Thursday, December 22, 2022



 There is an essential tension between the risks of thought and the comforts of certainty. The comfortably certain sense that the glue that holds their world together is soluble when immersed in inquiry. So, whenever possible, they wipe out that threat by stifling the search and muzzling, even murdering, the thinker.

Here's one of thousands of examples: In 1615 “His Holiness and the Most Eminent Lords, Cardinals of this Supreme and Universal Inquisition” declared that Galileo has “rendered (himself) vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy.” We command him “to abjure, curse and detest the said error and heresies in our presence.” 

 Galileo's 'crimes' were:
 1. “Making the proposition that the sun is in the center of the world and immovable from its place is absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical; because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scriptures.”

 2. “Making the proposition that the earth is not the center of the world, nor immovable, but that it moves, and also with a diurnal action, is also absurd, philosophically false, and, theologically considered, at least erroneous of faith.” 

 Wielding the authority of their offices, the Pope and the Lords of the Inquisition determined that when Galileo abandoned the scriptures and heeded his own observations he strayed from truth into error, from virtue into vice, and from morality into immorality. Hence the Holy Inquisition determined that Galileo’s thought and resultant findings were “unlawful” as well as “disordered and immoderate.” 

Galileo's findings were neither "disordered" nor "immoderate." He was 100% right when he "abandoned the scriptures and heeded his own observation." But it took the Roman Catholic Church 359 years to admit that. That's quite a while.

 This is no isolated instance. History is crammed with example after example of established authority declaring that the results of thought and evidence were “disordered and immoderate. It happened whenever it discomforted them or threatened their interests. 

Consider, for instance, a few of the many vital medical discoveries that were initially regarded as disordered and immoderate by the established authorities of the day:
• Dissecting and studying the structures and functions of the human body 
 • Inoculation 
 • Vaccination 
 • The germ theory of disease 
 • Anesthesia 

In thousands of similar instances the prevailing authorities tried their very best to wipe out unwelcome thoughts and resultant conclusions. In short anything that disturbed contemporary ignorance and threatened established authority. 

We still have that today. Only nowadays it includes not only right wingers but leftist so-called professors. Disagree with these academic thought police, disturb their self-righteousness, and you are immediately branded a racist, fascist, male chauvinist pig, ad nauseam. Your arguments and facts might be totally accurate. Nevertheless, an academic inquisition, composed of right-thinking 'scholars' and their administrative bedfellows (Uniformly desperate to keep the tuition flowing.) will likely find you guilty as charged.  

What will become of American democracy should these contemporary thought police, composed both of dogmatists on the right and the left, actually succeed in stifling, even banning, thought? George Orwell describes it this way. "A nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting — three hundred million people all with the same face." 

Is that what we want? 

 For similar considerations see 

Monday, December 19, 2022



Immigrant children are flowing into our schools from all over the globe. And they bring with them a bewildering, often conflicting, variety of cultural beliefs and practices. Teachers have to deal with this new, multi-cultural America that is struggling to life in their classrooms. And that generates multiple problems and unique opportunities. 

So what help do front-line teachers receive in the face of this challenge? Usually little more than warm, fuzzy slogans issued by administrators who are safe in the rear. These rear echelon commandos generate simple-minded humbug in which conflicted polyglot schools become multicultural rainbows where “You can be you and I can be me.” Would that it were that simple. 

Why can't our public schools be happy multicultural rainbows? For one thing, because the cultural values brought into the schoolhouse often are at odds with one another. For another, these values are often incompatible with core American ones. Take, for crucial instance, the very tolerance that makes multiculturalism possible. Such tolerance can be totally at odds with many of the student's cultures of origin. 

Consider Iran, for instance. Their theocracy lives and breaths intolerance. It publicly hangs citizens for "crimes against God." (That essentially means discomforting the clerical establishment.) They also mercilessly persecute the entire LBTG community. Then there's the Afghan Taliban who just banned females from any schooling beyond the 6th grade. Does any of this dovetail with schools that are multicultural rainbows? Does any of this fit the fabric of American democracy?

Remember too, some cultures define themselves in terms of animosity or distain for others. The antagonism between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, Afghanistan's Hazzara and Pashtun, or Catholics and Protestants in Ulster comes to mind. Or how about Hindus who regard some of their fellow Indians as so repulsive as to be literally untouchable.  How does any of this fit in a cultural rainbow?  

Apparently, the most enthusiastic advocates of multicultural education have rarely thought about such things. In fact, they don't seem to think very much at all. For them, multiculturalism is a topic for emoting, not thinking. 

 No doubt aspects of an immigrant's native culture can, often do, make a valuable contribution to American culture. Our way of life has been enriched in that way many times over. But the fact remains that some foreign cultural practices are totally at odds with a tolerance and a,democratic way of life. If, for example, we value free and unfettered expression, or if we think that women’s rights should equal those of men, the native cultures of many immigrants stand in stern opposition. 

Remember too, lots of immigrant children do not want to be defined by their parent’s native culture. They long to escape those confines and join mainstream America. Should educators help that happen? Or should they join forces with their parents to keep these kids in the old-world fold?   

 The core reality of all of this is that multicultural education is much more problematic than its evangelists would have us believe. Any careful consideration of multi-culturalism inevitably turns from simple-minded tolerance to thoughtful reflection. That, not the current pablum about multicultural rainbows, must guide educational practice and school policy. Otherwise frontline teachers are left twisting slowly in the wind.

 To further examine this and similar educational issues, see articles at 

Monday, November 28, 2022

UNDESERVED ACADEMIC CREDENTIALS: why are they multiplying?

Anxious to maintain enrollment, school administrators cleverly use equity "concerns" to covertly press for lower standards. Professors, worried about class numbers and eager to "earn" good "course evaluations" (which everyone knows are really student evaluations of professors) pass way too many dolts. Politicians simultaneously push for increasing high school diplomas and college degrees. But as these things happen, what else occurs? 

The law of supply and demand provides the answer. As the percentage of students receiving diplomas and degrees increases, the value of those credentials decreases. That's because their value depends on their scarcity. If nearly everyone has one, any credential offers little competitive advantage. The only remaining value becomes defensive That is, not having one now becomes a devastating handicap. 

So suppose high schools and colleges really do turn out even more graduates. Who pays the highest price? High school youngsters who do not, perhaps cannot, go to college. That's because they heavily depend on their high school diploma to open doors for them. The same ultimately applies to college degrees. In short these credentials become even less valuable than they are now. 

You might think that if we do graduate more kids, at least they will be better educated. But the easiest way to increase the number of high school graduates is to quietly reduce the requirements for graduation. Many inner city and rural poverty schools already have already done that. Their tacit policy is: "Come to school most of the time, generally behave yourself and we will give you a diploma."  This often degenerates into: "Come to school at least some of the time, don't create major disruptions and we will still give you a diploma even if you can barely read." 

These dynamics of degeneration are not confined to basic education. They also are active in higher ed. Encouraged by political correctnes, by ranking equity over excellence, and by a scarcity of customers, professors and administrators who try to maintain high standards have become unwelcome. Instead, professors are encouraged by the new breed of administrator to cox, cajole, coddle 'students' and "be the student's friend." 

Spurred on by political correctness, fear of negative student evaluations and a paucity of students in their classes, professors, in turn, often decide, "I'm not going to be a policeman"and ignore both their student's subject matter ignorance and their often remarkably egregious plagiarism. Some so-called professors even completely abandon their duty and openly say things like, "I couldn't sleep at night if I prevented someone from graduating." (An actual quote from a Georgia State professor.) Consequently we're getting more and more college graduates who, to put it crudely, can't tell shit from Shinola.

Of course it isn't just political correctness that feeds this cancer. In fact it is often merely a cover for a more basic concern: the need for ever scarcer tuition income. Administrators ultimately have to pay the bills or shut up shop; and college applicants are frighteningly scarce these days. So they subtly pressure professors to not discomfort or discourage students by actually maintaining standards. It's become, "the customer is always right."

Of course 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 reverse these trends? Toughen graduation requirements at every level thereby reducing 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 not only have no interest in reducing their own ignorance. 

This is a drastic solution to a drastic problem. It means fewer students, fewer school administrators, fewer professors, and fewer institutions of higher education. Educator 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. That's why it probably won't happen. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't.  -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 kidding


If you enjoy comedy, you might like to savor this situation. It represents the very bottom, the Mindanao Deep, in ineffectual teacher entrance requirements. Some states, Arizona comes to mind, have eliminated the college-degree requirement and also 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 so long as it doesn't happen to theirs.

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 the very beginning of public education. But then we could at least rely on bright, hard-working women to teach our kids because they had few other opportunities. Secretary, nurse, teacher, housewife, that was it. Of course 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 Obama's 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 Obama 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, was the issue of a man with an elite private school education who escaped the public schools. 

Just what was "highly qualified" supposed to mean before Obama 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 teaching certificate, 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 protected 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 "woke" 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 DIRECTING TEACHERS: you can't be serious!

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. Youngkin charged that school systems were “refusing to engage with parents.” Whatever that might mean. But McAuliffe made the mistake of countering “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” That impolitic remark probably cost her the election.   

Should parents be "telling schools what to teach?" Well that depends on whether parents can agree and then be relied upon to make wise pedagogical decisions. Will they? Can they? Let's recollect what it takes to become a parent. The qualifications are, shall we say, minimal. And this lax selection leads to a goodly number of parents who are unqualified to decide much of anything. In short, there is an over- abundance of ignorant, stupid, closed minded, fanatical, bigoted, dogmatic, and just plain incompetent parents. And it's pure fantasy to expect such parents to agree on much of anythin or make reasonable and responsible, decisions concerning what their kids are taught. 

Moreover, from a practical point of view, if 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. No, it will apply to every child in the class. Why? Because it is an 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 often can barely read with deciding what schools teach? 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 who come from dysfunctional families school is often a refuge. And the very last thing these children want or need is to give their deplorable parents play a bigger role in the life of the school. Whatsuch kids actually need is for their biological parents to have lesser 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 in 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 (usually the one's you most need to see) 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, to try to balance various non-parental concerns, and to shelter educational policy from the most irresponsible extremism. With all its faults, this system works pretty well. And one reason it does so is that parents who care have always been included, though not allowed to dominate, the process.

After all, public schooling has never had a direct parental controlling intent to begin with. From its 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 Q-anon wack jobs, that's their business. But if their kids can only view the world through Q-anon 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: 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

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

Way too much is made of high stakes test scores. They tell us little or nothing 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 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 those measures that already exist. 

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

  • 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. And Rotten Tomatoes says, "The story, the casting, the acting and the set, all superb." The popularity of this 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. 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. Those who prefer that earn a black mark for their schooling? 
  • CULT MEMBERSHIP Lets use the popularity of cult membership as a measure. Perhaps 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. Schooling was flagrantly deficient in these cases. 
  •  SUPERMARKET TABLOID SALES 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? Aren't tabloid sales an inverse measure of educational progress? 
  • THE POPULARITY OF CON-ARTIST TELEVANGELIST'S Their income, available from the IRS Tax Exempt Branch, might be a great measure of schooling's effectiveness? The more money these charlatans make, the less well our schools have done. Consider, for instance, 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 himself, the Holy Spirit uses his vocal apparatus to speak to the congregation. Shouldn't 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, including dinosaurs, loaded them on his ark, and fed and housed them for over a year. Doesn't 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?
Who needs high stakes testing when we have such well-established popular 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, etc., could possibly contrive. An Index of this sort surely would better reflect the real life results tax payers are getting for their average annual 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. 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 school attendance record. Educators currently are even being blamed for not producing good test results from kids who are rarely attend.

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 really matters 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 and

Thursday, October 6, 2022

TEACHING THE FINE ARTS: a road to heartbreak

It's especially hard to teach the fine arts. Indeed 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 so forth is almost exclusively intrinsic. In and of themselves the arts are intensely worthwhile, but much less so as a means to other ends.

Yes, of course, fields such as mathematics or engineering can have intrinsic value. For some, a well-solved complex equation is probably just as beautiful as a Van Gogh painting. But that is not the only reason, perhaps not even the principle reason, such subjects have value. They can and do serve as a means to other ends. So 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 even making a living. So are chemistry, physics, and so forth.

When students take such subjects they have at least two reasons to learn:

• it can be intrinsically interesting,

• it offers numerous practical advantages.

Those teaching the fine arts cannot rely on such extrinsic advantages for motivation. There often is only the joy of appreciation. Let's say a teacher 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 that amazing sculpture offer? Very little. So, if the students remain unmoved by the beauty and breathtaking craftsmanship of this consumate work of art, what is the teacher to do? They have led the horse to water, but ....

Such student indifference frequently suffocates the joy of fine arts teachers. Imagine an enthusiastic 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 thousands of dollars and sweating to earn her teaching certificate, she lands a job at St. Mediocritus High School teaching Music Appreciation. 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 whose chief, perhaps only, reason for enrolling in her course is that it is required for graduation.

She tries and tries to engage their intrinsic interest using this method and that. But in spite of the music's wondrous beauty and her various inventive tactics, most of the class remains comatose. Some are even annoyed by the earnestness of her efforts. All she can get out of most of them is, “Will this be on the test?” Eventually our teacher gives up trying to convey what makes her love music. She may even start to doubt her own love of it. To spare herself pain and fury she starts just going through the motions and handing out work sheets. The students, having long since learned to go through the motions, fill them out and generally pretend to listen. 

When the semester ends and the principal reviews our deflated teacher's course evaluations, he is pleased to discover that the student's think our music teacher has finally hit the mark. Our teacher, on the other hand, has developed a new appreciation for Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." It's hard to teach the fine arts.

For other observations concerning motivation for learning, see


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 that are 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 and do sometimes result in hiring or promoting lesser talents and the less diligent. 

The above explains why affirmative action can undermine organizational effectiveness. Consider this example: 70% of present-day NFL players are African-American. That group constitutes just 12.7% of the general population. Why not adopt affirmative action to add more white players? Clearly things are racially out of balance. You know why it's not done? Not even talked about? Because WINNING is the goal in assembling any NFL team.

Difficulties with affirmative action are obvious in any endeavor where performance is paramount. Although in many fields, where performance is critical, the selection of physicians for instance, that issue is sometimes relegated to second place. 

Here is another difficulty affirmative action poses. Present day attempts to establish greater fairness totally ignore a host of obviously disadvantaged people. Many, perhaps most, people suffering from truly limiting handicaps receive no affirmative action whatsoever. Which, by the way, means they are being discriminated against. How so? If one gives special favor to some, everyone else is put at a special disadvantage. 

Here are a few of many examples of handicapped people who are ignored re affirmative action:

Physical Unattractiveness
If you're ugly, you are 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, how about affirmative action for the unattractive? No chance, right? 

Obesity results 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. 

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 for fairness to reign? Our "woke" era fixation on race, sexual persuasions, or some other single categorization, makes this impossible. We're 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: 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022


 Educators are repeatedly urged to prepare kid's for the world of work. Of course they should emerge from school ready for that. But let's keep the preparation real.  School kids need to prepare for 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 badly educated people mistakenly concluded that “Chainsaw” was selfish and 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. Moreover, it would vastly increase 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 that he was an obedient servant of the shareholders. More importantly, they'll learn that the world of work entails struggle. And, as Adolf Hitler once trenchantly observed: "He who fails to struggle, does not deserve to live."

Yes indeed. school kids must be taught to respect and admire the executives that “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!” What could be more inspiring than that?

Realistic preparation for the real world of work must begin early. For example, educators must eliminate the socialistic, even communistic, practice of encouraging grade school kids to share. Kindergarten and first grade teachers, for instance, must stop urging kids to share resources and, instead, encourage competition for them. For instance, coloring assignments should be graded and crayonless kids flunked. As "Chainsaw observed, "If you want a friend, get a dog."

Teachers also must put an end to this “inclusion” rot. Kids in inclusive classrooms often 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!

No, it's way past time to get realistic. For instance, business leaders often order “involuntary separations from payroll” in order to enhance profits, boost stock prices and increase corporate efficiency. Of course, this is best done by targeting employees who have worked there the longest, since they make the most money. Right sizing long-serving individuals greatly 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 all the layoffs in the real world of work. 

And here is a really important caveat. The kids need to be gotten ready early. How? Here's one of numerous possibilities: Wait until students are almost ready to graduate and then impose “involuntary severance” on a random selection of them. Instead of graduation, the selected kids will end up out in cold, without a school. This simulated work experience, similar to canning employees in their 50's, will better prepare all high school students, both those selected and the survivors, for the real world of work. 

Really well-run businesses also wet their beaks in employee pension funds. Unfortunately, mal-educated employees object. (Provided they even know it's going on.) Can educators do anything to facilitate greater employee cooperation? Sure. Encourage the kids to start school-based savings accounts. But make sure administrators have access to them. Then encourage these same administrators to pocket some of the kid's money. Then instruct them to spend it on luxury goods for themselves and cooperative school board members. Maybe they should even spruce up the school plant and refurbish administrate offices. After the kids experience this sort of thing a couple of times we won’t have all this whining and kvetching every time pension funds are "freed up" to enhanceenhance executive privileges, create executive bonuses, pay extra dividends to stock holders, and so forth. Simply put, well-educated employees will expect it.

Let's remember too, that business execs also find it advantageous to ship American jobs abroad. It greatly enhances corporate profitability. But, here again, American workers whine incessantly about it. In fact, their whingeing has got some Congressmen, and women, pretending they care. What can be done to make workers more cooperative? Here's ne possibility "decruit" a big bunch of American teachers in a massive "workforce imbalance correction." Then import cheap, hungry, compliant replacement teachers from one or another "emerging" nation. You know, the kind Trump labels "shitholes." (India, with its large English speaking population, comes immediately to mind.) This would not only generate a ton of money, the kids who miss their favorite teachers and struggle to adapt to the foreign workers won't be as resentful when their own jobs are shipped overseas. They'll understand that in the real world of work it's just a fact of life.

In fairness, public schooling already meets some real world of work needs. After a few years in elementary school, for instance, kids learn they have to go along to get along. That’s solid preparation. Twelve years of public schooling also teaches kids to live with mindless rules, red tape and managerial double talk. This too is invaluable. So is something as simple as learning the value of sucking up. In general, though, school preparation for the real world of work cries out for improvement. Maybe you have some ideas! If so, we're all ears.

To examine these and similar issues further, see

-- GKC

Saturday, August 27, 2022


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: