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Monday, March 27, 2006

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Yeah I read that article. It really fits into the GOP agenda of dumbing down the country, reducing "learning" to rote memorization, getting rid of the kinds of learning you need to become a critical and informed thinker.

You're right, the best way is to integrate math throughout the curriculum, but that's just too much common sense for those pushing standardized testing...

What happens if this agenda succeeds?

we're all doomed...

I'll meet you in New Zealand.

We've got this exact issue polarized in Scottsdale. As you move from the older/poorer parts of town in the south, to the newer/richer areas up north, you can see massive differences in the type of campus, classes offered, and variation in afterschool activity moving almost school-to-school as you move from the bottom of the city to the top. If folks in north Scottsdale had to deal with what the southern elementary and high schools have, they'd absolutely lose their minds.

Mark: Since we're contemplating a move to Scottsdale, this info is very timely and helpful. Thanks!

As someone who lived in Arizona for 11 years, I find Mark's observation interesting because schools in most of Scottsdale were pretty highly regarded. I guess tax dollars chase new money.

I should clarify "new" to mean new development.

The abandonment of subjects like social studies, P.E., and art because of fears of high-stakes testing is so appalling and damaging I can barely believe it's happening. But I should believe it--it cost me my job as a book editor. The wonderful progressive book publisher I've been working for these past seven years finally had to drop its line of social studies books for teachers (that I was responsible for) because history and social studies are off the radar screen in so many public schools. My last day of work is Friday. I'll survive but how will these kids who are not being exposed to the wonders and the lessons of history? No Child Left Behind is a criminal act.

It's funny, as I was reading the NYT article this weekend, I thought, "I bet Brett is going to weigh in on this." By the way, I thought the school systems featured were focusing on Phys. Ed. too, as well as math and English.

I guess I'm a bit more ambivalent. While I grant you that the gulf between rich and poor widens every day in this country, with schools being both a stark manifestation of the chasm and an on-going enabler of it, I'm not so sure that focusing on the basics is such a bad thing.

I say this because I wonder what other alternatives exist for public educaiton. Brett, you're idea of teaching mathematics via woodworking is great, but what about the kid who hates saws and hammers. We simply can't individualize a curriculum for each student. Colleges across the county, both two year and four year, are dedicating more and more resources to remedial education because the students are ill-prepared at the high school level.

The problem is enormous and I'm not sure there is a right answer, but I do think focusing on the essentials for underperforming kids is a step in the right direction.

As a teacher at middle school I can say honestly, our school system in America is in trouble. The NCLB Act screwed all kids...it's not helping improve anything but Math and English scores...but our kids need more...how about social skills, ethical values, science, history, keyboarding, life skills, physical fitness, health, the list goes on and on. I was always a beleiver in "Well Rounded" students, something that is almost non-existant now!

- Jon
- Daddy Detective
- www.daddydetective.com

Brett: Don't get me wrong, there aren't any schools in Scottsdale that are exactly "Dangerous Minds." But moving school-by-school from Coronado in the south up to Desert Mountain in the north, you'll just be blown away just walking onto the campus and seeing how massive of a difference there is.

Anne: I've lived in Scottsdale my entire life and while I actually went to private schools (which I guess says something about my parents' opinion of the public schools here...but I digress), most of my friends did go to the public schools, plus I spent 7 years working with jr/sr high kids as a youth counselor. If you've got any questions about the area, school related or otherwise, please feel free to drop me a line -- my email address should be in my signature.

Mark: Thanks so much for the offer. Right now, we're busy getting the house ready for sale, but I definitely plan to take you up on your offer. I'll be in touch in a few weeks.

Danny: The book publisher canceled its Social Studies line? And you jog? Great, so now we'll have kids graduating from school with no sense of place or history. Isn't this the first step toward history repeating itself?

Pat: Don't get me wrong, I do think it's important for children to learn math and English, but it just seems the approach schools are taking is sort of taking the wood from one part of the ship to fix another.

Jon: Considering how much we have to multi-task nowadays, I can't imagine graduating school without a whole range of skills.

Mark: My mom pointed out one of the new north Scottsdale high schools, which is also adjacent a library branch, a couple years ago. The buildings were a total piece of art. I have no idea if the school is any good, but it is gorgeous.

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