site stats WhizGidget Wonders...
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? (or, Scott Adams is an Idiot)
...Well, are you?

I wasn't going to write about this for a few more days, but I was compelled to write this after I saw Scott Adams' blog entry about it. He's the guy that draws Dilbert, if you don't recognize the name.

Initially I was going to talk about my kids watching this show with DH and I and how we've been answering the questions. And that DH and I *are* smarter than the resident 5th grader. A is in 5th grade, B is in 4th grade for those who have forgotten (or don't know) where my kids are in school.

But Mr. Adams decided to put a whole different spin on things, and it ticked me off.

For those who haven't watched the show, it's hosted by Jeff Foxworthy (of "you might be a redneck" comedy fame) and puts adults on the spot to answer questions that come from school textbooks from grades 1 through 5. Some of the questions are brain-dead easy, and others take a little bit of thinking. But they're all the things that our kids learn. Things like, as Mr. Adams pointed out, what constellation the Big Dipper is in, or what bone in the human body is the largest.

These are the things that my kids know because they're good students and their good teachers have gone over these things. Mr. Adams stated that our kids are learning a bunch of useless crap. *That* pissed me off. Now, I'm sure he wrote this in a joking sort of manner. At least I hope he did.

You see, he goes on to try and imagine when he would need to know the name of the largest bone in your body (which is the femur, the bone in your upper thigh). He does not come up with a realistic situation and cites being in a museum being attacked by wild dogs and would ask him to grab a femur and start swinging. He goes on to muse about what kids *aren't* learning in school when they are learning about these so-called useless things that are coming up on the game show.

The things that he brings up about what the 5th graders should learn make me really happy that he's not on the school board for the State of California. I should note, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, probably not even 25 miles from my house. He doesn't have children as far as I know, but I hope he has them soon so that he can destroy their innocence and idealism instead of trying to convince people that they should destroy that of my children.

He thinks that 5th graders should learn about how attractive people do better professionally, or how to recognize b.s. when they see it. How to influence people, risk assessment, and public speaking are other suggestions he makes.

I won't disagree with public speaking - I think all students should learn to do that throughout the grades so that they're comfortable with it later on. Oh wait, isn't that what presenting your school projects to the rest of the class is supposed to prepare you for? That's right, my kids have been doing that since 1st grade, so the introduction to public speaking is already taken care of.

It's a shame that he chose this subject to poke fun at, because he could have written something so much better. Something that strikes a chord with all the working professionals who were students once, and who have children going through school now.

With education changing significantly since I was a kid with cutbacks in science classes and art classes, you can't possibly be serious that the kids are learning crap. Hell, I don't think that they're learning *enough*. And what are his suggestions of classes going to lead to? They're not going to teach kids how to think critically, or to be inspired to be creative. If they don't learn the bones of the body now, they might not consider becoming a doctor or a nurse. If they don't know about clouds and weather systems, they might not become a meteorologist. Another Einstein might be found in a mathematics or science class, or someone who will be a great politician (one who does really good and smart things) could come out of a history class, inspired by the stories that they hear about Presidents of the past.

I certainly don't consider that crap. Just last night I spent time with A working through prime numbers, and working out word problems about the number of baseball cards two kids had that had lowest common multiples of x and greatest common factors of y. I'm pretty decent at math and analysis (it's my job, after all), but this is math that's 25 years in my past. But I managed it, and I know that she'll use it to derive other numbers in other equations later on. She's learning logic and critical thinking with these exercises.

It goes back to the ideas that you'll never use those things when you grow up. Like algebra, or how to diagram a sentence. But those are the exercises that get your brain thinking about such things. About what makes sense. About the next logical step to take (critical thinking), or what's the best way to go about solving something (decision making ability). You don't have to have a class specifically for them - they're part of every class and homework assignment as you grow up and go through school.

We don't need to have a class on b.s. being taught to our kids. There are adults who couldn't pick out b.s. even if they were standing in a field of it, so maybe that should be a college class instead? Kids are pretty good about picking up on it themselves, even if they don't call you on it. Let them learn their life lessons the old-fashioned way... by experiencing it. Then they could make their own determinations.

That's how I learned. And that's why I can say that I think Scott Adams is an idiot if he really thinks our kids should be taught the classes that he says they should be taught.

At least he makes one good suggestion with backhanded sarcasm. He thinks that 5th graders should learn CPR. That's the good part. The rest of the sentence states that they should learn it in case he ever "needs a 5th grader to revive him". Sarcasm right to the end. If he had done his homework he would know that a bunch of schools in the San Francisco Bay Area have a 5th grade class called "Nutrition". And part of Nutrition class these days is to learn CPR. I just signed A's slip to say it's ok that she learns this very important skill so that there is another person in the house who is certified to perform CPR, even if she might not be strong enough to effectively do it. She'll know how to keep calm in a situation like that, or talk someone else through how to do it (because A *is* a pretty calm head in a crisis). And she'll know how to do it effectively on a classmate should *they* need it.

But I still think he's a moron for making light of what kids are being taught in school when the state of our children's education is something that is a hot button of debate across the country. edited to add: Even if he *did* write it in jest, there are going to be people who don't take it that way, or they're going to seriously agree with him. He's got a vast readership, much more broad than mine, and has already gotten almost 300 comments, many of them in agreement with his ideas. Sad, isn't it, when adults start thinking that standard education should be replaced or supplemented with things that are soft skills that they should learn along the way...

Now that I've said that piece, I'll write what I really wanted to write about the show sometime in the near future and how my family has been reacting to it.