Here's a problem I gave my students on a test last year:
Dr. Doyle walks to school every morning--is he contributing carbon dioxide to the air?(If I could have the last question back, I would ask "Why does this difference matter as far as CO2 levels are concerned?" I want my lambs to draw their own conclusions.)
How is his carbon dioxide "different" from a car's carbon dioxide?
Why does this difference matter as far as global warming is concerned.
We had tossed this question around in class in various forms, so I thought I was throwing the kids a softball.
Apparently I breathe out "good" CO2, the kind that plants use for photosynthesis, and cars belch out "bad" CO2, the kind that cooks the planet.
I have a long way to go before I can call myself a good teacher....
The New York Times reported old news yesterday--traces of perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient, is in baby formula. I suppose it's news because you get to say "rocket fuel" and "baby formula" in the same sentence.
The effects? Not known.
We'll talk about it over dinner, at least until tomorrow, when someone kills 13 hostages, or Monday, when the NCAA March madness ends.
***I do not expect that my students will know much content when they leave my class. Oh, they'll know enough content to pass a state test, and they might even retain a Newtonian law or two, but that's not why I teach.
A student frustrated by a physics problem asked me Wednesday "Why do we have to learn any of this anyway?"
I stopped the lesson.
How much water are you supposed to drink in a day?
"No? But that's what everybody says..."
People are making stuff up, some might even be lying.
Which water has higher standards for purity, the tap water or the bottled water?
"Um, the bottled water?"
Try again. And which costs more, much more.
Ah, she knew this one--"The bottled water!"
My first miracle: no one rolled their eyes.I don't give a rat's butt [yes, I say "rat's butt" in class] if you remember any of these equations in July. You take science class to learn how to examine evidence, to learn how to think. It's not the only way to think, but it's a very effective one.
Here's another question I asked last year, and again this week. It's a multiple choice question, one easily tested while taking a test.
If you blow between two sheets of paper, what is most likely to happen?
a. The sheets move apart.
b. The sheets move together.
c. It cannot be predicted.
If you do not know the answer, try it. Last year I had a student try it 7 or 8 times during the test. I finally made him stop because it was starting to distract the others.
He got the answer wrong despite seeing with his own eyes that when you blow between two sheets of paper, they come together.
How did you get it wrong?
"Well, I saw that they went together, but that didn't make sense, so I put down the answer I thought you would say was right."
This is what we train our children to do.
***Has anyone who supports the No Child Left Behind Act actually read it?
All students will reach high standards,
at a minimum attaining proficiency or better
in reading and mathematics by 2013-2014.
Now in our magical thinking world, all does not mean 100%--I think it's about 97%. Up to 3% of the disabled children will be allowed to "pass" through some modified version.
This would be comical if kids were not hurt. Kids are being hurt.
Jackson, a student in the Seattle school district, has hydrocephalus. He is markedly disabled. He cannot pass the state mandated test.
Everybody in education needs to be aware of Jackson's story, reported here on KUOW.
His mother asked Jackson's teachers not to give him the test, a test his mother, his teachers, and his teachers' administrators all know he will fail.
His mother explains her reasoning--that she even has to explain it shows how twisted we have become.
I mean, it's not like a one–day test. I mean, it's basically from December to March, they have to constantly do stuff for this test that my son's gonna get a zero on. He's not learning anything. And I know for a fact if my teacher thought for one second that he would get anything out of this experience, she would do it.Rachel McKean
The teachers were suspended. They acted in the child's best interests. The administrators have not (yet) blinked. They are acting in the school district's best interests, which no longer align with the students' best interests because of NCLB.
Rachel McKean is a brave woman. Jackson's teachers acted professionally--given our timidity as a profession, acting professionally requires courage, more than many of us have.
I have several hypotheses about how our fabled democratic body could enact a law that expects 100% proficiency by 2013. Perhaps it was a political ploy hatched by some clever bogeymen designed to dismantle public schools. Maybe "our" representatives had a collective transient psychotic break and did not know what they were voting for. Maybe few of them actually read the bill.
My best guess? Our Congress fell to the allure of magical thinking, and put on their ruby slippers, clicked them three times, and truly believed that if proficiency was legislatively mandated, Jackson could learn to read before he gets to fifth grade.
We all need to put away our ruby slippers and put on our hip boots--the excrement is starting to reek.