The real criminal is the P-S-D

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thoreau
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by thoreau » 17 Aug 2013, 22:07

Jadagul wrote:That's not what was going on at my school, either. My school was "this is all you need for standardized tests and college entrance exams." Our English classes were mostly PSAT prep--enough so that we did math practice in the English classes sometimes.

It was effective at test prep. Not that effective at teaching English.
You say that, but my recollection is that you've said your school was pretty highly-ranked and sent a lot of people to college. I realize that there's a difference between sending somebody to college and preparing them to succeed, but in Bayesian terms I'm assigning a high prior probability that most of the people in the upper tiers of your class were able to pass Composition 101 at half-way decent colleges and universities. You may or may not have kept in close contact with a lot of your HS classmates, but at the very least I doubt that you have many stories of people washing out.

Maybe your school didn't actively prepare people for college writing classes, but maybe the upper tier of your HS didn't need much prep, and at the very least the school didn't do anything that got in the way. If nothing else, reading a lot and improving one's vocabulary (which is good for standardized tests) are good for improving writing. If you don't have a good vocabulary you'll produce papers with a lot of the non-standard usages that my colleagues and I see. If you read a lot, you'll (hopefully) absorb some good examples by osmosis. At the very least it wouldn't hurt.

Even just requiring people to produce one good page that covers an idea in adequate depth is a form of writing instruction, if that page limit is enforced and essays with inadequate development get poor grades. It forces a certain amount of thought and revising prior to the assignment. It might not have been as intensive as what Number 6 got, but it was probably better than you think.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Jadagul » 17 Aug 2013, 22:33

thoreau wrote:
Jadagul wrote:That's not what was going on at my school, either. My school was "this is all you need for standardized tests and college entrance exams." Our English classes were mostly PSAT prep--enough so that we did math practice in the English classes sometimes.

It was effective at test prep. Not that effective at teaching English.
You say that, but my recollection is that you've said your school was pretty highly-ranked and sent a lot of people to college. I realize that there's a difference between sending somebody to college and preparing them to succeed, but in Bayesian terms I'm assigning a high prior probability that most of the people in the upper tiers of your class were able to pass Composition 101 at half-way decent colleges and universities. You may or may not have kept in close contact with a lot of your HS classmates, but at the very least I doubt that you have many stories of people washing out.

Maybe your school didn't actively prepare people for college writing classes, but maybe the upper tier of your HS didn't need much prep, and at the very least the school didn't do anything that got in the way. If nothing else, reading a lot and improving one's vocabulary (which is good for standardized tests) are good for improving writing. If you don't have a good vocabulary you'll produce papers with a lot of the non-standard usages that my colleagues and I see. If you read a lot, you'll (hopefully) absorb some good examples by osmosis. At the very least it wouldn't hurt.

Even just requiring people to produce one good page that covers an idea in adequate depth is a form of writing instruction, if that page limit is enforced and essays with inadequate development get poor grades. It forces a certain amount of thought and revising prior to the assignment. It might not have been as intensive as what Number 6 got, but it was probably better than you think.
As I said, I wasn't arguing with any of your main points. I'm sure this kid's writing instruction was inadequate in a way mine wasn't. But all our essays were two-page essays, and that's basically because "that's all you needed to write" with a possible side order of "it's easier to grade."

Most of the students at my high school went to college. But we're mostly talking LSU and Ole Miss--which is why there was such focus on standardized test prep--and the dozen or so of us who went to more demanding colleges (of which UCB is definitely one) sort of had to manage on our own. Fortunately, because we were the top of the class and also had a lot of other support structures, that wasn't very hard. (I wrote a shitload in high school, it was just all for my debating, not for English class).

And you're right, my school was able to hold us to high standards in the technical quality of our writing. But "short papers only" is in fact pretty common.

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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 17 Aug 2013, 22:43

I can't imagine anyone graduating from a college preparatory secondary school worthy of the name who wasn't required somewhere along the line to research and write a ten page term paper.

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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Jadagul » 17 Aug 2013, 23:00

D.A. Ridgely wrote:I can't imagine anyone graduating from a college preparatory secondary school worthy of the name who wasn't required somewhere along the line to research and write a ten page term paper.
We did have one. It was mostly bullshit, but we did have one.

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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Number 6 » 17 Aug 2013, 23:04

Jadagul wrote:
D.A. Ridgely wrote:I can't imagine anyone graduating from a college preparatory secondary school worthy of the name who wasn't required somewhere along the line to research and write a ten page term paper.
We did have one. It was mostly bullshit, but we did have one.
Yep. Same here.

ETA: The policy at my high school was that students should have no less than three hours of homework a night.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Fin Fang Foom » 17 Aug 2013, 23:14

Number 6 wrote:
Jadagul wrote:
D.A. Ridgely wrote:I can't imagine anyone graduating from a college preparatory secondary school worthy of the name who wasn't required somewhere along the line to research and write a ten page term paper.
We did have one. It was mostly bullshit, but we did have one.
Yep. Same here.

ETA: The policy at my high school was that students should have no less than three hours of homework a night.
I think I may have had that much, but frankly, it seems nuts to me that kids should have that much homework. I hear they don't in Finland, and they're supposed to have the best schools. Though I wonder if the methodology is messed up.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by thoreau » 17 Aug 2013, 23:28

I wonder how much of the success of Finnish education is due to Finnish culture, society, and class structure rather than the particulars of their system and curriculum.

My sad hunch is that even the best system or curriculum would bump up against some pretty hard limits in South LA. That's not to say that some systems and curricula couldn't do better than the status quo. However, if we found a system and curriculum that came close to the best that can be hoped for, I suspect that we'd quickly abandon it. Partly because of the selfish interests of various unions and bureaucracies, but also in part because the performance would still be miserable, and nobody could bring themselves to openly admit that this is as good as it gets. So they'd decide "We must try something else!"

Hell, I maintain that part of why I'm so miserable is that I work in a system that has persuaded itself that (1) we should produce more STEM graduates, (2) we can produce more STEM graduates, (3) we can produce them from the raw materials we've been given, and (4) the way to do this is via all sorts of hip, progressive reforms. If the people around and above me accepted certain limits, I'd probably be much happier in my setting.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Fin Fang Foom » 18 Aug 2013, 00:33

I suspect school reforms could do a lot to improve middle class kids in okay towns, but I also suspect that Geoffrey Canada type work needs to be done in the inner cities (i.e. starting in preschool).
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Highway » 18 Aug 2013, 00:54

I loathe the "X hours of homework per night" idea, as if that's teaching. Maybe if schools weren't useless, you could teach kids in the same amount of time that they're later expected to be productive when they go to work. But no, let's give them a ton of busywork!

I'll admit that I hated doing homework, and usually didn't do it. I would do enough to pass classes. I would do 'homework' between other classes, or even in other classes. I think in 180 days of Geometry, probably 170 of which we were supposed to do homework, I probably did it 50 times, and that was with the teacher going around every single day to check whether it was done.

I really do think it's some combination of hubris and inadequacy that schools pile so much homework on kids. I mean, when I was in elementary and middle school, I got home at 3:30 to 4 PM. I helped my mom with laundry and cooking. I went to bed at 9 or 10 PM. I practiced piano for an hour a day. Should the ENTIRE REMAINING TIME have been taken up by stupid-ass busywork from school? I just think that's bullshit. What about Boy Scouts, which I was in for years? How about honors chorus? And I never thought I did that much. I never was a kid in sports, I never had a lot of other things to do compared to what people say kids do now. Making kids spend all the rest of their time doing stupid crap homework means they give up a lot, imo.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by JasonL » 18 Aug 2013, 08:46

Some subject - student combinations require homework. Some students can coast in a subject until they get to a certain point then they can't. If this happens too late and they have no working problems at home skills they can be boned.

So - you have to read the books you are supposed to read. You have to have a goodly number of writing assignments and one or two significant ones like a term paper. Where things go off the rails is busy work and over assignment in math classes for kids who already know the material. This is one area where I think Khan Academy beats the shit out of highschool as I experienced it - the evaluation and problem set assignment methodology makes a lot of sense to me.

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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 18 Aug 2013, 09:37

Requiring three hours a night of homework from junior high students is insanity, but I can see a pedagogical purpose to giving senior high students that level of homework as a preparation for college. That is to say that high school students whose curriculum has permitted them to complete all their required work during school hours are not being adequately preparing for the level of independent study beyond classroom time expected in most college courses.

Roughly three hours of study per classroom hour was the rule of thumb in my college days but of course the actual time required to prepare for classes and exams and complete any outside requirements such as term papers would vary significantly. A literature course might require one or more novels read per week. By contrast, an average philosophy class assignment might be no more than twenty pages while the syllabus reading list for a history course could be impossibly long.

I'm not sure what Jadagul means by saying his high school did require a traditional length term paper but "it was mostly bullshit." I mean, of course the end product was mostly bullshit. but the purpose of the assignment was only collaterally about studying a topic independently and was mostly a lesson in how even the most rudimentary scholarship worked.

I would guess that, viewed substantively, a typical college science lab report is crap, too; but that's irrelevant to the real pedagogical purpose of teaching students to observe and carefully note the process of an experiment and to learn how to record and present the results of that experiment in roughly the same format scientists use to publish their work.

Shorter version: a good bit of both college prep and college level study is about process as well as substance.

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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Mo » 18 Aug 2013, 12:53

Highway wrote:I don't know if I'd concede he's 'ready' for a college on any level. I would say that he has a demonstrated aptitude that COULD make him a good college student. But it's raw 'talent' (again for lack of a better word) and not anything he's ready to apply. That's what the teachers were supposed to be for.
I disagree with this. MIT had a program the summer before freshman year for students just like the one described. It was essentially a boot camp for people from crappy schools to catch them up on the math, science, etc. that they were behind the rest of their classmates on coming in. It's a sample size of two, but the guys that I knew that were part of the program were very successful and had I not known they were in this program before, I could not tell. Should this program be replicated at every school, even the ones with lesser resources? Probably not. Should it be implemented at flagship public schools who have raising underprivileged, talented kids up to succeed as part of their mission? Yes.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by thoreau » 18 Aug 2013, 13:23

Mo wrote:Should this program be replicated at every school, even the ones with lesser resources? Probably not. Should it be implemented at flagship public schools who have raising underprivileged, talented kids up to succeed as part of their mission? Yes.
In broad terms I agree with you, but I'd just point out that the state of California already has an entire system of higher education for underprivileged kids who are talented but not quite ready for the big leagues. I think there's a valid question to be raised about what the relative purposes and functions of flagships and other schools should be. Personally, I don't mind that he's at Berkeley; he's clearly got something strong in him. But if one wanted to play Devil's Advocate one could observe that non-elite state schools arguably exist for exactly the purpose you outlined.

The best counter argument, of course, is that the CSU sucks and under-privileged kids should get the benefit of UC prestige and connections.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Highway » 18 Aug 2013, 13:26

Mo wrote:
Highway wrote:I don't know if I'd concede he's 'ready' for a college on any level. I would say that he has a demonstrated aptitude that COULD make him a good college student. But it's raw 'talent' (again for lack of a better word) and not anything he's ready to apply. That's what the teachers were supposed to be for.
I disagree with this. MIT had a program the summer before freshman year for students just like the one described. It was essentially a boot camp for people from crappy schools to catch them up on the math, science, etc. that they were behind the rest of their classmates on coming in. It's a sample size of two, but the guys that I knew that were part of the program were very successful and had I not known they were in this program before, I could not tell. Should this program be replicated at every school, even the ones with lesser resources? Probably not. Should it be implemented at flagship public schools who have raising underprivileged, talented kids up to succeed as part of their mission? Yes.
Isn't that the point I'm making: they recognize that they're not ready for college, so they put them through intensive training for college? It's for people who would be good at it, but haven't been prepared. I think it's probably a good idea for the prestigious schools which are really aspirational targets to recognize that some of the people coming there really aren't ready for it, if there's going to be grading to curves like the article describes.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by lunchstealer » 18 Aug 2013, 15:40

Highway wrote:
Mo wrote:
Highway wrote:I don't know if I'd concede he's 'ready' for a college on any level. I would say that he has a demonstrated aptitude that COULD make him a good college student. But it's raw 'talent' (again for lack of a better word) and not anything he's ready to apply. That's what the teachers were supposed to be for.
I disagree with this. MIT had a program the summer before freshman year for students just like the one described. It was essentially a boot camp for people from crappy schools to catch them up on the math, science, etc. that they were behind the rest of their classmates on coming in. It's a sample size of two, but the guys that I knew that were part of the program were very successful and had I not known they were in this program before, I could not tell. Should this program be replicated at every school, even the ones with lesser resources? Probably not. Should it be implemented at flagship public schools who have raising underprivileged, talented kids up to succeed as part of their mission? Yes.
Isn't that the point I'm making: they recognize that they're not ready for college, so they put them through intensive training for college? It's for people who would be good at it, but haven't been prepared. I think it's probably a good idea for the prestigious schools which are really aspirational targets to recognize that some of the people coming there really aren't ready for it, if there's going to be grading to curves like the article describes.
I think these kinds of programs make a good deal of sense, especially for someone in Kashawn's situation, where he seems to have taken advantage of nearly every opportunity available to him, but for whom those opportunities were insufficient. Even at prestige schools, and most certainly at prestige state schools. First off, while I'm not on board with Diversity as Supreme Moral Good, it's still a valuable intellectual good. Kids from terrifyingly dysfunctional schools/neighborhoods are going to bring a different set of perspectives and experiences than a bunch of privileged suburbanites and lesser scions of Ivy Leaguers. A bootcamp situation where there is some recognition that some kids get presented with a sort of cargo-cult exposure to collegiate academia will make sure that - A - your prestige state school can take someone from those desperate backwaters and give them the intellectual tools to have a serious voice in the world, and - B - make sure that your privileged suburbanites who are also going to have a voice in the world may actually know someone from those desperate backwaters. Knowing a person in a given circumstance can be an important factor in humanizing (for better or worse) those desperate backwaters.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Jadagul » 18 Aug 2013, 20:23

D.A. Ridgely wrote: I'm not sure what Jadagul means by saying his high school did require a traditional length term paper but "it was mostly bullshit." I mean, of course the end product was mostly bullshit. but the purpose of the assignment was only collaterally about studying a topic independently and was mostly a lesson in how even the most rudimentary scholarship worked.

I would guess that, viewed substantively, a typical college science lab report is crap, too; but that's irrelevant to the real pedagogical purpose of teaching students to observe and carefully note the process of an experiment and to learn how to record and present the results of that experiment in roughly the same format scientists use to publish their work.

Shorter version: a good bit of both college prep and college level study is about process as well as substance.
Mostly what I mean is that the actual instructions we got on the paper were that we shouldn't have more than one sentence in between quotations, and that that vast majority of the paper should be other people's writing. The teacher actually stood up in front of the class and explained, with hand gestures, "Your paper should look like this:

Sentence
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Sentence
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Quote
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I don't know that it had that much more of my own writing in it than the 500-word papers that were the rest of the assignments I had during school.

I'm absolutely confident that my school was orders of magnitude better than this kid's. But "requires long written assignments" is actually not a common trait of high schools.

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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Fin Fang Foom » 18 Aug 2013, 20:46

Jadagul wrote:
[snip]
I'm absolutely confident that my school was orders of magnitude better than this kid's. But "requires long written assignments" is actually not a common trait of high schools.
Generally, with respect to my education, I am bothered by the fact that I was not required to write a lot more, even up through law school, which should have had a heckuva a lot more required writing.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 18 Aug 2013, 20:57

I'm absolutely confident that my school was orders of magnitude better than this kid's. But "requires long written assignments" is actually not a common trait of high schools
The operative word is "is." I don't know that ten pages counts as a long written assignment, but it was a given back when self esteem required doing estimable acts that high school students in college prep curricula would have learned the vagaries of Ibid and op. cit. and so forth culminating in a term paper.

Your teacher's outline would work perfectly for a law review article, though, which has as little of the writer's own prose as possible. It is because of this that I have at least a smidgen of respect for Roberto Unger who once had a hundred page article published in the Harvard Law Review with only a single footnote that read, "See Hegel."

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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Timothy » 18 Aug 2013, 23:45

I feel like for a high school student 10-15 pages can count as long. My candidacy exam paper was only about 4200 words, which worked out to about 15 or so pages once all the figures were inserted. I'm in a discipline where we don't really quote directly, but do have very many references (I think I had about 60 papers cited). Doing something similar on a smaller topic seems like a good assignment for a senior in high school.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by lunchstealer » 19 Aug 2013, 00:03

I think the longest I got in high school was 12 pages.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by thoreau » 19 Aug 2013, 00:04

I don't care how many 10+ pagers they do in HS. I care how many things >1 pages they do.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Warren » 19 Aug 2013, 01:39

If I'd of had lots of long writing assignments in HS I would have failed. It probably took me two hours a page back then. OTOH I didn't do homework in K-12, pretty much not ever.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by lunchstealer » 19 Aug 2013, 11:21

Warren wrote:If I'd of had lots of long writing assignments in HS I would have failed. It probably took me two hours a page back then. OTOH I didn't do homework in K-12, pretty much not ever.
We usually had a pretty long time frame for anything over 3 pages, and somehow I differentiated 'essay' from 'homework'. Homework was little bullshit you were assigned one day and handed in in a day or two. Essays and term papers, on the other hand, were a serious attempt at scholarly work. So I was able to sit down and pound out a half-decent essay without more than incidental whining, when sitting down and doing a worksheet was beneath my contempt.

Anyway, T's point that longer-than-one-page is critical. I got my first three-page paper assignment in the fifth grade. I wrote about coral reefs.
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Andrew » 19 Aug 2013, 11:40

Highway wrote:I loathe the "X hours of homework per night" idea, as if that's teaching. Maybe if schools weren't useless, you could teach kids in the same amount of time that they're later expected to be productive when they go to work. But no, let's give them a ton of busywork!
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Re: The real criminal is the P-S-D

Post by Jadagul » 19 Aug 2013, 12:25

lunchstealer wrote:
Warren wrote:If I'd of had lots of long writing assignments in HS I would have failed. It probably took me two hours a page back then. OTOH I didn't do homework in K-12, pretty much not ever.
We usually had a pretty long time frame for anything over 3 pages, and somehow I differentiated 'essay' from 'homework'. Homework was little bullshit you were assigned one day and handed in in a day or two. Essays and term papers, on the other hand, were a serious attempt at scholarly work. So I was able to sit down and pound out a half-decent essay without more than incidental whining, when sitting down and doing a worksheet was beneath my contempt.

Anyway, T's point that longer-than-one-page is critical. I got my first three-page paper assignment in the fifth grade. I wrote about coral reefs.
And part of this is where we draw the line. I had many >1 page papers in high school. I had exactly one >2 page paper.

10-12th grade we had two 500-word essays a quarter. Except for the one quarter junior year where we had a crappy 15-page research paper instead (this being the law review article one). Which simultaneously meets Thoreau's requirements of "many >1 page papers" and doesn't involve actually being required to write much--I'm pretty sure I actually wrote more pagecount in 7th grade when I was homeschooled than I did my entire high school career.

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