Thursday, September 17, 2015

Boring Our Children Into Intelligence

There is a new complaint about public education in America: School is too boring.  I know, children have been saying this for generations--but now it is parents who are complaining about their kids' class schedules being too focused on reading, writing and math.

The Washington Post recently had an article on a New Jersey father who was upset that his 8th grade son's inner city school (read as "full of poor kids of color") had his boy scheduled to take 12-hours of English Language Arts every week, 7-hours of Math and 7-hours of Science--leaving just 2-hours for Physical Education and one hour each for Art and Computers classes.  The father then points out that kids attending an adjoining suburban school district (read as "full of better-off white kids") spend just five hours a week on Math and English Language Arts--while getting daily doses of Band and Choir along with classes on "Google Hacks", "Sports Statistics" and "Ceramics".

The author of the article claims that these differences in schedules are an example of "unequal educational opportunity"--as the inner city school focuses mainly on the core concepts that are tested by the states--and likely determine funding levels--while the suburban district is "exposing children to a greater range of subjects" because their test scores are likely going to be higher anyway.  But who is really getting the better education?

I can honestly tell you that I have never met an employer who has complained that his or her employees write, read or add "too well".  And when was the last time you heard someone say "Can you believe that we are graduating kids that don't know how to make ceramics?!?"  If those kids from the "boring curriculum" school came out knowing how to write in present active tense and they understand the difference between "of and from" I would probably hire them on the spot to work in my department--because I've seen too many of the "suburban district" and college graduates who look at you like you are from another planet when you bring up those grammatical items.

And as for the classes like "Google Hacks" and "Sports Statistics", those are what I like to call "Infotainment".  Teachers use them as a cop out in saying that "if the kids don't find it fun, they aren't going to want to learn it".  So they teach addition and division by having kids figure out batting averages and ERA's for baseball players and shooting percentages for basketball players. 

And while kids in both of the school districts are learning the same things in their Math classes, the students in the "boring old urban school" are learning something else: the ability to deal with something that isn't "fun".  This is another thing I see all of the time.  Recent graduates all fired up about being on the radio.  They are going to talk to important people.  They are going to talk about sports.  They are going to be glib and funny and make people laugh.  And then they have to cover their first five-hour City Council budget workshop where numbers are flying around and you really need to pay attention to know what is going on.  Or they spent hours waiting for a police standoff to end--or for a jury to reach a verdict in a high-profile case--the kind of stuff that is the guts of what we do in broadcast news--and suddenly, they aren't so "excited" about the field anymore.  The next thing you know, they are off to work in Public Relations or Marketing--because those people "have fun".

So complain away, parents, about the "boring" content of your children's classes.  Heaven forbid we have generations of Americans that can communicate in complete sentences and figure out how many square feet of tile they need for a flooring project--but who don't know how to use Google Hacks.

No comments:

Post a Comment