Every Dog

Monday was “Read Across America Day.” Pro-reading events took place all over the country. I participated by reading a story to a group of children in North Carolina. My children are attending a big event at Kent State tomorrow, where they’ll listen to stories, make bookmarks and other crafts, and have their pictures taken with the Cat in the Hat.

HoundTuesday was “National Grammar Day.” I didn’t even know about this one until Thursday, when I heard Grammar Girl’s podcast mentioning it. We were supposed to celebrate by gently correcting people’s grammar. You can see if you’re an offender by taking this quiz. As far as I know, everyone was still recovering from Read Across America Day to put too much energy into National Grammar Day.

Wednesday was “World Math Day.” More than 20,000 schools from all over the world participated in the event, correctly answering more than 182 million math questions. What kind of math did they do? Arithmetic speed tests. You know, flash cards. In real time. Against other kids from around the world. Critical thinking skills? Problem solving? Not necessary. Just tell me what 9 x 8 is. Quick. Just stick the right formula in. A solution for every fool.

Apparently, on Thursday, we were able to return to our normal curriculum. I’m not sure why we need something like Read Across America Day. In most classrooms, every day focuses on reading. Likewise, we shouldn’t only be concerned about grammar one day a year. I talked to an elementary teacher on Wednesday, and mentioned that it was World Math Day. She laughed. “If we observed every special day, we’d never get to the curriculum.” I guess if you want to focus attention on something you think the schools aren’t emphasizing enough, all you need to do is designate a day.

With that in mind, let me humbly propose a few special days:

  • Ohio Day. It’s not just for Ohioans anymore. So what if I made it up. Everyone should learn more about the Buckeye state.
  • Reaching New Heights Day. Just for one day, let’s stop focusing on minimum standards and getting every kid to meet some arbitrary numeric standard on an achievement test. Let’s focus on the top 10% of the academic spectrum, and see where they lead us.
  • True Confessions Day. This is the day when teachers tell students what they actually need to know after they’ve taken the test. What’s the point of math beyond Algebra II? Students need to know it to learn more math. I spent my high school career working up to and trying to get through calculus. Then, I went to college and took it again. I have a minor in math. How often do I use calculus? Never.
  • Think for Yourself Day. Everyone has a unique point of view. Everyone has a unique perspective. When someone communicates, they have a reason for doing so. There’s some motivation there. If you can determine what that motivation is, you can consider their words in context, and make up your own mind. That’s perhaps the most valuable thing we can teach our kids. Take my word for it.
  • Technology is no Panacea Day. I love technology. I use it all the time. I routinely carry around pockets-full of devices that are powerful enough to launch spacecraft. But they won’t solve all of our problems. We often focus on “automating” unnecessarily complex processes and end up with a complicated electronic system to manage instead of a complicated offline system.

Enough. I have to go get ready for National Rehabilitation Counselors Appreciation Day.

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Author: John Schinker

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