Tuesday, May 02, 2006

And We Wonder Why They Do Not Vote

Poll: 1/3 of Youths Can't Find La. on Map

Americans aged 18-24 with high school diplomas also couldn't find Iraq or the state of Mississippi or India.


Blogger Professor Zero said...

I have a student in one of my courses, a senior, who is from Los Angeles. She believes that the ocean next to Los Angeles is the Caribbean Sea. I pointed out that this was particularly odd given that she is even from Los Angeles, and she said, perhaps, but then again she didn't care much for geography, and the names of the oceans wouldn't make much difference in her life as a broadcast journalist.

I wish I could figure out a way to justify failing her, just for this.

Wed May 03, 12:58:00 AM  
Blogger CrankyProf said...

Sadly, I have students who blow almost everything off with a smirk and a, "S' aiight -- don't make no diff in the real world, knuh whut ah meeen?"

I've been known to dock participation grades for improper usage.

Wed May 03, 06:00:00 AM  
Blogger G Bitch said...

I, too, am amazed by journalism majors and education majors who believe that geography, science (esp. evolutionary theory), English grammar, and logic have nothing to do with their future professions or the people (and children) they will affect. I am stunned into absolute mental paralysis.

I am struggling with blow-it-all-off students right now. When they get their quoting/paraphrasing/ summarizing assignments back tomorrow (the highest grade was 5 points out of 10 and I was using a rare and always-vague curve), I think the shit will hit the fan and I'll (hopefully) see more empty seats by midterm.

Wed May 03, 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that I am stunned by the remarks here. All of you are educators it sounds like and so I would implore you, as the mother of an eleven year old to tell me, where the ball gets dropped? I know this should be a collective effort – families and schools – when it comes to educating our children, but when the world changes and the ways in which children are spurred to interest change, is it not imperative that the methods of teaching change?

Tell me as a parent what’s happening in the schools/in the world/in our homes that is allowing for so much disengagement? Who is in charge of digging for these answers for our children?

I hear so much of what is wrong, but as educators, do you have any offerings about how to fix it? If you could feel my pain, my concern, my deep fear at the plight that our children face, you would know that this is not an indictment but an honest alarm. I am not a teacher. I am a writer, a parent and now an activist. Something has to happen.

Maybe teachers need a new model. Maybe the system needs an overhaul. Maybe we all need to stop and think about ways that we can encourage learning of the things that children ARE interested in.

If you follow this link back you will see that for me and my family, tension is mounting and even our best efforts to be involved, and stay involved are met with resistance and cynicism from nearly every side.

Educators, help us help our children.

Wed May 03, 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger G Bitch said...

Jasai, I feel for you and, as a parent of a child in elementary school, I, too, feel the crisis, fear, etc. Prof. Zero, Crankyprof and I all teach at the college level, years past when intervention was needed. My students come to my classroom deprived/cheated by indifferent or absent (and, yes, at times, biased) teachers, schools in constant transition, standardized testing that shunts aside critical thinking skills and "frills" like geography and history and sometimes science (much less art and music and physical activity). Students tell me about high school years spent in English classes in which they just "talked," lazed on sofas or watched movies, never once discussing literature or even mentioning grammar. They complete high school algebra courses that leave them unprepared for all but rudimentary math. In high school, the teachers have to be very hands-on, guide students into ways of thinking, studying, looking, learning, etc. By the time they get to my classroom, a certain amount of independence is not only expected but mandatory. The problems start early. I can help students but I can't fill in the blanks.

It seems schools, under pressure from multiple fronts (parents, politicians, budgets, fraud and budget-skimming, indifference, adult corruption, dysfunctional environments that drive the good teachers away, etc.), have shown the strain. Some have lowered standards or lowered expectations of what kids will learn in individual classes. If one teacher is bad, it can set dozens of students back for years. But if there is no one to teach the class....I shrug and gnash my teeth and moan and wail along with you.

Don’t take my humor or frustration as a lack of concern. But I can tell you that at the college level, I feel burned out and can barely imagine what high school, middle school and elementary teachers feel/experience.

Wed May 03, 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the problem to be exactly as you describe it. And it seems we all have more questions/speculations than answers but.....a childhood friend of mine who is now a vice principal explained it to me this way, “It’s not about race or even about bad teachers. It’s not about ineffective schools or anything other than class really. Those children who can afford advocates, be they parents who are not too bogged down to rail against the system on behalf of their children, or programs that take in children who can afford to buy the extra help the school can not afford to give them in time or resources or families who are connected in such a way that no matter what happens it will never appear as if they can fail, those are the students who will make it through, get in the good schools, get in the AP classes, make it to the top. You have to advocate for your children and since you do that, you don’t have to worry. They will listen to you.”

“What about all of the brilliant children with no advocates?”

Dead silence.

I wanted to gnash at his face and weep.

Thu May 04, 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Veronica said...

The sad part is that the percentages would look even more pathetic if LA and Iraq hadn't been in the news recently. Ya gotta wonder how many of them could find Kentucky or Quatar.

Thu May 04, 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger CrankyProf said...

While class MAY be an element, I don't think it's even close to the biggest issue.

I teach at a small, private university in a rural suburb of a major city. Eighty percent of our students come from upper-middle to affluent homes, most come from some ridiculously over-funded school districts (both public and private schools). These are children of priviliege...who are just plug-ignorant in most cases, and have no interest in improving their worldview.

The money might be there, but the advocacy is lacking. The parents either cannot be troubled to help, or don't know how.

These children are raising themselves. With no one to motivate them or puch them, they have no ambition -- no essential goals. And no role models.

Thu May 04, 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger G Bitch said...

Jasai, I’d want to tear him a few new holes myself. Basically, he said the only kids who can succeed in our public schools are those who are too smart or resilient to be dragged down or those whose parents have the time, energy, education, aggressiveness, personalities and temperaments to essentially fight the schools into educating their children at least a little bit. It seems like passing the buck to me, blaming the parents instead of looking at the schools, the system, the classrooms, the teachers, the books, the curricula, the activities, the enrichment, the tutoring, the remedial classes, special ed, gifted ed, you name it. He basically said kids succeed in school IN SPITE of school. !

I don’t buy that there’s nothing teachers, schools, principals can do, esp. since some of them do foster success in their classrooms or schools.

It IS about race, bad teachers, ineffective schools/teaching/curricula, class and privilege. (And good teachers driven out of the classroom or promoted out of the classroom.) I see the poor quality of teachers graduated from my college that used to end up in public school classrooms. I hear my students talk about the schools they went to and the almost complete dearth of teaching any content or skills at all. But it is MY fault as a parent? For not teaching my kid at home what she didn’t learn at school? Why am I sending her to school then? And how am I to know before it is too late that she doesn’t know what she should, esp. if her school is like the ones my students went to in which they got As and Bs but didn’t learn anything or do anything. If only the kids with the loudest, pushiest parents get educated, what the fuck is going on? How the fuck is that RIGHT?

Veronica—most 18-24-year olds I know and have known do not have any interaction with the news in any form. The most enlightened of them read a newspaper online and/or watch The Daily Show. That’s it. One of my students’ most challenging assignments is coming up with current issues and controversies. They are too out of touch to know about anything but abortion and evolution v. creationism (and they hear about those at church, not in the news).

Crankyprof--damn straight. I see that, too. It is not my students from "inner city schools" who are the most apathetic, the most disconnected, the most likely to be in college to have fun and get laid. I see students buy $400 purses but refuse to buy their books and then blame the teacher when they fail.

We have 2 problems here--pre-college and college. The problems have different roots/causes and different effects and solutions. I cannot fix 12 years of neglect at the college level. No professor can. Esp. not if you care more than the student does. (I told both my composition classes today that if I am putting more work into this class than they are, they are guaranteed to fail.) Our schools need to be held accountable and our college students need to be held accountable. But testing is not the answer and neither is pointing the finger at parents (or professors). Why aren't our children taught how to learn, study, research, explore, write, draw, read, think critically and creatively? Why do we test them on content and, sometimes, trivia? If we demonstrate to them that that is what is important, we get disengaged "students" who know how to play the game but not how to do or think anything. It's like the fish v. teaching a person to fish saying--only if we give them the tools to use their minds will they be able to use them.

And some seem totally stunned by the world.

Thu May 04, 06:26:00 PM  

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