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Worrying news about US Education.





Bikerman
I've just been reading the latest summary report from the National Council for Science Education in the US. It makes depressing and worrying reading.
Quote:
In the survey, 25% of teachers indicated that they devoted at least one or two classroom hours to creationism. Nearly half of that 25% indicated that they present creationism as a “valid scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species,” and nearly half of that 25% indicated that they emphasize that “many reputable scientists” view creationism as a valid alternative to evolution

Document Here

Remember that these are supposed to be SCIENCE teachers....<shudder>
And we are seriously supposed to believe that atheists are running the schools? Baloney.

If a science teacher does not know that ID/Creationism is not a scientifically (or legally) valid alternative to evolution* then they shouldn't be teaching science.

*That is not just 'my opinion', before anyone says it is. It is the law according to the US Judge Jones in the Dover Trial.
The Judge was quite clear about how the ID brigade are dishonest and untrustworthy.
Judge Jones wrote:
ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.
c'tair
This speaks volumes about the education level of the teachers themselves and also about their attitude towards science and education.

This reminds me of a case when the International Baccalaureate Diploma program was attacked in the US for disseminating marxist beliefs Shocked when of course - the accusation was made by people who never bothered to actually check out what the IB diploma is all about. I'm a IB diploma graduate and I have to tell you that there is no propaganda or hypnosis in that teaching curriculum.

In fact, it's the complete opposite, the IB prides itself on teaching it's pupils ways of investigating and seeking truth by themselves instead of committing to memory thousands of useless formulas.


But back on topic. I think if matters get any worse, we will see a fall of America. Yes, I know, I sound like a doomsday prophet BUT when we don't care about the education of future generations - those people in school today will be voters tomorrow and if they can't vote smart, they will vote dumb, which means a lot of stupid and pointless legislation will come to pass AND instead of progress, American society will regress.
Indi
c'tair wrote:
But back on topic. I think if matters get any worse, we will see a fall of America. Yes, I know, I sound like a doomsday prophet BUT when we don't care about the education of future generations - those people in school today will be voters tomorrow and if they can't vote smart, they will vote dumb, which means a lot of stupid and pointless legislation will come to pass AND instead of progress, American society will regress.

i would say that that fall is already in progress. The only benefit the US has going for it right now is that it is crazy rich. That's why most research still happens in the US - research is very costly, and the returns take a long time to come in, so not many places can afford to do it on the same scale as the US. The US has never been the source of its own intellectual supremacy - it has always relied on the so-called "brain drain", where the brains from other, poorer countries (including Canada, which few people realize is nearly 10 times poorer than the US, despite being right next door and having similar standards of living) go to the US because the money is there. The doesn't produce its own intellectual talent, it imports it; intellectual talent from other countries go to the US because of the money and the standard of living.

But all of that is changing. The brain drain (at least in Canada) has stopped - now the brainiest are content to stay in their own countries, because the US is no longer as appealing a destination as it once was. Some people are even saying that we have reversed the drain - now Canada is sucking top talent from the US. It will probably take 10 years or more before you see the results of this change in the US high-tech and research economy... but it's not a good sign. As i said, the US doesn't produce much intellectual talent, so if it's not importing any... it's in trouble.

And the money isn't going to last forever either. When the US economy crashed recently, it took most of the world down with it, but only because we've always used the US economy as a prop due its massive rate of return. For example, the Canadian economy didn't crash when the US did - it suffered terribly because we do so much business with the US, but our banks and financial institutions did not collapse like the American's did. And now, in the aftermath of that, our banks and financial institutions are very wary of the US market - especially since, since the crash happened, no real changes have been put in place to prevent it from happening again. (In fact, my invenstment advisor explicitly asked me if i wanted to invest in the US, which they never used to do in the past. Normally they just have their funds set up with 50% US interests or 70% US interests, etc., and you choose based on risk vs. rate or return, or ethical choices (like not investing in weapons and so on).) i predict the US financial sector will crash again... only this time the rest of the world - while they will be affected - won't care half as much, because they will have found other, more stable markets to rely on.

In fact, the US dollar is still the number one reserve currency, and the number one trading currency... but for how long? The Euro is gaining power fast - just a month or two ago it passed the US dollar for the most amount of money in circulation.

Things are bad yet, but the signs are all there. But don't think the Americans don't know all of this. i've heard Obama making big noises about how important it is to get education back on track. Thing is, he doesn't exactly have that great a track record for getting things accomplished, and the other guys... they don't even see the problem. It would be a challenge to halt the trend at this point, but not impossible - however, they're not even close to trying.

It's not even just a matter of getting to actually teach science in a science class (what a crazy notion!); the education system has be designed to educate, not indoctrinate. Education is not giving students a list of facts they have to memorize and then regurgitate at test time. It is teaching the principles of reasoning and critical thinking so that learning does not stop when class ends, or even when school ends, but rather becomes a lifelong process.
liljp617
c'tair wrote:
But back on topic. I think if matters get any worse, we will see a fall of America. Yes, I know, I sound like a doomsday prophet BUT when we don't care about the education of future generations - those people in school today will be voters tomorrow and if they can't vote smart, they will vote dumb, which means a lot of stupid and pointless legislation will come to pass AND instead of progress, American society will regress.


Something tells me what you've said is said by every generation about those generations younger...

I honestly feel my generation (I'm 20) is quite in touch with the politics. Even if they're misinformed about some of the policies and how government functions (or ideally how it is supposed to), they show a strong interest...and that's the starting point that opens the door to correcting misinformation.

I also feel a large section of my generation is in touch with the idea that religion often stunts progress both culturally and scientifically. Obviously this section is still a minority, but I think it's growing...slow as molasses, but still...

Something tells me what I've just said is also said about every generation by members of that generation Very Happy Obviously my feelings hold about as much weight as you want to give them, which I know isn't much.

There is certainly a gigantic hole in the efficiency of education in the US. I don't know how you fix it. I don't think you can't expect schools to both teach what the youth needs to learn and, concurrently, solve the social issues of today -- I think this is what is currently expected of the school system. I think a strong grip needs to be put on the various social issues before schools are going to be as effective as we desire, not the other way around. Then again, I get a slightly biased picture as my mother is a public high school teacher.

I would also agree with Indi that certain crucial "skills" that actually allow people to learn are being largely ignored. As for my own experiences in the public education system: Even something as simple as "word problems" in math are almost always excluded from the curriculum, for whatever ridiculous reason. Teachers would literally assign homework from the book or give a worksheet, and purposefully exclude the "word problems." I never understood it -- what purpose does math serve if you don't apply it to the world? Other classes were similar...there were rarely essays required or even short-answer questions. You simply can't learn how to reason or think without practicing, and a 50-question multiple choice test isn't going to improve those skills.
Bikerman
Looking at the Gallup Poll on my desktop I see:
26% of US graduates believe the world was created, as is, within the last 10,000 years (ie YECs).
Of the rest, 54% believe in a sort of evolution, but guided and directed by God.
That leaves 16% who actually know their ass from their elbow and have a chance of finding it on a dark night...not very reassuring I would say.....
liljp617
Yes, I was actually kind of scared to seek out statistics on the matter, as I assumed they would be depressing. And.......I was right Mad

Are there similar polls from over the past few decades to compare, out of curiosity? Link?
Bikerman
Here's the link I quoted from :
http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_publi.htm

It is a bit old now - back to 2004.

EDIT - this is more up to date :
http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1107/polling-evolution-creationism
liljp617
I'm just interested to see if there's a trend of people in the US becoming more non-religious. In the earlier post, we have "26% of graduates believe the world was created in the last 10,000 years." Thirty or forty years ago, it seems that number would be much larger. Not that that's really any consolation to the current state, but does that trend exist in your opinion? Glancing at the polls, it seems kind of sketchy, so I'm leaning towards "the trend isn't really there." It seems like the numbers are pretty stagnant since at least 1982.
Bikerman
If anything there is a slight increase in those accepting evolution - but only slight and nowhere near enough to be reassured...
c'tair
I remember watching a documentary a while ago about the woes of the education system. On one side you have teachers that want more money, but as statistics have shown - the money spent per student has skyrocketed whilst student's scores remained basically the same. On the other hand you have parents that will fight for the American way of life.

And on the third hand you have dedicated teachers or educators who really want to make a difference, but it's really hard for them because they have to fight greedy teachers and dumb parents every step of the process - the documentary talked about schools who use 1/2 or even 1/3 of the money usual schools use and they still get 1st place in a given country/state in terms of test scores. I remember a part where they gave regular Belgian students and advanced placement American students a standardized international test and the Belgian students scored about 70% whilst the AP American students scored a little over 40%. And one of the Belgian kid's comment was "Wow, I guess that they're just dumb".

In many places schools have to meet certain criteria to continue existing ie. if a school fails at teaching - it is closed down. Can this happen in the US? I can already imagine rallies and protests infront of a school about to be closed down, even though it's clearly not serving it's purpose and is just a waste of tax payer's money. What about dumb teachers? How hard is it to FIRE a teacher that obviously fails at teaching? Teacher unions are one of the worst things that happened to the US school system - firing a teacher is nearly impossible unless he/she engages in molestation.

I remember that when I applied for a job a couple of months back I was presented with an easy mathematical test about addition and subtraction Shocked . It kinda shows how bad it is when employers aren't sure whether their potential employees can add or subtract.

@Indi
I agree, even 15-20 years ago America was the place to go. I've had Americans tell me how their universities are the best in the world - and yes they are, however how many Americans actually attend them and how many foreigners (and I mean US-born citizens, not people who received naturalization)? Yep, I think the brain-drain is lessening because countries are choosing to keep their brains, since it's no longer profitable to move to the US.

But can anything change if everything is ruled by protests, rallies, beautiful speeches? In short words - can politics continue interfering with academia and education?
Indi
c'tair wrote:
I remember a part where they gave regular Belgian students and advanced placement American students a standardized international test and the Belgian students scored about 70% whilst the AP American students scored a little over 40%. And one of the Belgian kid's comment was "Wow, I guess that they're just dumb".

True story: my little sister was 8, 9 or 10 (certainly younger than 11, because she was not in the year she had to do her 11+), and we had a visitor down from up north who was either in her last year of high school or second last (so, 16, 17 or 18 ish), and who intended to go on to become a teacher (and she eventually did). My sister was having trouble with her math homework, so this visitor - already in the teacher mindset - offered to help, because she was acing math.

Five minutes later they came out, and she was shocked - she said she no idea how to even begin doing my sister's homework.

The homework was (and i'm foggy because this was so long ago) some form of algebra. i am pretty sure that it was dealing with systems of equations. Like she would have:
x + y = 8
4x + y = 17
and have to solve for x and y (except, i think it was worded more like:
x + y = 8
4x + y = 17
2x + 3y = ??
and you had to find the ?? or
x + y = 8
4x + y = 17
2x + ??y = 16
and you had to find the ?? - probably that, though). And the reason my sister was having difficulty is because she was "cheating" (as in, doing it her way and not the way she was taught) before - she would solve this case by subtracting the first one from the second one like this:
4x + y = 17
-( x + y = 8 )
--------------
3x = 9

So x = 3, and she would be half done. But now she was getting cases like:
x + 2y = 13
4x + y = 17
So she couldn't make one disappear by a simple subtraction (and hadn't yet seen the trick that could make her method work again). She was too stubborn to use what teacher had told her to do (rewrite one in terms of x or y then substitute), so she wanted to make her way work again.


And for some background info, my sister was a very bright student, but she was at a very mediocre school (for political reasons) in Barbados in the Caribbean. So the homework at a mediocre school in the West Indies was too much for a student almost 10 years ahead in North America.

Or, i can give you my personal experience. When i came to North America, i wanted to go straight into university, but they wouldn't let me because i was 2 years too young, and they didn't recognize any of my academic credits. They wanted me to do 2 years of high school; i refused. i signed up for one year of high school, but about a third of the way through i wrote several special exams (like the Descartes math challenge), and used those results to convince them to let me in the next year. And i was still doing math i had done in Barbados even when i was in 2nd year university.

Or, there is the curious case of "Gearbox". Gearbox was a drunk vagrant who hung around Bridgetown, Barbados for many years, and probably suffered from serious mental problems. (He was probably named Gearbox because of an odd vocalization he would randomly do in mid-speech that sounded like gears grinding.) Gearbox had certainly never finished school - probably never gone at all - but fancied himself a political force to be reckoned with. When he spoke, he spoke as if he were addressing parliament (for example, he would start all his speeches with, "Mr. Speaker....", and make frequent references to "the opposition"). But although his rants were often disjointed - changing topic sometimes in mid-sentence - his vocabulary and grammar were impeccable by North American standards. Other than his slur and his occasional "gear-grinding" noises, he sounded more educated than several presidents and other major leaders. Yeah, you heard right: a half-mad rummie in Barbados had better grammar and vocabulary than the leaders of North America (and Gearbox's grammar and vocabulary were not startling by Barbados standards... his celebrity was due to the fact that he spoke as if he were addressing parliament, not due to his English skills; in fact, his language skills were and are fairly average for Barbados).

There is a stereotype now of people coming to North America from overseas - from India, or China, or central Africa - and just acing school here... and there is a good reason for that. They're dirt poor over there, but when they do school, they bloody well do it right.

c'tair wrote:
I agree, even 15-20 years ago America was the place to go. I've had Americans tell me how their universities are the best in the world - and yes they are, however how many Americans actually attend them and how many foreigners (and I mean US-born citizens, not people who received naturalization)? Yep, I think the brain-drain is lessening because countries are choosing to keep their brains, since it's no longer profitable to move to the US.

But can anything change if everything is ruled by protests, rallies, beautiful speeches? In short words - can politics continue interfering with academia and education?

Well, it's not that countries are choosing to keep their brains so much as the brains are choosing to keep their countries. ^_^;

Can politicians fix the problem? Certainly! If they were really serious about doing it. Politics should interfere more in academia and education - in fact, a lot of the problems have arisen because they haven't interfered enough - but they should interfere intelligently. The government should set strict standards both for schools and for teachers. It should step in to more closely monitor where the money being given to schools is really going - because in many schools the football teams are better funded than the science labs. Every teacher should have to take the same exams the students are taking... and pass them with flying colours. Any teacher that teaches creationism in a science class should be fired immediately - that is not a freedom of speech or religion issue, it is a simple job performance issue.

The first five years of school - at least - should be absolutely nothing but math, spelling and grammar, reading comprehension and writing, and reasoning... and that's it. No science, no history, no nothing. At most they should get one optional class in art or a language (and when i say art, i mean real art, not "here are some paints, draw what you like", but things like perspective, colour-mixing, shadows, and so on). By the time they're 10 they should start getting some basic science, and some more practical classes like civics, computers, basic history, literature, and so on. By the time they're 13 or so, they should start getting electives that they can begin to specialize with: like more in depth history, more languages, more advanced math, and so on - but they should be encouraged (maybe even required) to dabble widely. By the time they're 16 or so, they should have a SOLID grounding in math and English - because they've been doing it non-stop for over 10 years - and familiarity with a broad spectrum of other topics... at this point they are ready to begin choosing a college or university path.

And because there are always nay-sayers who say "but if you only teach math and grammar to young kids they'll get bored with school", i have to say bullshit, and point out that not only can both early math and English be taught very well using things like word-games and computer programs to plot math equations (because graphical feedback is always neat), the reasoning component can be done in very interesting ways. There are lots of very neat demonstrations you can use to teach proper reasoning, like doing the Forer experiment right in class, for example. And the reading comprehension and writing components are easy to make fun.

These things are already being done in other places (for example, until i was 11 my entire curriculum consisted basically of 4 classes: math, English language (spelling and grammar), English lit(erature) (reading comprehension and writing), and reasoning (that was an actual class). Once a week we had "games" (physical education), and then, of course Bible study. i didn't do science until i was about 13 - and that was an introductory "integrated science" class; specialization into physics, chemistry and biology came later. But because i had such a solid math foundation, by the time i was 14 i had covered as much physics as a 16 year-old in North America (we started doing derivatives in math at 13 or 14).

It's a very easy problem to fix - it just requires politicians with balls enough to do it. The problem is that doing it would require saying that all kids in the current system are disadvantaged dumbasses... which is true, but political suicide to say. It would also require saying that some kids must fail... which, unless your standards are way too low, is bound to happen, but again would be political suicide to say. It would also require coming down hard on teachers - who are currently just giving the kids mountains of lame homework in lieu of good educating - but if you come down on the teachers, the teachers manipulate the students into supporting them, which in turn means the parents are on their side, too.

You say politicians are interfering with education - i say you're looking at the wrong source for the problem. Politicians have certainly done little good... but if you want to finger the real culprits for the education disaster, it's the teachers and parents.
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