Teaching Smart vs. not LO13680

Bill Harris (billh@lsid.hp.com)
Tue, 20 May 1997 09:06:53 -0800 (PDT)

Replying to LO13648 --

> Replying to LO13623 --

> Unfortunately saying that those exiting school don't have the basic skills
> is the same "sayings" that have been used for over 100 years ago in both
> UK and US, by each preceding generation. The truth is that our young
> people have the equivalent of a BA or B.S. by the time they leave
> secondary school (high school in the US) compared to just 25 years ago.
> And they approach a graduate level compared to 50 years ago. They know
> more, do more with their knowledge than ever before.

Can you help me understand that statement a bit? By what criteria and
evidence are you stating that?

Both sides of this seem like simple arguments all of us tend to make based
on our own situations and impressions. I'm not doubting that you have a
reason for your claim; I'm trying to decide how to integrate your claim
and my own impressions.

Here are some of my reasons for wondering.

My kids who have graduated from high school have had a calculus course;
calculus wasn't offered in my high school, so I had to wait until freshman
year in college. Others of my generation in college did have calculus in
public high schools, though, and I felt in the minority when I got to
college. Calculus back then (my impressions only) covered techniques
_and_ proofs, while the calculus courses I see today don't cover proofs
until after the first (or second) year of college calculus.

In my high school, I was able to take 3 years of German (on top of 2 of
Spanish); had I chosen French, Latin or Spanish, I would have been able to
take 5 years. The most I see available in high schools here today is 4
years of a foreign language (German, French or Spanish --- no Latin), and
most students seem to stop at 2 years.

My high school of 30 years ago had 1.5 years each of chemistry and
physics; the local high school has 1 year of each, with no AP type
courses in those subjects.

While my elementary, junior high and high schools only offered band for
instrumental music, the nearby city offered orchestra _and_ band, starting
in the elementary school. It seems increasingly rare for public schools
to offer orchestra and thus contact to this major (admittedly European
dominated) part of the artistic history of the cultural world.

My impression is that both my schools and my kids' schools are similar in
socio-economic levels. Both are in suburban areas outside a larger city.

I'm not really arguing that my experience is typical, but rather looking
for evidence that supports the notion that the high schooler of today has
the equivalent of a BS/BA of 25 years ago. There have been some really
outstanding classes at the local high school. Furthermore, our state
offers students who finish all of the available courses at the high school
the option of progressing into the community college system, and that
provides a wonderful opportunity. However, with the exception of that
community college program, I'm not sure I see, on balance, that much
difference one way or the other.



Bill Harris                             Hewlett-Packard Co. 
R&D Engineering Processes               Lake Stevens Division 
domain: billh@lsid.hp.com               M/S 330
phone: (425) 335-2200                   8600 Soper Hill Road
fax: (425) 335-2828                     Everett, WA 98205-1298 

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