A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It's best, when being snarky, not to be verifiably WRONG.

In a recent column by Dr. K.P. Loftus over at Educationnews.org,
a current commercial by a tutoring company is used as a chance to decry the feel-good, Everyday Math world we live in. Quoth Dr. Loftus:
A recent television commercial begins with students peering at dolphins in a public aquarium. An oceanographer addresses them saying, "We feed them 13 pounds of food per day. Who can tell me how many pounds of food we feed them in one week?" One girl, who happens to be a minority, responds, "189 pounds!" The "oceanographer" now reveals his true affiliation, turns to the camera and declares, "That's the kind of confidence [the well-known educational tutoring firm] instills in our students!" Unfortunately, 13 pounds, times 2 feedings per day, times 7 days, is 182 pounds, not 189!

Certainly, the authors of this commercial did this on purpose. They were protecting themselves from being held accountable for falsely advertising a guarantee that their students will actually become smarter, only that they will gain "that kind of confidence." Sadly, they may have also figured that most people wouldn't even notice the error. Unfortunately, that's part of what is wrong with American education. Of course, any thinking parent can avoid sending their child to a tutoring firm that boasts of helping a child blurt out incorrect answers. But, most public schools are guilty of an even greater degree of false pride, celebrating and settling for only minimal student achievement gains.

This would be a nice little theory, and God knows I'm all about blasting the self-esteem movement as being a mind-dulling opiate that produces students who feel no need to learn because they are perfect just the way they are, BUT.

The author needs to check his hearing, or his calculations, or both, since he has built an entire forest without seeing the big redwood in front of him. The commercial, which is for a tutoring company whose name alludes to an adjective describing woodsy glades, actually states that the dolphins are fed thirteen AND A HALF pounds of food two times a day. 13.5 times 2 times 7 equals....

189! The little girl, minority member or not, is CORRECT!



At 1/24/06, 6:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Very nice catch!

At 1/24/06, 6:15 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Why, thanks!

At 1/24/06, 6:42 PM, Anonymous Marcia said...

Well spotted! It must be quite frustrating for Ms Loftus to have the wind so elegantly snatched from her sails.

At 1/25/06, 8:07 AM, Blogger Al said...

Damn you're good. But we knew that. We knew that.

(reduced to muttering in the face of impressive talent)

At 1/25/06, 5:52 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Niely done. Now, do what any other American would do. Sue. For something.

At 1/25/06, 7:15 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

It just really chafes me that a complete misinterpretation of a commercial for a tutoring company is used as an excuse to paint all schools with a very broad brush of condemnation. Her post ends with this:

" Further, schools, for too long, have been permitted to blame their failures on student characteristics beyond their control, instead of facing their failures head-on.

While we celebrate the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his dream of an equal opportunity for all, we must not ignore the failure of America 's schools to truly teach, regardless of race, desire, or ability."

How do you teach someone without the desire to learn? Honestly!

Opportunity is JUST THAT-- an opportunity, not a command, not a compulsion.


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