Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thoughts On My Son's First Day Of School

As I walked my son to his first day of school, pre-school, I couldn’t help but contemplate the state of our educational system and the potential impacts it is and will have on society.

During my short 40 years, I have seen the transition from a focus on cursive handwriting, to printing, from typing to keyboarding, from writing out mathematical solutions to graphing calculators and party lines with rotary dial phones, to digital phones with answering machines, to cell phones, to smart phones that are used more for texting, tweeting, posting and emailing than talking.

These transitions of focus included a transition away critical thinking and in my humble opinion have resulted in the following:

1. People rarely write thank you cards or letters anymore. Instead, the cards are pre-printed, digital or email is utilized. People no longer have to think about how to say what they feel and then legibly put those words to paper. Humanity is lost. Let us return to the days when a “rough draft” for an essay meant writing it on paper. Would this not improve critical thinking and reduce the temptation to “cut & paste” from an electronic file?

2. People are unable to compute mathematical problems without a calculator or computer, let alone run a proof to determine if the given answer is truly correct. “Experts” working for regulatory agencies rely entirely upon computer models without any regard for the quality of the data entering, whether the data was entered correctly, whether the data was utilized properly and are unable to “prove” the outcome is accurate without utilizing multiple runs on another computer, using the same files and same model. Start putting it back on paper people!

3. People become agitated when responses to questions are not answered in a timely manner via social media or email, when a phone call could give an immediate reply. I fear cell phones, if not already, will soon be utilized more for digital communication than speaking. Will this lead to the inability of individuals to communicate effectively vocally and introduce classes on texting instead of speech?

Do not take this the wrong way, I appreciate technology and utilize all forms that help me to be more efficient. However, I do think that we need to re-introduce some of the basics back into schools. Teach students how to write again, legibly and grammatically correct. Require students to show ALL of their work in math, not just answers and bring back speech and debate classes.

While I am looking forward to my son’s future experiences in his educational endeavors, he can rest assured that what he does not receive in school, will be waiting for him at home. Until then, it is back to changing water and ranch work alone, two days a week. At least I get to be weaned from him in phases. :-)


  1. While I like the fact that the one room school house that my son attends has laptops for all 15 kids, they are required to hand write their stories...which I love. Definitely think it's important to teach the basics {or old school way} for a good foundation.

  2. Touching, Jeff. And it really raises good questions. I'm a product of my generation, in that, e-mail and digital communications seem overtly natural to me. Yet, there doesn't seem to be much that can beat vocal communication or face-to-face interaction for building strong communicational and personal bonds. As far as mathematical work...we know where I stand on that. I can't help but feel like more attention to practical application could have helped me somewhere along the lines.

    I'm sorry you'll be lonely a couple days a week, but think of it this way: you're lucky enough to share your bright little boy with a lucky teacher and classroom of kids. I know Kyle will be a great member of his educational community. :)

  3. Great post Jeff. I can identify with your sentiments as I have the same thoughts as my son gets older. I wondered the other day how research would be done for class papers. I still remember going to the library working through books and periodicals to find my information. If you have to commit it to paper, there's much more thought and fact checking than a simple tweet or blog post for that matter.

    On a lighter note, congrats on your son's milestone and thanks for sharing it with us!

  4. Love when you blog & share your insight Jeff. I'm an old school mom who makes our son write thank you notes. Relish the days your son is still at home as your helper because it goes faster each year. I'm mourning still that our son turned 13 years old last Friday.

  5. I'm with you on the handwriting notes. It so rarely occurs anymore people are really touched when it happens.

  6. I haven't written a draft out on paper since probably the 6th grade. You could really see the technology gap in college when one of my profs would want several drafts before the finished essay and I had a hard time ending a draft because I was so used to just editting a Word file over and over.


About Me

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Jeff Fowle is a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He and his wife Erin and son Kyle raise registered Angus cattle, Percheron draft horses, warmbloods, alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay. They also start and train horses for riding, jumping, and driving. Their family run ranch has incorporated many environmentally beneficial and water efficient technologies and management strategies. Jeff attended college at Colorado State University for two years and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for four and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Following college, he worked in Washington State for a year as a herdsman for BB Cattle Company and then returned to Etna, California in 1995 to own and operate KK Bar Ranch and Siskiyou Percherons. The latter was started by his grandfather, Clarence Dudley, who devoted much of his time to the Percheron Horse Association of America, specifically to developing their youth education program.