Saturday, November 10, 2012

What's a cosine for again? I guess I could google it if I actually need to know.

The OG and I talk a lot about the lameness of school. Mostly I try to present the other side--why tests are important; why geometry matters, etc.--but sometimes her points are hard to counter. I'm no fan of homeschooling, but over the past decade I've come increasingly to believe that the primary function of public school is as a place to park kids while parents work, rather than a temple of learning. There are obvious economic benefits to that, but at the same time, academic performance is so inextricably tied to college admission that it is important (even if it's not determinative) to encourage kids to do well according to the standards of doing well. How to balance the fact that a lot of what is being learned is not useful with the idea that there is no better predictor of future prosperity than academic performance?

And why memorize facts when Siri is always by my side? It's a good question, and Douglas Thomas, a USC professor of communications thinks that schools should spur creativity rather than transfer knowledge. I listened to his "Big Ideas" podcast while I began the Augean labor of raking the leaves in our Sylvan (and I use that term with bitter irony) domicile. It's not a great talk (unlike some of the others in the series) but it does make you question the disproportionate value of standardized tests and the longevity of colleges (I'm looking at you law schools!) as credentialing institutions when there are clearly better ways to prepare for a career.

The OG and I talked about this on the way over to dance class this afternoon, and I predicted that her children will not take the SATs, or if they do, they will be significantly different than the current version. Is 2030 too fast for dramatic changes in the hidebound world of education?


  1. Just read this:

  2. That's persuasive, but I wonder if you couldn't substitute anything that requires lots of practice and sticktoitiveness (like piano, legos, puzzles, etc.) and get the same results. And allowing each student to choose a subject that s/he is passionate about might produce even better outcomes. That seems where technology might play a bigger role, by facilitating more personal costs of study and not forcing everyone to learn how to use a compass.

  3. Agreed. I think there is something to be said for Argumentation, I read in a parenting book recently that if kids learn good debate skills, they are less likely to be swayed by peer pressure.