Monday, January 30, 2006

High School Science Teacher Takes Fun and Excitement out of Science

This article describes the lonely and hopeless existence of a Science teacher who bases his course on primarily lectures and a couple of experiments which he performs for the class (while finding ways to make even this change in routine dull and mind-numbing). While it is hard to take this article too seriously and believe that such a teacher exists, we have all had a less extreme version of this teacher. There are many teachers who make little effort to engage their students and simply teach the same boring lesson that they have taught for fifty years.

If I were to even bother criticizing this article (where to begin!), I would start out by pointing out a couple of major flaws in this teacher's philosophy. First of all, I believe that much of science is best understood through hands-on experimentation. Second, there are many different learning styles and direct instruction is not the preferred method for everyone. Besides, even for those who do like direct instruction, a little variety is always appreciated. One thing that I found very funny was that one of the teacher's reasons for not allowing the students to dissect frogs on their own (but simply watch a movie of other people doing it instead) was because they get too rambunctious when they try to do a lab. Wouldn't you be too? These kids are so used to being cooped up that they forget what it feels like to move and talk. Also, based on what we know about the guy, his idea of rambunctious is probably quite dillusional and strict. Finally, if we are to believe that he has ever even let them do a lab, what are the chances that it was something interesting?

This was an entertaining article and although extreme should at least gently remind us, as future teachers, of our responsibility to engage our students.

What Do We Say When We Hear 'Faggot'?

This was definitely an enlightening article. I agreed with most of what the author said and although I am quite conservative in my views on the issue of homosexuality, I definitely think that it is an issue that we as teachers need to confront.

The author discusses the ways that homophobic name-calling is used and then goes on to provide ideas for classroom activities and discussions to confront the issue. I think the author made a very good point in saying that "many teachers do not realize that this sort of name-calling can be dealt with in much the same way as other kinds of bigotry and stereo-typing." I can relate to individuals who feel pressed to hold certain "accepted" views on societal issues such as homosexuality but as teachers, I don't think our personal views on homosexuality should even come into play. The bottom line is that as teachers (and as human beings), we should demonstrate love to all individuals and not promote or allow any sort of bullying/name-calling to occur in the classroom. I think that most people, regardless of their standpoint on the issue, would agree that all children are deserving of love and kindness.

As teachers, I do not feel that our job is to discuss the morality behind the issue itself, but rather the way we should treat others who are different from ourselves. As I said above, all individuals are deserving of love and kindness and ultimately, this is the only factor that should matter. Taking this into consideration, it follows that teachers would, in fact, be infringing on the rights of some students if he/she were to stand in front of the class and discuss the moral issue itself. We should all be free to set our own moral standards and viewpoints and since teachers have such a strong influence on their students, they should be careful not to be too subjective when discussing controversial issues in the classroom. Therefore while I definitely agree that as teachers we should have zero tolerance for any oppressive behaviour/name-calling in the classroom, I would argue that we owe it to our students to stay as neutral as possible when it comes to stating our personal opinion on the issue itself.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Boob Tube and Children's Brain Drain

This article provides some evidence that television can, in fact, be detrimental to a child's brain development and therefore, academic achievement. Although there are few studies that show a direct correlation between television watching and nerve-cell growth, some research does exist that suggests that "with enrichment you can grow not new nerve cells but bigger and better nerve cells and with impoverishment you get less." One reseacher is convinced that mediation is key in determining the effect that television will have on children. Evidence suggests that heavy television-viewing kids show lower reading recognition, lower reading levels and are also associated with more aggressive behaviour. There is, however, an important third variable: parental involvement.

I completely agree that television viewing on its own cannot account for the academic correlations found in the research. As is the case with most influences on a child's life, parental involvement plays a very important role. Children with involved parents are more likely to be able to understand and discriminate between the information being presented on television. They are also more likely to be encouraged to do homework and engage in other important extra-curricular activities, which in turn will result in higher academic achievement in school.

NO: How TV Influences Your Kids

The author of this article tries to argue that their is no consistent evidence that TV has a negative effect on children's minds. His argument is unsound, however, because later in the article he states that not only does television have a role in producing aggressive play and real-life violence, but children often do not make connections between the violent (and exciting) lifestyles lead by criminals and the consequence of their actions.

I disagree with some of the points that the author makes. I think it is very dangerous to simply conclude that television does not have a negative effect on children's minds just because there is no "consistent evidence" to support it. I do agree, however, with the author's suggestion that television is less harmful if parents monitor and limit their children's television viewing. The problem with this, as the author acknowledges is that many parents are not so involved in their children's lives. In my mind, it is these children who are already lacking parental support, who will be most aversely affected and easily influenced by television.

Is Television Harmful for Children? YES: The Trouble with Television

The author of this article suggests that although parents are distressed about the amount of television their children watch, they continue to allow their children to watch television because it serves many purposes. One main purpose is that it is a very easy way to keep children occupied. The author argues that there are eight ways that television has a negative impact on children and family life.

The two that I found most interesting and thought-provoking were: 1) TV allows kids to grow up less civilised and 2)TV makes children less resourceful. I found these two points interesting because when thinking of the influence that TV has on children the first things that come to my mind are; children are becoming less active, less interactive, less attentive in school. I hadn't ever thought of the other two consequences of television named above. The author argues that parents are less firm with their children and instead of being assertive and turning off the television, they use television as a way to keep their children occupied. Parents are too tired to instead teach their children how to play alone without relying on television for entertainment. Another consequence of this is that kids become less resourceful because they are not taught or encouraged to think of alternate activities to keep themselves occupied. This lack of creativity is very sad.

I completely agree with the author. I remember back to my childhood and although I did watch TV, I remember spending summer afternoons outside playing hide and seek and rainy days inside making up music videos and skits. Children nowadays spend so much time in front of the television; there is always something interesting to watch and if not, there are tons of movies to pop in.

I feel that parents need to take a step up and take the time to engage in other activities with their children and show them how to be creative and find fun things to do in their free time. As teachers, we need to be aware of the enormous influence that TV is having on our student's lives and encourage parents to spend time working with their children on homework every night, before allowing them to watch TV.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Why Kids Need Violent Entertainment

This was definitely an interesting and fairly controversial article. The author, Gerard Jones, presents the argument that violent entertainment actually teaches children to express their emotions and helps them work through emotional conflicts they may be experiencing internally.

I'll be honest, at first I was strongly inclined to disagree with his standpoint. I don't consider myself to be overly conservative with issues such as this one, but I would never have gone so far as to argue that violent entertainment is actually beneficial to children. The author of this article is very persuasive and makes some very good arguments. I think the argument that made me think twice about my previously-held views on the issue was the following:

"...our fear of "youth violence" isn't well-founded on reality, and that the fear can do more harm than the reality. We act as though our highest priority is to prevent our children from growing up into murderous thugs-- but modern kids are far more likely to grow up too passive, too distrustful of themselves, too easily manipulated."

While, I do consent that Gerard Jones makes a strong argument and that he makes many valid points, I still think that he takes his view a step too far. He also jumps to unnecessary conclusions. The argument that I included above makes a good case for not over-sheltering our children and encourages us to question our priorities and fears to ensure they are founded. However, I wonder if showing our children violent entertainment is the way to teach them to be less passive and less distrustful of themselves. We should be showing our children non-violent ways to stand up for themselves. Wouldn't a movie with an independent and well-spoken protagonist who uses words instead of violence accomplish the same goal in a less volatile way?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Dynamite! The Explosion of Teen Magazines In and Out of Schools


This article deals with the popularity of teen magazines and their effect on adolescents, particularly girls. The author of this article seems to agree with allegations that teen magazines are sending strong and often misleading messages to young girls. The overall purpose of the article, other than to provide some statistics and research on this issue, seems to be to encourage educators to consider incorporating this material into the classroom and using it to promote critical thinking and questioning in students.

I definitely agree with this standpoint and feel that confronting the issue is much more effective than censoring it, or even worse, pretending it doesn’t exist. Instead of ignoring the issue, we should be teaching students to critically analyze and evaluate the content of these magazines so that they can distinguish between appearance and reality. If we, as educators, try to ignore the factors influencing our students today, then we ourselves are being quite naïve. Much has changed in our society in the past ten years since I myself was a young teenage girl and yet those magazines probably had the same effect on me as they have on the adolescents of today. Why are we so reluctant to teach students to think for themselves? If we don’t talk to them about these issues, they will find their information elsewhere and not always from reliable sources. As the article points out, if schools simply ban the magazines, students will find the magazines elsewhere: the public library, on the Internet or from friends. It is very sad to hear that many girls feel that teen magazines provide them with “valuable answers” that they would not find elsewhere (Manohar 2002). I can’t help but think back to my teenage years, naively pretending that I knew what French kissing was all about and wondering about puberty and all the rest. When I started reading the teen magazine Seventeen, I began to feel informed. I am not sure how accurate some of this information was, but at the time it was all that I had to go by. I definitely was not going to ask my mother such things and I didn’t want to admit to my friends that I didn’t know what they were talking about.

I feel that it is silly for us to think that we can stop students from reading these types of magazines. Instead, I believe that our role as educators is to equip students as best as we can by helping them to become better informed, capable of critically evaluating the information that they are reading.