Sunday, November 20, 2005

Governor finishes last in his division again.

Rumors have it that the guv kinda got into it with Dr. SueEllen Reed, Indiana's State Superintendent of Public Instruction, at an Education Roundtable meeting. Evidently a report was being given that indicated Indiana's student achievement had been slowly and steadily rising in many areas. The governor took exception to any good news and revealed that the LA Dodgers had improved too but they play in a weak division.

I have about had it with the lame sports analogies. This is not a game - its education! American obsession with rankings and ratings will be our demise.

These folks don't get it. The unintended consequences of trying to be number one on some international or national test will eventually choke out what remains of the American creativity and ingenuity. (See the previous post on this blog.) Teachers in the trenches will confirm this.

My son came home with an A- the other day. I guess using the governor's flawed logic I should frown and ask him why he wasn't number one in the class that day AND tell him that since he is
not in the advanced math class that he should be disappointed because he is in a weak division.

As they say, "The beatings will continue until morale improves."


At Tuesday, November 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to ask someone in the ratings promotion business if they factor in the different levels of schools in other countries before comparing test scores. Germany (the education program with which I am most familiar outside of the U.S.) separates its students into three levels of high school, two vocational education schools and one college-bound school. I highly doubt the scores of the lower high schools are touted as much as the schools full of college bound students. If Americans want their scores to be as high, they should only submit test results that are from a corresponding student group, right?

At Thursday, November 24, 2005, Anonymous Paul said...

In the 'real world' most folks are exposed to competition and understand that being #1 or #2 is much better than being at the bottom of the list. We do our kids a disservice if we let them exit high school without be exposed to competition, and giving them tools to deal with it.

That is not to say that competition has to start in 1st grade. We have a good idea when kids develop the emotional maturity to handle academic competition, and can introduce the concept appropriately over time.

That being said, I think one impediment to preparing our youth for their life of competition is that teachers and administrators themselves live in a non-competitive environment. Indeed, people may go into the education profession because it allows them to AVOID competition. The whole notion of tenure is, I believe, less about intellectual freedom than about simple job security.

Our country has steadily moved to a mode where people no longer feel risk. When something bad happens, it's someone else's fault and someone else needs to fix it. America was founded by risk takers, and our success through the 20th century was fueled by a willingness of people to take a chance.

I worked in an industry (computers) where there were lots of smart people around. But I remember when the CEO of my company said he didn't need just ideas -- he needed action. Our society needs both thinkers and doers. And we need a few who are both. Maybe even in politics.

I am reminder of a friend of mine who was a math genius. He became a math teacher, then a programmer, and finally a lawyer. Graduated top of his class and edited the law review. He failed as a private attorney because he didn't know how to compete for customers.

I have many friends who were raised in India, including a couple who received their engineering degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology, which some say is the equal if not better of MIT. When you hear them tell their story of what it took to get into high school, much less IIT, you begin to understand how easy the American system is compared to other countries. Recently I spent a week at a German gymnasium (the college bound high school mentioned above). Those kids had to compete to get into that school, and were taking comprehensive oral exams to graduate. It was one kid standing in front of a jury of teachers. Pass and they go to college. Fail and go to work in a factory or the military.

By the way, I was there as a chaperone for a bunch of our high school kids who were studying German. We sat in on an English class, where the teacher was trying to explain gerunds (a very strange concept to German-speakers). He asked our kids to give an example of a gerund, and none of them even knew what the term meant....


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