JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2009/10/quote-of-day_26.html (34 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1256582720-614209  ben at Mon, 26 Oct 2009 18:45:20 +0000

At least it wasn't Junior English in college :s

jsid-1256585175-614212  DirtCrashr at Mon, 26 Oct 2009 19:26:15 +0000

Coming to a Junior College near you! :-)

jsid-1256587749-614214  Russell at Mon, 26 Oct 2009 20:09:09 +0000


jsid-1256588183-614215  SayUncle at Mon, 26 Oct 2009 20:16:23 +0000

Junior is now in kindergarten. And I marvel at the grammar mistakes made by her teachers.

jsid-1256588746-614216  Doom at Mon, 26 Oct 2009 20:25:46 +0000

In a advanced rhetoric course at an major university, I saw something similar. Part of the course work involved writing things in class and having other people read them. What I saw was frightening. Some of them are as you describe, others were a little better, none would have passed if I was the teacher. I received one of the lowest grades in the class, by the way. Offended, sure, at first. Then I realized... it fits.

jsid-1256592278-614221  DirtCrashr at Mon, 26 Oct 2009 21:24:38 +0000

I ran into that a bit when I was TA'ing Anthropology of Religion over 20 years ago. Complete grammatical discombobulation and incoherence - maybe it was the Blue-Book essay requirement that drove them over the edge...

jsid-1256599280-614227  Mastiff at Mon, 26 Oct 2009 23:21:20 +0000

I'm presently a TA at a well-known state university. After reading hundreds of undergraduate essays, I am terrified for our future.

And now let me tell you about the quality of grad students going for Public Administration MA degrees. (I.e., the people who will be staffing government agencies.) Most of them are dumber than a box of rocks.


jsid-1256604618-614233  Markadelphia at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 00:50:18 +0000

Ah, the National Review...a bastion of in depth analysis of the faults of our public education system.

jsid-1256605825-614236  Ken at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 01:10:25 +0000

So pick a point and refute it with evidence, Sta-Puft. Should be a piece of cake for an Awakened F-Bombing Giant.

jsid-1256608318-614244  Kresh at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 01:51:58 +0000

Shorter Markie-aye-aye-aye: Ancedote are not to be data.


jsid-1256609321-614247  Guest (anonymous) at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 02:08:41 +0000

Mastiff and DirtCrashr,

I am curious if either of you got the feeling that the students are merely stupid or if these were actually the chosen, by the school.

I honestly felt as if these types were not only chosen, they were preferred over good performers. I did see where the 'rocks' seemed to being passed right on through quite often, and often received better grades. One girl in the class honestly could not construct a sentence and she received a B+, for example.

I am also curious whether you saw as much cheating as I did? (for my part, as an undergrad student)

jsid-1256613691-614249  Sarah at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 03:21:31 +0000

I made the mistake of assigning a term paper in my astronomy class for non-science majors last year. To describe the overall quality as both pathetic and frightening would be a gross understatement.

Ah, the National Review...a bastion of in depth analysis of the faults of our public education system.

I'd be careful there, Mark. You're the one who gets these high-achievers before I do.

jsid-1256632541-614257  PolyKahr at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 08:35:41 +0000

The National Review has always held to high standards. Even so, I imagine a professional writer would have found it shocking.

The problem is that we have all bought into the idea that graduation rates are the measure of success where education is concerned. Back during the Jurassic period, when I was a kid, a person only had to attend public school through the age of 16. Most of those who were not interested in academics would be put on a track to enter a trade school and would be given various vocational education type courses. Few would have had to endure Junior English. Many would graduate, find well paying jobs, have families and enjoy their lives. Now, few schools still have vocational ed, and everyone has to take Junior English, because everyone is presumed to want to go to college. The result is high school graduates who have no job skills, no desire for any more torture, and no way to make a living. Mr. French merely had a chance encounter with the new reality.

jsid-1256632707-614258  PolyKahr at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 08:38:27 +0000


I meant to say:

Many would drop out, attend a trade school, find well paying jobs ...

Sorry, late night.


jsid-1256655929-614268  Unix-Jedi at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 15:05:29 +0000

Ah, the National Review...a bastion of in depth analysis of the faults of our public education system.

Mornin' Ralph.

You've misused "bastion" there.
Your sneering non-rebuttal does wonders for your case.

Fact is, Ralph, the rest of us are able to judge the education system quite easily, much to your discomfort, because it is that bad. For all of your screeching, you fail to address the biggest points of these observations, and most notably, these aren't outliers.

in depth analysis

But how would you know? You've never demonstrated the ability to follow any in depth analysis, much less provide one.

Just more of your projection of rage as facts...

jsid-1256656051-614269  Mastiff at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 15:07:31 +0000


I don't think the undergrads are stupid. They are merely untrained. Most of them are quite bright, but have never been taught how to craft an argument. Cheating is frequent, though.

The PuAd students, on the other hand… I think it's a function of the kind of people who seek advanced degrees in that field. Most of them are already working professionals in government bureaucracy, meaning that this is probably an easy way to get a raise.

One thing that strikes me is how few of them are comfortable with math.

jsid-1256658297-614276  Jon at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 15:44:57 +0000

I can identify with the teacher in this story. I teach discreet mathematics online at a small college in Michigan (even though I live in Colorado). After teaching the class for two semesters I had to add a requirement for the final exam requiring students to answer all questions or receive a failing grade. The semester before I added this requirement, I received three final exams where the students had answered no questions.

These same students were the ones who couldn't hardly put two words together to create a coherent thought let alone figure out proofs by mathematical induction. What they couldn't figure out for themselves (no, an email asking a question was too time consuming), they simply skipped.

What modern educators are missing is that students no longer care about the material they're supposed to learn. The degree at the end is all that matters. The grade matters only as it allows them to move on within the curriculum, and acquisition of skills and knowledge are incidental at best.

In short, the majority of colleges aren't much better.

jsid-1256659709-614282  Matt at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 16:08:29 +0000

I'm a computer tech at a public school district. Yesterday I was installing a projector in a classroom. There were two classroom teachers and a learning support teacher in there discussing a student as I was installing the projector.

The LS teacher was telling the other two that the counselors were strongly against holding this student back, because there were "studies" that showed it didn't help the student- that they didn't learn anything more going through it a second time. Now, thankfully the other two were incredulous, despite being pretty young (late twenties/early thirties). "If it didn't learn it the first time, going through it again he might the second time."

But think about what the counselors were arguing. The student wasn't going to learn anything more and actually pass, so lets just move him to the next grade where he'll have even less of an idea of what's going on since he's a year behind.

Its amazing.

jsid-1256661207-614285  Sarah at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 16:33:27 +0000

What modern educators are missing is that students no longer care about the material they're supposed to learn. The degree at the end is all that matters. The grade matters only as it allows them to move on within the curriculum, and acquisition of skills and knowledge are incidental at best.

Jon, you hit the nail on the head. I am in my second year teaching as a physics professor, and already my motivation is out the window. Looking over last semester's student evaluations for my modern physics course, I was stunned by the consistent criticism that I spent too much time teaching concepts and principles instead of just showing students how to work problems. My God. These are physics majors, and they have no interest in actually learning physics. I am already seriously considering another profession.

jsid-1256667025-614293  Splodge Of Doom at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 18:10:25 +0000

I am currently studying Engineering in a UK college.

I am in the depressing situation of being one of maybe three students in a class of forty who is genuinely interested and willing to put in any extra effort.

From what I remember of the school system here (It's been a while, I left early) it wasn't designed so much to teach as to be cold storage for kids.

jsid-1256668172-614296  El Capitan at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 18:29:32 +0000

In the immortal words of Judge Smails... "Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too."

jsid-1256669460-614299  DJ at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 18:51:00 +0000

"I am already seriously considering another profession."

Fortunately, I was dead broke at the end of four years of school. With B.S.E.E. in hand, I decided against graduate school and began working as an engineer. It was the best decision I ever made.

I'm just sayin' ...

jsid-1256671514-614301  Jeff the Baptist at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 19:25:14 +0000

"My God. These are physics majors, and they have no interest in actually learning physics."

Well when I studied Physics in college I was like one of your students. I wanted my physics instruction to provide me with a toolbox and enough background to know when to use each tool. It did and I still find it very useful. But I was also an engineer and never going to get to Modern Physics.

But keep in mind that students don't all learn the same way. Very few are actually high concept learners that just get it from the math. When they ask for more problems or examples, what they may be asking for is a way they can apply more experiential or experimental learning styles to material.

"Cheating is frequent, though."

It is and everyone knows it, but the instructors never get the support needed from administration to put a stop to it. I have friends who teach or taught college level math and their administration essentially orders them to let the guilty go free.

jsid-1256671758-614302  Sarah at Tue, 27 Oct 2009 19:29:18 +0000


I don't know how it works for engineers, but I got paid to be a graduate student. If you're careful, you can actually come out of the program with some money. The problem is, I live and breathe physics, so I just assumed all physics students did. Boy, was I wrong.

The thing is, I love ideas. I crack open a book about black holes or string theory to relax. I need to do something for a living that allows me to keep doing that.

jsid-1256697080-614333  Samsam at Wed, 28 Oct 2009 02:31:20 +0000

We waste way too much time and money on education. Those who want it will get it, no matter the hurdles. Those who don't want it won't get it, no matter the effort of their teachers.

Our main task is to keep the stupids out of positions of authority.

I think we are trying to build a technologically sophisticated society using a species not well suited to the task.

jsid-1256698822-614336  DJ at Wed, 28 Oct 2009 03:00:22 +0000

Sarah, I had no real option but to work and academia didn't appeal to me anyway. I tutored others in math from when I was in the seventh grade onwards, then I was a teaching assistant in electromagnetic fields as an undergraduate. The thought of making a living by teaching my fellow students drove me firmly away from that part of the world.

Work is what I wanted to do anyway. I create things, and I came home from work to create things at home. I'm still at it, currently remodeling a bathroom.

My wife went on to a PhD in Clinical Psychology. I took a job that appealed to me in a place where she had options to four different grad schools in a field for which grad school entry is highly competitive (usually 150-250 applicants for about ten openings). It worked out quite well.

I recall the line from The Green Mile: "Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'."

jsid-1256703133-614345  Sarah at Wed, 28 Oct 2009 04:12:13 +0000


You and your wife sound a lot like me and my husband. I'm the academic, he's the doer. He got a B.Sc. that gave him entry into his chosen field, and then found a well-paying engineering job in the vicinity of my grad school.

The only difference is that my hubby tinkers with computers, so if the bathroom needs doin', I'll probably be the one doin' it. :)

jsid-1256741130-614370  DJ at Wed, 28 Oct 2009 14:45:30 +0000

I tinker with 'most everything, Sarah. I'm a jack-of-all-trades and master of a few. I was raised up on a farm, where we handled everything, and worked through high school and beyond as a mechanic in a rental center, where I learned to maintain, repair, and instruct others in the use of thousands of tools. I still call it the best job I ever had.

I spent a career designing measuring instruments, including designing the computers and writing the software that I embedded in them. Doing so through the birth and growing pains of the microprocessor, memory chips, and application specific integrated circuits was almost surreal. I loved the work but grew to detest the job.

But I'm just as handy with putting in a food plot for deer, grouting tile, or changing the timing belt on my truck. To quote Heinlein again, "Specialization is for insects."

jsid-1256746603-614386  Sarah at Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:16:43 +0000

I wholeheartedly agree with that Heinlein quote. Which is why I will never do pure research for a living again.

Anyway. You sound like the kind of all-around handy American man that should be put on the endangered species list.

jsid-1256749076-614394  DJ at Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:57:56 +0000

We're a dying breed. I have nephews and nieces who know little of the world except where the video game store is.

jsid-1256760084-614412  Guest (anonymous) at Wed, 28 Oct 2009 20:01:24 +0000

D.J., wasn't that line from "The Shawshank Redemption"?

jsid-1256765936-614421  DJ at Wed, 28 Oct 2009 21:38:56 +0000

"D.J., wasn't that line from "The Shawshank Redemption"?"

Nope. It is from The Notebooks of Lazarus Long.

The full quote is:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

jsid-1256832241-614442  David Beatty at Thu, 29 Oct 2009 16:04:01 +0000

I was Anonymous a couple of posts back.

Sorry, DJ, I should have been more specific. I was referring to your quote which you said was from "The Green Mile", which was "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'". Not having seen that movie, it may very well be in there, but I'm pretty sure it's in "The Shawshank Redemption".

jsid-1256833299-614443  DJ at Thu, 29 Oct 2009 16:21:39 +0000

Arrgghh ...

You're right, and The Shawshank Redemption was the movie I was thinking of when I posted it. Mea culpa.

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