Although about two million families are homeschooling their kids, most American parents still send their children to a public school. Few parents, however, know much of what goes on in their child’s school. In most cases they assume that their child’s school is not much different from the school they attended. And since they believe that the school is being run by “professional” educators, they are willing to accept whatever the school prescribes.
However, today’s schools have much more gadgetry than the schools they attended. Students now have laptops, computers, calculators, television monitors, iPads, DVDs, and CDs. But do they teach the basics?
Back in the early 1930s, when I attended a primary public school in New York City, it was easy to know what was meant by the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Reading was still taught mainly by the alphabetic-phonics method; writing meant cursive writing, not some form of ball-and-stick printing; and arithmetic meant learning the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts by drill. Rote was considered okay in those days because arithmetic is a counting system which uses only 10 symbols for all its calculations and requires memorization of the basic facts for optimum use and speed. (For example, students learned multiplication by memorizing what were popularly known as the "times tables.")
Today, if you ask your child’s first-grade teacher whether or not they teach the basics, he or she may have an entirely different idea of what the basics are. They no longer teach mere “reading.” They teach language arts, literacy, communication, body language, whole language, invented spelling, critical thinking, and HOTS — higher order thinking skills. In writing, if they provide formal instruction at all, they teach manuscript, or ball-and-stick print script, or a form of calligraphy, or slant print. Eventually, some schools get around to cursive writing in the third grade, but by then the teacher and pupils are so busy learning about global warming, overpopulation, air pollution, and sex, that there’s not much time to devote to cursive. Besides, since children are using the computer keyboard, handwriting in general is considered obsolete by some educators, and need not be taught at all.
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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)