Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Out of touch Editorial in the Knoxville News Sentinel

Today the Knoxville News Sentinel has a disappointing and out of touch Editorial which advocates the end of Drivers Education in Knoxville public schools.

I disagree and question whether this Editorial represents what is best for the children of Knox County.

I can tell you that Drivers Education was one of the most important courses I ever studied. My high school did not have Drivers Education so I took the course at the University of Tennessee. Very few of my classmates took this course. As I compare the results over time it is clear I was very fortunate.

Some of my classmates died in traffic accidents. My closest friends all had major accidents while still in high school. To date I have not had a serious traffic accident. I have never had an accident that was my fault. The three minor accidents I have had were two hit from behind accidents and one accident where a neighbor backed into the side on my car.

I have had countless near accidents. A few would have been serious and possibly fatal. Drivers Education has made a significant difference in my life. Encourage the Knox County School Board to find a way to keep Drivers Education.

The Knoxville News Sentinel writes:

"At the same time, studies have found that formal instruction has yielded few benefits, and a number of school systems have eliminated the program. A spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for example, said it is often a surprise when people learn that "research shows driver education has been a total bust when it comes to making teens safer behind the wheel."

Certainly there is a public safety interest in teaching teens to drive safely and responsibly, but is it the duty of the school systems to offer the courses? The schools have done their part admirably. Now, with tighter budgets and the dim prospect of tax increases to support education, it is time to look beyond the status quo.


Driver's education should not be retained if it means academic programs must be trimmed. Even if it is kept in the curriculum for another year or two, alternatives should be considered, perhaps including representatives of the state Department of Safety, insurance companies and local law enforcement along with educators to make the courses - whether in school of not - as relevant, instructive and affordable as possible."

Comments:
While I respect your opinion, your logic is a little loose here. I also took driver education. It was required in my high school. And I know a lot of people who took it and are dead. The research doesn't show any measurable effect on the quality of drivers it produces. Your personal experience is great and I'm glad it made you a better driver, but I'd be more swayed by your argument if you had some real evidence that it makes a difference. Something empirical. Anecdotal just isn't good enough. Based on my experience, it could be argued that drivers ed killed those kids I went to school with. Absurd, yes. But that's what happens when we take anecdotal evidence and try to extrapolate. No?
 
My own experience in driver's ed. was worthless. The instructor was the Phys. Ed. teacher, and we mostly drove around visiting his friends and running errands. On the other hand, I know of a number of people, including now the author of this blog, who report much better experience with a driving course.

I think the subject is too complicated for an up or down vote. The value of a driving course depends upon its structure and content, along with the quality of the instruction itself. On the whole, I think driver's ed. is a good idea, but we need to find what works and what doesn't. I've read a few articles on the subject, and they offered some insight into the kinds of things that might improve driver's ed. This one, for example, in Injury Prevention seemed sensible.

In short, I'd offer a qualified Yes to keeping driver's ed., with the qualifier being that current courses don't seem to be helping and need to be modified based on credible studies of teenaged drivers. I would also suggest that parents take on full responsibility for teaching their children to drive. The schools certainly can have a role in driver's ed., but ultimately the parents need to step up and do their job.
 
Based on my experience, it could be argued that drivers ed killed those kids I went to school with. Absurd, yes. But that's what happens when we take anecdotal evidence and try to extrapolate. No?

Why do we as a nation require mandatory training, instruction, and testing to fly airplanes? Because airplanes are complex machines to operate.

What I do take away from your post is that not all Driver Education courses are the same. Many people have written stories like daliwood where these were crip courses taught by the Coach or Phys. Ed. teacher and the courses were a waste of time.

Obviously I took a good course.

Schools offer a decentralized system to teach Drivers Education. This is much better than one large training center operated by the State or insurance companies.

Do we need to look at the actual courses and see if they cover enough information to provide benefit?

Of course we do and we should. It should not be a crip course to improve the students GPA. It must be a real course that teaches information unknown to the student.

Teach the physics of 3500 pound vehicles traveling at 65 mph.

Mass times velocity equals what?

For example, how many cars lengths should be between you and the car in front of you on the Interstate for you to safely stop if each car is going 65 mph and the car in front of you brakes to a complete stop?

Anyone?
 
In short, I'd offer a qualified Yes to keeping driver's ed., with the qualifier being that current courses don't seem to be helping and need to be modified based on credible studies of teenaged drivers.

Well put daliwood. If the courses are not teaching the needed information then the courses should be replaced with courses that get the job done.

Is part of the problem the curriculum?

The need is real and the need is great. If the students are not learning then why is that happening?
 
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