Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Education: How Special?

As some of you know I was in Special Education from age 5-12, and at times I have been fairly disparaging about how 'Special' it actually was.  However I think the following puts into context Special Education of 30 years ago as opposed to modern mainstream education.  Before I start though, this is not me against teachers - more about how the standards of education generally have, in my personal opinion, slipped in the intervening years.

At the ripe old age of 35 I decided to do a degree, in Software Development.  I had conveniently forgotten the importance of mathematics, and so the presence in the first year of a module titled Quantitative Methods and Statistics was a surprise and not an entirely pleasant one.  Then things took what, to me, was a slightly strange turn.  The lecturer started going around the room asking students random multiplication questions, and I turned to the guy next to me - who had just come out of A Level Mathematics - and asked 'What's this about?'  His response was a shrug.

I discovered very quickly there was method in her madness, due to the number of students who took a long time answering, or just plain got it wrong.  The killer blow was when she asked a student a couple of rows behind me '7 x 7'.  We waited.. and waited.. the guy next to me - knowing I represented the 'old school' leant over and muttered 'This is ____ing embarrassing!'  I don't recall whether the eventual answer was right or not.  The point of the exercise was obvious.  She wanted to know how much trouble she was in, and how basic she needed to start.  Sadly she had her answer.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Special Education.  Well, when I left Special Education at age 12 I could do up to my 10 times table in my head.  I still can.  In my car I translate the temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit for fun.. possibly puerile but it keeps my brain active.  These were mainstream educated students on an IT based degree course.  Presumably all had passed GCSE Mathematics in order to qualify.  My questions is how when some of them weren't even capable of simple mental arithmetic?  And standards are apparently better in modern education.

So.. following that little diatribe, let's lighten the mood shall we?  Valentine's Day 2006.  The same lecturer was getting a little frustrated, particularly with one guy on his mobile phone all the time.  As she was writing on the whiteboard it went off again, and I clearly heard her mutter 'Must be someone about a Valentine's card.. they're calling to complain!'

Somehow I managed not to laugh out loud, but she really went up in my estimation after that!

1 comment:

  1. My grandma offered me money for every times table I could recite over the phone to her, barring 1, 2, 5 and 10. I was far too scared to even try...couldn't stand the humiliation of getting it wrong, plus I was very far from knowing them off by heart. I know them now...but it's too late to claim my cash. School didn't help me learn them...that's for sure!