Tuesday, November 01, 2005

On Schools.

Public education and universal literacy are great-- on paper. There are some people who should never have learned how to read and write. Those would be the few who piss us off on occasion, the morons who send us hate mail. But what the hey, we get over it and get on with living. It takes sometimes a second or two of ill temper before a moment of reflection reveals again that literacy is a gift that belongs to all with the means to hold it. To deny a man literacy is to enslave him. There are obscurantists in this world who do enslave their fellows, and though they are mostly Muslims they are also Left fascist dhimmis, for example, those who chant "No free speech for fascists." These are the vicious little biblioclasts who would murder Socrates and William Tyndale and you. There also school teachers who don't like their work, who hate their students, who really hate Humanity. Educational reform, from where we sit, needs men and women willing to go into the world at large and teach elenchus and aporia to the willing masses, Socratics with guns, armed men and women willing to shoot the bastards who will keep their children from school and the life of the mind for the sake of tradition, culture, and religion.

Unfortunately, we can't rightly shoot all rotten school teachers and village bigots and fanatics. Sometimes we can and must reason with them and teach their children on the sly and hope the kids don't get killed for being inquisitive. But try it once and find out you blew it. Then you'll join us in thinking all obscurantists must be dragged from their caves and killed.

But before we assume that everyone agrees that people have a right to learn and think for themselves we have to ask if it's a good thing at all. Maybe Man is better off being a farm animal. We have to ask "What is the goal of Humanity?" We won't presume to answer that here. Instead, we post an article on literacy in America.

By Paul E. Peterson

FrontPageMagazine.com | October 10, 2005

Among the "talented tenth," those in the top 10 percent of test takers, reading scores have dropped four points since 1971 and math scores have not budged since first measured in 1978. So say the latest (2004) results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation's report card.

At the other end of the scale, dropout rates have actually increased since 1990, rising to 30 percent of all seventeen-year-olds. Among African Americans the dropout rate is running somewhere between 50 and 60 percent, a sad fact that remains one of the best-kept secrets in American education. Because few people know the facts, in a recently issued book, Michael Dyson scolds Bill Cosby for (accurately) lamenting the fact that only about half of African Americans graduate from high school. Dyson "corrected" him, saying the dropout rate is only 17 percent, an inaccuracy that earned Dyson warm praise from a New York Times book reviewer.

The reviewer's error only shows how successful the public education cartel has been in misleading the public. To hide actual dropout rates, most school districts report as dropouts only those who entered the year as seniors but did not remain in school until the end of that year. All other dropouts over the preceding three years—and all the summers in between, when most dropping out actually occurs—are statistically ignored.

The U.S. Department of Education has long been complicit in fostering that misperception. To his credit, Russ Whitehurst, head of the department's Institute of Education Sciences, is now actively working to remedy the situation, as are the nation's governors, who are now embarked on a Herculean effort to develop a multistate common definition and gauge of high school completion.

Getting the facts right will be a start. But we then need to do something about it. We currently base our high school policies on two contradictory assumptions: (1) that adolescents are responsible enough that they can choose their own curriculum from the shopping mall of choices available; ( 2) that adolescents should not be held responsible for their performances. Testing expectations should be minimal, and graduation requirements should be easily achievable.

No wonder the United States is desperately searching for ways to import talent from abroad. If we are to regain our educational strength in a world where other nations are passing us by, we need to hold students responsible for more than just selecting the courses they want to take. To graduate from high school, students should be expected to pass, at as high a level as they can, a challenging, substantive examination in a variety of subjects that allow them to demonstrate—to colleges and employers—just how accomplished they are. The Advanced Placement Test is a good beginning, but until more than 9 percent of all public school students take that test, it will not have a broad impact.

Tyndale, Luther, Wesley. It's not just Right-wing religious obscurantists who are a menace to Human freedom, and some religious men are our greatest heroes. Tyndale was murdered for translating the Bible into English, Luther was hounded for translating it into German, and Wesley for teaching the working class how to read. Theo van Gogh was murdered for publishing his ideas. You might be next. We welcome your comments here, even if we hate them. Maybe we'll learn something. We tend to think that's what life is about. We'll take our chances here.

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