Wednesday, May 08, 2013

I bet most kids today would flunk this test

Chuckle Bros. comic by Brian and Ron Boychuk, obtained from GoComics.

Oh, sure, we old folks think this comic funny because, after all, who can't copy words when the words are written out right in front of you?

The answer, I'm sorry to say, is today's kids. I'm going by what I see from my wife's junior high classes, so perhaps your kids' or grandkids' school is different. But I don't think so. My wife teaches at a private (Catholic) grade school where the students are from middle class backgrounds. According to their standardized test scores, just like the children of fictional Lake Wobegon, the kids at my wife's school are all (or almost all) above average.

And today's kids seem incapable of copying a word when it's written right in front of them.  My wife has showed me test paper after test paper proving this.


Part of it, I believe, is that teaching methods seem to have changed: When we were kids, we were expected to copy stuff off the board. Accuracy was compulsory; sloppiness was a punishable offense. We were forced to do this time and again in the primary grades, and the teacher actually looked at what we copied. Neatness counted. And graded us very harshly if we didn't copy correctly.  Thus, we learned -- we were required to learn -- how to do this.

Today, rote copying (and -- oh, my gosh, memorizing) are looked on as primitive, wrong, even abusive.  Today's kids didn't learn how to copy accurately in the primary grades; and, thus, they can't do so when they reach junior high.

I don't know why this is the current trend; it seems awfully stupid to me.

Imagine an astronaut in a crisis scenario, trying to copy down critical instructions relayed by Mission Control. "Roger that, Houston," the astronaut would say, but the mushy jumble of characters on his or her note pad might not really match up with the information sent up from the ground.

Apollo 13 would have had a very different ending.

Oh, no, the 'modern' educator may say, in a patronizing tone, today's children have technology (when it works) and spell check will correct their spelling (but only if they get reasonably close to the correct spelling -- and spell check can't help a kid know when and how to use 'there' or 'their' or 'your' or 'you're'). And, as near as I can tell, 'modern' teachers say that kids today don't have to memorize anything because they can always look it up on their ever-present 'devices.' (But how do you 'look up' what you never knew? How do you even know you should be looking for it?)

As Blog of Days readers already know, this is Teacher Appreciation Week. It's an especially appropriate time to think about teachers and teaching -- especially good teachers and good teaching.  In that spirit, share this post with a teacher in your life. Am I being unfair to 'modern' teachers? Am I being unfair to today's kids? What do you think? What do the teachers in your life think?

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