Turn Them All into Apartment Houses
No More Teacher's Dirty Looks
Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind.
by Roger C Schank
After a natural disaster, the newscasters eventually excitedly announce that school is finally open so no matter what else is terrible where they live, the kids are going to school. I always feel sorry for the poor kids. My dangerous idea is one that most people immediately reject without giving it serious thought: school is bad for kids - it makes them unhappy and as tests show - they don't learn much.
When you listen to children talk about school you easily discover what they are thinking about in school: who likes them, who is being mean to them, how to improve their social ranking, how to get the teacher to treat them well and give them good grades.
Schools are structured today in much the same way as they have been for hundreds of years. And for hundreds of years philosophers and others have pointed out that school is really a bad idea:
We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for 10 or 15 years, and come out at last with a belly full of words and do not know a thing.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
- Oscar Wilde
Schools should simply cease to exist as we know them. The Government needs to get out of the education business and stop thinking it knows what children should know and then testing them constantly to see if they regurgitate whatever they have just been spoon fed.
The Government is and always has been the problem in education:
If the government would make up its mind to require for every child a good education, it might save itself the trouble of providing one.
- JS Mill
First, God created idiots. That was just for practice. Then He created school boards.
- Mark Twain
Schools need to be replaced by safe places where children can go to learn how to do things that they are interested in learning how to do. Their interests should guide their learning. The government's role should be to create places that are attractive to children and would cause them to want to go there.
Whence it comes to pass, that for not having chosen the right course,
We had a President many years ago who understood what education is really for. Nowadays we have ones that make speeches about the Pythagorean Theorem when we are quite sure they don't know anything about any theorem.
There are two types of education... One should teach us how to make a living, And the other how to live.
- John Adams
Over a million students have opted out of the existing school system and are now being home schooled. The problem is that the states regulate home schooling and home schooling still looks an awful lot like school.
We need to stop producing a nation of stressed out students who learn how to please the teacher instead of pleasing themselves. We need to produce adults who love learning, not adults who avoid all learning because it reminds them of the horrors of school. We need to stop thinking that all children need to learn the same stuff. We need to create adults who can think for themselves and are not convinced about how to understand complex situations in simplistic terms that can be rendered in a sound bite.
Just call school off. Turn them all into apartment houses.
Roger C Schank is a psychologist & computer scientist; he is Chief Learning Officer at Trump University and author of Making Minds Less Well Educated than Our Own (see his impressive bio at edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/schank.html)
Public schools are not really "public" schools, but are government schools.
Study: Most College Students Lack Skills
by Ben Feller
Washington - Nearing a diploma, most college students cannot handle many complex but common tasks, from understanding credit card offers to comparing the cost per ounce of food. Those are the sobering findings of a study of literacy on college campuses, the first to target the skills of students as they approach the start of their careers. More than 50% of students at 4-year schools and more than 75% at 2-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks. That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarise results of a survey about parental involvement in school.
The results cut across three types of literacy: analysing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for chequebooks or restaurant tips.
"It is kind of disturbing that a lot of folks are graduating with a degree and they're not going to be able to do those things," said Stephane Baldi, the study's director at the American Institutes for Research, a behavioural and social science research organisation. Most students at community colleges and 4-year schools showed intermediate skills, meaning they could perform moderately challenging tasks. Examples include identifying a location on a map, calculating the cost of ordering office supplies or consulting a reference guide to figure out which foods contain a particular vitamin.
There was brighter news. Overall, the average literacy of college students is significantly higher than that of adults across the nation. Study leaders said that was encouraging but not surprising, given that the spectrum of adults includes those with much less education. Also, compared with all adults with similar levels of education, college students had superior skills in searching and using information from texts and documents.
"But do they do well enough for a highly educated population? For a knowledge-based economy? The answer is no," said Joni Finney, vice president of the National Centre for Public Policy and Higher Education, an independent and nonpartisan group. "This sends a message that we should be monitoring this as a nation, and we don't do it," Finney said. "States have no idea about the knowledge and skills of their college graduates."
The survey examined college and university students nearing the end of their degree programs. The students did the worst on matters involving math, according to the study. Almost 20% of students pursuing 4-year degrees had only basic quantitative skills. For example, the students could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the service station. About 30% of 2-year students had only basic math skills. Baldi and Finney said the survey should be used as a tool. They hope state leaders, educators and university trustees will examine the rigour of courses required of all students.
The survey showed a strong relationship between analytic coursework and literacy. Students in 2-year and 4-year schools scored higher when they took classes that challenged them to apply theories to practical problems or weigh competing arguments. The college survey used the same test as the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the government's examination of English literacy among adults. The results of that study were released in December, showing about one in 20 adults is not literate in English. On campus, the tests were given in 2003 to a representative sample of 1,827 students at public and private schools. The Pew Charitable Trusts funded the survey. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Source: breitbart.com 19 January 2006
I sent this to my son, Wolf, as he and I had just been talking about why we thought a large percentage of our fellow students seemed borderline illiterate. My other son, Cody, doesn't see as much of that but a) he is a student at a technological institute (NJIT) rather than a liberal arts university and b) he's in grad school.
Wolf and I had concluded that the reason standards seem so low on average is that the university lets in everyone who applies who can afford it. Grades are de-emphasised and "fun" is encouraged (oh, and recommend us to your friends!).
Wolf immediately sent me an example from the forum he was reading, to wit:
Or how about this one (an email I received)?
And I didn't... These folks are illegible. Are they rare? Possibly not...
I Had a Dream (Part 1) / A Dream Lay Dying (Part 2)
by Bill Maxwell
Most Stillman students refuse to buy their required textbooks. I discovered the problem on a Friday when I met my English class to discuss the assigned essay in the text. They were to write an essay in response to the reading. Only one student, the young man who wrote well, had read the essay. He had the text in front of him. The others had not purchased the text. I warned them that if they returned to class without their books, they would receive an F. But only five of 31 students brought their texts to the next class. Most students had book vouchers as part of their financial aid, so I told those without books to walk with me to the bookstore, a distance of about three football fields. Some did not follow me, and I tried to remember who they were. At the store I watched students wander around, obviously trying to avoid buying the book. Only about eight wound up buying one.
I became angry that I had to deal with such a self-destructive, juvenile problem. I saw the refusal to buy the text as a collective act of defiance. I knew that if I lost this battle, I would not have any control in this class and no respect. The next Monday, I went to class dreading a showdown. While calling the roll, I asked the students to show me their texts. Eighteen still did not have them. One said he had bought the book but left it in his dorm room "by mistake." I told him to go get it. He gathered his belongings and left. He never came to class again. As promised, I recorded an F for all students who did not bring their texts. ... two young men ... walked out. I saw myself as having failed them as a professor, but I was relieved they were gone.
I also decided to take away students' excuses for not having access to the texts. I personally bought two copies of each book and put them on reserve in the library. From time to time, I would check to see who had used them. During the entire semester, the books were used only six times.
Homework was another major problem. Writing courses, especially journalism courses, are labor intensive for students and the professors. Reporting - going into the field, interviewing sources, finding official records and verifying information for accuracy - is essential. After most of my students continued to hand in articles that had only one interview, I began requiring at least four interviews, with the sources' telephone numbers, for each story. Most of the students balked and continued to hand in work with an insufficient number of interviews.
Meeting deadlines, a must in journalism, was yet another problem. Few of my students regularly met the Monday deadline. I would deduct a letter grade for each day the copy was late. Some students received F's on all of their work. To avoid flunking them, I let them write in class. But that required them to show up, and I seldom had all students present. Attending class seemed to be an inconvenience. The college had an official attendance policy, but few professors followed it strictly because most of our students would have flunked out before mid-term. On most days, I did not call the roll. I simply tried to remember who was present.
I recall the afternoon I sat alone in my room waiting for the seven students in the reporting class to show up. At 20 minutes past the hour, a white colleague peeked in and saw me in the otherwise empty room. "You must've had a serious assignment due?" he said. We had a big laugh. But it was a painful laugh.
My colleagues and I were witnessing the result of low admission standards. Were we expecting too much of young people who scored poorly on the SAT, who were rarely challenged to excel in high school, who were not motivated to take advantage of opportunities to learn, who could not imagine where a sound education could take them? An unfortunate truth was that most of my colleagues and I never got an opportunity to teach the breadth of our knowledge. I had great difficulty, for example, teaching something as simple as the distinction between "historic" and "historical" or between "infer" and "imply," distinctions that careful writers, especially journalists, want to know.
I wasn't the only one. A white professor labored to get her students to critically read the assignments. She could not discuss the major themes and literary conventions when her students did not read. When she got nowhere with Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, she asked me to speak to the class. Perhaps a black professor would have more success talking about one of the best-known black authors.
A few minutes into my exchange with the class, I realized the white professor was not the problem. The students simply did not - or could not - read closely. My colleagues and I could not teach what we had been trained to teach.
"My students don't use me," an English professor said. "At most, I may run into two or three a year who make me work. Talking over your students' heads is a waste of everybody's time."
The bottom line was the same as it is at most HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities]. Professors who had the best success connecting with students, especially below-average male students, emphasized friendly, personal and supportive involvement in their lives. For example, Stephen Jackson, who taught sports writing, was an effective professor because he understood the importance of winning students' trust. He even ate lunch in the cafeteria with students each day.
This style of teaching, which I grudgingly adopted, was unlike anything I had used during my previous 18 years of teaching on traditional campuses such as those of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northern Illinois University. On those campuses, professors were respected for their achievements and position. Subject matter usually was taught without developing strong personal relationships between students and professors, and professors may not have cared if students liked them.
At Stillman, being professional but impersonal created frustration for the student and the professor. Students, especially males, liked and respected the flexible professor, and they learned when they respected the professor. The flexible professor encouraged lively exchanges of subject matter, ideas, beliefs and opinions during class discussions. The flexible professor often did not require written responses or exams. The flexible professor let students keep pace by retaking exams, completing take-home exams or giving classroom presentations.
I had difficulty becoming flexible. The majority of my students in the English class failed to complete most of the assigned readings. Most of their essays were unacceptable, and attendance was low. I had a choice: Abandon my syllabus or flunk more than half of the class.
I abandoned the syllabus...
This professor had much the same experience my son and I had - only we were on the student side of the equation. We selected Fairleigh Dickinson University because it offered a degree in our major, was conveniently located, and provided us each with an academic scholarship. Since we were transfer students with 4.0 averages and associate degrees, we didn't realise that we were entering a school who would accept anyone. The community college we had just come from accepted everyone as well, but its programs were still fairly rigorous. However, to be an expensive private university that accepts any and all applicants means, we soon learned, something very different. We ended up acquiring a fair degree of knowledge - but except for three decent professors, everything we learned there was self-taught. All the school did was provide the discipline of attending class. We never cut classes and always turned in all assignments - though we discovered it was possible to do far less and still make at least a B average because we saw others doing just that...
Why did the professor above change his syllabus and become flexible rather than maintaining his standards? Because, like at our university, if standards are maintained, students may not come and pay their tuition money. Then where would the administrators be? Decent professors cost so-o-o much to hire. And the ones who buy pizza for their students and allow unlimited class cuts have high student evaluations and more students signing up to be in their classes.
Our university has deteriorated to the point where people with perfect GPAs aren't even asked to stand at graduation - the only acknowledgement of academic achievement is "cum laude", magna cum laude" and "summa cum laude" after one's name in the program - and even that isn't to be trusted. In a school where students put off their difficult required courses until the last semester, final semester grade posting is delayed until AFTER the graduation ceremony so that final scores can't be known. Scores used to qualify for honours or even for graduation are minus the final semester's grades - but don't worry, just sit back and enjoy the ceremony and the beach balls being tossed around just like at high school graduation. If you didn't actually graduate with honours - or, for that matter, graduate at all - the school will tell you quietly in private later (but quick enough for you to make it up in one of their summer "Let's take a fun trip" classes). So just sit back and let the speaker talk - always the student government president who has nothing to say worth listening to, so you don't have to stop talking on your cellphone to your friends in the stands or anything.
Am I bitter? A little. Once we discovered what a joke academically our school was, we couldn't transfer to another university without losing at least a term's worth of credits, maybe more - both time and money. How do schools like Fairleigh Dickinson and Stillman keep their accreditation? I really don't know.
Student Cited for Survey Remarks
Confidential Evaluation's "Anonymity May Be Waived"
by Paul Ruddle
A student who wrote disparaging comments on an anonymous course evaluation now finds himself facing University sanctions. Brian Beck, a landscape architecture major from Gordon, was found in violation of 3 University Code of Conduct regulations in a decision announced last week by University Judiciary. Beck was found in violation of the code due to:
Beck's violations stem from comments made on two course evaluations in Joseph Disponzio's History of the Built Environment course sequence. On the first course evaluation, Beck was asked "What aspects of the course could use improvement or change?" Beck wrote: "Joe Disponzio is a complete asshole. I hope he chokes on a dick, gets AIDS and dies. To hell with all gay teachers who are terrible with their jobs and try to fail students!"
During a phone interview with The Red & Black, Disponzio said, "As always, there were good comments and bad comments. I am a difficult professor. After receiving the comment [in January] I went to my dean about it. I was not amused by it." College of Environment & Design Interim Dean Scott Weinberg said he told Disponzio, "You probably need to go see people in Legal Affairs." According to an e-mail sent from Disponzio to Kimberly Ellis, associate dean for Student Affairs - Office of Judicial Programs, Weinberg "essentially said that since the evaluation was anonymous, there was little he could do. [Weinberg] does nothing to address the situation among the staff and faculty of the (College of Environment & Design)."
"I was initially trying to determine at what point a student's anonymity gets rescinded because of an evaluation," Disponzio said. "Evaluations are a big deal at Georgia. I went through my exams, and I actually thought it was somebody else early on. I really could not make a determination, though."
After consulting Legal Affairs, Disponzio said he did not pursue the matter because of academic responsibilities. The University did not take action. "Ultimately, I let the whole thing drop," Disponzio said, but "at the end of the spring semester, I received a similar comment." Beck answered the evaluation question "What were the most helpful/useful aspects of the course?" with, "Joe Disponzio needs help with his issues dealing with homosexuality. Fags are not cool and neither are ney [sic] yorkers."
After comparing the two evaluations to exams from the class, Disponzio said he was able to identify the student he thought made the comments. "I am a New Yorker and a gay man - but I have no idea what the student's issues were," Disponzio said. "Systematically you go through this, then I realised that I found the culprit."
On 11 June Disponzio went to Weinberg's office and left copies of the two evaluations along with copies of the exams he believed to be those of the offending students. No action was taken at this point because Weinberg was out of town.
On 21 August Weinberg referred Disponzio to Cheryl Dozier, associate provost for institutional diversity. Disponzio and Dozier met the next day and the matter was referred to Ellis. Two days later, an official complaint was filed with the Office of Judicial Programs.
On 6 September a letter was mailed to Beck's home address stating, "It is alleged that Mr Beck wrote threatening comments on course evaluations that were directed to a faculty member. Such comments indicated that he wanted the faculty member to die. Also the comments may have violated the University's anti-discrimination and harassment policy in that comments made may have been discriminatory regarding sexual orientation." Beck was directed to contact the Office of Judicial Programs and a hearing was set for 15 October.
A handwriting document examiner was used to confirm the author of the evaluations. Roy Fenoff, a 2004 graduate of the University and forensic document examiner, was faxed the evaluations in question and Beck's class exams. He "concluded that the questioned writing was indeed authored by Brian Beck." Fenoff came to this conclusion by examining "ink patterns, slant, size, fluidity of movement, entry strokes, final strokes, spacing of letters, the connections, letter form, punctuation, numbers, and abbreviation," according to Judical Programs' records. Beck's punishment includes writing a 1,200-word essay on how his remarks affect the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender [LGBT] community and interact with a greater intolerance of the campus LGBT community, a letter of apology to Disponzio including constructive criticisms of his teaching style, and meeting with Michael Shutt, assistant dean of students, to discuss completion of SafeSpace training or other programs deemed appropriate. Beck received a reprimand/warning and was told he is expected to follow University Conduct Regulations in the future.
"I think that what they asked Brian to do is a nice measured response. I thought suspension or expulsion would serve no purpose at all," Disponzio said. The same day the decision was handed down, Beck completed the apology letter and essay. Efforts to reach Beck by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful.
Course evaluations can be formative or summative, said Jere Morehead, vice provost for Academic Affairs. "Formative evaluations are to help the professor become more proficient in the classroom and summative evaluations are used to determine merit review or promotion in tenure. What they are used for depends on the department or college." The College of Environment & Design primarily uses evaluations for faculty self-improvement and in the tenure evaluation process, Weinberg said. "Written comments are not used in the tenure evaluation process," he said. "Only the numerical scores are used. Only the teacher sees the written evaluation."
The Report of the Task Force on General Education and Learning recommended a move to an online course evaluation system. "Due to the nature of most course evaluations it would be very difficult to determine who made the comment," Morehead said. According to the Franklin College evaluation website, "the web-based course evaluation application has been designed to encourage candor. Your identity will not be associated with any of your responses." Christine Miller, assistant dean for Information Technology in Franklin College, confirmed that authentication information is not associated with individual responses. She also said "it would be possible to determine the identity of a student if it posed a dire risk, but it would be extremely difficult, and in some large lecture classes it might be impossible."
However, course evaluations are not always anonymous.
"When a report is made that indicates a violation of law or policy, the anonymity may be waived," said Stephen Shewmaker, director of the Office of Legal Affairs. Disponzio wrote in a letter to Weinberg: "Though the evaluations are 'confidential'; such pointedly directed hate removes all rights to confidentially. Whether it is the student I suspect, or another, I will do whatever is necessary to find [him or her]."
Members of the LGBT community say they are not satisfied with how the University handled the case. "Lambda is going to be up in arms. [We're] upset it took almost a year," said Moira Gillis, an anthropology major from Richmond and the director of public relations for Lambda Alliance, a group whose purpose is creating a safe and supportive environment for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. I felt things would have been handled differently if it was a different group," said Tyler Kelly, a math and Romance languages double major from Alpharetta and director of information for Lambda Alliance. "The main issue is how slow everything was done."
Disponzio, who is on academic leave from the University and lecturing at Columbia University this semester, said he is troubled by the lack of response from the University administration. "Just last week, Columbia had a very ugly racist incident. At one institution nothing is done. At another, the university president goes public," Disponzio said. "I'm not too concerned with myself, but we had a transgender student in the class. That's who I'm concerned with. They are the one that gets hit over the head with the baseball bat. The president of the University has to make it clear that this kind of behavior is unacceptable at the University of Georgia."
Source: redandblack.com 22 October 2007
Media Studies and Other Trendy "Mickey Mouse" Degrees "Leave Students Dissatisfied"
Trendy degrees such as media studies, tourism and complementary medicine have come bottom in a survey of how students rate their courses. The Government-funded poll of 177,000 students gave the highest ratings to traditional disciplines such as history and classics. Undergraduates were least likely to be satisfied with the quality of their courses if they studied degrees derided in some quarters as "Mickey Mouse".
The least contented students were taking courses such as cinematics, photography, imaginative writing, complementary medicine and media studies. Just 74% of undergraduates doing these degrees said they were satisfied. Other courses with below-average ratings included publicity studies and tourism, transport and travel. In contrast, satisfaction ratings for physics and chemistry were 90%, for history 91%, English 87% and classics 93%.
The findings came in a survey of final-year students who were asked to rate their courses for quality of teaching, feedback, academic support, resource and organisation. The university with the most satisfied students emerged as the Open University, where 95% declared themselves happy with their courses. It was closely followed by Prince William's alma mater, St Andrews, on 94%, Buckingham on 93% and Oxford on 92%. Cambridge students did not fill in enough questionnaires to take part.
Other institutions, including some former polytechnics and specialist art or music colleges, fared less well with scores as low as 53%. The figures showed that overall, nearly 1 in 5 students - 19% - did not believe their courses were up to scratch. The same proportion did not consider their courses to be "intellectually stimulating". A higher proportion - nearly 4 in 10 - were unhappy with the way their work was marked and the feedback they received.
University chiefs suggested this was because they had grown used to re-sitting exams they fail at school. Leeds University vice-chancellor Michael Arthur, chair of the National Student Survey steering group, said: "Even when you do get essays back in a very timely fashion and with detailed comments - at least detailed in the eyes of those providing them - students still don't necessarily regard that as good feedback. A theory is that there is really quite a significant difference between the type of assessment and feedback that occurs earlier in life through your secondary education and that that occurs at university. There are multiple opportunities to resit assessments to improve your score and universities don't usually work in that way."
Shadow universities secretary David Willetts said: "This is further evidence that the quality of the student experience is under threat. Parents and students need to be confident that their top-up fees are paying for greater teaching commitment."
Reader views - sample
Hmm useless degrees: Kinesiology, Theater & Film, Geography, Business Administration, Graphic arts. Most of those degree's equal nothing but a temp admin job. I received a Political science degree and was hired within 3 months of graduation (2005). I was able to land a job as a Technical recruiter and it's paid off well. I've talked to many hiring managers who are looking for international sales positions and think that a Poli Sci degree is a great start. One hiring manger told me that young people with a Poli Sci degree communicate above average and are extremely adaptable to differing situations. Although in Canada it is almost impossible to get a job in party politics or government agencies with only an undergrad but there are plenty of well paying alternatives.
Matthew Owen, Toronto Canada
My personal dissatisfaction stemmed from the $8/hr I made as a cameraman in Toronto, plus all the "politics" you could ever imagine, as the "bonus". At least I had the brains to drop out after year 1, when I started getting freelance gigs. I'd bet that's what's behind the disillusionment. Along with all the Mickey-Mouse hog-puffing.
- Feldwebel Wolfenstool, Thunder Bay, Canada
Ha! Imagine how dissatisfied their parents are, who have forked out to pay for junior to study the effect of Monty Python's Flying Circus on global culture.
- Floyd Dabarber, Boston, USA
Source: thisislondon.co.uk 13 September 2007
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