Posts categorized “Academic Accountability”

#OWS, Educate Thyself - Introduction (Part 1)

October 16, 2011   9:52 pm

This is the first in a series doing the education that the colleges which the Occupy Wall Street gang (#OWS hereafter, taken from the shortened version of their #OccupyWallStreet Twitter hash tag) failed to impart. I have two in the queue behind this one, but there may be more.

For those living under a rock, a group has been camped out in New York, protesting Wall Street. There was a list of demand published, but many protesters were quick to point out that there was no official list. However, there have been recurring themes. Corporations are greedy. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Debt is bad. People aren’t hiring them even though they have a college degree. A job is a right.

Dear #OWS, your parents and your colleges have failed you. Before we dig into details of why your demands are unworkable, there are a few big-picture things we need to discuss.

Welcome to the Real World

This is where your parents have failed you. You are the generation who grew up “safer” than ever, protected from terrible things like concrete under your playground equipment, lack of head protection when you rode your bike, having to suffer the indignation of losing your soccer match because they didn’t keep score, etc. You are the result of a social experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong, where a bunch of too-smart people decided that the way children were reared for generations had to change. They were going to do it better. They were going to do it more safely. They remembered how bad they felt as children, when they were picked last for sports, or struck out and helped their team lose a game; or how they were made fun of during the awkward stages as they grew from children to adults; or how they never fit in with the “in” clique at school. So, they tried to eliminate all these things. No scorekeeping, and everyone gets a trophy. “Don’t say that word!” “Bullying is wrong!”

Where they went wrong is that by their attempts to eliminate bad things, they did not teach you how to deal with these bad things. I’m all for the elimination of bullying, but you can’t wish that and make it go away; you should be trained on how to deal with it. In real life, there are winners and losers; there is no “no scorekeeping” option. Everyone does not get a trophy. There are attempts, and there are failures. You have tragically had your opportunities to learn how to deal with this as a child snatched from you. Now, you’re behaving as children would normally behave; you’re just a lot bigger. You’re adults, so you think that your demands aren’t childish. Sadly, I’m here to inform you that they are. Railing against the real world is futile; you are not going to change it, at least not much. You would be much better served applying yourself and learning how things work.

A College Degree Is a Tool, Not a Guarantee

Here is one area where your college has failed you. No matter what the admissions adviser told you, a college degree is not a guarantee of a good job. Even in good economic times, a college degree is likely to get you in the door, at an entry-level position. (You understand where the term “entry-level” comes from right? The level you start, when you enter a company?) The people that have been there for 10 years beg to differ with your assertion that you should start out at the level to which they have worked themselves up. And, if your degree ends with “Studies,” you’re probably 1/4 as employable as someone with a degree oriented toward something a business would actually need.

The Corporations You Decry Have Made Your Protest Possible

You have utilized the services of several public and private companies. Let’s take a look at the evil that’s made this protest possible, shall we?

  • Twitter - Still a private company, Twitter was valued at $10B earlier this year.
  • Facebook - Also a private company, Facebook’s valuation at early 2011 was $50B.
  • Google (GOOG) - You know, the owners of YouTube, the developers of the Android mobile operating system, and the target of your “Google It!” chants? They are a publicly-traded company valued at $57.85B (plus assets, minus liabilities)
  • Did you drive, or take public transportation, to get to the site of your occupation? Those evil oil companies made that possible.

Now, what you’re not going to read in future installments are claims that the “real world” is perfect. There is room for change, and there are people running companies who have no business running them. However, if you want to maintain the lifestyle in America to which you’ve become accustomed, or improve it, you really don’t want to be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I’m sorry your parents and colleges have failed you. If you stay tuned to this spot, I’ll help educate you on why the things you’re so worked up about, contrary to what your “I wish communism worked because it’s just such a good idea” professors taught you, are actually good for you.

Next in this series - Part 2 - Credit and BanksPart 3 - Income Inequality

Why We Homeschool

May 20, 2008   6:30 pm

Our family had been toying with homeschooling for a while, and our move last year to an area where schools are either abysmal or exorbitantly expensive pushed us over the edge. Up to that point, we were able to send our children to classical Christian schools like Emerald Mountain Christian School and Cornerstone Christian Academy, where they were taught strong academics from a biblical worldview. These schools viewed their education as a ministry and involved parents in their children’s education, which enabled them to keep their tuition rates affordable. Not that a school like that doesn’t exist here, but we haven’t found it, and I imagine if it did, their waiting list would be a mile long.

Exhibit A is something I remember hearing about a while back, and I thought I had blogged about it then. However, I can’t find that post, so I guess I didn’t. How many of you remember turning in your paper or test, and getting it back looking like the teacher’s pen leaked all over it? I got a few of those, and I didn’t like it. So, what I did was apply myself to make sure it didn’t happen again. I much preferred the number 100 written at the top and circled - that was all the red I wanted to see on a paper or test.

But now, teachers are using purple pens to grade, not because they’re all Prince fans, but for the sole reason that red is too harsh. Too harsh? Check this out - the third paragraph in the story.

"I never use red to grade papers because it stands out like, ‘Oh, here’s what you did wrong.’ " said Melanie Irvine, a third-grade teacher at Pacific Rim Elementary in Carlsbad. “Purple is a more approachable color.”

Approachable? When I was in school, we had a different kind of approachability. You could approach the teacher’s desk and respectfully ask her for help. However, once you turned something in, it got graded, a process by which the teach goes through and marks portions that do not meet the standards. Isn’t the point of grading a paper to show what you did wrong? But, I guess esteem is more important that education these days. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just not care about kid’s feelings, but if a kid’s not getting the material, they need to buckle down and work until they do, a process historically inspired by getting a bloodied-up paper back.

Besides, how is that preparing them for setbacks in higher grades? A third-grade report on frogs is a lot easier than an eleventh-grade report on the circulatory system. If they’re not made to get it right in third grade, what happens when they’re juniors? And jump past school - I have yet to hear of a company giving it employees a “purple slip.” (Of course, who knows what we’ll have when this generation gets to be in charge…)

Exhibit B is the genesis for this post. In several school systems across the fruited plain, they now have a minimum score of 50 on their grading scale. Another hand-picked paragraph to illustrate the idiocy of this…

“It’s a classic mathematical dilemma: that the students have a six times greater chance of getting an F,” says Douglas Reeves, founder of The Leadership and Learning Center, a Colorado-based educational think tank who has written on the topic. “The statistical tweak of saying the F is now 50 instead of zero is a tiny part of how we can have better grading practices to encourage student performance.”

Six times greater chance of getting an F? When did grades get equated with the spinning of a roulette wheel? And this is just a “statistical tweak”? Incredulous doesn’t even begin to express how I feel about this. Isn’t the point of testing in school to ensure that the students have absorbed a minimum level of the material they were presented? If there are 100 questions, and you miss 16, you get an 84. If you miss 27, you get a 73. If you miss 62, you get a 38. It’s simple math. However, is it? Once this is in there, how long is it until someone says “Well, if the minimum is 50, why don’t we just do our percentages based on that?” Then, if you miss 16, you get a 92; if you miss 27, you get an 87; and, if you miss 62, you get a 69. Hey, a D! That’s even more esteem-boosting than a 50-point minimum F!

I realize that the 10-point splits for grades has been standard for a while, with an 11-point range for A and a 59-point range for F. However, the school I attended through 9th grade had the following scale:

  • A - 100-94
  • B - 93-87
  • C - 86-80
  • D - 79-75
  • F - 74-0

Straight-A’s was something I always worked toward, and most of the time, I succeeded. I wasn’t the coolest person in school, or the most athletic, and depending on how one measures success, I haven’t been the most successful since then. However, in learning how to do what it took to make the grade, I gained an understanding of how to meet the expectations that had been set for me. I’m sure some of that is my personality - to this day, if I get a 98% on a 50-question test, my first thought is “What did I miss?”

Good grades are something that should be earned, not given, and they’re worth hard work to get them. That is what teachers should be teaching, instead of worrying about Johnny or Kathy’s self-esteem. I remember crying over grades I got that weren’t as high as I thought they should have been. That’s part of the process - we can’t eliminate everything bad about childhood. (Don’t even get me wound up about dodge-ball or sports with no scorekeeping…)

It’s not generous to give someone a grade they did not earn - it does a disservice to the student, the teacher, and any other teachers that may have that student in the future. Failing a class or a grade doesn’t mean you’re no good - that’s why there are provisions for retaking classes and years. I failed Calculus I the first two times I took it - but on the third try, I got a C. My professor didn’t give me the C, I earned the C. If my professor had given me a D on the first class, I would have moved on to Calculus II, and been completely lost. If that trend had continued through graduation, my employer would not have gotten what he thought he was getting.

So, my kids are homeschooled. There are expectations placed on them, and consequences if they don’t meet them. And you know what? For the most part, they meet them; if they don’t, we work on it until they do. They love it - they tell people they go to the best school ever! :) And, hey, I can’t help it if I’m in love with their teacher…

Let Are Kids Walk!

May 25, 2007   4:05 pm

There was a picket line Thursday in front of the Trimble Tech High School in Fort Worth, Texas. They were protesting the decision to not allow students who failed the state proficiency exam to participate in commencement activities.

The entire article is here, but the funniest part of this (to me) is the picture that accompanies the article. It’s preserved below, in case they decide to change it in the original article later.

A line of people are walking with protest signs; the one in the foreground says "Let Are Kids Walk"

(Hat tip - James Taranto of Best of the Web Today)