Classroom Chaos

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

If your child is afraid of "the bad people who try to hurt us, like Saddam Hussein," what do you tell her? In Minnesota, writes James Lileks, parents are advised to tell pre-schoolers not to worry: The U.N. and the World Court will take care of everything.

I promised my daughter I would deal with wolves and bears. It was my job. Once she demanded to know how I would deal with a wolf if one got into the house. It was a long conversation, starting with my analysis of the difficulties wolves have in turning doorknobs. Nothing would satisfy her string of what ifs until I pointed my finger and made a "pow" sound: "I would shoot the wolf," I said. With my finger, apparently.

That satisfied her. I don't think a United Nations debate on the meaning of the "consequences" clause in Wolf-Lamb Resolution 6794 would have done it.

Teaching Peace

Peace education is hot, reports the Christian Science Monitor:

At Santa Fe High School, for instance, Karey Thorne teaches a semester-long course called "Peace Jam." The curriculum -- which has been taught to about 13,000 students worldwide since it was developed six years ago in Denver -- teaches students about both individual peacemakers and peaceable societies throughout history. It also highlights the work of Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

Like Yasir Arafat?

Teachers shouldn't tell their students what to think about war in Iraq, writes Jonathan Zimmerman, an NYU professor of the history of education, in the Washington Post.

Even as the California Teacher's Union attacked Bush's policies on Iraq, for example, spokesmen insisted that they only wanted to "get students thinking about the issue." But how can you get them thinking about a question if you have already told them the correct answer?

Soldiers’ Children

While schools on military bases help soldiers' children cope, National Guardsmen in Maine complain that their children are harassed. However, Winds of Change reports that most of the complaints involve insensitive or hostile comments to parents, not to kids, along with some child-to-child taunts.

(Beer) Blast Saddam

Hundreds of thousands of students will occupy our nation's bars Friday and Saturday in a Beer for Bombs rally in support of liberating Iraq.

This Little Piggy Stayed Home

The "Three Little Pigs" aren't welcome in classrooms at a West Yorkshire school. Charlotte's Web and Freddy the Pig are confined to the school library. No word yet on Mrs. Piggly Wiggly. An English elementary school has banned pig stories from pre-school and early elementary classrooms to avoid offending Muslim students, who make up 60 percent of enrollment. However, Yorkshire Muslims say the policy is "nonsense." They're not supposed to eat pigs; there's no ban on hearing or saying the word.

Tunnel of Hate

Take a ride through the Tunnel of Oppression to experience persecution. On her site, Erin O'Connor reports:

This week, Ball State opened its very own custom-built tunnel, complete with a racism scenario in which "two actors portrayed Ku Klux Klan members who yelled obscene phrases at the audience" and a body image scenario in which "two female actors worked out, casually talking about drinking milk to help them throw up."

At other universities, tunnel-going students have been cast as Jews in a Nazi gas chamber, slaves and disabled wheelchair users.

Is English a CWOT?

Text messaging shorthand is giving British educators the willies. Students are using texting -- messages condensed to fit on tiny mobile phone displays -- instead of standard English.

A 13-year-old girl's essay starts:

"My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we usd 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :-0 kds FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc."

Translation: "My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York, it's a great place."

Brian Micklethwait says the trend is gr8 -- if only because that's the only word he can text.

The essence of good writing is knowing who you are sending your message to, and what you are trying to get across with it. By this standard the average text message is excellent, and the average school essay is a pointless shambles of undirected waffle.

Meanwhile, the English language will, as so often, hoover up a mass of new words from this latest patois, and become even more English than it is already ("cwot" perhaps?), that is to say, even more complicated and mysterious and weirdly spelt, even more completely the language of the entire world, and way more cool even than it is already.

That's wstrn cvlzAtn 4 U.

You're going to B-E-E out of the will

Hysterically funny: Sarah Bunting of and her parents compete in a charity spelling bee.

Israelis Construct Math Disaster

Once tops in the world in mathematics, Israeli students are now lagging. Math professors blame a "new math" curriculum imported from the U.S. a generation ago.

Israeli students explore math by playing with colored rods of different lengths. Counting is forbidden; memorization is discouraged. Nothing is taught directly by teachers. There is no homework. Children are supposed to enjoy math. Whether they can do math is secondary.

Some Israeli schools are now using math books from Singapore, which ranks first in international comparisons.


Richard Innes writes:

Your Fox News item on "Teaching Rommel to Read" offers an impressive, child-level view into a terrible tragedy in American education, but there is a lot more to this story. In Kentucky, it is actually legal to create Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for learning-disabled students that require all tests, including 'reading tests' to be read to the students. If the test cannot be read to the student, the student is simply excluded from the test. As a result, the reading failure of these students is totally ignored in both the Kentucky state level assessments and national testing programs.

RAND research and exclusion data from the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests indicate a whopping 10 percent of the children in Kentucky have such provisions in their IEPs. This eliminates any pressure on the school to teach this large number of students to read. These students are simply passed along to upper grades with their 'read-all-tests-to-them' requirement intact.

Kentucky's state testing scores for reading show nothing is wrong, however. Even though these special students don't take real, printed text reading tests in Kentucky, their spoken-word-only comprehension scores are mixed in with regular reading scores from non-disabled students as though the whole process is a valid and reliable indication of the state's overall reading instruction.

Sadly, this terrible situation seems to be spreading to other states that apparently care more about inflating test scores than insuring all kids have good reading instruction.

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

Respond to the Writer