Friday, December 23, 2011

High School Flight from Reading and Writing

from Academic Questions

Will Fitzhugh

As concerns mount over the costs and benefits of higher education, it may
be worthwhile to glance at the benefits of high school education at present as
well. Of course, high school costs, while high, are borne by the taxpayers in
general, but it is reasonable to hope that there are sufficient benefits for such
an outlay...

Read the full article

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Meaningful Work

The American Federation of Teachers
American Educator
's Winter issue includes an article on:

"Meaningful Work: How the History Research Paper Prepares Students for College and Life"

While there is lively new concern for our neglect of promising STEM students, there continues to be almost no interest in encouraging serious high school students who are reading history books and writing history research papers on their own (because their schools, for the most part, don't care if they do stuff like that). We may perhaps see some improvement in our STEM performance, but the vital ROOTS of knowledge of history and skill in academic expository writing will continue to shrivel, and we may have even more inarticulate and aliterate engineers, and scientists (as well as other members of the voting public) as ignorant of history as ever. Let us reconsider our inattention to the ROOTS (academic reading and writing) of a sound liberal education while we still can, if possible.

Will Fitzhugh

Friday, December 9, 2011

No Time For Homework (including term papers)

Thomas L. Friedman
Michael Mandelbaum

That Used To Be Us
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011, pp. 128-129

...We wish the figure of 27,000 texts a month [by a 14-year-old girl] came out of Ripley’s Believe it or Not. In fact, it is the new normal. On January 10, 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the results of a lengthy study entitled Daily Media Use Among American Children and Teens Up Dramatically from Five Years Ago:

“With technology allowing nearly 24-hour media access as children and teens go about their daily lives, the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically, especially among minority youth, according to a study released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Today, 8-18-year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time “media multitasking,” (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7 1/2 hours. The amount of time spent with media increased by an hour and seventeen minutes a day over the past five years, from 6:21 in 2004 to 7:38 today...While the study cannot establish a cause and effect relationship between media use and grades, there are differences between heavy and light media users in this regard. About half (47%) of heavy media users say they usually get fair or poor grades (mostly Cs or lower), compared to about a quarter (23%) of light users...Over the past 5 years, time spent reading books [Twilight series? WF] remained steady at about :25 a day, but time with magazines and newspapers dropped (from :14 to :09 for magazines, and from :06 to :03 for newspapers). The proportion of young people who read a newspaper on a typical day dropped from 42% in 1999 to 23% in 2009.”

One quotation in the study captured the trend: “The amount of time young people spend with electronic media has grown to where it’s even more than a full-time workweek,” said Drew Altman, Ph.D., the president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

At precisely the moment when we need more education to bring the bottom up to the average and the American average up to the global peaks, our students are spending more time texting and gaming and less time than ever studying and doing homework. Unless we get them to spend the time needed to master a subject, all the teacher training in the world will go for naught.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Our Enemy: The Book


Will Fitzhugh, The Concord Review
EducationViews Contributor
December 7, 2011

Fellow members of the Electronic Educational Entertainment Association. My remarks will be brief, as I realize you all have texts to read, messages to tweet, and you will of course want to take photos of those around you to post on your blog.

I only want to remind you that the book is our enemy. Every minute a student spends reading a book is time taken away from purchasing and using the software and hardware the sale of which we depend on for our livelihoods.

You should keep in mind the story C.S. Lewis told of Wormwood, the sales rep for his uncle Screwtape, a district manager Below, who was panicked when his target client joined a church. What was he to do? Did this mean a lost account? Screwtape reassured him with a story from his own early days. One of his accounts went into a library, and Screwtape was not worried, but then the client picked up a book and began reading. However, then he began to think! And, in an instant, the Enemy Above was at his elbow. But Screwtape did not panic—fortunately it was lunchtime, and he managed to get his prospect up and at the door of the library. There was traffic and busyness, and the client thought to himself, “This is real life!” And Screwtape was able to close the account.

In the early days, Progressive Educators would sometimes say to students, in effect, “step away from those books and no one gets hurt!” because they wanted students to put down their books, go out, work for social justice, and otherwise take part in “real life” rather than get into those dangerous books and start thinking for themselves, for goodness’ sake!

But now we have more effective means of keeping our children in school and at home away from those books. We have Grand Theft Auto and hundreds of other games for them to play at escaping all moral codes. We have smartphones, with which they can while away the hours and the days texting and talking about themselves with their friends.

We even have “educational software” and lots of gear, like video recorders, so that students can maintain their focus on themselves, and stay away from the risks posed by books, which could very possibly lead them to think about something besides themselves. And remember, people who read books and think about something besides themselves do not make good customers.

And more than anything, we want and need good customers, young people who buy our hardware and software, and who can be encouraged to stay away from the books in libraries, which are not only free, for goodness’s sake, but may even lead them to think. And that will be no help at all to our bottom line. Andrew Carnegie may have been a philanthropist, but by providing free libraries he did nothing to help us sell electronic entertainment products. We must never let down our guard or reduce our advertising. Just remember every young person reading a book is a lost customer! Verbum Sap.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Middle School Readers

Begin forwarded message:
From: "Nell"
Date: December 1, 2011 12:43:16 PM EST
Subject: RE: Concord reading

Art, I used The Concord Review with my middle school students as a way for them to have better reading and writing skills. Not an easy go but it worked. The topics were of interest to the students (topics were self-chosen) and their capacity to read non-fiction increased. Their writing skills needed much more work due to their previous encounter with research having been limited to power point presentations with information pulled from various sources on the internet. That was a much harder habit for them to break. If we are to develop the minds and abilities of our students in academic writing we must adopt Will's suggestion of having students write a papers beginning in first grade with a one-page paper and continuing through high school where a 12-page paper would be required. This is Will's one page per grade idea [The Page Per Year Plan©]. We need to have support systems for students like writing labs where they can get the assistance they need. When I was teaching college classes the students in the sixteen-week courses had 15 weeks to write their papers with many submissions and comments from me regarding their resources, their rhetoric, etc. If writing is thinking written down, we have to go beyond the typical creative writing experiences that are based on feelings and emotional responses (nothing wrong with this but often it is the only writing experiences students have) to have students understand the purpose of research and non-fiction writing. It would also help if we were to re-introduce rhetoric as well.

Once you read the articles by the HS students [published in The Concord Review] you will be so impressed with their capacities and intellectually stimulated by the essays’ content.

[Nell Petry, Ph.D.]


On Behalf Of Art Snyder
Sent: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 6:03 PM
Subject: Concord reading

Thanks to Nell and Will on the matter of reading those Concord Review articles. As I read the list of article titles earlier today, I knew right away that they'd provide good intellectual stimulation. I won't discount them because the authors are high-schoolers; excellence is excellence.

--Art Snyder