Last week on Battle of the Jaywalk All-stars an education major and aspiring teacher gave a fun performance. You can watch edited versions here and here

In a quiz show format, Jessica (who looks over 20):
- Could not identify a picture of John McCain. "Lenti?" "Polenti?" She (and the other two) had never heard the name John McCain.
- Thought "the Italian City famous for its canals" is Paris. Given the clue "Venetian Blind" changed to "Venezuela"
- Could not guess any war that the Invasion of Normandy might have been in. (This for probably the single most significant military event in US experience).
- Thought that Normandy might have been a made up place. Couldn't remotely guess where it was.
- Thought a portrait of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was of Amerosa, of The Apprentice Fame.
- Knew that a picture of Al Gore was somebody who "talked about the environment". Thought it was Bush.
- Couldn't guess who a picture of Nancy Pelosi was, even given a first name. (Came up with Nancy Drew, but dismissed it.)
- No clue, even given the hint "bell", who invented the telephone.
- Thought Newton discovered relativity.
- Obviously, didn't know who lost at Waterloo.
- Thought Michelangelo's David was either Eve or Michelangelo's boyfriend.
- Who lives in Vatican City? "The Vaticans" No, he wears a big hat. "Abraham Lincoln?"

The good news is, the education major won this battle of brains.

Some questions that I have:
* Do you think this woman is ready to be a teacher?
* Does it matter what grade she will teach? Is Kindergarten OK? 3rd? 6th? 9th?
* John McCain has pretty much been in the news every day for six months. Yet she has never heard of him. Is that a problem?
* A "European city famous for canals" is a pretty graphic and memorable image. And Venezuela is neither a city nor near Europe. Would you feel she is informed enough to teach your 2nd grader? 5th?
* Having survived a rather tough science degree, I can appreciate what it is to forget things you knew. But then, I was being trained for a specialized field. Should ordinary knowledge be more important to a teacher?
* Assuming she has "learned how to learn", is it OK if she teaches your gifted child this fall?
* Does one need curiosity to learn facts after graduation?
* Can you be a proper citizen of the US, ready to vote, if you don't know about Normandy?

What do you all think? Is this just a entertainment trick; an exploitation of a normal student and an unfair jab at education?

Tags: JayWalk

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Well, I would guess many of my students would be able to produce some howlers, too (they certainly do produce some howlers in the world of literature, which is probably as muddled as history - if there has been a movie of a book or a legend, I have some hope, but otherwise, not much hope of building on prior knowledge).

I will, however, put in a plug here for COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG where I spent the weekend - I had never been there before, and it was spectacular. They don't do so much teaching of the "names and dates" approach to history, but you learn so much about daily life in the 18th century, and the historical re-enactors (I saw both Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry) do a wonderful job of connecting up their participation in historical events with the day to day life of the 18th century and its powerful differences from our own world. I was never much of an American history buff but having recently moved to the east coast I have been bitten by the history bug and have learned so much from visiting historical sites near where I live! :-)
Its not a joke, and I'd be off elsewhere earning a hefty salary if it were not so typical.
When they first started these a number of years ago, I thought the same. Since then, I've scrutinized the participants, and, unless they all are very good actors, they are mostly sincere.

Further, what we know from the research is completely consistent with this.
How are these people getting into college? It is called a CHECKBOOK.

At my university, students who are able to pay the bills are able to take classes. They may fail a lot of classes before they graduate, but that's fine - hey, more money for the university, because they pay the same amount for failing a class as for passing it, and they have to take more classes to graduate if they fail.

I would guess about a third of my students suffer from such huge skills deficits (writing skills) and knowledge deficits (just like the kind of stuff in the video) that they are really not learning at a college level at all; instead, they are just trying to make up for a lot of wasted time in their 12 years of schooling prior to college.

But the university has no reason not to take them, since these people's money is as good as anybody else's.

Meanwhile, teaching General Education courses at my school, I do the best I can, giving the students a very intensive writing course, although some of them are writing at a junior high school level, not college at all. They do very little writing in their other college courses; writing is the focus of all my classes.

As to what goes on in the History courses they are required to take for General Education, I cannot say. I would guess that the teachers find it very challenging, since there is no way to really assume that the students have any strong knowledge base at all when they finish high school and enter college.
I guess my question is what is going so wrong with the high school diploma; I teach at the "flagship" university of the state of Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma in Norman - and I have not gained a lot of respect for Oklahoma high schools as a result. Although I teach mostly college seniors, so I am also pretty dubious about what goes on in other university classes, too - my impression is that the students do writing in those other classes (sometimes), but do not do any REVISING of their writing, and as a result their skills (such as they are) stagnate, rather than progressing.

I also don't understand what's up with the ACT. That's the standardized test which students take in addition to submitting their high school transcript. Maybe Ed can comment on that. What does it take for students to do well on the ACT? I'm not sure... maybe those folks from the Jaywalk should take the ACT and we could see the results! :-)
But look, Laura, Oklahoma's ACT scores are improving! And they are second highest in the south. (More on OK ACT.)

I wonder if Jaywalking--which must make sense to a select but large audience--doesn't have some better measurement qualities than an ACT or SAT--which must be normalized each year to serve a very narrow consumer population, namely college admissions officers.
EXACTLY: believe me, we hear ALL the propaganda about scores going up (the university brags about that shamelessly)... but my students' writing skills are markedly worse than they were 10 years ago.

I am very very very dubious about the test but I will admit I don't really know what it even purports to measure.




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