by Anniel 5/19/14
When I hear horror stories about the state of education, or mis-education, in the United States, especially about the math instruction associated with Common Core, I am reminded how long such problems have existed within the system and how consistently dumb the solutions are. I saw weaknesses in schools when my children were young, and the schools now are much worse for my grandchildren. Common Core is just a new name for an old problem.
When our eldest son’s IQ was tested in kindergarten, a school psychologist was called in to discuss the results with us. Everything was understandable until she suddenly frowned and angrily asked, “Why did you force your son into lateral thinking when he’s so young? That ability does not develop naturally until puberty.”
It was difficult to answer since we didn’t know what she was talking about. Lateral Thinking? How could we possibly force him to learn what we didn’t know ourselves? I asked her to explain and the nearest I could understand is that lateral thinking is the ability to see connections between different areas of knowledge. I had thought we were all born with that ability.[pullquote]Yes, Common Core must go, but so must the Department of Education and the strangle-hold Unions have over local school boards. Mark Twain said God created idiots for practice and then created school boards…[/pullquote]
To clarify the matter I asked a teacher friend to explain lateral thinking and to tell me how it affects education. She brought up spelling and said that students can be given vocabulary words for spelling, but until they learn lateral thinking they do not recognize that they can use those spelling words in writing. So, it’s Thanksgiving and the teacher gives out holiday related words such as pilgrim, turkey, pumpkin, feast, etc. A child might get 100% on the spelling test, but when asked to write a paper about Thanksgiving he will still misspell almost all the words. I asked if she ever reminded her students to check their spelling against the list. She looked at me as though I were crazy and said, “It wouldn’t do any good. They don’t think that way yet.” Hmm. Doesn’t that seem like a teaching opportunity lost?
Besides understandable math, here we are with two items, spelling and lateral thinking that are no longer taught in the schools. Schools gave up on spelling and went ga-ga over creative writing,without regard for spelling, for the youngest grades. This is precisely when the children should be learning to spell. When you fail to teach correct spelling, aren’t you really teaching poor or incorrect spelling? About the same time spelling was dropped, legible handwriting practice also became passé, and now teaching cursive has also been abandoned in most schools. Is it possible that the physical act of learning to write with a pencil also teaches children to spell and to think?
Our youngest daughter has always been a phenomenal reader and speller. When she was going on five I suffered from a severe and painful illness. Cate was home alone with me during the day when I was barely functional and I sometimes passed out from exhaustion. One afternoon I woke with my head in Cate’s lap while she wiped my face with a wet washcloth. When she saw I was awake she handed me a paper and said, “I wanted to make you a poem, so I taught myself to write.” There, clumsily written, but all correctly spelled, was her poem:
When you look in your eyes
You can see the sadness.
When April showers come
The willow will weep.
I felt it was a stunning achievement for a little girl.
When she was in 1st and 2nd grades, Cate’s teachers would have her get the 6th grade spelling lists to study each week. I assumed the 3rd grade teacher would continue with the practice. She didn’t, so I finally went in and told her that’s what had been done before. Her answer to me was, “I’ll check and see if that’s true.” What, I’m lying? She never followed through or “checked” anything. We had to leave Our daughter in her class because it was the only one coordinating with a Japanese Language Immersion Program Cate excelled in.
Teachers in later years told me they hated getting students who had been in that 3rd grade teacher’s class because they were so far behind in every subject. We were fortunate Cate was quick enough not to be affected. But what a terribly wasted year that was for most of the other students.
The point is that if you embark on a bad program and add some of the bad teachers to it, you wind up with kids who are actively taught not to spell or write, or even think.
So what about lateral thinking? If you fail to teach it at all, what makes educators think it will appear by magic when the kids are in 6th grade? Maybe some of them will never get it unless they are constantly reminded how all knowledge ties together. If my son was “doing” it at age five without any instruction, how many others would be learning it all along the way if given enough cues? Right now the only hope they have is osmosis. Are we turning out whole generations of people with no logical or critical thinking skills because the educators have steered us wrong yet again?
Yes, Common Core must go, but so must the Department of Education and the strangle-hold Unions have over local school boards. Mark Twain said God created idiots for practice and then created school boards, so they need all possible help in getting the garbage out of education. Get the politics and unions out of the schools and put parents back in charge of their own children.
Personally, I believe we should assume our children are a lot smarter than educators and psychologists give them credit for. Some of them may be smarter than the educators and psychologists themselves. But if we do not begin again to teach our children, where on earth are tomorrow’s leaders, thinkers, scientists, and inventors going to come from? How will they learn to even care about any search for truth, or how to recognize it?
If we fail to teach, aren’t we really teaching to fail? • (1650 views)