[geeks] New Tech Schools: Digital Harbor in Baltimore
Jonathan C. Patschke
jp at celestrion.net
Fri Apr 13 19:06:19 CDT 2007
On Fri, 13 Apr 2007, velociraptor wrote:
>>> I question the teaching of word processing at all. Just tell kids
>>> they have to type their papers, and they will be able to figure it
>> I respectfully disagree.
>> I've met very few people who use word processors daily who can use
>> them well.
> But is this the job of a public school trying to prepare students for
> the future?
I expect two things of government schools:
1) Prepare the academically-inclined to perform well at college or in
their independent scholarly endeavours.
2) Prepare everyone else for trade school or apprenticeship (these
folks are important, too).
Proper use of a word processor is increasingly becoming a requirement
for #1, in spite of the obvious fact that we still surround ourselves
with perfectly serviceable pens and paper. For folks looking at
vocational clerical work, it's a mandatory skill.
> I don't think so, myself. School is about learning how to learn,
> getting the basics for survival (e.g. "real world" skills--check
> Heinlein's list), and understanding how to think critically (e.g. not
> be a mark).
These are not conducive to the government's apparent goal of producing
stupid citizens that will continue to vote for handouts at the expense
of fewer liberties, rather than realizing they can care for themselves
if they'd only but try. Therefore, these are precisely the things that
a modern US government school will -not- teach.
Standardized tests are a great example of this. Texas really got on
that bandwagon about the time I was in fifth grade. First it was the
TEAMS test, then the TAAS test, and now the TAKS test. Elementary
school was such that, if you were in one of the tested grades, you'd be
bloody sick of hearing about the damned test by term's end because
that's -all that was taught-. From the beginning of term onward, you'd
hear "and this will be on the TAAS test at the end of the year", and two
weeks prior to the test, there were mock tests and whatever else.
High school wasn't much better. For each subject covered by the TAAS
test, you could expect that teacher would teach nothing -but- the stupid
test the entire semester. Thus, we were taught to memorize a large pile
of crap so that we might regurgitate it nine months later, for the
express purpose of ensuring that our campus continued to receive state
That helps me every bit now as it did when I went off to university:
> Teaching Microsoft Word is a waste of time b/c by the time those kids
> get to the workforce, it won't be the same. The things necessary to
> be efficient in any software can come from teaching kids how to get
> into the "meta" aspects of any software application--e.g. teaching
> them to look more than skin deep.
Oh absolutely. Concepts are key. However, given that everything I
knew how to do in Word I could do form the keyboard, I'm just as
proficient in Word XP as in Word 6.0. 2007, though....that's quite
> IMO. My direct experiences trying to do those things you and others
> have talked about--lay out print-ready copy using Word are the things
> that made me realize that wasn't really what Word was targetted to do.
No, it really rather sucks for anything of any complexity whatsoever.
It's decent for letters and memos and the like, but Frame and LaTeX and
InDesign make it look like the sick joke it is when it comes to really
long documents or documents with lots of embedded math.
For that matter, so does Mathematica. I typeset more than a few college
papers in that before I learned LaTeX.
And therein is the problem: the merging of word processing and desktop
publishing. Creating/editing copy and laying it out are two entirely
separate tasks, but lots of people conflate them into "putting stuff on
Jonathan Patschke ) "If we keep our pride, though paradise is lost, we
Elgin, TX ( will pay the price, but we cannot count the cost."
USA ) --Neil Peart, "Bravado"
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