A failing grade for the school system

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Universities should not be teaching the basics

Not so long ago it became apparent that high school students from our province's school system were unable to make the grade in university level math courses.

This forced MUN to hold math qualification tests for first-year students and make remedial courses available to allow students to bring their qualifications up to par.

More recently, we are being told that MUN students could not locate Ireland or Africa on test maps - in fact, some could not locate the Atlantic Ocean despite the fact that many of them grew up in areas where they saw the Atlantic from the windows of their homes daily.

Again, a professor at MUN is attempting to teach basic geography to her students.

Basic writing skills also poor

A marked difficulty with being able to write an intelligible piece of text is another issue that is far too prominent in today's young adults, as is witnessed by the requirement for the Writing Centre at MUN to help undergrads with their written assignments.

Teaching elementary and high school math, geography and English is not, and should not be, MUN's responsibility.

It is the responsibility of our school system through its teaching methods and curriculum.

One is left to strongly question the wisdom of "advances" in the educational system in our schools.

Having experienced the ludicrous imposition of the "new math" in junior high in the 1960s, which severely impaired the math skills of many (myself included) as but one example, the wisdom of these "advances" is very much up for debate in my opinion.

Spelling lost, too

Flash ahead to the early 1990s when, while attending a parent's night with our elementary aged children's teachers, we became aware that not only was spelling not on the curriculum, but teachers were expressly ordered that it not be taught.

Thankfully, teachers were employing their own techniques to, in fact, teach some spelling surreptitiously, using the same texts that I had used 30-plus years earlier.

Now, in addition to all of this, students are advanced to the next level regardless of academic achievement and giving "zeros" for non-performance is a no-no. Right. Just like in the real world.

All of this leads me to question whether professional development days and teacher workshops, etc., are worthwhile.

Is teaching, in fact, something that really needs to be or should be upgraded?

It may well be that a return to the old methods of teaching might be in order, with just the information being taught by the teachers upgraded as new knowledge emerges.

I am finding it difficult to avoid the conclusion that, having graduated high school in 1972, my education was far superior to what our students are getting in the school system today, even with "clock arithmetic." We are betraying the students in our school systems.

Marvin Barnes

St. John's

Organizations: Writing Centre

Geographic location: Ireland, Africa, Atlantic Ocean St. John's

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Recent comments

  • judith adler
    January 27, 2013 - 07:54

    This issue, which broke into the news here, is NOT particular to MUN students or to Newfoundland. I've received letters from professors and teachers from across Canada confirming that they see the problem too, and, as one of the letters here states, some teachers, across Canada, are struggling to teach essentials that HAVE been eliminated from the curriculum. One teacher, from Ontario, even assured me he wasn't doing it on school time. But unlike inadequate preparation in math, or grammar, lack of a basic image of the world would be EASY to fix if people put their minds to it. Are globes and world maps in classrooms? Do French classes ensure that students can place France on a world map? Classes teaching english literature ask them to locate England or the U.K. (in relation toNorth America, Canada?). I cannot agree that it is not the job of MUN professors to address needs for remedial teaching where they are discovered. In fact, I think all educators are responsible for discovering if foundational knowledge, necessary for future learning to take place, is being laid down or is present. And if it is not, let's cheerfully try to understand the problem and work cooperatively to fix it. Lack of an image of the world, stored in a student's mind rather than in the cloud, and lack of familiarity with maps, is NOT a problem we can't solve. A cacophony of accusation and blame is just a distraction. What can be done to fix a problem that DOES seem to be widely recognized.....by different kinds of people? Parents, teachers from kindergarten through high school, university professors?

  • Dee
    January 24, 2013 - 20:20

    It takes a village to raise a child; this, as well, includes the area of education. While teachers are with our children a mere five hours a day, we are with our children for the other hours. We need to stop placing the blame on teachers and take responsibility of raising and educating our children.

  • Bogus
    January 24, 2013 - 17:27

    Great place to hide the education system. Do your 4 years at mun paid for by the Govt. and bleed the system dry for the rest of your life teaching grade 5.

  • RJ
    January 24, 2013 - 16:15

    Many of my professors seem bored or distracted.On many occasions texting & surfing the net instead of teaching :(

  • Mun Student
    January 24, 2013 - 14:35

    Wait, what? I can't even begin to grasp the point you are arguing...Who is wollowing in self pity? Who is pointing judgemental fingers? Did you even read my comment? I mean, you are right about the whole new to the adult world thing (I'm 24), but I don't see why it makes my post any less relevant. Maybe you took what I said the wrong way. I'm basically just pointing out that the guy who wrote this artical is quite obviously one of these "ohh my...kids nowadays...now, back in my day...blah, blah, blah" types. He has absoultely no statistical evidence to show that the education that he got in 1972 was "far superior" then the education that children are offered today. That is a ludicrous statement with no evidence outside of heresay. In fact, I think this entire artical is an insult to anyone who has been working to make the education system better over the past 40 years, and that is quite a few people. He basically pokes fun at a few anonomous students (most likely people who would have dropped out of school in grade 8 in 1972) and then uses that as an argument that the education system is worst today then it was back when the lords prayer was still read out loud every morning in the classroom. Read my comment before you reply next time please, because I can't even see what points you are disagreeing with me on.

  • Herb Morrison
    January 24, 2013 - 12:45

    Mun Student. What is most striking about your post is that it appears that you appear to be a relative newcomer to the adult world. The fact that you are naïve enough to believe that the campus of Memorial University is the only place where you will encounter people who appear to hate their jobs, the fact that you appear to believe, that the campus on Memorial University is the only place on the planet, not to mention the only time in your life when and where you will encounter discrimination of any kind, sexism, or favouritism, is a clearly betrays your lack of life experience. Welcome to the real world. Your experience at Memorial has provided you with a taste of life in the real, adult world and you don’t like it. Fact is, living life in the real adult is a challenge. Everyone living on this planet faces challenges. Within the context of different situations in which you find yourself, as you live out your life on this planet you will come face to face with individuals or groups of people whose values, conflict with yours. You will come faces to face with individuals and groups, whose actions or world will challenge you to varying degrees and in different ways. Realistically, you can’t fix all that is wrong with this world. In order to do that you would need to change human nature. Sometimes your only way to deal with a situation over which you have no control, is to suck it up, cut your losses and get on with your life. Neither Wallowing in self-pity nor pointing an anonymous judgemental finger at someone like Mr. Barnes who, regardless of whether or not you agree with what hi says, displays an admirable level of both backbone and integrity by choosing not to hide behind a pseudonym when expressing his views in a public forum, will have any positive effect on either your life or the life of anyone else. Just sayin’.

  • MUN Student
    January 24, 2013 - 10:28

    "I am finding it difficult to avoid the conclusion that, having graduated high school in 1972, my education was far superior to what our students are getting in the school system today, even with "clock arithmetic." We are betraying the students in our school systems." In 1972, most of the people who would fit your definition of uneducated would never have even finished middle school. The problem has much less to do with curriculum offered in highschool and much more to do with the new misconception that if you don't finish highschool then your life is destined for failure. This misconception leads people who were simple not built for life in a classroom to scrape through each grade and end up at a place like MUN or CNA, where they will the become the subjects of your ridicule. The lack of intelligence at mun can also be attributed to the level of education that is required for acceptance. If they simply increased the entrance average to say 80 or 85%, MUN would not have to do the initial weeding out of first year failures, but thats another story. Could you at least provide us with the stats to back up your ludicrous "conclusion"? By the sounds of it, you are ready to condemn an entire era of individuals based on what a couple of stuck up mun professors have to say about their first year students. I would hardly consider snarky comments as evidence to make judgements like this. Also, from personal experience, most first year profs seem to hate both their jobs and the students they teach, so I would take what they have to say with a grain of salt. In fact, many of them seem to go out of their way to intimidate students into either dropping their courses or dropping out of school all together. I've experienced this first hand with both math and english professors. Some profs pass students on a whim, while others require mandatory attendance and almost feel like an entirely different course. The absolute WORST experience I have had at memorial was the subjective teaching of my first year english professor. My english 1080 class felt more like feminism 1080 class. Basically, first year MUN is a zoo at best. So yeah, your education wasn't "far superior" by any stretch. Newfoundland, Canada and many parts of the world have simply increased of value that we put on higher education. This, in turn, leads to people ending up in math, english or geography classrooms when they should be climbing telephone poles, building houses, fishing, etc. Then you poke fun at those same people, who were forced to have your "education = happiness" ideals from the time they were born. Classy.

  • Anon
    January 24, 2013 - 09:07

    I don't blame the teachers one bit. The fault lies with the parents who rely on the teachers, the kids who don't care anymore and the crap that gets pushed through as curriculum by the department and school boards. The credit system in particular is flawed. Students wishing to concentrate on math and sciences are unable to do so because they are required to take "slacker" courses such as home-ec, (because a high school kid can't already make a grilled cheese or sew a patch onto a jacket) gym/healthy living (regardless of whether or not they're already athetlic/active) and good ole fashioned shop class - a course that is almost entirely taken by people who are already handy with that stuff for easy credits. You can't blame the teachers Michelle, some of your teachers are still teaching today unless you're well over the age of 55.

  • david
    January 24, 2013 - 09:05

    The "education system" is a euphemism for the "teaching sector"..... just another union that squeezes more and more out of spineless governments on your dime. and when they want something else, the TV ads start: "Do you want a better future for your kids? Do you love your kids? The government doesn't." is the never-ending tagline. Complete and utter greed, wrapped up in a bow of BS. And for all we pay, look at the resluts...

  • saelcove
    January 24, 2013 - 08:53

    The problem with teachers today is unions

  • Michelle
    January 24, 2013 - 08:37

    Well said, I fine the school teaching system utterly outrageous today. I have to say the teachers today are no way comparable to the teacher’s years ago. Some of them literally don’t know how to teach the subjects. It is like they don't know how to do it. This definitely limits the student’s ability to learn and makes school more challenging and frustrating for them.

    • Mike
      January 24, 2013 - 16:44

      Thank you Marvin for exposing our children's education for what it really is ...... "a glorified childcare service!" Ignore the comments posted by the substitutes that can't wait to benefit from the system.