Double Helixes and Double Crosses (was: Favorite NON-fiction)

Tue Jan 28 13:04:54 PST 2003

>Oh, I'll agree that the nature of HS these days (and I'll admit
>it's been awhile since I was there...:) is to shove as many
>"facts" into the kids as possible, and then leave them to it.

I think that this has been the nature of HS for a very long time, at least 
in this country.  Bear in mind, until relatively recently, the function of 
high school was to prepare the vast majority of students for vocational 
careers and was *not* intended to be a springboard towards college.  That 
only came to be the case post World War II. I think that much of the 
problems that I have with HS education, and public education, in general, is 
as a result of this legacy.

[Farm Example]
>Sure.  But you shouldn't tell a kid "this is the way it is".

I doubt that that is often how anything is presented... except by the 
implication of omission.  What is omitted is the caveat that there is more 
to learn.

Be that as it may, I don't generally think that's *that* big of a problem.  
To use an example that you cite, I did learn the old I before E rule, and no 
one, at the time, bothered to state that there was more to it.  In spite of 
that, it didn't take much exposure for me to see that it was a 
generalization, nor did I feel, in any way, decieved.  The important thing 
is that I *was* exposed to the exceptions as soon as I was ready to handle 
them.  It is the lack of follow up, in my opinion, that constitutes the 
greater lapse.

>you don't teach kids math by sending them into Calculus.  But you don't
>teach them their basic arithmatic and then tell them there is nothing
>after that, either.

I think that, so long as you *do* show them that there is something at it, 
sooner than later, it doesn't matter whether or not you tell them that 
there's more, right that moment.  It would be terrible, however, if a 
child's math education stopped at that and only resumed in highschool and, 
then, having the emphasis be on the memorization of various tables, only 
resuming the teaching of method when and if they take college coursework.

I think that this is more analogous to what goes on in science education.

> >Now, if you can point me to, for instance, a
> > Junior level highschool teacher who says that, I'll have words > far 
>more unkind than "dogmatic" to express my contempt of > their presentation.
>Uh... ok.  Talk to my Jr. High Science Teacher Mr. Lee.

Shall I provide an alphabetized list of invective, or would you prefer to 
fill in the rhetorical blanks on your own?

Seriously, Mr. Lee, if he was a typical HS science teacher, probably didn't 
know much more about the subject than his own students.  I know, from my own 
school, that virtually anyone could be drafted to teach science, regardless 
of qualifications.  One year, one of the gym teachers was teaching a general 
science class... and, believe me, this guy was no Einstein.

>I will grant that I went to school, for the first six years of my 
>schooling, at a Montesory school, and so was taught in a slightly different 
>way than public schools.  But I'll also admit that, because of this, I was 
>taught in such a way that sparked a desire to learn more.

I'm certainly not going to go out of my way to defend public education.  I 
would note, however, that one crucial difference between public and private 
schools is that students in private schools are almost guaranteed to have 
parents who have taken an active interest in their educations.  Public 
schools really do have to contend with the lowest common denominator, and 
that includes coping with students who not only don't have any interest in 
learning, but who have parents who don't have any real interest in having 
their kids learn.

Be that as it may, I don't deny that there could be a lot done to improve 

> > I also have an issue with this particular example because it's often
> > advanced by individuals with a specific anti-science agenda
>On that front, I completely agree with you.  I just wish that the school 
>system would not treat children with the lowest-common-
>denominator system they seem to.

Nor I.

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