CS Lewis (Was: Favourite books)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Tue Dec 14 19:44:47 EST 2004

On Tue, 14 Dec 2004 14:39:47 -0500 (EST), deborah.dwj at suberic.net wrote:

>On Tue, 14 Dec 2004, Kyla Tornheim wrote:
>|...okay, I guess what I'm saying is that my experience of non-tracked
>|classes meant that I was bored, bored, bored, and tracked classes meant
>|that I was interested and challenged.
>I'm not saying I know the answer, because I don't -- but tracking only
>works for gifted kids.  It *can* work for the other kids, in theory, but
>it doesn't.  Until mass produced education finds a way to, say, educate
>the kids who get diagnosed with (pick your poison) at age 10, after
>which they can read/do math/what-have-you fine but before which they've
>been tracked with the
>less-bright/dumber/different-intelligence/what-have-you kids, it's an
>imperfect system.  Or, for that matter, make it clear to everyone
>involved that being in the top track doesn't necessarily mean slower,
>and certainly not at everything.  And until we stop screwing the kids
>who just need extra time or help by lumping them in with the kids who
>have massive behavioural problems, so little intellectual is learned in

When I was old enough to think about it, I started resenting the fact that
everyone wasn't being taught the way we were in my fourth grade gifted
program.  We were challenged to do different things, not necessarily more
advanced ones, and how "gifted" the project was mostly depended on what the
student chose to do.  The theory was that all of us were capable of learning
and that learning was something fun, not boring.  And it never was.  I wish
that had been my entire educational experience, not just one afternoon a
week for about a year.  

>Now Melissa should enter and explain the superiority of her system.  If
>only it scaled.  :)

Unfortunately it's superior precisely because it doesn't scale.  :)  But one
or two students per teacher is impractical in a larger population.  Aerin's
school has an ideal ratio; nineteen students with one teacher and a
teacher's aide.  It really is a pity that public schools can't or don't work
toward very small classes.  They pay lip service to the idea, but it works
out to reducing class sizes to thirty instead of thirty-five.  This has very
little effect on education quality, though I'm sure the teachers are
grateful for whatever reduction they can get (and I can't blame them).  When
my boy was enrolled in first grade this year, his class had twenty-two
students.  Then a month later we got a letter saying that they were having
to cut some of the classes, and now it's thirty.  And this just before an
election in which *everyone* was promising smaller class sizes.  Hah.  I
asked a friend of mine to explain the logic behind this--she teaches math at
the high school and runs the district web site--and she said it had
something to do with allocation and estimates of population and so forth.
The gist of it was that there had been some planning at the state or
district level before school began, and when the reality failed to match the
plan, they changed reality.

I think the *idea* of tracking--meaning educating kids at the level they're
capable of--is a good one, but it never seems to work out.  For one thing,
once a kid is pigeonholed into a certain track, it's easier just to keep him
there rather than test and re-test every so often to make sure he's in the
right place.  And as Deborah said, the kids who just need extra help or a
different method of teaching often get put in with the behavioral problems.
All of which keeps coming back to the fact that most schools aren't teaching
children that learning is fun and rewarding, which is ultimately the only
way to keep them interested once they hit middle school.

I also get annoyed when my boy's school talks about the smarter kids working
with the slower ones like it's some kind of brilliant strategy.  I have no
good memories of doing that and I don't think it helps the bright kids any.
Now, in Aerin's school they do something similar on the surface but
completely different in essence.  The students are part of "family groups"
that consist of seven or eight students from all different grades (the
school has first through eighth grade).  Every week they get together in
family groups for projects, and everyone learns from everyone else.  Aerin
loves it.  She's also got a reading buddy in first grade (Aerin is in third)
and gets together with her every so often to read together and do activities
based on reading.  This is part of Aerin's education, not some stupid
time-filler to give bored students something to do when they finish their
work way faster than everyone else.  Because that's really what it is when
the smart kids tutor the dumb ones.  Dressing it up with language about
"repeated practice improving the gifted child's skills" just obscures the
least in my fourth-grade gifted program if I finished early I could work
logic puzzles.

Bah.  I'm glad I'm out of school.

Melissa Proffitt
(and isn't there another homeschooling mom on this list now?)

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