Weekly Math Updates

May 28th , 2008


  • International Baccalaureate
  • Media Articles- "High-Tech Japanese, Running Out of Engineers"
  • Global Cooling
  • Summer Programs
  • Cool Software


Hi folks,

It's been over a month since I sent out an update. There are a few things going on right now that I'll let you in on as soon as they're ready. 


International Baccalaureate

From the Utah Senate blog page I wanted to post a couple of articles that Senator Margaret Dayton has posted concerning the IB program used here in Utah.  I echo her words and would like to say that if anything is funded in Utah, it should be a proper U.S. Constitution course that teaches our children the principles of freedom that allowed our country to become the greatest in the history of mankind, rather than how to be world citizens without a proper compass.


Concern with the International Baccalaureate (part 1)

By Margaret Dayton
Utah State Senator

In 1896 Congress passed the Enabling Act that legally created the State of Utah. The wording included these words:
"The schools, colleges, and university provided for in this act shall forever remain under the exclusive control of said State . . . " (italics added).
There is wisdom in that concept and I've taken it to heart. These words were part of the justification used in the bills I filed resisting No Child Left Behind when it was first imposed on our state.

Exhaustive research from multitudinous organizations has documented the significant decrease in state and local control of public education under the provisions of NCLB. In response, Utah enacted legislation that acknowledges state provisions can supersede federal provision when the two are in conflict.

I believe old-fashioned federalism and governance are serious stewardships. Sometimes it's not what we do but how we do it and who makes the decisions that make the long-term impact.

This urgency to maintain state and local control of education has given me some personal concern regarding the International Baccalaureate program which has been implemented in seven Utah high schools. While the IB program seems to answer an urgent need for rigor and challenge in high school curriculum, it also creates a concern with implementation of a program that is not administered in the state or even in the nation.

One of the questions the legislature needs to address is that of governance; are the benefits of a rigorous program justification for further loss of state control of public education? Can we do it better locally? Is the practice of routine international contracts in other areas of our culture justification for the public education system to enter in to such contractual agreements?

The Education Interim Committee will take some time for this issue on Wednesday and I'll discuss it further here on the Senate Site.

Concern with the IB - Part II

By Margaret Dayton
Utah State Senator, District 15

IB Commenters - thanks to those of you who posted thoughtful insight on my last blog. I appreciate you taking the time. I would like to respond with a few clarifying comments.

First, I have never espoused eliminating IB. This is a program that has been in some of our schools for years, which was a local decision into which the legislature did not insert itself. When the legislature was asked to put taxpayer money into IB, however, I did oppose it. Notwithstanding my opposition, IB has some taxpayer $$ allocated for student testing fees. Once state taxpayers foot the bill, the legislature has some oversight responsibility. Thus, my questions re: governance.

2. I have been accused of not wanting our students to be world citizens. That is correct. At least, it is correct in the following sense: I don't want to create 'world citizens' nearly as much as I want to help cultivate American citizens who function well in the world.

The IB program teaches a skeptical unattached philosophy of world citizenship. It does not try to instill cultural identity. It was built for a fairly transient group of students whose parents are employed abroad and who have no particular religious, national, or cultural loyalties. It is not governed by Americans.

From Dr. Nicholas Tate, Director of the International School of Geneva:
"In international schools there is no core body of historical and geographical knowledge, no literary canon, no obligatory cultural content whose transmission is a key purpose of the educational project as it has to be in a nation state. . . .

" … What distinguishes state schools, … whatever their student population, is that they must start from the basis that they are educating their students for life and future citizenship within the national community. They need to give priority to the national language … and to the history, literature and culture of the nation state of which they are an embodiment. This gives them a different mission from international schools."

Source: Dr. Nicholas Tate, “What Is Education For? The Purposes of Education and Their Implications for the School Curriculum,” International Baccalaureate Organization, The Alec Peterson Lecture, April 24, 2004, Geneva: 10. http://www.ibo.org/council/peterson/tate/
In contrast, local school districts teach local language, laws, and cultural content. They help students recognize a literary canon, a shared history & identity for citizenship in a real community. The districts are governed by local people, parents and elected leaders. To me, that is very important.

America is special. I believe our nation is unique and we have a concept to teach and offer the world. There is something very inspiring about political and economic freedom - about a republic of, by, and for the People.

And I think those characteristics should be taught. Highlighted. Celebrated.

Again, I don't want to create 'world citizens' nearly as much as I want to help cultivate American citizens who function well in the world.



Media Articles

High-Tech Japanese, Running Out of Engineers

"After years of fretting over coming shortages, the country is actually facing a dwindling number of young people entering engineering and technology-related fields." <snip>

"The shortage is causing rising anxiety about Japan’s competitiveness. China turns out some 400,000 engineers every year, hoping to usurp Japan’s place one day as Asia’s greatest economic power." <snip>

(Oak: Quality engineers are going to be the next big thing.  NASA is facing serious shortages and so are major U.S. Companies.  Fuzzy math and the 1989 NCTM standards have destroyed our country's talent infrastructure.)

Cache Valley-based online charter school set to open in 2009

Education officials have approved Utah's second online charter school.
    The Open High School of Utah, based in Cache Valley, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2009. The school won't have any buses, textbooks or even buildings. Classes, tests and lessons will be carried out over the Internet.
    The school will have about 125 ninth-graders from around the state in its first year and add more students in the following years.
    The school was approved by the Utah State Board of Education earlier this month.
    The state's other online charter school, Utah Virtual Academy, will open in August for students in kindergarten through eleventh grades.

Matter of degree: Why only some math, science teachers get raises

"Pardon our skepticism, but the fact that the legislation singles out only certain math and science teachers, without any logical reason for exempting the others, has us thinking that campaign politics played a part in getting this low-cost law on the books."

(Oak: This is an editorial from the Trib, not a reporter.  It's clear this person has injected their opinion into this and that they are lacking in an understanding of the real issues going on in Utah's bottom-of-the-barrel math programs.)

Concrete examples don't help students learn math, study finds

This is a fascinating article sent in to me by a teacher.  One notion behind the fuzzy programs is that we're lacking in real-world applications of the skills so they focus on real-world scenarios and skip much of the abstract. Looks like once again, the fuzzy folks have set the wrong stage and are doing more harm than good.

A new study challenges the common practice in many classrooms of teaching mathematical concepts by using “real-world,” concrete examples.

Researchers led by Jennifer Kaminski, researcher scientist at Ohio State University’s Center for Cognitive Science, found that college students who learned a mathematical concept with concrete examples couldn’t apply that knowledge to new situations.

But when students first learned the concept with abstract symbols, they were much more likely to transfer that knowledge, according to the study published in the April 25 issue of the journal Science.

“These findings cast doubt on a long-standing belief in education,” said Vladimir Sloutsky, co-author of the study and professor of psychology and human development and the director of the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State.

“The belief in using concrete examples is very deeply ingrained, and hasn’t been questioned or tested.”


Global Cooling

As we all experience this latest bout of global warming causing snow in May and end of year parties to require coats, I can't help but think there are parallels between the math fight and the global climate war. It's almost like the people who are actually trying to be objective are on one side, and then people blinded by the cause are on the other.  (Of course both sides accuse the other of being the ones blinded and having the truth on their side)  

Why is it so hard for people to look at both sides of an issue and the facts presented and then make a decision based on the evidence?  When will the math educators finally acknowledge there is no evidence to support the garbage they're pushing into our schools?  I guess I should ask when they will require a higher standard in the studies they believe to be good ones.  Then there's the big question as to when board members across America represent the people instead of the school district?

In the math fight, I've been waiting over 2 years now for a single study from the school board that justifies any of the math programs they use.  There are none, but getting any of them to acknowledge this fact is near impossible because they've been brainwashed or something thinking that district curriculum specialists have a special knowledge above and beyond their own ability to reason through a situation. Children are being deprived of a quality education and as grade inflation in the classroom helps students move along and parents feel good about it, AP scores are declining and college remediation rates are on the rise.

It's very similar to the global warming fight where Al Gore and cohorts claim consensus among all the scientific community but yet stubbornly ignore all the data that shows the earth goes through both warming and cooling periods.  Never mind thousands of real scientists and climatologists disagree with them, there's no room for debate when you stand to make billions from your scare tactics.  Here's the latest oops that shows the earth is in a 23 year global cooling cycle till perhaps around the year 2030.



Summer Programs

Here's a couple of fun things you might consider doing with your kids this summer.

Story Camp 2008
June 9-13
9 am-Noon at Orem Public Library

For an older age (12-20), there is a Freedom Camp that runs through a week and covers a good range of U.S. Government topics along with providing the kids a chance to play games and socialize.  Here's a class list that's covered and a registration form link.




Cool Software

Check out this free software that simulates physics in the things you draw and model.  There's a short video you can watch.  I've downloaded and played with it a little bit and I haven't tried to figure out how to do anything overly complex but it is pretty fun to goof around with.


The one I'm really looking forward to is this one coming out "when it's done".


Till next time,

Oak Norton

If this email was forwarded to you, please go here and sign the petition to get on my mailing list.

Copyright 2005-06, All Rights Reserved