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Education Science

Why Kids Should Be Building Rockets Instead of Taking Tests 381

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-the-failure-case-is-much-more-exciting dept.
An anonymous reader writes "MAKE Magazine founder Dale Dougherty has an article in Slate about how educators are missing the punchline when it comes to getting kids interested in learning. He describes a recent visit he made to a middle school: 'The science lab was empty, as were the library and the playground. It was not a school holiday: It was a state-mandated STAR testing day. The school was in an academic lockdown. This is what the American public school looks like in 2012, driven by obsessive adherence to standardized testing. The fate of children, their schools, and their teachers are based on these school test scores.' Dougherty's preference would be to more tightly integrate basic engineering projects into the science curriculum. 'I see the power of engaging kids in science and technology through the practices of making and hands-on experiences, through tinkering and taking things apart. Schools seem to have forgotten that students learn best when they are engaged; in fact, the biggest problem in schools is boredom. Students sit passively, expected to absorb all the content that is thrown at them without much context. The context that's missing is the real world."
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Why Kids Should Be Building Rockets Instead of Taking Tests

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  • by fotbr (855184) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @02:43PM (#40223849) Journal

    They're doing exactly what they've been told to do by the system that politics has created. To fix our schools, you need to keep congress's nose out of the process, return responsibility to the individual states and local boards of education.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @02:46PM (#40223895)

      Because if anyone knows how to create a quality education its the idiots that elect your local school board.

      • by magarity (164372) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:04PM (#40224225)

        Because if anyone knows how to create a quality education its the idiots that elect your local school board.

        Are you trying to imply the federal department of education has higher quality idiots than the local school board?

      • by Shotgun (30919)

        Which are the same idiots that elect your Congressmen/women.

        The only difference is that the local school board members might actually visit the local school on something other than a photo-op mission one day, and might actually talk to local parents and educators about local concerns.

        • by ArcherB (796902)

          Which are the same idiots that elect your Congressmen/women.

          The only difference is that the local school board members might actually visit the local school on something other than a photo-op mission one day, and might actually talk to local parents and educators about local concerns.

          And the parents are able to drive to where these school board people work and let them know how they feel. Good luck getting a hold of your congressperson.

      • But you know what? The kids that are educated according to the dictates of that local school board are the kids of those who elected the school board. On the other hand, when the rules concerning how the kids are educated are set in Washington, the kids of those making the rules are not subject to those rules (they go to private schools).
    • They're doing exactly what they've been told to do by the system that politics has created. To fix our schools, you need to keep congress's nose out of the process, return responsibility to the individual states and local boards of education.

      While I agree with your sentiments, educators are not only missing the punchline, they're one of the primary drivers behind the current system. Have a look at the curriculum of various education degree programs at colleges and universities... especially on the graduate side. You'll find a devotion to rigid institutional orthodoxy, and an almost cultish drive to keep non-education majors out of the the teaching ranks. Teaching has become something of a guild.

      • Also education degrees are trash, thanks to the courses being easy As (average GPA is 3.8) and certification being a joke.

      • by winwar (114053)

        That's odd, because while I don't have an education major, I have a teaching certificate through a graduate program. The primary driver of the curriculum of the program is the state. And the people in charge are the legislators not educators. The legislators are responding to the desires of the citizens and the businesses to put ever more requirements on new and existing teachers. The legislators mandate the standards.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @02:57PM (#40224121)

      The "better" system this guy proposes wouldn't work any better. How would you know which student learned, and which did not, if you do not have testing? What would happen is that a few students do all the work, while the other students slackoff and do nada. (Been there; experienced it)

      How do you eliminate bad teachers like the joker I had who wasted 40 minutes of every class talking about his karate lessons and/or last weekend at the bar? You need testing to see if the teacher is really teaching, or not.

      • by C0R1D4N (970153)
        Smaller classes solves that one.
      • by samkass (174571) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:24PM (#40224525) Homepage Journal

        How do you eliminate bad teachers like the joker I had who wasted 40 minutes of every class talking about his karate lessons and/or last weekend at the bar? You need testing to see if the teacher is really teaching, or not.

        You do what people do in every other employment field. 360-degree evaluations, manager involvement and leadership, peer reviews, and (appropriately weighted) student feedback questionnaires. Sure, throw a test in there as well if you'd like. But the idea that student ("customer") betterment should be the one and only thing on which everything rests is a little misguided. Not only is it not a very good judge of an employees quality as they have limited control over some of the most important parts of learning (ie. parental involvement, student interest in the subject, local funding resources), but it's also not great for the students' education itself.

      • by arth1 (260657) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:35PM (#40224715) Homepage Journal

        The "better" system this guy proposes wouldn't work any better. How would you know which student learned, and which did not, if you do not have testing?

        You test something you haven't taught them.
        That shows how good the students are at applying what they have been taught.

        The reliance on pre-digested knowledge is the bane of education. You don't teach the kids to learn, you teach them to become notebooks. I have no use for hiring notebooks. But I would like to hire someone who knows how to learn.

      • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @09:15PM (#40228201)

        How would you know which student learned, and which did not, if you do not have testing?

        Umm, believe it or not, as someone who has over a decade of experience teaching, you can actually assess students on the basis of things other than performance on paper tests.

        What would happen is that a few students do all the work, while the other students slackoff and do nada.

        Yeah, there's this thing called: paying attention to what your students are doing in your classroom. As a physics teacher who included a huge amount of lab activities in "conceptual physics" classes, I would continuously wander around the room, talking with groups, asking individual students what's going on, etc. You pretty quickly get a sense of whether someone is actively contributing or whether they're sitting there watching everyone else. And, heck, if you ask them to write a lab report or answer questions as individuals based on what they did after the fact, you can easily tell which students actually understand what's going on.

        How do you eliminate bad teachers like the joker I had who wasted 40 minutes of every class talking about his karate lessons and/or last weekend at the bar? You need testing to see if the teacher is really teaching, or not.

        Umm, no. Standardized testing can give some sort of general baseline about whether any learning at all is going on, but it's not going to tell the whole story.

        Having taught at both public secondary schools and a top-tier elite private secondary school, I can tell you that the solution is easy: real, true professional evaluations by good teachers. Many if not most public school administrators who are tasked with doing teacher evaluations are principals for a good reason -- they often were terrible teachers, and took the administration certification test to get into something they'd be better at. These are the people we have evaluating our teachers... most are hardly experts in classroom teaching.

        The elite private school I taught at had one member of the faculty who was the head of teaching evaluations and teaching coordinator. (I forget his actual title, but that's what he was.) He was an actual teacher. Just about everyone at the school acknowledged that he was one of the top teachers at the school. He would come to sit in on maybe a half dozen or more of your classes each year, not just the 45-minute mandatory evaluation done by some anonymous administrator at a public school.

        And the other administrators were teachers too. The head of the high school still taught a course. He would come and sit in on at least a few classes with every teacher too. Students were used to these people being around, so they didn't behave weirdly (unlike public school evaluations, where students were usually freaked out when the principal came to class once per year). The head of the high school would actually commonly just drop in with very little notice and see what was going on in a classroom, hang out for 15 minutes or so (he was an English teacher, but loved hanging out with students doing science experiments, because he found it all fascinating)... and frankly, because all of this happened so often, it really wasn't stressful for teachers, because everyone at the school was so comfortable with it.

        After you had taught at the school for a few years (and before you had whatever their equivalent of "tenure" was), you were teamed up with one of a handful of very experienced teachers at the school who acted as a mentor for an entire semester or year. (These mentor teachers were usually required to teach one fewer class for their service.) You would do in-depth classroom observations, planning, discussions of teaching improvements and strategies, etc. with this person. And all teachers at the school were required to repeat some lesser version of this program with their peers every 7-10 years or something after the initial intensive one.

        You ca

        • by winwar (114053)

          So how much did your students learn? And what standards did they meet? Do you have the data?

          If you do, congratulations. You have done testing. If not, then perhaps you aren't as good a teacher as you think you were.

          I agree that comprehensive formative and summative assessment done in the classroom matched to standards will be far more effective than general standardized tests. Any teacher and administrator that isn't an ignoramus knows that. And if you think unions are opposed to that, then perhaps yo

    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:01PM (#40224173)

      You mean, "local" schoolboards like the Texas one? See here for an example? I'll never understand why people think that local politicians are somehow better than Washington politicians. If anything, they can be worse, because there are far more possibilities for them to go completely off the deep end and be unchallenged.

    • by magarity (164372)

      And Federal spending on education is pennies on the dollar compared to what state and local governments spend. A lot of this chasing after tests is to get marginal additional funding. It seems a bizarre process to send money out of the state to the feds, cram for standardized tests, get money back minus beauracratic overhead.

    • by realmolo (574068) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:08PM (#40224277)

      You've got it exactly backwards.

      The states and local boards of education are THE PROBLEM.

      Public education in this country is a magnet for failed middle-managers and failed politicians. They use local school districts to build their little fiefdoms, and to line the pockets of their friends with government contracts for construction, and books, and computers, and all that crap. Education is the LAST thing on their minds, and the glorification of standardized testing works right into their hands. Standardized testing means that school districts don't need to worry about actually TEACHING. They just need to teach the test. And they don't want to "teach the test" TOO well, because they want the federal government to keep throwing money at them, which the feds don't like to do for schools that are performing well already.

      It's a giant mess. And almost ALL of the mess starts at the local school board level. They're crooks, the lot of them.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:09PM (#40224297)

      So that individual states can ban the teaching of evolution and institutionally ignoring climate change? If they can't find, or don't want to pay for someone who happens to understand alternating current versus direct current that's no problem, they'll just make whomever is the least liked teacher amongst the department do it.

      Education should be a federal responsibility, US students go to schools all around the country, and compete on an international stage. Allowing one state to permanently disadvantage its children by institutionalizing stupidity is precisely the sort of thing that federal governments should work to prevent. Nor is it fair that a child in a poor state will have less education resources just because that's where he or she was born, when someone who had the foresight to be born in a rich neighbourhood in a rich state will get a much better experience.

      That doesn't make any given standardized test a good idea, and it certainly doesn't make a lot of standardized testing a good idea. But you can't serious want a system where you have no idea how the kids are doing or where you need improvement. Big states (think New York, Florida, Texas, California) will still have to have some sort of standardized testing because they are big enough to warrant it, but when each state does it you can't even compare state to state easily.

      The world is in an era where you can be born in India, raised in Dubai for public school, go to highschool in Georgia (the State), got to University in California, work in New York. At no step in that process do you really want states determining your education. Does Georgia (the state) really want to have some criteria on how to assess a student coming in from every country in the world? Does some university in California really want to have thousands of different metrics for every state in every country in the world to try and figure out who to admit, and does some company based in New York really want a situation where it can't trust education from some states, but not others, and to try and figure out how to track all of that? That system is enormously wasteful, and mind numbingly stupid. Part of why the US system has so many holes in it is because individual states and school boards have decided their should be holes. (Think Kansas and Texas on evolution).

      Giving individual states responsibility for something makes sense if you can then extract the good ideas and apply them federally. It's not like states would ever be completely excluded from the process no more than the local school board or individual teacher are ever excluded from the process. But if you're all going to be americans, or south koreans or whatever, you should hope that the federal government will make sure you all get a fair opportunity if the states won't. Which they can't anymore.

      If you want a truly harsh example look at what is going to happen to kids in Greece and Spain compared to germany and france. The former two are going to have to savagely cut education (along with everything else) because they're fucked in a currency union without a fiscal union. Those kids are going to have a much harder time helping their countries fix problems in 10 years because they aren't going to be as well prepared. Should some kid born in california get a shitty education because some dipshits voted for more spending and less taxes for the last 30 years, and left no money for schools today? They're having their futures held hostage by a stupid political process which they aren't responsible for nor even a part of.

    • by John Jorsett (171560) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:14PM (#40224369)

      To fix our schools, you need to keep congress's nose out of the process, return responsibility to the individual states and local boards of education.

      Would you also eliminate federal funding and let states and localities pay for their own schools? Unless you do, the feds are going to put conditions on what they're paying for, and justifiably so. Personally I'd like to see the feds out of many areas, including education, since their participation comes with a lot of strings.

    • To fix our schools, you need to keep congress's nose out of the process,

      An act of Congress is what gave us public schools in their modern incarnation to begin with. It's the No Child Left Behind legislation, courtesy of one George W. Bush. It probably would have been dismantled by now, except that it happened in 2001, just before the 9/11 bombings. After that, it was forgotten... and it shouldn't have been.

      If you want to blame anything, blame that. Before Congress mandated public education, it was generally only the wealthy could afford to send their kids to school. Early into

    • by tsa (15680) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:38PM (#40224763) Homepage

      This problem is not unique to the US. Here in the Netherlands kids take their first tests when they are 4 years old! Absolutely ridiculous if you ask me. Let them play and be kids!
      Another problem here are boys in the classroom, or rather the fact that the teachers, who are almost always female, don't understand them and don't know how to handle them. Boys have to run, jump and do all kinds of things, while girls are more often happy sitting at a table doing things like drawing, writing and needlework. So boys are often regarded a nuisance. This 'problem' is often 'solved' by giving the boys medication. We should have teachers who actually understand kids, but these days many teachers here can't even spell properly. So we have a whole generation of kids with a shaky foundation on which they have to build all their knowledge. Thank you, governments, for saving so much money on education! We are in for interesting times.

  • by wdef (1050680) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @02:43PM (#40223857)
    I was fascinated by all things science as a little kid. Doing, enjoying, fantasizing. I craved books for kids about science, electronics kits and chemistry sets - these were what I enjoyed. And toy robots. Then I got to junior high school and started formal science classes. Awful. Hated chemistry. Math was painful. Only physics became vaguely interesting. I did a BS, but school nearly ruined that path.
    • I whole heartedly agree. I ended up spending more time making 'dumb' little video games and levels for Doom than on my homework. I even had real difficulty learning Math in school because we spent so much time on the theory instead of its practical application. Once I got to University things got more interesting; the course I took had a reasonable element of Math to it, but we weren't simply made to write answers to long differential equations - one of our courseworks involved modeling bezier curves in 3D
    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      "Many have the desire but few have the skill." - Albert Einsteain. Yes science requires a lot of math..... if you're no good at math, science is not the proper choice, no matter how much you enjoyed reading Astronomy or Asimov magazines as a kid. (shrug)

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      Well ya, part of the problem is that real science isn't playing with toys. It's learning to do math, to predict results, to analyse results and to communicate results. Teaching kids that science is duct taping things together and seeing what happens isn't preparing them for real science. Nor is it giving them the critical thinking skills required to understand science or to apply scientific processes to any problem.

      Mixing chemicals and seeing what happens is fun, as is shooting rockets into the air. But

  • There are good teachers that don't teach to the test. Unfortunately, because of the high-stakes testing which can determine pay raises and personnel decisions, this is typically on non-core subjects. My physics (which does have a STARR test now) teacher was great. We rarely used the textbook but we measured the speed of sound and used a lot of hands on physics demonstrations. This is a good article. I'm hoping to begin teaching science, math or computer science next year. Maybe I can be part of the ch
    • There are good teachers that don't teach to the test.

      In principle, yes. However in most areas teachers are literally required to use a script.

      The state standards actually give teachers freedom to approach the basic knowledge that we expect students to learn in ways of their choosing, but districts often don't trust their teachers, or want to cover their asses, and so choose one of the pre-approved curricula.

    • by firex726 (1188453)

      Same for me, my Core stuff was in effect rote memorization from the textbook, but the non-Core ones were quite engaging and I still remember many of the lessons taught us then.

      "Like dissolves Like"

  • Agreed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @02:50PM (#40223983) Journal

    My third grader informed me one day that "science is boring". You could have hit my in the nuts with a hammer and it would have hurt me less. I inquired more and found out that he is reading a lot of stuff and he just doesn't find it exciting.

    First, I got ahold of a few interesting science videos dealing with astronomy and robotics. He was intrigued. On a trip to Disney I took him on a behind the scenes tour at their greenhouses where he got to talk to a Botanist and learn more. And I"ve found a few other opportunities to get him involved in some hands on science.

    I'll be damned if I let school choke out his love for learning. He's border-line gifted if not gifted (I'm Triple Nine) and it would be a shame if he limited his options because of school...

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Pont him here too: My love of science started with magazines, because of the potential to learn new things.
      http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/prior/ [clarkesworldmagazine.com]
      http://sciencenews.com/ [sciencenews.com]
      http://astronomy.com/ [astronomy.com]
      http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/ [nationalgeographic.com] (formerly NatGeo World)

    • If your child has limited learning opportunities it isn't because of the school. Another approach is what I am doing with my oldest which is similar to what you are doing with your child but could be expanded upon is to try and make every activity a learning activity. My oldest (3 years old) and I are always going and doing things that he finds interesting. I teach him as much as I can while we are doing things. We have done a model rocket where we put it together and I explained what each part did and how
    • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Informative)

      by DesScorp (410532) <<DesScorp> <at> <Gmail.com>> on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:26PM (#40224559) Homepage Journal

      My third grader informed me one day that "science is boring". You could have hit my in the nuts with a hammer and it would have hurt me less. I inquired more and found out that he is reading a lot of stuff and he just doesn't find it exciting

      I collect old books, including some old textbooks, and one thing I see is a definite shift from the use of the practical to explain science in texts to an almost complete reliance on theory. The former is interesting and the later bores the hell out of most kids.

      One of my favorite books that I've collected is a junior high school general science text from 1932. If you're used to modern school science texts, the thing that immediately jumps out at you about this book is that for most subjects, practical, real world examples are used to introduce the concept to the students... usually using machines that do our various jobs... and then followed with some light theory behind. For instance, flight is taught not with a dry paragraph of theory, but with a picture of a WWI fighter in action, with notes on how the various parts work. That grabs their interest with the cool factor. Then a paragraph on the opposite page has a brief description of Bernoulli's principle to explain how it gets off the ground. There's a chapter on energy that starts out with a diagram of an old Dynamo, with an incredibly cool description of how everything works, what the various parts do, and thenyou get some info on electrical theory. It's fantastic, and I read it cover to cover. I never had a science text like that, and I was in my mid-30's when I bought it, had a bachelor's degree, and I still learned things from it. It was fun. When's the last time you saw a middle school science text that could be described as fun?

      Go to Google Books, and poke around in some of the old science texts from that period. You'll see what I'm talking about. I absolutely love the idea of teaching by means of examining how a machine works, especially when you do it by building one on a small scale yourself. So I completely get the "have 'em build rockets" notion. There's a lot to that.

      When's the last time you've seen a school science text

  • I'm in complete agreement that kids should be engaged and care about what they're learning, and be actively learning it. But at the same time, not all kids are going to love making rockets. Some would love working with animals, or arguing about literature. Making those kids build rockets isn't much better than making them study 17th century geography or cram for a stupid standardized test.
    Ideally we'd figure out what kids want to learn, and help them learn those things, with some encouragement for them t

    • Some would love working with animals, or arguing about literature

      Ok, then YES.

      Standardized testing is a reaction to a widespread perception that kids were learning stuff that wasn't useful

      What makes you think that? It was wholly a response to the fear that kids were not learning enough. It was designed so that teachers could demonstrate we should not fire the lot of them and start public schools over from scratch.

      he's totally right, but he's not addressing the root cause of the problem he's trying to solv

  • The context that's missing is the real world.

    Arguably, real world context should be provided in post-secondary education... when middle school and high school have enough trouble laying theoretical ground work for that. Of course in reality university education is purely theoretical, with graduates being absolutely clueless when it comes to being employed in the real world... if anything, technical colleges is where the real world context is provided.

    I guess my point is - Dale Dougherty is an idiot who obviously haven't tried teaching algebra to teen

  • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @02:53PM (#40224045)

    Right. Give fucking Homeland Security something else to go after...

  • I'm simply happy that the schools have the paper to actually print the tests. Here, the budget is so out of whack that most school systems require that parents to supplement their classrooms with much more than notebooks, pencils, and tissues. The budgetary issues aside, it comes down to the parents (who elect the folks in charge of the school systems) to decide how their children are taught. I do believe that children who are engaged are more apt to learn than those who are bored to tears. Go beyond engine
    • Hey.. they have pay that incompetent superintendent $200,000. If they don't they get one even worse.

      The biggest money drain in the school corporation today are the executives. And they are all perfect examples of the Peter Principle.

  • Against state's rights? Then this article explains lays out what you asked for.

    When the public got an ear full of "Johnny cant read", No Child Left Behind and the STAR test is EXACTLY what a large faceless federal bureaucracy (aka, President / Department of Education) is going to have for a solution. To expect anything else is living in fantasy land.

    Therefore, give back education requirements to a per state basis and get rid of not only No Child Left Behind, but also the Department of Education. If you f

  • This is Defective By Design brought into the Western education system. Standardised tests cater for the "average" or below; they do not challenge the intelligent, who are later deemed to be mentally ill(!). Normality these days is shuffling fries and frying burgers. When Joe 170 stands up and says "I'm going to do something different", he's ridiculed by those who scored Cs across the board because they do not know any better - because none of them were taught to challenge.

    I pity those Average Joes because a

    • Virtually ALL public education caters to the average, or more generally, the first quartile.

      If you are an 'exceptional' student you either 1) have to be lucky - be in a school that has enough money and brains to support more than one kind of student 2) come from a well off enough background to get into a good private school 3) have your parents / family / friends help you along 4) do it yourself.

      I suspect if you look at the majority of high functioning adults, most of them have gone through one of those pat

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      The problem is not so much the people in the schools as the whole no child left behind mentality. Had that been the case when you were in school you may not have been subjected to the ridicule you've most likely experienced. I fully agree with you about the tests catering to the lowest common denominator. Exceptional people should be treated as such and pushed in a way to encourage their pursuit of knowledge. Instead we are stuck with the "reality tv" generation. Insert laugh track here, like we don't know
  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @02:56PM (#40224085) Homepage Journal
    Virtually useless, until someone invents a standardized student.

    Education will suffer until the Powers-That-Be realize not every person learns the same way.
    • Virtually useless, until someone invents a standardized student.

      Don't tell anybody else, but you've found The Holy Grail.

    • Right on the head. One of my biggest problems with schools going all the way back to my own school days is the treatment of students like commodities. If you do the exact same process to a block of wood you get the same result. If you do the exact same process to a kid you don't. Kids are not raw materials. They are humans with their set of experiences and a lot more complex. The problem with NCLB and the school system in general is they are treated in that way, and testing makes this idea worse. You

    • Virtually useless, until someone invents a standardized student.

      I agree, but I don't think the tests have even advanced to the point of fairly testing the "standard" student. They are still basically testing English proficiency and the ability to coincidentally arrive at the same strange oversimplifications found in the test questions (which even a "standard" student might find to be not even wrong).

  • The next year they shot off rockets, one hit a car at a local dealership and damaged it, and that was the end of rockets in school.

    In these times, I'm afraid the lawyers won't let them...

  • by k6mfw (1182893) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:01PM (#40224183)
    That's what an elementary school teacher calls timed tests for math (give students 10 minutes to finish arithmetic test). She promoted math is more than just doing calculations (add, subtract, multiply, divide), she liked to have students do hands-on stuff like filling different shaped containers with beans (not cooked of course) to illustrate proportions. However, hands-on kinds of stuff is hard to measure with a number saying how well (or poor) student performance. So the admins always want timed-tests ("drill and kill!").
  • Kids should stop using numbers and just have some sort of directed play-time, all the time.

    Maybe instead of having to read Chaucer they can just watch the Lord of the Ring movies?

  • I've watched the American school system degrade into the pathetic excuse for an education system that it is. The whole issue is not as much as getting children interested in this stuff as much as the parents focused on standards of learning.
    Since no child is able to be left behind you have not just 1 child who is behind instead you now have 34 other students suffering academically due to the one. At what point do you admit something is a failure? Is it when future generations are so dumb they make Frito Pen
  • No day in physics class was more fun than the lab involving calculating the angle of trajectory of toy cars and them smashing them into stuff. If you did the math just right, your car would fly across the track in a perfect arc and then knock over a tennis ball propped up on a paper cup. (Or, more likely, knock the entire cup and tennis ball assembly clean off the table.)
  • by unimacs (597299) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:12PM (#40224347)
    We had a similar discussion with my son's middle school science teacher. We asked why there wasn't more hands on activities. He said that he would like to do more but that getting the materials can be expensive; preparing a lab takes a lot more time than preparing a lecture, and a great deal of time is spent policing the kids to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do. Further, he was limited to things that could be started and completed within an hour.

    The previous science teacher was much better about preparing hands on stuff, but she got burnt out and quit after a few years.

    If you really want to teach science in a manor that would engage kids, you need some exceptional teachers. Short of that, building some flexibility into the schedule might help. Give science teachers more prep time. Instead of having science 5 days a week for 50 minutes at a shot, make it four days with one of the days being longer for lab time.
  • Dale is confused. He's mis-framed his argument, based on the presumption that (American) public schools are intended to spawn entrepreneurs, inventors, and creators. Unfortunately, that's not true, and never was. They're designed to create a competent workforce and serve a lowest common denominator, nothing more. Now, we can argue all week long about whether a "conspiracy" brought about this particular evolution, but it doesn't change the design. The emergence of those entrepreneurs, inventors, and cre

  • Every so often we get articles on Slashdot where some Engineer/IT guy/Progammer thinks he knows best and recommends adding more "nerd stuff" like LInux or model rockets or RPG's in education. Then all of Slashdot hops on the "Wow, I loved model rockets....this is a great idea" bandwagon.

    Most kids, aren't nerds. And while we might love to see our pet hobbies in schools. a la "All kids should learn Python!", this is no different from a concert Pianist saying "all kids should study piano because it makes them smarter"

    And lets not forget class differences...model rockets is one of those usual upper middle class son of an engineer" hobbies we see so many Slashdotters have. It's like all those articles where Slashdotters reminisce about their C64's and they don't even realize that most people "didn't" have a home computer in the 80's. Even the consoles of that time had less household penetration of today.

    So no, turning every school into a Slashdotters affluent suburban school with rocketry and computer clubs, isn't the solution, even if they mean well.

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp

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