Monday, November 28, 2022


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