Saturday, December 4, 2010

Should 1st graders brew ale?

A lot of things I do now as an adult I would not recommend to a child for a variety of reasons, which used to be obvious, but maybe not anymore.
I love a glass (or two) of ale at dinner.

I love living with the same woman, sharing our words, our air, our bodies.

On a rare late August night I love puffing on a cigar with friends, feeling the nicotine wend its way through my brain.

None of these belong in elementary school, but the first two will prolong most lives (and add happiness); the cigars are not benign, but are rare enough (one every 3 or 4 years) that the risk is likely low.


A calculator is a wonderful tool for those who know numbers. It is disastrous in the hands of everyone else.

A digital clock is a wonderful tool for those who know time. It does not belong in a classroom until children get a sense of how we measure time in cycles, using an old-fashioned clock face.

A computer is a wonderful tool for people who lead meaningful lives, who know what they want, who have tasted enough of life outside the human cult to resist the online siren. (I am not one of them. Few of us are.) It does not belong in any classroom where children spend more time in front of monitors than outside--and that includes what happens at home.

If the parents act like fools, not much the schools can do, but that does not give us permission to be foolhardy as well.

Do children need to learn how to use calculators? Sure, but if a child knows numbers inside out, I can teach her how to use a fancy calculator in less than a day.

Do children need to learn how to use computers? Sure, but they will anyway. Let's use the mandatory school hours to learn how to live a live that's useful.

Stephen Downes, a "Canadian education technology research specialist," wrote "Things You Really Need to Learn" a stunning and succinct post now on The Huffington Post, well worth a read.

Here's Stephen Downes' list:
1. How to predict consequences
2. How to read
3. How to distinguish truth from fiction
4. How to empathize
5. How to be creative
6. How to communicate clearly
7. How to learn
8. How to stay healthy
9. How to value yourself
10. How to live meaningfully

When I make a batch of ale, tossing yeast into a carboy of hops and malted barley, I hit at least 7 out of 10.

A computer in the classroom might hit a few of them, but I'd argue works against a few of them (3, 8, and 10) as well, and in any case, is not needed for any of them.

How many do classrooms hit in a day? A week? A year?

Meanwhile, the bigger issue today--do I clam barefoot if the air temperature barely hits 40° F?
The airlock is from my melomel brewing, not the ale. Truth from fiction.


John T. Spencer said...

I shocked people at my school when I suggested that the first time students should be exposed to a computer is in the fifth grade. I wouldn't have a class set of netbooks until the seventh grade, though. And then I would use it to teach them how to shut it off part of the time (we go back and forth constantly in my room and I'm often pushing tech criticism)

A student asked me, "You don't love computers, do you?"

I think that's what I want right now. I want a class that thinks about the medium rather than blindly embracing or rejecting it.

David said...

Why do you blog? Is this a useless endeavor? It's a "meaningless form of communication."

Computers are the most powerful tool we have at our disposal and you want our kids to be ignorant of how they are used? Do you think kids' parents, most of them anyway, have any clue how to use a computer as a tool?

We do spend too much time in front of computers, this I agree with. However, what's the difference in health between sitting with a computer in front of you, or sitting with some paper to take notes? In either case, you are sitting instead of moving.

The real crime is the number of physical education programs which are being cut and the lack of outdoor education programs in most schools.

I agree completely, by the way, with Stephen Downes 10 things that you really need to learn. I work in a school where those 10 things are our primary curriculum and our content is secondary to them.

Teacherfish said...

I don't understand the list. I am pretty sure from the professional development sessions and the other news in general that the list should read:
1. How to predict the answer by underlining key words and other test taking stategies.
2. How to fill in the “correct bubble” when given a series of multiple choices
3. How to distinguish “their” truth from any creative “fiction” that might produce a new or different way of looking at the world and subsequently be marked wrong.
4. How to sit quietly and let others get good test scores also.
5. How to be creative- write as much information as you can in the open ended questions so that the grader may be justified in giving you partial credit
6. How to communicate clearly- in a five paragraph essay with an introduction, three body paragraphs and a conclusion
7. How to learn the material that is to be tested
8. How to stay healthy -this means eating a good breakfast on test day
9. How to value yourself- as a data point on the district's test reports
10. How to live meaningfully-as long as the meaning can be evaluated by a standard-based test.

doyle said...

Dear John,

I'm still shocked that people are shocked--I fear most of us do not know what we want anymore. We're like magpies, attracted to the shiny.

Keep them thinking.

Dear David,

Dear David,

The responses I get after posts like this one are dispiritingly binary.

I blog because I enjoy it, because it allows me to share my thoughts with a few people I care about, and because I am an egomaniac. I think many others who blog share similar traits.

I might ask you why you read a blog if you believe "it's a meaningless form of communication." But that would be impolite.

Your questions, though, do show that I am not adequately clear on my points, always a danger when dashing out thoughts on a blog. I am taking the liberty of responding in a post. I hope others join the discussion.

Thank you for prodding me a bit.

doyle said...

Dear teacherfish,

If you don't post that up somewhere I'm going to steal it.


Teacherfish said...

Thanks Doyle,
I sent it to HF, but I think the article has gone stale by now. I will post it on my blog-but feel free to use it if you want