Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I Couldn't Make This Up If I Tried

My husband has to cover "energy and power" in his 7th grade science class. He thought he would start by talking about the scientist the term "Joule" is named after. He tried to, but the class had trouble following his story. There were holes in their knowledge base.

Did they know about Faraday? No.

Cannons? Sorta.

Napoleon? No.

France? Sorta.

England? Sorta.

The 19th Century? No.

Alexandria? No.

Alexander the Great? No.

The Romans? Sorta.

The students were very uncomfortable by the end of the period. One boy came up to apologize and explain after it was over. He said he was sorry, but "they" (the elementary school) didn't teach either science or social studies any more (to make more time for the state tests). "They" had promised the children that the children would be taught science and social studies when they got to the junior high in the seventh grade. The boy assured my husband that he was doing a good job of teaching science, but the social studies teacher was falling down on his job. "All he does is have us read the textbook. He doesn't teach us anything." Apparently the child had no concept of the difference between "history" and "social studies". How could he? He didn't know enough of either.

Yeah, and all this state test prep is supposed to result in better educated people.


Myrtle said...

Honestly, I didn't know the difference between social studies and history until I started homeschooling. I passed the NTE!

I vaugely remember taking standardized tests in science and social studies. You didn't have to bring in any outside knowledge to make a good grade because the tests were really about reading comprehension in the areas of science and social studies.

I bet the students in your husband's class were "wowwed" with everything they learned. It's a bittersweet feeling to learn something very cool. You become a new person, look at the world differently, then you get annoyed that someone who was supposed to didn't reveal this to you sooner.

Karen said...

Gotta admit that I didn't know about most of those things in 7th grade. I knew a little bit about the countries, mostly related to the American Revolutionary War era. I knew a little about Alexander the Great, but that was mostly because I was very into horses and had read stories about Bucephelus. :)

It certainly didn't stop my learning something about energy and power. :) That was the year I earned my novice, tech, general and advanced ham radio licenses through a school program (also offered to the community). Science ed that year was earth science, the next year was a broad overview introduction to physics and chemistry.

I'm annoyed at the testing caused gaps. I get frustrated at times, because way back when I was an ed major (middle school science) one of the themes of my ed classes was that one of the big problems with overarching standardized tests was that programs ended up teaching to the test. It's not like anyone should be surprised at this. Many people both in and out of the ed field today don't care what is learned, as long as the conditioning is in place to pass the tests.

Alexandra said...

That is just so sad. When I was in school, there was no such thing as "Social Studies." There was history and western civilization. They didn't try to lump everything about humanity on earth into one class as they do now. And then, just to be perverse about it, teachers are expected to have a degree in history to teach social studies, but something like art history (which encompasses history and society) doesn't count. I don't know if a degree in geography does, but I wouldn't bet on it. It's all kind of lopsided.