The War of 1812, as an example of bullying - Macleans.ca
 

The War of 1812, as an example of bullying


 

Meanwhile, in Ontario, it’s 1969.

Ontario’s government is conducting a sweeping review of curriculum from Grades 1 to 8 to fix what educators charge is an overcrowded jumble of disconnected facts that fail to prepare the province’s 1.4 million students for the future.

Based on tough input gathered this fall from teachers and school boards, Queen’s Park says it will start clearing the clutter by the fall of 2011 with leaner guidelines, fewer checklists of facts and more time for deeper learning.

It is the first overhaul designed to weed out some of the staggering 3,400 “expectations” built into the new curriculum designed 10 years ago when Grade 13 was abolished.

So Ontario’s teachers and school boards think the curriculum is too demanding, too full of “expectations” and “facts.” Do Ontario’s parents? The story never mentions them. Not even once.

…. A tough-talking missive from the Toronto District School Board … called the curriculum “a series of overly robust subject-based documents which are disconnected, overwhelming and full of content reflective of 20th century knowledge. “The curriculum does not engage students within their own realities, nor does it integrate the skills society hopes to see in a 21st-century learner,” said the recent submission by a group of principals, teachers, superintendents and trustees.

I have no idea what “engaging students within their own realities” means. Luckily, a helpful educrat is nearby to make sense of it all:

Karen Grose, the board’s system superintendent, said it no longer makes sense to try to cram piles of facts into young minds.

“Our kids live in a world where they are immersed in content through things like Twitter and Google, so we don’t want them memorizing facts they can access easily, but we want them to think about how to apply that knowledge, and how it affects how they live as citizens and workers,” said Grose.

They don’t need to learn facts! They can get those from Twitter! Because, after all, it’s about the kids. Or maybe the teachers:

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said the review was sparked by years of complaints she has heard that the curriculum is overcrowded with material teachers scramble to cover.

But lest you think knowledge minus facts equals ignorance, nothing could be further than the truth.

“We’re not saying we don’t want kids to study the War of 1812, but let’s lift that subject to the ‘big idea’ of war in the current global context,” [Grose] said…

Thinning out the curriculum does not mean dumbing it down, said Toronto trustee Cathy Dandy, one of the authors of the TDSB’s submission. By spending less time teaching the small details of individual wars, said Dandy, it frees up more time to “weave it into a larger discussion of war and peace and conflict and even bullying.”

A prediction: twenty years from now, some future government will discover that they have ruined the education of a generation of children, as the “reforms” of the 1960s and 70s ruined mine. Then we will repeat the cycle all over again.

EXTRA CREDIT: The Society for Quality Education weighs in on Ontario’s new fact-free curriculum:

Ontario’s Liberal Party has been making very little progress towards fulfilling their promise that 75% of the province’s students will pass the provincial tests, even though the government has been throwing money at this problem for years…

Right. So if students can’t pass the tests, then either we teach them better, or …

The … tests are based on the curriculum. If the curriculum gets easier, the tests get easier. And, if the tests get easier, more students will be able to pass them. In other words, dumbing down the curriculum makes it more likely that the Liberal Party will be able to keep its 75% promise (albeit several years late) and get re-elected. A happy ending for all concerned, except of course the students who end up learning less.


 

The War of 1812, as an example of bullying

  1. Vote Liberal….then your kids will turn out to be a stupid as you!

  2. I find bashing teachers to be almost as enjoyable as bad mouthing pols.

    "Because, after all, it's about the kids. Or maybe the teachers:"

    A few close friends of mine are teachers and all of them are convinced what's good for them is good for the students as well. They go absolutely mental when I suggest that this is not the case.

    “Our kids live in a world where they are immersed in content through things like Twitter and Google, so we don't want them memorizing facts they can access easily, but we want them to think about how to apply that knowledge, and how it affects how they live as citizens and workers,”

    You know why kids in orient and asia kick our arse in educational achievement? Because they have not let twaddle like that enter their education system. Who cares about facts when there is 'deeper learning'! Providing facts are what schools are supposed to do. 'Deeper learning' is either teacher propaganda, which is what comparing War of 1812 to today's Afghan war is, or it is done by students on their own time if they have iq for it.

    Our whole education system is run by teachers who don't particularly enjoy their jobs and want to do as little as possible to prepare children for their future.

    • Kids from Asia kick our ass in educational achievement? Really? Well perhaps you are correct in the literal sense. Several Asian countries focus on exams and achieving grades on those exams. Suffice to say that a lot of people in the world see little benefit in that.

      I went to uni with a lot of immigrants from Asia and guess what. A lot of them were really good at regurgitating facts. I can also say that on the whole, their ability to use those facts for higher cognitive learning was weaker.

  3. Dakota – a clear victim of Liberal education, as you a stupids can see.

  4. Disgusting.

  5. What is considered the important facts to teach come and go, Andrew. In our time for example, it was important for us to memorize the multiplication tables. Now it just isn't that important as technology has taken over that task for us. What is more important than rote memorization of facts is that schools teach their students to think. All you need to do is look at many of the comments left here to see that our schools are doing a dismal job of that. So if they are finally going to focus on teaching that to students then it will improve our education system.

  6. My mother is a retired teacher, with an old-school mentality. I just sent this to her, which she will agree with 100%. A year or so before she retired, she gave hell to some kid for some reason or another (being a smartass or something of the like). Said child did not like the way he was spoken to and brought these concerns to his mother who brought them to the principal. After 30+ years teaching, my mother was brought to the principal's office for a conflict resolution meeting with said student, student's mother and the school Principal. None of whom, evidently, had more pressing concerns.

    • Conflict res between a teacher (an adult) and a student (a child)??? That is so far into the insane it's just sad.

  7. "Thinking" without facts. So we will be training a bunch of people for the comment boards.

  8. Rote memorization of multiplication tables may seem unnecessary in the age of calculators, but it's actually very important. Kids who haven't learned their times tables are at a significant disadvantage when they try to learn more advanced math concepts. Memorization of times tables allows students to perform calculations in their head. We're not just training them to push buttons.

  9. I remember learning my tables. Everyone got stumped by the "7"s I went through them on day one. Bless you football.

  10. My son is currently memorizing multiplication tables. Technology has not taken over the task, nor should it be allowed to. "Teach students to think"? About what, and using what, if not facts? And what better facts than those that don't change over time, like good ol' 5×5?

  11. Better luck next life, Dakota!

  12. Never mind advanced math. Knowing your multiplication tables helps you with every day activities like paying bills.

    McClelland would all have us stuptified when we are standing in line to pay for groceries and wondering what our total might be but, on the bright side, we would be able to 'think' about bills, cash and how capitalism is evil.

  13. I recently finished an engineering degree, and I found that having memorized my multiplication tables was pretty important – maybe historical dates would be a better example of your point.

    With respect to that point, however, I'm not sure that children have been forced to memorize anything just for the sake of it in a long time. Rather, taking stock of various facts in order to make a conclusion remains important. Teaching children to weigh evidence and form ideas can't happen without a good understanding of the evidence itself.

  14. When I was a kid, the youngest of three, I "inherited" a set of books called "The Books of Knowledge". I suppose I started using them when I was about 9, in 1963. I loved those books, but one of the things I remember 'learning' was that the national flag of Germany was the swastika.

    I have always felt that the most important thing grade school can teach a student is how to learn: how to look things up, how to do research. They should also strive to develop our natural curiousity to find things out.

    It's all well and good to learn some facts, but there is no point in cramming everything in an Encyclopedia into each little head, when it is far better to teach them how to find the answer, when they need it.

    Fact stuffing is good exercise for the brain, but one can over-indulge.

  15. It's even worse than that. We're training our kids to not even care about stuff like politics or governance.

  16. That's ambiguous. What is disgusting?

  17. "I recently finished an engineering degree, and I found that having memorized my multiplication tables was pretty important – maybe historical dates would be a better example of your point"

    Historical dates might be important to those who want to study history or politics, for a start, and not engineering.

  18. maybe historical dates would be a better example of your point.

    Perhaps, but more importantly if the screechers who are fixated on my example had the ability to think then whatever example I happened to casually chose wouldn't matter in the first place.

    I'm not sure that children have been forced to memorize anything just for the sake of it in a long time.

    True, but doesn't our education system still just throw a lot of facts at our children?

  19. On the bright side, the system was already a disaster, so it's not a big fall from a disaster to a catastrophe. Indeed, the latter brings a satisfying sense of closure.

  20. Doing calculations in your head inevitably leads to eventual mistakes in the calculations. You are human therefore you will at some point err.

  21. The War of 1812 isn't bad as an example of bullying, though in fairness it was the Americans getting their toes stepped on by the Brits. Analogy might be a new Grade 6 student who gets teased, tries to get revenge on the Grade-3 younger brother of his tormentor, and unfortunately, to cap the sequence of iniquity, gets his ass kicked by a 9-year-old.

  22. on top of that, today's teachers have no performance reviews with any meaningful outcomes, and no possibility they could lose their job if they happen to suck at it, or fail to deliver on the objectives of the organization they work for. And there's no incentive to do better work, or to innovate to keep up with or ahead the competition. in fact, the entire system rewards the most mediocre of all

  23. How would you rate your own grade school experience? If I recall correctly, you went to a very reputable school in Ottawa.

  24. I don't necessarily see the problem here. If they're thinning out the curriculum to make it easier, then sure, that's certainly a problem but if they're refocusing away from rote memorization of items towards teaching useful skills, then that's good news.

    I mean, in 7th grade I learned all about parts of speech and for a short while I could tell you about sub-adjectival clauses and the like, but it was soon completley forgotten as I can now (13 years later) only remember that I once knew this. On the other hand, in that same English class I also first learned how to write an essay there is absolutely nothing I can think of that has contributed to my education and my ability to communicate as much as that.

    If this is more essays and less parts of speech, just as examples, then this may not be nearly as bad as you're saying.

  25. A bit of an odd twist on that is that in some universities (long after the damage has been done), things are becoming quite focused on the students and not the teachers. For instance, at UBC these days there's quite a rigorous instructor evaluation process that goes on, in which all the students are strongly encouraged to (and given class time to) fill out these online evaluations of their instructors, which go into the instructor evaluation process. Note that nothing of the sort typically happens at the primary or secondary education level.

  26. You are human therefore you will at some point err.

    So what? The ability to perform calculations in one's head is directly related to one's ability to learn algebra, calculus and higher math concepts. It's also linked to other cognitive capabilities. It's also convenient in daily life.

    In short, the ability to perform basic arithmetic without a calculator is a fundamental and important life skill.

  27. Thanks to a mother who keeps everything I am able to compare the current curriculum to what I was learning in primary school in the 1960s. My 8 year old daughter is in grade 3 and when I compare what she is expected to learn at school with what I had to cover when I was in grade 3 (in 1963) I find that what I was learning is equivalent to grade 5 today!!!! My mother in law also retained all my wife's primary school records (home work etc) from the school system in France and the discrepancy between the material she covered at age 8 and what my daughter is expected to learn is also striking.

  28. "Meanwhile, in Ontario, it's 1969."

    Why not? Afterall, it's 1970 in <del>Vietnam</del> out! Afghanistan.

    • 1969 is probably a reference to Hall-Dennis report, which kicked off a big round of 'progressivist' school reform in Ontario, which sounds eerily similar to the contemporary proposed changes.

  29. What my wife learned at age 8 was 2 years ahead of what my daughter is expected to learn. We were in France this summer and we bought the curriculum related materials for their equivalent of grade 4 and 5. It came as a bit of a surprise that the current curriculum in French Schools hasnt changed much in its expectations since the 60s. But the Ontario Curriculum has been dumbed down to the point where our grade 5 is largely equivalent to their grade 3. Fortunately there is in toronto a Lycee Francais which follows the french curriculum. It is a private school and will cost almost as much as going to law school. However since the alternative is to continue sending our daughter to public schools which have given up actually teaching anything we will be sending her there next year. In the meantime my wife is supplementing my daughter's work so that she isnt as dumbed down as the curriculum would have her be. It should be noted that the current school curriculum is the result of the efforts of liberal, conservative and NDP governments who all share the blame.

  30. Aargh, apaprently my mastery of html is also in 1970. (strikethrough Vietnam/replace with Afghanistan). Sorry.

  31. I was in public school in Ottawa my whole career (in the "enriched" stream). Looking back, the definitive experience was Grade 1 and Grade 2, both taught by one truly gifted teacher (Mrs. Sargeant was her name, I revere it still). Combined with a learning-friendly family environment, that early school experience gave me a love of independent learning that has pretty much defined my life, though it also, tragically, raised expectations for the latter grades (often unfulfilled) and the first years of undergrad. I'd say that POV disqualifies me to speak of the benefits of curricular rigour, since I was addicted to acquiring hard facts on my own; though I can attest that the least frustrating courses, from Grade 7 onward, were the least touchy-feely. High school (at Lisgar in Ottawa) was good overall, especially as I was able to sink my teeth into the technical challenge of grammar, though I resented the petty tyranny of The System.

  32. You could stand to tone it down a little sometimes. "Screechers"? No one "screeched" at you. "Fixated on your example"? I paused to consider if I was doing that while I was responding, decided that it was the example you chose and that your argument could live or die on that. Because I am sympathetic to your overall argument, you can have another shot at it with a different example if you want, but honestly, who taught you to think, that you believe it's acceptable to crap on others for finding fault with your argument? Sheesh!

    • I actually screeched.

  33. But how is this kind of mental exercise going to help you in the real world? YOu should be learning FACTS, mister!

  34. I'm sure your mother is a lovely woman, and your story is just vague enough to suggest that maybe she was right. I wonder if that kid, all grown up now, is kicking around the Maclean's blogs somewhere, with the other side of that story to share. Anyone? psiclone? Robert McClelland? I would do it, but I've never been accused of being a smartass, so I don't know what that's all about.

  35. That's funny, I don't recall the Viet Cong carrying out an attack on US soil, resulting in thousands of civilian US deaths, prior to the US sending troops to Vietnam. Could you perhaps provide a link?

    Otherwise, I think you need to check out the difference between apples and oranges.

  36. I agree that children should be taught how to think, and not which facts to remember. High school teachers were either trying to teach me to think for myself, or to spit back the facts from their textbook to them, in the correct order.

    I think I disagree with Coyne on this one. It's high time a review was done. I don't think our education system is perfect, but I prefer the ideas behind the stated approach to this review than to the alternatives discussed in this thread.

  37. Actually, from reports I think it's about 1270 in Afghanistan.

  38. Ha, good point. It does seem a strange either/or. But I would have thought that making The Facts relevant and attractive was the nature of teaching, not something to be formulated province-wide.

  39. "The summer of Lhav the Seventh."

  40. especially as I was able to sink my teeth into the technical challenge of grammar, though I resented the petty tyranny of The System.

    Sounds like you were quite the rebel in high school! ;-)

    I also had a positive grade school experience in the Separate (Catholic) School District in Calgary (French immersion K12). At the time, the Separate district had roughly half as many students as the Public district, and the Separate district was constantly being flooded with applications from non-Catholic parents because the quality was perceived to be higher.

    While some teachers were mediocre, there were also some very talented educators (including a few who made a real difference, like your Mrs. Sargeant.) In high school, I was in the IB program, which provided much more curricular rigour than the regular program.

  41. I find it deliciously ironic to see discussions about educational standards in our woefully dumbed-down, post-literate mainstream media.

    • The irony of you pretending you're operating on such a high intellectual plain as compared to AC is what's delicious.

      I know I know. I'll say it for you. Who cares what you think?

  42. As a product of the Harris education years, and with a spouse who is a teacher in the public system currently, I can say that these years are far better than the ones we had to endure.

  43. Once experienced teacher I know very well told me of a conversation she had with her principal. She was asking him why the curriculum has become so intense for the very little ages. He answered that all studies concluded that kids CAN learn that much so it's better to offer it and have them fail if they're up to the task then not offer it at all. She then replied that there's nothing Communistic about our society that would be conducive to that sort of behavior in our very young kids. To that he had no answer.

    In a way I agree with her. It's not every kids that have the ability to learn that much, so telling them that though they are unique, they have to learn the same thing as the whiz kid is just putting salt in the wound. I think an education in a capitalistic society should be a lot more dynamic; a strict curriculum of basic skills for everyone, with the opportunity to learn more as they go along for extra credit. So kids who don't have the ability or the will to learn much can still learn the basic skills and move along while those who are powerhouses and are left unmotivated by the basic curriculum can add more skills and knowledge for a very shiny CV in the end.

    I know, it's not efficient, but at least it's effective.

  44. Indeed, a friend and I started an underground student newspaper, the Lisgarwrong (the official paper being the Lisgarwrite, read by Lisgarites), to lambaste & lampoon. Much loved by the student body, much ignored by the powers that be. The official paper was quite good too, though.

    I must say I'm almost always impressed by the on-the-ballness of people who have gone to Separate schools; would you say the quality was higher because the curriculum was higher in fibre?

    You raise the vital question of student / parent choice, as with parents trying to get their kids into the Separate district in Calgary. This is sort of the elephant in the room, eh? I'd like to see a model for vouchers that guaranteed certain classes / communities would not get left behind, if such a model exists. I mean, I'm a firm believer both in a student's right to choose (as tending to defang tyrant teachers) and in the power of competition (sadly lacking in all intellectual spheres these days, starting with primary education); but at all costs we must avoid the ghost-town inner city schools of the USA. I lived next to one such in Worcester, MA, for a year before realising it was actually operating: we definitely don't want to create publicly funded "Savage Inequalities" here. But I would hope it's again not an either/or.

  45. Perhaps you should let your computer do the thinking, and typing, for you.

    You indeed erred in your example, but of course you don't have the grace to admit it.

  46. Compare and contrast: "Ability to perform" with "Rote memorization of"

    Teaching kids the base principles of multiplication and how to apply them is considerably harder than teaching them to simply remember the table. That's why there are a lot of kids who can get up to 12×12 but no higher — because they get taught the "rote memorizaton of" and not the "ability to perform".

    It remains to be seen how the Ontario changes will boil down, but if they start teaching more of the latter than the former, I don't think that's a bad thing.

  47. "McClelland wants everyone to be stuptified when they are standing in line to pay for groceries and wondering what their total might be."

    You have to wonder where the type of thinking that leads to bizarre statements like this was refined. I doubt very much the public education system had much to do with it.

    The prime determiner of student performance are parental attitudes towards education. The right wing cranks and loons around here are just expecting teachers to do what they or their parents didn't/wouldn't do. Because, as we all know, when it comes to the right, it's always someone else's fault.

  48. I'm one of those kids that learned the principles instead of memorizing the results. Quizes were tough because I had to mentally to each calculation steps even for basic multiplication but when it came to learning new material I was way ahead of the pack because they were simply an extension of the basic principles.

  49. "A prediction: twenty years from now, some future government will discover that they have ruined the education of a generation of children, as the “reforms” of the 1960s and 70s ruined mine."

    Well, something ruined your education, that's for sure. But I'm pretty sure the causes are social, class-based or experiential and have little do with those tender years between 6 and 18.

  50. Evolution, natural selection, is the prime determiner of student performance and that's why teachers should not try to teach us to 'think' and stick with facts.

    "Our kids live in a world where they are immersed in content through things like Twitter and Google, so we don't want them memorizing facts they can access easily, but we want them to think about how to apply that knowledge, and how it affects how they live as citizens and workers,"

    Grose sounds like a good totalitarian. Facts, smacts, the State should teach kids to 'think' or 'how to apply knowledge'.

  51. Ontario dumbing down it's curriculum.

    • Clearly that is true, since you don't seem to know that "it's" means "it is"

  52. So you respond by dumbing down you blog comments?

  53. What do you want? A treatise? It's the internet.

  54. "Evolution, natural selection, is the prime determiner of student performance and that's why teachers "

    Read that somewhere, did you?

    Actually, I shouldn't have written performance. I should have written success. And indeed genetics plays a part in how well a student performs in school. A successful student, however, is one that does the best with what he or she has.

    Don't get me wrong. I think these discussions about how technology has replaced the types of activities that develop young brains are entirely wrong-headed. But I do tend to notice that the people who complain the most about education (their own or of their children) are people who think it's largely someone else's responsibility. It isn't.

    She's right about facts though. A fact is only a fact until it is falsified, which happens all the time. I wonder how many of you right wing geniuses actually know that?

  55. "a larger discussion of war and peace and conflict and even bullying" is about the teacher imparting his or her opinions on a bunch of duped students.

    A discussion about the war of 1812 is the teacher doing his job. The student can then decide on his own, after learning the facts, how he feels about war and peace.

    I pity the poor students in Ontario today, they are really getting shafted by the teachers.

  56. Albertan, right?

    • C'mon, humour us Pseudo. It's Toronto isn't it?

  57. Obviously your youthful zen for lambasting and lampooning has found a new outlet on these comment boards!

    I'm not sure that Separate school students turned out to be much more "on the ball" than Public school students. On average, Separate school students performed slightly better on standardized tests, but that could be attributed to higher parental involvement, and other social factors unrelated to quality of education. I can't really make a fair comparison to the Public system, because I never experienced it.

    I share your firm belief in the right of students and parents to choose schools. That's why I don't have a problem with private schools receiving public subsidies. I also agree that it's not an either/or proposition. Canada is among the world's richest countries, and we can certainly afford to provide students and parents with actual choices while maintaining basic quality standards for all schools.

  58. Wrong. Originally from Quebec and living in Ontario.

  59. Who's *we* here? My children know quite a bit about politics and governance. Because we talk about those things, at home.

  60. What a pile of nonsense. For instance;

    Anyone who has done well at higher levels of math, has NEEDED to be able to quickly multiply in their head.

    Higher levels of math don't require someone to be able to multiply, divide, add or subtract quickly in their head. In fact, higher levels of math rarely rely on complex use of these basic skills at all.

    You should think before posting.

  61. "I'd like to see a model for vouchers that guaranteed certain classes / communities would not get left behind"

    If I was designing school system, I would make everyone attend public schools from kindergarten to Grade 6 and the focus would be on passing knowledge/facts onto the pupils.

    From Grade 7 to graduation, the state would give $10,000 to parents for each child they have and they would be responsible for what schools their children attend. Public school would end at Grade 6 and Grade 7 and up would be private but paid for by State. I would encourage the schools to differentiate themselves and let parents have choice. Some would be normal school like now but others would focus more on maths or sciences or arts or sports or whatever.

    I watched Michael Gove, UK Con Party's education guy, on Coren's show the other week and he claimed that Alberta kids test best in world tests. What Gove said specifically was, I think, Finland and Singapore kids do best on world standardized tests but Alberta kids do best in comparisons with other Brit/Anglo countries. Apparently Alberta schools offer much more choices when it comes to kinds of schools pupils attend.

  62. One quick point – while there certain are tonnes of expectations in the curriculum, nobody teaches all of them. You can't. It's more of a guideline to check a potential lesson plan against to see if it's acceptable.

    Now back to our regularly scheduled program "let's sh*t all over teachers and the education system because it ain't like I remember it and while I haven't really thought about it too much, gaddamit I got an ideological axe to grind!" already in progress.

  63. actually in Ontario you now are required to take a half-credit in civics in Grade 10 (something they certainly did not have when I went in the 90s when there was still OAC). And the second half of that credit is career training (how to interview, write a cover letter/resume, how to look for work, how to train to get to that career you want etc etc)

    So in this regard it's actually improved.

  64. and FINALLY somebody gets it!!

    Thank You!!

  65. 1969 all over again is right. The statements by the educators above make it clear they are attempting to reassert the concepts of "whole language education" and "child-centred learning" that were all the rage back in the 1970s. For anyone familiar with those concepts, it really jumps right out at you.

    The curriculum does not engage students within their own realities, nor does it integrate the skills society hopes to see in a 21st-century learner…

    That statement reads like it's pulled straight out of a 1970s scholarly paper on "child-centred learning", particularly the reference to "their own realities". They've only changed the century.

    "We're not saying we don't want kids to study the War of 1812, but let's lift that subject to the ‘big idea' of war in the current global context,” [Grose] said…

    …it frees up more time to “weave it into a larger discussion of war and peace and conflict and even bullying.”

    And there's your "whole language". Only a true-believer of the whole language approach could possibly "weave" a connection between the War of 1812 and modern day bullying.

    Those trendy concepts were thrown into the trash can for a reason. Sounds like some aging hippies are doing some frantic dumpster-diving to rescue them before they retire.

  66. Torontonian, right?

    • You nailed it, pseudo's from TO.

  67. "people who think it's largely someone else's responsibility"

    If teaching kids is parents responsibility, why have teachers at all? Should everyone be home schooled because that sounds good to me, I would like reduction in my taxes.

  68. "we can certainly afford to provide students and parents with actual choices while maintaining basic quality standards for all schools."

    I think that's the bottom line, whatever philosophy of education (and enrollment scheme) one adopts. Schools have been staggeringly underfunded for 15 years now, at least in Ontario. Politicians of all stripes never tire of framing every second issue in terms of "our children's future" etc., yet the actual children, and their actual future, is consistently a low budgetary priority.

  69. If expecting kids to learn facts instead of how to think about facts without actually learning them is an "ideology", then it is a good one.

  70. I like that idea. Perhaps if one paired such a voucher system (for Grade 7 & up) with a massive, ongoing effort to inform uneducated parents about what their options were, you could avoid Savage Inequalities. The problem being that a lot of parents just have no idea about schools and actually very little interest — which may come as a shock to the highly edumacated folk on these boards, but is the reality. Perhaps if there were active consultants going door to door, helping parents choose, that would allow the voucher system to work.

  71. sigh…what's more important to know – the date of Vimy Ridge, or what happened at Vimy Ridge and how it shaped the face of Canada?

    I strongly suspect that the kinds of facts that the Grose is referring to are of the "World War Two started on ______"

  72. If I told you that kids don't need to learn the alphabet before they learn to read, since they can look it up, you would rightly think I was illiterate (or had forgotten how I learned to read).

    Your display of mathematical illiteracy is just as striking to me.

    Just admit you were WRONG, and change your example to historical dates, and you may have had a decent debate.

    Clinging to an idea after it has been shown to you to be wrong-headed, only makes you seem stubborn…
    unwilling to admit what you don't know.

    • "change your example to historical dates, and you may have had a decent debate."

      Not to be petulant, but historical dates are a lot like multiplication tables in the way they train the mind to instantly calculate. In effect they serve as signposts between periods, so that if you know the Battle of Waterloo took place in 1815 and then learn that Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813 AND Coleridge's Biographia Literaria appeared in 1817, you're able to correlate the two books chronologically by period (each appeared within two years of Waterloo). Otherwise the separate facts about 1813 and 1817 are just random numbers.

  73. You can thank Mike Harris for that.

  74. Obviously the latter. But that's not what they're saying. They seem to be saying that what's important to know is how Vimy Ridge can perceived in a modern context, and woven into a conversation about bullying.

  75. The "ideas" are decades old, and have been found wanting. When they come up with some innovative new ideas that actually have merit, a review might be worthwhile.

  76. He's probably not just Torontonian, he's probably from the 416 region. Possibly Rosedale.

  77. I posted this above but I think it's relevant to your comments:

    Once experienced teacher I know very well told me of a conversation she had with her principal. She was asking him why the curriculum has become so intense for the very little ages. He answered that all studies concluded that kids CAN learn that much so it's better to offer it and have them fail if they're up to the task then not offer it at all. She then replied that there's nothing Communistic about our society that would be conducive to that sort of behavior in our very young kids. To that he had no answer.

    In a way I agree with her. It's not every kids that have the ability to learn that much, so telling them that though they are unique, they have to learn the same thing as the whiz kid is just putting salt in the wound. I think an education in a capitalistic society should be a lot more dynamic; a strict curriculum of basic skills for everyone, with the opportunity to learn more as they go along for extra credit. So kids who don't have the ability or the will to learn much can still learn the basic skills and move along while those who are powerhouses and are left unmotivated by the basic curriculum can add more skills and knowledge for a very shiny CV in the end.

    I know, it's not efficient, but at least it's effective.

  78. You obviously have never done well at even high-school level math, or else you would understand how baseless your statement is… to the point of being ludicrous.

    So enlighten me. I'll be very impressed if you can put forth a logical argument explaining why committing 8×8=64 to memory enables you to learn more effectively how to prove Birch's theorum or calculate tangents.

  79. If you think there's nothing wrong with the retro-trendy philosophies being espoused by the educators above, then clearly your own education needs improvement.

  80. I have more faith in parents than you. Most parents care a great deal about their child's education. I think a lot of parents don't take much interest in school is because there is no reason to. Between catchment areas and teachers not caring what parents think, parents do not have much to contemplate. There are some appalling parents, granted, but they are going to screw up their kids regardless.

  81. "why the curriculum has become so intense"

    A primary school kid's brain is a sponge. They can take in a lot of information. They are not yet thinkers, however. I agree that there will be some children who will struggle with 3Rs and need extra tuition from special teachers.

  82. "why the curriculum has become so intense"

    I have suggested something similar to my teacher friends. State gives, say, $10,000 per child, per annum to parents and they choose which fee paying school their kids go to. Teachers do not like this idea at all – education is much more than imparting useful knowledge and facts to teachers nowadays. They think of themselves as moral guardians.

    • Charter schools fascinate me because they are public, they get the same funds – everything is the same except they don't have to follow the bureaucratic rules, they just need to have successfully taught kids when they leave. My uncle was involved in setting one or two up in Calgary and they have endless waiting lists. In the last provincial election I called the PC guy running in my area and asked what he thought of charters. (I didn't ask specifically about outright school choice so as not to shock anybody) Still, the person answering the phone scoffed at me! But he himself talked about how choice was really good and how he noticed a big difference in education quality having moved from Ontario to Alberta – that's what he attributed it to.

      John Stossel's 'Stupid in America' about charters and school choice is on youtube, that's where I learned about Belgium. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx4pN-aiofw

  83. Why should we be surprised or offended, Andrew?

    We've become a nation of consumers instead of citizens.
    Jolyon, it seems capitalism run amok CAN be evil.
    Don't blame teachers and governments.
    They try to send kids to libraries not to malls.
    So kids are prepared for attack ads (Co-o-ol !) not
    civic duties like participating thoughtfully in elections.

  84. Oh I agree. And my experience with this is (teaching) in a professional faculty, where tuition has gone up considerably over the last decade or two. The students have become very vocal consumers, and I have to say, that's had a positive effect on the administration and faculty's attitude towards the quality of teaching and the importance of teaching.

  85. "Most parents care a great deal about their child's education."

    I think you're being very optimistic with that formulation. Even if they care, they don't necessarily know what to do: they've never had choice in education, and they wouldn't know where to begin. If implemented, a voucher system's greatest danger would be complacent trust in parents' wisdom, to be emended if possible.

  86. "Training kids to evaluate rather than recite — to seek out corroborating or conflicting facts rather than accept one version of authority — is a far more useful skill."

    I completely agree. But they need material to train on. They need a latticework into which to weave their own strands of self-sought knowledge.

  87. Of course I see the similarities as well. I did read an interesting (and decidely pessimistic) article lately about the importance of the tribal aspect of the Afghan conflict. It was in the eu referendum blogspot, of all places. Anyway, that's another important difference from Vietnam, and one that makes Afghanistan even more complicated and (in the veiw of the authors) unwinnable.

  88. Actually, from reports I think it's about 1270 in Afghanistan.

  89. Our answers made me think of something I have longed believed.

    People: Good or bad? Are people good and don't need much minding from authorities or are they not to be trusted and need constant supervision.

    How you answer that can tell you a lot about someone's political beliefs.

  90. Enjoy your Birch theorum, or whatever.

    I was talking about algebra, formulas, conversions, etc.

    You know stuff that you "higher intellects" never seem to worry yourself with.

    Anyway, it is safe to say that I'm glad you have no say at setting standards in our schools.

    Brain drain would have a whole new meaning if Canada took your enlightened advice.

  91. Not to play cynic, but these sorts of things happen when adults and near-adults are actually paying for their education.

  92. People may not pick on you so much, if you actually think before posting.

    By saying that memorizing multiplication tables has no use in the age of the calculator, you have done little but betray your lack of math training.

    Anyone who has done well at higher levels of math, has NEEDED to be able to quickly multiply in their head.

    So you talk about how we should get rid of this memorization, which is fundamental to higher math learning, and wonder why people call you out on it?

    It's not our ability to think that is compromised.

    It is your ignorance, compounded by your arrogance, which cause those who understand something about math education, to shake our heads in disbelief.

    If you put your lack of critical thinking on display, don't be suprised when people slow down, to look at the car wreck of your thoughts.

  93. Sigh. People have been complaining about education since the dawn of time. It's amazing that even though each subsequent generation is subject to a "dumbed-down" curriculum, we seem to be continually progressing and building more and more incredible things.

  94. I agree there are differences but surely you see some similarities:

    Losing the fight to win hearts and minds
    Sending in a surge to exit with dignity
    Propping up a corrupt government to take over
    Danger on the borders
    Waning international patience

    And rejoinder to AC: What year was it in Cambodia when Pol Pot started his descent into power? Was that 1969 or 1169? What year is it right now in Pakistan?

  95. The thing is, facts are pretty much instantly available for anybody who cares to look these days.

    You want to know the population of Zimbabwe? Google it on your 3G enabled device.. it'll take you all of 30 seconds pretty much anywhere in North America.. and it's only going to get faster and easier.

    So no, kids don't need to learn "the facts" from school. Kids need to learn how to evaluate the facts that they find.. so that when they look up the population of zimbabwe, they can figure out to discard the census figures from 1965 and the argument from some blogger.. call him Stain.. who might argue that the population of Zimbabwe is actually 3x what the census says but they're just over here right now trying to impose a cultural takeover on North America or whatever.

    Training kids to evaluate rather than recite or to seek out corroborating or conflicting facts rather than accept one version of authority is a far more useful skill.

  96. Ontario dumbing down it's curriculum.

  97. Good people are good, bad people are bad, no? But bad people presume good people are bad too, and good people presume bad people are good. We all think that, fundamentally, everybody should be more like us.

  98. Now, you simplify too much, Mr. Mitchell. Perhaps the Grade 6 student was chattering noisily to the bully about how it was his manifest destiny to roll his Grade 1 brother for his lunch money, and the bully laid on some solid teasing only to eventually stop. However, shortly after he stopped, the Grade 6 student tried to beat up the little kid anyway, got thumped, but at least got the satisfaction of punching the bully in the nose once he finally stopped bickering with the French kid and went over to help l'il bro.

    Actually, that sounds much more like the playgrounds I remember anyway.

  99. Anyone who says "engage students within their own realities" should be fired on the spot. It's basically saying you don't want to teach.

  100. Likely in spite of our education, not because of it.

  101. Just mention the concept of chartered schools in the wrong crowd; instant moral outrage.

  102. Yep, that one definetely goes in the "good idea" pile for Harris. Getting rid of OAC (and shifting it to 1st year university for all intents and purposes) definetely belongs in the "bad idea" pile.

  103. I didn't say "teaching." I said "education." Teacher's are charged with formal education, but the process extends beyond the school.

  104. Nobody. That's why I persist in seeking your attention. Please validate me. You're all I've got.

  105. Apparently in Belgium education funds are attached to the student. Parents (parents!) choose the school for their kid be it secular, catholic or muslim and it seems they inexplicably tend to choose the schools they believe will give their kid the best education and not the schools with the greatest amounts of beer and popcorn.

    Wild, that.

  106. You obviously have never done well at even high-school level math, or else you would understand how baseless your statement is… to the point of being ludicrous.

    Keep digging yourself deeper. Those of us who have done well in post-secondary math courses will still shake our heads at your suppositions.

    To denude our children of this basic knowledge that is VITAL in post-secondary (or even high-school) math.

    That is your crusade dude, and it is a pathetic one.

    TRY doing some algebra without multiplying, dividing,adding,or subtracting in your head.

    You obviously don't have a clue as to what you're saying.

  107. "The thing is, facts are pretty much instantly available for anybody who cares to look these days."

    I agree with gist of your point, Thwim, but you have to remember we are talking about primary school and children's brains are not developed yet to do what you suggest. What you are talking about makes sense for high school kids, maybe, but not six year olds. Kids need foundation of knowledge – "evaluate rather than recite" comes later.

  108. The goal of education isn't "to teach facts", its "to form minds". The teachers have a point, although even they probably don't know it – all they mean by "think about how to apply that knowledge, and how it affects how they live as citizens and workers" is make their classes into emotive discussions about people's feelings on various current events.

    Learning facts, in education, is a means to an end rather than the end itself. You learn the facts of history so that you can understand historical cause and effect, and see the origins of various societies (including your own). You learn the times tables in math so that you can easily make mental approximations and relate various quantities to each other in math and physics, not because you need to be a human calculator. You learn basic anatomy in biology so that you can understand and think about explanations of concepts such as blood circulation and nerve signal transmission, not so that you can perform a surgery.

    Taking the "Facts" out of education leaves it entirely worthless, but facts alone do not an education make. A truly good education requires basic facts together with the arts of logic, grammar, rhetoric, mathematics, and music, as well as the sciences of physics and philosophy and the civic intelligence that can only be provided by history.

    A free society requires free minds. Free minds require the ability to comprehend and analyze the world independently. This is what education is for. Anything less leaves one enslaved to narratives imposed by others, i.e. truly bound by ignorance.

    • As both a Physics and Philosophy teacher, I am bound to deal with your comments from two separate ends. I would agree with you wholeheartedly that it is a mind that is being formed, but not always a willing one.

      • Yes, you can't free someone who prefers the easy path of remaining bound.

  109. They trust parents with that? That' s just crazy!

  110. Actually I think the "dumbing down" is a recent (i.e. last 120 years) phenomenon. Before that education was generally improving.

    As to our "progressing and building more and more incredible things", the "progress" seems to be entirely of the technical variety. Compare the writing of Lincoln or Crane (neither of whom went to university) to anything written by a high school or baccalaureate graduate today and you will be struck by the degradation in clarity of thought and articulation.

  111. Did you? I must have missed it. My apologies for the oversight.

  112. Indeed, some of the most educated people I ever knew were of my grandmother's generation, including my grandmother herself. She was always reading, and always kept a dictionary nearby. She could read and write in three languages, write beautiful poetry, and knew her history better than anyone. She had grade 4.

    Education is what happens outside the classroom. The "education" system is more about credentialism.

  113. Actually:

    "The capacity to learn, remember, and symbolize information, and to solve problems, exists at a simple level in young infants, who can perform cognitive tasks such as discriminating animate and inanimate beings or recognizing small numbers of objects" – Patterson C (2008). Child Development. New york: McGraw-Hill.

    If you ever had children you would they do a great deal of thinking.

  114. You are absolutely correct. I should have wrote critical thinking, not just thinking.

    What gets me is that educators don't seem to realize that evolution is more than a theory, that it has real world consequences. Scientists have good idea how brain/intellect develops over the years and teaching critical thinking skills to seven year olds is pointless.

  115. Who cares what you think?

  116. Andrew,

    Too bad this story came out today as opposed to yesterday

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/sports/2010winterg

    Because this quote is SOOOOOOO apporpriate

    "As Stephen himself admits, he has little time for facts, logic or information… he prefers to feel the truth rather than look it up in historical records,"

    Art imitates life.

  117. I'm willing to think that a lot of people, including Coyne, are missing part of the message. It's not just "learning facts" vs. "deeper thinking," it's that there are too many facts (supposedly).
    In a given amount of time, a student can only learn so many things. If you put in too many goals and too many objectives, you flood the boat. You can only hit the turbo button so many times.

    As for parents' input, in a class of 30 how many kids have parents that actually know what the learning objectives are for the year? I'm willing to guess maybe 1. Maybe. Yet many think that their input is neccessary on this particular issue? I guess those people live in a different utopian world than I do. Exactly what opinion would be elucidated from parents if they don't even know what the baseline matrix is? Parents can provide fantastic feedback on how well or poorly their kids are doing with general learning outcomes, but can they offer advice on whether 59 topics are too many for Science 8, particulary if they have no idea if it is 58, 25 or 102 topics that their kids are currently studying?

    For people that like to harken back to the good old days when they were in school, riddle me this. How many prescribed learning outcomes did you have then, and how many are there now?

    I consider myself to be a high-functioning productive member of society and I have no idea, for example, how I would beneift from learning the details of the war of 1812. There are a lot of things in this world that I can have knowledge on, and being crammed with tedious facts that many of you think are so important perhaps doesn't matter to others. For example, I would pass on 253 "facts", if instead my children were taught a general unit on hatred and genocide by studying what led to wars in Kosovo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, WWII, the crusades.

    • And those lessons would all include "facts", or they wouldn't have any value at all.

      • Sure, it will have a ton of facts. But the facts aren't the learning outcomes. For example, instead of requiring the student to remember 253 things, the student could be asked to describe 3 negatives of politics based on ethnic lines and how that would affect future generations of their community. I'm not a teacher, so I don't know if my example makes sense but I hope that the point is taken.

        Facts are considered the lowest level of cognitive understanding in education.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom%27s_Taxonomy

        Swamping kids with facts, if there are other things that could be more productive, doesn't make sense. I'm not in a position to pass judgment on the curriculum in Ontario. All I'm saying is that a lot of people don't think that memorizing facts is terribly important. Secondly, unless parents show that they have a good understanding on what the prescribed learning outcomes are for students, I absolutely agree that they shouldn't be part of the decision making process for these outcomes.

        • Agreed. I'm not advocating for rote memorization of facts and dates. I think test questions like, "What date was Louis Riel hanged on?" are completely useless. But the facts – as well as the disputed interpretations – surrounding the Riel Rebellion and his eventual treason conviction are important to the country's history, and should be taught. Whether the kid thinks they happened in 1820 or 1880 is secondary. I get really nervous when I hear educators talking they way they are in the quotes cited above.

  118. Outrageous. Ontario's curriculum already ill-prepares students for post-secondary education. "Thinning out" the curriculum might help more students pass standardized tests, but it will also lead to a far steeper learning curve when those students move past elementary and high school – they don't let you take Twitter into a first year history exam.

  119. I realize I am posting too late, and won't get any responses here. To some extent, I like the idea of limiting the importance of rote memorization in the curriculum – particularly if it enables students to cover a broader time period. In many respects this is an acceleration of existing trends for Ontario (incidentally, declinists should look at international testing results – Ontario students perform exceptionally).

    On the other hand, I am not sure I trust high school teachers to do so effectively. The study of international relations is radically different from conflict resolution between individuals. The international system is anarchic in that there is no authority higher than an individual state. By contrast, individuals live within states and are governed by laws. Individuals are unitary actors in the truest sense of the word, and thus prone to things like psychological/personal explanations. By contrast, similar approaches to explain interstate warfare have generally not been particularly successful (despite the tendency of journalists to discuss international relations in terms of the personal relationships between leaders). Moreover, I take particular umbrage at the notion that students should learn about history through a particular normative lens (eg. country X was bullying country Y).

    An approach that might make sense would be to introduce high school students to a barebones outline of some prominent theories of conflict. Realism and liberalism, for instance. They can then discuss which one better accounts for the war of 1812. Was it a case of domestic politics driving the American invasion (eg. the pressure of the war hawks in congress)? Or was it a rational attempt by the US to 1. retaliate against the British practice of capturing American sailors; 2. to enhance US strength so as to deter a British invasion? Or was it something else?