The Birth of Educational Wokeism – A Personal Story

I’m almost certain that I witnessed the seeds of teacher-training wokism yea these four decades ago when I was wrapping up the class hours necessary for a degree in English, an age before it became screamingly obvious that a BA in English didn’t guarantee that the recipient of it was conversant with proper grammar, spelling, the literary output of the greats from Chaucer to Wilde, or blessed with the ability (even if only acquired through imitation) to write in a clear and pleasing style.
With my usual efficiency and persistence, I had managed to complete every single required class for that golden degree by three and a half years into the enterprise, leaving me with just a requirement for so many class credits subject unspecified for my final semester toiling in the groves of academy as they presented at Cal State University Northridge. (A state uni with practically no notable characteristics or reputation then, or now. It was your standard state university, providing in a workmanlike fashion, higher education to a mixed bag of students – freshly minted high-school alums, foreign students, working adults and returning senior citizens.)

So, I looked at the catalog offerings for the spring of 1976 and decided that I would indulge myself intellectually and just sign up for any elective that looked interesting in the catalog. This put me in a class in Roman Art & Architecture, and another in Japanese Art &Architecture, both of which proved to be totally fascinating, challenging, and eventually useful – the Japanese one, especially, as it turned out to be a graduate-level one aimed at art majors, and did I have to seriously hit the books in order to pass! The Roman A&A final included a final exam involving drawing an accurate map of classical Rome from memory, naming the seven hills, including the lines of major avenues and aqueducts, and marking the location of about twenty major landmarks. This turned out to be useful when I passed through Rome as a tourist in 1985 …

It was the third ‘what the heck that sounds interesting’ elective which was the class that I found memorable and for not a good reason. I began to hate it, root and branch, topic and professor … a smug and smarmy male who reminds me in memory of the irritating Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf. The subject of the class was “Children’s Literature” and upon reading it in the catalog, I thought – hey, interesting subject, a study of classic kid-lit from the early days, a survey of the bigs in kid-lit; a little Frances Hodgson Burnett, some of this and that … what made writing and reading for the underage set appealing over the decades …
I had been raised on classic kid-lit. Mom was rigorous in that respect. I had all of them, either read to us, or on the shelves to read for ourselves. Everything: Child’s Garden of Verses, Little House on the Prairie and all in the series, Little Women and the sequels, Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, the Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy, the Jungle Books, Winnie the Pooh and dozens more. I thought I would be in a class exploring what made those books and others such enchanting and enduring reads. What made them so special that they were still being read by and to children for decades or even centuries after having been written … and in that I was crushingly disappointed. More than that – outraged, although never sufficiently to rend the lector from limb to limb and encourage my fellow students to piss on the bloody remains. I did want that BA degree, you see. I already had plans, post-graduation.

As it turned out and which I should have noted before enrolling in it, the class was one of those required/elective for those aiming for a teaching credential in the state of California. And it was dire … I figured that out within the first couple of lectures. First, when the lector/professor figuratively urinated all over Child’s Garden of Verses, condemning it for being stupid bad poetry with an ump-de-ump rhyme. Yes, the poetry in Garden is fairly simple – Shakespearean sonnets it isn’t – and yet I (and others) can still recite verse after verse from memory. Then when the lecturer took a number-two dump on Wind in the Willows, picking out one chapter – The Piper At the Gates of Dawn – for an extra specially contemptuous sneering as saccharine, sentimental and trite. For myself, I had always loved Wind in the Willows, and believed that chapter to be charming, lyrical, and beautifully descriptive.

So, the lector/professor was an obnoxious philistine; I am certain there were skid-row bums and burned-out hippies with better literary judgement. Just to put the rancid frosting on this rancid cake of a course, he … umm … exposed the class to a bit of kid-lit that he thought was just the thing for your average middle-school reader. I have mercifully forgotten the title and author, although at this date I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a book that he had written. The hero and narrator was a teen boy whose family went from Nantucket Island in time for the 1893 Oklahoma land rush, set up a homestead there, and then by some misfortune that I don’t recall, the father died, they flaked out of the homestead claim, and the boy and his mother went all the way back to Nantucket – sadder and wiser, or so the narrative had it. A highlight of the book was the boy acquiring a girlfriend who had been a captive of the Indians (tribe unspecified, or at any rate, I don’t remember) and it was implied had been sexually initiated by the experience. She gave him a hand-job, described in a conversation between the two of them. Ugh.

That was the point when I decided that it was a darned good thing that I didn’t want to be a grade schoolteacher, if this kind of materiel was what one had make a show of lauding, while spurning the great body of enduring stories and poetry. I wonder how many other rational people made the same decision – and that’s why our schools are deeply mired in predatory wokeism. Comment as you wish. And no, I never wanted to teach school anyway, but if I had, I am certain this one class would have kicked any such desire out of me. I’ll just write good stories for kids, and read the good stuff to Wee Jamie.

32 thoughts on “The Birth of Educational Wokeism – A Personal Story”

  1. Paul Gigot, WSJ editor, is an alumnus of Cal State N.

    My daughter who has a UCLA BS and MS, is now thinking of doing an Occupational Therapy degree. She was talking about CS down in Long Beach but given the I-5 traffic, she would do better to go to Northridge, She lives near Burbank.

  2. I had a better experience with English Literature. First, I had decided I wanted to go to medical school. I had been working as an engineer and then joined the AF Reserve since I was 21. I had just gotten back from basic training at Lackland AFB and went to the student aid office to apply for one of the new National Defense Student Loans. That was January 1960 and it was a new thing, The clerk in the student aid office informed me that pre-med was not eligible for a loan as it was not considered a worthwhile major. Obviously, this was long before “lesbian dance therapy” appeared as a major. I left the office, walked around the block, and returned to apply as an English Literature major. I took my pre-med classes as electives and enjoyed my English classes.

    We read a number of plays, in which we had to memorize some lines for quizzes, Chaucer, Shakespeare and some Restoration drama and poetry. It was fun. Our professor confided to us that he had booked a solitary voyage on a tramp steamer to get through Spencer’s “Fairie Queen.” He took nothing else to read on the trip.

    In the end, I was offered a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship but went to medical school instead,

  3. In 1971 I entered the overgrown normal school state u a few miles away. I had no real clue about what to take, and given the schoolteachers on my mom’s side, I thought about getting a teaching certificate along with whatever major I settled on.

    It wasn’t really a good idea, given that I hadn’t liked school or done very well outside my interests, anyway. As it happened, the Fundamentals course was taught by a small, soft-spoken little doof who had anecdotes and opinions (PC needlless to say), but no wisdom.

    As bad as that was (I dropped out after three weeks) the one afternoon as a teacher’s assistant in a middle school sealed the deal. No way. (Not that it was a hard decision!)

    The point being I avoided the “ed-school experience” in full until I started working on a library master’s degree, and had an elective slot. Children’s Lit it was.

    And it wasn’t that bad. The professor didn’t sugarcoat the traditional stories and tales, and insisted that the Grimm Bros for instance are realists–good people don’t always win, bad people don’t always get punished, there is unfairness and cruelty in the world.

    All the YA stuff were ‘classics’ but I can barely remember any of them despite my brilliant (best in the class) unravelings of themes, plots, and characters. The historical fiction books were the best of course; suburban teen angst not so much.

    That was about 1992 and the situation is much worse now.

  4. Make sure that you read Wind in the Willows to Wee Jamie. It has a Badger in it, you know.
    I have always had a great fondness for Walter R Brooks’ Freddy the pig series.

  5. Back in spring 1977 at UT Austin, I had to take one more English Lit class to complete the liberal arts requirements for my mechanical engineering degree. The only one that fit my schedule was class on English sonnets. It was a miserable experience. The idiot teaching the class was a really PC moron who insisted we do a Freudian analysis of each one we were assigned to look at. Freudian analysis meant we had to look for (and even make up) all sexual references. He spent the first two weeks teaching how he did this. One analysis that stuck in my mind all these years was about a line in one sonnet that spoke of the blossoms on a cherry tree. He claimed that was a reference to a woman’s vagina. He brooked NO dissent and graded down on all who did not slavishly follow his methods. One of the girls in the class told me she thought he was a frustrated dirty old man. He was always trying to flirt with the women and being a short flabby nebbish had no luck.

    About half of the guys in the class were fellow engineering students, and when he found out our majors, he singled out the engineers for special torture as he was jealous of the funding the engineering department got. I got out with a C and never looked back. He tried to get several of us to take his science fiction course he was teaching in the Fall, but none of us bit on it. We all had enough of his BS.

  6. My youngest daughter started U of Arizona in the fall of 2008. The campus was full of big screen TVs showing Obama videos. Her general ed classes included “US History Since 1877.” The final exam had a study guide, which I saw. One of the items was the definition of “The Silent Majority.” It taught the students that the term referred to white people who refused to accept the Civil Rights Act of 1964. No mention of Nixon or Vietnam.

    In addition, it taught them that the Plains Indians (hunter gatherers) taught the settlers how to farm. Amazingly, with a little help from me, she recognized this nonsense for what it was and graduated as a conservative. Her major was French, as she loved France and hoped to live there. I allowed that as it does have some requirement for real study. One of my medical students was a French major.

  7. Vietnam student deferments were a catastrophic mistake, they immediately destroyed university standards through grade inflation (“Oh please, professor, help me out, if you flunk me I’ll have to go to Vietnam!”), and encouraged the lefty psychos to embed themselves into academia. Education programs in particular drew trash like Obama’s pal Bill Ayers, then accreditation rules that forced people to go through them have led us to the current situation. The fact that you can’t switch from a science or engineering degree to teaching without going through these programs is a deliberate political choice.

  8. Academia beclowned itself, with no help from anyone else.

    If you go out and talk to actual practitioners in most fields, they’ll flatly tell you that new hires, fresh from their jaunt through the credential mill, are mostly useless and require extensive re-training. Sometimes, even re-education.

    The mail is not being answered by these institutions, and because of that, they’re rendering themselves irrelevant and will be bypassed. Note how many actual “computer science” types are self-taught; pay heed to how many of the folks with computer science degrees are actually useful at their jobs. Friend of mine told me that the sole reason they hired a computer science grad was because he had good technical writing skills; his programming chops were non-existent. Said grad did not come out of some diploma mill like DeVries, either–Straight-up University of Washington diploma. As my friend put it, for the purposes of his work, it might as well have been so much toilet paper.

    It’ll catch up with these institutions, and likely sooner than later. I foresee somebody passing legislation stripping endowments to pay back student loans on useless degrees. Public sentiment will likely demand that, before long…

    The funny thing about the whole “student loan forgiveness” deal is just how forgiving these fraud victims are towards the institutions that defrauded them. Their animosity is directed at the outside world, which refuses to recognize their obvious merit in having fallen for the scam, and gained the credentials. I think it’s tied up in their ego; they cannot admit that their attainment of a meaningless degree in something useless from an essentially useless institution really counts for nothing, out in the real world.

    I think we’ve been on a false path, across society: Everyone fetishized “education” as though it were some automatic grant of virtue and effective ennoblement. The reality is, just like homeownership, it’s a neutral marker, a proxy for other things. Acquiring a good education isn’t virtue; it’s merely an indicator of cultural values originating inside the student, an indicator of how they were raised and how they operate in the world. You could “educate” your typical sociopath as much as you like, but they’re still going to be a sociopath at the end of it.

  9. My children were in high school in the 1970’s. We were in Louisiana, I am certain this stuff had already started at that time. I am sure woke, social justice education has been going on for at least three decades, I am not including the 70’s in that as I do not know how widespread it was. We were in a university town and they seem to develop those things sooner that others. I have felt for years that bad education theories start in California and move into the heartland from there. Now I know it is from both coasts and has completely saturated the heartland.

  10. My last semester fill in class (I’d already been accepted to med school) was some sort of Acting 101. It was great fun and you’d be surprised how helpful it was in my practice years. Not that I would use my abilities to deceive… but we all have roles to play so play them well.

    In my over 60 dotage I’m eligible (by dint of decades of paying taxes to the Great Badger) to attend any U of Wisconsin branch or tech school for free. I’ve done so. Tech school has bot the best and worst teachers you’ll find anywhere in academia. The new ones being great, the ones who have been there more than 20 years all seemed to be dialing it in. My one sortie into a UW branch showed the usual Woke teaching staff, but the students pretty much were no buying into it.

    T

  11. The bit that gets me is that this was already obvious in the teacher training programs as long ago as the 1970s – it was the only class that I ever took that was part of the teacher training program, so I can’t honestly say that it was pervasive … but the way that the professor/lector dumped all over classical kid lit was disturbing to me. And that book that he thought was just the bees knees for middle-schoolers was just … yuck.
    He probably went on, warping the taste of forty years worth of teacher trainees.

  12. Gramscian capture… First, the teacher’s training institutions, then the schools themselves.

    All done according to a plan, right under our noses and out in the open. This did not “just happen”, and like the “normin’ of teh gays”, it was planned with malicious intent.

    You have to wonder what the world would look like, had someone had the good sense to strangle the nascent leftists in their cradles, back in the 19th Century.

  13. I believe I was 13 the summer I read Mitchner’s “Hawaii”. If you’ve never read it, I assure you they got up to a lot more than manual stimulation. I found it riveting. That was pretty much the end of YA fare for me. I went on to consume a certain proportion of dreck until I got my bearings, so to speak. If it left any scars on my psyche I haven’t noticed, but then I wouldn’t, would I.

    Children’s poetry has always emphasized obvious rhymes, silly word games and simple meters. Children’s prose is also simplified. The whole object is to get them to read and the method is to wrap it all in bright colors with a little (or a lot) sugar to make it go down. Few children have a taste for brussels sprouts yet they sell in fair quantity.

    The big divide is puberty, during and after for some years if we think of anything besides sex, it usually isn’t for long. Considering how positively hard it is to avoid explicit content, I’m in perfect sympathy with parents that want to put off exposure as long as possible. Beyond that, considering the incompetence of the public schools combined with the entrenched agendas of the “educators”, they are the last place likely to do a decent job of answering questions. They have, moreover exhibited copious evidence that the safety of their charges is so far down their list of priorities as not to matter.

    That’s the crux of the matter, the schools simply can not be trusted. More and more parents seem to agree and choose to take charge by doing it themselves. This leaves all the single parent households in a real bind. How do they balance supporting themselves financially with not just supplementing but countering the malign influence of the schools. We have dug ourselves a hell of a hole and it’s just getting deeper.

  14. you must destroy the foundations of goodness, conventional beauty, et al, so that the word is this dark tortured hellscape, biblical analogies come to mind,

  15. after deciding (for good reason) that I wouldn’t continue on for a PhD in Astrophysics, I decided that, since my ultimate goal was to teach, I’d go for a teaching certificate. This was at Rice (go Owls, but not unto wokeness), and in Texas (1975) you only needed 18 semester hours of “education” courses for the certificate. 6 of which were teaching.

    i ended up with 12 hours by the time I was out, and got a job teaching in a suburban school district (not HISD). since i didn’t have a certificate and hadn’t passed the Texas gov’t class/test, my job paid less than minimum (8000/yr).

    I didn’t see much PC nonsense there, but, OTOH, I wasn’t a typical Rice student trying to get a teaching job. There was one entertaining class where one of the pitchers for the baseball team taught us how to throw a curve ball.

  16. My first wife had a lifetime teaching credential. She taught in east LA when I was in medical school. She quit when she was pregnant with our oldest. That was 1965. We got divorced in 1978 and she got a job in a bank. She got laid off in a bank merger about 1981. There was a big push in CA to reduce class size so Pete Wilson, the Governor, signed legislation to hire lots more teachers. All they had to do was pass a test called “CBEST.” Of course there was lots of complaints that it was racist but she took it and told me it was about 8th grade level.

    She taught as a long term sub in a public school for about 6 months before she got another bank job. She had always been a public school advocate. After the divorce I sent my three kids to private school. Anyway, she was appalled at what she found in a public school. The teachers would make fun of the kids (many lower middle class, not a ghetto), they cared nothing about results. She complimented another teacher on how well her kids were doing in reading and the woman burst into tears. No one had ever complimented her.

    My ex said if she had it to do again, she would home school the kids.

  17. I think the whole thing went south once the government took over. When it was parents getting together to sponsor a school and teacher, they paid a hell of a lot more attention to what was going on, and if they cared enough to establish a school, they probably also cared enough to make sure the kids got something out of it. Once it was “free government cheese”, it ceased to be something that people paid attention to, ‘cos it was a “right”.

    One way or another, we’re going back to those days. The so-called education system began beclowning itself back in the early 1970s, and has put the pedal to the metal ever since. It’s Thelma and Louise with JATO rockets strapped to the car…

    I can remember when the grooming BS actually got its start–Anyone else ever find it weird that they had Transactional Analysis propaganda in the elementary schools, talking about giving anyone who asked “warm fuzzies”? I’m assured by the best people that I’m the pervert for finding that objectionable, and that it was all totally innocent, but there’s a sub-text going on there with that whole line of propaganda that plays, conveniently, right into the hands of any groomer. “Oh, don’t you want to give me a warm fuzzy, little boy…? What’s wrong with you? Are you a cold prickly…?”

    I still get creeped out remembering that crap, and the teachers who were the most enthusiastic about pushing it. Always got a weird vibe from them, and I often wonder where they ended up. Not to mention, the other kids who were a lot less suspicious than I was, and more innocent.

  18. Tim Wolter: ALL HAIL THE GREAT BADGER! What a pity we have a weasel in the Governor’s office.

  19. The university education I got was very worthwhile–but only to the extent that I knew what things I was interested in (or not), enjoyed learning and reading about them, and had a pretty good set of professors in my major programs.

    My BA in history in ’76 (and one class short of a polisci double) was earned from men who were mostly veterans or the little brothers of WWII or Korea vets, and took no BS. Professor O. (“Hell on Wheels”–paraplegic from a wound in April ’45 in Germany) drove young ladies from the classroom in tears more than once; others were less abrasive but still imposed standards.

    Sure, they tended to the liberal side, especially Prof. O., but speaking as a white person who grew up at the tail end of Jim Crow, some educated liberalism was a good thing around here and I’m glad I had the opportunities.

    Of course, you see the point–these guys were the GI Bill generation, and if you ask me they were worth the investment. The postwar boom would not have been possible without the mass education of men and women who had made great sacrifices for the country. It meant intruding on elite campuses and watering down some programs (while inventing and improving others) and creating ESUs out of whistle-stop teachers colleges, which is where most of us came in.

    I did a library masters and two history grad programs over the next 20 years, and the change in life-experience and worldly knowledge among faculty is striking. Way too many straight-A students who never brushed up against real work or service, but are convinced that civilization and democracy hinge on them.

  20. I had two teachers that I know were WWII vets and presumably let the GI Bill pay for their certificate. Several others were retired military, then there were the women teachers that were married to both. A very different world then. It was the ’60’s so it’s not inconceivable that one or two of my older teachers might have been married to WWI vets

    None that I remember suffered ffrom any bashfulness in expressing what they thought should be taught. But, they confined themselves to subject matter and didn’t allow this year’s textbook dictate what was important. They already knew that we were going to memorize ALL the prepositions and be able to write them out perfectly before we went on. We were going to know both the multiplication tables and long division. We were going to know all the ways to prove that two triangles are either congruent or similar, etc.They saw the textbooks as a sort of buffet for them to use what they wanted add what they wanted and pretty much leave the rest. They’d been doing it for a long time.

    Oh, and when they sent one of those notes home to be signed, there wasn’t much disagreement between them and the parents that you were in big trouble. Everybody was on the same page. Their skills at spotting forged signatures were much better than our skills at forgery.

    Most especially nobody thought there was anything political or racist about proper English grammar, Algebra or even History as a recounting of what had happened, warts and all.

  21. There were very few male teachers in our public system until the upper grades, and a lot of them were coaches also; some veterans, sure. The assistant principal when I was in the 9th grade and getting into a lot of trouble was back from Viet-Nam with a metal plate in his head, but I barely recall any others.

    Our compulsory high school JROTC was staffed by retired or soon-to-retire army officers and NCOs. Our battalion of around 400 was under an engineer major who had been mostly in the Far East, and a variety of old sergeants. The older ones were WWII/Korea and the younger ones Korea/Vietnam era.

    The other male role models–the regular credentialed teachers and coaches–were not impressive, but the great disciplinary breakdown would come a few years after my graduation in ’71.

    Many of the lady teachers were smart and accomplished in comparison.

  22. }}} You have to wonder what the world would look like, had someone had the good sense to strangle the nascent leftists in their cradles, back in the 19th Century.

    Gonna reiterate my point here — it’s not the left, it’s not liberalism, it’s the intersection of ostModernism with liberalism that is the issue.

    If you can still find a Classical Liberal around (about half of them were offed by Covid, which tells you a lot),you would find few issues with their positions on things — you might not agree with them, but you could see merit and reasoning behind them.

    Not so for the intersection of PostModernism. PMLs are, again, as noted, a social cancer, which is aimed at destroying the nation, and western civ in general, as a main purpose.

    So, not saying some liberals didn’t need to be smothered in their cradles, just that it was the ones who came of age and worse in the late 1920s.
    ;-)

  23. }}} Most especially nobody thought there was anything political or racist about proper English grammar, Algebra or even History as a recounting of what had happened, warts and all.

    I’d not argue that some components of History could be added to the mix, no question — more focus on what happened to blacks at the end of the reconstruction, going forward. More honesty about the Indians as being both good and bad, tribally, and how we certainly took steps to try and screw them over many times. And more attention to how America has often failed to stand up for, and to, its ideals… while acking we are also one of the few nations that actually has a moral standard for its own actions to others.

    My own experience with education in the 60s was far from good. I was highly intelligent, and, as often happens, I was pretty obnoxious about it — I used my intelligence as a defensive mechanism. I also skipped a grade, completing 1st and 2nd in the same year. My mother did teach me to stand up for myself, which was one great thing, and it taught me early about bullies: I was literally an adult, watching movies, before I’d ever seen or heard of either a Wedgie or getting “Pantsed”. No one would have dared do that to me at any point, because they would be in a serious fight and know it. Bullies learned quickly not to bother me overmuch, esp. not physically.

    In my experience, teachers were rarely better. They were often dictatorial and stupid about it. I had a 6th grade teacher who was absurd about penmanship — she routinely taught it. I remember this, because it had a long term affect on the way I draq “8”s. The way I drew them was “backwards” according to her. She insisted I do it the “other direction”. Being determined to stand my ground against micromanagement, I asked if drawing “two ohs” on top of one another would be sufficient. She agreed, probably thinking I’d surrender (she already knew I did not respond to bullying). And that is how I’ve drawn 8s ever since.

    I had a great teacher in 5th grade, but, for some reason or other, there was a different teacher who taught reading (perhaps to give the teacher some break time during the day). THAT teacher continually assigned stuff I did not want to read, and, to some extent, I refused. In fact, one term (six a year, iirc?) I got an “F” in reading.

    Now, at the same time, I was reading 2001:A Space Odyssey on my own (the movie had come out). Yes, an adult book. There were times when I did ask an adult to help me understand what a passage was about, but for the most part, I read it without help and on my own. So the fact that I could read at that level, and still managed to get an “F”, I think, says a LOT about how much that class was about students learning to read.

    My own personal position is that much of “reading” has nothing to do with teaching kids to read, and a lot more to do with making reading such a painful experience, fraught with memories of supreme boredom and disinterest, that, once you get OUT of school, you never ever want to read ever ever again,

    THEN there’s my experience with math. I am really really GOOD with math. It comes to me pretty effortlessly. Always has. My own suspicion is that, if they’d fed it to me as fast as I could take it, I could have probably been doing Calculus by the time I was 12. But that’s speculation — the real fact was, I took both Algebra II and Geometry in the 10th grade, then went to summer school the following, so that I would be able to take Calculus in my 11th year (remember, I was also skipped a grade at this point — so “sophomore year” for many).

    THEY REFUSED TO LET ME TAKE THE CLASS. >:-(

    They claimed it was “independent study”, and I wasn’t “mature enough” to do it (this was belied by the fact that the summer school teacher pretty much gave the class assignments and left. He did not spend a lot of time teaching us, we all taught ourselves).

    Remember those “8”s? Yeah, same thing applied, but more mature. I went to the local public library, checked out a college text on Calculus that had the answers in the back, and taught myself

    Fuck them AND their #%#$^# shit. I went on to take it at the local JuCo in my senior year, rather than taking it in high school, so probably better off.

    But it still pisses me off 45 years later that these dicks pulled that crap.

    If you learned anything in school, it was far more the result of effort on your part than anything the teachers did.

    There are some good teachers, once in a while. I would say that I had maybe 5 or so in my 11 years of k-12, with another half dozen who were somewhat competent, but that’s a pretty sad percentage.

  24. After my father died when I was in the 4th grade, the stupid teacher decided that the best thing for her to do was bully the class into electing me ‘president’ and bully me into acting grateful.

    She chewed me out for ingratitude before the year was done. What a bitch.

  25. I’ll just lay this out there as a given: Most people involved in teaching shouldn’t be where they are. There’s a minority of people in any group that can actually teach at all well, and who are interested in actually doing it. That minority is, from my experience of life, vanishingly small.

    The rest of the “education complex” is filled with time serving hacks or petty tyrants that sought the jobs they did because they wanted to tell people what to do, and knew damn well that they wouldn’t measure up unless their opposition consisted of small children or adolescents. The number of petty power trips I experienced as a child presenting as precocious, coming up through the hellscape of modern American schooling? Innumerable. When kid’s intellect exceeds or challenges an adults, and that adult is a petty tyrant? Doesn’t go well.

    The really disturbing thing, looking back on it, is just how damaging it all was. I have to wonder how many other people are intellectually warped or outright stunted because of bad teachers in abysmal schools? Not everyone is capable of auto-didactry in all subjects; I mostly taught myself how to read and went on from there to master history and other subjects. In math, I needed good teachers past basic arithmetic, and never got them until I tried to correct my own deficiencies in later life. If I’d had the one guy I ran into teaching me in high school, the trajectory of my life would have been far different.

    I think that there’s an endemic failure spread across much of modern life, and that failure is in how we pass on culture and knowledge to the next generation. I won’t term it “education”, because that’s now a weighted term that takes in things that I think form most of the actual problem with the way we’re doing it all. Which would be the very idea of institutions themselves. The whole idea that cultural and intellectual development can somehow be performed in a Taylorist setting, as if people were some sort of product to be churned out like so many widgets coming down a factory assembly line is the root of the problem. Not to mention, the entire mindset behind it all, breaking intellectual endeavors into these rigid little stovepipes.

    Case in point of that contention? Examine a lot of modern “science” and what I’d term “sciencism”, which is the religious treatment of “SCIENCE!!!!!” as the revealed truth of the universe, brought down by lab-coated infallible prophets. How many of these narrow specialists ever step outside their stovepipe and look around at things outside their circumscribed little lives within?

    Look at a lot of the medical research, and how the experiments are structured, what the math work looks like. Many of the ones I’ve dug into, the math is bad and the premises flatly don’t make sense. Why is that? Mostly because we don’t integrate learning very well. Math is a separate subject, one that a lot of people treat as some kind of onerous burden. Reality is, if you’re conducting most science these days, if you screw up your statistics? Your work is meaningless and likely to be misinterpreted. How many damn times are they going to flip-flop between “Coffee is good for you…” and “Coffee is bad for you…”? That’s just the snowflake on top of the iceberg of bad science, too.

    I don’t think we’re doing it right. At. All. The academization, to perhaps coin a term, of everything in daily life over the last few generations? I think that is the source of much of our problems, because the sad fact is, much of academia is flawed and distorted itself. When you have people telling you that newly graduated and credentialed people in their field are essentially useless until they’ve been retrained? That’s a significant sign that we’re off the rails. Badly off the rails. Derailed trainwreck badly…

  26. The other male role models–the regular credentialed teachers and coaches–were not impressive, but the great disciplinary breakdown would come a few years after my graduation in ’71.

    Yes, the freshman football coach and English teacher in my high school had been a Marine raider in WWII. I went to Catholic schools K-12, except I skipped K. The nun smacked my hand one day early on so I stopped going. My parents never found out.

  27. I must have had an idyllic sojourn in the fields of learning. I had teachers that I always thought of a people. Most I thought did a decent job considering the clay they had to work with. I’ll always remember one elementary school teacher that was from Saint Louis and was thrilled when they won the World Series the year I had her, that wasn’t even encouraging disloyalty, we didn’t have a local big league team. A science teacher that tried to farm a dryland half section on the weekends and flew crop dusters and cloud seeders on summer break. Even one unfortunate who comes to mind whenever Ichabod Crane is mentioned, that had the thankless job of trying to inculcate me with the vocabulary of art criticism (somebody thought that was a good idea) married one of my other English teachers, the hot one.

    So, not much drama nor much academic distinction on my part unfortunately.

  28. I can barely recall most of my schoolteachers; I spent most of my time trying not to stand out–I was aware that my standardized test scores were near the top, which frustrated a lot of them because my grades didn’t match. I know this because some of them–and the “guidance counselors”–told me so . . . or maybe they told everyone that.

    Wouldn’t surprise me.

  29. An interesting novel about the Titanic: Maiden Voyage, by Cynthia Bass. One primary character is a 12-year old boy from a wealthy Boston family,. He was was named for the abolitionist Charles Sumner, who was beaten and nearly killed–on the Senate floor–by a proponent of slavery, and he desperately wants to live up to the level of courage shown by his namesake. He has a crush on 19-year-old Ivy Earhshaw, a dedicated suffragette…who believe that women should be fully equal to men, including getting no special privileges in times of stress and danger.

    When the ship hits the iceberg, each will have to reconcile their ideals with their desire for survival.

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