Monday, February 04, 2008

Swish swash

Just got my 8-year-old's report card. It's not your typical report card. His school doesn't give grades. It's more like an essay.

The teacher included one of his poems:

Why do Dragons Go To Sea

Dragons soar across the sea thinking
"The ocean is scaly like me when the
Waves go swish swash.
Maybe it's another dragon."

Dragons soar across the sea.
"Perhaps I'm seeing things,
But I'm going to dive in
To eat fish. I roast them
With my sun level fire

Dragons soar across the sea.
"I go to my island.
I am marooned on my island.
People come with torches but
I can breathe the sun."

Not bad for a third grader, huh? Don't get me wrong. My purpose is not to brag about my kid, more to lament the state of education in this poor world. I'm sure that he wouldn't be much of a poet if he didn't go to a progressive school where they start teaching serious poetry in kindergarten. He also takes dance, two music classes, and art in addition to the regular academic subjects. It's not like he's the best in the class or anything. They all know how to use anaphora and I'm happy for them. What saddens me is that more kids don't get that kind of education. It's really not that difficult.

Yet the trend is away from quality education. A lot of kids do nothing but reading, writing and rithmatic and that creativity-stifling limited curriculum is pretty much limited to test preparation. Passing the test is the be all and the end all.

There's some push back against quality education even in our school. There was a funny scene with the math teacher at a recent parent/teacher night. She was explaining what the children did in class, which is pretty much all games and puzzles. As she went on about how much fun the kids had and how it was important for them to see the higher beauty of math, many of the parents grew uncomfortable. One of them asked if they did any typical math like multiplication, long division or fractions. The poor teacher misunderstood the nature of the question and went to great lengths to assure us that she didn't waste the kids time with that crap.

I know, I know. Would that kind of thing work in the worst schools? Me? I think yes. Would it take a lot of money? No doubt. But we get what we pay for. Bush's new budget contains 515 billion for "defense" and the interest we'll pay on the resulting deficit is far more than he proposes for education. We pay for war and inequality and that's what we get. We'd be better off well-educated.