Monday, June 15, 2009

Got an expanded scope of work this morning. I'll be going through most of the major files we have, around 700 individual files in about 30 or 40 folders and try make some order of them and help to sketch out an architecture that the files will follow when we finally get our websites up and running, so trying to just put everything in order...In addition, I'm supposed to be attached to some of the local sourcing work for when our grants start coming in so I may get my feet dirty, visiting some farms and the like. So, there is lot to do.

Had a semi-heated debate over science and math education with Aus in the office this morning. I mentioned how summer vacation, even though it's fun, helps to hurt a lot of kids in terms of retaining their schooling, and that we need to do a better job encouraging the pursuit of and the teaching of mathematics and science. For some reason, Aus my opinion on summer vacation inimical to the American lifestyle and then said that we were still a leading country in terms of creativity and entrepneurship. When I mentioned that a large portion of new entrepeneurs, especially in the technology fields are first generation immigrants who came here as students and that many high-profile people in engineering and technology, including folk like Bill Gates and orgs like the National Science Foundation and others, all decry a severe shortage of qualified engieers, scientists, and physicians, he blithely dismissed it and said we can always bring in more people and we are still creative. When I then mentioned that a few studies have shown that a good portion of kids lose a lot of what they learn over the summer (something that makes intuitive sense but does have empirical backing), he replied that kids learn other things during the summer and we shouldn't "imprison" them in the classroom and that the summer offers other opportunity for many kids and we shouldn't worry about it, and that the studies didn't take into account what kids did learn over the summer. This was the last straw for me because I can tolerate a lot of argument and debate but when you start blithely dismissing data that shows that kids are losing ground over the summer and then den the veracity of that becuase it doesn't take into account potential non-academic learning a kid has over the summer, I just get pissed. Not to mention, that doesn't include the millions of kids whose parents can't afford or are unaware of programs which they can place their kids into. He recognized this but countered saying we just need more summer programs and should incentivize better teachers, which does nothing to address my original point on encouraging better domestic science education and more time in school for kids so they don't lose what ground they made the previous year.

Just a frustrating experience. Also, if you haven't gotten as to where I stand on the issue, we should shorten the traditional summer vacation or lengthen the standard school day in addition to encouraging the study of math and science. Too many kids are turned off of the subjects early on due to poor teaching and when kids get to college they often meet professors and departments that are too preoccupied with weeding potential scientists and engineers out rather than encouraging kids to truly pursue these subjects...we're only shooting ourselves in the foot and we won't be able to import our way out of it. Better education for all.


WWCD said...

The kid inside me would probably dislike the idea of a shortened summer recess, but then again, I also attended science camp. Plus, if you extend the school year, you'd make a lot of parents happy by taking away the need to figure out what the heck they are going to do with their kids for that long. It's a win win situation, really. Glad you found a good debating partner though, you need someone to unleash on.


Frank said...

I remember in 7th grade i took the last 2-3 weeks off of school to visit China, since our finals had been done by the end of May, so I just took off after i finished the EOCs. So there may not even be need for extension, just don't waste the 180 days. And like Lauren was getting at there's no point in trying to get kids something to do for 2.5 months almost. I can see what Aus might be getting at with kids learning during the summers, but from what i've seen growing up it didn't look like much for pre HS senior kids to do. I remember how much kids complained about summer reading in HS cause that meant they actually had to do stuff.