kitchen table math, the sequel: the President's speech to school children

Monday, September 7, 2009

the President's speech to school children

It's here. (Haven't read yet - just came across a link.)

Looks like I'm headed back to Evanston ---- 


update - he's telling the 'before schooling' story!
And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."


I love that story. 

Speaking of parents who teach, I had a long conversation with one of the doctors taking care of my mom today. She's back in the hospital, this time in ICU. Towards the end, my sister started to give him my number and, when he heard the exchange, he said, "Westchester County."

Turns out he grew up in Mt. Kisco.

This sparked my sister to ask him whether he had attended public schools or private. He said, "Public, but my wife and I may not send our kids to public schools." 

Then he said, "We're thinking about group homeschooling."

13 comments:

Cheryl said...

Love that the text is full of the very kinds of grammatical errors I have to teach my students NOT to make this year: comma splices, separating compound predicates with superfluous commas, starting every third sentence with "and" or "so," and inconsistent comma usage in series. That bothers me almost more than the text, which I am not fond of.

I really don't think it's anyone's duty to their country to get a traditional education and go on to college. Apparently Obama does. That whole "be a good little NCLB test-taking robot so you can grow up and be a cog in the American business machine" idea is one of the many things killing public education.

Should kids work hard and do their best? Yes. But does the future and survival of our country depend on every last one of them taking the academic track and going to college? Yes, let's place THAT burden on the shoulders of our kindergartners tomorrow.

Beth said...

Cheryl -- could you give examples of the errors you describe? I thought it was pretty well written. Boring as mud, but I didn't notice a lot of errors.

cranberry said...

I think there's a difference between an essay, and a speech. A good speechwriter will capture the speaker's natural "tone." Peggy Noonan wrote a great book about writing and giving speeches.

Cheryl said...

I agree there's a difference between a speech and an essay, but there's also bad punctuation.

"I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn."--You don't use a comma between compound predicates.(Unless they're hugely long and you need them for understanding.) That's not to be confused with a compound sentence. There are several examples of this in the speech. I have to teach this in 4th grade grammar, and it's tested on our NCLB test.

"No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work." Comma splice. Another thing in my 4th grade curriculum. Another thing likely to pop up on "the test."

While I realize this is a speech of casual tone, it seems every other sentence begins with "and" or "so." A bit much.

A few examples.

SteveH said...

"I really don't think it's anyone's duty to their country to get a traditional education and go on to college."

I've never liked that argument either, although it's not as bad as some things I've read. However, I'm not sure what you mean by "traditional education", especially when it's followed by:

"That whole 'be a good little NCLB test-taking robot so you can grow up and be a cog in the American business machine' idea is one of the many things killing public education."

Wow! That's a loaded comment.


"But does the future and survival of our country depend on every last one of them taking the academic track and going to college?"

The country might not depend on it, but students need to depend on schools not closing doors on their own personal career choices. I expect schools to try really hard to keep all students on the top track at least until high school. That is not happening.

One of the problems with the president's speech is that it doesn't equally challenge schools. If little Juanita is inspired by the speech and sets her sights on becoming a doctor, will her school assume that she is one of those who is not capable of "taking the academic track and going to college?"

Just as bad as those who see kids as economic cogs are those who treat kids as poverty statistics.

Catherine Johnson said...

Love that the text is full of the very kinds of grammatical errors I have to teach my students NOT to make this year

It is???

oh, boy

(Sorry - I'm heading back to Evanston & am posting things on the fly - without reading --- )

Catherine Johnson said...

cranberry - thanks for reminding me about Noonan's book - I've always wanted to read it.

Anonymous said...

I agree that speaking and writing are two different things, but I'm also interested in Cheryl's point.

One of the difficulties of learning to write is actually just the daily reading of bad writing. So much of our reading takes place away from published books.

Back when I was younger, the biggest cluprit was the newpaper with their occasional shorthand. We had no computers or blogs or texting. Our exposure to the written word was narrower, I think.

I'm a notorious comma-splicer. Of course, I often email and post like I speak, which gets me in trouble when I turn around and want to write something more formal and official.

But, I'm middle-aged and have my undergrad and masters. I've already jumped through all those hoops. Learning it all again is easier than learning it from the start.

Still, I need to be reminded of the rules and why they exist even if I choose to break them on purpose. I can't imagine how confusing it is for kids learning to write today with all of the distractions.

So, Cheryl, that was my long-winded way of saying, "Carry on." I wish my kids had you as a teacher.

SusanS

Catherine Johnson said...

oh - just read Cheryl's second comment --- I would expect a text written to be delivered as a speech to use punctuation differently.

Same thing with Comments after blog posts. (Not that a person **should** use informal punctuation, but there's no reason not to.)

Barry Garelick said...

A student who is subjected to Investigations, Connected Math, Everyday Math, or other comparable programs, and is not getting outside help is not going to benefit from "working hard" in those classes. If that phrase means do what it takes to get through, then he/she will get through but not be benefitted from the course. Obama's advice to not be afraid to ask questions is well-intended but I think it was Catherine who gave the example of how students going for "Extra Work" sessions in Irvington had to have specific questions. I think she also mentioned a girl in tears during an IEP meeting, asking if she would be allowed to ask questions. In my daughter's algebra class last year, her teacher would exhort students to ask questions and when they did he would growl at them if what they asked was something he had just gone over.

This is not to take away anything from Obama's speech. I think it's fine. But the problems of education are such that they are often not solved by students working harder or asking questions, unless both of those things result in some benefit. Unfortunately for many students, they do not.

I don't know what the federal government can do to solve such problems, though a good start would be to stop giving grants for programs that initiate or perpetuate bad curricula. Or perhaps pass legislation that extends to general education the due process rights that parents are given for special education.

Anonymous said...

Cheryl wrote, '"No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work." Comma splice. Another thing in my 4th grade curriculum. Another thing likely to pop up on "the test."'

I thought it was okay to use commas in between short sentences that express contrast.

VickyS said...

Or perhaps pass legislation that extends to general education the due process rights that parents are given for special education.

I sure like that idea.

And how's this for an example of working hard and getting nowhere, like today's students who get A's in high school and get the rude awakening of remedial coursework in college.

For weeks on and off I've been trying to drill some holes in my walls, with no success. I thought they were sheetrock, were they plaster? Something even harder? I'd push and push--working hard!--while that drill buzzed and hummed, but made nary a dent in my wall.

Thanks to the Gods of Google ("can't get drill to make hole in wall") I discovered...I had it in reverse.

I could have kept trying and trying, month after month, different walls, new and harder drill bits, and no matter how hard I would have tried, I would not, could not, achieve my goal!

Beth said...

That's a good story about the drill. It reminds me of a piece of advice I read, from the world of horse racing. I think of it often.

"If the horse you're riding dies, get off."

Useful in so many situations --