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The Daily Tar Heel

Linda Ronstadt Signals Bad Things for Primary Education

You eagerly awoke Saturday morning early enough to catch every minute of your favorite cartoons, such as the CBS Saturday Supercade lineup (with such classics as Pac-Man, Q-bert and Donkey Kong). Or maybe you preferred the Care Bears, followed by the Wuzzles (if you were a big wuss).

Or think about the thrill of hearing the school bell ring at 3 p.m., signaling the end of another hellish day of long division and something called "Social Studies." You'd get off the bus, race into your house and toss away your worries with the carefree fling of your backpack onto your bed.

Ah, the beautiful peace of a Fruit Roll-up and a free afternoon.

Now, imagine all that taken from you in the blink of an eye. Instead of backyard football, you're still in school at 5 p.m., trying to tackle Life Science. Instead of Saturday morning cartoons, you must endure Saturday morning spelling tests.

Well, that's exactly what the future holds for today's children if NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his band of merry Nazis get their way. Mr. Giuliani recently proposed adding a sixth day of school for some 84,000 struggling students. Similarly, California Gov. Gray Davis asked his state to add 30 extra days to the school year. And all across the country, moves are being made to increase the length of the school day well beyond the standard seven hours.

I can appreciate the motives behind these moves. In countries such as Korea and Italy, children spend over 200 days a year in school. And in China the school year is 250 days. And, not coincidentally, these kids consistently outsmart their American peers on standardized tests.

Yes, our kids are pretty dumb. If you doubt it, just try talking to 10-year-olds. They're absolute morons. Half of their brainpower is used memorizing the names and special powers of Pokemon characters.

However, stealing our young ones' cherished childhoods is not the way to remedy the situation. Instead, why don't we look at exactly what we're trying to teach, and how we're trying to teach them?

Well, a professor at N.C. State University (motto: "We'll learn you real good, yup") actually left the chicken coup long enough to do just that. John Hubisz, a physics professor at N.C. State, conducted a two-year survey of 12 of the most popular science textbooks being used in middle schools nationwide and found them to be riddled with errors. Hubisz said that not even one of the books had an acceptable level of accuracy.

Among the more than 500 pages of errors compiled from the books were such glaring mistakes as a map depicting the equator running through the southern United States (Duh! The equator is IMAGINARY!) and a picture of Linda Ronstadt erroneously labeled as a silicone crystal (I swear!).

One textbook even misstated Newton's first law of physics, a staple of physical science for centuries. While the misstated version was not available, it is hard to imagine anyone could screw up such a simple dictum as, "If a train leaves Chicago for L.A. at 3 p.m., going 433 mph, and another train leaves from Cleveland at 0800 hours, travelling at 244 degrees Kelvin, then, by the law of modus ponens, your mother!"

The textbooks with the most errors were part of the Prentice Hall "Science" series, which included a picture incorrectly depicting what happens to light when it enters a prism (It all depends on the age and political affiliation of the prism) and the Linda Ronstadt photo, which Prentice Hall maintains is not necessarily an error. Said a spokesman for Prentice Hall, "Come on. I mean, really, what's up with her?"

While there is no clear answer to this question and many others regarding the sorry state of these books, one thing is certain. Before you deprive a child of his God-given right to watch whatever revamped "Saved by the Bell" spin-off happens to be running this season, maybe you should look at who's really responsible for all of this. I think you hear me knocking, Linda. And I'm bringing my horde of dumbasses with me. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

David Povill can be reached at pfunk@email.unc.edu.

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