Some Sad School Stories

There are forty students enrolled in my third hour class.  Thirty showed up today: one had been suspended, nine others were truant. 

For the previous two classes, their homework—as explained at the beginning and end of each class and posted on the board—was to get a copy of a novel from a list I’d given them, and merely to bring it in to class today.  The list included authors such as Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury (and, for that matter, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer) among two dozen others, the only other requirement being that the book they choose be at least 250 pages long.  I told them that our school librarian had a copy of the list and could help them find a book.  Obviously, they had a few hundred books to choose from.

Out of the thirty students in class today, only ten had a book.  A few others probably had a book but left it at home.  However, the vast majority of the unprepared twenty clearly hadn’t put forth any effort at all, hadn’t bothered to write down or remember the assignment, and had lost or thrown away my handout list.  They didn’t even care enough to try to do it.  Keep in mind that the assignment was merely to have a copy of the book with them.  That was it. 

And only one-fourth of the kids in that class will get credit for it. 

Is this a remedial class?  Far from it.  Continue reading

The First Four Weeks

The first four weeks of school are over.  Some thoughts:

  • As students transition into using new vocabulary words in their own writing, they seem to have an instinct for using unfamiliar words as adjectives.  I find myself reviewing parts of speech much more than I’d like to at the high school level.  Most teens need to be reminded that parts of speech are not interchangeable.  The first word of our first unit is “adulterate,” the verb meaning “to corrupt or make impure.”  Without closer guidance, they’ll just use it like this: “He was a really adulterate guy.”  Of course, if they’re talking about Bill Clinton, I guess I could give them half credit.
  • I usually don’t like open house, the annual night where parents come in to meet their kids’ teachers.  I never know what to do up there, not that it ever makes any difference, anyway.  Life goes on as if it never happened, and I forget everyone I met as soon as I go home.  This year, though, one parent thanked me for assigning  a list of options from which students have to choose for their independent reading this quarter.  “If you hadn’t assigned these,” she said, “the kids would never read them.”  It’s nice enough to get a compliment, but it’s even better when a parent understands the reasoning behind what I do!
  • Yesterday, a college student called me to say that he’d missed the last two weeks of class because his grandmother died.  He offered to bring me a note from his parents.  I told him that was unnecessary. 
  • Every year I notice this: before our morning announcements, kids in an honors class will all stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance together.  Kids in non-honors classes rarely will.  It’s a very stark, and very absolute, difference.  This begs a chicken-or-the-egg question: is a student’s citizenship influenced by their academic performance, or is their academic performance influenced by their citizenship?  Or are both, perhaps, shaped by the same factors in the home environment…
  • Continue reading

Worst. Cheater. Ever.

Here’s one to add to my collection of cheating stories.  Yesterday, I passed some papers out that had been turned in for homework to another class.  We would review it as we went over the answers and they graded the papers.  As I started going over it, one girl, sitting right in the front of the room–right in front of me, in fact–pulled out her blank paper and started writing down the answers as I gave them out.  I stood there–right there–looking at this and wondering if she’d really have the gall to try to turn this in.

Sure enough, after I finished the review and the papers had been graded and were getting passed back up, she hurriedly stuck her paper in the stack.  I pulled it out and showed it to her, trying not to laugh, and said, “Kid, I have to be honest.  In ten years of teaching, this is the single worst attempt at cheating that I’ve ever seen.”  I pointed out that, for one thing, the papers that had been graded weren’t even those of the current class, but from a period earlier in the day, so that her one paper from this last class of the day would kind of stick out.  She didn’t even try to fake the “graded by” signature that teachers expect.   

At first she didn’t have anything to say, then tried to play it off by laughing and saying, “I didn’t know that was cheating.”  Of course, if she didn’t know it was cheating, then she wouldn’t have tried shoving her paper into the stack when she thought I wasn’t looking (even though, again, I was standing right by her desk), and she wouldn’t have marked two of her answers wrong just to make it look more authentic.  (Actually, I have to give her some credit for that.  Most cheaters just turn in perfect papers and think it doesn’t look suspicious.) 

Well, we’ll see if the dean can get some sense into her.  For my part, this is just another sign of a post-ethical generation sleazing its way into the world.  *sigh*

Our Greatest Double Standard

It still always surprises me when a student blithely declares anything unfamiliar or which requires sustained concentration to be “boring,” and then dismisses it, as though their snap judgment is all the criteria necessary for rejecting something as unworthy of their effort.

What is it about us that we’re so accustomed to labelling something “boring” so quickly, and then so definitively putting it behind us and never looking back?  Why don’t we consider this trend, which developed fairly recently in our society’s history but which now has roots as deep as any cherished value, with any more scrutiny? 

Think about this: when we call something boring, what are we really saying?  What we usually mean is not that it is too inherently dull, but that it is too difficult to comprehend.  (Certainly, that’s what students mean.)  But when did it become such a virtue to announce that we are incapable of handling something?  Why do we now feel that it’s acceptable to ignore anything that taxes us? 

Imagine someone going into a gym and trying to lift five pounds.  They find it very hard.  Any normal person would think, “Wow, I’m really weak.  That’s awful.  I need to exercise until I’m stronger.”  But if we approached this situation the way many of us approach mental tasks, we’d think, “Wow, that’s too heavy.  This is stupid.  This is for losers.  I’m out of here.” 

And thus we become a society of intellectually flabby brain-wimps.  Worse, we become a nation of brain-wimps that prides itself on its ignorance, doing so in an unspoken compact where we pretend that our weakness is a virtue, so that we can reinforce each other’s desperation to ignore it.

“Not Every Child Is Secretly a Genius”

There’s a powerful new essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education about my least favorite of the many warm fuzzy trends that currently inform (and infect) American education: multiple intelligences.  I’ve ranted about this plenty of times: in every college class and inservice day, teachers are beaten with this idea and made to repeat it in order to get or keep their jobs; I just finished a series of classes this year where the curriculum was designed just to make teachers regurgitate praise for this bit of inspirational indoctrination.  I can’t overstate how pervasive this is. 

The idea: there is a wide variety of “intelligences” out there that influence our learning strengths and weaknesses, and teachers must approach students and classes at several levels to reach all of them.  That means creating lessons not just with verbal and mechanical components, but also physical, social-conversational, and even–I kid you not–nature appreciation. 

And as every good teacher has known from experience for years, it’s a complete pile of garbage. 

As the Chronicle essay points out, this philosophy serves our desire to cherish egalitarian equality–to assert that everyone has talent and value and has hidden but important things to offer the world.  Over my years of teaching, I’ve learned the opposite.  Continue reading

The Great Grade Bailout

There is a great inequity in justice in our public school systems.  I refer, of course, to the fact that some students have higher grades than others.  This can only be the result of institutional disenfranchisement, and must be corrected by government intervention.  Besides, our nation’s future faces catastrophic academic failure if we don’t artificially prop it up now.

By which I mean, the failing students need a bailout.

All of those kids who are only half as likely to do any kind of studying or homework as they are to even show up at all will be granted a special dispensation from the Department of Education, something in the neighborhood of, say, 800 billion points.  (Though, what with corruption, unforeseen needs, and poor management, that total will likely exceed a trillion points.)

So every slacker who sat there and chose to finish a class with a 2% grade will now get to graduate, which is perfectly fair.  Uncle Sam will guarantee the success of every student in America.  After all, what with the obesity epidemic, most American kids are “too big to fail.”

Continue reading

Education Today

It’s time for teachers to submit our third quarter grades, and I have to wonder: if a teacher is to be expected to “bump up” a kid’s grade from a D to a C if he gets, say, 69.5% (as many parents and others will expect), then why can’t I also just bump a kid down from a C to a D if the grade is 70.5%?  Why can’t unethical subjectivity run both ways?

Also, looking over a recent quiz given to my sophomores after reading Julius Caesar, I see the most popular answer to the question, “Which of the leaders in Julius Caesar would make the best leader for America today, and why?”, was “Obama.”  Perhaps the question was confusing.  I also notice that none of the students who put Obama answered the second part of the question and explained why he’s the most qualified.  Perhaps they thought that was implied, or sacrilegious.

Email About A Truant Student

The following is an email I just sent to a parent of a student.  The young man in question was caught leaving school with some friends by another teacher on his prep period.  Sadly, this kind of communication is not especially rare in my work experience: I send emails like this one at least a few times per semester, and could send several times as many more, if more parents even bothered to request “make up work.” 

(This parent must have “appealed” [read: demanded, begged, threatened to sue] the school, so his blatant string of skipped classes have all been “excused.”  This was the second time this week a [nominal] student of mine had such an array of ditched days excused, though the parents of the other boy didn’t have the effrontery to ask for “make up work” for two months of voluntary truancy.)

Mrs. _______, A request for make up work for your son _____ has come to my attention. Since starting to come back to class recently, _____ has shown little engagement in class work, much less motivation to discuss making up what he missed during his absences (on one vocabulary assignment that he did do–writing example sentences to illustrate the meanings of words–the majority of his sentences simply said, “________ is a big word”).

With 14 absences at this point in the semester [in my class alone], and the majority of those within the last few weeks, he has a staggering load of “make up” work to do. Add to that the fact that practically none of that work is just a simple worksheet that can be handed out; most work involves examples, class discussions, and extensive reading. Such work can be made up, but it is difficult and requires a commitment of time in here outside of school hours. Further, he has missed a few quizzes on material that he was not here to review; making those up with any kind of quality will obviously be very difficult.

That being said, he’s welcome to try, and I’m certainly here to help him do so. What he would absolutely need to do is come in with at least ten or fifteen minutes set aside, before or after school, to get started on some of this “make up” work, but that’s just a start. Hopefully he can get some of this work turned in for some credit when we return from Christmas Break.

_____ got a 50.9% first quarter, and currently stands at a 20.4%. A productive thing to do at this point is to start planning for how he will make up the credits he will probably lose this semester, especially since the long block schedule, with its two extra classes per semester, may not be available next year.

_____ has potential and doesn’t seem to have any academic problem in his way, so certainly next semester could be very successful. I wish you both good luck and look forward to seeing him in class regularly, where I’m sure he can do very well.

Clearly, I’m trying to introduce a dose of reality to this situation, without being quite confrontational enough to warrant any ire directed at me.  I don’t need any more grief this close to Christmas.

I think I’ll keep this email as a form letter for future use.  Please tell me that other states aren’t like this.

Repeal Mandatory School Attendance

Today, a disruptive young man who has chosen to miss school more often than not this year came to class, saying that “the court” was forcing him to come back.  Many kids now want out of school, but find themselves trapped there; many others come and go as they please, knowing that it makes very little difference whatever they do.  As things are, students who misbehave and don’t want to do school work know that they will get away with it and always have a guaranteed place in their social spot of choice.  Teachers and administrators can only threaten and punish so far before truculent kids realize that the system is a toothless farce; these days, “permanent expulsion” is a fantasy.

 

For many local teens, “violently apathetic” isn’t an oxymoron; if you question their self-asserted right to a school day of hedonistic ease, they’ll become antagonistic and fight back.  And many, many parents will either take the kid’s side, or throw up their hands and quit.  Parents also know that the school is legally obligated to accept and care for teens far beyond any reasonable limit of anti-social disruption.

 

And, of course, the mature kids suffer as we devote time and resources to babysitting these voluntary losers.  A surprisingly large chunk of school populations are composed of kids who ditch school at least once a week or two, anyway; these are also the worst troublemakers, who not only distract students with more potential, but also tempt them away from achievement.  How many of our C and D students would be A and B students if the straight-F set weren’t around?

 

The single best thing we could do to reform education and improve overall student performance would be to remove that safety net and repeal NRS 392.040, the law that requires mandatory school attendance: http://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/NRS-392.html.  The best kids would finally flourish, the middle-of-the-road kids would learn to develop self-discipline and the value of having a stake in their own lives, and the future clients of the penal system would assume their chosen position in the lower class just that much earlier.  Everybody wins.  

On Popular Educational Philosophy: Presenting The Modern Gym!

For hundreds of years, Western Civilization produced literate societies by immersing their young in its intellectual heritage. Students practiced rigorous routines of reading, writing, and arithmetic. They memorized classic poetry and important dates in history. They solved math problem without calculators. They understood the Constitution.

In the 20th century, we changed that. As we’ve experimented with styles of teaching, we’ve moved further and further away from the effective methods that built this great nation. To see how ridiculous this is, imagine these ideas being transplanted to a gym…

Presenting: Guidelines For Coaches In The Modern Gym!

 

 

 

 

 

Multiple Intelligences

 

The old-fashioned idea that strength training is best accomplished by weight lifting is narrow minded. Today we know that people have various natural gifts for building strength, and they need to be free to develop them in their own way. New activities might include:

  • Getting in a group and discussing what we like and don’t like about weight lifting
  • Listening to a guest speaker try to get them excited about weight lifting products
  • Performing an interpretive dance to express how weight lifting makes them feel

Experiment with incorporating all these different ways of exercising into your own gym and just watch everybody’s biceps get ripped!

Multiculturalism

 

The world’s many diverse cultures have their own ways of developing strength, and they are all exactly as good as each other…and they’re all better than our own. To get students to respect these other cultures (which is the real purpose of gym, after all), try the following exercises:

  • Like the indigenous tribes of South America, curl your pinky fingers and big toes at the same time. Hold. Repeat.
  • Like the noble people of the Arabian deserts, sit on a rock and bounce on your bottom until you feel dizzy.
  • Like the proud peoples of modern America, shout at people in a traditional gym that they’re making you feel bad.
Mainstreaming Special Ed

 

Every 98 pound weakling has a right to be in your Advanced Powerlifting class. We can’t technically guarantee every student success, but plenty of parents are willing to sue if that’s not what you deliver. If this means you have to neglect your talented, enthusiastic students in order to subtly lower the bar so another student can technically finish a work out, don’t complain. You’ll be sued for that, too.

Excused Absences and Make Up Work

 

 

The laws demand that students may be excused from work outs for any reason, any time, for any number of days, without penalty. Well, everybody treats it that way. So when a kid comes back to your gym from a week of officially-sanctioned truancy and then lamely demands all their make up work right away, be ready to give it to them.

If, after a year of missing frequent sessions with you, they aren’t in good shape, prepare to shrug your shoulders and pretend you don’t know why they didn’t make more progress. Suggest that they need more special accommodations during work outs.

Bilingual needs

 

A lot of students these days will come into your gym without any background in exercising. The best way to catch them up is to offer modified work outs where they can thrive in an anti-social subculture that mimics the fitness routines in the society they insist on thinking of as home. So, instead of demanding that they start lifting weights with everybody else, allow them to comfortably ease into their new environment by curling their pinky fingers and bouncing on rocks for a few years.

But be sure to check off on your paper work that they worked out like everybody else, though. It’s the law!

Career Planning

 

Thanks to our wonderfully materialistic society, every kid who comes into your gym will know that the best reason to get in shape is…to get a fancy job and make lots of money. So when they ask, “When will I ever need to do a push up in real life?” you can try to explain the intrinsic benefits of good health, or just tell them to be quiet and get back to work.

Block Scheduling

 

Regular, frequent periods of intense practice are overrated. Today’s fitness experts all know that the best way to improve health and build strength is to have extra long workouts just two or three times a week. In fact, with weekends, holidays, and assemblies, a serious student could go four or even five days between workouts! But don’t worry; on the days that they are in your gym, they can really focus on burning the same few muscles for an hour and a half. That’s the best way to go.

However, since students can no longer focus like they used to, be sure to interrupt their workout every few minutes so they can walk around and talk to each other. Research shows that this makes aerobic conditioning more intense!

Making the Curriculum Relevant

 

 

If today’s youth are going to be healthy and strong, they need to know how the exercises connect with their manufactured media youth culture. The best coaches explain workouts using current slang, and adapt their workouts to be more exciting. Instead of doing those boring, old fashioned curls or bench presses, let them skateboard their way to improved muscle tone! Pressing buttons on video games is a far more fun (and effective) method of burning calories than dumb old cross-training, anyway!

Technology

 

Computers are the future! Every good work out should include making a five minute PowerPoint presentation. Give extra credit on their upper body conditioning if their clip art is animated.

Self Esteem

 

If a student is performing poorly, be sure to correct them in such a manner that they’ll have no idea that they were performing poorly. Kids today interpret all advice as a personal attack, and if you make them feel bad about themselves, whether you mean to or not, you can get in trouble.

If a student chooses to sit around and do nothing in your gym, you may not say that he is “acting lazy.” Such verbal abuse will get you fired!

Behavior Problems

 

If students become disruptive in your gym to the point that it infringes on the workouts of others, you may begin a long series of paperwork that will eventually get the student removed from the gym for a week or two, max. You’re the coach–you solve their problems and get them in line while you train forty other students how to exercise. Just don’t make them feel bad while you do it (see previous section).

*************

Answers to Your Concerns

 

1. “How is it fair to judge my coaching if my students go home and spend ten hours staring at a computer screen and stuffing themselves with junk food?”

Answer: Shut up.

2. “How can I be a role model when the culture on which they pattern everything from their clothes to their speech indoctrinates them to hate me and everything I stand for?”

Answer: Shut up.

3. “If students are getting weaker, with shorter attention spans and less support from their communities, aren’t these flashy reforms just an appeasing kind of pandering? Why don’t we vigorously oppose these problems head on, especially by returning to the atmosphere and methods that worked so well for so many other generations?”

Answer: Shut up!

*******************

Yes, with these enlightened methods in place, we’re sure to produce a nation of fit, healthy athletes! Look out, Japan and Europe! Now, we’re finally ready to lead the way again!

Sarcastic Post About Education On Newspaper Web Site

Today, the Las Vegas Review-Journal bemoaned the abject lack of math achievement in our middle schools: http://www.lvrj.com/opinion/17998509.html

In that editorial, they noted that one middle school–Sig Rogich–performed very well.  They suggested that we find out what they do different from everybody else and copy it.  I posted the following comment on that page; so far it seems to be well received!

 

Huston wrote on April 22, 2008 10:35 AM:

“Here’s an easy recommendation for Mr. Rulffes’ committee: Learn exactly what Rogich Middle School is doing and copy it — everywhere.”

Agreed. Here’s what they do:

* Every math teacher got together in the past to make sure that they’d have a school in a strong socio-economic area that became a good neighborhood because all the parents worked hard, thus creating an environment that encourages education

* The principal ran a staff development day that resulted in having a student population that, due to its location in said strong area, is likely to have more intact two-parent homes where students are actually raised, not just sheltered

* All teachers and administrators performed those few simple, obvious procedures that instantly created a student population that, because of their positive HOME environment, are less likely to ditch school, do drugs, or get wrapped up in negative cultural trappings, thereby helping them to actually do some of their homework

Now, why doesn’t every school just go out and do all these things today? It’s easy!

Letter to another local radio station, about education

Email I sent this morning to an AM radio station (I know, I know, my time would be better spent listening to my new library copy of Handel’s Rinaldo or practicing with my Chinese CDs…):

Dear ___________,

 

I’m the teacher who had the first letter in the RJ yesterday, and I’m also a longtime listener of your show.  On the way to work this morning, I heard you talking about the reasons behind the mass failure of CCSD students to perform math.  

 

There are problems with every theory I heard.  The dominant one seemed to be that the curriculum isn’t made relevant to the kids.  The teacher in the room next to me has a Personal Finance class where she teaches about balancing a checkbook, saving and investing, and staying out of debt, etc.  The attendance, homework, and test grades in those classes are often just as poor as any other class in Las Vegas, which is to say, exceptionally poor.  

 

So, no, connecting the curriculum to their interests has nothing to do with this failure.  Besides, why do you learn your multiplication table?  Because some teacher sold you on the idea that it would be valuable later on?  Or because you had been trained well enough to follow a system of adults who were clearly in control?  Such basic respect for the workings of society is long gone in our youth now.  

 

Generation Y has been so thoroughly spoiled by being spoon-fed constant hedonistic “fun” that there’s no motivation to do anything.  Half of them wouldn’t bother to step out of the way of a bus!

 

We could poke holes in the other ideas, too, but we both know it ultimately comes down to parenting, an art now more lost than that of spinning on a loom.  So…what can we do about it?

 

Most won’t like the answer.  The answer is…nothing.

 

Unless we turn liberal and try to use government power to force people to be good role models and be actively involved in the rasing of their children (not just putting a roof over their head and feeding them, but actually raising them), then it’s purely their choice.  And, sadly, the parents see no more motivation to do all that hard work than their kids.  Where do you think kids get it from?  As we say in education, the apple doesn’t fall far from the idiot tree.

 

Is it really so controversial to point out the obvious fact that America’s discipline has been on auto-pilot for so long that simple entropy has worn it away to a wisp of a memory?  

 

I suppose we could try to reinstitute that great old mainstay–stigma–that might jolt some folks back into taking intiative for themselves, but I think we’ve probably forgotten how to stigmatize failure.  The mainstream counterculture has done nothing but celebrate it for forty years.  Don’t people see that another reason for this failure is that the most influential group of kids out there now–the losers–are instinctively averse to any kind of achievement?

 

So we can only plod on, dispassionately imitating our better ancestors and hoping that we wake up a few kids’ potential here and there.  But societal renewal?  Forget it.  Things fall apart.  This is Rome and we don’t need to look to any border for the new Visigoths.  They’re already here.  They’re us.  

 

Jamie J. Huston
American Literature Honors, Centennial High School
English Composition, University of Nevada Las Vegas

 

“Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s day-to-day living that wears you out.”
    –Anton Chekhov, Russian author and playwright

Letter about education woes printed in Las Vegas Review-Journal

The following letter was printed in today’s newspaper:

To the editor:

When Clark County School District students bomb a math test, why do we assume teachers aren’t doing their jobs (Thursday Review-Journal)? A dentist might do great work, but if a kid goes home and binges on sugar and never brushes his teeth, whose fault is it if the kid gets cavities? Parents control the health at home, as they do the work ethic and attitude.

Do people not realize that teachers cannot control the final results of their work, that student achievement is ultimately a matter of the students’ choices to attend school, pay attention, do homework, study and avoid things outside of school that would hamper their learning? Valley students have an abysmal record in those areas, and their parents let it happen.

Trying to teach the most basic math to a teenager now is like trying to teach Shakespeare to someone who just got off the boat from China: There’s such a huge lack of necessary background that the whole enterprise becomes hopeless.

Our entertainment-heavy and entitlement-minded society has finally bred a generation that is essentially incapable of the concrete thinking needed to process arithmetic computation. A 90 percent fail rate couldn’t possibly be the fault of incompetent teaching; if math instructors were consciously trying to fail the entire student body, more than 10 percent of students, if they had any kind of initiative, would still pass.

Rather than credit the Clark County School District with an effective conspiracy of poor teaching, let’s admit that this staggering failure can only be explained by a loss of prerequisite ability in our children. The parents of Clark County are reaping what they have sown.

Jamie Huston

In Praise of Math

In 2004, 19% of Nevada high school seniors didn’t graduate because they couldn’t pass the math proficiency test. That’s actually an improvement from 2003, when 25% of seniors—fully one in every four—failed. Of course, the improvement came because the state, embarrassed and impotent, lowered the passing score. 

And now we find that about 90% of teenagers in Algebra I can’t pass a basic test of those math skills: http://www.lvrj.com/news/17044911.html

It’s no coincidence that the decline of math in America has held hands with a parallel decline in logical thinking. When someone gets malnourished, you look for what’s lacking in their diet; when students lose the ability to think above an elementary level, you notice which proficiency test repeatedly causes the most problems.

An example from class this year: Last month I held a class discussion about the decline of literacy. One boy defensively declared that people who don’t read much are just as smart as people who do. “How do you know?” I asked.

He looked confused. “It’s just my opinion.”

“No it’s not. You made a statement of fact. Either you’re right or you’re wrong. In fact, your inability to explain yourself suggests that your ‘opinion’ is just wishful thinking. Let’s put it this way,” I said, thinking I was being helpful, “why do you have this opinion instead of some other view?”

He thought for a moment. “It’s just my opinion!” 

See, the decline of math is the decline of concrete thinking, which rots away our logic and reason, the foundation of all Western civilization. Without logic and reason, we’re left in a weird wasteland where subjectivity reigns supreme. They think this way because they’re imitating the culture from whose shallow trough they feed.

After the 2004 presidential election, I saw a network reporter interview rapper P. Diddy, whose “Vote or Die” campaign for MTV had sought to get more young people to vote, and to vote for a certain candidate. The reporter informed him that exit polls showed that, despite MTV’s incessant marketing, more young people had notvoted, nor had more of them voted for the party MTV favored. She asked P. Diddy what he thought of this. Without skipping a beat, he calmly explained that he thought his work had been successful because he felt that more young people had voted.

I couldn’t believe what I’d heard—was she interviewing a three-year-old? He had just blatantly contradicted her research results with a statement of his feelings. I wonder how good P. Diddy is at math.

I’m reminded of a passage from a book I read called A Thomas Jefferson Education. To paraphrase the author, the benefits of learning math include learning to:

  1. Seek and recognize patterns
  2. Explore the relationships between information
  3. See similarities and differences clearly
  4. Analyze information logically (love those word problems!)
  5. Understand that there are correct answers out there to be sought after
  6. Avoid jumping to conclusions
  7. Seek evidence for conclusions (I wish the boys in my classes could do that. Also, P. Diddy.)
  8. Figure things out for yourself without just accepting whatever you’re told
  9. Remain open to new possibilities
  10. Think like the greatest creators in history.

If more people had these skills, imagine how many of the nation’s problems would vanish overnight. Imagine how much progress this nation could make. Imagine how much deeper and more meaningful our lives would be.