Mail 686 Saturday, August 06, 2011
"…condemning the below average children to a world class university prep education condemns them to years of pure hell."
You didn’t say – but I’m certain you recognize – that putting those who could benefit from a world class university prep education in the classrooms with below average children condemns THEM to years of pure hell as well.
"condemning the below average children to a world class university prep education condemns them to years of pure hell."
You couldn’t be more right on that. I have one child in that category. She’s sweet and energetic and a key employee at a nursery school; she’s amazingly good with babies, the parents adore her, and her school years were indeed pure hell whenever I couldn’t find an "alternative" school for her and had to send her to a public school.
But you and John Derbyshire (yes, I clicked not totally right. My other child is very bright and her public school experiences were also hellish – beginning with the lily white neighborhood elementary school that claimed to be totally aimed at high achievers. Hah! They wasted hours of her life making her mess around with construction paper and shoeboxes making dioramas to illustrate scenes in a book instead of just letting her write a book report. Of course the latter option would have required a literate adult to read and evaluate the report, and I’m not sure they had one of those among the (highly lauded) staff. And I won’t even start on the "math" classes.
A modest proposal: take everyone who has an Education decree out back and shoot them.
But as you quite rightly said, that is another column.
Aristotle tells us that injustice results from treating equal persons unequally, or unequal persons equally; which is to say that our public school system is designed to be unjust. Bill Gates’ notion (never formally abandoned, but I haven’t heard him say it for a while) that every American child is entitled to a world class university prep education condemns all those below average to sitting through years in which much of what they are taught will be of no use to their future; a great deal of it will be incomprehensible; and most will be painfully boring. The other consequence of this will be that the bright kids will not get a university prep education either, and particularly so if there is any attempt to enforce “No Child Left Behind.” No Child Left Behind generally translates into no child gets ahead, and certainly that no child gets very far ahead (and thus raises the class ‘average’ so that someone falls behind). The brightest 10%, who really could profit from a world class university prep education, will not learn anything like what they could be taught. The next 10%, who are properly the objects of college level education, won’t get what they need either. This ripple effect continues down the spectrum from very bright (IQ 140 up) to bright (120 — 140) to bright normal, to “normal” (roughly IQ 90 to 110); all will be short changed. And actually it’s worse, depending on how seriously “no child left behind” is taken.
(Incidentally, the state of IQ testing is that we can be fairly confident that the error of measurement is such that we are quite unlikely to undervalue people by more than 20 points, and generally unlikely to undervalue them by 10. But treating all kids as intellectually equal for fear of undervaluing anyone is extremely unfair to just about all of them, not just to those undervalued.)
Clearly better would be a system that takes account of the elementary fact that the most important task of the public school is to let the bright ones develop and go on to learn more, and not a lot less important is to teach the others stuff that will be useful to them in their actual future lives. When I first went into the aerospace industry it was a common discussion among engineers: at what age would be income crossover take place? At what point would it make economic sense to have gone to university as opposed to joining the Boeing work force immediately on leaving high school? Do note that there were plenty of jobs in those days, and nearly all of them involved what amounted to apprenticeship: there wasn’t much any of us could do for the company in our first year. Those without college educations could be riveters and general mechanics, learning to build jigs and make welds and that sort of thing. Others might go into clerical work (which often led to management positions given enough time). All were paid pretty well from their first day. They all joined the unions.
Engineers had to pay the costs of education and support themselves for at least four years. From the data accumulated by the Seattle Professional Engineering Employees Association (a sort of union for the non-unionized engineers and engineering techs) the crossover point was after about ten years after high school. Somewhere around in there the integrated earnings of the average engineering employee finally equaled the integrated earnings of the chap who went to work at Boeing right after high school. (We excluded janitorial employees from this study.) Now of course Boeing was Lake Wobegon – that is, with some exceptions, all the employees were above average – but that makes this even more to the point.
The point being that Boeing could in those days count on the Seattle public school system to deliver workers capable of learning to do useful work. There would be failures, but in general, high school graduates could be taken into the work force and taught skills. They didn’t have to learn to read or to do elementary math, they understood the concept of measurement, and they could generally be relied on to have something approaching satisfactory work habits.
Of course I am idealizing this a bit, but actually not all that much: Seattle in the 1950’s had pretty good schools, and there was almost always work for the anyone normal and above in intelligence, and some jobs for the lower half of the IQ scale provided they were reliable. I am told that it was much like that in Los Angeles.
But no school system that insists on treating all children equally can possibly succeed; indeed it is almost by definition unjust, and this has been known for more than two thousand years.
Bill Gross (CEO of Pimco) had some pretty interesting comments about education, and the problems with the American economy, in his July 2011 Investment Outlook newsletter:
For reference, his firm now has $1.2 Trillion (!) under management, so he should know just a little bit about economics and capitalism.
I have no universal remedy: I want to decentralize control and financing of education to local districts and get out of the way. Let them compete. And let the intellectuals try to persuade those who are paying for the schools that their methods are worth the money. Given the wretched state of the schools, cutting spending on education will do no harm (except to the pay of the education establishment starting with the professors).
"The district recently announced its intention to hire Ushma Shah, a consultant for the Chicago Public Schools, to fill the newly created role of chief of equity and social justice."
So now the education bureaucracy is not only taking over law enforcement, it is making itself responsible for enforcing equity and social justice. No wonder it doesn’t have the resources to educate kids.
Subj: The Looming Financial Crisis
Seen on Boortz Friday at Nealz Nuze, posted even before the Standard and Poor’s downgrade of US debt after markets closed yesterday.
We are probably marginally better off than without any debt deal at all — but significantly worse off than we would have been if the Democratic majority in the Senate hadn’t declared both sane House plans "dead on arrival."
America Joins Third World
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts said 10-15 years until we are — economically — a third world country on Friday. Well, we also lost our AAA rating on Friday. It happened and look who was there to rub it in:
China bluntly criticised the United States on Saturday one day after the superpower’s credit rating was downgraded, saying the "good old days" of borrowing were over.
Standard & Poor’s cut the U.S. long-term credit rating from top-tier AAA by a notch to AA-plus on Friday over concerns about the nation’s budget deficits and climbing debt burden.
China — the United States’ biggest creditor — said Washington only had itself to blame for its plight and called for a new stable global reserve currency.
I wonder when the American people will take their collective heads from the sand?
Joshua Jordan, KSC
The Great Hedge Fund De-Levering Event,
Spengler’s report on the current state of the markets:
It’s interesting. Wish I had some spare bucks.
Subj: A review of markets under Carter and Obama
An important set of charts which show that there is a way out. But it will not be Keynesian.
I suspect your bringing up the "bunny inspectors" really is less a matter of the cost (although it certainly is worthy of attention), and more of a case of the Federal government just being worried about something that it really shouldn’t be.
It kind of falls under one of the complaints specified in the Declaration of Independence:
"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance."
Well, yes: if there is no mechanism for eliminating the patently ridiculous there will almost certainly be no way to rid ourselves of the New Offices which harass our people and eat out their substance. Starting with the schools and many of the regulatory agencies. Turn them all out and start over, or devise a way to get rid of the useless; or go on paying for our own ruin.
Your reader wrote — in today’s view — "I do understand the concept of symbolism. I understand it as an inferior substitute for reasoning."
I suspect your reader is not familiar with Alfred Korzybski in particular or the functions of language in general. To put it symbolically, the name of God is ineffable because the word is not what it describes. As Korzybski put it, "the map is not the territory" and as Alan Watts said, "the menu is not the mean". Language is a symbol, so we all use a cumbersome form of reasoning and communication. When your reader can communicate through a telepathic modality to a greater degree than I’ve seen until 2011 then the reader might have a relevant quip — though I hope the reader would share the wisdom.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
I took General Semantics from Wendell Johnson at the University of Iowa and I learned a lot in that class; and while I do not make a religion of it, I do recommend that everyone somewhere in their lifetime read Korkybski’s Science and Sanity. It is not an easy book and it is not especially well written, but it has the property of making you see the world in a somewhat different way, and that is important.
One function of public schools is to provide some common intellectual experiences for the future citizens, thus making communications easier. Jacques Barzun has written about this in his Teacher in America, another of the books I recommend to everyone interested in intellectual discourse.
Baboons kidnap and keep feral dogs
Reminds me of the Pact — search down for "Dogs and Humans" from http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2mail/mail162.html#Saturday
– and of the old Gordon Dickson story, "By New Hearth Fires".
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