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  • The Inclusive Symbolism Crowds Out the Intellectual Substance.

    Posted by Stephen Karlson on November 23rd, 2019 (All posts by )

    Good afternoon, dear reader. Jonathan Gewirtz and David Foster have invited me to participate in Chicago Boyz. I’m going to limit my presence here to occasional mini-dissertations on education, political economy, or transportation.

    My first post is a cross-post from my primary web journal, Cold Spring Shops.

    Inside Higher Ed’s Elin Johnson shares the bad news.  “Percentage of students who have met English and math benchmarks lowest in 15 years.”  The proximate cause appears to be a lack of preparation.

    Almost 1.8 million students, or 52 percent of the 2019 graduating class, took the ACT.

    Of the Class of 2019 who took the test, 37 percent met three of the four College Readiness Benchmarks, and 36 percent did not meet any. The latter number has grown over the past few years, reports ACT. Students who took the recommended high school core curriculum stayed steady in their readiness in English and math.

    “As we’ve been pointing out for many years, taking the right courses in high school dramatically increases a student’s likelihood to be ready for success when they graduate,” said Marten Roorda, ACT CEO, in a press release. “Students who don’t take challenging courses — particularly those from underserved populations — may lack the self-confidence and ambition to do so, and social and emotional learning instruction can help them improve in those areas.”

    I’d like to think that, oh, inculcating bourgeois habits and teaching the substance would work, but that’s not how the people whose salaries depend on them not seeing it respond.

    Test results are still divided along lines of race and wealth. The majority of minority, low-income or first-generation students met one or zero of the College Readiness Benchmarks.

    Hispanic, and more so, African American students continue to lag behind their white and Asian American counterparts. Just over half of the 2019 graduates who took the test were white.

    Over the past five years, Asian American students have improved their college readiness, with 62 percent meeting three of the four benchmarks this year.

    Asian American students had the highest average composites, with a 25.6 for core scores and a 22.9 for noncore. White students scored an average core composite of 23.3, American Indian and Alaska Native students scored an average of 18.3 in the core requirements, Hispanic students’ average core composite was 19.9, and African American students on average scored 17.9.

    The ACT board said that its research suggests that college preparedness begins in elementary school, and that by middle school students who are not on track are at risk.

    Matt “Dean Dad” Reed, who is in the second chances business at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey, gets to the heart of the matter, at least where matriculants on the traditional high-school-to-college path are concerned.

    If that’s correct, then the point of the story is access to curriculum, rather than student performance. But that’s an aside.

    “College ready” as a designation carries a lot of baggage. It assumes that every college has the same expectations. It also assumes, as Michelle Asha Cooper has noted, that the burden of readiness falls on the student, rather than the college (or, I would add, some of each). Cooper refers to “student-ready colleges,” to remind us that fit works at least two ways.

    I’ve known enough successful college graduates who describe high school careers that ranged from indifferent to disastrous, followed by dramatic turnarounds in college, that I wonder about the category of “college ready.” How do we know?

    Perhaps we do something about the high schools that offer students that disastrous experience, or perhaps we focus on the absence of challenging courses.  In Minding the Campus, George Leef suggests the displacement of challenging courses with indoctrination is deliberate.  “[P]ublic schools are doing more and more to condition students to accept a wide array of leftist notions — notions that make them highly receptive to further leftist teaching and calls for them to act against perceived enemies of the social justice agenda.”  In Mr Leef’s view, it’s a destructive symbiosis.

    The alliance between the public education establishment and the march of “progressivism” is as natural as anything could be. Public education depends on the power of government: to tax, to build schools and hire teachers and administrators, to compel student attendance, to minimize or even prohibit competition. As the poor quality of many public schools has become increasingly evident over the last several decades, the education establishment has become an utterly slavish ally of the political left. It depends on the coercive fist of government.

    At the same time, the political left has become ever more reliant on the education system (K-12 through college and beyond) to inculcate statist ideas in people. If voters were inclined and able to think through the harmful consequences of “progressive” policies such as minimum wage laws, welfare payments, the Green New Deal, government-run health care, wealth taxes, and so on, they would toss the leftists out of office. It’s far better for those politicians if as many voters as possible are conditioned to support candidates who mouth clichés about the evils of capitalism, the need for compassionate government, the imperative of transforming America, so it will be a just society, and many others.

    Therefore, it’s no surprise that public schools are ratcheting up their efforts at turning students into adults who will automatically vote to keep their political allies in power. And that calls for constant adjustments to the curriculum.

    It’s not that the education establishments are offering a Maoist catechism so much as that, as I allege in my title, the symbolism crowds out the substance. Consider social justice mathematics.  That’s been with us for some time, but in it’s most recent incarnation, in Seattle, well, this Tyler O’Neil post suggests that where the New Math of sixty years ago brought in set theory without any context, well, Postmodern Math brings in postmodern philosophy devoid of context.

    In other words, this “educational” document emphasizes getting minority students to “identify” with math over teaching them mathematical truths. Not only does the framework prioritize teaching students the “value in making mistakes” but it also presents as an essential question “What does it mean to do math?” and the related questions, “How important is it to be Right? What is Right? Says Who?”

    There is indeed value in making mistakes — but in order to take a key lesson from mistakes, students must understand that they are mistakes. The postmodern approach of this curriculum — getting students to deconstruct what it means to be right and getting them to emphasize ethnic identity over the basic truths of math — is detrimental to that effort.

    As for the claim that math is “rooted in the ancient histories of people and empires of color,” that is partially true. Mathematics has developed to a limited degree in all human cultures, and both Indian and Arabic contributions to mathematics are important to understand. But Western thinkers like the Ancient Greek pioneer Pythagoras were also fundamental to math. The point of math is not to parse which ethnic group made which discovery but to incorporate the accumulated knowledge and apply it.

    The full Seattle plan is titled, “K-12 Math Ethnic Studies Framework.”  It’s not clear whether this is the full mathematics curriculum, or simply an add-on with more rubrics and more objectives and more of the educational impedimenta that burden teachers, and more elements of the test to teach to.  I note, though, that if students will have the opportunity to understand “Access to mathematical knowledge itself is an act of liberation” that liberation is of little use if they can’t, oh, estimate some volumes or recognize that you can’t put a six-foot-radius circle of track in a ten foot square bedroom.

    Mr O’Neil notes,

    Let students study math, and don’t let math history become dominated by social justice attempts to erase the efforts of the West. It matters far more whether or not students can do basic arithmetic than whether or not they can spout social justice slogans about Western “oppression.”

    That’s long been a complaint of mine. Thirty years ago, it read like this.

    As an economist, I view language as useful if it is accurate. If women operate trains or win national sailing championships alongside men, an accurate language reflects those facts. In my experience, students are aware of those facts. They avoid using “him” or “his” as generic pronouns, but many have trouble spelling or arranging sentences coherently.

    It may take a few bridges falling down first. Here’s Rod Dreher.

    The young people who are going to learn real math are those whose parents can afford to put them in private schools. The public school kids of all races are going to get dumber and dumber … and this is going to compel the wokesters in charge of Human Resources at institutions along life’s way to demand changing standards to fit political goals. Eventually, bridges are going to start falling down. That too will be the fault of Whiteness.

    The problem, dear reader, is that competence is hard-won, and competence in designing and building bridges that don’t fall down is valuable.  Maybe even the wokesters should recognize that.  Jarrett Stepman teases, “[I]t may be a challenge to build a green socialist utopia of high-speed rail without basic math or engineering skills, but those are mere details.”

    It might be that I’m overthinking this.  For years, self-styled educational theorists have struggled to make mathematics less scary to youngsters.  It might be that Reason‘s Robby Soave is on to that aspect of the curriculum.  He notes that the Seattle curriculum is not required in its common schools, and suggests that Mr Dreher is being hyperbolic (since hyperbolas have asymptotes, how has that term come to mean “wild exaggeration” in common usage?) suggests that as a way of making mathematics “accessible” finding the missing Africans or South American aborigines isn’t likely to be successful.  So we make the problem go away a different way.

    If math is too daunting for students, a better option would be for schools to stop making it mandatory. Giving parents—and even students themselves—more choice and control over their own educational experience is always a plus, and few people actually need to understand higher mathematics to function in society. Infusing the existing math curriculum with a bunch of unfounded progressive assumptions about cultural appropriation is a silly approach.

    Perhaps instead of saying it’s OK not to know algebra, or instead of looking for ancient oppressors, perhaps the people who style themselves educational theorists ought consider strategies to develop mathematical intuition in young people.  Without that intuition, those students will be the victims of people who are talking rot.

    It’s not just math, though, as Power Line’s John Hinderaker has observed.

    There is not much more to say, except to note that the attack on competence can’t stop with mathematics. If math is oppressive, so are physics, chemistry, biology and every other subject that requires hard study to master objective reality. God help us when our structural engineers are products of an educational system that considers knowledge of mathematics to be a symptom of “oppression.”

    Well, yeah, the humanities have been self-destructing in the name of Wokeness for years.  Thus it’s no surprise that Proper Grammar is oppressive.

    “Freeing Our Minds and Innovating Our Pedagogy from White Language Supremacy” was the title of the 75-minute guest lecture given on October 14 by Asao Inoue, a professor and the associate dean of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at Arizona State University.

    “We are all implicated in white supremacy,” Inoue said during his presentation, co-hosted by Ball State’s English department, university writing program, and Office of Inclusive Excellence.

    “This is because white supremacist systems like all systems reproduce themselves as a matter of course,” he said. “This includes reproduction of dominant, white, middle-class, monolingual standards for literacy and communication.”

    White language supremacy, according to Inoue, is “the condition in classrooms, schools, and society where rewards are given in determined ways to people who can most easily reach them, because those people have more access to the preferred and embodied white language practices, and part of that access is a structural assumption that what is reachable at a given moment for the normative, white, monolingual English user is reachable for all.”

    “Your school can be racist and produce racist outcomes,” Inoue said. “Even with expressed values and commitments to anti-racism and social justice.”

    In one of his slides, Inoue states that “grading is a great way to protect the white property of literacy in schools and maintain the white supremacist status quo without ever being white supremacist or mentioning race.”

    I note that his presentation was in English, no point in re-enacting the Parable of the Tower of Babel in 75 minutes, and the proper question to be asking might be what evolutionary advantage the standard of standard English conferred.  Then follow up with what might happen to a higher education that deconstructs that status quo without a new standard emerging.

    I’m going to get to that, but first, another illustration of the symbolism crowding out the substance. “Whiteness then works and then appropriates science and technology to say ‘This is true while this is not true because it’s not verifiable.’…It’s a hyperfocus on the experiential for those who does not capitulate with whiteness.”  That defies parody, but apparently it happened.  Thus “maybe the black astronauts are participating in whiteness.” I’m not making this up, follow the link, but that’s in a long-established tradition of identity politics types trashing normal science as a tool of oppression when it’s convenient.

    Meanwhile, the propaganda arm for higher education (public radio stations often having university affiliations) laments over those lost dollars.

    Most Americans believe state spending for public universities and colleges has, in fact, increased or at least held steady over the last 10 years, according to a new survey by American Public Media.

    They’re wrong. States have collectively scaled back their annual higher education funding by $9 billion during that time, when adjusted for inflation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or CBPP, reports.

    That’s something to be Viewed With Alarm, if the Regular Contributors are going to continue to call in during pledge week to get the latest tote-bag.

    The impact of this extends beyond tuition costs. University enrollment was down by 2 million from the fall of 2010 to the most recently completed fall semester, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks this. The nation is far behind its goal of increasing to 60 percent the proportion of the population with degrees.

    A separate survey by Manpower Group found that 46 percent of American employers can’t find the workers they need. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says this is keeping 40 percent of businesses from taking on more work.

    And the United States remains 13th in the world in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds who have some kind of college or university credential, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development says.

    I’m not sure what good it does to expand the proportion of the population with degrees, if the degrees are remedial credentials based on woke mathematics and all the other accommodations the higher education establishment is favoring.  A fortiori, the absence of workers with the skills the employers seek might be better understood as a consequence of what the investment in higher education is getting you, rather than as a call for throwing more money down the same sinks. Leningraders had great self-esteem to go with giardia and no sausage.

    Perhaps the mandarins of higher education will do the right thing, after they have tried everything else.  Here’s Grant Cornwell, president of Rollins College, questioning business as usual.

    [O]ur current cultural moment has raised an urgent question: What is the role of higher education at a time when the very ideas of truth, facts and core principles of justice seem up for grabs? In response, I would argue that liberal arts education is more valuable and more urgently needed than ever before.

    In the anti-intellectualism of our current political culture, I see a smug, perhaps even sinister, disregard for the value of truth and its pursuit with integrity. Maybe worse, I see a dismissive attitude toward the knowing of facts — or worse still, a cavalier disposition toward facts, as though they are things that can be selected or even created according to one’s preference and politics.

    What is true has been displaced by what reinforces one’s ideology and politics — and ideology trumps facts. I see this as a threat to democracy.

    This is where the university — with its core principles of freedom of inquiry and expression, and its capacity to educate graduates with the independent and critical acumen to deliberate about all manner of issues — plays a vital role.

    That’s a lament about all things Trumpian, and yet, it stands as a rebuke to the denial of coherent beliefs and transgressiveness for its own sake that infects higher education.

    All that said, we academics have become shy about teaching facts. Because we are all so schooled in the tools of critique, there is hardly a truth claim that we cannot interrogate, deconstruct or criticize. Consequently, we have often substituted the teaching of intellectual skills and critical thinking for teaching with any confidence what is the case in the world.

    At Rollins College, I want our students to know not only how to exercise intellectual skills but also that certain things are true. Again, the intellectual skills we embrace as learning goals — information literacy, critical thinking, ethical reasoning, mathematical thinking and scientific literacy — are exactly the tools we would select to combat the abuses of a post-truth era. As educators, our job is to encourage students to understand how widely they should be applying those skills in the classroom and as citizens to evaluate information and sources, to reckon with credibility of evidence, and to consider both one’s own assumptions and the claims of others.

    Yet students need to graduate with more than knowing how; they also need to know that. We academics are quite good at being able to talk about the architecture of the liberally educated mind, but we are too shy in talking about the content knowledge, the furniture, of a liberally educated mind. What does a global citizen and responsible leader know?

    The post is close to a year old, in Inside Higher Ed, and yet he didn’t get lit up in the comments. That might be encouraging.  It’s also instructive that the house organ for business as usual in higher education recently ran “How Ed Schools Became a Bastion of Bad Ideas.” It’s behind the paywall, and yet, the subtitle, “A tale of assessment, learning styles, and other notorious concepts.”  Detailed rubrics take away from student creativity, and if we can banish SWBAT from higher education (apparently the canonical learning objective must include “students will be able to” so they acronym it; try to think of a piggyback train from Springfield to Baltimore instead) it will be for the better.

    Thanks for your interest. Please look in at my primary web journal for the travelogues, train pictures, and the other fun stuff.

     

    57 Responses to “The Inclusive Symbolism Crowds Out the Intellectual Substance.”

    1. Mike K Says:

      few people actually need to understand higher mathematics to function in society

      Industrial processes requiring skilled machinists are having trouble finding enough people who know enough trigonometry to operate modern machine tools.

      My grandson, in 4th grade, was having trouble with math. His mother talked to his teacher who said she could not do the problems assigned using “Common Core math. She suggested the mother teach him using traditional methods. They managed to get him and his sister into a charter school.

      Gramsci described the methods being used by the disciples of Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn.

      Orthodox Marxism had predicted that socialist revolution was inevitable in capitalist societies. By the early 20th century, no such revolution had occurred in the most advanced nations. Capitalism, it seemed, was more entrenched than ever. Capitalism, Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also through ideology. The bourgeoisie developed a hegemonic culture, which propagated its own values and norms so that they became the “common sense” values of all. People in the working-class (and other classes) identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting.

      Common sense is inimical to Marxism.

    2. David Foster Says:

      “few people actually need to understand higher mathematics to function in society”

      Even without getting to the level of trig…a machinist mentioned that a lot of recent graduates don’t understand the concept of decimals. It may be reasonable for an employed to have to teach someone to use a micrometer; it’s not so reasonable for the employer to have to teach what .0037 means and how you go about adding it to 1.3.

      I’ve heard the same complaint from a landscaper, only the problem dealt with fractions rather than with decimals.

    3. Jay Guevara Says:

      “As we’ve been pointing out for many years, taking the right courses in high school dramatically increases a student’s likelihood to be ready for success when they graduate,” said Marten Roorda, ACT CEO, in a press release. “Students who don’t take challenging courses — particularly those from underserved populations — may lack the self-confidence and ambition to do so, and social and emotional learning instruction can help them improve in those areas.”

      Can you say “selection bias?” I can, although apparently young Marten cannot.

      Try this on for size: “playing high school football dramatically increases a student’s likelihood to be ready for success in the NFL.”

      “Nerds and geeks may lack the self-confidence and ambition to do so, and social and emotional learning instruction can help them to improve in those areas.”

    4. Jay Guevara Says:

      I pass over young Marten’s atrocious grammar and syntax.

      ” … a student’s … when they graduate …”

      ” … “Students who don’t take challenging courses — particularly those from underserved populations …”

      We definitely need to do something about challenging courses from under-served populations.

    5. Kirk Says:

      The problem is that the people we let capture the education system are not, in fact, interested in education or educating our children. They are primarily interested in indoctrinating them with their ideology, which is actually and actively inimical to the successful value systems of the children’s parents.

      The root of the problem is in the intellectual class, and we’re living with the consequence of the treason of the clerks. What gets done about it? I don’t know, but I’m coming around to the idea that society is simply going to route around it all, and bypass the captured institutions. The academy is going to become irrelevant, and they’ve basically made themselves that way.

    6. David Foster Says:

      “society is simply going to route around it all, and bypass the captured institutions”

      Hard to do at the K-12 level, though…people who can’t afford private school, and aren’t in a position to do home schooling, don’t have a lot of options.

    7. Sgt. Mom Says:

      “…few people actually need to understand higher mathematics to function in society…”
      Perhaps not, but a better grasp of basic math might be useful for the larger portion of the population. You know – being able to figure percentage, calculate speed/time, and quantity of wallpaper or tile needed to paper/tile a room of such and such dimensions.

      Honestly, I have become convinced that the current education establishment actually doesn’t want to educate students. Oh, deary me no … they want to keep them abysmally ignorant, indoctrinated and malleable.

      Hey, welcome to the blog. Put your coffee cup in the breakroom, and clearly label any snacks left in the fridge…

    8. Stephen Karlson Says:

      Hello, Sgt. Mom. You’ll see over at my place that break time frequently involves mass quantities of Bavaria’s finest!

      Mike K., presumably not to be confused with a basketball coach, stay tuned, the next mini-dissertation, perhaps after Thanksgiving, is about the evolutionary advantages of bourgeois norms.

      Cheers all.

    9. Pouncer Says:

      “…a lot of recent graduates don’t understand the concept of decimals.”

      Many do not grasp the intricate financial mysteries of rounding and estimating the sum of several decimal-priced items to integral dollars, multiplying a unit price across several identical items; taking a percentage discount; adding a percentage tax; or earning a percentage tip.

      Many have not practiced with calculators or other forms of hand-keyed data entry but prefer to rely on taking scans and images of encoded data printed on items and menus. If a data element is keyed, and the decimal is omitted or misplaced,(or the operation keys are misused) the problem of poor estimation (as above) prevents the employee from recognizing the resulting errors.

      Competency with THIS is called “higher mathematics” ?

    10. David Foster Says:

      I think there are quite a few people in ‘education’…especially among administrators, but not limited to same…who really aren’t themselves interested in *knowledge* and are unable to grasp why anyone else could be. Hence the need to blend each and every field of learning with *other stuff* until everything from literature to physics to engineering is turned into Social Studies.

      See Neo’s post: Shakespeare who? ask Canadian students

    11. Mike K Says:

      Hard to do at the K-12 level, though…people who can’t afford private school, and aren’t in a position to do home schooling, don’t have a lot of options.

      This is why teachers’ unions are desperate to stop charters. In Tucson last year the school district was trying to sell an unused school to a developer to keep it from a charter that wanted to buy it. The developer would tear it down to build something else. I don’t know if they succeeded.

    12. Jay Guevara Says:

      I think there are quite a few people in ‘education’…especially among administrators, but not limited to same…who really aren’t themselves interested in *knowledge*

      In high school the Guevara spawn had an English teacher who routinely handed out vocabulary sheets with multiple risibly incorrect definitions, evidently never having heard of “dictionaries.” She also had a life-size cardboard cutout of our ex-President. Last, from her we learned that Maya Angelou is the only writer of note in the 2000 years.

      One of the kids also considered taking an “environmental science” course until he saw the reading list. The list eschewed any mention of the carbon, nitrogen, or sulfur cycles, preferring instead tomes that cast the Earth First! terrorists as eco-warriors, Al Gore as knowledgeable about … anything, and Rachel Carson as Mary Magdalene. Our son saw that, and passed. But how many other kids took the course’s message to heart?

    13. Gringo Says:

      If math is too daunting for students, a better option would be for schools to stop making it mandatory.

      I attended a high school that sent about 10% of its graduate to Ivy league or equivalent schools. While the school administration valued its high achievers, it also realized that one mold doesn’t fit all. Most of the students took four years of math, but only one year of math was required for graduation. I would estimate that a sixth of the class took one year of General Math, and no more.

      I had New Math in high school. High achievers loved all the proofs our New Math required, but most students were uncomfortable with all the proofs. (About a quarter of the class took New Math- and I would estimate that less than half of the New Math students- say 10% or less of the high school class- liked the proofs.)

      In my year of teaching high school math, I found out that things had changed. EVERYONE- and I mean EVERYONE- was supposed to Algebra. I recall one fellow Algebra teacher informing us that Algebra would be necessary for most future jobs. Yeah, right. Most of the students in my “low” Algebra class would have benefited more from a Consumer Math course than from Algebra.

      There was one student in the “low” class who did very well. At the beginning of second semester he transferred to a regular Algebra class. He told me he had no idea how he had gotten placed in the “low” class. Fortunately, that mistake was corrected.

    14. Gringo Says:

      Marten Roorda, ACT CEO, in a press release:

      “Students who don’t take challenging courses — particularly those from underserved populations — may lack the self-confidence and ambition to do so, and social and emotional learning instruction can help them improve in those areas.”

      My experience with an “underserved population” of 8th graders was that their attitude was “You can’t make me do nothing.” They were right.

      I knew a math teacher at a nearby middle school who had failed a third of his students one marking period. His students got the message, and turned it around. (He taught for 3 years and did well, but left teaching for bigger earnings in private industry.) As my principal was very much concerned that students pass, giving more than a small percentage failing grades as a wake-up call in the hope of “inspiring” them to do something, was pretty much not an option.

    15. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      I will raise my same flag again.

      The concept of genetics is not merely downplayed here, it is invisible. Which is sad, because it is so hugely more important than environmental or curriculum issues as to completely dwarf them. I don’t like indoctrination either, and believe that the quality of assigned work is important to the republic because to the ideas that young minds are tricked into believing. I also wish that simple statistics, graph-reading, and probability were taught, and/or business math, to more students. Useful. Accessible. I give old copies of “How to Lie With Statistics” to high school students.

      These educational wastes of time may have strong influence on political beliefs, but they have little effect on test scores. Scores are down, but very slightly. They are stable over decades. Both liberals and conservatives seem to want anything else to be true. Schools have very little effect.* “Access to curriculum?” So that we have to push the supposed origins of the problem further back? Read more research. You will find the problems go back before middle school. AHA! say the educators. “This means we must rescue them in primary grades.” Then reading more research, “Oh my! Some students are behind even before they come to school. We must have more things like Head Start!” Then they find the differences show up even earlier than that. Even into infancy, somehow girls are taught to be meek and children of bright parents do better because of…hmm…it must be spoken vocabulary…or attention…or nutrition…or less TV… or something. IT MUST BE SOMETHING! All the way back to birth they find differences, and shrug, looking puzzled, wondering what new program that can start or stop to fix everything.

      Yet somehow few dare to look just a little further back in the child’s history, another nine months or so. Sad, as DJT might tweet. Because when one does include genetics into the discussion education and measures the effect, the light begins to dawn.

      Everyone is fond of saying “Oh well it’s both, of course,” and then in the very next study they quote or essay they read they again leave genetics entirely out of the picture.

      *The worse the student, the greater the need for a good teacher. We are all largely self-taught, and geniuses are especially noted for being autodidacts.

    16. MCS Says:

      Seems to have struck a nerve. I skimmed the post down to Mike K.’s sole comment and went to do errands for a couple of hours while I mulled it over and returned to read it more closely to find 13 more.

      I’ll reverse the order of the two main points I saw. The question of what knowledge a citizen needs to be a responsible member of a democracy is very old indeed, going back to the earliest days of the Athenian democracy. I might fantasize about eliminating from the franchise anyone that couldn’t solve a simple quadratic equation and how it would reshape the political landscape, I wouldn’t expect many people to support it. More seriously, do you think our republic can survive a future where the ability to read (any language) will be the exception? I’m not talking about an appreciation of the Romantic English poets but the ability to read simple instructions.

      When the requirements to get a commercial drivers license were changed about 20 years ago, many employers were chagrined to find out that it had been one of the decently paying jobs that someone who was illiterate cold perform. Some made the transition through some combination of memorization and accommodation, many did not. It wasn’t much more than a hundred years ago that Greek and Latin were required for admission to college.

      Without agreement on what must be learned, the fact that we seem to have lost the ability to teach it is rather irrelevant. It wasn’t until the 20th century that more than a High School diploma was thought necessary to teach through the 8th grade and a two year Normal School degree for High School. Now many districts require a masters. The difference is not reflected in the quality of the outcome. The problem with standards is that there are consequences for failure. I don’t see what advantage giving a meaningless diploma to students that would have dropped out previously gives to anyone but those that desperately need to hide their incompetence. Colleges and universities are increasingly in the business of issuing degrees for attendance, and not just in the “studies” departments. Too many students failing would get in the way of the student loan gravy train.

    17. Mike K Says:

      when one does include genetics into the discussion education and measures the effect, the light begins to dawn.

      It cannot be allowed to do so. Charles Murray is the enemy of the people because he learned and wrote that IQ varies by ethnic group. They are only averages, or as he put it, a “Bell Curve,” but this cannot be allowed to exist.

      On Facebook yesterday Medtronic, the medical device company that has made pacemakers since the 1950s, had an ad that asserted “”We are devoted to diversity and inclusiveness,” whatever that means. I commented that all that was important was that the pacemaker worked. Collapsing bridges is a problem for civilization. My comment disappeared.

      After the Fort Hood shooting that killed 13, I think, Army Chief of Staff General Casey said it was very important that this “workplace violence” by Col Hassan did not affect the Army’s devotion to “diversity and Inclusion.”

      We are doomed.

    18. Mike K Says:

      On the topic of genetics and behavior, the flogging will continue until morale improves.

      The social engineering plan micromanaged the flow of children to such an extent that in some cases, students will be moved to a new school that contains only four classmates from their old school, parents said.

      Resident Barb Krupiarz filed a complaint Friday with the Open Meetings Compliance Board that the backroom conversation violated the Open Meeting Act.

      Mallo spent four minutes scolding the public on Nov. 7 for noisily voicing their opposition to the plan and lamenting that the Open Meetings Act gave them the right to be there.

      Massive school busing, 1970s style, is chosen by this county in MD in spite of 90% opposition.

      Sarah Bedair, a resident who testified before the board, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the board received 6,650 pieces of verbal and written testimony opposing the plan and 150 pieces of testimony in support of it.

      Sorry. 98% opposition.

    19. Mike Says:

      More evidence of the race to the bottom.

      The chancellors of UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, along with the University of California’s chief academic officer, said they support dropping the SAT and ACT as an admission requirement — stances certain to fuel the growing national movement against the tests as an unfair barrier to college entry for underserved students.
      UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ and UC Provost Michael Brown said at a forum on college admissions Friday that research has convinced them that performance on the SAT and ACT is so strongly influenced by family income, parents’ education and race that using them for high-stakes admissions decisions is simply wrong.

      The genetics department could not be reached for comment.

    20. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      “underserved students”

      Perhaps it would be too unkind to say “under-achieving students”?

      It has long been said that the last man & woman on Earth will still be arguing about how to educate the child they never had. Education has always been a hot-button issue. When people are poor, they recognize the great value of education — the three Rs — even if it is only so that a person can read the Bible himself and not depend on a priest to tell him what it says. When people are living the good life, sitting on top of the achievements of their ancestors, they forget the purpose of education. Credentialing becomes more important than learning.

      I cry for my beloved country! But I have no concerns about the future of the human race. In China, Russia, even in parts of Africa, children and young people are vigorously pursuing learning — not because it is fun or easy, but because their societies recognize it is necessary.

      The big wheel never stops turning. These days, African churches send Christian missionaries to degraded Europe. In the future, they may have to send teachers too.

    21. David Foster Says:

      Re genetics: Whatever may be the contribution of genetics to intelligence and to success-linked behavioral traits, the current educational situation is surely driving many people to perform below their inherent potential. This is true among those who attend college and have reasonably high IQs, as well as those not in this category.

      There is research, which I will have to look up, suggesting that a single badly-disruptive student in a class can have a lifetime impact on the future earnings of the other members of that class. Consider the impact of a school with dozens of seriously-disruptive students, unmotivated teachers, rigid administrators, poorly-designed curriculum, etc….

    22. David Foster Says:

      “UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ and UC Provost Michael Brown said at a forum on college admissions Friday that research has convinced them that performance on the SAT and ACT is so strongly influenced by family income, parents’ education and race that using them for high-stakes admissions decisions is simply wrong.”

      So if research showed that performance on the FAA written and practical exams for the Airline Transport Pilot rating was strongly correlated with “family income, parents’ education and race”, then should these tests simply be dropped?

    23. Brian Says:

      Despite my better judgment, I’ll bite–can someone send me a link to a non-overtly-racist demonstration of why current disparities in school success are linked to “genetics” (it’s cowardly to avoid “race” when that’s what you mean, and basically disqualifying in my eyes) rather than the collapse of the family, especially among the lower income? In my poor white town it is screamingly obvious that the top end of the student rankings are dominated by married parents and the bottom end are, well, not.

    24. pst314 Says:

      Despite my better judgment, I’ll bite–can someone send me a link to a non-overtly-racist demonstration of why current disparities in school success are linked to “genetics” (it’s cowardly to avoid “race” when that’s what you mean, and basically disqualifying in my eyes) rather than the collapse of the family, especially among the lower income?

      Why must it be an either-or? None of the serious people I have read have said anything more strong than that (1) intelligence is one of many factors that account for success or failure, others being diligence, honesty, a stable healthy family, a culture that respects intellectual achievement, etc, and (2) that intelligence is highly heritable and highly correlated with success.

      Furthermore, it is not “cowardly” to refrain from making this all about race when people of all races vary in intelligence: Consider that a central concern of Murray and Herrnstein’s book “The Bell Curve” was with the increasing trend for high IQ, highly educated men and women to only marry others of similar high IQ and education, and that due to the highly heritable nature of IQ this seemed likely to lead to social stratification–a permanent underclass of low-IQ people–with all sorts of harmful consequences. Another reason it is not “cowardly” to even mention race is that no matter how honest and compassionate the talk and no matter how extensive the record of work to help all who need help regardless of race, any mention of race will be used by the left to destroy a career.

      If you are seriously interesting in this topic, you could try books and articles by Charles Murray. You could also try the footnotes in the essay that got Google engineer James Damore fired for wrongthink. There are numerous links in the following Jordan Peterson video in which he interviews James Damore. Nearly all the links are about sex differences in personality rather than race but following the links might lead you to other scholarly material:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEDuVF7kiPU

    25. Mike K Says:

      it is screamingly obvious that the top end of the student rankings are dominated by married parents and the bottom end are, well, not.

      It is hard to tease out the genetics from the family issues. Why are the children of criminals more likely to be criminals themselves?

      It’s not just race. Read Plomin’s “Blueprint.”

      Plomin reports that genetics explains more about the psychological differences among people than all other factors combined. Nature, not nurture, is what makes us who we are. Plomin explores the implications of these findings, drawing some provocative conclusions―among them that parenting styles don’t really affect children’s outcomes once genetics is taken into effect. This book offers readers a unique insider’s view of the exciting synergies that came from combining genetics and psychology. The paperback edition has a new afterword by the author.

      He writes that 50% of adult behavior is genetic. Family probably has more influence on kids. The effect fades as we age.

      Reich was a good source but chickened out at the end and apologized for his results.

    26. David Foster Says:

      Based on the writings of Theodore Dalrymple and others, it seems that there are a lot more dysfunctional and degenerate white people in the UK than there were, say, 50 years ago. I don’t think this is enough time for genetics to have had a major influence

    27. pst314 Says:

      I don’t think this is enough time for genetics to have had a major influence

      Indeed. I seem to recall someone saying that although a perfect culture cannot make an average-IQ person into an Einstein, a bad culture can make a high-IQ person into a failure or even a monster.

    28. Jay Guevara Says:

      Late entry.

      With regard to genetics and behavior, I like to move the discussion to a less contentious (and emotive) arena, one that also admits of more controlled experimentation and consequently more sound results: dogs.

      Consider golden retrievers (which I love dearly). They do not need to be taught to swim; they’re born loving the water, unlike almost all other breeds. They live to swim and to retrieve. Do they learn that from someone? Clearly it is intrinsic to them – they were bred to this behavior.

      Similarly with their nature, which is sweet and loving and eager to please. They can think of nothing more desirable than to be around people, especially children, and they don’t have a mean bone in their bodies.

      Contrast them with, e.g., pit bulls. Yes, I know, their defenders will say how sweet they are, but news reports indicate that all too often these dogs – which were bred to fight – are sweet until they’re not.

      Next consider Australian shepherds. Their inherent tendency to herd things – including small children! – is obvious on observing them.

      All of these things are indisputably innate. Conclusion: genetics can have a considerable influence not only on intelligence, but on behavior as well.

    29. Mike K Says:

      Jay, I loved my golden retriever. She was a wonderful dog. I got her as a puppy when I knew I was going to have back surgery and would have to stay home for 6 months. I had had a lab and she was destroying the house if left alone. After the golden, I started to have bassets and they are also loving and gentle.

      There are some theories about the domestication of dogs. The juvenile behavior persists and they become domestic pets. Some remain working dogs but the behavior is juvenile when relating to humans.

      Genetics is going to dominate Medicine for the next 100 years.

    30. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      Good comments Mike K. I will say that a further part of Plomin’s and other’s research is that the non-genetic 50% is not environmental. We leap to that conclusion because the debate has always been framed as nature-nurture in our lifetimes. The other 50% is not even “unknown.” At present, most but not quite all of it looks random(!) A strange result to those of us who grew up with Newtonian thinking, but less strange to those whose physics includes all the chaos and contradiction we now know is the deeper truth.

      Brian, I hardly know where to begin. You call me cowardly and accuse me of secretly talking about race, when I am emphatically not. Yet you ask to be pointed to non-racist sources, and so I declare: you will find all sources racist, because you have started from that assumption. It is the critics who keep injecting race, and trying to twist the arguments to “superiority of race.” I don’t have IQ in my top ten qualities of what makes a person superior or inferior, and as near as I can tell the things I do value do not seem to vary greatly by race. Violence does vary by race, but that is in a context of 90%+ of every group not being violent. I can’t think of any evidence of piety, kindness, reliability, honesty, determination and a hundred other virtues varying by race. Because IQ does incontrovertibly vary persistently and reliably by race

      There is not much point in referring you. You just have to read the people who are doing the actual research or reporting on it, rather than those academics and (especially) journalists who would rather write about what terrible things this says about the people who believe it. Read Robert Plomin. Read David Reich. Read Gregory Clark, or Kaili Rimfeld, or Steven Hsu, or Charles Murray (especially “Losing Ground,” which is specifically about white people, and includes as much environmental influence as he can cram in, because he also wants it to be true), or Steven Pinker. Try Scott Alexander, who is not a researcher himself but very skilled at evaluating research on many topics over at Slate Star Codex. With many you have to read attentively, because they do not want to destroy their careers. But the genetic case is very strong.

      I see news report after news report about various environmental factors that are supposedly there, and can instantly notice that almost none of them even ask the question whether these intelligent two-parent families who act responsibly might have contributed even a teeny bit of genetics to the equation. The question is not even asked.

    31. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      Paragraph two should conclude with “, people who secretly think that IQ is very important but don’t dare say that accuse the others of claiming their race as superior. And as the testing they believe in does not say that WASPs are the highest-IQ group, trying to pin the notion of white superiority on them is even more of a stretch.”

    32. pst314 Says:

      It looks like Brian made a drive-by comment and will not be returning to check for the answers he claimed to seek.

    33. Brian Says:

      pst: Sigh. No need for that, I’m a regular. I just don’t see the point of a follow up. The commenter I was referring to openly and regularly states his racial opinions. I’m in strong agreement with NN Taleb in his recent twitter diatribes on race, IQ, etc. I asked for a short reference and don’t see one specifically relevant–Murray is not really talking about that, and I’m not interested in reading whole books on the topic, just a quick review, and I don’t see any mention of anything like that. The fact is that if we assume the problem is due to family collapse, which I think fits the history best, we might be able to find a way forward, if we say it’s due to “genetics” we’re then in a hopeless situation.

    34. pst314 Says:

      “I just don’t see the point of a follow up.”
      Brian, basic courtesy demands that when you ask a question–and especially when you ask a question with a great deal of moral or emotional freight–that you reply to those who answer you. Lacking any reply, it is entirely fair for them to assume that your question was not really a question.

      “I asked for a short reference”
      Google is your friend.™ Given a few names, you ought to be able to find articles and essays.

      racial opinions
      Would you also label Jordan Peterson a racist? He has, after all, spoken of the heritability of intelligence and the strong correlation of intelligence with achievement.
      And is your least favorite commenter clearly of the opinion that only heritable intelligence is at work? I suspect not; more likely that it is a very important factor.

      then we’re then in a hopeless situation
      Not entirely, if many factors are relevant, including intelligence, family, neighborhood, culture, etc.
      Furthermore, Jordan Peterson interviewed a scientist who although sharing Peterson’s distress over IQ believes that advances in biology may well allow for therapies to correct the causes of low intelligence.

    35. pst314 Says:

      While we’re on the topic of accusations of racism, Twitter has suspended Andy Ngo for reporting facts about trans murders.

    36. Mike K Says:

      The commenter I was referring to openly and regularly states his racial opinions.

      I don’t know who that is. Genetics will be the basis for Medicine for the next 100 years. Maybe longer.
      As for race, Hawaii is suing the makers of Plavix because it affects some Hawaiians differently.

      Here is an FDA warning that describes the genetic factor but omits any mention of race.

    37. Brian Says:

      “Twitter has suspended Andy Ngo for reporting facts about trans murders”
      Trans-activists are WAY more totalitarian than race-activists.
      It’s been clear for 2+ years that the left, and Silicon Valley, are going to do everything they can to shut the right out of social media during the 2020 election.

    38. pst314 Says:

      Brian, I think it was a racially motivated suspension.

      Andy NGO was suspended for “hateful conduct” (sic) in the form of a factual response to a tweet by former first daughter Chelsea Clinton in which she said that “since 2013, more than 150 trans people have been murdered in the U.S., the majority Black transgender women,” which she called “an epidemic of violence and hate.”

      Andy replies that this was hardly an “epidemic” considering that the rate of such violence in America is lower than in most of the rest of world:

      “The US is one of the safest countries for trans people…”

      And then he pointed out a racial fact which is I believe what got him suspended:

      “Also, who is behind the murders? Mostly black men.”

      Hate fact: noun, politically incorrect but true.

    39. pst314 Says:

      Mike K: I have heard (heard!) that the health benefits of a low carb diet vary significantly between populations due to genetic differences.

    40. Occasional Commenter Says:

      I think the problem with education is that teachers have come to value process over subject matter expertise.

      I recall reading an article wherein a teacher was going on about the challenges in teaching. She noted early in her article that she had a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in education, yet she said she was currently a math teacher. And I think that’s where the problem lies. It is more important in the education industry to have education degrees than degrees in the courses you teach. The apparent thinking is, if you understand teaching processes, you can teach any subject.

      The result is that teachers are dumbing down the curriculum because they don’t understand the material themselves, so they seek to marginalize content as a defensive mechanism. Thus we have that math teacher asking “what is math, really?” She doesn’t know the topic to begin with, so she creates a rationalization that allows her to finesse the fact that she’s not grounded in the material.

      The sad result is that real knowledge is not being passed down from one generation of teachers to the next. They literally don’t know what they don’t know.

    41. pst314 Says:

      I think the problem with education is that teachers have come to value process over subject matter expertise.

      I think that has been true for a long time: witness the fad for whole language (in spite of the fact that phonics is better) and New Math.

      This post and the comments remind us how numerous are the causes of the dysfunction.

    42. Gringo Says:

      Occasional Commenter

      I recall reading an article wherein a teacher was going on about the challenges in teaching. She noted early in her article that she had a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in education, yet she said she was currently a math teacher. And I think that’s where the problem lies. It is more important in the education industry to have education degrees than degrees in the courses you teach. The apparent thinking is, if you understand teaching processes, you can teach any subject.

      Schools have problems keeping math teachers, as they can get better paying jobs in the private sector. As a result, schools often fill math teacher vacancies any way they can. The year I taught 9th grade math, two 9th grade math teachers at our school quit in the middle of the year. Both were very good teachers. One quit to work for Apple, the other to become a stockbroker.

      Regarding teachers teaching outside their major, there is no simple answer. This particular teacher may have had a lot of math courses in college- I don’t know. Sometimes there is emergency certification. When I was a teacher in Texas, a certified teacher could take a certification exam in another subject to gain additional certification. I passed the certification exam in Spanish without having taken a single college course in Spanish. I had Spanish in high school, had worked in Latin America and in the school system had been the translator for Spanish-speaking parents, so my Spanish ability wasn’t exactly chopped liver.

      BTW, my experience is that while subject knowledge is necessary for being a good teacher, it is far from sufficient. It is not intuitively obvious how to teach what to whom, so some sort of pedagogy is necessary. Unfortunately, Ed Schools, instead of concentrating on what has worked in over two thousand years of formal instruction, waste time on the next great education theory that will explain everything. Which it will until it is debunked and replaced by the NEW next great education theory that will explain everything. The King is dead, long live the King.

      Thus we have that math teacher asking “what is math, really?” She doesn’t know the topic to begin with, so she creates a rationalization that allows her to finesse the fact that she’s not grounded in the material.

      Rochelle Gutierrez, a prof of Math Ed at the University of Illinois, has been making a lot of headlines about math being racist, “all mathematics is political,” algebra & geometry perpetuate “white privilege.” Blah, blah, blah.Bing Search:Rochelle Gutierrez math education.

      I looked at her CV. She has a Bachelor’s in Human Biology from Stanford, a Master’s in Social Sciences, and a Doctorate in Education. She has ONE YEAR of teaching math at the primary or secondary level- a math and science teacher at a middle school in California. What scares me more than her apparent paucity of math courses at the college level is that someone who has taught all of ONE YEAR at a middle school is writing all these papers and giving all those interviews about how we should be teaching. The blind leading the blind.

    43. David Foster Says:

      “Schools have problems keeping math teachers, as they can get better paying jobs in the private sector.”

      On the other hand, there are people with subject knowledge who can’t get jobs in the public schools because of the certification requirements, but *do* teach in private or religious schools.

    44. Mike K Says:

      On the other hand, there are people with subject knowledge who can’t get jobs in the public schools because of the certification requirements, but *do* teach in private or religious schools.

      At one time, about 20 years ago, I owned 10 acres on Vashon Island WA. I bought the land to build a house and retire there. In thinking what I would do with my time, I thought it might be fun to teach biology at Vashon High School. Then I looked into the certification requirements.

      I eventually sold the land.

    45. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      “The fact is that if we assume the problem is due to family collapse, which I think fits the history best, we might be able to find a way forward, if we say it’s due to “genetics” we’re then in a hopeless situation.” So you prefer looking for your lost keys where the light is better, rather than where you dropped them?

      In my original comment I suggested that those interested in answers could engage in a fairly simple exercise that most journalists, most social-service professionals, and even some experts do not do: look at the story in front of you and ask yourself if they even considered genetics – I see no reason to put the word in quotation marks – as even a possible, partial explanation of the data. Next, look at the description of the results yourself and ask yourself whether there is a possibility that genetics has any role whatsoever. No books to read, no summaries, no encounters with people who have dangerous ideas. Just do the preliminary work yourself. It takes little extra time, just an awareness while reading. You will find repeatedly that heritability was not even considered in the experimental design or the analysis of data from other sources. There are assumptions such as yours – “oh, hey, I think family collapse is probably the problem,” with no thought given to whether that is cart or horse, or if there is even a 5% chance there is something else in play. Most people say “I think it’s some of both,” but most of the research systematically excludes even the possibility that there is even a teeny chance of a genetic explanation.

      And this research is what educated people have been reading in the popular press for decades, so the cumulative effect is large.

      Also, look at your own favorite examples and data and imagine defending it before judges against a person who is looking for possible genetic factors, and see whether there is leakage in your case. If you do this for a year, you will at minimum notice “Gee, they don’t seem to even consider the possibility – and there is probably at least SOMETHING to this heritability idea. And while I still like my family-collapse explanation, I find I cannot point to anything that nails it to earth. My imaginary adversary keeps raising the same strong points that I can only partly refute.”

      I started in the 1960s as an environment-only believer and it directed much of my parenting, such as not having TV, reading to the children a great deal, sending them to expensive private Christian academies, and then adopting the last three of my sons in the hope that a good environment might rescue them. I have paid more dues to the environmental side than you can dream, and I had to eventually conclude over long, painful years, dragged kicking and screaming, that I had some major points flat wrong. Environment has some small effect, especially in the worst situations. Once you look behind the door you see other entire rooms.

      Just pay attention. That’s all you have to do. Well, and hold your previous assumptions lightly and try not to be insulting if you can manage it, for you will feel even more obligation to defend your ideas once you have done that.

    46. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2019/11/28/local-brain-drain/

    47. Obloodyhell Says:

      Pretty hqrd to appreciate Arabic contributions to math when the zero, and its primary corollary;, place notation is no longer even TAUGHT in elementary school…!?!?

      Seriously. .. go look up ‘box math’, one of the MOST retarded teaching ideas in human history,..

      Teachers should just be lined up against a wall and shot.

    48. MCS Says:

      Whatever combination of genetics, environment, parenting, etc. is responsible for a student or body of students, they are a fact and the undeniable truth is that the public schools are doing an execrable job teaching them. This doesn’t seem to have been a problem until around 1960 or 70.

      It seems at least possible to me that the educational establishment has decided that the only way to avoid criticism of favoritism is to prevent any student from exceeding the level of the worst. This would be working if they could only do something about those home schoolers that succeed without proper credentials and seemly obeisance to the “experts”. Those pesky non-educators that believe that objective measurements of the ability to read and count are important, especially when they are paying close enough attention that fraud is discouraged, are also holding progress back.

    49. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      @ MCS – whenever someone says something is an undeniable truth, I find that the opposite is more likely true. That is something I learned from G K Chesterton: the conventional wisdom is usually wrong, or even backwards. I would be curious what hard evidence you have that education was superior prior to 1960 in any apples-to-apples comparison. I have the yearbooks and literary magazines of my highschool from 1918-1924 and 1945-1948, because my mother, aunts, uncles and great-aunts went there as well. Two great-grandmothers were teachers in one-room schools nearby. The writing is of inferior quality to my own years 1968-71, and about the same as my children’s 1994-2014.

      It is an idea beloved by conservatives, and you will get agreement here and at other sites. The evidence offered, however, is mostly anecdotal or narrow. I have been at this for years and have yet to see anything that holds up to even mild scrutiny. Education was better in some ways and worse in others in every generation.

      As for home-schoolers the brighter the student, the more they benefit from going at their own pace and self-instuction. The wizards drag the overall average up, but homeschoolers do only a bit better than their peers, and it is statistically important that the special needs students are counted in the averages of the public schools, dragging those numbers down. I sent my children to a mix of Christian schools and public schools with some home-schooling thrown in in specific places. It was a different question to answer each year, each child.

    50. Mike K Says:

      It is an idea beloved by conservatives, and you will get agreement here and at other sites

      Discipline was better, far better. Teaching in some subjects, like History, was clearly better because History is being omitted or radicalized.

      Math in elementary school is bing devastated. My grandson’s 4th grade teacher told his mother that she could not do math problems using Common Core methods , either. She suggested his mother teach him using traditional math. They moved him to a charter school.

      I sent my kids to private schools but those are now far too expensive to afford.

      My youngest daughter was taught lies in college in 2008. Her “US History since 1877” final study guide told her that “The Silent Majority” was made up of white people who refused to accept the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    51. Brian Says:

      “Math in elementary school is bing devastated.”
      My daughter is in sixth grade. She has normal math problems like “2x – 7 = 15” that first ask you to solve them, and then ask you to “Explain your answer” so she writes out “First you add 7 to each side to get 2x=22, then you divide each side by 2 to get x=11”. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m actually relatively sanguine about common core, because math education gets overhauled every few years like clockwork anyway, and the message that authorities are in many cases morons who make you do stupid things for no discernible reason is about the healthiest lesson a kid can learn, and boy are they learning it these days. Of course, unfortunately in modern society moreso than in the past, they’re also learning that you better jump through those stupid hoops with a smile if you want to succeed in life…

    52. Grurray Says:

      The idea behind common core is that math calculations and proofs can be tedious for most to learn, so internalizing the steps with heuristics is a better way to grasp the subject.

      Unfortunately, unlike books such as Street-Fighting Mathematics or websites like Better Explained that teach cognitive mapping to get a clearer understanding of the meaning behind math concepts, common core is not doing that.

      In classic leftist liberal fashion, they missed the forest for the trees, confused cause and effect, and are trying to stuff everyone into the same size box. They’re trying to teach kids how to use the outward results – rules of thumb – to rewire the internal cause – intuition. For example, they assume everyone is comfortable thinking in terms of base ten, so all operations are strictly dictated by that. Some people may be. Many others are not. There’s no way to know for sure why, so constructing an inflexible system based on incomplete mental representations is doomed.

      It reminds me of metric vs imperial units. Metric is a theoretically better system with its rational foundation in powers of ten. However, in practice we (that is, the people who still live in the real world) understand imperial units better because of their relation to real things we interact with every day. Those interactions can’t be easily quantified and mentally cataloged, which is why we use heuristics, even when they don’t make logical sense, in the first place. There are no straight lines in nature, the old saying goes, and there aren’t neat groups of ten either.

    53. David Foster Says:

      Re education then and now….here’s something that might provide some comparisons. Four issues of Boys Life magazine, which presumably was aimed at more of less the same age group, from 1911, 1956, 2000, and 2010. Haven’t had a change to go through these yet, but hope to later this evening. My thought is that the content & style of the articles deemed suitable over the years could provide some clues as to trends in educational effectiveness, though it also likely reflects the effect of emergent technologies from radio to television to computers.

      1911

      1956

      2000

      2010

    54. MCS Says:

      AVI: Pretty sure all the people in my HS graduating class in ’72 could read, pretty sure that nearly half of the class of ’19 can’t. Not that there weren’t failures, they just didn’t get diplomas.

      Grurray: The system we’d have adopted in the 70’s would have been the wrong one anyway, CGS instead of SI. Of course it’s an error to express a weight in anything except Newtons, a nice round number (1 kg x m x s^-2). Don’t forget to correct for the local acceleration of gravity and latitude when computing something like the cost of a bag of potatoes.

    55. Anonymous Says:

      @ MCS – You illustrate my point. Just for openers, those who were special needs and those who dropped out are now invisible to you when you try and evaluate what education was like, then and now. Your point of reference was the graduating class. Given that, it is extremely likely you are comfortable remembering your class mostly in terms of your peer group. That will not be representative. Your “pretty sure” doesn’t have a foundation. Most memory changes according to narrative, and this would happen even more dramatically with school memories. I brought the 8th-grade graduation picture to the high school graduation and huddled with the few from my small grammar school to go over what had happened to whom. First, the group looking at the picture was not representative of the group in the picture. We had been better students then and gone on for more schooling. We were socially more capable. We were more respectable in the sense of fewer arrests, overdoses, children out of wedlock, wasted lives. We had to work hard to recall who some of them were. They had become invisible.

      @ Mike K – I agree the content taught is terrible. But the content was always terrible, just in different ways. As for discipline, my recollection of my mill-city high school is of frequent fights. We were required to be quieter, certainly. I don’t have any hard measures for you, but I think the difference is at least not as dramatic as you are putting forward.

    56. Mike K Says:

      Your point of reference was the graduating class. Given that, it is extremely likely you are comfortable remembering your class mostly in terms of your peer group.

      My 1952 8th grade graduating class had a reunion in 2002 that I attended. We took a group photo. The school was a Catholic school in Chicago. I would say about 80% of the class attended, that would be around 60 total grads with around 50 at the reunion. It was not a highly select group in terms of money. Catholic schools in those days were not expensive. There were no astronauts or college professors that I know of. Most were middle class people. I probably came the farthest from California. I had also attended the 25th reunion in 1977 and a number of those attending that one had since died. A few had turned out surprisingly successful.

      My high school was also a Catholic one and classes were arranged by intelligence. I can’t remember how that was determined but the classes ranged from 1 A to 1 K. By the third year, I was in 3B because I did not want another year of Latin and preferred Mechanical Drawing. I went to a reunion a few years ago, probably the 50th, which would be 2006, and the percentage of attendees was smaller.

      Discipline was firm and no nonsense was tolerated. I don;t remember fights except a couple of times the rowdy kid was invited to put the gloves on and box a Christian Brother who turned out to be a former boxer in Ireland.

    57. MCS Says:

      AVI: I see your point and probably agree with it to a point. Those that weren’t able to benefit from conventional academic classes, that were only diluted by whatever vocational alternatives were available, were lost long before graduation; if they even entered the school system at all. I also recognize that some improvements have occurred since. My point was that the diploma, and soon for college as well, has been made into a meaningless “participation” award rather than a proof of some basic level of skill and knowledge. Something employers, especially, could use to classify applicants. I hope your next airline pilot did more than attend class consistently, show improvement and good citizenship.

      When I was an employer, I quickly stopped using written employment applications because so many prospective employees couldn’t deal with them. I didn’t really need literacy, I did uniformly require a drivers license. I judge that of the many illiterate and near illiterate men I interviewed and hired, only 1 or 2 were incapable of learning, the rest just couldn’t be bothered. Oddly enough, the people I hired on probation and parole had a much higher literacy rate. Probably because they got credit for attending classes in prison. While I was paying about 150% or more of the minimum wage to start, I wasn’t drawing from the upper end of the job pool in a rural area, they already had jobs.

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