Thursday, June 02, 2016

Designing failure

"If we were to chuck every single educational “innovation” visited upon us by political hucksters in the last eighty years, and simply teach what was then considered the norm for a person with a half-decent background in arts and letters, and call it “classical,” we would at once stanch the bleed from our enrollments and give our young people a standard deviation or two over their schooled counterparts." Anthony Esolen

I wasn't in school 80 years ago, but I was in first grade 70 years ago (first grade and sixth grade in both Forreston and Mt. Morris due to family moves), so what would I bring back?
  • Bible reading and prayer to start the day, and as children learned to read, they did it. I think we said the Pledge to the flag. No one was converted if their family already didn't attend church, but it did set the tone. Each child had a New Testament in the desk provided by the Gideons. Today police would be called if they tried that, even though under the first amendment it's still legal.
  • Money collected for savings bonds and we each had our own book (this extended well beyond WWII).  The stamps were 10 cents.  Not sure what poor children did. Very early we learned to watch our "savings" grow with pretty stamps. Today it would be considered discriminatory against immigrants or bad form to be patriotic.
  • Phonics, reading aloud, diagramming sentences to understand grammar and spelling bees. I really didn't enjoy being in front of the class, but I did learn from this to face my fears.
  • Recess and physical education through all grades. We were a hot, sweaty mess.  Probably less hyperactivity in those days.
  • School assemblies where we would gather for a lyceum event (speakers,magicians, inspirational, music, drama). The blind pianist was a favorite, I remember.
  • School wide musicals. Classroom art instruction although we didn't have art teachers and the music teacher served several rural schools.
  •  My Own Picture book
  • Story time by teacher and resting after recess (for younger children)--I remember this through 4th grade. Loved those stories. My first exposure to The Wizard of Oz.
  • In room parties when moms brought cookies and we occasionally saw a movie. Halloween, Valentines and Christmas parties.  Principal read the Luke version of infancy story to the whole school.
  • In the 2 elementary schools I attended, there were no cafeterias--I either walked home for lunch or brought a packed lunch which no one inspected for the USDA approval. If we had allergic kids, I didn't know about it.
  • School wide vaccination programs--if there were religious exceptions, I wasn't aware of them. Small pox in kindergarten and polio in 7th grade.
  • Math instruction even someone like me could understand.
  • Geography and history, beginning with the world in the lower grades, then the nation, then the state and county.
There were other things that I hated then, and would hate now.  
  • Team or group projects where my grade depended on the slowest and most irresponsible person in the group. I was a good student, and hated this.
  • State testing--we didn't do as much then as they do now, but I hated it. Usually lasted a day. I was never a good test taker and it caused a lot of anxiety.
  • No special instruction for slow students.  They just dropped out after a few years to work the farm with dad, or were passed along and aged out at 16 in 7th or 8th grade. 
  • Grading each others work.  This was demeaning for both good and poor students.  I would sometimes "cheat" for the other guy, even if I wouldn't do it on my own, just so he could pass.
  • Weighing in front of class (I think our height and weight was recorded on our report cards). 
  • Mean teachers who bullied students. Yes, it happened then and probably happens now. I never experienced this because I was an excellent student and didn't cause trouble.

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