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Now that back-to-school season is in fullswing, let me tell you about the single most pressing unmet need of my ethnicminority community: education. Like other Russian-speaking Jews, I am foreverthankful to this country for taking me in and for giving me liberty. Yet when Italk to people in our community about their wishes and anxieties, they alwaysexpress discontentment with U.S. schools.

现在正值返校的高峰期,请允许我来跟你聊聊我们少数族裔群体最迫切的需求:教育。像其他从俄罗斯来的犹太人一样,我永远感激这个国家接纳我,并给予我自由。然而,当和我们群体里的人谈起他们的期望和担忧时,他们常常会表达对美国学校教育的不满。

“How is it,” some ask, “that we are all engineers, but our childrencan’t do basic math?”
“What do the students read, exactly?” Others wonder.
“The only reason my child is doing well academically,” stated one momof a second grader, “is because he attends a Russian program on Sundays.”

“这是怎么了?”有些人说道,“我们都是工程师出身,而我们的孩子们却连基础数学都不会?”
“我们的孩子在学校里究竟都学了些啥?”另一些人也不解。
“我孩子学得好,唯一的原因是报了一个俄罗斯人的补课班。”一个二年级学生的妈妈说。



Mathematics

数学

Math was the dissident’s favorite in theSoviet unx. It was believed that the subject is so logical and abstract, theparty could never impose its will on it. After all, two plus two equals four —in the 10-digit system, at least — regardless of the edicts of the Politburo.

数学是苏联反对派的最爱。他们觉得这门学科是如此的逻辑化和抽象化,党绝无可能在里面强加意志。毕竟在十进制中,二加二等于四的结论是政治局的指令无法左右的。

Maybe the Soviet bureaucrats weren’t cleverenough, because the American educational bureaucracy did ruin mathematics.That, of course, was accomplished via the 1960s’ “new math,” which has beenreincarnated yet again in Common Core. Those who didn’t subscribe to the newmath teachings weren’t exiled to Gulags, but the kids who were taught in thismanner failed to learn. Sometimes, the soft managerial power of destructiveinnovation is mightier than the NKVD.

也许苏联的官僚们还是不够聪明,因为美国教育部门的官僚真正做到了摧毁数学。毫无疑问,这是经由提出于二十世纪六十年代,如今又在共同核心课程标准中复活的“新数学”做到的。那些反对新数学教学的人并没有因此被流放,但以这样方式教出来的孩子们是学不会数学的。有时候,毁灭性革新的柔性管理权力,要比苏联内务部更为强大。

With generations raised after the new math,schools are hard-pressed to find anyone who can teach the subject — not thatthe administrators would know, anyway. U.S. instructors readily admit theydon’t understand or like the discipline. They end up confusing the students. Afew years ago at my child’s back-to-school meeting, a third-grade teacher was chirpingaway about Common Core math and how it shows that in math, too, there is morethan one way to find an answer.

在实践新数学教育后培养出的几代人中,学校焦头烂额地想要找有能力教授这门学科的人——反正管理层的人也不会知道。美国的教员们爽快地承认他们既不懂也不喜欢这门学科。到头来,他们也误导了学生。几年前,我孩子的返校会议上,有个三年级的教师在奚落共同核心课程标准,以及它对数学的影响,也就是存在不止一种找到答案的方法。



After spending a week or two on anindividual language rule, we would have a dictation test. Is it naive to expectan equal rigor from American public edutainment?

在每一条语法规则上投入一两个星期的学习之后,我们就会来一次听写考试。指望美国的公共娱育系统以同样的严格标准去要求是不是太过天真了?

(译注:此处为讽刺,合体education(教育)和entainment(娱乐)两词成为edutainment)

Russian is a vicious language, but Englishshouldn’t be that hard to master. It has more words, but fewer rules to followand fewer exceptions to those rules. Teachers can take these rules one by one,explain, and practice over a period of a few weeks. With the kind of system Iwent through, most children graduating elementary school should be decentspellers.

俄语是一门艰深的语言,但相比之下,掌握英语就没有那么难。它的词汇量更大,但需要遵循的规则更少,这些规则中出现的例外也更少。老师们可以用几周的时间一个一个地去传授这些规则,并进行练习。要是采用我经历过的那种教学体制,大部分小学毕业的孩子应该都可以像样地拼写了。



(译注:《汤姆·索亚历险记》(The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)是美国小说家马克·吐温1876年发表的长篇小说)

What do American children read? Peppyagitprop that, even when competently written, is merely a fit for the editorialcriteria compliant with current politically correct talking points. Because ofthe ever-evolving nature of political discourse, many of these books becomeoutdated soon after they come out. They are, by definition, ephemeral anddisposable. The message we are sending to children is that nothing is eternallyvaluable.

美国的孩子都读些什么呢?是那些宣传鼓动类的鸡汤文章,哪怕写得很不赖,也不过是迎合了编辑标准、以符合当前政治正确的论据支撑的那些八股文。而由于政治论述本身是不断嬗变的,这类书有很多在面世后很快就会过时。根据定义,它们是朝生暮死的一次性用品。这样一来我们就给孩子们传达了一种信息,即没有什么具有永恒的价值。