The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand
1) What is missing from our public school system can be easily stated. It's two subjects: Logic and rhetoric. People go through 12 years of school and are never once taught how to spot if a line of argument hangs together or not, nor how to defend a line of argument. The truly sad part is that, so far as I know, the only place such subjects are taught is in law school. In other words, the only people who learn how to analyze and defend a line of thinking are those who are likewise taught that whether something is actually true or not is immaterial, the only relevant point is whether or not the client is acquitted.
Another major danger is what was once taught in school, but is quickly vanishing: Heinlein's "three critical subjects." Languages, history and mathematics. Personally I find his logic impeccable. If you aren't fluent in the language an author wrote in, you DO NOT KNOW WHAT THAT AUTHOR SAID. You only know what the translator *claims* that author said. Mathematics is a specialized language, like musical notation. Mathematics is the language that describes *in precise terms* the operation of what is observed. Without it, any and all sciences are closed to you. History.... completely aside from the old saw of "those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it", the fact is that without knowing the history of a given region and period, you have no context in which to place events occurring within that region/period. What does the word "bow" mean? Does it mean the pointy end of a boat? The act of bending at the waist? An arrangement of wood and string designed to fire an arrow? Without the appropriate context, you have no way to tell. In the same way, Hitler's actions in early 20th century Europe have far different meanings according to how your knowledge of Europe and early 20th century history give you a context in which to place them.
2) I note a common denominator (I have noticed it before) in what modern liberals consider "vital". Things like "fairness", "social justice", "self-esteem", "awareness", "right thinking" and "the public welfare". Notice the common denominator in all those things? It is this: All of them are terms that have NO OBJECTIVE MEANING. Like "good", "evil", "love" and "God", they are all words with nearly as many definitions, as many meanings, as there are people who use the terms.
If you can't even *define* what you want, it's hardly surprising if you can't *achieve* what you want.
3) I dropped out of high school in the middle of my junior year, in 1975. Why? Because I refused to do another year and a half of boring drudgery for the sake of getting a certificate that lumped me in with "high school graduates" who could barely sign their own names legibly. Instead I got a job and, 2 years later, went and took the GED exam. True, it didn't get the ersatz "respect" of a diploma. But at least there WAS A STANDARD.
(Moved from a different post because this is the more appropriate place for it - Ed.)
Yay, free ice cream!
On a more serious note, I'm gratified that I've been able to contribute to your thinking. You have certainly contributed to mine.
Interesting that you bring up the "freedom vs. equality" thing. A post you threw up recently motivated me to begin a blog post for the first time in months, outlining why "freedom" and "equality" are both deficient as first political principles. I believe that there is another principle which can subordinate them both, and regulate their interactions.
When I finish it, your blog will know it first...
Kevin, you have strengthened my determination that no child of mine will ever set foot in one of these indoctrination centers, no matter what.
I love being inspiring!
And yet, to contribute a positive note, the youth of today seem -- stress that: seem -- to understand "individualistic, meritocratic capitalis[m]" far better than their parents' or grandparents' generations ever did.
It causes me to wonder whether, like language and grammar, these concepts aren't naturally bred into our mental maps, and whether a better understanding of those maps might lead to a better apprehension of the concepts.
Oops. This is where I *thought* I had posted it. Thanks for finding it and putting it where it was supposed to be. Guess I should know better than to post when it's past my bedtime. Senility sucks rocks.
Not a problem. I figured this is where you meant to put it.
At least you didn't go into a complete rag on teachers, many of whom are decent, honest individuals. Since the 1950's the US educational system has been progressively (and I use that word in both meanings) taken over by collectivists. The Fabian socialists took over the upper levels of education, and we have had nothing but collectivist pedagogy coming from the universities and colleges since then.
My wife, who has worked as an teacher for more than 20 years (before finally leaving because the collectivism inherent in the educational system was making her crazy) has been through both directly-governmental school systems ("public schools") and indirectly governmental school systems ("private schools"). The educational system has been the first, best bastion of socialism in this country. And they chose their target well; by taking over the education and pedagogy in the universities, they were able to create multiple generations of good little collectivist teachers.
But as she says, "Blaming the teachers for the failing education system is like blaming the soldiers for losing a war." The politically-driven adminstration of the government schools is solely responsible for the means and methods that they implement. And for the (lack of) results that they achieve.
Any parent who leaves their child to folly of the government schools will get what they deserve.
(Relocated from a post I'm pretty sure he didn't mean to click on. - Ed.)
I got 66% on the Civic Literacy report ... I'm a Brit and the questions that tripped me up were the ones regarding the Revolutionary period and suchlike ... Statement below.
Does that make me a candidate for American citizenship?
You answered 40 out of 60 correctly 66.67 %
Average score for this quiz during June: 70.7%
Average score since September 18, 2007: 70.7%
You can take the quiz as often as you like, however, your score will only count once toward the monthly average.
"(Y)ou want schools to turn children into your type of drone..... The kind that believe that sick people...that poor people are only that way because they are weak and didn't take responsibility for themselves."
I'll never understand why liberals believe that the only two options are that the government helps everyone, or the needy die off.
I believe that the federal government is the worst tool for helping those in need. However, I do believe in helping those that need it, if they are honestly trying to get back on their feet.
A young man did an experiment recently after finishing college. He started off with nothing, living in a shelter. By working in unskilled labor, and not wasting money on anything that isn't a necessity, he managed to save up thousands of dollars, buy a used truck, and live in an apartment in under a year. He even discussed the difference between those that saw the shelter is a momentary step versus those that had no drive to leave there.
If he could do that much in less than a year, there's really no reason for anyone to stay "down and out" for very long.
Hey, yep, that's my Dad :)
Magnificent, Kevin. Chalk up another couple attaboys.
"As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation - or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown."
A perfect refutation, and spot-on, methinks.
"For the record, I missed four, but I'm largely self-taught."
Sigh. I missed five.
If a test is properly designed, the answers to a multiple-choice question should all sound plausible unless one knows and understands the one correct answer. Overall, this was a well-designed test.
On another note, I remember well the math lessons of the 3rd through 6th grades. During the 3rd through 5th grades, the textbooks used were a series for those grades by the same author and publisher. They taught arithmetic by explanation, example, and drill, and overwhelmingly they applied those lessons to the real world through innumerable story problems, as they were known at the time.
I dearly loved those story problems. They taught us to think. They taught the real-world use of arithmetic to answer questions and solve problems. They taught the use of algebra in simple, practical, useful ways, thereby making its later formal study easy.
Then came the sixth grade. We had a brand new textbook, with no curled page corners, no writing in the margins, no dirty fingerprints, and damned little in common with what we had used before. Your contrast between the classroom example of 1960 and 1970 (new math) is spot on. We were perhaps ahead of our time, as I was in the sixth grade from September, 1964, to May, 1965.
What I remember most about that textbook is that I didn't like it, the rest of the class hated it, and the teacher complained about it to us, in class. She did her best to teach what she would have taught had she still used the old textbooks, so we learned much more from the blackboard than from the book.
I recall a meeting between all the teachers of our school (grades 4-6) and the school board one afternoon just after class let out. I heard the voice of my teacher as she shouted at someone, which she rarely did, so I sneaked into the dark back of the auditorium where it was held. (I walked to and from school, so it didn't matter if I stayed late.) She ate out the board for having forced this textbook on us, and the Superintendent, a family friend whom I knew well, as he lived across the street from us, was bleeding from the ass before she was finished. The other teachers listened to her for about ten minutes, and then, when she sat down, they gave her a standing ovation. She kept her job. We kept using the textbook.
I commend to your attention the book Cloning of the American Mind, by B.K. Eakman. Its a pretty detailed look at the influence of socialism and psychological behaviorism on American education. Also NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education by Samuel Blumenfeld. This is shorter, and more tightly focused on the teacher's unions.
I initially thought the authors might be confusing the effects on education with people's intents for education. But taking the statements and writings of the fathers of modern education at face value, there was a movement favoring socialism in education. It would be naive to think that movement had no effect in producing the current state of socialism in education.
Thanks for the recommendations. I added links, though it appears the second book would have to be purchased used, as it is no longer available new. Deliberate Dumbing Down of America: A Chronological Paper Trail looks interesting, too.
Never took a logic class in K-12. The only time I saw one was at a community college. (Incidentally, a very good class; it embraced objective truth and taught the how's and why's of science, ethics, and reasoning.)
I'm British, this is how I did on the American Civics Test:
"You answered 42 out of 60 correctly - 70.00%"
I did have to guess on quite a few.
Thanks for another slathering of brain-food.
Thanks for not calling it "fertilizer"! ;)
I took that Civic Literacy test. Only missed four. :p
Granted, some of the questions were about subjects I have little exposure to. However, I was able to divine the correct answers through the application of logic. Imagine that.
Also, the rest of the post was quite good. I'm currently in college, and the vast majority my fellow classmates are a definite product of the current inadequacies of the educational system. I feel I lucked out, in that I went to a public high school that had a large number of high quality teachers who taught in the traditional style (and actually understood the topics they were teaching), and encouraged us to think for ourselves.
Unfortunately, by the time I had graduated, the school administration was well on its way to completely destroying that classroom environment.
Quite a post. Very thought provoking. Of course, I agreed with most of it already. ;)
So, what's the solution? It seems like we would need a location with a high enough concentration of like minded people that the teachers would be good even in the "public" schools, or a township that was willing to abandon the idea of public schools at all, and let the entire education system be private.
Does this mean the Free State Project (or something like it) is the only real hope to weather this deficiency of governance and education? Is even that enough?
Any parent who leaves their child to folly of the government schools will get what they deserve.
But the child won't "deserve" it.
The only other alternative is to take the children out of their parents hands...and isn't this the root of the problem to begin with?
Oh, indeed. I'm just making the point that it's the child that's being abused, not the parent.
"What is missing from our public school system can be easily stated. It's two subjects: Logic and rhetoric."
I've been thinking about this. These subjects are missing and would be of great benefit to students. I don't believe they are the only or even the first things missing. The first thing missing is simply phonics-based reading.
Phonics, done properly/traditionally, teaches students in a relatively short span of time to read, decode and understand the English language. Literacy fell sharply, and dyslexia actually increased, after whole-word reading was first introduced in the US.
One example: Korean war draftees had such a markedly lower rate of literacy than WWII draftees that the army hired psychologists to figure out how draft evaders were managing to fake illiteracy; the army was shocked when the psychs reported that they weren't faking.
We've got people who come out of school illiterate unnecessarily. We've also got a group of people who may be technically literate in that they can read when they have to, but they largely choose not to because reading is painful, awkward or slow.
Equally or more importantly than people coming out of school illiterate is, they must have been illiterate while still in school. The ability to read and comprehend, quickly and easily, is a prerequisite for mastering most other subjects. You could go so far as to prioritise subjects for students entering grade school, reading first, mathematics second (but proofs lead into logic), history, logic and rhetoric to follow.
Anyway, I know phonics is a horse people have been beating since Why Johnny Can't Read was published in 1955, and without any permanent turn-around. I actually think Kevin's post is a higher-order diagnosis of public schooling. But I still thought it deserved a mention.
"The first thing missing is simply phonics-based reading."
Phonics is certainly a big player, in my mind. I learned to read well before entering school, but when I was in first grade we were still being taught with phonics.
Along the same lines, I also had to diagram sentences. (Keep in mind I am 25.) I'm not sure whether or not that was standard when I was in school, but, I kid you not, when I was in AP English in 2001 at least half the students in my class had no idea what an adverb was or how to use it.
What I don't understand, beyond history and mathematics, is that American students can get by with not being fluent in their own language.
Logic and rhetoric can follow only when students actually understand what they are reading.
Of all the reasons to have a revolution, having Ann Pelo and Kendra Pelojoaquin against the wall is among the best. RCOB is the only way to describe what I experienced when I read "Why We Banned Legos" some months ago.
54 out of 60 on the civics literacy test. Some were guesses. Most were not. The calculation of the percentage right is left as an exercise for the reader. ;-)
As for that jerk who thinks "there may be no good reason for all students to learn algebra" -- I had a random encounter with that claim from a different source a couple of years ago. A few seconds of thought demonstrated that the basic principles underlying algebra are so fundamental that we all use them probably a dozen times a day without knowing it. For example:
You have to make a car trip of 100 miles. How much gas do you need to do it?
You want to buy some supplies for your Fourth of July party. How much money will they cost? Can you afford it without busting your budget?
"You have to make a car trip of 100 miles. How much gas do you need to do it?"
Back in high school, my second "real" job was as a mechanic in a rental center. It was the best job I ever had. A co-worker who was hired only for the summer season didn't much care for it. though. He was required, on occasion, to actually think on the job, and it pained him.
One Saturday morning, he complained about how many times he put gas in his car while out on the town with his friends the night before. He complained about how much it cost to put gas in so many times.
It helps here to remember that gas was 25 cents per gallon for leaded regular at that time. He had stopped about nine times, as I recall, and put 25 cents worth of gas in each time.
No, I'm not making this up.
As we went through that morning's work, I finally convinced him that what determined how much he spent for gas that night was how many miles he drove, not how many times he stopped to fill the tank. It was quite difficult to show him that filling the tank didn't cost any more per mile of driving than buying one gallon at a time. The difficulty was because he had never been taught how to make real-world use of simple arithmetic, nor had he been taught why he might want to do so.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, those who won't learn and use algebra have no advantage over those who can't.
"I've been thinking about this. These subjects are missing and would be of great benefit to students. I don't believe they are the only or even the first things missing. The first thing missing is simply phonics-based reading."
"Logic and rhetoric can follow only when students actually understand what they are reading."
Good points, but keep in mind that you are only talking about missing techniques and standards, I'm talking about two entire subject concepts that are simply not there at all.
Languages, including the common tongue of the culture, may not be being taught *well*. There may not be much expectation of competence among those taught. But at least the concept that "__________ should be taught in schools" EXISTS. So far as I can tell, the US educational system doesn't consider the ability to analyze a logical construct, nor the ability to express one, as skills that should be taught AT ALL unless the student is preparing for a career in law. Students are being taught *what* to think, and specifically NOT being taught the skill of thinking clearly.
Fluency in your native language is absolutely vital. See the note about Heinlein's 3 vital subjects. That applies to all languages from which you may wish to glean information, including your own. Ultimately ANY form of communication in which you are not fluent is a potential blank spot in your ability to learn.
As Einstein said, "The circumference of your knowledge is the horizon of your ignorance."
Oh and for the record, this is not to diss teachers. Teachers are in the same position as cops, postal workers and IRS agents, where it is often literally impossible to both serve the customer as they should be served, and *at the same time* conform to the rule system that governs how you are required to do your job.
Sometimes the soldiers DO lose the war, by not fighting it. When they do they should be blamed. What proportion of teachers believe they are in a war against ignorance, and what proportion believe they are in an agreeable indoor job leading to a moderately well provided for retirement?
A big part of our problem is that we have compulsory (read this funny story from 1926) education now. Not compulsory educational opportunity, where everyone who will go is provided for, that's different. Everyone MUST, by law, absorb the same lessons. The unwilling, the mad, the incapable, the dangerous, the indifferent- must all RECEIVE A DIPLOMA. Whether or not they earn, can use, need, or want one.
That's the Special Olympics. A high school diploma, unless one knows the school, has only decorative value.
(Speaking of Special, last year our school system changed the euphemism. "Special" children, classes, etc. are now "Exceptional".)
Here's an interesting fact I learned about the city where I live. After correcting for independent schooling, there's a big throbbing gap between the number of children on the census books and the number on the school rolls. What happens is that disruptive or indifferent children are just "lost" from the books. The teachers don't want them in class dragging things back, and the administrators don't want to expose the number who actually do drop or fail out. If you stop carrying a child at 14, you needn't show him as a failure or dropout at 17.
Home schooling. Here's an interesting fact. If you go to your school masters and tell them you want to educate your children yourself, they will fight you tooth and nail, placing whatever obstacles requires, permits, allows, or that they can think up in your way.
BUT, if your child is obstructive, recalcitrant, resistant, or "unteachable" enough, the school will require you to teach it at home!
Actually that's not what they say- they call it "home bound", or some term like that, and they'll send an indoctrinator over every now and then. But you can raise your child in peace and liberty, and STILL get a government school diploma!
And, some politicians even today are very direct about indoctrination. What if we started our kindergarteners in a home-like setting, with one teacher to no more than, say, eight kids? Not only could they start on the educational basics, but they could learn how to get along in civilized society. How to talk. How to set the table, take out the trash. How to behave.
Also in response to "brain food", I wanted to point out that I really don't think of myself as a gifted thinker. I'm glad to have people like Kevin around, because I consider myself to have roughly the same relationship to great thinkers that compost has to prize roses.
On the money, as usual.
Linked you up on PowerLine Forum.
I am a teacher of history and civics. I have taught for well over 20 years in both private and public schools. I have to say that this essay hits the mark dead on.
I'm afraid that the situation may be worse than you believe. The general direction public education seems to be heading is to insure no student fails. This is surely reflective of the "fairness" doctrine as well as the notion that all must be equal. What is occuring in schools is the further erroding of student responsibility and accountability. My take on this is that eventually we will have to do their work, write their essays, and take their exams to ensure their success.
Those of us who still demand excellence from our students are few, and becoming fewer. The consequences for failure do not fall on the students as they are moved along regardless of how many courses are passed or failed. Rather, the consequences fall on those of us who expect students to learn before moving on to the next level. The stories of meeting after meeting with administrators are legion.
Unfortunately, the young teachers entering the profession are as you describe. Most are filled with good intentions and the desire to help children. Most are woefully ignorant of the subjects they teach. Far too many rely on textbooks and materials that espouse socialist ideals. Most are unaware of this simple fact.
We few will continue to fight the good fight and try to reach as many students as possible. Keep writing these illuminating essays.
THAT just became QotD. In its entirety.
Great work, Kevin.
Last year I took a break from my nerd work to teach junior high at a private school. Two lessons from the experience stick out in my mind: first, we are trying to teach students 'how' to think, not 'what' to think; secondly, we teach far more than just our particular subject(s).
On the first point, I wasn't interested in indoctrinating, but in equipping my students to think rationally on their own. Critical thinking requires hard data and information, and to be high quality it must derive from a diversity of sources/perspectives (including those I don't neccessarily agree with.) Indoctrinators are the ones that are fans of insular exposure, not true educators. So I don't buy into the accusation levelled against you that you only disagree with the content of the indoctrination and merely want to forcefeed your own preferences.
Regarding the second point, teachers are a large influence on their students' characters. Such things as discipline, respect, honesty, courage, etc. In a system of indoctrination, the noblest virtue becomes that of conformity. Those, like yourself, that are not obsessed with 'the common good' but with individual freedom, have no value for conformity--in distinct contrast with the collectivists among us. Once again, I don't buy into the accusation that you just want to indoctrinate with your own personal agenda.
I agree with Milton Friedman. We should not be surprised, when a socialist institution teaches socialist values.
You answered 49 out of 60 correctly 81.67 %
But then again, I read boatloads and hated school and don't trust authority.
And stuff like this is why I want to put my son into private school.
C.S. Lewis wrote about the end of education in "Abolition of Man" A great book, but definitely written by an Oxford Don (not too hard, except when he starts quoting Plato, etc in the original...)
I just loved the link to Legotown! Raising two Legolovers of my own, I have to agree with the gun-columnist: the teachers took the fun out of Legos. The signs of indoctrination in the children's summation comments were obvious to me -- but they must not have been obvious to the teachers who wrote up the report. (?!)
My children's responses to the teachers' rules: "With that many rules, that's not play, that's work." My daughter likes tiny buildings, my son likes huge ones: standard sizes would fail. Upshot: they might tinker with the legos, but their enthusiasm would be low.
But there is more to learn from this legolesson. The children did develop tendencies to accumulate power and capital, but they did not have a system that protected the property rights of all of them nor did they protect the participatory rights of the weaker personalities. These are important considerations in our human mix, and they are trampled as a matter of course in human interactions since the very beginnings. Hans-Hermann Hoppe's essay shows how this goes -- the children were practicing his theory as if they had read it -- or more to the point, his theory is so on-target that it is bound to show up in natural practice.
In your essay, Kevin, there seemed to be an uncritical lauding of the children's natural tendencies to accumulate power. As an instructor, I would have been concerned about that, but I would have taken the exploration in the direction of discovering the basis of natural property rights (Hoppe did some great work on this) instead of imposing a socialist system. The children were already so excited to learn! They could have learned so much about their own personalities and interactions, just by trying out SEVERAL sets of rules. Then some of them would have learned that yes, the rules can be questioned, and the RULES are what affects our perceptions of the game AND of the players. They might have gone away with some solid notions of natural property rights.
It was not so much an "uncritical lauding of the children's natural tendencies" but a recognition OF those natural tendencies that the True Believer sees as inherently eeeeevilllll! If you read much of this blog, you will find that I understand explicitly that civilization is something that's taught, not something ingrained in us. We return again to the difference between the philosophies of Locke and Rousseau, where Rousseau believed (or claimed to believe) that man in a state of Nature was pure and good. Some may be, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Bullshit. William Golding nailed what unguided children are like in Lord of the Flies.
What those "teachers" were attempting wasn't education, it was socialist indoctrination, and that is what I was reacting to.
ok -- got it. :)
If you have not already read it, Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate" is a really detailed and well-documented exploration of the development of the mind. He blasts the blank slate notion; he blasts the noble savage notion. I think it was my first intro to the term "evolutionary psychology."