Going Wrong
Going Wrong
Intuitive Learning - The Results
The Failure of Intuition
The Monster Study and Intuition
Success, Failure, and the Need to Succeed
Free Will and Randomness
Occam's Razor
PEMDAS - And Other Atrocities
Math Lessons
For Further Reading

Too many people want to solve "educational problems" by imposing their own singular solution ... as though there were only one problem.

Mr Bennett had his own idea of what is wrong with math education.

Here is my response:

Rebuttal to John Bennett

“I used to like math until I had Mr. Johnson in third grade.”

This is Mr. Bennett’s rationale for dropping math from the curriculum.  Because teaching it wrong through elementary school creates fear and hatred, we should no longer teach it after elementary school.

“Do you see English anxiety or Spanish anxiety,” he asks, then brushes that aside as though “of course you don’t.”  Well, that’s a crock.  Yes, I have seen English anxiety and Spanish anxiety.  I see kids terrified of writing a paper, totally paralyzed with anger about an ungraspable grammar, speechless in Spanish.  In fact, the name of the education game seems to be “FEAR AND HATE”.

Hmm, according to Mr. Bennett, we should probably stop teaching entirely.

If the only question of importance is “do we need this in real life,” then we could probably discard all education after third grade.  We don’t knead notthin in reel lif.

As some eager person pointed out, if you can read the last sentence above, you are reading gud enuff.

Another crock.

But proving this is harder.  There is an entire movement of “back to the basics” or “if it was good enough for Neanderthals, it’s good enough for me.”

You think not?  Then read every comment against education and trace it’s subtext in a logical strand to where it is leading.

It’s leading to that undefinable phrase that everyone uses and thinks everyone else understands:  “Real Life.”

What is Real Life?

Does Real Life include Shakespeare?  IPhones?  Video games?  Walks in the park?  Death by kidnappers?  Holding hands?  Literacy?  Basketball?

Define Real Life.

Is it the way you live your life or the way I live mine.  It can’t be the intersection of those two sets, because that kind of definition is going to have a limit of the empty set when applied to everyone.  It can’t be the union of those two sets, because that kind of definition will have the result tending to the universal set when applied to everyone.

Well, who gets to define Real Life?

Got a problem there, don’t you?

And, by the way, did you notice how I used a set theory example to make my point three paragraphs above, and how I used the accepted definition of paragraph to get you to the right place, right now?

How much of the substructure of Real Life is actually the composite of all those subjects we don’t think apply – simply because they aren’t apparent on the surface?  Should we throw out our endocrine system simply because no people know how it relates to their real life?

It wasn’t until some scientist figured out what caused scurvy that sailors had a better chance of surviving long sea trips.  And I bet that very few sailors saw the connection between citrus fruit and scurvy.  They just accepted there was a connection.

Imagine if Mr. Bennett’s TED presentation was about the worthlessness of Vitamin C based on its low ranking in the Real Life score sheet of the average person, and how we can therefore drop it from our diets.

So where does Mr. Bennett go with all this?  He leaps at the end to well there is the benefit of learning inductive and deductive reasoning.  And then, in less than a minute, asserts that these skills can all be learned by playing various games that challenge the brain in such a way as to stimulate that growth.

Sounds good?

Another crock.

The moment we start requiring students to solve math games or pattern games or whatever you want to call it, you’re right back at the start:  Imposing a system of study on students that they will find difficult, repressive, and … you guessed it … unrelated to real life.  Yes, even questions that have the exterior of a real life situation (you are a detective, and you are at the murder scene, and …) will be found to be artificial and not related to the real life of sitting in front of a television set, watching the Rose Bowl, eating food that will clog his veins and widen his pants, while shouting obscenities at a man on the screen who doesn’t do whatever it is the viewer thinks he should be doing.

Oh, come on now.  Real life?

I’ll give a real answer to John Bennett’s straw man.

Yes, many kids come out of elementary school hating school.  Not all do, but way too many.  And, yes, junior high school and high school exacerbate that hatred.

We need to examine the roots of that hatred.  When we do, we will learn what most teachers already know:  There are many roots and the hatred is not the same from child to child.

Some children hate school because school keeps them away from their technology addiction.  Take this one seriously, folks, because it is real and it is documented and it is the most important crisis of the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Some children hate school because it is at school that they learned to hate themselves.  That is, school introduced them to feelings of self-doubt and of failure they have never felt before.

Some children hate school because it taught them fear.  Fear of grades, fear of the judgment of others, fear of consequences related to things out of their control.  So much of elementary school relies on the threat of bad grades, parental conferences, and the possibility of rejection by those who are most important to these children – parents, other members of an extended family, some friends perhaps, even their teachers.

Some children hate school because they are bullied there, or because they are isolated there, or because they singled out for some difference in attitude or skin color or belief or background or dress or social standing or …

Some children hate school because they have to sit still at a desk for longer than their own biological/psychological mechanism is comfortable with.

Some children hate school because they cannot learn by “reading over someone else’s shoulder”, which is my metaphor for following a lecture.  Or because they cannot learn by reading a text for comprehension.  Or because they cannot learn from a group activity, especially one where the others in the group grasp ideas first and steal any possibility of his participation.

Some children hate school because it starts too early in the day and their biological system is just more sensitive to this than the majority of students.  Or because they can’t take a nap in the early afternoon when our Circadian Systems have the second most powerful sleep period.  And these students just feel out of synch and can’t get into the instructional rhythm.

Some children hate school because they just had too many lousy teachers.  Teachers who are rigid and can’t accommodate differences among their students, or teachers who think pizza parties are the answer to education and conspire with their students to present the illusion that education is taking place by giving good grades for nothing.

Mr. Bennett is a fool.  He is a narcissistic fool who thinks that because his students hate his subject, that somehow his subject is the only subject they resist and whine about and do poor work in.  Why doesn’t he look at the book reports his students write for their English classes and see what kind of spellers his students are, see how well they master grammar, see what kind of vocabulary they have mastered.  Why doesn’t he visit their social studies class and see if they have the slightest comprehension of what important events have contributed to the important decisions they have shaped the important structure of human society today, and whether or not any of those initial events may now be recurring?

People hate learning because somehow we, the people, have allowed that to come about.  And that is what we will pay the piper for.

But the solution is not going to be throwing out education, because educating humankind is all we have to save us.