December 20, 2007

Teaching at nights at a local corporate college has really opened my eyes to the state of education in this country.  I’m really scared when I see what is coming into my classes. 

For a while now, I have been noticing that people seem to have lost the ability to think.  Students coming into my classes at night are expecting to learn how to rub bodies.  They are not expecting to learn a lot of technical stuff that they will need to pass the state boards so they can rub bodies. 

All too many of my students come in unprepared to learn anything.  This last group came into their first class, and half of them did not have paper and something to write with.  So, with nothing to take notes with and nothing to take notes on, how do we think their study skills will be?

Another thing I see out in the real world is that people don’t know how to do math anymore.  My landlord was in a store the other day.  Their purchase rang up to $10.10.  Not having a ten dollar bill, and not wanting a bunch of ones in change, she handed the cashier $20.10.  Well, the cashier punched the amount in wrong.  They put it in as $10.10.  This person then spent the next several minutes swearing at the cash register because they did not know how to void the sale and put it in correctly.  My landlord told the cashier not to void it and simply giver her the proper change (which if you can do the math is $10).  Unfortunately, this person could not do the math.  If the cash register doesn’t tell him what to do, he had not clue.

I heard that most schools are letting their students use calculators while in middle school.  What happens to math skills when people rely simply on calculators to do the work for them?  I agree that these technological marvels are great time savers and they lower the possibility of error.  But to be using them in school when people should be learning to do math for themselves is outrageous. 

What people don’t realize is that these technological marvels were created by people that know how to do math.  Without good math skills, there wouldn’t be calculators or computers.  It’s these skills that created the basics for the technology we use and depend on today.  Basically it took people who can think to produce machines for us to use to keep us from having to think.  Scary huh? 

As technology grows, the level of intelligence drops.  Before too long, technology will stop growing because there won’t be enough people with the knowledge to increase it.  Eventually we won’t even be able to fix the technology there is, and when it starts breaking down, well it will be another dark ages.  This scenario has been shown in many science fiction stories.  It could actually happen.

Something I see advertised lately is a toothbrush that tells you how to brush as you’re actually doing it.  it tells you to brush harder, or lighter, or to spend more time in one area.  This is the ultimate tool to tell you how to think.  Or is it telling you to not think at all?  Are we now entering the age where computers will be telling us what to do?  Science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact and some of the results are frightening.

Computers help us make decisions much faster than we could before because it can draw together data and analyze it much faster than we could by hand.  Business can react to trends much faster allowing them to stay afloat when things take a turn south.  But that still requires people to think to make the decisions.  To do that, they still need to have some smarts, to think for themselves.

It’s time to wake up and exercise that big glob of gray matter between our ears.  Or before too long, technology will stop advancing and computers will be running the world because there won’t be enough people smart enough to keep things advancing.  They’ll all be picking up their calculators so they can add 2 + 2.