Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A+. But Warning: Rant Ahead

So Rama aced her first Grade 1 exam. It was Math: Graphing.

She scored 20/21.

This was particularly sweet for me as I thought last week that she was slow to understand the lessons. I was getting used to the idea that she might not just be the type that did well in school. And that was ok. Gulp.

I would help her with some homework and it was such a struggle. Especially the question that runs something like this: "If there are 8 kids who like purple and 3 kids who like red, how many more kids like purple than red?" She would always just add 8 and 3 and come up with 11. Anyhow. By the time the test came, she got it, I guess.

So what question tripped her? The test asked the student to make tick marks and then graph the numbers. The hypothetical information was about juices and how many kids liked apple juice, grape juice and orange juice. The information showed that Apple juice was most popular, with most kids picking this.

And then the question: If we could only buy 1 type of juice, which one would we buy?

The correct answer was Apple, the juice that majority of the kids picked.

Rama didn't get that she was supposed to pick the majority choice. She picked Grape, the lowest scorer, with only 2 people choosing grape.

And this is where my rant starts. Isn't that a subjective question? I am not sure that I agree to teaching kids to go with the popular choice. Where does independent choice come into the picture? What if Rama wanted to support the underdog? Or the minority? I guess what raises my hackles is the impulse to reward conformity - as early as Grade 1. I worry that this little lesson is the start of thwarting independent thought, ironically in a supposed progressive society.


I am seriously considering writing the school board.

Update, November 1 2008. I handed the letter yesterday, Friday, AND got to chat with her. She quickly skimmed through it and we had a good conversation. Basically, Mrs. K justified that the intent was to simply get students to interpret the graph. She agreed that the wording was difficult, especially for Rama whose first language is not English. She was quite nice about it, but seemed just a tad defensive and really not too keen on discussing the underpinnings of the question, which I understand. To be fair, Mrs. K doesn't write the test questions; they come from a book of worksheets from which she picks (I figured this much from the looks of the paper). What reassured me was that it was an isolated case, and that generally, the teachings lean towards openness and acceptance of differences. And maybe, if and when she reads through my letter more carefully, the real point will sink in.


The Knittymommy said...

I would write the teacher and express your view. I think the questions was written improperly, because it does assume that "we" would choose what most will choose. They did not even put it in a "most likely" or "most probable" context.

I am happy she did get so high a score, though.

P said...

ya, teacher then cc school board. it's not so much that Rama missed the question. I mean, even if she answered "correctly" I would still be worried. A niggling voice inside me, though, is telling me to chillax, she'll get the rules in school, but will ultimately play by her own rules, influenced by my role-modelling. Still, it's valid cause for concern, no?

Socky said...

That's the spirit, poch! Write the letter!

Anonymous said...

I really think you should write the letter, or maybe talk to the teacher first. But please go and get your voice heard -- ps I really enjoy your blog. I have a daughter too just about Rama's age :)


P said...

I had a chance to recheck the paper. The entire exercise was titled "Which Juice Should We Buy?" I heard Rama repeating the teacher's explanation - if lots of people like it, it must taste good. So Apple is the right answer. Adults argued, What if you really like grape? What if you're curious about the orange? There should be no right answer. Anyhow, she seemed convinced Apple was The Right Answer. I guess it can't hurt to express my view. (Part of me really just wants to let go, though - overwhelmed by the dominant philosophy in education everywhere )

katrina said...

GO, Rama! Given that trick question, I think she got a perfect score...ESPECIALLY because she didn't pick the popular choice. :-)

I agree that you should talk to or write the teacher, or whoever wrote the test question. If there'd been a preamble to the question like, say, "You can't decide which juice to try, so you want to know which is most popular" then I'd accept it. But to assume that the student would know that the right answer is the popular choice, is wrong. And of course, teaching that the popular choice is always the right one is VERY wrong. Not just because it teaches conformity, but because it can lead to the child thinking that if something bad is done by the majority, then it makes it all right. So...

GO, Poch! Fight the system! ;-)

P said...

gosh, thanks, guys, for your fighting words. i have actually drafted a letter, which is currently undergoing "peer review." Haha, not practicing what i preach. But really it's to gauge whether it's too strong, or too whatever. To your point, Katrina, i noted that it's not too far a stretch to take the logic to "smoking is a healthy pastime bec millions of people do it." What's stopping me really is that the teacher is super-nice. Possible misguided, but really kind and otherwise wonderful. That's why i choose to tread lightly and carefully. i'll probably post the letter, in its final form.

Yarn Hungry Hog said...

I think such questions just confuse kids. Kids' psychological understanding of implicit, abstract ideas are still forming at this point.
I wouldn't write a letter. I'd speak to the teacher about your concerns. To me, face to face is better. (But that's me.)

Tesa Celdran said...

Well darling, I personally prefer orange juice myself and I know I have the RIGHT answer too.

Very happy that you spoke to the teacher although I doubt that your concern really sunk in.

Nevertheless, Rama is very lucky to have you as Mommy.

How many weekends na lang? Booking you for a Tali trip ha, no is not an option.

I miss you.

P said...

Hi, Hungry. So yes, I did speak to the teacher. Went OK, I think.

Hi, Tesa. As I write this, 4 weekends na lang! And you're right, we all know how dogmatic teachers get. Hehe. Miss you, too, dear. See you soonest! Mwah!

fkarr said...

I would have answered what Rama answered - the underdog, maybe that is what I should buy, since nobody wants it much. Maybe I want to know why it is being disliked or maybe I don't want to be conventional . . . infinite possibilities.

Go Poch ! ! !