Monday, September 11, 2006

TAG what does it stand for... absolutely nothing

TAG... I was really really hoping it mean talented and gifted, but I'm not so sure anymore. Today I got home a letter and permission slip for my son's Academically Gifted and Talented Program which he starts tomorrow. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that in his Lookout classes, my child will:

"work on interdisciplinary units and other activities that are designed to develop creative and critical thinking skills, independent learning procedures, communication skills, and group dynamics."

I dont even know what this means. This is exactly the sort of edubabble goobly gook that I can't stand. My son doesn't need independent learning procedures, he is 8 years old for god sake. Group dynamics!!! I am pretty sure that my son qualified based on his math scores, not his social skills. Is it so hard... say it after me slowly... "acceleration". It says right in South Carolina Regulation 43-220, Gifted and Talented, paragraph II A. 2. (D), that the one of the purposes of the program is to provide "a confluent approach that incorporates acceleration and enrichment". ac‧cel‧er‧a‧tion 1. the act of accelerating; increase of speed or velocity. As in... teach things at a faster pace so that he could learn more in less time. Its a pretty simple concept. Now I can understand a little bit of this whole child centered learning junk might be useful with gifted children, but couldn't they include just a little bit of "acceleration", just a little. My son is capable of learning 4th and 5th grade math, but will he get to? It doesn't look like it. Instead my son is going to learn "communication skills". Oh well at least he will be able to easily tell me how bored he is.

Piling it on to "The School Of The Future"

Philadephia’s School of the Future (SOTF) has taken a few knocks lately. First D-Ed Reckoning says it will “all end in tears”, then rightwingprof calls the curriculum “mindless old crap”. Now it’s my turn.

Rightwingprof pointed out that in the Reuters article on the SOTF that the new Principal Dr Shirley Grover is quoted as saying"

"It's not about memorizing certain algebraic equations and then regurgitating them in a test," Grover said. "It's about thinking how math might be used to solve a quality-of-water problem or how it might be used to determine whether or not we are safe in Philadelphia from the avian flu."

Laughing yet? Perhaps she just happened to give a bad example. Surely they aren’t going to have lesson plans this inane. I mean after all the SOTF is partnered with Microsoft and there is no way a multi-billion dollar technology company would encourage such nonsense. Alas, things are as bad as they seem. Being the google master that I am, I managed to find Microsoft’s SOTF website. It seems Microsoft has its own education site with lesson plans for teachers, nicely divided by subjects. Some examples:

Under the Mathematics category we have:

Making Money From Lemons which calls for the instructor to “Tell the students to go into the lemonade stand business. Each of them will own their own business and make decisions about materials, costs and how to make the lemonade. They should also know that even if they have really good tasting lemonade, sometimes the weather affects how much lemonade people buy. They will get to see a weather forecast, but they should keep in mind it isn't always accurate.”

And of course the infamous How Much Water Does Your Family Use? where students use excel to track their water usage and compare it to other students.

Microsoft just doesn’t cover mathematics though, they also have History lesson plans entitled History and Culture through Food and of course What is Jazz? All major subjects are covered. Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, etc…

Well the kids might not learn how to use the quadratic equation, but at least when they graduate school without any basic math skills they can always open up a lemonade stand and track how much water they use with Microsoft Excel. After all if food can be part of history, why can’t lemonade.