Thursday, December 06, 2007

Needless Provocation

I normally do not listen to Neal Boortz. Like so many talk radio types he indulges in a fair amount of needless provocation. On a slow news day a talk radio host might lead the hour with the statement "I like to kick puppies, what do you think about that?" and hope his switchboard lights up.

But I have been thinking about some things. I read this essay about a first year teachers experience in a Washington DC elementary school. One of the major changes over the past century is the steady decline in both discipline and educational standards. I'm starting to think that feminism is to blame.

I remember that Mr Boortz used to vilify feminazis, and probably still does, but I actually have a fair amount of logic on my side in this one. First, since women got the vote, both learning and discipline have declined in our public schools. Like it or not, that is unarguable. Just check out any high school syllabi from 1920 and compare with today.

But just because the changes coincide doesn't mean that there is a causal relationship. Migratory patterns in birds show a close temporal relationship with the popularity of skiing, but one does not cause the other.

In connection with women being granted voting rights is the rise in children's advocacy. The relationship there is direct. Children's advocacy groups typically advocate no corporal punishment. Once a school district bans corporal punishment, suits alleging child abuse skyrocket (I will supply cites later, but it's true). By and large these suits are not caused by actual mistreatment but from the largely accurate perception that school boards would rather settle than fight.

The threat of litigation causes school boards who are politicians, to back administrators that don't cause problems. The administrators who cause the least amount of trouble are the ones that cave in confrontations with voters (parents). Which mean that teachers receive little or no support from their employers. Teachers become unwilling to discipline problem children in any meaningful way.

Undisciplined children disrupt the classroom so no discipline means no time to teach. Which means that children either self-educate or they remain ignorant. I'm starting to believe that the unintended consequence of treating children as persons with rights is that they remain unlettered.

Second cause, and this is very much backed up by statistics. With other employment options open, the best and brightest women no longer wish to teach as a career. Education majors have been the stupidest and most ignorant college students, on average, now for decades.

I am not arguing for a repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment. And I certainly do not wish any group of people barred by law or custom from seeking the employment that would best gratify them. But, if the facts I've stated are true, if the situation is the way I fear it is, what do we do?


Tony M said...

In the short term, and on the local level, the solution is to home school. (That is the VERY local level.) In the very long term and wider scale, the standard model for education needs to be changed.

As a nation, we went from virtually all children being educated in small groups within walking distance from home (and therefore known to parents), to mass-produced education by the hundreds and thousands, during the 1900s. There is simply no sound human basis for believing that education via methods of mass production is truly capable of producing thoughtful citizens. On a basic level, the very notion of mass-produced education means treating the child as an object (as a unit of consumption of education services) rather than as an individual with a soul. The natural tendencies in such an environment are to force the child to accommodate himself to a regime of averages (average speed of progress, average play time, average reading level, doing "4th" grade math at the same time you do "4th" grade reading, even if you read much better than that), rather than have the teacher teach to the child's own needs. The natural end result is to train the child to be a good consumer (and to view others as objects), rather than to be a good citizen or good person - the system turns out results like to the principles of the system itself, which formally views children as "consumers-objects".

A better approach will be to have schools once again be small, and have a large variety of types (not under the control of the state) so that parents are in charge of deciding which type meets the needs for their child, rather than the state deciding for everyone.

One possible arrangement is a natural follow-through of work-based day care, which some employers are setting up. How about work-based elementary schools, where Mom or Dad is just a few hall-ways away, and (this is technologically simple) from his computer can turn on a video feed to see what is going on in the classroom. Dad can (at a signal from the teacher) come over and directly observe a behavioral problem, or (flip-side) be there on hand when Johnny gives his report on bees. Mom can be a classroom volunteer for an hour or two without destroying her work day. (Imagine a classroom where there is always a Mom or Dad volunteer because 8 of the 10 kids' parents work there.)

Whatever the details are, an utterly essential part of the solution is to have parents in charge of education choices in reality.

Andrew said...

The previous poster makes some very good points. And while I mostly agree with both of you, I also have some additions.

One of the current (and past) problems is that different people involved in public education have different goals. As the Blogmaster pointed out, administrators and teachers want things to go smoothly. Many parents do NOT have the goal of education, but rather the goal of 'child-parking'. They simply want a place to 'park' their child that presents the least interference to them. And lastly, elected officials want to present the appearance of catering to EVERYONE, which is closest to the administrators' goal.

Part of the issue is that 'education' was seen as a long-term project that would be beneficial to the country, community, and the child. And now, most of the people involved in 'education' have much shorter-term goals.

What it boils down to is that parents get the amount of education for their children that they are willing to accept.