Monday 27 September 2010

Today's Victor Ludorum Is Banality

Anyone with kids will know that they (whoever they may be, LEAs, school philospohers, the NAHT pet cat, I dunno) have changed the way kids learn to write and do sums. There's no learning the letters in a simple font anymore, before joining them up once familiar with words, sentences etc. Instead the alphabet is taught with every letter being written with a tail at both ends even when it's lonely on the page - makes it easier for kids to employ joined up writing later on apparently.

Likewise, the sums of yore have been replaced with number lines, chunks and grids, as explained here.

Which all makes it rather awkward for those attempting extra-curricular education. Teaching has moved so far from the experiences of parents that, for many, home teaching is almost impossible without a crash course from the school on their methods ... which I'm sure most don't provide.

Think of it like a kind of 'closed shop' for teachers.

But surely even modern schooling can't mess around with sports day, it's just a load of running around and jumping, isn't it? Yes, I believed that too until today, the annual sports day for one of the little Ps (the girl).

First event was Dodgeball, a yank game that I'd never heard of until I was about 30, but there it was being played on a suburban playing field, albeit with a British twist. You see, the balls were lightweight plastic (like in a ball pit) which barely reached the opposition due to wind resistance - the health and safety co-ordinator will have no doubt quietly approved.

Then came the old sports day stalwarts (?), football dribbling followed by what can only be described as collective football training, jumping left and right over a marker 20 times before running to a line and back like a 'beep test'.

Next was another steal from over the pond with the 'basketball-hoop-throw-relay', which was exactly as announced on the dayglo orange loudhailer. Three attempts to 'dunk' in a plastic stand-alone basket and then tag your team-mate to do the same.

Feeling quite bemused by this point, there was a certain relief to learn that the next event was the Javelin ... except it was a foam one with the range about 10 yards, and the goal was to hit one of the teaching assistants (a sentiment I could identify with at the time).

The pièce de résistance, though, was naturally left till last. And - even though fearing the worst - as the 'dance competition' was announced, I do believe I stifled a sob.

Each group was given 5 minutes to learn a dance routine and perform it (Saturday Night by Whigfield in this case), with two teacher judges deciding the winner and lesser placings. The criteria for their doing so wasn't clear, but considering the final team scores were 89, 90, 91 and 92, I expect a certain eye was being kept on points 'equality'.

In summation, it was an almost surreal 90 minutes without even a cursory glimpse of a finishing tape and no individual champions. There was, of course, a winning team, but in the same sentence we were reminded that all the kids were winners because they had 'tried hard'.

The kids cheered, the teachers fired contented smiles at each other, while I considered how to shake off the overwhelming feeling of numbness at watching a sports day so turgid, populist media-led, and devoid of all but the merest nod to true competition.

Still, mustn't grumble, at least it finally went ahead. It was postponed from last term because the ground was too dry, which is different from last year where it was cancelled entirely due to the grass being damp.

Good grief.


ArtCo said...

Is it that long ago.
I got pummelled and kicked to fuck at football and I pummelled and mauled the footballers at rugby.
What went around came around.
What is wrong with this country.
Is that true about the Javelin, but thinking back I remember an arsehole getting one in the leg at my Games Day. Im sure she hasn't walked in front of a javellin since ,bet she's been wary where she walks in life too. lol.

Anonymous said...

Our games teacher who was ex forces would stand over an injured player and shout ..
The girls used to do something similar on the hockey field.

SadButMadLad said...

I was crap at games. It was humilating being rubbish at sports.

I didn't mind running, but I didn't like cricket because I was scared of being hit by the ball. I didn't like football because I wore glasses and was afraid of breaking them. I was atrocious at athletics, but at least I could do it. I did like tennis though.

But it taught me loads. It taught me that I wasn't a physical person. I knew I was more a thinking person. My interest in all things science proved that.

I had some satisfaction in humilating other kids who were rubbish at science. I came out of school with very good grade, others didn't.

So if kids lose at one thing, they can win at another thing.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Sadbutmadlad: Well put. It would seem that such 'diversity' isn't allowed at schools anymore, though. ALL kids have to be equally bland at everything. Excellence is frowned upon or even actively discouraged.

Dick Puddlecote said...

ArtCo: Another comment pointing to the fact that failure, and even naivete, being a future positive. It's very worrying that kids are not allowed anything like that anymore lest they get a trifle upset.

Anon: My games teacher forced me into playing rugby in the same manner. I'm glad he did as after a few weak mumbles I took to it enthusiastically, eventually made the 1st XV as full back, and have loved the game ever since.

SorenK said...

which is precisely why my children shall be schooled in Spain where this idiocy has not (yet) infiltrated.

they even play rugby now - its for the fat lads who can't play futbol or baloncesto.

Anonymous said...

Never seen that griding calculation before, but it's pretty much how I've always worked it out in my mind, even whilst at school. I was taught long multiplication, but have long since forgotton it, whereas the grid method came naturally...

Dick Puddlecote said...

Anon: This is very true: The grid method is exactly how I've been teaching both kids to do the maths in their head. With a pen and paper to hand, though, the old style sums are more efficient IMO.

SadButMadLad said...

Dick: In response to your reponse to ArtCo about getting upset.

There was a snippet on BBC breakfast this morning where they were teaching kids to use scooters. The push with your foot style. The reporter made out that kids were being taught because there had been cases where kids had hurt themselves after falling over. From a scooter! A few cuts and scrapes.

At least the instructor (probably doing it for the money) had some sense - when asked if the kids should wear cycle helmets (yet again - for a scooter!) he said it was up to the parents but he wouldn't push for them to be worn.

PS. SBML is just fine.

timbone said...

I used to think I was crap at math, (notice the Americanism). That was until my son, about twenty years ago, asked me to help him with some homework, (homework at Junior School?, don't times change). He was struggling with some subtraction. No problem. Subtract the lower number from ten (it was higher than the upper number) and carry one. Hang on a minute, young Jonathan didn't get it, that was not the way he was taught. I tried to understand the formulae he used. Mind you, when he got to 'big school' they could use calculators anyway. So my math, no, my maths is not so bad after all.

Guy in my corner shop was telling me the other day about kids trying to work out how much change they have left.....that's another story.

Angry Exile said...

Oh for fu... I'd have been kicked out for laughing. This is where Britain's sporting talent of the future is supposed to come from? The private sector probably can't make up the gap so the UK is going to get it's arse kicked in just about everything from about, ooooh, well actually the track record isn't that flash anyway but it's likely to go even further downhill. English rugby will get by on public school output and soccer will remain monied enough to provide some incentive to at least run around a bit and kick the fucking ball between diving to the grass clutching their eyes, but the rest? I can see it all now:

Britain's best medal hopes in the 2020 Olympics...

4x100m relay team - We've brought our own eggs and spoons, you know.

Weight lifting - Are there Health and Safety guidelines for this?

Javelin - I'm not throwing that. The end's all pointy and sharp.

The whole fucking team - What? No medals? But we came all this way.

JuliaM said...

This is why so many people joining today's workforce have a HUGELY inflated sense of their own self-worth and - the minute they are faced with any hint of difficulty or adversity - cannot cope. They have - literally - been trained not to be able to cope.

Anonymous said...

JuliaM - spot on.

About 12 years ago I tried to help my son with his algebra and automatically used basic transposition of formulae, my son thought I was a mathematical genius or something as this was alien to him and bore no resemblance to how they were taught. He watched and learned but when he used it at school he was reprimanded and I got a snotty letter stating that if I wanted to help him with his homework I had to use the techniques now used at his school.

JuliaM said...

Interestingly enough, look what was in the 'Mail' article on prep schools today:

Mr Hanson added that a strong diet of sport was a 'big driver' of demand for boys' prep schools.

Unknown said...

I hated school! I did my damnedest to skip it every chance I could, so much so that my parents told me that I would be taken away from the home if I didn't conform, which I did...occasionally.

When I went to secondary school I was 'made' to play football...and I hated it so I would, out of defiance, just stand there in the middle of the field and not move a muscle. Then there was gym periods, which I didn't mind. I then found out that there was one thing that I liked and could do! Well, I was tall and lanky being brought up in Glasgow,lmao.

It often surprises me that I came away from my misspent schooldays able to read and write! I struggle with maths and mental arithmetic and I am convinced that this is the reason I've went from job to job doing manual work and low earnings.

My dad, a drinker and smoker, may he rest in peace, when I came in crying that I was being bullied by some yob from school, would send my out again and tell me to hit him back, a tactic today that would have a parent up in front of the beak for child cruelty.

I have not children but I feel for parents like you DP who are treated like criminals until you can prove that you are not.

Let them run about, play sports deamed 'risky,' by the namby pambies that feel their childhood done them wrong, and let them take risks in their childhood lives, let them discover their strengths and weaknesses.

When your kids are all grown up with a family of their own they will say "school never taught me as good as my mum and dad, they taught me the meaning of life."

Dick Puddlecote said...

Timbone: The other story about the shop owner ... we'd like to hear it. :)

AE: It does make you wonder about our future sports prospects, doesn't it? There's certainly no enthusiasm engendered in schools. The other little P loves cricket and has been a member of a youth cricket club for three years. His school do 'cricket', but it's an after school club and they're not allowed to bowl overarm!

Julia: Trained not to cope, in a nutshell.

Anon: Yes, this has crossed my mind too. It's simple enough to grasp different methods of simple addition, subtraction, multiplication etc, but when they get to simultaneous equations and the like, I'm wondering if they've overhauled the way they teach those too - that would be far more problematic.

Luke said...

Fuck me, that grid method's ridiculous! Having turned 20 this year I'm glad that I got a chance to learn the 'old' method instead of hasving my brain filled with that crap. It makes me worry about what state my little brother will end up in... I think I may have to take the approach that you have towards your children's education, Dick.

Angry Exile said...

"His school do 'cricket', but it's an after school club and they're not allowed to bowl overarm!"

Cricket Australia would like to pass on their thanks to the British education system. They think it'd be a shame to be forced to bat again if it's good barbie weather.


Ian R Thorpe said...

I remember almost 20 years ago I was sent a snottogram by my daughter's school for "interfereing with her education." My crime? I had taught her how to use a book index and the library to access information she had not then been taught the "on message" version of.

Control freakery goes back a long way in the education system.

Sam Duncan said...

I went to an independent school 20-30 years ago. We did the double-tail letters, number lines, and were taught the grid method (although it was made abundantly clear long division and multiplication were the “proper” way). We also played dodgeball. Mind you, we used a leather football. Made quite an incentive for dodging, that did. I'm not entirely sure how you can play it without somebody winning, though.

Dance routines? These are the End Times, mark my words...

SBML: Cricket was the only thing I liked. You spent half the game on the boundary just watching (ie, larking about with your mates and giving the game absolutely no attention whatever), two minutes desperately trying to get out, and the rest fielding in a position nobody was remotely likely to hit to. The perfect game for sportophobes.

Sam Duncan said...

Oh, and we “played” rugby. In the snow.

Kind of balances it all out.

Simon said...

State education claims that people are raised up to a level when in reality the brighter, fitter, faster ones are dragged down.

The funny thing is that after all teh "well down Chabatta etc" when you see the parents race, the competive streak is in abundance yet this is what is being denied children to their detriment.

Fortunately, thanks to 20-odd years of Rugby, I am excused having to race and can stand behind the bikeshed with other smokers hoping not to get detention!

J Bonington Jagworth said...

"every letter being written with a tail at both ends"

Aaarrrgh! I had several arguments with our son's Head about this a few years ago, but she assured us that it would all come out in the wash. Now 12, his handwriting is still appalling, while that of friends from less progressive schools, who were allowed to print first, is generally excellent.

You'd think that ideal methods for teaching the 3 R's might have been arrived at some time ago, but then what would 'educationalists' do with themselves..?