The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand
Yes, Internet is making a change, but it seems to be more where weirdos of all stripes can hang together, rather than The Great Marketplace of Ideas.
A lot of information - basic science, technology, history, literature - is out there, but not many are interested in it, in developing a real knowledge base. What you see is quotes from Wikipedia cited as the ultimate authoritative source.
And the level of debate between opposing sides? Gang wars seem more orderly at times. And I plead guilty to some of that - especially of overreaction to idiotic ideas, such as that we should give communism just another try.
Anyway, Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom treats at length the nefarious influence of identity politics and intellectualism. It's a suggested reading.
"We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth."
I agree - we need to stop whipping up hysteria over the myth of anthropogenic global warming. Who knew Al could get it right for once?
My wife has been a high-school and middle-school teacher, in both government-school and private-school systems, for more than twenty years. She has watched and discussed with me at length the progressive disintegration of the government school systems, and their encroachment on the private school systems.
The government school systems, since their well-organized socialist (Dewey) inception, have been the first and best bastion of collectivism within the United States. As you note in your essay, the federalization of the government school systems (with the creation of the federal "Department of Education") has only accelerated the decline.
While many groups decry the government school teacher's unions, this is only one small aspect of the entire issue. Addressing teacher pay-for-performance, school "choice" vouchers, or any other such "solution", is (as my wife notes) like putting a band-aid on someone that's dying of cancer. The overall issue remains that they are a socialist/collectivist enclave supported by the taxes paid by people in the remains of our free enterprise system. There is not only no penalty for failure, the failure of the socialist educational system is used as an excuse to throw even MORE money at it.
A shining example is the City of Minneapolis, whose government school system is in a catastrophic state of failure. The last year for which I had data (it's now fairly hard to find these numbers, for some mysterious reason) was 2003, when the government school system was spending over eleven thousand dollars ($11,000) per student. And turning out a product that is, for a huge percentage of its "graduates", functionally illiterate and innumerate. There are a tiny number schools, rapidly dwindling, in which a student has a chance to actually receive an education; the rest of them are simply holding pens to keep them off the streets for nine months of the year. The activist parents fight tooth and nail to get their children into these select schools…the ones who don't care about their children's education do nothing.
The end result has been that those who can afford to pay both the exorbitant Minneapolis property taxes AND private tuition send their children to private schools, while those who can't afford it typically flee the city for third/fourth tier suburban school districts.
The larger moral issue of robbing Peter to pay for Paul's children's education must be addressed. The proponent of such robbery claim that education is a "right", or that since an educated populace is necessary for a republic to function that it must be paid for with public funds. They ignore the fact that such justifications are bogus, and that "public" education had not been funded with tax dollars to a significant degree until the beginning of the 20th century.
The effects of Fabian Socialism in the in the educational system cannot be overstated. The socialists, starting with John Dewey, have taken over the entire training of teachers, and the outcomes in the vast majority of the colleges and universities in the United States has been a system of pedagogy that has ignored it's own failures while trumpeting the values of collectivist thinking.
While I don't believe that this is the result of any vast left-wing conspiracy (one of my favorite quotes is, "Never attribute to conspiracy what can be accounted for by stupidity"), the end result remains the same. A populace completely unaware of the founding principles of the country in which they live, which can be easily manipulated by the lame-stream media. They have never, ever been taught critical thinking skills in the government classrooms in which they were "educated".
EXCELLENT comment, Blackwing1. Thank you.
The last couple of paragraphs you quoted by Gore seem to be his lead in for governmental control of the Internet. This well of reason and ideas must be government controlled for they know best and well look at how well public schools are run.
This book just seems like another ploy to rein in the Internet and make another government bureaucracy, say the Department of Networked Information.
The last couple of paragraphs seem to be Gore's pitch for the recent hub bub about preventing a "two tiered" internet, for which much poo and FUD was flung.
Yes, it was entirely about governmental regulation, and make no doubt, Al Gore was advocating regulation.
As for the decay of our school systems, my take is that the decay has vastly accellerated since I was in it. My own education is a blend of public and private schooling, and the public schools did teach authentic critical thought at the time.
Unfortunately, as gwa9, a lone voice of sanity in her school can attest, way too much of the books and materials come with ideological trappings. One book, which she flat out rejected, eventually winning the duel with the rest of her colleagues, was something like "The Integration of Reading, Writing and Critical Thinking Skills"....critical thinking skills being entirely measured in terms of ideological conformity to leftist doctrine. Case examples were explicitly drawn from current controversies: the gWoT, and AGW.
I shit you not.
Fortunately, the book was so blatantly over the top that even the most addled were able to understand it, and she was able to win enough over to get that nonsense stopped, which is a sign of hope that all is not lost. Even uberLiberals are appalled.
Another much overlooked element of the decay of our educational institutions is the de-facto monopoly a small number of companies have over educational text books.
The reality is that the books have a lot more to do with the curriculum than anything else, they are available from a small number of vendors, there is no diversity of thought in them, they toe the politically correct line, they are massively expensive, and they are not sold a la carte; they are sold in giant take it or leave it packages.
"My own education is a blend of public and private schooling, and the public schools did teach authentic critical thought at the time."
My experience was similar. The difference, I think, is that if you wanted to get a quality education, the opportunity was still there. There were teachers who could teach (and control their classrooms), and there have always been good books from which to teach.
But if you don't want an education, no problem! Our schools have become more and more over time simply holding pens for our youth, as Blackwing1 put it. It has become progressively harder for those who want a good education to get one out of the public school systems. This is by no means uniform. Like most things it's more pronounced in metropolitan areas and less in rural ones, but yes it is accelerating.
I have several grade school textbooks from the late 1800's to 1930's. They include levels of English and Mathematics that were not taught to me until I was well into High School. When I took English II in college. The teacher was reduced to teaching remedial English to about half the class (most of whom were retaking it). He had to spend over a week on the proper use of sit, set, and sat.
Title: Thoughts on Algore from Kevin
Excerpt: Kevin is posting again (yay!) and has an interesting post on Algore’s new book.
Al Gore has another book coming out. This one’s not about how the world is going to be destroyed by Global Climate Change if we don’t immediately cut ba...
Blog name: Solarvoid
As an educator, I think there are two ways you can define the problem with education in this country. The first is to look at it from the learners point of view. The only good thing that has come out No Child Left Behind is the aggregate data. This data unequivocally shows that people from different cultures learn differently. The data shows that non white students are performing poorly because teachers are not open to new styles of teaching.
To look at this another way, someone who is African American, for example, learns more effectively if a text is juxtaposed with his or her daily life. Simply reading Julius Caesar and lecturing abou it isn't enough...dramitically potraying the relevance to the themes raised in the novel in relation to their home live ignites interest. An example of this type of pedagogy is seen in the movie Freedom Writers.
Another thing from the learners point of view...everyone learns differently and each instructor must tailor their lessons accordingly. Differentiation is key to success. Grouping children in small groups or in pairs for learning goes a long way in bridging this gap. I do this all the time and it works.
The other key to success is not an investement in finanical capital but human capital. We need more people that want to teach. We need people that have more energy and hear the calling of how important it is to teach children to be critical thinkers. For myself, I became a teacher a few years ago when several young people I met over the course of a year or so could not name a single world leader, other than our president. Appalling!
Check out this article
I have never seen a more "no-nonsense approach to fixing our education system. I think it echoes what most people have posted here.
"This data unequivocally shows that people from different cultures learn differently."
I thought saying something like this was racist? Did I miss a memo?
"To look at this another way, someone who is African American, for example, learns more effectively if a text is juxtaposed with his or her daily life."
Would that be "African Americans" from Cleveland, or "African Americans" from Jamaica? Or an "African American" like Teresa Heinz Kerry?
"What if the solution to American students' stagnant performance levels and the wide achievement gap between white and minority students wasn't more money, smaller schools, or any of the reforms proposed in recent years, but rather a new education system altogether?" (from the linked article.)
Yes, we need to burn it all down and start over. Problem is, the complete education system - from the school room to the colleges of education - are occupied by people more interested in creating collectivists than in educating individualists, and I don't see anything changing there regardless of what other changes are made.
Don't forget, Kevin, that people like 'delphia there equate Christians like Falwell and Phelps to Osama bin Ladin and suicide bombers. Talk about an inability to use critical thinking skills.....
And people like him are the teachers and administrators of our schools. Note that he suggests that teachers should teach each child differently. But in the days that the textbooks Thridpower mentions were in use, there was little or no differential teach. English and mathematics were taught by rote. Maybe not the nicest method, or the easiest on little Bobbie or Susie's self esteem, but it clearly worked.
'delphia, you want specialized education for students? That is what their parents are supposed to handle. Let them home school the kids, or help them with their homework.
America needs adults capable of understanding English and mathematics so they can provide for themselves, and understand the issues facing America so they can be informed voters.
The teachers' unions, government school districts and Department of Education have proven woefully inadequate in those two simple tasks. Is it incompetence, or malice? The simple nature of bureaucracy suggests the former, but the comments of the founders of the public education system suggest the latter.
And now the Dems want to add millions of undereducated students, to whom English is not a native language, to our schools. Brilliant.
EricWS, more money is not the solution for schools in 2007, although it would be nice if teachers got paid more (hee hee!). In an answer to your question, is it incompetence or malice? Neither, its laziness. Too many teachers and administrators are just plain lazy. I see it everyday. It's pathetic.
Also, I think there is a world of difference between Jerry Falwell and Fred Phelps, don't you?
Kevin, the politics of cultural diversity is a tough thing. The key is to balance the idea that everyone is the same (black, white, red, yellow etc) with the idea that everyone learns differently. It is extremely difficult to do. I am not always very impressive in this regard. In fact, sometimes I have been downright awful.
Black students are quite simply not going to give a crap about the book Jane Eyre. I don't give a crap about Jane Eyre. They will be interested in books like Native Son or Uncle Tom's Cabin and yes...even Huck Finn.
And I disagree with you on the collectivist/individualist thing. I think that is an idea that is more propaganda than reality. Every single teacher in our district encourages free thought--no matter where the thought is on the poltical spectrum--and the same holds true for most of Minnesota. The problems usually arise when, for example, a book like Huck Finn causes a stir because people feel it is racist. Or when a teacher decides to teach a book that has gay themes in it. One side or the other cries foul and the hoopala begins. Parents not only want their child to not read the book but they want other kids to not read it as well.
Oh, and speaking of parents, yes, many shirk their responsibilities at home as well and us teachers end up paying for it.
Every person seems to learn better when the subject ties into their lives. This is one reason why 'the classics' remain so; eternal themes about the human condition resonate when taught properly.
The population has been enstupidated so, of course, there is very little realization of that point.
Much of what is common discourse comes from emotion, not reason; in that Gore is correct, and I believe it also points to the feminization of the culture. "How do you feel about that?" has replaced "What do you think or believe about that?".
Parents do shirk their responsibilities to their children and have been taught to do so, right from expecting Peter should pay for their kids education, by the "experts" who counsel counselling as the cure to all ills.
Don't worry though; 100 million Hispanics is gonna fix all this.
A kind of counterpoint to Gore's book is Cass Sunstein's Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle; I've just seen references to Bryan Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (see also Volokh) which looks pretty interesting.
And I disagree with you on the collectivist/individualist thing. I think that is an idea that is more propaganda than reality. Every single teacher in our district encourages free thought--no matter where the thought is on the poltical spectrum--and the same holds true for most of Minnesota.
I would disagree with that. I realize that this is anecdotal, but it seems to be the norm, not the exception. Even when I attended elementary school in the 70's, in a very conservative area of Central Indiana farm land, we were taught collectivist principles and individualism was suppressed...not to the level that occurred when my kids went to school, but it was in place even then.
It was the individuals who bucked the official policies of the schools (and there were many of them at that time and place), along with our parents, who taught us the lessons of individuality, self-reliance and personal responsibility.
By the time my children attended public schools, it ended up being completely up to the parents to counterindoctrinate the collectivist brainwashing out of our children because the teachers were either too afraid of the monolith that controlled their professional destiny, or were completely sold on the ideology themselves.
If I had to do it again today, my kids would not, under any circumstances, attend public schools.
I would mention another point that Thomas Sowell has brought up on various occasions. Not all people are suited for educational excellence. There is a cross-section of society who, either through lack of capability, lack of motivation or simply lack of interest, are NEVER going to be educated to any level above the basics.
Back in the day, when kids actually learned Greek and Latin in high school, studied Shakespeare and Homer and were instructed in critical thinking and logic, attendance was not compulsory. Many children weren't educated beyond the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic and many didn't even achieve that level.
At that time, our society was primarily agrarian. I was raised on a farm and I can state unequivocally that our sheep and corn were decidedly unimpressed by my grasp of the metaphors embraced in the Iliad or my command of polynomial equations.
My point being: The world needs ditch diggers too. Why force a child who is uninterested and unmotivated to learn into a situation where his only function is to detract from the learning environment that others would readily embrace if given the opportunity?
In our quest to appease the self-image of narcissistic, uncouth brats, we lower the standards to the level that even our "best and brightest" are barely literate.
I'm all for privatizing the school system and getting the government out of it...but also we need to lower the age at which formal schooling is compulsory. At the "middle school" level is where it seems to me it becomes clear whether the children are suited for further education or not. Only send on students who care to go. Perhaps offer vocational or trades training for those who wish to pursue that avenue, and bid the rest adeu.
So the kid sweeping the floors at your local 7-11 can't make change without the aid of a computerized cash register or properly complete a sentence in English; how is that different than the system now? ...except that the kids who DO want to achieve something educationally actually will have a fighting chance of doing so. How much could our High School level educators accomplish if ALL of the students are there because they WANT to be?
Just a thought.
"Why force a child who is uninterested and unmotivated to learn into a situation where his only function is to detract from the learning environment that others would readily embrace if given the opportunity?"
Because the Future Ditch-Diggers of America lack self-esteem. Or at least that's how the argument goes.
"In our quest to appease the self-image of narcissistic, uncouth brats, we lower the standards to the level that even our 'best and brightest' are barely literate."
There's "no child left behind" taken to its logical conclusion. If you "leave no child behind" you never get out of the driveway.
If one wishes to see how corrupt public education is simply ask a Chicago high school teacher what school his children attend. Two thirds sent their children to non public schools. Wonder why?
Better yet look at what is taught in universities today and the type of people who hold the rank of professor. Most of these people couldn't hold down jobs at McDonalds.
For this you get to pay 30,000 a year, to rememdy what public high schools should have done. But there is always graduate school.
The situation is so bad I've seen GS5 jobs require Master's Degrees.
Sailorcurt, what exactly is the "collectivist brainwashing" and "idealogy" that you speak of?
Mr. Jackson, what exactly is a GS5 job?
General Schedule, Level 5 - essentially an entry-level government job for a (recent) college graduate. GS-9 is considered the equivalent of a First Leutenant, to give you some idea. The GS scale goes to 15, which is considered the equivalent of a full-bird Colonel. I've got a cousin in the State Dept. who is a GS-15. When she travels to a military base, she gets quarters suitable for that rank.
I can't seem to find it on the intarw3b, but I recall reading an article in the Wall Street Journal from years ago (more than a decade? This in the days before the reportorial staff of the WSJ went completely socialist) about the textbook approval processes. It turns out that a single person, a collectivist twit in Southern Kalifornia, is primarily responsible for the socialist/collectivist orientation of the vast majority of texts. How does this happen?
It's fairly simple: Kalifornia is the single largest market for middle- and high-school textbooks in the U.S., and this market simply cannot be ignored. But all textbooks used by the government schools in Kalifornia must be approved by...you guessed it, a state textbook approval committee. The raving lunatic leftist who chaired (dunno if she still does) this committee refused to allow the approval of any text which did not conform to her "standards" of ideology.
The end result is that the major text publishers spent decades catering to her prejudices, in order to have a chance to market their texts to the "independent" school districts in Kalifornia. Note that NO censorship is involved. The textbook manufacturers were free to ignore their single biggest market. The overwhelming majority of them, of course, chose not to ignore, but to pander to it.
Other states typically also have similar processes, but usually follow Kalifornia's lead in this matter. When you wonder why educational texts all have the same bland, collectivist, inaccurate flavor, this is why.
Interesting read. I saw the same piece in Time this past weekend and I picked up on most of the same points as the author of this blog. Excellent writing style, please keep up the good work!