More Than 30 Years After the First Man Stepped Onto the Moon...
by Gisela Hausmann
In 1969, the United States sent a man to the moon and the mission would be accomplished. Thirty years before that famous first step on the moon, nobody knew if and how it could be achieved. Nevertheless, the best minds of the country came together and worked feverishly to beat the Russians. The country had a leader that told us that this issue was top priority and no means could be spared.
Will our next President make education his top priority for the next millenium?
We should not even have to discuss this because the country that was capable of putting the first man on the moon more than 30 years ago should certainly have been able to create a good school system along time ago. So, in the event that we do not get such a leader what can we do to better our schools and education in general?
One of the most fundamental basics of any school system is the curriculum. Like a tree, it should have a solid trunk, which over time grows stronger until it can support different branches of subjects. It builds this foundation from K-12.
As kindergarteners, my children learned about Japan and the bear, as first graders they learned about Germany, Brazil, and Mexico. That does not make sense. These countries have interesting cultures, sometimes played difficult historic roles, and are major factors in today's world economy. These topics are too much to grasp for a five or six-year-old. Additionally, students cannot bring in any of their own knowledge or experiences. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to teach about the student's native, fauna and flora, hometown, county, and state? Many students will have answers to these questions about plants, animals, and geography. Why not talk about cat and dog instead of the bear since it can be expected that probably half of the students in each class own either a cat or a dog. Moreover, all students probably do know something about these animals. It will be easier for them to understand what kind of animals are mammals and why birds are not.
More time should be spent to strengthen reading, writing, and arithmetic. In fifth grade most students will remember very little of what they have heard in kindergarten about any exotic subject, but with solid reading skills these students can read anything they like, including information about Japan. Last October, a survey from the Educational Department found that not even one in four students is capable of writing an essay or book report using grade appropriate vocabulary. While reading books for book reports students would naturally pick up information, which they can use later.
Why does the existing curriculum ask kindergarteners to be able to count to 100 before they can fluently add and subtract within 10? I do not believe that it makes sense that a student knows that 67 is a number between 66 and 68 before s/he knows that 7 = 5 + 2 and 7 = 10 - 3.
In short, the curriculum should be changed to where it creates a strong foundation for every subject. Parents and students should be able to relate to it, see the plan and path ahead of them. Students of lower grades should use bound books for their schoolwork and homework instead of worksheets, which may be crumpled and lost. I know these suggestions seem like a small, insignificant details. However, the truth is that neither students nor teachers or parents can comprehend the collection of sheets that accumulate during the course of a year. Progress becomes apparent to teachers, parents and students when they can judge the collected work of weeks or months. Being able to judge the work keeps parents and students more focused and stay on top of the curriculum.
Education is a mission. To ensure commitment it needs a plan that will even be understood by the most distant participant. Every war spends an enormous amount of money to clarify the goal and motivate the troops. However, our political leaders seem to have retreated into a position of surrendering this responsibility to computers and Internet connections. Outstanding education will only become top priority if we present a clear plan to the civilian population of parents and thereby motivate them.