Not teaching kids to think?
I began this blog, in large part, because I have heard so many negative things said about public education that don't fit with my experience. Public education has taken such a beating by the media, blue-ribbon commissions, and so-called experts that whenever anyone says something bad about it, there's a good chance that many people will simply accept it as true. On my last post, Anonymous (not to be confused with Anonymous Teacher) made this comment:
Our challenge today is our schools, public in particular, as a general rule, do NOT teach our kids to think. The goal of most public schools -- stated in their mission statements - is to produce good citizens. This is measured by getting kids registered to vote. Geez this is pitiful. This is nothing but mediocrity. Where are the future leaders, entrepreneurs, inventors, etc. coming from? Yep, you guessed. The high end academic specialty public schools and private schools. Just my two cents worth. Public education needs major competition. The weak teachers need to be ousted. The strong teachers and administrators (principals) need to be able to run their schools without the top down dictatorships of weak superintendents too scared to let their people be creative and do the things that will produce incredible results in our students. This testing mentality takes the fun out of learning. It eliminates to ability to have time to be creative, to have dialogue with students so they can think through challenges, talk them out and come to their own conclusion. Nope. As a rule this is not happening in today's average public school.
I appreciate Anonymous's comments on my blog, and there are statements in this one that I at least partially agree with. However, I strongly take issue with the statement that public schools are not teaching kids to think. It just so happened that I read this comment immediately after compiling a representation of excerpts from comments my students submitted as part of a simple current events assignment. The assignment was this: Using a minimum of three sentences, comment on any current event we've talked about in class for the last three weeks. I then take excerpts from their comments, and post them on our bulletin board for the kids to read. Here is a sample: (I hope you'll read at least some of them, but don't feel like you've got to read them all.)
MADD & ALCOHOL SENSORS IN CARS (This article dealt with a proposal by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to eventually have sensors in all cars that would keep the car from starting if it sensed alcohol.)
This would stop a lot of accidents all over the United States. A lot of people die because of drunk driving. People would be smarter about their drinking, and our roads would be much safer to drive on.
I do not agree with this. I’ve been in a situation where my sister needed a ride home from the bar. How am I supposed to accomplish that if the sensor senses the alcohol on my sister’s breath? Also, how would we get home if you had only had one beer at a bar, and your car wouldn’t start? You certainly can’t sleep at the bar. A definite NO to alcohol sensors!
Having these devices for first time drunk driving offenders is a good idea. It could really cut down on the deaths from drunk driving. It might affect the rights of the drunk driver, but what about the rights of their victims? If the device prevents more drunk driving, it will save more lives, more charges and arrests, which would save court costs. If there were less charges, it would save on jail costs. While an inmate is in prison, it costs for their medical and housing. If drunk driving is prevented, that person is working, paying for their own expenses, plus paying taxes.
I am mad at MADD. Who are they to get mad at lawbreakers? They are just lawbreakers themselves. The MADD organization is made up of the same people who go to bars and smash out cars’ headlights. They do this so the intoxicated driver will get pulled over by the police for his headlight violation. MADD is simply too radical. I am so angry that I am thinking of starting my own organization: SAMM (Students Against Mad Mothers).
I think MADD is an excellent organization. I also think that putting sensors in our cars is taking it too far. Somehow, people will find a way around it, so it won’t end up doing any good.
It is completely crazy what MADD is trying to do. That would be like an environmental group telling people to take a two-minute shower or use bio-degradable toilet paper. If every extremist group got its way, we wouldn’t be able to do anything.
This is an awesome idea. Anything to eliminate the risk of drunk drivers is wonderful. I would, however, worry about the device malfunctioning and an innocent driver being stuck. They need to make sure it’s foolproof before it’s required.
This is a ridiculous idea. There would be no way that I can see for the alcohol detector to see how heavy you are, what your alcohol tolerance is, or your muscle to fat ratio. Having one or two drinks isn’t dangerous. Besides, when most people go to a bar to drink, they are not alone, they’re with friends. They could just take turns being the designated driver. You couldn’t even use a designated driver with this proposal.
I think this could be a good idea, because it would decrease the number of people killed by drunk drivers. It also could be annoying to have to take a test to drive even just down the street. I do think that first-time offenders should have to have the device, because if they’ve done it once, there’s nothing stopping them from doing it again.
BRINGING BACK THE DRAFT
I agree with Representative Charles Rangel wanting to end the war in Iraq, but reinstating the draft is absurd. I understand that he’s trying to show that lower income families suffer, but a draft would take it to a whole new extreme.
I support the idea of the draft being reinstated, but I don’t agree with Rangel’s reasons. He says that the draft would have prevented Congressmen from letting our country go to war. I think if your name is called for the draft, it is your duty as a citizen to fulfill your obligation. If your country is in need of protection, you should serve with pride.
I agree that if they reinstate the draft that Congress would think twice about whether or not we should go to war. The draft ages should stay at 18-26 instead of 18-42, because that’s like having my old father go to war. And he is not in the best of shape!
I disagree with this proposal. They’re saying that only minorities and lower income people are going into the armed forces. They are not forced to, but it does offer them opportunities. The United States is not desperate for people or they would have reinstated it a long time ago.
The draft should not be reinstated. I feel is should be your own choice. They have enough volunteers that want to go fight, and they do a very good job defending our country. Mentally, you have to be prepared when called upon. If you don’t want to go into the military, you won’t have that. Right now, our volunteer service men and women are doing a great job, and I look up to them with a lot of respect.
FIGHTING SIOUX (The University of North Dakota has been directed by the NCAA to get rid of its "Fighting Sioux" logo, but UND has challenged this in court.)
UND should be able to keep its name. Indians shouldn’t be offended by it. In my opinion, it is complimenting them, saying they were great warriors.
UND should be the ones being sued for having the Sioux logo and nickname. UND should get rid of the logo because it’s racist.
I don’t see anything wrong with the Sioux logo. It is catchy, depicts strength, and has not, in my opinion, been hostile to Native Americans. Besides, other colleges have been granted exemptions. UND also has the approval of the nearest Sioux tribe. If they aren’t insulted, why should anybody else be so upset about it.
UND should be able to keep their nickname and logo. They have had the name for a long time, so it’s part of the school now. The teams take pride in the name, and I don’t think it’s “hostile and abusive” at all. I am a Native American myself, and I don’t take offense to any sports teams’ names like that.
I don’t see how using the “Indian Head” as a logo could be hostile and abusive. I’ve been to about 7 or 8 Sioux hockey games, and every game I’ve gone to they have honored the Indians and thanked them for letting them wear the Sioux logo on their jerseys. If the Indian tribes don’t support them, then that’s the way it has to be, but in my opinion, UND hasn’t done anything to tarnish the Indian name or way of life.
SADDAM HUSSEIN HANGED
I'm not usually for the death penalty, but in the case of Saddam Hussein, I am. For what he did to all those people, no penalty could be too harsh.
Saddam Hussein was given the death penalty by a court in his own country. They are the only ones who had the right to decide how to deal with him in the end. He deserved a severe penalty, and that's what he got.
The death penalty for Saddam Hussein was completely reasonable. There definitely was enough evidence for him to be hanged. A lot of people are against the death penalty because of the possibility for mistakes, but this problem was obviously not an issue.
CALIFORNIA LETHAL INJECTION RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL
If you're guilty of raping, killing, or other serious crimes like that, you should be punished. If you go out and kill someone, unless it's in self-defense, it would only be fair if you were punished in the same way. Besides, jails don't have enough room for all these idiots who commit these senseless crimes. If you're suffering from all the pain getting the lethal injection, chances are you probably deserve it. What goes around comes around. If you kill somebody, you'd better expect the same treatment.
Killing any person in any way should be considered cruel. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to ban any of the forms of capital punishment even though they cause a lot of pain. Killing a person is murder regardless of whether or not it is a punishment, and it should be ruled unconstitutional.
I have nothing against the death penalty. I don't agree with the electric chair, but anything else doesn't bother me. Some people deserve it. We have come far enough in medical research to know what works. They say a licensed medical professional should be there, but no one will do it. Then pay somebody at the prison to take the classes. Give them more money.
The death penalty should not be legal. Even though people deserve it sometimes, rotting away in jail for the rest of your life would probably be worse. If the constitution guarantees us our freedom of speech, why doesn't it guarantee freedom of life?
BETTY FORD (From an article on Betty Ford after Gerald Ford's death.)
Betty Ford was an unusual First Lady because she was open about things that no one else would talk about. If it wasn't for her, people that needed help for their problems would not have gone in for them. I think she is an amazing lady, and I'm glad she stood up for what she believed in.
Betty Ford showed our country that it is not bad to have problems, and if you do, help is the best solution.
Betty Ford was a First Lady who changed the nation in a phenominal way. I think that her setting such a great example in the face of adversity shows how our leaders should act. If all our leaders acted in a way similar to Betty Ford when faced with problems, our world would be filled with far more good role models. If Betty Ford had acted differently, there may be quite a few woman who would not be alive today. Her actions are those of a real hero, or in this case a heroine.
3,000 AMERICANS KILLED IN IRAQ
It is really sad that we have lost all of those soldiers and still not had much success in Iraq. We had good intentions when we went into Iraq, but now it is obvious that it isn't helping. We have to do something soon. Pulling our troops out would be a relief, but it would look like we were giving up. Sending more troops in might help a little, but this could also just lead to more soldiers getting killed. Until we figure this out, the most important thing to do is to keep these soldiers in our hearts.
The U.S. being in Iraq and losing 3,000 soldiers makes no sense. We have been there way too long. I'm hoping that Saddam's execution will help bring this war to an end. We should get out before more people get killed.
You might not like what some of these students have to say, and I'll admit that some of them are a little goofy. But it would be hard to say that none of these kids are being creative, or that none of them are thinking through challenges, or that they are being discouraged from coming up with their own conclusions. In fact the thinking demonstrated on least a couple of these is excellent.
There was nothing special about this assignment. In fact, it's probably typical of what goes on in public school classrooms day after day. In my experience, there have always been plenty of students who are willing to think and to draw their own conclusions. The problem has been that it's hard to convince kids that opinions based on facts and logic are more valuable than opinions based on mush. I don't know how many times I've heard at the beginning of a school year, "How can you grade my opinion? It's MY opinion!" The point is that if you think public schools are doing nothing to teach thinking, you'd better think again.