Monday, November 28, 2022

LET'S DECREASE THE SUPPLY OF DIPLOMAS: here's why


Politicians typically push for an increase in the high school graduation rate. They want to increase college degrees too, for that matter. But who will benefit and who will lose? 

The law of supply and demand tells us that as the percentage of students receiving diplomas increases, the value of that diploma decreases. Its value depends on its scarcity. When nearly everyone has a diploma, the credential offers little competitive advantage. It will only retain a certain defensive utility, because not having one would then be a devastating handicap. But is that what we want?

 Let’s suppose high schools produce even more graduates. What will happen? Youngsters who do not, perhaps cannot, go to college will be hardest hit. They depend on their high school diploma to still open a few doors. So an increase in the graduation rate will further devalue their diploma. It will become even more serviceable than it is now. 

You might think that if we do produce more graduates, at least kids will be better educated. But that's not necessarily so. The easiest way, sometimes the only way, to increase the number of high school graduates is to quietly lessen the requirements for graduation. Many inner city and rural poverty schools already have tacitly adopted such a policy: "Come to school most of the time, generally behave yourself and we will give you a diploma." Essentially, it's you pretend to learn and we'll pretend to teach you. This tacit policy then often degenerates to: "Come to school at least some of the time, don't create major disruptions and we will give you that diploma." Consequently there are high school graduates who can barely read.

Don't think these dynamics are confined to basic education. They are influencing higher education, big time. Fed by political correctness, professors and/or administrators who kick academic butt and take names have become unwelcome. Encouraged, even ordered, by the administration the contemporary professor is required to cox, cajole and coddle. And this is precisely how we get college graduates who remain barely literate.

It isn't just political correctness that feeds this cancer. It is also financial pressures. Administrators have to pay the bills and applicants are scarcer these days. And despite the politically correct rhetoric that is often disingenuous, that's precisely why administrators pressure professors to not discomfort or discourage tuition paying customers. 

Of course professors have their own motive for laxity. Keeping a sufficient number of students on their role. Do it has come to pass that political correctness, teamed with administrative and professorial financial concerns, are murdering the intellectual rigor higher education requires.

How can a professor do their job if they fail to challenge students to consider discomforting ideas? How can they avoid that without failing to encourage thought and growth? Serious thoughts about important things are, by their very nature, discomforting and disconcerting. And serious thought about important things is ultimately what higher education is all about. 

Remember too, college degrees are subject to the very same law of supply and demand that applies to high school diplomas. The more plentiful they are, the less value they have. That's why it is now often necessary to get an advanced degree to gain the same competitive advantage that a bachelor's degree used to confer.

So how can we get out of this mess? Toughen graduation requirements at every level and reduce the number of high school and college diploma recipients. This will increase the diploma’s value and offer a boost to those who must depend on them for competitive advantage. It will also reduce the number of "students" who trouble classrooms by discounting learning and having no interest in reducing their ignorance. These drones just want that piece of paper.

This drastic solution to a drastic problem means fewer students, fewer teachers, fewer professors, and fewer institutions of higher education. Many jobs will disappear. Unemployment roles will swell with youngsters who are currently engaged in pretending to be students. Will this prove politically and practically unacceptable? Yes, it certainly will. That's why it won't happen. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.  -GKC 

 For a more detailed examination of this and related issues See Dissecting School Benefits" 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

HIGHLY QUALIFIED TEACHERS? you've got to be joking

 




If you enjoy comedy, you might like to savor this situation. It represents the very bottom in ineffectual teacher entrance requirements. Some states, Arizona comes to mind, have eliminated the college-degree requirement; and are importing teachers from the Philippines. Yes, they're staffing their schools with non college graduates and green card holders from the Philippines! Why would they do that? Because far too many well-educated Americans have come to regard teaching as strictly for losers. And because too many Arizonans don't really care what happens to other people's children.

One hopes these foreign teachers are at least able to communicate and speak some semblance of American English. (Though such a requirement might be too stringent, given the present urgent need for teaching cannon fodder.)  

The history of hiring under-qualified, excessively servile people to teach in our public schools dates back to their very beginning. But then we could rely on bright, hard-working women to teach our kids because they had few other opportunities. Secretary, nurse, teacher, housewife, that was it. Although the decision making ranks remained overwhelmingly male.

When females were presented with new opportunities there ensued a crises that has never been remedied. Although there has been a whole lot of hot air directed at the problem. Remember when former President Obama's Secretary of Education and basketball buddy, an utterly unqualified guy named Arne Duncan, toured the country publicly wringing his hands about the urgent need to improve teacher preparation. He, himself, lacked even rudimentary training or experience in education. But he still was distressed to find that many teacher aspirants were as poorly prepared for their job, as he was for his.

Was Secretary Duncan worried about a Bush-era ruling falsely classifying thousands upon thousands of would-be teachers still in training as "highly qualified?"  ("Highly qualified" teachers were required by the federal No Child Left Behind law.) No, no, no!. Arne wasn't worried about that at all. In fact, under his 'leadership,' the Education Department continued to apply the Bush administration's ridiculously weak standards. And when a federal judge ruled that this anemic policy clearly violated the No Child Left Behind "highly qualified" requirement, President Obama quickly signed a bill lowering that NCLB standard to the equivalent of breathing. This, predictably, the issue of a man with an elite private school education. 

Just what was "highly qualified" supposed to mean before Obama completely castrated it? The law stipulated that if you wanted to teach math, science, social studies, the arts, reading and languages you must have obtained a long-term license; and demonstrated your subject matter knowledge by either obtaining a college major in the subject, by passing a test in the subject taught; OR (and here's the kicker)" by some other means established by the state." 

That's right; every state was allowed the escape valve of deciding what "highly qualified" meant for them. This was necessary to protect state's where teaching has long been is so underpaid, under-respected and under-appreciated that the only qualification they can realistically impose is the ability to pee a hole in snow. This "by some other means" wording, in effect, rendered all the preceding requirements meaningless.

Only in the lala land of public school policy could such a weak-kneed, ill-defined requirement be taken as too tough. Yet, both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations thought it necessary to further weaken this already eviscerated requirement.

For all practical purposes this' half-cocked, weak-kneed approach is still extant. In fact, things have actually gotten worse since the far right began systematically undermining faith in our teachers and public education while the far left tries to impose it's brand of political indoctrination. 

Abandon hope if you favor the tough, high quality teacher preparation our schools desperately need. Thanks to both democrats and republicans, that dream has metamorphosed into either a nightmare or an obscene joke. Take your pick.


For more such considerations please visit Highly Qualified Teachers: misgivings

-- GKC

Monday, October 31, 2022

PARENTS DECIDING WHAT SCHOOLS TEACH: a good idea?





Remember when Democrat Terry McAuliffe was competing with Republican Glenn Youngkin in the tightly contested Virginia gubernatorial race? They were facing off in a final televised debate, and were discussing school curricula and library books related to race, gender identity and sexuality when Youngkin charged that school systems were “refusing to engage with parents.” That's when McAuliffe made the mistake of countering “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” That might well have cost her the election.   

Should parents be "telling schools what to teach?" That certainly depends on whether parents can be relied upon to make wise pedagogical decisions. So let's recollect what it takes to become a parent. The qualifications are, to be charitable, very minimal. And this lax selection process leads to a goodly number of parents who are unqualified to decide much of anything. There are an abundance of ignorant, stupid, closed minded, fanatical, bigoted, dogmatic, and just plain incompetent parents. So it's pure fantasy to expect these kinds of parents to make reasonable, or responsible, decisions concerning what their kids are taught. 

Moreover, from a practical point of view, when such parents make a decision, let's say it's to rule out the teaching of evolution in biology class, their choice won't just limit what is taught to their children, but to every child in the class. Why? Because it is a practical impossibility to individualize each child's instruction in the factory-like setting that is our public schools.

Let's also ask if we should entrust individuals who can barely read with deciding what schools teach? Is that relevant? A Gallup analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education reveals that about 130 million adults in the U. S. have low literacy skills. More than half of Americans between the ages of 16 and 74 (54%) read below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. Many parents actually are borderline illiterate. Shall we entrust such individuals with deciding what is taught in school? That seems hard to defend.

Let's also remember that for children from dysfunctional families school is often a refuge. And the very last thing these children want or need is to give their deplorable parents a bigger role in the life of the school. What these particular kids actually need is for their biological parents to have less of a role in their life. That's why every two minutes in the United States, a child is removed from their family and placed in foster care. 

Besides, parents already do have a significant say regarding what schools teach. That's because our public schools are the most democratically and locally controlled arm of government there is - bar none. The vast majority of our 13,000 plus school districts are run by locally elected boards. So every parent has some say at the most local level. They can even run for school board should they so choose. (Though let's nor forget that a lot of parents don't even bother to show up on meet the teacher nights.)

Public schools are governed in this hyper democratic way to try to balance a myriad different, often competing, parental priorities, try to balance various non-parental concerns, and also shelter educational policy from the most irresponsible extremism. With all it's faults, this system works pretty well. And one reason it does so is that parents have always been included, though not allowed to totally dominate, the process.

After all, public schooling has never had a direct parental controlling intent to begin with. From it's inception, public education has always been about ameliorating parental upbringing in order to insure each youngster's socialization is not only parentally acceptable, but acceptable to the rest of us. If, for example, Mom and Dad are Qanon wack jobs, that's their business. But if their kids can only view the world through Qanon eyes, that's our business. After all, the rest of us have to live with the consequences of such distorted vision. 

I can't imagine any candidate being unaware of the practical impossibility of every parent setting their individual youngster's school curriculum, readings, and so forth. And, unless they are a complete jackass, every politician also knows parents shouldn't have the only say. But promising to achieve what's impossible still might get them elected. It certainly helped Glenn Youngkin.

Enough said.

  -- GKC ------

See also, "Merit Pay for Teachers?" 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

MULTICULTURALISM: probing the limits



Much obeisance is paid to the need for "multiculturalism" in the school curriculum. How else, ask earnest disciples, can educators promote a sense of empowerment and worth in all Americans? How else can they truly engage the many communities they serve? How else can they run schools that are strong and accountable community institutions? 

All that is true enough. But this comprehension and valuing will not change the fact that groups, be they clans, tribes or nations, compete for limited resources. And to the extent that these resources are limited, they do so at one another's expense. For instance, geographic territory is limited; and the demand for it exceeds the supply. It's a zero sum game. Consider the nearly three quarters of a century struggle between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs over land. Think the Palestinians are going multicultural and recognize Jewish holidays anytime soon? Or how about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Far from honoring Ukraine's culture, Putin alleges it doesn't even exist. Are the Ukrainians going to go for that kind of multiculturalism?

This competition for limited resources is one thing that strictly defines multiculturalism's limits. Why? Because it is difficult to even tolerate, much less honor, another group when that group's gain has been your group's loss. Competition for resources, be they jobs, desirable territory, natural resources, and so forth, has existed for all of recorded history. And, be assured, that this competition will continue, "... for as long as grass should grow and water flow.

Now, in polyglot nations like the U. S., Canada or Australia, token recognition of the other guy's culture is de rigueur. For example, despite the vitriolic distrust and outright rejection that greeted Irish immigrants when they first arrived in the U. S., lots and lots of folks now wear green on St. Patrick's Day, perhaps eat a couple of those horrid confections, Irish Potatoes, or watch the parade. But that's only because the Irish have been so absorbed and intermarried that their presence is no longer the threat it once was seen to be. They now are a part of us.  And social science reveals that it is expressions of difference that result in negative appraisals.

Here is another strict limit on multiculturalism. Often one culture's values are diametrically opposed to those of another. Thus, they are utterly incompatible. And that leads us to the biggest problem of them all. The very tolerance required for a group to be multicultural is not only absent, but utterly rejected in many other cultures. Consider Saudi Arabia, for instance. They are so sure they are right about all sorts of things, religion for example, that they make no accommodations for difference whatsoever. Yet this fundamental incompatibility of multicultural tolerance for an intolerant culture is seldom, if ever, recognized by right thinking multicultural advocates. 

Sure, if another group's culture has been thoroughly adulterated by elements of the polyglot host culture, modest tolerance toward that other group's culture is likely. But even a long-resident group will still catch a world of crap if they remain sufficiently different. For instance, recent unprovoked assaults on Asian appearing citizens demonstrate that these Americans are sometimes punched in the face, beaten up, sometimes even killed, just for looking different. And if a group who wants to enter is really different, say, Middle Eastern Muslims, one quickly sees how minimally "multi-cultural" the rest of us are prepared to be. Remember Trump's attempted muslim ban? What kind of multiculturalism did that amount to? Then there is his border wall welcoming "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free."

Can one group's culture be enriched by welcoming another group and adopting, or at least respecting, aspects of their culture? Sure, it happens all the time. Nevertheless, due to the dynamics just described, this adoption will often be limited to the dominant group gingerly granting mere token recognition. For instance, deciding that their vittles are tasty.

So, to be realistic, advocates of multiculturalism, in education or out, must limit their ambitions and recognize the limitations. Too frequently that's not happening because of virtue signaling and imbalanced zealotry. Yet this is far too important an issue to address so thoughtlessly. The very growth, enrichment, coherence and stability of our society are at stake. 

For a more detailed treatment of this subject see: http://newfoundations.net/?page_id=303 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

TRASH HIGH STAKES TESTS: instead use "leading education indicators"




Way too much is made of high stakes test scores. They measure relative trivialities and tell us nothing whatsoever about the impact schooling is having on the way people actually make decisions and live their lives. 

 Many admit the weaknesses of these tests. But most still argue for their administration. “We need some measure of school effectiveness,” they say. Sure we do. But there already are widely available ways of measuring educational success that do not require wasting instructional time, teaching to the test, or inadvertently fostering teacher and administrative dishonesty. All we need do is identify and assemble measures that already exist. 

Economists call them "lagging indicators" and have long used them to compile their index of "Leading Economic Indicators. Here they combine already existing economic measures to construct an overall picture of the health of the economy. And that's precisely how we can and should evaluate schooling. Assemble an index of "Leading Educational Indicators." Here are some candidates to consider for that index:  

  • THE NIELSON RATINGS What folks watch on TV could be one indicator of the success or failure of their schooling? Count the number of adults regularly viewing "The Celebrity Dating Game,"for example, and we might be mostly counting people that schooling somehow failed. So, the fact that ABC cancelled that wretched show after just one season would be good news on the school front. Similarly HBO's "House of the Dragon" has soared to 2022's number one spot for both cable and streaming. Rotten Tomatoes says, "The story, the casting, the acting and the set, all superb." So the popularity of that show could be a plus for schooling. Do you think the Nielsens might be helpful in evaluating schooling's success or failure? 
  • MUSIC SALES Perhaps we should check the sales figures for various musical artists and genres. Like the enduring popularity of paintings of Elvis on black velvet, they might well reveal \ information about schooling's success or failure. We could, for example, compare gangsta rap sales with those for classical music. Don't you think schooling has surely failed those who prefer Snoop Dog to Mozart or Ice Cube to Chopin? Presently lots of consumers are buying unmelodious, disharmonic trash accompanied by primitive, vulgar verse. Do those who prefer that, constitute a black mark for their schooling? 
  • CULT MEMBERSHIP Should we use the popularity of cult membership as a measure in our index? Did every Jonestown resident who drank cyanide laced Cool Aid represent a schooling failure? How about the men in David Koresh's cult who permitted that saint to sexually service their wives and daughters because, as Koresh patiently explained, he was the only man pure enough for the job. Were they well schooled? Then there's the  Heaven's Gate crowd who, in conformity with "Bo" and "Peep's" teachings, "left their containers" to rendezvous with that space ship concealed behind the Hale-Bopp comet. Don't all such cults seem to have been schooled deficiently? And let's not forget the most enthusiastic members of the Trump cult. 
  •  SUPERMARKET TABLOID SALES Do the sales figures of these grotesque gazettes provide a more valid measure of educational progress than anything ETS could dream up? I'm talking about those tabloids that headline things like "WOMEN COMMITS SUICIDE IN DISHWASHER!", or "HALF BOY, HALF DOLPHIN WASHES UP ON BEACH!" What do you think? Should we regard tabloid sales as an inverse measure of educational progress? 
  •  THE POPULARITY OF CON-ARTIST TELEVANGELIST'S Their income is available from the IRS Tax Exempt Branch. And that might be a measure of schooling's effectiveness? Perhaps the more money these charlatans make, the less well our schools have done? Consider, for example, the Reverend Benny Hinn's television ministry. Hinn, the subject of a devastating CNN expose, is the chap who claims to lapse into "trances" while conducting worship services. Then, according to the Reverend, the Holy Spirit uses his vocal apparatus to speak to the congregation. Should the incomes of this type of shameless con artist be added to our index? 
  • THE CREDIBILITY OF CREATION "SCIENCE"  An astonishing number of Americans believe that our 4.6 billion year old earth was born a mere 6,000 years ago. They even believe that Noah assembled mating pairs of every animal on the planet, evidently including dinosaurs, loaded them on his ark, and fed and housed them for over a year. Does the enduring popularity of this mythology constitutes proof that schools aren't getting the job done — at least when it comes to logical reasoning and science? What do you think?
Who needs high stakes testing when we have such well-established measures to choose from? Presently this index is just an idea. You probably have your own thoughts about what measures should and could be included. But the point is that this sort of lagging indicators index would be much more powerful than anything Educational Testing Service or Psychological Corporation could possibly contrive. An Index of this sort surely would better reflect the real life results tax payers are getting for their average total expenditure of $163,000 per child.

 I'll bet you are thinking that schools are not exclusively, even mainly, responsible for the state of affairs such measures reveal. You might even be thinking that dumb is the essential problem. Okay. But so what? Educators aren’t chiefly responsible for standardized test results either. For one thing, no allowance is made for the fact that a little less than half of the kids taking those tests are below average in intelligence. As a matter of fact, 25% of them are far below average. And we're not allowing for the large number of kids who are average or above in native intelligence, but far too lazy or emotionally damaged, to evaluate evidence and think for themselves. Plus we're not even figuring in their attendance record. Educators currently are even being blamed for not producing good test results from kids who are rarely there.

Then again, maybe it really doesn't matter that high stakes tests aren't fair and do a horrible job of measuring anything of enduring value. Perhaps what matters most is simply blaming somebody. And since educators neither fight back effectively or don't fight back at all, they're an inviting target. 

What do you think? Is creating an Index of Leading Educational Indicators a good idea?

 To further examine issues of this kind, see www.newfoundations.com and www.newfoundations.net

Thursday, October 6, 2022

TEACHING THE FINE ARTS: a road to heartbreak



It's especially hard to teach the fine arts. In fact, it can suck the joy out of life. Unlike more practical subjects, such as math or science, for example, the value of music, dance, painting, literature and other fine arts is almost exclusively intrinsic. In and of themselves the arts are intensely worthwhile, but much less so as a means to other ends.

Of course, fields such as mathematics or engineering can have intrinsic value. For some, a well-solved equation is just as beautiful as a Van Gogh painting. But that is not the only reason, perhaps not even the principle reason, these subjects have value. They serve as a means to other ends. Even if one has no intrinsic interest in algebra, for instance, it is still can be useful for solving a variety of problems, getting into college and making a living. So are chemistry, physics, and so forth.

So, when students take such subjects they have at least two reasons to learn:

• the subject can be intrinsically interesting,

• the skills learned offer practical advantage.

Those teaching the fine arts cannot rely on extrinsic practical advantages for motivation. There is only the intrinsic joy of appreciation. Let's say one is teaching students about baroque art, for instance, and he or she shows the students images of Bernini's The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. What practical advantages, what vocational leverage, does knowing about it offer? Very little. So, should the students remain unmoved by the beauty and breathtaking craftsmanship of this sculpture, what is the teacher to do? They have led the horse to water, but ....

Student indifference can suffocate the fine arts teacher. Imagine a musician who finds the only way she can make a reasonable living and still stick to what she loves is to become a music teacher.  After investing and working to earn her teaching certificate, she lands a job at St. Mediocritus High School teaching Music Appreciation 101. Semester after semester, year after year, she tries vainly to share what she loves with classes dominated by pimply, horny boys and vacuous preening girls both of whose only reason for enrolling in her course is that it is required for graduation.

She tries and tries to engage their interest using this method and that. But in spite of the music's wondrous beauty and her various tactics, most of the class remains comatose. Some are even annoyed because of the earnestness of her efforts. About all she can get out of them is, “Will this be on the test?” Finally our teacher gives up trying to convey what makes her love music. To spare herself pain and fury she starts just going through the motions and handing out work sheets. The students, being dutiful Catholics, fill them out and pretend to listen. When the semester ends and the principal reviews our defeated teacher's course evaluations, he is pleased to discover that the student's think she has finally hit the mark.

It's especially hard to teach the fine arts.

For other observations concerning motivation for learning, see http://www.newfoundations.com/Carpenter/ProblemSolutions.html

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

TRUANCY: when it's beneficial


Is truancy a major problem? Sure it is; but for whom?  We'll get to that. First, there is this. A ton of school districts have truancy prevention programs. And a major justification for having them is that truancy breeds social problems. It's asserted, for instance, that 95% of juvenile offenders started as truants. We're also told that truants are more likely to:

  • join a gang running the risk of disease, injury or death; 
  • use marijuana, alcohol and hard drugs; 
  • become pregnant and drop out of school; 
  • have low self-esteem, low aspirations, and educational failure; 
  • be illiterate or have serious trouble reading; 
  • engage in violent and criminal activities. 
Every one of these assertions suffers from the same fatal flaw. Just because two things coincide, does NOT mean that the one causes the other. All juvenile offenders start out as babies, for instance. But does starting life as a baby cause a youngster to become a juvenile offender? Of course not. Correlation is NOT causation.

Why assume that gang membership begins with truancy, for instance? Isn't it far more likely that gang membership fosters truancy?  The same applies to marijuana, alcohol and hard drug use. Sure, truants are more likely to engage in these behaviors. But why assume truancy causes them to do it? Are truants more likely to become pregnant and drop out of school? Sure; but is truancy the cause? As for low self-esteem, low aspirations, and educational failure, isn't it likely that these things provoke truancy, not cause it?  The same applies to illiteracy and serious difficulties reading. Kids with these problems might well be truant out of frustration and shame. As for kids that engage in violence and criminal activities, don't blame truancy, blame poverty, broken homes, violent neighborhoods, the vast economic opportunities created by making certain intoxicants illegal, etc..

This humbuggery about truancy diverts our attention from centrally important questions. First, given the serious problems that unmotivated, hostile, disruptive kids create in school, might it not be better if these troubled kids weren't there? 

In fact, might it be wiser to give up on compelling kids to go to school in the first place? Clearly, for many youngsters, it doesn't work.No matter how skillful they are, educators cannot successfully force-feed knowledge to unmotivated, uncooperative, often hostile youngsters. They've gotta wanna1 

Deprived of the ability to impose meaningful sanctions, teachers can't even get them to behave properly, much less try to learn. Consequently, such kid's disrupt everyone's learning, threaten everyone's safety, and cause us to waste huge amounts of public money futilely trying to force feed them something they promptly spit out. 

Surprisingly, though, we've grown used to kids spitting on expensive educational opportunities that you and I provide. And, as a bonus, destroying these opportunities for others. This is so commonplace in some schools that the whole enterprise has become a tragic farce. Let's put this in broader perspective. The average cost of educating the average child in U.S. public schools currently totals $163,000.00. Now imagine giving a child a gift costing that much, having them spit on it in contempt, often ruin other's gift as well, and keep on buying that gift for them anyway. That, in effect, is what we're doing. Is that wise? Should we keep doing it, or consider alternatives?

Some folks worry that if we abandon compulsory education, dangerous kids will be roaming the streets and threatening the peace. That's probably true. Although a lot of disruptive and potentially dangerous kids aren't in school to begin with — especially when the weather is nice. But here's the central question: Since when is it the school's job to conduct part-time incarceration in order to protect the community from potentially disruptive, even dangerous, youngsters? Isn't it a school's job to educate, not incarcerate? And when are we going to realize that when educators are forced to try to do both, they often fail to do either?

Let's take a fresh look at this situation and ask why we continue to spend billions of dollars every year struggling to force-feed knowledge to kids who not only resist and resent it, but also prevent classmates from learning. Do such children present a problem? Of course they do, both for themselves and the rest of us. But after years and years of obvious futility, shouldn't we at least ask ourselves if such youngsters are properly the public school's problem? 

Oh, and by the way, while we're at it, we might also ask what is it about America that creates so many angry, resentful, uncooperative, depressed and dangerous children to begin with? 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: why, in balance, it's wrong



Some Americans benefit from affirmative actions intended to make up for past wrongs, promote diversity and insure fairer shares. That seems laudable — provided it's both wise and fair. But it isn't.

First off, with respect to it being wise, anyone with moderate intelligence should recognize that affirmative actions create unfortunate blowback and byproducts. For instance, they obscure our mutual humanity by emphasizing differences based on race, gender and ethnicity. They also introduce doubts about whether a hire or promotion is based on merit. And they can result in hiring or promoting lesser talents and the less diligent. 

The above explains why affirmative action undermines organizational effectiveness. Consider this example: seventy percent of present-day NFL players are African-American. Yet that group constitutes just twelve point seven percent of the general population. Why not adopt affirmative action to add more white players? Females too, maybe? Simple; it's because WINNING is the goal in assembling any NFL team.

Affirmative action difficulties are obvious in any endeavor where performance is paramount — though in many fields it's still ignored. But there is another difficulty affirmative action poses that most miss entirely. Attempts at greater fairness totally ignore a host of obviously disadvantaged people. That's right, tons of people suffering from limiting handicaps receive no affirmative action whatsoever. How can that possibly be fair? 

Here are just a few examples:

Physical Unattractiveness
If you're ugly, you are truly disadvantaged. Need proof? In a study entitled "What Is Beautiful Is Good," researchers from the American Psychological Association showed photographs of attractive, average, and unattractive people to university undergraduates. The students were asked to rate the people in the photos on various personality traits and behavioral tendencies, based solely on their appearance. These same students rated good lookers as: confident, strong, assertive, candid, warm, honest, kind, outgoing, sensitive, poised, sociable, exciting, and nurturing.  

The physical-attractiveness stereotype has been replicated using numerous experimental paradigms. It holds true in every case. Aristotle got it right when he noted, "Personal beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction." So, if we're really interested in fairness, and not just the people who now are being positively discriminated for, how about affirmative action for the unattractive? 

When you think about it, the unattractive are actually discriminated against. How so? Giving some special advantage means everyone else is being discriminated against. Don't think so? Check with the white guy who is having a devil of a time finding a decent job precisely because he is a white guy.  

Obesity
Obesity is another characteristic resulting in unequal treatment. Research decisively demonstrates that obese Americans are often perceived to be: lazy, unintelligent, slovenly, and unattractive. Negative attitudes toward obese individuals also contribute to discrimination in the work place. Obese people are not hired as often as people of normal weight; are less likely to be promoted; and often report being discriminated against by managers and peers. 

How big of a problem is this? The  National Center for Health Statistics most up to date statistics show that 42.4% of U.S. adults were obese as of 2017–2018 (43% for men and 41.9% for women). And the same questions that asked about unattractiveness apply here. Where's the fairness?

Short Stature
Short stature, particularly in men, is another physical attribute associated with negative stereotypes and discrimination. A 1992 study by researchers from Michigan State University, for instance, demonstrated that short men are often judged inferior to tall men in several personal attributes. People tend to judge taller men as more socially attractive, higher in professional status, more masculine, more athletically inclined, and more physically attractive than short men. 

Other studies have found that short men experience discrimination in professional settings. For example, short job applicants are not hired as often as taller applicants; short employees earn less, on average, than taller employees; and short political candidates lose elections more often than taller candidates.Again, the same questions apply. Where's the concern for fairness? What about affirmative action for shorties?

Some Other Limiting Factors
Research also shows that people, again especially men, who have red hair are often stereotyped as "clownish" and "weird." Negative stereotyping based on language and dialect (i.e., Southern accents, ebonics) also is common. Negative stereotyping even extends to clothing. Children who wear brand-name clothing and shoes are judged "popular," "wealthy," and able to "fit in with their peers." Children who don't wear them are unpopular, or at least less popular. 

Negative stereotypes also limit the opportunities of East and Southeast Asians, blondes,  women with STEM ambitions, homosexuals, Jews, Italian-Americans, native Americans, and so forth and so on. A person can also actually be too smart, too pretty, too hard working, and so forth. In short, there is a long, long list of unfair limitations imposed on people because of one or another characteristic. All of them are rooted in a fact, and well-known to social psychologists. The bottom line is this: difference attracts negative appraisal.

Consider too that when we appraise people we combine multiple individual differences. 
That can really mess up affirmative actions.  Think about it this way. Which would you rather be, a tall, slim, financially secure, intelligent, good looking black guy or a short, fat, poor, unintelligent, unattractive white guy? All we are doing here is going beyond just one criteria, race, and asking you to extend your judgement into the complex real world where multiplef things matter.     

When we add all this up the sum total is: So many people are handicapped by such a wide variety of differences combined in complex ways that establishing fair affirmative action is literally impossible. And we haven't even considered that many profound handicaps are hard to even identify, much less accommodate. Are we not agreed, for instance, that a loveless, abused childhood is horribly damaging? But how shall we even identify, much less take affirmative action, to even things out for individuals laboring under this burden?  

What does any of this have to do with today's affirmative action? Everything. All kinds of people, probably most people, experience discrimination of one kind or another. And many, many of us labor under hidden handicaps that are hard to even identify much less accommodate. Yet presently folks qualify for affirmative action (positive discrimination) based on only one characteristic. In no sense is that right, proper or sensible. 

Conclusion
Instead of focusing on any single characteristic, we must focus with razor sharp precision on each individual person's character, ability, accomplishments, and effort. That must happen if fairness is to reign? Our "woke" era fixation on race, sexual persuasions, or some other single categorization, makes this impossible. We're dogmatically doing wrong things for the right reason — namely trying to use single category affirmative actions to establish a fairer world. It's way past time to focus, instead, on appraising individuals. That won't be easy. But it will be a helluva lot fairer and less divisive than what we're doing now. 


Monday, September 5, 2022

TEACHER MERIT PAY: rewarding bootlickers?

 



When I consider teacher merit pay I’m reminded of a situation I endured while teaching seventh grade. Our school’s meager instructional resources were “stored” in the classroom of the principal’s favorite teacher. The practical consequence was that his needs were always met. And, no, his classroom was not better suited for storage.

How did this fellow become the principal’s favorite? Simple, he was the school's most proficient bootlicker. Unimpeded by a sense of honor, he groveled and stroked the principal's ego with astonishing alacrity. In consequence this fellow got first access. For the same reason he got the choicest students.What does any of this have to do with teacher merit pay? Well, had it then existed, Mr. Bootlicker would have had first dibs on that too. 

Originally, student high stakes test scores were supposed to be the chief criteria for assigning merit pay. That preference has been softening of late as faith in those scores has declined. Principals now are envisioned to play a bigger role. So sucking up to them will convey even bigger advantages — assuming they're susceptible.

Of course if the principal has decided to hide in his or her office most of the day, bootlicking the key secretary will do. I know of a situation where an elementary school secretary allowed a teacher who toadied up to her to pick kids for her class. Since she lived in the neighborhood, she chose well. The other grade-level teachers got what was left. (Think of what this would mean should test scores remained the first criteria.

One in Thirty Occupations

A key conception behind merit pay is that teacher productivity will increase because they will try harder. Another idea is that since the most-skilled teachers will make more money they will stick with the profession. The least-capable teachers will make less money and tend to opt out. That's the plan. The more likely outcome is that a majority of teachers will be reduced to competing only at teaching for the standardized tests and bootlicking.

Yes, research tells us that merit pay really does increase job performance in all kinds of jobs. BUT only when that performance can be clearly measured.[1] The trouble with that is for many jobs accurate measurement is not possible.That’s why only one in thirty occupations feature straightforward performance contracts.[2] 

Teaching has never been one of the thirty. That’s because the full scope of a teacher’s job performance is notoriously opaque. How would a school administrator know, for example, which teachers are actually improving the quality of a child's life? Yet what could be more important?

Most of what happens in school happens when the classroom door is closed. That's why administrators can’t really tell which teachers routinely extend a helping hand or comfort the afflicted. They can’t tell which teachers protect the weak from bullies. Hell, they can’t even tell which teachers model the kind of behavior we hope the kids will adopt. Yet all of these things are far more important than standardized test scores, much less a teacher's bootlicking skills   How, then, will merit pay be fairly distributed? The answer to that is:  it won't.

Suppose, for example, a youngster comes to class with a sadly deficient self-concept. But due to the patience, skill, and caring of her teacher, she leaves with a new sense of self-worth. Surely such a result is very meritorious even if the child’s test scores remain unchanged. But can this sort of thing be well enough measured to be rewarded?

Merit pay proponents tell us not to worry; they’re working on more subtle ways to measure merit. That’s humbug. It’s just is not possible to accurately measure the many subtle but crucial aspects of a teacher’s job. It is possible, however, to identify and reward the best bootlickers.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

HOME-SCHOOLING: when it goes haywire


Ever wonder what sort of things parents teach their home-schooled children in the privacy that method provides?  There's little limit on the kind of screwball ideas that can, and are, inflicted.  After all, as one of my reader's notes: "any bigot, batterer, or bully can reproduce." Theoretically, parents must meet state home-schooling standards. But effective control is impossible. How can the authorities possibly check?

Then there's the obvious problem posed by the complexity of secondary education. Teaching at that level requires specialized subject matter knowledge. Sure, packages of home-schooling materials are supposed to limit the damage. But if the parents basically are subject matter illiterate regarding technical subjects such as physics, chemistry or trigonometry, difficulty still remains. 

However, parental lack of qualifications isn't the prime trouble with home-schooling. The chief objection is that parents too frequently engage in mindless indoctrination. That's primarily because inculcating religious belief is a chief motive for home-schooling. Sometimes that's okay. But many of the same parents who keep their kids out of school for religious reasons, also urge their kids to develop a Christian zeal that matches the fanaticism of the Taliban. Zealotry is dangerous regardless of the brand. 

Then there's parental understanding of American history. Their grasp of it is frequently limited to superficial Columbus discovered America catechetics. And that often get's all tangled up with a profound conviction that yesterday's America was profoundly better than today's. Such parental 'history' lessons are a virtual banquet of ignorance.

Many parents also choose to teach their kids "facts" that are absurd from a scientific point of view. Their belief in the literal inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures is behind it. For instance they teach that: 
  • evolution is bunk, 
  • Noah's ark and the accompanying world-wide flood actually happened. 
  • dinosaurs were included on the ark.
  • the earth is a mere 6,000 years old. 
Textbooks exist that back these claims up. And such true-believing parents assure their kids that non-believers, those who deny these literal "truths" from God's word, are irrevocably damned. And they warn their children that, should they too be seduced by man's word, they also will forever roast in incredible agony in the white hot fires of hell. That's one comforting bed-time story.

That's not the limit of parental foolishness either. Some parents teach their children to be white supremists. These hate besotted mom's and dad's earnestly teach their kids that the 'white race' created civilization itself. The also assure them that all non-white humans are contemptible "mud people." They even tell their kids that Jews are "mud people" who cleverly appear to be white.  These parent' history lessons consist of far-fetched tales of ancient Nordic superiority, praise for the unalloyed benefits of European imperialism, and glowing descriptions of the white race-saving efforts of Nazi Germany. And, to top it off, they assure their children that there is a coming race war in which whites will win rightful mastery over all the world.

This is a limited sampler of the buncombe sometimes taught at home. It raises doubts about the wisdom of allowing home-schooling. It doesn't follow, however, that home-schooling should be outlawed. First off, it isn't always nutty. And just because some parents bath their children in ignorance and intolerance, doesn't mean they will actually become so. One of the best cures for fanaticism is to have it force-fed to you when you're young. 

Don't be surprised, though, if some home-schooled true believer blows up a synagogue, chains a "mud-person" to the back of his pick-up and drags him to death, or kills a U. S. President he or she deems a "race traitor." When fanaticism is smeared on you when you're young, especially when applied by your parents with permission of the state, it can stick to your soul like super-glue.

Sure, there are plenty of parents who, despite a lack of necessary knowledge, try hard to do a responsible job. And home-schooling does allow some kids to escape the truly hellish conditions that prevail in the worst public schools. Still, the outrageous ignorance, dogmatism and intolerance that sometimes passes for home-schooling is a hidden menace that requires exposure.


For more on a related topic please visit: http://www.newfoundations.com/Clabaugh/CuttingEdge/Charters.html 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

PREPARING FOR THE WORLD OF WORK: keeping it real




 Educators are repeatedly urged to prepare kid's for the world of work. Of course kids should emerge from school with a real appreciation of, and preparation for, the world of work. But let's keep it real.  They need to learn of the actuality, not some sappy fantasy. 

For instance, when CEO “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap fired 11,200 Scott Paper employees, sold the company to its chief rival and walked away with 101 million dollars, a ton of naive people mistakenly concluded that “Chainsaw” was despicable. They thought he trashed moral considerations that were far more important than enriching Scott stockholders or himself. One dismissed thirty-six year Scott veteran even whined on national television that Dunlap, “... took my life and put it into his pocket ...”. 

What self-pitying nonsense! Proper preparation for the real world of work would eliminate this kind of whining and vastly increase student appreciation for Dunlap style leadership. The kids would be brought to realize that "Chainsaw" was simply exercising decisive "corporate leadership." That he was a foe of corporate waste, and an obedient servant of the shareholders. Even more importantly, they'll learn that work life is struggle. And he who fails to struggle, does not deserve to live.

That means school kids must be taught to respect and admire the executives “Chainsaw” typifies. And educators absolutely must create school programs and policies that thoroughly inculcate Mr. Dunlap’s guiding principle: “The meek shall not inherit the earth; and, for sure, they won’t get the mineral rights!”  

Realistic preparation must begin early. For example, educators should eliminate the socialistic practice of encouraging grade school kids to share. Kindergarten and first grade teachers, for instance, must stop urging kids to share crayons and instead set up competition for them. Follow-up graded coloring assignments should then be made. Crayonless kids should flunk. As "Chainsaw observed, "If you want a friend, get a dog."

Educators also must put an end to this “inclusion” stuff. Kids in inclusive classrooms sometimes start helping and caring for less fortunate classmates. We all know what can happen when that camel gets its nose under the tent. Communism, next up!

Business leaders often order “involuntary separations from payroll” in order to enhance profits, boost stock prices and increase efficiency. This is best done by targeting employees who have worked there the longest since they make the most money. Right sizing long-serving individuals really benefits share holders. But are public schools adequately preparing kids for this reality? No, they're certainly not. Otherwise there wouldn't be so much kvetching about world of work layoffs. 

The kids need to be gotten ready. How could that be done? Here's one possibility: Wait until students get to12th grade. Then, right before they are ready to graduate, impose “involuntary severance” on a random selection of them. Instead of a well-earned graduation, they end up out of school. This simulated real world work experience will better prepare all high school students, both those selected and those who survive, for the real world of work. 

The most well-run businesses also periodically wet their beaks in employee pension funds. But a lot of employees object. Can schools do anything to facilitate greater acceptance? Sure. Encourage the kids to start school-based savings accounts that administrators also have access to. Then have these same administrators randomly confiscate some the kid's money and spend it on luxury goods for themselves and cooperative school board members. Do this recurrently and we won’t have all this whining and complaining every time pension funds are freed up to increase corporate profitability, executive bonuses and stockholder value. Employees will expect it.

Business execs also find it increasingly profitable to ship American jobs abroad. It greatly enhances profitability. But here again, American workers whine incessantly. In fact, their whining has got some Congress men and women pretending they care. What can be done to make workers more compliant? Here's a possibility: Have school leaders "decruit" a bunch of American teachers in a massive "workforce imbalance correction." Then import new, cheap, hungry, replacement teachers from an emerging nation. (India, with it's large English speaking population, comes immediately to mind.) This would not only save a ton of money, kids who witness it will expect to lose their jobs to foreign competition when their own jobs are shipped overseas.  

In fairness, public schooling does meet some of world of work needs already. After a few years in elementary school, for instance, kids learn they have to go along to get along. That’s solid preparation for the real world of work. Twelve years of public schooling also teaches kids to live with mindless rules, red tape and managerial double talk. This too must continue, as it is invaluable. In general, though, school preparation for the real world of work requires much improvement.  There are lots of possible ways to do that. Maybe you have some ideas! We're all ears.



To examine these and similar issues further, see http://www.newfoundations.com/Clabaugh/CuttingEdge/MsAmerica.html

-- GKC

Saturday, August 27, 2022

CRITICAL THINKING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS? not a chance!


A extensive sampling of school district mission statements reveals that just about every American public school claims they nourish critical thinking. That's sheer humbug. The prime directive actually operative in every public school district is: Never challenge the cherished beliefs, or commitments, of significant elements of the local community. With more than 90% of our public schools controlled by locally elected boards, how could it be otherwise? What elected school board member is going to want students taught to think critically about anything a significant number of voters regard as sacrosanct? No board appointed school superintendent wants that either. The same applies to teachers who are capable of critical thought to begin with. 

Consider this example: Critical thinking necessarily includes close examination of religious truth claims. Yet that's clearly off-limits in any public school. Imagine, for instance, a teacher asking students to critically examine whether or not the existence of evil - particularly the physical suffering of innocents - can be reconciled with a deity believed to be omnipotentomniscient and omnibenevolent.. 

They might specifically be asked to consider, for instance, why an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God permits cancer to originate and metastasize in the brains of innocent children? Encouraging students to consider this "argument from evil" doubtless encourages critical thought. But any teacher, board member, or school superintendent, who encourages such an examination had better have alternative career options at the ready.

Here's one more example: Imagine asking high schoolers to critically examine use of the term, "fallen hero." They might be asked, for instance, were those military men and women killed in the second Iraq war really "fallen heroes?" Let's imagine a hypothetical lesson concerning this question. Say the students learn from examining news clips from that era that President George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney and numerous other high ranking government officials assured Americans, indeed the whole world via the United Nations, that Saddam Hussein's Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and also harbored al-Qaida terrorists. Then the students learn from subsequent clips that both claims were proven to be patently false. The students are then asked: "Were those killed in combat to eliminate these non-existent threats really "fallen heroes?" Why or why not?" 

Such a lesson requires serious critical thinking. But imagine the white hot reaction of arm-chair "patriots." Especially the ones who never put themselves at risk. They would be incensed! And, if they got wind of it, such a lesson would doubtless gain "fair and balanced" treatment on Fox News. That's when all the American flag lapel pin wearing Washington politicians would emerge from their congressional clown car, pretend outrage, and demand corrective action. Would teaching such a lesson work out well for the teacher involved? Do you doubt it involves critical thinking?

So you see, no locally elected board of education is going to countenance teaching students to think critically about ANY values or perspectives that are uncritically cherished by significant elements of the local community. No superintendent who values their job will either. So forget those thousands upon thousands of school district mission statements claiming that they foster critical thinking. No, they don't; and no they won't! At least not about anything that really matters. And that, my friend, is that.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

AFFIRMING DIVERSITY: more "woke" nonsense

 


Affirming Diversity, Sonia Nieto's 1992 celebration of multicultural education, has become an educational classic — of sorts. Yet her prescription for public education is based on an obviously false assumption. Namely, that cultural values are mutually inclusive and support tolerance. They're not and they don't.

What, specifically, is Professor Nieto prescribing for our schools? She calls it "Affirming Diversity." What does that imply? The professor says it, "... implies that cultural, linguistic, and other differences can and should be accepted, respected, and used as a basis for learning and teaching."

Really? But the values of cultures can be, often are, completely at odds. Plus they're commonly at odds with the very tolerance Nieto's prescription requires. Consider, for example, the dogmatism of the Quehabi Islamic sect that controls Saudi Arabia. Their brand of religion divides the world into good guy true believers — those who subscribe to their highly conservative version of the Sunni school of Islam — and the bad guys of every stripe who don't. In their view, all other religious beliefs must be, at minimum, suppressed. Preferably, they should be annihilated. After all, they're horribly wrong!

Think this an exaggeration? Well, even some Saudi's don't think so. In fact in 2004 a Saudi royal study group, no less, found that the kingdom's religious studies curriculum "encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the 'other.' Embarrassed when their religion's intolerant dogmatism was called out, Saudi education authorities promised to eliminate these features of their curriculum. But when the Washington Post analyzed Saudi school books they found them to be as hate filled and intolerant as ever.

How is this pertinent to Professor Nieto's recommendation that we affirm diversity? Let's imagine her trying to teach in Saudi Arabian higher education. As a woman she would only be allowed to teach in a gender segregated setting. And all senior administration, even of female schools, is restricted to men. She would also discover that Saudi public higher education is only open to Saudi citizens and residents. Plus each and every student must be a Muslim. (I imagine the same criteria applies to professors.) 

Now let's imagine that Professor Nieto somehow gets a Saudi public university teaching job, accepts the gender segregation and determines she will, true to her own philosophy, accept and respect the Wahabi cult's beliefs. Then, of course, she would have to comply with their characteristic utter intolerance as THE basis for all learning and teaching. After all, that's how that culture does things. 

Now, let's say she get's the Saudi teaching job but doesn't take the second step of accepting and respecting Quehabi intolerance. Instead she bravely advocates accepting and respecting ALL cultural points of view. When Saudi authorities discover she's doing that, what do you think her fate would be? Here's a clue: in 2005 a Saudi teacher merely suggested that Jews and the New Testament could be viewed positively, and he was fired, sentenced to 750 lashes and given a prison term. (He was eventually pardoned, but only following international protests.) 

Are other cultures similarly intolerant? Of course they are. Might some cultures totally reject Nieto's prescription that they accept and respect all cultural points of view? Do pigs have good table manners? For instance, some cultures are profoundly misogynistic. They countenance, often foster, things like female infanticide, genital mutilation, selling one's daughters into prostitution, wife beating, honor killings, excluding widows from wills, banning girls from school, counting a woman's court testimony as having half the value of a man's, and so forth. These and similarly profoundly intolerant behaviors, such as stoning homosexuals to death or hating whomever is on your tribe's shit list at the moment, all are rooted in culture. Yet Professor Nieto urges we not only accept and respect all cultural differences, but use them conjointly as the basis for all teaching and learning. Really?

Imagine the possible conflicts created by such a policy in a school setting. "Yes class, Conner just spit on Maureen and threatened to kill her! Conner is a Protestant, and Maureen is a Roman Catholic. And they're both from Northern Ireland. Religious hatred between these groups has characterized their respective cultures for hundreds of years. So, we must respect and affirm Conner's culture, while also respecting and honoring Maureen's." Just how in the world is that sort of thing supposed to happen? 

"Affirming diversity" is the pedagogical equivalent of following Alice down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. And, intellectually, it's pure pablum. So when "woke" professors praise, even struggle vainly to adopt, this egregious nonsense, it evidences the idiocy that ensues when political correctness replaces rigorous logic and factual evidence.

For more on the limits of multiculturalism see: www.newfoundations.com/Clabaugh/CuttingEdge/Multiculturalism.html

Monday, June 13, 2022

BARE BOOBS OR MURDER? what's best viewing for kids?


Remember Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction?” This momentary glimpse of her right boob, a pasty covering the nipple, created such a furor that Congress, the FCC and the Supreme Court all got involved. 

Complaints about the incident repeatedly emphasized that "children were watching!" So what? Why is a kid getting a brief glimpse of a nearly bare boob so upsetting when, by the time they complete elementary school, the average U. S. child has watched some 8,000 murders on TV. Yep, that's right, eight thousand! And we're not even counting movie murders or the killings depicted in electronic gaming.

Routinely exposing children to murder as entertainment generates little to no public protest. Yet a momentary glimpse of a boob get's the nation's bowels in an uproar? What in the world is one to make of that?  Who but a moral cretin, someone like Rev. Franklin Graham comes to mind, thinks that feigned murder of a fellow human is acceptable while a very brief glimpse of a boob, nipple covered, is mouth foamingly outrageous? Murder as entertainment generates a great deal of money for people who count? But in what other way is it beneficial — especially for children? 

Okay, kids know that TV, movie and electronic media murders aren't real.  Nevertheless, what are they learning by living in a culture where the staged depiction of murder is entertainment? Also ask yourself, what kid's learn about sexuality when a breast bared for a fraction of a second creates a national furor? Healthy that ain't.

Here's an actual incident that first got me thinking about this. One morning my wife and I were walking to our car when some young boys next door made believe they were shooting me. I know, boys often do that sort of thing. But let's broaden our view of it a bit. Suppose, instead of pretending to murder me, they had mimicked having sexual intercourse with my wife. Let's imagine they were pointing at her and thrusting their butts. Imagine how the boy's mother would have reacted if I informed her that her were doing that. She would have been mortified. But had I expressed concern about her boys were pretending to murder me, she would have thought me tetched. Why? How come kids mimicking a pleasurable act is utterly unacceptable, while mimicking murder is amusing? What sort of weird cultural values does this reflect? 

Most of what shapes a child's sense of right and wrong is caught rather than taught. By that I mean, kids absorb how to behave and what to value just by living in a certain environment. Now, what do you think they are absorbing by watching and playing at murder? Is this wise and worthy of their promise? And as for this puritanical attitude regarding human sexuality that they absorb, how wise is that? No wonder we've got all sorts of sexual deviants running about.

So, am I far out in left field on this? Or does what I'm saying make sense? Please comment.

To examine similar educationally related issues, see articles at www.newfoundations.net 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

THE WORM TURNS: standardized testing every politician




No Child Left Behind imposed one-size-fits-all standardized testing on every public high schooler in the nation. The subsequent Every Student Succeeds Act, also requires testing of all but private school students. (Do you wonder why private schools escaped?).)

Many lament this mandatory testing. But it looks like it's here to stay. So here's how we might take unexpected advantage of it. Require every politician to take the same high stakes battery of tests imposed on their state's high schoolers. Then, here's the fun part, publicize the results. And while we're at it let's also require aspiring high level government appointees, such as a U. S. Secretary of Education, Secretary of State, or even Director of the FBI, to also take such tests and publish the results. 

I'm not proposing anyone must achieve a minimum score to stay in office. Just that they take the tests and the resultant scores be made very public. No exceptions. 

And let's also extend this mandate to all political candidates, so that voters can compare their respective scores. Before being allowed to run again for President, for example, Mr. Trump would have to take the Florida mandated high school tests. Similarly if Biden should choose to run for reelection he too would have to take, in this case, the Delaware tests. Biden's scores would help clarify to what degree he has been addled by age. And Trump's scores could help establish that he truly is, as he claims, a very stable genius. This thing has breath-taking possibilities.  Imagine, for example, being able to directly compare Marjorie Taylor Green' s scores with those of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Or finding out what's between  Sarah Palin's ears. 

We might also want to develop general questions for all office seekers based on our national experience. Imagine questions such as these: 

1. Given an unprecedented federal budget deficit, the best course of action of those listed is to: a. borrow still more money from China  b. cut another trillion dollars from the tax bills of the wealthiest Americans  c. slash Social Security benefits  d. tighten the nation's belt and spend only what we have. 
 2. If an attractive intern offers sex, a public official should:  a. quickly take him or her up on it before they change their mind  b. accept, but make sure the intern's clothes are laundered afterward  c. politely decline  d. ask them what they mean by "sex." 
 3. If, as a member of Congress, you plan to have our schools emphasize “character education,” the best individual upon whom to base the curriculum would be:  a. J. Edgar Hoover  b. Richard Nixon  c. Bill Clinton  d. none of the above 
 4. If an attack on the US originated in Afghanistan, the best course of action would be to: a. invade Iraq  b. invade Iran  c. invade Canada  d. find out where Afghanistan is located. 

While we're at it let's also require every aspiring state Secretary of Education to pass the same battery of tests his or her state requires of aspiring teachers. In Pennsylvania, for example, they would have to pass separate NTE basic skills tests in Reading, Writing, and Listening Skills, (The later would be a tough one for any politician.) They also would have pass a test of their a knowledge of pedagogy. Why require this? Because any teacher who has passed them all should not be required to accept as a leader someone who can't? 

Since we would be dealing with lot's politicians, aspiring and existing, dishonesty and cheating will be an urgent concern. Safeguards clearly are required. We must be absolutely certain that our subjects don't cheat. And we must keep in mind that a majority of them would be unaccustomed to doing anything honestly. 

That, in broad outline, is the plan. So, do you think office holders and aspirants for public office should indeed have to take the same tests they prescribe for others?  And why or why not? 

To examine other education policiesy issues, interesting articles are available at both  www.newfoundations.com and www.newfoundations.net. They share a common index.