I only learned the metric system of measurement. I was reminded of this while reading a friend’s blog. Knowing the metric system in the US is only useful if you are A) a scientist or B) Charlie Sheen. It is not useful if you are a housewife who is cooking and needs a 1/4 cup of sugar but can only find a tablespoon. It is also not useful when some says, “Walk 10 yards to the left,” and you start counting the number of houses you pass.
I don’t remember the metric system, because how often does a non-scientific US housewife need to convert decaliters to hectoliters? Never, I tell you. I do remember that it’s a base-10 system, which makes it way easier than trying to remember how many of the king’s feet will fit in a yard.
My oldest daughter has become a pro at taking standardized tests. Around here, they start ‘em in 3rd grade. She gets nervous, but I remind her that it doesn’t affect her life at all, not even a little, and if she wants to make pretty patterns out of the dots, that’s fine with me. I feel slightly guilty, because it does affect her school and her teacher, and I like them, but it doesn’t make me feel guilty enough to encourage her to do her best. I also remind her that testing week means no homework, no schoolwork, and all the junky sugar-loaded carbs she can wolf down during the test. Provided gratis by the parents who get gentle reminders that kids need brain food during the test. Goldfish? Brain food? Not unless they’re swimming, I think.
The stupid things we teach kids. And the stupid ways we do it. I was in a “progressive” school in 6th and 7th grades. It was a pod system, where we had a little group we were assigned to, and within that group we broke out for our separate classes based on abilities. So far, so good. But the building, too, was in a pod structure. Each class opened onto the other classes. So while reading Antigone, we heard the science class learning about geodes and the math class running their abacuses. Yes, we learned how to use an abacus. Because that’s way more efficient and convenient than using a calculator. And, in order to not distract us with thoughts of freedom, there were no windows in the building. Not one. The front door had textured glass that let in a bit of distorted light, but in the winter, we arrived at school in the dark, arrived home in the dark, and didn’t see any Vitamin D the whole day. That is not a good way to spend middle school.
Middle school. Shudder. I have a child who will be in middle school next year. My mantra to get me through it has been, “I can home school. I can home school. I can home school.” Because girls are nasty to each other, and at 12, you can’t hang out with the boys unless you can kick their butts in basketball, which she can’t because she has my DNA. She wouldn’t want to hang out with boys, anyway. They’re clueless and they smell bad.
An ideal school would have no standardized tests, no “progressive ideas” that will be outdated and make stupid mathematicians before the year is even out, and it will have no middle-school age children. Just how to accomplish this I don’t know. I think I would be able to figure it out, but my schools encouraged in-the-box thinking and so that’s where I’m stuck.