Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Education for [Other]

As usual (or unusual as is my wont), I take what I read and go odd-assed directions with it. That's part of what drives this post. And it's also much of the subject. So read on and follow, and maybe you'll see where I'm going.

I was visiting Gayle, who had this post on another movement by the Christian right decrying the decline of government schools (valid points) and advocating an exodus (wow, the shock or lack thereof (i.e., the homeschooling movement's roots)) from them. Standard conservative talking point, more or less, with the comment section reflecting thus.

Then I went over to see Satyavati's esoteric discussion of addiction and mental issues. A lot of things I already knew, and a couple of things that were new bits of info. But what I took out of it is that people tend to see people as groups of disabilities and mental issues rather than as people with specific issues to work around.

Then, of course, with education and my glorious days building up a reservoir of hate that should have turned me satanist while languishing in the misguided and inflexible bosom of a Catholic school that was where the reject teachers from the government schools ended up, I have a good insight into what a school can do wrong in trying to educate.

Oh, and then there's that youngling of mine that's sitting on the edge of the autistic spectrum. The funny thing is, he's so much like me that it makes me question his diagnosis, despite having viewed the same criteria and having come to the same conclusion.

Wow, that's a lot of exposition just to get to the point. So here's the bullet points:
  • Christians bail because government schools suck.
  • People tend to pigeonhole people into mental issues.
  • My Catholic school years sucked.
  • And my boy is autistic, but reminds me of me (and I'm not).
So here's the point. The reason education is so damned broke in this country is for many reasons (and the numbering of the points brought to you by you local government school).

4. Control - Since the spawning of the travesty we call the Department of Education, the federal government has done more to standardize, equalize, and sanitize education in the country. And between teacher's unions (who became less a trade union (promotes excellence (good)) and more of a labor union (promotes workers (bad))) and the political composition of the educators that educate the teaching class. And the people who have lost control are the teachers on the ground, and the local school systems, as they are increasingly forced to teach a multitude of children at the same age and highly varying intelligences to just pass some test sent down by some bureaucrat who came up with a list of skills that children should "know" at a certain age; and the parents themselves lose most as they have been partially forced and strongly coerced by so much of our society to chuck their kids into the cookie cutter for 15-16 years (with preschool now). The answer is to reverse this asinine trend.

L. Conformity - A related point to the shift in control is that when you create templates based on simply how many years it's been since a kid plopped out of his mama, you ignore everything that makes an individual an individual individual. Instead, its the cookie cutter on Oxy-crack acid (Wow, what a high!!!)trying to churn out the most "equal" group of automatons ever pissed out of a hot dog factory (of the pre-standards days *bark*). Different speeds of learning are ignored (that was me), different ways (me), different foci (me, again). And while there will be a certain segment that will easily conform, and a small number that will excel regardless, there will be many that get their real education after spending years the hell away from the school system. I think my kids will probably learm more of history and science here at home from the TV (as I usually have History, Discovery, TLC, or NGC on the tube) than at school. And about thinking and politics, they're going to have years of their daddy's funny, relevant, and sometimes obscene blogs to read. And if you're worried about the words, they'd learn them in school anyway, or while listening to me while I listened to the Obama-McCain debates. So the answer is expanded choices and methods for education.

666. Morality - As differentiated from teaching religion, or prayer in schools, or any of the usual left-right screaming points, there used to be a time where there was an unwritten list of things that kids knew were wrong, and things they would generally NEVER do in school. Somewhere, we lost that, to the point where teachers, out of control of their jobs and forced to chuck the unformed mindmasses into government Jell-o molds are more focused on restraining chaos than inspiring children to learn. I think even those of you that count yourselves in the atheist camp wouldn't object to the non-God parts of the Ten commandments being applied, at least in principle if not in specific wording. While the focus on conformity is not good, there does have to be some teaching of basic civil morality; in how we relate to and respect one another, in how we preserve and defend our rights, and in how we respect and better ourselves.

*#@. Money - John Adams, in drafting the constitution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, added a section that made it the purpose of the state government to promote the
betterment of all citizens through education, from a public education to higher learning. Sometime later, someone came to the conclusion that the best way to do this is to keep pouring money into the schools. And the results, if you look at education today, is that the more that is spent per child, the crappier their education will be. I'm just wondering why we have to keep creating new history books when all you need is a current events section. Why do you need new math books at all? And if you have well-behaved students that are focused on the task at hand, do you need armed guards and a fucking metal detector? And don't get me started on the costs of the college years. Just a thought: If a school system is spending $10,000 per student (nice round number), don't you think they could get the teacher/student ratio down to somewhere around 5-1 and cut the school day, school building, transportation, administration, school nurse, school lunch, and the football team (KIDDING!!!) and get a better education than they are now? Or just as well, those people who don't have children don't have to pony up to send kids to school who are just going to languish in the system long enough to get some tats, a gun, and the grapefruits to rob those people?

So here's where I leave it, until I get an inspiration to expand on the prior pointage. As usual I need to sleep, and I don't want to have to get a 4-year-old out of bed and on the bus in under 20 minutes (like I did Tuesday morning). So talk amongst yourselves.

- Extra Credit - I'd heard Neal Boortz talk a bout a book called "The Underground History of American Education." So in preparation for this post, I did some searching, and it appears the whole book is online. I've read just a little bit so far, but the points I've made definitely get covered in here. Plus it's a free read for cheap bastards. That's me!!!


Gayle said...

WOW Patrick! You certainly took the subject and ran with it! Good on you! :)

I went through the public school system back when they still focussed on actually teaching us something, and I still didn't get a grasp on history or mathematics until I was an adult and studied on my own. Part of the problem was that my parents moved around so much but that wasn't the only reason. I can only remember two teachers in all those years who actually earned the right to call themselves teachers! That's not a very good record. I think it's much worse now. :(

Gayle said...

By the way, thanks for the link!

Gayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arthurstone said...


I know it's fun to beat up on the Feds, teacher's unions and 'bureaucrats' but the largest single indicator of success or failure in education is the involvement of the parent.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

promotes workers (bad)

These may be the three most idiotic words you've ever strung together in a sentence.

Let's use the example of a nurses' union, which is illegal in the Great and Glorious State of North Carolina.

By 'promoting workers' through lobbying for a mandatory ratio, we're actually benefiting the patients as much as we benefit the nurses. You have less burnout, less turnover, less nurses leaving to go work at Family Dollar cause they've had enough. You also have improved care, fewer mistakes, increased positive outcomes, and better patient satisfaction.

It works both ways.

Jesus, promoting the worker is bad? Should we return to feudalism?

And btw, was it really esoteric?

Patrick M said...

Arthur: That was one of my points. The problem is that our culture stopped encouraging it.

Saty: Let me expand, because my brevity was obviously lost on you.

There's a reason I referred to a trade union versus a labor union. And your nursing example only reinforces my point. When teaching is a profession, a calling, the desire is to excel. When you have a union dedicated to protecting jobs and protecting teachers with standards becoming secondary to that, you get an adversarial system, which promotes the CYA maneuver (not excellence).

Interestingly, if we were to move back to smaller and more local control of schools, the power and purpose of the union would be entirely different.

And I stand by my vocabulary, just because it's you. :)

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Workers of the world, unite...

James Manning said...

People like to start with the teachers but think about it: in a classroom of 30 students there are 3 different types of learning styles, 7 multiple intelligences (ways to demonstrate intellectual ability) as defined by Howard Gardner and at varying degrees of competency.

Now factor in the different subjects and that leaves a teacher with a possible approaches to teaching her class. So what does the government do? It creates "A" standard.

The best thing the schools can do is limit the size of the classroom. This would allow teachers the opportunity to provide some personal attention to students.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Patrick, here's some food for thought on the subject of education. This was just sent to me a couple of days ago via email.

In 1883, Lester Frank Ward, the father of American central planning, laid down the fundamental principle of the public school textbook. In his manifesto, Dynamic Sociology , he described what the Darwinian elite - scientific, political educational - had to do in order to shape the minds of future generations.

He began with a crucial admission: coercion does not work, at least not conventional coercion. "No law, no physical coercion, from whichever code or from whatever source, can compel the mind to discover principles or invent machines. . . . To influence such action, other means must be employed." This is because men act in terms of their opinions, "and without changing those opinions it is wholly impossible perceptibly to change such conduct." Here is the planners' task: "Instill progressive principles, no matter how, into the mind, and progressive actions will result." (II, p. 547).

But there are deep-seated barriers to progressive principles. "The attempt to change opinions by direct efforts has frequently been made. No one will now deny that coercion applied to this end has been a signal failure." Is there some answer to this dilemma? Can the planner find a way to alter men's opinions without using coercion? Yes, he said: the planner must restrict access to competing ideas. No one has put it more bluntly than Ward. He called his approach the method of exclusion .

There is one way, however, in which force may and does secure, not a change of existing opinion, but the acceptance of approved beliefs; but this, so far from weakening the position here taken, affords a capital defense of it. The forcible suppression of the utterance or publication in any form of unwelcome opinions is equivalent to withholding from all undetermined minds the evidence upon which such views rest; and, since opinions are rigidly the products of the data previously furnished the mind, such opinions cannot exist, because no data for them have ever been received. . . . It is simply that true views may as easily be created by this method of exclusion as false ones, which latter is the point of view from which the fact is usually regarded. The more or less arbitrary exclusion of error, i.e., of false data, is to a great degree justifiable, especially where the true data supplied consist of verified experiences, and all the means of re-verifying them are left free. But the same end is practically attained by the intentional supply, on a large scale and systematically carried out, of true data without effort to exclude the false. This, however, is the essence of what is here meant by education, which may be regarded as a systematic process for the manufacture of correct opinions. As such, it is of course highly inventive in its character, and the same may be said of all modes of producing desired belief by the method of exclusion (II, pp. 547-48).

The public schools guarantee that competing data are excluded. "Assume an adequate system of education to be in force, and the question of the quantity and quality of knowledge in society is no longer an open one" (II, p. 549).

Patrick M said...

Saty: . . . .

James: You've just illustrated why "A" standard does not quite work. Although you did leave out the varying IQs involved as well.

How do you manage to teach ill-adjusted kids with intelligence approaching the godlike (me) when you have to slow things down to the pace of the average Bears fan?

(low blow, but substitute the Browns there if you want. They sucked royally this year)

Soapster: Thanks for this copy of the Obama education plan. :)

But seriously, this is why every parent has the responsibility to challenge their child to think, and expose them to every point of view. And acquire thinking skills of their own, if they lack it. How can you teach what you do not know?

Arthurstone said...

And if due to racism, poverty, etc. children have no support at home do we, to turn the overused phrase of the moment, 'throw them under the bus'?

Or do we step up and provide an opportunity?

PatrickM typed:

'Interestingly, if we were to move back to smaller and more local control of schools, the power and purpose of the union would be entirely different.'

I don't know where you live but my experience in Seattle (and I've heard no reason o think this locale is exceptional) is that schools are the one place where local control is in no short supply. One could argue that 'local control', specifically local funding based on district property values, goes a long way in insuring the ongoing inequality in educational opportunities.

Patrick M said...

Arthur: And if... children have no support at home do we... 'throw them under the bus'?

That will happen in some cases. But to save those children will require a lot more than just better schools. And our current society is not capable of delivering it.

Unless you want to go to the extreme of the state taking total control of the children, which would mean I would go down in a firefight over mine.

Now I live in a place where there's plenty of local control. The problem schools aren't around here, but where they are, you'll find less parental involvement. But hand in hand with control is discipline. If the only parents that are standing up are the ones that protect the monster they created, then the average student doesn't have a chance. and if the parent is neglectful, you get a child that is equally apathetic, or worse, in the Columbine mold.

I mention Columbine because I've though of the same things those bastards did, but I had parents that would have kicked my ass for even trying to do that shit, so I didn't. Their parents were too busy with whatever they were doing to notice the stash of death these creatures were amassing. And our culture doesn't have a problem with that until someone gets shot.

Another point is that you continue to equate money with educational opportunity. While it does take money to run a school system, it does not take nearly as much to educate a child. I looked up a little on homeschooling, and the costs they incur for actual educational materials are relatively small (not counting anything state-mandated) if they choose. Especially with the combination of internet, cable, and good ol' library resources, the amount of information available to any parent is incredible.

So the education is out there for anyone to seek it, whether in government schools or without.

Arthurstone said...

PatrickM typed:

'Unless you want to go to the extreme of the state taking total control of the children, which would mean I would go down in a firefight over mine.'

My God you're melodramatic.

Actually a commitment to insure reasonable levels of funding for educational programs and additional help for those who need it (single parent households, the poor) what we're really talking about here. The financial resources of the South Bronx are in no way comparable to those of their neighbors in the Upper East Side. And it really does sort of matter. Inferior buildings. Poor teaching materials (poor teachers too often as well). Few elective opportunities. Lousy music and art programs. Etc. Etc. All these things can be repaired with a little fine tuning of the school funding mechanism.

Hardly the stuff of '...the state taking total control of the children.'

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Their parents were too busy with whatever they were doing to notice the stash of death these creatures were amassing. And our culture doesn't have a problem with that until someone gets shot.

Shall I take this and run with the irony and hypocrisy of the Right screeching about how the Left wants to control who gets guns?

Really, am I the only one who spotted that?

Patrick M said...

Arthur: I live for the melodrama. Puts the flip in my dinger.

Of course there's an in between in education funding. But when a rural school can educate a child for $2000 and an urban can't for 20,000, there's a real problem. And it ain't the money.

Saty: No conflict in my world.

The parents are responsible to teach their children the proper use of guns. I personally am looking forward to the day I get to hand off the .22 to my children.