Dumbed Down?

Master 16 will be entering Yr 11 this year.  One of the things he has to get for his Mathematics Methods class is a graphing calculator, ie, one that draws graphs.

Mr Yewnique and I were not impressed with this function.  After all, when we were in school, we had to work out the coordinates for a graph – get this – with our brains!!

The school said that, unfortunately, that’s the way things are going now and the students will need it for classes and in the exam.

Mr Yewnique’s only comment was, ‘That’s just further proof of things being dumbed down.’

When I was in secondary school, we weren’t even allowed to use calculators.  Lest you think I am older than I really am, I want to dispel that misconception.  Yes, calculators had been invented by then.  Mr Yewnique, who is the same age as I am, was allowed to use calculators at his school.  (For the record, I was allowed to use calculators in Pre-University (Gr. 12). )

Instead of calculators, we had Log Books.  Hands up if you know what I’m talking about.

Remember this?

The log books had all sorts of calculations: square roots, cube roots, sine, cosine, tangent, et cetera. Whenever we wanted to know the value of something, we had to look it up in the log book.  None of this typing into a calculator.

I wonder if the older generation ever thought that things were dumbed down when classrooms started using scientific calculators.



About yewnique

I am a Malaysian-born woman who is married to an Australian and now live in Melbourne, Australia. I am a mother to four children. I home school. I like reading, writing, and cooking -- not necessarily in that order. I care about grammar and spelling, but am nonchalant about the Oxford Comma. I try to follow Christ's teachings.

Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013, in Education and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. The year I was in Algebra 2, we learned how to use slide rules. When I took Calculus at University we still had to graph our own functions. By the time I graduated Uni, the incoming freshman were using graphing calculators.

    I’m going to teach my son how to actually graph functions.


  2. Don’t discount the fact that kids are learning faster and more than we learned as kids in the same amount of time. My oldest is starting to learn basic algebraic concepts in elementary school, earlier than I did in school. I assume children do learn the fundamentals of graph drawing before turning to graphic calculators, but I don’t have any problem with leveraging technology . . . that is going to be the world they grow into and if they spend all their time on slide rules and manually plotting their graphs that may not be the best thing.

    “Dumbing down” I tend to put in the same category as talking about how much better life was way back when, or how kids lack the moral compasses we had as kids, etc. . . . it’s all very nostalgic in an egotistical sort of way, but not tied to reality.


  3. Cherilyn, I never used a slide rule. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even seen one before! 😮

    My 16yo learned some calculus in Additional Maths last year, and he learned how to find the max and min points of a function. It’ll be interesting for him – and us – to see it done on a calculator.


  4. hktelemacher, I get that a lot of the changes we see in education is embracing technology and keeping up with the world around.

    I admit to being dumbfounded when I hear of students no longer being required to learn long multiplication/division, or spelling, or grammar.

    When I say ‘dumbed down’, I mean that that the powers that be have made it easier for students to get a better grade/mark with less effort. Or, that students can do the work, but they don’t understand the why behind it. (I’m thinking here specifically of mathematics.)

    I’m all for scientific calculators, I’d NEVER want to go back to log books or slide rules. I can learn to embrace graphing calculators, too. Heck, I’d better since I just paid $$$ for it! I just hope that the students actually learn what it is they are calculating (what it means) and not rely too heavily on the calculator. The calculator is a TOOL,


  5. “I admit to being dumbfounded when I hear of students no longer being required to learn long multiplication/division, or spelling, or grammar.”

    Dunno where you’re hearing that from. Public schools here teach it.

    “When I say ‘dumbed down’, I mean that that the powers that be have made it easier for students to get a better grade/mark with less effort.”

    Less effort? The keys to upward mobility have never been harder to come by. Higher education adjusted to grade inflation a long time ago, the workplace adjusts to the flood of undergraduate degrees, income inequality is looking more like the 1700’s instead of the 2100’s . . . the pressure that kids are under today is nothing like the pressure of prior generations, particularly here in America where you can no longer count on taking a GED or high school diploma and get a union factory job to support yourself and your family.

    Your comment makes it sound like kids are lazy these days, to which I’ll go back to my prior comment . . . that’s just ego and short memory. Like the white male talking heads like O’Reilly, Hannity, Rush, Beck waxing nostalgic about the 1950’s and how great of a time it was (for their demographic . . . they just glaze over that part). It’s also part of the conservative narrative about how social safety nets are just about supporting lazy moochers of society, both factually disproven and morally and intellectually bankrupt.

    For someone so aware of cultural misogyny, this casual buying into generational bias definitely surprises me.

    Then again, sometimes a post about a calculator is just a post about a calculator.


  6. btw I’ll cop to some hyperbole in that last post. “Never” is too strong, “in modern history” probably would have done the trick and been more accurate. I also did not mean to imply that kids today uniformly have it tougher than prior generations . . . for example if you can afford health care, or live in a country where basic health care is seen as a right, then medically you’re already way ahead of any prior generation. Cold comfort to the tens of millions of Americans without any health insurance working for minimum wage here in America, and their children, and worse in many parts of the globe. My general point though about generational bias I stand behind.


  7. I’m talking about schools here in my state. The reason for not teaching those things I mentioned anymore is because there are computers and calculators than can do it and check it for us. (At least, that’s what I’ve heard.)

    “Dumbing down”
    * teaching something at a later stage than before
    * breaking steps down for students as opposed to expecting them to know the steps required
    * not requiring as much work as before

    I have homeschooled for over ten years; I have purchased workbooks for my children and I have seen all the above played out with newer editions of the workbooks. Why do they do this?

    I totally agree with the academic inflation scenario that you have painted. Degrees/diplomas are not worth what they once did.

    Finally, yeah, it’s just a post about a calculator. The calculator looks great! But we haven’t had a chance to play with it yet. It’s still in its packaging!


  8. I don’t think kids these days are lazier. In some ways, I think they work a lot harder.

    I also certainly do not think that my generation had it better. I’m very glad and thankful that my children have opportunities that I never had. Online university degrees? Work from home? I mean, *I* still have to wrap my head around that.

    I read in _The One World Schoolhouse_ (http://www.amazon.com/The-One-World-Schoolhouse-Reimagined/dp/1455508381/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358919703&sr=8-1&keywords=one+world+schoolhouse) that 65 percent of the world’s children starting grade school in 2012 will end up doing jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

    So I think the people designing curricula and what-not have the not-so-enviable task of educating people for a future we cannot fully grasp.


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