Home of the Whatevers

Home of the Whatevers

We have tried Common Core, Race to the Top, Charter Schools and No Child Left Behind. The US ranks #37 in math according to PISA, behind China, Russia, and Estonia. And we're not making any progress:

"Test scores on the federally funded National Assessment of Educational Progress—known as “the Nation’s Report Card—have been stagnant for the past decade. The scores of the lowest-ranked students declined."

Of course poverty, ideology and unions all play a role here. But none of these challenges are unique to the US. I think the problem is sports.

Something that has always bothered me as I travel around America is that most schools primarily identify themselves by their sports team. Home of the Tigers! Or whatever. What must that do to the majority of non-Tigers turning up for school every day. Nice work on the math test but the only thing we're actually proud of is the football team.

Sports are important of course, to build teamwork and for exercise and as a future career for a tiny minority of students. Nearly everything else the school does is far more impactful.

An important and easy (although likely unpopular) Federal education reform would be to force schools to promote all extracurricular activities equally. Schools could choose to promote nothing and just be a school (like the vast majority of the rest of the world). Or they could give each activity, club and society an equal share of their jumbotron to represent the full diversity of the student body.

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NailMathAndScienceFirst.org

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

NailMathAndScienceFirst.org

Code.org wants every student in every school to learn how to code. The have an inspirational video of software luminaries saying how easy it is to do and then somewhat contradicting themselves by saying they can't hire enough engineers. If addition, subtraction and ten minutes on a web tutorial was enough then Facebook and Microsoft could hire just anyone. The project comes off as being just a little bit self serving. Sure, we need more skilled software engineers but we also hardware engineers and biohackers and makers not to mention doctors and lawyers and accountants.

Rather than getting everyone to code, how about just stopping Oklahoma from banning science teachers from failing students who fail to learn science: “but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories,”.

I'm not in any way against learning to code. But you can't code without a reasonable grasp of mathematics. And you're not going to be successful as a professional developer if you can't communicate. And when your code inevitably goes horribly wrong then debugging is the very essence of the scientific method. Maths, literacy and science come first, are relevant to many careers and the US isn't doing a particularly great job of delivering the goods. 

Get the basics right and plenty of students will become developers. 

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Has France Cracked Fixing Education?

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Has France Cracked Fixing Education?

The French are close to making it illegal to deny a second genocide. I was going to write a post despairing at the increasing number of thought crimes in Europe. Bad form, maybe, however does there really need to a law?

But maybe this is part of a far grander plan. It starts with history, then maybe geography (Can't spot Finland? Six months community service!), mathematics (Don't know how to figure out the volume of a cylinder? Two years and a fine!) and science (Can't sketch the Krebs Cycle? Life without the possibility of parole!).

Once every incorrect answer is against the law maybe children will start paying more attention in schools. That must be behind then ban on headscarves as well, it's not xenophobic, just trying to make sure that the view of the blackboard isn't obstructed.

(Photo credit: stttijn)

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