School's Out...But How Far?

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Congratulations to the current graduates from Loudoun County schools. I hope you continue in your pursuit for knowledge and obtaining a quality life. I am very concerned, though, for what is being taught to our children and whether we are creating a better environment for them to build upon. Let me explain to you why I am worried about this countrys' future.

I dated a school teacher from the Fairfax County school system for many years and she had many complaints about how the system was being run. She also was afraid to speak out on issues for fear of losing her job which, as I found out from other sources, was quite an easy feat and without needed explaination as to why. I guess you have to be "invited" back for the following year and your grade levels and studies are dictated to you by others. I guess you don't want to make enemies.

She also informed me that a "select" group of teachers (I can't recall who chose the group) were resposible for picking the textbooks for the up-coming school year (done every 2 years, I believe) and that the teachers teaching the subject had to become familiar with the text. Herein lies the problem. There are numerous companies that publish school textbooks and they are not held culpable for their content. What that means is that you can omit, stay heavy on one single aspect for a majority of the book, or even editorialize certain aspects. A select group picks for everyone. Based on their beliefs. This to me is dangerous.

My daughters did go to the Loudoun County school system and I have seen and had issue with some of the textbooks. Civil War was a slave issue, no 2nd Amendment right (and sometimes the Bill of Rights was never spelled out at all, only mentioned!), learning about the world politics over the United States, etc. Books that don't mention the founding Fathers' belief in God and Gods' laws and how they are incorperated into our own laws. My second daughter was pulled out of the public system and sent to a church school after the 3rd grade. Enough was enough.

I have been to the school (in the public school system) on many occasions from the bullies to the indignities of the teachers. As of 2 years ago, I know that many teaching positions were held by individuals without 4 year college degrees or even teaching credentials. My daughters' teachers all have 4 year and half have masters degrees. The public system makes you get thru required segments of text to complete a study but only have time for slow learners after school as there are so many students in a classroom and there is no time to dwell. My daughters class is half the size, longer in length of time and everyone is brought to the same understanding before continuation of a study. No child left behind. And they still finish the required curiculum. There is no dress code in school anymore and students have to vie for a spot of acceptance. My daughters school-everyone dresses the same so we act as a group. There is no peer pressure. My daughter also has Bible studies and has to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I used to do that in school. Public school. The county system to educate one student is over $12,000 dollars. My daughters school is one-third that amount. And teachers get raises on 3 criteria-individual student scores in relation to national average (have to remain above), parents report card on teacher and school committee. That is what you call working for a living. Yet the do it for love and the reward of future leaders with values.

What I am trying to point out here is this; we as county residences cry out for a better school system and better schools and feel that if we throw enough money at it that it will come to past. My conclusion is that a good school system will cost LESS money and give more reward. Teachers' raises are almost always in the yearly school bill (which the state also gives as part of their school offering) but we don't get as many teachers that teach for the love of the job and the tremendous good feeling that comes with molding and nurturing our future gatekeepers. Gatekeepers. Those that take control and guard the gates of the kingdom. The United States of America. Can we afford to remove God from our lives and laws and expect to find decency in any generation? We need to instill morals at home and school at the earliest of ages. Reward it and promote it. This is the beginning. We need textbooks that tell nothing but the TRUTH and focuses on the success of our country. Doing this helps to show what we are and what others can become or bring about in their countries. That means being role models. We have lost so many over the course of time. And Bill Clinton or Paris Hilton are not role models. Although they are both scumbags, my daughter and I pray that they may change their hearts someday.

It is summer break. I suggest that we start getting honest textbooks, make sure our teachers are qualified and get those that love the art of teaching. I have to thank my parents as teachers and the teachers in school that cared enough about me and my future to take that extra effort so that I could succeed. I didn't do bad. I may not be financially well-off but I have so many more riches than others and I am happy with who I am and where I am. I have morals, values, insight and I care way too much to sit idly by while the ruination of our culture and country marches before my very eyes. It starts at home but the schools have been empowered with the trust of knowledge. Don't let our children down. Act now.

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Kevin said:

ACTivist, you'd think in a rant on education you'd at least sound educated. What is with all the misspellings and examples of poor grammar?

I know, I know, Joe. How can it be a "rant" if it doesn't sound crazed? Still.

Now, craze on, ACTivist, craze on.

Kevin said:

Wow, that was really poor form. I don't know what got into me. Sorry, ACTivist.

Jack said:

Get a clue, Kevin. His whole rant was about how bad the public schools are. He went to public schools. You just bolstered his case.

I personally told ACTivist - who is entirely new to the blogosphere - he did not need to self-edit if it was not his style.

I realize the typically stupendous level of prose here may have spoiled some of our readers.

It is important to bear in mind there is a rather widespread custom of off-the-cuff writing in this amazing digital age we seem to be entering.

Not everyone can whip off perfect grammar and spelling on the first draft. To some with appropriate training and interest, it comes naturally, and to others it does not. I don't see this as really a matter of whether one is "educated" but rather one's trade.

I appreciate that Kevin caught this and apologized.

There have been some extraordinarily "educated" bloggers, maybe even at this blog, who make grammatical and spelling errors with some frequency.

If forced to choose, I would much rather have timely and energetic posts here than polished and infrequent ones.

That is a tad snarky, Jack. The points ACTivist is making are cogent ones worthy of more elevated discussion than this.

zimzo said:

I'm really shocked that the textbooks he mentions claim that slavery had something to do with the Civil War and discuss "world politics" which have no place in an American classroom.

Good questions, Zimzo. I look forward to ACTivist addressing them.

Had Enough said:

mexico is filling our schools with their textbooks so that the children of mexicans whether legal, illegal or American Citizens are taught the mexican version of history to stay in touch with their ethnic history. These textbooks say that we stole their land.

mexico is brainwashing these kids and our school systems and government are allowing it by accepting and using these books.

Had Enough said:

The "No Child Left Behind" is a huge travesty, it is dumbing our kids down to levels never seen before in this country.

There is a school systems in Pennsylvania where the kids are no longer required to give the correct answer in math. It is called "ESTIMATING." If the answer is close enough they pass.

Who can function by estimating math? Not a scientist, not a doctor, not a carpenter.

So because there are so many foreign kids in the school systems that can not test on the level of English speakers, the schools are bringing our kids down to a unacceptable level of "stupid."

No one can function without MATH or READING.

Are you satisfied that the old 4+4 is now 7 or 9, CLOSE ENOUGH?

You can not build or mix anything or measure anything with Close Enough.

Would you fly in a plane, buy a car, have a perscription mixed, or anything else that was created with estimating the contents or fabrication with Close Enough?

Make the kids dumb enough with Close Enough so we need more HB1 visas from india, I hope they get paid with "well, that's Close Enough."

Jack said:

I am sorry. I did not intent to be "snarky" at all. My intent was simply to point out the amusing aspect of criticizing a person who went to public schools for his "misspellings and poor grammar," when his article was about how bad the public schools are.

He does indeed have some very cogent points. I am dealing with them now with my own children's schools.

suburbanite said:

I have encountered this when my own kids were in school in Loudoun, and I ascribe the problems to two sources.

One is the educational (and societal) fashion that promotes "self esteem" as the progenitor of achievement, and not the reverse. So it becomes more important to be part of a "diverse" "team", and reach "consensus", and FEEL GOOD about that process. That's why you have third graders working in groups guesstimating math instead of DOING it.

This spins off into the political aspects (probably inescapable in government schools--if one group gets their ideas in, then another goes to court for equal representation. Sooner rather than later you have so many agendae present there is no time left for the actual instruction in skills and facts.) My personal feeling is that textbooks would cost a lot less if they contained fewer full-color spreads on the UN cause du jour. I.e., how much time should third grade math be spending on the rain forest?

The local political aspects are the natural secondary follow-up. There are any number of articles in the local papers that show school projects and field trips that remarkably occur when legislation is pending on a related issue.

Take the infamous Journey Through Hallowed Ground: President Monroe's retirement home of Oak Hill on Route 15 is not open to the public, but the week the local board was voting on the golf course community on the other side of 15, it hosted several elementary school field trips complete with costumed interpreters, and comprised the entire center section of the Connection newspapers that week.

Accompanied of course by interviews with the owners of Oak Hill moaning about the golf course.

Hallowed Ground was the subject of a school dustup over summer activities recently, as reported in Leesburg Today. For $500, your child could participate in an LCPS-sponsored summer camp, which would consist of making a video journal about the Journey, which it stated in the LCPS brochure would be "used to promote the Journey".

IOW, you could pay for your kids to be in a lobbying commercial.

In Loudoun, some of this may have to do with the fact that The Mosby Heritage Area hired a long-term history teacher as their education director, and he seems to be mentioned in most school-related political eventing. Perhaps it accompanies any pension plan that the school system will continue to provide "work" for retired teachers' political outreach?

At any rate, I believe that in Loudoun they advertise for individuals to serve on textbook vetting committees, and I echo ACTivist's call to participate.

Lord knows the political agenda groups will be paying people to volunteer!

ACTivist said:

I apologize to all about both grammar and spelling. My intent is to put forth topics for discussion and thought. If it happens at the expense of grammar and spelling, I can live with that. If that is all the readers pickup on, then my context is getting lost. I guess if you axe me too, I can put sumptin together in ebonics but only if you try to understand the position. As to Zimzo being astonished about teaching slavery as being partial cause of the Civil War; history teaches us that it was about states' rights and how the states have more government over themselves than the U.S. government. That includes property which is how slaves were defined. Lincoln kept many states in the union at the onset of the war, including the biggest slave state of all-Massachusetts-by telling the governors that slavery would NOT be an issue of the war. Later in his emancipation of the slaves, he only freed the slaves in the confederacy where he had no power. The northern slaves were not granted that same freedom. We do teach world politics as it should be. We shouldn't teach world politics as PRIMARY to the american way of life. American history and how it AFFECTS world politics is the course prescribed. The U.N. is not our governing body and has no business in determing our laws or dismantling our constitution. Lesson over.

Jack said:

suburbanite -- "agenda" IS plural. The singular is "agendum," an action. So "agenda" is a group of actions.

Latin should be required in public schools. I had two years of it myself. Unfortunately, both were Latin I. (My school required Latin I in 8th grade. That is no longer the case. It now requires Latin II in 8th grade!)

I personally require my kids to take at least one year of Latin.

Anyway, I do generally agree with your assessment, but I have come across some interesting research lately. That research showed that praising HARD WORK, rather than talent, encourages kids to accept greater challenges.

Essentially, if a child does well and is praised for his talent or intelligence, he will choose LESS challenging tests in the future, lest he fail the tests and no longer be considered talented or intelligent.

On the other hand, a child praised for EFFORT and HARD WORK is more willing to accept more challenging tests, because they require harder work and more effort, and so the reward (the praise) will be the greater.

If we praise success only, we will get kids that will only take challenges they know they can overcome. That is why I am a big promoter of "Personal Best" ribbons on my kids' swim team. I am more concerned with their improvement than their victories. Over the last years, we had one handicapped child on our team. It is a very small team, in the lowest division, so he had the opportunity to swim. He lost every race anyway, but he was cheered for his effort and his improvement. Last year, he WON first place in the Virginia Special Olympics.

suburbanite said:

Jack, your point is supported by studies showing that students who received Bs often perform better in business than the straight A kids. The theory put forth in analyzing that study was that kids who had had to work harder for their grades had the good habit and understanding of work for achievement. Often, the ones for whom school was a walk in the park had no connection between having to work for a goal and attaining one.

(And haven't you ever heard of the plural of a plural? Such as groups of groups of things? LOL)

zimzo said:

"the biggest slave state of all--Massachusetts"???? What text books have you been reading or more likely smoking ACTivist? Slavery was outlawed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1783.

It's one thing to have grammar and spelling errors. It's quite another thing to be so completely ignorant of history and present outright lies as fact. Thank God you aren't homeschooling your kids.

Ted said:

The Civil War wasn't about slavery? Then why did the states of the Deep South secede before Lincoln was even inaugurated?

Let us look at what 3 of the southern states said in justifying secession.

South Carolina:
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign (take far away) the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.
On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic. This hostile policy of our confederates has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war. Our people, still attached to the Union from habit and national traditions, and averse to change, hoped that time, reason, and argument would bring, if not redress, at least exemption from further insults, injuries, and dangers. Recent events have fully dissipated all such hopes and demonstrated the necessity of separation. Our Northern confederates, after a full and calm hearing of all the facts, after a fair warning of our purpose not to submit to the rule of the authors of all these wrongs and injuries, have by a large majority committed the Government of the United States into their hands. The people of Georgia, after an equally full and fair and deliberate hearing of the case, have declared with equal firmness that they shall not rule over them.

Now then, you can say the Civil War wasn't about slavery, and that it was all about "states rights" or the tariff or whatever, but the fact is that the states of the Deep South, when faced with the election of a "Black Repulican" as president, saw a threat to their beloved "peculiar institution" and started seceding 3 months before he even took office.

Lincoln's initial call for troops may have been based on rebellion by the seceding states, but everyone, north and south, knew it was about the future of slavery whether they wanted to admit it or not.

I love my southern brethren (I'm a northern transplant myself), but when I hear them say the CW wasn't about slavery, I just have to shake my head.

Linda B. said:

A friend of mine has an 8-year-old son in what is supposedly a great school in Ashburn ... but they are teaching more about ecology, etc., than the basics, and she feels he is falling behind in reading and math.

Another friend is engaged to a (legal) immigrant from Morocco, and he's not from a wealthy family in Morocco, but his schooling is apparently better than he would have gotten in the U.S. She was telling me just last night that his school used a French-style education. He is looking into getting his master's (in applied math) here, but the entire first year of courses he would need to take is stuff he already took to earn his bachelor's over there.

We are falling behind (the French, even!) all the way around.

Linda B. said:

BTW, for the record, I have nothing against teaching ecology, I'm just not sure second grade is the appropriate time. I'd much rather kids that age concentrate on the three R's.

Jack said:

You're right, zimzo. THe only slaves in the North were in Maryland and Deleware:

However, the Emancipation Proclamation did not free them, as it only applied to the states "in rebellion," where Lincoln had no authority:

jacob said:

Delaware and Maryland are south of the Mason Dixon line and as such were considered to be southern states.

jacob said:

OK. I'll bite from where did you get the idea that Mass was a 'slave-state'?

Jack said:

Fine. Union states then.

Kevin said:

HE, I happen to know THE Mexican commissioned with the task of brainwashing the entire Mid-Atlantic region's children. She's actually quite nice, and surprisingly high up in the echelon of brainwashers. Of course, she didn't come by her position of power easily, but that's another story we can leave for another day. About you and other's like you who see through the brainwashing she states, "Some nuts are just too smart for us to crack." Please continue to be a thorn in her side and point out all instances of brainwashing, mind control, and hidden messages. It is uber important work that only you and a few others are gifted enough to perform. I myself, if you can tell, am completely brainwashed and therefore completely useless. Somehow I cannot shake the belief that the now "Mexican" people were here before my people. Crazy, right? I know. See what I mean? Completely useless.

I'm off to Seneca Rocks for the weekend!

ACTivist said:

Whoops! That blindsided me. I stand corrected as I made a grave error. I was listening to Kennedys' whinning as to why "amensty" died a horrid death. Maryland, not Massachusetts was the northern slave state. The Mason-Dixon line was a surveyed line which was later considered the delineation between "free" states and "slave" states-not north and south.

The slave issue is way too big to address in this space. Many states in the north were also thinking on seceeding from the union but did not. There was much sympathy towards the southern cause as well as hostile (let them go and good riddance). The border states all remained in the union and only 2, Missouri and Kentucky, were split and gave fight to both causes. Even Washington D.C. remained slave because it was not a state but the seat of government.

I will not apologize for my determination of the cause for war. I get into the people and situation of the times and that is how I am able to live history. Slavery has always been wrong. God never intended for men to "own" one another (unless of course you are married. Ask your wife about what she owns). Slavery was on the wain and had been for sometime. Industry and time would have made it as extinct as the dinosaur. But during that time, slaves WERE property and southern nationalism was on the rise. They were wanting expansion into the new territories and could not do it without the institution of slavery (which I personnally don't believe). The northern non-slave states didn't want the expansion for fear of expanding the slave trade. Southerners knew that any expansion at this point would be from the north and affect their way of life. The south had their rights and the north was going to curtail them. You can thank the Jacobins for much of this as they were quite a formidable group (liken to lobbyists).

I am a southerner thru and thru and I love all that the south was. I don't believe in slavery ever. I do subscribe to state rights and I do believe that there is an infection from the north ("this is the way we do it up there"). I also believe that there is an infection from the south (illegals) and our heritage will go by the wayside piecemeal as it has been for sometime.

Hopefully you will accept the way I live and learn history and if it differs from your own, well, that is textbook, environment and free will for you.


Slight imprecision in your statement. The Mason-Dixon line is North of Maryland, and West and South of Delaware (it follows the Maryland/Delaware boarder).


You paint with too broad a brush.

While there are problems at public schools, I can tell you the vast majority of the teachers are dedicated to the children they teach. Nearly all of them are licensed in the area they teach (and if they are not, the school has to inform parents they have the alternative of taking their child out of the classroom and having them tutored at public expense -- and Loudoun county just does not hire teachers that are not licensed if there is any alternative. I'll provide several examples of good teachers I personally know.

Scott Fletcher is a blazing liberal, but I look up to him as a teacher, and was truly distressed when he decided to leave Park View in order to go full-time to obtain his Master's degree. He taught computer math and AP computer science at Park View, and he was there every day at no later than 8:00am (school started at 9:00) and was there most days after 5:00pm. He nearly built the computer math/science program at PVHS by himself. It was the best program in the county (both in numbers and scores on the AP exam) and was one of the best in Virginia. I counted him as a friend because even though we differed on many points, he did so with intelligence and with knowledge of the principles upon which he based his decisions.

Susan R. teaches at PVHS now. She is there everyday (except I think it is Thursdays) after school until 5:00pm. She stays after school to help students with their work, puts in countless hours to make sure that she gives every student the opportunity to learn that she can. She teaches in as many different ways as she can so that all the students learn as much as they can (or are willing to learn).

I also teach at public schools here in Loudoun. While there are some students that did not pass the SOL in my geometry classes, those students fell into one of two catagories: 1) they did not pass the algebra I SOL (that is they did not meet the minimum requirement for the prerequisite class) or 2) they did not show up for class the vast majority of time during the months prior to the SOL. That still left me with 90% of the students passing the SOL.

While a private school can boast of having better scores overall, a private school also is not forced to accept every student that comes to them, including those that do not speak English, those that are absent 14 out of every 15 school days (and yes, the public schools have to accept those students). Comparing public schools in this country and state to other school systems tends to be an apples/oranges comparison nearly every time.

While Loudoun County pays teachers as well as the surrounding area, they certainly don't pay a living wage to teachers. As a teacher with 5 years experience, my pay for next year is a matter of public record: $45,999. With five dependent children, and a mortgage, I live just above the federal poverty line as far as income is concerned. If I had not purchased my house 15 years ago, there is no way I would be able to live in Loudoun County on that pay.

I earned enough prior to being a teacher that the taxes I paid were more than my current gross salary. If I went back into my prior field, I'd make a lot more. To say that a fully qualified math teacher, even right out of college, makes too much is insulting given they could make a lot more in nearly any position outside of education. Especially in light of the required education they must take during their summer "vacations".

I'm sure it isn't the same for all teachers, but those that work in high demand areas (math, science, technology) could make a lot more elsewhere, but the dedication they have to children keeps them coming back.

There are a few bad apples in every area, and while they may do things that I find horrific, I would not say all are bad. While it may be that we are paying too much in taxes here in Loudoun, and the excess may very well be for education expenses (do not get me started on the "castle" in Ashburn) I do not believe that the pay for teachers overall is excessive.

BlackOut said:


I am right with you on your post of 6/30 3:48. You are right on the mark.

Dang, Brian, that is one good post. Thank you for the information (and I will guess our ACTivist thanks you as well). For future reference, you can bring comments like these right up to the front page.

There really are some negative perceptions about the public school system. Some pretty well-formulated negative perceptions. It is quite informative to get this inside perspective.

I do not know much about the current situation because my kids are grown and gone, so it is helpful to hear that perhaps the public school system is not entirely insane.

ACTivist said:

Brian, I appreciate having another teachers insight as to the public educational system and how it works in THIS county. No one ever said that teachers would become rich in their jobs financially (my daughters' teachers make about $30,000 anually) and you are correct on what the public system has to accept (non-english speaking students, absentees, large classrooms and no insight into the background of a student) as my daughters' school is able to select. You also get expelled if you meet the "magic" truancy number. The school does not have all the extras (band, drama, arts, multiple foreign languages, etc) but these are things that I feel that, if necessary, can be taken care of outside the school system. I still feel that there is other ways to give the essentials and streamline the system. I do applaud you on your choice of career paths and greatly understand the things we sacrifice to do the things that we strongly believe in. I thank you for your dedication and hope that there are more like you in the system. Our children count on teachers eactly like you. Thanks for the post.

stay puft marshmallow man said:

well, well,

a Mexican conspiracy to brainwash American School children into believing that slavery was a factor in the civil war!

this might be the most novel idea yet generated on nvth/b!

I'm going to go ahead and say that the Civil War WAS about slavery. Can I get someone to call me a revisionist? that would be the cherry on top!!

jacob said:

Well, well you're back. Have a nice trip?

No cherry for you. The link between slavery and secession is direct.

I will call you a revisionist, but not in this matter.

stay puft marshmallow man said:

I'll take it!

Tom said:

"We need textbooks that tell nothing but the TRUTH and focuses on the success of our country."
When other countries use textbooks meeting this description everyone talks about how they're brainwashing children with government propaganda.
If you want the TRUTH can you legitimately leave out the failures and only emphasize successes? That is not history, it is the same sort of propaganda employed by people like Saddam Hussein and the educational leaders of the Soviet Union.
Propaganda doesn't cease to be propaganda when it supports your beliefs.
As a former LCPS teacher, I think you're right to question the quality of education there, but I don't see how you improve it by turning textbooks into praise and worship of a nation and its god loving founding fathers who oddly also engaged in many seemingly bizarre occult rituals as members of the cult of freemasonry.
How does uncritical praise substituting for history teach anyone how to think? Or is the goal that we won't think, but instead spend our adult lives making election choices based on who would be better to sit down and have a beer with?

Tom said:

"There is a school systems in Pennsylvania where the kids are no longer required to give the correct answer in math. It is called "ESTIMATING." If the answer is close enough they pass."---Had Enough

It's very easy to throw stuff out like that so let's see the facts. Can you identify the school system that has eliminated computation from its curriculum? If so, please include links to their scope and sequence so I can see how they make the massive jump from basic numeracy to estimation without ever learning the value of numbers through computation.
For your reading pleasure, here is a link to the Pennsylvania statewide mathematics standards.

Look at standard 2.2, and follow it from 3rd through 8th grade when basic amth instruction ends and algebra begins. You might notice that at every level computation skills are taught, and that students are indeed expected to know how to solve 4+4.
Notice, that estimation is a skill taught at all these grades also.
You put estiamtion in quotes as though it was a freaky, new age concept. Everybody uses estimation each day. It is a higher level skill because it requires an understanding of place value, numeracy, rounding, and the different computational operations.
I agree wholeheartedly that NCLB is a crappy piece of intrusive legislation, but Pennsylvania's standards clearly refute what you've stated, unless that is they require students to learn all the computation, but when they take a standardized test they only test estimation.
If that is the case then they are giving a math reasoning test, which is a much better barometer of knowledge than just asking them to add or subtract, because it requires analytical thinking to round numbers to an appropriate place value and then determine the reasonableness of an answer.
Irregardless, 4+4 equaling 7 or 9 violates any notion of mathematical estimation. It is generally inappropriate to round whole numbers less than 10 because the logical place to round a number such as 4 to would be zero. If you are working with decimals such as 4.23 and 4.82 you could round the first decimal to 4 and the second to 5 and get 9. If this was mental math you were doing while shopping (think of the decimals as money) you'd know the approximate cost of your purchase before you reached the register. But you could not round the same number (4) and arrive at two different numbers, which is neccessary to get the 7 or 9 you used to illustrate your point.
Furtermore, if you look at standard 2.3 "Meaurement and Estiamtion", nearly every substandard requires both estimating and verifying for accuracy by using the appropriate measurement tool.
I taught math in Loudoun County for three years, and i can tell you that estimation is indeed taught, as it should be. But, there is no evidence it is replacing accuracy either here or in PA.
If anything is dumbing down the curriculum it is not illegal immigrants who take the blame for everything on this site I guess. It is Bush's NCLB that requires states to demonstrate adequate yearly progress in reading and math. Notice this is state, not locality. In Penn, as in all states, there is a single, one size fits al ltest administered. The state has the right to set its own standards to make itself look good, or to provide an honest assessment of progress. In the conservative wonderland of Mississippi, they have a test that shows nearly all of their fourth graders are proficient readers, yet when tested using a more impartial national instrument they come in near dead last in reading. Now Mississippi according to a 2006 Census estimate(ahh-that word) has 2.9 millino residents. According to the Gulf Coast News there are between 25-35 illegal immigrants in the state (again an estimate!!!).The school age population of Mississippi is approximately 325,000. Now, even if every illegal immigrant in Mississippi was between the ages of 6-18 that would account for 10% of the school population. So, if on its own tests Ole Miss has 90% proficiency (an astounding and phony figure, why would they dumb down their curriculum for maybe 3-5% of the students? They're already doing so well. Best in the nation!!!
And can I assume that since curriculum must be dumbed down for the illegals that they all must be dumb and be incapable of meeting even Mississippi's meager standards?
In Penn, by the way, with over 12.5 million people, it was estimated that between 100k-200k were illegal. The school age pop is 1.2 million. Even if 50% of illegal immigrants were school aged this still accounts for only a small (less than a tenth) of the school age population.
I am not taking any side here on immigration. I am only looking at how immigrants might be responsible for what sounds like a bogus claim-that Pennsylvania doesn't teach computation.
If you want to be really upset, look closer to home. Loudoun is teaching estimation too:

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