Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wall Street Journal Quote

On most Saturday mornings Toni fries eggs in bacon grease and I load the toast up with real butter until it soaks through the back side. We then sit at the oak kitchen table that I built in 1986 and read newspapers and magazines while we eat our fried eggs and drink cappuccinos. Today was different. Toni said she was hungry for oat meal and since I wasn't about to extend any extra energy I agreed.

I came across an article in my copy of The Wall Street Journal entitled "Oops! I'll Do It Again. And Again. And Again . . ." that reminded me of a teacher inservice I interrupted five years ago. The quote in the WSJ said:
Students have shown that, while American students perform poorly compared with many foreigners of the same age, they are top of the charts when it comes to how well they think they have performed.
The line "they think they have performed" is the part that sparked my memory. Five years ago at an inservice we had an guest presenter share with us the new middle school model. The presenter went on and on comparing this great new middle school model of the twenty-first century to the archaic, ineffective junior high model of the 1970's. The meeting drug on as the speaker humored us with ridiculous comparisons which painted the picture that we were all idiots back in the 1970's.

Realizing that the room was void of any critical thinking at that point, I raised my hand to purposely interrupt this onslaught of propaganda to ask for an explanation of one key element. I said:
It appears from multiple reports that the United States has fallen behind several nations in areas such as science and math. I believe we are in 10th place and 14th place world wide and sinking. Yet, back in the 1970's with this so called "junior high model" we were leading the world in all areas of education. Do you think it is wise to mock the schools in the past who were leading the world in education? Has any one asked what are they doing in Japan? In Korea? In Europe? As a basketball coach I scout and research the teams that are beating us. And, I don't make fun of my school's past championship teams. So, before we jump to this new middle school model I want to know first, what are the other countries doing. And, I don't want everyone in the room to say, "Well, they don't test the same way we do" or "They only educate the smart kids." Bottom line, they are kicking our butts and the best AEA can do is make fun of our schools from the 1970's when we were kicking butt. You present us with this new middle school model that includes no research concerning the 10-14 nations that are crushing us academically?
With that the inservice was pretty much derailed. The presenter never regained his footing. No one answered the question. No one could answer the question. We just took a break and ate some cookies. Today several of us teachers still laugh about it and respond to most every inservice subject by mumbling at our table the question: "Is China doing this?"

Click here to see the Des Moines Register's World Class Schools for Iowa page. Notice the rankings of the nations:
  • In Science: the United States is now 29th
  • In Math: the United States is now 35th
  • In Reading: the United States score is not recordable due to a "clerical error"? What!?
Since the AEA could not anwer any questions five years ago, we were left with assumption, hear-say, opinions and "how we felt we were doing." The Des Moines Register now provides you with an online T/F quiz called Education: Truth or Myth. Take this quiz! See the world map with rankings. (Notice the three comments on this Des Moines Register page all deflect the results of these numbers as unreliable or insignificant. Well, as long as that is the way you "feel". Who needs truth and facts when we already feel so good.)

Mr. Wiemers
PS - want more of the same? go here

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