Tuesday, February 28, 2017

books, peas, and school

The "Closing of the American Mind" is all but closed. Some interesting points including a back-handed compliment on Great Books curriculums. Here we are 30 years later and the holding hostage of colleges is beginning again. The colleges never recovered from the first time.
I finished listening to Michael Strogoff by Jules Verne last week. Verne often uses science or writes science fiction (i.e. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) in his stories. This one was devoid of it except near the end on one crucial point. Without giving a spoiler, let me just say that Verne makes use of the Leidenfrost effect (you've seen this when a drop of water skitters across a skillet when the skillet is much hotter than the boiling point of water - or when liquid nitrogen drops skitter across a floor.)
Planted peas and broccoli, and carrots, and radishes, and lots of other things the past two weekends. However, it has been so warm, I wonder if I am not a few weeks late.
I tilled the patch we will be growing sweet corn this year. I am thinking of planting some this weekend.
Teaching is going this spring. I hesitate to say "going well" because I am not sure what that means: everyone getting "A's" for example? Well that's not the case. Mid-term is at the end of this week, and one of my classes is a disaster (grade-wise.) I am hoping the test this week will renew my confidence in today's students!
There seems to be two major problems with the students I see. First is a lack of foundational knowledge in math (after all, I teach sciences). It is hard to understand more complex topics if the underlying math (usually high school algebra) is close to a mystery for the student.
Secondly (and this may be the cause of the first), there seems to be an expectation of continuous opportunities. That is: do poorly on a test and just retake it and do better.
I can see why. Apparently many high schools give almost unlimited chances to complete homework and test assignments. Do the assignment as many times as you want - until you get the grade you are satisfied with (this last is a quote from a teacher). I kid you not. I have recently become quite aware of this. It may be a way to move students along (because failure is bad for self-esteem?).
I don't know, but it does not do the students any good when they reach a higher level.
Oremus pro invicem!

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