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Author Topic: Education and the modern generation  (Read 4953 times)

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Online gaggedLouise

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #25 on: May 18, 2013, 08:41:43 AM »
Totally agree with Oreo, also I think it's only getting more important in this new globalized and info-rich, story-rich world we live in, and which our kids will be living in, to learn to understand and handle the difference/interaction/mutual dependences of actual history and history'based fictions, historical romance, historical myths, pseudo-historical tropes and stories and so on. Between the actual events, the changes, the actual people that lived through WW2, the Napoleonic wars, the age of discovery and the reformation -those vs movies, novels, paintings and given ideas about those ages. Like, what in Gladiator, Romeo and Juliet, The Mammoth Hunters or The Naked and the Dead matches actual history, what's guesses and what's free elaboration and fiction? It's getting more important and, to some degree, more daunting all the time, and the issues are different everywhere.

It seems to me at least that history is more habitually, freely fictionalized in the U.S. than in Europe, but that's largely because of the entertainment industry. Hollywood and U.S. tv have simply been the leading fictionalizing-of-history factory of the planet for the past eighty years, mass market fiction anyway, and it can happen quickly after an event. The JFK assassination and the sixties were becoming the stuff of all sorts of marketed fiction within a dozen years after they happened. No country in Europe or Asia (except maybe Japan) has quite that kind of muscle when it comes to making mass-market drama and romance out of historical events, and conversely it's a bit more touchy sometimes to do it as liberally with history over here, at least history that's still within living memory or next to it, because everyone has been at war with everyone in the past and though peace is now reigning, this past, sometimes a complex and touchy past, is etched into so much of the social fabric, of family histories, of the makeup of a town or even of the road and rail network sometimes, that you can't escape it if you mix fiction up with history too loosely, and sell the product as if it was history, the real thing or next to it.

When it comes to struggles, frictions, empowerment and "affairs" within a society, that goes right into the present of course. I would love it if tv series like The West Wing, which was to some extent a running, intelligent commentary on contemporary U.S. society and politics, or The Sopranos, which took a leisurely look at the contemporary trappings of a few already mythified but also quite real strata in the nation, if that kind could be done more easily and frequently around here in Europe, but in most countries that's just not happening too often I think. We often don't quite have that kind of leeway and sense of authority when it comes to making tv fiction about contemporary history I think (it can be done in a movie, but much less frequently as a long tv series). Or the budget that creates those kinds of frames in the tv factory.

History is a more difficult and polymorph beast this side of the ocean, but the same will be true of places like China, India or Latin America in the near future, to their people and to foreigners living there. Which makes it even more pressing to know something of how to separate history from historical fictions, and enjoy and undrstand both. Yeah, I know historical writing and even historical sources have their own kind of story-telling, conscious and unconscious, open and hidden, but it's a bit different from the actual invention or remixing of historical people and what they did or how they lived. Ultimately: how history and historical legends and romances get written, for whom, and by whom, and why?
« Last Edit: May 18, 2013, 09:12:19 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline RubySlippers

Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #26 on: May 18, 2013, 09:25:49 AM »
http://www.ibtimes.com/us-17th-global-education-ranking-finland-south-korea-claim-top-spots-901538#

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_United_States

Okay references will help make my case looking at the major facts our nations education system is doing pretty good out of 195 countries excluding the Vatican we are comfortably in the top quarter of nations, room for improvement perhaps but with our complicated education system likely we will not go up very much. But also we are unlikely to go down much either.

I would say with the range of student ability we have a decent system of options, breaking up low and high performance and things such as people who have earned a bachelors degree or are those of poor literacy to those of high literacy.

If unprepared students are entering a college or university its the fault of the school letting them in, if they had to meet high standards then only qualified students would get in. And that is the fault of poor tracking of the student properly.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #27 on: May 18, 2013, 10:01:51 AM »
Those statistics... don't make the case you think they do, Ruby. Are you really asserting that the US is less capable than Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, the UK, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Austria, Poland, Germany, and Belgium? Maybe it doesn't have as many resources to devote to education?

No, that's not right. The US spends more than average, and more than the majority of those nations. Maybe the US system is just poorly designed and extremely inefficient? Perhaps it could actually accomplish considerably more if restructured properly, rather than less? Ranking below all of the nations I listed above, while outspending all of them on a per-student basis and most of them as a percentage of GDP, isn't "comfortable". It's "obviously a problem".
« Last Edit: May 18, 2013, 10:03:20 AM by Ephiral »

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #28 on: May 18, 2013, 12:53:35 PM »
*the biologist wants it noted he remained silent on the relevance of science....he should get cookies* ahem and you can always add a boiling chip to get the process started if the glassware is too flawless but I digress!

Silly biologist, we were talking about chemistry!

... *flee!*

stuff
You know, there are places in the world where fully adult people (who might not even keep personal guns at home) would be ready to sharpen some knives to begin hacking each other into pieces over statements such as "Hitler or Göring really aren't any more important than General Lee or Sherman" or "there are people who have suffered just as bad as the Jews did in the thirties" (note, the way that one's phrased it would *not* include the years when things really moved into high gear - it's still a statement that would make many people grit their teeth and have newspaper feuds starting) or "things were pretty nice in the seventeenth century" (apart from the Thirty years war, plagues and witch burnings, all of which would implicitly be glossed over). Well, kicking or stabbing each other to pieces in a figurative sense, but in public...

And of course those sly or dingy statements are very obvious picks, even laughable. You could get in seriously strained situations for a lot less than those.  :-X

 In Europe you'd definitely get some strange glances if you were shrugging at world war two, or implying that the conflict was *not* absolutely central to the modern world, but I figure that's true in China and Japan too. And in many places, or many schools, many homes in the U.S. too. I mean, the U.S. spent fifty years paying much of the bills and largely holding the steering wheel for serious military activities and planning in many parts of Europe, and still has far more military muscle than any nation in that continent or in the western hemisphere: there has to be a reason for that somewhere... ;)

Okay, I would agree it's...likely? that WW2 and the atrocities that happened then will not always remain as crucially central to history as they are to many of us now (though what kind of war, apart from a nuclear armageddon, could 'outpace' WW2? - shivers). But for the present it's still a big part of the wider backdrop to many people's lives and to the history of nearly every country on the planet. So is WW1 by the way, only less obvious, 'cause it was a much less photogenic war, less Hollywood potential you could say, and it happened one more generation back, so to us it's obscured by the magnificent second round (next year the centenary is up). Right, you know that for sure, guys and ladies. It would actually be interesting if someone staged a debate on the premise "9!11 was a more important, more seminal, more powerful event than WW2" - just supposing that the huge war could be telescoped into one event - but lots of people would find it offensive to even put the question like that. With 9/11 no one needs to ask the year, of course.

And to handle the ways that WW2 - or 9/11 and the war on terrorism - still impacts us, still frames all of us, I guess it matters that those wars and upheavals look different to people from different places. Which could be iffy to handle if all that a big part of the population knows about WW2, beyond the movies, is that it started somewhere around the time grandpa went to school, ended in 1945, and was started by a looney dictator called Adolf Hitler and his evil Jerries, or is it germs?  :D  ::)

I am not making those statements - it's quite obvious that Hitler and Robert E. Lee are on two entirely different planes of existence, from two different time periods, and that the Jews (and homosexuals, and political dissidents, and Jehovah's Witnesses, and and and...) suffered immensely at the hands of the Nazis. I am not saying that they are not relevant in the greater context of history, but that they don't necessarily have the same relevance to the current generation as they did for people a generation or two back.

Just as, to use another example, I would expect the events of 7/7 to be relevant to modern Londoners (and UKers in general) but I would not expect it to be considered as immediately relevant two or three generations from now. The same goes for 9/11 - is it a big deal now? Yes. Will it continue to be taught in histories as an event that sparked a protracted war in the Middle East? Yes. Will it have the same visceral, deep-seated relevance to future generations as it does now? Probably not. Just ask the people who lived through the Pearl Harbor bombing and the subsequent internments.

History is fascinating if you're into it and there is a lot to learn. But... there is a lot to learn and if you're just learning it to get through the next standardized test? You're not going to give a shit about Mengele, Hitler, Nero, Constantine, G.W. Bush, or Jesus.

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #29 on: May 18, 2013, 02:16:13 PM »
Just for the record (and this has already been clarified between Trie and myself, amicably and privately) I did not figure that anyone in this thread would state that "Robert E. Lee was as important as Hitler in every way/some way" or that the 17th century was the place to be, or insinuate that German and central European Jews didn't go through terrible suffering even before 1939 and certainly after that year. Those statements were deliberately moronic and over the top, and the one about Lee vs the Reich was a dodge on Trie's suggestion that to some people who are young at the present time, the U.S. civil war could appear just as important as WW2. Could well be true for the US, and I admitted myself that WW2 and the Third Reich will likely not look as absolutely central to all of history to people living in five hundred years time as it does to us now.

So yes, those statements are cranky. The main point I wished to make was that if it's "anything goes" beyond a certain low point in the kind of history we pick up, at school or in other places, it can lead to some really funny and unacceptable "truths" taking hold with people. And who would accept the same kind of dodgy reasoning in what students know about physics, biology or languages?
« Last Edit: May 18, 2013, 02:29:45 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Oniya

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #30 on: May 18, 2013, 02:23:24 PM »
Quite honestly, it wasn't until college, where I was given a glimpse beyond the standardized, US-centric curriculum, that I developed a very deep interest in history.  (Seriously, you can only go over the same 300-400 years so many times before it gets dull.  At least you folks across the Atlantic have a few milllennia of history to sift through.)

Offline Lilias

Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #31 on: May 18, 2013, 02:56:17 PM »
I've been regularly crossing swords (elsewhere) with die-hard homeschoolers - universally American - on the usefulness of public education. I can understand it's hard to wrap one's mind around the facts of another culture's ways, especially when one has no contact with that culture, but I find this article does a great job:

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

Offline Shjade

Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #32 on: May 18, 2013, 03:56:46 PM »
And as the 12-year-old says:  Walmart is an international store.

It is indeed. Actually just listened to a Walmart conference call a couple days ago and was surprised by how many separate international segments they had (as in it's not just "here's our South American Walmart segment," it's "Walmex").

I was not surprised by their unimaginative segment names, however. -.-

I like to think of myself as a pretty intelligent person. I did well in school, for the most part. That said, I'm well aware that I have horrendous gaps in my education, particularly with regard to history and geography. This may be partly the fault of the education system in my area, but even if it had better material and instructors for those topics I doubt I'd be much better off: I just didn't care. Still don't, to be completely honest. I understand the relevance of the information, but...just can't make myself care about it.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't be confusing provinces in Canada for U.S. States. I just can't look at a blank map and put names on all the states and their capitals. If I were as bad off as some of the examples in this thread I'd say that's probably the fault of the school system. In my circumstance, I had the information presented, I just didn't put effort into absorbing it - that's my bad, not theirs.

I bring myself up as an anecdotal example to consider where to draw the line between failures in the education system and failures in the students themselves when it comes to things like this. Someone asking who is the "president of Earth?" That's not an indicator that the school is poor, it's an indicator that that student apparently hasn't made any effort to look into what actually, y'know, exists as a thing in the world. You shouldn't need your school to tell you there's no such thing as president of the whole planet. You have to draw the line somewhere to determine personal vs. community responsibility.

...

I'm not sure if any of that made sense or if I'm just rambling. x.x

Offline ofDelusions

Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #33 on: May 18, 2013, 04:45:38 PM »
I've been regularly crossing swords (elsewhere) with die-hard homeschoolers - universally American - on the usefulness of public education. I can understand it's hard to wrap one's mind around the facts of another culture's ways, especially when one has no contact with that culture, but I find this article does a great job:

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

From perspective of someone who is studying to become a teacher in Finland that was a very interesting article, even if it ignores the criticism finnish school system has had.

Also, Finland is not part of Scandinavia...

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #34 on: May 18, 2013, 05:55:02 PM »
I was floored when a friend of mine, who is a teacher of 6th to 12th grade English and literature, told me that his students during his student teaching failed an exam on a book. They only had to watch the movie version of the book, by the way.

He was teaching them how to do an MLA-style research paper, he put all of the formatting information on the whiteboard and then tested them on it. He was shocked at how many times he docked ten points alone because they couldn't format right. :\

Sometimes I wonder.


Offline Kythia

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #35 on: May 18, 2013, 11:23:03 PM »
Quite honestly, it wasn't until college, where I was given a glimpse beyond the standardized, US-centric curriculum, that I developed a very deep interest in history.  (Seriously, you can only go over the same 300-400 years so many times before it gets dull.  At least you folks across the Atlantic have a few milllennia of history to sift through.)

A good friend of mine is a Canadian immigrant and a Professor at a uni specialising in the Tudor period (broadly.  Obviously his field is narrower than that but for the sake of argument...)

His argument is that that period are just as much North American history as they are European.  Essentially, that "beginning" US history in 1776 or with the Mayflower or whenever is wrongheaded, its just that prior to those events North American history was in two halves - the history of the various native peoples and the history of Europe. 

Basically, the US has exactly the same amount of history, it just doesn't recognise it.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #36 on: May 18, 2013, 11:41:37 PM »
Tell that to the folks that wrote my 4th through 11th grade history books.  (Not the teachers - I'm sure they were chafing at the borders.)  :P

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #37 on: May 19, 2013, 12:18:07 AM »
Tell that to the folks that wrote my 4th through 11th grade history books.  (Not the teachers - I'm sure they were chafing at the borders.)  :P
I find it strikingly ironic that that huge a chunk of a history curriculum is so bent on ignoring the context of the events it discusses.

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #38 on: May 19, 2013, 01:34:54 AM »
Tell that to the folks that wrote my 4th through 11th grade history books.  (Not the teachers - I'm sure they were chafing at the borders.)  :P


My 4th grade history textbook opened with a few lines on the receding of the ice age, with a photo from Greenland to accompany it. You can't get any further back as far as human occupation nearby goes (well, unless you begin with the Spanish cave paintings, but that's down south...). I suspect Ephiral may have had something of that kind too.




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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #39 on: May 19, 2013, 03:48:46 AM »
Actually, the reason I even know of General Sherman of the U.S. civil war (mentioned together with Lee above) is because of the huge sequoia tree named for him, and referenced in the Guinness Book of World Records;D

Offline ofDelusions

Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #40 on: May 19, 2013, 04:24:44 AM »
Actually, the reason I even know of General Sherman of the U.S. civil war (mentioned together with Lee above) is because of the huge sequoia tree named for him, and referenced in the Guinness Book of World Records;D

Heh, I only learned those names from Lieutenant Blueberry comic books.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #41 on: May 19, 2013, 10:37:05 AM »
I'd be more worried about those two statements if you lived in Alabama.  ;D

Offline Moraline

Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #42 on: May 19, 2013, 12:08:09 PM »
To go off slightly on a tangent but perhaps relevant to the topic...

I remember when I first started taking Uni courses. I was quite young and was only allowed to take them because my father is a professor. It made me wonder what the qualifications were to enter university....

On looking them up in the Uni library I came across an old definition of literacy (which was part of the Uni's qualifications.)

It said something like: "The applicant must not be an illiterate." It then went on to define a literate as someone that could quote whole passages from the bible, quote complete Shakespearean soliloquys, and recite full page multiple paragraph passages from other works of literature.

Now, I mention this because it occurs to me that maybe in today's schools our definition of literacy is a bit weak. I think our schools (US & Canadian because those are the only ones I'm familiar with) have lowered the standards too much.

I don't think we should go back to the same types of standards that I quoted above, but perhaps we should consider raising the bar a bit more then, "able to read and write."

In my opinion, it's no wonder that we graduate people that are functionally illiterate when we set the bar so low they barely need to know how to write their own names and form a sentence to graduate.


Offline Oniya

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #43 on: May 19, 2013, 12:37:01 PM »
By those standards, I'm functionally illiterate.  ;D

Your talk about studying 'at your father's coat-tails' reminded me of how glad I am that Stanford and other universities have started putting lecture series on YouTube.  While it doesn't take the place of actual courses with hands-on assignments, it at least lets people expose themselves to higher concepts.

Offline Lilias

Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #44 on: May 19, 2013, 05:49:14 PM »
The British PM became the butt of much hilarity when he mentioned memorising poetry as one of the goals of school ('Can Mr Cameron recite a poem for us and explain how it influenced him?') Me, on the other hand, coming from a system that does involve memorising poetry, I was nonplussed by the fact that it not only isn't required here but considered ridiculously unnecessary. ::)

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #45 on: May 19, 2013, 08:57:18 PM »
The British PM became the butt of much hilarity when he mentioned memorising poetry as one of the goals of school ('Can Mr Cameron recite a poem for us and explain how it influenced him?') Me, on the other hand, coming from a system that does involve memorising poetry, I was nonplussed by the fact that it not only isn't required here but considered ridiculously unnecessary. ::)

Bruce Chatwin - high-end English public school boy, archaeologist by training and a riveting writer - gave an unforgettable, wildly funny description* of how he went on a visit to the Soviet Union, in the late sixties, with a magnate art-collector/antiques expert friend of his, and got invited to an Uzbek-style banquet in Moscow with some of the top archaeologists of the USSR. The only dish was a whole roasted lamb stuffed with rice, apricots and spices; there was lots of beverages - red wine, champagne and vodka - and nearly everyone became fabulously drunk as the party went on into the night. The sister of one of the elite archaeologists asked Bruce to recite speeches from Shakespeare, and he rose up to belt out "If music be the food of love..." and the St.Crispin's day speech from Henry V. (I'm sure some of the Russians had been declaiming heir own classics too - training in memorizing and reading aloud with style is very much a part of the Russian school tradition). As the sun rose, Bruce and his collector friend left the party, roaring drunk too but conscious of having defended the honour of England.


* The piece on George Ortiz in What Am I Doing Here? - a gem of a book, very stimulating and ferociously cool writing
« Last Edit: May 19, 2013, 09:02:15 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Caela

Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #46 on: May 21, 2013, 12:58:09 AM »
To go off slightly on a tangent but perhaps relevant to the topic...

I remember when I first started taking Uni courses. I was quite young and was only allowed to take them because my father is a professor. It made me wonder what the qualifications were to enter university....

On looking them up in the Uni library I came across an old definition of literacy (which was part of the Uni's qualifications.)

It said something like: "The applicant must not be an illiterate." It then went on to define a literate as someone that could quote whole passages from the bible, quote complete Shakespearean soliloquys, and recite full page multiple paragraph passages from other works of literature.

Now, I mention this because it occurs to me that maybe in today's schools our definition of literacy is a bit weak. I think our schools (US & Canadian because those are the only ones I'm familiar with) have lowered the standards too much.

I don't think we should go back to the same types of standards that I quoted above, but perhaps we should consider raising the bar a bit more then, "able to read and write."

In my opinion, it's no wonder that we graduate people that are functionally illiterate when we set the bar so low they barely need to know how to write their own names and form a sentence to graduate.

Bolded the part that caught my attention the most.

By this definition, I am functionally illiterate, which makes me laugh my ass off because reading is one of my favorite pastimes.

With this though, keep in mind, that a lot of standards like this, were written at a time when most people didn't have such ready access to the sheer number of books we have so easily on hand nowadays. These days even a small, rural library could have more books than some people, in earlier centuries (especially those without money), would see in a lifetime. Often times they learned to read by studying their Bibles at home, and a small school might only have a copy of Shakespeare and a couple other books for students to share. When many of your incoming students have only had access to less than 20 books in their entire lives before coming to you, expecting them to be able to quote chapter and verse (or entire soliloquies etc.) is really quite reasonable.

Online Silk

Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #47 on: May 22, 2013, 09:02:13 AM »
I remember when I was at College, one of the students asked "Can you use computers in ICT?" It was roughly the time I lost faith in humanity.

Although I will admit I do not personally know the year WW2 started, may of been taught it but when something has such little relevance in day to day life like that, is it really supprising that things such as that happened, what would be worrying is if they did not know that WW2 happened outright, but not knowing the date of events is pretty forgivable.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #48 on: May 22, 2013, 09:13:29 AM »
I remember when I was at College, one of the students asked "Can you use computers in ICT?" It was roughly the time I lost faith in humanity.

Although I will admit I do not personally know the year WW2 started, may of been taught it but when something has such little relevance in day to day life like that, is it really supprising that things such as that happened, what would be worrying is if they did not know that WW2 happened outright, but not knowing the date of events is pretty forgivable.

I'll just say that Trie probably learned more in trying to avoid learning the date - which may have been a good thing.  Knowing that it was somewhere in the late 1930s is probably close enough for most purposes.  Knowing the major players (people-wise) helps put it into historical context as well.  Not knowing that it happened would have me reaching for volume 'M' of my parents' encyclopedia set - not because of relevance, but because it was the thickest book in the set.  A good, hardcover Michener novel might combine heft and relevancy, of course.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Education and the modern generation
« Reply #49 on: May 22, 2013, 12:11:33 PM »
I don't know - it's pretty hard for me to imagine not knowing that particular date (start of WW2). But it may be a cultural thing - I'd risk saying that WW2 was more traumatic event for us Poles, than for Americans. So "September 1st, 1939" is one of these dates you learn as a child...