Tuesday, August 31, 2010



The shameful thing truly is that a study is needed to tell us this obvious truth.

The money and time spent on the study itself are reflections of the poor state of our public education.

Math, perhaps more so than any other subject, builds the next row of bricks on that previously laid.

I tutored kids in math, and I learned a good deal about the state of math education in Ontario.

It is terrible.

There is a ridiculously complex curriculum written in education jargon that many a math major would not understand.

The subject areas jump around far too much, proving in effect a large series of short stories rather than a novel with a good plot.

And the teachers use this stupid curriculum, their fear of not covering it all, to avoid doing what really needs doing.

I encountered a number of children in grade five who did not know their times tables, a topic that was part of grade two or three when I was young.

Those not knowing them – because the teachers do not take the considerable effort required to effectively teach them – are of course still passed.

So we end up with the most absurd situations – deliberately created – of children being introduced to things like elementary probability, which is work with fractions, when they do not know the times tables or division facts needed to work with fractions. Or try division problems with double-digit divisors without knowing the times tables.

Any reasonably bright person observing such nonsense knows we are in trouble and knows the education establishment in Ontario has failed our kids.

Good work, Dalton, handing them gobs of money and getting nothing in return but ease in your election.

"…teach kids math using real life examples when young, cutting up pizza, dividing oranges, slicing cake…"

A totally inadequate and trivial notion, useful at the baby level, something already done by good teachers.

When it comes to multiplying or adding fractions, this notion is completely useless. Or try using wedges to teach double-digit division. Basic algebra? Solid geometry?

Not all math operations can be given easy-see demonstrations, yet they must be learned for the power of what they do.

But they can be taught by patient, methodical teachers, teachers who themselves understand what it is they are doing - something far too often not the case in our elementary schools.

Fundamental ideas like place value and what moving a decimal point left or right does must be absorbed thoroughly.

The real problem is the average poor quality of grade-school teachers and their often lack of any special knowledge. We have gym teachers teaching math sometimes or “teacher-librarians” expert at nothing handling various classes.

And, of course, going beneath that layer of the problem, we come to the fundamental one: a teachers' union which often defends and effectively promotes incompetence.

Those people form the talent pool out of which virtually all the education officials up to the minister come from. The blind leading the blind.

We'll only improve things by efforts like changing the way teachers are trained and taking recognized experts from outside of the public education establishment - as university professors recognized for their skill and expertise - to write curricula. All performance testing should also be handled this way.

"I think the best way to improve education is to abolish faculties of education, thereby eliminating the affectations and pretensions that go with the limp masters and doctorates in the "discipline". Most of what passes for higher education here is not worthy of the name, and, merely debases the coinage, as evidenced by the shoddy research that only occasionally appears before the public."

Absolutely, spot on.

The best example of this I can think of is the new Director of Toronto Public Schools, a football player with a meaningless doctorate in education. Every time he opens his mouth, it is either to reveal how little he knows or to do a photo-op.

Hire people who know math to teach math, and just so every other fundamental subject.

We have a huge reservoir of talent out there in our retired professors, scientists, technicians of every kind, government specialists, astute businessmen.

Hire them on at least a part time basis with no need for vacuous degrees in education. Throw in local artists and musicians to enrich the schools.

Get rid of the deadwood, people who know nothing and have no enthusiasm.

We could improve our schools dramatically in a couple of years.