Friday, February 17, 2006

Makers and Wreckers

"Nearly two-thirds of fourth- and eighth-graders nationwide still score below grade level -- called "proficient" by NAEP -- in both math and reading."

"His world had shrunk to a hut in a crumbling village. He was prepared for even that to crumble away further, once the faith was served."

V.S. Naipaul, Among the Believers, Penguin: p. 89.

Two views of reality, one from America, the other from Pakistan.

The United States has one of the most successful economies in the world, one of the most successful cultures in the world, and over-all the highest standard of Human development in history. And yet, the majority of our students tested in grades four and eight can't read or do math at their expected levels. What does this tell us about the future?

I argue that it doesn't tell us the world is going to Hell in a hurry: I argue that it tells us that if America is a better place than most, which it demonstrably is, then the rest of the world must really be the pits. How we treat our children tells us what kind of nation and culture we have. If our concern is that our children are not achieving well enough in school we see that we are prepared to make sacrifices to ensure they do better in the future. We have to look at the over-all picture of the future to see what that competition is. We obviously do care. So we have to be smart in knowing what we send our children to face in the world to come.

Below we have a short excerpt from Pew Research. We'll follow this with a look at Pakistan and we'll link to a story of Palestinians.

State of Education: Who Makes the Grade?

by Kavan Peterson
January 26, 2006

Schools spend fewer dollars per student in Utah than in any other state, but more fourth-graders there improved reading and math scores over the past decade than in more than half of the states.

Maine, for example, spends nearly twice as much on a comparable student population -- $9,300 a student vs. $4,800 in Utah. But fewer Maine fourth-graders improved their math scores -- and their reading scores actually declined in the past decade.

Both states ranked just above the national average on 2005 national reading and math tests, known as the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP. But Utah stands out for its success in boosting the number of students to pass the tests since 1992, the first year of state-by-state NAEP testing, despite ranking dead last for spending.

Because of lackluster academic gains for the nation as a whole, education analysts increasingly are focusing attention on standout states where test scores show more students passing than a decade ago. The most recent NAEP scores released in October showed that despite strong gains in fourth-grade mathematics since 1992, students aren't reading much better than a decade ago. Nearly two-thirds of fourth- and eighth-graders nationwide still score below grade level -- called "proficient" by NAEP -- in both math and reading.

In Utah, only 19 percent of fourth-graders scored proficient or better on math in 1992, but nearly twice as many -- 38 percent -- passed in 2005.

Utah students' academic success is due in part to the state's lower-than-average population of minority and non-English-speaking students, who historically score lower. But state education officials also credit their efforts to raise state academic standards, such as by aligning classroom curricula with standardized tests and holding schools accountable for student performance.

"Our state has really been paying attention to national experts who over the past 10 years have said that focusing on aligning standards and strengthening accountability is every bit as important as new money," said Utah Superintendent of Education Patti Harrington.

It's difficult to prove what actually makes one state outperform another. Key factors such as per-pupil spending and student demographics vary widely, even among top-performing states.

I have no experience from either direction of child-rearing, but I think there is a push among many parents to raise their children to survive, perhaps to thrive in a competitive world. In the West we are anguished that our children are not achieving their intellectual potentials, and therefore they will not be as successful as they would otherwise be. We do more, we spend more, we demand more of our children and the education systems to make them more competitive, more likely to succeed in the world. And when they reach adulthood we let them go, as well-prepared for life as we could provide.

What are we doing though? What kind of world do we think we live in? Johnny and Sue aren't only in competition against Jimmy and Jane for high-paying jobs. They must also compete against Mohammed, Abu, Omar, Uthman, and Ali. Our children must also compete against people who will murder them without a second thought. Our first order of business must be to raise our children to survive. To do so we must learn that lesson too.

There's little good in fretting over our children's math scores if millions of savages will swarm over them and kill them in years to come. As we look at how we might improve our children's reading comprehension scores we must at the same time examine our world and find out what it is we value that makes it worth reading and doing our sums. We must examine how we approach learning, how we see our future and the future of our children. We must examine the lives of others with whom our children will compete in the world at large. We have to comprehend and do the math:

We spend too much time and energy worrying about the frills of education, in sensitivity and sentimentality training to notice that we are falling apart as a modernist identity. Those few children we have are valuable, and not to be squandered on wars and conflicts between civilizations. But if we raise our children to be stupid in our footsteps, then our children will not be prepared for the world that awaits them. When our children go into the world they will find, perhaps too late, that many others around them are right evil bastards who can't read and add at all, and they won't stop to sympathise before they kill our own. We raise our children to do well within our own contexts, but we must pay attention to the larger picture, one we often seem not to see clearly.

these are our children's competitors. Below I'll continue with my explanation of philobarbarism and how we do a disservice to our children and those others by sentimentalising the evil that besets the world as a whole.


Honour killings of girls and women


"The right to life of women in Pakistan is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions."
Hina Jilani, lawyer and human rights activist

Women in Pakistan live in fear. They face death by shooting, burning or killing with axes if they are deemed to have brought shame on the family. They are killed for supposed 'illicit' relationships, for marrying men of their choice, for divorcing abusive husbands. They are even murdered by their kin if they are raped as they are thereby deemed to have brought shame on their family. The truth of the suspicion does not matter -- merely the allegation is enough to bring dishonour on the family and therefore justifies the slaying.

The lives of millions of women in Pakistan are circumscribed by traditions which enforce extreme seclusion and submission to men. Male relatives virtually own them and punish contraventions of their proprietary control with violence. For the most part, women bear traditional male control over every aspect of their bodies, speech and behaviour with stoicism, as part of their fate, but exposure to media, the work of women's groups and a greater degree of mobility have seen the beginnings of women's rights awareness seep into the secluded world of women. But if women begin to assert their rights, however tentatively, the response is harsh and immediate: the curve of honour killings has risen parallel to the rise in awareness of rights.

Every year hundreds of women are known to die as a result of honour killings. Many more cases go unreported and almost all go unpunished. The isolation and fear of women living under such threats are compounded by state indifference to and complicity in women's oppression. Police almost invariably take the man's side in honour killings or domestic murders, and rarely prosecute the killers. Even when the men are convicted, the judiciary ensures that they usually receive a light sentence, reinforcing the view that men can kill their female relatives with virtual impunity. Specific laws hamper redress as they discriminate against women.

The isolation of women is completed by the almost total absence of anywhere to hide. There are few women's shelters, and any woman attempting to travel on her own is a target for abuse by police, strangers or male relatives hunting for her. For some women suicide appears the only means of escape.

Abuses by private actors such as honour killings are crimes under the country's criminal laws. However, systematic failure by the state to prevent and to investigate them and to punish perpetrators leads to international responsibility of the state. The Government of Pakistan has taken no measures to end honour killings and to hold perpetrators to account. It has failed to train police and judges to be gender neutral and to amend discriminatory laws. It has ignored Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which it ratified in 1996, which obliges states to "modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women" to eliminate prejudice and discriminatory traditions....
We are rightly concerned about our children's progress in school. We provide them with the best we can. We must also look at what they will face in the world we leave them. If we raise well-educated children who end up dead at the hands of a massive swell of illiterate and innumerate jihadi maniacs we will have failed in our primary duties as adult custodians. Reading comprehension and math skills are not enough. We have to teach what we know: that to survive we have to be aggressive and strong enough to raise our children and protect them from murder. We must abandon our sentimentality and look to our own children first. If we do not do that, all else is meaningless.

Look at this to see what Our children face:


eyesallaround said...

Dag, great article! I think the baby boomers are the most selfish and delusional generation ever. They have undone everything their grandparents worked so hard to protect and preserve. Let's hope the idiots wake up and do something before it's too late. I'm sure by the time I make it to the nursing home, euthenasia will be A-OK with the populace, and I'm equally sure my generation will get exactly what they deserve.

I remember a congresswoman from Florida talking about starving Terri Schaivo to death last spring, saying "Oh, it's nothing. We just did it to my uncle last month." The left is evil, IMHO.

dag said...

I agree that the Left is evil, but I wonder how deeply committed to the Left most people are. I think most are simply in agreement with what they think is a good idea, some feel-good cliche of the day. I don't attribute aggressive evil on the part of most who identify themselves as Leftists. I think they are simply confused and following others in a sleep-walking idiocy. I hope that our Blue Scarf meetings will encourage people to come forward to add their voices to ordinary sanity. People don't really want to kill their parents, I think, but it's become something of a fad that many are afraid to rebel against. We must stand up and give people the confidence that they need to express their disgust. People need a crowd sometimes to hide in before they can show their true feelings. It's unfortunate but it's reality.

There are some genuiney evil people in the world, and in my experience they are few, but most who do evil are simply following along. We must get them to follow common decency. It's not that hard. It takes some commitment to take a public stand. It takes some courage to accept public ridicule. We might even end up in jail. It's worth the sacrifice. A night in the bucket would please me more than anything I ever get for my birthday.

I look at what we do as an honor, a task set for us that we can win and feel that our lives have been noble in the winning. If we are fighting real evil, and of that I am not in doubt, then the struggle is grander than what we could have chosen ourselves. I'm not a religious guy. I do see our struggle as one that's cosmic in its scale. I am proud to have my small part ont he side of good, and I'm proud to have such comrades to stand with to win this fight. It really can't get much better.