Day 9: Like, Totally, Dude

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Considering the facts, this question should be a no-brainer for The M3 Readers, although mayhap not for the reasons one might suspect.

left palmThe first time I had my palm read, the lady told me I would have many children. She was right. She also told me I would be a teacher. I laughed, openly, unabashedly. She told me that was rude. Truth be told? She was right.

In fact, she was already right. At that stage of the game, I was the eggheaded leader of a pack of misfits who would call me in the middle of the night to ask me the most inane questions to settle arguments.

The following decade I was tutoring students from middle school to college juniors in mathematics from algebra to calculus. By the turn of the century, I was doing this in between orchestrating lessons for my own progeny and adventures to mask said lessons in fun.

The next decade brought school to my home, where it is in session seven days a week. But it is not just the ones in my immediate sphere who need education. Throughout it all I have counseled those both my junior and senior in matters from finance to child-rearing to corporate espionage to marriage, and the hundreds of stops in between them.

Book Learnin’

Most of what people learn does not come from a book, despite the age old tradition of the school marm and textbooks. Learning in the years of primary, secondary and university schools are merely refinement to real education. Every single piece of information memorized or processed will never be retained without the proper foundation.

Do not misunderstand. I wholeheartedly believe everyone should be exposed to what is in books. (How hypocritical would it be for me to write non-fiction otherwise?) Without a dissertation, let me elucidate.

Problem Solving 101

So, Daddy taped her in the bed...

So, Daddy taped her in the bed…

Critical thinking and secondary problem solving are the cogs which make our world a survivable place. Information is merely the grease between them.

Critical thinking is being able to look at (read about, listen to) a situation and discern whether an improvement or alternate application of parts in play can be feasibly applied to produce a better output.

Secondary problem solving is the ability to determine the reasonable consequences to said improvement prior to implementation and adjusting the change to minimize negative output. For example…

Little V was 2’6″ tall. What she wanted was on a shelf 6′ above the floor in her closet. Her chairs and table were of insufficient height to reach the shelf.

Looking about her room, she discerned the bed was of sufficient length to reach the shelf. The slats resembled the ladder on the slide at the park. She also knew the bed would not go into the closet merely by pushing it. She applied critical thinking before secondary problem solving.

  • Remove mattress from toddler bed.
  • Stand bed on headboard with slats closer to shelf.
  • Slide bed on headboard into closet.
  • Push bed to steady on wall beneath shelf.
  • Climb slats.
  • Retrieve box.
  • Close closet door.

The last bit shows forethought. She knew she would need to replace the box at some juncture and would need her device again. She had the secondary problem solving skills to calculate the risk I would not be pleased with her corporate endeavor.

On the contrary, rather than admonish her for the theft of the box, I praised her ingenuity. After the appropriate evidence gathering and future risk mitigation, I asked her to simply ask for the box in the future because I was plenty tall enough to reach it.

Do Not Bleat in Line.

Education is important. Content of education is more important. Form of education is less important.

sheepThe bastardization of nationalized education has crippled it to be nothing more than a mill from which sheep are churned with no more skills than farm animals headed to slaughter. Students with creative skill are branded as dysfunctional and disruptive, despite their black wool being just as valuable as their grey counterparts.

Uniformity is the diet on which they are fattened regardless of nutritional need. The skills of blending in and not speaking unless called upon are valued with far more regard than being able to build a better mousetrap. After donning cap and gown for the 13th time, they are set free of the confines of the paddock and cast before the wolves of the marketplace.

The sufficiently fattened are led with their sleek, well-kempt wool to university where they are additionally groomed to become the wolves they always were beneath the skin or patsies on whom malfeasance will be blamed at the appropriate hour.

Realism. Deal with it.

I have been often accused of being cynical when it comes to education. I have had more than my fair share of it, not because someone freely gave. As part of the yuppie age, I was schooled in a posh preparatory school which was nothing more than an expensive sheep farm. My black wool glistened as the scholarships poured in beginning my sophomore year.

clock amberBy midterm my junior year, I had completed my high school education. I left for college, only to discover more shepherds and nothing I could not learn on my own in far less time without the necessity of filling in one single bubble. I finished my first degree within 18 months of getting out of prep school.

Over the next ten years, I lost interest in my original career path as tax laws changed, and everyone (employers and clients) favored breaking them rather than abiding them. I turned to a different avenue of the law. In the next seven years I went to enough classes to make me the most valued student at my school. My adviser learned more from me than I did her, her words.

Circumstances beyond my control led me to the retail world and more grooming outside the confines of a classroom. In less than three years, I was upwardly mobile to the destination of my choice. What began as a job hardly above minimum wage was now a career with a large yearly bonus, cost of living allowances, performance increases, expense account, retirement and more than sufficient salary.

In the end, with two degrees and a broad range of experience, I see the shortcomings of education as applied to my children. Schools fail through an insidious web of pretty graphs which belie the information they are meant to convey and lip service laws which institutionalize mediocrity and gut meritocracy.

And yet…

The fact remains: Education is important. Without it, we are doomed to repeat the history from which we have not learned.


How do you feel about standard classroom education? What lesson from your childhood did you learn in a non-classroom environment which you carry with you everywhere?

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23 Comments

  1. The short kid’s elementary school is seeking funding to keep art in the school since they lost the grant they had. They saw test scores go up when it was put into play in the classroom, they are currently using supplies left over from the grant. The belief is that as long as children are having fun they are more likely to remember and will learn more. I can’t sit in a classroom, every year felt like a review that lasted too long. My oldest began kindergarten wanting to know why she had to be there when she had already learned what was being taught, on her own. It took until about the 6th grade, (all in the honors program) to find new things for her to learn. (The options were still slim for my little over achiever.
    Laurie recently posted..Day 8: What Did I Eat Today?My Profile

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    • My mother, who was wise beyond her years, taught me more than my school ever did. I did have one teacher (grade 7 science) that left an impression on me, but other than that I was bored to death.
      Wendy Reid recently posted..Book Giveaway and Author PollMy Profile

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      • I think we all have one teacher who really made an impression. I think I would have had more than one if I had not been partying with them. o.O

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    • It is sadly still that way. My overachievers were in the SN classes as well as the gifted program. Boredom is the bane of education. I will always find bubbles boring, and so do my children.

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  2. SOLs are sucking the fun, interest and motivation to teach and learn nowadays. YUCK I say!
    Lorre Lyons recently posted..Ruminating The RumorsMy Profile

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  3. I kept up an on-going conversation with my daughter when she started school. She was amazed at some information I loosely threw at her. She was bored by grade 2.

    The school system is definitely lacking because students give up and are bored. Understanding is more important and interesting than memorization.

    I had international students for ten years. Among the many who were considered top of the class, I found were memorizers. Tiny example: I always invited friends for dinner, BBQs etc. for internationals to experience our culture. Ages were from ten to sixty. Case in point: two male students from similar countries, asked to start the fireplace. The same process, over and over again, will bring the same result. I couldn’t stand it anymore and just did IT!! This happened several times with different situations. Curiosity on my part required answers. A good student is a student who can memorize and answer exactly as it is written.

    No, I say. Analysis, situation, hands on would have made a world of difference.

    North America, however, is NOT a leader in education as I see it. Mind you it has changed and I’m watching my grandchildren going through the system. The rest is to be seen.
    Tess Kann recently posted..New Themes: Handmade, Untitled, and On a WhimMy Profile

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    • Unfortunately, I have watched it change for the worse over the course of the last 25 years. I shudder to think of what the generation of my grandson will be like when it graduates. I did a follow up post to this one which gives some examples of how far the system has fallen.

      I ran into (and occasionally still do) the same thing you describe with international students. Mastery is not of the concepts, but of the answering the correct bubble. Many of them know statistically how to answer correctly when they have no idea. Somehow, no one sees it as cheating.
      xxx

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  4. You said just about everything. Creativity is not valued, conformity is. It is much easier to control and to quantify. Many, if not most, who have great academic qualifications cannot think critically or creatively or even apply the knowledge they have to anything other than the standard situations which they were taught.
    Binky recently posted..Artist In TrainingMy Profile

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    • Which goes directly to the comments between Tess and I. Somehow, I do not believe filling in the bubbles is a marketable skill. Certainly, they are unable to apply the probability they have learned to such simple situations as the risk of pregnancy.

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  5. I get heartily sick of the ‘one size fits all’ curriculum and downgrading to the lowest common denominator so as to include the kids who can’t speak and think at the same time!

    Here in the UK competition is frowned on as everyone has to be a winner so that the dumbest are not excluded.

    End result?

    I had to teach my God daughter and her sister to read and write properly AFTER they left school!!!

    Thanks to me (No point in hiding my light under a bushel) Emily got a 2/2 in English and became a primary school teacher until she started a family of her own!

    Becky still has problems with English, but is now a business woman and mother of three lively and intelligent kids, all of whom are a delight to know! 🙂

    These girls are succeeding BIG TIME as property developers and landlords despite the state of the UK economy.

    If I were any prouder of them I’d not be able to get my head through the door!!! 🙂

    So much for state education…

    Love and hugs!

    Prenin.
    Prenin recently posted..Thursday – Backup files day.My Profile

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    • Frankly, I see no value in the “everyone is a winner” theory. Were more losers craeted, appropriate coping skills could be taught. Considering the application is a direct result of teachers failing to notice the patterns of children who were routinely failing and the parents’ self-righteous belief their little angel could not possibly be the bottom of the class. Ugh.

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  6. Schools fail, worse they intentionally fail. Parents proudly plaster “My child is an honor student at…” and all I can do is shake my head in dismay.

    When I see these bumper stickers I wonder to myself, do you check to see if you honor student can read, add 1+1, find Texas on a map.

    When my youngest son expressed himself and was suspended (frequently) I assigned him books to read, I found his brillance and figured out his problem. I let him, even encouraged his black sheepedness.
    Valentine Logar recently posted..Flash: SommelierMy Profile

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    • I will always have a herd of black sheep. They will be the ones to rule the world one day… At least that was the theory in having so many 😉

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  7. From Readers Digest, many years ago comes an example of early age problem solving.

    A man was awakened around 3am by the ringing doorbell and pounding. He opened the door, ready to give whoever was on the other side holy hell. There stood a cop holding his three-year-old son. “This your kid?”

    Seems the child pulled open the drawers on the father’s dresser and used them to climb to the top and stole took his father’s car keys. He stood on the car seat, started the car, got it in gear, and drove down the street, bouncing off cars, curbs, and garbage cans at 3 miles per hour until the car planted itself in a tree.

    The kid was unhurt and proudly proclaimed to his father, “Went Zoom Daddy!”

    My own experience that comes to mind frequently is a high-school chem test. Sister Kyren administered a 100 question true false final exam. As I went down the list, most of the questions came easily to me and although you really had to know the material to do well, question after question was True. Make no mistake, you had to figure out chemical reactions and formulate compounds, but the answers were true false. Some of it was quite difficult.

    I read #99 and nearly answered true, almost out of habit. The previous 98 questions had all been true. I reread the question and clearly it was false if you read it carefully.

    I skipped to #100, and it was an easy answer. True. I went back to #99 and read again. False. I answered False and turned in my paper.

    After the test, everyone was talking about it and insisted that all the questions were true. Everyone was giving me a hard time because I had answered false on #99.

    The last day was a day to turn in our books and collect our final grades for the year.

    “Nice job,” Sister had written on the test. “100 percent.” I was the only one. Although not strictly an out of classroom lesson, it was not related to chemistry and taught me a valuable lesson.

    The obvious is not always the correct answer. Had other students taken the time to read carefully, more would have received a perfect score.
    MJ Logan recently posted..Z is for ZephyrMy Profile

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    • Fortunately for me, when Big V did that, she backed into a large stand of azaleas. It was the days before pop-a-lock, so it took us more than 20 minutes to convince her to unlock (electric) the doors. She was standing on the seat and wearing a seatbelt… at 2.

      How did any of them survive to adulthood?

      Reply
  8. I was bored and bullied at school with no help from the teachers, and read and learned and created at home. I had a family of creatives, and thanks to my supportive family, we were taught that the authority in schools is not the be all and end all of life. Neither were peers. My wool has always been black, but from high school onward, I have gained the respect and honor given to one who marches to their own music.
    Gail Thornton recently posted..ForkMy Profile

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    • I was inordinately bored, despite a far better than average curriculum. I tended to favor purple or red ribbons to complement my wool 😉

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  9. Spot on about Education Red

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    • Thank you, Jim. It saddens me even my friends from your neck of the woods all say the same thing.

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  10. 4 years ago one of those palm readers told me I would have a new job within a year. Still waiting
    Bearman recently posted..Charles Ramsey – Hero of ClevelandMy Profile

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