The passing scene: November 15, 2014

The Myth of Chinese Super-Schools by Diane Ravich for the New York Review of Books.

Diane Ravich, a foremost defender and analyst of the U.S. public school system, reviewed Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World by Yong Zhao.

Zhao, who was educated in China and now teaches at the University of Oregon, said the Chinese educational system is the best in the world for promoting rote learning, high test scores and hard-working, obedient employees.  It is the worst in the world for encouraging creativity, enterprise and self-reliance.

The United States is making a big mistake by moving to a high stakes testing system that measures rote learning.

Who won the Civil War?  These students at Texas Tech have no idea, a video from the History News Network (hat tip to Bill Harvey)

 A video interview of Texas Tech students revealed that hardly any of them knew that the North won the Civil War or that the United States won its independence from Great Britain.

After watching this video, I thought that maybe a certain amount of rote learning might not be amiss.  But my question is: Were these students never taught basic facts about the War of Independence and the Civil War?  Or were they taught them, but never made to understand why these facts were worth remembering?

Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism? by Elizabeth Kolbert of the New York Review of Books.

Elizabeth Kolbert, a foremost writer on climate change, reviewed This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein.  She wrote that Klein makes the issue too simple by blaming climate change on fossil fuel companies, and ignoring the drastic changes in everyday life that will be needed to keep the planet from overheating.

Is the U.S. China Climate Pact as Big a Deal as It Seems? by James Fallows for The Atlantic.

Without the USA and China, the world’s two biggest economic powers and two biggest polluters, nothing can be done to stop catastrophic climate change.  The current pledge by Presidents Obama and Xi may not come to anything, but it is a necessary first step.

Sunken Soviet Submarines Threaten Nuclear Catastrophe in Russia’s Arctic by Matthew Bodner for The Moscow Times (hat tip to Naked Capitalism)

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2 Responses to “The passing scene: November 15, 2014”

  1. peteybee Says:

    Re: US primary schools, on average, are a pitifully bad by every standard they have ever been measured by. This is an objective truth.

    The answer is pitifully simple too. TRAIN more teachers and PAY them more. This would work for health care too by the way.

    Maybe in another century.


  2. philebersole Says:

    I know a number of public school teachers. They’re smart people, and they’re doing the best they can.

    I think teachers should be paid well enough that they’re not forced into other occupations to support a middle-class standard of living (which includes sending your children to college), but I don’t think they’re primarily motivated by pay.

    I also think that teachers who have especially difficult jobs, such as teaching minority students in poor neighborhoods in big cities, should be paid more than teachers with easier jobs. The reverse is true now.

    I think schools could be improved by consulting the best teachers on curriculum and school policy, which is not done now, and by apprenticing student teachers to the best teachers. I would choose the best teachers from those who received “teacher of the year” awards.

    Even so, I don’t think public schools escape the effects of bad economic and social conditions, and neither do I think public school teachers can assume the main burden for correcting those conditions.


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