Jun. 25, 2014



Having been a teacher for over 20 years and witnessing children develop I have formed an opinion of our failure to improve education. While we spend exorbitant amounts of money we don’t seem to be improving our children’s education, and in some cases are actually reducing it.


Now, understand that what I am about to propose is applicable to both parents efforts and school curriculum. It is based on the theory that the “old folks” might have been right some of the time and that most problems have simple solutions.  Hear me out, “simple solutions” doesn’t mean that there aren’t many conjoined issues; only that taking them one at a time makes the entire solution to all the various issues less complicated and more synergistic in the end.


The first thing we need to recognize is that few, if any, learning is centered on a set of “zero sum” choices. Arguing over whether you should teach writing or keyboarding is counterproductive. (I saw this in a newspaper article) When we were children you learned writing and typewriting. There is no need to abandon one for the other and both are valuable skills. Many if not most of our educational choices are of this nature and unfortunately different camps have dug in their heels and polarized the issues until we can’t find a resolution.


We need to seek out those skills that are cross disciplinary and will lead the student to better outcomes across the board. We need to emphasize these early in the students schooling so that these skills will aid the student throughout their education. I will offer two examples where we are failing our students.


First, when I was a High School Teacher I had a senior who couldn’t recite his 8 times tables. The entire class explained to me, I was new to high school, that that was what they had calculators for and several didn’t know there tables. WHY?? Because to become truly efficient with the times tables you have to recite them openly and face possible humiliation. Teachers are afraid to demand this as they then may have to explain to the parents. Of course, the parents could demand the students learn the tables. Why the times tables? Because they are key to understanding multiplication, division, factoring, and a myriad of other number based problems in both education and everyday life.


Second, our students can’t read. Oh! I know your little Johnny or Suzie has brought home certificates saying they read 50 books. Well, I’ll tell you a dirty little secret, kids are smart. They quickly learn what the teacher will be asking about the book, will ask another student who the main characters were and what the plot was, and pass the test without ever reading the book. Worse yet is they may be reading those books and thinking that “specific” is “Pacific”. Why because they have no one to filter their annunciation, pronunciation, and context.  How do we fix it?  Simple, we go back to the “good old days”. We make Johnny and Suzie read aloud in grade school. When they don’t pronounce a word correctly or can’t explain its meaning the teacher can correct them. Why don’t we do this? Because once again little Johnny or Suzie might get embarrassed. Is it productive? Think about this, I had a daughter who was very dyslexic who I made read a chapter out loud every night, tears and all. Today she is a college student and can read, albeit not as well as some.


We have to begin understanding that education is not easy. It never was and never will be. I’ve seen teachers who told me they don’t make students take notes because they hated it in school. Well, have they ever thought that those notes were part of what made them successful?

One more suggestion. Every discipline, Math, Science, History, Economics has events that highlight transitions within that field. History has always been known for its “time lines”. I might suggest all the disciplines develop a base timeline with key dates (no more than 24) spanning the pertinent periods. Leave adequate space for each discipline to enter discipline specific events but post the time line in EVERY classroom. Students would see 1776 in each discipline and the discipline specific events that surround it. From grade 3 to 12 that timeline can be used as a reference point for every teacher to help their students place events in context with other disciplines.