kitchen table math, the sequel: the other Chinese student

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

the other Chinese student

http://www.chinahush.com/2011/10/25/i-fought-for-18-years-to-have-a-cup-of-coffee-with-you/ (translation)

Here’s a question I pose for my white collar friends [in Shanghai]: what if I never graduated from middle school, and had become a migrant worker? Would you sit down for a cup of coffee with me at Starbucks? The answer, unequivocally, is that you wouldn’t
.

As you might know, college students from China's big cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan...) apply to American colleges in a flood of high scores and intimidating talent, even socially. Typically, the quintessential undergraduate Chinese student I might meet at the University of Virginia might say, play Chopin and Debussy, have read Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, eat twenty-dollar sushi dinners daily, and in general, spend money outrageously, yet he or she will be well-read on the the ancient revered Four Classics as well as Harry Potter.

There are those who dress fobbishly, but there are many who dress with both a kind-of-unique yet canned style borrowed from the latest trends in Shanghai or Tokyo or something. Personally, the kids from Wuhan come closest to my hipster sense of aesthetics, but the kids from Shanghai are far too materialistic, accentuate their class differences, and generally snub me. (And in my experience, Chinese parents from Shanghai are the prim-and-proper quantitative finance type who would only pursue an art for its social prestige and not for its own sake. But I am only stereotyping to represent the breadth and diversity of applicants.)

Yet despite all this progress, 900 million people in the rural provinces have been left in the dust. The opposite of affirmative action exists in China: not only are the rural primary and secondary schools of horrible quality, constantly understaffed and undersupplied, and rural students less likely to afford the piano lessons and the tutoring and art lessons that a kid in Shanghai might enjoy throughout his childhood -- when applying to college, a kid who somehow comes out on par with the those in the cities will still face discrimination on the sole fact that he comes from the provinces. Imagine that if China used the SAT, a promising kid from the provinces would need a score of 2250 to be placed over an average city resident with a score of 1850, despite the fact that the provinces' own averages are much lower.

In such a case, I wouldn't mind if our financial aid system granted some of these exceptional rural students a chance to enter the University, perhaps replacing just a handful (out of dozens) of the somewhat-conceited Shanghai students that the University might admit each year (yes just for Shanghai only, out of the thousands of students from China that apply to our school). Students from Shanghai, if rejected from our University, can go to some other college to make their future; the bright rural students that can't get admitted into college in their own country are stuck with nowhere else to go. Such a move would be Jeffersonian, after all.

46 comments:

Glen said...

Yes, I was in China for most of September, and I spent some time at the primary school in my in-laws' Shanghai neighborhood, watching classes, going through the textbooks, and so on. My 10th grade niece from Wuhan told me that, although Wuhan used the same textbooks that the Shanghai schools used, they supplemented them with harder material, because the kids in Wuhan knew they would have to be better than the kids in Shanghai in order to have the same shot at a major university or to receive official permission to move to a major city. My Shanghai family (her aunts and uncles) grudgingly agreed with her. And she's planning to skip the Chinese university gladiatorial combat and come to America (her reach country, Australia is her safety country) for college.

FedUpMom said...

I wonder about China. Everyone keeps telling me they're an economic powerhouse, which I'm sure they are, but I also see a lot of problems -- social inequality (of course, we have that too), environmental damage, the male-female imbalance, and a one-party government with no procedure for orderly change. How long will they remain peaceful?

Bonnie said...

I always joke that China is the neocon paradise - lax on regulations, strongly pro-business in every way, strict on crime and social norms. You can pollute to your heart's content, especially if you are a large business, but you can disappear into prison for speaking out for the little guy, or even doing anything that could be interpreted being against "the interests of society". They have shocking levels of inequality - when we visited Chongqing, we stayed next to a fancy mall with all of the best European designer boutiques - but we could go out into the country and visit farmers with no indoor plumbing. The pollution and environmental damage is unbelievable. China has the enormous task ahead of making sure that everyone benefits from the breakneck speed of growth, just as we have the task of making sure we don't fall into that kind of situation.

We will be in Chengdu in January. I am curious to see how it compares with Chongqing. Both cities are in Sichuan, although Chongqing is now its own municipality, separate from Sichuan proper. I don't know if Chengdu has grown at the same dizzying pace as Chongqing.

ChemProf said...

"I always joke that China is the neocon paradise"

Hah hah hah. Sure, just ignore forced abortions and sterilization, the laogai, and the fact that the state can choose to steal your business at any point. Sorry, that is a deeply offensive statement.

C T said...

And ignore the corruption...don't forget the massive corruption, which is behind the failure to enforce existing environmental protection laws in China. Or the restrictions on freedom of press, religion, assembly, etc.--neocons love those, right, because none of them read alternative news sources or go to churches of their own choosing.

I agree with chemprof. Please leave your political biases out of this, especially if you're not going to use labels properly.

Allison said...

At some point I suspect that nationalism is going to make a comeback--the idea that there are actual advantages to US citizenship, and that fed and state policy will advantage its citizens over that of other nations in terms of trying to keep them educated and employed.

I would have thought +9 unemployment was that point, but I was wrong.

Social unrest is a problem in China, esp rural China. If the elite here who view themselves as global citizens first keep at it, pushing betterment for the rest of the world before betterment at home, they can generate that unrest here.

Allison said...

chemprof, I was going to say something similar but you said it better, thank you. I'm sure the dissidents in prison there and the widows of dissidents who prefer the bushitler cheneyhalliburton US to what they have.

Hainish said...

Bonnie's comments are in no way offensive. They just happen to be statements some people disagree with. (And I'm not sure why *her* political opinions have to stay out of anything, when Alison's and others' are seemingly in everything they write.)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hanish,

This:
"
I always joke that China is the neocon paradise - lax on regulations, strongly pro-business in every way, strict on crime and social norms."


is no more or less offensive than something that began with:

"I always joke that North Korea is the liberal paradise - state provided education, healthcare, ..."


Neocons do not want to turn America into a single-party dictatorish government like China has. They have other solutions (e.g. lawsuits with liability) to things like heavy metal pollution than more and more regulations that liberals like.

Liberals can be in favor of more government, without wanting to go to the limit of North Korea, too, which is why the North Korea version would be equally offensive.

I don't have a problem with Bonnie or Allison expressing political beliefs, but expressing incorrect (and horrible) political beliefs for others does not help a conversation.

-Mark Roulo

Hainish said...

Mark, please spare me. I put up with the constant conservative bent of some of the posters here. Believe me, sometimes I just want to throw up on my shoes. Bonnie's comment is offensive to certain people because they don't share her views. If you can (regularly) dish out, you should be able to take it.

le radical galoisien said...

Umm guys, the point of my post was intranation diversity. (And I see no one has attacked me for my stereotypes of Shanghainese yet.)

Mind you, mass action can get things done. When things to leak to the press, the popular uproar can motivate the executions of criminals responsible (corrupt officials, unethical factory owners, etc.) The thing is that the local officials usually try to suppress things from leaking to the national press.

The national press is getting a little freer. For example Taiwanese media firm was just granted a licence to publish and broadcast in China; they had a relatively free arm to report on any scandal or issue of their choosing -- the main restriction is that the can't take any sort of ideological stance against the Party, but they are free to criticise the actions of government officials.

(In this respect, the press of China is more robust and more free than the press of Singapore.)

le radical galoisien said...

The especially large abuses happen rurally, and the suppression of the labour rights of uneducated rural workers.

Transportation and information infrastructure is really poor out in the country. It's not like people can tweet "omg local police covering up desperate self-immolation!" [Han Chinese do this too, not just Tibetans] all that easily. The press is much easier to suppress in the countryside than it is in the cities.

Beijing was a relat

le radical galoisien said...

*Beijing was a relatively liberal city in 1989. Now I feel that centre has shifted to Wuhan.

[I mean liberal in the Asian politics sense.]

Bonnie said...

"I always joke that North Korea is the liberal paradise - state provided education, healthcare, ..."

I don't actually see that as offensive. I hear conservatives make those kinds of analogies all the time, most notably when talking about Obama or the EPA or other conservative flashpoints. It is just hyperbole, and I take it as such.

I am more shocked that you equate the North Korean government with the Chinese government. Most Chinese people that I have met actually like their government. I know a number of Chinese born professionals who have moved back there in the last few years, even though they had green cards to work here in the U.S. I doubt you would find that most North Koreans have a similar opinion of their government. For all of its human rights problems and excesses, I think the Chinese leaders are trying to do what is best for their country. I don't want to defend them too strenuously because they do some awful things (though a lot of the worst excesses are at the local level). However, I do not put the current Chinese government in the same league as North Korea.

I think it is important to understand that despite its official name, China is no longer a Communist country. I think I have heard people who study China refer to it as an authoritarian capitalist country. It is a conservative country, deeply conservative in fact, but not in our American tea party anti-government sense. Trying to view China as an evil Communist nation is a basic mistake, IMHO.

And finally, I started reading this blog because I thought it was about science and math education, and because gasstationwithoutpumps posts here sometimes and his posts are always interesting. However, I am as offended by the constant drumbeat of dislike for teachers and schools as you seem to be by anything I say. Teachers aren't perfect, but they are not the enemy and some of them have been really helpful to my kids, especially my special needs kid.There is good and bad in the school system, like anywhere else, but I have found over time (and I have 3 kids in the local system), that working WITH the teachers rather than AGAINST them gets better results.

SteveH said...

"However, I am as offended by the constant drumbeat of dislike for teachers and schools as you seem to be by anything I say."

I never really figured out what's going on in this thread, but this comment is an unjustified change in direction.


"Teachers aren't perfect, ... , that working WITH the teachers rather than AGAINST them gets better results."

KTM has clearly demonstrated over the years, after many of us have tried over and over and over, that this isn't generally the case. Besides, the "teachers as the bad guys" argument doesn't fly here. KTM tries to dig into the details of what's going on. Feel free to do so yourself.

Catherine Johnson said...

good lord - I have just this moment found this thread - what is going on!?

From the get-go, we've had an informal (sometimes formal) rule that writers and readers refrain from making partisan insults - or any insults at all, for that matter.

I've deleted Anonymous's "troll" comment.

Bonnie's joke that China is a "neocon paradise" is obviously insulting to anyone who holds views compatible with those of neocons.

I'm leaving it up, seeing as how the other comments follow, and seeing as how I "know" Bonnie (via the blog) and appreciate the fact that she takes time to comment here.

This thread calls to mind the rule instituted by the folks at Mathematically Correct, down in LaJolla, I think it was: if people wanted to talk politics, they had to leave the room.

Hainish said...

Catherine, you need to understand that partisan comments are made here regularly that are offensive to people who hold liberal views. Yet, no one says anything about those. Bonnie makes *one* comment, and it's an issue? Why no hold everyone to the same standard and not allow partisan comments from anyone?

Cranberry said...

Hainish, if you are offended by partisan comments, then speak up. Do not look to others to enforce your particular value system.

Humor is very difficult to practice on the internet. What one may mean as a joking comment can come across as a deadly insult.

Anonymous said...

Hainish,

I've been coming to this site every day for over 5 years and I don't see the daily partisan comments you are referring to. Yes, occasionally someone goes that way, but it certainly isn't nearly as much as you are claiming. And you certainly have the right to comment if someone bothers you.

Oh, and I don't find Bonnie offensive. I find her rude and presumptuous, as she has been in other comments. I think Mark was right to take her to task.

SusanS

Anonymous said...

SusanS: "I think Mark was right to take her to task."

Um ... actually, I wasn't "taking her to task." Or at least I wasn't try to do so.

I was trying to explain why ChemProf found Bonnie's comment offensive.

My starting point (especially on the Internet where we have no body language) is that someone may not understand *why* a post might come across as offensive. Given that, my belief is that an explanation can help (a) to defuse things when the post wasn't *intended* to piss people off, and (b) maybe prevent this from *accidentally* happening in the future.

I wasn't trying to take anyone to task, because I don't think that this is effective on the Internet.

So, Bonnie, if you were offended by my comment, please accept an apology. I was trying to dial down the tension, rather than escalate it.

-Regards,
Mark Roulo

FedUpMom said...

I agree with Hainish that there has been a lot of right-wing partisanship on this blog. Actually, kitchen table math remains the only place in the world that I personally have been called a Communist. There's also been a lot of scorn directed at "progressives", where "progressive" is apparently defined as "anything the writer doesn't like".

Anonymous said...

As opposed to your blog, FedUpMom, where "conservative" means pretty much the same thing? Or where "George Bush" is used as short hand for "an evil and stupid person" on a regular basis? (See George W. Bush, School Superintendent) Sorry, but this is pot/kettle stuff, and I don't see why I should let it pass.

For that matter, you want to define "progressive" so that it only includes educational practices you like - so constructivist math or whole language don't count, even if their own practitioners call them progressive.

That's fine, and I expect that when I go to your blog, I will be seeing things that are insulting to conservatives. I still find the perspective interesting, but I definitely don't comment very often, because I know my point of view isn't welcome.

-ChemProf

FedUpMom said...

ChemProf, you've gotten my blog confused with "A Blog About School". I didn't write "George W Bush, School Superintendent" -- that was Chris, who writes "A Blog About School."

It's true that I try to separate constructivist math and whole language, which I don't like, from other aspects of progressive ed, which I do like. I'm not the only person who does this -- I quote Rudolf Flesch, the author of "Why Johnny Can't Read", on my blog, and he said pretty much what I'm trying to say. It should be possible to advocate some progressive ideas without buying into crappy curriculum.

And I hope you will continue to read my blog, "Coalition for Kid-Friendly Schools", as well as Chris' blog, "A Blog About School". I'm sure both of us would like to hear from you. You don't have to agree with everything either of us says. I know I would rather have a range of viewpoints on my blog.

ChemProf said...

I'm talking about Chris' guest post on your blog. And since much of the complaints are around Allison's comments/posts here, I think that's relevant.

Chris said...

Anyone who wants to read that post, "George W. Bush, School Superintendent," can do so here.

It's true that my blog is not a fan of what passes for "conservatism" these days, or of George W. Bush. I don't take people who disagree with those views to be insulting me, though.

In any event, one of the things that post discusses is the increasing meaninglessness of terms like "progressive" and "conservative." And the main point of the post is how strange it is that one approach to education (that of raising standardized test scores at all costs) is being imposed on all schools in the country, regardless of what individual communities themselves may want. There was once a time when support for local control and federalism was something conservatives prided themselves on. No more, apparently.

FedUpMom said...

ChemProf, my blog (naturally) is written from my point of view, which is mostly left of center, and sometimes left of left of (repeat ...) center. But I certainly don't intend to insult people who have different points of view, and I don't want people with different points of view to avoid my blog. Please, read the blog, and post comments if you have something to say.

I think we can have honest debates and disagreements without attacking each other.

Barry Garelick said...

I've been called a right-wing ideologue for my views on math education, though not on KTM. I got into this whole mess (math education that is) when working on the Hill and having my fellow Democratic staffers back off the issue because of Lynne Cheney's involvement at the time. This disgusted and angered me so much that I wrote about it.

Allison said...

FedUpMom,

Are you Beth?

Is *this* the thread you're talking about?

http://kitchentablemath.blogspot.com/2010/01/book-knight-on-liberal-education.html

I didn't call Beth a communist then, as I said in that thread, and I wasn't calling Montessori a communist pejoratively then, either.

I do have scorn for a lot of Progressives, yes, but I talk about Progressives as they interact with education, not with, say foreign policy. I don't see how you can separate politics from education given the money in education is political, the policies are made and unmade by political choices, and the ides themselves were informed by political thought. Dewey's stance on education grew from his politics. e.g. But those choices aren't just made in a partisan context, and that's why there's shifting ground to talk about.

SteveH said...

And I'm sure that Barry would say that the problem happens on both sides of the aisle. I call that slate politics. That's why I'm unaffiliated. Then there are people like MPG who, when pushed, resort to political diatribes even when dealing with specific K-12 math curriculum problems. Remember the Dan Meyer thread?

I don't see these things too much on KTM, and they don't bother me if they are kept to generally off-topic threads, like this one. Maybe it doesn't bother me because I'm not on one political bus or another. I can't be insulted that way. Actually, I thought I was liberal, but the bus drove away and left me standing there. The conservative bus came by and I said "No thanks, I'll walk."


The middle ground happens when an overall political thought or philosophy is used to define or solve specific issues of education, like K-12 math. I often find the philosophies too restrictive and simplistic. Everything has to be forced to fit some grand overall philosophy.


For example, Chris says:

"... And the main point of the post is how strange it is that one approach to education (that of raising standardized test scores at all costs) is being imposed on all schools in the country, regardless of what individual communities themselves may want. There was once a time when support for local control and federalism was something conservatives prided themselves on. No more, apparently."

Forget state rights. What about individual rights? Let the parents choose the school, or does that peg me as a libertarian. Darn. I will have to start watching more cable TV. Ken Kesey said that you are "either on the bus or off the bus". I'm off the bus.

Or, is the problem raised above related to standardized tests? I surely want some minimum stadards, but I don't want minimum to become maximum. That's a separate issue. Is the issue standardized tests or the fact that this tends to shift resources to the low end? Would this be so bad if schools separated kids by ability and perhaps had two levels of standardized tests?

Do we all have to agree on one philosophy to solve any problem? How can a consensus be achieved if the solution is fundamentally tied to one philosophy? Is Chris upset that one solution is forced on everyone, or that it's just not a conservative one? Is is not OK for the federal government to impose laws on states, but it's OK for states to impose laws on individuals?

Philosophically, I want a solution where individual parents get to choose. Oops. That's not right. That's not my philosophy. That's being practical. I really want good local public schools. I don't want the right to drive my son 25 miles to the school of my choice.

Darn. What, exactly, is the problem? Why did KTM start in the first place? The fundamental problem is that perfectly capable kids are not mastering math at almost any level in K-6. This is a competence issue, not a philosophical one. When many K-6 educators talk about critical thinking and understanding in math, they don't know what they're talking about. Many have very low expectations. They think that it's unnatural to get to algebra in 8th grade. By 7th grade, it's all over and the career doors are slammed shut.

There is, however, a philosophical angle that I've talked about in the past. It's the idea that low income and urban kids are being held hostage. Many want what I call a rising tide solution. It may float all boats, but nobody will learn to fly. Also, the standards are so low that many of the boats never float. The paradox is that many claim that education won't be effective until you solve poverty, but they hold all kids hostage as a way to try to do just that.

However, even if the urban kids are set free and go to the tony private academies, they still might be faced with Everyday Math. The high SES parents will fix the problems at home and many others will be clueless as to what is going on.

FedUpMom said...

Allison, there's a reason why, as soon as anyone mentions right-wing partisanship on this blog, your name immediately comes up.

Yes, I'm Beth, and yes, that's the thread. I'll excerpt a couple of your comments below:


(directed at me:)

***
Now, you may be a Marxist, or a fellow traveler, and find that's an okay way to view the world. I won't be the one to dissuade you. But there's nothing flexible present in that view.
***

***
Every "Real" progressives I've read, heard of, or met is a Marxist. That's a factual statement, not a pejorative.
***

***
The myth of homework, constant grading, or punishment is so far from what's in schools now that people citing that are talking about their own childhoods. ... Teachers haven't punished students for things not done in years now.

But most of all, your conception of progressive education is naive. Critical pedagogy, and "why can't a girl have a penis", that's progressive education.
***

This was in a context where I was consistently trying to say that there were both good and bad sides to progressive education, and I don't agree with everything progressives like Alfie Kohn have to say.

My point was that it's unfair to blame everything going wrong in the public schools on "progressives", when every progressive I know of is wildly unhappy with the public schools, and I see with my own eyes that my local public schools violate the basic ideals of progressive ed every day.

FedUpMom said...

Back to "George W Bush, School Superintendent": I think the point Chris was trying to make was that public schools should be run locally, not at the federal level. I doubt that he's any happier with Barack Obama as our school superintendent. I know I'm not.

Catherine Johnson said...

I've been called a right-wing ideologue for my views on math education, though not on KTM. I got into this whole mess (math education that is)

Hey Barry - was it Martha .... (have forgotten her name) who wrote about getting involved in the math wars and suddenly being smeared as right-wing when she was firmly on the left? (This was California; it was the math wars; "right-wing" in that context was a smear.)

Catherine Johnson said...

However, I am as offended by the constant drumbeat of dislike for teachers and schools as you seem to be by anything I say.

I would like to point out, again, that ktm has teacher members and writers.

I am a teacher myself, at the college level (high school level in reality).

BUT the blog has K-12 public school members who read, comment, and occasionally write posts.

I pretty strongly object to blanket criticisms of all who write and read the blog.

Catherine Johnson said...

"I always joke that North Korea is the liberal paradise - state provided education, healthcare, ..."

I find that offensive!

(Or was that the point?)

We need some emoticons around here.

Catherine Johnson said...

Hainish writes:
Catherine, you need to understand that partisan comments are made here regularly that are offensive to people who hold liberal views.

I've been AWOL on comments (and posts!) & I'm sorry I haven't been a better moderator.

Btw, my email is cijohn @ verizon.net ---- so if there are things you want to bring up - or just chat about - there it is.

(I'm WAY behind on email - AWOL there, too! -- but I do get to it eventually.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Actually, I thought I was liberal, but the bus drove away and left me standing there. The conservative bus came by and I said "No thanks, I'll walk."

Oh my gosh!

I'm cracking up!

Wish we still had the wit and wisdom page. (Maybe I should start a new one.)

That is exactly what happened to me.

Catherine Johnson said...

Susan S writes: I don't see the daily partisan comments you are referring to. Yes, occasionally someone goes that way, but it certainly isn't nearly as much as you are claiming.

I agree with Susan. From the get-go, we've had liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. (I was trying to think whether we've had communitarians --- I don't know!)

This has been true from day one (and day one was back when C., a graduating senior, was in 5th grade)

ktm people have been, in my view, remarkably charitable and friendly toward other people's view in realms outside of education.

ktm is a 'partisan' blog in the sense that it is partisan about curriculum and teaching. I for one do not have an "open mind" about constructivism, or about Math Trailblazers, or about balanced literacy etc. etc. I oppose these things.

I do have a testing-reality stance (or I certainly intend to have). I pretty often ask myself what aspects of the 'constructivist' approach, broadly speaking, are right, and what aspects of my own approach are wrong, etc.

But I write ktm as a form of advocacy for liberal education, direct instruction, school accountability, and school choice.

Catherine Johnson said...

FedUp Mom wrote: It's true that I try to separate constructivist math and whole language, which I don't like, from other aspects of progressive ed, which I do like.

I've never arrived at an opinion on this issue -- partly because I'm just not in a position to experience good progressive education (to have a firsthand experience, I mean).

Also, I think -- and this is why I support choice -- that good progressive education would be great for some kids AND THEIR PARENTS, and not so great for others.

In my own case, we have 3 boys, 2 with major disabilities, and I'm a reasonably hyper person who grew up on an Illinois farm....and for me (and for Ed & the kids) the high-structure, "happy military academy" approach of the Jesuits is heaven. It really is HEAVEN. A highly-structured, traditional, happy school is heaven FOR US.

That doesn't make it right for all kids and all families (though I think that a highly-structured joyous school like C's is probably not **bad** for anyone...)

Catherine Johnson said...

FedUp Mom wrote:

Chris was trying to make was that public schools should be run locally

Problem is: THERE IS NO LOCAL!

It's just astounding how uniform the institution of public education has become.

I don't know how long you've been visting ktm, FedUp (or how much you've been reading); this may be a repeat.

I've been actively engaged in school politics in my district for several years now, and what you see is that citizens elect school board members who instantly become adjuncts to the administration. Local school boards don't exert local control; they do what administrators tell them.

That's because local school board members are all 'amateurs' working for free and usually trying to raise AND support a family at the same time.

Administrations snow board members with jargon, and loyalist parents hammer any board member who dares to Question Authority --- and the system goes on as it pleases.

The people who are controlling public schools are the education schools and the unions.

The ironic thing about "union control" is that if the AFT had the upper hand we'd have decent curriculum; the AFT has been a champion of phonics & Core Knowledge forever.

So I guess I need to say that the institution controlling public education is the ed schools.

Catherine Johnson said...

We have a superintendent search going on now, and Ed and I keep saying WE DON'T WANT 21ST CENTURY SKILLS.

Well, you can imagine.

Your basic human being, including your basic school board member and your basic president of the Expensive Search Firm, has never heard of 21st century skills.

They're going to round up the usual suspects, pick the one who comes across best in an interview, et voila: 21st century skills.

Dobbs Ferry, next door, just hired a new super who had the board read Tony Wagner's book over the summer.

Catherine Johnson said...

The fundamental problem is that perfectly capable kids are not mastering math at almost any level in K-6.

YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

AND: IT'S NOT JUST MATH

They can't write, either.

Nor can they read college-level texts.

We went to a forum with the search firm last night, and a man here in town (a Scottish libertarian, if you must know), said, "I'm one of those crusty fellow who thinks children should learn the basics."

He said, "If a student has mastered math and writing, all the rest -- science or history or whatever he chooses -- can be learned."

I had never quite thought of it that way -- I hadn't thought of math and English as "basics" at the high school level -- but he's right.

A student who graduates high school able to right a coherent 5-paragraph essay with a thesis statement AND do high school math is miles and miles ahead of his peers.

(And, of course, in the case of reading and writing he or she is miles and miles ahead because writing and reading are dependent upon broad content knowledge -- broad, not necessarily 'deep.')

Catherine Johnson said...

FedUp Mom write: My point was that it's unfair to blame everything going wrong in the public schools on "progressives",

oh yes, and that's something that political conservatives at least sometimes don't realize ---- we had several posts a couple of years ago about the roots of progressive education in intellectual history. I'll have to dig those up.

I've never been able to suss out how exactly romanticisim vs. Enlightenment views inform the two political parties, but there are certainly "Enlightenment liberals" and "Enlightenment conservatives" (I'm thinking libertarianism is may be only Enlightenment types, but I don't know...)

Enlightenment liberals are always stunned - not to put too fine a term on it - to discover what "progressive education" means inside a public school!

I remember my neighbor, who is politically very liberal, going out and buying a bunch of constructivist books to use with her very young son. She didn't know they were constructivist, and neither did I; neither of us had a clue what was going on inside ed schools. She just bought what was there & looked best.

She used them a week or two and said to me, "They aren't even fun."

That's my line for public school progressive education and, even worse, constructivist curricula: Not even fun.

SteveH said...

"I doubt that he's any happier with Barack Obama as our school superintendent. I know I'm not."

Top-down generalities like this don't help. I don't see Barak's name on our school web site. Are we supposed to know what this means in all of its details? I didn't see many changes in our K-12 education between Bush and Obama. Obama's team is pushing for more charter schools, but I see teachers, and even groups like "Occupy Providence" fighting them. What does that mean? Are these people conservatives? There is much more going on here.

Rather than starting with politics and working down, why not start by defining the specific problems at the bottom without having any political agenda. What exactly are the problems. What numbers are not good? Where do those numbers come from? What are the formulas? Are they relative numbers or absolute numbers?

Education is bad. How is that defined? Tests? People complain about the tests, but they never look at the actual questions. I've talked about this before. So many complain about teaching to the test or how this creates rote knowledge. I don't buy it. Look at the questions. Everyone is for balance, and most all of the questions fall well within anyone's definition of balance. Look at the NAEP test questions and scores. Is there some other knowledge that makes it OK to do poorly on these tests?

Even if KTM does stray into politics, I would hope that the discussions are based on specific questions and details. Just don't expect me to hop on one bus or another.

Call me a pissed off independent.

Katharine Beals said...

"I don't see the daily partisan comments you are referring to. Yes, occasionally someone goes that way, but it certainly isn't nearly as much as you are claiming."

I also agree with Susan. Ktm is one of a *very few* remaining places where one still encounters rational debate across the political spectrum.

I think what's going on with these impressions of ktm is that so many of us spend so much of our time living, working, socializing, and internetting in political echo chambers that we think of as "the rational norm" (cf new book "The Big Sort") that when we accidentally encounter environments where there is actual diversity of opinion, we mistake these environments as biased towards the other side! (And then we go on support this impression with uncharitable misreadings of what those who disagree with us are actually ssaying.)

I find all this nearly as depressingly idiotic as what's happening in education.

Allison said...

Beth,

We agree on something! I also didn't want the fed govt making local decisions about education.

GWB was no conservative on domestic policy--as shown by NCLB, Medicare part D, immigration, TARP, TSA, etc. etc. etc.

Why did NCLB happen? Well, this gets to why I spend so little time arguing about conservatives' policies in education: conservatives produced ZERO IDEAS FOR K-12 education for DECADES.

Not at the local, state, or fed level. They just abdicated any position at all beyond some bromides. They had no policies or ideas for either content or pedagogy or prof dev or assessment in K-12. They didn't derive anything at all from their principles for decades, while the Left did. The *entire* debate about e.g. Core Knowledge vs constructivism took place between the Left and Further Left. (The voucher idea was a libertarian one that most conservatives didn't support.)

And as a result, they have some culpability in NCLB--because they offered no alternative. That's why policy wonks are supposed to do: write position pieces and policy ideas down to be put on the shelf so that candidates and elected officials can then say "okay, I'm running/I've won, what do you have for me?"

But they didn't. So GWB became president, and he went to people who DID have ideas, which was Ted Kennedy. (Boehner and Gregg aren't exactly conservative either.)

And to GWB's credit, he also went to Direct Instruction folks. He put Carnine in charge of Reading First, I believe, which was the DI part of NCLB. It was the Dems who killed Reading First, not conservatives, but conservatives didn't do anything to support it in the middle.

Now, more recently, conservatives have started to have some ideas. Mostly, they've been structural, surrounding school reform through things like charters or vouchers, but again, they are decades behind. So their euphoria for charters has worn off after the success hasn't been there yet--because again, they looked structurally top down, and didn't look INSIDE schools at all. and as such, they don't know what's happening in the classroom now, still. But they are starting too, maybe.