Category Archives: Education

‘College-For-Everybody’ Agenda

The following is a Forbes article by Tom Lindsay:

How the ‘College-For-Everybody’ Agenda Harms both Students and the Economy

Many in higher education worry continuously over the fact that only roughly half of students who enroll in college ever graduate, and that those who do graduate often take more than four years to do so. But few seek to go to the roots to attempt to discover the ultimate causes explaining these depressing statistics. One of the few who makes such an attempt is Charles Murray, whose contrarian explanation is, “Too many people are going to college.”

Regardless of whether one agrees with its conclusions, Murray’s Real Education, published in 2008, has received far less attention than the gravity of its arguments merits. Real Education defends what he deems are four simple truths about education, but truths that cannot be said publicly without engendering the wrath of a culture fallen prey to what he labels “educational romanticism.” They are “(1) ability varies; (2) half of the children are below average; (3) too many people are going to college; and (4) America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted.”

The American education system, says Murray, “is living a lie. The lie is that every child can be anything he or she wants to be.” The lie is bipartisan, he argues; it spans both Republican and Democratic Party platforms, its unrealistic assumptions driving and distorting both K-12 and higher-education policy.

In higher education, the vision “that everyone should go to college”—like all well-intentioned projects suffering only tenuous connections to reality—asks “too much from those at the bottom, . . . the wrong things from those in the middle, . . . and too little from those at the top.”

How many students, then, should go to college? In answering, Murray makes a key distinction—between “college-level instruction in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences” versus “the courses (and their level of difficulty) that are actually offered throughout much of the current American college system.” The difference between the two is large and widening. If getting a diploma proves the ability to “’cope with college-level material,’” then “almost anyone” can succeed who merely “shops for easy courses in an easy major at an easy college.” However, once we shift our focus to “college-level material traditionally defined, the requirements become stringent,” and toward satisfying this stricter demand, “no more than 20 percent of all students” qualify.

But if this is true, what of democracy’s rightful wish to see as many as possible benefit from a liberal education that fulfills John Stuart Mill’s vision of engendering “capable and cultivated human beings”? Murray agrees that more students should receive the “basics of a liberal education.” Nevertheless, the place for most students to do this is, he argues, in elementary and middle school, not college. K-8 education should seek to inculcate the core knowledge described in E.D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy—knowledge that “makes us Americans together rather than hyphenated Americans.”

Murray’s critique is not “the same as saying that the average student does not need to know about history, science, and great works of art, music, and literature.” Instead, he urges that we “not wait for college” to teach these subjects. In college, the study of these subjects should go much deeper; it should require close, careful reading of the foundational texts that constitute what Matthew Arnold called “the best that has been said and thought in the world.” For example, reading “the Odyssey in ninth grade is nothing like reading the Odyssey in a good college course.”

However, “most students at today’s colleges choose not to take the courses that go into a liberal education because the capabilities they want to develop lie elsewhere”—a fact that “colleges do their best to avoid admitting.” Instead, under universities’ “distribution requirements” (the sham version of a core curriculum), students can fulfill their humanities and literature requirements through taking courses such as Indiana University’s “History of Comic Book Art”; Dartmouth’s “Rock Music from 1970 to the Present,” and Duke’s “Campus Culture and Drinking,” to mention a few. Worse, the elite Brown and Vassar require no core courses, casting 18-year-olds into an endless abyss of “choice,” with neither compass nor yardstick.

Because universities are “no longer in the business of imparting a liberal education,” it follows that those students lacking the capacity for and/or interest in a genuine core curriculum should have “better options than going from high school to college.”

But what of the need for even these students to attend college to enhance their capacity to make a living? Murray responds that four-year brick-and-mortar residential colleges are “hardly ever” the best places to “learn how to make a living.” To begin, for most vocations, excluding fields such as medicine and law, four years of class work is not only “too long” but “ridiculous.” For many of such students, two-year community college degrees and online education provide “more flexible options for tailoring course work to the real needs of the job.”

Moreover, the brick-and-mortar campus is becoming “increasingly obsolete.” The “Internet is revolutionizing everything”— university libraries have lost their indispensable character, and both faculty research and faculty-student interaction no longer require the “physical proximity” that brick-and-mortar campuses make possible.

But what of the “wage premium” reaped by college graduates? For Murray, high-school graduates who pursue the B.A. primarily to boost their earning power are “only narrowly correct.” Doubtless, B.A.-holders earn more on average than those without degrees, but this due in part to a “brutal fact.” Given the increase in the number of college graduates over the past half-century (more than a third of 23-year-olds now hold B.A.s), “employers do not even interview applicants” without degrees. “Even more brutal,” the B.A.’s comparative advantage “often has nothing to do with the content of the education” received. The average employment gains of college graduates must be weighed against the fact that “wages within occupations form a distribution.” Therefore, a student with average academic skills but exceptional “small-motor skills and special abilities” is more likely both to earn more and to be happier as, say, an electrician than as a mediocre middle-manager.

In addition to being happier as an electrician, this student would benefit from the fact that “there has never been a time in history when people with skills not taught in college have been in so much demand at such high pay as today.” In fact, as in the case of the proficient electrician, the wages of top performers in a plethora of occupations not requiring a B.A. are “higher than the average income for many occupations that require a B.A.”

Murray presents a higher-education system in which too many students are forced to spend too much time chasing their tails. His thesis that too many are going to college today goes no small distance toward explaining why roughly half of those who enroll in college fail to graduate. It goes a long way toward explaining why, of those who do graduate, 36 percent show little-to-no increase in the critical-thinking and writing skills that a degree is supposed to signify. It goes a long way toward explaining why, in the ‘60s, college students studied on average 24 hours a week, whereas today they spend only 14. Finally, it goes a long way toward explaining the rampant grade inflation perpetrated by universities eager to “accommodate” the masses of new students in college who can’t cope there. In the ‘60s, 15 percent of college grades nationwide were A’s. Today, that percentage has nearly tripled: 43 percent of all grades today are A’s. In fact an A is now the most common grade given in college.

Higher-education reformers read the statistics above and pronounce higher education broken. If they hope to fix it, one indispensable step is to face Murray’s thesis without blinking.

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Old Geometry Book

Reference: Remedial Math

For application by the student

These sections are taken from PLANE AND SOLID GEOMETRY by George Wentworth and David Eugene Smith, first published in 1888.

G00 – Contents

G01 – Introduction

G02 – BOOK I. Rectilinear Figures

G03 – BOOK II. The Circle

G04 – BOOK III. Proportion. Similar Polygon

G05 – BOOK IV. Area of Polygons

G06 – BOOK V. Regular Polygons and Circles

G07 – Appendix to Plane Geometry

G08 – BOOK VI. Lines and Planes in Space

G09 – BOOK VII. Polyhedrons, Cylinders and Cones

G10 – BOOK VIII. The Sphere

G11 – Appendix to Solid Geometry

G12 – Miscellaneous & Index

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Troubleshooting Math

To troubleshoot any difficulty you first look at the broad area of that difficulty, and then you gradually narrow it down until you have defined the actual difficulty precisely.

So, to troubleshoot a difficulty in math you start with the broad area of Mathematics.

Mathema (Greek) = Learn
Mathematics = Tools for learning

Mathematics provides you with analytical tools for learning. When you are troubleshooting mathematics, you are troubleshooting the difficulties a person is having with learning analytically. You narrow down to the area of mathematics where the person cannot think analytically.

Mathematics is analytical learning and not just memorizing of materials.

If the student is having trouble with higher mathematics, such as, Trignometry, Analytical Geometry, or Calculus, then start from there. You may explain the area the student does not understand. But if the student cannot understand the explanation analytically, then the troubleshooting may lead to one of the three areas below.

When you select one of these areas, explain it per Math Overview. You do not have to explain that whole document. Keep to the trail of trouble.

Ask, “What part of this area you have most difficulty with?”

Use the answer to narrow down further to the area of difficulty. Quiz the student on the key math vocabulary in that area. From student’s answers you may narrow down the area of difficulty further.

If the student cannot answer the question, simply start with the first lesson
related to that area at Mathematics. Follow student’s attention to fish around for the actual difficulty.

As you narrow down the area of difficulty, keep asking, “What part of this area you have most difficulty with?”

Check the key math vocabulary in the narrowed down area. Soon you’ll reach the actual difficulty. Handle it using the right materials selected from the appropriate level at Mathematics, or from student’s own materials.

Once that area is handled, the student may come up with another area that he or she has attention on. Narrow down to the actual difficulty in that area as above, and handle it.

Otherwise, start all over again from the diagram above. This time you may follow a different trail to a different area of difficulty.

Ultimately, teach the student how to troubleshhoot difficulties. This is the best thing you can ever do for the student.

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Stress and Education

Stressed

Reference: Critical Thinking in Education

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The biggest challenge to education is the stressed child, or the stressed student. When a child is stressed his attention is introverted onto his personal issues and he cannot learn.

The education at SLS is successful because it is addressing the challenge of stress successfully through its special curriculum. Learning requires extroverted attention.  The SLS environment is very extroverting.

Rule: The school environment should be such that it extroverts attention.

The general stress in the current society is increasing. It is inevitable that a certain percentage of children coming to school have stressful situations that are holding their attention. Their introverted attention then does not allow them to learn.

It is absolutely necessary for school to provide a stress-free extroverting environment so that learning can take place. If the school’s environment is also stressful then the student becomes conditioned and robotic.

At SLS, the first half hour of the day is devoted to activities that extroverts attention. The following exercise may also be used to extrovert attention.

This exercise may be conducted with a group of students, or it could be applied to a student who has difficulty learning.

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EXERCISE: EXTROVERSION

PURPOSE: To extrovert the attention by exploring the five physical senses.

STEPS:

(Touch – 5 minutes minimum)

  1. Go to an environment where you can explore the sense of touch.

(a)  Touch two different surfaces and compare how they feel.

(b)  Touch them alternately until you can discern the uniqueness of each surface.

(c)  Touch a third surface repeatedly to get a feel of it. Then touch it alternately with one of the earlier surfaces, until you can discern how this third surface is unique.

(d)  Similarly touch additional surfaces carefully until you can discern their uniqueness.

  1. Explore the sensation of touch until you can do so happily without feeling any resistance inside you.

  2. Exercise the sense of touch for at least 5 minutes. You may do it for as long as you want.

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 (Sight – 5 minutes minimum)

  1. Go to an environment where you can explore the shapes and colors of things.

(a)  Look at two different objects and compare their shapes and colors.

(b)  Look at them alternately until you can discern the uniqueness of their shapes and colors.

(c)  Look at a third object repeatedly to get an idea of its shape and color. Then look at it alternately with one of the earlier objects, until you can discern how this third object is unique.

(d)  Similarly look at additional objects carefully until you can discern their unique shapes and colors.

  1. Explore the sight of objects until you can do so happily without feeling any resistance inside you.

  2. Exercise the sense of sight for at least 5 minutes. You may do it for as long as you want.

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 (Hearing, Smell & Taste – total 10 minutes minimum)

  1. Sit around a table and unpack your lunches and drinks. Don’t hold yourself back from talking.

  2. Start smelling and tasting little bits of your lunch, while listening to each other talk. You may even listen to your own voice.

(a)  Explore the different sounds that you hear as to their timbre, pitch, loudness and other qualities.

(b)  Explore the different odors as to how pleasant or pungent they are, and as to their other qualities.

(c)  Explore the different tastes as to how sweet or salty they are, and as to their other qualities.

  1. Explore the sounds, smells and tastes until you can do so happily without feeling any resistance inside you.

  2. Do this exploration for at least 10 minutes. You may do it for as long as you want.

  3. Take some deep breaths, appreciate what is around you, and get ready for your next school activity.

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The SLS Math Course

Supervisor

Reference: Critical Thinking in Education

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MATERIALS

The SLS Math curriculum is designed with the following rule in mind.

RULE # 1: The curriculum follows the sequence in which concepts are developed systematically in a subject.

The subject of mathematics starts with COUNTING. The next concept is PLACE VALUE. Place values allow one to write large numbers in a concise manner. The student must learn how to read and write large numbers before proceeding to the next concept of ADDITION.

Mathematics introduces the student to systematic learning. Counting and place values provide ways to think systematically.

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SELF-LEARNING

The SLS Math curriculum consists of lesson plans that are concise, relevant and easy to follow. The students are encouraged to read and understand the lessons on their own. Supervisors are there to help him as needed.

RULE # 2: The lesson plans are concise, relevant, and written in plain language that is easy to follow.

Each math lesson is followed by a large number of exercises for practice. Answers are provided for all exercise problems. The students are encouraged to do the exercises and check their answers. The correct answers reinforce the students’ confidence.

RULE # 3: Each lesson plan is followed by a large number of exercises, with answers provided for all exercise problems.

The students are encouraged to trace the incorrect answers back to the exact error made.  Supervisors are there to assist them in this effort. Once a student becomes aware of the exact error he is less likely to make it again.

The student works to get the correct answers first, and then works on the speed. He learns the methods of arithmetic that make computations easier and faster.

The student may do every fifth or every tenth problem first to sample problems of different level of difficulties. He may then practice the problems that are at the right level of difficulty for him..

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COMPLETION OF A LESSON PLAN

When the student has studied and practiced a lesson plan he asks the supervisor to check him. The supervisor spot checks him on the concepts of the lesson and have him solve some exercise problems. If the student fails the spot-check the supervisor sends him back to study and practice some more, and come back for another spot-check. When the student passes the spot-check he goes to the class tutor to be examined on his understanding of the lesson plan.

The class tutor examines the student’s knowledge from the viewpoint of skill. He makes sure that the student has required skills. If the tutor finds some minor things missing in the student’s understanding then he tutors him on the spot. If he finds something major missing then he sends the student back to the supervisor with exact instructions on what the student must restudy and practice.

In the end, the class tutor requires the student to do three exercise problems correctly in a row. When the student answers all three problems correctly, the class tutor announces him complete on the lesson plan.

RULE # 4: In order to complete a lesson plan, the student must solve three exercise problems (of reasonable difficulty) correctly in a row.

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CLASSES & SUPERVISION

Classes are divided by the levels of the curriculum. Levels Pre-0 and 0 are written for skill levels learned in Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten respectively. Similarly, Levels 1 and 2 are written for skills learned in primary and middle school respectively. Each level consists of a number of lesson plans. When a student has completed all lesson plans for a level, he moves up to the next level.

If the student is found lacking the skills of a level he is assigned to that level. He is then examined for completion of each lesson plan on that level.

The SLS math course is performance based. The students can move through these levels rapidly. He is not held back because of age. Normally a student is allowed to advance through these levels at a pace most suitable for him. By the time a student has completed Level 2 he is deemed to be a self-learner. He then continues up through Level 3 and above rapidly with minimal supervision..

A higher level student is also trained on supervisor skills. He supervises at least one lower level student through to completion.

RULE # 5: A higher level student must be able to assist a lower level student to completion.

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