Early School Daze

Watching Jeff Foxworthy’s “Are you Smarter than a fifth grader?” makes me realize one of the major problems with our educational system. We’re trying to teach our children too much too early!

When I think back to my elementary school experience, I recall lots of time spent on reading, writing, and arithmetic. I don’t ever recall anatomy lessons; and music was simply learning the scales and singing. If I’d been asked to tell where The Femur was, I’d probably have said, somewhere in Africa.

Art class back them was anything from finger painting to making masks using clay and papier-mâché. It wasn’t until my college Art Appreciation class that I was taught about various artists and styles.

The same is true about music. All through my first twelve years, the only thing we concentrated on was reading music and performing it. The history of music from the Gregorian Chant on, and naming composers and styles were all saved for college courses.

Simply put, schools today expect the basic skills to occur automatically while the teachers try to instill a bunch of stuff that most of the students will never use.

I should have seen this coming when I was teaching school back in 1967. One of my superiors wanted me to teach modern math to my emotionally disturbed first grade class. I refused to do it. These children couldn’t be given a dollar, sent to the store to buy a fifty cent item, and know how much change they should receive. There was no way they’d understand, or even care about, counting using a base other than ten.

I later learned that my superior was working on an advanced degree and was trying to get me to run his experiments.

Today I teach adult education and am flabbergasted by the number of high school and college graduates who cannot write a simple paragraph. When I hear them struggle to read material that has been written on the sixth grade level, I understand why they are unable to write clearly.

A couple of decades ago when I was writing training materials for IBM, I insisted we were making a mistake writing our manuals on the sixth grade level. Needless to say, I lost the battle.

As far as I’m concerned, we are giving schools a free pass for failure. If schools did their jobs as they once did, graduates would easily understand materials written at a twelfth grade level.

I often hear the argument about class size. In my grade school, our classrooms often held thirty to forty students in two different grades. This was with one teacher and no teacher’s aides. Most of those students went on to college and earned degrees.

Based on my experiences with today’s college graduates, I wonder how much one must do to graduate. It seems no professor wants to hurt anyone’s self-esteem by giving them bad grades.

Of course, some of this might simply reflect the helicopter parents who might threaten to sue if their precious child isn’t given a good grade.

Therein lies another problem with today’s educational system.

I was raised by parents who firmly believed that sparing the rod spoiled the children. As a student, paddling was a tool that was available to all school administrators and most teachers. Getting a swat was embarrassing and often led to additional punishment at home.

Today’s teachers can get in trouble with parents by simply suggesting a child is a brat. If there is no respect for a teacher, very little education can occur.

Without question, I am ‘old school’ in these matters. I firmly believe if we went back to ‘old school’ curricula and discipline, our children would benefit greatly. But who am I to argue with the likes of Dr. Spock and his followers?

If I went on Foxworthy’s show, I might not be able to answer all those questions; but I’ll bet I can read and comprehend better than any of his class of fifth graders. I’ll also bet I can write better than they can.

By the way, is The Femur in Europe… near The Hague?

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UPDATE: The cabinets have arrived!

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