Star Ford

Essays on lots of things since 1989.

Middle school curriculum, reinvented

Junior High kids are often blamed for being the hardest age to teach, but my observation is that it depends on how boring the stuff is you are trying to teach them. With the appropriate kind of structure, the age group can be a joy, but if it is structured without regard to the special needs of that age group, they find it boring, and they get out of the teacher’s control.

In elementary school, life is pretty stable, and kids want to learn everything about everything (unless they have been turned off to learning by bad experiences in school). They have a great capacity to extend themselves, incorporate new skills, and learn external things that do not involve themselves. They could get very interested in the history of foreign countries, for example, even though they may have no personal experience with the subject.

Then, at ages 12 and 13, kids are energetically seeking their identity through friends and group membership. History and other abstract outside subjects no longer have as much meaning, and only things that have to do with ME mean something. The child will try on different values and ways of being, and see what works best. The choices the child has are of course whatever there is in his or her environment, and the child has no other way of distinguishing what kind of person it is best to be, other than to try out different ways. Therefore a teacher and a curriculum can have a very deep and permanent impact, if the whole affair seems attractive enough to pay attention to. On the other hand, if it is boring, the kids will look to and find meaning in other options, like whatever the older kids are doing, what’s on TV, etc.

After Junior High, some kids figure out who they are and can get back to the business of formal education. If the child becomes a stable adolescent with a group of friends and has developed ways to deal with problems, then I think there will be room again for learning about things outside of oneself. High School is a time when people can be at their intellectual peak, and learn new abstract concepts, foreign languages, artistic skills, and so on, all very quickly.

But if High School kids are still fighting unresolved battles from early adolescence, then they can not move on to the intellectual phase. Such kids do not pay attention in High School either, and become social and academic failures.

We need a whole new concept of education for the Junior High age group. Primarily, we have to let up on the pressure to learn abstract academic things like math and history. If we cut way down on the formal academics and have them spend a lot more time on discovering who they are, they will be more successful discovering who they are, then they will be done with that phase in life, and will want to move on to other things. Read the rest of this entry »

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PRT switch design

This paper presents a PRT switch design and notes on a black box design methodology. Read the rest of this entry »

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