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Ya want Fries with that?? January 26, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Educational Ranting.
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I spent the evening at Region 10 HQ (a service provider contracted with TEA to provide resources to teachers) getting introduced to Astronomy as a class.  I spent a portion of last summer at McDonald Observatory learning to interpret X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray telescope.  I am going back this summer to look at the Monet online telescope and hopefully get access to it for the school.  I am not sure that Astronomy is the class we are looking for though.  From what I saw tonight it will require a lot of math and a good bit of Physics.  I suspect the students I have may be allergic to math.  It would be very disappointing if we set up this class and then had to dumb it down so that a lot of Seniors who are not up to AP classes can get a 4th year science to graduate.  Why not be honest and develop a class about science that ordinary people can use in every day life?  We could teach them things like not mixing drain cleaner and bleach or how to properly store gasoline.  These are things that people could use everyday and it would still contain a great deal of science content.  These kids are not going to MIT to become engineers or scientists but the state says we have to put them in physics and chemistry classes and now they have added a fourth year so we must come up with something like astronomy or forensics to satisfy an arbitrary rule.  We then dumb the class down because the students we have enrolled are not nearly up to passing the real thing and then pat ourselves on the back because all our kids are getting a real scientific education.  We THEN wonder why the drop-out rate for colleges and universities is over 70%.  Is it so embarrassing to have a Vocational background?  Do the guys making $60K a year installing heating and AC really have reason to be ashamed?  The education system in this state would tell you that they do.  We are setting up schedules to prepare each student to attend a four year college and major in chemistry or physics.  At the same time we water the classes down so much that what is actually taught has only a passing relation to the title of the course.  We are doing these children a terrible disservice by NOT preparing them for life after high school.  We could train them to hold down many useful careers in different trades and generate productive members of society but instead we turn out fast food workers who spent 4 years learning biology, chemistry, and physics and who STILL can’t tell Isaac Newton from Fig Newton.  I could teach these kids to make $50K a year servicing PCs or doing web pages but the state says that those sorts of things are not useful.  What IS useful is putting a kid in Chemistry, making sure that he passes even though he is not ever going to use what little information he does glean in his entire life, and then send him out into the world where he has no marketable skills what so ever and is not remotely prepared or even interested in going to school for ten more years to become a brain surgeon.  We measure our success by cramming for months to teach the students to pass a multiple choice test that has only vague applications to real life and the information on which the students will have forgotten before their number 2 pencils hit the desk for the last time on test day.  See, I told you this was educational ranting.
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