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PDilemma
10-02-2011, 10:34 PM
I'm not convinced that it is useful or helpful to know that San Antonio is more populous than Dallas, or that Phoenix is the sixth most populous city in the US. Or even that Albany is the capital of New York. (Unless, of course, you live in NY.)

Memorizing factoids like that is pretty unhelpful. Understanding that the path and pattern of Westward Expansion was greatly influenced by the environmental and health challenges of crossing the Great Plains and the Rockies -- and the paths that (mostly) allowed pioneers to do that -- would seem to be a lot more useful. Understanding the larger concept that migration paths are strongly influenced by physical and political geography is a further abstraction that, IMO, is a lot more useful than the "biggest cities" game.

I just have to say, though, that, say, if people knew that the population of the Omaha metropolitan area is 850,000+, perhaps I would not be subjected to morons from LA sitting next to me on airplanes and asking me if we actually have stores in the state or if I have to buy all my clothing online. :yikes: (and yes, that really happened to me once)

Sometimes when my students didn't want to learn certain facts, I told them the reason was to prevent them from looking stupid in the future.

vesperholly
10-02-2011, 10:34 PM
With languages, it is not "teach them what is important first". You can learn history, geography, biology etc. at any age, but with languages, it simple isn't so. Early is effortless, late might be impossible.

I didn't mean first referring to age, I mean first as the foundation - any curriculum shoud have the basics (english, math, history) and then add in the rest.

In New York state, foreign languages start in 5th grade and (at least when I was in school) was mandatory. It was optional in high school, if you didn't want a Regents diploma.

AnnieD
10-02-2011, 10:41 PM
Are things any better in other countries?

In the U.K., for example, History is not a required subject after the equivalent of eighth grade (except, possibly, in Scotland, for which I couldn't find any definite information). And here is an extract from a short, fascinating article that appeared in The Guardian in 2008:



http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/aug/17/britishidentity

Sorry I'm quoting back to the first page but I just started reading from the beginning. I can't answer for the rest of the UK but in Scotland history isn't given a great deal of importance either.

We're a few years into a completely new curriculum for the whole education system but we have no concept of passing grades or sitting tests which have any particular consequence at elementary school level anyway so there's no particular content which is required to be taught. The norm is for bits and pieces from Scottish history along with a bit about World War 2 in the last year of primary school.

At high school our students have to specialise pretty early on (bearing in mind that we start high school aged 11 or 12). Students do 2 years of all the core subjects at high school then have to pick courses for their "standard grades" which are the Scottish equivalent of GCSEs. This for me was when history went out the window because I took geography as my social subject. Because of that the only history I remember doing at high school was a unit on "Man the Hunter and Gatherer" and something about shale mining in Scotland (which was mighty riveting!)

Our curriculum has moved so far away from actual subject knowledge that it's gone too far in the other direction. Everything is about "skills" and equipping children for the future with "how to learn." The whole concept of fact based learning is treated with contempt. I agree that teaching skills is important but the lack of knowledge amongst our kids - particularly in areas like history - is absolutely horrendous.

Vagabond
10-02-2011, 11:09 PM
I think you'll find that AP French students all over the country -- and not just kids at Brearley or other very expensive private schools -- are reading those books and others. It isn't some enormous rarity. :rolleyes:

I am always amazed by how much people read into my posts that isn't there (and by how much they feel the need to put in the ":rolleyes:" smiley into their rodomontades because of the assumptions they make rather than what I actually say).

On the other hand, I am not surprised when people make sweeping assertions without looking up the facts to see whether they are correct. :shuffle:

I never said that it was some enormous rarity or that it's only students at very expensive private schools who read great foreign-language writers in the original language. I know that there are students taking A.P. French Languages classes in public school. On the other hand, I would be interested to know how many tenth graders in the U.S. read Camus in the original French.

Since you raised the issue of whether it's a rarity, barbk, let's look at the numbers, shall we?

In 2009, for example, 21,029 students took the A.P. French Language exam, and, of those, only 55.5% (approximately 11,670 students) scored at least a 3.

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

At the time, approximately 3 million students were graduating from public high schools in the U.S. every year, and approximately 4 million were enrolling in public high schools as freshman.

http://www.betterhighschools.org/pubs/documents/HSInTheUS_1210.pdf

In other words, less than 0.04% of all graduating high school students earn a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP French Language test. And French is one of the most popular foreign languages in schools in this country.

Furthermore, there is no A.P. exam in French Literature (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Placement). The classes those eleventh- and twelfth-grade students at Brearley are getting do seem to be very rare indeed, though they are available at other very expensive private schools such as Exeter (http://www.exeter.edu/documents/COI/COI_2011_2012_web.pdf#page=45) and Andover (http://www.andover.edu/Academics/WorldLanguages/French/Courses/Pages/default.aspx).


Entire post

Thank you. :)

I had a feeling things weren't much different in Scotland from the rest of the U.K., even though historically Scotland has placed a greater emphasis on education for the whole of the population than England has. I did find it interesting that Scots surveyed in the study mentioned in that article in The Guardian to which I linked upthread knew more about British history than their southern neighbors did. It's even a bit surprising, given that some of the questions asked referred to specifically English history that preceded the Act of Union.

Prancer
10-03-2011, 12:56 AM
I suspect dictionaries are more useful if you're learning a foreign language. Do you use dictionaries with Spanish or French, Prancer? I'm more likel to use it when I read, say, Japanese.

I do, or did when I needed to, but even then I find dictionaries rather woefully inadequate. So much of truly grasping language is understanding the shade and nuance, and dictionaries are not good at providing either. Sometimes they help, sometimes they do not.

Most of what I read in Spanish and French was literature, so I read the literature guides, which were usually much more illuminating.


If I am not mistaken, most of the students in USA start a second language in high school. From biological stand point that is way too late. We are much more adapt for learning languages before puberty. Basically, it is the earlier the better.

That is true and well known and understood in the US as well; we are not quite as stupid as people think. Again, we do not have a significant population of people who can speak another language, and even fewer people who both teach and speak another language. We simply do not have the human resources to supply elementary school classrooms with speakers of other languages.

Now this of course creates a chicken and egg problem, in which no one learns languages because no one teaches languages and then there is no one to teach languages because no one has learned (to put it very simplistically). But what should be done about this?

This is one interesting proposition, but I don't see too many countries following in China's footsteps: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/education/21chinese.html

As for the political and educational issues discussed there, it's like Cyndi Lauper sang: Money.....money changes everything.


And I hope our concept of geography has moved far beyond principal products and exports, which seemed to be the focus when I was in elementary school. (That, along with stories about "Juan of the Amazon jungle.")

Bwahahaha! I still remember seventh grade social studies, in which we focused on South America. Every test was over imports and exports, and the one thing I still retain from all this was that just about every country in South America exports (or perhaps, exported when the textbook was written) guano.

This has not done a lot to enhance my knowledge of South America. But it sure helped on tests. Copper mining was another good bet, but wasn't the surefire bet guano was.


something about shale mining in Scotland (which was mighty riveting!)

Sorta like guano :lol:

jlai
10-03-2011, 01:15 AM
I do, or did when I needed to, but even then I find dictionaries rather woefully inadequate. So much of truly grasping language is understanding the shade and nuance, and dictionaries are not good at providing either. Sometimes they help, sometimes they do not.

Most of what I read in Spanish and French was literature, so I read the literature guides, which were usually much more illuminating.

That is true and well known and understood in the US as well; we are not quite as stupid as people think. Again, we do not have a significant population of people who can speak another language, and even fewer people who both teach and speak another language. We simply do not have the human resources to supply elementary school classrooms with speakers of other languages.

Now this of course creates a chicken and egg problem, in which no one learns languages because no one teaches languages and then there is no one to teach languages because no one has learned (to put it very simplistically). But what should be done about this?


Dictionaries are the Bible to many Asians I know who learn English. I think reason is that we have a lot of non-native English teachers who mispronounce or give wrong definitions and the only "objective arbiter" is the dictionary (so we can go "bwwaaaahaahaha, you're so wrong" to our teacher :lol: ). I mean I had a teacher who guessed the pronunciation of words by their phonetics and often guessed wrong. And another who told us "a-la-carte is a meal for lovers". :scream:

US has many first-generation immigrants who know another language well; but they are not the ones who will get teaching certs. ETA: And in my state I think you need to have a certain number of colllege credit hours in the foreing language and native speakers of that language who go to college are not likely to go take those classes since they probably have reached that competency level and beyond...

barbk
10-03-2011, 01:42 AM
In 2009, for example, 21,029 students took the A.P. French Language exam, and, of those, only 55.5% (approximately 11,670 students) scored at least a 3.

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

At the time, approximately 3 million students were graduating from public high schools in the U.S. every year, and approximately 4 million were enrolling in public high schools as freshman.

http://www.betterhighschools.org/pubs/documents/HSInTheUS_1210.pdf

In other words, less than 0.04% of all graduating high school students earn a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP French Language test. And French is one of the most popular foreign languages in schools in this country.

Furthermore, there is no A.P. exam in French Literature (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Placement). The classes those eleventh- and twelfth-grade students at Brearley are getting do seem to be very rare indeed, though they are available at other very expensive private schools such as Exeter (http://www.exeter.edu/documents/COI/COI_2011_2012_web.pdf#page=45) and Andover (http://www.andover.edu/Academics/WorldLanguages/French/Courses/Pages/default.aspx).

.

I think that the classes are less rare than you seem to think, and French is far less popular than is Spanish. Kids read substantive works in French (or Spanish, or German, or Latin) before taking the AP Language exam, and even though students may not score a 3 or higher, it doesn't mean they didn't read the literature. More advanced students can (and do, at least in our metro districts) take advanced classes at public colleges and universities paid for by their school districts. I don't see what Brearley does that is so particularly special compared to what my D did in a strong public H.S. Not every (or even most) kids choose to take these classes, but they are widespread, and the IB classes cover similar material. I'd guess that even at the elite private schools that not every student chooses to take high level foreign language classes. (Do kids at Brearley even take AP/IB exams for these classes? Many elite private schools choose not to suggest that.)

Twilight1
10-03-2011, 01:52 AM
I hate North American history. I took my OAC in North American history to get the credit for university but compared to the other OAC history course for Euro history, I found NA history so boring. I have absolutely no interest in World Wars or Revolutions etc other than the result of said events and how society benefitted/ was hurt from them.

Don't get me wrong I can rhyme off dates when important things occured in NA but I am more interested in how society advanced. I was more interested in the anthropological and sociological aspects of history. What certain societies brought to the modern era.

Geography on the other hand, I am interested in knowing where cities are, where States/ Provinces are. I like knowing the capitals of many different countries. I like to know where these countries are. I am extremely interested in Unesco heritage sites. I love looking at pictures of various countries. I love traveling, learning about cultures.

I find I can spend hours on Wikipedia reading about various places in the World and it doesn't matter where it is. I could go from reading about Death Valley to reading about Rapa Nui to reading about the monarchy in Brunei. Stuff that is completely random.

I love talking to my son about history because he has slowly started to develop an appreciation for it too.

I don't like history for dates, I like history because it teaches me about previous societies.

But to be quite blunt, history is not a necessary subject to have if you want to become a Computer Programer or Nurse/ Doctor. It is an elective based course. I learned history from grade 3-9 as a mandatory subjact that I had to take and then I 'chose' to take it thereafter. So if the average American lacks education in history... I don't get the real beef about it.

IMHO, it is no different than my complete lack of knowledge in business. Some may think it is crazy that I don't know anything about business or that I know nothing about car mechanics. For some people that is their livelihood and I know squat.

People have their interests and so be it.

PDilemma
10-03-2011, 02:00 AM
In a democracy, it is important for people to understand where we've been and where we came from.

The lie that this country was founded by Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christians who intended it to be a Christian nation presents a good example of why we need to understand our history. The treatment of Native Americans in the 19th Century (and before) puts the rights and privileges tribes have today into context.

Those are just two examples.

To become a naturalized citizen, a person has to pass a test on American history. It is absurd to accept our native citizens having less knowledge than that.

RockTheTassel
10-03-2011, 02:18 AM
Okay, perhaps it's not practical or realistic...but then if you read books like "Every I need to know I learned in Kindergarten (or whatever grade you think is right), then technically most things you study in high school you don't need day to day either. How does one justify needing 4 years of high school literature when you can study business writing and technical writing? Or chemistry or physics? Or gasp...Algebra 2 and pre-calculus? WHy do we need 4 years of Math unless we are pursuing a career in science, as opposed to 4 years of a foreign language?

A lot of the curriculum are based on our cultural conceptions of what is important, and that in turns shapes what we think are important to our education or our lives.

WHile I'm not saying everyone needs to be bilingual to the point of reading literature, I do think the world is getting smaller and there's no getting around a more global-oriented education in the future.

Taking subjects like chemistry, physics, and high level English and math is much more worthwhile than a foreign language because these subjects are used in such a wide variety of careers. The only things you can primarily use foreign language for in a career is teaching or translating.

I'll bet there are plenty of students who hate subjects in school and swear they will never use them, only to end up in a profession that requires at least some further education in the subject they hated. For example, people who hated their high school biology class and then end up in the medical field or someone who hated English and works in a field that requires writing and communications.

It's also far easier in a lot of cases to take a high level math, science, or English course and retain the knowledge than it is with a foreign language. True proficiency in a language is exceedingly hard.

I'm not at all saying that foreign language isn't valuable. It just isn't valuable enough to make a requirement because it's so tedious to learn and not that useful for most people.

jlai
10-03-2011, 02:31 AM
Taking subjects like chemistry, physics, and high level English and math is much more worthwhile than a foreign language because these subjects are used in such a wide variety of careers. The only things you can primarily use foreign language for in a career is teaching or translating.
.
I can honestly say I never use science for my work, but proficiency in Spanish will help my coworkers in accounting get assignments for they have Spanish speaking clients.

Does senior ENglish literature really make or break one's career? Not to diss Eng lit for I love it, but there are education systems that don't make literature a senior course and the kids do just fine.


I'll bet there are plenty of students who hate subjects in school and swear they will never use them, only to end up in a profession that requires at least some further education in the subject they hated. For example, people who hated their high school biology class and then end up in the medical field or someone who hated English and works in a field that requires writing and communications.

I agree, except what you said applies to all subjects, including foreign language.


It's also far easier in a lot of cases to take a high level math, science, or English course and retain the knowledge than in is with a foreign language. True proficiency in a language is exceedingly hard.

If you don't use math or science or read literature then how is it easy to retain? :confused: I don't remember any more Math or science than I do Japanese. And I don't use any one of them on a regular basis. And I say that for the people I know too.

Japanfan
10-03-2011, 02:31 AM
Well, frankly, I would be shocked if most Americans couldn't name three major Canadian cities, too, because we pretty much can't avoid knowing the names. However, I have no evidence at all to support this belief, as I have never seen any kind of objective survey on the subject. I don't even have anecdotal evidence, as I don't think I have ever asked anyone to name some Canadian cities. And even if I did, I don't know how useful such a conversation would be, as most people I know have actually been to three Canadian cities (or more), and I don't know how common that is.


My view is based on a lot of traveling in the US. Many people have asked where we are from and not heard of Vancouver, British Columbia - those who have heard of it are definitely in a minority. I've been particularly surprised that people in Oregon and California haven't heard of it, as Vancouver is on the same coast. That's why I said 'even Californians' by the way.


However, I know that Canadians like to think of Americans as people who think they live in igloos and have year-round winters and don't know much about anything, so I didn't see much point in arguing that you don't have any real basis for your assertion either


Actually, we don't - I don't, at any rate. And I never made that assertion. I've heard the odd story of people who've had Americans come to visit them in the summer with ski gear, but that has never happened to me. I do think that would be the exception, though. Most people who travel anywhere learn about what weather to expect.

agalisgv
10-03-2011, 02:41 AM
The treatment of Native Americans in the 19th Century (and before) puts the rights and privileges tribes have today into context. Could you explain a bit what you mean?

numbers123
10-03-2011, 03:17 AM
My view is based on a lot of traveling in the US. Many people have asked where we are from and not heard of Vancouver, British Columbia - those who have heard of it are definitely in a minority. I've been particularly surprised that people in Oregon and California haven't heard of it, as Vancouver is on the same coast. That's why I said 'even Californians' by the way.

wow - I am not sure who or where you visit that people don't know that there is a Vancouver Canada.
Even I knew that Vancouver was a major city in Canada as a young child - here where New York City inhabitants asked my husband if we owned cows since we live in the Midwestern state of Nebraska.

There are misconceptions about people and who/how they live in every circumstance. Some, not all, NYC people told us that they expected teepees and saloons on the main streets in Nebraska because that is what they saw in old western movies and tv series. Some, but not all, people may be unaware of the city Vancouver in Canada. But then until recently I didn't know that there was a Vancouver in the US.

And FWIW, in my experience, five 15 year old boys in the 60's, didn't know where or what Iowa was. Does that make everyone in Texas uneducated and they should spend as much time studying Iowa history as I did? I don't think so.

Are you resentful that as a Canadian you had a great deal of United States history in your course of education and that United States student didn't have the same amount of Canadian history? If so, that is something to take up with your school boards and not lash out at US posters.

Matryeshka
10-03-2011, 03:21 AM
An AP language test, or AP of any subject, measures your ability to take an AP test. AP has a very, very, very specific philosophy of education, so naturally their tests are geared towards that philosophy. It's great for me, because I see a lot of merit in the AP style. So a student is usually only going to do well on an AP exam if that student who has a teacher that buys into that program and teaches in that style.

I would not expect a teacher whose natural educational instinct is towards IB or another style would be hard-pressed to produce a lot of students that make a three or higher on the exam. It doesn't mean the teacher didn't teach her students; it just means the teacher didn't necessarily teach the AP way. There are more and more colleges that are not accepting AP exams and instead just taking scores on ACT/SAT in math, English, and science and developing in-house tests for other subjects.

As for native citizens, they probably were taught. They just didn't retain the information. For all the nattering on in this thread, I seriously doubt many could pass a standard Civics/American Government final exam with an A, or even a B. I'm not surprised naturalized citizens know American history/government better--most become naturalized as an adult, and have an adult's understanding of how important this information is. There's also the increased pressure of if you don't pass, you don't get citizenship and might have to leave. Native-born fifteen year olds who don't do so hot don't have to worry about being deported to Kyrgyzstan or some other unpronounceable place...or Canada. :EVILLE: