Friday, February 3, 2012

Little Johnny needs to know more than just how to read.... apparently we may not be the smartest , but we're still, uh, american exceptionalists.

This video is often sad and funny at the same time.  I'm very glad this was made in a majority white school (though many participants are of different ethnic backgrounds) because if the students were primarily black and brown there are many people whom would probably shake their heads and say," can't teach 'em nothing".  But is the premise of the video really fair?  Even though the answers to these questions ought to be rote and easily remembered, we are not testing for historical facts in schools.  We want students to be able to read, write, and calculate.  That's what is tested.  Though we teach history in schools, as the article mentions, history is deemphasized in testing. We as a nation need to make important changes in what we are teaching because while it's great to be able to read, write and calculate, if we don't understand what and why we're reading, writing and calculating...well, then it's all for nothing.  Furthermore, basic civics, like basic finance, should be included in our curriculum for all students.  My 8 year-old daughter is learning how to calculate by using money and financial transactions in her homework.  It's scary that this type of basic financial education will most likely stop after elementary school.

BTW, that these adolescents don't know basic civics is not just their fault (because it is their fault.  They should know this stuff); it's OUR fault as parents, educators and as a culture.  If we deem certain facts important, then we should make sure they are learned; if not in school then at home, in our churches and through our media references. Just like in kids shows, why not just slip in historical references into ads during "Gossip Girl"? It can't be that hard.  We are supposed to be an exceptional nation.  So write some exceptional stuff which appeals to teenagers yet doesn't beat them over the head with it, make sure we convey to them the important facts we want them to know.  The Cosby Show, for example, made all sorts of references to jazz and child rearing.  Conveying cultural information was one of the key points of the show, in addition to first class entertainment.

If people don't know these basic facts about our society, how can they participate fully as citizens once they become adults? And how can we continue to cling to our self-anointed role of the exceptional people in the world if we don't even know the countries which border ours? Ah..'tis a puzzlement (see: Siamese King from My Fair Lady)


  1. Of all the things I'm looking forward to teaching in-depth as a Homeschooler, this is definitely one of them. We talk about history & geography now more as a "scratch the surface get you ready for what's coming next" w/the occasional break-it-down-in-truth as needed but when they're older...

    I always hated history and I didn't figure out why until I became an adult. It was bc I never felt relevant inside it. Until now. I've learned in bits and pieces all about the places they tried to snub out and keep from me, all the nooks and crannies they shone the light AWAY from in my educational upbri ging

  2. Sorry, iPhone crash/hiccup.) and it's become one of the most rewarding and interesting things to me. I can't wait to delve into this subject I thought I despised so much, and give my kids the gift of loving it.

    For now I'm shaking my head at this video. It really is a shame. Thanks for the post;-)

  3. I have tried to write a comment for several minutes, and can't think of words strong enough to convey how crippled much of our education system really is. As someone who's children went through the public school system in Montgomery County, and a parent who was involved, I saw a few cases of exceptional teaching in spite of how we have tied teachers' hands with our philosophies of "teaching to the test" and paper work. High schools are more interested in having kids roll in advanced classes so they can boast about how many high placement students they have, than actually getting kids to understand subjects from the ground up. I still think the real learning takes place at home and in the community.

    We can work toward a better system but in the meantime, we have to get our own kids through.

  4. I am flat out petrified. I work in the school systems on both sides: elementary and university. We are kidding ourselves if we think basic knowledge doesn't matter. We need to stop making fun of it on the evening talk shows and decide as a culture that having an educated population is IMPORTANT.