Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An 8th grade education might just be enough....

While I've been doodling here down in the rabbit hole of high technology, debating whether my soul can be digitally remastered, Obama has decided that the business of education is to ensure "our children are developing the skills they need to compete with any worker in the world for any job."

High falutin' sound bites look great. When you actually look at what that particular string of words means, though, it makes about as much sense as the NCLB's goal of having all students "reach high standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency or better in reading/language arts and mathematics" by 2014."

(I will pause a moment to let you re-read Obama's statement.)

Meanwhile, the Amish are kicking butt in the world of small business. The New York Times noted today that "despite a lack of even a high school education (the Amish leave school after the eighth grade), hundreds of Amish entrepreneurs have built profitable businesses based on the Amish values of high quality, integrity and hard work"

Ah, I get it--if you want to work for someone else, you need high level skills. If you want to work for yourself, maybe knowing the intricacies of quadratic equations is not essential.

A 2004 Goshen College study reported that the failure rate of Amish businesses is less than 5 percent, compared with a national small-business default rate that is far higher. (According to a federal study, only two-thirds of all small-business start-ups survive the first two years and fewer than half make it to four years.)

Of course, the Amish cheat. They do not farm their elderly to nursing homes, the church covers their health costs, and they are exempt from Social Security.

Meanwhile, the English here back east in Jersey are expecting our children to master "all types of equations using graphing, computer, and graphing calculator techniques." [Emphasis mine.]

All is a big word. But I guess if each child is to be able to compete with any worker for any job in the world, they will just have to know everything.

Never know when you might need to whip out a quadratic equation--don't want to be bested by some child in Kurdistan.

In the meantime, the Yoder, Klopfenstein, and Stutzman clans will develop the small businesses that will employ the worldly children who can spin quadratic equations on the head of a pin, but who would starve to death if left on their own with 40 acres, a mule, and a decent water supply.


Ben said...

Our schooling system is so tied to making sure students are constantly meeting some predefined objective that there isn't time for students to experience real life work.

Wouldn't it be something if each school had an organic farm run entirely by students that was a primary source of food for school lunches? I think I'll mention the purchase of chickens and feed to my administrator next time I see him. :-)

doyle said...

I love that idea!

Even a very small scale operation could alter a child's view of the world.

As part of the graduation requirements, ask each child to eat something they have grown and prepped for themselves--it could be as simple as a radish under a light in a classroom.

(I don't suppose we could ever require the child to eat something grown in school, but it marvels me how disconnected most of us are from the food we do eat in school. I used to eat lunch in Elizabeth, NJ, at a place that sold chicken real cheap--the chickens could be seen running around a coop behind the tiny restaurant.)

Adrienne said...

At the start of this academic year, I asked my 9th graders to present a persuasive speech - with visuals, no text - on any topic of their choosing. One chose to persuade us that students should be permitted to leave school after 8th grade. He was very persuasive. I suspect that after only 1 month in 9th grade, he quickly realized how useless much of what he was learning actually was. After Middle School, so much of what our students learn is content-based. Like you said - when does the average person need a quadratic equation in their daily lives? (Answer: not until they have to write a stupid standardized test like the SAT, GRE, or similar.)

doyle said...

I suspect the bigger problem is that for many (most?) of our students, schooling beyond 8th grade becomes a quest for a diploma, seen as a "ticket". The skills gained along the way become secondary.

We need to make the time spent in high school worthwhile. If we're going to make education mandatory, we'd better take our responsibility seriously.