Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Moderators General, Prelates

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Wed Oct 15, 2008 1:24 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:Yes, well let's concede for a moment that calculus is more universally applicable than algebra. As you pointed out, it is significantly harder to learn as well, and frankly, algebra doesn't have that much applicability. Just enough.

You're under the very mistaken assumption that these skills have similar value to everyone. That just because they may be harder, they are better and more useful.


And you seem to be missing the point. The point of education isn't to teach skills.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

User avatar
SJ Zero
Posts: 740
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 3:10 pm UTC
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby SJ Zero » Wed Oct 15, 2008 3:53 pm UTC

I think there are two types of knowledge: Fundamentals, and information.

Fundamentals are required to understand information, to use it. To understand the information of how Electricity works, you must understand math fundamentals. To understand the information of how Ethics works, you need logic fundamentals. To understand the information of how psychology works, you need science and statistics fundamentals.

Too much information is taught without solidifying fundamentals. We ask students to come up with an opinion on something without giving them the fundamental skills to come up with an opinion that isn't just a gut feeling. We ask students to do science experiments without ever letting them understand the fundamental connection between experimentation and science. We ask students to memorise math equations, sometimes hundreds of them, without giving them the fundamental tools to understand where many of these equations come from.

I'm not a teacher, but before I told a student to come up with an opinion, for example, I'd spend a semester showing them how information gathering is done, teaching why you don't disregard sources you don't agree with, getting that fundamental in place. Next, I'd show them how logic can be used to tie facts together with personally held beliefs(or, importantly, how personally held beliefs can be changed by logic and facts), coming to a conclusion. Finally, I'd show them how thinkers throughout history have taken facts and logic and come to conclusions. From THERE, then I'd ask them to give an opinion, and if I had done my job, I'd be sure to find some very interesting discussions far removed from the present discourse.

It wasn't until long after high school that I actually started talking to people and realised I couldn't win an arguement by writing a high school essay that I was forced to learn how to form an opinion. How sad is that?

We should quit trying to teach students all these 'soft subjects' without giving them the fundamentals to put the information into context and use it. Without the core fundamentals, information is just trivia.

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:47 pm UTC

And you seem to be missing the point. The point of education isn't to teach skills.


Ahaha. Clearly you are well versed on this very complicated and much-debated subject of the philosophy of education. Ok, so in your opinion, that isn't the point. What is the point, in your opinion? And bear in mind I've discussed the subject at length with people who actually know what they're talking about, so don't think you've got any surprises for me.

We should quit trying to teach students all these 'soft subjects' without giving them the fundamentals to put the information into context and use it. Without the core fundamentals, information is just trivia.


Much of what you said was very well put, until this non sequitur. What you're talking about now is giving them fundamental skills without any knowledge of how to use it, which is the traditional curriculum. "Soft" subjects are more than capable of teaching these core fundamentals in a relevant way. By their nature, "pure" subjects are not able to do the reverse nearly so well. Don't get me wrong, a blend of both is critical to maximize the effectiveness of education, but I have already argued at length why soft subjects are stronger as a point of emphasis.

And I've humored the shaky use of terminology because I detest semantic debates, but these are practical application courses versus conceptual courses. "Soft" and "pure" aren't really accurate or accepted.

mrandrewv
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed May 16, 2007 2:30 pm UTC
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby mrandrewv » Thu Oct 16, 2008 10:35 am UTC

I'm busy with my master's in educational psychology and I was a high school English teacher.

And I was absolutely blown away by that statement: "the point of education isn't to teach skills."

Dude...what HAVE you been smoking? O_O

The ONLY purpose of education is to prepare people for their future.

Now obviously this includes alot of intangibles like critical thinking, social awareness etc.

But if it doesn't include things that the people can actually USE, like applicable skills, then it is complete waste of their time.

We have a massive problem in South Africa that there aren't enough practical schools, and also there is a completely stupid perception amongst people that if you don't go to university then you won't get anywhere in life.

I taught a kid who wanted to be a motor mechanic. His whole life that's all he ever wanted to do. On weekends he worked at a local garage for free because he loved the work so much. When i first met him he had failed grade 10 twice. Why? Because he always failed English. He could read, he could write and use the language, all at a grade 10 level, but when it came to grammar and literature he was total foxed. He just didn't get it.

And when I spoke to him about why Shakespeare is still important today, and why it is valuable to study his plays he said "I understand that. But how is it useful to me? Is it so useful that it's worth wasting two years of my life on it?"

The answer is of course: no, it isn't. And the same goes for grammar.

Luckily the story has a happy ending: he dropped out of school. From there he went to an FET college (basically a training institution where they do grades 10-12, but only the practical subjects) and by now I'm sure he's alot happier, and probably making more money than alot of us.

This idea that everyone needs to do maths, science and a language all the way through high school is based on one thing: arrogance. It is the mistaken belief propagated by close-minded academics from 50 years ago that because THEY were good at maths and science then it meant that EVERYONE had to be.

One of the most annoying versions of this stupidity can still be found in "intelligence" tests. Check it:
A man steps out of his car and walks North for 5 metres.
He then turns 90 degrees to his right and walks East for 6 metres.
How far away is he from his car?

This is not a test of intelligence. It is a test of whether or not you did Pythagoras at school. And frankly for most of the people in the world answering this correctly could be a measure of LOW intelligence; because it means they were stupid enough to take maths at school, when it was never going to be any use to them (/joking, kinda).

It is teh dumb.

I'm not saying these subjects aren't vitally important. Of course they are. Until you get to about grade 8. From then on you should really be trying to find a delicate balance between those subjects that you want to do, because you enjoy them, and those that you need to do because they are important for your future.

In South Africa I reckon we are making progress. In high school there are two kinds of maths on offer: 'proper' academic style maths and 'maths literacy' which teaches only things that are actually useful, like balancing a budget, or calculating cost increases by pecentages.

Begin flaming.....now.
It's all very interesting...

User avatar
Griffin
Posts: 1363
Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2007 7:46 am UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Griffin » Thu Oct 16, 2008 11:02 pm UTC

If you've got a problem with people taking "easy" courses just because they're easier than math and science, the solution is quite clear. You don't get rid of the courses... just make them harder.

"Junk" courses in all fields should be gotten rid of (and I've even seen them in science though they are less common), but that doesn't mean your chosen field is somehow superior. I think its far less important that students learn math and science than that they learn SOMETHING really well and have the basics needed in all other fields to make informed decisions in everyday life.
Bdthemag: "I don't always GM, but when I do I prefer to put my player's in situations that include pain and torture. Stay creative my friends."

Bayobeasts - the Pokemon: Orthoclase project.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Thu Oct 16, 2008 11:10 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:
And you seem to be missing the point. The point of education isn't to teach skills.


Ahaha. Clearly you are well versed on this very complicated and much-debated subject of the philosophy of education. Ok, so in your opinion, that isn't the point. What is the point, in your opinion? And bear in mind I've discussed the subject at length with people who actually know what they're talking about, so don't think you've got any surprises for me.


I'm glad you've at least discussed this subject with people who know what they're talking about. You might learn something from them.

Some skills do have to be taught, of course, but a true education doesn't teach individual skills so much as abilities. A good education should develop intelligence and character.

If you really don't care about actually having much of an education, dropping out of school at grade 10 to train as an auto mechanic might be a good choice for you. But that's not education, that's vocational training. And if someone invents an electric car or builds a mass transit system in your town, you're gonna be screwed unless you can train for some other skill.

I don't totally disagree with you. I think the best education should lend itself to what the student is naturally interested in, which is why schools are a poor solution. I do think there's value in pushing students as hard as they can go, which is why I stop short of advocating (as you do) that standards should be lowered.

This idea that everyone needs to do maths, science and a language all the way through high school is based on one thing: arrogance. It is the mistaken belief propagated by close-minded academics from 50 years ago that because THEY were good at maths and science then it meant that EVERYONE had to be.


Academics 50 years ago actually had to learn something difficult to earn their title. Nowadays we use the title of someone's degree, rather than the fact that they have it, to distinguish them. Someone with a B.S. in Physics went through a more difficult course of study than someone with an M.A. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction. The Physics major can be hired and trained to program computers pretty well, even if they never did any programming in school. Hell...they can even become full-time cartoonists.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Thu Oct 16, 2008 11:27 pm UTC

Someone with a B.S. in Physics went through a more difficult course of study than someone with an M.A. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction.


More difficult by what standards? You really have no basis for comparison, now do you? I know people who have a B.S. in Physics (because, surprise, they also get M.A. Ed.'s!). What do you think a high school physics teacher gets for his bachelors? Further, why are you comparing a 4 year program (B.S.) to a 2 year program (M.A. Ed) when one is a prerequisite to the other? You don't even know what my B.S. is, is what makes this argument so rich.

Let's just skip straight to the point. Do you have any idea what you're talking about at all? I'm beginning to wonder if you have ever even attended college. I don't know anyone in the field of education who would agree with anything that you just said.

I do think there's value in pushing students as hard as they can go, which is why I stop short of advocating (as you do) that standards should be lowered.


Like this. You seem to hold the traditional curriculum on a pedestal. At least, you have an obvious bias towards it. No one is talking about lower standards, but different-- in fact-- better standards.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:37 am UTC

Kachi wrote:
Someone with a B.S. in Physics went through a more difficult course of study than someone with an M.A. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction.


More difficult by what standards? You really have no basis for comparison, now do you? I know people who have a B.S. in Physics (because, surprise, they also get M.A. Ed.'s!). What do you think a high school physics teacher gets for his bachelors? Further, why are you comparing a 4 year program (B.S.) to a 2 year program (M.A. Ed) when one is a prerequisite to the other? You don't even know what my B.S. is, is what makes this argument so rich.


I don't even think you have a B.S. worthy of the title, given your admission that you've never taken calculus (which is usually a requirement for a B.S.). I assumed you had a B.A..

By what standards? Let me put it this way. Almost everyone who successfully completes a B.S. in physics is probably capable (if they really had or wanted to) of completing an M.A. Ed.. Many of them do. But how many M.A. Ed.'s could complete a B.S. in physics? Definitely some of them but not all.

Kachi wrote:Let's just skip straight to the point. Do you have any idea what you're talking about at all? I'm beginning to wonder if you have ever even attended college. I don't know anyone in the field of education who would agree with anything that you just said.


Given that it's people in the field of education who are running the abomination of a system we have now, I'll take that as a compliment.

Kachi wrote:
I do think there's value in pushing students as hard as they can go, which is why I stop short of advocating (as you do) that standards should be lowered.


Like this. You seem to hold the traditional curriculum on a pedestal. At least, you have an obvious bias towards it. No one is talking about lower standards, but different-- in fact-- better standards.


I don't hold the traditional curriculum on a pedestal at all. In fact, I do hold that:

I think the best education should lend itself to what the student is naturally interested in, which is why schools are a poor solution.


I don't disagree with changing the standards. What I do disagree with is the idea that since kids can't be arsed to learn trigonometry anymore, it's a specialized topic that we shouldn't even bother to teach unless they want to be engineers or something.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Fri Oct 17, 2008 2:21 am UTC

I don't even think you have a B.S. worthy of the title, given your admission that you've never taken calculus (which is usually a requirement for a B.S.). I assumed you had a B.A..


I'll take that as an admission that you really don't know what you're talking about.

By what standards? Let me put it this way. Almost everyone who successfully completes a B.S. in physics is probably capable (if they really had or wanted to) of completing an M.A. Ed.. Many of them do. But how many M.A. Ed.'s could complete a B.S. in physics? Definitely some of them but not all.


So your argument is that everyone who is capable of getting a B.S. in physics but doesn't is... what? Lazy? Shortchanging their education? You don't even have any idea of what is expected to get an M.A. Ed., and at this point I'll question whether you have any idea of what it would take to get a B.S. in physics. Your argument seems to be that if you can get a B.S. in physics, you could get a B.S. in anything if you really wanted to, so if you didn't get a B.S. in physics, then the degree that you did get is laughable and worthless. Further, the reason you didn't get a B.S. in physics was because you weren't smart enough.

Almost without exception, every person I have ever met in the education field has demonstrated the hard work and intelligence to be whatever they aspired to be, whether it be a doctor or a physicist. Being a teacher was what they wanted to do, not something they settled for.

And if you think math and science teachers are exempt from not being cut for an M.A., you'd be sorrily mistaken. Frequently these people with the degree that you seem to idolize are -terrible- teachers who perform sorrily in the field because they have no aptitude for pedagogy.

Given that it's people in the field of education who are running the abomination of a system we have now, I'll take that as a compliment.


Circular logic, go? "I think the system is an abomination, so that none of the experts in the field agree with me just shows how incompetent THEY are."

You must think that educational theory is entirely subjective or something. It's not, and your "opinion" is wrong.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:10 am UTC

I'd like to start by apologizing for being combative before. It seems to have gotten you into a similar mode—I hope we can move past that now because I have some clarifications and useful points to make.

Kachi wrote:
By what standards? Let me put it this way. Almost everyone who successfully completes a B.S. in physics is probably capable (if they really had or wanted to) of completing an M.A. Ed.. Many of them do. But how many M.A. Ed.'s could complete a B.S. in physics? Definitely some of them but not all.


So your argument is that everyone who is capable of getting a B.S. in physics but doesn't is... what?


Interested in other things. And I think at the university level people are mature enough to specialize. But before that point, the goal should be to maximize potential.

And if you think math and science teachers are exempt from not being cut for an M.A., you'd be sorrily mistaken. Frequently these people with the degree that you seem to idolize are -terrible- teachers who perform sorrily in the field because they have no aptitude for pedagogy.


That doesn't mean teaching in and of itself is difficult, just that teaching difficult subjects is difficult. When you actually understand a deep subject really well, it's difficult to understand or remember what it looks like to someone who's just learning it for the first time, much less cross that gap.

Circular logic, go? "I think the system is an abomination, so that none of the experts in the field agree with me just shows how incompetent THEY are."


I think it's already well-established how poor the US educational system is by means of comparison to other developed countries.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:53 am UTC

I'd like to start by apologizing for being combative before. It seems to have gotten you into a similar mode—I hope we can move past that now because I have some clarifications and useful points to make.


I don't really mind being combative, but civility is preferable, I suppose. Apology accepted.

Interested in other things. And I think at the university level people are mature enough to specialize. But before that point, the goal should be to maximize potential.


I understand what you're saying, but by high school most students have already either decided if they're not going to enter math-heavy specialized careers, or they have fallen far enough behind in those areas (if not school in general) that maximizing their potential at a career they won't enter is a waste. And this is really what we're talking about, here. They don't -have- to lose any substantial level of math or science potential, for reasons I've already gone over, but for us to continually hammer in to them skills that they don't need is a waste of our educational system's potential.

That doesn't mean teaching in and of itself is difficult, just that teaching difficult subjects is difficult. When you actually understand a deep subject really well, it's difficult to understand or remember what it looks like to someone who's just learning it for the first time, much less cross that gap.


I'm afraid that's not really the case. Teaching any subject effectively is difficult, and most subjects teach difficult concepts if the teacher is any good. There are many teachers who don't expect enough from their students, but that is a problem with the teacher, and not the subject matter (look up self-fulfilling prophecy). All effective teachers instruct students in higher order thinking skills (another term to look up), and all of these concepts are relatively difficult for students. In fact, they often apply the same kind of analytical skills that you would use in other conceptual courses.

Science and math teachers are usually taught explicit methods for teaching difficult concepts in a variety of ways, which overcomes most of that gap you were referring to.

And I assure you that teaching is difficult for a multitude of reasons. Aside from working 50-60 hours per week on average during the school year, teachers have to deal with constructing valid skill-based assessments, planning their curriculum, units and lessons, and dealing with equity issues like IEPs. They have to consider how best to integrate technology and multicurricular concepts into their lessons. In the classroom, they have to constantly enforce the best classroom management practices. Instructional methods are planned in advance, not on the fly-- depending on what level of learning you're conveying, you have a limitless number of instructional strategies to consider. That's all just a very shallow explanation of the expectations of being a teacher. Standing in front of the class and talking is about the easiest part of teaching. Anyone who thinks teaching isn't difficult has either never tried it, or has taught only the most self-sufficient students that make up a tiny fraction of the actual student population.

I think it's already well-established how poor the US educational system is by means of comparison to other developed countries.


It's well-established how poorly they perform on standardized norm-referenced math and science tests, but that in absolutely no way supports your conclusion. Nor does it actually even prove that our nation suffers as a result of our test performance. Many possible and actual explanations have been offered for those test scores, least of which are the reasons you suggested. Declining parental involvement, lack of interest in those subjects, poorly constructed tests, and test taker diversity (like the high ESL and at-risk populations) certainly play a role.

I should also note that it's not -that- bad. We're just not anywhere near #1-- mediocre-- and it hurts our pride. The scores are even arguably completely meaningless. Actually, our best are still as good as the best anywhere else, and its our best that set the precedence for our nation's performance, because they actually go into those fields and make great contributions. Most of the students who drag the scores down have little need for the skills to begin with.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Fri Oct 17, 2008 4:20 am UTC

Kachi wrote:
Interested in other things. And I think at the university level people are mature enough to specialize. But before that point, the goal should be to maximize potential.


I understand what you're saying, but by high school most students have already either decided if they're not going to enter math-heavy specialized careers, or they have fallen far enough behind in those areas (if not school in general) that maximizing their potential at a career they won't enter is a waste. And this is really what we're talking about, here. They don't -have- to lose any substantial level of math or science potential, for reasons I've already gone over, but for us to continually hammer in to them skills that they don't need is a waste of our educational system's potential.


Fair enough, but I think a lot can be done earlier in the process to cultivate interest in these topics.

Kachi wrote:
I think it's already well-established how poor the US educational system is by means of comparison to other developed countries.


It's well-established how poorly they perform on standardized norm-referenced math and science tests, but that in absolutely no way supports your conclusion. Nor does it actually even prove that our nation suffers as a result of our test performance. Many possible and actual explanations have been offered for those test scores, least of which are the reasons you suggested. Declining parental involvement, lack of interest in those subjects, poorly constructed tests, and test taker diversity (like the high ESL and at-risk populations) certainly play a role.

I should also note that it's not -that- bad. We're just not anywhere near #1-- mediocre-- and it hurts our pride. The scores are even arguably completely meaningless. Actually, our best are still as good as the best anywhere else, and its our best that set the precedence for our nation's performance, because they actually go into those fields and make great contributions. Most of the students who drag the scores down have little need for the skills to begin with.


And yet there's still some reason that our students perform more poorly in these subjects than the students of other developed countries. Maybe the problem is that American kids are less interested in these topics—but then again, maybe that's due to poor education at lower levels failing to cultivate that interest. I'm also not convinced that the comparative test scores are meaningless—unless you can show me evidence that American kids are better at something else.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Fri Oct 17, 2008 6:46 am UTC

Unfortunately the lack of interest is a direct result of the perceived lack of application in most cases, if it's not just a general disinterest in education. Much of the latter comes from the home. Much of the former can be increased by the same methods I've been arguing for.

And yet there's still some reason that our students perform more poorly in these subjects than the students of other developed countries.


I just went over many of them.

Declining parental involvement, lack of interest in those subjects, poorly constructed tests, and test taker diversity (like the high ESL and at-risk populations) certainly play a role.


Most of these other countries have fundamental differences in their socio/geo- political/economical/cultural structures. They have a more homogeneous culture, fewer language barriers, they often don't even test children with special needs (which artificially inflates their scores), there are fewer career opportunities in many cases (which sometimes comes down to, you learn -this- or you don't get a good job at all)... the list goes on for several books worth.

So America faces some very unique educational challenges when it comes to simply trying to get higher nationwide scores in math and science, but that does not mean that the quality of our workforce suffers as a result. Many (and I mean -many-) educational professionals vehemently resist the effort to reduce everything to the results of the questionable validity of standardized test scores.

mrandrewv
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed May 16, 2007 2:30 pm UTC
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby mrandrewv » Fri Oct 17, 2008 9:14 am UTC

Philwelch said: "That doesn't mean teaching in and of itself is difficult, just that teaching difficult subjects is difficult."

/me stops dead in me's tracks.

Oh sweet merciful christ.

Did you just say that teaching isn't difficult? :shock:

You have officially just lost this debate. Because statements like that make it painfully obvious that you have no frikking idea what you are talking about.

Anyone who thinks that teaching isn't difficult should try it for 6 months. I will be ready to gloat at those few who are still left sane and alive at the end of it.

You have no idea what an impossible juggling act teaching is. I could explain in detail, but it really has to be experienced.

This touches on another major bugbear of mine: Teachers, nurses, police officers, garbage collectors, janitors and a few other careers are absolutely VITAL for the running of any modern society, but they are completely undervalued by those societies.

And it isn't just that the pay is universally terrible, it is also the subtle belief that if you are in one of these careers there is somehow something WRONG with you.

One of my Education professors made a point of always telling people at conferences etc that she was a teacher, when they asked what she did. She did this because in her soul that is her preferred identity. She also did it because she got a kick out of watching the look of subtle condescending arrogance that crept across their faces, when they found out she was "just" a teacher.

What she enjoyed even more was kicking their asses at the debates that followed.

And it was, ironically, Ayn Rand who pointed out that in a situation like this the best members of this exploited group will start to drop out of the system, by getting other work, by leaving the country, or by retiring. Global teacher shortage anyone? (oh, you didn't know about that?)

I would also like to point out that when I was at Rhodes University it was a requirement that 3rd year Information Systems students had to do a philosophy one course. I have no idea why, but I think it's a brilliant idea. In any event many of them failed. I raise this because, Philwelch, your posts still seem to contain the bizare perception that being able to do science somehow means you are smarter than those who cannot do science.

This is a lie. A lie propagated primarily by scientists. Big surprise there.

Do some research on the modern psychometrics of intelligence testing, and you will see that the experts in the field have moved away from this silly idea decades ago, thank goodness. Refer back to my pythagoras example if you would like a quick refresher.

I mean your argument basically goes like this:
1) Some of the smartest people who have ever lived have been mathematicians and physicists.
2) Therefore everyone who does maths and physics is smart
3) Therefore people who do things that are very different from maths and physics are NOT smart.

Now it may look like a straw man, but after reviewing your posts again I really don't think it is.
However you could easily prove me wrong by posting a definition of intelligence that shows that I am wrong, and you are right.

I would also like to point out that the smartest guy on the planet is Noam Chomsky, and he wouldn't know a quark if it shot up his nose.

Maybe we should have a different thread about that.

Anyway you also said that kids should be taught trigonometry, even if they don't intend to ever use it. But you still haven't given any reason why in the name of aunt mary's balls they SHOULD! What possible use could it be? Make them smarter? No, it won't. It might make them able to do better on old IQ tests, but that is not the same thing. If you think it's valuable because it will challenge their minds then that does make sense. But a good philosophy course will do more to challenge your mind than a trig course.

I would also like to point out that the research is against you as well. Many studies have shown that when adults are asked which teacher had the greatest positive impact on their lives the most common answer by far was: the English teacher ;)
(or insert appropriate first langauge of your choice).

"Teaching isn't hard"... Good god man. That is worse than just silly, it's a symptom of a massive socio-cultural problem.

And no one has yet addressed the fundamental flaw in the US education system:
The fact that poor people get an inferior education, by law.

In a competitive job market the quality of your education isn't as important as how competitive it is. In other words your education needs to be able to be as impressive, or more impressive, as the next person in the interview queue. In a country like yours (and sadly, mine) people who start off poor are at an immediate disadvantage, because even if they are talented and hard working the quality of their education is lower, and this they are less competitive.

In my country this happened because of Apartheid. What's your excuse?

/me goes to have a cool, calming shower.
It's all very interesting...

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Fri Oct 17, 2008 10:21 am UTC

Ah, now that you mention it, I'm a little embarrassed for not bringing up the statistic that 50% of new teachers in the U.S. quit within their first five years. The most frequent reason given by far is too difficult for not enough pay. Someone with a bachelors in education, let alone a masters, can work quickly into managerial positions in the business world where the work is easier and the pay is better.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Fri Oct 17, 2008 2:06 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:I mean your argument basically goes like this:
1) Some of the smartest people who have ever lived have been mathematicians and physicists.
2) Therefore everyone who does maths and physics is smart
3) Therefore people who do things that are very different from maths and physics are NOT smart.

Now it may look like a straw man, but after reviewing your posts again I really don't think it is.


No, it really, really is.

My argument is more as follows:

1. Math and hard sciences are more difficult than other academic subjects.
2. Thus, if we develop students to be able to handle these subjects, they'll be well-suited to cross-train.
3. And, once our students are at the university or career level, they will have gained the benefits and experience of solving difficult problems in these subjects and can apply their well-honed talents in problem solving and rational thinking to whatever their field of interest is.

Unfortunately, since our secondary education doesn't do a good enough job of #2 above, and our universities don't pick up the slack either, we have no guarantee that people outside these fields even have these kinds of talents.

I also suspect that doing hard intellectual work can develop intelligence. I mean "intelligence" in terms of g, the general intelligence factor, which has been shown to have high correlations from any intelligence test (even those that don't require prior knowledge of any sort of math). I'm operating from the premise that g is subject to improvement due to development and that it is the primary driver of intelligence by itself—a conclusion I came to some time ago based on evidence I'd have a hard time tracking down again now. Maybe the best way to resolve this part of the argument is a review of the relevant literature in psychometrics.

mrandrewv wrote:I would also like to point out that the smartest guy on the planet is Noam Chomsky, and he wouldn't know a quark if it shot up his nose.


I think "Noam Chomsky is the smartest guy on the planet" is a more controversial and dubious statement than anything I've said. I don't even think Noam would whole-heartedly agree with you there :)

mrandrewv wrote:Anyway you also said that kids should be taught trigonometry, even if they don't intend to ever use it. But you still haven't given any reason why in the name of aunt mary's balls they SHOULD! What possible use could it be? Make them smarter? No, it won't. It might make them able to do better on old IQ tests, but that is not the same thing. If you think it's valuable because it will challenge their minds then that does make sense. But a good philosophy course will do more to challenge your mind than a trig course.


I'm a philosophy major. I'm three months away from my B.A.. Philosophy has its benefits (I think we should teach more philosophy and less literature, personally) but you can't approach philosophy without first having a good understanding of logic. Maybe we can agree on one point—we should do a better job teaching logic!

That having been said, I've known plenty of philosophy majors who would choke on the math, physics, engineering, and CS courses I've taken. Oddly enough, most engineers I've spoken to about philosophy seem perfectly competent at it.

mrandrewv wrote:I would also like to point out that the research is against you as well. Many studies have shown that when adults are asked which teacher had the greatest positive impact on their lives the most common answer by far was: the English teacher ;)
(or insert appropriate first langauge of your choice).


Self-reporting fallacy.

mrandrewv wrote:In a competitive job market the quality of your education isn't as important as how competitive it is. In other words your education needs to be able to be as impressive, or more impressive, as the next person in the interview queue. In a country like yours (and sadly, mine) people who start off poor are at an immediate disadvantage, because even if they are talented and hard working the quality of their education is lower, and this they are less competitive.


I don't see the purpose of education as preparing someone for a career, much less a career that requires working for somebody else. The problem with the system we have is that it's modeled on a 19th century notion of "factory schools churning out factory workers". My view is a little different than that.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

User avatar
Rinsaikeru
Pawn, soon to be a Queen
Posts: 2166
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:26 am UTC
Location: Toronto
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Rinsaikeru » Fri Oct 17, 2008 7:00 pm UTC

Another argument devolves into "my major is better than your major."

I had a guidance councellor advise me to take Calculus in Highschool when I told him I wanted to major in English and History. Absolutely useless to me, frustrating for my teacher (because Trig and Logarithms hadn't made any sense to me the year before). I'm good with algebra, good with geometry, good with logic--but if I can't make a practical image of a mathematical idea in my head I'm not able to make sense of it. I'm not scientifically or mathematically inclined in the strictest sense. I learn visually, auditorially and through reading/writing. I can grasp concepts easily so long as they aren't bogged down with too many formulas.

For me, his advice was useless and fruitless. I did not benefit from the class as I spent most of my time trying not to drown in it. I didn't learn anything, and the teacher passed me on the promise that I wasn't intending to take any math courses in university. I can still take derivatives, but I couldn't tell you what they're for. :(

Not everyone needs these subjects and forcing those who aren't wired that way to try to stumble through them isn't going to improve the education system. It's going to deplete the resources of the system. Not everyone will be or wants to be a scientist. Not all students are University bound--and it isn't a bad thing. Some people are fantastic at apprenticed trades, at art, at cooking. These aren't diminished trades..

You really ought to try teaching if you think it's easy. Or if teaching isn't you thing--try to get 30 people to listen to you for 45 minutes without half of them falling asleep, wandering off, chatting on their cell phone, or telling you to shut up.
Rice Puddin.

User avatar
Lucrece
Posts: 3558
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:01 am UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Lucrece » Fri Oct 17, 2008 7:53 pm UTC

The reason why people don't take these "hard" subjects is because they're highly unapproachable. Most of these subjects are designed and teached in a way that caters to those with a natural affinity for the subject.

I use my case as an example. I'm in pre-med. I aspire to become a forensic psychiatrist that specializes with LGBT-centric cases. I'm exceptionally good at biology and neuroscience. My verbal and emotional analytic skills are pretty darn good. And yet, I do not have even a shred of mathematical inclination. My career will most likely involve very little math; and yet, for medical school, I need to take a full year of college calculus.

My calculus class is composed of Math and Engineering majors, all of whom math comes easily to. The professor perceives this, and is very quick and presumptuous in teaching style. We cover two subjects a day (we have 3 classes per week); I'm lucky if I am able to follow the class for at least one of the two subjects. I'm struggling with having to pass with a C or better (I'd like at least a "B", but that may be wishful thinking on my part, with an exam on the 22nd). All of this because calculus is a pre-req for med school and a chemistry class. My career is on a thin thread (med school is highly selective based on GPA, and calculus will certainly factor into my not having a 3.7+ on my starting freshman year).

A problem I see with my inability to perform well in the class, and that I see in others, is my incapability to relate with the subject. Those with natural affinities for the subject will appreciate its concepts; but to me, math is a stale subject with little emotional appeal. It has nothing to do with human behavior; it's an entirely different language and culture, and a cold one to boot. I do not see its relevance in my life goals (I'm well aware of its wonderful applications and contribution to our standards of livings, but I'm not fond of the process). A lot of people feel similarly; they do not connect with the subject at all. It speaks very little to their experiences.

Unless such subjects happen to receive instructors that successfully convey their relevance to individuals who function on a more emotional and intrapersonal level, I see your frustration as moot. You are asking people to enroll in courses that will likely harm their GPA in an environment that has gotten dangerously competitive for jobs and entrance rates, just because you seem to value such dedications less as a result of academic snootiness.
Belial wrote:That's charming, Nancy, but all I hear when you talk is a bunch of yippy dog sounds.

Dazmilar
Posts: 67
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 11:37 pm UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Dazmilar » Fri Oct 17, 2008 9:33 pm UTC

If I were in the shoes of someone who was required to take Calculus but found the material unapproachable, I'd have taken one that was listed for non-majors. Obviously, in a classs full of engineering and math students, the professor won't be teaching to the lowest common denominator of non-math students. Most universities do offer math courses for non-majors, if not in the course title, in the course description.

At the college level, how exactly are we defining "hard" or "difficult" majors? Relative difficulty between subjects is pretty hard to determine, considering how subjects vary from school to school, professor to professor, and from student to student. I'm assuming the average math major has probably shown some talent for math. At the undergraduate level, I'd say the B.F.A. in Fine Art is one of the hardest degrees to obtain. Whether 2d or 3d, it requires a mixture of technical aptitude and creativity, on average twice the number of credit hours as other majors, and the amount of time/work per credit hour is much higher (at least for studio credits).

As someone who took almost nothing but soft subjects his senior year of high school, I don't really have a problem with it. Assuming you've met the general education requirements for your school and the colleges you've applied to, you should take advantage of exploring whatever your areas of interest happen to be. You run into problems when you try to determine the value of students taking a psychology class if they're not going to become psychologists, because someone has to decide what's valuable and what isn't. The math and science guy will most likely value math and science over the arts, and vice-versa. The benefit of a somewhat generalized high school education is that it allows students some freedom in determining what they feel is of value and what isn't, so that if they pursue a college education, they'll have a better idea of what they want to study.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Fri Oct 17, 2008 9:45 pm UTC

I think it's also important to distinguish difficulty from workload. I'm a double major in Philosophy and CS—I might have to write only 1000 lines of C code for an assignment, but that's way more difficult than writing a 1000 line philosophy paper, or even a 5-10 page philosophy paper. And philosophy ain't easy when it comes to writing papers.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

User avatar
Rinsaikeru
Pawn, soon to be a Queen
Posts: 2166
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:26 am UTC
Location: Toronto
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Rinsaikeru » Fri Oct 17, 2008 9:50 pm UTC

It depends how you think of work.

In my undergrad I wrote lots and lots of papers. Some were easy: ie. opinion pieces based on literature, some were not: 20 page history papers requiring at least 20 sources, of which, at least half must be primary sources. Writing well and using research effectively are not easy--this does not mean I imply programming is easy. This means I'm really sick to death of science/comp-sci oriented individuals claiming arts majors have it easy.
Rice Puddin.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Fri Oct 17, 2008 10:05 pm UTC

Rinsaikeru wrote:It depends how you think of work.

In my undergrad I wrote lots and lots of papers. Some were easy: ie. opinion pieces based on literature, some were not: 20 page history papers requiring at least 20 sources, of which, at least half must be primary sources. Writing well and using research effectively are not easy--this does not mean I imply programming is easy. This means I'm really sick to death of science/comp-sci oriented individuals claiming arts majors have it easy.


The only fair way to see is to have the same person do both a math/science program and a liberal arts program. I…am a philosophy/CS double major. Maybe I happen to be a good philosopher and a poor programmer, or maybe one's more difficult than the other. All I know is which degree track gave me more grief and required me to think harder (philosophy requires me to think pretty damned hard, but CS strains my mind).
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

User avatar
dobilay
Posts: 19
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 3:13 am UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby dobilay » Sat Oct 18, 2008 1:39 am UTC

Speaking from my own experiences, these so called "soft" subjects aren't really good or bad. In Canada, or at least Ontario, the variety of courses increases every year and the amount of people in any single course, especially the more specialized courses, decreases. For example, in Grade 10 computer engineering the class was full with about 30 students and this year in Grade 11 there are only about 9, in a split Grade 11 and 12 class. That's just because so many of those people last year were forced into that course last year have more options now and opted out. It's great that the classes can go more quickly because there are fewer people and most of them "get" the course, but the fact that so few people actually took this course this year is what caused the split class, which really are not fun.

User avatar
qinwamascot
Posts: 688
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:50 am UTC
Location: Oklahoma, U.S.A.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby qinwamascot » Sat Oct 18, 2008 7:12 am UTC

We seem to have strayed a bit from the original idea. The question is "is it bad for people to take classes which are inherently easier and less useful just because they are so" without so much debate over whether a particular subject qualifies. I'd say yes. It is.

We should make the classes that are not aimed at specialists more difficult. For instance, in the US, we have AP tests. Anyone who has taken these can tell you that some of them are utterly useless as they are right now. For history, memorizing everything in the book is all you need. No analysis required for a 5. I know because that's how I got mine. For calculus, on the other hand, you actually had to know something. Not a lot, but something. AP Literature was worse: I could have gotten a 5 without even opening a book.

Should I get college credit in history just because I memorized a lot of stuff? It doesn't make sense to me. These should all be of an appropriate level that a person who intends to specialize in that subject will pass, but others will not. If they aren't, we have one of two problems: one test is so hard almost no one will ever pass, or the other is so easy that almost anyone can.

So the problem isn't that people are taking easy subjects. It's the existence of easy subjects. We need to increase the difficulty of those subjects.

As for all the people who say you don't understand Math: you don't understand math (but not in the way you think). Math is about thinking in a way different from what you are used to. It isn't that anyone actually understands math and has a good grip on it. People who do well are just more comfortable with things they don't understand. They are better at working outside their comfort zones. So while calculus may not be especially useful for an art historian (you never know; my best history teacher ever used to be a calculus teacher and claimed it helped a lot) the method of thinking and learning is certainly applicable to a broad range. Much like experimentation, which we take from science, is useful, even if we don't need to know about experiments in quantum gravity to be lawyers.
Quiznos>Subway

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Sat Oct 18, 2008 8:42 am UTC

The only fair way to see is to have the same person do both a math/science program and a liberal arts program. I…am a philosophy/CS double major. Maybe I happen to be a good philosopher and a poor programmer, or maybe one's more difficult than the other. All I know is which degree track gave me more grief and required me to think harder (philosophy requires me to think pretty damned hard, but CS strains my mind).


Again, this leads to the obvious problem of this one person's inclination to one subject over the other. Just because CS is harder for you doesn't mean that philosophy is easier for all math/science/CS students, not in the least.

Sounds like you're attaching a little too much faith to the "x factor" of intelligence. Even those who strongly advocate for the general intelligence theory recognize that there are notable differences in reasoning and communication skills, among many other skills. Actually, many people don't accept that the general intelligence theory has much relevance at all, because IQ is actually a very poor predictor of academic performance, regardless of whatever terms you try to demonstrate with. Even highly intelligent students often demonstrate a talent for only select subjects, often due to interest (personal relevance).

We seem to have strayed a bit from the original idea. The question is "is it bad for people to take classes which are inherently easier and less useful just because they are so" without so much debate over whether a particular subject qualifies.


Actually, the assumptions of the OP are still being challenged, and we are still very much on topic. Not everyone disagrees that the subjects the OP listed are necessarily easier OR less useful. They may, in fact, be any combination of the two.

However, I can agree that if a -teacher- is not challenging their students within any curriculum, then they need to make the course more challenging. This is one of the most fundamental rules of education, and at least where I went to school, you heard it in almost every class. Students learn more when more is expected of them. Research has consistently proven this to be the case. That some teachers have low expectations of their students is no secret, but this has nothing to do with the subjects and everything to do with the teachers' perceptions of their students (or in rare cases, general incompetency/laziness).

Dazmilar
Posts: 67
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 11:37 pm UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Dazmilar » Sat Oct 18, 2008 4:38 pm UTC

Exactly. Even in terms of "usefulness," what constitutes a soft subject is subjective. It'd be a mistake for high school to be less generalized, putting kids on certain tracks for life, because high schoolers are by-and-large, idiots with incredibly limited world experience. One of the benefits of high school or college is the free environment to develop your own ideas, even though those ideas might be idiotic or unoriginal. While every high schooler may be a future productive member of society, we don't have prescient guidance counselors who can look at a freshmen and say, "Oh, you're going to be an engineer when you're 25, I'll put you on our engineering track."

qinwamascot wrote:So the problem isn't that people are taking easy subjects. It's the existence of easy subjects. We need to increase the difficulty of those subjects.


How? Any class is going to be (or at least should be) taught to the highest common denominator of students. To make it a little easier, your school might divide up its students into various tiers, with say, "college-prep" at the top. The high school I went to called them "phases," with five different ones. You're limited by budget. You may also be limited by the feeling that educators want to have some mixture of students because of the belief that having smarter kids in a class will raise the bar for other students in the class. When thinking about budget, it's easy to think a school will have the money to create various tiers for core subjects, like Math, Science, or English. Do you think your high school has the budget, or the demand (number of students wanting to take the class), to teach five phases of film history, or ceramics? Should a school not have film history at all, because it only has the demand for one class every year? At some point, what you get out of a class has less to do with the class and more to do with the student. I knew a professor of history who taught at both the University of Bridgeport and Yale. When asked what the difference was between his class at the two schools, he replied that he teaches the class exactly the same at both schools. The difference is the students.

qinwamascot wrote:Should I get college credit in history just because I memorized a lot of stuff? It doesn't make sense to me. These should all be of an appropriate level that a person who intends to specialize in that subject will pass, but others will not.


Except that the courses you get credit for from taking AP classes are all general college courses. Why should you have to intend to specialize in history to get AP credit to replace a course that anyone can take at the college level?

Kachi wrote:Again, this leads to the obvious problem of this one person's inclination to one subject over the other. Just because CS is harder for you doesn't mean that philosophy is easier for all math/science/CS students, not in the least.


Further complicating the issue is we have no way of knowing how good the CS or Philosophy program is at this school. This is not meant as a slight, just that if I'm going to one of the top ten Marine Biology schools in the country, that school might not also be one of the top ten Philosophy schools in the country.

Game_boy
Posts: 1314
Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 7:33 pm UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Game_boy » Sat Oct 18, 2008 5:42 pm UTC

How did university come into it? My issue is with high-schoolers avoiding a solid grounding in maths, science and language skills that are used in almost every career by taking subjects which are 'soft'. As long as they have that core and understand it well enough to apply it to everything else, I don't care what people do after that.

I agree that most of the subjects I listed can be useful for later life, but I believe they worked only when they were university courses. The exam boards have taken those university courses and severely dumbed them down, and make them less generalisable, when they were introduced at GCSE (age 16) and A-level (age 18). Some of the GCSE and A-level versions of the subjects are very recent (i.e. didn't exist 10 years ago) - they were introduced to make the exam boards more money from selling sponsored textbooks and teacher seminars to schools. As such, they have none of the utility in life that the REAL subjects have.
The Reaper wrote:Evolution is a really really really long run-on sentence.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Sat Oct 18, 2008 8:26 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:
The only fair way to see is to have the same person do both a math/science program and a liberal arts program. I…am a philosophy/CS double major. Maybe I happen to be a good philosopher and a poor programmer, or maybe one's more difficult than the other. All I know is which degree track gave me more grief and required me to think harder (philosophy requires me to think pretty damned hard, but CS strains my mind).


Again, this leads to the obvious problem of this one person's inclination to one subject over the other. Just because CS is harder for you doesn't mean that philosophy is easier for all math/science/CS students, not in the least.


Indeed. As I said:

The only fair way to see is to have the same person do both a math/science program and a liberal arts program. I…am a philosophy/CS double major. Maybe I happen to be a good philosopher and a poor programmer, or maybe one's more difficult than the other. All I know is which degree track gave me more grief and required me to think harder (philosophy requires me to think pretty damned hard, but CS strains my mind).


Kachi wrote:Sounds like you're attaching a little too much faith to the "x factor" of intelligence.


It's called the "g factor", actually. And yes, the last time I looked into the topic much I concluded that g has a lot of influence. I'm not opposed to revisiting the topic, though probably in another thread.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

User avatar
Rinsaikeru
Pawn, soon to be a Queen
Posts: 2166
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:26 am UTC
Location: Toronto
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Rinsaikeru » Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:12 pm UTC

It really depends on the subject matter in the courses. The facts and information you learn in highschool in nearly every subject is useless until you have much more solid grounding in it from higher education. It's all baby steps across the board, dabbling in things to see if you like them. It teaches writing or reading skills, mathematical groundwork, critical thinking, debate structure etc.

That's why the 'soft' courses are offered. My highschool offered a Law course, it didn't prepare anyone for the bar but it was heavy in technical legalese and writing. It developed those skill sets and allowed students to think about law as a prospective career to pursue.

And in every course load from elementary school through university--some of your courses must be less straining if you want to be able to study effectively and maintain good grades without burning out. If every single class is a battle and a challenge just to understand the conceptual framework--you aren't going to experience the little hits of success that most students need to keep themselves motivated.

You may thrive on very consistent challenge, not all students do.
Rice Puddin.

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Mon Oct 20, 2008 10:53 am UTC

It's called the "g factor", actually. And yes, the last time I looked into the topic much I concluded that g has a lot of influence. I'm not opposed to revisiting the topic, though probably in another thread.


It's often called the x factor, colloquially, because it represents a standard variable, of which x is most commonly used. Anyway, yes, I'm very familiar with it. It is not held in the highest regard among educators. Likewise you'll find that many psychologists don't hold Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences in the highest of regards. Our experiences tend to be inconsistent with the general intelligence theory. Note that the general theory of intelligence tends to be far more substantiated by research than Gardner's theory. However, there is a lot let unaccounted for in the supporting research, whilst there has been little effort to substantiate Gardner's to begin with. It moved in to the commonly accepted realm too quickly for a call to science, unfortunately.

Personally I don't suscribe to either theory, as they're both very incomplete. We know that IQ is not static and does vary substantially across subjects in many people, but we also know that there is a correlation in general cognitive functioning. Sometimes we even find spikes in functioning that allow for moments of brilliance in otherwise normally functioning minds.

What I do know is that cognitive functioning is higher when the mind is stimulated, and interest stimulates. Of this, there is virtually no discourse between educators or psychologists. We know that students are more interested and engaged when they perceive the subject to be relevant and meaningful to them. And we know that most students across the entire spectrum of intelligence do not find conceptual courses especially relevant or meaningful, and that they want more practical applications courses, for reasons having nothing to do with level of ease.

My hope is that you'll see this and that not only will the transition not be a point of unease for you, but that you'll be an advocate for these courses to be introduced effectively. Then if you do choose to fight them, you'll attack the areas that do need restructuring (teacher expectations too low, not enough integration of easily transferable skills, etc.) rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Mon Oct 20, 2008 6:42 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:What I do know is that cognitive functioning is higher when the mind is stimulated, and interest stimulates. Of this, there is virtually no discourse between educators or psychologists.


Do we know that the process of learning can improve intelligence aside from simply imparting the specific information and skills involved? If so, has there been any study about how to maximize this effect?

Kachi wrote:We know that students are more interested and engaged when they perceive the subject to be relevant and meaningful to them. And we know that most students across the entire spectrum of intelligence do not find conceptual courses especially relevant or meaningful, and that they want more practical applications courses, for reasons having nothing to do with level of ease.


Are there discussions about solving this problem? It seems like abstract concepts are useful, and that rather than deemphasizing them or dropping them from the normal course of study there should be more effort to educate students to become more comfortable with them. Has there been any research into whether this is possible?
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

User avatar
22/7
I'm pretty sure I have "The Slavery In My Asshole" on DVD.
Posts: 6475
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 3:30 pm UTC
Location: 127.0.0.1

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby 22/7 » Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:30 pm UTC

Philwelch wrote:My argument is more as follows:

1. Math and hard sciences are more difficult than other academic subjects.
2. Thus, if we develop students to be able to handle these subjects, they'll be well-suited to cross-train.
3. And, once our students are at the university or career level, they will have gained the benefits and experience of solving difficult problems in these subjects and can apply their well-honed talents in problem solving and rational thinking to whatever their field of interest is.

Unfortunately, since our secondary education doesn't do a good enough job of #2 above, and our universities don't pick up the slack either, we have no guarantee that people outside these fields even have these kinds of talents.
Explain me, if you would. I always did very well in math and hard sciences, I did well in language courses (foreign, composition, literature, etc.), and when it came to those "easy" soft courses, I had a lot of trouble. How is it that you completely gloss over that? Clearly some people are well suited for certain pursuits and not for others, and yet you seem to be under the delusion that if you can handle calculus-based physics (which is not particularly difficult, by the way, especially for someone espousing how much more difficult it is than other topics) the skills to master any other course will naturally follow.

Also, as someone who has done some teaching of some very easy as well as some very hard subjects, teaching successfully is hard, pretty much regardless of the subject matter.
Totally not a hypothetical...

Steroid wrote:
bigglesworth wrote:If your economic reality is a choice, then why are you not as rich as Bill Gates?
Don't want to be.
I want to be!

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:46 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:Explain me, if you would. I always did very well in math and hard sciences, I did well in language courses (foreign, composition, literature, etc.), and when it came to those "easy" soft courses, I had a lot of trouble.


Explain "had a lot of trouble" more explicitly. Or not, I've moved past that argument by now and don't care much so if you want we can pretend it was a rhetorical question.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

User avatar
Zamfir
I built a novelty castle, the irony was lost on some.
Posts: 7604
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:43 pm UTC
Location: Nederland

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Zamfir » Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:18 pm UTC

Game_boy, I think you really are moving too fast by declaring that "math, science and language skills" are need in almost every career. It just isn't the case.

Doctors, lawyers and managers are all large groups of educated professionals, and you can excel in them without knowing German, calculus or Newtonian physics.

The problem you seem to be describing is not that people are bailing out of useful subject in favour of useless subjects, but that those other subjects are not taught at the same level. Iagree that that could be a problem, but the solution would be to raise the bar in those subjects, not to force people to change their interests.

A general point I read in this discussion is that hard sciences force you to work hard and to understand difficult subjects, which in turn is good in general. But this is true for nearly every field . If you work hard and do not avoid difficult matter, history, psychology or law can all be good training for your brain.

EDIT: And yes, teaching is hard, whether you are teaching hard stuff to smart students or easy stuff to others. The only simple part is teaching easy stuff to smart students, because then there is no need for teaching.

User avatar
22/7
I'm pretty sure I have "The Slavery In My Asshole" on DVD.
Posts: 6475
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 3:30 pm UTC
Location: 127.0.0.1

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby 22/7 » Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:36 pm UTC

Philwelch wrote:
22/7 wrote:Explain me, if you would. I always did very well in math and hard sciences, I did well in language courses (foreign, composition, literature, etc.), and when it came to those "easy" soft courses, I had a lot of trouble.


Explain "had a lot of trouble" more explicitly. Or not, I've moved past that argument by now and don't care much so if you want we can pretend it was a rhetorical question.
I'm not good at expressing ideas through "art" classes, though with the written word I do just fine. I'm not particularly good with psychology, business, sociology, etc. Basically go down that ridiculous list at the beginning of the thread and a lot of what's in there, I'm not particularly good at. It doesn't sit well with me, it's not well ordered, I don't process it well. According to your model, however, that shouldn't be. Hell, the stereotypical nerd kind of spits in the face of your theory.
Totally not a hypothetical...

Steroid wrote:
bigglesworth wrote:If your economic reality is a choice, then why are you not as rich as Bill Gates?
Don't want to be.
I want to be!

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:45 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:
Explain "had a lot of trouble" more explicitly. Or not, I've moved past that argument by now and don't care much so if you want we can pretend it was a rhetorical question.


I'm not good at expressing ideas through "art" classes, though with the written word I do just fine. I'm not particularly good with psychology, business, sociology, etc. Basically go down that ridiculous list at the beginning of the thread and a lot of what's in there, I'm not particularly good at. It doesn't sit well with me, it's not well ordered, I don't process it well. According to your model, however, that shouldn't be. Hell, the stereotypical nerd kind of spits in the face of your theory.


OK, two possible reasons:

1. It's bullshit masquerading as thinking, and you can't understand it because you can't find content in it. A lot of "business" is like that. Did you have trouble with accounting, business statistics, operations management (in terms of statistical process modeling and so forth)?
2. You're specialized.

In any case, come to think of it I do know plenty of engineers who have trouble understanding "soft subjects" as well, and plenty who don't. My view isn't so much that these other fields are worthless, but that a "well-rounded education" should include hard subjects as well as fuzzy stuff so people can learn to think in lots of different modes. This is something of an amendment to my previous view.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

Teshi
Posts: 210
Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2007 4:00 am UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Teshi » Mon Oct 20, 2008 10:19 pm UTC

I think that British schools are particularly off balance because A levels don't require you to take core subjects like math and science. In Canadian schools at that age (and most people do not leave school aged 16) you are required to take Science and Math up to grade 11 (about the first year of A level) and English up to grade 12. Even if you do the absolute minimum, you're still taking math in grade 11.

Certainly there is a dearth of science teachers in England. It's the prime place for high school education students to go if they have a science or math teachable in Canada because there are so many jobs there. This alone suggests that the system isn't turning out enough people with even basic science skills.

I shouldn't talk because I failed grade 11 math and had to take it again (a level down- I was in Enriched and took the University level), so I never got grade 12 math despite being rather good at it. However, I took chemistry and physics in grade 11 and physics in Grade 12. With all the choice, I was able to satisfy my highly artistic side as well as my scientific side, despite my failed course.

A lot of people are afraid of math and science and think it will never come in useful. When you close the door on math and science, you close the door on a lot of careers that many people can do that require basic university-level math but not much more beyond, such as certain strands of biology and nursing.

Math isn't a bullshit subject usually, as I discovered in Grade 11... but it's not that hard. Given time and a little dedication, most people can get through high school math without much trouble. Science is even easier and can be tremendously exciting given a good teacher. It is a shame that more people don't take these subjects, but I think that given the choice of three or four A levels it would be harder to include subjects you are afraid of than having eight possible subjects. There's no need to specialize until university.

Schools should follow the Canadian system: allow more subjects taught less intensively and require science, math and English in the last two years of Secondary School.

Also, for the Canadian system: Grade school math and science is highly basic. I learnt basically nothing scientific in school until I reached grade 9 at which point the subjects take a huge leap forward and become complicated from being very very simple. Most of the students haven't got a good grounding. With more gradual increase in complication more students would have an easier time when the real math begins. If people weren't so afraid, they would take the subjects more and do better.

I do not think students need to learn high school level psychology, sociology etc. I do not mind the courses being offered but they should not be so wishy washy compared to even other "soft" subjects like history. Early Childhood Education and such things is only good if it's taught well, instead of just as a bullshit subject. I agree that standards should be upheld.

User avatar
Griffin
Posts: 1363
Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2007 7:46 am UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Griffin » Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:13 am UTC

What from what I've seen, more and more math and science subjects are a joke nowadays too - people are going to college with certain credits under their belt, and then finding out they can't do any of the work because teachers are really just letting them slide without actually understanding it.

Like I said before, I think the problem isn't so much that other options are available but that our standards are growingly increasingly lax every year. Math, physics, and chemistry held out the longest - and suffered from it, because other subjects were growing easier and thus more desirable for kids who had already been trained since elementary school to take the path of least resistance if at all possible.

The problem is that our education systems tell students to avoid things that are challenging in favour of things they can already do well, because numerical success and high grades are more important than actually learning new skills and overcoming challenging material.

The problem isn't with courses other than Math and Science - its a problem with standards and teaching style. Math and science just put up a fight longer before giving in. But they have started to give in, and once they're as easy as the other fields I'm sure people will start taking more math and science.
Bdthemag: "I don't always GM, but when I do I prefer to put my player's in situations that include pain and torture. Stay creative my friends."

Bayobeasts - the Pokemon: Orthoclase project.

User avatar
SJ Zero
Posts: 740
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 3:10 pm UTC
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby SJ Zero » Tue Oct 21, 2008 3:48 am UTC

Canadian schools are an extremely poor model. Every single person I've talked to who has gone on to higher education considers the lame education we get to be a betrayal. You get all these people who are straight-A students for 4 years, then suddenly they get into the real academic world, and suddenly they've actually got to work to succeed, and a lot of them are hit with a tonne of bricks.

Ontario supposedly made their curriculum harder, but I don't know how well it worked out.

User avatar
Rinsaikeru
Pawn, soon to be a Queen
Posts: 2166
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:26 am UTC
Location: Toronto
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Rinsaikeru » Tue Oct 21, 2008 4:26 am UTC

The Ontario system is quite bungled and a little out of sorts in my opinion.

They made the curriculum more difficult at the same time as they removed grade 13/OAC which resulted in lots of trouble for kids who were expected to play catch up on one year of material across 4 years. There was also lots of resistance to the change from teachers which served to exacerbate the situation.

Universities are even beginning to teach Calc. from nothing because lots of these kids just didn't have any of the necessary math skills yet.

It's beginning to sort itself out now that the new curriculum has hit kids in the very early years of elementary school.

Having looked at their textbooks however, I can tell you most of them are really awful.
Rice Puddin.


Return to “Serious Business”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 19 guests