Saturday, June 6, 2009

School again

So, if American schools are so great, is there anything wrong with them? Hah!
When my son was in highschool, he came to me and asked, "Is there any reason I should study geometry?" I could have said, "Well, suppose you wanted to decide if two apparently identical triangles were actually identical. The Side/angle/side theorem would help." Instead, I simply said, "Nope." Actually, there is one geometrical rule that is very useful. It's the 3-4-5 rule, and I didn't learn it from geometry; I learned if from a couple of Hopi carpenters. It goes like this: If you have a triangle that is 3 units on one side, 4 units on a second, and 5 units on a third, then one of the angles is a right angle. Builders use it all the time.
There are two kinds of classes you can take. First, there are those classes that teach you how to process and use information: Reading, writing, rhetoric. Then there are those classes that give you information: geology, history, chemistry. I think that our schools should be strong in the first area. You gotta have the tools. The rest will come easier.
What do I propose after the readin' 'ritin' 'n' rhetoric? Elementary math, certainly. History, geography, science.
I'm an English major, but I'd go easy on the "classics." I was forced to read Silas Marner as a highschooler and hated it. Much later --loved it. Though it seems to me that, like most of 19th century art and lit, it's kinda melodramatic.
The creative stuff should be adjunct. Poets will be poets, dancers will be dancers, musicians will be musicians. It doesn't need to be "taught."
Finally, I'd have kids attend school all year, with two major holidays, June and December. They'd study hard half a day, and be apprenticed out the second half. Three hours study, three hours work.


Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

Framers (as in art frames) use that rule all the time too.

Looking back I think school was all about introductions to knowledge and how to find it. It is one of the reasons I so hate the no child left behind testing. It tests on memorized things we will all soon forget like that 3-4-5 rule. But I can remember there were geometric rules that come in handy and hit Google. Did that the other day to figure out the diameter of a circle given the known circumference because I wanted to calculate the approximate age of a Ponderosa pine encountered on a walk.

As to Silas Marner I hated it so much the first time I have not re-read it but it began a search for things in the classics I would like more. I am in insatiable reader to this day. And even enjoy rereading many classics to see them on a new level.

As to the creative stuff I am going to disagree. I live in an area that took art and music out of the schools. Gangs and graffiti rapidly developed. The creative stuff is an outlet. You do not have to be good at it to enjoy doing it. We all have a need to express ourselves even if we will not perform at the New York Ballet.

On both your houses said...

I hate to have a good argument ruined by data. I appreciate your comment on art and gangs and graffiti. I don't actually think that the creative stuff should be eliminated. I think that time should be provided for it. But I'd suggest that group "classes" in art that are tied to grades kind of defeats the entire purpose of creativity. How about making time, making it optional, and leavin them alone?

Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

Ok, I will play. As we are teaching the "group classes" I will agree it does not work.

When they took art out of the schools here the non-profit art council I belong to began paying artists to go into the schools and teach on an "occasional" basis. What we were given was access to students for 45 minutes. Take 10 away to clean up and 10 to 15 to point them in the direction or give some exposure to a medium and frankly I am of the opinion nothing can be achieved. Let alone creativity.

When I was in middle school there were elective classes you could take which offered in introduction. If you were serious there were after school programs you could get more deeply involved in as well as have more freedom.

Given the work day of most parents and the school day being so much shorter it would certainly benefit the population as a whole, I believe, if there were options other than latch key kids.

I do think kids are entirely too much on their own and even the after school programs should have someone with knowledge that can guide or direct but not dictate.