Assignment for Schools: TEACH

Fandango’s Provocative question #104:
What do you think is the one subject (or thing) that should be taught in school that isn’t?

Since this touches on one of my big concerns, I’ll post a response. The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning, ASSIGNMENT, should fit into this topic quite nicely.

One day I was checking out at the local supermarket and the clerk asked if I’d like to donate some money toward the literacy program in local schools. “To help students learn to read.”

I was puzzled. “Isn’t that what they do in school?” I asked. She looked at me blankly; maybe she thought I was, like, totally out of it – which I am when it comes to today’s education.

Another time a friend told me that her niece was in Grade Three and couldn’t even spell the word “ARE.” She only knew the text-speak “R.” Fifteen years ago I listened to a group of about twenty grown-in-Canada adults under thirty puzzle over what country Ottawa is in.

For the past century or so, our schools have been places to try out social experiments in education. One of these was to eliminate phonics. Ontario, thirty-some years back, went even further and abolished the teaching of grammar, because having to obey rules hinders the free flow of the student’s thoughts. “We want them to be creative, not slowed down by following all the rules.”

A few years ago a teen told me students aren’t “on the same page” when it comes to studying literature. That is, there’s no novel to study and assess together. Students pick a book they want to read and then discuss it in class. Since no one else has read the same book, do you hear any other opinion than your own?

Back in 1987 the Southam News Agency shocked us all with the results of their nation-wide study on literacy in Canada: 24% of Canadians are functionally illiterate. To determine “literacy” the subjects were given reading and writing assignments as well as having to read bank statements, time schedules, and calculate the change you’d get at a store.

Immigrant or native-born didn’t make much difference. One of every three Grade 8 graduates and one of every twelve Grade 12 grads were functionally illiterate in day-to-day affairs. The study found that many students entering universities had to take remedial reading classes.

A study done in 1989 shows that 20% of Canadians have strong literacy skills. This is a diverse group of people who exhibit a broad range of reading skills and various strategies for dealing with complex material. These people can meet most reading demands and handle new reading challenges.

A report in 2020 laments that, although public interest in literacy was strong between 1980 and 2000… “Against this background, it is surprising that the Canadian literacy infrastructure was subsequently largely dismantled.”
From a report by the European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, Vol.11, No.1, 2020, pp. 109-125.

Apart from the need to teach better Reading, Writing, Grammar, Literature, and Math skills in Canadian schools, I think our children need to learn some HISTORY. Not the dates part so much, but basic concepts of social history: something about the Colonial days, Victorian Times, the Wars, the Roaring Twenties, the Dirty Thirties, the Cold War.

I wish our children could learn enough history to help them understand how other people have lived on this earth and gone through tough times, too. That people once entertained different ideas, upheld various ideals that were valid. That peer pressure is nothing new. That Covid-19 isn’t the worst plague ever. I’d like to see them get a good general history of the world that would bring them through time to where we are now. It would bring them down to earth and ground them – and hopefully generate more appreciation for our privileged era.

6 thoughts on “Assignment for Schools: TEACH

  1. well, you did warn me!

    It’fs funny, actually, I was always marked quite well in English Grammar, but I only remember learning about the “technicalities” – perfect tense, imperfect, past participles etc etc when I studied French, which was taught completely differently. I was able to understand a lot more of my own language by learning about a foreign language.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you were warned. 😉
      Actually, we’ve observed that most people learn their own language better when learning another. Conversely, if they haven’t learned their own grammar, they do struggle with learning the structure of another language.
      Back in your youth, people more often did speak and write with correct grammar, which is how children pick it up, and editors did their jobs well. You didn’t get headlines like “Cyclist’s Rally held in Ceadar Bowers’ Park last weekend.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, Christine, I hear you and share your concerns. History appears to be a dirty word and concept these days. Feelings are taught in school instead of maths, spelling, grammar. Making sure children feel heard, know of their rights, and are never critiqued or chastised (mind you, these are all important, but so is being literate!
    I was mortified the other day, while out on our family day, when I saw I digital road sign that stated: ‘Do not disgard your cigarette butts.’ There’s no such word as disgard…it should be discard! I was so incensed I wrote to the company that manages that particular freeway and told them to employ someone with a modicum of knowledge of the English language.
    Maybe I’m just getting old 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. You should read all the examples in Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. 🙂
      Unfortunately this system — or lack thereof — tends to work in reverse. I helped a girl to draw a picture on a grid. She was copying, square by square, the outline of a sailboat — but her shortfall in perception meant that when she was done it wasn’t anything recognizable. And she knew it. She didn’t kid herself that all these “abstract art” lines was a boat. She was embarrassed and threw her drawing in the trash.
      Likewise, I believe that when children allow their “free flow” of thoughts to fill a paper, when they try to read it later and can’t make much sense out of it because the writing doesn’t follow normal rules or patterns, it will puzzle or embarrass them. They will realize they don’t have anything useful to share with others — which will do nothing toward inspiring them to write more.

      Liked by 1 person

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