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Old 08-01-2007, 11:21 PM   #1
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It's all about maths, English, history - no room for character building?

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/...647979212.html

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Never mind your manners, they're history in primary schools
Email Print Normal font Large font Harriet Alexander
August 2, 2007

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AdvertisementPRIMARY school principals want to ditch programs such as manners and animal care because they are detracting from English, maths, science and history.

In a draft charter to define the role of primary schools, the Primary Principals' Association has called for those four traditional subjects to be embraced as the most important, with sport, music, technology and languages to be given secondary status.

The curriculum is cluttered with up to 50 minor subjects that need to be squeezed into the 50 per cent of class time that is not already devoted to numeracy and literacy. Subjects include nutrition, drug education, wellbeing and financial literacy, said the association's national president, Leonie Trimper.

"They're fairly time consuming if you do them properly," she said. "The charter would give schools permission to say 'no'."

The charter names reading and writing, problem solving, mathematical skills and Australian history among the activities primary schools should emphasise.

"Schools have voluntarily

taken on much wider responsibilities because they are directly faced with the consequences of social disadvantage, including poverty and domestic violence," the charter says.

"It is the responsibility of schools to ensure that they only adopt programs and interventions of this kind if they can also protect their capacity to deliver on their core business, student learning."

Geoff Scott, the principal of Blacktown South Primary School, said teachers at his school were burdened by extra programs.

"We're spending less and less [time] doing the core stuff that parents are expecting us to do," said Mr Scott, who is also the association's NSW president.

"We can't just go down this track every time a politician thinks it's a good idea."

The draft charter, devised in consultation with 35 academics, principals, teachers, parents and public servants, was sent out to schools for comments yesterday.

The main parents' body said schools had a responsibility to teach children how to behave.

"They're very much part of what should be taught in schools," said Dianne Giblin, the president of the Parents and Citizens Association.
Just how much can teachers teach in the 6-odd hours of school per day? How much do we all expect them to do, anyway? Such limited time to get through a now, surely, record number of things each day. Literacy and numeracy have to be treated as essential learning areas, that has surely never been questioned. However, the recent shift toward the massive number of other areas are becoming necessary and in a way as important, surely? So how does this problem be fixed? Already there are numerous problems in primary education with excess homework and the lack of external support to supplement the learning of school time. We've got over 50% from broken homes, an increase in violence and lower social class reaping its effects, and teachers who are stretched as far as they can go to cram in reading, writing, maths, history, science, safety, drama, arts, sport, personal development... Where does this exactly end? It would be nice and ideal if the responsibility weren't left to teachers solely, but unfortunately in many cases it is because it has to be. Many parents both work, half of them are on their own, some are battling with domestic problems that are at crisis point like violence and substance use and abuse. Children are now relying on primary schools more than ever. But we come back to the precious few hours per day. Kids are encouraged to pursue extra-curricula activities like sport or dancing classes, and if parents work, there's only a couple of hours left at the end of the day to get dinner and unwind - but that doesn't allow for the hour or more of homework which is another area of growing concern - and this exists because of the above mentioned. Teachers just cannot fit all this in anymore.


I've developed a fairly painful person interest in this very topic over the last year as we are getting ready to send our Child of the Corn #1 off to 'Big School' and have spent the last 8 months battling with private schools only to eventually decide that a public will be the best for now as private schools still cannot convince you that they can actually do any better.
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Old 08-02-2007, 09:49 AM   #2
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i wonder if we don't need to rethink the concept of summer vacation, and perhaps during those months school can continue, albeit in a less structured form and the "softer" subjects -- i.e., not history, english, math, science, etc. -- can be tackled in a more creative, laid back manner.

it is a baffling problem -- the more we know, the more there is to know, but we don't seem to have any more hours in the day.
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Old 08-02-2007, 10:20 AM   #3
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PRIMARY school principals want to ditch programs such as manners and animal care
You have classes on manners and animal care?
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Old 08-02-2007, 10:44 AM   #4
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I wonder if these things cannot somehow be combined? Financial responsibility is vastly more important than, say, calculus. Why not make the math section about how to handle money? Literacy's harder, but I know I didn't really learn to read very well up until I started reading about things I /wanted/ to read about.

But yeah, it's hard. Really hard.
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Old 08-02-2007, 10:56 AM   #5
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Originally posted by UberBeaver


You have classes on manners and animal care?
Sure! Did you ever have a class pet or baby chicks?

As far as character education is concerned, it is something I have to deal with every day, every period. Last year my school began a new character ed program with PBIS (positive behavior interventions & supports). Creating a system of interventions is all the rage nowadays. (ala NCLB and Failure Is Not an Option) I'm a co-chair for this committee. Basically it's a program that rewards students for "doing the right thing." It data driven and there are certain behaviors that are addressed. For example, hallway behavior.

Can you imagine having to teach hallway behavior to high school kids? The sad part is, they absolutely needed it. We addressed everything from walking on the right to saying 'excuse me' when passing another student.

This year our character ed program will be picked up the students' homeroom/advisory period. Homeroom is new to our district and the project is a contentious one. As it turns out the school board didn't want to pay us for this extra supervision and planning. However we have a contract, yada, yada, yada we will be paid a paltry sum as having a homeroom is mandatory.

Thankfully, I am not on this committee. This summer a series of lessons were put together and teachers will take the 25 min period and focus on character ed. I'm hoping for the best.
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Old 08-02-2007, 11:14 AM   #6
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Originally posted by WildHoneyAlways


Sure! Did you ever have a class pet or baby chicks?

No. We grew grass one year in a plastic cup though. I'd throw the stick and yell "fetch" but the grass just sat there, all stupid like.

I remember the teaches telling us to say please and thank you and don't get in the way of people walking - I never associated that with the curicullum though. I was thinking more along the lines of a class called "Manners". I know a lot of people that could have used that class.
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Old 08-02-2007, 01:19 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
i wonder if we don't need to rethink the concept of summer vacation, and perhaps during those months school can continue, albeit in a less structured form and the "softer" subjects -- i.e., not history, english, math, science, etc. -- can be tackled in a more creative, laid back manner.
Kind of like educational day camp? For a couple of summers we had something like that, on a voluntary basis, at our school where I grew up...the classes were nominally more 'experience-based' versions of traditional subjects (e.g., learning about animals that lived in local wetlands, plays and acting, BASIC programming, health) but less rigidly structured, with a lot more field trips and group work and, so it seemed to me anyhow, an obvious emphasis on teamwork skills. Then again, because it was voluntary, it was a smaller and more 'select' group of students than during the regular school year...perhaps it would've been a very different experience if that hadn't been the case. Also, I think the option (if one can afford it) of having summers free for other projects is part of what makes the generally long hours and low pay associated with teaching bearable for many.

Still, while it's become cliche to say so, some of these 'minor subjects' sound like things that not only should be learned at home instead, but arguably can't ultimately be learned, or at least mastered, anywhere else, since you mostly 'learn' them through force of habit and pervasive expectation. Manners, nutrition, financial responsibility, exercise, responsible animal and/or childcare, etc...
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Old 08-02-2007, 02:00 PM   #8
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I find it extremely daft that teachers are meant to teach manners...that should always be a parental responsibility, and the few hours available in a school day would never be sufficient to teach the kids manners if they go home and they aren't reinforced.
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Old 08-02-2007, 03:26 PM   #9
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Originally posted by LJT
I find it extremely daft that teachers are meant to teach manners...that should always be a parental responsibility, and the few hours available in a school day would never be sufficient to teach the kids manners if they go home and they aren't reinforced.
I agree that it is ultimately the parents' responsibility to manners, financial responsibility, etc. But what if how to behave appropriately in public isn't being taught at home? What if a student is living in poverty? The values being taught in schools are arguably middle class. Students living in generational poverty may not have been exposed to these middle class values.
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Old 08-02-2007, 04:04 PM   #10
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It's really quite funny considering the state of maths and science in this country.
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Old 08-02-2007, 05:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by WildHoneyAlways


I agree that it is ultimately the parents' responsibility to manners, financial responsibility, etc. But what if how to behave appropriately in public isn't being taught at home? What if a student is living in poverty? The values being taught in schools are arguably middle class. Students living in generational poverty may not have been exposed to these middle class values.
Why are manners considered 'middle class' The idea that saying 'thank you' and 'please' is a middle class sentiment is absurd...Maybe the better off you are, the more stable family unit you have...but maybe because both parents are working, there is no time to spend with their kids and manners end up not being taught.

There seems to be a lack of manners in most areas of society...how is it possible to quantify that it is just the poorer kids displaying a lack of manners?

No doubt that manners and attitudes should be reinforced at school, but that is a hopeless task if it ain't being done at home. It should be done by a process of osmosis at school...if a teacher is seeing a kid being rude, call it out, reinforce a more appropriate behaviour as well as apologising for whatever it is they did...but actually devoting class time to it, I would find a very thankless task.
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Old 08-21-2007, 03:44 PM   #12
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So is teaching the traditional subjects. And yet it gets done anyway.

You aren't likely to find many things being taught at home by a lot of parents for a lot of reasons. Unfortunately, the teachers have to pick up the slack.

If they're lucky, the kids will thank them for it in the end. Ten years on, and I still
appreciate the three high school teachers I had who never failed to let me be me, and managed to teach me quite a bit about being myself, no matter what. They weren't paid, or expected to do that. In fact, they likely would have been discouraged from it. But they did it anyway, and it made all the difference to me.
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Old 08-22-2007, 11:39 AM   #13
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I don't know about this character business, but schools shouldn't be cutting art, music, sports, and interesting electives just to squeeze in more math and english to up those standardized testing scores. Kids become much less well rounded.
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Old 08-22-2007, 05:34 PM   #14
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You don't see a major reduction in how well rounded a child is when they are taught character focused activities?

Where exactly do we draw the line at what is important for kids to learn? It's becoming more a responsibility of schools to teach so much of this extra work because the home unit is simply failing to address any of it - and for a myriad of reasons. The school environment is the last chance for many children these days. We've got to ask more of our teachers.

I don't think that what WHA suggested is really that absurd, either. It's more matter-of-fact. Scumbag parents tend to breed scumbag kids, and this is closely tied to socioeconomics. Naturally, there are and will always be examples from all classes, and certainly not all lower economic groups are like this, but there is a more noticeable lack of effort to strive for any level of betterment in the 'lower class'.
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Old 08-23-2007, 09:20 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Hinder
I wonder if these things cannot somehow be combined? Financial responsibility is vastly more important than, say, calculus. Why not make the math section about how to handle money? Literacy's harder, but I know I didn't really learn to read very well up until I started reading about things I /wanted/ to read about.

But yeah, it's hard. Really hard.
I agree, mostly. Academics are EXTREMELY important. I think part of the reason why kids aren't learning is their apathy and knowing they can get away with NOT BOTHERING to learn.
It has to be combined, there's no other way. And yes, it is parents' responsibility, BUT- many times it is not being done, reinforced etc. School is a precursor to real life- or SHOULD be an environment to learn about real life. Finances, independence and following rules, being respectful to ones' self and others, manners, DISCIPLINE, etc have fallen away severely.
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