Archive for September, 2007

Cow Manure

September 13, 2007 Leave a comment

Cow manure — that is the best way to describe the education system in this country. A big steaming pile of cow manure. I got into an argument today with my project manager and and her boss, the supervisor of quality assurance. What was the argument about, you may ask? I had built a control that was a drop-down list of the USPS state codes that was to go onto the client site where I work. It had been approved by the business unit for my project, but somehow a discussion started on whether it was a good idea to only have a two-character code as the drop-down values.

Granted, some of the territories and islands we (the United States) hold are a bit obscure, and it was probably a bit too much for me to assume that anyone would know what FM or MP stood for. (FM = Federated States of Micronesia and MP = Northern Mariana Islands for those of you playing at home.) But the argument I got into boiled down to this: They (everyone but me) thought that our clients would not know what the abbreviation for states like Missouri is, and that the only reason that all of us knew what it was (MO) was because we live in the state.

SIDEBAR: This is one hell of a bad argument for them to give me in the first place considering there are a lot of people who live in the state of Missouri who do not know how to pronounce Missouri correctly. Everyone, may I have your attention please? There is no “A” in MISSOURI. Now back to the regularly scheduled rant.

OK, here is reality check time. When do we learn the states that make up these United States of America we live in? Anyone? Anyone? By the time we are in 6th grade (I looked it up.) That’s right, by the time we are 12 years old, we are expected to know the geography of the United States, including abbreviations and capital cities.

I was basically arguing why we would expect 12 year olds to know this stuff, and yet adults (I’m assuming here) are not thought capable of such a thing. This isn’t even high school stuff, so the argument that not everyone has graduated from high school is out the door from the get go. I was told we could not assume that our clients would know this stuff. That’s fine, I thought, but why are we allowing our clients to remain “in the dark” and stupid? Why not help them by actually forcing them to learn something?

I know it is probably a pretty foreign concept and all — learning, that is. After all, if this country can allow kids to go through school without learning, why make adults learn. I’m not quite being facetious here. We try to have a “no child left behind” type of environment in our schools, and yet this type of environment is forcibly leaving children behind. I was one of those children.

We have to make sure that every kid can get an education, so we must dumb down what we learn so that even the most stupid person can still learn. What about people like me? Does the system have any idea how bored I was in grade school and high school? Does the system have any idea what I missed out on (learning-wise) because the schools were not equipped with the knowledge to teach kids like me? I took QuickBASIC in high school because that was the only course offered to me, and it was offered by a 50-something year old women who did not have a clue what it was she was teaching. Never mind that I taught myself BASIC at age 8 or 9, it did not take long before I was teaching her what to teach the class. What did I get out of that? Nothing.

Left behind.

I took physics in high school from a woman who did not really know the equations, had to look everything up, and “get back to us tomorrow” whenever we had a question. We taught ourselves, and tried every day to make her look the fool by asking her questions we knew she did not know. I was so frustrated, I told her where she could put her chalk (so to speak). Needless to say, I was suspended. What did I get out of that? Nothing.

Left behind.

Are there differences between public and private schools? I don’t think so. If nothing else, public schools are even worse. Before you argue: the public high schools where I grew up required that students take 5 courses a semester for a grand total of 40 courses — and some of these courses were shop, home economics, wood-working, underwater basket weaving, etc. I took 7 courses a semester for a grand total of 56 courses — and I never even took PE (though I was involved in sports.) I was left behind, and I took 16 more semester courses than anyone in the public school system. How many of those kids do you think were left behind?

I worry for my kids. I worry about the education they are going to receive. They are already, at three, exhibiting smarts far greater than their age, and my wife and I know they will be as smart as, but more likely smarter than us (and that is saying something — I’m not bragging here, just telling it like it is.) What are they going to do? Who is going to teach them what they need to learn when they need to learn it? Who is going to keep them from getting bored, which could lead to getting into trouble, being disruptive, etc.?

I worry for my kids, because I am about to send them through the fields filled with big piles of steaming, smelly, fly-infested manure — er, I mean school. It’s time to recycle the manure and create some energy, or at the very least, fertilizer. Smart kids will benefit from the accelerated courses and not be left behind, and dumb kids will be forced to get smarter and not be left behind, or we will be forced to sterilize them so they cannot produce more dumb kids. It’s a win-win either way. But this is my opinion, and what do I really know anyway?

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