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    Dear Asia: Please Send More Young People
    By Hank Campbell | February 13th 2013 11:32 AM | 18 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

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    Here's a good way to standardize education across the states without enraging powerful education unions and the US Department of Education: get rid of real standards.

    In a bit of pedagogical brilliance, California has decided to forgo algebra I, even for 8th graders, if they are not 'ready'.  And it will work, because with President Obama's killing of No Child Left Behind, despite its proven benefits in minority education and bringing parity to female math students for the first time in history, test scores (which determine money) will be based on an 'alternative' test that doesn't use algebra.

    This, after the president announced yet another reform of education in his State of the Union address last night, and told us how much he cared. People dutifully stood and cheered when he said it.

    Easier tests to pump up test scores is good business - and education is Big Business - so the California State Board of Education is not dumb for abandoning the idea of having all 8th-graders  take Algebra, but it is cynical. The vote was unanimous and why wouldn't it be?  States have wanted to revert to something like this since the education reform wave began in the 1990s. Though No Child Left Behind was passed in overwhelming bipartisan fashion, states did not like having to produce results to get money; that is the antithesis of a progressive education system. The new Common Core curriculum being rolled out in numerous states eliminates that problem by making the test too easy to fail.

    So now, with elite math tracks and vocational math tracks, rather than making sure all kids learn math, we are going back in time a hundred years. In the 1920s, the first wave of social authoritatian progressives invented not only eugenics, where they could scientifically weed out inferior people, but they also invented a modern test to scientifically find the smart people who could take special classes. The remainder were shuttled into vocational classes to be trained as a labor force for the educated elites. It was called an IQ Test. 
     
    New-wave social authoritarian progressives are convinced they can do this better and they are tired of their scores being held down by students they are forced to teach. But it leads to trouble. Some some schools are already not placing black and Latino students in advanced math courses even when they're prepared, according to Sharon Noguchi at Mercury News. California schools now have a built-in excuse not to try and teach minority students. California educators argue that more minority students took algebra but many fail.

    California will be fine - Asians love to move here and Asians are not culturally attached to American progressivism or the idea that it is fine to let government experiment on children, based on polling each election cycle. They make sure their kids learn whether the education lobby does or not.  Sure, they are discriminated against in college admissions but Caltech does not use racial quotas in accepting students - that is why almost 40% of the place is Asian

    The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area contends that school districts are violating students' rights with this new policy - yes, saying 'when you are ready' and then telling them they are not ready can be seen that way, when these are students. In response, some school districts are trying to fix it by, ironically, having quotas for the regular math classes everyone used to take.

    Comments

    Hank
    In the link about college admissions, there are two aspects: One, which I thought was interesting, was debunking the methodology the Supreme Court used to say racial preferences were legitimate. The fact that Asians are discriminated against is not a question, the scores show that. 

    But the example that Jews are over-represented in Ivy League schools isn't the purview of this article so I don't touch on it.  However, Andrew Gelman doesn't see the data the way Ron Unz does, and his post is worth a read. 
    >>get rid of real standards<<

    How a forward thinking society shoots itself in the foot.

    MikeCrow
    I got my electronics training in a Vocational program, many of my classmates did very well with what we learned. But I would hate to have not taken algebra, even though I didn't want to go beyond it in HS. Pre-Calc, and Calc were the only things I took in college, but almost a decade after HS, it was much harder both from stretching my brain, working full time, and not making my wife care for our son by herself. And if I were to take any other classes I would start with math courses.
    But I do understand your point, there were maybe 30 or so students out of 6 school districts in my class.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    I am not knocking vo-tech tracks, I grew up in a school that had them. Letting students who were clearly not going to college learn a trade instead made sense - but they chose that at a later age, it was not 'you should take welding and then come back and take math next year if you are ready'. They were not pigeonholed by 8th grade. These students are never going to catch up in high school which means, if they get into college, they will be forced to pay for high school level math.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...they also invented a modern test to scientifically find the smart people who could take special classes. The remainder were shuttled into vocational classes to be trained as a labor force for the educated elites. It was called an IQ Test.
    No it isn't and no that wasn't the purpose.  In fact, it was the exact opposite, which is that the test was intended to find those students that would have difficulty.

    There's also not much "scientific" about it and the abuse of its limitations renders it even less so.
    Binet stressed the limitations of the test, suggesting that intelligence is far too broad a concept to quantify with a single number. Instead, he insisted that intelligence is influenced by a number of factors, changes over time and can only be compared among children with similar backgrounds.
    http://psychology.about.com/od/psychologicaltesting/a/int-history.htm

    ...rather than making sure all kids learn math...
    But that's the problem isn't it.  Even after 12 years of education, the average person on the street was operating at a 4th grade arithmetic level [i.e. fractions].  Perhaps it's just anecdotal, but see how many people you encounter that can find the answer to this problem  [(7/9) / (5/4)].
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Your history of the intent behind the IQ test is flawed but everything else I basically agree with - that is why I say it is practical but cynical to just give up and assume that by 8th grade students are set in stone.
    Gerhard Adam
    Your history of the intent behind the IQ test is flawed ...
    How so?  It was intended to differentiate between normal students and special education needs.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    No, Thorndike's stimulus-response definition, which formed the basis for all of modern education, including an IQ test for advanced classes, was designed to find the elites. Intelligent people formed neural bonds more quickly and that showed in stimulus-response, he contended, and tests were geared to find those children, that is why our current system has a fetish for teaching 'thinking' and students do terrible on tests compared to international students, who actually learn stuff.  

    Obviously America owns the high end of science and education, so their ideas idea worked, but this is an article about giving up on the low end, exactly what the people in charge in the 1920s set out to do.
    MikeCrow
    but see how many people you encounter that can find the answer to this problem  [(7/9) / (5/4)].

    Depends on what you mean, I can find the answer in a number of way, including writing a program that would solve a large number of variations of it, but I don't remember the easy way to solve it in my head, though given time I could the long way. If you use fractions on a regular basis, it would be easy, many don't though. Some are, lacking, others just don't solve fractions very often.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps you could, but my point remains.  This is fourth grade arithmetic.  If the average person can't do these problems, then what is the benefit of promoting algebra, geometry, etc. for individuals that don't actually use it?
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    I probably could have answered it in 4th grade too :)
    It is a good point, but sometimes as children we don't understand what we might wished we'd done (or not done) when we grow older.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Then why are we wasting 12 years of our lives in school, being taught topics that no one will remember as adults?
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    It beats sweatshops and farm work?

    My Dad installed carpet, and I use to go help him on weekends when he needed an extra pair of hands, probably from 10 or 12 till about the time I moved out. I learned one very valuable thing, I didn't want to do that for a living. And I made sure I told him how much I valued that lesson before he passed.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    It beats sweatshops and farm work?
    Does it?  Was the lesson you learned from working or from school?
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    I received valuable lessons from both, I got what I didn't want to do from one, the other set me on my way to what I wanted to do.
    And now, I like what I do, I help make the world a tiny bit better for billions and I make a decent wage doing it. That's not so bad.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    That's great, and I'm sure there are millions more just like that.  I'm equally sure that there are millions more than would never retain any of the knowledge they acquired in skill.  I'm equally sure there are millions that wouldn't even bother trying to look up how to answer that basic problem.

    My point is that we spend an inordinately large amount of time and money to compel people to an education that most don't remember, few regularly use, and most don't care about.

    My radical view of education is that schools should do nothing except focus on the 3 "R"'s [Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic].  Any topics beyond that should be charged extra to the parents, etc. and no participation should be allowed until the appropriate grade mastery of the 3 "R"'s occurs. 

    At least, then if we're going to commit 12 years of education to someone, we can be reasonably sure that they will know how to read, write, and perform basic arithmetic.

    We always hear about how we have to nurture an interest in science, etc. so that we can encourage students to a higher education.  Yet, we never actually do anything about it.  Most such offerings in high school are little more than "promos" intended to whet the student's appetite so that they may consider pursuing those topics in college.  I, personally, think that never really happens [or its quite rare].  Instead, it seems like most of it is a boondoggle.  As an example, my daughter's senior year in high school offered Oceanography.  Why?  When students are still graduating with insufficient, reading, writing, and arithmetic skills and complaints about the cost of education going up ... is this really a class that needs to be offered to a bunch of high school students that live 80 miles from the ocean?

    I get that it may be an interesting topic, but high school isn't there to entertain them.  They can watch the Discovery Channel for "interesting topics".
    Mundus vult decipi
    rychardemanne
    I agree about the 3Rs, although would relabel it as just 2 fundamental skills: a natural language and a symbolic language. For most of us here that's English and Mathematics. I have taught both and, honestly, without them everything else is a waste of time; perhaps with the exception of kinetic arts such as sport, music and art itself, but I think we are talking about intellectual skills.

    The USUK educational elites continue the dumbing down on both sides of the pond. From basic skills, to key skills, to core skills, we shall soon be down to an empty shell. At the same time, the propaganda is about the knowledge economy and creativity. Look at the hands not the mouth.

    If the elites are merely interested in their replacements, then why are so many gifted kids leaving school and opting for home ed or reaching out to the internet? The only answer I can think of is that joining any elite is not just a matter of brains but also of heart; to be "one of us" is to show commitment to the cause. Maverick geniuses are dangerous.

    Most of our (UK) syllabus is about filling students with examination skills that will never be used in the real world. What you say about maths could equally be said about most subjects, but maths is a particularly tragic example because, of all subjects, it is next to impossible to learn by rote. Quality teaching will not just teach mechanical methods but will instill an understanding of what is going on amongst the symbols. And then a few odd souls may actually find the subject interesting! And the rest will at least see there is a point to it and know what can be done and what can't.

    Does recycling glass really make a difference to global warming climate change?
    "Just .00001%? Well, every little helps, that what I say."

    What does a National Debt of sixteen trillion dollars mean? 
    "Is a trillion bigger than a million? Oh! Well, my little brain can't take in these big numbers. I leave it to the experts."

    Sigh.