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The Failure of College Education


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39 replies to this topic

#1
rothbard

rothbard
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I was a bus driver at a New England university. When I was cleaning up after my shift I found this letter left behind by a student:

Attached File  r39MHh7.jpg   148.55KB   1 downloads I can personally attest to the fact that many students enter college not knowing how to write complete sentences. Such people have no business being enrolled at an institution of higher learning.

Also attached is a series of emails that demonstrate the entitlement mentality many students have. The context behind these emails is thus: It was the END of Physics II. The rule in the class is that if your final exam grade is better than all your grades averaged together, your grade for the course becomes the grade on the final. Pretty good deal, right? You can completely bomb every exam, but if you get an A on the final, you get an A in the course.

As the end of the semester approached many students were failing, but were they attending the extra help sessions? No -- the extra help sessions were barren. One student felt particularly outraged by the grades she earned, and took the liberty to share her throughts about it with the entire class of over 100 students:

Attached File  physics_coup_redacted.pdf   150.57KB   40 downloads

There were a plethora of extra help sessions offered. The night before the final, I attended the extra help session. Can you believe that there were only TWO other students there!? One student (not the girl in the letters above) asked for a walk-though of a homework problem. The professor -- knowing that being able to teach something is a sign of mastery -- requested that I teach the girl how to solve that particular problem. As I was explaining the answer, she had a puzzled look on her face and requested clarification. I said, "Ok, draw a free body diagram." She didn't know what that was, so I said, "Ok, draw a vector." Her response was, "What's a vector?"

HOW DO YOU GET ALL THE WAY TO THE END OF PHYSICS II AND NOT KNOW WHAT A VECTOR IS!?


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#2
Dylan Lawrence Moore

Dylan Lawrence Moore
  • 304 posts

HOW DO YOU GET ALL THE WAY TO THE END OF PHYSICS II AND NOT KNOW WHAT A VECTOR IS!?

...I couldn't even come up with a sarcastic comment for this. Holy. Crap.

The only word I can think of is "ditz". However, how a ditz passes physics I without figuring out what a vector is is beyond me.


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"You hear that? That's the sound of reality coalescing in our wake."


#3
elzoog

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My question would be, why should these students have to take physics in the first place? It's obvious that they aren't interested in the subject. I for example, know what a vector is, but only because I have studied mathematics (I have never studied physics). I know what it is, because I am interested in mathematics. I certainly don't need to know what a vector is in order to do my job as an English teacher in China. If someone isn't interested in something you basically have two options. 1) Don't waste your time and energy teaching the subject to that person. 2) Explain in a convincing way why the person should be interested in the subject. If you don't do 1 or 2, you get the passive-aggressive kinds of behaviour evidenced in the above e-mail exchange. The result is, the students will learn just barely enough to pass the test (or fail it if they think they can afford to). Then they will forget all about what was taught in the course as soon as it's no longer part of their lives. In other words, about 3 weeks or less after the course is finished.
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#4
Nerburg

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Would it be fair to say that the failure of college education is a result of the failure of public education? Those emails were kind of horrifying... Class is unfair towards students yet the final can trump all previous failures? Hah...ha...
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"And when I want to mount my wildest horse, it is always my spear that helps me up best, as the ever-ready servant of my foot: the spear that I hurl against my enemies. How grateful I am to my enemies that I may finally hurl it!"


#5
dsayers

dsayers

    collateral damage

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The Failure of College Education

College is only a failure if you think its goal is education. The purpose of SCHOOLING in general is to break an individual and replace their will with the agenda(s) of your choosing.


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Providing value doesn't justify providing anti-value. I won't pay to be censored.


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#7
Robert Rak

Robert Rak

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The part where she told everyone to get their parents involved was hilarious, and sad, but mostly hilarious.


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To make a point of maximizing automatic functioning and minimizing awareness of one's life is to welcome death before its time.


#8
Guest_e Yer_*

Guest_e Yer_*

A degree is another form of licensing (in this case to enter a field.) All this licensing is a steady march towards more regulations and rules that was unnecessary in the past. You must ask permission to make changes to your house, you must ask permission to start a business. A degree is to fulfill the requirements of the gatekeepers, human resource directors, who are doing this because they are afraid of losing their job if they didn't do this. This is all happening as result of the generational complacency among the United States people to take a stand, draw the line and reject their ridiculous rules and regulations. Complacency is consent. Comply with the ridiculous and more absurdity will be piled on. Those who are truly Libertarian anarchist can ask themselves: If the United States government dissolves tomorrow, with my degree and the knowledge that comes with it combined with my special skills or talents be enough to barter in exchange for survival goods and services? All this regulations, licensing, and degrees were in part lobbied into being by deadwood workers who believe in the seniority system and want to further hedge their job security by limiting competition. These are clear signs today of a statist, debt-ridden, welfare state in its death throes.


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#9
LovePrevails

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exams and grades are stupid and anti-empirical means of assessment of education

 

they also demotivate actual learning, encourage students to pick the easiest tasks and questions and do the minimum work necessary to get a grade (rather than focus on what they are learning) and engender academic bulimia (learn it, spew it out, forget about it)


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#10
cab21

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exams and grades are stupid and anti-empirical means of assessment of education

 

 how would a empirical exam be anti-empirical?

 

would you like a doctor that has not done any empirical exams , and has not been graded on his abilities as a doctor?

 

who would you rather go with for a important surgery, a doctor that has successfully performed the operation many times, or a person who has not taking any exams or been graded at all and thus has no history or testimonials of doing the surgery?


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#11
LovePrevails

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 how would a empirical exam be anti-empirical?

 

would you like a doctor that has not done any empirical exams , and has not been graded on his abilities as a doctor?

 

who would you rather go with for a important surgery, a doctor that has successfully performed the operation many times, or a person who has not taking any exams or been graded at all and thus has no history or testimonials of doing the surgery?

 

 

Hey, don't argue with me, argue with the studies

 

I really don't see what a written exam has to do with ones ability to perform as a doctor

I would much rather the doctorr as assessed by means other than a written exam

such as, uh, I don't know, his ability to perform as a doctor

 

at the end you conflate experience with doing surgery with doing exams which is kind of like saying "would you rather go to shoe-maker who had made lots of shoes and done exams, or a someone who had never made and shoes and also hadn't done any exams." Well, the first guy obviously, but not because he had done exams, but because he was good at making shoes.


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#12
cab21

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Hey, don't argue with me, argue with the studies

 

I really don't see what a written exam has to do with ones ability to perform as a doctor

I would much rather the doctorr as assessed by means other than a written exam

such as, uh, I don't know, his ability to perform as a doctor

 

at the end you conflate experience with doing surgery with doing exams which is kind of like saying "would you rather go to shoe-maker who had made lots of shoes and done exams, or a someone who had never made and shoes and also hadn't done any exams." Well, the first guy obviously, but not because he had done exams, but because he was good at making shoes.

 

 

well i just read exam, not written exam in your quote

 

a person can be tested on their ability to perform as a doctor, it does not have to just be some written exam.

 

what i am saying is that for a shoe maker, making the shoe IS the exam. being good at making shoes IS the exam.


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#13
LovePrevails

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an exam is just a snapshot of how someone performs on a certain task at a certain time

 

there is so much luck invovled in the selection of questions

there is also no way of measuring how much of it the person forgets the moment they leave the room

 

exams are a poor means of assessment compared to portfolio work, practical assessments (making a shoe is the exam, as you put it), or even research assignment "essays"

 

we only have exams in education because we have had exams and people tend to assume that the way things have been done are the way they should be done

 

 

If you want some out-of-the-box thinking when in comes to education check out Alfie Kohn -  there are some great articles on his website on things like grades, homework, standardized testing, and the way students are taught in schools


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#14
cab21

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ill look up alfie kohn, which articles do you most recommend

 

it looked like he had a pay system that was just act like there is a abundance of money, hire lots of teachers at high salaries and then have the teachers forget about money?


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#15
LovePrevails

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he is on the liberal side of the political spectrum but is evidence-based on what he prescribes, let me see

on "exams"

your choice form these:


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#16
cab21

cab21
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im not sure if he is accounting for context.

 

he talks about © timed (so speed matters more than thoughtfulness) and (d) administered on a one-shot, high-anxiety basis.

as being bad for exams, but what about jobs that need speed, and are one shot only, such as a lifeguard or emergency service provider? if someone has 1 minute to get a job done, letting something take 10 minutes for thoughtfulness seems like it's missing the fact the person would be dead by then. that's a different situation than say "write a poem in 10 minutes", which seems to have no point to the time limit at all, or even a test at that. but still with poems the test is if others buy the poems, or if others are interested in reading the poems, or if the writer reached the writers own intrinsic goal in writing the poem.

http://www.alfiekohn...ching/tcooa.htm

 

im looking through the articles, would be interested in finding one about do or die and other high pressure situations.

a chemistry lab situation, not following protocal can be a health hazard, letting something sit 10 minutes while trying to be creative can blow up in someones face.

 

it looks like many of these articles apply to children more than workforce or collage education.

in collage for instance a culunary program will have students run a resturant on campus, getting customers or not is a "examination".

at that point people in the program are likely being filtered by their own intrinsic motivations?


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#17
jpahmad

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LovePrevails, concerning Alfie Kohn, I love reading his articles, however, I am not totally convinced yet that bribery is completely ineffective in getting an individual to enjoy an activity for the sake of the activity itself.  In some cases, it absolutely does, however, I have thought about it quite a bit and have come up with a few examples of how bribery can be effective in tricking someone into enjoying the target activity for it's own sake.  I'll put one out there right now.  Let me know if there is an error in my reasoning.

 

 

1.  I tell my wife that if she runs a mile with me on Sundays, I will give her a 20 minute back massage.  I do this, because although she always enjoys running once she is out there, and happy that she has done it when we are finished, there is a certain amount of resistance to it every Sunday.  However, this doesn't mean that her not wanting to do it is a result of a rational thought process, it's just an emotional one.  So, I use the reward of getting a massage to over ride the initial resistance to getting out there and beginning her run.  Now believe me, once she is out there, she really gets in to it. 

 

Here's the punchline.  I did it for about five months, her endurance increased and it became more enjoyable for her to run.  Now she doesn't dread it as much at all, and get's out there and does it on her own- without my bribe.  She now has experienced how running is enjoyable in itself.  The activity is now intrinsically rewarding.

 

Does this refute Alfie's premise on bribery always devaluing the target activity?


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#18
Grizwald

Grizwald
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Haha. The same thing happened in my calculus class a couple weeks ago. A student was failing and tried to start a coup to get all of the students money back. He argued that the professor didn't grade fairly... and I agreed with him a little. His grading policy was kind of ridiculous. I mean I failed the first test because of not formatting or phrasing my answers correctly which I still don't agree with. And I understood the material thoroughly (took AP clalc last year and passed the test).

 

But this is just absurd and makes me irritated. I personally have met too many idiots like this in college so far. If these people were allowed to fail and not just handed diplomas for effort then me (a rather average college student) would have a way higher standing in society. Too many people nowadays are walking out of college with no clue or even partial mastery of the subjects they take study.


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#19
dsayers

dsayers

    collateral damage

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jpahmad, your wife is fully formed and autonomous. There is no risk there of formative damage.

 

If your wife likes a good massage and you have no issue with pleasing her, then I don't think such a thing should be used as currency. I think if you wanted to motivate her to run, running with her would be a great way to get her to run and give her the gift of a husband who is in greater health.


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Providing value doesn't justify providing anti-value. I won't pay to be censored.


#20
marius

marius
  • 67 posts

I think bribery is natural, thats how the world works, you get benefits depending on your actions. However there is the risk it can mask and eventually eliminate the real deal.

I read in a book (talent is overrated) that extrinsic motivation can help if done correctly: for example if the child doesnt want to play the instrument, you tell him the real fact that you would have to sell the instrument or take him out of the music school. But at that point you are still relying on the fact that he has inner motivation.

 

In the end it comes down to being motivated by positive or negative ideas. Are you running towards your goal or are you running away from the threat of being a homeless guy or failing the course.

This is the thing that i dont like most about school/university. I feel like im stuck as abused wives are stuck in the dysfunctional relationship. Im working on it.


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#21
jpahmad

jpahmad
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dsayers, On Sundays I like to run 4 miles.  My neighborhood is a loop of 1 mile.  So after the third mile I just pick her up and run the last one with her.  She generally wouldn't go without me, and we would usually combine our run with a walk afterwards so we can talk about things. 

 

During the week, I sometimes run twice in one day; once by myself at my own speed, and once with her at her speed.  But now, she goes out there on her own.  She prefers to run in the morning and I hate running in the early morning. 

 

So I guess you are saying that my story doesn't negate Alfie Kohn's theory?  Is his theory only applicable to a certain age?


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#22
dsayers

dsayers

    collateral damage

  • 2225 posts

Good questions. I don't know. There was certainly nothing immoral about your initial scenario. You mentioned Alfie Kohn and I thought most of his work pertained to childhood trauma. And I thought I was posting in the thread about how bribery can be damaging to children. So I apologize for any miscommunication that I'm repsonsible for.


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Providing value doesn't justify providing anti-value. I won't pay to be censored.


#23
jpahmad

jpahmad
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no problem dsayers.  In fact, bribery can be damaging to children...if they don't realize they are getting bribed. 

 

This is usually, if not always the case in elementary school.  Grades are bribes, stickers are bribes, every sort of reward system is a bribe, no doubt about it.  However, the difference between bribing adults and bribing kids is that adults know they are getting bribed. 

 

In the adult world, there is a fine line between bribery and negotiation.  In fact, they might even be the same thing.  For kids though, bribery is more like manipulation, maybe even coercion.  This is very bad. 

 

Don't worry though.  You can circumvent this horrible thing by simply telling the kids that they are getting bribed, and then bribe them accordingly.  It is that easy! 

 

Quick example:  "Hey little Billy, I know you don't want to read that book because it is hard and not fun.  I agree with you Billy, right now it is hard and not fun (empathy).  But it will get easier and more fun really soon.  It will get so easy, that you will soon want to read all the time.  I know it's hard to take my word for it, but if you give it a chance and work on reading your words for 20 minutes, I'll give you some candy.  In fact, I'll do this candy deal with you for a month!  And, after a month, you will magically begin to like reading without candy!"

 

Hopefully the kid will start to like reading after a month.  If not, then....your screwed.


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#24
dsayers

dsayers

    collateral damage

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The problem though is that they won't be reading out of curiosity. They'll just be trying to get the candy. Then when the candy's not there, they are disincentivized to read. In your scenario, how do we know that for the child to read at that moment is the correct answer? Why isn't the child allowed to have the candy regardless of whether they read or not?

 

I agree with you about the fine line. It's a subconscious decision we're making all the time. If somebody you know does something you don't agree with, you might distance yourself from them. You might make the case for them to stop what they're doing or seek alternatives. But your time and your company is yours to give as you see fit. To withhold it from others, for whatever reason, isn't actually bribery.

 

I might have to read that Alfie Kohn/birbery thread more carefully as I'm finding myself ambivalent on the subject. Like I'm starting to think about the importance of teaching the child to negotiate. This would mechanically be identical to bribery, but with much more ethical intentions. What do you guys think?


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Providing value doesn't justify providing anti-value. I won't pay to be censored.


#25
jpahmad

jpahmad
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O.K., as far as bribing the kid to read, you're banking on the fact that reading is ultimately an enjoyable activity.  Therefore, if this is true, the kid will experience joy form reading.  He has to in order for the statement to be valid.  However, it is also true that learning to read is not an enjoyable activity, otherwise Billy wouldn't complain about doing it. 

 

So, two truths have to be agreed upon before we move on.

 

1.  Reading is an enjoyable and rewarding activity for human beings (I'm assuming they're reading about something they like)

 

2.  Billy does not enjoy learning how to read. 

 

Notice the difference between the act of reading, and the act of trying to read.  Two different things.  Billy doesn't like trying to read.  Can you blame him?  Its extremely laborious. 

 

So, how do we get him across the bridge from the laborious road of "learning to read" to actually reading?  Two ways, negotiate (which is the same as bribing someone who knows they're getting bribed) or wait until they have the desire to do it themselves.

 

Now, dsayers, if our first truth from above is truly correct.  If reading really is enjoyable in itself, then Billy will immediately enjoy his experience when he begins to read fluently regardless of whether he has been bribed to get there or not.  And, he will value the experience of reading even without the candy.  Therefore, Billy will continue to read without the bribe.

 

What do you think?


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#26
cab21

cab21
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why is she not getting out and doing the 4 miles with you?  

 

So, how do we get him across the bridge from the laborious road of "learning to read" to actually reading?  Two ways, negotiate (which is the same as bribing someone who knows they're getting bribed) or wait until they have the desire to do it themselves.

 

waiting till they have the desire to do it themselves.

 

why do you want the person to read before the person has the desire to do it intrinsicly?


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#27
jpahmad

jpahmad
  • 628 posts

She's not doing the 4 miles because...I don't know, I'll have to ask her. 

 

 

 

Who's to say they will ever have the desire to do it intrinsically? Do you have the intrinsic desire to be a pro-wrestler?


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#28
cab21

cab21
  • 782 posts

who is to force them if they don't have a desire?

i dont have a intrinsic desire to be a pro wrestler, and im not seeking to become one

i did have a intrinsic desire to read, and i learned.

 

is it the parent or the child that matters?


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#29
jpahmad

jpahmad
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who's talking about force?


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#30
cab21

cab21
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so if the negotiation does not work, and the kid still does not want to learn to read, do you wait for the kid to intrinsicly want to learn to read, or what?

 

negotiation implies that the person can say no.

 

noone said force, but you did say "Who's to say they will ever have the desire to do it intrinsically?"

so what if the child never wants to?


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#31
jpahmad

jpahmad
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Well, yeah, I guess I would just give up after a while and let the kid be. 

 

 

But...99% of the literate world (you are part of the 1%) learned to read by being bribed.  We know that bribing works. 

 

Just follow these two rules:

 

1.  empathize with the child by making it clear that you are bribing them to do something that they have a good reason not to like

 

2.  If the kid doesn't accept your bribes/negotiations, don't force them to do it. 

With proper empathy and good technique, it will not fail


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#32
cab21

cab21
  • 782 posts

the reward the child gets to learning how to read, is to be able to read, i don't see how a bribe would help that?

 a parent reading to the child, maybe the child will want to be able to read by himself too?


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#33
dsayers

dsayers

    collateral damage

  • 2225 posts

I'm not sure where enjoying reading and enjoying learning to read enters into it. Are you saying that we can pressure to read because we have reason to believe that it's something they would decide for themselves if they had the capacity to make such a decision? It's a fair point, but I don't view it as a time-sensitive manner. Granted, my understanding of unschooling is peripheral at best, but a child will learn to read on their own just as they learned to talk "on their own." The parent is welcome to invite and of course should nurture the child so that they will understand that the parent is available for them, to help. The parent can help by modeling reading and by reading to the child to demonstrate the joy they could potentially get from reading themselves.

 

I like Stef's approach of pointing out that failing sucks, but it's very VERY necessary. Probably the most important thing a parent could do is to welcome failure and help the child to understand that they failed a ton before they could talk, before they could walk, and so on. Or failed to parent for that matter, or else we couldn't have this conversation :P


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Providing value doesn't justify providing anti-value. I won't pay to be censored.


#34
jpahmad

jpahmad
  • 628 posts

cab21, we both agree that many kids enjoy learning to read right from the very beginning, even from the age of 4.  This is because it is intrinsically rewarding to them and they feel gratification while doing it.

 

Can you tell me why some kids dread the process of learning to read?  Walk into any elementary school and you will find this is the case.

 

 

 

dsayers, I think it is a time-sensitive matter.  If you had a kid and they show no interest in books, at what age would you start to panic?  And Let's assume you have done everything a caring father or mother should do in helping their children, i.e. reading to them, buying material they're interested in etc..and they still show no interest.

 

Unschooling does put forth that the child should learn something when they become interested in learning it.  That is the main principal and one I stand by completely.  With reading, I'm not being hypocritical though.  I'm simply trying to facilitate their interest with negotiation, not force.


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#35
cab21

cab21
  • 782 posts
Can you tell me why some kids dread the process of learning to read?  Walk into any elementary school and you will find this is the case.

 

 

the elementary school looks like the common factor here

 

why are the parents putting their children in elementary schools, and what is the philosophy of such elementary schools?

 

if so many in elementary schools are hating learning how to read, then take a look at what elementary schools are doing, or why is the child even in the school.


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