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short rant - Qualified Perceptions
short rant
Number 2 in what I keep thinking ought to be a series: Posts that mjperson ought to have made.

Here's a very short blog post by Steven Levitt.

The punch line is cute. But... he doesn't know how his third-grade daughter is supposed to know what the colors of the rainbow are? SHE'S SUPPOSED TO KNOW BECAUSE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE TEACHING HER THAT!

What are the Great Lakes? I might give him a pass on that not being part of the standard curriculum for your small child. I learned my states, but not my Great Lakes, as a little bitty kid. (mjperson, as a little bitty kid, did learn them, but he's from New York and I'm from California.). I learned "Thirty days has September" before I can remember, but I think davehenry told me about knuckle-counting.

But not teaching your kid *colors* is a dereliction of duty. I mean, come *on*. Isn't that like the first thing ever, when you're teaching them words?

Current Mood: restless restless

20 comments or Leave a comment
pekmez From: pekmez Date: November 6th, 2008 10:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Which ones are in the rainbow is a different concept than "what color is an apple?" "what color is a frog?" etc. My 3 year old knows what a rainbow looks like and could probably point out what colors she sees in it, but not from memory. And she hasn't memorized the ROYGBIV order yet. ;-)
gentlescholar From: gentlescholar Date: November 6th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Agreed. I might disagree if the guy was a random shlub, not too bright, who can't figure out he's supposed to be teaching her stuff. But if he's a writer, he ought to be able to connect two thoughts and realize that the more he teaches his kid, the better off she will be. (Maybe he's not much of a writer, I didn't check.)

I do understand that most parents don't teach their kids much because they don't know much themselves. Likewise, sadly, math teachers in elementary school--half of them are struggling to follow the examples in the book on how to add fractions themselves; they can hardly give their students intuitive explanations in that state.

I do hope somebody responded to that writer with your rant, actually.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: November 7th, 2008 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)
cfox From: cfox Date: November 7th, 2008 12:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I spent a little while explicitly working on colors with Denton, thinking that the pediatrician would expect to test that one at his 15-month checkup.

Instead, the pediatrician marked off a missed milestone because he couldn't do "where's mommy's nose?" then suggested that we practice finding parts of our faces in front of a mirror every day at home.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: November 7th, 2008 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)
This is an even crazier example of "teach to the test!" than the ones that come up in the No Child Left Behind discussions. (Is he going to check again at the next checkup that Denton can find your nose, or was it a one-time-only test?)
cfox From: cfox Date: November 7th, 2008 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, at 15 months, Denton was very short for his age, and had missed a language milestone; she was quite worried, and asked me to make all sorts of dietary changes.

By 20 months, the language milestone was still throughly missed, but he was a full 4" taller than before; she watched him to see that his motor skills were excellent, had us fill in the autism screening checklist, and then said "well, he's a doer not a talker, don't worry about it" to the language, without asking him to do things.

Now, 23 months, we've started the process of invoking Early Intervention for evaluation of the language (self-referred); our guess is that Denton is just someone who likes to really master skills before he uses them, but asking early intervention to evaluate him doesn't have much downside.

I don't think it was actually so much about teaching the test, as about giving a general impression of "normal".
(Deleted comment)
remcat From: remcat Date: November 7th, 2008 12:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I know the "HOMES" acronym to remember the names of the Great Lakes.

I am very tempted to quiz Seth, but alas -- he's at ATA.
remcat From: remcat Date: November 7th, 2008 01:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh! They came home.

Seth named many colors, including pink and black, and claimed to not know the order of the rainbow. ALthough, he did try to find out by looking for a rainbow in the light refracted by the fish tank.

Eli was able to name the colors in rainbow order, except that he left off blue.

Seth knew what the Great Lakes are, and was able to name two: Erie and Ontario. He asked for a hint -- I said another one begins with "H" -- he guessed "Huperior"? Not sure how to score that :).

None of the kids had a clue on the 30-day months. Dave and I recited the rhyme together, after which Seth insisted vehemently that September has 31 days. Not.
twe From: twe Date: November 7th, 2008 05:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I definitely learned Roy G Biv later than 3rd grade (maybe 5th?). I learned the months rhyme from my grandmother, but I have no idea how old I was though. I probably couldn't have named any great lakes beyond the ones I'd seen -- Erie & Ontario. (I was probably full of all kinds of fun facts about Erie though, har.)
From: tirinian Date: November 7th, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huperior is a lovely guess. :-)
dcltdw From: dcltdw Date: November 7th, 2008 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Huh. What are the Great Lakes, that I think I can mostly answer. Their names? Urr Ontario Michigan... something something. There are 5? Ok. (Late edit: Superior! I think that's the easternmost one, and the biggest?)

Colors of the rainbow I certainly didn't know until I learned ROYGBIV in high school.

Which months have 30 days? No idea.

My point is not so much that nobody should be bothered to teach their kids this stuff, but rather, this is all trivia. To me, the question is "what trivia is more interesting". I think I'd probably be much better served knowing, say, the names of the provinces in Canada, or even say half the names of the countries in Africa, than "which months have 30 days".

I also feel like it should be more about the fascination of learning ("this is a prism! shiny, isn't it?" "this is an atlas! This is... oh right, ha ha, this is Canada!") and knowing how to learn. It's interesting that the answer is "ask google" and not "this is the difference between a dictionary, an encyclopedia, and an atlas".
twe From: twe Date: November 7th, 2008 05:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I would have to say that Canadian provinces & Great Lakes are probably about on par on a usefulness/triva scale, whereas knowing whether a month has 30 days or not seems to come up a lot. Of course, generally it's the people who can't keep track of their calendars who also can't remember whether September has 30 or 31 days... (You would be surprised how many people have not batted an eye over the years when I told them my birthday was June 31st. I even got one birthday card at the end of June after my freshman year. My mom & I got quite a good laugh over that after I figured out why.)

I'll also argue that the fascination of learning is grand, if you aren't actually getting at least some facts into your head, you aren't learning all that well, and if your response to questions of facts is usually of the form "I can always just google that" perhaps you don't have a fascination with learning.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: November 7th, 2008 06:00 am (UTC) (Link)
As pekmez has already pointed out, knowing the names of colors is different from knowing the colors of the rainbow.

And seriously, the "colors of the rainbow"? How is it useful to know how people have arbitrarily divided the spectrum of visible light? Actually, it's worse than useless, because it gives the impression that there is some natural phenomenon at work whereby there are seven colors in a rainbow, rather than five or eight or twenty-three. Understanding that it's a full spectrum, and that our partitioning of it is not a reflection of any characteristics of light, would be much more sensible than memorizing ROY G. BIV.

The Great Lakes, though....duh, they live in Chicago, they ought to know that one.
twe From: twe Date: November 7th, 2008 01:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you throw out indigo, you have the three primary and three secondary colors of the color wheel, which is kind of useful in certain visual arts, but that's not so related to the rainbow, and I certainly agree with you on the rest.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: November 7th, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
So in this respect it would be more "correct" to forget one, even though I bet you'd lose points for doing so.

I also think it would be more useful to know why there are three primary colors, instead of two or four or six, rather than just knowing their names or what order they're in. For that matter, if you need to know what order they're in, isn't it just as important to know why red is on the outside of the rainbow and purple is on the inside, rather than the other way around?
countertorque From: countertorque Date: November 8th, 2008 01:04 am (UTC) (Link)
It's useful to know many things that have been arbitrarily divided up by people who came before you. Even if the thing itself is not especially useful, it's an important part of understanding your culture and communicating with other people.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: November 8th, 2008 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, yeah. I was kind of hinting at that with my comment about the Great Lakes. The names of some lakes are just as arbitrary as anything else, and knowing that some lake is named Erie or Huron doesn't tell you anything about the water quality or anything else independent of human culture. It's still good to know, because, well, what you said.

The difference is that learning the "colors of the rainbow" could be misleading, because it's usually not made clear that the partition is arbitrary (or at least human-centric rather than due to a physical quality of the light). I'm not liable to be misled into false beliefs about Lake Huron by learning its name.

I'm not at all clear what the point is of a test of "general knowledge" in third grade. What do you do with the results?
nuclearpolymer From: nuclearpolymer Date: November 8th, 2008 04:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, it is sometimes good to know some basic amount of trivia so that when you are quizzed to determine if you are a genuine MIT student or Ohio resident or whatever, you can pass the test. What color is the Green Building was always my favorite question for MIT.
mijven From: mijven Date: November 8th, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Ah, my environmental heart is growing three sizes today. :)

The only reason my boys know ROYGBIV is thanks to the Mr. Ray song of the same name. I lost a bet with Sweetie over this, since I thought it was common knowledge afterwhich he proceeded to ask his mother to name them. I figure if MomZ doesn't know it, it taint at all necessary. ;)

Amusing tale from the playground the other day. Bunch of moms standing around, for some unfathonable reason trying to teach their kids the states (we have a big state map on our blacktop.) With my help they were able to get all but one (although I make no claims that I got VT & NH correct. ;) Eventually I had to call the mouse over.... We were missing Wyoming. :)

Clearly I now need to learn this HOMES acronym.
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