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Jan 27 2013

What are they teaching our kids?

I have children, and one of them is now old enough to be learning serious subjects in what was once called “Social Studies”, or “History and Geography”, depending on your age.   Today it is all lumped together with Language Arts (what I remember as English) into a morass called “Humanities”.  I think you get my attitude on this.

I have been frustrated that my teenager cannot named the ten provinces of Canada, let alone label them on a map.  Or know when they joined the confederation. She doesn’t know the US states or which ones seceded in 1861.  She probably can’t label a map of Europe, even if you let her ignore the little states.  But I don’t think this is her fault.  This is the fault of the education system that some time ago decided that rote learning was a waste of time.

I was driven to write this blog entry based on my latest frustration with what they are teaching in “Humanities”.  They have learned “all about Tiananmen Square” and the protests there in 1989, according to my daughter.  She was explaining that people were protesting because they didn’t have political freedoms or freedom of expression.  I asked her two questions:  In what city is Tiananmen Square located? and Who’s portrait hangs over Tiananmen Square?  She could answer neither of these questions.  She knew Tiananmen Square was in China, but had either not been paying attention or was never told it was in Beijing.  What I thought was worse was that anyone was trying to teach about the struggles between communist totalitarianism and liberty in China without any mention of Mao and his little red book…  After I told her that the portrait was not “some guy”, but was Mao Zedong, she swore she had never heard that name at school.  Further, there had been no discussion of the fundamental ideology underpinning the totalitarianism that Mao espoused.  They were simply told that the students were protesting a lack of freedom and were crushed for it.   I also asked if she understood whether things had changed in China since then.  She said she had no idea.  Once again, I must question what are we teaching our kids?  The events in Tiananmen Square are important, but how can you understand them without the history, ideology and even knowing that from a political freedom perspective, very little has changed in China in the 24 years since.

If you know a teacher or have kids in the schools in Canada, watch carefully.  They aren’t learning what you learned.

4 comments

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  1. ChrstphrR

    I think concerning geography and history, that horse has already left the barn… I learnt all of that because *my* father had kept the atlas he had from grade school, and I took an interest to it before I could read, and then had an aptitude for remembering places and names from looking in the books. Ditto for having a full encyclopaedia set and a dictionary at home (thanks Grandma, retired librarian!).

    I didn’t really learn as much of that at school, as I did more have it re-introduced again. I really don’t know if I would’ve learned what I should have, long ago without the earlier access to books at home. I know… books, who reads those nowadays? But, the internet avails access to ALL of that information at home, instead.

    That said, I found few students liked geography, history, or paid attention to spelling in grade school as much as I did.

    I can’t say that I have been advocating learning at home, because my parents were somewhat passive about it. They had the tools (books, then) available, and I had the motivation to peer inside to see what they’d reveal to me. But, if you don’t have parents actively fostering/passively enabling learning at home, or the kids earnest and motivated to exploit that, then learn by rote has some advantages.

    It’s only a pet theory of mine, without children of my own to put it into practice, I’ve always thought that teaching the “active arts” — oration, debate, letter writing (essays) — are intrisically tied to critical thinking. The ability to reason, take in new information, refine your knowledge and understanding — they are all the root of becoming educated and informed. I think that this is more important than rote… because it allows you to question the validity of sources, or motivate you to find more information.

    However, that’s not at the root of your problem with your daugther not recalling, or not learning those important details about the topics and subjects she’s being taught. You’re railing against the symptoms, and you need to look deeper into this — you aren’t going to fix all the “broken” teachers your daughter encounters. You need to help your daughter with getting the motivation to learn beyond what little snippets of information are relayed unto her at school.

    Self-directed learning, and having that edge of deeper understanding and more information than the minimum relayed in classes, is the sort of information that she’ll retain, and enjoy knowing, instead of trudging along in class, content with learning the mediocre. That, and, what teen doesn’t love having the jump on a teacher (or a parent)?

    Perhaps I’m projecting too much. But if that were to turn out, you’ll be happier with what your daughter learns, because she won’t be confined to learning merely what’s fed to her at school. And, she might get the best of you discussing/debating/arguing something with you, too.

  2. Cynical Bard

    Its not really surprising that they do not teach the underpinnings of Mao, since they are still teaching the same ideals in the same schools today. Today they don’t call it Communism or “The Revolution”. Today it is Social Justice, but no one who espouses it will explain exactly what that means .

    The NDP just removed the need for “Social Ownership of the means of production” from their Constitution. Why would they do that except for fear that the public might understand it ?

    In the US there used to be an active Group known as the “Weather Underground”. One of its leaders was Bill Ayers, one of Mr. Obama’s buddies from his early days in politics. The group was infiltrated by the FBI, and the agent testified before Congress that at a group meeting it was concluded that when they took over, they would eliminate the dissidents, and estimated that would be about 25 million people. Ayers is now a University Professor.

    The University of Alberta is home to the Parkland Institute, which promotes the idea of State Ownership of the Oil Industry and protested the privatization of liquor stores.

  3. Scott M

    Agreed. I took a few courses at a local college a couple of years ago; keep in mind the young people in my classes were all in their mid-twenties. I was shocked how little they knew about provincial or federal politics or about the issues of the world around them. These are the same kids that will be running the place in a few years. They are unable to critically think for themselves and are poisoned by the propaganda foisted on them by a left wing media.

  4. Ira

    You’ll have to rely on the private sector to teach your kids geography. I recommend Sporcle.

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