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43: AMERICAN BASIC CURRICULUM/Beta--Parallel Education

 

Section I: American Basic Curriculum

Section II: Parallel Education

Section III: Foundational Knowledge

 

American
Basic
Curriculum

American Basic Curriculum
gives parents a quick way
to know if their children
are making reasonable progress in school.
 
A big problem in American education
is that the authorities will chatter on
about all their exciting new ideas
and how children will be transformed
into critical thinkers with 21st century skills,
etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.,
but somehow at the end of the year,
the kids don't know nothing.  
Not even the most basic things.
They might not even be able to read
or do simple arithmetic. 
 
This bait-and-switch
(chatter instead of content) 
is the biggest problem in the public schools.
It's also one that can be worked on.
 
Here's how.
1) Do not be fooled by the chatter.
2) Rely on simple benchmarks
to gauge whether progress is being made.
That's the function performed by
ABC--American Basic Curriculum.  
3) Schoolproof kids with Parallel Education--
more below. 
 
  

 
I: American Basic Curriculum--K-6

American Basic Curriculum is meant to be A REASONABLE MINIMUM. You don't allow your child to fall below this level.

Next most important point: these benchmarks are meant to be suggestive and helpful. They are certainly not absolutes. Indeed, parents are encouraged to create their own versions or send improvements. 

K
Math: count to 10; make change with pennies, nickles, dimes; play checkers, dominos, Bingo; card games using numbers such as “Go Fish”
Language: recite nursery rhymes, sing songs, and discuss stories; know alphabet and some sounds
Geography: names of oceans, some countries; learn about maps and diagrams
Science: observe nearby nature; change of seasons; sun, clouds, moon; how things are alike or different
History: explain holidays, birthdays, anniversaries as they occur; current events; local history
1st GRADE

Math: count to 25; do easy problems, e.g., 1+2 = 3
Language: memorize short poem each month; learn to read using synthetic phonics
Geography: child’s city and state, with use of maps
Science: clouds, trees, sun, moon, earth, rain, birds, magnetism, simple machines, hot air rises; introduction to simple charts and diagrams
History: as in previous grade

2nd GRADE

Math: count to 50; add and subtract 2-digit mumbers
Language: a poem each month; read simple stories; penmanship
Geography: names of nearby states, and most populous nations; learn use of maps and scale of miles
Science: discussions of things in child’s environment; puzzles; drawing of diagrams, shapes, and objects; sounds and music
History: as in previous grade but with increasing depth
3rd GRADE

Math: add and subtract 3-digit mumbers; learn about bigger numbers
Language: memorize short poem each month, read simple books (not text books, real books); foreign language as early as feasible; public speaking
Geography: names of 10 nearest states, and 10 main countries by GDP
Science: orbits of planets; gravity; weather; farming; cars, machines
American and World History: as in previous grade
4th GRADE
Math: easy multiplication and division
Language: read homework; penmanshp; a foreign language; magazines and newspapers
Geography: 20 nearest states; 20 main countries by historical connection to USA
Science: simplest parts of biology, chemistry and physics; use of magnifiying glass, microscope, telescope
History: as in previous grades; learn about years, decades, generations, centuries; a sense of time

5th GRADE

Math: more complex multiplication and division; easy algebra (x + 3 = 5)
Language: write small essays
Geography: 30 nearest states; capitals; countries in news; use of newspapers, magazines, etc
Science: human body; microscopic organisms; and common phenomena, including field trips to discuss trees, grass, birds, local points of interest, etc.
American History: more systematic, emphasis on major events, periods, and dates; the structure of history
6th GRADE
Math: more complex multiplication and division
Language: reading serious novels, essays and poetry
Geography: all states, 25 major countires by GDP
Science: more complex parts of biology, chemistry and physics; experiments and resarch explained; visit museums
World History: more systematic, emphasis on major events, periods, and dates; the structure of history
 
American Basic Curriculum has this goal:
a wide foundation endlessly reinforced, built higher and higher, year by year, into a solid educational structure.
This is a curriculum for all students; nothing is taught on a deep or advanced level.
The ABC Philosophy: Start early, don’t stop.

  The premise is that children absolutely need to know the basics in each subject--the foundational knowledge--that will allow them to advance to the higher levels. 

 
The second section discusses Parallel Education. A third section explores the importance of Foundational Knowledge. 
 

 
II: PARALLEL EDUCATION
American Basic Curriculum
gives parents a quick way
to know if their children
are makng reasonable progress in school.

There’s another aspect:
American Basic Curriculum
suggests that the best ways to reform our public schools
might be to work from outside the schools--
to work from the flanks,
as military people put it.

Here’s a bigger example of this concept,
that I call Parallel Education--

PARALLEL EDUCATION: A PROPOSAL

The Education Establishment
operates public schools weighed down by social engineering,
political correctness, anti-intellectualism,
counterproductive innovations, and a
casual acceptance of mediocrity.
Meanwhile, foundations waste millions of dollars
trying to make this Education Establishment
pretend to care about education
as traditionally defined.
Let’s spend that money a better way.

The pro-education foundations
should fund a creative alliance
with the mission of producing short teaching films
with high cinematic quality
and extreme entertainment value
in every subject and for each grade.
These videos would supplement what is taught in the public schools,
but the videos would try to do in minutes
what these schools struggle to do in weeks or months.

Typically, these videos would be 15-minute modules,
with titles such as "Geography/Third Grade" or "American History/Fifth Grade."

All materials would be available both for home use,
on the alliance’s website, and on TV syndication. 

Parents and children would watch the appropriate materials
for each child during the summer. Several hours at most.
In this way the children would be pre-schooled and school-proofed.
Children would arrive in school already knowing a lot
and expecting to learn more.
Parents would expect them to learn more.

Public schools couldn’t continue in their
disingenuous make-believe.
They would have to deliver.
That is the whole strategy.
Note that not one dollar goes to the schools,
nor is one word wasted begging educators to improve.

As Archimedes said,
give me a lever and I can move the Earth.
To paraphase:
with the right lever,
we can move something as
immovable as the Education Establishment.

The future lies in Parallel Education.
We don’t ask public schools to improve.
We show them what real education looks like,
and pressure them to keep up.
 
Fine print: it’s important that professors of educators
not be involved in producing these films
(nor should they contain tests, grades or other echoes of school).
We want TV talent, Hollywood talent, Broadway talent.
And genius graduate students to check the facts.
Fast, fun, factual, and foundational--that’s the formula.
 
How will we know if we are successful?
If a big portion of the audience turns out to be non-students.
That is, adults desperate to remedy the bad education
they received years ago.  
 
Memo to MBA's: 
Whether this project ends up as profit or non-for-profit,
a business person with a business plan
might be the perfect catalyst.
 
 

Generically speaking, PARALLEL EDUCATION can refer to everything done OUTSIDE the public schools to compensate for what is done badly INSIDE the schools (e.g., Parallel Education includes learning centers, tutoring services, homeschooling, self-help books, educational TV, and much else).

I think it helps if we view all this activity as a single response to a single problem. The massive extent of the response shows how vast the problem is.

The Education Establishment should be ashamed that so many people feel compelled to try to compensate for their failures. Why don't the elite educators listen and change policies? If they won't, the present amount of Parallel Education is not massive enough. 


 

 
III: FOUNDATIONAL KNOWLEDGE

THE WISE PERSON KNOWS:
"YOU CAN'T BUILD ANYTHING WITHOUT A FOUNDATION."
 
(All of modern educational theory can be summed up thus:
There's no need to bother with a foundation.) 
 

 
What can you teach a child???

This question perplexes modern education. Typically, I suspect, because the people asking the question are not seeking an answer so much as a pretext to teach very little. So they come up with concepts like “developmentally appropriate,” “reading readiness,” "learning styles," "diverse learners," and “Piagetian stages.” Almost always these concepts are excuses for delay.

So let’s ask this question again and actually try to find an answer. Here’s mine: YOU CAN TEACH A CHILD ALMOST ANYTHING YOU CAN TEACH AN AVERAGE ADULT.

Imagine a bowling club, a garden club, a Shriners convention, an old folks home. Imagine 50 ordinary, middle-brow, middle-class people. In short, average humans. Now the question is, what could you (supposing you were called upon to deliver an after-lunch lecture) attempt to teach them?

I think we immediately know that we could teach them anything -- archaeology, Shakespeare’s plays, Roman history -- but we certainly wouldn’t try to do it on a thorough, pretentious or complex level. We would instinctively sort out the most interesting nuggets, the easy themes, the juicy anecdotes, the bits and pieces that might relate to their lives or build on things they already know. It’s all rather obvious, isn’t it?

And I submit that if were talking about a class of average six- and seven-year-olds, we can teach them all the things that we might try to teach them if they were 50 years older.

It’s not that children can’t be taught most subjects. It’s that the Education Establishment specializes in not trying. They have a prejudice against knowledge. So they concoct gimmicks to justify that prejudice, and complacently teach nothing. If we are going to be irrational, I’d rather do so at the other extreme, and try to teach everything!
 
When we look back at John Dewey's baleful influence on American education, one particular sin stands out. He and his buddies targeted the lowest grades. He was part of a group that didn't want reading taught until the fourth grade. Kids are so open and plastic at that time. Ready to learn, eager to learn. Dewey wanted them confined to cooking, sewing and carpentry. As a result, schools are only now beginning to realize just how much can be taught to young children.

By the way: instead of going to education schools, where future teachers learn to feel that jargon and obscurity are normal, and intellectual thinness acceptable, they should go to “finishing schools” that would do two things: top off their mastery of subject (their major in college); and turn each one into a good speaker-actor-storyteller. Such teachers would be perfect for teaching foundational knowledge.


Another way to approach this issue is to make a list of all the things that an adult ought to know. And then go right ahead and teach this information in the first grade (and thereafter).
 
Here is a list I jotted down in 20 minutes without any deep thought. I suspect you could teach, or at least touch on, all of these things to young children:
 
12-hour clock, 24-hour clock; AM versus PM

Longitude and latitude

Northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere

The three oceans and the seven continents

North Pole, South Pole
 
North, East, South, West

Interstates -- what the I on the highway signs means

The cost of postage per ounce; 16 ounces equal 1 pound

4 quarts equals one gallon, using products from the grocery store

Animal, vegetable or mineral

Cause and effect

AM versus FM

Music scale

The easy Aesop’s fables

The meaning of the most popular cliches, such as "a stitch in time saves nine" and "birds of a feather flock together"--this is real "critical thinking"

12 inches equal one foot; 3 feet equal 1 yard; equals about 1 meter

Coins in our currency system

Moose Code (... - - - ...)

The dozen most common tools (hammer, saw, etc.)

Ice, water, steam

MPH

AC versus DC current

40W, 60W, 100W (bulbs)

Different names for roads, streets, avenues, boulevards, lanes, drives, crescents

60 seconds equals one minute; 60 minutes equal one hour; clocks used in different sports

How seeds grow into grass

A history of transportation: walking, horses, boats, trains, cars, airplanes, rockets
 
 
Presumably you can suggest others.
 
A teacher might mention one of these each day, and later cycle back around. Meanwhile, if you like unpleasant dreams, imagine how many students get through to 12th grade and never hear many of these things explained. Equally terrifying, imagine how many teachers would not feel up to the task of explaining much of this simple stuff. Martin Gross wrote a book called "Conspiracy of Ignorace" in 1999. This is what he was talking about: teachers who don't know; schools that don't teach; kids who don't learn.
 
When we teach things at a very easy level, it’s remarkable how equal the human race is. The differences in human abilities manifest themselves as soon as you start teaching anything at a higher level. Some children will race ahead of others. That’s the way it is.

So what is the socialist or “progressive” solution for dealing with this? To teach nothing for as many years as they can get away with it. At which point the more academic kids are pushed up into another world. Meanwhile, the ordinary kids are left ignorant and unchallenged. I keep thinking how undemocratic and wasteful this is. I was recently startled to read that Germany is the #1 exporting nation. The fact that they educate their kids probably has something to do with it.

One of the things our socialists say they want is equality. But they perversely do everything that will guarantee the most inequality.

The obvious solution is to keep the children at the easy level as long as possible. Let them wallow there for years. Let them play together in the shallow end of the pool for all it’s worth, learning more and more and more foundational knowledge. (This is education wide, broad and enduring; versus the usual approach, which is narrow, isolated and transient.) Children can do a great deal in the shallow end of the pool. Why disdain it? Indeed, think of all the different activities that children (or adults) can do in the shallow end. Almost everything, that’s the point!

Let’s think of something like chemistry. The difficulty that will separate children from each other is the math, the formulas. So let’s ignore them as long as possible. Teach all the chemistry you can teach without mentioning any math. Chemistry then becomes a topic that you could teach to fourth graders or sixth graders or eighth graders. Teach chemistry the way Mr. Science would teach it. Or the way the Learning Channel would teach it. Most people will not take chemistry in college; they will never use it on the job. So they do not need any of the mathematics. In the lower levels you could teach so much interesting chemistry, so much fascinating stuff, if you think in terms of the audience and how people will actually use the information.
 

 

RELATED ARTICLES ON THIS SITE ARE:

 

20: The Quizz

26: How To Teach History, Etc.

28: Tips for Helping Your Child Do Better in School 

32: Teaching Science

39: How To Teach Physics, Etc. 

45: The Crusade Against Knowledge -- The Campaign Against Memory

 


© Bruce Deitrick Price 2012


Most people will not take chemistry
in a college like Everest College.

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