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SAS CEO Blasts Old-School Schooling 594

theodp writes "What does SAS CEO Dr. Jim Goodnight have in common with 47% of high school dropouts? A belief that school is boring. Marking the 50th anniversary of Sputnik with a call for renewed emphasis on science and technology in America's schools, Goodnight finds today's kids ill-served by old-school schooling: 'Today's generation of kids is the most technology savvy group that this country has ever produced. They are born with an iPod in one hand and a cell phone in another. They're text messaging, e-mailing, instant messaging. They're on MySpace, YouTube & Google. They've got Nintendo Wiis, Game Boys, PlayStations. Their world is one of total interactivity. They're in constant communication with each other, but when they go to school, they are told to leave those 'toys' at home. They're not to be used in school. Instead, the system continues teaching as if these kids belong to the last century, by standing in front of a blackboard.'"
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SAS CEO Blasts Old-School Schooling

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2007 @12:49AM (#20863361)
    Just because some kid has an ipod and a cellphone doesn't mean they're a genius when it comes to technology. An ipod is easy enough for an idiot to use, it's not a badge of honor to be able to use one.
    • by JonathanR ( 852748 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:02AM (#20863489)
      Exactly. They can figure out the interface, but most really don't understand the underlying technology.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by scoot80 ( 1017822 )
        That is because most really don't care about how it works as long as it does what it is supposed to do.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That's peripheral to the argument.. and anyway, it probably seems like that to most teachers... perhaps an analogy like 'what if you were taught addition on an abacus when there was a perfectly good blackboard available?' would help in that respect.

      I can't speak for everyone, but i think i personally learn much better when i'm enjoying myself... now all we need are a couple of fun educational games.
    • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:21AM (#20863637)

      An ipod is easy enough for an idiot to use, it's not a badge of honor to be able to use one.

      Right. Apple spent millions of dollars with very smart people so that idiots could use an iPod. iPod's dominate the MP3 market because of their ease-of-use. And most people's text messaging is a detriment to both learning proper English and being tech-savy. A tech-savy person can type well enough that typing out the full words is easier than learning a new acronym, for example.

      • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:40AM (#20863789)

        And most people's text messaging is a detriment to both learning proper English and being tech-savy.
        stfu grmmr nuub
    • Stellar comments so far. This has been the most refreshing thread response in a long time.


      1. An iPod plus cellphone does not equal genius. Lack of underlying technology. Thanks AC & Jonathan.

      In grade school, I built my own crystal radio, then a diode one. I wish we all had a vague idea of the electrons running around inside our devices.

      2. If someone designed a math program that trained a kid from kinder garden to calculus.

      Yes yes yes! And the best interfa
    • by innerweb ( 721995 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @02:04AM (#20863955)

      Right on!

      Please forgive any grammar, spelling or other snafus, it is very late, I am very tired, but I think this needs to be said.

      This is one of my BIG soap boxes. My parents were teachers (now retired after 30+ years teaching each), I have taught, my brother has taught, we have all coached, taught extra-curricular classes and my parents have received numerous awards for what they have achieved with their students. My father at one time had over half of the high school he taught at (2500+ students) taking physics. My mother, father and I worked with Young Astronauts, Destination Imagination, Flight Club, Math League, Lego Robotics (as an extra-curricular), Athletics, 3rd through 6th grade science and math (my father helped with this while he taught the high school level), and much more. Amongst us, we have Physics Teacher of the year for our state (my father), Teacher of the year multiple times, parental awards for excellence in education (these come from the parents of the students, not other teachers) and plenty of politicians and business leaders who are sick and tired of us and our names. Those are some of our credentials.

      Now, the real problem. Parents and our societal emphasis on lack of responsibility and over-emphasis on instant gratification. Nothing about classroom technologies, nothing about administrators, and nothing politicians in general. Though some of them are definite proof of some serious failings in their education from their parents - morality.

      Students do not *normally* come to school to learn anymore. They expect to be entertained. They expect to be catered to. They expect to do nothing other than what they want. And honestly, how many kids know what they need? Some, but most do not. There is a pattern to all of this. Not absolute, nor 100% accurate, but routinely, you see this pattern over and over. If the parents of the children emphasize discipline, responsibility, morality, effort and honesty (at least self-honesty), the kids almost always outperform the other children they go to school with. The other kids, well lets just say they do not get as much out of school, and normally (but not always) out of life.

      See, the problem starts at home for the vast majority of children. Parents do not spend enough quality time (working, playing, reading, building, cleaning, ...) together. Not an hour or two a day, but 3 to 5 hours per day. That may sound like a lot, but, they had this child. Children learn the most by observing. Not listening to your instructions, but observing you carry out (or not) your promises, your rules, your ethics, your respect, your honesty, your ...

      Then, these kids go to school. Now, they have either learned to respect adults, work, responsibility and such at home, or they have not. Guess which kids do better at first (and normally for the rest of the time as well). Are they doomed then? No. They can learn how to live right. I have seen it. Sometimes by a divorce where one parent suddenly is seen by the child for what that parent really is and the other parent is finally able to provide that good home. Sometimes, the parents go away, through jail or Child Protective Services (I know they are not perfect either) and they wind up in a good home. They learn good habits, just takes them longer and they have to relearn many things. They are still disadvantaged in some ways, but can keep up with and compete in the real world.

      Believe it or not, these are the things that most impact a child's education. And the education of the children around that child. Why? Because that child's behavior in class will either impede or propel the education of the children around them. Put one bratty attitude in a classroom, and you can loose a half day of education everyday, and never have a good quality day of education. One Child can ruin the class. You may say the teacher can do something about it. No, they can not in most cases. We the people, as a whole, either through

      • Blame the mandate (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mr2001 ( 90979 )

        Students do not *normally* come to school to learn anymore.

        Of course not! They come to school because the law says that's where they have to spend their weekdays. It's a wonder that any of them spend their time any more productively than prisoners do.

        You get rid of the kids who cause trouble. Put them in a program to help them with their difficulties.

        Better yet, just stop forcing those kids to attend. It shouldn't come as a surprise that you'll have a better learning environment if the only students there are the ones who want to learn.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by QuantumG ( 50515 )
          The other cool thing about removing the mandate is that a lot of people who didn't see the point of school will, after experiencing the world for a while, go back to school. That means students will no longer be segregated by age, which has many beneficial effects, such as making fast advancement of gifted students less of a problem. It also means that adults who try to improve their education will not be seen in such a negative light anymore.. and means that our society will have to provide for them, cau
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by rizzo420 ( 136707 )
            the mandate is there because some kids won't realize how much they need school until much later in life. then you end up with 18 year olds in class with 10 year olds. that just doesn't work.

            the age segregation thing is more beneficial to students than removing it. i remember reading a story about a 14 year old (i don't remember the exact age, but he was too young to drive) going for his phd. that's just messed up. this 14 year old will not adjust properly to real life. the reason that we keep kids of
            • Re:Blame the mandate (Score:4, Interesting)

              by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <qg@biodome.org> on Friday October 05, 2007 @08:19AM (#20865965) Homepage Journal

              then you end up with 18 year olds in class with 10 year olds. that just doesn't work.
              Uhhh.. says who? I actually had a mature age student or two at my high school. Nothing makes smart asses 16 year olds shut up like a fellow student telling them they better pay attention or they'll be back trying to get their diploma when they're 22, like him.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
        I thinkg M. Goodnight has a point : kids are put into a century-old universe when put into school. It really is frustrating. I finished my high school 10 years ago, but already I didn't understand why I couldn't have a "find" function in a course, why we didn't use any of the software tools so convenient for drawing geometrical figures, why, again, the teaching world was so reluctant to see computers and calculator as tools and only saw them as toys. I knew that I wanted to walk the engineering path and I s
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DerekLyons ( 302214 )
        There are so many outright errors and so much wishful thinking in this post I don't even know where to begin. Let's just pick two:

        See, the problem starts at home for the vast majority of children. Parents do not spend enough quality time (working, playing, reading, building, cleaning, ...) together. Not an hour or two a day, but 3 to 5 hours per day.

        So, explain to me how in years past children did so well in school? (I.E. when 'quality time' was unheard of and parents weren't expe

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by timeOday ( 582209 )

      Just because some kid has an ipod and a cellphone doesn't mean they're a genius when it comes to technology.

      I think you're missing the point. Using a web browser is easy. Consistently writing concise, persuasive comments (like this one) on slashdot is another matter. I've learned more about writing by practicing on usenet and slashdot than in any writing class. Here, you get unvarnished feedback from a vast audience. I never got that type of feedback in a formal setting until I started publishing pa

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @12:50AM (#20863365)
    Standing in front of a blackboard and addressing the students orally is an excellent method of education.

    And interactive, for that matter.
    • by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:30AM (#20863707) Homepage

      Standing in front of a blackboard and addressing the students orally is an excellent method of education.
      I agree it's an excellent method of education -- for the teacher.

      The best way to learn something is to try to teach it. Seminar-style classes should start before graduate school.

    • by KefabiMe ( 730997 ) <garth@nOSpam.jhonor.com> on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:55AM (#20863903) Journal

      I both disagree and agree.

      This depends completely on the teacher.

      My calculus-based physics teacher was a great example of how to teach a great interactive class by standing in front of a blackboard (or whiteboard in this case) and addressing the students orally. He probably did more to make me interested in Math, Science, and Engineering than anyone else other than my own father (who had a Ph.D. in Mathematics).

      7 years later, after dropping out, working (for Microsoft!?!) for a few years, and re-starting college, I am currently taking calculus-based physics with a teacher who is a great example of how much standing in front of a blackboard and addressing the students orally can suck.

      My only job is a school tutor and my study habits have much improved since 7 years ago, so I'm doing well in school. But I look around and I see many students who struggle because most of teachers are more like the latter example, rather than the former .

    • by Wildclaw ( 15718 )
      I disagree with you completly. It is an incredibly inefficent way of teaching.

      First of all, it forces teachers all over the country to repeat the same material, instead of having a single recording. That decreases the time that teachers are availible to answer questions and do real teaching.

      Secondly, the argument that it is interactive isn't really true. Yes, a person can ask a question while you are talking, and then the rest of class has to sit there and relisten to something they already understood. If s
    • by nathanicus ( 986314 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @02:27AM (#20864097) Homepage
      I'm an freshman at MIT, taking a physics course (8.01 classical mechanics) that is supposed to use technology to the fullest: radio frequency response cards, computer for every third person, full integration with experiments, video feeds from the professor's desk to screens all around the room, online extra homework assignments, etc, but undergrads pretty much all agree that IT SUCKS. Interaction is far lower, the professors are tempted to stuff absurd numbers of meaningless assignments into the syllabus since they no longer need to grade them by hand, and the end result is that learning physics has become a lot harder than it needs to be. A lot of my friends have moved up to 8.012, not because it is a harder class, but because they have -normal- lecture and recitation sessions, which makes all the difference. We may like flashy technology a lot, but right now it isn't an improvement over what we have. The 'blackboard' style of teaching goes back 2000+ years for a reason.
    • by MMaestro ( 585010 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @03:03AM (#20864325)
      And blackboards have been criticized for years about the chalk dust they create if air circulation isn't ample. Whiteboards are a step in the right direction, but projectors that displayed whatever the teacher wrote using a special digital pen (I've seen this kind of technology being prototyped by GE during a business tour, its expensive but easily done) would be even better. Throw in the ability to upload everything the teacher wrote on the "board" to the internet and you'd immediately do away with the "but I didn't get the notes yesterday" excuse.

      I still agree addressing students orally and directly is still one of the best methods of education though.

  • They are toys (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EllynGeek ( 824747 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @12:50AM (#20863373)
    In the olden days, would you have let them bring cribbage boards and cards into the classroom? Get a grip. They're fancier toys, but still toys.
  • what the author's plan for using these devices in education is?
  • The Irony! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vondiggity ( 1038522 )
    The people who engineered the Sputnik and the other later entries into the "space race" were all probably educated by these so called "old school" methods.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fizzl ( 209397 )
      And I could probably put a satellite in orbit today given Google and enough money
  • If someone designed a math program that trained a kid from kindergarden to calculus, why would we need math teachers? One software program that plays like a game. I think it'd take off. Of course I was easily amused by math games when I was young with a TI-99. I think teaching could be completely automated especially since tests are automated with supervision by a teacher.
  • The problem with scholarship nowadays isn't the availability of hi-tech gizmos like iPod or cell phones. After all, those are just tools. It's what they are doing with them.

    I think Meredith Wilson put it nicely...

    Friends, lemme tell you what I mean.
    Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table.
    Pockets that mark the diff'rence
    Between a gentlemen and a bum,
    With a capital "B,"
    And that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool!
  • Today's generation of kids is the most technology savvy group that this country has ever produced. They are born with an iPod in one hand and a cell phone in another.

    No, I'm pretty sure that only happens if you're raped by a robot.
  • I work with a lot of university students who are extremely conversant with the tech-goodies referenced here. I find that a high level of comfort with finely-tuned consumer devices does not translate at all to things that require some effort, ranging from FTP programs to even similar items, like a DV cam.

    To show them how to use these things, I use a procedure remarkably similar to the one being derided. It generally works.

  • School IS boring (Score:2, Insightful)

    by crashfrog ( 126007 )
    No surprise school is boring; the rise of social conservatives have ensured that everything that made any subject interesting have been scrubbed from the curriculum. Can't teach about sex; have to force a religious minority's views that sexual knowledge leads to lunchroom orgies. Can't teach evolution; churches might write angry letters! Can't teach history from any kind of personal viewpoint, and we certainly can't dwell on stories of heroism and conflict; we might offend the other side or give the impress
    • Can't teach history from any kind of personal viewpoint
      While I think the rest of your post is quite valid, this sticks out at me. Why do you think we should teach history from any personal viewpoint? In my opinion, the point of history is to learn, as accurately as possible, what did actually happen, not what one side's version. I realize that in practice, that's an unattainable ideal, but still an ideal I think we should strive towards.
      • Why do you think we should teach history from any personal viewpoint?

        Because that's how it happened. History isn't just the things that happened, it's the people it happened to. History isn't just America fighting the British in the War of 1812; it's also John Paul Jones saying "I have not yet begun to fight," and winning.

        I don't remember where I read it, but once I saw an instructive comparison of various high school history texts, excerpting that story about John Paul Jones and the degree to which it had
    • Yeah, dammned nanny state teaching these kids to read and write so that they can be controlled by mass media, it's the reason we have so many stupid yet eloquent post on slashdot - give those spoilt brats a brush and put them back to work cleaning chimneys! /sarcasm
    • No surprise school is boring; the rise of social conservatives have ensured that everything that made any subject interesting have been scrubbed from the curriculum.

      Don't be silly. School is boring, but it has nothing to do with social movements. It's inherently boring because it's not what normal children and young adults would like to do with their time.

      Perhaps it's possible to make it interesting, or at least less boring. But technical gizmos per se aren't going to do that - unless of course you want to replace education with mere entertainment.

    • I've always thought that school had very little to do with actual "textbook" learning and more about learning to interact with others. Sure, you learn to add and multiply, but the social skills that are (meant to be) learnt in school are the most important.

      I've always also thought that if most of your learning is done at school, you'll never acheive much. Learning shouldn't stop at the end of the last period.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Thoguth ( 203384 ) *

      No surprise school is boring; the rise of social conservatives have ensured that everything that made any subject interesting have been scrubbed from the curriculum.

      I don't think it can all be blamed on "conservatives" ... but it can fairly be blamed on politics. Conservatives in Texas won't stand for textbooks that are too critical of religion or "traditional values," whether those conservative values are appropriate or not. Liberals in California won't stand for textbooks that are politically incorrect ... whether the truth of history, science or literature is politically correct or not. Since Texas and California are both major markets for textbooks, the textboo

  • by 75th Trombone ( 581309 ) * on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:02AM (#20863487) Homepage Journal
    Part --- not all, but part --- of the reason for more kids sucking in school is that when they go home, they've got all these gadgets that put them on a continuous reinforcement schedule [wikipedia.org]. They get IMMEDIATE reinforcement on every click of the mouse, every push of a button, every touch of the stylus.

    It's been a while since I took Ed Psych, so I can't use too many more big behavior-analysis words, but when you saturate children with immediate reinforcement and then drop them into a classroom, it's pretty obvious that a good percentage of them will become zombie children. Human teachers just can't provide the reinforcement schedule that they've become accustomed to.
    • Part --- not all, but part --- of the reason for more kids sucking in school is that when they go home, they've got all these gadgets that put them on a continuous reinforcement schedule.

      Well, what the hell else are they going to do? You can't play on the lawn where there are no lawns; and the vast proliferation of cars has made the street too dangerous to play in. What are kids supposed to do? Play with the chemistry set? Nowadays chem sets don't even come with chemicals. Build things? God forbid somebody
  • by filesiteguy ( 695431 ) <perfectreign@gmail.com> on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:07AM (#20863541) Homepage
    I have a six-year-old in second grade and a four-year-old in kindergarten. The teachers are using the same boring techniques that didn't work when I was in school and are boring the crap out of my second grader. He's already turned off by learning every monday through friday and I have to reinvigorate him on the weekend with at-home projects.

    It is unfortunate that the teaching system (of which my wife is a part) is stuck in a 19th century methodology of teaching the masses to act in unison. It is as if they're preparing these kids for the rote factory jobs of yesterday instead of the knowledge-critical jobs of today.

    I've yet to find one instance in my work (IT manager over about 60 people in a large government agency with roughly 60 servers, 1,500 staff members and 18TB of data online) where I had to fill out a scantron form or decide which option was best - a, b, c, d, or all of the above.

    As it is, I'm on the school site council, PTA and am constantly talking to the administration in my sons' school district. They just don't seem to want to 'get it.'
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      I do agree that what people do at school generally does *not* match what they will be doing at work. I'm not quite sure how to fix it because it is not easy to test for things like collaboration skills and balancing trade-offs. If its easy to test then its also usually easy to automate. Trivia can be searched on google-like tools, for example. Thus, we have a catch-22. Do we pick something thats testable so that we can measure progress and to motivate, or something more fitting to the real world but is dif
  • The generation that invented those toys stood in front of a blackboard. It remains to be seen what the kids with the toys will invent.

  • So...? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AstrumPreliator ( 708436 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:09AM (#20863561)
    The problem with schooling is that it's not "old-school" schooling. We just cater to the lowest common denominators who aren't interested in schooling which just makes it boring for those who are interested. I count myself lucky that my father instilled a great sense of curiosity in me at a young age. Yes I have an Xbox 360, gaming PC, iPod, cell phone, and all of that stuff, but as much as I like being entertained I also love learning. I have a deep interest in astrophysics, math, electrical engineering, computer science, and organic chemistry just to name a few.

    Kids aren't interested these days because no one is showing them why they should be interested. All the kids see is their parents consuming mass amounts of entertainment, no wonder they choose their Playstation 3 over their algebra homework.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wildclaw ( 15718 )
      Actually, schools doesn't cater to the lowest common denominator. The always cater to somewhere in the middle.

      This of course has the effect that those are above the level being catered to get bored, while those below the level fall behind, and never even learn to read or do basic math.

      You are right in that learning needs to be made more interesting/fun.
  • Savvy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cretog8 ( 144589 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:09AM (#20863563)

    Today's generation of kids is the most technology savvy group that this country has ever produced. They are born with an iPod in one hand and a cell phone in another. They're text messaging, e-mailing, instant messaging. They're on MySpace, YouTube & Google. They've got Nintendo Wiis, Game Boys, Play Stations.
    ...they don't know how to cook, they can't fix their own cars. They can't search for information past typing something into Google, THEY DON'T KNOW HOW SHIT WORKS.

    OK, it's a generalization, just like his generalization. I hate the notion that "technology savvy" means "knows how to operate a user interface designed to be easy to operate". Yes, I'm an old fart (38), and grumpy. Regardless, my 4-year-old is proficient with a web browser. He is by no means tech savvy, and he learns more about real technology by interacting with a tricycle or bionicles than he does by playing some Flash game.

    That said, I agree school sucks. It sucked when I was in school ("good" public schools in the 70's & 80's) and I hear it sucks worse now. I don't particularly see what text messaging can do to improve on the suckiness.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zhrinze ( 760625 )
      Exactly. Nobody seems to care how things got to the level they take for granted.

      "Tech-savvy" is a joke. Let's see, these kids can operate devices designed, built, and sold to the masses of people who have trouble making change at your local store.

      That's not savvy people, that's willingness to buy and use tools. Any idiot can buy a hammer, it doesn't mean he should bring it to school unless they're gonna actually be teaching him to use it properly.

      That said, the current thinking of schools seems overwhelm
  • by cliveholloway ( 132299 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:27AM (#20863689) Homepage Journal
    It's not to educate you, it's to keep you in line [cantrip.org].
  • Unrelated (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pcgabe ( 712924 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:33AM (#20863733) Homepage Journal

    They're in constant communication with each other, but when they go to school, they are told to leave those 'toys' at home. They're not to be used in school. Instead, the system continues teaching as if these kids belong to the last century, by standing in front of a blackboard.

    And? Does anyone really think the lack of cell-phones in the classroom is the problem holding American education back?

    I used to teach in Japan (by standing in front of a blackboard, an actual blackboard, with chalk and everything). We told our students to leave their cell-phones at home, too.

    Clearly, Japan's education system should be as bad as America's, given these criteria.
  • Google for them.

    They figured out that making kids sit and pay attention for hours on end isn't a very good way to teach.

  • So advanced (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alphafoo ( 319930 ) <loren@boxbe.com> on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:34AM (#20863745) Homepage
    I certainly didn't like high school, but I don't remember being inflicted by boredom as much as frustration and annoyance. I never really understood why so many people called school "boring" until I started my first ever job teaching last year. I taught Arabic at a popular university in California, mostly to freshman and sophomores. Even in that rarefied atmosphere of over-achievers volunteering for a tough course, the difference between the top students and the bottom students (we were supposed to say they had "less capacity", as though they were hard drives) was vast indeed. So the problem wasn't teaching in and of itself, although that is a hard job and my hat goes off to people who actually make a career of it. No, the trouble for me was trying to teach to a bell curve of ability.

    If I left no student behind and pitched to the slower students, then I would have completely alienated the average and gifted ones. If I pitched to the gifted ones, then 80% of the class would have felt left out. If I drove down the middle of the fairway, then both ends of the curve would be, well, bored.

    So when I read this SAS guy's comment about how advanced these students are these days, with their MySpace and iPods and cell phones, I don't buy into the connection between their "cyber-lifestyle" and their educational ennui. I think a typical classroom with typical chalk and a typical board can be plenty stimulating in whatever topic, provided it's tuned to the students' ability levels. But if you are going to insist that everyone in the class is equally able to absorb the material just because they all somehow ended up in the same room together, then you are probably going to have a chunk of students tune out because they're too far behind, and a chunk tune out because they're too far ahead. It would not surprise me if those two groups together would add up to about 47%.
  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink it.

    Is that the water's fault?

  • School (at least the American school system I'm familiar with) takes something beautiful and wondrous like learning and manages to suck all the joy out of it. All school really did was expose me to a bunch of subjects that I otherwise might not have looked at. But I did all of my learning on my own, by doing things I was interested in. Around age 7 I got into chemistry, and got rather proficient with my home laboratory. I was learning stuff I wouldn't encounter in school for years, just to advance my ch

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Education is not just intellectual, it's social too (some would say spiritual also).

      Okay, I learned Math and English and Chemistry and even Home Economics, but I also learned teamwork, leadership, negotiation, how to surf, a bunch of good jokes, how to make out with a girl, etc. Those are skills you can't easily pursue on your own...

  • Is 47% of HS dropouts that significant? Does that mean that 53% of the dropouts find it NOT boring. What is the % of dropouts compared to those still at school. Wouldn't it be more convincing if we say 47% of current highschool students? Back then (still less than a decade), boring is not the word I would describe HS, more likely I would say HS = Overload of everything much like what it is today. I find specialized HS more attractive, they tend to focus on one (+several related) field the most but dont tot
  • by Secret Rabbit ( 914973 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @02:04AM (#20863951) Journal
    ... though not what he thinks.

    He outlined the problem with the *kids*, NOT the problem with schools. Perhaps if the kids didn't have access to all those toys they'd have an attention span beyond that of a chronically depressed lemming and actually be able to learn something while in class.
  • Attention span (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vorpal22 ( 114901 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @06:24AM (#20865301) Homepage Journal
    I certainly agree that school can be quite uninteresting at times; this was the case when I was young, and I'm sure that it's still the case now. It was always great to have a teacher that brought a subject to life and got us enthusiastic about learning, but that wasn't particularly common, at least in my case.

    One valuable skill, however, that I feel that I learned from my more boring teachers was the ability to pay attention and stay focused, even in the face of serious tedium. I think that, due to the hyperactivity inherent in our technology and society these days, this is a skill that will be sorely lacking in the current young generation. Hell, I can see a deterioration of this in myself; I'm certainly not as good at concentrating at dull tasks as I was back in the 80s and 90s, and I think it's partially because I'm surrounded by highly rewarding outlets that provide instantaneous positive stimuli. Back in the day, if I wanted to play a game on my C64, I had to wait approximately one second per block for a program to load; thus, a game took in the ballpark of a minute in order to get from disk into memory. Now, if my web browser takes more than two seconds to start, I'm wondering what's wrong and feeling slightly antsy.

    Look to entertainment for an even better example. Go ahead and download or rent some of your favourite, more exciting shows or movies from the 80s. They don't seem so exciting and stimulating in retrospect, do they? Things have changed and entertainment and technology are much, much more engrossing and instantaneously satisfying than they used to be. This is good on some levels, and bad on others. I have friends in their early 20s who are clearly very affected by this: if anyone attempts to, say, engage them in conversation and tell them a story that lasts more than a minute, you can see that they're really struggling to pay attention. Some of them will even pull out their cell phones and start "multi-tasking".

    I'm of the opinion that this high need for stimulation is almost like an addiction and probably not healthy. Again, a lot of these same early 20 year olds that I know struggle with things like ADD and anxiety disorders: they always seem keyed up and twitchy, for lack of a better word.

    So, at least in school these kids are forced to learn to pay attention, which is a highly undervalued life skill, IMO. Your boss, later on in life, is not going to go out of his way to make sure that every aspect of your job is delightfully interesting and engrossing, nor should he or she be expected to. You're going to have to sit through duller than dishwater meetings and put up with a lot of really boring grunt work on occasion; someone has to do it and I'm sure most people here can attest to the fact that it's unavoidable at times (and in many cases, quite frequently). Why should schools be any different and struggle to make every aspect of education stimulating?
  • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @06:41AM (#20865391)
    Is this guy some kind of idiot???

    Prior to iPods, mobile phones, Facebook, etc. etc., were the youth of the day just standing around bored with their hands in their pockets any more than they do today?

    When I was a teenager 25-30 years ago, I read a lot, built models, did a lot of home electronics, a bit of woodwork and started programming on some of the first home computer systems - and I'd argue that I'm more technically savvy than most of the youngsters today because I learnt to build stuff from scratch so much, whether software, some wooden shelves or an electronic gizmo.

    An iPod is a portable music player like a Walkman was 15 years ago, Facebook is just an extension of writing and meeting pen-friends 20 or more years ago.

    If anything the modern "have it all now" youngsters have lost such qualities as patience and long attention spans.



    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomstdenis ( 446163 )
      Actually that raises an important distinction. I was a teen in the 90s, but I took an interest in computing early on (e.g. when I was a kid). I was more into tinkering with software and building computers than chatting on BBSes or whatever. I think kids of today know how to use technology quite readily, but do they actually understand how the hell it works? The percentage of kids who actually get how software/hardware works is probably just as low as it was during the 80s and 90s.

      I mean, being able to u
  • Here's an idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Intrinsic ( 74189 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @07:10AM (#20865513) Homepage

    Marking the 50th anniversary of Sputnik with a call for renewed emphasis on science and technology in America's schools

    Actually I think it would be better to have an emphasis on expressive art with science and technology complimenting it. S&T is great for the mind, but it doesn't feed the soul.
  • so fucking what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <tomstdenis@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Friday October 05, 2007 @07:37AM (#20865635) Homepage
    A lesson is a lesson regardless of whether it's in front of a blackboard or on a netmeeting whiteboard. When will these people realize that it's the MESSAGE that counts more than the medium. Not every fucking kid needs a laptop, or their own personal PDA/etc. We got along just fine in the 80s/90s with a paper agenda book, blackboards, and textbooks.

    Maybe if we expected our kids to take an interest in their own education, we wouldn't worry so much if precious wittle Johny is bored in class or not. The incentive should be to learn and explore knowledge. If the kids aren't fundamentally interested in learning, no amount of toys, gizmos, trickery, or whatnot will get them through a proper education.

    I was hardly an ideal student. I was into my own things by time I was 14, I taught myself comp.sci and cryptography usually at the expense of regular high school subjects. Yet despite all that, i still managed to graduate from high school, go to college, grad from that, and then land a career in my field of choice.

    High school dropouts are nothing more than anti-social lazy people who want instant gratification and think the world owes them everything. Oh school is boring. Well you know what, not every subject in life is going to be the most exciting thing in the world. But you go through it just the same because the more rounded your education the more versatile and interesting you become. I sure as fuck wasn't that into english lit, but I still took the courses just the same, and participated as best as I could.

    In short, stop crying and whining, nobody owes you jack squat, and if you stop making excuses like "we need laptops and powerpoint!" you'd actually realize that the problems are mostly with the students, not the system.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @10:25AM (#20867391)
    COmplaining aboutmodern education hasnt changed in 2400 years. Reminds of the passage from Plato's Phadreus dialog condemning the invention of writing. The speaker claimed people would use their memory less and it would become much weaker. Homer's epics are pre-writing. Lore-masters would memorize them - tens of thousands of lines. In the original greek they have a beat and rhyme fairly similar to modern rap, to assist memorization.
  • by Loosifur ( 954968 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @10:32AM (#20867487)
    Reading that quote about the kids and their fancy gadgets all I could think about was my grandparents being frustrated with their cable remote and asking me to show them how to use their cell phones. It also reminded me of a class I had in elementary school with the somewhat vague title "Computer Class". I'm not totally sure what this class was meant to teach, but two days a week we'd march our butts down to the computer room (which, mind you, had one computer in it) and play "educational" games on an Apple IIe, or watch our teacher do something with Logo involving a "turtle". The most I got out of that class was a tremendous ability to find Carmen Sandiego.

    Around middle school an uncle of mine who works in IT gave me his old 286, some manuals, and some software, and turned me loose. I learned more about computers by repeatedly breaking and fixing that thing than I ever did in elementary school.

    What's my point? I guess I've got two, really. The first point is that a computer is just a tool. School administrators seem to think along the same lines as hillbillys, luddites, or the old and uninformed; to be "good at computers" in some vague and shadowy way means that one is technologically savvy, possesses sharp analytical skills, and is a good problem-solver. By putting computers in schools they hope to make kids technologically skilled through some sort of sympathetic magic, much in the same way shamanic belief systems might make amulets of bear teeth to confer that strength to the wearer. The idea that because kids can play video games and text message each other they can propel the nation in to technological advancement is like saying that anyone who can drive a car should be equally good a designing and building one.

    The second point I would make is that, while I wasn't thrilled with school when I was a student and I would like to see a more free-form system of education, the point of school is not primarily academic learning. School teaches you to work within an institution. Anyone can crack a book open or mess around with an engine. Formal education teaches you how to interact with a social structure similar to what one would find in most workplaces. (Similar, mind you, not identical.) That's not a worthless skill. Our society is structure, there is authority, there are rules. Whether you want to change that or not, that's the game as it stands and you need to know how to work within it.

    The third and final point I would make, although probably better made by other posts, is that this guy is pointing out the problem with students, not schools. Speaking as a knee-jerk hedonist who acts to satisfy my every whim as they occur, it's not necessarily a good thing that an 8 year old can whip out a phone and text his friends in the middle of class, or that he can pull out a PSP and watch a movie or play a video game because geometry is boring. And, seriously, as intellectually curious as I am, if I got to choose my classes in school I would be utterly incapable of even the most basic arithmetic today. Sometimes, just sometimes, it's a good thing that someone who's priorities including eating as much cookies and cream ice cream as possible and watching Duck Tales is not calling the shots with his academic future. And before anyone starts in I know that there are 6 year olds who are super focused and mature for their age who might very well be able to make responsible decisions as to their education, I'm just making the point that, when you've lived fewer years than the lifespan of some pets you may not have the perspective to make good decisions. So maybe having someone who is trained in their academic field and in the skill of education in charge might not be a bad thing? Maybe, in this case, tradition is tradition for a reason?
  • by Anonymous Meoward ( 665631 ) on Friday October 05, 2007 @10:42AM (#20867639)

    Dr. Goodnight is also the de-facto CEO of Cary, NC, a well-to-do suburb of Raleigh. He attempts to rule the place with a velvet-clad iron fist, much like David Packard tries to dictate terms to Palo Alto, CA. As a result, all the new development in Cary (and there is a lot of it) tends to resemble the set of either "The Stepford Wives" or "The Truman Show". (I know, I lived there for 13 years.) Thus Dr. Jim has the occasional delusion of God-like powers within the town limits.

    To his credit, he also started Cary Academy, a boarding school with a very intense math and science curriculum. (I think it's K-12, not sure, but I do know that SAS employees get a break on the tuition.) But I'm convinced his insights are marred by the bias of the student population he's observed there: motivated, intelligent kids with affluent parents.

    He only needs to venture a few miles west to Granville County, NC to see what the rest of the student population looks like: neglectful parents who have never known the value of an education, and who are barely scraping by in construction or crappy service jobs. (I know someone who taught there. If you ever want to know where the left-hand side of the bell curve lives, go to Granville.) I don't think any upgrade of classroom tech will transform the young lives there.

    So Jim, if you read Slashdot, please heed my advice, and pull your head out of your academy.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!