Archive for the ‘Educrats’ Category

Source: LewRockwell.com

by Gary North
Tea Party Economist

President Obama has signed an executive order. He has set up a new bureaucracy. This bureaucracy plans to make inner-city education so good that whites will move back.

You remain skeptical? O, ye of little faith!

This executive order has this goal: to give black children top-flight public education, which means non-flight education. Blacks who have been able to get out of inner-city school districts have been fleeing for several decades. This is what the President is trying to stop.

There is a problem with his plan: public education. It has been declining visibly for approximately 100 years, give or take a decade. The decline has sped up over the last 50 years.

For blacks, the decline has been a disaster. The inner-city schools have been deliberately dumbed down as policy. Thomas Sowell has written on several occasions about the all-black high school in Washington, D.C.: Dunbar High School. From 1870 to 1955, it provided education as good as any white district’s program. (It was surely better than mine, 1955-59.) It taught Latin. It taught advanced courses in science. Its students went to college. Ralph Bunche was one of its graduates. It was deliberately dumbed down half a century ago as a matter of district policy.

President Obama intends to smarten up the inner-city schools. How will he do this? With a new bureaucracy.

His executive order is a litany on the failure of tax-funded education in America. It’s hard to fault him on this. The problem is this: the federal government has been laying down the law to school districts for 40 years. The schools have gotten worse. Dr. Charles Sykes’ book has it right: Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves, But Can’t Read, Write, or Add.

Candidate Ronald Reagan vowed to shut down the Department of Education. Its budget went up every year he was in office.

Obama’s executive order is nothing short of messianic. It proposes to achieve the following.

(1) The Initiative will help to restore the United States to its role as the global leader in education; strengthen the Nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages; and help ensure that African Americans receive a complete and competitive education that prepares them for college, a satisfying career, and productive citizenship. . . .

(4) In working to fulfill its mission and objectives, the Initiative shall, consistent with applicable law:

(i) identify evidence-based best practices that can provide African American students a rigorous and well-rounded education in safe and healthy environments, as well as access to support services, which will prepare them for college, a career, and civic participation;

(ii) develop a national network of individuals, organizations, and communities to share and implement best practices related to the education of African Americans, including those identified as most at risk;

(iii) help ensure that Federal programs and initiatives administered by the Department and other agencies are serving and meeting the educational needs of African Americans, including by encouraging agencies to incorporate best practices into appropriate discretionary programs where permitted by law;

(iv) work closely with the Executive Office of the President on key Administration priorities related to the education of African Americans;

(v) increase the participation of the African American community, including institutions that serve that community, in the Department’s programs and in education-related programs at other agencies;

(vi) advise the officials of the Department and other agencies on issues related to the educational attainment of African Americans;

(vii) advise the Secretary on the development, implementation, and coordination of educational programs and initiatives at the Department and other agencies that are designed to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for African Americans of all ages; and

(viii) encourage and develop partnerships with public, private, philanthropic, and nonprofit stakeholders to improve African Americans’ readiness for school, college, and career, as well as their college persistence and completion. . . .

And how will his executive order achieve all this? By providing lots of jobs in Washington!

(c) Interagency Working Group.

(1) There is established the Federal Interagency Working Group on Educational Excellence for African Americans (Working Group), which shall be convened and chaired by the Initiative’s Executive Director and that shall support the efforts of the Initiative described in subsection (b) of this section.

(2) The Working Group shall consist of senior officials from the Department, the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and such additional agencies and offices as the President may subsequently designate. Senior officials shall be designated by the heads of their respective agencies and offices.

(3) The Initiative’s Executive Director may establish subgroups of the Working Group to focus on different aspects of the educational system (such as early childhood education, K-12 education, higher education (including HBCUs and PBIs), career and technical education, adult education, or correctional education and reengagement) or educational challenges facing particular populations of African Americans (such as young men, disconnected or out-of-school youth, individuals with disabilities, children identified as gifted and talented, single-parent households, or adults already in the workforce).

(d) Administration. The Department shall provide funding and administrative support for the Initiative and the Working Group, to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations. To the extent permitted by law, other agencies and offices represented on the Working Group may detail personnel to the Initiative, to assist the Department in meeting the objectives of this order.

I can see the progress! I can see the SAT scores rising! I can see hope restored in inner cities!

And all this from a man who never spent a day in an American tax-funded school.

Only in America!

Continue Reading the executive order on www.whitehouse.gov

July 31, 2012

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com. He is also the author of a free 31-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

Copyright © 2012 Gary North

June 28, 2012
Mises Daily

Laissez-Faire Learning
by David Greenwald on June 27, 2012
As a teacher in a public high school, I am daily confronted with the lamentable realities of state-monopoly education. Student apathy, methodological stagnation, bureaucratic inefficiency, textbook-publishing cartels, obsessive preoccupation with grades, coercive relationships, and rigid, sanitized curricula are just a few of the more obvious problems, attended by the cold-shower disillusionment and gradual burnout among teachers to which they almost invariably lead.

While outcomes such as these are certainly tragic, the process that produces them is not exactly the stuff of Greek theater. There is no climactic battle, no cathartic denouement, no salvific moral lesson to be taken home when the curtain falls, and seldom are there any readily identifiable heroes or villains. It is not a single, epic calamity but a thousand trivial defeats a day, each too mundane and too quickly obscured by its successor to be considered noteworthy. Like a bad movie, public education somehow manages to be both tragic and boring. It is only its cumulative result that would have impressed Sophocles.

Oddly enough, although there is overwhelming public support for compulsory, tax-funded schooling, enthusiasm for what actually goes on in public schools is noticeably lacking. Not only are they generally acknowledged to be falling short in their efforts to produce an enlightened citizenry, but it is even conceded that they have failed in what is ostensibly their most exalted mission: the provision of equal opportunity for all via a standardized system of mass instruction in which all students receive the same basic set of knowledge and skills. Nor has this indictment originated solely from among the ranks of those opposed to egalitarianism on principle. To the contrary, it is largely the refrain of embittered progressives for whom “free” universal education has long been the desideratum of social justice, and who cannot understand how the behemoth they so vigorously midwifed into existence and then wet-nursed for a century could have so thoroughly betrayed their loftiest and most cherished ideal.

Yet ironically, it is the unassailable faith in the achievability of precisely this ideal of universal equality that immunizes public education against every reasonable argument advanced in opposition to it. Notwithstanding its manifest shortcomings, none of which has found a remedy despite decades of legislative reform, hardly anyone is prepared to see this system replaced by anything resembling a real market in education due to the deeply held conviction that that those of lesser material means either would not be able to afford market-based schooling or, in the very best case, would receive only substandard services inadequate to the task of ensuring equality of economic opportunity later in life. It is a further irony, though hardly surprising, that neither the economic knowledge nor the analytic discernment necessary for an examination of these claims has ever been or will ever be taught in a public school. No emperor willingly trains his own subjects to recognize nakedness when they see it.

Given this state of affairs, it devolves on individuals, both within and outside of the school system, to educate others about education. In what follows I will attempt to address what I see as the three primary objections raised against the idea of market-based education:

that educational services on the market would be at a premium, with prices high enough to exclude at least the lowest-income strata of society;

that even if the less affluent could afford some market-based education, it would be of a substantially inferior quality to that received by wealthier consumers of educational services; and

that the lack of a universal curriculum and standardized criteria of achievement would render the market incapable of providing the equality of opportunity that public education, however unsatisfactorily, at least aims in principle to ensure.

We will examine each of these arguments in turn. As will be shown, the first two rest on a misunderstanding of markets, while the third stems from a grossly distorted concept of education from which, if they took the time to examine it closely, probably even most progressives would recoil in horror.

Argument 1: Affordability

In order to understand why educational services on a free market would as a rule be priced well within the reach of the vast majority of income earners, we must first ask why the market produces anything at all for such persons. Since it is obvious that the wealthiest few have far more purchasing power per capita than those in the middle- and lower-income strata, why does the market not produce only for the former group and leave the latter two homeless and starving? Why is sugar, once a luxury of the rich, today a household item so widely and cheaply available that the US government feels called on to impose tariffs on imports and buy up domestic surpluses to keep the price artificially high? Why is the same kilobyte of computer memory that cost around $45 twenty years ago today priced at a fraction of a cent?

The simple answer is this: competition. When a good first appears on the market, the supply of it is strictly limited. To the extent that consumers value it highly, they will bid against each other for the minimal stock available, causing the price to rise until all but the wealthiest consumers drop out of the market. As long as there is no expansion of supply, and assuming the consumers do not change their valuations, the good will remain a luxury of the rich.

However, it is precisely this condition that provides producers with the incentive to increase production of the product. The high price yields supernormal profits that draw venture capitalists and entrepreneurs into that line of production, thereby increasing the supply, lowering the price, and most importantly, bringing exponentially greater numbers of consumers into the market. This process continues until that portion of profits that exceeds the general rate prevailing in other industries disappears, bringing the expansion to a halt. But by that time, the good has long since ceased to be a toy for the rich. To paraphrase Mises, yesterday’s luxury has become today’s necessity.

Of course, while this process works in essentially the same way for all goods, some goods — diamonds, for example — tend to remain luxury items indefinitely due to the high cost of producing them. It is, after all, the consumers who, in the aggregate, must ultimately pay for any lasting expansion of industry. If the capital expenditures necessary for the production of a good exceed the willingness or ability of the consumers to offset them, no sustained increase in the supply of that good will be possible.

So how would this dynamic work on a market for education? Assuming that educational services as such would be given high priority on the value scales of most consumers, would the cost of producing them keep them priced beyond the means of the typical wage-earner? Here we must be particularly careful not to engage in what psychologists call static thinking. We must ask ourselves, not how much it would cost for private entrepreneurs to produce curricula and instruction as these are presently constituted, but rather to what extent and in what ways schooling in its current form squanders resources, and how it might be streamlined and otherwise improved in the crucible of free competition.

One point is clear: the greater and more numerous the inefficiencies of the current system, the more radical its transformation by the market would be. And just how inefficient is the present system? Well, who runs it? On what principles does it operate? Does it allow students the freedom, for example, to take courses in what they are most interested in and eschew subjects they do not wish to study? Or does it rather saddle them with a bloated, one-size-fits-all curriculum prodigiously crammed full of skills and information they neither need nor want, thereby creating artificial demand for teachers and administrative staff, stimulating construction of needlessly large (or simply needless) facilities, boosting energy consumption and capital maintenance costs, and so forth? To get an idea of the sorts of “practical competencies” students in today’s public and state-regulated high schools are expected to (pretend to) master and retain for use in later life,[1] here is a randomly-selected excerpt from the scintillating epistle “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Mathematics,” issued by the Texas Education Agency:

§111.35. Precalculus (One-Half to One Credit).

Knowledge and skills.
The student defines functions, describes characteristics of functions, and translates among verbal, numerical, graphical, and symbolic representations of functions, including polynomial, rational, power (including radical), exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, and piecewise-defined functions. The student is expected to:
describe parent functions symbolically and graphically, including f(x) = xn, f(x) = 1n x, f(x) = loga x, f(x) = 1/x, f(x) = ex, f(x) = |x|, f(x) = ax, f(x) = sin x, f(x) = arcsin x, etc.;
determine the domain and range of functions using graphs, tables, and symbols;
describe symmetry of graphs of even and odd functions;
recognize and use connections among significant values of a function (zeros, maximum values, minimum values, etc.), points on the graph of a function, and the symbolic representation of a function; and
investigate the concepts of continuity, end behavior, asymptotes, and limits and connect these characteristics to functions represented graphically and numerically.
Got all that?

$15.00 $10.00

Of course, administrative costs and restrictions on entry and labor-market flexibility also impact cost-efficiency. How do public schools hold up in these areas? Are their operational rules and procedures clear, concise, and easy to follow? Or does it take, say, 670 pages and whole cadres of lawyers, consultants, and administrative support staff just to implement a single program? Regarding entry, how easy is it to qualify as a member of the academy? Is anyone who demonstrates a potential aptitude for meeting the educational demands of students given the opportunity to try to do so? Or is club membership restricted by legal quotas and licensure requirements necessitating lengthy and expensive formal training?

And how flexible is the labor market? Can an underperforming or incompetent employee be readily replaced? Or does even a mere suspension require a hearing before a three-member commission?[2]

We do not have space here to speculate on all the optimizing innovations creative entrepreneurs might come up with, and to do so would be presumptuous in any case. As John Hasnas has pointed out, if we could forecast the future market accurately, our very ability to do this would be the greatest possible justification for central planning.[3] Suffice it to say that today’s public and government-regulated private schools dissipate resources with a profligacy that would have made Ludwig II blush. We can hardly claim, then, that these institutions — whose costs are externalized onto the whole society — are paragons of affordability. Yet education is not a capital-intensive industry, and market competition would surely eliminate most of this waste in short order, allowing educational entrepreneurs to reduce their costs, lower their prices, and take advantage of economies of scale. As for those few who might still be unable to pay, lower prices would mean that private scholarships, grants, and student loans would be available in greater abundance than they are today, and the latter would no longer require ten years of indentured servitude to pay off.

Just as with sugar, automobiles, civil aviation, and cell phones,[4] so too in education high initial profits would draw competition, increase supply, reduce cost, and multiply innovation. There is no reason for market-driven educational services tailored specifically to the desires of those who consume them to be prohibitively expensive.[5]

Argument 2: Quality

A second argument against leaving education to the market is that to do so would result in grave disparities in quality of service. The rich, it is said, would get steak, while the poor got rump roast. Of course, there is a kernel of truth in this. The more you are prepared to offer for something, the more quality you are in a position to demand. The market is indeed a place where the principle embodied in the cliché “You get what you pay for” prevails.

But what exactly do you pay for? The answer to this question is not necessarily obvious. To illustrate, I offer a personal example.

Many years ago, I worked at a tavern-style restaurant that was part of a nationwide chain. With its eclectic menu, modest prices, and dollar-a-mug draft beers, it was a place where families could go on a budget, and weekend drinkers could go on a binge. Not exactly Alain Ducasse, but we did offer a steak (T-bone, as I recall) for around $10. What is interesting about this is that right next door was a more upscale steakhouse that also served T-bone; only this one went for something like $22. Nothing unusual about that, but here’s the catch: both restaurants were owned by the same company and both served exactly the same T-bone steak.

At first blush, this seems absurd. Why would any company compete with itself? And why, for that matter, would anyone in his right mind pay $22 for a steak he could get for less than half that just by walking across the parking lot? Situations like this have led to calls for governments to step in and “protect” consumers from their own “irrationality.” But there is nothing irrational going on here. The two restaurants were not in competition, because they served different clientele, and patrons had definite reasons for the choices they made about which restaurant to patronize. Ours wanted to cut the frills, sit at the bar, and save money; theirs were willing to pay more than double the price for the plush seats, subdued ambience, and tuxedoed waiters. The essential thing, however, is that both were eating the same steak.

The relationship between price and quality is therefore not as straightforward as we might imagine. It is certainly true that you get what you pay for, but it is equally true that you pay for what you get. To be sure, on the education market, those with the wherewithal could attend schools equipped with indoor swimming pools, tennis courts, amphitheaters, and state-of-the-art IT. But this does not mean that everyone else could not make do with less extravagance and still get the same basic service.

Of course, all this in no way suggests that quality of educational services would be identical. Such a conclusion would be absurd. What we have demonstrated is simply the fallacious reasoning behind the common assumption that where price is low, product must be unsatisfactory. What does not satisfy is not profitable. Products and services that do not meet the needs of consumers — rich and poor — will soon have, not a low price, but no price.

Argument 3: Opportunity

We now turn to a final argument for public education that goes beyond economics, though even here there is a parallel. Deeply rooted in the belief that justice means equality and equality means identical circumstances, this view holds that educational standards and curricula must be essentially uniform for everyone if all students are to be given the same opportunity to succeed in life. Here, the anticipated failure of the market lies, not in its high prices or disparate quality, but in its presumably excessive flexibility and diversity. In essence, this argument is really nothing more than a special case of the more general socialist contempt for the division of labor. But what is the “division of labor” in education? What is its meaning, and why should we fear its emergence?

We are accustomed to conceiving of education, not as an abstraction, but as a “real thing” existing in the world outside; a commodity possessed by some people whom we call “teachers” and transferred, more or less mechanically, to other people called “students.” This habit of thought is reflected in our language: it is far more common to talk about getting an education than about becoming educated. Yet the greatest thinkers in this area have repeatedly emphasized that education is, in fact, a process of becoming. This is what Maria Montessori meant when she said that if our definition of education proceeds

along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind?

Montessori urged an approach to pedagogy that would “help toward the complete unfolding of life,” and “rigorously … avoid the arrest of spontaneous movements and the imposition of arbitrary tasks.”

John Dewey expressed similar views. In his seminal work Democracy and Education, Dewey places the onus of responsibility for education squarely on the shoulders of the individual student:

One is mentally an individual only as he has his own purpose and problem, and does his own thinking. The phrase “think for oneself” is a pleonasm. Unless one does it for oneself, it isn’t thinking. Only by a pupil’s own observations, reflections, framing and testing of suggestions can what he already knows be amplified and rectified. Thinking is as much an individual matter as is the digestion of food. [Moreover], there are variations of point of view, of appeal of objects, and of mode of attack, from person to person. When these variations are suppressed in the alleged interests of uniformity, and an attempt is made to have a single mold of method of study and recitation, mental confusion and artificiality inevitably result. Originality is gradually destroyed, confidence in one’s own quality of mental operation is undermined, and a docile subjection to the opinion of others is inculcated, or else ideas run wild. (p. 311–12)

For both Dewey and Montessori, education starts from the inside and moves outward.[6] Its purpose is to stimulate discovery and development of the personal resources latent within the self by allowing the student to experience the myriad possibilities for bringing them to bear creatively on the external world.

This means that becoming educated is not a matter of passively acquiring what is given, but of actively discovering what one has to give. It means that education does not create opportunity; opportunity creates education.

Regimentation and uniformity must therefore be jettisoned entirely; the individual must reign supreme within the sphere of his own development. The function of the school is to provide a stable environment rich in stimuli across a broad spectrum of disciplines, while the role of the teacher becomes primarily that of the observer who watches as closely — and intervenes as sparingly — as possible.

From this it follows that no two individuals would or could possibly educate themselves in exactly the same way. The self-directed intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual explorations of millions of people simultaneously thus result in an unfathomable diversification of interests and activities that amounts to an educational “division of labor” — one that supports and enhances the division of labor of the market economy, and is in fact its logical precursor.

It must surely be obvious that such a philosophy is in every way wholly incompatible with systems of compulsory or universalized schooling aimed at “equalizing opportunity,” and moreover, that even to use the word opportunity in connection with compulsion or regimentation is to abuse language, otherwise we might just as well reinstate slavery in the name of providing equal “employment opportunity.”

Education, if it is to be worthy of the name, demands a method opposite to that of bureaucratic management and entirely irreconcilable with it. It requires flexibility, parsimony, innovation, and above all, a means of daily subjecting the producers of educational services to the competition of their peers and the approval or disapproval of their clients.

It requires, in other words, the free market.

Conclusion

$10.00 $7.00

In Slovenia where I teach, the verb “to learn” literally translates “to teach oneself.” If the truth behind this linguistic convention were widely recognized, it would discredit the very premise on which all systems of public education are founded. But, as the great economist Frédéric Bastiat warned more than a century and a half ago, there is a pronounced tendency when confronted with important questions to consider only what is seen and ignore that which is not seen. And this just as true in education as it is in economics. We see students go to school day after day for 12 years, do as they’re told, get their diplomas, and finally go on to do something with their lives. Perhaps from our vantage point it does not look so bad. But what we do not see is what they might have become had they been allowed to be the architects of their own fate from the beginning

If you are a parent of school-age children, this is an excellent, must read essay published in Harper’s Magazine in June 1985. I graduated from college that same year with an education degree. I joined the army of mediocrity to teach compliance, unquestioned obedience, and submission to tyranny. My college professors told romanticized lies about “making a difference” and “changing the world” through education. I quickly discovered that State schools teach us how not to think. I hope you enjoy the essay and consider sharing with others.

Source: The Underground Grammarian (A site dedicated to the late Richard Mitchell)

Why Johnny Can’t Think

The Politics of Bad Schooling

by Walter Karp
(from Harper’s Magazine, June 1985)

The following books are discussed in this essay:
A Place Called School, by John I. Goodlad
The Good High School, by Sara Lawrence Lightfoot
Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School, by Theodore R. Sizer
High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America, by Ernest L. Boyer and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, by the National Commission on Excellence in Education
The Great School Debate: Which Way for American Education?, edited by Beatrice and Ronald Gross
The Challenge to American Schools, edited by John Bunzel
The Troubled Crusade: American Education 1945-1980, by Diane Ravitch
_______________________

Until very recently, remarkably little was known about what actually goes on in America’s public schools. There were no reliable answers to even the most obvious questions. How many children are taught to read in overcrowded classrooms? How prevalent is rote learning and how common are classroom discussions? Do most schools set off gongs to mark the change of “periods”? Is it a common practice to bark commands over public address systems in the manner of army camps, prisons, and banana republics? Public schooling provides the only intense experience of a public realm that most Americans will ever know. Are school buildings designed with the dignity appropriate to a great republican institution, or are most of them as crummy looking as one’s own?

The darkness enveloping America’s public schools is truly extraordinary considering that 38.9 million students attend them, that we spend nearly $134 billion a year on them, and that foundations ladle out generous sums for the study of everything about schooling–except what really occurs in the schools. John I. Goodlad’s eight-year investigation of a mere thirty-eight of America’s 80,000 public schools–the result of which, A Place Called School, was published last year–is the most comprehensive such study ever undertaken. Hailed as a “landmark in American educational research,” it was financed with great difficulty. The darkness, it seems, has its guardians.

Happily, the example of Goodlad, a former dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education, has proven contagious. A flurry of new books sheds considerable light on the practice of public education in America. In The Good High School, Sara Lawrence Lightfoot offers vivid “portraits” of six distinctive American secondary schools. In Horace’s Compromise, Theodore R. Sizer, a former dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, reports on his two-year odyssey through public high schools around the country. Even High School, a white paper issued by Ernest L. Boyer and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, is supported by a close investigation of the institutional life of a number of schools. Of the books under review, only A Nation at Risk, the report of the Reagan Administration’s National Commission on Excellence in Education, adheres to the established practice of crass special pleading in the dark.

Thanks to Goodlad et al., it is now clear what the great educational darkness has so long concealed: the depth and pervasiveness of political hypocrisy in the common schools of the country. The great ambition professed by public school managers is, of course, education for citizenship and self-government, which harks back to Jefferson’s historic call for “general education to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.” What the public schools practice with remorseless proficiency, however, is the prevention of citizenship and the stifling of self-government. When 58 percent of the thirteen-year-olds tested by the National Assessment for Educational Progress think it is against the law to start a third party in America, we are dealing not with a sad educational failure but with a remarkably subtle success.

Passive, Docile Students

Consider how effectively America’s future citizens are trained not to judge for themselves about anything. From the first grade to the twelfth, from one coast to the other, instruction in America’s classrooms is almost entirely dogmatic. Answers are “right” and answers are “wrong,” but mostly answers are short. “At all levels, [teacher-made] tests called almost exclusively for short answers and recall of information,” reports Goodlad. In more than 1,000 classrooms visited by his researchers, “only rarely” was there “evidence to suggest instruction likely to go much beyond mere possession of information to a level of understanding its implications.” Goodlad goes on to note that “the intellectual terrain is laid out by the teacher. The paths for walking through it are largely predetermined by the teacher.” The give-and-take of genuine discussion is conspicuously absent. “Not even 1%” of instructional time, he found, was devoted to discussions that “required some kind of open response involving reasoning or perhaps an opinion from students…. The extraordinary degree of student passivity stands out.”

Sizer’s research substantiates Goodlad’s. “No more important finding has emerged from the inquiries of our study than that the American high school student, as student, is all too often docile, compliant, and without initiative.” There is good reason for this. On the one hand, notes Sizer, there are too few rewards for being inquisitive.” On the other, the heavy emphasis on “the right answer … smothers the student’s efforts to become an effective intuitive thinker.”

Yet smothered minds are looked on with the utmost complacency by the educational establishment–by the Reagan Department of Education, state boards of regents, university education departments, local administrators, and even many so-called educational reformers. Teachers are neither urged to combat the tyranny of the short right answer nor trained to do so. “Most teachers simply do not know how to reach for higher levels of thinking,” says Goodlad. Indeed, they are actively discouraged from trying to do so.

The discouragement can be quite subtle. In their orientation talks to new, inexperienced teachers, for example, school administrators often indicate that they do not much care what happens in class so long as no noise can be heard in the hallway. This thinly veiled threat virtually ensures the prevalence of short-answer drills, workbook exercises, and the copying of long extracts from the blackboard. These may smother young minds, but they keep the classroom Quiet.

Discouragement even calls itself reform. Consider the current cry for greater use of standardized student tests to judge the “merit” of teachers and raise “academic standards.” If this fake reform is foisted on the schools, dogma and docility will become even more prevalent. This point is well made by Linda Darling-Hammond of the Rand Corporation in an essay in The Great School Debate. Where “important decisions are based on test scores,” she notes, “teachers are more likely to teach to the tests” and less likely to bother with “nontested activities, such as writing, speaking, problem-solving or real reading of real books.” The most influential promoter of standardized tests is the “excellence” brigade in the Department of Education; so clearly one important meaning of “educational excellence” is greater proficiency in smothering students’ efforts to think for themselves.

Probably the greatest single discouragement to better instruction is the overcrowded classroom. The Carnegie report points out that English teachers cannot teach their students how to write when they must read and criticize the papers of as many as 175 students. As Sizer observes, genuine discussion is possible only in small seminars. In crowded classrooms, teachers have difficulty imparting even the most basic intellectual skills, since they have no time to give students personal attention. The overcrowded classroom inevitably debases instruction, yet it is the rule in America’s public schools. In the first three grades of elementary school, Goodlad notes, the average class has twenty-seven students. High school classes range from twenty-five to forty students, according to the Carnegie report.

What makes these conditions appalling is that they are quite unnecessary. The public schools are top-heavy with administrators and rife with sinecures. Large numbers of teachers scarcely ever set foot in a classroom, being occupied instead as grade advisers, career counselors, “coordinators,” and supervisors. “Schools, if simply organized,” Sizer writes, “can have well-paid faculty and fewer than eighty students per teacher (16 students per class without increasing current per-pupil expenditure.” Yet no serious effort is being made to reduce class size. As Sizer notes, “Reducing teacher load is, when all the negotiating is over, a low agenda item for the unions and school boards.” Overcrowded classrooms virtually guarantee smothered minds, yet the subject is not even mentioned in A Nation at Risk, for all its well-publicized braying about a “rising tide of mediocrity.”

Do the nation’s educators really want to teach almost 40 million students how to “think critically,” in the Carnegie report’s phrase, and “how to judge for themselves,” in Jefferson’s? The answer is, if you can believe that you will believe anything. The educational establishment is not even content to produce passive minds. It seeks passive spirits as well. One effective agency for producing these is the overly populous school. The larger schools are, the more prison-like they tend to be. In such schools, guards man the stairwells and exits. ID cards and “passes” are examined at checkpoints. Bells set off spasms of anarchy and bells quell the student mob. PA systems interrupt regularly with trivial fiats and frivolous announcements. This “malevolent intruder,” in Sizer’s apt phrase, is truly ill willed, for the PA system is actually an educational tool. It teaches the huge student mass to respect the authority of disembodied voices and the rule of remote and invisible agencies. Sixty-three percent of all high school students in America attend schools with enrollments of 5,000 or more. The common excuse for these mobbed schools is economy, but in fact they cannot be shown to save taxpayers a penny. Large schools “tend to create passive and compliant students,” notes Robert B. Hawkins Jr. in an essay in The Challenge to American Schools. That is their chief reason for being.

“How can the relatively passive and docile roles of students prepare them to participate as informed, active and questioning citizens?” asks the Carnegie report, in discussing the “hidden curriculum” of passivity in the schools. The answer is, they were not meant to. Public schools introduce future citizens to the public world, but no introduction could be more disheartening. Architecturally, public school buildings range from drab to repellent. They are often disfigured by demoralizing neglect–“cracked sidewalks, a shabby lawn, and peeling paint on every window sash,” to quote the Carnegie report. Many big-city elementary schools have numbers instead of names, making them as coldly dispiriting as possible.

Stamping Out Republican Sentiment

Public schools stamp out republican sentiment by habituating their students to unfairness, inequality, and special privilege. These arise inevitably from the educational establishment’s longstanding policy (well described by Diane Ravitch in The Troubled Crusade) of maintaining “the correlation between social class and educational achievement.” In order to preserve that factitious “correlation,” public schooling is rigged to favor middle-class students and to ensure that working-class students do poorly enough to convince them that they fully merit the lowly station that will one day be theirs. “Our goal is to get these kids to be like their parents,” one teacher, more candid than most, remarked to a Carnegie researcher.

For more than three decades, elementary schools across the country practiced a “progressive,” non-phonetic method of teaching reading that had nothing much to recommend it save its inherent social bias. According to Ravitch, this method favored “children who were already motivated and prepared to begin reading” before entering school, while making learning to read more difficult for precisely those children whose parents were ill read or ignorant. The advantages enjoyed by the well-bred were thus artificially multiplied tenfold, and 23 million adult Americans are today “functional illiterates.” America’s educators, notes Ravitch, have “never actually accepted full responsibility for making all children literate.”

That describes a malicious intent a trifle too mildly. Reading is the key to everything else in school. Children who struggle with it in the first grade will be “grouped” with the slow readers in the second grade and will fall hopelessly behind in all subjects by the sixth. The schools hasten this process of failing behind, report Goodlad and others, by giving the best students the best teachers and struggling students the worst ones. “It is ironic,” observes the Carnegie report, “that those who need the most help get the least.” Such students are commonly diagnosed as “culturally deprived” and so are blamed for the failures inflicted on them. Thus, they are taught to despise themselves even as they are inured to their inferior station.

The whole system of unfairness, inequality, and privilege comes to fruition in high school. There, some 15.7 million youngsters are formally divided into the favored few and the ill-favored many by the practice of “tracking.” About 35 percent of America’s public secondary-school students are enrolled in academic programs (often subdivided into “gifted” and “non-gifted” tracks); the rest are relegated to some variety of non-academic schooling. Thus the tracking system, as intended, reproduces the divisions of the class system. “The honors programs,” notes Sizer, “serve the wealthier youngsters, and the general tracks (whatever their titles) serve the working class. Vocational programs are often a cruel social dumping ground.” The bottom-dogs are trained for jobs as auto mechanics, cosmeticians, and institutional cooks, but they rarely get the jobs they are trained for. Pumping gasoline, according to the Carnegie report, is as close as an auto mechanics major is likely to get to repairing a car. “Vocational education in the schools is virtually irrelevant to job fate,” asserts Goodlad. It is merely the final hoax that the school bureaucracy plays on the neediest, one that the federal government has been promoting for seventy years.

The tracking system makes privilege and inequality blatantly visible to everyone. It creates under one roof “two worlds of schooling,” to quote Goodlad. Students in academic programs read Shakespeare’s plays. The commonality, notes the Carnegie report. are allowed virtually no contact with serious literature. In their English classes they practice filling out job applications. “Gifted” students alone are encouraged to think for themselves. The rest are subjected to sanctimonious wind, chiefly about “work habits” and “career opportunities.”

“If you are the child of low-income parents,” reports Sizer, “the chances are good that you will receive limited and often careless attention from adults in your high school. If you are the child of upper-middle-income parents, the chances are good that you will receive substantial and careful attention.” In Brookline High School in Massachusetts, one of Lightfoot’s “good” schools, a few fortunate students enjoy special treatment in their Advanced Placement classes. Meanwhile, students tracked into “career education” learn about “institutional cooking and clean-up” in a four-term Food Service course that requires them to mop up after their betters in the school cafeteria.

This wretched arrangement expresses the true spirit of public education in America and discloses the real aim of its hidden curriculum. A favored few, pampered and smiled upon, are taught to cherish privilege and despise the disfavored. The favorless many, who have majored in failure for years, are taught to think ill of themselves. Youthful spirits are broken to the world and every impulse of citizenship is effectively stifled. John Goodlad’s judgment is severe but just: “There is in the gap between our highly idealistic goals for schooling in our society and the differentiated opportunities condoned and supported in schools a monstrous hypocrisy.”

Phony Reforms

The public schools of America have not been corrupted for trivial reasons. Much would be different in a republic composed of citizens who could judge for themselves what secured or endangered their freedom. Every wielder of illicit or undemocratic power, every possessor of undue influence, every beneficiary of corrupt special privilege would find his position and tenure at hazard. Republican education is a menace to powerful, privileged, and influential people, and they in turn are a menace to republican education. That is why the generation that founded the public schools took care to place them under the suffrage of local communities, and that is why the corrupters of public education have virtually destroyed that suffrage. In 1932 there were 127,531 school districts in America. Today there are approximately 15,840 and they are virtually impotent, their proper role having been usurped by state and federal authorities. Curriculum and text. books, methods of instruction, the procedures of the classroom, the organization of the school day, the cant, the pettifogging, and the corruption are almost uniform from coast to coast. To put down the menace of republican education its shield of local self-government had to be smashed, and smashed it was.

The public schools we have today are what the powerful and the considerable have made of them. They will not be redeemed by trifling reforms. Merit pay, a longer school year, more homework, special schools for “the gifted,” and more standardized tests will not even begin to turn our public schools into nurseries of “informed, active and questioning citizens.” They are not meant to. When the authors of A Nation at Risk call upon the schools to create an “educated work force,” they are merely sanctioning the prevailing corruption, which consists precisely in the reduction of citizens to credulous workers. The education of a free people will not come from federal bureaucrats crying up “excellence” for “economic growth,” any more than it came from their predecessors who cried up schooling as a means to “get a better job.”

Only ordinary citizens can rescue the schools from their stifling corruption, for nobody else wants ordinary children to become questioning citizens at all. If we wait for the mighty to teach America’s youth what secures or endangers their freedom, we will wait until the crack of doom.

 


 

 

Copyright © 2000 by Mark Alexander. All Rights Reserved. SOURCETEXT, SHARETEXT,
SOURCETEXT.COM
, SHARETEXT.COM, THE SHAKESPEARE AUTHORSHIP SOURCEBOOK,
THE SHAKESPEARE LAW LIBRARY
, THE HU PAGE, THE SCHOOL OF PYTHAGORAS
and others are trademarked 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 by
Mark Alexander, P. O. Box 620008, Woodside, CA 94062-0008.

SourceText.Com and ShareText.Com are divisions of
Breeze Productions, P.O. Box 620008, Woodside, CA 94062-0008.

I saw this article over at LewRockwell.com a short time back. I got sidetracked and didn’t post it. I found it again when I followed Strangers and Aliens today. Great post!

Strangers and Aliens


 

 

 

 

 

 

by Anthony Wile
The Daily Bell

Introduction: Brett Veinotte has worked in private education for the last 10 years, in a variety of activities. As host of the School Sucks Podcast, every week Brett shares his discoveries about American schooling with thousands of listeners. He is also now the vice president of a tutoring and educational consulting company in New Hampshire. Brett worked as an Outdoor Education Leader at a boarding school lin Vermont in 2000, then taught at the Great Expectations school in Manchester, Vermont from 2004 to 2006, where he designed new curricula for all classes he taught, including American History, World History, Media Ethics, Film History and a variety of mathematics courses. While teaching at Great Expectations, he completed masters level coursework in educational leadership, and the secondary education certification program at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. After…

View original post 4,348 more words

Another sign of expanding the Nanny State/Big Bother

Whether you agree or disagree with the use of F-Bombs in social media, where does one draw the line of government intrusion into our personal, private lives? Here’s the story from Indiana.

GARRETT, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Police were called to Garrett High School Friday after students there threatened to protest. This all comes after a senior was expelled for what he tweeted on his personal Twitter account.

“One of my tweets was, BEEP is one of those BEEP words you can BEEP put anywhere in a BEEP sentence and it still BEEP make sense,” said Austin Carroll, student.

Austin was expelled from Garrett High School after tweeting the F-word under his account. The school claims it was done from a school computer. Austin says he did it from home.

“If my account is on my own personal account, I don’t think the school or anybody should be looking at it. Because it’s my own personal stuff and it’s none of their business,” said Carroll.

“I totally didn’t agree with what Austin said but I didn’t agree with an expulsion either. I mean if they suspended him for 3 days or something, I would be fine with that but to kick him out of school, his senior year, 3 months to go, wrong,” said Pam Smith, Austin’s mother.

The principal at Garrett High School claims their system tracks all the tweets on Twitter when a student logs in, meaning even if he did tweet it from home their system could have recognized it when he logged in again at school.

“I didn’t post the thing at school but their computer is saying that I did post it, and I shouldn’t be getting in trouble for stuff I did on my own time, on my own computer,” said Carroll.

Austin is going to an alternative school and will be able to graduate. But he says there is so much more he wishes he could be a part of.

“I just want to be able to go back to regular school, go to prom and go to everything that a regular senior would get to do in their senior year,” said Carroll.

Indiana’s NewCenter reached out to the school’s administration. The principal refused to comment on camera at the request of the school’s attorney.

With each word transmitted over my home computer, I’m tempting fate. As a teacher employed by a government school system, this and other Nanny State censorship activities reinforces my decision to remain anonymous. A retired teacher with a national audience gave me this advice concerning public criticism of government education by an employee: “They will destroy you and your family.”

Shining the torch of truth on Educrat’s unstated, yet obvious, intentions heaps retribution and vengeance on the one holding the light. No restraint will be used to silence the critic. The monopoly must be protected! “Truth” will march on – only if they say so. What a white-washed coffin full of decaying hypocrisy!

Don’t we all just want to be left alone?! If you have any desire for freedom and learning for your children, please consider unschooling or homeschooling as an alternative to compulsory government gulags.

 

“When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.”
— Dresden James

The continued existence of the failed socialist experiment of Government schools proves the above quote.

In the circle of schooled ignorance spiraling down the toilet bowl, I’ve run across several reasons why tax-payer funded educrats hate me and other self-educated, DIY educators.  Here are a few of my “lunatic” ranting that prevent me from rising in rank at the Government school factory (not that it’s my intention to rise to educrat status):

A. The self-educated students threaten the government’s monopoly on education and control of the collective. Follow the money!

B. I don’t serve the good of the group/society.  Self-educated people tend to be very self-reliant.  They aren’t dependent on government handouts. I ask too many questions. This adds sand to the assembly line of ignorance.

C. Non-mass minded individuals are not easily manipulated. It takes too much energy and too many lies to convince liberty lovers to worship stupid State institutions.

D. DIY-educators reject blind obedience to statist views enforced by legally licensed force and embrace moral integrity and self-ownership. We take education into their own hands. 

E. De-schooled students learn by exercising muscles like self-reliance, play, following their own interests, curiosity, passions, and thinking freely. The nature of Government schooling atrophies these vital muscles of learning.

F. Individuality is recognized by DIY educators.  Interest-Led learning is encouraged not crushed by State run curriculum and standardized testing. Added bonus: No BELLS!

G. Un-schooled/home schooled students experience freedom from violence against individual rights. They surpass schooled students academically. If you’re a stat-head, check out our report card here. 15 year-old public schooled students scored below the average for advanced nations on math and science literacy. At least we’re beating some nations. Mexico anyone?

H. DIY’ers have not forgotten the equation which should be taught in schools but is left out of the curriculum: Government = Force… and the threat of violence. As free individuals, we condemn the desire for power over other individuals.

I. Education Vigilantes recognize and embrace an individuals right to privacy. Big Sis cameras watch our every move in government schools – Except in front of the urinals…at least that’s what “they” tell us!

J. We recognize that no one, from the Department of Education, board of education, principal’s office, or even the most caring teacher, knows more about how YOU learn than YOU.  State-licensed “expert” teachers tell students what, how, when, why, and where to learn. Surely they know. They are the “experts” with the education degree(s).

K. Self-educators reject the State’s lip service to freedom and it’s crusade against ignorance. We recognize a Ponzi scheme when we see one. Institutional forced schooling is centralized control of the herd where the few control the many to create a cooperative, collective paradise. Government schooling is a social duty (a collectivist brain washing term) of all people for the sake of all people.

L. State-run schools promote the myth that the individual detracts from societal happiness. How can we have peace on earth and good will toward men with individualists in the mix? Individuals should melt into one societal glob. Education Vigilantes expose this myth at the expense of the Leviathan. Ouch! Self-education can’t be controlled by the State.

M. The number one reason statist educrats hate me is: I refuse to be collectivized…being right infuriates them!

Feel free to add more reasons in the comment section: Especially any statist trolls lurking!