In the first major purchase of its kind, the State of Virginia has ordered 200,000 graphing calculators to be distributed to public school students in algebra and other upper level math classes. The $20 million purchase was made through a fund approved by state legislators to help students meet Virginia's new curriculum standards. Graphing calculators, which perform some of the same functions as computers, have become popular in Washington, DC area schools. The Virginia purchase will provide enough calculators for every 9th and 10th grader in the state, as well as about 40% of 8th graders.
A new trend has public school students doing what private and parochial students have always done-wear uniforms. In cities like Miami, Chicago, Cleveland and Boston, more public school students are donning uniforms than jeans. Smaller towns like Greenville, MS, are also getting into the act. School officials have cited popular support for any measure that seems to promote law and order, and the desire for all children to be "equal," as reasons for the trend.
While Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) has yet to be scientifically proven to exist, prescriptions for Ritalin, the treatment of choice, increased 400% between 1990 and 1996. Studies have not shown any lasting benefits to children taking Ritalin. Side effects, such as "toxic psychosis," can produce hallucinations if the dosage of Ritalin is too high, or if parents fail to give children their prescribed "drug holidays" (days off of the drug). Many doctors are concerned that giving children Ritalin rather than discipline sends them the message that they are not responsible for their own conduct, that they are driven by "uncontrollable impulses," for which there are drugs.
The fine art of penmanship, or cursive handwriting, is becoming a lost art. Changes in educational theory and the use of computers are cited as reasons for the shift. Most teachers now say they are more concerned with content than writing ability.