Ontario public school curricula Dec 13

Date:   21 Dec. 13
By:       Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,
For:      MPP Rob Leone, Ed. critic, <rob.leone@pc.ola.org>
cc:        MPPs Jane McKenna <jane.mckenna@pc.ola.org>,  Lisa Macleod, <lisa.macleod@pc.ola.org>, Frank Klees,
             <frank.kleesco@pc.ola.org>
Re:       Curriculum – The Economist  Dec. 14, P. 83, “Free Exchange”
 
Good evening, MPP Rob.
 
When I am introduced to a teacher, I always ask what his/her training in Teachers College did to prepare him/her for actual classroom work.  I have learned not to be surprised when the answer is, as usual,  “Nothing”.  Small wonder if ay part of that training uses the Ontario curricula.  
 
The Economist’s article spurred me once more to check one curriculum and again I became infuriated.  It is dozens of pages, poorly organized, close typed, with no subject headings and little continuity, comprising endless philosophy, abstraction, and hypotheticals, freely using PhD-level verbiage like “affective” and “experiential”.  How a trainee (or practicing) teacher would create a rigorous Program of Studies from a curriculum like this is a mystery to me, speaking as a former teacher who has had this to do.  Not surprising, then, that Ontario schools’ results vary so widely: some educators can hack it, some simply cannot.
 
To quote The Economist in their article of the OECD’s recently released PISA results:
 
“The OECD thinks the quality of teachers matters most [in getting numeracy and literacy results, but] J-PAL’s finding also goes against the grain of what many parents believe: that the focus should be on the quality of the curriculum [good for the parents!].”   
 
(J-PAL is a NGO dedicated to measurement of statistically provable results in education, health care etc.  The Fraser Institute has a corporate motto to the effect that, “If it matters, measure it.”  The design and manufacture of every product we use day-to-day has been measured at every stage.  In contrast, educators almost unanimously reject measurement (tests, exams, assignments) and will not even use the word “results”.)
 
Internationally respected authorities for decades have named get the best curricula,  provide choice, get the best teachers, as being among the sine qua non requirements for  getting good education results.  Ontario’s curricula earn an “F” set against these criteria.  The last two, teacher quality and choice, similarly important, are other subjects for another day.
 
We have to fix our curricula.
 
Cheers, and a Merry Christmas!
 
 
Frank Gue
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Wasted votes and two trivia

Date:              18 Dec 13
By:                  Frank Gue
For:                 Bob Metz
Re:                  Your newsletter and some trivia
 

Hi, Bob.

 
Good letter as so often.
 
Here is a point often missed in connection with “wasted votes” you dealt with:
 
No vote is ever wasted.  The various parties’ honchos examine diligently the entrails of every election.  If the Slobbovian Communist Party got 3% of the vote, that is of considerable interest.  If that 3% is up from 1% last time, that is of very considerable interest.   Further, these same honchos are very aware that their party’s vote comprises a high percentage of their lifelong supporters who will vote for them anyway, need no persuading (which costs money), and whose votes represent reflex action, not commitment; whereas a vote for (say) the Freedom or Green Party doubtless represents some citizen who has thought things through and has a heartfelt wish for some particular change.  His/her vote is very important because it may well represent a wave of the future.
 
No vote is ever wasted.
 
I think you brushed on this but it could stand more emphasis.
 
Now:
 
Trvium #1:  Man shoot bear.
 
A speed-reading coach told us:  Ask a professional writer to describe a hunting scene.  You might well hear:  
 
The tall, handsome hunter in the coonskin cap raised his rifle and laid its lovingly polished stock against his cheek.  Taking unhurried aim, he waited until the exactly correct moment and, with a single shot, felled the charging bear nearly at his feet .
 
Ask a native observer the same question about the same scene, and you might hear:
 
Man shoot bear.
 
To speed-read (or get the point in a political speech), you must find and identify the Man shoot bear (always a verb and a noun) in each paragraph or spoken sentence.  If there is no Man shoot bear, the speaker or writer didn’t say anything.  My wife and I sometimes amuse ourselves by listening to a politician give a five- or 10-minute speech, then one asks the other “What did he say?”  The answer, often, is “Nothing.  He didn’t shoot the bear.”
 
Trivium #2: Ignoratio elenchi.
 
This dodge is so old it has that Latin name.  Ignoratio elenchi is the practice of answering any question except the question that was asked.  Once aware of it, you can catch it often in a radio or TV interview.  Sometimes the speaker gives himself away with his first words:
 
“As I said in this House on February 23, 1972, ….. “
“What you are saying is ….. “
“That’s a whole other conversation ….. “
 
Usually it’s more subtle, but once sensitized, you hear it all the time.
 
Cheers, and Merry Christmas!  (A plague on the anti-religion crowd!)
 
Frank Gue.

Finn-ished Dec. 7, 2013 (Economist article)

Date:         15 Dec. 2013
By:              Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,
                    2252 Joyce St.,
                    Burlington, ON L7R 2B5
                    905 634 9538
For:             Editors, The Economist, London, UK
Re:              Finn-ished, Dec. 7, p. 62   (Also file name)
 

Dear editors:

 
You correctly identify three of the determinants of high scholastic accomplishment: quality of teachers, a consistent philosophy, and close co-operation between teachers and families.
 
The official behind the stunning success of Finland in these  international PISA tests was Pasi Sahlberg, writer of the award-winning book, Finnish Lessons; What can the world learn from educational change  in  Finland?   He identifies the above factors and others, such as emphasis on reading, science, and math, and requiring teachers to stick to the subjects in which they received their Master’s degrees.  Clearly, Mr. Sahlberg was a one-man reform movement of incredible energy and vision.  Yet at the end of his book, he writes, “John Dewey dreamed of the teacher as a guide helping children formulate questions and devise solutions.   Dewey saw the pupil’s own experience. not information imparted by the teacher, as the critical path to understanding.”   These few word reek of the discredited and disastrous “Discovery” or “constructivist” education model, which Finland apparently adopted when Mr. Sahlberg left in 2003.  They were an ominous foreshadowing of today’s situation.
 
Connecting the dots:  It took Pasi Sahlberg 35 years to lift Finnish education out of mediocrity to superiority, but only ten years for Constructivism to smash them 22 points back down to below-average, tied with Canada where we are wringing our hands over our loss of seven points in the same ranking.
 
Note to Canadian and other educators:  Beware of and be warned against the popular “Constructivist” mode of teaching.
 
F.

Date:        7 Oct 13

By:            Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,

                  2252 Joyce St.,

                  Burlington, ON Canada L7R 2B5

For:           Editors, The Economist

Re:            (“We shouldn’t let GDP … guide our decisions”).  ( Letters, Oct. 5)

 

Dear Editors:

 

At mention of GDP, all present will face Washington and genuflect.

 

All will now rise and take note of the fact that GDP is an undifferentiated blend of Value Added (VA), Non Value Added (NVA), and VS (Value Subtracted) activities.

 

It might well be impossible to create an authentic Net Domestic Product defensibly classifying each of an economy’s trillions of daily transactions into VA, NVA, and VS.  Yet the extremes are clear enough:

 

* Manufacturing, mining, and agriculture are VA activities.

 

* Criminal activities, the clearing of rain forests, use of non-renewable fossil water, etc, are VS activities.

 

* Between these extremes lies the vast, infinitely debatable NVA aggregation, whose main occupant is the modern financial system based on Monopoly® money.  It is exemplified by financier Greg Smith, who, in Why I left Goldman Sachs, explains how he accumulated personal millions without doing a tap of useful work for anyone.

 

The fact that we cannot hope to quantify much of this does not excuse us from trying to find a more rigorous guide to economic policy than GDP, which is a broken reed.

 

Cheers,

 

F

Numeric illiteracy of Canadians

 

Date:           12 Oct 13

By:               Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.

For:              Editors, Macleans

Re:               “Adding up … “ Oct 21 edition

Filename:     Macleans re numeracy Oct 13 (Lexar)

 

Dear Editors:

 

It’s no surprise that Canadians lack numeracy.  Most are victims of the discredited “constructivist” model of teaching, to which our educators cling despite its having been proven to be ineffective.

 

I once got an explanation of “constructivism” from a teacher of it from Queens University Education Faculty.  Finally, I asked, “But at the end of the day. don’t you need to graduate a literate, numerate student?”   In a tone of voice that would have chilled an iceberg, the reply was, “Why?”

 

Later, asked to chair an Education improvement task force,  I studied the Ontario math curricula.  It became apparent that no student, taught entirely by this method, could become proficient in high school math, much less be prepared to enter one of the very technical University science courses such as engineering or business statistics upon which our modern civilization depends.  Students who do become proficient can thank dedicated teachers who teach in spite of, not with, the Ontario curricula.

 

One indicator of the depth of this problem is that one cannot get an Ontario educator group to discuss, or even use the word, “results”.  The reader is invited to try.

 

So relax, Canadians (except for Albertans, wonder how they get their world-beating results?),  get used to being increasingly below international averages in math; because, with the above attitude and Constructivist teaching, it’s inevitable.

 

Cheers,

 

Frank Gue.

Overstress and suicide in the forces

Date:       17 Nov 13

By:           Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,

                2252 Joyce St., Burlington, ON L&R 2B5, 

                905 634 9538, ‘<frank.gue@cogeco.ca>

For:          Producers and Mary, CBC Radio 1 FreshAir

Re:           Your segment this morning on overstress/suicide/etc.

                 A comment of mine.  Filename: CBC re overstress     (Lexar)

 

Good afternoon.

 

This note has two points: (a) a comment on a current sociological problem and (b) a suggestion for another program at another time.  Please read this with both points in mind.

 

I am in my 89th year.  I have seen, experienced, analyzed, and  published on more of the human experience than have most folk.  This will become apparent.

 

The “stress” that is increasingly being reported is the cumulative effect of several megatrends converging over a period of time (roughly two generations) that is too short to permit humans to change.  Among these megatrends:

 

1.  Early education.  We received our public school educations in the 1930s in Alberta.  We were far better educated in Alberta then than are students in Ontario now.  Result: noncompetence (a word I have carefully constructed to emphasize that it is not a personal inadequacy) in ordinary affairs of life, such as reading and number work.  Effect:  Feelings of inadequacy when faced with the demands of skilled trades, college, university, or life itself. 

 

  1. Training of educators.  As Chair of a Curriculum Advisory Committee, I studied

Ontario public school curricula, sat in alternative school rooms, and heard explanations of such subjects as constructivism and direct instruction.  Result:  I am convinced that, adhering strictly to Ontario’s public school curricula, it is not possible to educate a capable student to the level traditionalists (and employers, parents, university presidents, etc.) expect and is needed for full functioning and full enjoyment of everyday life.  Effect:  Mature citizens encounter huge gaps in their knowledge of ordinary subjects, suffering mischance, accidents, and repeated embarrassment.

 

  1. Selection and retention of educators.   Top educational administrations such as

Finland’s require that teachers have masters degrees in their subjects.  There are as many as ten applicants for each modestly paid teaching position.  The public regards teachers with as much trust and confidence as “engineers, doctors, and pastors”.  Teachers are appraised for results and poor performers are released.  In contrast, teacher recruitment in Canada, the US, and much of Europe, is much less rigorousPerformance appraisal is infrequent, tending to be soft and subjective.  It is nearly impossible, thanks to union contracts, to release a low-performing teacher.   Result:  As is well documented, poor teaching results in high dropout rates and tragically poor student accomplishment.  Effect:  Too-high a proportion of citizens cannot fill available good jobs or enjoy life fully, and are candidates for crime and prison (the percentage of badly educated or uneducated prisoners in jails is far higher than in the outside population).

 

  1. Expectations (i).  Since WWII, few Canadians live in grinding poverty or do heavy

physical work 24/7 on a farm.  The connection has been lost between digging potatoes in the afternoon and eating potatoes that night.  Mom and  Dad go to work, and they have money: the child sees little connection between the two.  Mom buys Johnny things he gets just for asking.  Result: there is an expectation at an early age that, “I want it all and I want it now”.  Effect:  Among many ordinary  citizens there is a subconscious feeling of entitlement to things the citizen has not necessarily earned.

 

  1. Expectations (ii).  For several generations, offspring have come to expect to be

better-off than their parents because of rapidly improving productivity (production per man-hour) and demographics.  The improvements from these factors are dropping rapidly.  Result:  The “next generation” cannot now expect automatically to be better off than their parents, and indeed may be poorer, but in the main do not yet recognize this.  Effect:  Resentful surprise, unwise overspending on housing, more bankruptcies, envy and rage  leading to criminality, much else.

 

6.  The sexual revolution.  It is no longer necessary to link intimacy with commitment, to assume that youth is the childbearing age, or to observe such quaint customs as chivalry.  Hedonism appears to be overtaking happiness as a life objective.  Result:  The  proven long-term societal stability of the family is being lost.  Effect: Concepts like dedication, idealism, and love, which drive livable societies, are being lost. 

 

7. Technology.  – such as the internet, has made possible huge industries like finance, much of whose activity is No Value Added (NVA).  NVA industries employ millions of people who are paid salaries so that they can buy many goods and services to which they have contributed no direct or indirect effort of hand or mind.  Result:  Much human life is parasitic.   Effect:  The economic pie comprising the total of consumable goods and services must be cut into smaller slices for each participant.

 

  1. Overcrowding.  In a village, everyone knows that the blacksmith will pay his bills but

the baker may not; yet on the whole, the village is peaceful, personal, and pleasant.  In a city, invisibility and anonymity make room for criminal cunning and brutal theft.  Since villages vanish and cities grow, life in cities becomes more stressful as the decades roll by.  Result:  Life for more people becomes more stressful with time.  Effect:  More road rage, less common courtesy, less security, more fear and anxiety, more agoraphobia.  

 

  1. The bottom line:  For the first time in history this large number of stressful

agents has converged.  This leads, in severe cases, to panic and despair.  Folk suscep-tible to stress will crack; some will choose to end the pain by taking their own lives.

 

– end –

Gravity waves

Filename:       G. Musser re gravity waves

Date:               22 Nov 13

By:                  Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eg

                       2252 Joyce St., Burlington, ON Canada L7R 2B5

                       905 634 9538    ‘<frank.gue@cogeco.ca>

For:                 Mr. George Musser, c/o SCIAM editors                     Please forward to Mr. Musser, and thanks

Re:                  Gravity waves

 

Dear Mr. Musser:

 

I hope this reaches you OK.

 

I am your counter-Olber’s Paradox writer of a few years back.

 

Reading the Gravity Waves article in the recent SA made me think I should set down a speculation that has rattled around in my head for some years, viz:

 

Waves can be of any length you like, through the audio, radio, light and beyond; and in the reverse direction also as far as you please.

 

Waves can be used to transmit energy; we have all heard of the small flying machine kept aloft on a radio beam aimed at it from the ground.  Serious proposals have been made suggesting that solar energy be focused and aimed at collectors on the ground.  And there is that Scandinavian village in a mountain valley which now, we are told, for the first time in history has daylight in midwinter thanks to mirrors on mountaintops.

 

Now, please hypothesize a wave having a length of hundreds or thousands of light-years, propagating through the “empty” universe.  Its wavelength is so great that we, with our puny abilities to measure such things, cannot detect its traveling shape.  But it embodies near-infinite amounts of energy.  And furthermore, since matter and energy are interchangeable, it also comprises – what do we call it – potential-matter?  Dare we say Dark Matter?

 

There you are!  Gravity Waves and Dark Matter accounted for at a single stroke!  Each is the complement of the other.

 

Too pat, isn’t it?  But my cosmological-qed intelligence quotient is probably around 50, and I can go no farther either to promote or debunk it.

 

Any comment?

 

Best,

 

 

F.