Shift Happens

There’s a group of friends I hang out with online, all of us online entrepreneurs. One sent a URL around urging us all to “take 8 minutes to watch the video,” adding “if you care about such things, please consider blogging about it and/or passing it on.” What things? Our kids. Or, more accurately, the education of our kids. The world is a very, very different place than it was when we were kids.

Right Place, Right Time

I was extremely lucky to grow up in the Silicon Valley, where my father had a second career doing consulting for the high tech companies there. (This was back in the hardware days of the valley, when they were doing fab work with silicon, not so much writing software to run on it.)

Beautifully lit school building at dusk.
La Entrada didn’t look this good when I was there! But it was a fine school then, and now. (Photo from the school’s web site; awards added.)

I was introduced to computers in the seventh grade, which is pretty good considering I started the seventh grade in 1971. And I hereby publicly thank Ms Adrienne Drummond-Hay, who pushed La Entrada Junior High (now Middle) School in Menlo Park, Calif., into the Computer Age way ahead of its time.

She brought in two Model 33 Teletype machines into a corner of her classroom, and either had a nice big budget or got a computer company, RAIR Inc. in nearby Mountain View, to discount or donate time on their timeshare minicomputer, an H-P 2000C that could handle up to 32 dial-up users at a time. (Unusually, as far as I can tell with H-P, it ran the RSTS operating system, with interpreted BASIC.)

My recollection was their published rate was $5/hour to connect to their computer at 110 baud (the fastest a Model 33 could go — about 10 characters/second), and $10/hour if you were lucky enough to have a terminal that could run at 300 baud.

Update: I’m adding the following video in 2020 since it not only shows interaction with a remote computer using a Model 33 Teletype, but as shown on the front, it’s actually from RAIR Inc.! What a small world.

First Generation

Thanks to Mrs. Drummond-Hay, I’m in perhaps the first generation who grew up with computers as ubiquitous tools, not marvels. I was one of the first students I knew of in college who had his own computer, too. I’m not saying this to brag — it’s just a tool, nothing special — but it gave me a huge advantage over other students.

Type slug from Linotype machine
Hot Lead: A lead type “slug” from a Linotype machine. This is how typesetting was done before computers came along. This one (which says “This is True®”) was created by a reader, who still runs a Linotype machine in his garage. Approximately actual size.

My college was cutting edge too: when I arrived, the faculty of the journalism school at Humboldt State University was rightfully proud of its Video Display Terminals — a computerized story editing and typesetting system for the school newspaper. “This is the sort of equipment you’ll find in industry,” they told me, and I was lucky to train on the state of the art.

They were right; the days of hot-lead typesetting were over, and HSU was one of the earlier J-schools to lead the way into “cold type” and then, not long after I graduated, computerized layout.

A lot has changed since 1971, and when I was in college. And I’m sure some schools have kept up. But I’ll bet most are still way behind the curve. Probably including the one your kids (or grandkids) go to.

Change Doesn’t Stand Still

It was a year and a half ago that I recommended you read The World is Flat,* which discusses how the Internet is leveling the playing field around the world. It’s why tech support is booming in Bangalore, India, for instance.

But that’s just an outward manifestation of the flattening playing field. What country has the largest middle class? Not the U.S., but India; their middle class will soon be larger than the entire population of the U.S. What is soon to be the largest English-speaking country? No, not India, though 100 percent of its college grads speak English. Rather, it’s China.

The De Facto Lingua Franca

Another friend in the group piped in that he’s “still fighting the good fight to promote English skills.” He retired from a major player in high tech, one that’s making many billions by understanding just how important all of this is. When he was there, he did a lot of hiring, and he could easily tell if a prospective employee had what it took to compete.

He said, regarding this, “If your email and your Internet posts and your other writings sound like a spoiled teenager who didn’t finish high school, don’t be surprised if that’s exactly how you’re treated.” He now kicks himself that he didn’t pay more attention in school English classes: he now makes his living …as a writer.

The point: English is certainly emerging as the high tech language in an increasingly high tech world. India and China realized this long ago. Have your kid’s teachers realized it? Have you? Can your children communicate intelligently in writing? Or can they only write in txt msg shthnd? (Text message shorthand!)

The ability to get points across well and succinctly has enabled me to make a good living, but I was also lucky enough to go to the right schools, staffed by the right teachers, and that I was pointed in a useful direction, which is amazing considering when it was. They left the “how” up to me, and I think I found a worthy path.

Now that we’re well into the 21st century, are your kids getting that sort of guidance?

The video I referred to (below) keeps asking, “Did you know?” That gets really old, but did you? More importantly, do the people we’re paying professional-level wages to educate our children know it? Does your kid’s principal know it? What is he or she doing to get your child ready? Do you know? Why not?

Here’s the Video

I look forward to your comments on this. Did you know this stuff? Now that you do, what are you going to do about it?

The link from the video is now bad (sigh), but here’s the page at

P.S.: I wrote this 900-word essay in under an hour, including the time it took me to look up and encode all the links here, and post it to my blog. Will your kids be able to do that when they finish school?

I hope so, but fear not. Thanks again, Ms Drummond-Hay.

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66 Comments on “Shift Happens

  1. It was an entertaining, if a bit oversimplified, eight minutes. But the last minute really got me: Why should any parent expect the state to do their job for them? Schools are fine babysitters but anyone who expects them to do more than the basics of reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic is sadly mistaken. Parents, not teachers, are the front line in the education of the next generation.

    I actually did address that, briefly: “More importantly, do the people we’re paying professional-level wages to educate our children know it?”

    Because the fact is, we are paying quite a lot of money to people to educate our children. We can argue over whether that’s the “best way,” but that is the way we are doing it. And since that is what we’re doing, it is reasonable to expect a high-quality job of it, especially for the prices we’re paying. -rc

  2. I have to disagree with Nathaniel in Michigan…as a parent it is my responsibility to teach my child the social skills necessary to integrate into society. The teacher, on the other hand, is being paid to ensure that my child has the foundation of knowledge he needs to step up into college and obtain the advanced learnings necessary to ultimately become a productive member of adult society. 100 years ago that meant reading, writing and arithmetic. In today’s world, it means a lot more than that. Those core subjects are still necessary, however, they are inadequate to prepare a child for what they will face in college and in the workplace.

  3. I am in a position to observe the result of a number of K-12 school systems, because my wife teaches at a Jr. College in central California. She teaches Computer Information Systems and is primarily interested in the introductory classes. One of the things she stresses is that her students must write papers and test question answers. She feels the students will be expected to write reports in most jobs, and they need to be able to express their opinions and thoughts clearly.

    This requirement seems to shock and upset a fair number of her students, and in some cases been the cause of some hilariously funny errors. There are examples every week unfortunately, emphasizing the lack of understanding of English language skills in a significant portion of our populace attending college with goals that will require good language skills. It is amazing how many think that the computer will assist them in writing beyond spelling checks.

  4. Where much of the rest of the world is beating us is basic education. Writing, reasoning, and math skills still need to be taught effectively.

    Throwing technology at kids and hoping it will stick is not the solution. Sadly this is what often happens in the US. In our (relatively well-off) school district, laptops for every kid are more a distraction than a learning tool. One only has to look at how young people are using sites such as MySpace to see where learning is NOT going. The problem is that the vast majority of educators, not only K-12 but up into higher ed, are not equipped nor encouraged to require rigorous writing AND technology skills. Education “professionals” and the folks making education decisions with respect to curriculum need to step both forward and back — back to basic skills as well as tying them to the the future of technology.

  5. It has been said, and the evidence is there, that there is an intentional “dumbing down” of the American student taking place. I know for a fact that the teaching of Math changes every few years; when my son was in Middle School he asked for help with converting fractions to decimals. I showed how it was done, and his response was “That’s not how we were told to do it.” We looked in his textbook and the text was (literally) incomprehensible. His math training was completely different from that taught me just 25 years previous.

    Another example: One of our students was studying at the local High School. I asked him about the classes he was taking, and he started telling me about his “Health” class. Nothing to do with “health” as I knew it – It was about how to prevent suicide! The teacher even showed a video of a kid committing suicide, and passed out a handout of the 100 most popular methods! And told the little shavers which hurt the least!

    HELLO! Wake up call! It is NOT how much money is being “spent on education” that matters, it’s WHO is teaching the teachers… and what THEIR intentions are. And that is a snakepit the likes of which few can confront.

  6. This is fear mongering and the questions asked at the end (what are we supposed to do deal with the upcoming changes?) has been answered earlier in the video: nothing, because we cannot predict what will happen. It happens all the time, that someone gets paranoid, because they catch a glimpse of a technology they haven’t yet embraced, so they fall back on the trusted human quality: fear.

    I bet that teachers and administrators at your Junior High and college were responding to what was happening *then* around them and reacted just like today’s teachers and administrators are reacting. Those that are not afraid of the technological progress are embracing it and try to show to students that while the technology changes, the ability to think, communicate, and cooperate are still the same qualities that drove previous generations, independent of the technology.

    I grew up in communist Poland, with no computers, yet I’ve spent the last 20 years designing and building software. I’m sure that my son will be able to handle whatever technology there will be in 20 years, even though I cannot fathom now what it might be.

    Lastly, talking about India and China is like Japan bashing 20 years ago. Let’s embrace their progress; competition is good and I’m sure that will help US in the long run.

    There is definitely wisdom in your words, but I can tell you my schools were quite unusual. There were very few in 1971 giving students hands-on access to computers — and probably still very few in 1976 or 1981. How many generations had to wait? Did the majority of them ever catch up? My point was and is that my teachers paid attention to what was going around them and did something about it. The question is, how many teachers, principals and school districts are doing that? My guess: not nearly enough.

    As for “bashing” China and India, what are you talking about? I’m praising them for adjusting to reality, not bashing them. If anyone, I’m bashing the U.S. educational system, which is still rooted in creating factory workers rather than thinkers for the “information economy”! -rc

    • I’m going to disagree with you. We are of a similar age. I graduated high school in 1977. The first time I ever had my hands on a computer was freshman year in college. I excelled at it. Sadly I only took one computer class in college. I went into accounting instead of IT. I spent the first 16 years of my career as a corporate accountant. I bought myself a Commodore 64 and had a blast programming games on it. In talking to the IT manager where I worked he could tell I knew what I was talking about. When a job became available in IT he offered it to me. I’ve been in IT the last 25+ years.

      My point is, those that have the aptitude will “catch up” as you said. Those without computer competencies will do other things. The world also needs auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, etc. all well paying careers. If we had 8 billion computer programmers we’d be in a hell of a mess. Nothing would ever get done. I suppose we could all program robots to build the roads and run the factories and grow our food.

      I’m unclear who you’re addressing: Przemek, or me for my response for him. I think me, so I’ll respond with that as the premise. I didn’t say, and do not believe, that we have to have computers in schools so that everyone could go into IT, which indeed would be ridiculous for the reasons you state. “Computer literacy” is important not just for IT workers, but for auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, etc. — and more — because that’s where they need to find the information to get their jobs done, and they will be using computers to do those jobs. Hell, these days even farmers have to be computer literate since that’s what runs their tractors, guided by GPS systems. Computers and the Internet aren’t for tech workers, they’re for everyone, and the earlier we get exposure and knowledge about them, the better off we are. -rc

  7. I started my IT career in 1966 as a freshman in college on an IBM mainframe (360/50) while I was going to school. My public school education contained no computers, but I got there as fast as I could. A keypunch was the input device.

  8. Damn it! I really wanted to see what was in this video. But being blind and this video having absolutely 0 spoken commentary, only music, I didn’t get the full effect. I’m glad you wrote about it so I could get the point anyway.

    Sorry about that. Indeed a transcript would be helpful. I looked at the site mentioned at the bottom and didn’t find one, so I’ve written the authors to ask for one (and pointed to this comment so they can reply directly, should they wish). -rc

  9. I’m a college professor, and after a semester of teaching third-year undergraduates, I’m increasingly discouraged about my students’ ability to write. Many of them suffer from Serious Misuse of Apostrophes; apparently, their informal rule is that a word needs an apostrophe if it has an “s” on the end. Quite a few of them still confuse “your” and “you’re”, “loose” and “lose”, “choose” and “chose”. Most don’t understand why “I asked the child to put the pencil in their desk” is incorrect, and quite a few still separate sentences with only a comma.

    These are college juniors, and future elementary school teachers. And the most frustrating part is that they get annoyed when I correct their grammar, and even more annoyed when I take off points for grammatical and spelling errors. I wish I knew how to make them realize that, as teachers of young children, being able to communicate in writing is an essential skill.

    You forgot its and it’s! (Hint: it’s always means “it is”; there is no word its’.) But the one that drives me really crazy is something I get from readers all the time: they let me know about a “rediculous story.” -rc

    • If you are still out there Diane, what is wrong with the sentence? Is it because their is plural? We don’t have a gender neutral pronoun to go with the gender neutral noun child. Maybe replacing their with the is the answer. Thank you.

      She might be out there, but there wasn’t a way to sign up for reply notifications back then. Can’t say what I thought of that sentence in 2007, but today I see nothing wrong with it. -rc

  10. I’ve been trying to educate my night school students about this but never came up with a good reason they should try. I think this helps to illustrate the problem. Thank you for sharing this important information!

  11. During the summer after our daughter’s second grade, we were shocked to discover that she couldn’t subtract without the finger counting method we taught her at age 4. My husband worked with her doing it out loud, e.g., 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 1+3=4. When she could do them all, she got an Archie comic, and she got more as she got faster. In the fall, she started multiplication, for which they used a grid. Dad worked again, and 3 Archie’s later, she was suddenly pulled out of her math class and advanced two grade levels. Apparently, the other kids would ask “What’s 9 times 7” and she’d answer as she did her own work.

    Our school system is nationally known for being excellent, but kids aren’t expected to learn basic math skills. “Rote memorization” has gotten a bad reputation, so kids never learn grammar or sentence construction or any number of other basic skills that they need to go WITH the technical material.

    When we were in college, using a computer meant learning a computer language to program a computer, not merely being able to do things the software has been programmed by someone else to do. Being exposed to a computer doesn’t seem like enough!

    Absolutely correct: they must be shown how to use a computer to solve problems. The problem is, too many teachers don’t know how to do that themselves. -rc

  12. The school board here in Texas seems to be paving the road downhill into the morass of Intelligent Design and (probably) ‘teach the controversy’ between the Theory of Evolution and ID. This retrogression in the teaching of science is proceeding apace with Governor Perry’s appointment of Don McLeroy to head the Texas Department of Education and the recent forced retirement of Christine Castillo Comer, Texas Education Agency’s director of science over a FYI email she sent. Texans will soon be falling behind the rest of the states as they continue to fall behind the rest of the world. A dismal outlook indeed.

  13. After teaching in China for 6 years and now Moscow for 2, I will say that the worst part of English learning in North America [I’m Canadian] is the lack of grammar training. I was lucky: I had a mother who insisted I get it. But my ex-pat colleagues have a problem, since many of our students have 5 years at least of grammar and know it better!

    Our students’ problem is informal written and oral English, which they tend to pick up now with DVDs — sigh. This is an American-Russian business institute, and our grads get into the big multi-nationals here because of their English exposure with us — but it ain’t always pretty, especially the emails.

    Have you heard of the book The English Languages by Tom McArthur [Oxford Press]? He spent time at the Chinese university where I taught, and his resulting book shows how the language evolved in different parts of the former Empire. It isn’t all bad news.

  14. I’ve been a premium member for years but only this morning, while reading TRUE from my office computer in House 54, the little Comm. Dept. House right across the street from the little Journalism House, did I learn that you are an alum of this comfortable little University. Small world. I got both of my degrees here 1979-1992 and have been teaching since 1985.

    I assume you knew Howard Seemann as an instructor? What a great guy; unfortunately, he passed away last year. The Lumberjack is still published and is still irreverent.

    My favorite NPR show is Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Many times the “bluff the listener” bit does not bluff me, ‘cuz I already read it in TRUE.

    I do know the Communications department, since they administered my minor, which was specifically nonverbal communications. Howard was indeed a good guy and a good instructor, overseeing the student newspaper for 28 years. As it happens, another guy in my online entrepreneurs group is also an HSU journalism school grad, and still lives in the area; he told me about Howard’s death. -rc

  15. I found the video fascinating and provocative. Interesting enough re your own story, my kids went through Palo Alto schools (we moved to Santa Rosa last year when I retired) and got almost no computer use/training as I recall. They graduated in 1987 and 1989. Sad, eh, for a school system ranked so highly for the high schools anyway… so you really do owe your teacher a big thank you. If she is still around anywhere, have you called and thanked her personally?

    My only other comment and/or suggestion would be to find a way to keep the older generations “up to speed” on the spread of computer use/knowledge. I cannot hope to teach my son anything about the computer but I would still like to think I am not totally “out of it” in that realm. My 80 something year old neighbors neither have nor want a computer. I do not want to feel that way even if the knowledge goes way beyond my use of it. I still want to feel connected to what’s happening. Not sure how to accomplish that for all of the folks my age though(I am 64). But if there were a way to keep us connected, perhaps we could also work with kids as they learn even more than we know…???

    I’m still trying to track down Ms Drummond-Hay (and would appreciate leads if anyone here happens to know her). She’d be about 85 now, I think.

    Older people can and do learn about computers and what can be done with them — many are readers. Once they lose their reverence and realize, as I did early on, that they’re simply a tool (like a pencil or a typewriter), they tend to catch on pretty fast. Example: when my mom was around 75, we kids got her a modem so she could get online, which she was thrilled to do because she wanted to be able to send email …to her older sister. The best part: mom already had a computer!

    The best way I can think of to spark the desire to learn in older people is to sit them down and say, “What do you want to know about. WHO do you want to know about?” and do some searches. Nearly everything they could want to know is now obtainable, often even “What happened to my old high school sweetheart?”! -rc

  16. Randy, the people we are paying “professional-level wages to educate our children” will typically be getting about $30K to start, with a Bachelor’s degree. By the time this individual; has about five years’ experience, and a Master’s degree, that might get close to $40K — IF they stay in the field. Most quit in the first two years, from lack of support, better pay elsewhere, or disillusionment. [What is the current gov’t poverty line? $12k is minimum wage]

    When I retired from public schools after 30 years, with an MS plus sixty credits, I started doing flight instruction for love & money. One of my flight students (in his early thirties) commented that the $55K pay I had retired from was “slave wages”. He figured a BS should be worth $50-60K to start.

    At the high school where I taught for the last half of my tenure, we had computers in class in 1979, an internet node in the 80’s, and on-line homework bulletin board before 1990. Our English classes wrote essays, and the students in upper classes used calculus for their Physics. But all this was because the parents were involved and supportive. That same school, eight years later, no longer participates in science fairs, does not field a debate team, and is in danger of being closed. Parental support has faded, and there is more interest in a school with a football team than a science club. The parents are indeed the primary educators, and will — if nothing else — set the tone of loving learning or of disdain for learning. One of my colleagues often commented that the community is the school’s customer, and the customer will usually get only as much as they demand.

    I am greatly encouraged by the attitude and skills seen from the educators in the wiki attached to the video; it is a shame they are so rare.

    I am very glad that you thought to thank the teacher who helped shape your success. Kudos to you for that.

    The American Federation of Teachers reports that for the 2004-2005 school year, the average teacher made $47,602 (source). Obviously some make far more, and others make far less, and it varies widely by state. However, they’re not the only professionals I refer to: a lot of the blame (or credit) goes to the administrators, who make far more. Example, the National Association of Elementary School Principals puts the average salary for their members at $76,144 for the same school year (source). I would think it’s far higher in upper grade levels and college levels. I certainly consider those to be professional wages, and I’m sure they’ve gone up in the three years since those surveys were completed. -rc

  17. This video annoys me. The information is chock full of truthiness and helpiness.

    Truthiness (a la Stephen Colbert) is something that sounds true, but isn’t. While the information in it is true (sorta), it is presented in a misleading way. They call these “exponential times”, and at one point they seem to make the claim that the time to double the total information in the world will shrink to 72 hours (3 days). If we take that at face value, then the amount of information will grow by over 2658455991569831743481234649268409419 fold (2^121) in a year, and that is clearly absurd. If they mean that the time to increase that same amount will shrink to 72 hours, then that is a number that is so devoid of context as to make it useless.

    While both China and India have booming economies, and doubtless will (continue to) be major economic and technological powers, they make claims like “China will be the #1 English speaking country in the world in 10 years.” #1 in what? Number of english speakers? That seems unlikely as India has a larger population and birthrate, and has a much higher percentage of English speakers. Economic power? China might be an economic powerhouse in ten years (it certainly is now), but I wouldn’t characterize it as “English Speaking” any more than I would characterize Russia as “English Speaking.” The stats about numbers of “internet connected devices” and emails sent/received/day, and number of IM’s a child will receive in an hour are suspect. And even if defensible, are robbed of context and meaning and are presented only to awe and not to illuminate.

    Helpiness is Cory Doctrow’s riff on Truthiness: Things that sound helpful but aren’t. The suggestions it makes at the end seem helpful (ask you child/teacher/legislator what they are learning/doing) will lead to the kind of sound-bite friendly policies that put 1,000,000’s of computers in classrooms with no idea how they will be used, no money to train teachers and no budget keep them in repair, etc.

    I have worked in the high tech industry for over 10 years, have been using the Internet since 1986 (when it was often still called the ARPANet.) I am weary of people promoting technology in the schools as a goal. The goal should be better educating our children. Technology has a role to play, but only a small one. Certainly the internet and desktop computers can be powerful tools. A calculator is also a powerful tool, but a child given a calculator too early will be stunted arithmetically.

    The people who invented the personal computer and the internet didn’t have advanced technology in their classrooms, except maybe simple electronics. They used logic, math, science and reasoning skills to make those things. The hard part of writing great literature isn’t figuring out how to use the word processor. We should focus on teaching the skills, and use the tools that are appropriate.

    I agree that the information should be taken critically — that’s pretty much been my mantra for over a decade. Just because something is “on the Internet” doesn’t make it true. Such as the “fact” that India has a larger population than China (the reality is India has 1.130 billion, China 1.322 billion; July 2007 estimates per the CIA “World Fact Book”) — though you’re very likely right about the birth rate. My point in picking on a random fact in your larger point is to show that picking on random facts misses the big picture.

    What “big picture” I got out of the video is most assuredly not “buy more computers for schools,” but rather “teach kids more about how to use tools, teach kids more about what the tools can do, teach kids more about the world around them, teach kids more about the basics of education, such as English.” The common thread: teach them more! We’re getting away from teaching kids how to think in favor of teaching kids how to pass standardized tests. That’s obviously not the way to help them remain competitive in an increasingly competitive world. -rc

  18. I am 62. In early 1995 my daughter and son-in-law bought a computer for their daughters. I checked it out and said what do they need a computer for? I didn’t know about the Internet then.

    They had constant problems with their Packard Bell and got a commitment from Best Buy to let them pick out a replacement. I happened to make a business trip to Calif. and visited my sister and Brother-in-law, who worked in the computer industry and they showed me the possibilities of the Internet and guided me to help my daughter and son-in-law to get a far better computer and helped me, via phone, to get hooked up to the Internet.

    Since then I have taken a deep interest in computing as a way to keep the brain cells from freezing in place. My kids and wife occasionally remind me of my statement in 1995. We have four computers in our house and all my grandchildren are proficient in their use (youngest is 5) and their parents have all gotten fairly proficient. Our favorite saying is Google it and whenever we want to know something that is usually the first thing we do. I am home with a disk problem and after I have my operation I will build my first computer while I recuperate. I am all a-twitter.

  19. Besides the teachers, there are so many other factors that affect the clasroom. Why do politicians and business leaders drive how things are taught? Should teachers then have meetings to tell politicians and business people how to do their jobs? I am a teacher, and I care deeply about my job and how best to do it, but I am terribly discouraged by the fact that the students are so entitled and apathetic.

    Students have been taught about their “rights” yet, so often we fail to instill in them their responsibilities. On the other hand students bring cameras to school and record classes and teachers, but teachers have no recourse. We are challenged by parents and must defend every action we make, which is fine if we are using sound judgement in our actions. But having to constantly CYA (cover your a**) while also planning, formally in writing, 3-5 lessons per day, grading hundreds of assignments per week, meeting for hours about how we willl jump through hoops to get a student to do things that they just don’t want to do, while being held MORE accountable as teachers, and being under greater scrutiny, and receiving less support makes for an incredibly discouraging work environment.

    Society tells kids that education is important, but then they bombard them with shows like “Jackass” and images or Paris Hilton. Parents directly contradict our rules at school. “Yes, your child should have the right to go to the bathroom, but when they have to go every single day at the same time to meet their friends, we, as teachers, have an OBLIGATION to do something about it.” We have twenty to thirty-five students in our classes, when a 2/3 of the students don’t come prepared to class, or haven’t done the work expected of them, or they miss classes because they want to a concert the previous night, or are going on a shopping trip because it is their birthday, how do we compensate? The message they get is shopping is more important than education, seeing High School Musical is more important than education(irony?).

    Many of the students I see haven’t learned how to act responsibly and appropriately with their peers and with adults. I am trying to teach them to act human, and until that happens I have a very difficult time teaching them to be scholars. Teachers wear so many hats during the day, and do so many thousands of tasks, and are forced to bow to so many mandates, that many break under the load.

    I often comment that I have no life during the school year as I work at school about 10 hours each day, and then 2-3 more at home, plus several hours on weekends. I attend my students sporting events to show them that I am interested in their lives, even if their parents can’t attend. I spend much of my summer working on plans, learning about new techniques and resources that are available, spending hundreds of dollars of my own money ro equip my classroom, and purchase extra supplies for my students who may come unprepared. I chaperone school events, plan enriching field trips, and participate in interdistrict and interscholastic programs to help enrich students educations. I do all this to hear “Teacher, hunh? What would you do if you had a real job? I’d love a job that was 7-2:30 and you had your summers off.”

    Oh, as a person who has earned a Master’s degree, has four years public education experience, three years private school experience, and two years of teaching overseas, I earn half of what my neighbor earns as a technician for Verizon, granted he, too, has a Master’s, but he has an expense account, works from home three out of five days, gets reimbursed for all of his business expenses, and gets large bonuses and overtime pay.

    Finally, I couldn’t really see myself doing any other job, because I know how important what I do is to those kids. Forgive the typos, and grammatical errors if you would please, I don’t have time to go back and proof read this. I have to go modify my lesson plans to make up for what wasn’t covered today, I have 70 essays to grade and enter into my gradebook and a data collection spreadsheet, 70 quizzes to grade and about 200 homework assignments to look over, and I have to get some sleep before I get up at 5:15 tomorrow and start all over.

    I really don’t have the time to be responding, I agree with much of the video, there is nothing more important than education, and that we have to prepare for the future, but it takes a lot more than my team of teachers and 7 hours of class time to make that happen. Good luck, and a deep, heart-felt thank you to all the very supportive parents that are out there, and occasionally, there in schools helping out and volunteering, we really couldn’t do it without you. G’night.

  20. Reading about Randy’s complaint concerning text message writing got me thinking. Many people complain about spelling and grammar mistakes as though they were the most important thing for children to correct in their writing. To me, as a writing tutor, that is like complaining about the peeling paint on a building that’s about to fall over — it’s looking at only the most superficial problem. The purpose of writing is not to look perfect on the page, but rather to communicate. What students really need to be taught is how to write in a coherent manner. They need to know how to write a paragraph rather than a jumbled collection of half-related sentences. They need to learn how to fully formulate their ideas, and they need to be able to communicate the reasoning behind these ideas. And most importantly, they need to be able to understand and clearly express how their ideas relate to other people’s ideas. *These* are the *real* basics of writing. You can always hire a copy editor to correct your orthography, but unless a bunch of telepathic mutants crawl out of the woodwork, you’ll never be able to pay anyone to state your own thoughts for you.

    As for what the video talks about, I think it’s missing the real implications of having instant access to that much knowledge. How can today’s children understand the need to learn geography when Google Maps can show them the rooftops of houses in Venezuela? Why should they learn history when Wikipedia can tell them everything most people would ever want to know? Suddenly, kids everywhere have a real reason to be frustrated by rote learning. I think that the rote learning of facts that can be easily obtained through a Google Search is a waste of childhood. Who but a future geographer ever remembers the capital of Mongolia six weeks after the exam, anyway? Instead, children should be focusing on learning how to obtain such facts *properly* — how to compare different sources of information, how to identify biases and errors in source material, how to winnow out the important sources from the mediocre or marginal ones, et cetera. Not that it’s not important to at least have some idea of where most major countries are, or a general understanding of world history — that sort of general knowledge is absolutely necessary when you’re comparing sources concerning more detailed knowledge, because you need something in your own head as a foundation for comparison. What I’m really talking about is the fact that the internet is a deluge of mostly-useless information, and a very important skill in the internet age is being able to sort it all out.

  21. Devin — I agree with the students being frustrated by rote learning, especially since they can look up random facts so easily.

    I completely bombed geography in 9th grade because it was based on such learning (eg, “In what regions would arabica beans grow best”). I never did get the reasons why I should care about such things.

    On the other hand, the class that helped most in my thought processes, writing, and understanding was history: it was no longer a “jumble of facts”, but a long storyline with causes and effects (if only I would have learned about the “Rubber Wars” and such in Geography, and how the terrain shaped military strategy…).

    I remember how I hated the hour-essays (1 class period. Write a coherent, informative & thoughtful 5 paragraph essay. Include sources. Go!), but in retrospect I think that has had a large influence on the way I write.

    I also think my parents, who routinely discussed current events & how they related to historic ones helped a lot. Unfortunately, I never feel plugged in enough to do that, so I’m teaching my 8 year old chess, multiplication, marksmanship, and geometry. But writing is still awkward for me… my largest foe is a blank page.

  22. As the parenting team for children 8 & 12, my wife and I have spent many an evening discussing our children’s education, technology (computers and networks are my profession), and the state of the world that we are raising our children in.

    Living in Southwestern United States, the choice of “speaking the English language” is an interesting choice of words. Happening more and more, we are encountering Spanish as being the language of choice. The local school system teaches “English as a second language” classes. Given the present trend, yes, I can see China or India being the largest English speaking population. There are a number of states already considering Spanish as the primary language.

    Whatever happened to the immigrants that their biggest goal was to, get a job, work hard to learn English and become a citizen of the United States?

    Too much emphasis is placed anymore on trying to keep from upsetting any specific religion, ethnicity, region, population. The list goes on and on. The school our daughter attends is a charter school that, as part of their charter, chose not to recognize ANY religious holiday. The end of December is the break between semesters. At her previous school, as just one example of many, parents insisted that the school recognize Ramadan but their children were not going to participate in singing Christmas carols. The poor teacher trying to tap dance around these issues AND teach 2nd grade???

    To a number of my family’s acquaintances, I am sure that our family is very strange. Yes, our children have computers, email, and the Internet. The systems are in the Family room where my wife and I can see the screen. Even stranger is that I have Internet security enabled on both systems and we have to approve the web sites that they go to. My kids have never been to MySpace or YouTube. My wife and I control, through our ISP, who can send emails to my kids.

    Our children’s teachers not only know who we are by our children, but even our names because we attend the school functions. We are active in the various clubs. I take time off work for the parent/teacher conferences at school. Because my wife and I feel that what is happening with my kids and school is that important.

    I learned what my parents sat through many years ago when my third grade class did the holiday season chorus. (I believe we were more in tune!!)

    My wife and I made the decision before our son was born that, and I KNOW our children hate it at times, we were going to be the active parents in our children’s lives. We know who they are playing with and, even more, we know those children’s parents. We correct the manners of our children on the spot. Our children will respect adults. Our children will use: ‘Please’, ‘Thank You’, ‘Yes, Sir’, ‘No, Ma’am’. Not ‘Yep’, ‘Ugh’.

    And we believe it’s our job, as the parents, to teach these to our two children.

  23. That is a very inspiring video, and really brings home how much our society has changed in so little time. As an ‘old timer’ of 56 years old, I can remember pre-Internet and pre-PC times. I was the first lawyer in my county to get a computer — a Kaypro — and I used a 300 baud modem to post on company bulletin boards. I always tried to stay on top of computer technology, but I’m quickly slipping behind now with things like text messaging (NEVER sent nor received one yet) and ‘My Space’ (I’m too overwhelmed by other Internet resources and just don’t see the appeal).

    As for getting our legislators to do anything, I’m stymied there; I’ve been trying to get my legislators to look into grid computing for over a year without any results: visit to see what I mean. It is my non-profit lobbying effort to force our schools to introduce our children to one of the best resources and hopes that we have for humanity — grid computing.

  24. Unfortunately I have little to base a comment upon.

    The video of “I Don’t Know” that I just watched, printed most of the statistics in a color that was unreadable.

    Therefore, much of the info was incomprehensible.

    I’m guessing you’re colorblind. The previous reader who noted she is blind had the same trouble. I’ve inquired, and the transcript isn’t available as HTML yet. -rc

  25. It was interesting to note the observations regarding India and English. There is a very important distinction between education practices in India and in Western countries.

    It is very common students to either cheat in exams or to have someone sit the test for them. One cannot be confident that the educational credentials presented by many Indians are in fact the result of their own effort.

    We had to deal with exactly this kind of problem in Australia where one Indian doctor came into the country hired by the government, no less, and he caused a huge number of problems in the hospital system in Queensland. It turned out that his qualifications were suspect and the government had assumed that they were fine without giving due recognition to the problems mentioned above.

    This is where a lot of companies will get burned in doing business in India. They cannot trust those bits of paper being presented by would be workers.

    The western system at this time for all its problems still makes cheating very difficult. It is usually fairly safe to say that a degree is fair evidence that the possessor did put in.

  26. Some new research out of Monash University posits that rote learning helps in the development of the frontal lobe, the area of the brain that is responsible for decision making and judgements. So maybe learning about the Capital of Mongolia just doesn’t win you trivia quizzes, it helps you mature and grow wiser.

    Many of these arguments about new types of learning where first aired when we changed from print to script, and then again when books were published with moveable type. In each case it was not the technology that was important, it was the ability to communicate clearly ones ideas to others. My mother is 85, she is computer literate and does all the things shown in the video. She certainly did not grow up learning these skills from an early age, in fact she never quite mastered the electric typewriter. However she wanted to access the internet and communicate with relatives and friends far away. The skills she did learn at school before WW2 are just as important to her electronic ways as they were to her pen and ink ways. It is easy to get side tracked into showing children the wonders of computers and how to google things, without teaching them the relevance and need to look things up. We have to be careful not to buy into the latest electronic babysitting device and omit giving our children an education.

  27. I do recall to this day the science teacher I had in the 7th grade, back in the mid 60’s in Kent, Washington, a certain Mr. Vernon. Many schools don’t even teach “science” as a topic these days, but I digress.

    The grand moment was when he brought a small rocket to the class, which he ignited to demonstrate the concepts of thrust. Unfortunately, the small rocket exploded, but no one was hurt; rather the whole incident was considered “cool” at the time.

    Several of my friends were very much into building rockets, various flyable model planes, and so on, as Kent was a big aerospace / Boeing town at the time.

    Like being in silicon valley, many of the kids were very much on the cutting edge of high tech (I later took up the field of materials science at UC Berkeley), and lots of the students were hard core engineering / techie types who were serious about competing in the local science fair contests, and all sorts of related activities, including visits to a local Air Force base to check out some of the high tech aircraft, and also the enormous computers they had there.

    Being an engineer was cool, science was the “in” thing, knowing how to design and build technically challenging things was the happening thing to do.

    I take your observations about our current state of affairs with education, and the phenomena of many other countries around the world now challenging and exceeding our educational standards very seriously, as I agree 100%.

    Many times over have I read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

    My sadness is that we may indeed be reliving that very history, at an accelerated pace in the modern era.

    In any case, many thanks for your insights about school, and your computer experiences in 1971. I do indeed remember those days. My first computer experiences at UC Berkeley included such venerable machines as the PDP-8, the PDP-11, and the truly colossal CDC system that filled an entire floor and required punched cards for programming. Ah yes, those were the days . . . well, sort of.

  28. I believe that the figure of 540,000 for the number of words in the English language is a massive underestimate. I understand that even German has getting on for a million words – and I suspect that is far fewer than the total for English with its plethora of synonyms, alternative spellings and varied word-forms.

    I have seen many estimates for the total number of English words, the highest being 5 million – which total includes many specialist and scientific terms.

    The comment about the number of words used in Shakespeare’s times must be a dubious guess, based on writings of that time. Because Shakespeare himself only used around 30,000 words in his works, that doesn’t mean that only around that number were extant. The spoken (as opposed to the written) vocabulary of that time must have comfortably exceeded that of the written (as is surely the case today).

    Of course, the point of the statistic – that there are ever more words to learn – is completely true; the probable higher total simply makes it more important.

  29. We live in a rural area, with my children attending the same school I was a student at way back when. At first this was a point of some pride for me, but as I saw notes from the teachers coming home, I grew more distressed. Typos, punctuation problems, grammatical errors, all manner of issues with reminders became commonplace. It got to the point I would correct these notes and send them back in. Of course, the teachers didn’t see the humor in this that I do.

    I’ve also had to work for people that don’t know the difference between “there”, “their” and “they’re”, can’t spell to save their lives, and still think they’re smarter than everyone else. It saddens and disgusts me to think that this is the type of person running the companies and teaching our children.

    Granted, not all teachers are this bad off. I know some that I’m proud to have my children taught by. Unfortunately, they’re getting fewer and farther between.

    I’m also proud to say my children, when using messenger programs to chat with their friends, TYPE THINGS OUT. They don’t use the shorthand (with minor exceptions for “lol” and the like). I’ve worked hard to teach them at home what they’re missing in school: pride in their work.

    I commend you and your friends for bringing this issue to the forefront, and thank you for it as well. Let’s keep pushing this issue and fighting the fight to bring back intelligence!!

    Keep correcting those notes and sending them back, but also send copies to the principal. -rc

  30. That`s actually very interesting coincidence.

    I’ve only recently been inquiring my internet acquaintances about the education system in USA.

    Putting it bluntly, answers had in the same time been.. hrm, explaining a lot, but also pretty frightening and flabbergasting.

    Without getting too verbose… The system here in Ukraine is a bit different. First of all, school is mandatory and free – and if I won`t be coming to it, police will eventually come and ask where I am, and if I am alright. Second, school curriculum is same for everyone. (And it includes three languages starting from mid-school at the very late. Russian, Ukrainian and English. Most schools also teach French or German in second half of mid-school and high-school. Mind, that I say high-school just to give relative point for USA people. We don`t have that separation here.) Finally third – college is free, as long as you keep on passing exams. Actually, as long as students keep their grades above certain average, they receive stipend.

    Thus, well, the idea of picking lessons in school or paying humongous money for college is more then a little weird to me.
    I suppose that is explained by difference between authoritarian communism and free-enterprise democracy… But, err, no offense, but I think I’d pick communism for my education.

    Getting back to our muttons, when I’ve just began prowling the net, my assessment of my English skills wasn’t all that high. All the more shock to the system, when I discovered that I have more of vocabulary and general control of language, then the average English-speaking net entity.

    Granted, my own way of putting down things is often awkward, but still, having to remind native speakers about proper grammar, spelling and capitalization(!) always surprises me.

  31. English being the tech language, why don’t they teach the India support people to speak it clearly??

    My guess is, the higher-educated people there get good tech jobs themselves, and don’t have to do tech support…. -rc

  32. I am a college professor who teaches primarily freshmen and sophomores. My husband teaches high school juniors. My friend teaches at a local community college. Trainers or administration at each of our respective institutes showed this video to the faculty at the beginning of our academic year. In all three cases it caused the same response: approximately one-third of those in attendance were not surprised by the data in the video, another third were not surprised but didn’t know what to do about it, and the final third went into a panic.

    This troubles me. We have a large digital divide in this country with citizens denying the importance of computers, globalization, and effective communication; fearing change in technology because it means an other struggle on their part; or not being able to afford even basic technology in the home.

    Do I think this spells doom for our next generation? Maybe. Like another commenter, I, too, have seen money being thrown at technology purchases in the hopes this will provide a solution. However, this is a long-term project. As educators we do need an initial investment of money for technology, but we also need access to funds for repair, replacement, and upgrades. Furthermore, (and perhaps most importantly) we need trainers to show us how to effectively teach with these new tools. In turn, we can then teach our students to effectively learn with them.

    I disagree with what Stefani in Cincinnati stated: “The teacher, on the other hand, is being paid to ensure that my child has the foundation of knowledge he needs to step up into college and obtain the advanced learnings necessary to ultimately become a productive member of adult society.” I believe this is the responsibility of BOTH parent and teacher, but education does, ultimately, start in the home. If the parent does not value education and teach his/her child to value education, there will be no place to build this “foundation” teachers are excepted to foster. Home life can be filled with distractions to education. Parents need to set rules about excessive television or video games, help their children to keep a primary focus on work that comes the classroom instead of too many extracurricular activities, and facilitate an atmosphere in the home that emphasizes education. I see many of my college students who struggle needlessly as they strive to break away from earlier patterns that do not place education as the first priority.

    Yet, I don’t want to place all the fault on parents. Our society does not value the things conducive to education. Our idols are the idle rich or those who use primarily their bodies instead of their minds. Even the media focuses on these issues instead of critical analysis of world events.

    In a capitalist society we speak with our money. Many people complain over the meager salaries of educators while don’t seem to be bothered by the towering salaries of sports stars. (Also troubling is the general sentiment that educators are paid too much as it is!) Like many non-liberal-arts educational fields, the field I teach in loses too many potentially good educators to the corporate sector. The pay can be two to three times that of a college professor. We need to change the system to attract the best educators for our next generation.

  33. This is wonderful information and I intend to share it and ask questions. I do take exception with one comment in the essay, however:

    “More importantly, do the people we’re paying professional-level wages to educate our children know it?”

    If a salary of something like $20,000 for a teacher with moderate experience is “professional level wages”, then I’m shocked. We get what we pay for, and we are paying the teachers we entrust our children to every school day stupid wages. No wonder our kids can’t write a coherent sentence.

    I can tell you didn’t read the comments (or, more specifically, my replies within the comments), before writing. Average teacher wages are significantly more than double the figure you cite, and you forget that teachers are not the only people in the system drawing wages. -rc

  34. I am not surprised by the information. I was once told that German is the language of mathematics. French is the language of diplomacy and English is the language of commerce. If you want to have financial success in business today you are most likely to succeed if you speak English. My wife and I have traveled the world. There have been times when we have been in groups of people and the only thing that they had in common was the English language. As Gandi said, ” The only thing the British left behind (In India) was a common language”.

  35. On the subject of exponential change, you might want to cruise over to Ray Kurzweil has been propounding the exponential growth in the rate of change itself for some time now. Lots of good stuff there.

    Kurzweil was well behind Alvin Toffler, who has been pounding on “exponential change” since the 1960s; his book “Future Shock” was published in 1970, and much of what he was talking about has come true since. -rc

  36. My husband and I are currently in Japan, after a three-year stay in China. We have both worked as ESL instructors to non-native speakers — students’ ages have run from 2 to 60, with the majority in elementary, junior high, and high school.

    Many teachers who come to Asia to teach are hired simply because they have a college degree and are native speakers. We felt fortunate in that our undergraduate backgrounds actually prepared us for what we are doing. My husband holds two B.A.s, one in East Asian History and one in Linguistics. He has said repeatedly that the latter has GREATLY helped him with teaching older students. I have a degree in English literature, with extra coursework in history.

    Yes, these statistics don’t surprise us. With China, this was first-hand experience — Chinese people are enthusiastically learning English! We have told Japanese friends to keep studying their English, with Mandarin Chinese as a side project only — the Chinese are all learning English.
    We had a number of good Chinese friends who conversed well in English, including one who dispelled many myths about the lower echelons of the Communist Party. (We’ve made many jokes about knowing a genuine “card-carrying member of the Communist Party!”) Another person we knew loved talking to us because she was an elementary-school English teacher and always wanted to improve her English.

    Chinese people are very good at English pronunciation. (Throw out many of your really bad accent myths about Asian people, they aren’t true anymore.) In addition, the first thing their education system teaches is Roman letters, assuring that reading ability will be much easier as they get older. Small children learn to read Romanized Chinese long before they read the characters.

    We got to go to China because my husband’s childhood best friend went and then asked him to come. But we got to go to Japan because we looked around on the Internet, posted on job listings, and someone found US!

    In addition to all of this, my husband and I were early “net geeks”. We both started on computers young, by virtue of schools or parents. In my case, my parents became enthusiastic about computers when I was very young. I still remember my mom bringing home a C64 when I was ten years old. She gave me a typing tutor program the same year. Thanks, Mom! Today, I type a whopping 116 wpm!

    Thanks to my university, I had to get email back in ’94, when email certainly wasn’t common. I learned the ins and outs of handling my UNIX account access, learned to telnet, and promptly became a MUD player… long before the MMOs hit the market. I learned Internet-style social networking at this stage, something that’s made my life easier since.

    And we’ve never been cut off from the world. We have excellent Internet access, and we use Skype and Yahoo Messenger to talk regularly to our families in the U.S. We did the same thing in China. How would we have handled the same situation twenty years ago? I don’t know.

    When we’ve gotten sick here or in China, I used the Internet to translate our problems or find medications we needed. (This was wonderful in China, where most medications are easily available over the counter… if you know what the name is in Chinese characters!) In Japan we are fortunate in that virtually any doctor here can read English, if not speak it. I feel comfortable enough with the situation that I am pregnant; I want to have a child here, where the health-care system doesn’t break the bank. (There’s another problem that scares us from returning to the United States.)

    You’ve done a wonderful thing posting this here. MOST people in the United States have no idea what the world outside their borders is like. I am fortunate in that I have gotten to travel far from home and experience a great deal — and used the Internet to bridge a lot of gaps. For those who are well-read and/or well-traveled, much of the above information not surprising.

    But I also agree with other posters about issues of teachers’ pay. My husband’s best friend, who worked in China for three years as well, returned to a teaching job in the U.S. (He has an Education degree and taught in the U.S. before going overseas.) He often joked how his pay in China got BETTER than his pay in the U.S. after a few years’ of raises — and keep in mind the cost of living in China is less than a sixth of what it is in the U.S., and that’s when you’re living very well. He paid off a huge chunk of debt while in Asia.

    Most importantly, though, people in Asia treat teachers with RESPECT. Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans alike all have a strong view that a teacher is an essential part of everyone’s lives, deserving of respect and praise. We have been overwhelmed by people’s gratitude — both in repeated thank-yous and actual gifts! — since moving to Asia. If only Westerners had the same wonderful attitude, teachers in America might at least be given a Christmas bonus!

    We often consider the idea that if we return to the United States, we may educate our kids at home. Both of us have plenty of experience teaching now and we are very well educated. Things like the idiot issue of “zero tolerance” — and the AWFUL ethics it teaches, to ignore rights and wrongs and just blanket punish people — frightens us. Yes, part of the job of a teacher is to ground a kid in his society, whether we like it or not — and that includes some morals and ethics. If I can do as good of a job as many full-time teachers can, why would I want to subject my kids to questionable ethics and unreasonable rules?

    And how can I be sure that they’ll know the things in this video? I know them — but would their teacher at school know? I learned much of my computer knowledge at home, from my mother. I want my kids to be just as fortunate as I was. (And maybe they will be… we’ll have the first one next summer.)

  37. Most of it is boilerplate that has been around the block several times…

    Ian Jukes is quoted a lot — and his piece here is worth reading:

    It puts perspective on the “emergency” feeling of the powerpoint (I almost said slide show).

    Some of the documentation is 11 years old. Other is just weak, “Somebody said.”

    Kids need what they have always needed, the ability to learn. That’s what we (librarians) do, have always done, and get cut for doing. Cause it’s scary. You create kids with the ability to think for themselves, they will embarrass their school, eventually. They will point at the emperor and suggest a fashion change.

  38. The video clip is indeed alarming. It comprises a bunch of assertions, presented with cute graphics, but without a thesis, without a narrative, with no connective tissue whatsoever, and, except for a brief nod to the US Department of Labor, not a single attribution.

    Among the assertions, there are some statements that can reasonably be deduced from well-known data, such as birth rates and college graduation rates.

    But then we find assertions that raise questions about how the data were collected, and even about what was being measured. Who were the participants in the survey on television-watching? Who counted the phone calls? Do I have to write HTML code to “create content” on the Internet, or just post a comment on a blog? Are there really radio advertisements that have been running for 38 years, slowly accumulating 50 million listeners?

    And then there are the assertions that raise basic questions about measurement and meaning. How does one specify “the amount of technical information”? What will it mean for the computational capabilities of a supercomputer to exceed those of the human brain? Hasn’t that happened already? What are the units for computational capability and technical information?

    No matter: we are assured that there are students in China, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, and the USA (anywhere else? Canada? Switzerland?) who remember, understand, apply, and do lots of other non-parallel stuff “on projects everyday”. The folks who produced the video clip apparently do not remember (or understand or apply) that the single word “everyday” is an adjective, and not an adverb. What these students really do is “understand, apply (etc.) on projects every day”. Whatever that means. What will I do about it?

    My job: I’ll continue to teach college- and university-level mathematics, doing whatever I can to get my students to read, to analyze what they read, to judge its worth, to question and evaluate, to build on what they already know, to draw conclusions, and then to explain both their conclusions and the reasoning behind them.

    These are students who have apparently been trained in their other courses to watch, say, an eight-minute presentation (coincidentally, the typical amount of time between commercial breaks on network television), and then, based on certain key words contained in that presentation, to parrot one of a small collection of pre-packaged reactions:

    1. We should cut down on carbon something to end global warming;
    2. We should use more diplomatic things to end wars;
    3. We should make sure all poor people can get jobs and a good education;
    4. We should appreciate and respect Diversity in every individual; or
    5. We should anticipate vast, unpredictable technological change.

    No thinking is required. That’s approximately the same amount of thinking that it took to collect the loose assemblage of “facts” in this video clip. The folks who produced the clip — presumably grown-ups whose jobs have something to do with education — say that they want to start a conversation. A conversation involves informed discourse, reasoning, and careful argument. But the video-clippers have presented no ideas, no thoughts of their own, and very little real information. Theirs is a world of factoids and bullet points, free-floating bits of doubtful data. This clip should start a conversation about what happens when teachers and those who advise them abandon the teaching and practice of thoughtful reflection and replace it with eight minutes of “Did you know?”.

    Hubert Dreyfus, in an often-quoted book on artificial intelligence, wrote “Our risk is not the advent of super-intelligent machines, but of subintelligent human beings.” That book was published in 1972. Did we live in “exponential times” back then?

    Seems to me the video’s intent is to raise several issues to (yes) “start a conversation”. It has. -rc

  39. I teach in a reservation school and I wish my students would understand the importance of learning, let alone learning English. Do you think it would be a good idea to have a two or three year ‘world experience’ before sending students to high school? Perhaps they would decide that education is a privilege rather than something they have to endure.

  40. I have read the comments but still take issue with your statement:
    “More importantly, do the people we’re paying professional-level wages to educate our children know it?”

    I moved into teaching from industry. I am working twice as hard for 1/3 the pay, even with a doctoral degree in the field which I teach and many years of teaching experience. Every competent teacher I know (most teachers with whom I have worked) can make significantly more in an industrial job. While I understand your comment about questioning administrators, most of any school district’s salary budget goes into teacher salaries. The white elephant in this room is that our educational system is woefully underfunded. We will not attract sufficient numbers of excellent teachers unless we pay competitive wages. You can pass all the laws you want (and yes, I think NCLB has done more harm than good), but you will not improve the overall quality of the system without attracting and retaining better teachers.

  41. You are guilty of what you accuse others of – selectively using facts. When you report that the AFT says the average teacher salary is $47,602, you leave out the issues the report was addressing – one of three teachers who leaves the profession within 10 years cites salary as a reason; real average teacher salaries have grown less than 1% since 1991, yet earnings for all workers have increased by over 14%; in 1995 teachers’ real average salaries were 31% more than the average private sector salary, yet in 2005 the difference has shrunk to 18%; for every $1 increase in private sector salaries, teacher salaries have gone up 11 cents; etc.

    You also did not mention that beginning teacher AVERAGE salary is only $31,753, meaning that lots of folks are, in fact, making the $20K that other posters have referred to. Yet people without a college degree, or with little or no experience, can obtain an administrative job that pays $30,000, provides an 8-hour week, and provides all supplies and equipment necessary to do the job, etc. The average salary offered to college graduates with a major other than education was $42,229, $10,476 more than the average beginning teacher salary.

    It’s these numbers that we need so we can fully consider teacher pay and its context. I hope others will actually go to the Report, read the message and not just take your comment at face value.

    You are correct that I didn’t mention those things. But you ignore the fact that I linked to the source so people could get that complete information should they wish. You did. I see little point in copying over all the information when the Internet is about linking to authoritative sources, not parroting every detail. The point remains: even you made it clear that even beginning teachers make more than the “about $30K” the first commenter claimed, and the “something like $20,000” the second one claimed. -rc

  42. The entire education edifice is based on the premise that ignorant children need to be commoditized so that they are useful enough to industry to earn money. You even define the merit of your education by the standard of living it delivers.

    It is a crock.

    You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to get kids interested in rockets, and once they’re interested, they’re pretty hard to restrain. The educational system is designed to restrain our kids, not empower them.

    That’s why teachers have such a hard time. So many times I hear the complaints teachers make about contradictory demands on their time, competing pressures from the institutions, and outright hostility from the kids they’re supposed to be helping.

    They’re trying to teach in a system that is designed to prevent learning. It’s been carefully crafted to prevent kids from getting knowledge that makes them dangerous to each other, their communities, and their countries, all while dulling their minds to the point they can work for McIndustry until they drop from utter inanity.

    Turn off the TV! There is nothing like silence to create a desire for something to fill the boredom. Kids need to learn. Every moment of play is a learning experience, well into a kid’s 40’s.

    At least, it is for me.

    Great points. There’s only one thing you misunderstood: I didn’t talk about how my education is making me money, I’ve long talked about how it enabled me to do what I wanted. I could be making a lot more money, but I don’t think I would be living where I do, be able to drop everything at any time and run off to an emergency call (my volunteer work), etc. It’s the quality of my life that’s important to me, not the money. Sometimes I wish I made more since it would make certain things easier, but I do have enough for the basics, so I’m happy with it. And there are few people who can say both. I’m not “lucky” in the sense that this is the way I designed things, and I worked hard to get here. But I am definitely “lucky” in that I was in the right place at the right time and had at least a few teachers who believe the way you do, and provided me the tools and inspiration I needed — and then got the hell out of the way. -rc

  43. This last week I finished reading a book called The Elephant and the Dragon about the re-emergence of China and India as world super powers. The book starts with the history of those countries and why they’ve expanded economically in the last decade, due in large part to the internet (particularly India).

    Well worth reading if you care even a little bit about where we and our children will be in another decade.

  44. Can your children communicate intelligently in writing? Or can they only write in txt msg shthnd? (Text message shorthand!)

    Used to work as a substitute teacher (actually a high priced babysitter) in the local schools around here. (I shudder when I equate that institution with that title.) Having done this at the high school level…I feared for my life on an hourly basis. The papers these “students” handed in that I read…99.9% of the papers had numerous spelling errors that a spell checker should have caught. Many used words such as “f***” over and other with other slang terms. As for “text speak”…saw that on more papers than you would ever believe possible.

    Just another example of your tax dollars being thrown down the drain…due to school districts being terrified of actually teaching for fear of being sued by the parents and because the administration is paid to keep the status quo in place.

    Ended up going to work in the gaming industry after not being able to make a living on what the districts would pay me. At least in the gaming industry people are more than happy to throw their money away to a giant corporation without a thought.

    Easy enough: they haven’t been taught to think…. -rc

  45. I recently retired after 33 years working in the Dept. Of Defense and I shudder when I see younger people in the same jobs. Most have a very poor grasp of English, are poor readers, and don’t realize how this will affect them later.

    After retiring I was bored, applied for a job as a mentor, was surprised to see that the people hiring me, all younger, by about 20 years, could not understand good English. I spent several minutes correcting spelling errors on the job application and later on company training papers.

  46. I personally believe that logic and sound reasoning skills have been, for quite some years, substituted for personal, emotional, and unfounded conclusions in education. For example, I work as a RN and it amazes me to see so many people who claim to be socially, politically, and environmentally conscious yet can not perform the basic math skills to figure dosage calculations required to administer medications — the same medications that can both kill and save. It is truly scary! Our education system is a result of our societal degradation as a whole, probably the result of being spoiled beyond recognition. I know this is just personal pish-posh, but all the talk about education distresses me a bit.

  47. This is a must see for all who wonder what is important for our future. I am aghast at the poor quality of basic English in our young military members. I spent hours, literally, correcting the grammatical and spelling errors of those I was supervising. My frustration went from seeing them as ignorant to seeing them as being indifferent. This is not a put down, but a commentary on the obvious failure in our system to motivate and create visionaries among our youth. The Albert Einstine’s of our future are there, and we owe it to them to build a strong English foundation, the language of the world!

  48. This is a large part of why I ended up homeschooling my son. It allowed him to follow his passions, study at his own level in each subject while learning in the ways that worked best for him, do hands-on projects that were meaningful to him (like researching and building his own personal computer), and have time for friends, non-school reading, hobbies, and long interesting tangential discussions that weren’t constrained by homework volume and set curricula. The one year he attended high school he complained because he no longer had time for deep physics discussions with his father, visiting his homeschooling friends, and activities that didn’t fit into the school day. And he’s now an independent learner who can think creatively and is comfortable not having every minute structured for him.

  49. Yes I knew. 40 years ago I knew.

    Computing power may or may not develop as predicted — Moore’s Law appears to be reaching the end — but nanoscale computers (which can’t yet be built,) will do an end run around the problem by making it possible to throw billions of processors at a problem.

    A more important issue is that the state of software development falls further and further behind hardware every year–there are still many companies totally dependent upon software written 40 or more years ago for ‘mission critical’ business operations.

    When I talk with college faculty, I here the same subjects every time: 1) The students are unprepared and cannot write or even do basic thinking. 2) The Administration rearranges the campus for no apparent reason but disrupts everything. 3) The department keeps dropping their standards.

    This is NORMAL. What concerns me is that they now admit to watching what they way because they are afraid of the government. This started at least 2 years ago–it was 5 years ago that I ran into the first ‘ordinary’ man-on-the-street who admitted that he felt uncomfortable speaking his mind in “the land of the free.”

    We fight wars primarily over resources–and yet we only access and use a very small percentage of the resources available on the Earth–way less than 1%.

    We have had the technical capability to utilize the resources of the entire Earth-Moon system since the early 1970’s. Those resources include access to more energy per day than the planet uses in 100 years.

    Those resources are, in turn, way, way, way under 1% of the resources available in the solar system.

    Technical feasibility is hardly ever the determining factor. Political and economic forces usually prevent the use of technology to reduce costs for the end-user.

    While we do, in fact, live in a resource limited environment, Malthus and the Club of Rome made an assumption that was unwarranted (at least in the case of the Club of Rome.) They both assume that we are limited to the resources of the planet Earth and the energy which falls on the planet from our star. These assumptions became false as soon as we achieved the capability to leave the planet.

    Our society talks about “energy” as if it meant “hydrocarbons.” This is false. We talk about wind-power and tidal power as if they had no environmental effects. This is false. While it is true that a windmill has little effect upon the environment, millions of them certainly do. The same with wave and tidal generators. Only if we generate the power off-planet are the effects on the planetary environment limited.

    We talk about “running out of oil” (which talk started over 50 years ago,) while ignoring the fact that we are talking about _known_ reserves–and ignoring the fact that there are unknown reserves. We also ignore the fact that hydrocarbons are easily convertible between forms, and that with the right equipment you can manufacture whatever hydrocarbons you want out of whatever hydrocarbons you have–plastics, used oils, soot, organic waste can all be converted between forms. We do almost no such conversions other than oil & coal into other forms.

    If you look at the Solar system as a resource base; currently the Solar system is being “resized” based upon new observations, the new size of the Solar system is on the order of 5 light years in diameter and contains at least 8 planets of the size of our known gas giants–each of which contains billions more hydrocarbons than the Earth has used in it’s 4 billion year life.

    The Earth intercepts only a minuscule fraction of the energy put out by the Sun. And humanity uses even a smaller fraction of what is intercepted.

    Had we started building orbital solar power satellites in the early 1970’s when they were first proven practical, and built them at the slow rate that we would initially have been able to, the US would now be generating 120% of it’s domestic power requirements in orbit from the energy intercepted from the sun.

    We have millions of starving people on the planet, and millions of pounds of wasted food each year. Because our economic system will not permit those without payment to eat.

    The US alone could make major strides in education for a minuscule portion of what we spend to purchase new weapons systems each year. The easiest and cheapest would be to provide free meals for all students. But we could afford to subsidize a University education for anyone who could handle the studying for not a great deal more.

    Note that educated people earn more, live longer and are healthier and happier.

    Note that the US has, since it’s beginnings promoted free public education–an excellent and workable idea! However, by making education compulsory, we degraded the end product–any teacher will tell you that it is the students who don’t want to be in the class that eat the most time and reduce the resources for those who want do learn.

    Education isn’t “sexy” and the majority of children in the US want to be in the entertainment industry–not realizing that their pop start idols are seldom uneducated, top rock stars often have excellent educational backgrounds and anyone who makes millions of dollars a year needs to have some degree of education or they will not keep any of their earnings. The tendency is to see the success of such people as “overnight” and “without work.” In fact, most successful entertainers (I except Bob Newhart, who’s is the only exception I know of,) have worked for starvation wages against great hardship for many years before becoming an “overnight” success–and it can end much faster. In entertainment you are only as good as your last performance–with a good history you can get away with a couple flops, but only with a good history.

    You can never do just one thing.

    Engrave that into everyone’s head.

    When we decided to do something about air pollution, we discovered that it had been hiding the true rate of global warming.

    When we decided to use uranium as armor and bullets (which eliminated a major low-level nuclear waste problem for GE and others, we drastically lowered the ability of the fertile areas of Iraq to support people.

    Centuries earlier (like 60 centuries) humans cut down the forests which covered the uplands of what is now Iraq in order to build ships and housing and burn for fuel.

    The deforestation caused the rich soil of the region to wash into the ocean and destroyed much of the ability of the land to support life.

    In the 80’s in the US many, many cities courted the “clean” industries of the computer equipment manufacturer’s–ignoring their own local skilled workers and industries.

    In the late 90’s it became very obvious that those industries (which make extensive use of such elements as arsenic and heavy metals,) weren’t so clean after all. But even before that, those courting cities discovered that the companies that they hopped to attract already were happy with their current locations–meanwhile, their existing industries and workers left for other cities. (Milwaukee Wisconsin during that period lost at least 6 major heavy equipment manufacturing companies.)

    Technical decisions need to be based upon technical analysis-including a long hard look at what assumptions are at the root of the definition of the problem . If they are made for political or business reasons, they are often poor decisions for the majority–however nicely they work out for the politician or his/her supporters.

    (I once had a client who was spending a small fortune to add characters to a computer file because they had, years before, made a decision to use an inefficient way to define what they were storing. When asked about how they came to the original decision, I was told “we voted on it.”)

    War is the failure of diplomats to properly perform their function. So why to we keep those same diplomats in power when they fail?

    The US army is under fire by the GAO for their 12 year-old advanced weapons project, which was to have been finished this year.

    Items they have produced:

    Goal: Rapid response attack vehicle capable of airdrop from a C-130 cargo plane.
    Developed: Vehicle weighs at least 7 tons too much to drop from that aircraft.

    Goal: Unmanned flying observational device.
    Developed: 27 pound, beer-keg sized, unarmored ovserver, easily destroyed by enemy small arms fire.
    Alternative: You can buy a toy remote controlled helicopter with camera for under $200. Weighs ounces. Nearly silent, nearly invisible.

    Goal: Software to link assorted drones and robots into a C&C system.
    Projected size: under 33 million lines of computer programs.
    Current size estimate: 63 million lines.
    Current delivered code: Contractors say 1/3
    Effective system available: 0%
    Contractors involved: 550
    Budget: Large enough that the army is concerned about being able to keep current troops properly equipped in peace time.
    Prospect for cancellation: Unlikely. Project has exceeded the size where it can be easily can celled.

    In 2000 there was a legal case in Madison Wisconsin regarding some young men who broke away from their employer to start a company in competition with them.

    They were being taken to court for stealing the customer list of their former employer.

    Their defense: “It would have cost too much to generate on their own.”

    We have a 2 term President who proudly announces that he “doesn’t read the newspapers,” is “unlikely” to watch Al Gores film “An Unpleasant Truth,” has a staff which consists largely of convicted felons, and claims that “Executive Privilege” means that he can ignore the Constitution.

    Congress has been unable or unwilling to do anything substantial about this abuse of power for 7 years.

    We have professional corporate managers who mange their companies, not for the good of the stockholders, not for the good of the employee’s, not for the good of the customers and definitively not for the good of society.

    They manage the companies for their own benefit, often being paid millions of dollars in compensation while the companies they manage lose money. When terminated, they usually take millions in additional compensation with them.

    These are the examples our current generation of young people are “looking up to.”

    There are, as usual, hopeful signs. Young people are showing that they care about their life expectancy–which depends upon keeping the Earth in good shape. They’re showing that they care about how the world is run and about the welfare of all people.

    Few things are black & white. The universe is in color.

    We are in the same extinction race that all species are in, we have a disadvantage in timing–as a species we came along just before the next major extinction event is likely (they happen every 65-100 million years, for various reasons–it’s not worth arguing about _what_ caused each event, the fact that there is a multiple billion year record of such events happening at a relatively regular rate is sufficient–dead is dead, whether a species or an individual.

    Earth is too small to ensure the existence of a species.

    The Solar System is to small to ensure the existence of species. (Yes, things happen to entire stellar systems too.)
    Preparing for the future means preparing for the unknown and unexpected, so your best defense is to know how to learn, to observe carefully nay changes and watch for warnings. Please note that the animals tend to run for high ground when a tsunami is coming. They don’t stand and wonder what might be happening, they move out of the way.

    The one thing you can be certain is, that if you prepare for any single future, you are more likely to be wrong than right. This is new. It may be the first real change in human society since the agricultural age began.

    When I went through college in the 1970’s my degree prepared me for middle management.

    By 1980 middle management was rapidly becoming obsolete (computerized.) The cost-benefit analysis says that computerizing one top managers job is more cost effective than replacing a thousand clerks.

    How much more efficient to replace the programmers….

    Our children are growing up in a confusing, variable and dangerous world. So it has always been. So it will always be.

    Being aware, paying attention, thinking of possible solutions will get you through–sometimes.

  50. I had a fifth grade teacher (in 1959) who was looking to the future. She taught us speed reading before Evelyn Wood was invented. Today she is on the school board, still pushing the future. And idiot public groups are voting down the funds to use for proper education.

    I got my first computer in 1983, was on Fido Net not long after (at 300 baud). Growing savvy as the ‘Net grew, I watched how it changed the world, and changed me.


    Do a better job explaining. Your local newspaper should have articles in it every week about something innovative being done at the school to benefit the kids. Make it clear that they’re getting a better education than average. Only when voters see clearly that the school is doing good things with the money will they want to give more. -rc

  51. I had no exposure to computers at all until I was in high school, but I did get an excellent education in reading, writing and ‘rithmatic. Using those skills, I taught myself how a computer works, how to use a computer, how to program a computer, and built my own computer. I have been employed in positions where advanced computer skills were necessary, but those same positions also required critical thinking, the ability to communicate ideas effectively, and resourcefulness. All of which I did learn in school, but which is lacking in today’s education.

    My son was in elementary school from 1986-1992. His teachers insisted that spelling and grammar was not as important as “getting his ideas on paper”. So writing was not an exercise in learning spelling and grammar, but a way of insuring that each student “felt that his work was as good as every other student’s work.” Most of these writings were incomprehensible gibberish from which one could not even discern the underlying idea. (I was a volunteer assistant for his classes, so I saw his classmates’ work as well.) But they wrote their stories using a computer (without any keyboard training), so they were “acquiring the skills necessary for the new technology age.”

    Despite my son’s protestations that “this isn’t what my teacher wants”, I insisted that he learn to spell and write in full, coherent sentences. By the time he was in 4th grade, his writing skills were at eighth grade level (as measured nationally, not for our local school system). Because his writing skills were so much better than the others in his 4th grade class, his teacher thought he was especially gifted, but in reality the other children had been denied the opportunity to learn such skills.

    Five years later, I went back to school myself, to finish my degree in English. I encountered the same attitude in Expository Writing classes at the university I attended. When we critiqued others’ papers, we were told to critique only the ideas, NOT the way they were presented. Since most of the students had learned English in the same manner taught in my son’s school, they could not express their ideas clearly. Their sentences were incomplete or never ending, the spelling so bad as to be distracting, and punctuation non-existent. Not to mention that they had no idea that their papers should have a beginning, a middle and an end. From what I saw, they were functionally illiterate, but they were given high grades for their “ideas”. But, we were required to use a word processing program to develop our “computer skills.”

    The result is apparent every day in the newspapers all over the country. Articles are written at 3rd grade level, with many grammatical errors and using words and phrases in the wrong context. Ideas are jumbled and information is presented in a haphazard manner with no regard for logical story progression. But not to worry, it’s all written using the latest computer technology!

    No amount of technological progress will make a difference if the persons using it can’t effectively communicate their ideas. We must teach our children the basic building blocks, which are STILL reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, and encourage not just ideas, but the critical thinking and use of resources that will lead to the successful implementation of those ideas.

    (It’s funny that there are folks pushing for legislation to force immigrants to learn English in the US, when we aren’t even teaching it to our own citizens!)

  52. I have to respectfully disagree with Stefani in Cincinatti, who said “as a parent it is my responsibility to teach my child the social skills necessary to integrate into society. The teacher, on the other hand, is being paid to ensure that my child has the foundation of knowledge he needs….”

    As a parent, it’s my responsibility to teach social skills, yes, but it is also my responsibility to teach and model critical thinking and a love for learning. If I act like education is boring or tiresome, so will my kids. Our schools teach knowledge, but it is up to parents to show kids how to be wise. Knowledge is just a bunch of useless data without intelligent decision-making and critical thought. And that’s as much of a social skill as saying “please” and treating other people with respect.

  53. I saw this before, but thanks again for the reminder. I intend to place this link on my own blog ( to help get the word out. In an odd way it helps that we, at my current employ, are being downsized. It brings everything into sharp focus (kind of what W. Churchill refers to when being shot at).

    Keep up the good work!

  54. My children are being taught to memorize what is necessary to pass the “No child left behind” test. We get a graph showing how our district ranked compared to the state.

    When they found out that the teachers couldn’t even pass the test, it was made easier.

    What computer skills are really needed beyond turning it on and clicking a little picture?

    We need to stop dumbing down our children before they become too dumb to stop.

  55. The “No child left behind” program has virtually insured that American children WILL be left behind as education opportunities – in English – escalate exponentially and are taken advantage of by students around the world.

    We’re not growing a population here at home of high-techies, we’re growing a population of burger flippers and toilet cleaners. They’re well-versed in text messaging and downloading ringtones (and even speed dialing drug dealers), but can they speak and read English? How are their math skills compared to a child in India or China? How many languages do they speak natively? How much do they know about their own history, let alone the history of other countries? In a one-minute quiz, How many rock stars can they name compared to presidents of the United States?

    How often will we “re-evaluate” test scores so that no one fails before we succeed in building an entire generation that WILL fail?

    Who is causing the educational bottleneck? Look to school board members and education leaders, many in their 60s and 70s, (particularly older men who have chauvinistic expectations for girls’ education – remember: “You can be a teacher or a nurse, honey, until you find a husband and have babies” and their offspring that bought into that old saw). Rigid in their antiquated beliefs, most of these people are unwilling or unable to look to future solutions when they cannot understand the problem or even understand there is one. Quite simply, they are frightened of change. As one I know says, “I’m out of my millennium.” OK, then get all the way out. Stick to the past and don’t place yourself in a position where you make decisions affecting our future.

    This gets down to our “elective process” and “democracy in action” issues and arming our kids with automatic weapons and cammie suits instead of learning tools for future success…issues that don’t belong here…in this discussion perhaps… but certainly have had and will continue to have a growing negative impact on education. The system is rotten. From the top down – that governing “old boy network” from Washington down to your local school board members – it just isn’t working. And trying to legislate that all kids are equal is just plain silly. They don’t look alike and they don’t all think alike. Some are smarter than others. We’d better recognize that before it’s too late.

    What can we do? Get realistic. Recognize differences and embrace them instead of trying to lump all kids into one homogeneous soup. Retire the old dogs that determine education direction. Replace them with forward-thinking educational leaders (of any age – could be 20, could be 100 – it’s how they think, not how many birthdays they’ve had). These people should be appointed or hired, not elected by an increasingly dumber population — products of the current system, and future system we are trying to avoid. Take a look at government styles at home and abroad and how they impact education. Evaluate educational direction in India and China (and other places) where children ARE learning and are already overtaking our own kids, speaking their language better than they do. Then implement those parts of their systems that are working. We might not be able to change our own governing “democratic?” system, but we can learn from others and adopt some of their policies where education is concerned. We ARE going to be left further and further behind if we don’t start getting ahead. Now. Right this damn minute. Not after months and years of lengthy, inconclusive committee meetings and caucuses and endless “voting” sessions where we put the same people (or those of like mind) and ideas right back into the system.

    We should be ashamed of ourselves. It’s time we wake up and take charge of educating our future population before our kids become the toilet cleaners for the rest of an enlightened, educated world. Let’s arm our kids with tools that will help them succeed in an increasingly technical world…and I don’t mean bigger rifles, fancier cell phones or questionable skills of how to win an elective office through treachery and trickery. Rather, let’s teach today’s kids and future generations how to learn, then give them the environment and tools to do it.

    This discussion ought to generate some arguments – particularly from those “board members” I earlier described. I’ve met them, worked with them, argued with them. Trying to change their minds requires a large hammer to the head, and unfortunately, even that won’t help.

  56. Do you realy think you can change things now? We are indeed in a sorry mess. I put the blame where it belongs. Squarely at the door of my generation. I am 79 years old and it was us who brought up the parents who are making such a pathetic job of parenting THEIR children. Teachers have an uphill job and no wonder they take the easy way out and follow orders from people whose only aim is to get elected again.

    China and India are in the position we were in a couple of generations ago. Will they follow the same path? It doesnt look too hopeful for the human race.

  57. I had seen the video before, but watched it again to refresh my memory.

    I haven’t taught in about 9 years, but over a 19-year span taught so many extra classes at universities in the U.S. China, and Thailand that I had taught an equivalent number of hours in my native Texas, I would have worked about 27 years. I taught English (all skills plus, occasionally, literature) and Business Communications. I hold both a BA and MA.

    I am a huge fan of computers and technology generally, but I do believe the lack of teaching basic skills is sorely lacking, for a variety of reasons.

    For instance, even back in the early 80’s, when I first started teaching (in the U.S.) I despaired at my students’ inability to write a coherent essay or term paper. Yes, I mean on the mechanical and grammatical level, but more importantly, using reason.

    When I was a child, my parents helped found a private school; practically all our teachers the years I was there, K-5 and again in Grade, were both excellent teachers and highly informed. A substantial number were from Commonwealth countries, especially the U.K.

    And all fostered the basic skills, regardless of what particularly subject they were teaching us at the moment.

    The subjects included, in my case, three years of Spanish and one of Latin — by the time I was just 13 years old! The upper-school students put on a Shakespeare play every year, and we younger ones got to take part in putting on maybe a couple or three Shakespearean scenes.

    For the rest of my pre-college education, I went to the one and only public school, in a small town in a small, rather poor, school district. Naturally, the quality was substantially lower, but even there I had a few dedicated, excellent teachers.

    And my parents were demanding. I had limited TV privileges and was encouraged to read, play outside and explore the small ranch where I grew up, and to broaden my interests. My parents gave me my first telescope when I was nine or so, and let me fly model rockets from when I was 15. And we traveled, within our means, a highlight being the summer we spent in central Mexico.

    I don’t mean this posting to be of the “Me, me, the glorious me!” type, but to emphasize that a fair number of people actively worked, both individually and together, to see I got as good an education as they could deliver.

    Finally, my parents talked to me (and my Sister) about pretty heavy stuff from a rather tender age. For instance, in the wake of the Bay of Pigs, they discussed, alone at first then with us, the possibility of building a bomb shelter — and why — in terms we could understand. What I remember most clearly was when they spread out a map of the south-central U.S., on which Dad had circled in bright red every single military installation within something like 200 miles, and there sure were a lot of them way back then, in all directions, especially the Nike Missile Base just eight miles away and the “Emergency White House” about 12 miles away. Both were said to be primary targets.

    Then they extended that to explaining that they decided not to build a shelter after all.

    Salaries could be improved, particularly for new teachers. More equipment is needed in a great many places, along with teaching students that items such as computers are just tools. In high school we weren’t allowed to use a slide rule in class, and I do think students need to learn how to do things without the support of computers, calculators, etc. In other words, do, say, math homework the old-fashioned way: with a pencil and paper.

    We tend to compartmentalize too much, it seems to me, some parents blaming anyone else, some teachers taking the opposite view, some administrators taking yet another view, and so on.

    I have no children myself, but if my experience is indicative, educating students, especially the very young ones, is something of a community effort.

  58. I found Ms Drummond-Hay yesterday! Her son was mentioned in a newsletter for the condo building in which we both own units. Unusual last name… So I followed up. Adrienne now 96. She’s struggling with memory issues, but Eric said she’s continued living an amazing life. I attended La Entrada MS in the early 70’s. I was in the first group of sixth graders, when it changed from a Junior HS to a Middle School.

    I think that means you’re a year behind me, then — and we were there at the same time. Your name does sound familiar, in fact…. Delighted to hear she’s still alive! -rc

  59. We live in Alabama and we have two towns right next to each other, my son’s gone to both schools, and at one of those schools there are Engineering classes and Honors classes and extracurricular clubs and at the other school the kids literally do not get an education. You either play football or you do literally nothing all day five days a week.

    I can’t understand it. Why do we even have a public school system if it’s STILL going to be rich people get all of this and poor people get nothing? Funding for every public school student in America should be the same.

    There IS a way for the poor to escape poverty, even become rich: by getting a great education. If only we had the will to provide it. -rc

  60. I feel like I had a pretty interesting journey on the road to the technological revolution, born 1961, and the first computer I touched was a CRT based radio shack model and I learned just enough DOS to be dangerous. OJT taught me windows in 1998 and I’m still one of the more technically competent Boomers I know. 🙂

  61. Dang, that pic takes me back… a Data General Nova… fall 75? paper tape punch and reader just off to the left of the keyboard?

    I assume you’re speaking of the Teletype Corp. ASR Model 33. Yes, paper tape punch/reader too. They made for relatively cheap remote terminals for the computers of the day. -rc


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