Friday, November 25, 2011

Teaching Patriotism

The American national anthem was botched during the Nov. 24, 2011 football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. The singer, Lauren Alaina, did not know the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner and went silent for several seconds. During last year's Super Bowl singer Christina Aguilera fumbled the lyrics to the national anthem.

Patriotic songs are one more thing American public schools no longer teach. It seems as though it is up to us parents to teach our children patriotism and patriotic songs. At the bottom of this post is the first stanza to the Star Spangled Banner. I've printed copies for my family and we will sing the anthem today so I can make sure my children know our anthem.

There is also "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" by Sir Walter Scott, a poem about patriotism that I learned when I went to school.

I hope you will consider teaching your children some of our patriotic songs. In addition to the Star Spangled Banner, I recommend the following:
  • God Bless America
  • America the Beautiful
  • My Country Tis of Thee

Citizens of other nations sing their patriotic songs with fervor. See these examples from YouTube:
Rene Fleming leading Rule Britannia, see the audience join in!
Here are Scots singing Flower of Scotland at at soccer game. It's not fancy singing, but you can see they know the lyrics and love to sing it.
Here is a French TV audience jumping up to sing la Marseillaise when Shakira starts singing it.

America is a great country and there is no reason why our children should not be taught to love it. But if we parents do not do it, it won't happen. Patriotism is one more thing our schools have abandoned.


The Star Spangled Banner

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The Lay of the Last Minstrel
by Sir Walter Scott

Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored , and unsung.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Skills & Success; Cursive & Math

Immigrant engineers and scientists are more creative than engineers educated in American public schools reports the Wall Street Journal in "Give Us Your Huddled Masses of Engineers," written by Peter Schuck and John Tyler and published on Friday, May 13, 2011. The article says they, "apply for patents at a disproportionate rate," and "the government grants their applications two to three times as often as with comparably educated Americans." The authors drive the point home with more detail, saying, "Even if we limit the comparison to scientists and engineers, high-skilled immigrants in those fields still receive 20% more patents than their American counterparts."

How can it be that immigrants educated in other counties are more creative than Americans educated in public schools that focus on cultivating innovation and teaching higher order cognitive skills? Have not the bureaucrats in our education establishment disparaged education in foreign countries for using antiquated educational practices like instruction and drill, calling this "rote learning" and "drill and kill?"

Apparently, more successful creative ideas flow from highly skilled people. What kind of musical genius would Beethoven have been if his father had never given him music lessons? Our public schools have been dumbing down mathematics for years so that even America's best students are at a competitive disadvantage.

In "The Academic Achievement Challenge" by Jeanne Chall we read, "Data from the Second International Mathematics Study show that the performance by the top 5 percent of U.S. students is matched by the top 50 percent of students in Japan. Our very best students -- the top 1 percent -- scored lowest of the top 1 percent in all participating countries."

The Plano ISD has been dumbing down mathematics for many years. Two years ago I warned that the dumbing down disease would spread from the middle schools to the high schools. This is now happening. The PISD has dumbed down Algebra 1 and rolled it down to 8th grade. This has already happened. Next they are planning to dumb down math all the way up through 12th grade. The district's reputation will end up in tatters if this is allowed to happen.

Do you know if your child can read and write in cursive? Many children in the district now cannot read cursive, much less write cursive. I discovered this the hard way when I handed my son this example of cursive writing and found he could not read it. I have asked around and found that teachers in Plano high schools are being asked by students to print their notes instead of writing in cursive because many of our high school children cannot read cursive.

Writing in cursive is now a sign of distinction, it sets you apart from those with a lessor education. I will teach my son cursive this summer, now that I have discovered another hole in the education he gets from the Plano ISD. I want my child to be able to read his teacher's class notes if the teacher writes in cursive. Cursive is quicker, making it more effective for taking notes in lectures.

Employers get better work results and higher quality innovation from skilled workers. Let us hope the changes in the Plano Board of Trustees will lead to a better quality education for the children of Plano. Let us hope schools all across America can change and raise the quality of skills imparted to our children; their future depends on it.

Robert Canright

If you click on the link to the example of cursive writing, then you can print the example and test your child's ability to read it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Is Long Division Gone?

Parents are coming to me from different middle schools in Plano to tell me that their children have not been taught long division in elementary school. Their children cannot do long division and the middle schools will not teach it because it is an elementary school skill. Parents now must teach their children long division or hire tutors to teach their children.

If you are not sure what long division is, here is a link that shows the algorithm for long division. If you find it hard to believe that any school system would skip teaching long division, then you should watch this video. Here, M. J. McDermott shows what some school text books teach in place of the standard algorithms for long multiplication and long division.

Does it sound crazy that Plano ISD does not teach long division? Well, yes and no. John Dewey in his book, "How We Think," disparaged the teaching of skills and facts. When I read Dewey's book I thought that John Dewey hated the education he received as a child and wanted to overthrow the education establishment. John Dewey has followers in the education establishment today and they are busy destroying the academic skills of our children.

So it is understandable that some administrators or teachers in Plano ISD have abandoned teaching long division, but it is wrong, it is a mistake.

It is time for us to take back our schools and fix our children's education the right way: by fixing the curriculum instead of by hiring tutors. The PISD election is coming. Tell the candidates you want long division back in the classrooms. Tell the candidates you want all the children to have a good education, not just the ones with tutors. Then go vote and make sure your friends vote as well.

Robert Canright

PS: I have been hearing from parents. I am hearing parents affirm that some kids are not being taught long division, but some kids are being taught. It seems to vary among the elementary schools. It sounds like PISD has a quality control problem.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Secret to Success in the Suburbs

The Secret to Success in the Suburbs
Robert Canright
(This was published in the December 2010 issue of the Lone Star Crescent, pages 8 and 11, all rights reserved by Melanz, LLC.  Unfortunately, this local newspaper is now out of print, June 2017)

A good education cannot be taken for granted. It is not enough to buy a home within a school district with a good reputation. You must study the test scores before you buy a home. School district SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) averages are not a good indicator of quality education for several reasons. Some parents will home-school their children or place them in private schools for elementary and middle school, and then place them into the public high schools for AP (Advanced Placement) courses or for the IB (International Baccalaureate) program. This means that high school SAT scores are influenced by private schooling.

A friend of mine in Garland used the combination of a private school and the IB program for his children and his daughter is now at Cornell University. A school district can also steer lower performing children into the ACT test instead of the SAT test and thereby boost the SAT scores. The TAKS test is taken by all the children of Texas and is therefore a better way to evaluate a school district, but even this measure is not the best indication of a quality education. Only close scrutiny by parents can reveal the true quality of education within a school district.

What many concerned parents have discovered is a lack interest by school administrations in teaching academic skills. The schools want to teach critical thinking instead of skills. I have heard one administrator at the Plano ISD use the expressions “drill and kill” and “sage on the stage” to disparage tried and true methods of instruction. I have heard one Plano teacher speak with great excitement about the discovery method she uses in her classroom. The discovery method is where teachers assign problems to students without first instructing them how to solve that type of problem. This technique is also called problem based learning. The discovery method is a proven failure. A book by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, explains with great thoroughness how school administrators all across America have sacrificed our children’s education for the sake of failed ideologies.

When conscientious parents discover that skills are not being taught to their satisfaction, then many pull their children from public elementary schools and turn to home schooling or private schools. Many parents in Plano, however, turn to private tutors to provide their children with the skills they need for a good education. Go to Craigslist for Dallas and search on “math tutor Plano” and you will find over forty math tutors listed. Google “math tutor Plano” and you will find pages of hits. My neighborhood coffee shop seems to always have a math or SAT tutor working with a student. Mathematics is one of the ultimate skill based courses and math tutoring provides a clear advantage over students not receiving math tutoring.

The administration at the Plano ISD clings to their failed ideology of discovery learning even when they are faced with clear evidence that their ideology is a failure. Here is an example: at the Plano ISD Board of Trustees meeting on November 2, 2010, the board received an update on the Math Rocks program. The presenter said the children in this program are significantly ahead of their peers and most of these children receive math instruction outside the Plano schools. These are children who get either private tutoring or classroom tutoring outside of the Plano schools, being tutored with the traditional approach of classroom instruction and homework for drilling the instruction.

The PISD administration can see that traditional instruction and drill puts children significantly ahead of their peers who are taught with the discovery method or with Connected Math. But instead of abandoning failed methods, the PISD creates the Math Rocks program that provides yet more discovery method for these advanced students who have raced ahead with traditional instruction. The Math Rocks program is discovery learning with more challenging problems. The administrators at the Plano ISD are like the Marxists who cling to their failed ideology in spite of clear evidence that their ideology does not work. The existence of the Math Rocks program is positive proof that the philosophy of instruction at the Plano ISD does not work, but the Plano ISD administration stubbornly refuses to admit failure and correct their mistakes.

There are still more secrets for success in the suburbs. There are schools that provide classroom instruction and homework as an alternative to private tutoring. Two such schools are Ed Gurukul and the Hua Hsing Chinese school. Ed Gurukul (Ed stands for education) focuses on mathematics instruction, K though 12. They have classes in the evenings, on Saturday and Sunday. Students typically have one hour of instruction, they do homework during the week, and are tested on their progress. Most of their students receive commended scores on the TAKS test. Ed Gurukul makes the Math Olympiads part of their program. Ed Gurukul also promotes instruction and competition in chess to aid in mathematical thinking. Ed Gurukul has facilities in Plano and Irving.

The Hua Hsing Chinese School meets in Jasper High School in Plano on Sunday afternoon. Ten years ago my daughter and some of her classmates were enrolled in math classes at Hua Hsing. The school met at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson back then. Hua Hsing has been in operation for 25 years. I was very relieved that I could find math tutoring for my daughter. I was in shock at what I perceived to be low skill levels for math in the Plano schools. Plano parents are lucky that the Hua Hsing school now meets in Plano. I spoke with the director at Hua Hsing and learned that parents drive to Plano from Sherman, from Denton, and from Irving for math instruction. There are students from Richardson, Frisco, and Allen, but the majority of their students are from Plano.

Hua Hsing provides math instruction K through 7, algebra, and geometry. They teach math for SAT preparation when there is enough demand. Additionally, Hua Hsing teaches phonics, writing, and SAT preparation for the verbal and writing portions of the test. Hua Hsing students have classroom instruction lasting over one hour. Students receive homework that gets graded, they have a mid-term and a final exam. Some of their students are in the Math Rocks program in Plano ISD. Hua Hsing has science classes and, of course, they have classes on the Chinese language. The Hua Hsing Chinese school has a math contest that is open to the public. The contest has 50 problems and is timed.

For the final push towards high SAT scores, many parents send their children to Karen Dillard’s College Prep. When my daughter graduated from Plano Senior High, the class president joked about all the hours they spent at Karen Dillard’s. A significant number of the National Scholarship winners in the Dallas area are graduates of the Karen Dillard program.

Tutoring is the secret to success in the North Dallas suburbs. For years this has all been known only by word of mouth. Now you know the secret. The beauty of life in America is that you have choices. The difficulty of choices in America is that so many choices require money.