A valedictorian speaks her mind

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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Io.Draco » Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:22 am

Statements like "systems are evil" or "corporations are evil" strike me as silver-spoon philosophies which sound profound but whose ramifications haven't actually been thought through.


I do not think the statement the girl was trying to make was the systems are evil, but rather that they should try and seek other ways.

Or at least that's my understanding.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Dorvan » Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:29 am

Io.Draco wrote:
Statements like "systems are evil" or "corporations are evil" strike me as silver-spoon philosophies which sound profound but whose ramifications haven't actually been thought through.


I do not think the statement the girl was trying to make was the systems are evil, but rather that they should try and seek other ways.

Or at least that's my understanding.


I was responding specifically to Flex's statement. I'm not sure what you mean by "they should try and seek other ways" though. Other way than what? To accomplish what?

Personally, I think the valedictorian's speech is pretty emblematic of that stage of life where you think that you're above everything around you, that feeling outraged for the sake of feeling outraged is hip.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Io.Draco » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:10 pm

A different Education system then the one we have currently.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Dorvan » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:32 pm

Io.Draco wrote:A different Education system then the one we have currently.


That gives even less to discuss than her own speech. "This system has flaws!" is the easiest criticism in the world to level against anything. I don't think there's anything particularly enlightening about that statement by itself, and I find that the speech embodies a youthful sense of egotistical omniscience more than a cunning insight into our educational system. Nothing terribly strange about that: my assessment of my own intelligence and superiority probably peaked at around 19 or so myself. She seems like a very intelligent young woman, just a bit naive yet.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Melathys » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:23 am

Arcand wrote:
Pala wrote:This was pretty new for our school but I would bet it wouldn't happen now. Michigan's funding for schools is dependent on the number of students at the school.


They're trying to make it happen more, by creating reward systems for excellent teachers. The trouble
they're having is that teachers' unions are resisting the new initiatives in the interest of protecting
their crappy teachers.

Isn't No Child Left Behind supposed to shift the funding emphasis from head count to performance on
standardized tests? Why isn't that happening?


No Child Left Behind is the worst thing to ever happen to public schools. My mom is a teacher, and I know many others, every last one of them hates hates hates the program. Some say "well, yea, shitty teachers hate it cause it calls them out" but its the exact opposite. Shitty teachers get to open textbooks and "teach" dry material...they do nothing really beyond going through text books. The good teachers do more. They try to get the students involved in activities that bring various subjects together in one cohesive lesson.

The good teachers hate the program because they see the strong students having to....get left behind. The students are given a test at the start of the school year similar to the end of grade test, if they pass the first one, they are pretty much ignored for the rest of the year, because the teachers don't have to worry about them not passing the test. Instead, they have to focus all of their attention on the weak students to make sure they can pass the test at the end of the year.

My mom is a National Board certified teacher (which means she knows wtf she's doing) yet she gets in trouble with the principal because she can't recite what pages of what textbooks she covered for any given day. She has since given up actually trying to teach children, and has "gotten with the program" and is now just reading out of the text books like every other "good teacher".
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Fivelives » Thu Aug 12, 2010 3:44 am

Kids may not be as smart as they think they are, but they aren't as dumb as adults think they are either. While I wouldn't take a teenager's advice on the issues I face as an adult, I'd definitely weigh their opinion on a school system they were just in for 4 years heavier than someone who's my age and tends to go back into "Well I remember when I was your age" ramblings.

Why? Because we don't remember it. We remember bits and pieces, faded with age and brightened by nostalgia. It's a fish-eye view of the system, at best.

So, that said, I think she makes a good point, if it's indeed true that "No Child Left Behind means that No Child Gets Ahead". Teaching to the test isn't a way of getting us another person who knows how to think; it's an excellent way of getting a bunch of mediocre people that know how to take tests. There's something wrong with that, and I'm too far away from it to see exactly what it is and why.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Dorvan » Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:18 am

I certainly agree with that, but the public school system has largely been about "get kids to the minimum requirements, then stop putting resources into them" for much longer than the NCLB era. It's certainly a problem, but it's not a result of NCLB because it predates that legislation.

I'm happy to discuss issues about measuring academic achievement, as it's something I know a fair amount about. I think that standardized tests certainly aren't perfect, but they also do have an important role in education when put to good use. When push comes to shove, the worst thing you can do is have no objective measurement of student performance at all...weighing the pros and cons of various alternatives is an interesting topic for discussion.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Vanifae » Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:20 am

Dorvan wrote:I certainly agree with that, but the public school system has largely been about "get kids to the minimum requirements, then stop putting resources into them" for much longer than the NCLB era. It's certainly a problem, but it's not a result of NCLB because it predates that legislation.

I'm happy to discuss issues about measuring academic achievement, as it's something I know a fair amount about. I think that standardized tests certainly aren't perfect, but they also do have an important role in education when put to good use. When push comes to shove, the worst thing you can do is have no objective measurement of student performance at all...weighing the pros and cons of various alternatives is an interesting topic for discussion.

I agree I don't mind the discussion but it needs to go beyond it's broke and like Dorvan said the system has been based on getting kids to the minimum for a long time.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Fridmarr » Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:25 am

Fivelives wrote:Kids may not be as smart as they think they are, but they aren't as dumb as adults think they are either. While I wouldn't take a teenager's advice on the issues I face as an adult, I'd definitely weigh their opinion on a school system they were just in for 4 years heavier than someone who's my age and tends to go back into "Well I remember when I was your age" ramblings.

Why? Because we don't remember it. We remember bits and pieces, faded with age and brightened by nostalgia. It's a fish-eye view of the system, at best.

So, that said, I think she makes a good point, if it's indeed true that "No Child Left Behind means that No Child Gets Ahead". Teaching to the test isn't a way of getting us another person who knows how to think; it's an excellent way of getting a bunch of mediocre people that know how to take tests. There's something wrong with that, and I'm too far away from it to see exactly what it is and why.

Well I don't think anyone is discounting her opinion because she's a high school student. Her naivety is evidenced by her words. That's she's young just makes it fairly typical, and I think something most of us can relate too having been at that stage of life before.

I'm probably a bit more familiar with the school "system" now than when I was in school, particularly at the elementary level. It was not something I paid much attention too when I was a student (though I do remember it quite well), but now that I have a child in school it certainly has my interest.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Melathys » Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:46 am

I will admit that perhaps our school system has been going down hill before no child left behind, but all that program did was give crappy teachers the opportunity to continue to be crappy. By that, I mean as I said above, under that program teachers are expected to follow the text books, and teach nothing but what is tested, and the crappy teachers are at least good at reading out of textbooks. The good teachers try to go beyond the textbook. However, because of this standardized testing, doing anything but the textbook is frowned upon.

What needs to happen to "fix" this is beyond schools, imo. When you think about when the US was dominating education and sciences...Einstein was a superstar, a celebrity. He wasn't a celebrity for being on reality tv, or being a no talent hack that pre-teen girls think is cute, he was famous for his achievements as an intellectual.

Another part of the problem, imo, is apathy. There seems to me to be a general feeling of "well, someone else will fix it, so I won't worry about it". Well, when most everyone feels this way, bad things happen.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby theckhd » Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:57 am

Melathys wrote:What needs to happen to "fix" this is beyond schools, imo. When you think about when the US was dominating education and sciences...Einstein was a superstar, a celebrity. He wasn't a celebrity for being on reality tv, or being a no talent hack that pre-teen girls think is cute, he was famous for his achievements as an intellectual.

There's an over-arching anti-intellectual undercurrent going on in culture as a whole nowadays that wasn't present back then either. It's not a simple problem to solve, especially when you have fringe groups on one side (creationists, Intelligent Design proponents, some of the anti-climate-change lobby) trying to discredit scientists for political or religious motivations and fringe groups on the other side (pharmaceuticals and homeopaths primarily) twisting experimental results or in some cases flat-out ignoring them to try and sell a product.

If you really want to be angry several times a week, you should subscribe to Ben Goldacre's Bad Science blog. It's a fascinating and infuriating read. It's mostly focused on the medical/pharmaceutical field, but that's where the most egregious offenses seem to happen.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Dorvan » Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:12 am

Melathys wrote:I will admit that perhaps our school system has been going down hill before no child left behind, but all that program did was give crappy teachers the opportunity to continue to be crappy.


In what way did life pre-NCLB prevent crappy teachers from being crappy? One of education's biggest problems for a long time has been entrenched teacher's unions that are opposed to any movement towards basing employment or compensation on some sort of teacher performance metric. While standardized tests are no panacea, they at least provide a starting point for being able to make statements about how much students learn over the course of the year, which provides some chance of measuring how effective teachers are being. We have a long way to go in improving measurements of student progress and teacher performance, but to pretend that teaching is more effective when teachers are students aren't evaluated at all is silly.

As one test case, consider the Teach For America program. One of the reasons it's been so effective is that these teachers are grounded in the idea that they should constantly be monitoring their students' progress and making adjustments along the way to increase the rate of that progress. Spending a year in a classroom, sending kids off to the next grade at the end of the year, and having nothing but your subjective impressions to say how well you did is a great way to sink into mediocre teaching.

To state that standardized testing discourages doing anything but reading out of a textbook is foolishness. Standardized testing doesn't enforce any pedagogy, and even if you're reading out of a textbook that's directly related to the testing material, it's still an extremely ineffective method of teaching which will be reflected in student test scores. A dynamic and engaging teaching style should blow away such teaching methods, and if such a teaching style can't beating the brain dead baseline of "read from the textbook", perhaps it's time to reconsider whether the method that teacher is using actually *is* effective. Just because a teaching style is creative doesn't mean it's effective.

To me, your anecdote indicates a failure of administration (and yes, school administrations have about as many problems with employment entrenchment as teachers) than of standardized testing. To interpret "student need to know X, Y, and Z" as "X, Y, and Z must be taught by reading them from the textbook, and no other content may be discussed" is foolishness that says more about the principals than the evaluation system.

If, however, you're talking about course and curriculum content rather than looking at pedagogical concerns, it's certainly fair to say that too much focus on standardized testing can limit the scope of curricula. I'm open to hearing your thoughts on how best to address the issue. Of course, if enrichment material is displacing the fundamental curriculum, isn't there in fact a problem with that too? The most effective teachers I've had, and the kind of teacher I aim to be, is one who is effective by pushing students beyond the bare minimum, which means neither stopping at the boundaries of a standardized test *nor* simply dropping core content to spend more time on my personal interests.

Finally, you say a big problem with the system is apathy. So rather than sit back and say what you don't like about the current system without offering any solutions, why don't you engage and explore the issues and challenges of various reform approaches.

edit -- no content changes, just some editing/formatting
Last edited by Dorvan on Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:25 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Melathys » Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:15 am

totally not sure if I want to read that, lol. I can't even watch the news anymore, the idiocy running rampant on the news networks is driving me insane.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Pala » Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:18 am

Melathys wrote:What needs to happen to "fix" this is beyond schools, imo. When you think about when the US was dominating education and sciences...Einstein was a superstar, a celebrity. He wasn't a celebrity for being on reality tv, or being a no talent hack that pre-teen girls think is cute, he was famous for his achievements as an intellectual.


We need Bill Nye back on TV! I loved that show. I mainly posted the article because I felt that I wish I had done more at school even with having good grades. Unfortunately I didn't realize my interests until much later in college and after. I don't know how to enlighten kids so they know what they want to do earlier than I did. I would bet that is part of what drives a teacher, to help kids find the things they like.
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Re: A valedictorian speaks her mind

Postby Dorvan » Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:19 am

Melathys wrote:totally not sure if I want to read that, lol. I can't even watch the news anymore, the idiocy running rampant on the news networks is driving me insane.


Fortunately, I am not an idiot. Are you really going to complain about apathy one minute, and then state that reading a few paragraphs of discussion is too much effort the next?
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