The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Dumb and Dumber?

When I get bored, I go to one of my favorite sites, -- they of Urban Legend fame. Here you can not only check on the mailings your friends send you ("I swear this is true -- send it on to all your friends!") but, if you choose the RANDOM option, you can learn all sorts of interesting things apropos to nothing.

I sometimes watch The Tonight Show with Jay Leno before going to sleep, and upon occasion, I see him traipsing around the street asking random people questions about this or that -- things I remember learning when I was quite young. Things I feel like I have always known, things I somehow figure everyone knows, get the strangest answers from those Jay asks. First reaction, of course, is that which Jay is going for -- the laughter. But upon reflection, it is very sad how little folks know about things they really should know. So when doing my RANDOM at this morning, I came across this, and immediately knew it was something I had to share.

Much of what is on the test is no longer important to us, but some things – like writing a bank check, writing a receipt, writing a promissory note – are things that not everyone who passes the eighth grade these days can do. Some noteven when they complete the 12th grade and receive their high school diplpmas. Scary numbers of high school graduates can balance a checkbook and keep a running balance. We do have Excel or other spreadsheets, which can be set up to do this for us, but knowing how to manually take care of our financial matters is something that isn’t covered in most schools. Budgeting isn't covered. How to write a complaint letter isn't taught.

I marvel at the depth of subject matter that this test covers. Are teachers still teaching actual geography – and the folks we see on the street on Leno just managed to sleep through those lessons? We laugh when one man-on-the-street says Colorado is the capital of Nevada, but how many people around us can actually find Iraq on the map? Does anyone know the attributes of the parts of speech anymore? Can anyone diagram a sentence?

Have we really become dumber? Don’t know. I know that budget cuts have all but removed the arts from the classroom. Music appreciation and art basics are gone most everywhere I look. Somewhere in the middle of the last century someone thought PE (Physical Education) was a good idea, and for a chosen few who are offered scholarships for their participation in intramural team sports, it really is, if the attitude of the school is well defined and the focus is still on book-learning.

It seems to me that, while there is much more to learn than there was one hundred ten years ago, we actually know less history, fewer language skills, less practical mathematics. And there seems to be less learned at home, too.

Makes me cranky when I think about it. Makes me worry when I watch Leno. These people on the street he finds to talk to will be running the country.


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