On the importance of Genre analysis in mathematics curricula

This Common Core thing is really interesting. A bunch of people are debating how to change education for the better in America, which is all to the good, since John Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System and the American education system, was about as effective at one as he was at the other. Surely anything would be an improvement on a system designed by a man who couldn’t decide if he was an engineer of children’s minds, or just a plain old communist. And it’s also a pleasure to watch from an amused distance, knowing that my kids will endure no such thing, and that the results of any foolish ideas their teachers do come up with will be evident to their parents immediately.

So I’m all in favor of nationalized testing. Unless, of course they’re testing for something stupid. In which case, stupid tests should be no inhibition to a good education. I’m all in favor of teaching kids to think, instead of mindlessly repeating rote information.  Rote information is boring, in the true sense of the word, and boring is a bad motivator.  Of course, being an engineer in a cubicle is also boring, especially compared to bomb disposal, so there’s something to be said for skill, which takes practice.

But, when it comes to comparing our education systems historically, maybe A Christmas Story is not the best basis of comparison.  Ms. Watson makes the caveat that she knows “that a screenshot from a Christmas movie isn’t a fair representation of the curricular scope covered in the 1950s,” but it still creeps me out a bit.  I have never seen the movie.  I never hope to see that movie, because every impression I’ve ever gotten is that its humor is derived entirely from people behaving like nincompoops.  I wasn’t there for 4th grade in the 50s, but my guess is that 3-digit addition may have been another attempt by the director at being funny.

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