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Stories from an unnamed uni.

Scene: Faculty Meeting.

Agenda: Faculty Discussion on New Course Introduction to Computation. (MATH 100) Course is to be remedial for students unprepared for Basic Mathematics. (MATH 101)

Question from Prof:  "Is not Basic Mathematics intended to be a remedial course for students unprepared to take the Intro to Math course?

Answer from Admin: "Yes."

Question from Prof:  "So we are adding a remedial course for the remedial course?"

Answer from Admin:  "Yes."

And yes, fractions were part of the curriculum for the original remedial course.  So I guess that we were down to teaching.....  numbers?????

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 09:10:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Still nothing to do with "reading blueprints", "following procedures" and "documenting work".

What conversations about remedial courses do they have over in the English department?

Scene: Faculty Meeting.

Agenda: Faculty Discussion on New Course Introduction to Spelling and Phonics (ENG 100). Course is to be remedial for students unprepared for Basic Writing (ENG 101).

Question from Prof:  "Is not Basic Writing intended to be a remedial course for students unprepared to take the Freshman Composition course?

Answer from Admin: "Yes."

Question from Prof:  "So we are adding a remedial course for the remedial course?"

Answer from Admin:  "Yes."



A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 09:24:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Basically yes.

We have a testing culture in America, but the sad truth is that even AP courses are primarily directed towards students being able to recall knowledge, not make active use of it.

Bloom's taxonomy is useful here.  Most student never move beyond the idea that learning means being able to recite what they've learned.  That's even the way that AP (Advanced Placement, basically knowledge tests that allow a student to be placed in a higher level college course, based upon what they've learned in high school)function.

The whole idea of a liberal arts education is that by progressing towards those higher level skills (applying and analyzing) that you essentially teach students how to make use of new knowledge. Maybe trying to illustrate this with an example helps.

Imagine a level.  Like the tool.   At the most basic level, you teach students what a level looks like.  Metal box.  Little tube in the center with two lines, and a bubble in the middle.  This is simple knowledge, not comprehension.

You can know what a level look like, and have no idea what the hell it does.  Comprehension means that you can tell me what a level does, but you still don't know how to actually use it.  That's a matter of applying the knowledge that you have.  Bubble between lines means that a surface is flat.  You can use the level. You can now use this tool.

Beyond this lies analysis.  Because you know that this bubble tells you that a surface is flat, you can fix the tool if the fluid leaks out of the tube. You can repair the tool, and you're getting a grasp of the principles at work here.  Gravity, relative density, and such.

At the highest level, you can actually make a new level, because you've mastered all the principles needed.

The idea of a liberal arts education is that you learn about topics in a given field, and it is the ability to learn that is the actual skill you pick up.

This a lot easier to explain in person......

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 10:07:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You keep talking about a college-level liberal arts education, but the issue is that people (even the college-bound) come out of secondary education functionally illiterate.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 10:38:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True enough.

I'm speaking to what I know.

And, honestly I think that this is the way that secondary education is designed in the US.

You use the term "functionally illiterate," but I think that we have to be very careful here.  If that phrase is to have any meaning, it has to be connected to some sort of expectation of what students should know. And, the expectation seems to be a very basic level of knowledge.

Part of the problem is that I think there is a tendency to want to have a very broad (in subject terms), but not very deep education at the secondary level.  If you really want to know what the standard are for high school education, look here.

This is one state, but is probably pretty typical. Even this is misleading, because students think know that all they really have to do is memorize.  Most high school tests are multiple choice, and that form doesn't give itself to asking questions that actually answer whether a student understands material.

And, in the end.  Students just don't care, because it's not like there are consequences for being a defiant little bastard and just refusing to do any sort of homework.  If schools try to enforce standards, wealthy parents will just revolt.  

It may be that this is the problem.  Schools aren't expected to enforce standards, and there's pushback if they try to do so. So students grow up in an environment where there are few, if any, expectations.

The very idea of public education, that the State should be determining what your children learn is somehow suspect.  So you get charters, etc....  Which promise to improve the situation, but make it worse.

And now I am being entirely jaded.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 11:19:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For definiteness, I call "functionally illiterate" to be unable to meet the following standard which has nothing to do with "knowledge" or even "information" or "trivia"
ACT WorkKeys includes twelve workplace skill assessments:

  • Applied Mathematics - applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems
The dreaded "word problems" in mathematics classes.

  • Applied Technology - understanding technical principles as they apply to the workplace
  • Business Writing - composing clear, well-developed messages relating to on-the-job situations
  • What, no powerpoint?

  • Listening - being able to listen to and understand work-related messages
  • Locating Information - using information from sources such as diagrams, floor plans, tables, forms, graphs, and charts
  • Workplace Observation - paying attention to details in instructions and demonstrations
  • Reading for Information - comprehending work-related reading materials such as memos, bulletins, policy manuals, and governmental regulations
  • What, no powerpoint?

  • Teamwork - choosing behavior that furthers workplace relationships and accomplishes work tasks
  • Writing - measures the skills individuals use when they write messages that relay workplace information between people
  • What, no powerpoint?

  • Performance - related to attitudes toward work and the person's tendency to engage in unsafe work behaviors
  • Talent - includes dependability, assertiveness, and emotional stability
  • Fit - how interests and values correspond to a particular career


  • A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 11:24:22 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    </snark>

    Power Point is a tool for presenting all of the desired understandings, not a substitute for knowing how to organize one's thoughts. Without the former Power Point just becomes another meaningless computer skill.

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 11:58:26 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Don't dis making slide decks before you've had to make one to present a multi-million dollar business case...

    It actually is an acquired skill, and one that, like concision and intelligibility, is not well respected in academia. Presumably because it is believed that there is a tradeoff between precision and concision and between correctness and intelligibility. Which is not as false as some consultants would have you believe... but not as true as some professors hold either.

    - Jake

    Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

    by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 12:28:16 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I suspect that, to a large portion of the US population, education consists of memorization and regurgitation. Worse, I have known too many adults who related school experiences of having been accused of lying when the answer to a question 'just came to them'. To authoritarians the answers come from the top of the hierarchy - often from God by scripture or direct revelation in the distant past. The result is that perhaps the majority of students learn not to trust themselves to be able to arrive at an answer on their own by just having the answer just come to them. Such people are, effectively, mentally paralyzed. To authoritarians and sociopaths this is a feature, not a bug and that is part of why such functional paralysis is as common as it is.

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 12:40:21 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    They come out inadequately educated (functionally illiterate is probably a bit strong) because they were overwhelmed. Unrealistic goals don't help. Challenges are good; asking the impossible is not. If you set expectations a lot beyond an individual's limit, results will drop.

    Giving everybody a college education is not a realistic goal. You need to divide those who can realistically go to college from those who cannot and school them in a different way.

    by oliver on Tue Jan 28th, 2014 at 02:09:08 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Drafting used to teach not just how to create a drawing but also how symbols are used and how the drawings are to be interpreted. CAD programs teach the same skills. But they have become much less common than drafting or mechanical drawing. I disliked my high school drafting course as there was too much emphasis on pretty lettering - never my strength. I taught myself everything else I needed to know to create two sided PCB layouts and specify the construction of boards, including gold plating of terminals, the fabrication of panels and enclosures for audio consoles, down to spec.ing the screw size and thread, preparing the silkscreening of the panels in two colors, etc.

    Because I was in a liberal arts curriculum for my BS I never had to take the time intensive college level mechanical drawing required of engineering students at the time. But, when the need arises I can sketch a recognizable representation of a three dimensional view by pencil - with a few erasures. That was sufficient for my needs in my profession.

    What is needed for students to qualify for entry level jobs is just a basic understanding of the presentation system underlying the drawing. A good drawing is an art work. An old engineering maxim is: "The art of engineering is in the presentation." That is true, even though there is a lot of bad art in that market. But the students don't need to be artists to succeed, though some are.    

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 06:03:43 PM EST
    [ Parent ]

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