Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Sun, Aug. 18

Keeping It Straight: The Future of Education and Some Additional Thoughts

The ongoing arguments against Common Core all seem to regurgitate the same tired and incorrect talking points as spewed by those who know nothing into the ears of the gullible who simply refuse to accept the truth. A set of national standards for educational achievement are vital if the United States has any hopes of remaining competitive in a world where our nation is steadily dropping away from having the best education system in the world.

A recent screed from one of my peers cited a child's difficulty with math and based the entire situation on the "arrays" method of teaching younger children the concepts of arithmetic. I recently had the opportunity to sit with a grade four student and observe her doing her math homework. When I mentioned the method she was using was different than the way I had been taught, she asked me to show her "my way." As I put numbers to paper she looked puzzled and said, "How to you know what those numbers mean?" I had to admit I could not answer that question. I then challenged her with the following, 4 + 9 - 3 + 8 = X. She looked at the numbers and then quickly began writing a series of arrays and in short order told me the answer was 18, was able to show me her work and never questioned why I had put "X" in the problem. I asked the girl's parents about her math acumen and they told me she was a whiz and they were glad she was in a charter school where such advanced concepts were being embraced.

Condemning a method of learning based on the way YOU were taught is extremely shortsighted. I am sure many of the opponents of Common Core would have loudly decried the use of paper and pencils in place of slates and chalk in classrooms during the 19th century. The important part of Common Core is the setting of standards across the nation in order to guarantee every American child has a competitive edge in a world where education has become highly evolved, as we continue to fall, sadly, behind thanks to those who insist the "Old ways were better!"

Soon we will see the nation's education system moving ever more strongly towards a paperless classroom, where every student will be provided with a computer, be it a laptop or tablet. The president last year announced a federal effort that would include the hardware for the children along with the broadband pipeline that would allow nearly 50 million kids to be online simultaneously by 2017. Areas that have embraced the new paperless technology report a 20 percent jump in test scores across the board from grades K-12. Students actually groan when the final bell of the day sounds, because they are having fun while learning. Classrooms are filled with flat screens and not textbooks that are overpriced and outdated the day they come off the press. One teacher set a total paperless environment in the classroom and estimates the savings at nearly 47,000 pieces of paper a year, or about four trees worth. He also discounts the use of the term "computer lab," citing that when learning to be a mechanic you do not go to a "wrench lab" or the fact there are no "paper and pencil labs." The computer is the future of education in this nation and the naysayers - who never actually see the operation, but rely instead on the ravings of television and radio know-nothings - should be prepared to accept, embrace and help their children strive to be the best they can be. And stop being the type of grandparent my peer is who insults the programs, denigrates the teachers and further causes her grandchild to fall ever further behind.

As a person who was tossed out of high school six weeks before graduation, I understand the value of education. I went on to obtain my GED followed by two university degrees (for which I have been insulted multiple times here in the pages of the KDM) and multiple successes throughout my life, because I learned to value education and fought at every opportunity to further my personal knowledge base. Being old (and I am really old) does not mean holding onto the old way as the only way. I find it almost magical how I can write a piece such as this and make corrections without Whyte-Out, then send it off into the nether as a series of ones and zeros to wherever I want it to go and, again almost magically, it reappears. As a person who taught digital transmission theory I know it is not magic, it is the end result of educated people creating something new and wondrous. We owe it to the children of this nation to have the opportunity to give us the next step up in technology, medicine, vehicles, energy or whatever strikes their fancy, and the path to that future is through education - there is no other way.

A point I find fascinating are the number of commenters who constantly rail on about "liberals" destroying our nation, our state and our county while appearing to be totally ignorant of the fact Mohave County has been GOPer run for virtually decades, the state is controlled by GOPers and GOPers in the House of Representatives have caused the largest Congressional gridlock in the history of our nation. Perhaps those commenters need to do some actual research before making themselves look even more foolish. And please don't bring up the stupid comment about "Harry Reid has 311 (167, 412, 289 or 563 - depending on who is making the comment) bills he will not bring to the floor of the Senate." Anyone with even a cursory basis of knowledge understands the GOPers have packed those bills with so much garbage no one would in their right mind would allow them to move forward.

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