Who needs algebra?

So asks Andrew Hacker writing at the NYT when pondering our (national) educational shortcomings:

This debate matters. Making mathematics mandatory prevents us from discovering and developing young talent. In the interest of maintaining rigor, we’re actually depleting our pool of brainpower. I say this as a writer and social scientist whose work relies heavily on the use of numbers. My aim is not to spare students from a difficult subject, but to call attention to the real problems we are causing by misdirecting precious resources.

The toll mathematics takes begins early. To our nation’s shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school. In South Carolina, 34 percent fell away in 2008-9, according to national data released last year; for Nevada, it was 45 percent. Most of the educators I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason.

Shirley Bagwell, a longtime Tennessee teacher, warns that “to expect all students to master algebra will cause more students to drop out.” For those who stay in school, there are often “exit exams,” almost all of which contain an algebra component. In Oklahoma, 33 percent failed to pass last year, as did 35 percent in West Virginia.

Love the last quote from a teacher. We can’t teach this skill so let’s just get rid of it, thus preventing more kids from dropping out. Rather than solving the problem (the lack of skill addressed at an earlier grade level when kids are then just passed on like chattel to the next grade without necessarily mastering the skills necessary), let’s … um, get rid of it! That’s the solution!

Pathetic.

Hacker points out the need for solid basic math skills. I agree. But that’s lost in today’s education system as well. And next we’ll be told that it’s not necessary, either.

“Underemployment rocks because it knocks out that sense of entitlement.”

So argues Don Surber brilliantly on yesterday’s AP boo-hoo article detailing underemployment among college grads, especially those with liberal arts degrees.

More:

I know. I am Mister Insensitivity but into each life a little rain must come. That is why an Associated Press story on the difficulties of recent college graduates facing joblessness or underemployment warmed the cockles of my heart. What a life lesson these 20-somethings are learning. The law of supply and demand trumps a sheepskin. Always has. Always will. I am 58 years old and no one has ever asked what my GPA is. People come to this blog and they don’t know whether I have a PhD or an eighth-grade education. They judge me on what I have to say and how I say it.

Underemployment rocks because it knocks out that sense of entitlement. People also learn what real work is.

Absolute truth.

I’m probably Mrs. Insensitivity after noting that the kid pictured bemoaning his Starbucks-barista fate with a BFA in Creative writing needed to lose the facial jewelry in order to get a real job. But such is life. Kids will learn. Eventually. Or else they’ll close out workin’ at Starbucks.

Change: “the job prospects for bachelor’s degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.”

Lesson learned for college kids? Will they know to blame GW for their employment woes? I’m sure. Via memeorandum, the AP reports:

The college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the world of work.

A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.

Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor’s degrees.

Opportunities for college graduates vary widely.

While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.

We know a wonderful young man about to graduate from a major state  university. He’s fortunate enough, however, to be leaving school debt-free thanks to a ROTC scholarship. And oh, he’s guaranteed a job as a newly-minted 2nd Lieutenant in the Army with an in-demand BS.

He didn’t vote for Obama, either. Go figure, eh? The kids willing to work for what they want–rather than taking the liberal bait that they’re owed something–are the ones who will emerge successful and debt-free. If only we could all be so savvy.

More from the article:

Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor’s degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.

“I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.

Initially hopeful that his college education would create opportunities, Bledsoe languished for three months before finally taking a job as a barista, a position he has held for the last two years. In the beginning he sent three or four resumes day. But, Bledsoe said, employers questioned his lack of experience or the practical worth of his major. Now he sends a resume once every two weeks or so.

Bledsoe, currently making just above minimum wage, says he got financial help from his parents to help pay off student loans. He is now mulling whether to go to graduate school, seeing few other options to advance his career. “There is not much out there, it seems,” he said.

Emphasis my own. What a shame no one told Bledsoe that the practical worth of his major amounted to next to nothing. He is pictured with a nose ring and giant gauges in his ears. Call me old-fashioned, but I wonder how his appearance plays into his inability to garner more than a minimum wage job. (Hint: remove the jewelry, dude!) Further, he asked his parents for money to pay his loans rather than trying to find another low-paying job. No wonder it sounds like a great idea to stack up more debt! Go get that MFA!

“We want education”

From inner-city Detroit, a group of boys know they’ve been wronged by the corrupt, liberal-union run system. Heartbreaking:

About 50 high school students at Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit were suspended Thursday after walking out of classes to protest a host of issues at the all-boys school.

The concerns included a lack of consistent teachers and the removal of the principal.

The boys, dressed in school blazers, neckties and hoodies, chanted, “We want education!” as they marched outside the school.

Parents organized the walkout because they fear for the school’s future. As recently as last month, students spent weeks passing time in the gym, library or cafeteria due to a lack of teachers, parents said.

Suspend them for demanding a real education. Brilliant solution. But therein lies a kernel of truth: the boys would be better served reading a book at home than they would at their failed state-run institutional school where learning never takes place:

“They’re failing these young black men,” said Sharise Smith, who has two sons at Douglass.

Smith said her son received an A in geometry during the first semester without taking a final exam.

“It was by default, just for showing up. It wasn’t because he earned an A,” Smith said.

An A for showing up: given the graduation and literacy rates in Detroit as a whole, that isn’t surprising.

Related on Detroit schools: Liberalism gone wild: how to reduce the stigma of a free lunch

Good school or not, Liberty Middle in Fairfax County should serve as a warning

Or, reason to homeschool number 10,018.

Via the Daily Caller, the problem with rabidly liberal teachers in institutional settings:

A Virginia middle school teacher recently forced his students to support  President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign by conducting opposition research  in class against the Republican presidential candidates.

The 8th grade students, who attend Liberty Middle School in Fairfax County,  were required to seek out the vulnerabilities of Republican presidential hopefuls and forward them to the Obama campaign.

“This assignment was just creepy beyond belief — like something out of East  Germany during the Cold War,” one frustrated father, who asked for his family to  remain anonymous, told The Daily Caller.

The assignment was for students to research the backgrounds and positions of  each of the GOP candidates for president and find “weaknesses” in them, the  parent explained. From there, students were to prepare a strategy paper to  exploit those weaknesses and then to send their suggestions to the Obama  campaign.

Liberty teacher Michael Denman, who declined to comment, unveiled the  assignment in mid-January when he broke the Civics Honor’s class into four  groups, one for each Republican candidate. The students were then to collaborate  as a group and research the backgrounds of their assigned candidate.

Denman assigned two kids to write a paper revealing the identified “weaknesses,” two to write the attack strategy paper and two others to locate an  individual inside the Obama campaign to whom they could send the  information.

At least they weren’t singing songs to Dear Leader, but I’m sure that’s what happened in the non-Honors classes. I’m not sure which is creepier at this point: forcing kids to do oppo research or actually sending it in to the Obama campaign. I would have loved to have seen how Denman graded the “projects.” 10 out of 10 for correct liberal thinking! 5 out of 10 for not assessing the evil weakness of Rick Santorum’s patriarchal religious affiliation and  obvious misogyny. Yea! 10 out of 10 for seeing how easy it would be for Obama to defeat Obama-lite, that etch-a-sketch Romney!

Liberty Middle ranks as a 9 out of 10 on greatschools.org or in the 91st percentile for the state. In theory, it should be one of the shining examples of where folks would aspire to send their kids. In reality, it serves as a shining example of what’s wrong with state-run education in the hands of liberal union shills.

UPDATE: Allahpundit puts shelves politics and looks at the bright side: he says the teacher should be praised for teaching the kids how to be young, enterprising journalists. Heh. He writes:

The good news: The class is now more or less qualified for work in America’s mainstream media. If you’re going to push your politics on kids, at least teach ‘em a trade.

He may or may not have also told them to send their research to Obama’s campaign. Another useful journalistic skill — learning to coordinate with Democrats for professional gain and the advancement of the cause. In a world of high Hopenchange unemployment, shouldn’t we congratulate this guy for looking out for his students’ bottom line?

True enough. At the rate jobs are disappearing, better cover your bases!

The Food police dish up tasty delights in a public school cafeteria near you

Remember this last month? Food police bust 4 year-old in NC. The government brown bag-checkers deemed a kid’s healthy lunch unacceptable and forced her to buy the school lunch:

The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the agent who was inspecting all lunch boxes in her More at Four classroom that day.

[...]

When the girl came home with her lunch untouched, her mother wanted to know what she ate instead. Three chicken nuggets, the girl answered. Everything else on her cafeteria tray went to waste.

In lieu of her healthy homemade lunch, she was given good ‘ol chicken nuggets made from this:

Pink slime coming to a school cafeteria near you! Photo via Twitchy

Yum! Mechanically separated pink slime, which, by the way, the government just purchased 7 million pounds of the good stuff for school lunches.

This is the stuff McDonald’s is vilified for using, yet it’s somehow kosher for the government to buy up Mickey D’s slack and schlep it off to those institutionalized school kids in the name of health.

Pictured above is chicken pink slime. According to Howard Portnoy, Uncle Sam actually purchased the beef version:

The term pink slime was coined by microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein. It refers to a ground-up blend of beef scraps, connective tissue, and other trimmings that has been treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill foodborne pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. The resulting product has a shocking pink appearance and a mouth feel described as more like Jell-O than hamburger. (For a more in-depth look at how pink slime is made, check out this segment from celebrity-chef-turned-buddinsky Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, though suffice it to say the stuff is so gross that McDonald’s and Burger King swore off using it in January.)

Marketed under the name ”Lean Beef Trimmings” by its manufacturer, Beef Products Inc., pink slime has raised health concerns as well as aesthetic ones. Carl Custer, a microbiologist who worked for the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service for 35 years, is on record as saying:

We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat.

And that’s only the half of it. Custer warns that ingesting ammonium hydroxide, an ingredient in household cleaners and fertilizers, can be harmful. To make matters worse, the chemical doesn’t invariably do the job it’s intended to do. The New York Times reported in 2009 that since 2005, E. coli was found three times and salmonella 48 in industrial-size batches of the product.

Lean Beef Trimmings. It sounds like something from a Simpsons episode, except it’s not: Big government nannies force parents to purchase less nutritious–no, absolutely disgusting–pseudo-meals under the guise of health. The joke’s on us for continuing to fund this garbage let alone the broken education system in which it’s served.

The telly’s effects on early learning

I wrote about Dr. Dimitri Christakis a few months ago, citing his study of SpongeBob and Caillou. Here he is giving a TED talk, and it is most illuminating:

Pregnant me thought: I wonder if I can find DVDs of Mr. Rogers. Sesame Street has as many rapid sequence changes, but it’s the good ol’ Mr. Rogers that didn’t have an effect on brain patterns or development.

The irony: the legions of parents who thought they were helping their kids via … Baby Einstein videos likely landed themselves kids with behavior problems. From the outset, that’s what I’ve noticed in my kid after tv, and that’s why we abstain: the rest of the day becomes a search for high-stimulus overload, and in its absence, tantrums ensue. No TV, no tantrums.

UPDATE: linked as a Recommended Read by Pundette. Thanks!

UPDATE: Just in case you’re wondering, all of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is available on Amazon streaming. We’re Prime members, so it’s free streaming. We watched how crayons were made and took a trip to Make-Believe Land (remember the trolley car?) this afternoon after playing in the snow with no … ill… effects. So far. ; ) It was a fascinating trip down memory lane and long enough for me to successfully brush all the tangles out of pjKid’s impossibly tangled hair.

Bestiality brought to by your public school system: Reason 10,017 to homeschool

Ah, where would we be sans mandatory sex ed? Kids can’t read or write with any degree of clarity, but boy, they’ll sure know how to, um, do it:

New York City 11-year-olds will soon be learning sex education from workbooks that include instruction on “mutual masturbation, French kissing, oral and anal sex, and “intercourse using a condom and an oil-based lubricant.”

Since bestiality and anal sex are among the topics of discussion, a liberal activist will cry foul over this:

Middle school students will be assigned “risk cards” that rate the safety of different activities, the paper says, from French kissing to oral sex.

Why? Well, how dare a teacher say homosexual anal intercourse is less safe than, say, fisting! What a cesspool.

R.S. McCain points out the obvious:

Seriously, if any random stranger tried to talk to kids about stuff that schools teach in sex-ed classes, parents would be calling the cops. It’s just downright creepy to teach this kind of stuff to sixth-graders.

Damn skippy.

Supporting deficiencies

A sinkhole of funds and expectations, good ol’ public schools. From my local paper, the Colorado Springs Gazette, a summary of the poor math performance among high schoolers:

But in the six largest districts in El Paso County — Colorado Springs School District 11, Academy School District 20, Falcon School District 49, Harrison School District 2, Widefield School District 3, and Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 — fewer than 50 percent of 10th graders scored proficient or advanced in math. Over the last five years scores have remained flat, indicating schools haven’t found the silver bullet.
The humor lies in the end, where local districts detail the efforts being made to improve scores. In D-2, a fifth of 10th graders scored proficient or advanced in math: 21%. The plan to help won’t:
This year they rolled out a high school math program where geometry, algebra and other courses are integrated so students can see the connection between concepts.
In elementary school, Assistant Superintendent Dan Snowberger notes, they have set aside the idea that kids can’t get into higher math until they have memorized basics such as multiplication tables. “Some might never memorize it, so instead we get them engaged in higher math, scaffold the lessons and support them where there are deficiencies.” They are seeing positive results.
Scaffold the lessons and support deficiencies? Isn’t that what they did in Atlanta? Do you just supply a table for kids to look up the answer or a calculator. I’m not sure which is worse. It’s difficult for kids to grasp the interrelated concepts if they haven’t mastered the basics, i.e. memorizing math facts.
In a local charter school–the one with the highest scores in the county at 90 percent proficient or advanced–the explanation for success would prove unpopular. Why? It’s no longer politically correct:
Vanguard doesn’t socially promote kids, has high expectations and stresses parent support. Students are divided into zones based on ability rather than grade levels for math, and placement is emphasized in the first month of school. Students repeat material until they know it, and have an extra half hour daily for homework and extra help. The school uses Saxon math curriculum, which lays a foundation of skills and builds on it. Lectures are short; more time is spent doing problems so teachers can see issues and help.
No social promotion. High expectations. Parent support. Placement for ability. And what a kicker: students repeat material until they know it. That doesn’t sound like supporting a deficiency, eh?
 
Cross-posted at Potluck.

Theater of the absurd: white paper leads to racist attitudes

Of course. From the UK Telegraph:

Another staple of the classroom – white paper – has also been questioned by Anne O’Connor, an early years consultant who advises local authorities on equality and diversity.

Children should be provided with paper other than white to drawn on and paints and crayons should come in “the full range of flesh tones”, reflecting the diversity of the human race, according to the former teacher.

Finally, staff should be prepared to be economical with the truth when asked by pupils what their favourite colour is and, in the interests of good race relations, answer “black” or “brown”.

The measures, outlined in a series of guides in Nursery World magazine, are aimed at avoiding racial bias in toddlers as young as two.

According to the guides, very young children may begin to express negative and discriminatory views about skin colour and appearance that nursery staff must help them “unlearn”.

If children develop positive associations with dark colours, the greater the likelihood that the attitude will be generalised to people, it says.

Ah, but it’s across the pond. Where’d they get these crazy ideas anyway? Oh:

The advice is based on an “anti-bias” approach to education which developed in the United States as part of multiculturalism.

Fabulous. Now we export idiocy, too.

Will they ban the white crayons before or after the realization that white crayons mark on dark paper best? I’m sure that’s racist, too. Somehow.

Witches will wear pink. To avoid any negative connotations.

The Scarlet Letter has already been banned, I’m sure. The woods are too dark. Evil lurks in bright white spaces after all. Hell, better toss out all of Hawthorne. Dark and twisty soul, that man.

Oops. Pink and twisty, right?

It’s all a union plot to extract more money anyway. Colored paper costs more than white.  Oh, I suppose “colored paper”–even if it refers to blue or red–is now a slur. Non-white.

Speaking of unions, money and terrible state-run education: Pundette, About that “investment” in government schools.

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