The Loh Life

The kids are all right-ish, part 2: volcanic magma

Sandra Tsing Loh supports iPads for students.

Scandalous education story:

The LAUSD put iPads into the hands of elementary kids - It's been bumpy - More iPads are coming - Many dollars are being spent - And, research doesn't necessarily predict higher test scores - !

To which I say: WHO CARES???

As a mother of two middle-school girls?

They need to do something!!!

Because, in case you didn't know, here's what happens when a kid starts sixth grade in 2013.  She sails off to school with a cute little Target hoodie and backpack - and maybe even a cellphone - zipped carefully into a hidden pocket, in case she needs to call mom or dad for after-school pickup.  Eight hours later, she comes home with a 50-pound dinosaur bone and a caveman wig, wearing a pelt made of animals -

All right, if not exactly that?  She is now carrying 25 pounds of books.  I've weighed them.  Don't get me wrong.  I am a fan of books.  I prefer them not just to my Kindle, but to my daughter's Kindle Fire, which has been largely used to stream TV shows.  Arguably, toting 25 pounds of books - along with some quartzite boulders from the Mesozoic Era - could be considered not just an interesting historical lesson, but part of the presidential fitness program.

But these textbooks are... awful.  Science, in particular - Although there's some curious ENGLISH stuff going on, as well.  Recently, my 11-year-old was wrestling with a Jack London story about the Alaskan Yukon - "What is the literary tone?" she wailed, trying to complete a diagrammed rubric - "Literary tone?"  I'm a contributing editor for the Atlantic Monthly who has written book reviews for the New York Times, and even I was frantically Wiki-ing.

The problem with science textbooks, though, is that the authors are trying to explain the complex dynamics of physical movement in three dimensions via dense text with obscure vocabulary words one will never use again next to two-dimensional drawings you have to kind of squint to see.  How do dyslexic kids do it?  How do any kids do it?  And to get credit, they have to take notes.

To try to focus, my 11-year-old goes into a kind of scream-reading.  Actual sample:

"During the formation of an ocean ridge, forces in the mantle cause the asthenosphere to rise!  The weight of the uplifted ridge is thought to push an oceanic plate toward the trench formed at the subduction zone in a process called ridge push as shown in Figure 17-19!  In addition to ridge push, the horizontal flow at the top of a convection current could create drag on the lithosphere and thereby contribute to plate motion."

Which is much like the catapult in Angry Birds, tho' a bit harder to grasp.

Next week: Tiger Mom fights back.


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