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