Thursday, September 30, 2010

Foreign Language and the Arts: Basic Education?

So following up on yesterday's thread, is foreign language instruction and/or arts instruction part of basic education?

Kids could live without having either and could be educated without either. But that's not really the point (I know it is for Tea Party people - the "basics" and nothing else).

But I would say for 21st century learning, a foreign language is going to be very useful. And not just learning the language, but the learning that comes from finding out where a country is on the globe, its culture, etc. are all part of a 21st century America.

Arts. Well, how do we live without them? The world and the school experience would be so much less without music, theater, video production, painting, etc. Arts like sports is something that keeps kids in school.

But it's a cost. So should the state help at all?

22 comments:

Jan said...

I would say that anything that is required by "most" four-year colleges is "basic," not optional -- which means, you have to have foreign language. How many years, and how to best do it, I am not sure I know. But I don't think it would be appropriate to leave it off the list.

Arts education is harder -- because unless you are going to an arts college (Berklee, RISD, etc.) I am not sure that arts classes are required. I would argue that they are still part of a "basic" education, for two reasons. First, artistic expression and appreciation are part of what it means to be human. Second, I think that we would "lose" artistically minded kids completely (either they would fail, or just become bored and drop out) if there was NO arts component to school (and their parents couldn't afford to fund it outside). I realize that for some (many?) kids, it might not be a huge loss, and for others, their parents would find it outside, but that still leaves a group of kids whom we would fail in a big way, if ALL access to art was denied in public schools.

Sean98125 said...

I think that the arts are essential to education as reading and math. Our use of language, our ability to comprehend abstract mathematical concepts and our use of art to explain and explore the meaning of the world around us are the three things that make us human.

I also think that we should be spending some time on the canonical art works not only as part of art studies but also as part of our history lessons.

TechyMom said...

An educated person can speak multiple languages and knows something about the arts. Because of the way the brain develops, it is much harder to learn languages and music as you get older. I haven't seen any studies about the visual arts, but it wouldn't surprise me if there is a similar effect there. So, yes, we need to make sure that all elementary children are exposed to languages and music, as early as possible.

And, as the world gets smaller, and the US loses some of its dominance in the business world, there are good practical reasons to speak other languages. It works better to teach them earlier, so we should be doing that.

Anonymom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymom said...

I was impressed when I looked at all of Eckstein's (free) after school classes. They included homework help center, math club, debate team, chess club, cool science, wii games, sports, hip hop dance, jazz band, and many more. All very cool, and I'm not complaining. But I couldn't help notice that they didn't include anything practical and handy, like wood shop, working on small motors/engines, basic bike repair/maintenance.

I wonder if in this new high tech world kids are just not interested in trade or handy classes? Or is it us? Are we so hyper focused on college requirements that we have done away with these other interesting options?

I wonder what part, if any, they play in basic education?

emeraldkity said...

I think we should have national standards that are the same for all states.
However, I think that as the states disperse funds to the districts, that the districts adjust the mode of instruction to the needs of the community- as long as the standards can be met.

I don't think a foreign language needs to be required as part of a national standard, although some states/districts may opt to make that an additional standard, possibly by obtaining outside grants.

I think that the arts are important and I believe that they can be part of the standards- but as a history/sociology piece, not studio accomplishment.


We can't even insure that our graduates have high school writing comprehension or are able to prove their knowledge of algebra & geometry, so I think worrying about if Bessie has a chance to try a suicide print or if the Mandarin choir class is full, is not seeing the larger picture.

If we were more flexible we would allow artists in the schools & volunteers to teach after school courses, when we have limited funds, instead of simply demanding water from a stone.

When thousands across the state are getting very basic needs cut, isn't it a little self indulgent to speculate about our idealized wants?

Karin Youngberg

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I would think that traditional autoshop is somewhat a thing of the past now since none of the newer cars can be worked on by someone without the fancy computer system required for diagnostics. Home oil changes are impractical and discouraged from an environmental view. It wold be great if kids were taught basic auto maintenance including how to change a tire, etc. That could just be another part of the Life Lessons class every kid could benefit from (basic finance, basic cooking, etc.)

Anonymom said...

OK maybe not auto shop, cars have gotten to be pretty high tech. But how about just learning basic mechanics? How to fix a small engine? Repair the brakes on your bike? When our lawnmower breaks we bring it across the street to our neighbor who is in his 70s to fix. He thinks it's funny that us "young" people have no clue how to do a very basic repair, and I fear this next generation will be even more removed from these pretty basic, and handy, skills. AS1 used to have a boat making class, and in their rite of passage ceremony they would sail in the boats they made. That seems like a great class, could learn woodworking, tool use, engineering, math, all in a hands on, practical, and fun, class.

Oh well, back, to college entrance planning.........

emeraldkity said...

I would think that traditional autoshop is somewhat a thing of the past now since none of the newer cars can be worked on by someone without the fancy computer system required for diagnostics.

It's amazing what you can learn if you don't have the money to hire someone to do it for you.
Not to go off topic too much, but you can change the radiator/tire/oil/battery without needing a diagnostic code scanner & you can buy a ODBll code reader for less than $100 that can save you hundreds if you then buy a Chiltons manual that tells you what to do.

If we could be more self sufficient, we wouldn't need to buy our furniture from Chinese factories & fight wars to insure we had oil to ship it to our house on the hill.

Math/physics/chemistry can be taught in a science lab, or an auto body shop.
Some kids might learn better if they can see direct application of knowledge.

zb said...

"Math/physics/chemistry can be taught in a science lab, or an auto body shop.
Some kids might learn better if they can see direct application of knowledge."

Did anyone else hear the fabulously heart-warming story of the Andy Swapp, the Milford, Utah shop teacher and his "WindKids" on KUOW a couple of days ago.

The story was fascinating. Mr. Swapp, the shop teacher saw some wind generators going up near his farm. He thought the construction looked like something he'd like to teach his kids, and walked up to the site and asked if he could volunteer. The construction boss offered him a job on the spot (after asking him if he knew how to tighten a lug wrench, or something else I don't know because I'm one of the "young" people who has no practical skills). Swapp said -- of course, I'm a shop teacher.

The summer job for Swapp evolved into a full fledged wind tech based curriculum for his students, involving putting up test towers for wind "prospectors." Swapp talked evocatively about being at the top of wind towers looking up at the night sky, and his student talked about having a job, one away from the hogs that's the main (smelly) opportunity in Milford. It was a truly a beautiful story, on so many different levels.

(I don't have the link, but will post it if I find it).

wsnorth said...

Everyone should have the opportunity to learn a second language and have a chance to gain an appreciation for the arts. Should these be mandated? That probably won't work in these United States, but students should be given the exposure early on and opportunity to advance later on.

Arnold said...

"(I know it is for Tea Party people - the "basics" and nothing else)"

You must not know any real Tea-Party "people" since I am one and I don't believe that "just the basics" is right. Then again, having leftist teachers is not something that we should have in the schools indoctrinating our students. (That was said partially with tounge-in-cheek to match your sweeping, political generalization).

Parent said...

Seattle Schools currently has an auto program; it is in a building on the Washington Middle School campus and is attended by high school students.

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/cte/citycampus/autoyes.xml

emeraldkity said...

My youngest attended Garfield, but not as part of the APP cohort, and while I think college prep is good, many parents are put off by classes that they perceive to be " college prep".

( As too hard/too white/too " elitist")

Even so- blue collar work, has gotten to be MUCH more complex and technical and it is just as critical IMO, to have attained writing & reading ability as well as math & science competency to be a successful plumber/electrician or even to work in the factory at Boeing, as it is to apply to college.

In a perfect world, I think that a 2nd language should be introduced & supported in elementary school, as well as enough time in the day & the year to cover the arts, music/drama/painting..., but those things can/should also be introduced cross curriculum, instead of stand-alone.

I am not that familiar with schools of education in WA, ( although I was a little horrified by some of the resumes I saw sitting on hiring committees for both teachers/principals), but I am following my older daughters MAT program with great interest. ( Her undergrad degree is not in education)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arnold, forgive my comment. I thought that Tea Party people were for less government and so I assumed they probably wouldn't want to fund education broadly. I thought they wanted to get rid of the whole DOE, no?

Patrick said...

I have to put in that wanting to eliminate the DOE does not necessarily imply that they're against education funding. They may just be against a federal government role, and would like the funding and control to be state and local.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good point, Patrick. All politics is local. Of course, that doesn't quite explain this jumping on the bandwagon of ed reform unless it's about an influx of money in bad economic times.

Charlie Mas said...

Generally speaking, you want all government control to be as local as possible.

Sometimes, however, you need it to move further from the people if the local control could be swamped by a single strong voice. Think of all those westerns in which the sheriff and the town magistrate are under the thumb of the local cattle baron. Could you imagine City of Seattle officials standing up to the Boeing Company? Could you imagine Redmond officials denying Microsoft a variance?

By kicking the decision further up the ladder, making it a county, state or federal issue, the idea is to rise above the undue influence of the strong local voice. The Marshall and the Circuit Court bring order to the lawless Western town when the sheriff and the magistrate are corrupt. The EPA requires Boeing to clean up their hazardous waste and the Department of Justice charges Microsoft with antitrust violations.

We have a bit of a problem in education right now in which there are some strong local voices, such as those who oppose teaching evolution, but the strongest and loudest voices are national - Broad Foundation, Gates Foundation, etc. - so going national doesn't rise above the undue influence. In addition, the federal edcuation authorities have no enforcement authority. For these two reasons, there's just no benefit to a federal education agency.

The DOE collects and distributes funds, and they distribute them for specific uses, but they distribute them to the states as block grants for the states to re-distribute. They leave the policing to the states. The state education authorities are part of the whole culture of public K-12 education - a culture of no enforcement and no accountability. So there are a bunch of rules but no penalties for breaking them.

The problem with the DOE isn't that they do too much, it's that they do too little. Or too much. They need to decide if they are in the game or on the bench.

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Arnold said...

@Melissa: "Arnold, forgive my comment. I thought that Tea Party people were for less government and so I assumed they probably wouldn't want to fund education broadly. I thought they wanted to get rid of the whole DOE, no?"

Smaller, less intrusive government. No, I don't support getting rid of the DOEd, and yes, I support strongly the teaching of foreign languages.

Your assumptions and generalizations of the Tea Party activists (since there is no official Tea Party as there are Democratic and Replubican parties) come stright from the pages of the New York times. Time to start displaying the tolerance that is so highly touted by your side of the aisle. Again, don't generalize. You wrote a few weeks ago about having the facts before making statements. I would suggest you follow your own advice.

But, this is your blog, and, of course, you are certainly free to express your opinion (albeit misguided IMHO). And, I will keep reading this blog.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arnold, first, you assume all I do is read the NY Times. I don't.

Two, you said it yourself

"Since there is no official Tea Party as there are Democratic and Replubican parties.."

Yes, so it's okay to make assumptions about the Tea Party based on news items because there is NO organized group to tell me I'm wrong.

Three, I do most of my research about education, not politics. That said, I do try to get it right but that was just an off-hand comment.

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