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Thread: Our Unthinking Destruction of Our Educational System

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    Snapdragon Guest

    Our Unthinking Destruction of Our Educational System

    I considered whether this should be in "Current Events," "Political Pagan," or some other category...but it seems to me it should be here. This essay by Mr. Hedges--consistently one of the most thoughtful contemporary analysts and commentators I have found to date--is about the absence of thought and, at least as much, a certain kind of thinking...to the exclusion of all others. Heidegger is one who noted this emergent feature of contemporary Western civilization; he expressed it in terms of "calculative thinking" as increasingly the only mode of recognized thought, to the detriment and loss of "meditative thinking." Herbert Marcuse wrote of "the closing of the universe of discourse," where certain ideas simply ceased to be recognized because never mentioned.

    Here, Mr. Hedges gives his own take on our mental shriveling, and how this is being manifested in the destruction of our educational system--increasingly teaching people only how to perform and to obey:

    Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System

    A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/...+the+Headlines

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snapdragon View Post
    A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.
    god how true is this.

    but you know, it's not just this country I've noticed. have you seen how many people from the UK write!? and not just in casual conversations such as an online forum.....

    I went to a mid-low rate public high school and yet I still know the difference between "your" and "you're"....

    I grade papers now, and students wonder why they just can't get A's. I tell them, and it's on my rubric too, the A column designates those who don't just agree or disagree with the assigned articles to read, but speak their opinions and expand upon in depth - even in the abstract - their opinions and the opinions of others, including opposing opinions.

    I refuse to give Sheeples as good grades as the Thinkers.


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    Never is this truth more apparent than when you start teaching college freshmen in a writing class. Suddenly, you have 25-30 kids who somehow managed to finish high school and score high enough on the SATs to get into college without knowing how to write sentences that aren't fragments and without knowing how to differentiate between "your" and "you're" or "there," "their," and "they're." The recent focus on tests rather than on actual knowledge acquired hasn't helped either...the brightest students aren't always the best test-takers and vice versa.

    Personally, I think most of the trouble started years and years before NCLB--schools started focusing more on coddling students and teaching to the lowest common denominator so that nobody's feelings were hurt and nobody felt stupid. That's kind of still going on now...there's almost a fear in teaching nowadays of saying that something is wrong or that a student is failing. It's disheartening...we're preserving kids' feelings at the cost of their education.
    A poet is a light and winged thing...

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    Quote Originally Posted by wingedthing View Post
    Never is this truth more apparent than when you start teaching college freshmen in a writing class. Suddenly, you have 25-30 kids who somehow managed to finish high school and score high enough on the SATs to get into college without knowing how to write sentences that aren't fragments and without knowing how to differentiate between "your" and "you're" or "there," "their," and "they're." The recent focus on tests rather than on actual knowledge acquired hasn't helped either...the brightest students aren't always the best test-takers and vice versa.
    I for one SUCK at standardised tests (and tests in general). I can't think well on the spot. I'm also dyslexic. SAT and GRE questions are written with the specific INTENTION to trip up anyone who doesn't read carefully. If you're dyslexic and mix up left and right and all that jazz, you're going to fail.
    My GRE scores ranged from 980 to 1240 (1600 max), always increasing the 4 times I've taken it. My writing score went from 5 to 3 (6 max), decreasing the 4 times I've taken it.
    I didn't get into MA programs in the US because of my first round of tests, but got into PhD programs based on my 1240. I did my MA in the UK, which could care less about the GRE.....


    Anyway, I'm not teaching a WRITING class, but when I give back their papers next week I'm going to have to explain citation rules. Sigh.


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    Hngh, citation rules are a bitch. Is it MLA or APA or Chicago? I wish teachers and professors would just choose one universally and stick with it.

    When I finished high school, my SAT scores were higher than those of the valedictorian, and my MCAS scores (Massachusetts' standardized test of lulz) were the second highest in my graduating class. I wasn't the bottom of my class by any means, but I was 14th out of 108. It wasn't a HUGE disparity, but it was still enough to make me scratch my head...the third-highest MCAS scores (and NMSQT scores) came from a guy who was 50th in the class, so it was just really bizarre and made me wonder why these tests existed.
    A poet is a light and winged thing...

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    Oh it's nothing specific really, just....
    if your quote is over 3 lines, put it in as a block quote.
    if your in-line citation is at the end of a sentence, the period goes AFTER the citation, not before.

    grar...


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    Ouch. At least you don't have to tell them "you must cite things that aren't your original work"? Because I've had to do that
    A poet is a light and winged thing...

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    Standardized tests have their place - I mean, how are we supposed to measure proficiency in specific skill-sets if not with written exams?

    I do, however, agree that children are not being taught critical thinking skills. There is a happy medium between rote memorization and wishy-washy, "Do whatever makes you happy, no tests for you!"

    Exams should be designed to measure competency and proficiency in the concepts being taught. You shouldn't have to encourage rote memorization as the ONLY skill in any subject. When I was in school, we had liberal and flexible teaching styles utilized by teachers, and we picked up all the skills we needed along the way.

    Teaching to the test is a travesty. Teaching broad and complete information, including (by nature) what will be on the test, is the way to go. Tutoring after school can help those who don't manage to pick up on what the majority of children learn in these classes. I am of the opinion that tutoring for low-scoring students should be free and provided at schools, and that such tutoring should be geared toward understanding of the subject, not just memorization.

    Memorization can be a useful tool, but it is not the end-all, be-all of education.

    Quote Originally Posted by StarlitNox View Post
    Test scores and writing/spelling ability is an unfair way to judge someone's "smarts". The English language contradicts itself too much for that.
    My fiance is amazingly smart... quantum physics is a minor hobby for the man. However, he mixes up "where", "we're", "were" etc. If you were to see him in a forum, you'd probably just assume he was a moron for it, when in reality, it's the exact opposite. Spelling and grammar just isn't his strong point. Nothing wrong with that.
    However, I'm damn good at spelling and grammar, unless I'm sleepy, but I'm nowhere near as smart as people assume I am.
    Pray tell, how do you expect people to be tested on their grasp of the English language if not in writing?

    I totally understand having strong points and weak areas. I get that. But your fiance has very poor writing skills if he can't tell the difference between where, we're, and were. I mean, they sound different too. Someone along the line in his education severely failed him. Simple tutoring early on can help children who have weak points to strengthen their skills.

    Regardless, if you don't have the language writing skills, you don't have the language writing skills. We can't just give everyone a fuzzy warm hugs free pass if they can't write.

    These tests are NOT meant to tell you how intelligent you are, they're meant to measure skill in very specific areas. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, but you can't just give everyone a feel-good free pass on their weaknesses just because they're strong in another field. You give them the tools to improve their weaknesses, because bottom line: if you're a theoretical physicist, and you cannot express yourself in a paper to other physicists, you'll never be able to share and spread your ideas, however amazing they may be. You also will never be able to study others' theories. Reading and writing comprehension are essential to any higher education or intellectual pursuit.

    It was a great and grievous disservice if your fiance was allowed to complete his college education in physics without being able to express himself in the written word. I'm not even sure how that could happen.
    "The cosmos is also within us, we're made of star stuff.
    We are a way for the cosmos to know itself."

    Carl Sagan, as quoted by The Symphony of Science

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    Quote Originally Posted by wingedthing View Post
    Ouch. At least you don't have to tell them "you must cite things that aren't your original work"? Because I've had to do that
    I had one instance of that. The girl vaguely paraphrased and did not cite the original author. If I did that, I'd get in trouble because I know better and my teachers know I know better. She however probably didn't.

    @StarlitNox: I make idiotic mistakes when I'm tired. The other night I was IMing and typed "payed" instead of paid. LOL. sigh.


    When it comes to the educational system "failing" their students, I must say that sometimes I wonder about that. I can understand occasional slip-ups, I've done it, many times, especially before my morning coffee. But there are those that don't even bother ever using "you're". Ever. I mean, really!? Slip-ups are not the same as never, ever using a word like that correctly. And having a learning disability is also a whole other ballgame.

    There's also this new culture of texting and emails..... Usually when I get emails from students they are composed well. Then I had a student email me this semester.... it basically read like a drunk text message. It was very, very sad. (He was failing and dropped the class, but that's a whole different set of complications).

    Anyway, there are different kinds of smarts. Some people just aren't great writers or spellers. Standardised tests don't grade you on how good you are at identifying skeletal remains or how well you can play the violin.


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    Quote Originally Posted by antiquitas View Post
    Then I had a student email me this semester.... it basically read like a drunk text message. It was very, very sad.
    Geez, I know how that is, my dad texts like that... mainly because he's too lazy to fuss with a small-phone-big-fingers combo for too long, when it's unimportant, but STILL. XD
    Sometimes I feel bad for teachers, having to read that all day... lolol Such an under-appreciated occupation.

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