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View Diary: No Child Left Behind: Doomed to Fail? (116 comments)

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  •  and for the military? n/t (2+ / 0-)
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    Dave Brown, JanL

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 04:22:56 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  You know why this upsets me so much? (14+ / 0-)

      I went to university for years with the goal of one day being a professor.

      When I finally got into an institution of higher learning, I found that I am a high school teacher with a Ph.D.  

      Most of my freshman students cannot write a complete sentence.  They have the vocabulary of a 9th grader, and many have never read a single book from beginning to end.

      I once gave a simple quiz asking the students to name the 13 American colonies--90% could not do it.  Some wrote things like Idaho and California!  They majority cannot even put the Revolution and the Civil War in the right century. I would say that most are not even able to accurately define the main platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties.

      Thus, they're completely lost when you begin to talk about things like Adam Smith, or Reconstruction.

      I taught for a few years in Canada--the students there are light years ahead of those in the US.  They know more about American history and politics than our own students.

      •  Sadly, some of the students are so far behind... (8+ / 0-)

        that even their 4-year degree doesn't get them caught up.

        I teach mostly graduate students in a clinical/professional degree program, and the amount of time that we must spend in remedial writing drastically reduces the amount of time available for teaching content.

        Things have gotten so dire in our program that tomorrow we will spend the day engaged in one of the most dreaded tasks any faculty member could ever face -- the FULL DAY FACULTY RETREAT TO REVIEW THE CURRICULUM!

        Save us all...

      •  Ask them about Canadian history (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TexasTwister, David Kroning

        Be careful about such generalizations.

        Several years ago I was in Canada.  When I realized that it would be politically incorrect there to call the war that ended French occupation of Canada "The French and Indian War," I asked Canadians what they call it.  Most did not have an answer.

        I have the good fortune of teaching students from all over the world. Of course, such students know a lot about the grammar of English, but ask them about the grammar of their own language.  

        Many of the my international students have incomplete knowledge of their own countries too.

        Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren. Bertolt Brecht

        by MoDem on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 05:46:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That was not my experience... (0+ / 0-)

          Although, I taught in a Francophone university.  My students made mistakes and they didn't know all the answers to everything--that's why they are students after all. However, the majority came to the course with the necessary skills to engage in academic pursuits at the university level.

          The same cannot be said of my experiences in colleges in America.

          •  You had a selected group (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            David Kroning

            I was just talking to people on the street.  This is a different audience.

            I wonder if your Francophone students had the same knowledge of history as your Anglophone students.

            Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren. Bertolt Brecht

            by MoDem on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:13:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No, of course not... (1+ / 0-)
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              Like everyone they see their own history through the prism of their culture.  But, at least they were willing to recognize this, and to engage in a discussion that challenged their own interpretations.

              I was never called into my directors office to explain why I was teaching things that could be construed as "anti-Canadian," whereas that on numerous occassions American students have complained that my teaching was "anti-American" and I've had to answer to that to superiors.

        •  I'm Canadian (0+ / 0-)

          and we were only required to take two history courses in high school, none of which was Canadian-based.  Most of the history that I know about our country I learned getting my degree in political studies - however, I still feel that I know a lot more about the U.S. than a lot of Americans.

          As far as I know, we call the French and Indian War the French and Indian war - however, it's not a big focus of our history - that was 100 years before Canada was officially a country.

          "If you tolerate this, then your children will be next." - Manic Street Preachers -7.38, -7.59

          by Dave Brown on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:12:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  What!!! (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dave Brown, TexasTwister

            Actually, I think your history books refer to it as the Seven Years War, probably the first world war in history.

            The result of this war was the British Crown had to figure out how to keep a large number of French-speakers, who were also Catholic, happy.  

            Without those French-speakers (remember the colonists invaded Canada twice and were defeated both times), Canada may not exist. Without those French-speakers, the power of individual provinces would not be what it is today.  

            Canada has never had a historic separation of church and state.

            And, let's not forget, the great issue in Canada has been how to keep the country together.  Those large number of French speakers complicated this problem.

            This is an example I would use about how badly educated we ALL are about history when a Canadian writes that the Seven Years War was not covered in history because it was before Canada became a country.  

            Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren. Bertolt Brecht

            by MoDem on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:20:46 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  my experience as well (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fiddler crabby, David Kroning

        I was pretty shocked by the poor skills of the college students I first encountered out of graduate school. But on the whole they were vastly more skilled and more interested in applying themselves than most of the current undergraduates. There are still a small cadre of very fine students, but below that there seems to be a huge gulf where good and moderately good students used to be. The great majority of college students I teach these days are working at a level at or below where my classmates in high school were way back when (in an undistinguished school, at that).

        I would not be at all surprised to learn that many of my students have never read an entire book. Quizzes and exams reveal that large numbers don't ever crack open the books under discussion.

        Once upon a time I enjoyed and was quite successful at teaching through discussion. Usually I found discussions became wide-ranging analyses that brought a large part of a class into the process of thinking through issues. Hell, I used to have students remaining behind after class to continue interesting discussions. For several years, though, it has simply been painful to try to discuss readings with students who can't be bothered to read.

        It leaves the college instructor in a quandry. Do you teach to the few students you have who are working at the college-level? Or do you do them an ill turn by aiming your courses at the majority who can't or won't work beyond the remedial level? You can try to square the circle by serving both groups of students, but good luck with that.

        •  To help with reading, (1+ / 0-)
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          1. I don't use textbooks. I don't like reading textbooks, either. They're not very interesting, and they're getting more and more cluttered with graphics and sidebars, which is exactly the wrong thing for people who aren't comfortable with reading. On top of all that, they're far too expensive. So we use cheap paperbacks, used if possible. (I primarily teach composition, and team-teach an Am Lit/Am History course. No textbooks there, either.)
          1. We also work on "how to read." The culmination is an in-class exercise where I give them a 16-page academic article, and they take seven minutes to get the main points out of it, then show their understanding by applying those concepts to their own experience. Nearly all show progress in reading efficiently (some more than others, of course). Most haven't been told that reading beginning to end isn't the most efficient way of getting information, or that most academic writing is argument, rather than information. NCLB has led them to look for bits and pieces of information, rather than understanding the point the writer's trying to make. Their biggest problem in reading is that they can't figure out what's important and what's just supporting detail. No sense of how to prioritize information. Given that, it's easier to understand why they don't read.
          •  I rarely use textbooks as well (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            fiddler crabby

            I'm talking about an unwillingness to read (ancient) literature...much it absolutely fascinating, bizarre, witty, or hilarious.

            I too spend a lot of time now showing students how to read critically and think historically about our readings. They'll follow along up to a long as the readings are short and an entire class is devoted to systematically discussing the point being made in one single passage or even an article. But once I try to move to shifting to the students the burden of sifting evidence before class, many students just power down or go into sleep mode.

            •  That's a tough one. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              David Kroning

              I've been working more with small (no more than three) groups, starting out the class with questions they're to answer in writing. One is usually a "did you read question," and one a "connect this to something else" question, along with other questions to start them putting ideas together. Groups are self-selected, and the key is that they can kick people out. They do a pretty good job of keeping everyone on track.

              The other tactic that I've occasionally had to drag out is the reading quiz -- very short, and boneheaded. On the first day I tell them if I get a sense that some are consistently not reading, I'll invoke the daily quiz. The twist -- stolen from a colleague -- is that daily reading quizzes continue until the class average is 80%. The beauty of the system is that the readers keep racking up easy points, while the slugs keep falling farther and farther behind -- but the slugs are responsible for the quizzes continuing :)  Even the sluggiest of slugs catches on to this fairly quickly.

              So far I haven't had to use more than one series of the reading quizzes, and then only for about three days.

              And though I might be projecting, the former non-readers actually seem more interested when they have a sense of what other people are talking about.

              •  Forgot to add: (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                David Kroning

                After small groups, discussion as a large group follows. Sometimes they've found more things to talk about, and sometimes we start by having a group read what they wrote.

                •  I do more and more quizzing (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  fiddler crabby

                  at the level of reading comprehension, bone-headed stuff. I find that even when announced in advance, quizzes don't force students to read if they don't want to. I have large numbers of students who just take wild guesses on quiz after quiz. A few take the hint and improve. Most do not, however. Fwiw that's the reverse of my experience with quizzing from when I first began teaching. It was an effective prod back then. Now it's just a waste of class time for me.

                  Have had similar experiences in a large lecture course I taught twice on classical myth in recent years. There were a series of hour exams with simple, factual questions. Nearly all the students who failed the first exams badly would continue to fail subequent exams just as badly. The attitude I'm seeing in so many undergraduate students these days is bizarre. The better undergraduates and nearly all graduate students are as good as they've ever been. It's just that there's an abyss that's opened up where good and average students used to be found.

              •  You must add to this whole mix: (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                fiddler crabby

                That we generally work for Deans and Presidents who care only about the number of people we can stuff into our classes and how much money they bring in to the school.  I went to the University of Nebraska, a place where football generally means more to the school than academic success.

                •  Same at my school. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  David Kroning

                  They keep track of our retention rate and grades, somehow believing that it's the only possible measure of "student success." It's possible for those to be useful, but I could crank up my retention rate to 100% pretty easily, and do far less work. No one would complain, and I'd probably get an award.

                  And now there's talk of merit pay. I love my job, and had hoped to retire from it, but increasingly feel like staying will create an ethical dilemma.

        •  I'd love to have a further discussion with you... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          smintheus, fiddler crabby

          on all of this.

          It doesn't happen that often in academia that colleagues sit down and talk about teaching...they're all too busy chasing tenure or writing books.

        •  High School (3+ / 0-)

          High school teachers have the same problem.  Do we teach to the few that have done the background work, or teach to most of them who haven't done anything and are waiting for the teacher to fill up their brains?  Heaven help you if many of your students fail; it must be your fault.  So you teach to the masses so that they won't fail and you won't lose your job.  I teach in Texas, where union membership is low and not powerful.

    •  And for mind-numbing service jobs. (0+ / 0-)

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