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Author Topic: College Student Ignorance: When should we despair?
woohmom
Remembrances of Things Bass


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I would have to argue that it's not that people don't care about learning, just that they don't care about learning what it is you want them to learn. Is there a place for learning things that don't pertain to what you'll be doing for a living in the future, of course there is. And there's fundamentals that I'm glad I got in college. But if I'd missed a few of the stories from my World Lit class, I doubt I'd be much worse for wear. But, there are things I know and things I learn for fun that seem quite important to me that I'm sure even you, logoboros, don't know. I think everyone fills their head with what they find useful and interesting, and it's just we find different things useful and interesting. I fill mine with a variety of my professional needs, my hobbies, and assorted other tidbits I need in my daily life or that I find interesting. You fill yours with geography and Norse sagas. I don't find you lacking in culture because you don't know the difference between a whisk and twinkle in ballroom dancing. Why am I lacking because I can't locate something on a map? Why is my brother-in-law, that wouldn't know a piece of literature if it hit him in the noggin, lacking when he can fix a car, something I surely can't do. I hope he doesn't look down upon me just because I'm not mechanically inclined. If we all knew the same stuff, discussions would be boring.

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Give peas a chance.

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Dieter Meyer
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:
For the students' first test, they had to be able to identify the major Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland)

You kind of mentioned this in another post, but normally only Norway, Sweden and Denmark are considered the Scandinavian countries because of our cultural and linguistucal similarities. When you include Finland and Iceland (and the Faroe Islands), it's usually called the Nordic countries over here.


quote:
Now, if they mixed up Norway and Sweden, that's maybe understandable.
Hey, I resent that! [fish] [Razz]


That class actually sounds quite interesting. What exactly is taught (what sagas etc.) in it?
I remember we went through that period in Norwegian class last year and read The Saga of Gunnlaug Wormtongue in addition to excerpts of various parts of Heimskringla in Norse - great stuff. Especially since one guy in my class is originally Icelandic and were able to read it much better than the rest of us.

Dieter'Ek, Hlewagastir...'Meyer

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"Soyons désinvoltes; n'ayons l'air de rien" - Noir Désir

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snapdragonfly
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:
But that doesn't make me any happier that "education" is more and more being defined as the passing of a set of tests (even, or especially, at the grade-school level) rather than the genuine acquisition (and retention) of knowledge. It has become a credentialing process, not a developmental one.

--Logoboros

Yeah, primary and secondary schools are getting to be that way too. I'm waiting for them to come up with a standardized test for kindergarteners on colors and nap taking.

I have a dentist friend who gripes about having to have classes on history and art when he went to dental school. He's getting an education confused with vocational training. People think college is "so you can get a better job." The concept of an educated, well rounded individual with the ability to think critically has been dumped by the wayside for a lot of folks. I guess if you aren't interested in being that, you should just go to a two year votech class and learn ONLY the skills directly related to the job and not waste anyone's time.

But, the art school I went to did exactly that, 20 years ago, and they have now changed and required some english and other courses like that...I wonder if employers griped about ignorant graduates...I guess a lack of communication skills matters, even if you aren't, say, a journalist.

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"Wolves, dragons and vampires, man. Draw the nut-bars like big ol' nut-bar magnets." ~evilrabbit

(snurched because one of my nutbar family members is all about wolves and another one is all about dragons...)(with apologies to surfcitydogdad)

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DadOf3
Jingle Bell Hock


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I'm seeing a bit of a move towards a well-rounded education here in our high school system. When I was in high school, we had to take English every year (grades 10-12), and I believe we had to take grade 10 Math. Other than that, it was whatever you wanted.

At the time, I thought I was going to go into science, so I loaded up on Math, Chemistry, Physics, usually at the honours level. I also took Accounting in grades 11 and 12, which ultimately led me into Commerce at university, which somehow got me over to computers.

Now that #1 Son is attending my old high school, I see a much better set of requirements than we ever had. There's now a minimum requirement for arts courses, social studies courses, English, math, and sciences. Everyone has to take a basic "How to Use a Computer" sort of course in grade 10, just to make sure all the students know how to format a Word document or do up a PowerPoint presentation.

They also switched to a semester method rather than the terms we used to do. Instead of eight 45-minute classes a day for the year, they have 4 hour-and-a-half classes a day for half a year each. This, I believe, helps them to focus better on a few things at once, rather than spread themselves too thin.


You can also follow a stream at any pace. Once you have grade 10 Math, you can take grade 11 Math even if you're still in grade 10. Or, you can leave a grade 10 level course until grade 12. There are a minimum number of credits for each grade level, which also affects how you choose courses.

When I compare the system I had with the one he has, I'm actually jealous. He's almost done grade 10, and is going to get a much more rounded education than I did. I took no arts, he's already taken Drama; I took only one social studies, History in grade 10, and only one "Canadian studies" (Law); he's taking Mi'kmaq (the Mi'kmaq are a Native Canadian tribe indigenous to these parts) Studies now and will have to take at least one more Canadian Studies and one or two more social studies.

All-in-all, I must say I'm pleased with the structure of the curriculum. And, as a proud Dad, may I also say that he had a 96% average the first term?

- Dad (but I still want to know how he got 100% on an English exam) Of3

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Santa Mari-a
Happy Holly Days


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quote:
Originally posted by woohmom:
I would have to argue that it's not that people don't care about learning, just that they don't care about learning what it is you want them to learn. Is there a place for learning things that don't pertain to what you'll be doing for a living in the future, of course there is. And there's fundamentals that I'm glad I got in college. But if I'd missed a few of the stories from my World Lit class, I doubt I'd be much worse for wear. But, there are things I know and things I learn for fun that seem quite important to me that I'm sure even you, logoboros, don't know. I think everyone fills their head with what they find useful and interesting, and it's just we find different things useful and interesting. I fill mine with a variety of my professional needs, my hobbies, and assorted other tidbits I need in my daily life or that I find interesting. You fill yours with geography and Norse sagas. I don't find you lacking in culture because you don't know the difference between a whisk and twinkle in ballroom dancing. Why am I lacking because I can't locate something on a map? Why is my brother-in-law, that wouldn't know a piece of literature if it hit him in the noggin, lacking when he can fix a car, something I surely can't do. I hope he doesn't look down upon me just because I'm not mechanically inclined. If we all knew the same stuff, discussions would be boring.

But if nobody wants to learn anything anyone else knows, that's even more boring.

I think that Logoboros has a legitimate complaint. Colleges do have distributional requirements that don't always relate directly to what one's major or pursuit in life will be, but there are generally choices in how to fulfill the requirements. Why sign up for a course in Norse sagas if you have no interest in the material? And if you didn't know what you were getting into, that's being an uninformed consumer.

I don't look down on anyone for lacking specialized knowledge, but I do agree that there are certain things that everyone with a college education should know. Not knowing every capital of every country is one thing, not being able to locate England on a map is another.

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Si hoc comprehendere potes, gratias age magistro Latinae.

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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by woohmom:
I think everyone fills their head with what they find useful and interesting ... You fill yours with geography and Norse sagas. I don't find you lacking in culture because you don't know the difference between a whisk and twinkle in ballroom dancing. Why am I lacking because I can't locate something on a map?

You might think he was lacking if he'd enrolled in a ballroom dancing class, and at the end of the course he still didn't know the difference between a "whisk" and a "twinkle" though.
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BeachLife
The Bills of St. Mary's


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You know, all you can do is offer the education. If the student choses not take it, it may say something about the student, but it doesn't say much about the education offered or the educational system. If knowing where England is on a map for so very crucial to the subject at hand, I imagine it would show in the rest of the students test scores in that class anyway.

I get tired of so many fingers being pointed at the educational system when in fact it is the individuals, and in primary and secondary eduction their parents, who are at fault. My kids go to an inner city school which has kids who drop-out and others who graduate far less of 'educated' IMHO. But my kids, and many of thier friends are getting and education which I would be willing to put up against the average adult any day of the week.

If you asked any of these kids, to place those countries on a map they'd probably laugh at you. I know that many of them can label 90%+ of the countries of the world on a map. But, I also know that there are kids in the same school would couldn't properly label Canada.

As for why they would take that particular class, I could make my best guess at that too. When I was in school we were requred to take a minimum number of credits in various topics. I had to work these around my core credits which were more important to me and my work schedule. As a result I usually took the class that fit in my schedule rather than the one I thoght would be fun or interesting.

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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Jack Dragon, On Being a Dragon
Confessions of a Dragon's scribe
Diary of my Heart Surgery

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Morgaine La Raq Star
The "Was on Sale" Song


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quote:
Originally posted by BeachLife:
You know, all you can do is offer the education. If the student choses not take it, it may say something about the student, but it doesn't say much about the education offered or the educational system. If knowing where England is on a map for so very crucial to the subject at hand, I imagine it would show in the rest of the students test scores in that class anyway.

I get tired of so many fingers being pointed at the educational system when in fact it is the individuals, and in primary and secondary eduction their parents, who are at fault. My kids go to an inner city school which has kids who drop-out and others who graduate far less of 'educated' IMHO. But my kids, and many of thier friends are getting and education which I would be willing to put up against the average adult any day of the week.

If you asked any of these kids, to place those countries on a map they'd probably laugh at you. I know that many of them can label 90%+ of the countries of the world on a map. But, I also know that there are kids in the same school would couldn't properly label Canada.

As for why they would take that particular class, I could make my best guess at that too. When I was in school we were requred to take a minimum number of credits in various topics. I had to work these around my core credits which were more important to me and my work schedule. As a result I usually took the class that fit in my schedule rather than the one I thoght would be fun or interesting.

I agree Beachlife. I could get into a rant about lack of parental participation & such in schools but this isn't the time or place.

I also don't know how important geography is AFA knowing where specific countries are. I may not be able to properly label all the countries in Africa but if given a country I can probably figure out its general location. Does the average person really need to be able to properly label every country in the world?

What's important to you to know can be very important to someone else. I don't know the location of all Middle-Eastern & Asian countries because I don't need to. But I have a nice big hardcover atlas & I can find that information if I need it.

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I cannot live without books-Thomas Jefferson *~* A child educated only at school is an uneducated child - George Santayana
I'm going to pummel you with such zeal, Buddha will explode! *~* Never miss a good chance to shut up - Will Rogers

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Kitten in the rain
Jingle Bell Hock


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quote:
Originally posted by Trowa:
quote:
Originally posted by woohmom:
Map tests in general seem silly. If I need to know where a Scandinavian country is, I'll look at a map. I don't need it memorized.

I'm going to agree with Logoboros and say that geography is just one of those things everyone needs to know. It's essential to an understanding the world.
Why? I mean, yes in a general sense. It's good to have an idea of where certain countries that are in the news a lot are. It'd be nice if people who read about a country in the news a lot would go look it up on a map to get an idea of where it is and what countries are near it. But why is it essential to have the map of the world put to memory?

I can see where mixing up Canada and Mexico might be a problem. I can see where being able to locate England when it's clear that doing so is part of being able to pass your class would be a problem. (Although personally, I'd feel cheated if I signed up for a lit class and got tested on geography. I have a great memory for literature, but geography won't stick for me. I took grad student level lit classes in college and never once got asked to do geography.)

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Logoboros
We Three Blings


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Okay, I'm going to make my position even more simple. As I've said, I understand that 99.9% of people don't need to know beans about Norse sagas. I wouldn't even be that upset if none of my students could say more than vague and general things about sagas after they graduate.

To push my position into even more extreme territory, I'd say placing England on the map is something that anyone (in the West) who wants to claim to be college-educated should be able to do. (With exceptions made for those who are cognitively incapable of doing so.) Yes, it was even more important for this particular class, but I'm willing to take this well beyond the class context.

Yes, this position assumes that college education is still in some form a liberal arts education, and many people don't see it that way (though I think the conflation of "college" with what are essentially vocational programs is a loss for our society).

As for Kitten's comment, here our value systems also diverge. I believe knowledge is valuable for more than just its usefulness (though, as Hirsch argues, having a store of knowledge makes you more equipped to acquire even more even more easily). If knowledge is only worthwhile for its direct application, then we might as well abandon the liberal arts and go exclusively to a vocational training system.

--Logoboros

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"If Men were Wise, the Most arbitrary Princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the Freest Government is compelld to be a Tyranny."

--William Blake

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Ramblin' Dave, quietly making noise
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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I have to admit, I've always liked looking at maps and atlases, and I know where most of the countries in the world are because I want to know. I do agree that knowing the exact location of all countries isn't necessary (especially not if you have an atlas to look them up in), but I do find it sad that so many people don't know where much of anything is on a map. I know Americans especially have a reputation for this, but in my experience it's not just us. There does come a point where I just want to scream, aren't you the least bit interested in the rest of the world?!

As for finding England and Scotland, frankly, that's the sort of thing any college student should know, even if that's not the point of the class in question. If nothing else, they ought to recognize the shape of the island and be able to pick it out on a map of Europe. Or failing that, they should at least know that it is an island off the coast of Europe and that it's bigger than Ireland, which means they ought to be able to pick it out by process of elimination.

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Another lifetime I'd have fallen in love with you
Swept away by my feelings, ashamed and confused
But just now it's enough to be walking with you
Let the mystery play as it will! -Lui Collins

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Dog Friendly
Carol of the Bills


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I come down pretty close to Woohmom on most of this, and want to share a story. I should state going in that I'm not trying to make myself the "good guy", I'm just trying to illustrate one difference between having access to information and knowing how to use it.

My friend runs a children's party entertainment business. His employees are typically in their early twenties. He gives them an address for each client, they use Mapquest to get directions, and off they go. He had occasion to use me as a Santa Claus last December. I used the Thomas Guide to reach my client.

Both approaches work just fine if you don't get lost, but knowing how to use a Thomas Guide allowed me to correct for a closed exit and still arrive on time. Many times, Jim's other employees will miss their exit for some reason, and will go on for another half hour, still looking for their exit without realizing they've passed it. They don't have an immediate way to tell that it's already behind them, nor can they plot out the shortest route to correct their mistake and get back on track -- well, unless they have a computer in their car.

I'm old-fashioned, I admit it. I realize that tools are getting better all the time. Someday soon we will have electronic maps we can display on our dashboards that will even show our current position on them.

But still, IMO, knowing how to use a map is a valuable life skill, and one I'm pleased to have mastered. This may not be the cleanest analogy, but I'll compare it to balancing a checkbook. You can survive without that skill too, but it leaves you a bit more vulnerable.

For me, maps really are entertaining. I enjoyed learning just how far Harold's troops had to march, in nasty weather, to reach the site where they fought the Battle of Hastings. I liked studying Fraser's maps of the tactical situation, showing which commanders could see what parts of the battle, when reading Flashman at the Charge. But I wouldn't know a whisk from a twinkle if either one kicked me in the ball- uh, room.

And don't ask me to cook a balanced meal, replace a button, or identify a carburetor.

Dog (Mother Very Thoughtfully Made a Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest) Friendly

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"Nobody ever got stoned and beat up his old lady" -- Spence, snapdragonfly's friend

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Logoboros
We Three Blings


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I may be proving myself really old-fashioned (though, actually, I'm quite the technophile), but I don't like to use the quick-dial function on my phone and cellphone. I prefer memorizing the numbers and not being dependent on the machine's memory, since I won't always have access to it.

Admittedly, I never need to know more than a handful of phone numbers at a time. Some people do need the address book function to keep track of a huge number of contacts. But I still get a bit queasy whenever my father blanks on his own home phone number because he primarily knows it as "punching 1 on the keypad."

And to prove that this isn't entirely a tangential matter to this discussion, I'd
say my attitude here is still based on a fundamental value of intellectual self-reliance. For me, it's important that I be able to do as much as I can without dependence. No one will ever be fully independent of mental aids, be they notes or computers or reference books. But just because independence can never be perfectly achieved that doesn't make striving for it a waste of time.

--Logoboros

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"If Men were Wise, the Most arbitrary Princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the Freest Government is compelld to be a Tyranny."

--William Blake

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Gibbie
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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DogFriendly writes:
quote:
Someday soon we will have electronic maps we can display on our dashboards that will even show our current position on them.
We have those now, they're called GPS systems (global positioning satellite). For about 500-600 dollars you can have one installed in your car with all the latest maps. It can even speak to you and tell you where to turn.

I'm not sure I understand your analogy about MapQuest and "Thomas Guide" (is that map?). Because if you can't read a map MapQuest doesn't really do you any good. If they are missing exits and not realizing it with MapQuest, then they're going to if they have a map also.

Gibbie

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If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

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ThistleSoftware
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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A lit/English student (whether it be their major course of study or not) should know geography because history and literature are intertwined, and geography and history are intertwined. England and Ireland's proximity to the Nordic countries lead to their being partially conquered by Vikings. The Nordic countries exerted a vast influence on English literature; a notable example would be Beowulf. It is my humble opinion that England's being a portion of an island contributed to the literary culture of the nation. Much of English literature has to do with colonialism, and colonialism (again, imho) has to do with grasping for more resources than could be found on the island. Please dispute this theory, those of you who are better versed in English history and culture.

Therefore I would say that someone who had just completed a course on Nordic literature would be bereft if they were not intimately familiar with Nordic geography.

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Officially Heartless

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ThistleSoftware
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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quote:
Originally posted by Gibbie:


I'm not sure I understand your analogy about MapQuest and "Thomas Guide" (is that map?). Because if you can't read a map MapQuest doesn't really do you any good. If they are missing exits and not realizing it with MapQuest, then they're going to if they have a map also.

Gibbie

MapQuest gives you a list of directions that don't always account for closed exits and new roads. So if you just have the directions in front of you you have no way of knowing if there is another way of getting to your destination. If you have a map (a Thomas Guide is a book of local maps) then you can figure out an alternate route.

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Officially Heartless

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snapdragonfly
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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Concerning keeping numbers in your head, and being able to be reliant on yourself instead of dependent on technology -

one of my favorite Isaac Asimov short stories is "The Feeling of Power".

"Nine times seven, thought Shuman with deep satisfaction, is sixty-three, and I don't need a computer to tell me so. The computer is in my own head.

And it was amazing the feeling of power that gave him."

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"Wolves, dragons and vampires, man. Draw the nut-bars like big ol' nut-bar magnets." ~evilrabbit

(snurched because one of my nutbar family members is all about wolves and another one is all about dragons...)(with apologies to surfcitydogdad)

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Elkhound
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by ThistleS:
MapQuest gives you a list of directions that don't always account for closed exits and new roads. So if you just have the directions in front of you you have no way of knowing if there is another way of getting to your destination. If you have a map (a Thomas Guide is a book of local maps) then you can figure out an alternate route.

I lost all faith in MapQuest when their directions to my aunt's house sent me down THE WRONG WAY of a one-way street.

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"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."--Iris Murdoch

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Lainie
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Gibbie:
DogFriendly writes:
quote:
Someday soon we will have electronic maps we can display on our dashboards that will even show our current position on them.
We have those now, they're called GPS systems (global positioning satellite). For about 500-600 dollars you can have one installed in your car with all the latest maps. It can even speak to you and tell you where to turn.
The GPS in the SUV my ex-boss rented for a business trip told us to head south on I-71 to get from Columbus, OH to Detroit, MI. On the way back from Detroit, it steered us wrong again (don't ask me why he followed it again), sending us on a route that may have been shorter in miles but took at least an hour longer than the usual route.

quote:
I'm not sure I understand your analogy about MapQuest and "Thomas Guide" (is that map?). Because if you can't read a map MapQuest doesn't really do you any good. If they are missing exits and not realizing it with MapQuest, then they're going to if they have a map also.

Gibbie

A Thomas Guide is a brand of detailed street atlas widely available on the west coast. As others have pointed out, it is quite easy to use MapQuest without knowing how to read a map. It's possible to print the directions without the maps, and I'm sure many people do so precisely because they can't read maps. Even if you have the printed map from MapQuest, it's a tiny piece of a much larger map, and may omit some important information.

MapQuest has provided a good friend with crappy directions for getting to my house. First, the directions provided the wrong way to get from her small rural town to I-270 around Columbus. Then the directions ignored the most obvious route to my house from the nearest main street, and instead took her 3/4 of the way around the block out of her way.

For the first 3 years I lived in my house, the MapQuest directions from my house to I-270 took me down a road that had been closed for several years. Had the road still existed, following the directions would have involved making a left turn onto a busy multi-lane state highway at an unsignaled intersection. There were at least two clear and obvious alternatives to that route, which I was able to find on my own because I have good sense of direction and can read a map.

MapQuest and Yahoo Maps are both notorious for sending people down roads that are inconvenient and even dangerous, especially in rural areas. I use MapQuest, but I would never rely on it -- or a GPS system -- entirely.

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How homophobic do you have to be to have penguin gaydar? - Lewis Black

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Louise
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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my car has a gps system. If my mom knows a better way and goes that way instead of the way it says, it instructs us to go back on the way they want us to go on. It seems to take us on the most convoluted routes. It's helpful though, at least sometimes.

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"Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." -- Mark Twain

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ThistleSoftware
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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I was hoping that Google Maps directions would be better than Mapquest and Yahoo Maps, but they aren't. At least Google gives you a detailed street map, albeit small.

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Officially Heartless

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martin-at-work
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
Kids should be able to find their house, their street, their town, their state or province, their country, their continent, and their planet, all before they're able to leave their house on their own.

Their planet? How far are you expecting them to roam..?
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James D
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:
In response to Joe and some of the others who have expressed anxiety over rote memorization: memorization of facts is not a technique that can be dismissed out of hand.

I mentioned earlier having some sympathy for a certain conservative approach to knowledge. I'll go ahead and expand on that here. Basically, it all stems from having read E.D. Hirsch's essay "You Can Always Look It Up -- Or Can You?" last year as part of my training as a freshman comp instructor. Hirsh is the guy responsible for the Core Knowledge movement and all those "Everything Your X-grade Should Know" books. I think he makes too much of a hobgoblin out of the progressive counter-position, but he's not a demagogue. He does concede the importance of balance between traditional and progressive approaches.

Basically his position is that the progressive model, which stresses problem-solving over "factual knowledge", has come to unfairly dominate our educational approaches (essentially the opposite of Joe's claim that rote memorization is still dominant). He says:

quote:
There is a consensus in cognitive psychology that it takes knowledge to gain knowledge. Those who repudiate a fact-filled curriculum on the grounds that kids can always look things up miss the paradox that de-emphasizing factual knowledge actually disables children from looking things up effectively. To stress process at the expense of factual knowledge actually hinders children from learning to learn. Yes, the internet has placed a wealth of information at our fingertips. But to be able to use that information — to absorb it, to add to our knowledge — we must already possess a storehouse of knowledge. That is the paradox disclosed by cognitive research.

[...]

For instance, there is a domain of cognitive science called "expert-novice studies." Two of its leading figures are Herbert A. Simon, the Nobel prize winner, and Jill Larkin, who has co-authored articles on this subject with Simon. Their studies provide an insight into the paradox that you can successfully look something up only if you already know quite a lot about the subject. In these studies, an expert is characteristically a specialist who knows a lot about a field — say a chess master or a physicist, whereas a novice knows very little. Since the expert already knows a great deal, you might suppose that she would learn very little when she looked something up. By contrast, you might think that the novice, who has so much to learn, ought to gain a still greater quantity of new information from consulting a dictionary or encyclopedia or the internet. But, on the contrary, it's the expert who learns more that is new, and learns it much faster than the novice. It's extremely hard for a novice to learn very much in a reasonable time by looking things up.

[...]

Another way of stating this is simply to say that the more you know, the smarter you are. Our students become more intelligent when they know more. So does everybody. Researchers have been telling us this fact about human intelligence for many years. Intelligence increases with knowledge. General knowledge is the best single tool in a person's intellectual armory.

It's often asserted that a student's home environment and socioeconomic status are the dominant factors in determining school achievement. But it turns out that an even more important factor is a student's breadth of general knowledge. The correlation between academic achievement and socioeconomic status (.42) is only about half the correlation between academic achievement and general knowledge (.81). "MERE facts" indeed! General knowledge proves to be more important for learning than parents, peers, and neighborhood combined (though of course those factors influence one's breadth of knowledge).

I think in his efforts to swing the pendulum back Hirsch is maybe a bit too confident in the power of "Core Knowledge" (and his tone can sound fairly self-aggrandizing). But I think the basic idea is sound, and it concords with my own experiences.

There is a place for memorizing multiplication tables, and the names of planets, and even states and capitals. You can't get very far on only memorization, but you can't do much with what you don't have, either.

You can read the entire essay here.

--Logoboros

Perhaps I'm missing something in the reading, but he seems to be advocating a progressive approach; but then follows it by straw manning concerns over excessively rote learning by pointing out that the opposite extreme has severe limitations as well.

In general terms, part of the tricky part is seperating the stuff that is important to memorize, from the stuff that is useful to keep handy, from the stuff which might come in handy someday (or not), to stuff that really doesn't need to be at our fingertips.

For example in my specialty of math (working on a teaching credential), it is important to have the basic times tables memorized up to ten. It gets very hard to do higher math without having basic number facts at your fingertips (braintips?) 11-20 aren't quite as vital, but are useful to have. Similarly, the pytagorian theorem is fairly handy and would fit into the catagory that any college graduate would know. Knowing how to do long division can be handy to have stored somewhere in your head - even though in the real world most people lacking a calculator will use the estimate and revise method instead (and not even realize it). Memorizing more than the first half dozen or so digits of pi is purely optional, and lacks any real

Though I would think that the locations major industrialized nations such as England would fit in the first catagory - or at least the second.

Of course, in the defense of humanity and college students in general I have two possible defenses: 1. the style of the map. I remember seeing a map on an editorial page in a simple monotone (coupled with an article about some students having trouble finding Paris) It took me a minute to realize that the reason I couldn't figure out the borders was that the map centered on the western Caribian - which at first blush I had assumed to be the landmass.

2. The students were slackers and not representitive of the student body as a whole. Given that they didn't know what they were signing up for, might these have been students who were disinterested in education, but brought in because their parents expected them to do so. Perhaps the "popular" classes were full, and they registered late and took whatever they could get. Not much of an excuse, especially since any one of them could grow up to be president [dunce] (couldn't resist the cheap shot), but that doesn't nessisarily mean that a third of one class is representitive of students in general.

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The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.
Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - )

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James D
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by snapdragonfly:
Concerning keeping numbers in your head, and being able to be reliant on yourself instead of dependent on technology -

one of my favorite Isaac Asimov short stories is "The Feeling of Power".

"Nine times seven, thought Shuman with deep satisfaction, is sixty-three, and I don't need a computer to tell me so. The computer is in my own head.

And it was amazing the feeling of power that gave him."

An interesting (and somewhat creepy) story. Already the manual computation of square and cubic roots is not common knowledge. (heck, I don't even know a formula for that - though I could probably look one up, or use an estimate and revise heuristic to generate increasingly good estimates.)

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The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.
Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - )

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Danvers Carew
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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I had to teach 2nd Year Uni students of English Lit. last semester - it was a course on Romantic poetry and Gothic fiction.

Sometimes I tried to find parallels and examples from what I thought was a stock of well-known archetypes to illustrate some of my dull points about the texts we were reading, and discovered that most of the students had never heard of Cain and Abel, The Wandering Jew, Mary Magdalene, Prometheus, or Faust.

Those were a bit surprising, though easily remedied - I just told them about them, then they did know. What I personally found shocking was that hardly any of them were familiar with THE classic text, that core-knowledge grounding in the Arts, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and those who had seen it merely scoffed at it - poor fools! I had to take the best part of a tutorial that was meant to be about Byron's Manfred to patiently explain why Buffy is an awe-inspiring work of unalloyed genius. They'll thank me for it one day.

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Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

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Dog Friendly
Carol of the Bills


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I see others have made my point about MapQuest even better than I could have. I use it very rarely, and I always keep a map handy for backup. Gibbie, for some of us, $500-$600 really does amount to "Someday...", especially since my last Thomas Guide (in 2003) cost me something like $30.

And yes, most of Jim's employees can't read a map, they just print the directions from Mapquest and off they go. Works fine, sometimes.

ThistleS, your point about England is dead on. Being able to see places on a map in relation to other places is hugely important in grasping all kinds of things about culture, economics, languages and I don't know what-all. Yes. Absolutely.

And Logoboros, I'm with you about the feeling of self-reliance. I once amazed a district representative from a bank by looking at two numbers, $202.67 and $23.00, and telling her that they totalled $225.67 while she was reaching for her calculator. She refused to believe I could have performed that computation in my head.

This does not make me a superior human being, just one possessed of a skill that's being overtaken by technology. I imagine there were copers, farriers and grooms a century ago that felt the same way.

Some of you don't know what a farrier is? Exactly!

Dog (It's why we need teammates) Friendly

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"Nobody ever got stoned and beat up his old lady" -- Spence, snapdragonfly's friend

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ThistleSoftware
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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Wow, DogFriendly, even I could do that one in my head!

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Officially Heartless

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Dog Friendly
Carol of the Bills


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Well, but you're not the Dispute Manager for the Southern California Region of Security National Bank, are you? No, you couldn't be. Security National Bank isn't around any more.

Dog (I was closing my account at the time) Friendly

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"Nobody ever got stoned and beat up his old lady" -- Spence, snapdragonfly's friend

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Brad from Georgia
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Dog Friendly:
....Some of you don't know what a farrier is? Exactly!

Dog (It's why we need teammates) Friendly

Shoe, Dog.

Brad "but don't get all hoofy" from Georgia

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"No hard feelin's and HOPpy New Year!"--Walt Kelly
Hear what you're missing: ARTC podcasts! http://artcpodcast.org/

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Mistletoey Chloe
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Today I stopped for drive-thru coffee: total 86c. I offered $1.11, and the young woman, I suspect a college student, took the bill and shook the change back into my hand, saying "It's only 86c." I said "I know," and gave it back to her. She came back to the window with a quarter, and a smile on her face, and said "I just knew you were doing something slick." [Roll Eyes]

Don't even get me started about the fun of the next stop at the post office, where I had to get an envelope weighed and then asked for twice the postage so that I could put the same stamps on the SAE I was enclosing. Hilarity ensued, as two staff attempted to figure out how to do this. [Roll Eyes]

Grah. Someone say something clever...

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~~Ai am in mai prrrrrraime!~~

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Dog Friendly
Carol of the Bills


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Brad: Boxed any muskmelons lately? I allus laughs a good lick at that'n.

Chloe: Where do you get drive-through coffee for 86 cents? In LA, we can't get water that cheap! (Um, Los Angeles, not Louisiana)

Dog ("Jes' Fine!" says bug) Friendly

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"Nobody ever got stoned and beat up his old lady" -- Spence, snapdragonfly's friend

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Mistletoey Chloe
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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DF: Braums (ice cream, burgers, and cheap cheap coffee). It actually costs 79c, and just went up from 69c (outrageous!). 69c used to mean 75c with tax, which apparently meant that nobody working the cash register had to actually think.

For me, LA will always mean "Lower Alabama." Which strikes me as a good idea.

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~~Ai am in mai prrrrrraime!~~

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Brad from Georgia
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Dog: [Wink]

Sometimes I think you an' me's the onliest ones what talks without an accent.

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"No hard feelin's and HOPpy New Year!"--Walt Kelly
Hear what you're missing: ARTC podcasts! http://artcpodcast.org/

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Brandi
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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quote:
Originally posted by Dog Friendly:
Chloe: Where do you get drive-through coffee for 86 cents? In LA, we can't get water that cheap! (Um, Los Angeles, not Louisiana)

Actually, there is one place in LA where you can get coffee for a dime...

[but don't go there for the coffee, go there for the wonderful sammiches]

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Dog Friendly
Carol of the Bills


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Well, yes. Forgot about Philippe's, mostly 'cause I don't get downtown all that often. But yes, you're right.

Dog (Love the pickled eggs!) Friendly

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"Nobody ever got stoned and beat up his old lady" -- Spence, snapdragonfly's friend

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