Wednesday, December 29, 2010

we are about to be Shanghaied...

The PISA study results for Shanghai have just been released, and just as when the launch of Sputnik sent Americans into a panic, the PISA results (of the very first PISA testing in China) have American educators scrambling. For some it will be perceived as our own worst nightmare. Just as the Chinese are beating us in manufacturing, they appear to be beating us in education (or at least the rote memorization part that brings results in standardized testing). The report can be heard on NPR.

Shanghai School Principle Liu Jinghai said that the West shouldn't worry about the PISA results. "They're just one index, one measure that shows off the good points of Shanghai's and China's education system. But the results can't cover up our problems," he says. "Why don't Chinese students dare to think?" He asks. " Because we insist on telling them everything. We're not getting our kids to go and find things out for themselves," he says. Doesn't that sound like what we are trying to do in our public schools? Prevent discovery?

But just because a few Chinese educators are as wise as Confucius, don't expect American politicians to take the news lightly. Being a nation of pinheads, we can expect American politicos to place greater emphasis on No Child Left Behind like legislation to further the teaching to the test stratagem, and continue to eliminate creative problem solving opportunities in our nation's schools.

In the meantime, Make, fix, create. There are things that we learn when we are engaged in the manipulation of real materials. Real science doesn't originate in the pages of a book, but through experiential, experimental process. Craftsmanship has long served as the foundation of the scientific experience, but your children are becoming far less likely to get what they need in school. DIY, TIY(teach it yourself).

Yesterday on NPR, they reported that American military bases are being overwhelmed by the lack of fitness among new recruits. After being hunched over tiny keyboards or passively entertained on the couch, new recruits no longer have a normal range of shoulder rotation, and troop exercises are  being modified to prevent injury. But that's OK, right? Who cares if allow our kids to grow up to be conformist non-creative channel-surfing pinhead wussies? The Chinese won't mind. And also in the news yesterday was the new Chinese ground to ship missile that can take out a whole aircraft carrier, so let's keep the competition friendly, OK?

In my woodshop, I have made the top moldings for the cherry cabinet as you can see in the photo at left. Next I make the doors!

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