Category: Education

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Hey, America, You’re Your Illiterate

American Institutes for Research issued a nice, tidy little study today: “The Literacy of America’s College Students” by Justin Baer, Andrea Cook, and Stephané Baldi. Apparently many college students nearing graduation lack basic skills to properly function. Nothing more important than the ability to balance a checkbook or, uh, read.

Speaking of literacy, why is the study’s title in lower case on the cover page? Here’s a good gift book for the report’s editors. 

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The Geography Lesson

I spent a good chunk of my twenties traveling, for reasons better explained some other time. One day—oh, winter 1985—I walked into a west Texas fast food place looking for cheap Mexican eats.

I’ve got to digress and talk about Texas towns and food, or what they were then. Pretty much any Texas town big enough to have a gas station has a Diary Queen. Rule goes: Every town in the Longhorn state has a Dairy Queen (It’s not true, I found one in southern Texas near the New Mexico border without a DQ. Of course, my last visit was years ago, and there might be one now). Restaurants are a good measure of just how many people live in a Texas town. First there’s the DQ (about 25 to 3,000-4,000 people) and next up is the Sonic (4,000-5,000 range or so). Pizza place means more people, etc. etc. 

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Math Racial Profiling

A few years ago, I was appalled to read a New York Times story about a proposed new math program for New York schools that would promote guessing as a means of doing math. Kids would learn a way of estimating answers. The rationale was to cater to minority students, many of them Hispanics.

I read in shock. The whole concept of estimation made no sense to me. Worse, it looked to me like the liberal school system was really doing racial profiling, essentially saying the minorities are too stupid to learn basic math. Geez, get a life. 

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The Wrong Lesson

My wife is prepping my daughter for home school. She was surprised that my daughter couldn’t identify one U.S. state. “We were supposed to learn last year in social studies,” my daughter said. Apparently, the teacher couldn’t get to it. While I am largely satisfied with what the public school teachers taught my daughter, the incident reminded me of something that happened late in the school year.

One Friday, my daughter asked about Napster. She knows that I have gotten songs from Napster and wanted to know about stealing music. Problem: Her confusion over the original Napster filing-sharing site and Napster 2.0, which sells music or offers it on subscription basis. Her fifth grade teacher was source of the confusion. 

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Wonderful

School starts soon. Middle school for my eleven year old. For some reason that got me to thinking about Everclear song “Wonderful,” so I just went over to the artist’s Captiol Records website to watch the music video. Life is tough for middle schoolers.

After great angst, we’ve decided to home school my daughter for sixth grade. Local Newport Mill Middle School is nearly walking distance, but other factors make it just too far. For one, there is the adjacent Albert Einstein High School. For another, my wife and I don’t believe that sixth and eighth graders should mix. Development differences are huge, particularly when many eighth graders already are sexually active and eleven year olds are such easy prey. Not a reality I like to admit, but one we as parents can’t ignore. 

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Windows gives Macs the Boot

My daughter attends an elementary school in Montgomery County, Md., where Windows PCs are booting (pardon the bad computer jargon pun) Macs out the door. Her school is due for an upgrade next year.

Montgomery County is supposed to have one of the better school systems in the Washington, D.C. area, because of the tax base of cities like Bethesda, Chevy Chase, or Rockville. Wherever the school system spends its money, computers haven’t been a priority. My daughter’s school runs aged beige (that means pre-1998) Macs and first-generation (that means 1998) iMacs; a few 1999 version G3 towers are around, too. It’s my understanding that many of the computers were purchased through a Macs for schools program—one of those deals where folks turned in receipts to a local supermarket. So, much for the tax base.