Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Classroom Realities Left Behind: Flatlining


In this age of education reform, in the era of NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, in this technologically-advanced period that geo-political guru Tom Friedman has appropriately tagged as “The World is Flat,” it’s mind-boggling how much our students DON’T know. Folks, for those of you outside the walls of public education, I’ve got a CNN newsflash. Brace yourselves. Hold tight. Crash helmets on. Get in the launch position: knowledge is out and skills are in. Yeah baby!!!

What do I mean? It’s simple: public education has sided with “skills” at the expense of knowledge. This disastrous approach starts when the cherubs are young. Memorization is de-emphasized, practically gone, replaced with the focus on…skills. The hell with multiplication tables. Screw spelling words correctly. Historical facts? And no you don’t: grammar rules? Forget ‘bout it—and that’s their excuse—the Stalinist proponents of the “skills” doctrine: why do students need to know…things??? Alas, the knowledge deficit sets in.

The truth is skill development is fine but not at the expense of developing and broadening our students’ knowledge. There are so many basic concepts that even the brightest students simply don’t know and haven’t mastered, whether it’s multiplication tables, understanding the three branches of U.S. government, or implementing the basic rules of grammar. What’s even more alarming is that the more advanced areas of learning require some basic mastery of this…stuff. Foreign languages, other cultures, different organizational systems, and global issues are what our students desperately need to know in this global economy, in the Bushie global war on terror, and in this galaxy of globalism. Thus the question remains: in this flat, flat world, why would we ever allow our students to flatline on knowledge?


IC said...

Thank you! I feel your pain.

RL said...

Last semester, one of my professors (this is in college, mind you) gave the class a quiz made up of questions asked on the US Citizenship test. Out of a class of 30, THREE 18-21 year old students thought there were 52 states, while only four could correctly identify what the stripes and stars stood for on the flag. Now really, that's ridiculous.