|Do you know what this is?|
It often appears that having gone to school makes one an "expert" on what should be taught and how it should be taught, even if that experience happened decades ago.
Years ago I was often questioned when we greatly reduced emphasis on teaching long division. We used to spend months teaching that with two, three and sometimes four divisors. It was brutal. My questions for those who complained were, first, what do you actually use it for anymore except maybe for finding averages. And secondly, when you do division how do you do it? Generally the reply was, I use a calculator. And they were correct. Incidentally,today even my car computes my miles per gallon for me.
I went through the same process decades before that when we used to spend several months in an Algebra class teaching logarithms. Tedious and boring! And what were they used for? Engineers used them to do calculations involving multiplication, division and powers. Those who really needed to do those calculations carried thick books of log tables to do them. We even sold books of tables to students. Logs were the foundations of slide rules - pre calculator technology. But then who even remembers what a slide rule is? We used to spend time teaching students to use them. Then they were replaced by calculators and computers. I doubt that today's math teachers even know how to use logs for calculations and most have never used or even seen a slide rule. Now logs do have important applications in engineering and mathematics, but not as a tool for calculations.
Another topic that used to be a big one was Roman Numerals. Now where does anybody use those today, except maybe to read a year on a cornerstone of a building or bridge or on a clock or the number of the current Super Bowl. So should we spend weeks teaching that?
Then a big one which is out of my field is the teaching of cursive writing. I admit that I struggle with the fact that this has generally been eliminated. But then I ask myself, is it really a skill needed in our future. Computers can help us sign and read documents. More things are being done electronically. So is it necessary to spend months teaching this? I really am not sure how much should be taught but I think folks should at least know how to write their name properly. I see how some folks sloppily scribble their names on the checks that I process at church. I do enjoy a beautifully hand written cursive letter. Does anybody actually write letters today? I'll leave that decision to the "experts" and hope that they know what they are doing.
But how about spelling? That's an interesting question. They still spend years teaching spelling. Kids still regularly have spelling quizzes. Is it necessary? It certainly is important for crossword puzzles and spelling bees. But today almost everyone uses a spell checker. And I guess for some that makes writing so much easier. But is it good?
Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight for it to say
Weather I am wrong or write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose before two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rarely ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
Am shore your pleased to no
It's letter perfect all the weigh
My chequer toiled me sew!
So what do you think? Maybe spelling is still important. Cursive? I don't know. Logs for computation? Definitely not. Although maybe kids today should be made to endure some of the pain that we had to bear in school when we were growing up. But I guess that is another question for another blog.