Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Getting Educated:

With the state mandated readjusting of our school calendars, with the goal of "increasing tourism tax revenue to support our schools," it occurred to me to inquire how other schools in our country organized their calendars. They vary greatly. However, there is one thing that unites our schools across the country, and that is, we are failing dismally in comparison with other countries.

 I wonder why. We go to school longer and introduce concepts earlier than we ever have before. We spend billions to improve ours schools, but the sum total of knowledge gained keeps slipping.  By middle school we are outranked by nearly every Asian country, Belgium, Czech republic, Slovak republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Russian federation, Australia, Netherlands, Denmark, England, and many more. And it gets worse by high school. 

Click here to read a great article regarding US performance against students across the globe in math and sciences.

Curriculum seems to be the key.  We continually teach to the standardized tests.  Rather than completely mastering topics and moving on from there, students review EVERYTHING that could be on the "tests".  It's quantity not quality.  Teachers instinctively know this.  They have so many "objectives" to teach, they just can't spend time to hammer home the important topics.  I mean really, does a 3rd grader need to know what "opportunity costs" are?  (By the way, I learned this term in my freshman college economics class.  I never needed to know it earlier than that, but I certainly already understood the idea of making good choices in using my time, talent, and treasure.)

Textbooks:   U.S. textbooks treat topics with a "mile-wide, inch-deep" approach. A typical U.S. eighth-grade math textbook deals with about 35 topics. By comparison, a Japanese or German math textbook for that age would have only five or six topics. French math books use innovative approaches to math ie. Fractions don't lend themselves to computerization.  Kids use calculators for long division.   They concentrate on how to use math rather than how to do math.  Perhaps this isn't what my high school math teacher would say, but this is 2012, and technology is here to stay.  We must learn to use it to it's highest potential.

Let's hope there is a common sense approach to raising our competitiveness in this world, particularly in school districts where there is need; for money, quality teachers, and family involvement.

Oh and by the way, they get WAAAAY more vacation time in larger chunks thank we do. Follow this link, to see just how short sighted the state of Alabama has been with our calendar. I'll save that rant for next time

Friday, May 18, 2012

WEEDS

This year's garden promises to be the biggest and most robust we have had in several years. There are tomatoes, squash, zucchini, egg plant, cucumbers, corn, string beans, peppers, and potatoes. Everything is producing well and I'm looking forward to fresh veggies in my kitchen soon.

Weeds are inevitably part of gardening, but I've encountered a new nemesis of the weed variety. Spiny Pigweed. Pure Evil in plant form, it is! Huge fibrous stems with camouflaged, 3/4 inch, hyperdermic needles at every junction. It stings like a bee when you get pricked. You can't pull it out with regular garden gloves. It requires leather rose gardening gloves, with gauntlets up to your elbows. It spreads like wildfire... like all weeds right? But, this stuff is unnaturally aggressive. I swear it reaches out and grabs your ankle when you walk by. Regular herbicides won't touch it. And Round Up isn't my preferred method of killing weeds in my prized vegetable garden. So, it's just me and my dragon hide gloves against the Green Devils.

I plan on winning this war. Which, I'm sure, will make my harvest taste even better. One always enjoys the things for which you work hard, over the things that are just handed to you.  But next year... I may think about buying my veggies from the local CSA.  Just sayin'.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm sending this one to every senator and representative I can. Dear members of the State of Alabama legislature:  You will never see my vaction dollars again, until you repeal this intrusive, ridiculous law.  Destin is not much further and the sand is just as white and warm.   My fellow residents of North Alabama, in particular the Huntsville/ Madison area, have a considerable amount of disposable income to spend.  We are angry. We resent your intrusion.  We will vacation elsewhere.   How dare you think that you have the right to override our independent school districts?  Hubris!   And to impose it onto schools for the 2012-2013 school year, when calendars have been approved since January... I'm dumbfounded.  Vacations have been planned, teachers have set lesson plans, and parents now have to scrabble to find child care for two weeks at the ends of summer.  Which, by the way, will use up any money that they may have wanted use to take a vacation.   Enjoy your vacation, XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX Parent Engineer Business owner Tax payer Voter

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Letter to Governor Bentley

My letter to the Governor- in case you're interested.

Governor Bentley,

As a citizen of North Alabama, I am extremely opposed to the bill passed by our senate mandating a later start date and an earlier end date for Alabama schools.  These are my reasons.
1.)  Our school systems are far better equipped to determine the ideal start and end dates than the State of Alabama.  Regional events and weather patterns vary greatly in our state, and a one-size-fits-all approach to scheduling the school year is ridiculous.
2.) I resent forcing my children to go to school for longer days, and eliminating our opportunity for fall break, simply to allow the southern 1/4 of our state to make more money.  My children are tired and hungry after school now.  How will they be able to learn as well if their day is extended?  Shall we allot our increased instruction time during the day for resting and having yet another snack in the afternoon? 
3.)  I take my vactions to Orange Beach in the fall or spring in order to avoid the crowds and hot weather.  Extending the "opportunity" to me, my family and friends to visit the beach during the hottest weeks of the year is not a welcome invitation. 
Respectfully, I request you hear the voices of your constituents who happen to live north of Mobile Bay.  Veto this legislation!  And allow the individual school systems to devise a schedule that fits the needs of their communities.
Best Regards,
XXXXXXXXX
mother of 2 school age children
resident of Madison County Alabama