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  1. #81
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prancer View Post
    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 ). 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".

    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...
    Last edited by jlai; 10-03-2011 at 01:44 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vagabond View Post
    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/Advance...rench_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/pub...TheUS_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. 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 and Andover.

    .
    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.)
    Last edited by barbk; 10-03-2011 at 01:54 AM.

  3. #83

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    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.
    ~I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.~ (Charles R. Swindoll)

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jlai View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RockTheTassel View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by RockTheTassel View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by RockTheTassel View Post
    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? 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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prancer View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    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?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post
    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.

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    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.
    "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play." –Olympic Charter

  11. #91
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlai View Post
    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.
    I'm not saying all careers require a complete knowledge of high level math, english, and science. But you're much more likely to need a strong background in those subjects than you are foreign language.

    Quote Originally Posted by jlai View Post
    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 said English, not English literature. I don't think four years of literature is really necessary either. Most people I know did not take four years, they took a year or two in addition to other English classes. Perhaps this varies at different schools.

    Quote Originally Posted by jlai View Post
    I agree, except what you said applies to all subjects, including foreign language.
    It does apply, but it's usually not the center of a job. I agree that some foreign language is useful.

    Quote Originally Posted by jlai View Post
    If you don't use math or science or read literature then how is it easy to retain? 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.
    I agree that if you don't use the skills you will forget them. But people use high level math, English, and science much more often in their jobs than they do a foreign language.

    As I've said before, I completely understand why being bilingual is a valuable skill. It just isn't nearly as important as skills in at least one of English, science, and math.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post
    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.
    There are several thousand American members of this board, representing every state in the US. How many of them do you think have heard of Vancouver? Would that number be higher or lower than all the people you have surveyed while on your travels in the US?

    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post
    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.
    It wasn't that particular story, but rather the attitude that I was referencing.
    "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RockTheTassel View Post
    I'm not saying all careers require a complete knowledge of high level math, english, and science. But you're much more likely to need a strong background in those subjects than you are foreign language.
    I have friends who came from education systems that required them to specialize in subjects early in high school. And those who didn't choose science or heavy-duty Math do just fine now in their career. My sister in law not long ago told me she forgot all about her geometry in high school, and she was in IT for a while.

    I said English, not English literature. I don't think four years of literature is really necessary either. Most people I know did not take four years, they took a year or two in addition to other English classes. Perhaps this varies at different schools.
    iN my state, 4 years of lit is part of the recommended curriculum. That being said, I think the quality of your language education counts more than how many years of English you had.

    It does apply, but it's usually not the center of a job. I agree that some foreign language is useful.
    Same goes for other skills like writing or understanding of chemistry or physics or precalculus.

    I agree that if you don't use the skills you will forget them. But people use high level math, English, and science much more often in their jobs than they do a foreign language.
    I've never used anything beyond basic algebra. In fact, I had friends who went to tech schools for engineering /tech careers who said they have never
    taken calculus (or precal). Granted, they aren't college grads but they're professionals.

    Anyway, I think what interests us is what becomes important to us, and that in turns shapes our career paths and employment opportunities. Of course, that in turn influences our thoughts of what's important in our education. For example, if you like talking to people but hate Math and decide to become a social worker, then of course you'll tell me that Math isn't useful to you. Same goes for people with different interests in different subjects.

    ETA: One of the biggest bosses in our office is a Latin American studies major. And no she's not teaching. Another coworker of mine, who does audits, says her anthropology degree helps her more than her CPA education. Just saying...

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    I would expect that schools (in general) in the US might give more than lipservice to Canada's history for a couple reasons -- first, we share the longest international border in the world, and second, Canada is the US's largest single-nation trading partner. It can't hurt to be more than just familiar with those with whom you do the majority of your business.

    Although I do wish you'd quit changing things around down there...it's only a mild pain in the ass to have to toss out the brand new text book a year into a new program of studies because you went and elected a president who tried to bring in a more 'socialist' form of health care...

    Last edited by Really; 10-03-2011 at 05:07 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Really View Post
    I would expect that schools (in general) in the US might give more than lipservice to Canada's history for a couple reasons -- first, we share the longest international border in the world, and second, Canada is the US's largest single-nation trading partner. It can't hurt to be more than just familiar with those with whom you do the majority of your business.
    I think both of my kids spent quite a bit of time studying Canada in, oh, fourth grade. And then they promptly forgot it all, or most of it.

    It's not that Americans don't like Canada or aren't aware it's there. It's more that we take it for granted. Canada is peaceful and stable, so doesn't call attention to itself. We have a good and cordial relationship, so there's no real impetus to work at it. We do share a lot of history and the cultures, while far from identical, aren't all that dissimiliar and our differences aren't particularly drastic, so there's no exotic factor. There's no substantial immigration between our countries, so very few people are interested in Canada as their mother country. I have never known anyone to go to Canada and not enjoy it and think it's a great country, but I've also never known anyone here to dream of visiting Canada as they do other countries. It's too familiar and has always been too easy to get to.

    Now should we take Canada for granted? Of course not. But who do you pay more attention to in your neighborhood--the friendly but busy people who live next door on their neat and well-kept property or the feuding people down the street who are visited regularly by the cops and have wild parties every weekend?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prancer View Post
    Now should we take Canada for granted? Of course not. But who do you pay more attention to in your neighborhood--the friendly but busy people who live next door on their neat and well-kept property or the feuding people down the street who are visited regularly by the cops and have wild parties every weekend?
    Well dayum, we think we are wild and crazy. We take great pride in knowing that only Aussies can outdrink us on transatlantic flights. Some countries study the wrong things obviously.

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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers123 View Post
    wow - I am not sure who or where you visit that people don't know that there is a Vancouver Canada.
    I share your 'wow' - this has been true of my experience everywhere I've gone in the US. Though, not surprisingly last year after the Olympics I noticed that people had heard of Vancouver.

    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.
    That's another wow.

    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.
    Um, this thread is discussing history (and geography) education in the U.S. and I have shared my experience of it. I can't say I resent American's lack of knowledge about Canada - I don't think of it much and am very accustomed to it. And I don't think it says anything about Canada itself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prancer View Post
    There are several thousand American members of this board, representing every state in the US. How many of them do you think have heard of Vancouver? Would that number be higher or lower than all the people you have surveyed while on your travels in the US?
    Much higher - because a) following figure skating leads people to become acquainted with different countries and cities, and b) discussions with people from different parts of the world leads people to become acquainted with different countries and cities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prancer View Post
    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/ed...21chinese.html
    Here's an article from 1998 about how the New York City Board of Education was hiring math teachers from Austria: http://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/11/ny...austria&st=cse.

    It would probably be even easier to import language teachers because, as native speakers, they would have an advantage over candidates born in the U.S.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vagabond View Post
    Here's an article from 1998 about how the New York City Board of Education was hiring math teachers from Austria: http://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/11/ny...austria&st=cse.

    It would probably be even easier to import language teachers because, as native speakers, they would have an advantage over candidates born in the U.S.
    But we're talking elementary schools teachers here, not specialist high school teachers. Most elementary school teachers teach everything, not just one subject. So you could either lay off masses of regular teachers to replace them with foriegn teachers (that will go over well) or you can have schools hire a few language specialists each and add them, along with more classes that would, by necessity, have to take the place of some other subject.

    Then there's the issue of magnitude. In very rounded and inexact terms: There are roughly 67,000 public elementary schools in the US. The mean number of students in a US elementary school is something like 500. The average class size is 25. Each school would need about four language teachers, presuming that those teachers could teach at all grade levels within the elementary school. We would have to import more than 260,000 teachers.

    If my math is off, feel free to correct. I am, after all, a product of American public schools .

    This would be unlikely to happen even if the schools weren't struggling financially. But since they are and since non-core courses are being cut as a result, as discussed in my 2011 article, it is even more unlikely that this would even be considered now.
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