Legislator Proposes Banning Calculators From Classrooms

by Robert Pondiscio
January 27th, 2010

A West Virginia state legislator, apparently frustrated by the inability of retail clerks to make correct change, has proposed a radical solution:  ban calculators in the state’s schools from kindergarten to eighth grade. 

This is a bit like noticing that people can’t swim and banning life jackets.  That said, I’m deeply sympathetic to the notion that de-emphasizing automatic grasp of math facts and ease with basic calculations does more harm than good.   “It’s like giving them a crutch. I don’t like using that term, but that’s essentially what it is,” state delegate Ray Canterbury tells the Charleston Daily Mail. “They really don’t learn math the way they once did.  A lot of things just need to be learned by practice and rote memorization,” he added. 

At Teacher in a Strange Land, now in its new home at Teacher Magazine, Nancy Flanagan rolls her eyes.  “I think we should require kids to memorize their times tables, too. Who doesn’t? I also think that there’s no point in not using cheap, ubiquitous technologies to solve diverse mathematical problems encountered in daily life.”

“I think in this age of technology that it’s wrong not to teach children how to use calculators in an appropriate way,” says House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, echoing Flanagan.  ”They should not be used to avoid learning how to do basic calculations, but they certainly should be used as tools for learning.”






“It seems like everywhere I go, people, particularly young people, can’t even make change,” he said.

So Canterbury, a University of Chicago graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, decided to do something about that and drafted House Bill 3235.

Popular Culture and Kids: “Know Your Enemy”

by Robert Pondiscio
January 27th, 2010

Few parents fully appreciate the corrosive effect that popular culture has on their children’s lives, writes Psychology Today blogger Jim Taylor, who observes that the music, movies, television and advertising children consume is no longer a reflection of contemporary values.  “Many heroes offered by popular culture are not heroic, many of its icons represent unhealthy values, and many of its rituals, myths, and beliefs are in its own best interests, not those of your children,” he writes.  Popular culture also dominates virtually every part of your children’s lives, he observes.

Popular culture is like a network of saboteurs that infiltrate your family’s lives with stealth and deception, hiding behind entertaining characters, bright images, and fun music. You probably don’t notice half of the unhealthy messages being conveyed to your children. Popular culture is also an invading army that overwhelms your children with these destructive messages. It attempts to control every aspect of your children’s lives: their values, attitudes, and beliefs about themselves and the world that they live in; their thoughts, emotions, and behavior; their needs, wants, goals, hopes, and dreams; their interests and avocations; their choices and their decisions. With this control, popular culture can tell children what to eat and drink, what to wear, what to listen to and watch, and children have little ability to resist.

Taylor acknowledges that not everything kids consume through their ears and eyeballs is garbage.  There is educational television for children and video games that encourage creativity and problem solving.  But even ”good” popular culture isn’t all that good for children, he points out, since it encourages them to be sedentary, have indirect social contact, and experience life vicariously instead of directly. 

His advice to parents applies equally well to teachers:  know your children’s enemy.  “Study popular culture. Watch what your children watch on television, play their video games, listen to their music, visit the Web sites they surf, read the magazines they read. Then, understand the value messages they are getting from popular culture,” he writes.