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Sep 1

Free Ebook Offer from Curtis Bonk: Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online

From Curtis Bonk one of the people you need to be following:

When my book, “The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education" first appeared in the summer of 2009, people asked me two insightful questions: #1. If this truly is an open educational world, then why isn’t the book free?, and #2. What can educators actually do in this more free and open world? A couple years later, when Massive Open Online Courses or "MOOCs" first arrived on the scene, people around the globe were asking me a third question; namely, #3. how to increase MOOC retention rates. They read MOOC related articles in the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC News, CNN International, the Korea Times, and all of the other hype about the global transformation of higher education. But they also knew that there were a host of problems surrounding MOOCs.



It took more than five years, but I finally have responded to all three questions. Where? How? And when, you ask? Well, my latest book, "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online," provides a framework of 10 proven psychological principles of motivation (see visual below) and more than 100 activities for addressing the vast learner motivation and retention problems we all witness today. In responding to all those who joked with me that my next book should be free, this book, written with Elaine Khoo from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, not only is FREE as an e-book (all 367 pages), but you can download each chapter separately for free as well. Since the book release in May, over 20,000 people have already downloaded the entire book and thousands more have selected individual chapters. Chapters on curiosity, tone/climate, and relevance are among the most popular ones.

You too can download it all right now and share it with others. In addition, a Chinese version of the free e-book will be available soon. This free and open access book is my way of expressing my thanks for the opportunity to live in this vast and exciting open educational world.




Besides the free e-book, “Adding Some TEC-VARIETY” is also available from Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle. More specifics about the book can be found in a recent blog post of mine as well as at the book homepage.

This book is an experiment for me both in self-publishing as well as pushing the edges of the open educational world. I hope you enjoy my new free book and share it with others. Oh, by the way, my son Alex designed the cover. I hope you like it.
Best wishes.


Curt Bonk, Ph.D. (in educational psychology), CPA
Professor, Instructional Systems Technology Department; Adjunct, School of Informatics
Indiana University
President, CourseShare, LLC

How bullying has moved from the playground to cyberspace

How-Bullies-Have-Moved-From-the-Playground-to-the-Web-Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Boring is as Boring Does in Class Assignments

I have become interested in the idea that in order to get students engaged, we as educators need to make some kind of interest connection with them. I know, you say, that is what relevance is all about. Yeah yeah, I know. But to me, this idea goes way beyond relevance. It goes more towards how do you make a lesson RELEVANT AND INTERESTING?

To me, relevance and interest are two separate terms, and just because something is relevant, it does not mean it is of interest. And just because something is interesting, does not mean it is relevant. I can have a great interesting lesson that means nothing either to the standards that I need to teach, or to the kids I am teaching. On the other hand, I can have a lesson that kills it when it comes to relevance in my student’s lives but be boring as hell.

This goes back to that idea that there needs to be some kind of emotional attachment to learning, as I wrote about in “Remembering the Kiss.” We don’t have to be recreating the late Robin William’s manic routines in front of them in order to be engaging or to create that connection. I remember in the movie “Teachers” where Richard Mulligan plays a man that has escaped the asylum and was mistaken for a substitute teacher: He actually ended up being more interesting to the students than the regular teacher, reenacting historical theater of the absurd in the classroom:

Boring it certainly was not, but whether the students were actually learning, well, that is left up to the viewer.

We are now blessed with an overabundance of ways of teaching. Indeed, in my 27 or so years as an educator, I cannot recall a time when there ever was such an infusion of knowledge, techniques, sharing, and general just education-related material available as there is today. Online, in class, at home, at the coffee house, listening while riding the bus or driving a car, there is now so many opportunities to learn that really someone must purposely avoid it.

Yet, I wonder if those opportunities are any better than they were before? Are we growing more crops in our larger fields or more weeds like in this picture:

Do we still produce low interest lessons?

We want to create a sweet spot where our lessons are both high in relevance and interest:

I was thinking about flipped classrooms the other day. I know, everyone is hot for flipped classrooms, where you take the lecture (READ THAT: BORING) part of the lesson and “flip it” so that the kids get the boring part of the class at home, and the actual stuff they would have done at home in class. (I have several entries about flipping the classroom here.) So are we flipping the boredom to home instead of in class? Is that such a good thing? I am not sure. Are we not just shifting stuff around instead of making it more engaging and more relevant in many flipped class examples? Afterall, boring is boring, whether it is presented in class or on a computer screen at home. Watching this on a computer screen does not make it more meaningful, relevant or interesting:

Dan Melzer’s book “Assignments across the Curriculum A National Study of College Writing" looked at over 2000 writing assignments in post secondary schools. What he found was not surprising: Boring writing assignments lead to boring writing. As he recently told Inside Higher Ed:

"There’s a lot more testing with the teacher-as-examiner going on than we probably think, and that’s a real negative to me because it’s such a limited kind of writing,” Melzer said. “It should make people think about how we can improve upon the situation and have student do richer kinds of writing.”

Professors are also “obsessed” with grammatical correctness, even when they claim to value critical thinking, the study says. “Based on their discussions of grading criteria, instructors devote as much time to formal correctness as they do talking about content, and often grammatical correctness was a baseline for acceptability” – even when most syllabuses had typos or grammatical errors, Melzer says in the book; one of the “strongest patterns” in his research was the expectation of perfect grammar.

“At a minimum, your writing should be free of spelling errors and grammatical errors,” reads one sample assignment. Another business law professor’s assignment offers very specific guidance about how different grammatical and spelling errors will affect a student’s grade. Then, seemingly as an afterthought, the professor says: “Please offer analysis, also.”

Melzer argues that such an apparent emphasis on surface-level writing sends students “mixed messages” about the value of higher-order writing skills. It would also impede many students’ ability to “let things flow” to build writing fluency, he says.

You can find Melzer’s original paper here.

This HAS to apply at all levels, not just post secondary AND it has to apply to assignments other than just writing. If we create boring ,single disciplinary, low cognitive ability assignments, we will get back from students exactly what we ask them to provide: Low level, low interest papers.

If we assign those types of problems, we should not complain that students cannot “think out of the box” or “lack creativity.” If the assignment is stuck in the box, don’t expect the students to exist anywhere but in that same box.

This certainly makes the case for programs such as Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) which has been around for quite a while, but is not used widely. Indeed, Melzer seems to be quite an advocate of WAC:

"The instructors in my research who assign the widest variety of purposes, audiences, and genres, who provide students with interesting and complex rhetorical situations rather than just the traditional lecture/exam format, and who teach writing as a process through peer response or responding to rough drafts are most often teaching in a course connected in some way to a Writing Across the Curriculum program. This may mean a writing-intensive course, a team-taught course with an English department faculty member, a learning community, or a course connected to a writing fellows program. Instructors from writing-intensive courses connected to established WAC programs at institutions such as the University of Missouri, University of Pittsburgh, Cornell, University of Hawaii, Duke, University of Massachusetts, and Stanford assigned the most writing, asked students to write for the greatest variety of audiences in the greatest variety of genres, and adopted common WAC pedagogical tools such as journaling, freewriting, grading rubrics, and peer response."

"Boring is a boring does" to paraphrase Forrest Gump.

The Pedagogy Wheel 2.0 incorporates lots of great apps and how they are used in SAMR and Blooms.
Amazing to me how much can be packed into such a small picture. Be sure to check out the QR Codes embedded in the picture. 

Here is the link to the original.

The Pedagogy Wheel 2.0 incorporates lots of great apps and how they are used in SAMR and Blooms.
Amazing to me how much can be packed into such a small picture. Be sure to check out the QR Codes embedded in the picture.

Here is the link to the original.

Drs Smith and Crawford discuss digital textbooks and the EPISD project. Awesome!

Notetaking vs notemaking

What is the difference between Notetaking and Notemaking? I am not sure i agree 100% with this, especially the longhand writing stuff, but I do think that there is a need to teach students to become something more than organic Xerox™ machines.

From the article:
“Do students know how to make their own notes? As veteran learners, we teachers often take things for granted, but if students are used to having notes given to them, they’ll need guidance. I observed a chemistry teacher who did this effectively. He projected the text on the board (the students had their own copies) as he read the text aloud. He paused and noted key words such as most important, three reasons for…, first. He underlined a few key phrases and annotated the margins with key terms or questions from the paragraph. After a page or two, he encouraged students to try this on their own as he circulated around the room and monitored their efforts. With a notemaking approach, teachers need to accept that students’ notes will not be uniform.”

Vlick on the title to go to the article.

Lets Stop Trying to Teach Critical Thinking

Interesting take on something we hear a lot about. Can we actually tach critical thinking if we are not critical thinners to begin with? Here is the reprinted article:

Let’s stop trying to teach students critical thinking

By Dennis Hayes, University of Derby

Socrates, the father of critical thinking. lentina_x, CC BY-NC-SA

Many teachers say they strive to teach their students to be critical thinkers. They even pride themselves on it; after all, who wants children to just take in knowledge passively?

But there is a problem with this widespread belief. The truth is that you can’t teach people to be critical unless you are critical yourself. This involves more than asking young people to “look critically” at something, as if criticism was a mechanical task.

As a teacher, you have to have a critical spirit. This does not mean moaning endlessly about education policies you dislike or telling students what they should think. It means first and foremost that you are capable of engaging in deep conversation. This means debate and discussion based on considerable knowledge – something that is almost entirely absent in the educational world. It also has to take place in public, with parents and others who are not teachers, not just in the classroom or staffroom.

The need for teachers to engage in this kind of deep conversation has been forgotten, because they think that being critical is a skill. But the philosopher John Passmore criticised this idea nearly half a century ago:

If being critical consisted simply in the application of a skill then it could in principle be taught by teachers who never engaged in it except as a game or defensive device, somewhat as a crack rifle shot who happened to be a pacifist might nevertheless be able to teach rifle-shooting to soldiers. But in fact being critical can be taught only by men who can themselves freely partake in critical discussion.

The misuses of ‘criticism’

The misuse of the idea of “criticism” first became clear to me when I gave a talk about critical thinking to a large group of first-year students. One student said that the lecturers she most disliked were the ones who banged on about the importance of being critical. She longed for one of them to assert or say something, so she could learn from them and perhaps challenge what they say.

The idea that critical thinking is a skill is the first of three popular, but false views that all do disservice to the idea of being critical. They also allow many teachers to believe they are critical thinkers when they are the opposite:

  1. “Critical thinking” is a skill. No it is not. At best this view reduces criticism to second-rate or elementary instruction in informal and some formal logic. It is usually second-rate logic and poor philosophy offered in bite-sized nuggets. Seen as a skill, critical thinking can also mean subjection to the conformism of an ideological yoke. If a feminist or Marxist teacher demands a certain perspective be adopted this may seem like it is “criticism” or acquiring a “critical perspective”, but it is actually a training in feminism or Marxism which could be done through tick box techniques. It almost acquires the character of a mental drill.

  2. “Critical thinking” means indoctrination. When teachers talk about the need to be “critical” they often mean instead that students must “conform”. It is often actually teaching students to be “critical” of their unacceptable ideas and adopt the right ones. Having to support multiculturalism and diversity are the most common of the “correct ideas” that everyone has to adopt. Professional programmes in education, nursing, social work and others often promote this sort of “criticism”. It used to be called “indoctrination”.

  3. “Critical theories” are “uncritical theories”. When some theory has the prefix “critical” it requires the uncritical acceptance of a certain political perspective. Critical theory, critical race theory, critical race philosophy, critical realism, critical reflective practice all explicitly have political aims.

What is criticism?

Criticism, according to Victorian cultural critic Matthew Arnold, is a disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world. We should all be as “bound” by that definition as he was. We need only to teach the best that is known and thought and “criticism” will take care of itself. That is a lesson from 100 years ago that every teacher should learn.

Matthew Arnold knew how to be critical. Elliott & Fry, via Wikimedia Commons

Critical thinking seen as Arnold defined it is more like a character trait – like having “a critical spirit”, or a willingness to engage in the “give and take of critical discussion”. Criticism is always about the world and not about you.

The philosopher most associated with the critical spirit is Socrates. In the 1930s, Australian philosopher John Anderson put the Socratic view of education most clearly when he wrote: “The Socratic education begins … with the awakening of the mind to the need for criticism, to the uncertainty of the principles by which it supposed itself to be guided.”

But when I discuss Socratic criticism with teachers and teacher trainers I miss out Anderson’s mention of the word “uncertainty”. This is because many teachers will assume that this “uncertainty” means questioning those bad ideas you have and conforming to an agreed version of events, or an agreed theory.

Becoming a truly critical thinker is more difficult today because so many people want to be a Socrates. But Socrates only sought knowledge and to be a Socrates today means putting knowledge first.

The Conversation

Dennis Hayes does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Aug 9

Reflections on District Site Visits: Not Everything is About Money

This week, I have the privilege of traveling with a delegation from my school district to three Dallas Texas area districts: Plano, Lewisville and Coppell. The purpose of the trip was to meet with representatives of the districts and see first hand some of the interesting and innovative programs that they have instituted and to pick their brains on the good and bad of what they were doing.

Now I know that these three districts are in economically well-off areas of the state of Texas. There is no way around it, they have money. They are located in high SES bedroom communities outside of the Dallas-proper area. They don’t have many of the problems that property poor districts have. I understand that. But we were not there to feel sorry for ourselves and make a wish list of things we could never afford. We were there to see how innovation works in innovative districts. Innovation was easy to find there.

After a few hours, it became apparent that some major themes were common in these districts.
And it wasn’t about the money. It was about attitude.

Without exception, the employees we met with seemed to have a consistent set of attitudes:

They enjoyed working in the districts they worked in.

They believed that they could do interesting and awesome things if only they tried.

They were not afraid to fail at something if they learned, moved on and grew from the failure.

They had a spirit of cooperation. One district even called another their “sister school district.”

They understood the direction that the district was headed. They were familiar with the district’s plan.

They worked hard to incorporate the community into their decisions and to maintain a strong community relationship.

I noticed that many of things that they did were not as much to do with money but rather simply attitude. For instance, one district had a professional development center that had a snack area which included an area that looked like it came out of a 7-11: Hot Dogs, popcorn, nacho chips and sauce…serve yourself and clean up after yourself as well. When teachers were hungry during PD, go get a snack.
A very inexpensive thing, However, what that does is send the message that we value having you here and we value you enough that we will provide little things to make you more comfortable.

That attitude of valuing the employees, was evident everywhere and that does not require a lot of money. Employee input was not just something done as part of a yearly or quarterly survey, it actually was just the way business was conducted.

Having an enjoyable place to work. Is that a money thing? I don’t think so. I think it is a leadership thing. Indeed, almost all of the above points are leadership things.

Cooperation, no fear to try new things, communicating the district’s direction, community involvement. Are those money things or are they leadership things?

It is easy for us in the low SES districts to look at districts like these and say “Yeah, well if WE had money, we could do that too.” It is easy to have that attitude and it is easy to use that attitude to not try to excel. (It reminds me of the old story of the amateur photographer that owned a less expensive camera that told the professional photographer that they could take good pictures if they just had a “good camera.” Turns out it is not the camera, it is the photographers. Crappy photography comes from crappy photographers, not crappy cameras.) In districts with High SES, it might be easier to get the word out to parents for instance and that translates into better parental involvement. But really, that is just a logistics thing, not a money thing.

When I was leaving, one of the ladies I was with had an interesting story. “Tim, she said “When I got married , I really wanted to dress like celebrities that I saw on TV and in the movies. Of course we were poor and just starting out, so I couldn’t afford the fancy clothes. My husband said to me ‘You know how they look. You know where the cloth store is, you know how to sew. Why not try to replicate as best you can? It may not be the exact copy, but it would be pretty close.” She went on to tell me how she would make clothes that were pretty close. Good enough. (As Kevin Honeycutt once told me it was “China Good.”) Maybe, she said, we could duplicate what these districts are doing but on our terms, on our budgets (Much like this website tries to do with celebrity fashions.)

The point was, we may not be able to exactly duplicate what these districts are doing, but we can try, with the limitations we have, work to replicate other’s successful programs so that they fit in our needs , our community.

And if we aren’t afraid to fail, we can make magic.

Aug 8

My school district is making the move to digital textbooks, starting with high School science classes this year. Here is a little video that a local news channel did on it.

Ofcom: six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults

From the article:

They may not know who Steve Jobs was or even how to tie their own shoelaces, but the average six-year-old child understands more about digital technology than a 45-year-old adult, according to an authoritative new report published on Thursday.

The advent of broadband in the year 2000 has created a generation of digital natives, the communication watchdog Ofcom says in its annual study of British consumers. Born in the new millennium, these children have never known the dark ages of dial up internet, and the youngest are learning how to operate smartphones or tablets before they are able to talk.

"These younger people are shaping communications," said Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s media research head. "As a result of growing up in the digital age, they are developing fundamentally different communication habits from older generations, even compared to what we call the early adopters, the 16-to-24 age group."

Click on the title to go to the article

Aug 1

Only Reporting the Planes that Crash in #edtech

As Don Henley once sang that the news loves to report when planes crash:

"We got the bubble headed Bleached blonde

Comes on at five

She can tell you ‘bout the plane crash

With a gleam in her eye

It’s interesting when people die

Give us dirty laundry”

-Dirty Laundry 1982

The fact is of course, that the news rarely reports the planes that land safely. News is only news, it seems, when the unusual happens. Houses that DON’T burn down are never news, Houses that burn down? Always news. Marriages that last forever? Not News. Divorce rate goes up? News. You get the idea.

With that in mind, I am noticing a trend in the news of reporting when big ed tech initiatives crash and burn. The most famous of course is the Los Angeles Unified iPad rollout where the kids immediately found a way around the built-in security and the iPads had to be recalled. Amid all of that, the district’s $1 Billion program crashed and burned, and recently the district rebooted the initiative with Windows laptops. I won’t debate the merits or lack thereof of the program, but it made for great news: giant ed tech program crashes. Millions of dollars wasted!

Then just this week, we learned that another large scale 1:1 initiate was cut back by the Hoboken School district, which decided to pull back it’s large-scale laptop initiative: Listen to the story here:

Of course, we could have a nice discussion about how these programs had some significant failures in implementation, not in goals. Poor logistics, bad training, poor communications. In the Hoboken case for instance the current Superintendent Toback “admits that teachers weren’t given enough training on how to use the computers for instruction. Teachers complained that their teenage students were too distracted by their computer screens to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.”

The planes crashed in LA and Hoboken. Sigh.

The point however, is that there are 100s if not thousands of successful iPad and mobile device rollout programs across the country that the media does not report on. Both large scale and small scale. From chromebooks to laptops to tablets. From classroom implementations to district wide, to statewide programs. Consider the McAllen ISD in Texas who has had a wildly successful iPad 1:1 program. They are not alone. Remember the state of Maine? They still are going with laptops for all their kids in grade 7-12. Don’t hear too much about that anymore do you?

McAllen and the state of Maine: The planes are landing safely there. No one talks about them. Sigh again.

One major downside of all of this is that the average news watcher is going to see the plane crashes in Ed Tech and think that the NORM is for a bunch of money to be unwisely spent in times of budget cuts which it is not. Never seeing the positive or only tangentially by going to their kids school and seeing kids with technology.

We as ed tech proponents need to get the word out to our communities, not just report to ourselves about how wonderful we are, That is preaching to the choir. We need to preach to those that watch the bubble headed beach blondes for the evening news.

We need to celebrate the planes that land safely.

If teachers put the boring stuff outside the class in a flipped classroom, isn’t it still boring stuff? -Holt

If teachers put the boring stuff outside the class in a flipped classroom, isn’t it still boring stuff? -Holt

(Source: recitethis.com)

Dear Principals: Some Tips for Your First Back-to-School Meeting.

Dear New Campus Principal,
I know you have to do SOMETHING when all the we come back to school. I know that you are under the gun to be amusing, engaging, and informative. Some of us are a pretty hard audience. We have been through a whole lot of your kind over the years. It’s tough. Everyone is watching you and waiting for you to make a mistake so we can pounce on you like sharks on chum.

I thought I would make your life here a little easier by giving you a few pointers to make your new life here easier and to start the new year off on a good note. Believe me, I have been through a bunch of campus administrators over the years, and that old saying about never getting a second chance to make a first impression is true. Especially with us teachers.

So consider this a friendly welcome to the building letter. I hope you take it in the spirit that it is written.

Here goes nothing:

Please don’t show us a Ken Robinson video about how schools kill creativity and then in the next breath show us our test scores and tell us how we need to bring them up this year by sticking to the prescribed curriculum. Also any video that was made from cheesy sentimental slides telling us that all kids can learn while playing over some generic soft instrumental music is a no no. Oh, and we all saw that video of the guy that got everyone to dance on the hillside a couple of years ago.

Avoid giving us sports related platitudes about how we are all a team and that there is no “I” in team.

Don’t tell us that we need to use lots of technology in our classes if you are not willing to allow us time to learn how to use the technology and how we can incorporate it into our lessons. Allow us time to explore how we can use technology.

Don’t say you “plan” to do something. Either you are doing it or you are not. DO you PLAN to be walking the campus each morning or are you actually going to do it? Do you PLAN to be highly visible or are you actually going to do it? Do you PLAN on having lots of parental involvement, or are you actually going to have lots of parental involvement? We have seen lots of plans. We want to see lots of follow through.

Do not read a handout verbatim that you just gave out. We are all adults, We all have degrees. We can read. Really.

Do not say you want to have a culture of high expectations, and then are happy with test results that are the minimum expectation. Either we have high expectations or we don’t. But if we have high expectations, that means we also have high expectations for you.

On a side note, don’t tell us to not be afraid to fail, if you are going to get made if we fail at something. Set your rules for this, set your expectations, and let us know up front what you consider “acceptable failure” and what you do not.

Do not say you expect all of us to keep up with the latest trends in education, but then refuse to pay for any professional development opportunities. If it is within reason, then please send us to on going and meaningful professional development. And you can come along with us.

Do not read off your Powerpoint slides word for word.

Do not show a stupid Dilbert comic.

Do not treat teachers that have been in the system for 30 years the same as a new teacher. We know where the book room is, We know where the custodian hands out the keys. Meet with them separately to give them the lowdown on the basics.

Do not show us ANY video longer than 3 minutes.

Do not start a Book Study on the first day back.

Get to know the new staff BEFORE you introduce them at a meeting. Why are they here? Why did you hire them? Give us a little insight as to why you think they fit in here. Don’t just tell us that you think they will do a good job. Tell us WHY you think they will do a good job. Show us that you really thought about them when you hired them.


Don’t say you have an open door policy and then never be around. An open door is useless if no-one is there.

If you want us to use technology, then you use technology. Show us your blog. Show us you can walk the walk. And if you cannot, at least learn with us. Then use it.

We had BBQ for lunch last year. Try something different. Oh, and your secretary hates fajitas.

Tell us you are perfectly willing to take down every single motivational poster that has been hanging in the office for the last 10 years that no one has ever read.


Tell us that you will let all of us know when you will be out for the day. Don’t just tell your secretary.

Give us your cell number.

Have a great year.

And Good luck.

Don’t Believe Every Meme You See

Have you seen this meme going around Facebook? It is quite popular and has a gizillion “Likes.” I saw it on a few of my friends feeds, and it got me wondering if indeed the sentiment was true. Let’s think about it for a second:

The quote is: “In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in High School to teaching remedial English in college.” The quote is from a fellow named Joseph Sobran, a well known anti-Semitic conservative columnist who passed away in 2010. I suspect most people that pass these memes on have no idea who the person that made the quotes they agree with were like. They just like the quote and pass it on. No deep thought involved or needed to click “Send” or “Share.” The accompanying picture shows a kid wearing a Dunce hat sitting next to a computer, IMPLYING that computers make you a dunce.

These types of things show up almost on a weekly basis on the internet. Most of us have also seen the meme about the 8th grade test from 1895 or something, that most people today could not pass:

Such questions ask how many rods in an acre, and of course the scientifically inaccurate question asking students to explain why the Atlantic Coast is cooler than the Pacific Coast at a similar latitude (hmm..it isn’t actually, the water temperature is actually cooler on the US Pacific coast due to the way the ocean currents rotate..but I digress. Perhaps that is a trick question.)

The point of both of these memes is to demonstrate how poorly educated students today are compared to their counterparts 100 or so years ago. (I find it highly amusing that the people that are clicking “Like” probably could not pass that test, so what does that say about them?) By God, we are not teaching the Major Epochs in US History anymore! Dammit, my kids don’t know all the Republics of Europe! It is the Common Core’s fault! (Here is a list of them by the way. How many did you know?)

Of course those people that think kids today are just stupid, and that education is far inferior today than it was 100 years ago are totally wrong. Here is why:

Beginning with the Sobran quote, Latin and Greek, for the most part were taught in Prep schools, not your basic one room school house. For proof, look at the 1895 Kansas test and see how many questions ask about Greek or Latin? There are none. Frankly, Greek and Latin were part of a Rich White Male’s college prep education. The vast majority of students in school at the time, if they were even lucky enough to be in school because it was not mandatory, never took Latin, never took Greek, and almost certainly never took both together. If your Daddy was the owner of Standard Oil or your last name was Rockefeller, then you learned Latin and Greek. If your daddy was a dirt farmer, then you probably didn’t go to school at all.

As for remedial English college courses, there is some thought today that these courses are merely cash cows for cash-strapped universities and community colleges that are looking for any way possible to get students to pony up extra dough. Studies are now showing that remedial courses in post secondary schools are not needed in many cases, but still are offered or mandated. Many students in them do not need to be there, so for Sobran to say that remedial courses are bad is really saying that the system to get students enrolled in them is bad, not that the students or their education is lacking.

The people that make these memes are also ignoring basic US history. After WWII, there was a great number of returning vets that all of a sudden were placed back into the education system. Were they there to learn Latin and Greek? Of course not, They came back and wanted an education that would get them a job. As you can easily see from the graph below, the number of post secondary degrees awarded by accredited schools in the US has shot through the roof since the end of the Second World War. Latin and Greek were dropped out of most curricula because they were not needed to understand the jobs being offered, just as today. How many of you have had to pass a Greek test in order to get a job? Latin?

What the folks that decry how poorly our students are prepared ( do we really need to know such trivia as the feminine of Ox or the major rivers of South America?) rarely if ever turn the tables and ask if a student in 1895 Salina Kansas could pass a 2014 Eighth Grade standardized test? Consider the following question, taken off a pretty typical standardized science test:

How do you think those Kansas farm boys in 1895 would be up to answering that question? Probably not. The point is, tests are written for the times that the tests take place, not for 100 years after they were written. The other point is that education is designed to meet the needs of the CURRENT society, not the needs of society 10 decades past.

On a side note, the next time you come across the Kansas Test, you might want to point out that the Kansas Test was probably NOT an 8th grade test but rather a test for someone applying for a job TEACHING in Salina Kansas. There is nothing on the original document that says “Eighth Grade Test” and in fact there are questions about tax rates and school funding, knowledge probably even a 19th century farm kid in 8th grade didn’t need to know, then or now.

Now, if you REALLY want to know the state of education in the US from an historical perspective, you need to read Diane Ravitch’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
Of course, it will take you a little more time than simply hitting the “Share” key on Facebook to actually learn the history of education.

Teaching that Sticks from the Heath Brothers

Oldie but goodie. Here is a link to the famous “Teaching that Sticks” resource created by the Heath Brothers of “Made to Stick” fame.