Harrison Bergeroning

I have noted stories of high schools dropping honors and AP classes in the name of so-called ‘equity’ like this lately, with a great deal of sadness and sympathy for those kids who would have benefited most from more challenging classes. The intelligent, motivated and intellectually-gifted students are bored beyond all reason by the standard classes – I know that I certainly was, and my high school days were from 1969-1972 in a largely white blue-collar working-class to no-class suburb of Los Angeles. This was when California public schools were still pretty good, and students were ‘tracked’ by abilities as well as interest in higher learning. I’d estimate that only thirty or forty out of a graduating class of 600 or so were tracked towards the Honors/AE classes; Sunland-Tujunga was, as I said before, a blue-collar, working-class community, with a small sprinkling of middle-class. My own mother was about as pushy a tiger-mom as there was, and her collegiate ambitions for us didn’t go much beyond the state university system, never mind any of the west coast Ivies. An east-coast Ivy wasn’t even in the same universe.

When, for some reason, I wasn’t assigned to one of the AE (academically-enriched) classes for the eventually-college bound, and wound up in a regular class, I was frustrated, impatient and as noted – bored beyond belief at writing down the answers at the end of the rote chapter and turning it in to an equally bored teacher. A fair percentage of my classmates in regular classes were not all that invested in school, or wanted to be there at all – they were there because they were under the age of 18 and the law said that they had to be. Once the regular run of students had learned to read at something close to grade level, to do basic math, and picked up shop skills and maybe a little science – I’ve always believed most other students at Verdugo Hills HS would have been happier going out and getting a job, or at worst, hang out on street corners with fellow underachievers. Left to themselves, I suspect most teenagers still feel that way.

With an Honors or AE class, one didn’t have to prove to the teacher beyond all doubt that you weren’t stupid; we had lively class discussions, special projects and independent research papers, and the handful of teachers taking those classes were good teachers themselves, and generally well-liked. We were being challenged with more difficult materiel, asked to think, research, write, tackle advanced material, stretch the boundaries … and at no time was it ever suggested to anyone that such classes were somehow unfair to regular students because they weren’t inclined towards them. Or that … horrors, they just weren’t bright enough.

So now, in pursuit of equal outcomes, every student must be bored out of their respective skulls; the bright, intellectually-engaged kids must have every shred of intellectual achievement and interest crushed ruthlessly, lest the disinterested underachievers somehow feel bad about themselves. This is a horrific waste of potential; talent at anything is not evenly distributed, genius is a rare fish indeed. Squashing it in the name of so-called equity is as wasteful and brutal of human potential as those weights, masks and thought-disrupting radio earpieces enforced by the Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers in Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian short tale.

Discuss as you wish.

37 thoughts on “Harrison Bergeroning”

  1. Once had a coworker moaning about how unfair it was for people not being equal. I asked if she was volunteering for the role of Handicapper General. Blank look, but she must have looked it up, as she didn’t talk to me about people inequality after that.

  2. I bet that all those “schools” where the teachers are now promoting DIE — Diversity, Inclusion, Equity — forget all about DIE when it comes to picking the sports team. No school is saying “We need to put the short kid on the basketball team” or “That skinny kid belongs on the football squad”.

    All the current focus on holding back the academically-inclined is leading to a profound lack of US-educated people for the high tech industries. Go to many US universities and see that a high proportion of PhD students are from China and India. Good for China & India — not so good for the US. But Our Betters don’t care — they expect to be dead before the bill for degrading education comes due.

  3. I seem to remember my dad saying that, in the early days, basketball teams had a total height limit – you could have five average guys or one really tall guy along with four shorter ones. Don’t know if that was just the local area or a nationwide thing. As competence and ability were still important back then, that requirement went the way of the dodo.

  4. We have been dealing with K-12 reform since, what Sputnik? I know there’s a lot of current focus on Woke/CRT/DEI and its effect on academic achievement, but really the foundation for excellence was undermined well before all that intersectionality crap. Reading and math proficiency scores are in the toilet while spending in constant dollars has increased 280% since 1960 (https://reason.org/commentary/inflation-adjusted-k-12-education-spending-per-student-has-increased-by-280-percent-since-1960/ )

    So what gives?

    I think first and foremost, your local K-12 school is a public bureaucracy. Bureaucracies tend toward accumulation of expertise, in this case the number of degrees and post-graduate degrees held by teachers and administrators has skyrocketed, not to mention the ratio of administrators to teachers has increased as well. Bureaucracies also tend toward order and procedure and despise chaos and problems. The mark of a bureaucracy is how to decide between 2 courses of action, one course will not work but is in accordance with procedure, the other has a chance of working but is viewed with suspicion and considered out of bounds. Which is characteristic of innovation and which would be characteristic of a bureaucracy?

    That Reason article I linked to touches on many of the key points of which the most important is that there is a weak, if any correlation, between spending and academic achievement. After 60 years, heck after 20 years, of throwing money at K-12 we still had sub-par levels of achievement and large gaps across socioeconomic and racial/ethnic lines. A business, heck any project manager, would look at these subpar results and institute a course change, but K-12 keeps doubling down. Why? Because many of the factors that contribute to effective education, lie in the large family and cultural structures from which students come from. A K-12 school district cannot tell that to its community, it cannot tell them that there is only so much your local school can do

    Now apply that to standards.

    Over in Fairfax County, Virginia there is a STEM magnet school, Thomas Jefferson HS, which is one of the top public high schools in the country with very competitive admissions. Well the Fairfax school board realized that admitting on merit meant that the racial balance was skewed in favor of Asians and against blacks and Hispanics, so they reserved spots (lowered standards) for black students. Fairfax County is not addressing why black students are underperforming their peers, they are sweeping the issue under the rug by weakening the standards because high standards create disparities and therefore conflicts. The Fairfax K-12 bureaucracy lacks the legitimacy to tell the community it serves that the real way to academic achievement is providing a stable family structure with high expectations for academic achievement.

    So for the past 40 years, ever since we have realized that there are persistent gaps in academic achievement that cannot be solved by money, what we have done? Spent more money. Because that is the most logical thing to do because we cannot through our public K-12 school system tell our diverse society that some ways of teaching, of preparing your kids for achievement before they come to school, are better than others. So like any government agency, your K-12 school system will throw money at the problem because it cannot address, whether because it is taboo or because of competency, the real reasons for low academic achievement. As a bureaucracy, which detests disorder, your public school system will dampen down conflict by not only doing something that everyone in K-12 likes (spend money) but by eliminating the causes of conflict which are the achievement standards themselves.

    Take that into the present with Ibram Kendi and the CRT crowd citing any racial disparity in academic achievement as proof of racism. You think anyone is going to start paraphrasing from Moynihan’s “Defining Deviancy Down” ?

    You solve academic problems through standards, you manage an academic situation by eliminating those standards.

  5. One other thought came to me about bureaucracy that is relevant to K12 and standards

    Some of the newer work in the field, from Marine and others, emphasize that bureaucracies look at their area of influence not as a single bloc of citizens but rather as a group of constituencies This aids them in solving problems, especially in social service, by breaking down the problem and then reconstitute the sub parts with the information gained to create a solution – an approach that has all sorts of fallacies akin to that in science

    The problem with K12 is that you now need a one size fits all solution, something that can be applied to all without alienating anyone (anyone you cannot denounce as MAGA and call,the FBI on) Look at K12 as a modern technocratic bureaucracy and your undermining of standards and achievements make sense.

  6. OK, Mea Culpa. YHS is on the far right hand side of the Bell Curve. Back when I started school during the Cold War, they were hunting us. Short form, in Kindergarten I learned to count and the alphabet, and how to play with other kids without causing permanent damage. In first grade, they started the bare beginnings of teaching us how to read and they took us to this wonderful place called the school library. And it was filled with these things called “books”.

    I was hooked. In a few weeks, I taught myself to read at the 4th or 5th grade level. I have a copy of the book I was reading that got their attention; All About Dinosaurs by Roy Chapman Andrews who was the Director of the American Museum of Natural History back in the early 1900’s. The book was his account of his expedition in the 1920 to the Gobi Desert where he found the first dinosaur eggs.

    In those days, the reaction was to call someone in and spend a couple of days testing me. I remember my dad’s pride when he found out. And yes, other tests I took later confirmed it. In those days, abilities were celebrated not considered a reason to define you as an enemy of the people. Just in passing, my kids are the same way as a combination of genetics and environment.

    I was encouraged to be on the college prep track. While I was in high school [except for a dismal semester in Nebraska] I was pushed by both excellent teachers and being encouraged when I went to college night courses in Chinese at Denver University.

    When I was in college, admitting that it took some finagling, but I was taking graduate level history courses while a freshman.

    Today, if you have a kid on the far right side of the Bell Curve, the school is going to fight you. Just be ready for it. Public schools will try to drag them down to the lowest common denominator. It is the nature of the bureaucrat laden, politically correct school system.

    Look for any opportunity to challenge your kids. Push them, love them, and make sure that they know that you have high expectations for them that you are sure they can fulfill. Because what our society has become will not do anything to make them excel. Societies have peaks and valleys. We are looking down at the valley in our path.

    Subotai Bahadur

  7. “In our town/In our town/We work as a team/You can’t have a nightmare/If you never dream.” — “In Our Town”, from the MLP:FIM season five opener

  8. Gavin…”I bet that all those “schools” where the teachers are now promoting DIE — Diversity, Inclusion, Equity — forget all about DIE when it comes to picking the sports team.”

    Sports are basically part of the Entertainment industry, and it often seems as if entertainment is considered the most important industry in the country.

  9. Fairfax County is not addressing why black students are underperforming their peers, they are sweeping the issue under the rug by weakening the standards because high standards create disparities and therefore conflicts,

    The Left once screamed about ‘root causes.’ Until it found it what they were.

  10. I spent my early education years incarcerated in a very expensive and academically rigorous “private academy for young gentlemen.” I was paroled in 9th grade primarily because of my “poor attitude toward the school’s goals” led them to not invite me back for more and wound up in public high school where one could Work The Bureaucracy to get the classes one wanted.

    My salvation was a highly technical and physically demanding extracurricular activity I found which was not merely compelling, but nearly obsessive, a throughly incompetent but infinitely manipulable school bureaucracy, and living barely within driving distance of the Library of Congress where I spent Saturdays in the Reading Room. School became an inconvenient way to spend my weekdays while I pursued what I was interested in, but the cafeteria lunches were decent and cheap and there was a Phd in the math department who could be convinced to deliver AP math courses not taught anywhere in the school system and get you credit for them. Bless you, Dr. K, along with Mrs. P in English who allowed very non-standard material well beyond what the school found acceptable and always enforced performance excellence, and Mr. S in history who eagerly shared his personal library and provided suggestions when he learned about my Saturdays at LOC. Saints all. The rest? No comment.

    HS kids look at summer school as punishment, but it can be manipulated to take next year’s courses sooner and shorter; learn who the teachers who signed up for the extra bucks before SS begins, talk to them and see if they’ll agree to let you test through in one day instead of spending 6 weeks with the *supposed* dullards; the money’s the same to them, their daily course work burden gets reduced, and showing up with coffee and a dozen doughnuts helps, as does an admission that you want their expertise to help you advance. And you might be able to escape HS purgatory a semester sooner. (Those supposed dullards? Very, very few of them were dummies, the majority just didn’t fit in, or recognized time wasting bullshit when they saw it and just didn’t want to play.)

    School, as currently constructed, is Hell on Earth for most kids, but if one has enough IQ to live above the Frustration Threshold and willing to improvise it *was* possible to get what you wanted. In today’s school environment there’s no chance whatsoever of that happening. I know that because of my son’s experience. Back when School Administration was two or three middle age women in the office and a harried principal, a smile, well feigned interest and good grades could buy a whole lot of favors and flexibility; now, in every school there are 30 brain-dead admin types whose life depends on obfuscation, a deep, fetid and inescapable swamp of “Policy, Process, and Procedure” with which they will blugeon you into submission.

    That parents, even barely capable ones, subject their kids to the Middle and High School Bullshit Factories instead of home schooling tells me they may not hate their kids, but they don’t like them much either. If they did care, they’d form “parent co-ops” and dive head first into home schooling.

    That teen suicide is up, way up, does not come as a surprise to me, and why truly concerned parents (all 6 of them) haven’t stormed school systems with pitchforks, torches and rope to burn it down and hang the perpetators has me baffled. But then I pay attention – life is not a spectator sport – and I see why: The parents grew up in the same fetid swamp their kids are in now and thinks it’s “normal.”

    Modern manufacturing has learned to efficiently produce lot sizes of one for toasters, cars, airplanes and everything else so Joe and Jane Consumer can get exactly what they want, but still assembly-line cookie-cuts what they think is education. We’re long past the point where beyond a base level of reading and math individual need and desire is easily achievable for those who seek it. For many, a base level on the basics – although today’s is woefully, pitifully, inadequate – will meet most of their needs, and employers can, or will, fill in the necessary job-specific blanks in later years. I’ll lay the blame on the people running the Educational Industrial Complex – they’re not smart enough to do it, careerists who revel in structured bureaucracy because it absolves them of individual responsibility for failure. It also denies them the pleasure of succeeding, of which they know nearly nothing because of the way “success” is defined in their world.

    I remember Dr. K’s smile and hand claps when together we pushed well beyond “regular” AP Trig and “got it” together, Mr. S’s enthusiastic and spirited after school discussions in the bleachers with four of us about the macro and micro economics behind the American Civil War, Mrs. P’s margin notes on my reports encouraging me to look at specific authors and works for clarification. Those teachers were a rarity back then, and they, and we, were lucky – they would not be allowed to exist in today’s educational environment.

    We’re overdue for a revolution; what form that revolution takes I know not. Preferably, awareness, understanding and concern rule the day and it’s at least orderly and constructive if not congenial and polite, but I wouldn’t discard Gunfire in the Streets as an impossiblity, either. Hopefully whichever way it goes, what passes for “school systems” today gets nuked beyond recovery. This country was built on freedom and liberty for individuals, individuals deserve no less, especially from those claiming to provide education for them.

  11. VHHS class of ‘81. Exactly as you described. Went on to CSUN, ‘86 BA. FWIW, I do remember AE American Lit. Read Steinbeck, East of Eden as a class. Loved it.

  12. Perhaps there’s a market here for the young folk to take extra classes – everything from science to shop – and earn some sort of certification. Certification is all the thing among the tech set – no degrees necessary, mostly. And then work on developing scholarship programs for those programs (preferably by taking money away from the public skrewls). It might be an incremental approach to breaking the Prussian model and to bringing about school choice.

    (I know, where would they find the time. But that is another paradigm we need to smash.)

  13. Franklin Branworth
    March 18, 2023 at 8:14 am

    they may not hate their kids, but they don’t like them much either. If they did care, they’d form “parent co-ops” and dive head first into home schooling.

    Unfortunately, some vast, overwhelming majority of them have been told (and believe, because they were raised in those same Prussian schools, as you note) that “You aren’t smart and educated enough. This is a profession and you must have years of rigorous education to even approach a classroom full of kids and fill their heads with the correct facts, figures, and knowledge. You must properly understand the pedagogy and ‘child psychiatry’ and how to write a curriculum, or those children will turn out to be ignorant trailer trash/ghetto punks.”

    One of the most helpful bits of homeschooling apologetics I received was this:
    What’s really necessary to communicate knowledge and skills to a child? Well, you passed that course, didn’t you? So, it’s unlikely you can do worse with your child than the public school did with you. If you can do 3rd grade math, you can teach 3rd grade math.
    And, of course, there are helps and aids everywhere, including entire curriculums you can buy, to teach every subject under the sun. A little preparation and you’re on your way.

    But it requires breaking the paradigm that somehow it takes a genius to teach our children.

  14. Today’s education-industrial complex is a shining example of Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy: those who are committed to running the bureaucratic machine call the shots as to what the organization actually does. In this case, the transmission of knowledge has become a secondary (if not lower) issue.

    Kids are capable of absorbing far more than we give them credit for today. Occasionally I stumble across another article recapping what schools in the early 1900’s were teaching up through the eighth grade: math, real history, a smattering if classical literature, etc. Far, far more than kids will get in today’s high schools, and even some colleges. A real educational revolution will occur when some folks rediscover that basic fact and rebuild that level of learning.

    I think that the key reason today’s schools suck is that the Left has weaponized our sense of fairness against us. Well, “of course” we want all kids to have opportunity; “of course” we want a level field; etc. All of this is part of a Marxist war against Western civilization (plus, a dumb polity is easier to control). But not all kids are equally up to the task of absorbing information, and as a First World society, we need to come to grips with that. Jordan Peterson put his finger on an aspect of this problem:


    The bell curve is real. Our education industrial complex is dedicated to fighting that reality. Things won’t improve until we acknowledge that.

  15. Those old Prussian-style public school, circa 1900, let’s say, did do a pretty good job of teaching basic literacy and numeracy…and once somebody has those, he has the potential of learning most things on his own.

  16. That was strange. I’m a VHHS ’72 graduate, and grew up in S-T. A couple of years ago we moved from there to the Texas hill country. It’s an even smaller world than I thought.

    I was in the college-track group at VHHS. At that time it was what you would expect, algebra, geometry, trig, beginning calculus, biology, chemistry, physics, composition and literature, history and government, foreign language, and shop.

    A few years ago our great nephew came to live with us and we sent him to VHHS. Now it’s “everyone should be prepared for college”, so all of the above are still in the curriculum except shop, which was shut down for budgetary reasons, but it’s all in-name-only because every college-prep class must be taught at a level that allows every kid in the school to pass. No more proofs in geometry, just squares and triangles. No more grammar in foreign language, just “which countries in the world speak this language?” The nephew got through high school with a 3.3 GPA and learned just about nothing.

  17. At this point, basic literacy and numeracy would be a major improvement. The school systems that have failed have achieved equality by failing all their students, regardless of race.

    I’ve gotten the, probably bad, habit of looking through the New York Post. When you read the nearly daily reports of school associated shootings, almost invariably, the high school named will have some elaborate name, usually with excellence, arts, or STEM included. Clearly all the students are above average.

  18. Class of ’72, John – and in the college-prep track? That’s a small group, and we probably knew each other – I went to grad night at Disneyland with a boy named John – might you be him? It is a small world!

  19. I sent my kids to a new private school, organized by an Episcopal priest who had been a head master at another school and who was in his 70s. The teachers were great and he had no difficult recruiting new ones. They made less money than at public schools but loved teaching enough that it didn’t matter. I wish I could send my grandkids to that school but San Juan Capistrano, like most of south Orange County, has gotten very prosperous. That school now charges a tuition approximately what most colleges charge. My daughter-in-law was talking to her doctor who told her that she took her kids out of that school because they were socially ostracized since their parents were “only” doctors. When my kids went there most parents were doctors.

  20. My only ambition in (public) HS was to get out with as little effort as possible. When people talk about what they wish they had taken, etc., I just wish I had known about the GED option. My grades weren’t that great but I probably could have tested out that way.

    There were AP courses and the like, but I was barely aware of them either.

    We looked at some private schools for our son (b. 1986) but even if he had been prepared to get some scholarships neither he nor we would have fit in. He got in the “Gifted” program at the flagship public HS but was no more motivated than I was.

  21. I went solo to grad night at Disneyland, got together with a girl I slightly knew on the bus, and had an absolutely wonderful time.

  22. GWB/Franklin,

    Your comment on home-schooling and co-ops ran parallel to some of the work I was involved with the last several months. There has been a marked increase in overall numbers even post-pandemic and teveral states that have implemented or are considering school choice programs include home schooling as appropriate use for voucher dollars,. Needless to say, we were looking at business opportunities when doing our market surveys but we found out some interesting information about obstacles to expanding homeschooling numbers beyond the current 6^ or so niche market.

    First, parents who are willing feel intimidated because they feel they cannot match the resources and expertise of the K-12 bureaucracy. This feeling of intimidation will dissipate over time as more and more parents become acquainted with kids who are homeschooled and the advantage of using pods (you called them co-cops). We feel that as public dollars flow into homeschooling through voucher programs, there will be turn-key packages and support systems that parents can tap into.

    Second, we found while parents want quality education for their children, they want a quality educationt hat will allow them to get into the best post-secondary education available, the two types of education are not the same. David had an earlier post https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/69110.html that was in part about a Harvard dean lamenting that incoming students were unable to read 19th Century American literature. A mark of good education is the ability to read and appreciate accessible literature; however, as the dean intimates it doesn’t seem to be a high priority for Harvard admissions So much of a parent’s efforts these days, even more so than 30 years ago, is to assist his child in hacking the college admissions process to get into the school of their choice. Symptoms of this include preference of class rank or standardized tests over knowledge. So does the parents asks himself, “Which helps my child get into the right school? The local K-12 or homeschooling?” While we can decry the mindset, the system pushes the process toward that equilibrium.

    Third, the college admissions process is turning against (in the view of parents) homeschooling. Numerous schools which used the excuse of COVID to suspend SAT/ACT for admissions have now eliminated the requirement altogether. I expect that when the Supreme Court formally strikes down affirmative action later this year, more colleges will follow suit because eliminating standards will be key to hiding preferential admissions; it will be a new ballgame and we’ll have to see how it works out. The problem for homeschoolers is that those standardized tests were key to comparing their education level to their school district peers and without that equalizer, homeschoolers are facing college admissions officers who are not (to put it mildly) on their cultural wavelength

    With time and increased public funding of students (not schools), I think we’ll see more dramatic growth in homeschooling numbers but it will take time and some patience. Parents are risk-averse when it comes to their children’s education, they want tried and true, not new and uncertain no matter what the greater payoff might be. Offer them basic, customizable packages and demonstrate how this will be help get their kids ahead (and not just better educated),

    Perhaps it will be a crisis that will mark the great inflection point for homseschooling. Maybe something like in Loudoun County in 2021 when parents woke up to the fact that the local K-12 was teaching CRT crap and covering up gender fluid boys raping girls in the female bathroom. Maybe it will be something like the Pride Liberation Project executing their equivalent of an Underground Railroad by spiriting (read kidnapping) gender dysphoric students who aren’t being properly affirmed at home https://www.fairfaxtimes.com/articles/fairfax_county/pride-liberation-project-offers-minors-cash-emergency-housing-with-queer-friendly-adult/article_df9470c0-459e-11ed-8385-379742e0cdcf.html.

  23. If nothing else, the Woke have been persistent about this aspect of their agenda. I noticed an article in the Washington Post back in the 90’s entitled, “The Tracking Trap.” The author claimed that honors courses didn’t help the smarter kids at all and harmed the less gifted kids by removing role models, mentors, etc., from their classes. The first claim seemed very counter-intuitive to me. “Studies” supposedly backing it up were identified in the footnotes. I decided to head to the local University library to see for myself.

    I’ve seen bad science in my own specialty, but this stuff took the cake. Gaslighting can’t even begin to describe it. One “study” cited data according to which the IQ of gifted students remained constant whether they were in honors courses or not. Of course, IQ measures a trait that is not expected to vary significantly with educational attainment. The “study” was completely irrelevant. Another presented data according to which gifted students in honors classes did not do better than gifted students in regular courses on tests of the basic mathematics taught in both. Of course, that’s hardly surprising, since they would spend less time on the basic material in honors courses where additional, more advanced material was taught as well. The rest of the “studies” were similarly ludicrous. They utterly failed to demonstrate that bright students don’t benefit from honors courses. It’s hard to believe that the Ph.D.’s who turned out this stuff were so dumb they didn’t know what they were doing.

    The basic premise of this campaign to eliminate honors courses should be familiar by now. It is that anyone who dares to excel in anything is morally suspect, if not downright evil. In this case, “equality” does not mean that every student should be given an equal chance to excel to the limit of his abilities. It means that bright students should never be allowed to rise to a level above the lowest common denominator. Equal outcomes, not equality of opportunity, are required. Otherwise, the students on the left and middle of the bell curve would be “harmed.” They would be “humiliated” by their poorer performance. Therefore, bright students are not in school for their own benefit. They are to be exploited as educational props for other people’s kids, who are more “deserving.”

    In our county house prices are substantially higher in the few school districts that still offer honors courses and some semblance of genuine equal opportunity for gifted students. This, of course, is unacceptable to the levelers. They are now campaigning to sabotage these schools with busing. Baring a rebellion, I expect they will eventually succeed. This is the kind of country we live in now.

  24. Ugh, Helian – I remember what it was like, being one of the brainy students stuck in a average class. At least it wasn’t as poisonous as it appears to be now … no one seemed to be inclined to beat me up for getting better grades, effortlessly. The average students seemed to think that I had dark powers at command, because I could … you know, see and understand thing beyond their ken. And help them with the assignments. Now it seems that the educational powers that be now believe that the bright students should function as ancillary teachers for the less-gifted.

    John … that might have been me. I went solo to Grad Night, sat on the bus next to a guy I slightly knew from grade school on because we were the only unattached couple … and had a lovely time. If that really was you – then thank you. It was a really lovely Grad Night!
    (Later edit – I wrote about Grad Night in 2005 – here.

  25. Mike
    March 18, 2023 at 7:08 pm

    Interesting bit about the standardized testing. I hadn’t thought of that consequence.
    Of course, a lot of homeschoolers are taking college courses by the time they “graduate”, too. Those go far on a transcript toward “real” college.

    One thing about a lot of homeschoolers, though – a great many of them are not as interested in college as other parents. Not saying all by any means, but there’s some set of homeschoolers that don’t see college as the only way to succeed in life. I wonder if the disillusionment with colleges the last several years will increase that number? Do I really want my kid to get stupider and less moral when they go off to college?

    And, of course, they can still take the standardized tests, and they can still use transcript services to make their homeschooled genius look as much like all the other kids as possible.

    It’s definitely an interesting time.

  26. I am a school board member in Tucson, AZ and I agree completely with what Mike said. My district has several underperforming schools that are in low-income areas. Yes, I totally understand that low-income schools can achieve. But, as we all know, a big reason why low-income people are low-income is because they lack education or skills, and they likely came from broken homes. So my question is how does a school district tell parents (of any socioeconomic status) that they need to get their lives together before their children can have any chance for success? This is a serious question. The cause of low achievement is not a lack of funding; it is the result of parents not wanting, or not being equipped, to parent. How does a school district address that?

  27. TucsonTom…”how does a school district tell parents (of any socioeconomic status) that they need to get their lives together before their children can have any chance for success?”

    Persuading a large group of people that they need to get their lives together sounds like what is called a “boil the ocean” project, ie, something that just isn’t going to happen. The practical question, I think, is what schools can do to maximize opportunity within the existing environment. One important factor, surely, is to maintain rigorous behavioral standards so that a few misbehaving students don’t make it impossible for everyone else to learn anything. Another is to focus on the essentials, which, I’d argue, are basic literacy and numeracy, and avoid the temptation to chase rabbits in other directions. Also, teach based on experience and research as to what actually works (viz, in reading) rather than what is trendy.

  28. Rather than a personal anecdote, these quotes reflect my thinking.

    If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.
    -Glenn Seaborg

    Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
    -Robert Conquest (?)

    All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.
    -John O’Sullivan

    The behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.
    -Robert Conquest (?)

    Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.
    -Jerry Pournelle

  29. David,

    My concern about pursuing behavioral and curriculum standards within the existing school system would be like pushing on a rope, alot of effort for very little result. The factors that led to these problems would still be in play and compliance by a demoralized or intransigent work force would be marginal; as with alot of other reform efforts there would be passive resistance until the reformist administrators and/or school board members went away

    I think there are parents in Thom’s district which would be amenable to a stricter behavioral and performance standard, the trick is to gather them under one place that would be functionally separate from the existing district though still under its auspices. Separation is key to high performance, as an old boss said to me about trying to upgrade low performers by placing them in higher performing teams, “Pissing in a river doesn’t give you drinkable urine, it just gives you undrinkable water”

    We all think highly of Jaime Escalante and the magic he did teaching calculus to poor Hispanic students. What it is often mentioned was that he felt he was ostracized by his co-workers and administrators leading him to leave the high school that was featured in “Stand and Deliver” https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-02-22-mn-1694-story.html#:~:text=Escalante%20also%20cited%20what%20he,for%20his%20decision%20to%20leave. Just another example of good people being pulled down by a bad environment

    We have a lot to learn from the Left about enacting change, about how to organize and institutionalize disparate elements. What we need from board members and politicians is to create the institutions and space that will allow those who wish to succeed to do so. Start there and then work your way up

  30. Sgt. Mom

    Off-topic, regarding your Grad Night piece.

    Melinda wanted to go to Prom. No one asked her, and time was getting short, so she started asking random males in calculus class, me included. No takers. She was in the academic cohort, had nevertheless been elected class president, and was asking the kids who were taking calculus. I think somebody finally asked her and she got to go, but probably not with anybody who was in that class.

    50 years ago now.

  31. I read Sgt Mom on Grad Night last night.

    I trust I am not alone in hoping that she and John W were really the ones on that bus. I love little grace notes in life like that.

  32. random @22Mar 3 p.m. You are not alone. I keep coming back to this thread to see if that question has just that resolution.

  33. Sorry. Late to this party.

    Schools can’t change nature. Before I started school, I was reading anything that I could get my hands on. The glyphs on the page just made sense.

    Decades later, I assisted a friend with Rheumatoid in her classroom. (sophisticated stuff like changing the snow flake decorations on the bulletin boards for flower cutouts..). One effort got the “normals” to pay attention to the periphery. There were some, shy or autistic, who needed an invite to join in the class activities.

    Others, a small number, fortunately, were just blind to the glyphs that others mastered. A family member had a successful auto repair business, since he was smart enough to hire a reliable “book keeper and lawyer. As I recall, he was in his 40s before he learned to read well enough to deal with memos, schedules and some instruction sheets. The ability to read and comprehend complex materials is necessary in advanced education and in some occupations but it is a skill independent of “intelligence” and “reliability”. There is little that “schools” can do correct text blindness and there are fewer opportunities for those with that deficit. If they can learn to read street signs and make change, they might have a chance, but that deficit, which appears to be inherited, can not be fixed by throwing money at the schools.

    That ignores the emotional problems, distractibility, and impulsiveness that may limit an individual’s ability to make any progress mastering the skills needed in a modern economy. Schools are not made to handle disruptive students with learning deficits. Much is made about absentee fathers but that “missing” parent has already left a genetic burden that a “normal” family environment, or a school, can’t erase.

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