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» Tuesday, November 07, 2006The Blind Leading...
I'm not sure if today was a school holiday in this area or not.
When I was in elementary school we always got an election day off because our school was used as a polling place. I noticed at least one school with a "no school November 7" on it when we were driving home last night.
But there were children at the Air and Space Museum today that were obviously in school groups, and children with their parents as well. So I guess it depended which school.
Several of the children seemed to have an assignment to be fulfilled at the museum; they had to visit various galleries and answer questions posed on the paper (like "What was the Lunar Rover used for?"). I'm not certain that having to do assignments like this rather than enjoying the museum exhibits hasn't turned many children into museum-haters, but it was done even before I was a child and I'm sure will continue to be done. I peered at exhibits over the heads of these children and saw several of these photocopied forms filled in in childish handwriting.
There was one mother there, though, who was basically walking about with her kids in her wake and filling in the form for them! Did she have a copy of the blank at home that she was going to let the kids copy to bring to school? Didn't she figure the teacher would notice that it wasn't her child's handwriting? And it certainly couldn't have been right for Mom to have been doing the assignment in the first place! I could see her gently helping the child to find the answers, but doing the assignment for them?
I also noticed that some of the parents guiding the children around the exhibits didn't seem much more knowledgable than their offspring. Most of these were younger mothers and their ignorance was rather sad. I have been reading space program books since I was eleven years old and know that most people don't know about PLSS backpacks, or what a DSKY was, or the definition of the word "perihelion." But I certainly thought some basic facts might be known, like the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun. I was next to one exhibit that showed the "Earth centric" solar system commonly believed in many centuries ago (with Earth as the center of the solar system with the Sun revolving around it) and the model of the actual solar system. Mom was happily showing her son the Sun and the Moon on the "Earth centric" solar system model, telling him that's how the solar system looked. (There was no mistaking the Sun in both models. Even the little boy pointed it out to his Mom: "There's the Sun! It's yellow!") It's as if she didn't even read the labels on the two models.
The mom who was doing the assignment for her children didn't seem much better. She didn't seem to recognize that it was Apollo 11 that had landed on the Moon and she was not familiar with the names of Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. Granted, she looked of an age that she learned about the Moon landing in school rather than lived it the way James and I did, but she learned it...didn't she? I wasn't there when the "Spirit of St. Louis" flew the Atlantic nor when there was a battle at the Little Big Horn, but I remember the names of Charles Lindbergh and General George Armstrong Custer! Heck, I loathed algebra and trigonometry, but I still know what logarithms are, what an algebraic equation looks like, recall the terms sine and cosine, tangents and co-tangentseven if I no longer recall how to calculate eachand what discipline they are from.
It's as if school never happened for them.