fun with something – something that they want to do, is probably the key for the deepest learning possible.

          It was the same way with programming. By the time the schools tried to teach us “how to use computers” (how to type), I was bored out of my mind. I had been programming this ancient Apple IIe in my spare time since elementary school. I remember liking old Nintendo RPGs (the Final Fantasy sereis, Chrono trigger). When I got good enough at programming, I figured I could make a go of writing my own. (This was later. I think ~junior high and high school).

          Amusingly, knowing absolutely nothing about software engineering that didn’t come out of my own interaction with the computer, I went about it in the most horribly wrong way you possibly can go and still have something functional. I remember proudly showing my code to my programmer Uncle, who promptly lost sanity points when he discovered that there were *no* logical blocks. The entire thing was a gigantic homogenized tangled up ball of If statements and Goto statements. (evil laugh).

          But because I had fun while I was doing it, I learned programming on such a deep level that it is almost second nature to me today. (After I sorted myself out with respect to what sane programmers are supposed to be doing in late high-school/early college)

          • ” … this ancient Apple IIe …”

            Ancient? Why you little whippersnapper, if I catch you on my lawn, I’m gonna …

            • It didn’t have a hard drive. You booted the operating system entirely into RAM from a 5″ floppy.

              Wark WAAAARK Wark WAAARK :-P

              • Wayne Blackburn

                My high school computers didn’t have any hard drives. Only drives that used audio tapes. In fact, one of the computers had an interface that would connect to the headphone and mic jacks in a standard tape deck.

                Of course, my brother started working for IBM repairing punch card readers…

                • Two comments.

                  1) I was in high school before I heard of a hard drive

                  2)The Anarchists Cookbook needs updating,(at least the version I have, it’s possible it has been updated) since it’s section on hacking deals with punch cards.

                  • Ooh, punch cards. Okay, time for my favorite punch card story. Disclaimer: this is at least second-hand and probably third-hand, so it might be an urban legend — but I’m going to tell it anyway because it’s too good not to share. Besides, the technique would have worked.

                    If you’ve never used punch cards before, check this link out to see a photo. The important thing that you need to know is that each individual card could encode enough information for one 80-character line of text. Since most programs consisted of dozens or hundreds of lines (modern programs can run into the hundreds of thousands of lines, and I’m not entirely sure this is an improvement), that meant you needed a couple hundred punch cards to represent your program, and you needed to keep them in the correct order. Most people kept their punch cards in boxes roughly the size of shoeboxes. And heaven help you if you ever dropped your punch card box, because getting those cards back in order would take you hours!

                    The story that my computer-science professor told me concerned a programmer he knew (or had heard about — as I said, this story is second- or third-hand) who had gotten so sick of the whole “keep your cards in order” thing that he’d developed an ingenious solution. Since the language he was writing in (most likely FORTRAN, though I suppose it might have been BASIC) required each line of code to have a unique number, he made sure each line of his code ended with a JUMP or GOTO instruction. In other words, his code looked a little like this:

                    10 LET X=3 ; GOTO 20
                    20 LET Y=7 ; GOTO 30
                    30 LET Z=X*Y ; GOTO 40
                    40 PRINT Z

                    Repeat that for about two hundred lines of code. He then colored the front card of each deck, and voila: a deck that even if dropped, would still run in the correct order as long as the front card was put back in front.

                    One day he was walking through the hallway to the computer room with a freshly-punched deck of cards to feed into the computer, when a colleague turned a corner and bumped into him. Box fell, cards went everywhere, colleague apologized profusely because she knew just how much time he was going to have to spend getting his cards back in order. “Don’t worry about it,” he told her, as he gathered the cards up with a sweeping motion, paying no attention whatsoever to the order they were in other than putting the colored card in front of the deck. As he headed down the hall to the computer room, she started to ask him how the heck he thought his program would run after being jumbled up like that, then decided to just follow him instead and see how this turned out. When he put his jumbled deck into the computer and it ran correctly, with no errors, she was flabbergasted. I don’t know if he ever explained to her how he’d done it, but I’d like to think that he knew what all good magicians know: never explain how the trick is done.

                    • And while I’m telling programming stories, I’ll share two more. First, the story of the magic switch:

                      Some years ago, I (GLS) was snooping around in the cabinets that housed the MIT AI Lab’s PDP-10, and noticed a little switch glued to the frame of one cabinet. It was obviously a homebrew job, added by one of the lab’s hardware hackers (no one knows who).

                      You don’t touch an unknown switch on a computer without knowing what it does, because you might crash the computer. The switch was labeled in a most unhelpful way. It had two positions, and scrawled in pencil on the metal switch body were the words ‘magic’ and ‘more magic’. The switch was in the ‘more magic’ position.

                      I called another hacker over to look at it. He had never seen the switch before either. Closer examination revealed that the switch had only one wire running to it! The other end of the wire did disappear into the maze of wires inside the computer, but it’s a basic fact of electricity that a switch can’t do anything unless there are two wires connected to it. This switch had a wire connected on one side and no wire on its other side.

                      It was clear that this switch was someone’s idea of a silly joke. Convinced by our reasoning that the switch was inoperative, we flipped it. The computer instantly crashed.

                      Imagine our utter astonishment. We wrote it off as coincidence, but nevertheless restored the switch to the ‘more magic’ position before reviving the computer.

                      A year later, I told this story to yet another hacker, David Moon as I recall. He clearly doubted my sanity, or suspected me of a supernatural belief in the power of this switch, or perhaps thought I was fooling him with a bogus saga. To prove it to him, I showed him the very switch, still glued to the cabinet frame with only one wire connected to it, still in the ‘more magic’ position. We scrutinized the switch and its lone connection, and found that the other end of the wire, though connected to the computer wiring, was connected to a ground pin. That clearly made the switch doubly useless: not only was it electrically nonoperative, but it was connected to a place that couldn’t affect anything anyway. So we flipped the switch.

                      The computer promptly crashed.

                      This time we ran for Richard Greenblatt, a long-time MIT hacker, who was close at hand. He had never noticed the switch before, either. He inspected it, concluded it was useless, got some diagonal cutters and diked it out. We then revived the computer and it has run fine ever since.

                      We still don’t know how the switch crashed the machine. There is a theory that some circuit near the ground pin was marginal, and flipping the switch changed the electrical capacitance enough to upset the circuit as millionth-of-a-second pulses went through it. But we’ll never know for sure; all we can really say is that the switch was magic.

                      I still have that switch in my basement. Maybe I’m silly, but I usually keep it set on ‘more magic’.

                      Next up is the story of Mel, a Real Programmer. And I’m just going to link this one rather than repeating it. It needs to be read in the original (a kind of epic poem in Usenet format) if at all possible. If you have any love for computers, computer programming, or the history thereof, hit the link and read on:

                      The Story of Mel, a Real Programmer

                    • Ah, but this great story ignores the one thing anyone who programmed for a mainframe using punch cards will never forget – the JCL (Job Control Language) cards. These magic cards had to be in specific positions in your card deck to tell the computer “beginning of job,” “start executing here,” “stop executing here,” “the data starts here,” “the data stops here,” and “job ends here.” The official versions of these cards were punched using colored card stock following some official IBM rulebook, but these colored JCL cards always became scarce very early in the semester, so the smart students ran the official JCL cards through the punch machines and copied them onto multiples normal blank cards for their private stashes, normally using highlighters to mark them so they didn’t get lost in the mix.

                      If you got the JCL cards wrong somehow, not only would your program not run, sometimes it would simply vanish into the ether, and you’d have to supplicate before the computer lab TAs to have them try and figure out what went wrong.

                      I’d started learning programming in high school using a couple of teletypes and punched paper tape readers, one talking over a acoustically coupled modem to the school district mainframe, and another hooked up locally to an IMSAI 8080. When I was a senior they added an Apple II with a color video monitor, which was a great leap forward. It was therefore quite a shock hitting punch card programming (I think that was for FORTRAN) the following year as a college freshman.

                    • Ya buncha snot-nosed punk wusses. At MY high school we programmed on punched paper tape. Make one mistake and you had to start byting all over again from the git go.

                    • ROFL.

                      You guys are making me feel ancient. I learned to write with a quill pen, didn’t see a dishwasher till I was eleven, thought car phones were a myth, (wouldn’t you need really long wires?) and thought running water in the house WAS luxury.

                      Computers? Don’t make me laugh.

                    • The scary thing? The job I started 2 weeks ago involves making sure the modern shiny web and windows applications correctly generate the punch cards that feed the mainframe which does all the *real* work. I.am.not.joking.

                    • It beats being the one having to sweep up behind the vacuum cleaner, I guess.

                • Since I went to high school from 9/60 to 5/64, my school didn’t even have COMPUTERS. Heck, we didn’t even have calculators. I learned to use a slide rule and my brain, plus pencil and paper. I learned key-punch, card sorting, printing logic, and really, REALLY basic programming using patch panels. We did have PCs before I retired from the Air Force in 1991, but most of the work I did was on mainframes.

                  • I worked on mainframes too– I was out of the Navy in 1994.

                  • Wayne Blackburn

                    I got my first calculator in my junior (I think, might have been senior) year in high school. Never learned to use a slide rule, though I wanted to. We DID learn to do interpolation to find logarithms that weren’t in the table (and we learned how to calculate them, but I can’t remember it now).

                    And that sounds like the years my brother went to high school, but it might be off by one or two. He went to technical school either in Lexington or Louisville, Ky, then, as I said, got a job with IBM repairing punch card readers. 25 years later, he was given early retirement, and then went to work for one of his customers, and finally took full retirement last year.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      The first hand-held calculator that I saw was IIRC in 1972. It was an engineering calculator that had all the features of a slide-rule plus more. I believe it would have cost $500 then and now you could get it (with those features) for much less.

                    • My first calculator (a TI, IIRC) came just as I was beginning to develop proficiency with a slide rule (thus aborting that process.) It had four functions — add, subtract, multiply, divide — and a memory buffer. It cost $100 at a time when a gallon of gas ran around forty cents,

                      A year later that same century note bought full slide rule functions.

                      Nowadays the nearest equivalent of that first calculator can be bought for less than the price of a gallon of gas and mostly what you’re paying for is the package & logistics.

                  • I was in the last class to be taught sliderules in my junior high. Heck, in high school, I worked part time for a division of the company that made the first consumer calculator (Bowmar) but the division I worked in made electronic assemblies for NASA.

                  • My calculus teacher brought a side rule to the high school once, so we would have seen one.

              • I remember those days– ;-)

              • In college, my roommate had a Heathkit H-11 that we did some of our programming projects on. It had two 8 inch floppies for storage. It was a Healthkit that built what DEC sold as a PDP11/03 minicomputer.

                For that matter, our college computer lab had a bunch of Apple II computers running what was called the UCSD p-System operating system.

                • Ah, yes. Apple Pascal, with the memory card in slot 0. One of the great authorized kluges of all time.

                  (Then there was the Dan Paymar Lowercase Adapter, one of the great unauthorized kluges. It’s amazing how many neurons I’ve wasted by remembering all this crap.)

              • In my first programming course at a small community college the lab had two machines, an Apple IIe and a TRS 80.
                While in grad school and working as a TA my girlfriend, later wife, bought a Commodore 64 with 300 baud modem so she could log in to the university computer system without having to set foot on campus. She was TA for a couple of 400 student undergrad classes so when seen was always swarmed by students wanting “just a little help” in addition to her official office hours.

            • Another use for ancient dead alphabets: Translating the hieroglyphics in the instruction manual. :-P

          • In 1962, I began my junior year in high school. One day I was called to the principal’s office. It seemed that two marketing guys from Control Data wanted to find out whether high school students could be taught to program a computer, so they asked the Sequoia Union High School District for three students as guinea pigs. I was one.

            The computer they used was a Bendix G-15. It had been designed by Harry Huskey, who had worked with Alan Turing on the ACE and the SWAC. There were 2000 words of magnetic drum memory and a vacuum tube arithmetic unit with an instruction cycle time of order of a millisecond (1000 ops per second). You programmed it in the Intercom 500 or Intercom 1000 assembly languages, using paper tape punches for data entry. David Evans was one of the engineers who would subsequently found Evans and Sutherland with Ivan Sutherland, who eventually became a Turing Award laureate. So the G-15 had a fine lineage (you can Google it).

            Well, as I’m sure you know, high school students can do just fine programming computers. But they have to be able to read and do some algebra to learn the necessary disciplines. That’s one reason why the decay of the educational system is such a disaster. I learned Fortran I and started programming an IBM 1620.

            And I still program after 50 years of working at it. Amazingly, Fortran is still in use, although I rarely use it anymore.

  41. So what can be done? I don’t have children but I worry about my nieces and nephews.

  42. Oh, lord – what memories (good and bad!) this brings back! I had the good fortune to be taught by mostly competent teachers, back in the day, although some were definitly as daft as a brush. (Gory details of one of them here – http://www.ncobrief.com/index.php/archives/a-nice-derangement-of-education/ )
    I still mightily resent being stuck with ‘New Math’ in about the third grade. My god, that put me off arithmetic (and by extension, higher science, algebra and calculus) for about the rest of my life. When it came around to my daughter – who was educated in the overseas DODDS system until she was about twelve or so – I sent her to a tiny Catholic high school. I was at least able to read to her, every night, so she did learn a love of books. But holy c**p … what we are hearing about public education now. Failing in about every way that a school system can fail. I’ve agreed with my daughter; if and when she has children, I’ll take on the job of home-schooling them. The schools in Texas aren’t too terribly bad – yet – but from what I see about public schools, and what I see of home-schooled students, plus my own experience, it’s an easy choice. We can’t afford public schools like those in New York for very much longer.

    • Cyn,

      The resorces & tech is getting really good.
      :-)

      Now if we can keep them from outlawing homeschooling….

    • I had two honest to god Certifiable teachers, one had a nervous breakdown partway through the year and never came back. (It wasn’t my fault, I swear!)
      The other had taught my dad in a different school district, putting her in a straitjacket and a ball gag would have been an act of mercy. At least I got to hear about all the things my dad and his brothers did to her when they had her. ;)

  43. Paula Handley (aka Mystik Waboose)

    There has been some serious consideration towards home-schooling the youngest, as despite the fact that the current school district (LCS) is better than the one we had the older children in (AAPS), we’re still having issues. And honestly, we’re teaching him far more after school and on the weekends (even convention weekends, like this past one) than he’s learning at school most days. I’m really just using school as a babysitter so I can work to pay for the apartment we’re hardly ever at anymore. Honestly, there are days I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier/less stressful to just take this all on the road and home-school the child…….

    • Might be. You could get a used Rutabaga (What Robert called Winnebagos when he was little…)

      • Blackadder: So what would you do if I gave you a thousand pounds?
        Baldrick: I’d get a little turnip of my own.
        Blackadder: So what would you do if I gave you a million pounds?
        Baldrick: Oh, that’s different. I’d get a great big turnip in the country.
        —Blackadder the Third, ‘Dish and Dishonesty’

        Rutabaga: A turnip on wheels!

  44. Ori Pomerantz

    You can learn a lot about WWII and the cold war by looking up the relevant cartoons on youtube (start with Pvt. Snafu – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APOprGM35Pg).

    If you want songs, you can get History Teacherz (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPYuxReh7fM), or Horrible Histories (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV5MvWq4Jok).

  45. I’ll keep this relatively short and simple (if crass):
    What the actual fuck?

    I mean, I knew that you had trouble with your sons’ education. I hadn’t realized how truly horrific it was.

    I also “knew” that my younger friends typically had less solid grasps on writing than I did, but I figured it was mainly mild learning disabilities (some of them were tested for such, anyway) and/or laziness (hey, I know how sometimes someone just cbf in casual IMs/emails). It never occurred to me it might be how they were taught.

    Maybe it should have, seeing as how “hooked on phonics” was made fun of for ages as a “terrible” learning method. Seemed to have done pretty well for me. There are still words I mispronounce because I only ever see it, not hear it. There are still words I misspell because that’s not how they sound like they’re spelled. But it’s better than fuggin’ guessing. And guessing teaches you nothing about how to pronounce it and relies on you being able to remember that “picture” of a word to get the spelling right. That’s stupid. Even Chinese characters have “parts” that make up the “picture” so you could possibly figure out the meaning by looking at the different “parts” of it. (I could be “wrong”, mind you. I’ve only studied a few words, like the word “crow”. Which, iirc, is made up of “parts” that could mean “black teeth”, iirc. So if my memory is correct, then obviously it wouldn’t be always useful, but I’m sure that you can find English words that do the same inexplicable things.)

  46. Self-taught reader here, from age 3. (Scared the hell out of my parents when I told them “Hey — Jody Scheckter won the Swedish Grand Prix”.) Wish I remembered how I did it, tho’….

    Historical item: During Reconstruction following the American Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan made it a point to hunt down two groups in particular: Any black with a gun, and any black who could read and write. The former was an obvious threat; the latter was a much-longer-term threat (how do you keep the n*****s on the plantation when they can read contracts and do math? Worse, someone who can read and write can *teach others*…).

    When I was in senior year of HS, there was a “special” program for Junior and Senior students who had day jobs, or who “didn’t fit in” with the “normal” class schedule — if you showed up Tu., Wed. , and Th., you could skip Mon. and Fri. There were also the “Advanced Placement” courses (which didn’t allow one to graduate any faster, and only counted for university credit in California — and not even in some places there). I took both at one time or another; I did better when I had to spend *less* time in classrooms listening to people who didn’t know the subject as well as I did drone for an hour. And yet, people wonder why I say “when I come to power, the schools are Going Away, Permanently”. Public Education is a waste of time and resources. (Plus, it gets rid of those never-to-be-sufficiently-damned School Buses.)

  47. This has been enlighting and scary. While I was employed by a major aerospace firm, I did tech reports. This meant I also had to read other tech reports. In general they were not written well. I thought I was because engineers hated english ( Idid). No they refused to learn, and I was horrifed by the young engineers.

    • MY young (larval) engineer CAN write up a storm.

      • When I was in college and working at University Archives for my work study job, there were old newsletters for an engineering club that taught engineers to make oral presentations for job purposes (explaining X and Y to the boss, that sort of thing). It seemed to have been designed very much as a fun thing, so that the shy ones wouldn’t get discouraged and the extrovert ones wouldn’t get bored. I can’t remember what it was called, but I think back in the 1920′s and 30′s it was a national thing.

    • If you want to look at something that goes out of its way to destroy the English language, look no further than technical writing. I did that for a few years, and it’s horrible! I would usually write the document in two forms: one to be accepted, and one to be used. Never got the to-be-used ones published. Sigh! 8^(

  48. My daughter’s in a pretty good small-town public high school. She’s doing well — but for her first two or three years she was coasting on what she’d learned when we home schooled her instead of sending her to middle school.
    The time-wasting in high school is amazing. There’s a required “health” class in which high school juniors and seniors spent six months doing things like making posters with glitter and glue in order to “learn” about nutrition. Sex Ed consisted of watching the ancient “miracle of life” video. Stuff which could have been done in perhaps a week was stretched out to a full semester, and the unfortunates below her will have to suffer through two semesters of it.
    Whereas in Kindergarten the teacher was trying to get my son tracked as having ADD because he was as wiggly as a bored five-year-old boy. Just like all the other boys in class. Amazing coincidence, that. At one point they were talking about having him wear a “weighted vest” to keep him from moving so much. Apparently these are people who read Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” and thought it was a nifty Utopian vision.

  49. Pingback: Education and the Farm | sanborntonfarm

  50. A friend sent me something last night that I wound up blogging about, in combination with Sarah’s post here. It’s the 8th grade final exam from an 1895 school… fascinating. No, I probably couldn’t do it in 5 hours cold, without studying. http://sanborntonfarm.com/2013/03/12/education-and-the-farm/

    • I think i remember seeing a debunking of this, somewhere, a few years back.

      • Well, debunked or not, I own textbooks from that era, and have used them in my own education (by 6th grade was planning my own curriculum). I know that the college algebra I am taking now is not as rigorous as the algebra book I have on my shelf from 1895. It was a diffferent standard, one modern students would not meet.

      • I remember the debunking– but — it felt and sounded like propaganda- I have read the original McGuffey readers a very long time ago.

        The eighth grade level and the requirements to be a teacher (my great-great-grandfather taught teachers) were much higher then 1895 (or thereabouts) than you see in K-12 teachers today. I knew my great-grandmother and what she said about her father. He knew three languages fluently (German, French, and English) reading, writing, and speaking. Plus he came from the Jersey Islands and had a full education before he was eleven when they came to the US around the Civil War period. My great-grandma died at 98 in the early 1980s.

        • Your memory is working fine, Cyn. The debunking needed debunking. Snopes declares it false, but for dubious reasons:

          What nearly all these pundits fail to grasp is “I can’t answer these questions” is not the same thing as “These questions demonstrate that students in earlier days were better educated than today’s students.” Just about any test looks difficult to those who haven’t recently been steeped in the material it covers. …

          Ah, but this is high school (or even eighth grade) stuff, people say — it’s basic knowledge that everyone should remember and use. Nonsense. The questions on this exam don’t reflect only items of “basic knowledge” — many of the questions require the test-taker to have absorbed some very specialized information, and if today’s students can’t regurgitate all the same facts as their 1895 counterparts, it’s because the types of knowledge we consider to be important have changed a great deal in the last century, not necessarily because today’s students have sub-standard educations.

          Consider: To pass this test, no knowledge of the arts is necessary (not even a nodding familiarity with a few of the greatest works of English literature), no demonstration of mathematical learning other than plain arithmetic is required (forget algebra, geometry, or trigonometry), nothing beyond a familiarity with the highlights of American history is needed (never mind the fundamentals of world history, as this exam scarcely acknowledges that any country other than the USA even exists), no questions about the history, structure, or function of the United States government are asked (not even the standard “Name the three branches of our federal government”), science is given a pass except for a few questions about geography and the rudiments of human anatomy, and no competence in any foreign language (living or dead) is necessary. An exam for today’s high school graduates that omitted even one of these subjects would be loudly condemned by parents and educators alike, http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1895exam.asp

          Thus the debunking is of the conclusion drawn, not of the test itself.

          • Oh I see RES– I do know that the requirements to be a professor was different in those days too– except for places like WA state where they got the money for the university and then had to hire a professor and student to prove they had someone ready to be taught on the highest level. (lol–true)

          • But why would you have to prove knowledge of English lit? Back in the olden day, you would have probably put on several Shakespeare plays in school (or just read them together, depending on the local attitude toward the Stage), memorized, recited, and read large chunks of the great poets, and been very familiar with the great speeches of all ages (probably having memorized and recited excerpts in your Elocution class), and Addison and other essayists, as well as the Bible. In elementary and junior high school. Novels, probably not so much, but you probably read plenty of short stories and novels at home for fun.

            Seriously… Snopes has their head up their butt, not to have the faintest idea what the common curriculum used to be like. The McGuffey Readers for primary schoolers have more great lit in them than the average high schooler reads today.

            • And the McGuffey Readers were written for farm kids in rural Ohio in one-room schoolhouses, not for rich urban kids with plenty of time on their hands.

              • My parents’ readers, in Portugal, had most of that, too, and a good bit of history, world and national. In their times most kids left school at 10 — 4th grade — but had a basis to build self-education on, by then.

            • Exactly– plus if you believe the stories (from family or even written from other days) Sundays, the bible was read while mother and daughters would be preparing the meal. Or even other times– My mother brought a tradition from her family. One member of the family, usually one of the children, would read a book while the rest of the family was canning. In our family we would take turns– except I got a lot of turns because I read best.

              • That was part of why magazines were popular in the US – one person could be reading everybody else the article or story, while the others worked on things like meals or sewing or fixing stuff. Probably why the transition to radio went so well.

          • Snopes jumped the shark long ago.

            • Snopes, like Wikipedia, can still be relied on for anything utterly non-controversial. But when it comes to politics, the Mikkelsons are so blinded by their ideology that not only are they heavily biased, they truly believe they’re being neutral and usually respond indignantly to accusations of bias. But when you look at their actual “debunkings” of certain subjects, or lack thereof, and consider the facts, their bias on political matters is quite evident.

            • I find they’re fine, as long as you keep in mind that they are a comfortable liberal Californian couple, with all the world view packed into that.

              I have very little trouble puzzling out their blind spots, but half of my family fits in that category!

              Easiest? If they don’t link directly to good<