Sunday, December 2, 2012

NJ Driver Manual

Just about every high school teacher has had this moment.

A child is intently reading her textbook with an intensity usually reserved for video games. You know she didn't have a come to Jesus moment with cell organelles, so you wander over to see what has her attention.

You recognize it immediately--The New Jersey Driver Manual. Yes, NJ calls it Driver, not Driver's....

The cover photo of Jersey's Driver Manual

Imagine asking a child to memorize this:
A vehicle travels 88 feet per second at 60 mph. 
Deceleration is approximately 14 feet per second.
No reason to--unless a driver's permit is the ticket. For all the clamor against carrot and stick methods in education, they do work.

Now imagine a child in 18th century America to memorize this. No context, no point, except you need to know this because your schoolmaster says you must.

And yet this is what we're doing when we ask a child to "explain" how a cytoskeleton works.

Here's something you could ask a child here in Jersey--what's wrong with the photo above?

According to the manual:
A motorist’s grip on the steering wheel is important. The steering wheel can be thought of as the face of a clock. For normal driving, a motorist should grip the steering wheel by the outside rim at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions, keeping his/her thumb along the face of the wheel.

Interestingly, 9 and 3 o'clock positions no longer have relevance in our digital culture--many of my high school kids cannot read an analog clock.

And, apparently, neither can the state honchos who edited the "driver" manual.

When meaning no longer matters, things fall apart.


Kathryn J said...

I love this post! Good points all including the students in the 18th century vs. those today that can't read clocks.

My subject has more performance indicators in the state curriculum than there are days in the school year. Have a child redo an experiment to check replication or extend one based on another compelling question? No time for that. Time to wonder? No time for that.

doyle said...

Dear Kathryn,

I am tonight (1:48 AM now) wrestling with that exact same question--redo an experiment for your very good reasons, or continue plowing through the curriculum to get the few kids hanging on ready for the end of course test in May.

Not sure Arne Duncan loses sleep over this, but then working to understanding anything is not (from my observations, anyway) a strong suit of his.

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