Monday, July 25, 2005

Education Failure - Linking Verbs

Be am is are was were been being seem feel look appear become grow taste smell sound continue remain....

Freshmen English... 1958. Every morning for 6 weeks we repeated this refrain until it was indelibly etched in our minds. We were not allowed to be "creative" with our language. We had to learn it. Learning the technical aspects of our language was as important as writing an essay of our own thoughts.

Three years of Latin; three years of German; Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer... learning the foundations of our language. No phonetics... no "hooked on phonics." Knowledge passed along rather than invented on the fly.

I found Thomas Sowell's article (and part 2) about the impact of passing along knowledge versus "facilitating" learning less than surprising. Oh, I know, Thomas Sowell is not exactly revered among the left-leaning and maybe too revered among the right-leaning. Okay, let's just say that my own experience says that I got more out of teachers who passed along the information and how it was relevant than those who simply handed out assignments and tested.

Teaching is not a process of "facilitating" learning and it is not a process of being "conveyors of knowledge who enlighten their students with what they know." It is a process of facilitating learning by conveying specific knowledge in ways that are relevant and interesting.

I once asked my son's geometry teacher if he ever attempted to relate that subject to everyday applications. He responded with a dull, blank expression and a simple, "No." That confirmed my son's opinion that this guy was putting in his time until retirement. I wanted to tell him how I built a two-level deck with a bay front on the back of my house using a level, chalkline and standard length lumber, plus what I had learned in geometry. No tape measure was needed.

The point is that teachers have to be more than "guides"; teachers must be surrogate parents. Before you get all huffy about teachers being surrogate parents, think about the reality of the situation. For the better part of the day, teachers must be the authority, the counselor, the guide, and the expert in our children's lives. Many teachers prefer just one or two of those roles, but the effective teachers establish a personal relationship based on strength of knowledge, strength of position and strength of character. They don't replace parents; they assume the temporary position of a parent who is educating many offspring.

My father taught me how to build and fix things. He showed me the right way, guided my hands-on efforts, and corrected me until I understood and was competent. He didn't hand me a power saw and just say "don't put your hand in front of the blade" while I "discovered" how to cut wood properly. He was a teaching parent. Good teachers understand that they are surrogate parents.

By the way, that English teacher who drilled those linking verbs into our collective consciousness was a reasonably good teacher. She had a difficult subject... grammar... and a difficult group of students... freshmen. But I never really understood until much later just why we were learning that list. Regardless (not irregardless), she did convey the knowledge needed to advance my understanding and proper use of English. Admittedly, I have become a little sloppy in my use of punctuation and, occasionally, grammar, but her efforts largely were successful.

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
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“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)