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

Chris Olson - SunPS Chrisf.Olson at Sun.COM
Tue Jan 28 13:26:24 PST 2003

> 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.

<sigh>  Yeah.  Bummer, though.  I'd prefer schooling to be
used for the education of children, and to instill in them
the desire to learn more about the world around them.  Ah, well.
We don't live on ChrisWorld....

> 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.

Really?  For me, after I learned that, I just spelled words wrong.
I said "Well, they SAID that it was I before E, so it must be
that way."  Because they never made mention that there were exceptions,
I grew up thinking that there were none.  All they had to do was mention
that there were some exceptions, and I'd have looked up words to make
sure I spelled them correctly (and I still spell words poorly.  Go figure.:)

> >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.

Sure.  I recall that, in sixth grade, before we graduated, my teacher
brought us graduates together and told us some little tricks to the
multiplication tables that they never mentioned.  This helped me in
the future, but I never heard another word about it from any other
teacher.  The way we teach is just as important as what we teach.  I've
known some great teachers out there who really cared about what they
were teaching and who they taught.  Others just don't care.  (And this
doesn't even begin to talk about all those "standardized tests" they're
talking about.  Ugh!)

> >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?

Heh.  Now that's funny... 

> 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.

This I had not thought of.  Then again, it's a disgusting thought.
To the left, though, the guy sure said he knew what he was doing.

> 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.

True, and a sad state of affairs, in any case.  However, I do know more
than one public school teacher who made their classes fun, and who got
kids learning by making them want to learn.  If the parents aren't going
to get involved, then schools should in some way (not in all ways, thank

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

Yeah.  Funding would be a good start.