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One more time...

Posted By: William Rost on August 19, 2005
It seems that, everytime an 'Educator' chooses to critique the current difficulties in public education, the targets of choice always reside outside of the Education establishment. Let me suggest, as a Community College instructor in Physics and, previously, an instructor involved with elementary and secondary ed students, that the problems are self-evident to all most anyone outside of the craft - and they aren't money, class size, testing or generalized poverty. May I suggest looking at:

1) Student teacher quality - in the main, the calibre of student in Teaching programs is distinctly inferior to that of most other schools in the University hierarchy. Yes, I know there are good students - my experience indicated them to be about 1% of the total with whom I came in contact. In discussions with students as to their reasons for pursuing an Education degree, responses revolved mainly around "it's something to fall back on", "I like kids", "This is easier than...(Arts and Sciences, Business, etc.), with no responses concerning an abiding interest in education or teaching/training the coming generation. I lost track of the number of times I heard "Why do we need to know this - little kids aren't that smart?" - and, no, I didn't make that up.

2) Degree programs place less emphasis on substantive course work than on educational "theory" As a result, it is far easier to convert an Engineer to a teacher than to convert a degreed educationist to any thing outside of public school. The truth of that statement is borne out by the Troops to Teachers programs and Federal/State outreach programs to non-teachers. And, yes, I've had credentialed teachers as summer interns in industry - not a pretty sight. I've always found it fascinating that, with two Masters Degrees, covering Physics, Math and Physical Science, I'm qualified to teach in any Community or State College/University in the country - but I'm not qualified to teach High School Math or Physics. Seems sensible, doesn't it?

3) The Educational establishment has, for the past 4 decades, treated public schools as vast laboratories for the next "theory" or fad, with no acknowledgement of the damage done in the interim. Remember "New Math", "New-New Math", "Whole Language", and on and on... And now we focus on "feelings", self esteem, discovery, multiculturalism...everything, it seems, other than the basic skills students will need to function and progress in society.

4) Any suggestion of merit ratings for teachers is summarily dismissed; any attempt to provide education outside of the "official channels; homeschooling, charter schools, vouchers, is met with immediate and vocal resistance by the education bloc. The general approach is more that of a craft guild than a profession.

By any measure, educational performance has been in a continual down slope for decades. More money hasn't helped - D.C has the highest per pupil expenditure in the nation and the worst performance, yet it had the highest performing high school in the nation in 1940 - all black students.
Lowering class size hasn't helped, yet my entire public school education took place in classes averaging 40 students in size, with more than 60% attending college - in 1958.

When I was teaching at the University level, the major complaint was the lack of preparation of incoming freshmen and the increasing need for remedial classes. Since then the situation has only gotten worse. So we have colleges complaining that the product of public schools is deteriorating while these same colleges are responsible for the teachers and teaching protocols at the same schools they whine about. But, of course, the solution always resides outside of the system they created.

And for purely historical interest, consider the following:

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS -1895

(Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph.
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of "lie," "play," and "run."
5. Define case; Illustrate each case.
6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

(Time, 1.25 hours)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per meter?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History
(Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865

(Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

(Time, one hour)
1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Compared to todays "product", the only phrase that comes to mind is my Mother's - "For shame, Mr. Berliner."
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 One more time... by William Rost on August 19, 2005
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