This post explains a lot. Chemistry and Physics are the basis for life
in the 21st century. If you don't have a basic understanding of
chemistry you will accept the fact that you can capture all of the CO2
from burning coal. That computer that you are using is based on
physics and math, from it basic operation to the user interface.
As for history, if you don't understand the past you will keep repeating
it with the same results. A good example is the policies of the
thirties. They failed and it took a world war to fix the economy, yet to
day we are getting ready to retry those policies.
If you don't understand government you will accept Biden statement that
the White House should not be involved in the Senate. The Constitution
defines the Vice President's responsibilities as being the Speaker of
the Senate with no voting responsibilities except to break tie votes
It frustrates me to read articles about the lack of education in America
today. Education has been a basic part of the government since 1780.
Every child is required to go to school yet the parents do not encourage
the children to learn. Don't complain about be second class citizens if
you don't make most of the schools and library's that are everywhere in
the United States
Already doing it in my own way before I took the class.
Useless. We studied the "Rules of the Road" book by writing out the
questions and answers verbatum, and took the drivers test to get our
Optional, but very very useful class. I think this one had one of the
largest lasting effects on me, as it gave me a way to draw out my ideas.
I'm no artist, but via drafting I can get the point across.
We studied the various wars, the founding of the US, and the Amendments
to the Constitution. In 7th grade I had an amazing history teacher who
used motivations more than events. Learned more from him than I did in
any future history class.
Optional, but extremely useful. (Naturally, I'd say that posting this
message on a _Woodworking_ newsgroup.)
I had a touch of Chemistry, and no Physics.
After college, I got a 27' chemistry set, also known as a swimming pool.
Glad I had Chemistry in college.
I use this off and on as a part of woodworking. The whole proofs part,
though, not so useful in daily life.
Scheduled at the wrong time for me to take. Wish I had trig, though, as
it would have allowed me to take the 11:00 Calculus classes in college
rather than the &:$% ones (oops... Did I hold the shift key down too
Funny, it seems the optional classes were the most useful ones.
On Usenet, no one can hear you laugh. That's a good thing, though, as
some writers are incorrigible.
I learned that language was important - that while a thing said one way
might get me a fat lip, if said another way it might open the door to
friendship. I learned that a really good idea that I couldn't get across
to someone else when it seemed important to me wasn't any better than no
idea at all. I learned that language was an essential part of problem
statement and problem solving, and that it could be variously used to
produce tears, laughter, sympathy, animosity, or cooperation.
I learned that French and Arabic both have nuances and built-in
perspective twists that my native English does not, and that poetry and
precise thoughts do not always translate well from one language to another.
I learned that language is closely coupled to culture and I learned that
there are cultures different from my own, and that culture is the lens
through which we see the world - and that different cultural lenses
reveal different realities when viewing the same objects and events.
I read and discussed the statements of ideals and principles of my own
culture, and somewhat of others. I learned a bit about how what might be
good manners at home might not be so elsewhere.
I learned that history was more than names and dates and places - that
it's actually a compendium of cause and effect for different groups of
people in different contexts - that it's a record of what has already
been tried and under what circumstances and with what consequences over
the long haul. I learned that there are a lot more ways to get things
wrong than there are to get them right, and that it might be really
important to not repeat some of the mistakes.
I learned in sixth grade algebra class that everything that had come
before was neander and that learning algebra amounted to a leap into the
world of power tools for the brain. I learned about 'knowns' and
'unknowns', and how to determine if/when I had enough knowns to solve a
I learned that matter consisted of atoms, and that different elements
have different properties, and that those properties matter - that lead
isn't good for bridge beams, nor plutonium for eyeglass frames, and that
aluminum and copper are good conductors of heat. I learned that 'more'
isn't necessarily better, and not to throw scraps of sodium metal into
the waste crock.
I learned that transparent materials have angles of refraction and
critical angles, and I learned that light goes really fast and that
nothing in our ken goes faster. I learned of the happiness of energy and
the sadness of entropy, and that time is, indeed, a dimension that must
be accounted for in all actions and their equal and opposite reactions.
I was introduced to the laws of thermodynamics and bid a sad farewell to
fantasies of perpetual motion machines.
I've gone on past midnight and need to stop for sleep, but there's more
- a /lot/ more - and it's all been useful.
A lot of this was put into words for me by teachers before I'd have
worked it out for myself or gotten it from peers.
Not in the US, although the school program was modeled after New York
State's curriculum. Don't kids in at least some NY and NJ public schools
have the opportunity to learn other languages? I'd be astonished if kids
in south FL, TX, AZ, and NM don't have the opportunity to take Spanish.
The teacher for both languages was Lebanese (and the only non-American
teacher in the school).
The US component of that particular experience was at Richwoods
Community High School in Peoria, IL. It's a good public school with good
teachers and probably had better than average course offerings. I took a
really interesting Projective Geometry and a (really difficult for me)
Qualitative Analysis chemistry course there. Hmm - as I recall, they
also offered French, German, and Spanish to fill in on your earlier
question on languages in public schools.
An exceptional history teacher, no? IMO, we could use more like him, and
I wish my kids could've taken /any/ course from him.
I think so - but sixth grade might've been Plane Geometry with Algebra I
in seventh. It's been a long time.
Didn't - at least not as such, but I do remember talking about "groups"
in the periodic table and discussions about general properties of
elements. I think I'd have enjoyed more specific coursework, but at that
point I probably didn't have enough math to handle it.
Wow. It was the foundation for almost all that I learned later - and
gave me the confidence to tackle all kinds of problems about which I
started out knowing far too little. That's exactly what's been happening
with the solar stuff recently - and even randite Tim might get a kick
out of my weird engine that runs (limps actually, but it /will/ run) on
sunshine to do direct conversion of radiant energy to mechanical.
I don't know - I think I was just lucky enough to have had a succession
of really good, caring teachers who somehow managed to convince me that
there were real and important connections between what they were
teaching and real life. When the educational process breaks, it's seemed
to me that the lack of that connection has been the fault line.
On Fri, 09 Jan 2009 10:29:14 -0600, Morris Dovey wrote:
Sounds a lot like the teachers in my day, Morris. Oh, there were some
bad ones, but most of mine were dedicated to teaching me things which I
greatly resisted. My only complaint was that there were no classes for
children with high (or low) intelligence, although the good teachers did
pretty well at reaching both.
And yes, we discussed things as well. Especially in history and social
studies classes, but also in English classes.
The public schools in Florida, Virginia, Louisiana, and California, at
least when I was there, offered _no_ languages until high school. The
Louisiana Catholic parochial schools taught French from first grade
on, but no Spanish. I do wonder sometimes how my life might have been
different if I had been able to stay in the Catholic schools--note
that I am not Catholic.
In high school the Spanish teachers were not native speakers and were
marginally competent, which, combined with the starting in high
school, meant that most of the students learned "Queiro ir al cuarto
de bano" (should be a tilde on that n") and that was the end of it.
New York and New Jersey might be better. They would have had to work
at it to be much worse.
OK, that is a very, very unusual public school.
We sat quietly and regurgitated whatever the teacher told us, no
matter how stupid it might have been.
Well, you begin to see the problem. I don't deny that there must be
_some_ decent public schools out there, but I never attended any. The
two good teachers in the ones I attended were constantly battling the
Geez, we got geometry in the 9th.
Again quite different. The teacher might have said something about
groups but if she did it was one of those
"memorized-regurgitate-forget" deals. Certainly never explained why
anybody should care about those groups.
Good that you managed to hit on a field in which you could apply
_something_. Most people need to know about potics like they need a
hole in the head.
Which is far, far different from what most of us got.
Most of the teachers I encountered were career teachers who had never
actually done anything else and housewife wannabees killing time until
they found a victim. The superstars were two ex military who served
in WWII, one as a Marine DI and the other as an AAC instructor pilot.
They both taught you like your life depended on it and knew why you
needed to know what they were teaching. The rest just droned on
regurgitating the book, or some other book, not even recognizing when
they told a whopper.
That's grim. I don't know about LA, but I'm fairly sure that languages
other than English are now common (or at least not rare) in FL, VA, and CA.
Yeah - at some point along the way someone decided that it was more
important for teachers to know about theories of education and how to
handle administrivial paperwork than about the subject they were to
teach. The results speak for themselves.
I'm sitting here giving thanks that this didn't happen to me because I'd
have been dead meat - I can learn, but I've never been able to memorize
I was blessed (although it didn't always seem that way at the time) with
teachers who wanted their students to /think/ - who were always asking:
"So where do we go with that?" or "When might that be useful?". I had an
English teacher (not in public school) who regularly walked over in
front of my desk, looked down at me, and smiled broadly just before he'd
ask: "And what does The Dove think of /that/?" I'm sitting here laughing
about it now, but in the beginning it absolutely terrified me. :)
I /do/ see the problem. Somehow we need to replace indifferent
instructors with _teachers_ who know their subject, the value of its
knowledge, and who see that the future is in the hands of their
students. It's the "somehow" that's the hard part.
Hmm. I was a math major who went into computer new product development
(and who only rarely ever used any of the math) :-b
I only tackled the solar technology because (at age 60) I decided it was
important enough and potentially valuable enough to use up my last years
demonstrating its potential.
Think of it as an attempt to be worthy of the efforts of those Good
Teachers, however lame that might seem.
But introduced at what level? If they don't start it until high
school then most students are not going to develop any fluency.
And now they're loaded down with paperwork to satisfy the bureaucrats
And we have to get off the backs of the ones who do. I have a friend
who has a PhD in education and is a retired teacher. Every time I see
him he has another horror story passed on to him by one of the many
teachers with whom he has contact. Idiocy like being disciplined for
answering a student's question with anything other than "look it up"
on the basis that they're "supposed to be teaching studends how to
learn" for example. I don't know how widespread that sort of thing
is--he seems to think it's pretty commonplace. The last teacher I
dated was good with the kids and good with dealing with the
administration, but quite frankly outside of work she was NUTS (not
going to go into anecdotes) and I suspect that the work had done it to
Good thought. The thing is if I was going to do something worhty of
my Good Teachers I'd be an author, and in that area, well, I have seen
talent and it is something that I lack.
I suspect that about the best that can be hoped for is /preparation/ for
fluency. For most of us, real fluency probably only comes with actual
use of a language. AFAICT, the most effective route to fluency is a
total immersion - and that's difficult to do in a school setting.
Just for grins, I looked to see if the school is still there (it is).
This online satellite imagery stuff just boggles my mind - there's a
bird's eye view of the school, my home, and the rec center where I spent
a lot of my time at
And you can get a look at the "moonscape" around the town by going to
Google maps and specifying 'Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia'. Any green you see
outside the town is /not/ vegetation. :)
I got a lot of the components of that from teachers, especially the
"how to" part. Depending on context, it goes under various names
-- persuasive writing, debate, etc.
Dude, French is probably the most taught non-dead foreign language
in US schools. Where *isn't* it taught? I had a year of that in
5th grade, but didn't stick with it. I don't recall if I ever had
Arabic available. But it isn't something that would have interested
me at that time.
It is clear that your schools sucked (assuming that you weren't
just a complete slacker).
My public schools (1967-1980) sound a lot like Morris'.
I had the intro, along with geometry by other names in 5th grade.
(Cranston-Calvert School, Newport, RI.)
Your original question was in the form, "What did you learn that
you found useful later?"
It's pretty clear that you really meant, "What did you learn that
I also had available to me and that *I* currently consider to be
BTW, my first computer programming was in a US public school. I'm
still finding that useful, as today's paycheck reminds me.
Drew Lawson For it's not the fall, but landing,
That will alter your social standing
Must be nice to be so young.
My grade school had no computers - they had not been invented yet.
I saw my first computer in my last year of high school - you could walk inside it.
The first computer I played with was a 360-50 - only needed half a room for it.
Now I have a PC with more power than the 50 and it sits on my desk.
I still need a bigger and faster playtoy.
P D Q
Well, that first computer (a HP 2000) I used was also in my senior
year, and I never set eyes on it. It was somewhere across the
county, being shared by all the high schools. I hate to think what
the connection was, probably 300 baud. But we did have CRT terminals
and keyboards. So it's modern compared to a lot of stories I hear.
I occasionally reflect on the fact that my 6 year-old cell phone
has more computing power than was used for the Apollo program. Not
entirely sure that says good things about what we do with our current
potential, but that's a long discussion for some other day.
Drew Lawson | I'd like to find your inner child
| and kick its little ass
I don't remember the numbers on the computer but it was a burroughs and we had to be careful not to trip over the wires. It was the only "room" in the building that was air conditioned.
I remember 300 baud as "time out for coffee". Once got into a real setto with a know-it-all at work when he said 1600 was blazingly fast while I maintained all it did was allow one to "read the periods". In those days we had a 6400 line to a branch office in Montreal - didn't have to read the periods there.
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