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.