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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Words of Wisdom ~ 10 Rules for Life and a Rant about Education

Hello dear friends! Welcome to Natasha in Oz.

Just a quick word of warning...this post is not full of decorating ideas, recipes or pretty pictures! I'm getting on my soapbox today and I'm having a good old-fashioned rant!

Today's Words of Wisdom come from education reformer Charles J. Sykes, best known as the author of Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good about Themselves, but Can't Read, Write, or Add.  In his book, he examines how the education "system" has created a generation of kids with no concept of reality which will then ultimately set them up for failure in the real world.

This book is "A scathing critique that grabs America's educational establishment by the scruff and shakes it...Parents and visionary educators, if not educrats, should sit up and take notice." --"Kirkus Review"

Words of Wisdom from education reformer Charles J. Sykes
Even though this book was published in 1995 the ideas in it are certainly not out of date. Despite the book being a critique of American schools and the American education system I believe it address issues that affect students here in Australia and all around the world.



"Dumbing Down Our Kids" is a searing indictment of America's secondary schools-one that every parent and teacher should read. "Dumbing Down Our Kids "offers a full-scale investigation of "Outcome Based Education" -the latest in a long series of "reforms" that has eroded our schools. Why our kids rank to, or at the bottom of international tests in math and science . Why "self-esteem" has supplanted grades and genuine achievements -How the educational establishment lowers standards and quality in our schools-while continuing to raise their budgets and our school taxes -The dumbing down of the curriculum so everyone can pass-but no one excel -How parents, students, and teachers can evaluate schools and restore quality learning. www.bookdepository.co.uk

In a nutshell, Dumbing Down Our Kids investigates educational fads and failed reforms over the last 80 years, in particular one known as "Outcome Based Education", a system where students repeat material and tests until they get the right 'outcome', a system that I think has irreparably damaged a whole generation of students. Sykes believes not enough time is spent on actual learning and studying, the curriculum is watered down and that instead of teaching kids to read, write and communicate effectively, schools are inflating the self esteem of students by not requiring any real work or mastery and by praising mediocrity.

Now, I'm all for praising kids when they do well and encouraging them to do their best but I also have no problem telling my kids that they will fail if they don't study, that life isn't all fun and games and that everyone can't be the winner. I think it's important for kids to know how to spell, to learn about other cultures, to study and sit exams and, if necessary, to fail. At least they will learn that failure is a part of life and that in the long run trying harder and finding a new course of action can be an enlightening and fulfilling experience.

So, today I would like to share Sykes' Rules for Life, the first of which is Life is not fair—get used to it! This list actually began making the email rounds under Bill Gates' name in February 2000, and has continued to do so ever since. This pared-down version of an op-ed piece appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune on September 19, 1996 and was specifically written for high school and college graduates.

Words of Wisdom from education reformer Charles J. Sykes


I'm sorry I'm not being my usual up-beat self today but as an educator myself I am becoming increasingly troubled by the politicising of educational reforms. What really bothers me about education these days is that the education one receives depends largely on politics. Politicians use education platforms to get elected but they seem to have very little knowledge of how the educational system really works. They seem to base their reforms on what they think is 'right' for their constituents and stakeholders rather than what is best for students in the highly competitive and globalized 'real world' we live in. They then make said reforms but, as soon as a new government is elected, 'new and improved' reforms are ushered in and we have to start all over again!

I just hope that one day we will learn from past mistakes and allow our teachers to get on with the job of teaching our precious children rather than following the whims of politicians and their educational 'fads'. 

Thanks for stopping by and for letting me get on my soapbox; I promise that I'll be back to regular programming with a delicious cookie recipe next time you visit!

Best wishes always,
Natasha In Oz 
Please join me each weekend for the Say G'day Saturday Linky Party!
You can also visit me at PINTEREST, TWITTER

37 comments:

  1. That book looks interesting! Given that I teach at an Alternate school, I'm very skeptical of the school system in general. What do you teach?

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Al! I sent you an email telling you that I teach English. It's a great job but I feel as though I am not really doing the texts we study any justice because we have to rush through so many different things! Do you find that to be the case at your school?

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my rant!

      Natasha.

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  2. Love this post! Just read out loud to my uncle...this laziness is even more prevalent today!

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    1. I really appreciate your kind words Amy. I also agree about the laziness that I keep seeing in so many younger people and after reading the book I can see that it's not even their fault. It's so sad to think that people think everything should be handed to them on a silver platter....

      Take care and thanks again!
      Natasha.

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  3. when one is as upbeat and cheerful as you are,
    the rest of us sit up and listen to an occasional
    rant. yours is so true. i'm sorry our nation
    devolved from a "pull yourself up by your boot-
    straps" to a dumbed down nation.

    i homeschooled and then sent our kids to
    private school where they had to work hard.

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    1. Lea, thank you so much for your sweet comment! I am so glad you didn't mind my rant!

      It would seem that many countries are having issues with education. I know it's in a sorry state here and I read that the UK is going through another overhaul no doubt due to a new government! My kids are also at a private school so they get a good religious and academic education. I just hope it's enough...

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      Take care and best wishes,
      Natasha

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  4. Go on with your bad self. I agree with you completely and have to admit that I love that you are ranting because you are usually so positive and genial! More Natasha rants!

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    1. Oh you are a sweetie Katie-thank you for the encouragement! I do try hard to be positive as much as possible but sometimes I just have to get things off my chest! As soon as I need to have another rant I will let you know!

      Thanks so much for stopping by-I love hearing from you!

      Best wishes to Team Skelley!
      Natasha.

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  5. Oh, Natasha. I am so sorry to here that our miserable education system is being felt in Australia.
    Sorry to hear that people there feel they should be handed everything like so many people here, too.
    *hugs* ♥

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  6. This is just so perfect & should be handed out on flyers to every teenager in the West! They are so ungrateful & hard done by aren't they but don't have a clue about achievement & hard work! I hope to teach my kids the 'old skool' way with good morals & values as a starting block! Andrea x

    http://couscousandcorkwedges.blogspot.com/

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  7. Wonderful post. I am right up on that soap-box with you! It is so apparent now that the dumbing done is really embedded in our society here in the USA. One thing I've noticed is when I listen to some of the young news reporters, I can't believe the stupid things they say and their improper use of the language. I thought they were supposed to be trained to speak coherently!

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  8. You've hit the nail right on the head with this! Another thing is used to the parents and the teachers were on one side and the student was wrong. Now the parents take the students side and the teacher is wrong. How's that right?

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  9. as a former art teacher I agree there is trouble in the ecduation system! My son just completed his mater's degree so I am now out of the loop now, but, I do not miss being in the thick of it!
    GREAT post!!
    Karen

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  10. same on the teacher misspelling master's,oops
    Karen

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  11. Let me just say a big AMEN! It really is sad what is becoming has become our education system. Not only do they want all kids to feel good and no one fail they are also only teaching for the tests now. Forget creative learning, and learning for the joy of it, it is all about learning to do well on the test so the school can get it's money.

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    1. OHHH yeah. That drives me crazy! My kids had their last day of school yesterday and were able to bring their math book home. I flipped through it and said, "Is this all you guys did for math everyday?!" and they said, "Yes, just one or two pages." What?! No wonder they don't know their math! They only do a couple of stupid word problems a day! They just finished second grade! It's not gonna stick by only doing a couple problems a day! And, all they've done for the last two weeks is parties. Hello?!?!

      *pant, pant* Ok. Done now. ;)

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  12. Don't be sorry, Natasha. This is YOUR journal and we are PRIVILEGED that YOU allow us to peek in it. This is a very good post. I appreciate truth and truth is not always comfortable. This is the very reason why I took my kids out of the educational system many years ago and instilled in them a passion for learning. They are both now in college, on the Dean's List (A's) and LOVE to learn not because they memorize the subject, but because they dive into it and actually want to know about it. I don't believe home schooling is for everyone, but it worked for us. My children were very social so I made sure they were involved in all kinds of activities with dozens of friends, proms, sports, languages, and on and on. Unless it is done this way, I do not recommend it. BUT I believe every parent can make a difference even if their only option is public or private school.
    Thank you for this post.
    xoxo's

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  13. So true Natasha! I believe in giving my kids the hard truth too and I am always getting my ranty-pants on about, not just children's education being dumbed-down, but society as a whole .

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  14. Well said Natasha!
    I often see your posts and I don't always have the time to comment. I really should just click that +1 to acknowledge your effort. That is what it is there for after all.

    I too am a product of a system that were paid to rush through students whether they passed or not. I sometimes wonder if the Ed system in this country will ever get it right. I feel sorry for children/teens/adults that are left behind. Not being adept at literacy or numeracy has more of an effect on person's well-being than 'some' people realise. I don't envy a teacher's position either. I can't imagine what it must be like going into a profession one believes in only to have one's hopes dashed by a -who cares just shut-up and do your job- system. I witnessed too many teachers of both gender break down and throw in the towel. Where do we go from here?

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  15. Every teacher deserves as many rants as are required. I used to teach as well. In fact I taught in 3 VERY different environments. A rural area where a good many of my students were farm kids, a wealthy suburban area, and an inner city alternative school. The interesting thing was that the ones who were MOST sure that they should get good grades and get awesome jobs tended to work the least of the bunch. Self-esteem movements are not good for everybody - the people who need them REALLY need them, for a lot of other folks they are bad news in my opinion.

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  16. Here in the States we are speechless as we watch what is happening to our education system with what is being called The Common Core Standards.

    Sad stuff indeed! This book should be re-released!

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  17. American high school English teacher here - and I 100% agree with everything you said. It is incredibly frustrating to have administrators breathing down our necks about TESTING and PASSING GRADES even when the students don't do the work (and consequently fail the tests). It's depressing to see how little value is applied to hard work and learning from mistakes anymore.

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  18. We're so worried about protecting and shielding our children, we forget to teach them the important things - How to survive when life's hard knocks happen. And most of that is by example. Thanks for sharing - great rant! Hugs, Holly
    http://coconutheadsurvivalguide.com/blog/

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  19. I am an educator--currently a sub, but I spent 13 years teaching--and I agree with you. In fact, I have made the decision not to go back in the teaching force because of the disturbing trends I have made. I can't stand all the wasted time, what the students don't know, and all the testing. When can we get back to teaching our kids?

    Check out my site, if you would like:
    http://mydevotionalthoughts.net

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  20. Love this! So true! I am determined to raise my son to work hard, earn what he gets, appreciate everything, and not expect a "participation trophy."

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  21. OH, MY! I'm doing a series on the damage done by the self-esteem movement, and your 10 rules for life so fit in with my message. I need to get this book. Thanks

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  22. Great post Natasha, I am home schooling my kids for this reason. I know they could get an ok education in our local school district, but I love to grow their character, while I am teaching them to read. Home schooling is becoming more mainstream here, but overall you still get the "why would you want to do that" response from most people. We really enjoy it and I tell people I do it because I enjoy it, I am not trying to "keep" them from anything but give them more.

    Hugs, Tanya

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  23. I love this. It is so true and it seems more and more prevalent in the current generation. I am hoping hoping hoping that my kids appreciate what they have and take responsibility for their actions. Krista @ A Handful of Everything

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  24. Here, here! As an educator and a mom, I agree with you 100%! I hate what I see happening in schools today. I am trying to raise kids that will understand the realities and challenges of real life and school is not helping. Excellent food for thought, Natasha!

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  25. I love the 10 Rules for Life!! I teach 7th grade and need to post that one in my classroom!! They think they are so entitled!
    Nice to find your blog through Inspire me Monday!
    Rhonda #146

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  26. Love the rules, thanks tons for joining Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty

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  27. Now with Common Core being instilled into the school systems, not only will kids not be able to read, write or do math, they will be completely misled (beyond what they already have been) as far as history goes, not to mention the degeneracy that is being pushed upon them. Parents really need to find out (and not from government websites) the truth about Common Core. What will be taught and maybe more importantly, not taught, as well as the new "standards" are frightening. Parents need to pay close attention to what's going on with their kids' educations. One only has to look at the product of government education in today's young adults to see the abysmal failure of this progressive way.
    Liz

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  28. Great post! I couldn't agree more, our education system is badly in need of relief from all the so-called "reforms". I will be reading this book for sure!
    Visiting from What I Learned on Wednesday.
    Heather

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  29. Unfortunately, our school systems are definitely failing to serve our children. We decided a long time ago to Home School our children. They're now doing well - two working - one a Sheriff's Deputy another a School Teacher and one in college to be a Nurse - we have to take our children's education into our own hands or become very hands on with the system. Great post - I appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,
    Kathy
    ps - the rules are oh-so-true!

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  30. I like those 10 rules Natasha. I know what you mean about the reward system not helping anyone when everyone is a winner. It is silly. Thank you for joining Home Sweet Home!
    Sherry

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  31. I went to a high school graduation recently and was so shocked by the speech that the best of the class gave! It was just horrible! The poor girl was illiterate! I kept telling myself that I need to homeschool after hearing that. I have a daughter who will be a Sophomore next year and a son who will be in the 3rd grade. I am fb friends with several young teens and am saddened when I read their status of "I'm board"! Or when they use no for know and I could go on! My son's school keeps telling me that he is going to fail because he doesn't do well on the standardized test that they keep giving the kids for the No Child Left Behind thing and they want to have him tested for adhd. He makes A's, B's and C's. I honestly don't consider that as a failure! I'm at my wits end with the public school system. Unfortunately, the only other option is to home school and they don't really give much guidelines about what I would have to teach....

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  32. Hi, came across your blog looking at craft sites. I don't think you're ranting at all, I think you're crying out in the wilderness! When I was in school (in dinosaur times!)what I learned in HS pretty much covers a few years in college now. When my parents went to school (pre dinosaur!) what they learned could have given them a college degree now. Yes, of course, some info is updated, but the teaching methods were what they were/are. I see many schools are opting not to teach cursive writing! We are devolving into the Dark Ages, and no one seems to "get it." share t

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"There is magic in long-distance friendships. They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound." ~Diana Cortes
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