This is another one of those stories that so many sent me that I had to blog about it. And despite its bad news, I'm not going to rant about it. No, on second thought, it's not bad news; the news is downright apocalyptic, for it means that if the USA cannot turn its quackademic system around, the country is doomed. I'm at a loss here, because many of my friends and acquaintances are active professional teachers, so any remarks I might make about the systemic problems of the profession are bound to be personally hurtful, and subject to misinterpretation.
But there's no denying what this story is saying: after a decade of spending gobs of money on education, American school children's performance is dropping:
(Mr. C.S. spotted this version of the story:)
The problem here hits close to home, for I live in a state where, recently, teachers staged a "walk out" to make their case for a salary increase. And, part of me is deeply sympathetic with their position, because in this same state, while teachers rank near the bottom of the pay scale, educational "administrators" are - in some districts - pulling in almost a million dollars, more money than the President of the USA, the Vice-President, a US Senator, or Congressman. And for doing what? Delivering to us this mess of stupid butthurt Bolshevized students (yes, I said Bolshevized), who cannot read, cannot write, cannot think. So at least a part of me can sympathize with the teachers. But by the same token, the other part of me most decidedly does not sympathize, for in all their demands for more money, not a word was heard about what might be wrong with the system, and how to fix it, and I've always contended that part of that problem stems from the whole idea of teacher certification, which means that one has spent "x" amount of classtime, not learning a subject, but learning method and theory, which usually revolve around cleverly-disguised systems of passive aggression. It's in those classes that teachers themselves are collectivized and turned into "team players" who should not "rock the boat" by failing a student for not knowing the material, for not being able to think clearly. That, after all, would affect their self-esteem, or be to impose a "white male patriarchal system" of value on their Kulcher... yes folks, it's that bad here. In fact, it's so bad that mathematics itself has come under fire for being a system of "white male privilege." I won't go into that, because I've blogged about it before on this site.
This idea of ending certification or standardized tests sounds ridiculous on the surface, until one recalls the inconvenience of history, which my co-author Gary Lawrence and I pointed out in our book Rotten to the (Common) Core: fully none of the great minds of our Western culture were taught by people who had a "teaching credential" from a modern American department of edgykayshun, and fully none of them ever took a standardized test: JS Bach, Mozart, Haendel, Haydn, Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, Robert or Clara Schumann, Beethoven... not even John Philip Sousa or Leonard Bernstein or Aaron Copland... were taught by people with an American Masters of Music Education, ie., by people who had studied not just music, but who had a teaching credential in the latest pedagogical theory. Poor Bernstein, daring to compose West Side Story and Candide and The Chichester Psalms and presuming to teach music on his television programs and lectures without a teaching credential! Alas, they were taught by people who had actually mastered their discipline. But were they sensitive to other cultures? (Well, actually, if one listens to Bernstein, he was, but perhaps that's because he had mastered his own first.)
Lawrence Stern, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, John Donne, Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Wolf, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Elizabeth Barret Browning &c &c were not taught English or English literature and poetry by people possessing a "teaching credential," and, by parity of reasoning, these people never took a computerized standardized test on English either. Shame on them!
Yet, to listen to the paragons and mandarins of the American quackademy, these two things - the credential and the standardized test- are essential, so essential that it's truly amazing that Western civilization, from Plato to Popper, ever got along without them!
We're told time and again that this country's educational system is the best in the world. I beg to differ, because history gives lie to the claim, as do the contemporary "results" of the system.
No, what more money, more technology means is really "we want more of the same."
I know I most decidedly do not more of the same, because what the implications of this study really means is that, within a generation, it won't do any good to talk about things like "the Constitution" or "constitutionality" or "the rule of law", because a large part of them will not be able to read it, much less think in anything resembling a coherent fashion about it. It will do absolutely no good to talk about the Heglian dialectic or "the concrete universal" or the Kantian Ding an Sich or the Thomistic proofs or the principle of parsimony or the "problematic of atheist theodicy" or the Austrian economic school's critiques of Marxism, because no one will even have a clue what you're talking about, because they'll be incapable of reading it. It will do no good to write or talk of Popperian verifiability in science and the problems posed for certain scientific theories; it will do no good to speak or write about Goedelian incompleteness or Hamiltonian spaces or quantum entanglement or double slit experiments or uncertainty principles, because no one will have a clue, because, after all, two plus two equals twenty-two:
(And sadly folks, the edykayshunal kulcher in Amairikuh is just about this bad, especially for a teacher who, like Mrs. Wells, thinks there are "correct answers.")
Indeed, viewed this way, the conclusion is unpleasant, but clear: the problem isn't a lack a funding. The problem is continuing to do the same thing, and to expect different results, which, as I recall, Einstein once said was a perfect definition of insanity. The problem isn't a lack of funds. The problem is, we continue to fund the same thing. The problem isn't the lack of funding. he problem is we won't even consider turning off the funding spigot to the departments of education, the corporate "textbook" suppliers, that are responsible for this mess.
No, not one more penny for this taurum excretum.
See you on the flip side...