Undeniable proof of the deliberate dumbing down of our children through the use of “public education” – starting with a school test for young American teenagers over a century ago that will PROVE 100% just how dumb we ALL are TODAY. I bet NOT ONE reader could pass it.
For Luna and the the other brave troopers teaching their kids “truth and rights”.
The greatest discoveries in all of the sciences, during all of recorded history were generally found by people who were essentially non-experts and who were usually self-taught.
Many kids were often able to speak perfectly well, they even had time for manners, and some even possessed the capability to write, and all of this was before joining school a century ago, yet now with ever rising grades year on year why is it that so many children today actually leave school unable to read or write, or for that matter even have a decent conversation with anyone, and where the hell did the manners go to? Why is it that the exam for an 8th grade child in the USA from nearly a century ago probably couldn´t be passed today by many of the teachers, or the kids parents, never mind by 13/14 year old children?
And for those who just deridedly snorted at that suggestion, unfortunately for smug smart arse you, here is the 8th grade test for an American student in 1895. It, like so much of the other material mentioned by me, was taken from the inimitable web-site of Jordan Maxwell, a site you will find that doesn´t give you answers as much as it has you asking questions, highly utilised by me and warmly recommended to you – jordanmaxwell.com
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 from Salina, Kansas. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, Kansas and reprinted by the Salina Journal.
8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, Kansas – 1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)
- Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
- Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
- Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
- What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
- Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
- What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
- Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
- A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
- If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
- District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
- Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
- Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
- What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
- Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
- What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
- Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
- Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
- Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
- Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
- Show the territorial growth of the United States.
- Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
- Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
- Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
- Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?
Orthography (Time, one hour)
- What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
- What are elementary sounds? How classified?
- What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
- Give four substitutes for caret ‘u’.
- Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e’. Name two exceptions under each rule.
- Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
- Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
- Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
- Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
- Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
- What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
- How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
- Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
- Describe the mountains of N.A.
- Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St.
Helena, Juan Fermandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
- Name and locate the principal trade centres of the U.S.
- Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
- Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
- Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
- Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.
Put your pencil down. Now contemplate just how dumb you really are…
…I said contemplate dummy, no more reading until you admit how thick YOU truly are.
Imagine a college student who went to public school trying to pass this test, even if the few outdated questions were modernized. Imagine their professors even being able to pass the 8th Grade. Can Americans or Britain´s, students and professors alike, get back up to the 8th Grade level of 1895?
I seriously doubt there is many people in America or the U.K. who could pass this test.
Some professors and the like could pass the subjects they have a doctorate in, but they would probably fail some parts of the rest of that test.
This I think is absolute proof that the New World Order Gang you’ve ocassionaly been haering bout has succeeded in dumbing down the American and British people.
As you can see Mr or Mrs super-sceptic, kids aged 13/14 (I think 8th grade is thirteen or fourteen.) had to pass this test in American schools over 100 years ago, how did you get on? Even if it was adapted for the U.K. or, wherever you are from, I bet only the top couple of percent of us could scrape a pass at this test as fully grown, seemingly educated adults.
Now every time you are told children are getting smarter consider that a child just becoming a teenager would have passed this a century ago just to go to high school, are the kids you are seeing being churned out yearly by our education system that smart when they are only 12? Are you that smart? Once again, on education this time, I rest my case, but just to hammer home the point – in case your inbuilt brainwashing has somehow convinced you that I am twisting the truth (although how I can make an exam from over a century ago harder in the future I don´t know). But just in case, here is conclusive proof that our children’s IQs have dipped in the same period, they in fact in many cases now LEAVE school unable to read or write! Here is an extract to prove my point it was taken from an article recently in the Telegraph newspaper here in the UK:
“Teenagers in Britain have lower IQ scores than their counterparts did a generation ago, according to a study by a leading expert.
By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent 08 Feb 2009
Tests carried out in 1980 and again in 2008 show that the IQ score of an average 14-year-old dropped by more than two points over the period.
Among those in the upper half of the intelligence scale, a group that is typically dominated by children from middle class families, performance was even worse, with an average IQ score six points below what it was 28 years ago.
The trend marks an abrupt reversal of the so-called “Flynn effect” which has seen IQ scores rise year on year, among all age groups, in most industrialised countries throughout the past century.
Professor James Flynn, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, the discoverer of the Flynn effect and the author of the latest study, believes the abnormal drop in British teenage IQ could be due to youth culture having “stagnated” or even dumbed down.”
So as you can plainly it is not just me who has noticed these phenomena, the fact is, I think you can all feel it too, you just prefer to lie to yourselves and say “that´s just the way it is” or “that´s the price of modern living”.
Dumbest Generation Getting Dumber
by Walter E. Williams
The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international comparison of 15-year-olds conducted by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that measures applied learning and problem-solving ability. In 2006, U.S. students ranked 25th of 30 advanced nations in math and 24th in science. McKinsey & Company, in releasing its report “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools” (April 2009) said, “Several other facts paint a worrisome picture. First, the longer American children are in school, the worse they perform compared to their international peers. In recent cross-country comparisons of fourth grade reading, math, and science, US students scored in the top quarter or top half of advanced nations. By age 15 these rankings drop to the bottom half. In other words, American students are farthest behind just as they are about to enter higher education or the workforce.” That’s a sobering thought. The longer kids are in school and the more money we spend on them, the further behind they get.
While the academic performance of white students is grossly inferior, that of black and Latino students is a national disgrace. (In case you thought me racist I made damn sure I included a picture of the man who wrote this!) The McKinsey report says, “On average, black and Latino students are roughly two to three years of learning behind white students of the same age. This racial gap exists regardless of how it is measured, including both achievement (e.g., test score) and attainment (e.g., graduation rate) measures. Taking the average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for math and reading across the fourth and eighth grades, for example, 48 percent of blacks and 43 percent of Latinos are ‘below basic,’ while only 17 percent of whites are, and this gap exists in every state. A more pronounced racial achievement gap exists in most large urban school districts.” Below basic is the category the NAEP uses for students unable to display even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at their grade level.
The teaching establishment and politicians have hoodwinked taxpayers into believing that more money is needed to improve education. The Washington, D.C., school budget is about the nation’s costliest, spending about $15,000 per pupil. Its student/teacher ratio, at 15.2 to 1, is lower than the nation’s average. Yet student achievement is just about the lowest in the nation. What’s so callous about the Washington situation is about 1,700 children in kindergarten through 12th grade receive the $7,500 annual scholarships in order to escape rotten D.C. public schools, and four times as many apply for the scholarships, yet Congress, beholden to the education establishment, will end funding the school voucher program.
Any long-term solution to our education problems requires the decentralization that can come from competition. Centralization has been massive. In 1930, there were 119,000 school districts across the U.S; today, there are less than 15,000. Control has moved from local communities to the school district, to the state, and to the federal government. Public education has become a highly centralized government-backed monopoly and we shouldn’t be surprised by the results. It’s a no-brainer that the areas of our lives with the greatest innovation, tailoring of services to individual wants and falling prices are the areas where there is ruthless competition such as computers, food, telephone and clothing industries, and delivery companies such as UPS, Federal Express and electronic bill payments that have begun to undermine the postal monopoly in first-class mail.
At a Washington press conference launching the McKinsey report, Al Sharpton called school reform the civil rights challenge of our time. He said that the enemy of opportunity for blacks in the U.S. was once Jim Crow; today, in a slap at the educational establishment, he said it was “Professor James Crow.” Sharpton is only partly correct. School reform is not solely a racial issue; it’s a vital issue for the entire nation.
Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of More Liberty Means Less Government: Our Founders Knew This Well. –
Where you seem to be unable to apportion any blame for these things, I have no qualms about laying serious documentary evidence in front of you that makes it abundantly clear exactly who is culpable, what the aim of these changes was, and how it was accomplished.
The Bankers have realized that education is very important for the control of people.
http://deliberatedumbingdown.com/pages/articles/article_page.html If there is real knowledge & information taught, people might actually figure out what is going and make changes. So simple changes were made starting in the 1890’s that on the surface didn’t seem like much yet decades later, children read less, have less comprehension, hate school more and are less likely to actually do something to make real positive changes in the world.
Instead of time primarily spent really learning reading, arithmetic and writing, more time is spent on trivia and fluff subjects. Reading has been changed from phonetics to sight reading. The McGuffey readers that were straight forward and fit each grade level have changed to readers that have words up to 2 or 3 grades levels higher causing frustration and incomprehension amongst the children. Math is in a spiral approach so less time is spent on each area but moving faster through more problems with less explanation so kids end up punching numbers in a calculator without understanding why except the teacher did it this way. Writing on stories of interest to children has been changed to drudgery projects with various do it this way by different teachers and again, not learning the real basics of sentence structures and forming them.
From older children being responsible, encouraging and helping younger children in a multigrade school, it has changed along with removing the strap to an attitude of both teachers & students of just putting in time and trying to suffer as little as possible or cause as much trouble as possible as the teachers can’t do anything. Those that don’t break down from the 2 or 3 hours of extra school work assigned every day, will fit into the robotized job life that they will enter after school. Those that break down and can’t keep up feel like failures and can end up juvenile delinquents, drinking, drugs &/or sex believing they are failures rather than realizing the system was designed to break them down and spit them out like boot camp in the army. Schools that provided nourishing meals along with removing soda pop & junk food have found that the children’s attitudes, grades and interest have risen quite dramatically. Yet when parents try to talk and ask for changes such as these, they are made to feel like outdated fools compared to the experts that put the system together.
Home schoolers often spend only 2 or 3 hours per day and if in districts where they can choose what subjects, interests and time to spend on each are even more motivated and excited about learning in general. Pushing children ahead of their development causes more frustration for both them and parents and often in just waiting a year or two, the children will pick up something that much easier when their brain has developed sufficiently for processing that information. They can be learning practical things like cooking, cleaning, helping parents or having part time jobs. With more balance in physical, emotional and spiritual life instead of mostly mentally, they will be calmer and more likely to succeed in life.
They can be learning more practical subjects like starting your own business, saving & investing money, choices for products that produce versus being consumers of the latest gadget. They can learn the effort and time involved in raising and taking care of children versus the mass media of doing it any time anywhere and somehow it magically ends up all right. It is important for bankers to remove children from the troubling influence of knowledgeable parents so government money is poured into child care centres and detention centres rather than giving tax credits and support for parents or local controlled community schools and home schooling projects. It is paradoxical that public schools have government money tied up in carpentry, metal working and other trades that are barely used yet when parents try to get permission to use the facilities to work with their children, they are denied access.
The elite send their children to schools where the real information is taught on how to choose, manage and control people as the future leaders. Monopolies, connections for beneficial government laws and the use of media to monitor and shift people’s thinking are just some of the information they pick up along the way.
Mark Twain is more right than most people realize when he says, “I try to not let schooling interfere with my education”.
In this rather long chapter we are going to look at the effect men like Wundt had on the educational system, vested interests that we shall get to in later sections put a lot of time, effort and money into dumbing our children down and turning them into well drilled robot’s.
I will start by letting one of America’s most respected teacher’s give you his honest and learned opinion on this subject.
Foundation’s like the one carrying the name of Mr Ford or Carnegie, or indeed the already mentioned one bearing the name Rockefeller are also very prominent in this field of endeavour, it appears to me that all of these entities have an important part to play in the formation, promotion and subsequent revisions of not only America’s education system, but that of most of the “civilised” world. One last point, if you can get hold of any of this next writer’s work I seriously urge you to do so, as he knows the education system inside out. (this is why he has been popping up so much in this work) Plus what you will learn from him will truly shock you.
John Taylor Gatto, – Underground History of American Education
Prologue Bianca, You Animal, Shut Up!
Our problem in understanding forced schooling stems from an inconvenient fact: that the wrong it does from a human perspective is right from a systems perspective. You can see this in the case of six-year-old Bianca, who came to my attention because an assistant principal screamed at her in front of an assembly, “BIANCA, YOU ANIMAL SHUT UP!” Like the wail of a banshee, this sang the school doom of Bianca. Even though her body continued to shuffle around, the voodoo had poisoned her.
Do I make too much of this simple act of putting a little girl in her place? It must happen thousands of times every day in schools all over. I’ve seen it many times, and if I were painfully honest I’d admit to doing it many times.
Schools are supposed to teach kids their place. That’s why we have age-graded classes. In any case, it wasn’t your own little Janey or mine. Most of us tacitly accept the pragmatic terms of public school which allow every kind of psychic violence to be inflicted on Bianca in order to fulfil the prime directive of the system: putting children in their place. It’s called “social efficiency.” But I get this precognition, this flash-forward to a moment far in the future when your little girl Jane, having left her comfortable home, wakes up to a world where Bianca is her enraged meter maid, or the passport clerk Jane counts on for her emergency ticket out of the country, or the strange lady who lives next door. I picture this animal Bianca grown large and mean, the same Bianca who didn’t go to school for a month after her little friends took to whispering, “Bianca is an animal, Bianca is an animal,” while Bianca, only seconds earlier a human being like themselves, sat choking back tears, struggling her way through a reading selection by guessing what the words meant.
In my dream I see Bianca as a fiend manufactured by schooling who now regards Janey as a vehicle for vengeance. In a transport of passion she:
Gives Jane’s car a ticket before the meter runs out.
Throws away Jane’s passport application after Jane leaves the office.
Plays heavy metal music through the thin partition which separates Bianca’s apartment from Jane’s while Jane pounds frantically on the wall for relief.
Or, all the above.
You aren’t compelled to loan your car to anyone who wants it, but you are compelled to surrender your school-age child to strangers who process children for a livelihood, even though one in every nine schoolchildren is terrified of physical harm happening to them in school, terrified with good cause; about thirty-three are murdered there every year. From 1992 through 1999, 262 children were murdered in school in the United States. Your great-great-grandmother didn’t have to surrender her children. What happened?
If I demanded you give up your television to an anonymous, itinerant repairman who needed work you’d think I was crazy; if I came with a policeman who forced you to pay that repairman even after he broke your set, you would be outraged. Why are you so docile when you give up your child to a government agent called a schoolteacher?
I want to open up concealed aspects of modern schooling such as the deterioration it forces in the morality of parenting. You have no say at all in choosing your teachers. You know nothing about their backgrounds or families.
And the state knows little more than you do. This is as radical a piece of social engineering as the human imagination can conceive. What does it mean?
One thing you do know is how unlikely it will be for any teacher to understand the personality of your particular child or anything significant about your family, culture, religion, plans, hopes, dreams. In the confusion of school affairs even teachers so disposed don’t have opportunity to know those things. How did this happen?
Before you hire a company to build a house, you would, I expect, insist on detailed plans showing what the finished structure was going to look like. Building a child’s mind and character is what public schools do, their justification for prematurely breaking family and neighbourhood learning. Where is documentary evidence to prove this assumption that trained and certified professionals do it better than people who know and love them can? There isn’t any.
The cost in New York State for building a well-schooled child in the year 2000 is $200,000 per body when lost interest is calculated. That capital sum invested in the child’s name over the past twelve years would have delivered a million dollars to each kid as a nest egg to compensate for having no school. The original $200,000 is more than the average home in New York costs. You wouldn’t build a home without some idea what it would look like when finished, but you are compelled to let a corps of perfect strangers tinker with your child’s mind and personality without the foggiest idea what they want to do with it.
Law courts and legislatures have totally absolved school people from liability. You can sue a doctor for malpractice, not a schoolteacher. Every homebuilder is accountable to customers years after the home is built; not schoolteachers, though. You can’t sue a priest, minister, or rabbi either; that should be a clue.
If you can’t be guaranteed even minimal results by these institutions, not even physical safety; if you can’t be guaranteed anything except that you’ll be arrested if you fail to surrender your kid, just what does the public in public schools mean?
What exactly is public about public schools? That’s a question to take seriously. If schools were public as libraries, parks, and swimming pools are public, as highways and sidewalks are public, then the public would be satisfied with them most of the time. Instead, a situation of constant dissatisfaction has spanned many decades. Only in Orwell’s Newspeak, as perfected by legendary spin doctors of the twentieth century such as Ed Bernays or Ivy Lee or great advertising combines, is there anything public about public schools.
I Quit, I Think
In the first year of the last decade of the twentieth century during my thirtieth year as a school teacher in Community School District 3, Manhattan, after teaching in all five secondary schools in the district, crossing swords with one professional administration after another as they strove to rid themselves of me, after having my license suspended twice for insubordination and terminated covertly once while I was on medical leave of absence, after the City University of New York borrowed me for a five-year stint as a lecturer in the Education Department (and the faculty rating handbook published by the Student Council gave me the highest ratings in the department my last three years), after planning and bringing about the most successful permanent school fund-raiser in New York City history, after placing a single eighth-grade class into 30,000 hours of volunteer community service, after organizing and financing a student-run food cooperative, after securing over a thousand apprenticeships, directing the collection of tens of thousands of books for the construction of private student libraries, after producing four talking job dictionaries for the blind, writing two original student musicals, and launching an armada of other initiatives to reintegrate students within a larger human reality, I quit.
I was New York State Teacher of the Year when it happened. An accumulation of disgust and frustration which grew too heavy to be borne finally did me in. To test my resolve I sent a short essay to The Wall Street Journal titled “I Quit, I Think.” In it I explained my reasons for deciding to wrap it up, even though I had no savings and not the slightest idea what else I might do in my mid-fifties to pay the rent. In its entirety it read like this:
Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents. The whole blueprint of school procedure is Egyptian, not Greek or Roman. It grows from the theological idea that human value is a scarce thing, represented symbolically by the narrow peak of a pyramid.
That idea passed into American history through the Puritans. It found its “scientific” presentation in the bell curve, along which talent supposedly apportions itself by some Iron Law of Biology. It’s a religious notion, School is its church. I offer rituals to keep heresy at bay. I provide documentation to justify the heavenly pyramid.
Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating the laity to the priesthood. School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be “re-formed.” It has political allies to guard its marches, that’s why reforms come and go without changing much. Even reformers can’t imagine school much different.
David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can’t tell which one learned first–the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I label Rachel “learning disabled” and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won’t outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, “special education” fodder. She’ll be locked in her place forever.
In 30 years of teaching kid’s rich and poor I almost never met a learning disabled child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths, created by human imagination. They derive from questionable values we never examine because they preserve the temple of schooling. That’s the secret behind short-answer tests, bells, uniform time blocks, age grading, standardization, and all the rest of the school religion punishing our nation. There isn’t a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints. We don’t need state-certified teachers to make education happen–that probably guarantees it won’t.
How much more evidence is necessary? Good schools don’t need more money or a longer year; they need real free-market choices, variety that speaks to every need and runs risks. We don’t need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it. I can’t teach this way any longer. If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know.
Come fall I’ll be looking for work.
The New Individualism
The little essay went off in March and I forgot it. Somewhere along the way I must have gotten a note saying it would be published at the editor’s discretion, but if so, it was quickly forgotten in the press of turbulent feelings that accompanied my own internal struggle. Finally, on July 5, 1991, I swallowed hard and quit. Twenty days later the Journal published the piece. A week later I was studying invitations to speak at NASA Space Centre, the Western White House, the Nashville Centre for the Arts, Columbia Graduate Business School, the Colorado Librarian’s Convention, Apple Computer, and the financial control board of United Technologies Corporation. Nine years later, still enveloped in the orbit of compulsion schooling, I had spoken 750 times in fifty states and seven foreign countries. I had no agent and never advertised, but a lot of people made an effort to find me. It was as if parents were starving for someone to tell them the truth.
My hunch is it wasn’t so much what I was saying that kept the lecture round unfolding, but that a teacher was speaking out at all and the curious fact that I represented nobody except myself. In the great school debate, this is unheard of. Every single voice allowed regular access to the national podium is the mouthpiece of some association, corporation, university, agency, or institutionalized cause. The poles of debate blocked out by these ritualized, figurehead voices are extremely narrow. Each has a stake in continuing forced schooling much as it is.
As I travelled, I discovered a universal hunger, often unvoiced, to be free of managed debate. A desire to be given untainted information. Nobody seemed to have maps of where this thing had come from or why it acted as it did, but the ability to smell a rat was alive and well all over America.
Exactly what John Dewey heralded at the onset of the twentieth century has indeed happened. Our once highly individualized nation has evolved into a centrally managed village, an agora made up of huge special interests which regard individual voices as irrelevant.
The masquerade is managed by having collective agencies speak through particular human beings. Dewey said this would mark a great advance in human affairs, but the net effect is to reduce men and women to the status of functions in whatever subsystem they are placed. Public opinion is turned on and off in laboratory fashion. All this in the name of social efficiency, one of the two main goals of forced schooling.
MY NOTE – If I was you I’d read those last two paragraphs again please, truly let them sink in before continuing.
Dewey called this transformation “the new individualism.” When I stepped into the job of schoolteacher in 1961, the new individualism was sitting in the driver’s seat all over urban America, a far cry from my own school days on the Monongahela when the Lone Ranger, not Sesame Street, was our nation’s teacher, and school things weren’t nearly so oppressive. But gradually they became something else in the euphoric times following WWII. Easy money and easy travel provided welcome relief from wartime austerity, the advent of television, the new nonstop theatre, offered easy laughs, effortless entertainment. Thus preoccupied, Americans failed to notice the deliberate conversion of formal education that was taking place, a transformation that would turn school into an instrument of the leviathan state. Who made that happen and why is part of the story I have to tell.
School as Religion
Nothing about school is what it seems, not even boredom. To show you what I mean is the burden of this long essay. My book represents a try at arranging my own thoughts in order to figure out what fifty years of classroom confinement (as student and teacher) add up to for me. You’ll encounter a great deal of speculative history here. This is a personal investigation of why school is a dangerous place. It’s not so much that anyone there sets out to hurt children; more that all of us associated with the institution are stuck like flies in the same great web your kids are. We buzz frantically to cover our own panic but have little power to help smaller flies. Looking backward on a thirty-year teaching career full of rewards and prizes, somehow I can’t completely believe that I spent my time on earth institutionalized; I can’t believe that centralized schooling is allowed to exist at all as a gigantic indoctrination and sorting machine, robbing people of their children. Did it really happen? Was this my life? God help me.
School is a religion. Without understanding the holy mission aspect you’re certain to misperceive what takes place as a result of human stupidity or venality or even class warfare. All are present in the equation, it’s just that none of these matter very much–even without them school would move in the same direction. Dewey’s Pedagogic Creed statement of 1897 gives you a clue to the zeitgeist:
Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the right social growth. In this way the teacher is always the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of heaven.
MY NOTE – WHAT MANY OF THE E.T. LOVERS WON’T KNOW IS THAT THIS SAME MR DEWEY WHO WAS THE FIRST (BUT BY NO MEANS THE LAST, KISSINGER, REAGAN (REPEATEDLY), BUSH, AND EVEN CLINTON ALL SAID SIMILAR THINGS TOO I THINK) TO SUGGEST THAT THE BEST WAY TO UNITE THE GREAT UNWASHED WAS TO PRESENT AN INTERSTELLAR “ENEMY” FROM “OUT THERE” – THE SIMPLE LOGIC BEHIND IT WAS TO FOR THEM TO GET THEIR ONE WORLD SYSTEM BY LETTING US THINK SOME EXTERNAL THREAT WAS GOING TO COME AND EITHER RAY GUN US TO BITS, ANALLY PROBE US TO SUBMISSION, OR DEATH, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME PETRIFY AND/OR MYSTIFY US WITH THEIR GEOMETRICAL ARTWORK ON FARMERS FIELDS, OR INDEED THEIR EFFORT AT TRYING TO WIN THE TURNER PRIZE WITH THEIR (THE LITTLE GREEN/GREY/INVISIBLE MEN’S) MUTALATIVE “ARTWORK” WITH OUR CATTLE.
What is “proper” social order? What does “right” social growth look like? If you don’t know you’re like me, not like John Dewey who did, or the Rockefellers, his patrons, who did, too.
Somehow out of the industrial confusion which followed the Civil War, powerful men and dreamers became certain what kind of social order America needed, one very like the British system we had escaped a hundred years earlier. This realization didn’t arise as a product of public debate as it should have in a democracy, but as a distillation of private discussion. Their ideas contradicted the original American charter but that didn’t disturb them. They had a stupendous goal in mind–the rationalization of everything. The end of unpredictable history; its transformation into dependable order.
From mid-century onwards certain utopian schemes to retard maturity in the interests of a greater good were put into play, following roughly the blueprint Rousseau laid down in the book Emile. At least rhetorically. The first goal, to be reached in stages, was an orderly, scientifically managed society, one in which the best people would make the decisions, unhampered by democratic tradition. After that, human breeding, the evolutionary destiny of the species, would be in reach.
Universal institutionalized formal forced schooling was the prescription, extending the dependency of the young well into what had traditionally been early adult life. Individuals would be prevented from taking up important work until a relatively advanced age. Maturity was to be retarded. MY NOTE. STOP, GO BACK AND READ THAT AGAIN.
During the post-Civil War period, childhood was extended about four years. Later, a special label was created to describe very old children. It was called adolescence, a phenomenon hitherto unknown to the human race.
The infantilization of young people didn’t stop at the beginning of the twentieth century; child labour laws were extended to cover more and more kinds of work, the age of school leaving set higher and higher. The greatest victory for this utopian project was making school the only avenue to certain occupations. The intention was ultimately to draw all work into the school net. By the 1950s it wasn’t unusual to find graduate students well into their thirties, running errands, waiting to start their lives.
He Was Square Inside and Brown
Barbara Whiteside showed me a poem written by a high school senior in Alton, Illinois, two weeks before he committed suicide:
He drew… the things inside that needed saying. Beautiful pictures he kept under his pillow.
When he started school he brought them…To have along like a friend. It was funny about school; he sat at a square brown desk like all the other square brown desks… and his room was a square brown room like all the other rooms, tight and close and stiff. He hated to hold the pencil and chalk, his arms stiff his feet flat on the floor, stiff, the teacher watching and watching. She told him to wear a tie like all the other boys, he said he didn’t like them.
She said it didn’t matter what he liked. After that the class drew. He drew all yellow. It was the way he felt about morning. The teacher came and smiled, “What’s this? Why don’t you draw something like Ken’s drawing?”
After that his mother bought him a tie, and he always drew airplanes and rocketships like everyone else.
He was square inside and brown and his hands were stiff. The things inside that needed saying didn’t need it anymore, they had stopped pushing… crushed, stiff like everything else.
After I spoke in Nashville, a mother named Debbie pressed a handwritten note on me which I read on the airplane to Binghamton, New York:
We started to see Brandon flounder in the first grade, hives, depression, he cried every night after he asked his father, “Is tomorrow school, too?” In second grade the physical stress became apparent. The teacher pronounced his problem Attention Deficit Syndrome. My happy, bouncy child was now looked at as a medical problem, by us as well as the school. A doctor, a psychiatrist, and a school authority all determined he did have this affliction. Medication was stressed along with behaviour modification. If it was suspected that Brandon had not been medicated he was sent home. My square peg needed a bit of whittling to fit their round hole, it seemed.
I cried as I watched my parenting choices stripped away. My ignorance of options allowed Brandon to be medicated through second grade. The tears and hives continued another full year until I couldn’t stand it. I began to homeschool Brandon. It was his salvation. No more pills, tears, or hives. He is thriving. He never cries now and does his work eagerly.
The New Dumbness
Ordinary people send their children to school to get smart, but what modern schooling teaches is dumbness. It’s a religious idea gone out of control.
You don’t have to accept that, though, to realize this kind of economy would be jeopardized by too many smart people who understand too much. I won’t ask you to take that on faith. Be patient. I’ll let a famous American publisher explain to you the secret of our global financial success in just a little while. Be patient.
Old-fashioned dumbness used to be simple ignorance; now it is transformed from ignorance into permanent mathematical categories of relative stupidity like “gifted and talented,” “mainstream,” “special ed.” Categories in which learning is rationed for the good of a system of order. Dumb people are no longer merely ignorant. Now they are indoctrinated, their minds conditioned with substantial doses of commercially prepared disinformation dispensed for tranquilizing purposes.
Jacques Ellul, whose book Propaganda is a reflection on the phenomenon, warned us that prosperous children are more susceptible than others to the effects of schooling because they are promised more lifelong comfort and security for yielding wholly:
Critical judgment disappears altogether, for in no way can there ever be collective critical judgment….The individual can no longer judge for himself because he inescapably relates his thoughts to the entire complex of values and prejudices established by propaganda. With regard to political situations, he is given ready-made value judgments invested with the power of the truth by…the word of experts. (COUGH COUGH NUDGE NUDGE)
The new dumbness is particularly deadly to middle- and upper-middle-class kids already made shallow by multiple pressures to conform imposed by the outside world on their usually lightly rooted parents. When they come of age, they are certain they must know something because their degrees and licenses say they do. They remain so convinced until an unexpectedly brutal divorce, a corporate downsizing in midlife, or panic attacks of meaninglessness upset the precarious balance of their incomplete humanity, their stillborn adult lives. Alan Bullock, the English historian, said Evil was a state of incompetence. If true, our school adventure has filled the twentieth century with evil.
Ellul puts it this way:
The individual has no chance to exercise his judgment either on principal questions or on their implication; this leads to the atrophy of a faculty not comfortably exercised under [the best of] conditions…Once personal judgment and critical faculties have disappeared or have atrophied, they will not simply reappear when propaganda is suppressed…years of intellectual and spiritual education would be needed to restore such faculties. The propagandee, if deprived of one propaganda, will immediately adopt another, this will spare him the agony of finding himself vis a vis some event without a ready-made opinion.
Once the best children are broken to such a system, they disintegrate morally, becoming dependent on group approval. 9NUDGETY NUDGETY WINK WINK SOUND FAMILIAR?) A National Merit Scholar in my own family once wrote that her dream was to be “a small part in a great machine.” It broke my heart. What kids dumbed down by schooling can’t do is to think for themselves or ever be at rest for very long without feeling crazy; stupefied boys and girls reveal dependence in many ways easily exploitable by their knowledgeable elders.
According to all official analysis, dumbness isn’t taught (as I claim), but is innate in a great percentage of what has come to be called “the workforce.” Workforce itself is a term that should tell you much about the mind that governs modern society. According to official reports, only a small fraction of the population is capable of what you and I call mental life: creative thought, analytical thought, judgmental thought, a trio occupying the three highest positions on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Just how small a fraction would shock you. According to experts, the bulk of the mob is hopelessly dumb, even dangerously so. Perhaps you’re a willing accomplice to this social coup which revived the English class system. Certainly you are if your own child has been rewarded with a “gifted and talented” label by your local school. This is what Dewey means by “proper” social order.
If you believe nothing can be done for the dumb except kindness, because it’s biology (the bell-curve model); if you believe capitalist oppressors have ruined the dumb because they are bad people (the neo-Marxist model); if you believe dumbness reflects depraved moral fibre (the Calvinist model); or that it’s nature’s way of disqualifying boobies from the reproduction sweepstakes (the Darwinian model); or nature’s way of providing someone to clean your toilet (the pragmatic elitist model); or that it’s evidence of bad karma (the Buddhist model); if you believe any of the various explanations given for the position of the dumb in the social order we have, then you will be forced to concur that a vast bureaucracy is indeed necessary to address the dumb. Otherwise they would murder us in our beds.
The shocking possibility that dumb people don’t exist in sufficient numbers to warrant the careers devoted to tending to them will seem incredible to you. Yet that is my proposition: Mass dumbness first had to be imagined; it isn’t real.
Once the dumb are wished into existence, they serve valuable functions: as a danger to themselves and others they have to be watched, classified, disciplined, trained, medicated, sterilized, ghettoized, cajoled, coerced, jailed. To idealists they represent a challenge, reprobates to be made socially useful. Either way you want it, hundreds of millions of perpetual children require paid attention from millions of adult custodians. An ignorant horde to be schooled one way or another.
Putting Pedagogy to the Question
More than anything else, this book is a work of intuition. The official story of why we school doesn’t add up today any more than it did yesterday. A few years before I quit, I began to try to piece together where this school project came from, why it took the shape it took, and why every attempt to change it has ended in abysmal failure. By now I’ve invested the better part of a decade looking for answers. If you want a conventional history of schooling, or education as it is carelessly called, you’d better stop reading now. Although years of research in the most arcane sources are reflected here, throughout it’s mainly intuition that drives my synthesis.
This is in part a private narrative, the map of a schoolteacher’s mind as it tracked strands in the web in which it had been wrapped; in part a public narrative, an account of the latest chapter in an ancient war: the conflict between systems which offer physical safety and certainty at the cost of suppressing free will, and those which offer liberty at the price of constant risk. If you keep both plots in mind, no matter how far afield my book seems to range, you won’t wonder what a chapter on coal or one on private hereditary societies has to do with schoolchildren.
What I’m most determined to do is start a conversation among those who’ve been silent up until now, and that includes schoolteachers. We need to put sterile discussions of grading and testing, discipline, curriculum, multiculturalism and tracking aside as distractions, as mere symptoms of something larger, darker, and more intransigent than any problem a problem-solver could tackle next week. Talking endlessly about such things encourages the bureaucratic tactic of talking around the vital, messy stuff. In partial compensation for your effort, I promise you’ll discover what’s in the mind of a man who spent his life in a room with children. Give an ear, then, to what follows. We shall cross-examine history together. We shall put pedagogy to the question. And if the judgment following this auto da fe is that only pain can make this monster relax its grip, let us pray together for the courage to inflict it.
Reading my essay will help you sort things out. It will give you a different topological map upon which to fix your own position. No doubt I’ve made some factual mistakes, but essays since Montaigne have been about locating truth, not about assembling facts. Truth and fact aren’t the same thing. My essay is meant to mark out crudely some ground for a scholarship of schooling, my intention is that you not continue to regard the official project of education through an older, traditional perspective, but to see it as a frightening chapter in the administrative organization of knowledge–a text we must vigorously repudiate as our ancestors once did. We live together, you and I, in a dark time when all official history is propaganda. If you want truth, you have to struggle for it. This is my struggle. Let me bear witness to what I have seen.
…The Rockefeller Foundation has been instrumental through the century just passed (along with a few others) in giving us the schools we have. It imported the German research model into college life, elevated service to business and government as the goal of higher education, not teaching. And Rockefeller-financed University of Chicago and Columbia Teachers College have been among the most energetic actors in the lower school tragedy. There is more, too, but none of it means the Rockefeller family “masterminded” the school institution, or even that his foundation or his colleges did. All became in time submerged in the system they did so much to create, almost helpless to slow its momentum even had they so desired.
The best advice in this book is scattered throughout and indirect, you’ll have to work to extract it. It begins with the very first sentence of the book where I remind you that what is right for systems is often wrong for human beings. Translated into a recommendation, that means that to avoid the revenge of Bianca, we must be prepared to insult systems for the convenience of humanity, not the other way around.
*For instance, for those of you who believe in testing, school superintendents as a class are virtually the stupidest people to pass through a graduate college program, ranking fifty-one points below the elementary school teachers they normally “supervise,” (on the Graduate Record Examination), and about eighty points below secondary-school teachers, while teachers themselves as an aggregate finish seventeenth of twenty occupational groups surveyed. The reader is of course at liberty to believe this happened accidentally, or that the moon is composed of blue, not green, cheese as is popularly believed. It’s also possible to take this anomaly as conclusive evidence of the irrelevance of standardized testing. Your choice.
Take at hazard one hundred children of several educated generations and one hundred uneducated children of the people and compare them in anything you please; in strength, in agility, in mind, in the ability to acquire knowledge, even in morality–and in all respects you are startled by the vast superiority on the side of the children of the uneducated. – Count Leo Tolstoy, “Education and Children” (1862)
Chapter One – The Art of Driving
Now come back to the present while I demonstrate that the identical trust placed in ordinary people two hundred years ago still survives where it suits managers of our economy to allow it. Consider the art of driving, which I learned at the age of eleven. Without everybody behind the wheel, our sort of economy would be impossible, so everybody is there, IQ notwithstanding. With less than thirty hours of combined training and experience, a hundred million people are allowed access to vehicular weapons more lethal than pistols or rifles. Turned loose without a teacher, so to speak. Why does our government make such presumptions of competence, placing nearly unqualified trust in drivers, while it maintains such a tight grip on near-monopoly state schooling?
An analogy will illustrate just how radical this trust really is. What if I proposed that we hand three sticks of dynamite and a detonator to anyone who asked for them. All an applicant would need is money to pay for the explosives. You’d have to be an idiot to agree with my plan–at least based on the assumptions you picked up in school about human nature and human competence.
And yet gasoline, a spectacularly mischievous explosive, dangerously unstable and with the intriguing characteristic as an assault weapon that it can flow under locked doors and saturate bulletproof clothing, is available to anyone with a container. Five gallons of gasoline have the destructive power of a stick of dynamite.3 The average tank holds fifteen gallons, yet no background check is necessary for dispenser or dispensee. As long as gasoline is freely available, gun control is beside the point. Push on. Why do we allow access to a portable substance capable of incinerating houses, torching crowded theatres, or even turning skyscrapers into infernos? We haven’t even considered the battering ram aspect of cars–why are novice operators allowed to command a ton of metal capable of hurtling through school crossings at up to two miles a minute? Why do we give the power of life and death this way to everyone?
It should strike you at once that our unstated official assumptions about human nature are dead wrong. Nearly all people are competent and responsible; universal motoring proves that. The efficiency of motor vehicles as terrorist instruments would have written a tragic record long ago if people were inclined to terrorism. But almost all auto mishaps are accidents, and while there are seemingly a lot of those, the actual fraction of mishaps, when held up against the stupendous number of possibilities for mishap, is quite small. I know it’s difficult to accept this because the spectre of global terrorism is a favourite cover story of governments, but the truth is substantially different from the tale the public is sold. According to the U.S. State Department, 1995 was a near-record year for terrorist murders; it saw three hundred worldwide (two hundred at the hand of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka) compared to four hundred thousand smoking-related deaths in the United States alone. When we consider our assumptions about human nature that keep children in a condition of confinement and limited options, we need to reflect on driving and things like almost nonexistent global terrorism.
Notice how quickly people learn to drive well. Early failure is efficiently corrected, usually self-corrected, because the terrific motivation of staying alive and in one piece steers driving improvement. If the grand theories of Comenius and Herbart about learning by incremental revelation, or those lifelong nanny rules of Owen, Maclure, Pestalozzi, and Beatrice Webb, or those calls for precision in human ranking of Thorndike and Hall, or those nuanced interventions of Yale, Stanford, and Columbia Teachers College were actually as essential as their proponents claimed, this libertarian miracle of motoring would be unfathomable.
Now consider the intellectual component of driving. It isn’t all just hand-eye-foot coordination. First-time drivers make dozens, no, hundreds, of continuous hypotheses, plans, computations, and fine-tuned judgments every day they drive. They do this skilfully, without being graded, because if they don’t, organic provision exists in the motoring universe to punish them. There isn’t any court of appeal from your own stupidity on the road.4 I could go on: think of licensing, maintenance, storage, adapting machine and driver to seasons and daily conditions. Carefully analyzed, driving is as impressive a miracle as walking, talking, or reading, but this only shows the inherent weakness of analysis since we know almost everyone learns to drive well in a few hours. The way we used to be as Americans, learning everything, breaking down social class barriers, is the way we might be again without forced schooling. Driving proves that to me.
The Schools of Hellas
Wherever it occurred, schooling through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (up until the last third of the nineteenth) heavily invested its hours with language, philosophy, art, and the life of the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome. In the grammar schools of the day, little pure grammar as we understand it existed; they were places of classical learning. Early America rested easily on a foundation of classical understanding, one subversive to the normal standards of British class society. The lessons of antiquity were so vital to the construction of every American institution it’s hardly possible to grasp how deep the gulf between then and now is without knowing a little about those lessons. Prepare yourself for a surprise.
For a long time, for instance, classical Athens distributed its most responsible public positions by lottery: army generalships, water supply, everything. The implications are awesome– trust in everyone’s competence was assumed; it was their version of universal driving. Professionals existed but did not make key decisions; they were only technicians, never well regarded because prevailing opinion held that technicians had enslaved their own minds.
Anyone worthy of citizenship was expected to be able to think clearly and to welcome great responsibility.
As you reflect on this, remember our own unvoiced assumption that anyone can guide a ton of metal travelling at high speed with three sticks of dynamite sloshing around in its tanks.
When we ask what kind of schooling was behind this brilliant society which has enchanted the centuries ever since, any honest reply can be carried in one word: None. After writing a book searching for the hidden genius of Greece in its schools, Kenneth Freeman concluded his unique study The Schools of Hellas in 1907 with this summary, “There were no schools in Hellas.” No place boys and girls spent their youth attending continuous instruction under command of strangers. Indeed, nobody did homework in the modern sense; none could be located on standardized tests. The tests that mattered came in living, striving to meet ideals that local tradition imposed. The word sköle itself means leisure, leisure in a formal garden to think and reflect. Plato in The Laws is the first to refer to school as learned discussion.
The most famous school in Athens was Plato’s Academy, but in its physical manifestation it had no classes or bells, was a well-mannered hangout for thinkers and seekers, a generator of good conversation and good friendship, things Plato thought lay at the core of education. Today we might call such a phenomenon a salon. Aristotle’s Lyceum was pretty much the same, although Aristotle delivered two lectures a day–a tough one in the morning for intense thinkers, a kinder, gentler version of the same in the afternoon for less ambitious minds. Attendance was optional. And the famous Gymnasium so memorable as a forge for German leadership later on was in reality only an open training ground where men sixteen to fifty were free to participate in high-quality, state-subsidized instruction in boxing, wrestling, and javelin.
The idea of schooling free men in anything would have revolted Athenians. Forced training was for slaves. Among free men, learning was self-discipline, not the gift of experts. From such notions Americans derived their own academies, the French their lycees, and the Germans their gymnasium. Think of it: In Athens, instruction was unorganized even though the city-state was surrounded by enemies and its own society engaged in the difficult social experiment of sustaining a participatory democracy, extending privileges without precedent to citizens, and maintaining literary, artistic, and legislative standards which remain to this day benchmarks of human genius. For its five-hundred-year history from Homer to Aristotle, Athenian civilization was a miracle in a rude world; teachers flourished there but none was grounded in fixed buildings with regular curricula under the thumb of an intricately layered bureaucracy.
There were no schools in Hellas. For the Greeks, study was its own reward. Beyond that few cared to go.
The Fresco at Herculaneum
Sparta, Athens’ neighbour, was a horse of a different colour. Society in Sparta was organized around the concept of cradle-to-grave formal training. The whole state was a universal schoolhouse, official prescriptions for the population filled every waking minute and the family was employed as a convenience for the state. Sparta’s public political arrangements were an elaborate sham, organized nominally around an executive branch with two legislative bodies, but ultimate decision-making was in the hands of ephors, a small elite who conducted state policy among themselves. The practical aspect of imitation democracy figures strongly in the thought of later social thinkers such as Machiavelli (1532) and Hobbes (1651), as well as in minds nearer our own time who had influence on the shape of American forced schooling.
Spartan ideas of management came to American consciousness through classical studies in early schooling, through churches, and also through interest in the German military state of Prussia, which consciously modelled itself after Sparta. As the nineteenth century entered its final decades American university training came to follow the Prussian/Spartan model. Service to business and the political state became the most important reason for college and university existence after 1910. No longer was college primarily about developing mind and character in the young. Instead, it was about moulding those things as instruments for use by others. Here is an important clue to the philosophical split which informed the foundation of modern schooling and to an important extent still does: small farmers, crafts folk, trades people, little town and city professionals, little industrialists, and older manorial interests took a part of their dream of America from democratic Athens or from republican Rome (not the Rome of the emperors); this comprised a significant proportion of ordinary America. But new urban managerial elites pointed to a future based on Spartan outlook.
When the instructional system of Athens transferred to Imperial Rome, a few schools we would recognize began to appear. The familiar punishment practices of colonial America can be found anticipated vividly in the famous fresco at Herculaneum, showing a Roman schoolboy being held by two of his classmates while the master advances, carrying a long whip. Roman schools must have started discipline early in the morning for we find the poet Martial cursing a school for waking him up at cock’s crow with shouts and beatings; Horace immortalizes pedagogue Orbilius for whipping a love of old poets into him. But we shouldn’t be misled by these school references. What few schools there were in Rome were for boys of prosperous classes, and even most of these relied upon tutors, tradition, and emulation, not school.
The word pedagogue is Latin for a specialized class of slave assigned to walk a student to the schoolmaster; over time the slave was given additional duties, his role was enlarged to that of drill master, a procedure memorialized in Varro’s instituit pedagogus, docet magister: in my rusty altar-boy Latin, The master creates instruction, the slave pounds it in. A key to modern schooling is this: free men were never pedagogues. And yet we often refer to the science of modern schooling as pedagogy. The unenlightened parent who innocently brings matters of concern to the pedagogue, whether that poor soul is called schoolteacher, principal, or superintendent, is usually beginning a game of frustration which will end in no fundamental change. A case of barking up the wrong tree in a dark wood where the right tree is far away and obscure.
Pedagogy is social technology for winning attention and cooperation (or obedience) while strings are attached to the mind and placed in the hands of an unseen master. – READ THAT AGAIN STUDENTS OF THE INDY MEDIA AND ALL IT’S CULTS AND CHURCHES.
This may be done holistically, with smiles, music, and light-duty simulations of intellection, or it can be done harshly with rigorous drills and competitive tests. The quality of self-doubt aimed for in either case is similar. MY NOTE – PATRONISE OR CHASTISE, PUNISHMENT OR REWARD. AND ALL FOR TOTAL CONTROL OF YOUR MIND.
Pedagogy is a useful concept to help us unthread some of the mysteries of modern schooling. That it is increasingly vital to the social order is evinced by the quiet teacher-pay revolution that has occurred since the 1960s. As with police work (to which pedagogy bears important similarities), school pay has become relatively good, its hours of labour short, its job security first rate. Contrast this with the golden years of one-room schooling where pay was subsistence only and teachers were compelled to board around to keep body and soul together. Yet there was no shortage then of applicants and many sons of prominent Americans began their adult lives as schoolteachers.
With the relative opulence of today, it would be simple to fill teaching slots with accomplished men and women if that were a goal. A little adjustment in what are rationally indefensible licensing requirements would make talented people, many performance-tested adults in their fifties and sixties, available to teach. That there is not such fluid access is a good sign the purpose of schooling is more than it appears. The year-in, year-out consistency of mediocre teacher candidates demonstrates clearly that the school institution actively seeks, nurtures, hires, and promotes the calibre of personnel it needs.
The Seven Liberal Arts
When Rome dissolved in the sixth century, Roman genius emerged as the Universal Christian Church, an inspired religious sect grown spontaneously into a vehicle which invested ultimate responsibility for personal salvation in the sovereign individual. The Roman Church hit upon schooling as a useful adjunct, and so what few schools could be found after the fall of Rome were in ecclesiastical hands, remaining there for the next eleven or twelve centuries. MY NOTE IT ALWAYS HAS DONE AND WILL DO IF WE DON’T CHANGE.
Promotion inside the Church began to depend on having first received training of the Hellenic type. Thus a brotherhood of thoughtful men was created from the demise of the Empire and from the necessity of intellectually defining the new mission.
As the Church experimented with schooling, students met originally at the teacher’s house, but gradually some church space was dedicated for the purpose. Thanks to competition among Church officials, each Bishop strove to offer a school and these, in time to be called Cathedral schools, attracted attention and some important sponsorship, each being a showcase of the Bishop’s own educational taste.
When the Germanic tribes evacuated northern Europe, overrunning the south, cathedral schools and monastic schools trained the invading leadership–a precedent of disregarding local interests which has continued ever after. Cathedral schools were the important educational institutions of the Middle Ages; from them derived all the schools of Western Europe, at least in principle. In practice, however, few forms of later schooling would be the intense intellectual centres these were. The Seven Liberal Arts made up the main curriculum; lower studies were composed of grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic. Grammar was an introduction to literature, rhetoric an introduction to law and history, dialectic the path to philosophical and metaphysical disputation. Higher studies included arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Arithmetic was well beyond simple calculation, entering into descriptive and analytical capacities of numbers and their prophetic use (which became modern statistics); geometry embraced geography and surveying; music covered a broad course in theory; astronomy prepared entry into physics and advanced mathematics.
Between the eleventh and the fourteenth centuries, an attempt to reduce the influence of emotionality in religion took command of church policy. Presenting the teachings of the Church in scientific form became the main ecclesiastical purpose of school, a tendency called scholasticism. This shift from emotion to intellect resulted in great skill in analysis, in comparison and contrasts, in classifications and abstraction, as well as famous verbal hairsplitting–like how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Scholasticism became the basis for future upper-class schooling.
The Platonic Ideal
The official use of common schooling was invented by Plato; after him the idea languished, its single torchbearer the Church. Educational offerings from the Church were intended for, though not completely limited to, those young whose parentage qualified them as a potential Guardian class. You would hardly know this from reading any standard histories of Western schooling intended for the clientele of teacher colleges.
Intense development of the Platonic ideal of comprehensive social control through schooling suddenly reappeared two thousand years later in eighteenth-century France at the hands of a philosophical cultus known to history as philosophes, enthusiastic promoters of the bizarre idea of mass forced schooling. Most prominent among them, a self-willed man named Jean Jacques Rousseau. To add piquancy to Rousseau’s thought, you need to know that when they were born, he chose to give away his own five offspring to strangers. If any man captures the essence of enlightenment transformation, it is Rousseau.
The Enlightenment “project” was conceived as a series of stages, each further levelling mankind, collectivizing ordinary humanity into a colonial organism like a volvox. The penetration of this idea, at least on the periphery of our own Founders’ consciousness, is captured in the powerful mystery image of the pyramid on the obverse of our Great Seal.5 Of course, this was only one of many colours to emerge with the new nation, and it was not the most important, an inference that can be drawn from the fact that the pyramid was kept from public notice until 1935. Then it appeared suddenly on the back of our one dollar bill, signalling a profound shift in political management.
The ideal of a levelling Oriental pedagogy expressed through government schooling was promoted by Jacobin orators of the French National Convention in the early 1790s, the commencement years of our own republic. The notion of forced schooling was irresistible to French radicals, an enthusiasm whose foundation had been laid in preceding centuries by utopian writers like Harrington (Oceania), More (Utopia), Bacon (New Atlantis), Campanella (City of the Sun), and in other speculative fantasy embracing the fate of children. Cultivating a collective social organism was considered the ingredient missing from feudal society, an ingredient which would allow the West the harmony and stability of the East.
Utopian schooling is never about learning in the traditional sense; it’s about the transformation of human nature. The core of the difference between Occident and Orient lies in the power relationship between privileged and ordinary, and in respective outlooks on human nature. In the West, a metaphorical table is spread by society; the student decides how much to eat; in the East, the teacher makes that decision. The Chinese character for school shows a passive child with adult hands pouring knowledge into his empty head.
To mandate outcomes centrally would be a major step in the destruction of Western identity. Management by objectives, whatever those objectives might be, is a technique of corporate subordination, not of education. Like Alfred’s, Charlemagne’s awareness of Asia was sharpened in mortal combat. He was the first secular Western potentate to beat the drum for secular schooling. It was easy to ignore Plato’s gloomy forecast that however attractive utopia appears in imagination, human nature will not live easily with the degree of synthetic constraint it requires.
Counter-Attack On Democracy
By standards of the time, America was utopia already. No grinding poverty, no dangerous national enemies, no indigenous tradition beyond a general spirit of exuberant optimism, a belief the land had been touched by destiny, a conviction Americans could accomplish anything. John Jay wrote to Jefferson in 1787, “The enterprise of our country is inconceivable”–inconceivable, that is, to the British, Germans, and French, who were accustomed to keeping the common population on a leash. Our colonial government was the creation of the Crown, of course, but soon a fantastic idea began to circulate, a belief that people might create or destroy governments at their will.
The empty slate of the new republic made it vulnerable to advanced utopian thinking. While in England and Germany, temptation was great to develop and use Oriental social machinery to bend mass population into an instrument of elite will, in America there was no hereditary order or traditional direction. We were a nation awash in literate, self-reliant men and women, the vast majority with an independent livelihood or ambitions toward getting one. Americans were inventors and technicians without precedent, entrepreneurs unlocked from traditional controls, dreamers, confidence men, flim-flam artists. There never was a social stew quite like it.
The practical difficulties these circumstances posed to utopian governing would have been insuperable except for one seemingly strange source of enthusiasm for such an endeavour in the business community. That puzzle can be solved by considering how the promise of democracy was a frightening terra incognita to men of substance. To look to men like Sam Adams or Tom Paine as directors of the future was like looking down the barrel of a loaded gun, at least to people of means. So the men who had begun the Revolution were eased out by the men who ended it.
As early as 1784, a concerted effort was made by the Boston business community to overthrow town meetings, replacing them with a professionally managed corporation. Joseph Barrell, a wealthy merchant, claimed that citizen safety could be enhanced this way–and besides, “a great number of very respectable gentlemen” wished it.
Timothy Dwight, longtime president of Yale after 1795, and a pioneer in modern education (advocating science as the centre of curriculum), fought a mighty battle against advancing democracy. Democracy was hardly the sort of experiment men of affairs would willingly submit their lives and fortunes to for very long.
This tension explains much about how our romance with forced schooling came about; it was a way to stop democracy aborning as Germany had done. Much ingenuity was expended on this problem in the early republic, particularly by so-called liberal Christian sects like Unitarians and Universalists. If you read relics of their debates preserved from select lyceums, private meetings at which minutes were kept, journals, recollections of drawing room conversations and club discussions, you see that what was shaping up was an attempt to square the circle, to give the appearance that the new society was true to its founding promise, while at the same time a sound basis could be established for the meritorious to run things. Once again, the spirit of Sparta was alive with its ephors and its reliance on forced instruction. In discussions, speeches, sermons, editorials, experimental legislation, letters, diaries, and elsewhere, the ancient idea of mass forced schooling was called forth and mused upon.
How Hindu Schooling Came To America (I)
By the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, a form of school technology was up and running in America’s larger cities, one in which children of lower-class customers were psychologically conditioned to obedience under pretext that they were learning reading and counting (which may also have happened). These were the Lancaster schools, sponsored by Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York and prominent Quakers like Thomas Eddy, builder of the Erie Canal. They soon spread to every corner of the nation where the problem of an incipient proletariat existed. Lancaster schools are cousins of today’s school factories. What few knew then or realize now is that they were also a Hindu invention, designed with the express purpose of retarding intellectual development.
How Hindu schooling came to America, England, Germany, and France at just about the same time is a story which has never been told. A full treatment is beyond the scope of this book, but I’ll tell you enough to set you wondering how an Asiatic device specifically intended to preserve a caste system came to reproduce itself in the early republic, protected by influential’s of the magnitude of Clinton and Eddy. Even a brief dusting off of schooling’s Hindu provenance should warn you that what you know about American schooling isn’t much.
First, a quick gloss on the historical position of India at the time of the American Revolution–for Lancaster schools were in New York two decades after its end. India fell victim to Western dominance through nautical technology in the following fashion: When medieval Europe broke up after its long struggle to reconcile emergent science with religion, five great ocean powers appeared to compete for the wealth of the planet: Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and England. Portugal was the first to sail for treasure, leaving colonies in India, China, and South America, but its day in the sun was short. Spain emerged as the next global superpower, but after 1600, her character decayed rapidly from the corrupting effects of the gold of the Americas, which triggered a long national decline. The Netherlands, turn followed because that nation had the advantage of a single-minded commercial class in control of things with one aim in mind: wealth. The Dutch monopolized the carrying trade of Europe with globe-trotting merchant ships and courageous military seamanship, yet as with Portugal before it, the Dutch population was too small, its internal resources too anaemic for its dominance to extend very long. Beginning in the seventeenth century, England and France gradually built business in the East, both balked for a time by the Dutch who controlled the spice trade of the Indies. Three naval wars with the Dutch made the Royal Navy master of the seas, in the process developing tactics of sea warfare that made it dominant for the next two centuries. By 1700, only France and England remained as global sea powers with impressive fighting capability, and during the last half of that century these giants slugged it out directly in Canada, India, and in the territory which is today the United States, with the result that France went permanently into eclipse.
In India, the two contended through their commercial pseudopodia, the British and French East India Companies: each maintained a private army to war on the other for tea, indigo, turmeric, ginger, quinine, oilseeds, silk, and that product which most captivated British merchants with its portability and breakaway profit potential–opium. At Plassey, Chandernagor, Madras, and Wandiwash, this long corporate rivalry ended. The French abandoned India to the British. The drug monopoly was finally England’s. (SEE BK. ONE).
Out of this experience and the observations of a wealthy young Anglican chaplain in India, the formula for modern schooling was discovered. Perhaps it was no more than coincidence this fellow held his first gainful employment as a schoolteacher in the United States; on the other hand, perhaps his experience in a nation which successfully threw off British shackles sensitized him to the danger an educated population poses to plutocracies.
How Hindu Schooling Came To America (II)
Andrew Bell, the gentleman in question, used to be described in old editions of the Britannica as “cold, shrewd, self-seeking.” He might not have been the most pious cleric. Perhaps like his contemporary, Parson Malthus, he didn’t really believe in God at all, but as a young man following the flag he had an eye out for the main chance. Bell found his opportunity when he studied the structure Hindus arranged for training the lower castes, about 95 percent of the Indian population. It might well serve a Britain which had driven its peasantry into ruin in order to create an industrial proletariat for coal-driven industry.
Bell was fascinated by the purposeful nature of Hindu schooling. It seemed eminently compatible with the goals of the English state church. So as many another ambitious young man has done throughout history when he stumbles upon a little-known novelty, he swiped it. Before we turn to details of the Hindu method, and how Bell himself was upstaged by an ambitious young Quaker who beat him into the school market with a working version of Bell’s idea, you should understand a little about Hindu religion.
The caste system of Hinduism or Brahmanism is the Anglican class system pushed to its imaginative limits. A five-category ranking (each category further subdivided) apportions people into a system similar to that found in modern schools. Prestige and authority are reserved for the three highest castes, although they only comprise 5 percent of the total; inescapable servility is assigned the lowest caste, a pariah group outside serious consideration.
In the Hindu system one may fall into a lower caste, but one cannot rise.
When the British began to administer India, Hindus represented 70 percent of a population well over a hundred million. Contrast this with an America of perhaps three million. In the northern region, British hero Robert Clive was president of Bengal where people were conspicuously lighter-skinned than the other major Indian group, having features not unlike those of the British.
Hindu castes looked like this:
The upper 5 percent was divided into three “twice-born” groups.
Brahmins–Priests and those trained for law, medicine, teaching, and other professional occupations.
The warrior and administrative caste.
The industrial caste, which would include land cultivators and mercantile groups.
The lower 95 percent was divided into:
The menial caste.
Pariahs, called “untouchables.”
The entire purpose of Hindu schooling was to preserve the caste system. Only the lucky 5 percent received an education which gave perspective on the whole, a key to understanding. In actual practice, warriors, administrators, and most of the other leaders were given much diluted insight into the driving engines of the culture, so that policy could be kept in the hands of Brahmins. But what of the others, the “masses” as Western socialist tradition would come to call them in an echoing tribute to the Hindu class idea? The answer to that vital question launched factory schooling in the West.
Which brings us back to Andrew Bell. Bell noticed that in some places Hinduism had created a mass schooling institution for children of the ordinary, one inculcating a curriculum of self-abnegation and willing servility. In these places hundreds of children were gathered in a single gigantic room, divided into phalanxes of ten under the direction of student leaders with the whole ensemble directed by a Brahmin. In the Roman manner, paid pedagogues drilled underlings in the memorization and imitation of desired attitudes and these underlings drilled the rest. Here was a social technology made in heaven for the factories and mines of Britain, still uncomfortably saturated in older yeoman legends of liberty and dignity, one not yet possessing the perfect proletarian attitudes mass production must have for maximum efficiency. Nobody in the early years of British rule had made a connection between this Hindu practice and the pressing requirements of an industrial future. Nobody, that is, until a thirty-four-year-old Scotsman arrived in India as military chaplain.
How Hindu Schooling Came To America (III)
Young Bell was a go-getter. Two years after he got to India he was superintendent of the male orphan asylum of Madras. In order to save money Bell decided to try the Hindu system he had seen and found it led students quickly to docile cooperation, like parts of a machine. Furthermore, they seemed relieved not to have to think, grateful to have their time reduced to rituals and routines as Frederick Taylor was to reform the American workplace a hundred years later.
In 1797, Bell, now forty-two, published an account of what he had seen and done. Pulling no punches. A twenty-year-old Quaker, Joseph Lancaster, read Bell’s pamphlet, thought deeply on the method, and concluded, ironically, it would be a cheap way to awaken intellect in the lower classes, ignoring the Anglican’s observation (and Hindu experience) that it did just the opposite. Lancaster began to gather poor children under his father’s roof in Borough Road, London, to give them rudimentary instruction without a fee. Word spread and children emerged from every alley, dive, and garret, craving to learn. Soon a thousand children were gathering in the street. The Duke of Bedford heard about Lancaster and provided him with a single enormous schoolroom and a few materials. The monitorial system, as it was called, promised to promote a mental counterpart to the productivity of factories. Transforming dirty ghetto children into an orderly army attracted many observers. The fact that Lancaster’s school ran at tiny cost with only one employee raised interest, too. Invitations arrived to lecture in surrounding towns, where the Quaker expounded on what had now become his system. Lancaster schools multiplied under the direction of young men he personally trained. So talked about did the phenomenon become, it eventually attracted the attention of King George III himself, who commanded an interview with Joseph. Royal patronage followed on the stipulation that every poor child be taught to read the Bible.
But with fame and public responsibility, another side of Lancaster showed itself–he became vain, reckless, improvident. Interested noblemen bailed him out after he fell deeply in debt, and helped him found the British and Foreign School Society, but Lancaster hated being watched over and soon proved impossible to control. He left the organization his patrons erected, starting a private school which went bankrupt. By 1818 the Anglican Church, warming to Bell’s insight that schooled ignorance was more useful than unschooled stupidity, set up a rival chain of factory schools that proved to be handwriting on the wall for Lancaster. In the face of this competition he fled to America where his fame and his method had already preceded him.
Meanwhile, in England, the whole body of dissenting sects gave Lancaster vociferous public support, thoroughly alarming the state church hierarchy. Prominent church laymen and clergy were not unaware that Lancaster’s schools weren’t playing by Hindu rules–the prospect of a literate underclass with unseemly ambitions was a window on a future impossible to tolerate. Bell had been recalled from his rectory in Dorset in 1807 to contest Lancaster’s use of Hindu schooling. In 1811, he was named superintendent of an organization to oppose Lancaster’s British and Foreign School Society, “The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church.” Since those principles held that the poor were poor because the Lord wanted it that way, the content of the society’s schooling leaves little about which we need to speculate. Bell was sent to plant his system in Presbyterian Scotland, while the patronage advantage of Bell-system schools contained and diminished the reach of Lancaster.
For his services to the state, Bell was eventually buried in Westminster Abbey.
At first, Lancaster was welcomed warmly in the United States, but his affection for children and his ability to awaken pride and ambition in his charges made him ultimately unacceptable to important patrons who were much more interested in spreading Bell’s dumbed-down method, without its Church of England baggage attached. Fortunately for their schemes, Lancaster grew even more shiftless, unmethodical, and incapable of sustained effort (or principled action). In the twenty remaining years of his life, Lancaster ranged from Montreal to Caracas, disowned by Quakers for reasons I’ve been unable to discover. He once declared it would be possible to teach illiterates to read fluently in twenty to ninety days, which is certainly true. At the age of sixty he was run over by a carriage in New York and died a few hours later.
But while he died an outcast, his system outlived him, or at least a system bearing his name did, albeit more Bell’s than Lancaster’s. It accustomed an influential public to expect streets to be clear of the offspring of the poor and to expenditures of tax money to accomplish this end. The first Lancaster school was opened in New York City in 1806; by 1829 the idea had spread to the Mexican state of Texas with stops as far west as Cincinnati, Louisville, and Detroit. The governors of New York and Pennsylvania recommended general adoption to their legislatures. What exactly was a “Lancaster” school? Its essential features involved one large room stuffed with anywhere from three hundred to a thousand children under the direction of a single teacher. The children were seated in rows. The teacher was not there to teach but to be “a bystander and inspector”; students, ranked in a paramilitary hierarchy, did the actual teaching:
What the master says should be done. When the pupils as well as the schoolmaster understand how to act and learn on this system, the system, not the master’s vague discretionary, uncertain judgment, will be in practice. In common school the authority of the master is personal, and the rod is his sceptre. His absence is an immediate signal for confusion, but in a school conducted on my plan when the master leaves the school, the business will go on as well in his absence as in his presence. [emphasis added]
Here, without forcing the matter, is our modern pedagogus technologicus, harbinger of future computerized instruction. In such a system, teachers and administrators are forbidden to depart from instructions elsewhere written. But while dumbing children down was the whole of the government school education in England, it was only part of the story in America, and a minor one until the twentieth century.
Between the fall of Rome in the late fifth century and the decline of monarchy in the eighteenth, secular schooling in any form was hardly a ripple on the societies of Europe. There was talk of it at certain times and places, but it was courtly talk, never very serious. What simple schooling we find was modestly undertaken by religious orders which usually had no greater ambition than providing a stream of assistants to the ecclesiastical bureaucracy, and perhaps moulding the values of whatever future leaders proved susceptible; the few exceptions shouldn’t be looked upon as the spark for our own schools. School was only a tiny blip on the radar until the last half of the eighteenth century.
If you and I are to have a productive partnership in this book you need to clear your mind of false history, the type that clogs the typical school chronicle written for teacher training institutes where each fact may be verifiable but the conclusions drawn from them are not. Turn to typical school history and you will learn about the alleged anticipation of our own schools by Comenius, of the reformed Latin Grammar School founded by Dean Colet at St. Paul’s in London in 1510, of the “solitaries of Port Royal,” whoever those lonely men may have been; each instance is real, the direction they lead in is false. What formal school experimentation the West provided touched only a tiny fraction of the population, and rarely those who became social leaders, let alone pioneers of the future.
One way to see the difference between school and real (life) is to examine different procedures which separate librarians, the custodians of real books, from schoolteachers, the custodians of schoolbooks. To begin with, libraries are usually comfortable, clean, and quiet. They are orderly places where you can actually read instead of just pretending to read.
For some reason libraries are never age-segregated, nor do they presume to segregate readers by questionable tests of ability any more than farms or forests or oceans do. The librarian doesn’t tell me what to read, doesn’t tell me what sequence of reading I have to follow, doesn’t grade my reading. The librarian trusts me to have a worthwhile purpose of my own. I appreciate that and trust the library in return.
Some other significant differences between libraries and schools: the librarian lets me ask my own questions and helps me when I want help, not when she decides I need it. If I feel like reading all day long, that’s okay with the librarian, who doesn’t compel me to stop at intervals by ringing a bell in my ear. The library keeps its nose out of my home. It doesn’t send letters to my family, nor does it issue orders on how I should use my reading time at home.
The library doesn’t play favourites; it’s a democratic place as seems proper in a democracy. If the books I want are available, I get them, even if that decision deprives someone more gifted and talented than I am. The library never humiliates me by posting ranked lists of good readers. It presumes good reading is its own reward and doesn’t need to be held up as an object lesson to bad readers. One of the strangest differences between a library and a school is that you almost never see a kid behaving badly in a library.
The library never makes predictions about my future based on my past reading habits. It tolerates eccentric reading because it realizes free men and women are often very eccentric. Finally, the library has real books, not schoolbooks. I know the Moby Dick I find in the library won’t have questions at the end of the chapter or be scientifically bowdlerized. Library books are not written by collective pens. At least not yet. Real books conform to the private curriculum of each author, not to the invisible curriculum of a corporate bureaucracy. Real books transport us to an inner realm of solitude and unmonitored mental reflection in a way schoolbooks and computer programs can’t. If they were not devoid of such capacity, they would jeopardize school routines devised to control behaviour. Real books conform to the private curriculum of particular authors, not to the demands of bureaucracy.
At the start of WWII millions of men showed up at registration offices to take low-level academic tests before being inducted.1 The years of maximum mobilization were 1942 to1944; the fighting force had been mostly schooled in the 1930s, both those inducted and those turned away. Of the 18 million men were tested, 17,280,000 of them were judged to have the minimum competence in reading required to be a soldier, a 96 percent literacy rate. Although this was a 2 percent fall-off from the 98 percent rate among voluntary military applicants ten years earlier, the dip was so small it didn’t worry anybody.
WWII was over in 1945. Six years later another war began in Korea. Several million men were tested for military service but this time 600,000 were rejected. Literacy in the draft pool had dropped to 81 percent, even though all that was needed to classify a soldier as literate was fourth- grade reading proficiency. In the few short years from the beginning of WWII to Korea, a terrifying problem of adult illiteracy had appeared. The Korean War group received most of its schooling in the 1940s, and it had more years in school with more professionally trained personnel and more scientifically selected textbooks than the WWII men, yet it could not read, write, count, speak, or think as well as the earlier, less-schooled contingent.
A third American war began in the mid-1960s. By its end in 1973 the number of men found noninductible by reason of inability to read safety instructions, interpret road signs, decipher orders, and so on–in other words, the number found illiterate–had reached 27 percent of the total pool. Vietnam-era young men had been schooled in the 1950s and the 1960s–much better schooled than either of the two earlier groups–but the 4 percent illiteracy of 1941 which had transmuted into the 19 percent illiteracy of 1952 had now had grown into the 27 percent illiteracy of 1970. Not only had the fraction of competent readers dropped to 73 percent but a substantial chunk of even those were only barely adequate; they could not keep abreast of developments by reading a newspaper, they could not read for pleasure, they could not sustain a thought or an argument, they could not write well enough to manage their own affairs without assistance.
MY NOTE – READ THOSE THREE PARAGRAPHS AGAIN – IF YOU CAN THAT IS…
Consider how much more compelling this steady progression of intellectual blindness is when we track it through army admissions tests rather than college admissions scores and standardized reading tests, which inflate apparent proficiency by frequently changing the way the tests are scored.
Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered. According to the Connecticut census of 1840, only one citizen out of every 579 was illiterate and you probably don’t want to know, not really, what people in those days considered literate; it’s too embarrassing.
Popular novels of the period give a clue: Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826, sold so well that a contemporary equivalent would have to move 10 million copies to match it. If you pick up an uncut version you find yourself in a dense thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic sentences so formidable only a determined and well-educated reader can handle it nowadays. Yet in 1818 we were a small-farm nation without colleges or universities to speak of. Could those simple folk have had more complex minds than our own?
By 1940, the literacy figure for all states stood at 96 percent for whites, 80 percent for blacks. Notice that for all the disadvantages blacks laboured under, four of five were nevertheless literate. Six decades later, at the end of the twentieth century, the National Adult Literacy Survey and the National Assessment of Educational Progress say 40 percent of blacks and 17 percent of whites can’t read at all. Put another way, black illiteracy doubled, white illiteracy quadrupled. Before you think of anything else in regard to these numbers, think of this: we spend three to four times as much real money on schooling as we did sixty years ago, but sixty years ago virtually everyone, black or white, could read.
In their famous bestseller, The Bell Curve, prominent social analysts Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein say that what we’re seeing are the results of selective breeding in society. Smart people naturally get together with smart people, dumb people with dumb people. As they have children generation after generation, the differences between the groups gets larger and larger. That sounds plausible and the authors produce impressive mathematics to prove their case, but their documentation shows they are entirely ignorant of the military data available to challenge their contention. The terrifying drop in literacy between World War II and Korea happened in a decade, and even the brashest survival-of-the-fittest theorist wouldn’t argue evolution unfolds that way. The Bell Curve writers say black illiteracy (and violence) is genetically programmed, but like many academics they ignore contradictory evidence.
For example, on the matter of violence inscribed in black genes, the inconvenient parallel is to South Africa where 31 million blacks live, the same count living in the United States. Compare numbers of blacks who died by violence in South Africa in civil war conditions during 1989, 1990, and 1991 with our own peacetime mortality statistics and you find that far from exceeding the violent death toll in the United States or even matching it, South Africa had proportionately less than one-quarter the violent death rate of American blacks. If more contemporary comparisons are sought, we need only compare the current black literacy rate in the United States (56 percent) with the rate in Jamaica (98.5 percent)–a figure considerably higher than the American white literacy rate (83 percent).
If not heredity, what then? Well, one change is indisputable, well-documented and easy to track. During WWII, American public schools massively converted to non-phonetic ways of teaching reading. On the matter of violence alone this would seem to have impact: according to the Justice Department, 80 percent of the incarcerated violent criminal population is illiterate or nearly so (and 67 percent of all criminals locked up). There seems to be a direct connection between the humiliation poor readers experience and the life of angry criminals.2 As reading ability plummeted in America after WWII, crime soared, so did out-of-wedlock births, which doubled in the 1950s and doubled again in the ’60s, when bizarre violence for the first time became commonplace in daily life.
When literacy was first abandoned as a primary goal by schools, white people were in a better position than black people because they inherited a three-hundred-year-old American tradition of learning to read at home by matching spoken sound with letters, thus home assistance was able to correct the deficiencies of dumbed-down schools for whites. But black people had been forbidden to learn to read under slavery, and as late as 1930 only averaged three to four years of schooling, so they were helpless when teachers suddenly stopped teaching children to read, since they had no fall-back position. Not helpless because of genetic inferiority but because they had to trust school authorities to a much greater extent than white people.
Back in 1952 the Army quietly began hiring hundreds of psychologists to find out how 600,000 high school graduates had successfully faked illiteracy. Regna Wood sums up the episode this way: After the psychologists told the officers that the graduates weren’t faking, Defence Department administrators knew that something terrible had happened in grade school reading instruction. And they knew it had started in the thirties. Why they remained silent, no one knows.
The switch back to reading instruction that worked for everyone should have been made then. But it wasn’t. In 1882, fifth graders read these authors in their Appleton School Reader: William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, George Washington, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bunyan, Daniel Webster, Samuel Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others like them.
In 1995, a student teacher of fifth graders in Minneapolis wrote to the local newspaper, “I was told children are not to be expected to spell the following words correctly: back, big, call, came, can, day, did, dog, down, get, good, have, he, home, if, in, is, it, like, little, man, morning, mother, my, night, off, out, over, people, play, ran, said, saw, she, some, soon, their, them, there, time, two, too, up, us, very, water, we, went, where, when, will, would, etc. Is this nuts?”
1 The discussion here is based on Regna Lee Wood’s work as printed in Chester Finn and Diane Ravitch’s Network News and Views (and reprinted many other places). Together with other statistical indictments, from the National Adult Literacy Survey, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and a host of other credible sources, it provides chilling evidence of the disastrous turn in reading methodology. But in a larger sense the author urges every reader to trust personal judgment over “numerical” evidence, whatever the source. During the writer’s 30-year classroom experience, the decline in student ability to comprehend difficult text was marked, while the ability to extract and parrot “information” in the form of “facts” was much less affected. This is a product of deliberate pedagogy, to what end is the burden of my essay.
Looking Behind Appearances
Do you think class size, teacher compensation, and school revenue have much to do with education quality? If so, the conclusion is inescapable that we are living in a golden age. From 1955 to 1991 the U.S. pupil/teacher ratio dropped 40 percent, the average salary of teachers rose 50 percent (in real terms) and the annual expense per pupil, inflation adjusted, soared 350 percent. What other hypothesis, then, might fit the strange data I’m about to present?
Forget the 10 percent drop in SAT and Achievement Test scores the press beats to death with regularity; how do you explain the 37 percent decline since 1972 in students who score above 600 on the SAT? This is an absolute decline, not a relative one. It is not affected by an increase in unsuitable minds taking the test or by an increase in the numbers. The absolute body count of smart students is down drastically with a test not more difficult than yesterday’s but considerably less so.
What should be made of a 50 percent decline among the most rarefied group of test-takers, those who score above 750? In 1972, there were 2,817 American students who reached this pinnacle; only 1,438 did in 1994–when kids took a much easier test. Can a 50 percent decline occur in twenty-two years without signalling that some massive levelling in the public school mind is underway?1
In a real sense where your own child is concerned you might best forget scores on these tests entirely as a reliable measure of what they purport to assess. I wouldn’t deny that mass movements in these scores in one direction or another indicate something is going on, and since the correlation between success in schooling and success on these tests is close, then significant score shifts are certainly measuring changes in understanding. This is a difficult matter for anyone to sort out, since many desirable occupational categories (and desirable university seats even before that) are reserved for those who score well. The resultant linkage of adult income with test scores then creates the illusion these tests are separating cream from milk, but the results are rigged in advance by foreclosing opportunity to those screened out by the test! In a humble illustration, if you only let students with high scores on the language component of the SATs cut hair, eventually it would appear that verbal facility and grooming of tresses had some vital link with each other. Between 1960 and 1998 the nonteaching bureaucracy of public schools grew 500 percent, but oversight was concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. The 40,520 school districts with elected boards this nation had in 1960 shrivelled to 15,000 by 1998.
On the college rung of the school ladder something queer was occurring, too. Between 1960 and 1984 the quality of undergraduate education at America’s fifty best-known colleges and universities altered substantially. According to a 1996 report by the National Association of Scholars, these schools stopped providing “broad and rigorous exposure to major areas of knowledge” for the average student, even at decidedly un-average universities like Yale and Stanford. In 1964, more than half of these institutions required a thesis or comprehensive for the bachelor’s degree; by 1993, 12 percent did; over the same period, the average number of classroom days fell 16 percent, and requirements in math, natural science, philosophy, literature, composition, and history almost vanished. Rhetoric, most potent of the active literacies, completely vanished, and a foreign language, once required at 96 percent of the great colleges, fell to 64 percent.
According to The Journal of the American Medical Association (December 1995), 33 percent of all patients cannot read and understand instructions on how often to take medication, notices about doctor’s appointments, consent forms, labels on prescription bottles, insurance forms, and other simple parts of self-care. They are rendered helpless by inability to read. Concerning those behind the nation’s prison walls (a population that has tripled since 1980), the National Centre for Education Statistics stated in a 1996 report that 80 percent of all prisoners could not interpret a bus schedule, understand a news article or warranty instructions, or read maps, schedules, or payroll forms. Nor could they balance a checkbook. Forty percent could not calculate the cost of a purchase.
Once upon a time we were a new nation that allowed ordinary citizens to learn how to read well and encouraged them to read anything they thought would be useful. Close reading of tough-minded writing is still the best, cheapest, and quickest method known for learning to think for yourself. This invitation to commoners extended by America was the most revolutionary pedagogy of all.
Reading, and rigorous discussion of that reading in a way that obliges you to formulate a position and support it against objections, is an operational definition of education in its most fundamental civilized sense. No one can do this very well without learning ways of paying attention: from a knowledge of diction and syntax, figures of speech, etymology, and so on, to a sharp ability to separate the primary from the subordinate, understand allusion, master a range of modes of presentation, test truth, and penetrate beyond the obvious to the profound messages of text. Reading, analysis, and discussion are the way we develop reliable judgment, the principal way we come to penetrate covert movements behind the facade of public appearances. Without the ability to read and argue we’re just geese to be plucked.
Just as experience is necessary to understand abstraction, so the reverse is true. Experience can only be mastered by extracting general principles out of the mass of details. In the absence of a perfect universal mentor, books and other texts are the best and cheapest stand-ins, always available to those who know where to look. Watching details of an assembly line or a local election unfold isn’t very educational unless you have been led in careful ways to analyze the experience. Reading is the skeleton key for all who lack a personal tutor of quality.2 Reading teaches nothing more important than the state of mind in which you find yourself absolutely alone with the thoughts of another mind, a matchless form of intimate rapport available only to those with the ability to block out distraction and concentrate. Hence the urgency of reading well if you read for power. Once you trust yourself to go mind-to-mind with great intellects, artists, scientists, warriors, and philosophers, you are finally free. In America, before we had forced schooling, an astonishing range of unlikely people knew reading was like Samson’s locks–something that could help make them formidable, that could teach them their rights and how to defend those rights, could lead them toward self-determination, free from intimidation by experts. These same unlikely people knew that the power bestowed through reading could give them insight into the ways of the human heart, so they would not be cheated or fooled so easily, and that it could provide an inexhaustible store of useful knowledge–advice on how to do just about anything.
By 1812, Pierre DuPont was claiming that barely four in a thousand Americans were unable to read well and that the young had skill in argumentation thanks to daily debates at the common breakfast table. By 1820, there was even more evidence of Americans’ avid reading habits, when 5 million copies of James Fenimore Cooper’s complex and allusive novels were sold, along with an equal number of Noah Webster’s didactic Speller–to a population of dirt farmers under 20 million in size.
In 1835, Richard Cobden announced there was six times as much newspaper reading in the United States as in England, and the census figures of 1840 gave fairly exact evidence that a sensational reading revolution had taken place without any exhortation on the part of public moralists and social workers, but because common people had the initiative and freedom to learn. In North Carolina, the worst situation of any state surveyed, eight out of nine could still read and write.
In 1853, Per Siljestromm, a Swedish visitor, wrote, “In no country in the world is the taste for reading so diffuse as among the common people in America.” The American Almanac observed grandly, “Periodical publications, especially newspapers, disseminate knowledge throughout all classes of society and exert an amazing influence in forming and giving effect to public opinion.” It noted the existence of over a thousand newspapers. In this nation of common readers, the spiritual longings of ordinary people shaped the public discourse.
Ordinary people who could read, though not privileged by wealth, power, or position, could see through the fraud of social class or the even grander fraud of official expertise. That was the trouble.
In his book The New Illiterates, author Sam Blumenfeld gives us the best introduction to what went wrong with reading in the United States. He also gives us insight into why learning to read needn’t be frustrating or futile. A typical letter from one of his readers boasts of her success in imparting the alphabet code to four children under the age of five by the simple method of practice with letter sounds. One day she found her three-year-old working his way through a lesson alone at the kitchen table, reading S-am, Sam, m-an, man, and so on. Her verdict on the process: “I had just taught him his letter sounds. He picked [the rest] up and did it himself. That’s how simple it is.”
1 The critics of schooling who concentrate on fluctuations in standardized test scores to ground their case against the institution are committing a gross strategic mistake for several reasons, the most obvious of which is that in doing so they must first implicitly acknowledge the accuracy of such instruments in ranking every member of the youth population against every other member, hence the justice of using such measures to allocate privileges and rewards. An even larger folly occurs because the implicit validation of these tests by the attention of school critics cedes the entire terrain of scientific pedagogy, armouring it against strong counter-measures by recruiting the opposition, in effect, to support teaching to the test. The final folly lies in the ease with which these measures can be rigged to produce whatever public effects are wanted.
2 In a fascinating current illustration of the power of books, black female tennis star Venus Williams’ father acknowledged in a press interview for the Toronto Globe that he had, indeed, set out to create a tennis millionaire from his infant daughter even before her birth. Mr. Williams, who had no knowledge whatsoever of the game of tennis, and who was reared in a poor home in the South by his single mother, had his ambition piqued by witnessing a young woman on television receiving a $48,000 check for playing tennis successfully. At that moment he proposed to his wife that they set out to make their unborn children tennis millionaires. How did he learn the game? By reading books, he says, and renting videos. That, and common sense discipline, was all that Venus and sister Serena needed to become millionaire teenagers.
The Sudbury Valley School
I know a school for kids ages three to eighteen that doesn’t teach anybody to read, yet everyone who goes there learns to do it, most very well. It’s the beautiful Sudbury Valley School, twenty miles west of Boston in the old Nathaniel Bowditch “cottage” (which looks suspiciously like a mansion), a place ringed by handsome outbuildings, a private lake, woods, and acres of magnificent grounds. Sudbury is a private school, but with a tuition under $4,000 a year it’s considerably cheaper than a seat in a New York City public school. At Sudbury kids teach themselves to read; they learn at many different ages, even into the teen years (though that’s rare). When each kid is ready he or she self-instructs, if such a formal label isn’t inappropriate for such a natural undertaking. During this time they are free to request as much adult assistance as needed. That usually isn’t much. In thirty years of operation, Sudbury has never had a single kid who didn’t learn to read. All this is aided by a magnificent school library on open shelves where books are borrowed and returned on the honour system. About 65 percent of Sudbury kids go on to good colleges. The place has never seen a case of dyslexia. (That’s not to say some kids don’t reverse letters and such from time to time, but such conditions are temporary and self-correcting unless institutionalized into a disease.) So Sudbury doesn’t even teach reading yet all its kids learn to read and even like reading. What could be going on there that we don’t understand?
The religious purpose of modern schooling was announced clearly by the legendary University of Wisconsin sociologist Edward A. Ross in 1901 in his famous book, Social Control. Your librarian should be able to locate a copy for you without much trouble. In it Ed Ross wrote these words for his prominent following: “Plans are underway to replace community, family, and church with propaganda, education, and mass media….the State shakes loose from Church, reaches out to School…. People are only little plastic lumps of human dough.” Social Control revolutionized the discipline of sociology and had powerful effects on the other human sciences: in social science it guided the direction of political science, economics, and psychology; in biology it influenced genetics, eugenics, and psychobiology. It played a critical role in the conception and design of molecular biology.
There you have it in a nutshell. The whole problem with modern schooling. It rests on a nest of false premises. People are not little plastic lumps of dough. They are not blank tablets as John Locke said they were, they are not machines as de La Mettrie hoped, not vegetables as Friedrich Froebel, inventor of kindergartens, hypothesized, not organic mechanisms as Wilhelm Wundt taught every psychology department in America at the turn of the century, nor are they repertoires of behaviours as Watson and Skinner wanted. They are not, as the new crop of systems thinkers would have it, mystically harmonious microsystems interlocking with grand macrosystems in a dance of atomic forces. I don’t want to be crazy about this; locked in a lecture hall or a bull session there’s probably no more harm in these theories than reading too many Italian sonnets all at one sitting. But when each of these suppositions is sprung free to serve as a foundation for school experiments, it leads to frightfully oppressive practices.
One of the ideas that empty-child thinking led directly to was the notion that human breeding could be enhanced or retarded as plant and animal breeding was–by scientific gardeners and husbandmen. Of course, the time scale over which this was plotted to happen was quite long. Nobody expected it to be like breeding fruit flies, but it was a major academic, governmental, and even military item generously funded until Hitler’s proactive program (following America’s lead) grew so embarrassing by 1939 that our own projects and plans were made more circumspect.
Back at the beginning of the twentieth century, the monstrously influential Edward Thorndike of Columbia Teachers College said that school would establish conditions for “selective breeding before the masses take things into their own hands.” The religious purpose of modern schooling was embarrassingly evident back when Ross and Thorndike were on centre stage, but they were surrounded by many like-minded friends. Another major architect of standardized testing, H.H. Goddard, said in his book Human Efficiency (1920) that government schooling was about “the perfect organization of the hive.” He said standardized testing was a way to make lower classes recognize their own inferiority. Like wearing a dunce cap, it would discourage them from breeding and having ambition. Goddard was head of the Psychology Department at Princeton, so imagine the effect he had on the minds of the doctoral candidates he coached, and there were hundreds. We didn’t leave the religious purpose of modern schooling back in the early years of the century. In April of 1996, Al Shanker of the AFT said in his regular New York Times split-page advertisement that every teacher was really a priest.
A System Of State Propaganda
Something strange is going on in schools and has been going on for quite some time. Whatever it is does not arise from the main American traditions. As closely as I can track the thing through the attitudes, practices, and stated goals of the shadowy crew who make a good living skulking around educational “laboratories,” think tanks, and foundations, we are experiencing an attempt, successful so far, to reimpose the strong-state, strong social class attitudes of England and Germany on the United States–the very attitudes we threw off in the American Revolution.
And in this counter-revolution the state churches of England and Germany have been replaced by the secular church of forced government schooling.
Advertising, public relations, and stronger forms of quasi-religious propaganda are so pervasive in our schools, even in “alternative” schools, that independent judgment is suffocated in mass-produced secondary experiences and market-tested initiatives. Lifetime Learning Systems, one of the many new corporations formed to dig gold from our conditions of schooling, announced to its corporate clients, “School is the ideal time to influence attitudes, build long-term loyalties, introduce new products, test-market, promote sampling and trial usage–and above all–to generate immediate sales.”
Arnold Toynbee, the establishment’s favourite historian in mid-twentieth-century America, said in his monumental Study of History that the original promise of universal education had been destroyed as soon as the school laws were passed, a destruction caused by “the possibility of turning education to account as a means of amusement for the masses” and a means of “profit for the enterprising persons by whom the amusement is purveyed.” This opportunistic conversion quickly followed mass schooling’s introduction when fantastic profit potential set powerful forces in motion:
The bread of universal education is no sooner cast upon the water than a shoal of sharks arises from the depths and devours the children’s bread under the educator’s very eyes.
In Toynbee’s analysis “the dates speak for themselves”:
The edifice of universal education was, roughly speaking, completed… in 1870; and the Yellow Press was invented twenty years later–as soon, that is, as the first generation of children from the national schools had acquired sufficient purchasing power–by a stroke of irresponsible genius which had divined that the educational labour of love could be made to yield a royal profit.
But vultures attending the inception of forced compulsion schooling attracted more ferocious predators:
[The commercial institutions that set about at once to prey on forced mass schooling] attracted the attention of the rulers of modern…national states. If press lords could make millions by providing idle amusement for the half-educated, serious statesman could draw, not money perhaps, but power from the same source. The modern dictators have deposed the press lords and substituted for crude and debased private entertainment an equally crude and debased system of state propaganda.
The Ideology Of The Text
Looking back on the original period of school formation in her study of American history textbooks, America Revised, Frances Fitzgerald remarked on the profound changes that emerged following suggestions issued by sociologists and social thinkers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s. The original history of our institutions and the documents which protect our unique liberties gradually began to be effaced. Fitzgerald raises the puzzle of textbook alteration:
The ideology that lies behind these texts is rather difficult to define…. it does not fit usual political patterns….the texts never indicate any line of action….authors avoid what they choose to and some of them avoid main issues….they fail to develop any original ideas….they confuse social sciences with science….clouds of jargon….leave out ideas….historical names are given no character, they are cipher people….there are no conflicts, only “problems”. [emphasis added]
Indeed, the texts may be unfathomable, and that may be the editorial intent.
The National Adult Literacy Survey
In 1982, Anthony Oettinger, a member of the private discussion group called the Council on Foreign Relations, asked an audience of communications executives this question: “Do we really have to have everybody literate–writing and reading in the traditional sense–when we have means through our technology to achieve a new flowering of oral communication?” Oettinger suggested “our idea of literacy” is “obsolete.” Eighty-three years earlier John Dewey had written in “The Primary Education Fetish” that “the plea for the predominance of learning to read in early school life because of the great importance attaching to literature seems to be a perversion.”
For the balance of this discussion I’m going to step into deeper water, first reviewing what reading in a Western alphabet really means and what makes it a reasonably easy skill to transmit or to self-teach, and then tackling what happened to deprive the ordinary person of the ability to manage it very well. I want to first show you how, then answer the more speculative question why.
The National Adult Literacy Survey represents 190 million U.S. adults over age sixteen with an average school attendance of 12.4 years. The survey is conducted by the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, New Jersey. It ranks adult Americans into five levels. Here is its 1993 analysis:
Forty-two million Americans over the age of sixteen can’t read. Some of this group can write their names on Social Security cards and fill in height, weight, and birth spaces on application forms.
Fifty million can recognize printed words on a fourth- and fifth-grade level. They cannot write simple messages or letters.
Fifty-five to sixty million are limited to sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade reading. A majority of this group could not figure out the price per ounce of peanut butter in a 20-ounce jar costing $1.99 when told they could round the answer off to a whole number.
Thirty million have ninth- and tenth-grade reading proficiency. This group (and all preceding) cannot understand a simplified written explanation of the procedures used by attorneys and judges in selecting juries.
About 3.5 percent of the 26,000-member sample demonstrated literacy skills adequate to do traditional college study, a level 30 percent of all U.S. high school students reached in 1940, and which 30 percent of secondary students in other developed countries can reach today. This last fact alone should warn you how misleading comparisons drawn from international student competitions really are, since the samples each country sends are small elite ones, unrepresentative of the entire student population. But behind the bogus superiority a real one is concealed.
Ninety-six and a half percent of the American population is mediocre to illiterate where deciphering print is concerned. This is no commentary on their intelligence, but without ability to take in primary information from print and to interpret it they are at the mercy of commentators who tell them what things mean. A working definition of immaturity might include an excessive need for other people to interpret information for us. HINT NUDGE WINK WALLOP – READ THAT AND RE-READ THAT LAST SENTENCE GURU FOLLOWERS.
Certainly it’s possible to argue that bad readers aren’t victims at all but perpetrators, cursed by inferior biology to possess only shadows of intellect. That’s what bell-curve theory, evolutionary theory, aristocratic social theory, eugenics theory, strong-state political theory, and some kinds of theology are about. All agree most of us are inferior, if not downright dangerous. The integrity of such theoretical outlooks– at least where reading was concerned–took a stiff shot on the chin from America. Here, democratic practice allowed a revolutionary generation to learn how to read. Those granted the opportunity took advantage of it brilliantly.
Name Sounds, Not Things
So how was the murder of American reading ability pulled off? I’ll tell you in a second, but come back first to classical Greece where the stupendous invention of the alphabet by Phoenicians was initially understood. The Phoenicians had an alphabetic language used to keep accounts, but the Greeks were the first to guess correctly that revolutionary power could be unleashed by transcending mere lists, using written language for the permanent storage of analysis, exhortation, visions, and other things. After a period of experiment the Greeks came up with a series of letters to represent sounds of their language. Like the Phoenicians, they recognized the value of naming each letter in a way distinct from its sound value–as every human being has a name distinct from his or her personality, as numbers have names for reference.
Naming sounds rather than things was the breakthrough! While the number of things to be pictured is impossibly large, the number of sounds is strictly limited. In English, for example, most people recognize only forty-four.
The problem, which American families once largely solved for themselves, is this: in English, a Latin alphabet has been imposed on a Germanic language with multiple non-Germanic borrowings, and it doesn’t quite fit. Our 44 sounds are spelled 400+ different ways. That sounds horrible, but in reality in the hands of even a mediocre teacher, it’s only annoying; in the hands of a good one, a thrilling challenge. Actually, 85 percent of the vast word stock of English can be read with knowledge of only 70 of the phonograms. A large number of the remaining irregularities seldom occur and can be remastered on an as-needed basis. Meanwhile a whole armoury of mnemonic tricks like “If a ‘c’ I chance to spy, place the ‘e’ before the ‘i”‘ exists to get new readers over the common humps. Inexpensive dictionaries, spell-check typewriters, computers, and other technology are readily available these days to silently coach the fearful, but in my experience, that “fear” is neither warranted nor natural. Instead, it is engendered. Call it good business practice.
Also, communicating abstractions in picture language is a subtlety requiring more time and training to master than is available for most of us. Greeks now could organize ambitious concepts abstractly in written language, communicating accurately with each other over space and time much more readily than their competitors.
According to Mitford Mathews:
The secret of their phenomenal advance was in their conception of the nature of a word. They reasoned that words were sounds or combinations of ascertainable sounds, and they held inexorably to the basic proposition that writing, properly executed, was a guide to sound reading. A number of other good treatments are available for the newcomer.
Learning sound-sight correspondences comes first in an alphabetic language. Competence with the entire package of sounds corresponding to alphabet symbols comes quickly. After that anything can be read and its meaning inquired after. The substantial speaking vocabulary kids bring to school (6,000–10,000 words) can now be read at once, and understood.
When the Romans got the alphabet through the Etruscans they lost the old letter names so they invented new ones making them closer to the letter sounds. That was a significant mistake which causes confusion in novice readers even today. Through conquest the Latin alphabet spread to the languages of Europe; Rome’s later mutation into the Universal Christian Church caused Latin, the language of church liturgy, to flow into every nook and cranny of the former empire.
The Latin alphabet was applied to the English language by Christian missionaries in the seventh century. While it fused with spoken English this was far from a perfect fit. There were no single letters to stand for certain sounds.
Scribes had to scramble to combine letters to approximate sounds that had no companion letter. This matching process was complicated over centuries by repeated borrowings from other languages and by certain massive sound shifts which still occupy scholars in trying to explain.
Before the spread of printing in the sixteenth century, not being able to read wasn’t much of a big deal. There wasn’t much to read. The principal volume available was the Bible, from which appropriate bits were read aloud by religious authorities during worship and on ceremonial occasions. Available texts were in Latin or Greek, but persistent attempts to provide translations was a practice thought to contain much potential for schism. An official
English Bible, the Authorized King James Version, appeared in 1611, pre-empting all competitors in a bold stroke which changed popular destiny.
Instantly, the Bible became a universal textbook, offering insights both delicate and powerful, a vibrant cast of characters, brilliant verbal pyrotechnics and more to the humblest rascal who could read. Talk about a revolutionary awakening for ordinary people! The Bible was it, thanks to the dazzling range of models it provided in the areas of exegesis, drama, politics, psychology, characterization, plus the formidable reading skills it took to grapple with the Bible. A little more than three decades after this translation, the English king was deposed and beheaded. The connection was direct. Nothing would ever be the same again because too many good readers had acquired the proclivity of thinking for themselves.
The magnificent enlargement of imagination and voice that the Bible’s exceptional catalogue of language and ideas made available awakened in ordinary people a powerful desire to read in order to read the Holy Book without a priest’s mediation. Strenuous efforts were made to discourage this, but the Puritan Revolution and Cromwell’s interregnum sent literacy surging. Nowhere was it so accelerated as in the British colonies in North America, a place already far removed from the royal voice.
Printing technology emerged. Like the computer in our own day, it was quickly incorporated into every corner of daily life. But there were still frequent jailings, whippings, and confiscations for seditious reading as people of substance came to realize how dangerous literacy could be.
Reading offered many delights. Cravings to satisfy curiosity about this Shakespeare fellow or to dabble in the musings of Lord Bacon or John Locke were now not difficult to satisfy. Spelling and layout were made consistent.
Before long, prices of books dropped. All this activity intensified pressure on illiterate individuals to become literate. The net result of printing (and Protestantism, which urged communicants to go directly to the Word, eliminating the priestly middleman), stimulated the spread of roving teachers and small proprietary and church schools. A profession arose to satisfy demand for a popular way to understand what uses to make of books, and from this a demand to understand many things.
Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System
Posted on Apr 10, 2011 By Chris Hedges
Keep up with Chris Hedges’ latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges.
A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.
Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers—those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential—and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point. The No Child Left Behind program, modelled on the “Texas Miracle,” is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. But when you shut out debate these dead ideas are self-perpetuating.
Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence. This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations. They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions. They want them to serve the system. These tests produce men and women who are just literate and numerate enough to perform basic functions and service jobs. The tests elevate those with the financial means to prepare for them. They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority. Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts—those who march to the beat of their own drum—are weeded out.
“Imagine,” said a public school teacher in New York City, who asked that I not use his name, “going to work each day knowing a great deal of what you are doing is fraudulent, knowing in no way are you preparing your students for life in an ever more brutal world, knowing that if you don’t continue along your scripted test prep course and indeed get better at it you will be out of a job. Up until very recently, the principal of a school was something like the conductor of an orchestra: a person who had deep experience and knowledge of the part and place of every member and every instrument. In the past 10 years we’ve had the emergence of both [Mayor] Mike Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy and Eli Broad’s Superintendents Academy, both created exclusively to produce instant principals and superintendents who model themselves after CEOs. How is this kind of thing even legal? How are such ‘academies’ accredited? What quality of leader needs a ‘leadership academy’? What kind of society would allow such people to run their children’s schools? The high-stakes tests may be worthless as pedagogy but they are a brilliant mechanism for undermining the school systems, instilling fear and creating a rationale for corporate takeover. There is something grotesque about the fact the education reform is being led not by educators but by financers and speculators and billionaires.”
Teachers, under assault from every direction, are fleeing the profession. Even before the “reform” blitzkrieg we were losing half of all teachers within five years after they started work—and these were people who spent years in school and many thousands of dollars to become teachers. How does the country expect to retain dignified, trained professionals under the hostility of current conditions? I suspect that the hedge fund managers behind our charter schools system—whose primary concern is certainly not with education—are delighted to replace real teachers with nonunionized, poorly trained instructors. To truly teach is to instil the values and knowledge which promote the common good and protect a society from the folly of historical amnesia. The utilitarian, corporate ideology embraced by the system of standardized tests and leadership academies has no time for the nuances and moral ambiguities inherent in a liberal arts education.
Corporatism is about the cult of the self. (I JUST SPOKE OF THE CHURCH OF ONE IN MY LAST ARTICLE ON CIRCE THE CHURCH) It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence. And those who do not conform are pushed aside.
“It is extremely dispiriting to realize that you are in effect lying to these kids by insinuating that this diet of corporate reading programs and standardized tests are preparing them for anything,” said this teacher, who feared he would suffer reprisals from school administrators if they knew he was speaking out. “It is even more dispiriting to know that your livelihood depends increasingly on maintaining this lie. You have to ask yourself why are hedge fund managers suddenly so interested in the education of the urban poor? The main purpose of the testing craze is not to grade the students but to grade the teacher.”
“I cannot say for certain—not with the certainty of a Bill Gates or a Mike Bloomberg who pontificate with utter certainty over a field in which they know absolutely nothing—but more and more I suspect that a major goal of the reform campaign is to make the work of a teacher so degrading and insulting that the dignified and the truly educated teachers will simply leave while they still retain a modicum of self-respect,” he added. “In less than a decade we been stripped of autonomy and are increasingly micromanaged. Students have been given the power to fire us by failing their tests. Teachers have been likened to pigs at a trough and blamed for the economic collapse of the United States. In New York, principals have been given every incentive, both financial and in terms of control, to replace experienced teachers with 22-year-old untenured rookies. They cost less. They know nothing. They are malleable and they are vulnerable to termination.”
The demonizing of teachers is another public relations feint, a way for corporations to deflect attention from the theft of some $17 billion in wages, savings and earnings among American workers and a landscape where one in six workers is without employment. The speculators on Wall Street looted the U.S. Treasury. They stymied any kind of regulation. They have avoided criminal charges. They are stripping basic social services. And now they are demanding to run our schools and universities.
“Not only have the reformers removed poverty as a factor, they’ve removed students’ aptitude and motivation as factors,” said this teacher, who is in a teachers union. “They seem to believe that students are something like plants where you just add water and place them in the sun of your teaching and everything blooms. This is a fantasy that insults both student and teacher. The reformers have come up with a variety of insidious schemes pushed as steps to professionalize the profession of teaching. As they are all businessmen who know nothing of the field, it goes without saying that you do not do this by giving teachers autonomy and respect. They use merit pay in which teachers whose students do well on bubble tests will receive more money and teachers whose students do not do so well on bubble tests will receive less money. Of course, the only way this could conceivably be fair is to have an identical group of students in each class—an impossibility. The real purposes of merit pay are to divide teachers against themselves as they scramble for the brighter and more motivated students and to further institutionalize the idiot notion of standardized tests. There is a certain diabolical intelligence at work in both of these.”
“If the Bloomberg administration can be said to have succeeded in anything,” he said, “they have succeeded in turning schools into stress factories where teachers are running around wondering if it’s possible to please their principals and if their school will be open a year from now, if their union will still be there to offer some kind of protection, if they will still have jobs next year. This is not how you run a school system. It’s how you destroy one. The reformers and their friends in the media have created a Manichean world of bad teachers and effective teachers. In this alternative universe there are no other factors. Or, all other factors—poverty, depraved parents, mental illness and malnutrition—are all excuses of the Bad Teacher that can be overcome by hard work and the Effective Teacher.”
The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business. Thought is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. They remember who we are, where we come from and where we should go. They remain eternally sceptical and distrustful of power. And they know that this moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think. Those who are endowed with a moral conscience refuse to commit crimes, even those sanctioned by the corporate state, because they do not in the end want to live with criminals—themselves.
“It is better to be at odds with the whole world than, being one, to be at odds with myself,” Socrates said.
Those who can ask the right questions are armed with the capacity to make a moral choice, to defend the good in the face of outside pressure. And this is why the philosopher Immanuel Kant puts the duties we have to ourselves before the duties we have to others. The standard for Kant is not the biblical idea of self-love—love thy neighbour as thyself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you—but self-respect. What brings us meaning and worth as human beings is our ability to stand up and pit ourselves against injustice and the vast, moral indifference of the universe. Once justice perishes, as Kant knew, life loses all meaning. Those who meekly obey laws and rules imposed from the outside—including religious laws—are not moral human beings. The fulfilment of an imposed law is morally neutral. The truly educated make their own wills serve the higher call of justice, empathy and reason. Socrates made the same argument when he said it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.
“The greatest evil perpetrated,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”
As Arendt pointed out, we must trust only those who have this self-awareness. This self-awareness comes only through consciousness. It comes with the ability to look at a crime being committed and say “I can’t.” We must fear, Arendt warned, those whose moral system is built around the flimsy structure of blind obedience. We must fear those who cannot think. Unconscious civilizations become totalitarian wastelands.
“The greatest evildoers are those who don’t remember because they have never given thought to the matter, and, without remembrance, nothing can hold them back,” Arendt writes. “For human beings, thinking of past matters means moving in the dimension of depth, striking roots and thus stabilizing themselves, so as not to be swept away by whatever may occur—the Zeitgeist or History or simple temptation. The greatest evil is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots it has no limitations, it can go to unthinkable extremes and sweep over the whole world.”
Advice for Anyone Still In School The Horrors of Public Education
How the Public Education System is Designed to Turn Individuals Into Automatons
by Montalk 28 June 2004 from Montalk Website
Most students will agree, and many have voiced their disgust concerning this abomination we call public education. They spite the good students who obey like little sheep, frown at imposed conformity, and laugh at the hypocritical nature of the system.
The same will be done here, but there is a big difference between these defiant students and me, the author. I was one of those good little sheep. I graduated high school with a 4.0, perfect attendance record, two years of student council under my belt, and a host of top scholarships to get me through college. Teachers loved me, students both feared and respected me, and the principal knew me better than I knew him.
It’s enough to make you sick. I know it made me sick. So here I am, biting the hand that feeds because it’s been feeding nothing but propaganda and sour grapes.
I’m not writing this article because of envy or spite against system-indoctrinated valedictorians, nor am I trying to put blame on my school for all my academic failures. In fact, I cannot because I was that valedictorian and had few if any academic failures.
I’m writing this article because the system itself is messed up. Having been to many different public school systems over the past 15 years, I have more than adequate credibility to make this claim.
What is taught is random, useless, and meaningless In class, too much time is wasted on useless topics.
The quality of education has been sacrificed for quantity, and as a result, academic inflation and the devaluation of information has turned intellectual ambition into apathy and bright minds into gray mush.
In an effort to be multicultural and eclectic, class curricula have become shallow and disorganized in their effort to teach students a global viewpoint. Topics are taught piecemeal, and never do teachers spend time to help students integrate the pieces into a coherent picture that can be used or built upon. And even if within a class the ideas are put together, between classes the grand education still remains compartmentalized.
For example, both geometry and physics can be mastered by the average student, but the connection and communication between the two often are not. When physics is taught in a junior high or high school physics class, it involves only the most elementary of geometry concepts, and vice versa. Without synthesis of the two, each remains without purpose or effectiveness.
Such synthesis between topics is neglected in the school curriculum, and consequently one’s experience in the public education system becomes a vague memory of random, meaningless, and useless facts, just as a disassembled engine is just a junk heap of random metal parts.
Most school subjects themselves aren’t even real knowledge. History books are full of purposely engineered inaccuracies and distortions for the sake of corporate gain and political correctness.
Much of school is wasted time
The purpose of education is to make one an independent, competent thinker, one who can make a difference in the world for the better, and one who has the best chance for survival and success in the world.
So what the hell are we doing with such profundity of pep rallies, football and basketball games, proms, crazy hair days, sex education, death education, quiz bowls, and student council meetings?
Sure, without them, school would be dull.
But, school is supposed to be an incubator of young humans to prepare them for excitement in the real world. School is doing more than it’s supposed to and has instead become a surrogate provider of such excitement, turning it artificial and socially harmful. Is your vacuum cleaner also supposed to do the dishes, trim your hair, balance your checkbook, and be your Friday night date?
So much in school concerns extracurricular activities that time which could be spent on real world activities is instead being wasted in these trivialities. The effect is the amassing of students dependent upon the system and isolated from the real world. Social, financial, and academic dysfunction result. Once again, quantity over quality has prevailed, because there is no profit for the supplier in quality. Quality only helps those in the demand, but when consumers of education have themselves been dumbed down to primal levels, discernment and appreciation of quality disappear.
Despite these problems, almost everyone is happy.
Parents are happy. Moms get to watch their soap operas and dads get to work while their kids are being babysat. They don’t have to worry about teaching morality or ethics to their children because it’s being done for them in school. They don’t have to entertain them or spend genuine time with them because these children are too busy being entertained in school functions. Moms just have to drive their girls to soccer practice, and dads toss the football a few times. Perfectionist parents keep their child competitive not by guiding them and helping them on a daily basis, but by yelling them once a school quarter when report cards come out.
Teachers are happy, as they have a secure job from 8 to 5, and the more they work, the more they get paid. The more school programs there are with federal or state funding, the more money they get. The more schools have the programs, the more funding and perks they receive from federal benefactors.
Everyone is happy, that is, except for the students.
But who cares? Who are they to complain?
Those with the gold make the rules, and all students have is some pocket change for cookies and milk. As is well known, in school, you spend more time learning how to obey and what to think, instead of and how to think and think for yourself.
Fact of the matter is that at least 3/4 of the time spent in school is waste.
Students are not at fault
But that’s not the worst part.
The worst part is that public schools not only have a crappy curriculum, they actually oppress their students by forcing them to participate in it. It is one thing to offer a profundity of shallow assignments, and quite another to make students do them.
Simply put, students are forcefully occupied with junk to prevent them from learning something useful.
Almost everything important I have learned, I learned on my own time outside school. During junior high, the assignments given to me were few, and I often completed them in class. This left me with enough time to go to the library to begin my study of metaphysics and the paranormal, to learn truth on my own and experiment with what I had learned to confirm the nature of absolute truth.
But as I progressed through high school, increasingly useless assignments were given to me which taught me nothing (and believe me, I searched for something useful in them), but occupied my time nonetheless. What was being taught to me was compartmentalized, full of holes and errors, shallow, and politically correct to the point of nonsense. Was it my duty to integrate the parts and learn the material well enough to be applied? Sure, but the sheer quantity of homework prevented me from finding time to do just that.
Quantity over quality once again.
Now I am in a state college, and it’s no different. The oppression continues, except now I’m getting wiser and have caught onto their tricky scheme to graduate robots instead of humans.
I wish I had more time to do research related to this site, to learn true physics and history, to continue writing music, and make a difference. But this time is eroded by the wasteful components of the school curriculum.
Students, except for a few genuine slackers, are not at fault when lagging in critical thinking skills.
They are not being held back by their own laziness, but by direct oppression from a system with the power to punish them or put a bad mark on their transcripts if they don’t give up their individual pursuits of knowledge in favour of hollow schoolwork.
Overloading creates dysfunction
There are multiple consequences to this program of quantity over quality. Children are under a lot of stress nowadays in schools due to this, and as a consequence they shift into a survival mode.
This survival mode consists of taking shortcuts and getting by with the least amount of effort possible, but even this small amount of effort is too much and applied toward futile ends. Grades become an ends to a means, and the true goal of education is detached from daily work. Studying is only applied toward taking the test, but not for retention thereafter. Escapism takes hold and watching television, taking drugs, engaging in delinquent behaviour, and over-socialization result. This further detracts a student from learning what’s truly needed.
Under such stress, the student body splits into two groups: those who conform and those who fail.
The ones who conform learn the rules of the game, no matter how illogical they are and play the game to the satisfaction of faculty. They become detached from reality, from what truly matters, and are stifled in their potential as they are stripped of their inspiration, creativity, and originality. Quantity over quality matters as part of the survival mode, and there is no profit in overdoing quality when the profits of doing so are decades away in the reaping. Due to this survival mentality, thinking that far into the future is neglected.
The ones who conform become robotized and are respected for how well they fit the mould. What was once innate curiosity to discover the world is turned into neurotic attempts to escape punishment.
The ones who do not conform fall behind unless they are clever enough to find another source of education that befits them. Their grades are mediocre as they are disillusioned with the system and no longer care about pleasing it. Chances of graduation and pursuing higher education is slim, and most of these either drop out or graduate and immediately acquire low paying jobs. The price of refusal to conform is rejection into substandard wage earning.
Either way, those entering public education leave either as robots or peasants, hyperbolically speaking.
The system itself
Teachers are not to blame either. They are like soldiers in the trenches fighting a war to educate the public, taking orders from their superiors who have no idea what the current conditions are on the front lines.
Teachers are overstressed, underpaid, and restricted in their ability to respond to what they perceive in the classroom. Due to political correctness, threat of legal action by parents, and contrite school-boards scared of disapproval by a vocal minority with big political clout, teachers are confined to a tight curriculum they are forced to follow.
They are forced to teach some things, and not allowed to teach others, such guidelines set by a panel of nodding puppets with no clue as to what the truth is, let alone initiative to spread it should they know the truth. These puppets are those who design the school curriculum, who despite once being teachers themselves, are for the majority removed from the classroom feedback mechanism.
It’s the little things that contribute to an oppressive atmosphere in schools. Notwithstanding the social atmosphere, teachers on a strained school budget worry about saving paper, staples, or tape. When my high school received thousands of dollars of funding from the community, it used that money to expand its inventory of computers that weren’t even needed just to keep up with the politically correct trend for schools to be technologically current. That money should have been used for the little things, such as office supplies.
Disruptive students are put in the same class with well behaving ones, creating academic socialism whereby equality is maintained by dragging up the idiots at the expense of the smart ones. Separating students on the wrong criteria leads to incongruities and a breakdown of the system and its components. Putting them into grades by age, when they should be instead separated by level of knowledge and skill, results in academic entropy whereby the smart become dumb and the dumb learn how to waste other’s time.
Teachers spend more of this time teaching children how to shut up and sit still than to pay attention and think. Because they are very limited in their methods of discipline, teachers and students suffer as the idiotic and delinquent minority ruins it all for the rest.
Friction within the system from misplacement of resources induces hatred among its components, as each is suffering and blaming one another instead of blaming the system itself. In fact, the system is set up such that the components feed off one another in a long term downward spiral.
Teachers have contempt for the students, and often make an effort to take out aggression upon them, seeing them as the enemy and cause of their own stress. Students see authority as something to be defied, unless they are already broken by it. Teachers make up illogical rules to test how well students obey, such as making them walk a certain way through the library, or not enter or leave certain exits at certain times, and other minor things which irritate students and allow faculty to feel good when they exert their powers.
This tension between student and teacher shatters trust between them, and any teaching and learning between them enters the domain of negative reinforcement. Instead of them loving and respecting one another, they hate each other but do what they are supposed to, to avoid consequences if they do otherwise.
When you see a student, what you’re really seeing is someone low on ambition and initiative, but starving for recognition and self-esteem. This is a symptom of a system that is anti-life, anti-individualism, and anti-spirit. Compressing a wonderful human into a precise block to fit perfectly into cubicle induces the survival mode of life. Knowledge, having been made into the source of his distress, is put at the bottom of his list of priorities, as he has to do whatever is possible to regain his self esteem, recognition, and peace of mind.
However, he must do so within the confines of the system.
Dysfunction results. Instead of individualism meaning thinking for oneself and seeking one’s own truth and sense of morality, individualism becomes wearing freaky clothing, having funny hair, and garnering attention via infantile vulgarity no matter if it is for fame or infamy. These superficial methods are all that are still legal within the system. The true human spirit, however, is suppressed.
Those who are broken follow the teacher’s illogical rules and learn to trust authority over their own potentials. In this, they become a cog in the wheel. Breaking orders is taboo to them, something they get very nervous about when it happens, and they certainly don’t do it willingly. They become neurotics and unstable perfectionists who stand high on shaky foundations.
Once their individuality is broken, they become robots very good at their tasks. Many go on to college, absorb what’s fed to them well, and become academicians with a groovy little niche and nice income in their fields of research. But however wonderful that sounds, they are robots and nothing more. Or to make another analogy, they are cows.
They don’t know that being the best cow still doesn’t make you a cowboy.
The straight track
We hear stories of entrepreneurs who strike it rich after dropping out of college and pursuing their dreams. We hear stories of those who go from rags to riches, of those who defied convention and revolutionized the world.
But what do we hear in school?
We hear that these people are the exception not the rule. That is certainly true, but what the system is implying is that you are the rule, not the exception, so don’t even try to deviate from the straight track.
The straight track is what students are being taught by the system, concerning the course of their lives. The straight track told to high school students goes as follows:
You need to do your assignment to get a good grade. When you get good grades, your transcript will be favoured by employers and colleges. You might even get scholarships to go to a good college.
If you’re good in college, you’ll get a degree and have good chances of getting a good job. And with a good job you’ll have a good wife, good kids, and a good life.
What they’re really saying is this:
Don’t worry about changing the world, just concentrate on getting good grades because that is the only measure of what you’re worth in the eyes of those you’ll serve. Go to college and find your quiet niche in the world, where you’ll be secure in your job because you’re so specialized, there’s no one else in the world who can take your place.
You’ll be working to maintain the system as you’re seen fit. Focus all your energy into this specialized area and don’t worry about making an impact on the world because as long as you stay specialized and compartmentalized, we’ll clothe you, feed you, give you a good family, and bury you in a good plot of land.
Deviating from the track is abhorred by the system. If you show initiative and take risks, you become a statistical outlier, an anomaly in their statistical models, someone who poses a threat to the system because you are a seed with the potential to overturn the mirrors and reveal the truth behind this silent war.
In this lies the point of the article. You cannot be successful, recognized, or a true human being unless you defy the system. If you only do what you’re told, you’ll be no better than average.
The system has been designed by the biggest corporation of all, the state.
Public schools either turn out worker drones who serve the state and its partnering greedy corporations, or else they turn out welfare recipients who are an excuse for the state to maintain its colossal parasitic size and an idiotic consumer base to buy these corporations useless toys and poisons.
So many students are under this illusion, the illusion being that they either follow the straight track, try to be the best cow in the herd to maintain financial and social security, or else defy the system and fail miserably, ending up as a bum on the street.
You are seen as a social failure if you defy the system. If you measure your success by what the system deems is successful, then you fear deviating from the straight track because that is a sign of failure.
However, you must therefore redesign your standards of success.
Would dropping out of a state college make you a failure? In the eyes of other cows, maybe, but pursuing a better education elsewhere be it independently or real world experience would more than make up for it.
How many famous people do you know who did everything they were told and nothing more, who never took risks for fear of defying the status quo?
Not very many.
The lesson is that not only must you take risks and utilize your innate initiative, you must also get over your fear of defying the system and do so to get ahead of the herd.
You are the exception, not the rule, because you have the power to be.
Now, the robots in the system are definitely needed. We still need employees, soldiers, and scientists who are specialized in what they do, but presently there is an overabundance among these. Therefore, the emergence of individualists, generalists, and entrepreneurs is encouraged.
And the only way for them to increase in numbers is for people like you to break out of the mould and fulfil your destiny as a human, not a machine.
Destroying Public Education in America
by Stephen Lendman
Diogenes called education “the foundation of every state.” Education reformer and “father of American education” Horace Mann went even further. He said: “The common school (meaning public ones) is the greatest discovery ever made by man.” He called it the “great equalizer” that was “common” to all, and as Massachusetts Secretary of Education founded the first board of education and teacher training college in the state where the first (1635) public school was established. Throughout the country today, privatization schemes target them and threaten to end a 373 year tradition.
It’s part of Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 Turnaround strategy for 100 new “high-performing” elementary and high schools in the city by that date. Under five year contracts, they’ll “be held accountable….to create innovative learning environments” under one of three “governance structures:”
— charter schools under the 1996 Illinois Charter Schools Law; they’re called “public schools of choice, selected by students and parents….to take responsible risks and create new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system;” in 1997, the Illinois General Assembly approved 60 state charter schools; Chicago was authorized 30, the suburbs 15 more, and 15 others downstate. The city bends the rules by operating about 53 charter “campuses” and lots more are planned.
Charter schools aren’t magnet ones that require students in some cases to have special skills or pass admissions tests. However, they have specific organizing themes and educational philosophies and may target certain learning problems, development needs, or educational possibilities. In all states, they’re legislatively authorized; near-autonomous in their operations; free to choose their students and exclude unwanted ones; and up to now are quasi-public with no religious affiliation. Administration and corporate schemes assure they won’t stay that way because that’s the sinister plan. More on that below.
George Bush praised these schools last April when he declared April 29 through May 5 National Charter Schools Week. He said they provide more “choice,” are a “valuable educational alternative,” and he thanked “educational entrepreneurs for supporting” these schools around the country.
Here’s what the president praised. Lisa Delpit is executive director of the Centre for Urban Education & Innovation. In her capacity, she studies charter school performance and cited evidence from a 2005 Department of Education report. Her conclusion: “charter schools….are less likely than public schools to meet state education goals.” Case study examples in five states showed they underperform, and are “less likely than traditional public (ones) to employ teachers meeting state certification standards.”
Other underperformance evidence came from an unexpected source – an October 1994 Money magazine report on 70 public and private schools. It concluded that “students who attend the best public schools outperform most private school students, that the best public schools offer a more challenging curriculum than most private schools, and that the private school advantage in test scores is due to their selective admission policies.”
Clearly a failing grade on what’s spreading across the country en route to total privatization and the triumph of the market over educating the nation’s youths.
In 1991, Minnesota passed the first charter school law. California followed in 1992, and it’s been off to the races since. By 1995 19 states had them, and in 2007 there were over 4000 charter schools in 40 states and the District of Columbia with more than one million students in them and growing.
Chicago’s two other “governance structures” are:
— contract (privatized) schools run by “independent nonprofit organizations;” they operate under a Performance Agreement between the “organization” and the Board of Education; and
— performance schools under Chicago Public Schools (CPS) management “with freedom and flexibility on many district initiatives and policies;” unmentioned is the Democrat mayor’s close ties to the Bush administration and their preference for marketplace education; the idea isn’t new, but it accelerated rapidly in recent years.
Another part of the scheme is in play as well, in Chicago and throughout the country. Inner city schools are being closed, remaining ones are neglected and decrepit, classroom sizes are increasing, and children and parents are being sacrificed on the altar of marketplace triumphalism.
Consider recent events under Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago. On February 27, the city’s Board of Education unanimously and without discussion voted to close, relocate or otherwise target 19 public schools, fire teachers, and leave students out in the cold. Thousands of parents protested, were ignored and denied access to the Board of Ed meeting where the decision came down pro forma and quick. And it wasn’t the first time. For years under the current mayor, Chicago has closed or privatized more schools than anywhere else in the country, and the trend is accelerating. Since July 2001, the city closed 59 elementary and secondary schools and replaced many of them with charter or contract ones.
Nationwide Education “Reform”
Throughout the country, various type schemes follow the administration’s “education reform” blueprint. It began with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) that became law on January 8, 2002. It succeeded the 1994 Goals 2000: Educate America Act that set eight outcomes-based goals for the year 2000 but failed on all counts to meet them. Goals 2000, in turn, goes back to the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and specifically its Title I provisions for funding schools and districts with a high percentage of low-income family students.
NCLB is outrageous. It’s long on testing, school choice, and market-based “reforms” but short on real achievement. It’s built around rote learning, standardized tests, requiring teachers to “teach to the test,” assessing results by Average Yearly Progress (AYP) scores, and punishing failure harshly – firing teachers and principals, closing schools and transforming them from public to charter or for-profit ones.
Critics denounce the plan as “an endless regimen of test-preparation drills” for poor children. Others call it underfunded and a thinly veiled scheme to privatize education and transfer its costs and responsibilities from the federal government to individuals and impoverished school districts. Mostly, it reflects current era thinking that anything government does business does better, so let it. And Democrats are as complicit as Republicans.
So far, NCLB renewal bills remain stalled in both Houses, election year politics have intervened, and final resolution may be for the 111th Congress to decide. For critics, that’s positive because the law failed to deliver as promised. Its sponsors claimed it would close the achievement gap between inner city and rural schools and more affluent suburban ones. It’s real aim, however, is to commodify education, end government responsibility for it, and make it another business profit centre.
Last October, the New York Times cited Los Angeles as a vision of the future. It said “more than 1000 of California’s 9500 schools are branded chronic failures, and the numbers are growing.” Under NCLB, “state officials predict that all 6063” poor district schools will fail and will have to be “restructured” by 2014, when the law requires universal proficiency in math and reading.” It’s happening throughout the country, and The Times cited examples in New York, Florida and Maryland. Schools get five years to deliver or be declared irredeemable, in which case they must “restructure” with new teachers and principals.
In Los Angeles and around the country, “the promised land of universal high achievement seems more distant than ever,” and one parent expressed her frustration. Weeks into the new school year, she said teachers focus solely on what’s likely to appear on exams. “Maybe the system is not designed for people like us,” she complained. Indeed it’s not.
New Millennium Education
That’s the theme of Time magazine’s December 9, 2006 article on the National Centre on Education and the Economy (NCEE). It’s on NCEE’s New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Time called it “a high-powered, bipartisan assembly of Education Secretaries, business leaders and a former Governor” and the pre-K to 12 education blueprint they released. It’s called “Tough Choices or Tough Times,” was funded by the (Bill) Gates Foundation, and below is its corporate wish list:
— moving beyond charter schools to privatized contract ones; charter schools are just stalking horses for what business really wants – privatizing all public schools for their huge profit potential;
— ending high school for many poor and minority students after the 10th grade – for those who score poorly on standardized tests intended for high school seniors; those who do well can finish high school and go on to college; others who barely pass can go to community colleges or technical schools after high school;
— ending remediation and special education aid for low-performance students to cut costs;
— ending teacher pensions and reducing their health and other benefits;
— ending seniority and introducing merit pay and other teacher differentials based on student performance and questionable standards;
— eliminating school board powers, all regulations, and empowering private companies;
— effectively destroying teacher unions; and
— ending public education and creating a nationwide profit centre with every incentive to cut costs and cheat students for bottom line gains; this follows an earlier decades-long corporate – public higher education trend that one educator calls a “subtle yet significant change toward (university) privatization, meaning that private entities are gradually replacing taxpayers as the dominant funding source as state appropriations account for a lower and lower percentage of schools’ operating resources;” corporations now want elementary and secondary education control for the huge new market they represent.
The Skills Commission’s earlier 1990s work advanced the scheme and laid the groundwork for NCLB. It came out of its “America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages” report on non-college-bound students. It called them “ill-equipped to meet employer’s current needs and ill-prepared for the rapidly approaching, high-technology, service-oriented future.” It recommended ending an “outmoded model” and adopting a standards-based learning and testing approach to enforce student – teacher accountability.
Both Commission reports reflect a corporate wish list to commodify education, benefit the well-off, and consign underprivileged kids to low-wage, no benefit service jobs. It’s a continuing trend to shift higher-paying ones abroad, downsize the nation, and end the American dream for millions. So why educate them.
They didn’t make it into NCLB, but they’re very much on the table with a sinister added twist. First some background.
It’s an old idea dating back to the hard right’s favourite economist and man the UK Financial Times called “the last of the great (ones)” when he died in November 2006. Milton Friedman promoted school choice in 1955, then kick-started it in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. He opposed public education, supported school vouchers for privately-run ones, and believed marketplace competition improves performance even though voucher amounts are inadequate and mostly go to religious schools in violation of the First Amendment discussed below.
Here’s how the Friedman Foundation for Education Choice currently describes the voucher scheme: it’s the way to let “every parent send their child to the school of their choice regardless of where they live or income.” In fact, it’s a thinly veiled plot to end public education and use lesser government funding amounts for well-off parents who can make up the difference and send their children to private-for-profit schools. Others are on their own under various programs with “additional restrictions” the Foundation lists without explanation:
— Universal Voucher Programs for all children;
— Means-Tested Voucher Programs for families below a defined income level;
— Failing Schools, Failing Students Voucher Programs for poor students or “failed” schools;
— Special Needs Voucher Programs for children with special educational needs;
— Pre-kindergarten Voucher Programs; and
— Town Tuitioning Programs for communities without operating public schools for some students’ grade levels.
What else is behind school choice and vouchers? Privatization mostly, but it’s also thinly-veiled aid for parochial schools, mainly Christian fundamentalist ones, and the frightening ideology they embrace – racial hatred, male gender dominance, white Christian supremacy, militarism, free market everything, and ending public education and replacing it with private Christian fundamentalist schools.
In March 1971, the Supreme Court ruled in Lemon v. Kurtzman against parochial funding in what became known as the “Lemon Test.” In a unanimous 7 – 0 decision, the Court decided that government assistance for religious schools was unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. It prohibits the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion, and the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;….”
That changed in June 2002 when the Court ruled 5 – 4 in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that Cleveland’s religious school funding didn’t violate the Establishment Clause. The decision used convoluted reasoning that the city’s program was for secular, not religious purposes in spite of some glaring facts. In 1999 and 2000, 82% of funding went to religious schools, and 96% of students benefitting were enrolled in them.
The Court harmed democracy and the Constitution’s letter and spirit. It also contradicted Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 affirmation that there should be “a wall of separation between church and state.” No longer for the nation’s schools.
Nationwide Efforts to Privatize Education
In recent years, privatization efforts have expanded beyond urban inner cities and are surfacing everywhere with large amounts of corporate funding and government support backing them. One effort among many is frightening. It’s called “Strong American Schools – ED in ’08” and states the following: it’s “a nonpartisan public awareness campaign aimed at elevating education to (the nation’s top priority).” It says “America’s students are losing out,” and the “campaign seeks to unite all Americans around the crucial mission of improving our public schools (by using an election year to elevate) the discussion to a national stage.”
Billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad put up $60 million for the effort for the big returns they expect. Former Colorado governor and (from 2001 – 2006) superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District Roy Romer is the chairman. The Rockefeller (family) Philanthropy Advisors are also involved as one of their efforts “to bring the entire world under their sway” in the words of one analyst. Other steering committee members include former IBM CEO and current Carlyle Group chairman Lou Gerstner; former Michigan governor and current National Association of Manufacturers president John Engler; and Gates Foundation head Allan Golston.
“Ed in ’08” has a three-point agenda:
— ending seniority and substituting merit pay for teachers based on student test scores;
— national education standards based on rote learning; standards are to be uniformly based on “what (business thinks) ought to be taught, grade by grade;” it’s to prepare some students for college and the majority for workplace low-skill, low-paid, no-benefit jobs; and
— longer school days and school year; unmentioned but key is eliminating unions or making them weak and ineffective.
In addition, the plan involves putting big money behind transforming public and charter schools to private-for-profit ones. It’s spreading everywhere, and consider California’s “Program Improvement” initiative. Under it, “All schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) (must make) Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)” under NCLB provisions nearly impossible to achieve. Those that fail must divert public money from classrooms to private-for-profit remediating programs. It’s part of a continuing effort to defund inner city schools and place them in private hands, then on to the suburbs with other “innovative” schemes to transform them as well.
Under the governor’s proposed 2008 $4.8 billion education budget cut, transformation got easier. As of mid-March, 20,000 California teachers got layoff notices with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell saying this action puts student performance “in grave jeopardy.” Likely by design.
Plundering New Orleans
Nowhere is planned makeover greater than in post-Katrina New Orleans, and last June 28 the Supreme Court made it easier. Its ruling in Meredith v. Jefferson County (KY) and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District effectively gutted the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that affirmed: segregated public schools deny “Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.”
In two troubling 5 – 4 decisions, the Roberts Court changed the law. They said public schools can’t seek to achieve or maintain integration through measures taking explicit account of a student’s race. They rewrote history, so cities henceforth may have separate and unequal education. Then it’s on to George Wallace-style racism with policies like: “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” with the High Court believing what was good for 1960s Alabama is now right for the country.
The Court also made it easy for New Orleans to become a corporate predator’s dream, and it didn’t take long to exploit it. Consider public schools alone. The storm destroyed over half their buildings and scattered tens of thousands of students and teachers across the country. Within days of the calamity, Governor Kathleen Blanco held a special legislative session. Subject – taking over New Orleans Public Schools (NOPS) that serve about 63,000 mostly low-income almost entirely African-American children. Here’s what followed:
— two weeks after the hurricane, US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings cited charter schools as “uniquely equipped” to serve Katrina-displaced students;
— two weeks later, she announced the first of two $20 million grants to the state, solely for these schools;
— then in October 2005, the governor issued an executive order waiving key portions of the state’s charter school law allowing public schools to be converted to charter ones with no debate, input or even knowledge of parents and teachers;
— a month later in November, the state legislature voted to take over 107 (84%) of the city’s 128 public schools and place them under the state-controlled “Recovery School District (RSD);” and
— in February 2006, all unionized city school employees were fired, then selectively rehired at less pay and fewer or no benefits; it affected 7500 teachers as well as custodians, cafeteria workers and others.
Within six months of Katrina, the city was largely ethnically cleansed, the public schools infrastructure mostly gutted, and a new framework was in place. It put NOPS into three categories – public, charter and the Recovery School District with the latter ones run by the state as charter or for-profit schools.
New Orleans Loyola University law professor Bill Quigley described the plunder and called it “a massive (new) experiment….on thousands of (mostly) African American children….” It’s in two halves.
The first half based on Recovery School District’s estimated 30,000 returning students in January 2007:
— “Half of (these children were) enrolled (in) charter schools.” They got “tens of millions of dollars” in federal money, but aren’t “open to every child….Some charter schools have special selective academic criteria (and can) exclude children in need of special academic help.” Others “have special administrative policies (that) effectively screen out many children.” This latter category has “accredited teachers in manageable size classes (in schools with) enrollment caps….These schools also educate far fewer students with academic or emotional disabilities (and) are in better facilities than the other half of the children….”
“The other half:”
These students were “assigned to a one-year-old experiment in public education run by the State of Louisiana called the ‘Recovery School District (RSD)’ program.” Their education “will be compared” to what first half children get in charter schools. “These children are effectively….called the ‘control group’ of an experiment – those against whom the others will be evaluated.”
RSD “other half” schools got no federal funds. Its leadership is inexperienced. It’s critically understaffed. Many of its teachers are uncertified. There aren’t enough of them, and schools assigned students hadn’t been built for their scheduled fall 2007 opening. In addition, some schools reported a “prison atmosphere,” and in others, children spent long hours in gymnasiums because teachers hadn’t arrived. In addition, there was little academic counselling; college-preparatory math; or science and languages; and class sizes are too large because returning students are assigned to too few of them.
Many RSD schools also have no “working kitchens or water fountains (and their) bathroom facilities are scandalous….Hardly any white children attend this half of the school experiment.” RSD schools are for poor black students getting short-changed and denied a real education by an uncaring state and nation and corporations in it for profit.
Quigley described a system for “Haves (and) Have-Nots,” and race defines it. He also exposed the lie that charter schools are public ones. Across the country, but especially in New Orleans, school officials are unaccountable, can pick and choose their students, and can decide who gets educated and who doesn’t.
Separate and Unequal
In his 2005 book “The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America,” Jonathan Kozol explains a problem getting worse, not better. Using data from state and local education agencies, interviews with researchers and policy makers, and the Harvard Civil Rights Project, his account is disturbing at a time of NCLB and other destructive initiatives.
Harvard Civil Rights researchers captured the problem in their Brown v. Board of Education 50th anniversary assessment stating: “At the beginning of the twenty-first century, American public schools are now 12 years into the process of continuous resegregation.” Desegregation from the 1950s through the late 1980s “has receded to levels not seen in three decades.” The percent of black students in majority-white schools stands at “a level lower than in any year since 1968” with conditions worst of all in the nation’s four most segregated states – New York, Michigan, Illinois and California. “Martin Luther King’s dream is being celebrated in theory and dishonoured in practice” by what’s happening in inner-city schools. King would be appalled “that the country would renege on its promises,” and the Supreme Court would authorize it in their two above cited decisions and an earlier 1991 one:
— Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell that ruled for resegregating neighbourhood schools mostly in areas of the South where desegregation was most advanced.
According to recent National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES) data, blacks and Latinos now comprise about 95% of inner-city students in the nation’s 100 largest school systems – accounting for more than one-third of all public school students. Kozol writes about “hypersegregation” with “no more than five or 10 white children (in) a student population of as many as 3000,” and this is the “norm, not the exception, in most northern urban areas today.” It’s “fashionable,” he says, to declare integration “failed” and settle for a new millennium version of “Plessey” and its “separate but equal” doctrine that “Brown” repudiated until now.
Despite high-minded political posturing and programs like NCLB, the truth is these youngsters are forgotten and abused. They’re warehoused in decrepit facilities, curricula offerings ignore their needs, testing is unrelated to learning, teachers don’t teach, the whole scheme is swept under the rug, and “educating” the unwanted is “standardized” to produce good workers with pretty low skill levels for the kinds of jobs awaiting them. Kozol refers to “school reform” as a “business enterprise with goals, action plans, implementation targets, and productivity measures,” and above all what marketplace potential there is.
Separate and unequal is the current inner city school standard. Unless it’s exposed, denounced and reversed, (and there’s no sign of it), millions of poor and minority children will be denied what the “American dream” increasingly only offers the privileged. And no one in Washington cares or they’d be doing something about it.
Disturbing New Dropout Data
A new Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Centre report released April 1 is revealing, disturbing but not surprising. It states only 52% of public high school students in the nation’s 50 largest cities completed the full curriculum and graduated in 2003 – 2004. This compares to the national average of 70%. Below are some of the findings:
— 1.2 million public high school students drop out each year;
— 17 of the 50 troubled cities have graduation rates of 50% or lower; in Detroit it’s 24.9%; Indianapolis is 30.5%; Cleveland at 34.1%; Baltimore – 34.6%; Columbus – 40.9%; Minneapolis – 43.7%; Dallas – 44.4%; New York – 45.2%; Los Angeles – 45.3%; Oakland – 45.6%; Kansas City – 45.7%; Atlanta – 46%; Milwaukee – 46.1%; Denver – 46.3%; Oklahoma City – 47.5%; Miami – 49%; and Philadelphia – 49.6%;
— Chicago barely came in at 51.5%;
— the data show public education in the 50 largest cities’ principal school districts in a virtual state of collapse;
— dropout rates for blacks and Latinos are significantly higher than for white students;
— dropouts are eight times more likely to end up in prison; family income is the main problem; in cities most affected, it goes hand in hand with a lack of good jobs and a sub-standard social infrastructure;
— key to understanding the overall problem nationwide is the gutting of social services, widening income gap between rich and poor, exporting manufacturing and other high-paying jobs abroad, and politicians and business exploiting the needs of the many to benefit the few;
— NCLB “reform” is called the solution; Democrats and Republicans are complicit in promoting it, and no one in government explains the truth – the report reveals a sinister scheme to end public education, say it causes poor student performance, and privatize it so the “market” can provide it to well-off communities and merely exploit the rest for profit.
Why else would the (Bill) Gates Foundation have funded the study and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance have sponsored it. APA is partnered with business, faith-based (Christian fundamentalist) groups, wealthy funders, and organizations like the American Bankers Association, right wing Aspen Institute, Business Roundtable, Ford Motor, Fannie Mae, Marriott International, National Association of Manufacturers, US Chamber of Commerce and many other for-profit ones and NGOs.
Educational Maintenance Organizations
It’s a new term for an old idea that’s much like their failed HMO counterparts. They’re private-for-profit businesses that contract with local school districts or individual charter schools to “improve the quality of education without significantly raising current spending levels.” They’re still rare, but watch out for them and what they’re up to.
An example is the Edison Project running Edison (for-profit) Schools. It calls itself “the nation’s leading public school partner, working with schools and districts to raise student achievement and help every child reach his or her full potential.” In the 2006-2007 school year, Edison served over 285,000 “public school” students in 19 states, the District of Columbia and the UK through “management partnerships with districts and charter schools; summer, after-school, and Supplemental Educational Service programs; and achievement management solutions for school systems.”
Edison Schools, and its controversial charter schools and EMO projects, hope to cash in on privatizing education and is bankrolled by Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen to do it. The company was founded in 1992, its performance record is spotty, and too often deceptive. It cooks the books on its assessments results that unsurprisingly show far more than they achieve. That’s clear when independent evaluations are made.
Kalamazoo’s Western Michigan University’s Evaluation Centre published one of them in December 2000. Miami-Dade County public schools did another in the late 1990s. Both studies agreed. They showed Edison School students didn’t outperform their public school counterparts, and they were kind in their assessment.
Even more disturbing was Edison’s performance in Texas. It took over two Sherman, Texas schools in 1995, then claimed it raised student performance by 5%. But an independent American Institutes for Research (AIR) study couldn’t confirm it because Edison threatened legal action if its results were revealed. It was later learned that AIR’s findings weren’t exactly glowing and were thus suppressed. However, Sherman schools knew them, and when Edison’s contract came up for renewal, the company withdrew before being embarrassed by expulsion.
The city’s school superintendent had this assessment. He said Edison arrived with promises to educate students at the same cost as public schools and would improve performance. In the end, the city spent an extra $4 million, and students test scores were lower than in other schools. The superintendent added: “They were more about money than teaching,” and that’s the problem with privatized education in all its forms – charter, contract or EMOs that place profits over students.
Unless public action stops it, Edison is the future and so is New Orleans in its worst of all forms. It’s spreading fast, and without public knowledge or discussion. It’s the privatization of all public spaces and belief that marketplace everything works best. Indeed for business, but not people who always lose out to profits.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM to 1PM for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests.
Destroying Public Education In America – Part II
By Stephen Lendman
|This writer’s April 2008 article addressed the topic, accessed through the following link: http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2008/04/destroying-public-education-in-america.html.
It covered the sordid scheme to destroy what Diogenes called “the foundation of every state,” and what Horace Mann (the “father of American education”) said was mankind’s “greatest discovery, (the) great equalizer, common” to all.
Established in 1635, the first Massachusetts school began a 375 year tradition, today being incrementally destroyed to commodity education, end government’s responsibility for it, make it another business profit centre, benefit the well-off, revive a separate and unequal nation, consign underprivileged kids to low-wage, no benefit service jobs with no future so why educate them, thus putting the American dream out of reach for millions.
The Obama administration is spearheading the effort to do it, led by its infamous Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who wrecked Chicago schools so well he was chosen to go nationwide. More on his scheme below.
This article updates the earlier one, reflecting a grave problem getting worse under an administration as perverse as its predecessor, using the economic crisis to destroy, not help society’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged when they most need it – one way through improved public education for a better future they’ll be denied by marketplace priorities.
Obama is doing Bush one better, replacing his “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) scheme with his own “Race to the Top,” using failed NCLB practices, including rote learning, testing, teaching to the test, school choice, and (short on real achievement) market-based reforms.
In an unprecedented assault on public education, he’s pitting one state against another, promoting school closures, mass teacher-staff layoffs, and wage and benefit cuts – arguing for draconian measures and privatizations to qualify for federal funding.
Addressing a Chamber of Commerce audience on March 1, he defended firing the entire Central Falls, Rhode Island High School teaching and support staff for rejecting demands they work overtime without pay – signalling what’s happening nationwide as states deal with budget problems by raising taxes and cutting jobs, including mass teacher-support staff layoffs.
(Note: Central Falls High teachers and staff will keep their jobs under a May 15 union-negotiated agreement, forcing them to accept demands as bad or worse than ones they rejected. Included are a longer school day, a new teacher evaluation process, up to 10 days of mandatory summer “professional development,” elimination of strict seniority guidelines, one weekly hour of provided tutoring, a “streamlined” collective bargaining arrangement, and dropping the lawsuit challenging their February firings. The settlement shows what teachers and staff face nationwide, especially when unions side with school boards, not their members.)
Facing a persistently huge budget deficit (over $26 billion as of April 2010), California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just announced his latest austerity program after earlier spending and staff cuts, and revenue enhancements. Besides other vital social services, it includes a freeze on public education, including for K-12, community colleges and universities. Earlier measures included layoffs, increased class sizes, University of California voluntary time off without pay and furloughs as an option becoming reality, given the state’s fiscal challenges through mid-decade or longer.
Strapped California cities are as hamstrung with budget shortfalls. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District, facing a $640 million gap, voted to lay off over 5,200 teachers, support staff and management. Overall, 22,000 state teachers are affected, more likely to follow.
At around $13 billion, Illinois’ per capita budget deficit is worse than California’s, forcing lawmakers to make hard choices as they deal with the FY 2011 state budget. Last winter, payments to multiple state agencies were suspended, including the University of Illinois owed over $436 million in unpaid bills, $125 million owed Southern Illinois University, and $62 million to Northern Illinois University.
As a result, over 11,000 faculty and administrators were furloughed for mandated unpaid 10-day periods through mid-June. Hiring and wage freezes followed, endemic throughout the state that’s effectively bankrupt like California, Michigan and others at a time conditions are worsening, not improving, so more painful measures are coming.
Last March, state schools superintendent Christopher Koch warned Senate appropriation committee members that the proposed FY 2011 Board of Education budget will require another 13,000 layoffs, an estimate he called conservative as one-fourth of state schools hadn’t submitted expected revenue losses, their numbers going up, not down.
For starters, it’s why 17,000 jobs are affected. According to state budget director David Vaught, “This is the reality budget. This is what’s really happening” with no choice but to enact draconian cuts and tax increases, $1.4 billion from education expected, an 11% decrease besides another $1 billion the state owes to schools.
Last March, Voices for Illinois Children, a child advocacy group, called expected FY 2011 budget cuts “doomsday” ones that include:
— $922 million from elementary and high schools, disproportionately harming low and middle income districts;
— $144 million from universities and community colleges;
— $254 million in scholarship awards; and
— $386 million in various services, including alternative education for teen parents, after-school activities for 25,000 at-risk youths, and other children’s programs.
Given a deteriorating economy, these are for starters, much like for other states dealing with intractable budget crises, cuts so far haven’t resolved nor will for the foreseeable future.
Education, of course, will be greatly harmed given the rage for privatizations at the expense of a bedrock public institution on the chopping block to be eliminated, the Obama administration spearheading it by forcing strapped states to go along. In New York, for example, 15,000 teacher and support staff cuts were announced, the same pattern throughout the country.
Last winter, the Kansas City, MO school board endorsed a plan to shut 28 of the city’s 61 schools and cut 700 jobs, including 286 teachers. In Michigan, an “Excellent Schools Detroit” program calls for closing 70 public schools, replacing them with charter ones. The city’s Public Schools Emergency Financial Director, Robert Bobb, wants to charterize the entire system, selling it to profiteers.
In Massachusetts, 35 schools are at risk and their staffs, and in Boston, Superintendent Carol Johnson’s budget proposed painful cuts, including tens of millions of dollars, salary freezes or cuts, school closings, reduced bussing, furloughed days, less heat in winter, and other measures to save $57.7 million. At the same time, charter school expansion continues, to be permanent at the expense of public schools – the system that educated this writer in the 1940s and 50s, headed for extinction.
Today, a shell of its former self, this writer’s grade, junior high and high school no longer exist, a testimony to public education’s destruction. In late 2009, the city closed another six schools. More will follow given the rage to cut costs, privatize, and consign millions of disadvantaged kids to oblivion, on their own and out of luck.
According to Boston Municipal Research Bureau’s Samuel Tyler, school closings are inevitable, a pattern throughout the country in disturbing transition, demanded by Washington, reinforced by refusal to provide emergency funding in deference to other priorities – the usual earmarks for wars, Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, Big Telecom, Big Auto, and other corporate interests, the public be damned.
A new American Association of School Administrators (AASA) study titled, “Cliff Hanger: How America’s Public Schools Continue to Feel the Impact of the Economic Downturn” highlights the problem, based on a March 2010 survey of 453 school administrators.
It showed school districts more strapped than in the previous two years. More than two-thirds cut staff in 2009-10, and 90% plan them in 2010-11. The same holds for benefits, affecting health care, pensions, libraries, and other educational tools and supplies. In addition, class sizes will be increased, and discretionary programs cut or eliminated like music, other arts, physical education and sports. In some districts, consideration is being given for a four-day week, and lower-paid temps replacing full-time teachers.
Further, Washington’s proposed FY 2011 budget has new funding guidelines for low-income concentration schools, based on “performance,” not need, or in other words, obey (bogus on their face) federal mandates, be judged by the results, and lose out if disobey or fair poorly – the idea being to rig the game to assure a new profit-driven, reactionary, class-based system. Poor families needn’t apply, nor unions, teachers wanting good pay, benefits, and job security, and others with progressive ideas about an egalitarian America heading for extinction on the altar of marketplace education replacing an earlier nation now gone.
It’s showing up in expected hundreds of thousands of lost teacher and support staff jobs, a virtual blizzard of pink slips from New York to California with many more in prospect – as many as 300,000 near-term, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
As Chicago Public Schools CEO, he wrecked them by closures, teacher firings, budget cuts, militarizing city high schools, and privatizations, including nearly 100 quasi-private charter schools, many run by for-profit companies. He plans the same for America, why Obama tapped him to destroy a 375 year tradition, replacing it with marketplace inequality.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
What follows are examples of the process and end product of this carefully crafted dumbing down exercise. Note how so many of your so called experts and establishment organisation’s, that you trust, are mystified, not one of them tells anything even resembling the truth as to the cause of this, – it’s just the way it is, – well how come a Scottish hill-billie can find out the cause in two minutes, why can’t any of these so called experts do so? But you’ll insist there is no conspiracy because they taught you so well! This first article deals with the common sweeping answer to all our problems – screening at a young age.
Two-year-olds ‘to be screened for speech problems’
Toddlers could be screened for speech problems after evidence that many are so addicted to television and video games that they are failing to learn basic communication skills.
The Telegraph By John Bingham Last Updated: 8:55AM GMT 02 Jan 2009
Insufficient stimulation and too little interaction with young children could have an effect on their ability to communicate properly
An ambitious nationwide screening programme for two-year-olds is reportedly being considered to tackle the problem which experts say is now more prevalent than dyslexia or autism.
The decline of the traditional family meal time, the long-hours culture in the parents’ workplaces, poor childcare with little stimulation and social deprivation are also being blamed.
Barely a 10th of children in some areas can repeat even one nursery rhyme and, in extreme cases, some do not even know their own name.
The screening programme is being considered after a review into services for children with speech problems led by the Tory MP John Bercow.
Tests could be carried out by health visitors in a similar way to that in which they check eyesight, hearing and general development.
Mr Bercow concluded that children with untreated speech difficulties are at risk of ending up unemployed, experiencing mental health problems and involved in crime.
“If children are in a home in which they are getting insufficient stimulation, where there is not enough interaction, or where communication through the spoken word is not as common or extensive or imaginative as it might be, that is bound to have an impact,” he told the Daily Mail.
“The reality is that for far too long, speech and language problems have been under-recognised.”
Two in five leave primary school with poor English, maths and science
Nicola Woolcock from The Times August 5, 2009
Two in every five children are leaving primary school without reaching the required level in English, maths and science, despite government efforts to push up standards.
Figures published yesterday show that more than 225,000 11-year-olds will enter secondary school next month without a proper grounding in these key subjects.
Results in English fell for the first time since the Key Stage tests, known as SATs, were introduced 15 years ago, with a quarter of boys and 15 per cent of girls failing to reach Level 4. Standards also flatlined in maths and science. More than one in five children did not achieve the correct level in maths and one in eight in science.
Ministers insisted that they were still pushing towards their target of getting 78 per cent of pupils up to Level 4 in English and maths, even though only 72 per cent did this year — one per cent down on last year. They appeared to acknowledge, however, that bringing all children up to this standard was unrealistic, emphasising that just because pupils had not reached Level 4 did not mean that they were illiterate or unable to do basic maths.
Diana Johnson, the Schools Minister, said: “As the number of young people achieving Level 4 has increased, it is getting tougher to get the final 20 per cent to the expected level and we need to do more to sustain progress.” She said that there had been great progress, but added: “We should not be complacent about the small drop in English results compared to last year.
“Parents, headteachers and governing bodies will be rightly concerned that we have not seen an improvement this year, and we are too. This year’s results demonstrate loud and clear that we are going to have to ask some hard questions and redouble our efforts if we are to make further progress in national curriculum tests next year.”
Schools are to be encouraged to devote more time to one-on-one tuition for children falling behind in English and maths, in an attempt to improve the results. The Government is also introducing programmes such as Every Child a Reader and Every Child Counts, in which teachers with specialist training adapt their teaching techniques with the aim of bringing out the best in each individual child.
The gender gap was particularly pronounced this year in English and head teachers’ complaints about inaccurate and variable marking were borne out by the noticeable difference between achievement in writing and reading.
Whereas 82 per cent of boys reached the required level in reading, only 60 per cent did so in writing. For girls the results were 86 per cent and 67 per cent respectively. The proportion of children reaching a higher standard than that expected for their age — Level 5 — rose in maths, but fell in English and science.
The Tories said the figures were proof that Labour had broken its promise to raise standards in education. Michael Gove, the Shadow Schools Secretary, said: “This is the final proof that Labour, elected on a platform to raise standards in education, has failed to deliver. We have seen a historic drop in English results, the brightest students are not being stretched and the weakest are being failed the most. It is also concerning that the number securing the highest grades is declining.”
David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, said: “Progress in primary schools has clearly stalled and in some cases has even slipped backwards. The yawning gap between girls and boys in literacy is also very worrying. The Government has failed to get a grip on the basics.”
Teaching unions said that the Key Stage tests should be scrapped. Martin Johnson, the deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “These results are further evidence that we have reached a ceiling for primary pupils’ performance within the current assessment and curriculum regime. Primary staff have again worked themselves into the ground to achieve the best results for their pupils. We know test-dominated learning leads to children forgetting much of what they have been taught.”
A spokesman for the National Association of Head Teachers, which says it could boycott the Key Stage 2 tests next year if they are not abolished, said: “We believe that the system is simply being maintained through political obduracy and that there are better ways to gain a broad picture of primary education in England. We encourage parents to ignore this meaningless nonsense.”
Tens of thousands of 11-year-olds leave primary school practically illiterate
About 35,000 11-year-olds left primary school this year unable to read and write properly, test results are expected to show today.
Telegraph Aug 3, 2009 By Jon Swaine
The figure will bring to half a million the number of pupils who have left primary school without attaining basic language skills since Labour came to power in 1997.
The pupils are those who have failed to obtain a level three in their national curriculum English tests, meaning that they will enter secondary school with “no useful literacy”.
About 600,000 primary school leavers will today receive their results in the controversial Sats tests in English, maths and science, which are used to compile annual league tables.
Teaching unions said that they expected results to have improved slightly overall. Yet critics said that Labour had failed to lift standards among the worst pupils.
David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, said: “These children are far more likely to fall further behind and be turned off education altogether.
“Ministers need to cut class sizes and ensure schools receive additional funding so that teachers can give struggling children the extra support they desperately need.”
Those awaiting the results face having their records tainted after the tests were condemned by teachers as “unacceptably narrow” and poorly marked.
Thousands of their test papers have already been sent back by schools to be marked again. Teachers, who had already seen their pupils’ results, described some of the marking as “bizarre and petty”.
Some of the most talented pupils were penalised because the formulaic marking did not allow for flair. Others were punished for not dotting the letter i, while some had is dotted for them by markers.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said that “considerable numbers” of heads had complained about marking of English writing tests.
Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the NAHT, said: “We need to know whether the complaints we received were the tip of the iceberg.”
Kathleen Tattersall, the chairman of Ofqual, the exams watchdog, said that she was “continuing to monitor the quality control of the marking of this year’s papers”.
Today’s results are expected to show that about one in five of the pupils failed to reach the level four target in English and Maths.
Last year saw a slump in results for the brightest pupils, with the number of top grades suffering its biggest year-on-year drop since Labour came to power in 1997.
Teachers across the country have such little confidence in the tests that they are preparing to refuse to teach the courses in the new school year, which begins next month.
Earlier this year, two of the biggest teaching unions voted to boycott next year’s tests for both 11- and seven-year-olds, which they said have become “unacceptable for the future of children’s education”.
The NAHT and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which together represent most of the teachers in English schools, both agreed to industrial action.
The unions yesterday declined to comment on when industrial action would commence.
However it has been suggested that it may have to begin soon after the start of the school year, when teachers are asked to start teaching material for the tests.
John Bangs, the NUT’s head of education, said yesterday: “The tests are unacceptably narrow. We are arguing for a completely different approach, in which teachers have a bank of different tests and have the time and space to assess pupils individually.
“What these results will again illustrate is the utterly inappropriate way that they have damaged the curriculum and put enormous pressure on kids, parents and teachers.”
Mr Brookes said: “Children are simply having to rehearse the tests. You can train them to jump through hoops, and they’ll jump through hoops, but that’s training, not education.”
He reiterated that the teachers would “pursue every avenue” in pushing Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, to abandon the tests in favour of a new system.
The corresponding tests for 14-year-olds were scrapped last year, after a disastrous marking process.
Hundreds of thousands of pupils’ results were delayed after ETS, an American firm contracted to oversee the tests, failed to deliver.
Diana Johnson, a schools minister, said that many pupils not reaching the literacy level had special educational needs.
“Thousands more children have started secondary school with a firm foundation in the basics” under Labour, she said.
Traditional subjects such as history and geography are disappearing from state schools, according to new research.
Telegraph | Nov 14, 2008
Traditional subjects ‘disappearing’ from school
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Many secondary schools are slashing time devoted to the humanities to make more room for “lifestyle” classes, it was claimed.
It follows an overhaul of the secondary curriculum this year.
From September, new “flexible” timetables have been introduced in all state schools, reducing the number of prescribed lessons.
Teachers are given less detailed instructions on subject matter to free up more time to teach issues such as British identity, citizenship and sex and relationships education.
But the Royal Geographical Society said the move has resulted in a drop in exposure to traditional subjects.
It surveyed 200 schools and found 70 per cent had cut the amount of time spent on geography.
Rita Gardner, society director, said the picture was similar with history.
“We worry about the maintenance of a broad and balanced curriculum as we go forward, and as increasing pressures continue to be placed on it,” she said.
Rebecca Sullivan, chief executive of the Historical Association, told the Times Educational Supplement: “There is some indication that there may be a drop in the time spent teaching history because of the way some schools are adopting the new curriculum and going for a cross curricular approach.”
GCSE pupils asked to name illegal drug: New dumbing-down row over this year’s exams
By Laura Clark the Daily Mail Last updated at 6:09 PM on 24th August 2009
Pupils taking this year’s GCSE science exams were awarded marks for simply being able to name an illegal drug.
And those taking languages were allowed to take a cue card to prompt them in their oral tests.
The latest revelations are sure to intensify the debate over the ‘dumbing down’ of the exam system.
Watchdog Ofqual revealed in March that rigorous science standards had been compromised by reforms to the exams.
But it warned improvements towards a more acceptable standard will be gradual and that this year’s results will still be tainted.
Science exams were changed to make the subject more ‘relevant’ to teenagers, but Ofqual said some questions were no longer challenging enough.
Now an analysis of this year’s papers has renewed criticism that some questions are not a sufficient test of pupils’ knowledge, particularly in the sciences.
One chemistry question asked candidates, for two marks, to give an example of ‘a legal recreational drug’ and ‘an illegal recreational drug’.
Meanwhile, a physics question asked what uses there were for microwave energy, other than in mobile phones
It comes just days before more than 500,000 teenagers across the country discover their GCSE results.
The Conservative schools spokesman Michael Gove said: ‘Since the last curriculum changed, experts have warned that science GCSE is no longer as rigorous as it should be.
‘We have seen questions that are not a proper test of scientific reasoning crop up in exam paper after exam paper.
‘It’s important we keep up with other nations that are pulling ahead in maths and science and making sure that our students sit exams that properly stretch and test them.’
The Mail revealed last month that eminent scientific bodies which investigated science GCSEs had found there are questions that have ‘no relation to science’ and that vital maths is ‘woefully represented’ in question papers.
The questions emerged in an analysis by the Tories as they announced plans to create an online library of exam papers from past years.
Their findings also reveal how pupils are not required to commit key scientific formulae to memory. This year’s GCSE physics paper supplied a list of basic equations to help pupils with calculations, whereas those taking the International GCSE were expected to have learned the formulae by heart.
Elsewhere, candidates were allowed to take a cue card with up to five headings into modern language oral examinations.
There was no literature or extensive translation in modern language GCSEs to test the extent of their fluency. The archive also shows that the 2009 biology exam contains papers as short as 45 minutes.
By contrast, the IGCSEs, which are increasingly offered by private schools, are typically one hour and 15 minutes long.
Multiple choice questions appear in the physics GCSE, but not in the IGCSE.
Only one in four students passes ‘core subjects’. Almost half a million 16-year-olds a year fail to achieve five GCSE passes that include the core subjects of English, maths, science and a language, it has emerged.
Fewer than a quarter finish compulsory schooling with the basic set of qualifications – down from nearly a third in 2001.
Tory spokesman Nick Gibb said: ‘These are the core academic subjects that are highly valued by universities and employers. The fact that the number of children-attaining these GCSEs has fallen year on year since 2001 is a terrible indictment of the Government’s record.’
The figures, obtained by the Conservatives, showed the proportion with five passes fell from 30.4 per cent in 2001 to 23.7 per cent last year.
GCSE results released on Thursday are expected to show yet another set of record-breaking performances. Pupils are predicted to pass one in five exams at A* or A.
‘Dismal picture’ of adult literacy in UK
Despite Labour’s £5bn programme, numbers are unacceptably high, says watchdog
Peter Kingston guardian.co.uk, Thursday 29 January 2009 10.45 GMT
The number of adults unable to read or count remains unacceptably high in England despite £5bn spent by Labour trying to improve the situation, according to an influential parliamentary spending watchdog.
Even if the government, which has made greater efforts than previous administrations to tackle this problem, hits its targets, the country’s basic skills will still not match the best in the world, concludes the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Progress on numeracy has been particularly disappointing. The government’s Skills for Life programme has helped barely one in 10 people with maths skills below the level of a good GCSE.
Even among the captive prison population progress has been relatively slow, the committee notes. Only one in five offenders with an identified literacy or numeracy problem has enrolled on a basic skills course.
The committee’s chair, Edward Leigh MP, said: “This is a dismal picture, both for the many who face diminished prospects in what they can achieve in life and for the competitiveness of our country in the world economy,”
The prison service should provide more incentives to get more offenders on to courses to improve their reading, writing and arithmetic, it recommends in its report Skills for Life: Progress in Improving Adult Literacy and Numeracy.
In 2001, the former Department for Education and Skills launched the Skills for Life strategy with the aim of helping 2.25 million adults by 2010. Two years later, it established by survey that 75% of the working-age adult population had numeracy skills below the level of a good pass at GCSE and 56% had similar literacy skills. At that time, the OECD ranked the UK 14th in international literacy and numeracy league tables.
In 2007, the government set a new target, to help 95% of the adult population achieve enough literacy and numeracy to get by in life by 2020. “Achieving this ambition would, however, only raise England to the standards currently achieved by the top 25% of OECD member countries,” says the PAC report.
An estimated 550,000 benefit claimants have poor literacy, language and numeracy skills and, despite their contact with different public services, very few start courses, it says.
The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius), which took over the programme in 2007, is working closely with other departments to try to make sure that Jobcentre Plus applicants take up basic skills courses. This situation should improve, the report says, in 2010 when all new benefits claimants will have their skills assessed.
The government must follow up its 2003 survey to get an accurate picture of current levels of illiteracy and innumeracy, said Leigh. Without up-to-date figures, ministers cannot be sure that the programme is giving people the skills that the economy needs.
Dius has promised to boost the numbers of numeracy teachers, but the PAC suggests it adopt better recruitment methods. Latest figures show that the programme has fewer than 6,100 teachers, compared with 9,300 literacy teachers.
A Dius spokesman said the report acknowledged significant progress although there was more to do. “No government has done more to tackle improving the nation’s literacy and numeracy skills, despite the scale of the challenge being so large and historic. “We have revolutionised the way in which basic skills are dealt with, and through the Skills for Life strategy, have helped more than 5.7 million adults to improve their numeracy and literacy skills.”
Here are a few choice quotes and my opinion on the matter to end this part on education.
In school we were encouraged not to think, but merely to memorize. We were pressured to submit unquestioningly to the materialist-capitalist worldview and absorb so-called “facts” which were not facts at all, but outright lies and political propaganda.
There is no place for independent, free-thinking individuals within the American or British school systems. From the first year or grade all the way through university post-graduate work, American and British schools reward you for mental obedience, above all else. Intellectual conformity is valued above real intelligence. Intelligence is rewarded only if it is applied within approved boundaries. For those with independent, creative minds, school curriculum is a mental coffin.
“How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid? It must be education that does it.” — Alexandre Dumas
All those impressionable, critically important years of children’s lives — wasted in school. Innocent souls are mutated into apathetic, immoral citizens in an assembly-line of mass-produced minds. Day after day, year after year they are steadily conformed to an evil, decaying system. Children are trained to become obedient taxpayers, flag-saluting sheep, while their corporate and government rulers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, feed upon their labour. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, indeed.
“You must adjust… This is the legend imprinted in every schoolbook, the invisible message on every blackboard. Our schools have become vast factories for the manufacture of robots.” — Robert Lindner
“My schooling did me a great deal of harm and no good whatever; it was simply dragging a child’s soul through the dirt.” — George Bernard Shaw
“And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is “unusual”.
Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.” — H. L. Mencken
A bell began the school day, a bell told you when you could escape for recess, a bell told you to come back from recess, a bell told you when you could eat lunch, a bell told you to come back from lunch. When the final blasted bell rang it was always a magic moment. All the little robots were permitted to come alive again and flee into the waiting arms of life outside. But whatever other “extracurricular” activities there might be, upon returning home our impressionable minds were further programmed by hours of tacky televised twaddle until it was time to go to sleep.
All that these people want is a compliant and docile workforce who never question their masters, in that respect I feel they have been unbelievably successful, you will fight for these people, you will die for them, you never question their motives , and even if you do, all it takes is a couple of TV shows or Newspaper articles to reassure you that it was just a one off mistake, by the end of this media examination of the “facts” once again you are 100% sure that your government is still reliable, and that the system still works just fine.
Quite frankly the vast majority of you are no more articulate or intelligent than zombie´s.
Zombie´s who get up every day, get ready, and then drive for a few hours just to get to your slave plantation – (sorry meant to say place of work) – A place where you allow yourself to be treated like dirt constantly. And all so that you can earn just enough money to keep your head above water. Don´t worry about that though, you will be offered so much credit that debt will allow you to pretend to the Jones´s that you can keep up with them. – Because we all know how important this is don’t we? In the next chapter we end this work by proving that mental illness is not hereditary. One last point to ponder: Imgine if Dyslexia was an excuse for not teaching your kid to read. I don’t remember dyslexia in my time in school.
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL AS THE CSNY SONGS SAYS – BECAUSE AS I HAVE JUST CONCLUSIVELY PROVEN – THE STATE (AND ITS TRUE OWNERS) WILL ONLY EVER TEACH THEM TO BE OBTUSE, VACUOUS, SHALLOW, MORONIC, AND OBEDIENT.