Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Artificial Intelligence

Our educational system is rooted in a century-old model which straddled the agricultural and industrial ages.
It was a time when only some kids attended school, and fewer went beyond the eighth grade.
No one attended during the busy growing and harvesting season.
Jobs were plentiful and most didn’t require academic skills.
Teachers were primarily single women with some college, who taught morals and trained kids to memorize facts.
It worked just fine.
As more families left farms for factories, and fathers took on city jobs, they could no longer apprentice their sons in manual and agricultural skills.
Nor did they need to.
Compulsory education laws were passed and children started attending schools in greater numbers and for longer stints.
After the mid-century war, blacks migrated to northern cities, as whites fled to the suburbs and passed budgets for sprawling schools staffed by women and increasing numbers of men who unionized the faculties.
The educators were primarily those who succeeded in, and liked school as they experienced it, so, they sought to maintain, not revolutionize it.
Parents, too, had expectations based on the model of their own school experience.
Modest adjustments, like new math and whole language were ridiculed.
The school cultural was static and resistant to change even as the society was undergoing broad upheavals
Women started working, and parenting was outsourced to day-care centers.
Latch-key kids rode yellow buses to empty houses.
Race, poverty, immigration, dysfunction, politics, and divorce all entered the schoolhouse.
Knowledge proceeded to double by the decade, as workers saw the life-long career platform fade into a new employment world of musical chairs.
The curriculum expanded slightly, but survived largely intact.
Our world went digital but our thinking stayed analog.
Even as we employ computers, smart boards and iPads, we clutch onto much of the yellowing curriculum and arthritic methods as if they were the owner’s manual to success.
Our template is more past than future.
Global comparisons scare us into action.
The committee organized by the Council on Foreign Relations recently concluded that 30% of high school graduates do not do well enough on an aptitude test to serve in the military.
And that's the graduates.
We sense that something is wrong, but, rather than considering an educational revolution, we prescribe a program of evaluating teachers; a bureaucratic alchemy contest in search of educational gold.
Regretfully, a reasonable definition of schooling has become the study of things that help one get through school…not life.
We have spell-check.
We need think-check.

As schools vigorously teach to the test, they should be teaching to the future.


artchick said...

Great article Bruce!

Purple Haze said...

Truly this is the society of kill the messenger. Since problems in education are always the teachers' ffault in this dystopian hunger game for knowledge the governmental powers that be decide to evaluate teachers on how well their students perform on tests. When studied closely this would be as asinine as evaluating doctors on how well their patients get better.
It should be glaringly obvious that those patients who follow the doctors prescriptions tend to do better than those dolts who continue to march to the beat of their own drummers. Hence, society does not evaluate its doctors by the wellness of its patients because society realizes how ignorant this would be.
Now with the new Board of Regents and the new I can do better than my father Mario , governor Cuomo (remember EIT monies) trying to reinvent the Madeline Hunter wheel pushing this new ASSinine evaluations, one must pause and ask the proverbial question WTF?
The answer is the same. Just as society understands that the doctors' patients must follow their prescriptions to achieve better health, so should society understand that students should follow the dictums of their teachers in order to be successful. Too many parents work full time and expect the teachers to do all of the educating . When I was a young lad my parents took a very proactive role in my education. I had to do my homework and if I ever came home with less than a 90 I was dead meat. God forbid a teacher should ever call home. My parents always took the teachers' side and Inwas at the receiving end of some type of punishment corporal or psychological.
Having retired five years ago from teaching high school English for a prior thirty-five years I can attest to a lack of proactive parental involvement for the last ten years or so. Their involvement was reactive at best ( blaming teachers for little Johnny's not doing his homework and thus failing) to absent altogether ( not showing up for parent/teacher conferences evn though I promised to reward each student with five points on said marking period average if their parent showed up) and then blaming the teacher for little Mary's failure.
Yes , we have a crisis in education now. Kids can't spell because they have spellcheck and their own universal slang on their smartphones. LOL
We need a back to the basics approach. Smartboards are only as smart as those inputting the info. Instead of evaluating teachers on student performance, society needs to reinforce the students responsibility in this compact for learning. All in all this is just a political shell game to divert public funds to private charter schools so education, like everything else in this land of the free can make the 1% richer.
It's not the intelligence that is artificial it is the lack of student effort and the politicalization of education that is not only artificial , but superficial !

quicksand said...

e-mail received from LIBERTYLUVRZ

Great post. Keeping to this antiquated agrarian calendar is killing us in the global market. As far as technology and work ethic goes, India and China are cleaning our collective clock! I agree with Dr. C. that you should get this out there. Okay to forward it to friends?"

quicksand said...


That very well may have been your best one yet -- thoroughly enjoyed it and you are dead-on. Kids being tutored to fill in the right box to make their A+ an A++ further adds to the insanity of learning to test take and spit back, not think.

Hope you are well. Keep writing!

quicksand said...


Great piece on oueducationally "retarded" society,

Bruce. With your permission, I'd like to circulate it to some peers. You should write longer pieces like this one, and send them to Rolling Stone or The Atlantic.
Dr. P

Purple Haze said...

Bruce forward away

quicksand said...

Newsday just published a front page story of a kid who won the Hofstra spelling bee.
My opinion is that all knowledge is good...but ...since we don't have time to learn everything, we should select the most important things. A spelling bee is education's version of the Nathan's hotdog eating contest.
Now...a vocabulary bee....that would really be something!

quicksand said...


powerful words!
im going to share this with my wife as she struggles to prepare her students for the state exams in the coming weeks.
thank you!


Andrew said...

Great article Bruce! Teachers these days are dealing with Generation (E)ntitlement. Everybody wants a gift, and everybody has an excuse...not good for our country.

quicksand said...


Mudak Muzhik said...

So Bruce, what can we do to change the path we're on so that my great grandchildren will have a better opportunity to learn and more importantly, to think.

quicksand said...


if a school continues to have young kids memorize a list of spelling words once a week...for the big test.
if they practice cursive writing.
if they memorize dates and names of explorers.
if they assign a dozen division problems.
if they do reports on the natural resources of a country, when they don't have any idea of what a natural resource even is.
if they put football before reading.
if they serve crap in the cafeteria.
if they have public relations assemblies to impress parents.

do they teach economics.
or logic.
or insurance.
or commerce, politics, and culture.
or engineering. [make a chair]
or law.
or sociology.
or agriculture.
or sources of energy.

ask a kid why there are tv shows and who pays for them.
ask a kid where his water comes from or where his waste goes to.

leave no child behind?
leave no child awake!

jim (formerly known as ben's friend) said...

As usual Bruce, your musings are insightful and thought surprise there. What delighted me in addition was several turns of phrase which rose beyond the simply articulate to the poetic. Two examples: ..."a bureaucratic alchemy contest in search of educational gold." and "latch key kids rode yellow buses to empty homes."

quicksand said...

Thank you...a man of splendid taste, indeed!