“Thank You for Being Late”
Pondering what to do next in retirement: a review of Thomas Friedman’s book.
Educational issues affecting San Mateo, CA (and others too!)
Pondering what to do next in retirement: a review of Thomas Friedman’s book.
Our community is now a month into its reopening and slightly less than a month away from the reopening of our high schools. We can still screw it up!
People need to hear all sides of the issues.
This may be the most important article in my blog. Let us never forget – society is our creation – the sum total of our values and choices, beginning with how we raise and educate our children!
Thursday, 9/5/2019 – I’ve taken a break from blogging this summer due to the press of personal obligations, but recently posted a short note about Dutch parenting techniques. The Dutch, according to UNESCO, supposedly raise the happiest kids in the world. By contrast, last school year in the SMHUSD the month of September focused on suicide prevention.
I will contrast the article above about Dutch parenting to a book that I eagerly read several years ago entitled “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom” by Amy Chua. As an interesting follow-up, here is a 2018 note from her younger daughter. The two of them frequently engaged in screaming matches as described in the book.
A new documentary has also been recently released on Netflix entitled “American Factory” and I strongly encourage everyone to stop whatever you are doing and watch this film ASAP!! It describes a former GM plant in Dayton, Ohio (this city was a recent site of yet another mass shooting), and the attempt to revitalize it as an automotive glass manufacturer as part of the Chinese company Fuyao. The culture contrast is stark, and Americans have a lot to learn from this film. Here is some initial Chinese and American reaction on Bloomberg News.
Finally I want to put in another word for a book that I have mentioned in the past as one of my favorites on education: “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way.”
I mention all of the above as a preamble to an upcoming review article, and I hope my readers will take the time to read/view this material first.
It is time for America to take a long hard look in the mirror… particularly before the next election!
One other short but important note – tonight is “Back to School Night” at Aragon High School.
School has now been in session for three weeks, and I still have students who have not received textbooks. In other classes, students have been given textbooks but were told by their teachers that they will not be using them.
This is reflective of a growing trend of handing out xeroxed worksheets to students instead of using textbooks. I personally find this abhorent.
Sure, textbooks have become outrageously expensive in many cases, but a critical part of an education is to learn how to learn, and, despite technological advances, the vast storehouse of human knowledge is still in books. I also believe California law requires each district to certify that their students have adequate textbooks.
I don’t care if the books are hardcopy or electronic. I do most of my reading with the Kindle software these days. That said, your children need to develop the skill of learning on their own by reading. If they don’t, they will have been deprived of a critical component of their education.
If your child is in this boat, please speak up at Back to School Night and request that they be given textbooks!!
Each school year seems to bring a new set of intriguing questions.
This year Aragon apparently has a fairly large freshman class according to my tutoring students. As the school’s “best in the district” reputation spreads, it becomes increasingly popular, and everyone wants to transfer their child there. I am concerned that this is starting to stress the teaching staff.
Even more interesting to me is that, according to student reports, there are a significant number of freshmen and sophomores who are already enrolled in AP calculus. I wonder how they progressed so far, so fast. Russian School of Math?? How is this impacting older students in what are already challenging classes?
Finally I have been told that several of the math classes are full, and that students who bit off too much and tried to drop back from Calculus BC to AB found very few, if any, available spots for them. Meanwhile, I am getting the usual calls for help, but my schedule for this school year filled up as always by early June.
I am trying to get more detailed information on the items above, and have placed some calls. If any parents of Aragon students, or students themselves, can relate their experiences, either by contacting me privately using the Contact page on this website or via the public Comments section of this article, that would be greatly appreciated.
Note added early AM, 9/17/2018: As of now, this article has been read 176 times since it was posted on Saturday. The comments that I have received have all requested anonymity and this will be honored. I’d appreciate your help shedding light on the questions raised above and will write a follow-up soon. Thank you!
In the interim I would like to remind parents of two of my blog articles written some time ago that are still relevant:
Critical Warnings re AP Classes
Info from UC Berkeley confirms why students should not skip from Precalculus to Calculus BC
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While not strictly an educational issue, this link leads to one of the most fascinating articles that I have read in a long time. It is about a female physicist named Cohl Furey who is using the hierarchy of number systems (real numbers, complex numbers, quaternions, octonions) to try to explain the fundamental properties of nature. While this line of investigation may not pan out ultimately, it is extremely interesting and the additional background material linked to from the article is also fascinating. One can skim some of the details, but it is worth reading in its entirety to get the flavor of modern research into the mysteries of the universe.
Developing the kind of passion with which Dr. Furey pursues her research should be our goal in education.
Since I have a Ph.D., I have often been asked why, after finishing my tech career, I wanted to teach high school instead of college. Here is an excerpt from the article above that explains why:
Furey, who is 39, said she was first drawn to physics at a specific moment in high school, in British Columbia. Her teacher told the class that only four fundamental forces underlie all the world’s complexity — and, furthermore, that physicists since the 1970s had been trying to unify all of them within a single theoretical structure. “That was just the most beautiful thing I ever heard,” she told me, steely-eyed. She had a similar feeling a few years later, as an undergraduate at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, upon learning about the four division algebras. One such number system, or infinitely many, would seem reasonable. “But four?” she recalls thinking. “How peculiar.”
A good high school teacher has the ability to “launch a thousand ships” to quote Homer. Sad that we are turning our educational system into a standardized test taking machine for college competition…
I am very hesitant to make this announcement given somewhat fragmentary information, but time is of the essence since grades were just posted yesterday, and it will be too hard to take corrective action if it is not done now.
I am getting very concerned that there *may* have been a problem with the precalculus final exam in one of the three precalc teachers’ classes at Aragon.
I have about a half dozen precalculus students this school year spread over multiple classes of the three precalculus teachers at Aragon. Several of my students did fine, but yesterday, when the grades for the final exams and the course were posted, some students were shocked by how poorly they did on the final exam. After calling their friends (who were not my students) they heard similar stories. These stories seemed to be concentrated in a particular teacher’s classes. For example, students who went into the final with an A in the class were shocked when they found out that they failed the final (these were not my students, but friends of them). Something (and there are obviously many possible causes) is clearly wrong when there is this big of a discrepancy between the final and the grade for the rest of the semester.
The problem with the system is that the finals are graded after the year ends and students never get to see them. In addition, there has been an increasing tendency at Aragon to use student “teaching assistants” to grade tests. I do not know if this was the case with the final exam in this class.
If you have a child who was negatively surprised, I want to let you know that you may not be alone in this case. You may want to call the school office as soon as possible next week and see what recourse you may have.
I realize that this note will make me even more despised at Aragon than I already am, but a student should have the opportunity to review his/her exam at the end of the school year, and this habit of quickly grading tests and heading out the door for the summer is problematic, to say the least.
After a long history of failed curriculum reforms, can parents do anything about public education? This is a Call to Action!
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Issues in Teaching Mathematics
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