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  • Retro-Reading, Mechanical Engineering, Part 2

    Posted by David Foster on May 24th, 2020 (All posts by )

    (This is a continuation of my Retro-Reading post, based on the April 1930 issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine.  Part One is here)

    A View from the Left.  One of the most interesting things in the magazine is an excerpt from the writing of Sidney Webb, the well-known Fabian socialist.  (The magazine refers to him as a “publicist,” maybe that was 1930-speak for an activist.)

    The manual-working population of the cities was, in fact, mainly composed of laborers who were lifelong hewers of wood and drawers of water whilst that of the vast stretches of farmland and forest outside the cities was as devoid of art as of letters. And the proportion of merely mechanical work in the world s production has, taken as a whole, lessened, not increased. What a multitude of laborers quarried the stones, dragged and carried the stones and lifted the stones of the cathedral walls on which half a dozen skilled and artistic masons carved gargoyles? From the building of the Pyramids down to the present day, the proportion of the world’s work of the nature of mere physical digging, pushing, carrying, lifting and hammering, by the exertion of muscular force, has almost continuously diminished….

    And it must not be forgotten that, in Western civilization to-day, the actual numbers of men and women engaged in daily work of distinctly intellectual character, which is thus not necessarily devoid of art, are positively greater than at any previous time. There are, of course, many more such workers of superior education, artistic capacity, and interesting daily tasks in Henry Ford’s factories at Detroit than there were in the whole city of Detroit fifty years ago! Along side of these successors of the equally exceptional skilled handicraftsmen of the Middle Ages there has come to be a vast multitude of other workers with less interesting tasks, who could not other wise have come into existence, and who represent the laborers of the cities and the semi-servile rural population of past times, and who certainly would not themselves dream of wishing to revert to the conditions of those times. It may be granted, that, in much of their daily tasks (as has always been the case) the workers of to-day can find no joy, and take the very minimum of interest. But there is one all important difference in their lot. Unlike their predecessors, these men spend only half their waking hours at the task by which they gain their bread. In the other half of their day they are, for the first time in history, free (and, in great measure, able) to give themselves to other interests, which in an ever- increasing proportion of cases lead to an intellectual development heretofore unknown among the typical manual workers. It is, in fact, arguable that it is among the lower half of the manual workers of Western civilization rather than among the upper half, that there has been the greatest relative advance during the past couple of centuries. It is, indeed, to the so-called unskilled workers of London and Berlin and Paris, badly off in many respects as they still are and notably to their wives and children that the Machine Age has incidentally brought the greatest advance in freedom and in civilization.

    Rather different from the view of our present-day leftists, wouldn’t you say?  Indeed, both the American New Deal and the Soviet Communist Party were huge supporters of hydroelectric dams… today, many of the Progs want to tear them down.

    I’ll continue in a future post with some other highlights from the magazine, including the articles on transportation and metalworking.

     

    42 Responses to “Retro-Reading, Mechanical Engineering, Part 2”

    1. Mike K Says:

      I have been reading a series of historical novels about the Industrial Revolution in England in the early 19th century century. The author, taught Economic History in England for ten years and grew up a child of “agricultural” parents. His biography includes that he was involved in the Social Democrat Party and his POV is interesting. I highly recommend a series called “A Poor Man at the Gate,” although it gets so complicated to remember all the characters that I have never finished the last books that go into later generations.

      He has quite a bit about “Enclosure” and the life of agricultural workers and those working in early coal mines and mills.

      He has other series about the British Army and Navy. Also, an interesting series about Papua New Guinea.

    2. Jonathan Says:

      Today’s cultural Left has uncritically adopted a romantic and mystical view of the natural world. This worldview is a modern invention and would have been unknown before widespread industrialization. In those days extreme poverty was universal and most people lived much closer to the harsh realities of nature. Perhaps the decline of traditional religion, the rise of environmentalistic and other spiritualisms, and the decline of critical thinking and of science education are related.

    3. Mike K Says:

      Rousseau was pretty mystical. “Noble Savage” and all that. Today’s left is a direct descendant of the “Committee of Public Safety” in its early stages in 1793. The Guillotine is not yet in use and the “Normal” public is heavily armed so the later stages of the Terror are unlikely but the desire is there in such as Michigan Governor Whitmore and Illinois Governor Pritzker.

      There is some similarity to the fate of Danton and Desmoulins on Twitter with the destruction of some of the less extreme leftists.

    4. David Foster Says:

      The transition in leftist attitudes toward technology is associated with their shift in attitudes toward working-class prosperity, and is marked by the 1963 release of Malvina Reynolds’ song “Little Boxes”, sung by Pete Seeger.

      Tom Lehrer described it as ‘the most sanctimonious song ever written’…lots of competition for that honor, but it’s definitely up there.

    5. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      If Wikipedia is to the trusted (always a question!), Sidney Webb was born in London in 1859 — when the Industrial Revolution was really changing lives. The benefits of rapidly-growing industrialization were obvious — as were the costs. Perhaps there is an analogy with the digital revolution in our own age — although digitalization has probably had less dramatic impacts on lives than industrialization did in the later 1800s.

      For the post-WWII generations who provided the foot soldiers for today’s “Progressives”, the benefits of industrialization were taken for granted because they (we) had never known anything else. And productive work was increasingly off-shored to remote places — along with costs such as pollution, industrial accidents, and child labor. Today, we expect that when we flip the switch, the light will come on. We are rarely made aware of how amazing the industrial achievements of our forbearers were — or of how easily they could be lost.

    6. MCS Says:

      First, I’m struck by the condescension that pours from every syllable of your quote. Second, that world never existed in reality. The darkest days of the industrial revolution probably span only about 50 years of history. Third, that only work carried on presumably sitting down had any intellectual component. This from someone probably totally dependent on servants to supply his basic needs. A very British attitude that hasn’t served them well.

      He counts as benevolent in seeing the time freed by the 8 hour day as a advantage rather than a waste and source of mischief for the “working” class.

      In a different and lighter vein, watch this:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFZFjoX2cGg&feature=youtu.be

      If you can stop laughing long enough, think about all the programs and laws that are either completely ineffective or produced wildly unintended outcomes.

    7. David Foster Says:

      MCS….I’m not seeing the condescension, or, especially, a claim that “that only work carried on presumably sitting down had any intellectual component”…when he refers to workers in Henry Ford’s factories, I would assume he’s talking about people like skilled machinists & toolmakers, production dispatchers, etc, not just a relatively small number of graduate engineers.

      Which world are you saying never existed in reality?…the condition of the ‘urban laborers and semi-servile rural workers’ of pre-industrial times, or the industrialized world which he is saying represents a major improvement?

    8. Mike K Says:

      The manual-working population of the cities was, in fact, mainly composed of laborers who were lifelong hewers of wood and drawers of water whilst that of the vast stretches of farmland and forest outside the cities was as devoid of art as of letters. And the proportion of merely mechanical work in the world s production has, taken as a whole, lessened, not increased.

      Sounded pretty condescending to me. Lots of skilled tradesmen then. My grandfather was a railroad engineer. He died in 1899.

      My other grandfather, a farmer, died in 1905 after surgery for cancer of the stomach by two surgeons from Chicago who had traveled 60 miles to Odell, IL to do the surgery.

    9. David Foster Says:

      I think he’s clearly referring to “the manual-working population of the cities” prior to the industrial age, not to skilled tradesmen such as railroad engineers. The whole thrust of the essay is to defend industrialization…there were people arguing that the masses of people were better off in the pre-industrial age, and there are a lot more making that argument today.

      Here’s an excerpt from C P Snow:

      “I remember talking to my grandfather when I was a child. He was a good specimen of a nineteenth- century artisan. He was highly intelligent, and he had a great deal of character. He had left school at the age of ten, and had educated himself intensely until he was an old man. He had all his class’s passionate faith in education. Yet,he had never had the luck-or, as I now suspect, the worldly force and dexterity-to go very far. In fact, he never went further than maintenance foreman in a tramway depot. His life would seem to his grandchildren laborious and unrewarding almost beyond belief. But it didn’t seem to him quite like that. He was much too sensible a man not to know that he hadn’t been adequately used: he had too much pride not to feel a proper rancour: he was disappointed that he had not done more-and yet, compared with his grandfather, he felt he had done a lot.

      His grandfather must have been an agricultural labourer. I don’t so much as know his Christian name. He was one of the ‘dark people’, as the old Russian liberals used to call them, completely lost in the great anonymous sludge of history. So far as my grandfather knew, he could not read or write. He was a man of ability, my grandfather thought; my grandfather was pretty unforgiving about what society had done, or not done, to his ancestors, and did not romanticise their state. It was no fun being an agricultural labourer in the mid to late eighteenth century, in the time that we, snobs that we are, think of only as the time of the Enlightenment and Jane Austen.

      The industrial revolution looked very different according to whether one saw it from above or below. It looks very different today according to whether one sees it from Chelsea or from a village in Asia. To people like my grandfather, there was no question that the industrial revolution was less bad than what had gone before. The only question was, how to make it better.”

      See my review of Peter Gaskell’s 1836 book, in which he gives a contemporary view (different from Snow’s and Webb’s) of the industrial revolution.

      https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/56406.html

    10. MCS Says:

      I may have misapprehended his tone, not hard to do after a lapse of 90 years.

      However: “What a multitude of laborers quarried the stones, dragged and carried the stones and lifted the stones of the cathedral walls on which half a dozen skilled and artistic masons carved gargoyles?” certainly seems to devalue the skills if all the links in the the chain required to go from quarry to cathedral. Not to mention all the masons and stone cutters responsible for all the more substantial pieces of a Gothic structure. It seemed redolent of an almost stereotyped British upper crust attitude that devalues anything merely practical.

      The 50 years I was talking about was the, somewhat exaggerated, Dickensian dystopia of the transition between the mostly agrarian beginning and the industrial end of the 19th Century. The actual metrics such as hours worked per year are in some dispute.

    11. MCS Says:

      Maintenance foreman at a tramway depot sounds like a reasonably responsible job to me. Certainly beats shoveling coal for 40 years.

      What would he have considered a higher use for his grandfather? What would his grandfather have thought? Possibly that a job that allowed him to marry and raise a family was a fair use.

    12. Mike K Says:

      He had left school at the age of ten, and had educated himself intensely until he was an old man.

      Henry Ford was only one of the millions of boys who left school at age 16.

      I think he’s clearly referring to “the manual-working population of the cities” prior to the industrial age, not to skilled tradesmen such as railroad engineers.

      Many men began as manual workers and learned trades, often as apprentices. My uncle’s father was indentured as an apprentice in England as a boy (Apprenticeships in England were more formal than in America) as a bricklayer, a trade he learned, then indentured himself again to a farmer in the US in order to pay his fare to America. The farmer loaned his indentured young man as a bricklayer once he learned that he made more by doing so than employing him as a farm laborer. When his second indenture expired (or he bought himself out of it), he got a job as a bricklayer at International Harvester’s steel mill in Chicago. His son, my uncle, said that his father could not do the math to calculate the number of bricks required by an open hearth furnace but he could look at the job and tell how many,

      He was an uneducated man but spent years as Superintendent of Bricklayers at the steel mill. He was functionally illiterate, according to my uncle, who succeeded his father at the same position.

      Certainly there were many men who did not posses the intelligence to rise from humble origins but there was probably a better chance then than now. Education today is an IQ test and the basic entry point for most good jobs. I might add that that may be changing as trade jobs are unlikely to be outsourced to other countries. Many a Mercedes mechanic makes over $100k.

      My father left school at 15 and was an intelligent man but his lack of education left him unable to adapt when his business changed. I went through school on scholarships with virtually no help from home. I am sure I over compensated with my kids and not one was interested in science.

      I should correct my comment above. It was my great grandfather who died in 1905. He was also functionally illiterate, according to my father who was 2 when he died. Nonetheless, he raised 9 sons (and 3 daughters) and was able to give each a farm when he married.,

    13. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Both my English grandparents left school at about fifteen or so – but when I knew Grannie Dodie best, she could make change in her head (in English money!) and recite all the names of the ‘stans’ (Baluchistan, Afghanistan, etc! and probably give a list of relevant factoids about every one of them). She had not gone very far in education, but what she did have was through. Grandpa Al had also left school at the same age; his father had sent him to Canada and the US in advance of the rest of the family. (According to my great-aunt, it was because he saw WWI coming and did not like the prospect of it one single bit.) Grandpa Al worked in a number of factory jobs, and finished up mildly prosperous, working as a manager in some capacity for one of the railway depots in Southern California.
      Working class, and off-the-charts intelligent is a capacity greatly underrated by the current ruling intellectuals.

    14. Kirk Says:

      The left is primarily composed of upper-class aristos and wanna-be types. They really have no real contact with the so-called “working classes”, and the ideas they have about them are composed entirely of straw.

      It’s interesting to observe, in the field. One of my lieutenants was a young man who was the first of his family to ever get past high school. He worked his way through college without the benefit of ROTC scholarship, family help, or much of anything beyond the sweat of his own brow. Truly a self-made man.

      He fit in with the other officers about like a mule among overbred race horses. Our commander was an incompetent frat boy at that time who delighted in petty politics and humiliation of those he felt weren’t “his sort”. He and his buddies proceeded to harass and haze our jumped-up working class platoon leader, and eventually succeeded in turning what would have been an outstanding junior officer into a cynical and entirely burnt-out piece of work that hated the Army and most of its members. Can’t say I blame him–The crap he put up with cost him his marriage, and ended his active military career.

      But, you see, here is the thing: The commander that did most of this felt the LT wasn’t the right “sort”, but the fact is… He wasn’t actually the man he thought he was, either. The LT came from a working-class background, but one where one of his parents (can’t remember which one, TBH…) had read him Shakespeare, and who’d insisted on him meeting and exceeding standards. The commander? LOL… The prick got thrown out of West Point, per rumor, for “honor violations”, and then went to get his commission from ROTC after spending five years trying to graduate from a “gimme” university, with a degree in some kind of political science BS. He was an intellectual lightweight who had the balls to harass junior enlisted and NCOs that he observed reading actual books, making mock of them and boasting that he hadn’t read a book since college. I personally observed him making mistakes in basic math on several occasions, having to correct his work on things like recon reports and minefield records. Intellectually, he was nowhere near as bright as he thought he was–Although, he was (of course) the most consummate of political animals and a truly outstanding ass-kisser.

      LT? He was our only “hard castle”, an Engineer with an actual Engineering degree and an actual EIT certificate, something he got in the summer before completing his Officer’s Basic Course. Since he got out of the Army, I know for a fact he got his P.E., and has his name on multiple patents.

      The commander was white trash, in my opinion, despite his many “attainments”. The LT was a true “officer and gentleman”, despite the difference in background.

      As I’ve pointed out so many times, what we have isn’t a meritocracy so much as it is a kakistocracy where the entrenched members of the presumed “elite” do their best to suppress any not of “their sort” from rising above themselves. I’m pretty sure that if the LT in my account had been the “frat boy” ilk, with the right credentials from the right fraternities, and with the right resume, he’d have fit right in with the other politicized twits that commander gathered around himself and made merry with.

      That wasn’t the formative moment when I began to suspect the various “elites” in our society, but it sure as hell contributed. I watched that commander prosper and progress in his career, to the point where he eventually took a battalion command. Also got to see his battalion fail miserably at the NTC, after he’d had it a year-plus, and had the opportunity to run it into the ground doing the same petty political things he’d done as a company commander. Funniest part was watching every single senior NCO in that battalion who knew him from prior experience do their best to “jump ship” before he got there or shortly after he arrived. His selection as commander precipitated about a half-dozen early retirements, and nobody could quite understand why there were so many vacancies in that battalion. They tried filling them in from units around the post, but word had gotten out, and there were few willing to leave their current jobs, even to fill slots a grade or two above their rank…

      It is always interesting to see the tree bear the fruit of its roots.

    15. Mike K Says:

      Our commander was an incompetent frat boy at that time who delighted in petty politics and humiliation of those he felt weren’t “his sort”. He and his buddies proceeded to harass and haze our jumped-up working class platoon leader,

      I’ve mentioned a couple of times, novels by a guy named Andrew Wareham, who has written novels on Kindle that are somewhat similar to the CS Forrester’s Horatio Hornblower novels but are much more cynical and mostly mock the British upper classes. That link is to the first of his series about the Royal Flying Corps in WWI and he viciously mocks the upper class twits that made up some of the RFC. The books are very well researched but I am struck by his social criticisms. He himself is a child of “agricultural workers” who taught Economic History in England and some of his series are about the Industrial Revolution. A constant theme of his books are what twits the upper classes are.

      They are similar to WEB Griffin novels about the Army and Marines in the detail. The Griffin novels are also amusing in that certain names keep appearing that I assume were the names of incompetent officers who gave Sergeant Butterworth (Griffin) a hard time. His Army series are partly autobiographical.

      I first began reading Wareham books because Glenn Reynolds likes them and recommends them.

    16. Gringo Says:

      Mike K:
      His son, my uncle, said that his father could not do the math to calculate the number of bricks required by an open hearth furnace but he could look at the job and tell how many..

      I am reminded of the visit of a roofer to bid on our HOA’s roofs. He looked at our 5 buildings and at a glance estimated it would take 60 squares (6,000 square feet) of roofing material. Roof area: 5,600 square feet. That’s a very good quick estimate.

      Similarly, I have read about market vendors in Latin America who, with little or no formal education, have no trouble with the math involved in running their stands- making change etc. Making change is apparently not taught in American schools any more.

      Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s main claim to fame- or to infamy- would be the book(s) they wrote about their visits to the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Soviet Union – A New Civilization- yes indeed. Or so the Webbs told us. Ironically, Malcolm Muggeridge, who was one of the few Western visitors to the Soviet Union who saw the Soviet Union for what it was, was related by marriage to Beatrice Webb. Beatrice Webb was the aunt of Muggeridge’s wife.

    17. Mike K Says:

      Making change is apparently not taught in American schools any more.

      I had to tell the kid at a KFC how to do it. Pretty embarrassing. For him.

    18. MCS Says:

      I expect we’ve all run into the same thing. In the kid’s and the business’s defense, remember that most customers aren’t any better and being able to point to the number on the terminal probably saves a lot of arguments.

    19. Kirk Says:

      I dunno… I’ve been hearing these things about the “younger generation” not being able to make change since I was one of them, and while they do ring true… I don’t think that it’s necessarily a sign of the decline of civilization. ‘Cos I sure as hell don’t remember them formally having to teach me how to make change in school. It was just sort of… Implied. You picked it up by observation, in daily life, seeing how people handled that sort of thing at the counter when you bought things with your parents or on your own.

      What I do think it represents is a certain sheltering from the realities of life, a sheltering that goes hand-in-hand with dependency on the government. When you do most of your shopping with a government-issued card, you do not really get exposed to the realities of handling cash. Thus, a cultural gap opens up, and when you find a job as a low-level retail personage, you’re pretty much screwed: You don’t know how to do routine things.

      Personally, if it were I? You’d have to hand your kids over to the government for foster care and submit to either a tubal ligation or a vasectomy to get full-time welfare benefits. If you can’t support yourself, you obviously have no business raising kids, and they’d be a hell of a lot better off being raised far, far away from you.

      Supplemental benefits to those unfortunates trying to support themselves and needing to build up a better skill-set? Sure; no problem. Lifetime welfare rats? Nope; you can’t function in society, we’re not going to allow you to pass on those behavioral traits to the next generation. Momma and Daddy were on welfare, too? Automatic second-generation sterilization, if you want to continue free-loading.

      The way we have things set up now? It’s a disaster–At the least, if you’re a ward of the state, you ought to lose the franchise. Nobody should be able to vote to take money away from the productive working class who isn’t a member of it.

    20. MCS Says:

      Making change was indeed a thing in, I think, the fourth grade. Pennies to the nearest nickel, nickel/dime to the nearest quarter and count it back into the customer’s hand. We even used half dollars, how’s that for hardship.

      When you put someone on a till, there’s a whole drill they’re supposed to follow that starts with not putting the tender in the drawer until after the transaction is over. This is to prevent the whole you gave me a $10/I gave you a $20 question as well as more elaborate cons.

      In a previous life, I spent way too much time fixing coin changers that are supposed to eliminate human errors. They kept a lot of lanes closed instead.

    21. Mike K Says:

      What I do think it represents is a certain sheltering from the realities of life, a sheltering that goes hand-in-hand with dependency on the government. When you do most of your shopping with a government-issued card, you do not really get exposed to the realities of handling cash. Thus, a cultural gap opens up, and when you find a job as a low-level retail personage, you’re pretty much screwed: You don’t know how to do routine things.

      Oh, I agree. The other conspiracy theory that might have something to it is the “cashless society” in which everybody is required to use “electronic money” that has no real intrinsic value.

      Most cash registers these days calculate change and I can’t recall if the KFC one was similar. Of course, if everyone used “electronic money” there is no change to calculate.

    22. tomw Says:

      Two thoughts…

      Reference has been made to the achievement tests given to 8th grade students attending one-room schoolhouses in the late 19th century. If students could pass those tests, they had a lot more varied interests and knowledge than they are being given credit for. The liberal view of the ‘vast wasteland’ that forms the middle of this country is definitely unfounded. At least is was 100 years ago.
      Secondly, making change may not be the only skill needed at todays ‘registers’. I mentally estimate the rough total of my bill at Carl’s Junior, and have adequate funds at hand. When the total for a sandwich and drink rung up as twice the rough calculation, I informed the teller. They were flabbergasted that I could point out that even rounding every item to the next full dollar(3 items) could come nowhere near the amount they were requesting.
      Don’t give someone $2.26 and expect them to make change for a $2.06 amount due. They won’t know how.

    23. Kirk Says:

      @Tomw,

      In 1980, I was sixteen-ish. Also, working as cashier at our family-run gas station, and doing time later that year at the family restaurant doing the same thing. Making change was not an issue for me, but… I took what little wages I earned and had some spending money to spread around the other enterprises in our small town, where my peers were starting their working careers.

      Most of them didn’t do so well making change. In fact, I distinctly remember having to explain to the young lady who later became runner-up for valedictorian in my class how and where she’d done her math wrong and under-charged me for the sandwiches I’d ordered from the deli she worked in.

      Of course, looking back at it, that might have been down to my obtuseness, and she might possibly have been trying to do me a favor and/or flirting. This is something I just realized as a possibility, and it doesn’t speak all that well to my people skills, then or now…

      In any event, the change-making skills of the up-and-coming generations are not things I think will tell us much. It was ever thus, and likely, ever will be. They complained about my age cohort, and they’ve been railing against the same age bracket’s incompetence and lack of life skills for as long as I can remember.

      In short, I don’t think the change-making skills are that big a deal, or even a deal at all. Our peers (of whatever generation) were probably just as ‘effed-up as the worst examples you can find around us today.

    24. Mike K Says:

      In short, I don’t think the change-making skills are that big a deal, or even a deal at all. Our peers (of whatever generation) were probably just as ‘effed-up as the worst examples you can find around us today.

      This is an old cliche about the “young of today,” but try a few comparisons. I kept my English Grammar book for many years although it seems to have finally disappeared. Spelling bees and diagramming sentences were exercises well remembered. Take a look at essays by college students today. My youngest daughter graduated from U of Arizona in 2010. I gave up trying to help her writing. She is my 5th child. The interest in reading declined as I watched.

      I’m hoping these kids take up reading and self education as my younger son did after finishing school. He is 20 years older than she is.

      I have no complaints about my kids’ behavior but take a look at public schools today.

    25. Kirk Says:

      Mike K, I should have made clear I was talking only about change-making skills. The stuff you point out are things I’d also bemoan, and I think they’re genuine problems.

      Part of the major issue creating these educational dysfunctions are the educational gatekeepers at the universities. The only people they’ll tolerate becoming “educators” are like-minded dullards who will comply with whatever faddish BS they’re spouting this year or next. Real teachers are not welcome, and what few make it through the mill are turned into mindless drones themselves, all passion and ability beaten out of them by the mediocrities running the hive.

      I come from a family of teachers. I spent a lot of time helping my mom before she retired, and I got a glimpse into the teacher’s world in the local district. I’m here to tell you that the grammar and general literacy of today’s primary-grade teachers is well below the standards my mom was taught in the late 1960s and early 1970s. So much so that she was notorious for her insistence on proper English, and highlighted at her retirement get-together for her constant corrections of the grammar that her fellow teachers and administrators were using. Hell, most of them couldn’t spell correctly to save their lives, and the number of emails, notes, and other communications I found around the school that reflected a really weak literacy was frightening. If your kid can’t read, take a long, hard look at the teachers in their schools, because I’ll wager most of them can’t, either.

      Standards have slipped, and slipped consistently enough that I think you could make a case for deliberate conspiratorial action, especially when you include things like basic civics, which isn’t really even taught these days.

    26. Mike K Says:

      When I was in college, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (1956-60), girls had limited choices. Education and nursing were two such. I looked up, out of curiosity , Alan Ladd Jr, a guy I knew in college. He married a girl I knew named Patty Beasley who graduated as a dental hygienist, another career for smart girls at the time. Alan has gone a long way in the world, but they were married for 23 years and had two kids.

      My first wife was an Elementary Ed major and taught for three years when I was in medical school. She and her friends were highly motivated and taught in a school in east LA where many of the kids were Hispanic and who translated for their parents. She learned quickly to never criticize the kid to the parents as the kid would show up the next day with bruises. Those parents wanted those kids to be Americans and speak good English. Now, the Ed majors are the bottom quintile of college students. Parents have also changed.

      She went back to work about 20 years ago after she got laid off in a bank merger. She had a lifetime credential and Pete Wilson was hiring more teachers, as class size was a big issue at the time. She went back to teach as a long term sub. She had not taught since 1965, 30 years. She was appalled at what she found. The teachers were dumb and cared nothing about the kids. She complimented a second grade teacher (she was teaching 3rd) who was doing a good job getting kids ready to read.

      The woman burst into tears. No one had ever complimented her on her work. My ex got a new bank job and left after 6 months. The principal tried to convince her to stay and lived near her in the San Gabriel area. She would see him in the market and he would still ask her to come back. When we were married, she was a big public school advocate. Now, she told me, she would home school them. That school was in a lower middle class suburb, West Covina. Not a ghetto school.

    27. Gringo Says:

      Mike K
      Now, the Ed majors are the bottom quintile of college students.

      Not quite. No doubt that the average aptitude level for teachers has declined from the days that female college students were channeled into nursing and teaching. Nonetheless, for teachers passing the Praxis teacher certification tests, their SAT scores compared to other college graduates are not quite what you claim. The Educational Testing Service’s report, Teacher Quality in a Changing Policy Landscape: Improvements in the Teacher Pool compares the SAT scores of those who passed the Praxis tests for teacher certification with the average SAT scores of other college graduates.

      We find from Figure 20 that for all college graduates who took the SAT-Verbal, the average score was 543. Teachers in the following specialties had an average score below the average SAT Verbal of 543: Physical Education, Special Education, and Elementary Education(517). Teachers in the following specialties scored above the average SAT Verbal of 543:Art & Music, Mathematics, Social Studies, Foreign Languages, Science, and English, in order of increasing scores.

      Reading from the bar graph, I would estimate that certified English teachers averaged 573 on the SAT-Verbal. No, not top-of-the-line, but far from bottom of the barrel, and above the average college graduate.

      We find from Figure 21 that for all college graduates who took the SAT-Math, the average score was 542. Teachers in the following specialties had an average score below the average SAT-Math of 542: Physical Education, Special Education, Elementary Education(510),Art & Music,English, Social Studies, and Foreign Languages, in order of increasing scores. We are not particularly concerned about Math SAT scores for English or Social studies teachers. For teaching specialties where math skills are important, Science (570) and Math ( 595) teachers scored above the 542 SAT-Math that college graduates averaged. (I am estimating from a bar graph) Not bottom-of-the-barrel, but instead above average.

      Offhand I don’t know how elementary teacher SAT scores go in a quiltile, but they are only 25-30 points below the average. I guess that is higher than bottom quintile, but that is a guess.
      Secondary teachers are in the middle, and above average in the SAT scores related to their specialties.

      Figures 20 and 21
      SAT Verbal Scores by Licensing Area for Those
      Passing Praxis Tests (20) and SAT Math Scores by Licensing Area for Those
      Passing Praxis Tests (21)

      Page 22, for 2002-2005.

    28. Mike K Says:

      Maybe the Gender Studies majors pulled the quintile down. I would not be surprised.

    29. Kirk Says:

      @ Gringo,

      Nice research. Now, do us a favor and validate it by comparing the scholarship with reality. What are the teachers actually demonstrating out in the real world, and what are the results of their efforts?

      Your post illustrates the problem we have: You’ve accepted what “the data” tells you, and you’ve never examined where that data came from, or validated it in any way. Yet, you argue from it, and would likely set policy from it, were you the decision-maker.

      The trouble is, neither the data nor the sourcing is trustworthy, and you’ve failed to validate any of it through testing or examination of the results. If you were to go look at the individual teachers, you’d find a lot of what I’ve personally observed that is entirely contradictory to the BS you’ve found in print somewhere. You would also have to acknowledge that the final end product of all this, the “average student”, has been steadily getting worse as time goes on.

      You’ve nicely recapitulated a lot of what’s wrong with our leadership and management cadre, in that you’ve substituted data-manipulating for actual worthwhile knowledge. The SAT scores and licensing test results are absolutely meaningless unless you’ve also produced a clear link between them and student performance–Which you haven’t, and which is manifestly not the case if you bother to actually talk to the high school graduates that these teachers are producing.

    30. Mike K Says:

      My son and DIL finally got my grandson into a charter school after having been told by his 4th grade teacher that she could not do the math problems with Common Core, either and she suggested his mother teach him math at home using “traditional methods.”

      He is now in high school, and at 14, is as tall as his 6 foot 3 father. Playing football and baseball until the school shut down.

      I wish I could still afford private schools for them but the private school his father went to is now costing as much as college.

    31. Gringo Says:

      Kirk
      The SAT scores and licensing test results are absolutely meaningless unless you’ve also produced a clear link between them and student performance–Which you haven’t,

      If you hadn’t already noticed, I was replying to Mike K’s comment:

      Now, the Ed majors are the bottom quintile of college students.

      My posting on the SAT scores was in reply to that comment. The ETS report, which I cited, clearly shows that teachers are NOT in the bottom quintile of college students. That was the only point I was making- a point which I successfully made.

      Having taught two years and also having substituted at all levels and in both Spanish and English- I have certain opinions about our Ed Schools and about primary and secondary education in the US- which I did not express in my comment.

      Yes, SAT scores do not necessarily say anything about the ability of someone to teach. Nonetheless, most would prefer for a high school math teacher someone with a Math SAT of 600 compared to someone with a Math SAT of 400. At the same time, high IQ and or command of subject matter doesn’t necessarily mean good teaching ability. My 9th grade Math teacher was a Phi Beta Kappa with a Math major from a Big Ten university. She did a poor job in classroom management, but outside of class I was able to teach myself from the book- an excellent textbook. Which also describes my performance as a math teacher- just substitute in a 1535 GRE for the Phi Beta Kappa key.

      Read more carefully, please.

    32. Mike K Says:

      I didn’t mean to start an argument. My point was that teaching, especially at the elementary level, was popular in the 1950s when women had fewer options. I have also argued that restricting women from medical school was rational, if a bit unfair, as there was a lot of concern about a doctor shortage. It was presumed that lots of women medical graduates would not practice full time but take time off for families. It has proven to be the case and women physicians are shown by staffing firms’ data to practice an average of 28 hours per week.

      Teachers’ applicant pool shrank substantially as other occupations opened up. The SAT scores dropped, the quintile being a statement that I read somewhere. I did not make it up. I think it is fine that women have more opportunities in Law and Medicine and Business. My high school girlfriend got a BS in Chemical Engineering in 1960. She has said she had some trouble getting a job at the time. Subsequently, she has done well but she did take some time off to raise her kids. She married a high school classmate of mine who attended Purdue with her.

    33. Sgt. Mom Says:

      I was coming up to adulthood, and considering a career in the late 1960s. (HS grad in 1972.) Honestly, the tenor of the times had it — unless you were one of those driven and supremely-talented girl-geniuses in a particular field (and if you were, the sky was the limit, only most of us were NOT driven and supremely-talented girl geniuses), there were only a few choices of profession available, outside of marriage: School-teacher. Nurse. Secretary. Maybe, if you were physically-gorgeous and good at juggling trays at 3,000 feet, airline stewardess.
      I also liked having choices that weren’t limited to that schedule. But I do believe you are correct; the limitations meant that only the most determined and apt made any headway in a particular career field.

    34. Mike K Says:

      the limitations meant that only the most determined and apt made any headway in a particular career field.

      In medical school, judging from my female classmates, it helped to be homely as a mud fence, too. Actually, one gal was good looking and in her 30s with a 9 year old daughter. She got married again by graduation and she was such a good pal that she was invited into one of the all male fraternities we had. She became one of the top ophthalmologists in LA but died a few years ago.

      She was a terrific gal.

    35. MCS Says:

      There are clearly two aspects in trying to teach anything to a room full of adolescents. The greater would be hard to teach if it was taught at all. It’s what I think of as lion taming. Subject mastery is, by contrast, the lesser problem.

      I’ve had just enough experience to know that lion taming is not a skill I posses and very probably, one I couldn’t master. I also realize that some of my favorite teachers may not have been that effective with the class as a whole but were able to make a one-on-one connection with a few students.

      I’ve said how engineers fresh out of school are limited, why should it be any different for teachers? What you find in school systems is that the veteran teachers have exercised seniority to get positions in the best, or at least, most orderly schools so the new recruits are thrown in the deep end from the beginning. This is probably the worst imaginable way to encourage development. These schools are also likely to have the least competent administrators and veteran teachers.

      Somehow we have to reconcile teaching collectively with learning that will always be individual.

    36. Anonymous Says:

      MCS:
      There are clearly two aspects in trying to teach anything to a room full of adolescents. The greater would be hard to teach if it was taught at all. It’s what I think of as lion taming. Subject mastery is, by contrast, the lesser problem.
      Yup. That’s my experience. Both my parents were teachers’ college graduates, though only my mother taught school-for 4 years. Both made use of their graduate STEM degrees. Both had scorn for the Ed Schools, though where they fell off the track was that they tended to believe that subject knowledge made Ed School unnecessary. Unfortunately, it is not intuitively obvious how to best present a given subject matter to a given student population. There IS a need for pedagogy- which also includes some instruction in lion taming. Unfortunately, the Ed Schools mess it up by teaching the politically correct narrative of the day and the latest unproven great education theory- five years later research refutes the theory.

      What you find in school systems is that the veteran teachers have exercised seniority to get positions in the best, or at least, most orderly schools so the new recruits are thrown in the deep end from the beginning. This is probably the worst imaginable way to encourage development. These schools are also likely to have the least competent administrators and veteran teachers.

      Yup. At the same time, I had problems in lion-taming at both a “problem” school and a much better school. Though fewer problems at the better school. As in both schools, I was doing much better at the end, the conclusion is that I was lacking know-how on taking over classes at the beginning of the year. Student teachers never see that, as they come into classes 6 weeks into the school year.

      Mike K:
      Teachers’ applicant pool shrank substantially as other occupations opened up. The SAT scores dropped, the quintile being a statement that I read somewhere. I did not make it up.
      1) Teacher SAT scores dropping after other professions opened up for females- no argument there. There are 2 female family friends who graduated from high school in the 1950s and took up nursing and teaching respectively, who illustrate that. No bottom quintile there- more like top 5-10%.
      2)There is a difference between SAT scores of prospective teachers- freshmen or sophomores- and SAT scores of certified teachers. I suspect that the “lower quintile” argument- which I have heard elsewhere- comes from looking at prospective teachers. (Education Realist blog pointed me to the ETS report.)
      3) There has been an effort to make entry into teaching more stringent, thus increasing the SAT scores of certified teachers. The ETS report shows a 30 point (of 1600) increase in the SAT scores of those who pass the Praxis tests. (Fig 13-14)

    37. Gringo Says:

      That’s my comment.

    38. Mike K Says:

      There has been an effort to make entry into teaching more stringent, thus increasing the SAT scores of certified teachers. The ETS report shows a 30 point (of 1600) increase in the SAT scores of those who pass the Praxis tests. (Fig 13-14)

      I don’t know when that began. My ex-wife who went back to teaching in the late 90s told me they had to take a test called “CBEST,” which she described as 8th grade level. There was a lot of complaints that it was racist as so many black applicants failed it.

    39. MCS Says:

      The real world is governed by repeatability, reproducibility, standard deviation, variance, six-sigma. If you can’t measure it, it isn’t real.

      The educratic establishment resolutely opposes any and all attempts to measure anything whatsoever. When some sort of accountability is forced on them, they sabotage, defraud and obstruct it. Finally, when the abject failure has become undeniable, they foist some new fad on their students with the promise that this will solve all the problems. The process starts anew.

      “New” math and Common Core are just two examples separated by 50 years of the same pattern.

    40. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Gringo: “There has been an effort to make entry into teaching more stringent, thus increasing the SAT scores of certified teachers.”

      Many years ago, I heard an old teacher complain about the current crop of teachers, and their general naivety and lack of competence. In his day, young lads had gone off to fight World War II — and had come back with drastically modified views of the world. Then they finished their training and went into teaching. In contrast, the then-current crop went from high school to college and then back to high school as teachers without ever seeing anything outside of education.

      At least in those days, the future teachers going through college were getting an education, versus the indoctrination to which current college students must submit.

      Proposed alternative way to make entry into teaching more stringent — require service in the military or (say) 5 years working in private industry as a prerequisite. As an associated approach, make it relatively simple for people in the +/- 50-year old category whose jobs are being offshored to enter the teaching profession.

    41. MCS Says:

      Gavin,
      Beyond the fact that they can’t procure enough warm bodies as it is, the administrators are very explicit: Teachers will either conform or leave.

      The schools I attended in the ’60s approximated your idea. A significant number of teachers were military retired and others were WWII vets. All men, of course. As far as I know, the trajectory of that district didn’t vary from that of all the rest. The combination of them with teachers that had been there since the ’40s may have slowed the adoption of some of the most stupid ideas for a time but they all left and certainly weren’t given any sort of admin authority. That all went to the brand new “credentialed” educrats.

    42. Mike K Says:

      For about ten years, I owned 10 acres on Vashon Island, an island close to Seattle in Puget Sound. It is an idyllic place, or was. The plan was I would build a house and move there to retire. It never happened and I finally sold it. I didn’t want to retire and do nothing. I talked to an ER group in Seattle and thought about working a day or two a week in an ER. I even got an Alaska license when considering working in the ER in Ketchikan. Then I thought it might be fun to teach biology in Vashon High School. The island has a population of about 10,000 and the high school is a nice size.

      Nope, the requirements to teach high school science would mean years of Ed courses, which had nothing to do with biology. So, instead, I spent 15 years teaching medical students and sold the property.