Saturday, May 27, 2006

Up is down

One of the panel members of Bush's new National Mathematics Advisory Panel enters another dimension:

A very short story by Vern Williams

One night I walked into the 4 3/8 dimension and actually believed the following:

We should write about math but never do math.
Correcting students' papers using red ink is a threat to children's self esteem and that red pens should be banned from all public schools.
Howard Gardner was right about his multiple intelligence theory (I think that he claims about nine at the moment) and that schools should value bodily-kinesthetic ability and the intelligence of self as much as mathematical and linguistic ability.
The war on intellectual excellence is a great thing. It will make us all equal.
Teachers Unions are actually concerned about students.
Advanced courses and gifted programs should be banned because they are elitist and unfair. Since everyone is gifted in their own way (see Howard Gardner), why have special gifted programs?
There are no bored students in US public schools.
We can teach thinking even when there is no content to think about.
We should treat members of politically protected minority groups as victims.
We should never view our students as individuals but as members of racial and ethnic groups.
We should buy into the latest educational fad even if it's based on political correctness and has nothing to do with learning or common sense.
There is no money wasted on administration, specialists, and useless programs. In fact, we should have more of each.
I should join the NCTM.
I should join the NEA.
I should feel guilty because I teach smart kids.
I should feel really guilty because I enjoy teaching smart kids.

I finally woke up in a cold sweat from this nightmare and asked myself does anyone actually believe those things?
The answer is a resounding yes. Unfortunately the people who believe them are running our school systems and colleges of education.

I do my very best to shield my students from the effects of educational fads, political correctness and anti-intellectualism that we experience every day in public schools.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

With apologies to Vern!

One morning as I was walking my kids up to school, the sidewalk ended and we fell into the Sevenths dimension and I actually believed the following:

All my child will ever need to know about sevenths is that they are a little bit bigger than eighths, and a little bit smaller than sixths.

It is not my job to teach my child.

It is my job to support my child's learning.

My child should never be bored in class.

My child isn't just wandering around his classroom chatting with classmates, he's a kinesthetic learner with high verbal intelligence.

Children don't mindlessly copy from each other in small groups; they richly create meaning in conversation with their peers.

My child will discover efficient mathematical algorithms on his own in a way that makes sense to him.

Learning by rote is bad.

If my child hasn't memorized his basic addition facts in first grade, he'll have another chance in second grade.

If my child hasn't memorized his basic addition facts in second grade, he'll have another chance in third grade.

I should drill my child on his basic addition facts at home in order to support the conceptual learning that takes place at school.

If my child hasn't memorized his multiplication facts in third grade, he'll have another chance in fourth grade.

If my child hasn't memorized his multiplication facts in fourth grade, he'll have another chance in fifth grade.

I should drill my child on his multiplication facts at home in order to support the conceptual learning that takes place at school.

I should be more active in the PTA.

I should buy more gift wrap.

I should go to a school board meeting and see real decisions being made.

I should feel guilty questioning the curriculum even if I have a college degree in the field of interest.

A 25 year-old teacher is a licensed professional who is fully qualified to teach my child.

Children should write about math a lot.

Teachers will lovingly read everything my child writes because, as teachers, they look forward to creating an authentic portfolio that assesses my child's true mathematical learnings across thematic units.

My child's teacher will be so proud of him when he graduates from high school that we should planning on buying her a ticket for the commencement ceremony so she can sit with us.

I finally woke up in a cold sweat from this nightmare and asked myself, does anyone actually believe those things? The answer is a resounding yes. Every parent of every kindergartener I have ever met, myself included.

NYC Math Teacher said...

"If my child hasn't memorized his multiplication facts in fourth grade, he'll have another chance in fifth grade."

Or maybe by 6th grade, when we are converting fractions into decimals into percents they can have another chance. Or perhaps they will just multiply 8 by 7 by counting up by 7s...and having trouble with it to boot! Or -- better yet -- they will ask for a calculator!

I live this every day. And my son was introduced to calculators in kindergarten (Everyday Math curriculum -- in a gifted program, no less. The indoctrination has begun.