American educational system

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American educational system

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Tue Jan 25, 2011 2:56 am

This new topic is being created as an offshoot of the Shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords thread, which has gone horribly, horribly off-topic (as many of these topics are wont to do :D ).

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:Hey, I didn't mean to come off as such a Social Darwinist. I think the worst thing you can tell a kid is "you can't do it." But when a kid says "I don't want to do it," there's only so much you can do to change his mind. I mean, not every teacher can be Jaime Escalante. And while I haven't met anyone who had no interests whatsoever myself, I've met plenty whose sole ambition never really got deeper than "I want to make money". These would be the ones who would grow up with no idea what they wanted to do for a career. I figure a vocational education would at least give them something to do until they've got themselves sorted out. Like I said, the door to higher education should always be open.


Heh. Maybe I'm channelling a bit of my Uncle JB here - good to see you aren't holding it against me! I realise that not every teacher can be Jaime Escalante, but usually there are formative influences in a child's life that you can draw on, even if it's something as simple as liking anime as a kid and wanting to become a cartoonist. But I grant you, the 'I want to make money' ambition, I really wouldn't know quite what to do with...

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:It could be said that Rhee went nuclear when a surgical strike would have done, but let's face it; there are far too many incompetent teachers, and receive far too much undeserved protection from their unions. I figure getting rid of two hundred bad teachers and bringing in two hundred new ones can only be an improvement-it's highly unlikely the new ones as a whole could be as bad as the ones they're replacing.

You make a good point about grade inflation and "teaching to the test", but these practices are already in place. When I was in high school, the teachers were required to pass a certain amount of students. And I'm ambivalent about standardized testing; while I dislike the practice, I understand standards have to be in place. I don't know what to think about that.

I agree that teachers need tenure and a peer review system; it allows teachers to be honest and to be better educators. But tenure in many public districts is too easy to obtain; those who can survive the "breaking in" period usually receive it. (Rhee weakened the teachers' tenure that was already in place, but did not get rid of it.) I just think that tenure should be made a little harder to acquire, similar to how it is in the universities.


I think the point should be taken, though: if you want to change behaviours, you generally have to change the rules and the incentives. Yes, Rhee fired some bad teachers, and she's received some well-deserved kudos for that; but I'm not sure how she managed to change the incentive structures to promote better teaching and create an environment such that the newbies won't fall into the same kinds of systemic dysfunctions. Tenure and professional pay grade are both necessary if you want to attract talented young people to the profession; likewise, a peer review system (wherein teachers are held accountable to other teachers in the department rather than just administrators and union heads) will hopefully ensure a professional ethic, if you don't mind dealing with office politics being much more messy than they already are, with regard to curricula and lesson planning.

I see Rhee as more a part of the problem she is trying to address than as anything remotely resembling a solution. If you make teachers compete with each other, they will do so -- and what little collegiality the unions currently provide will be flung out the window, and students will be hurt by it. If you pit the parents and the administration against the teachers, students still suffer for it.

In all honesty, I'd like to see schools return to their monastic roots - there should be an intellectual and emotional discipline associated with the public school that transcends formal rules and punishments; it should be a community of learning guided under a classical ideal of παιδεία (paideia, a form of education which exposes children to culture, philosophy, religion, art, music, ethics, history - all of the subjects required to make the child a good citizen, rather than just the subjects needed to make the child a demanded widget in a fickle labour market). It would be tricky to implement, but then again, 'hard is the Good'.

laojim wrote:Sure you can. So you regard good teaching as simply getting them to pass tests? I guarantee that your attitude will get you flunked out of teacher's college. Speaking as one who holds a degree in school administration I can tell you that most administrators like teachers who have quiet classes and who smile a lot. That's about it. Is that good teaching? I think not. I was once not given a job I wanted on the grounds that I was too intelligent. No, I'm not making this up. They wanted someone dumber, because the students were not too bright, in their opinion.

A large percentage of school problems are to be laid at the door of the idiotic and incompetent administrators who send them blithely over the falls. A large percentage are failed coaches. Good coaches go to bigger schools and to colleges. Failed coaches go to the front office. So all that yick yack about good teaching is being done by coaches who couldn't win a basketball game, much less operate a school. Can't make it as a jock? Become a principal. That, my friends, is one of the facts of school life. Maybe we should take the "incompetent teacher" and make her the principal instead of the failed coach. It makes just slightly better sense.

The worst of all are the business men. These are people who believe that schools are just big donut shops and if you can run one you can run the other. This is always a highly authoritarian personality that assumes that he is the boss so he must be right, always a fatal error in the school. This is related to, but not the same as, the politician who thinks that government is supposed to be run like a business. When confronted with that type I always wonder how hie is planning on moving the business to China.


I hear you, brother.

But I am arguing that what you want is a more classical ideal of education. What you want seems to be a complete human being, rather than a mass-market commodity (as is demanded by the 'business' or τέχνη ideal of education).
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Re: American educational system

Unread postby TooMuchBaijiu » Tue Jan 25, 2011 3:21 am

WeiWenDi wrote:In all honesty, I'd like to see schools return to their monastic roots - there should be an intellectual and emotional discipline associated with the public school that transcends formal rules and punishments; it should be a community of learning guided under a classical ideal of παιδεία (paideia, a form of education which exposes children to culture, philosophy, religion, art, music, ethics, history - all of the subjects required to make the child a good citizen, rather than just the subjects needed to make the child a demanded widget in a fickle labour market). It would be tricky to implement, but then again, 'hard is the Good'.

...But I am arguing that what you want is a more classical ideal of education. What you want seems to be a complete human being, rather than a mass-market commodity (as is demanded by the 'business' or τέχνη ideal of education).


I could actually go for that. People tend to dismiss the "ancillary" disciplines; you know, "What the f--k good is philosophy? Can't make money thinking about why things are..." but the truth is they're as important as any "practical" subject. And our lack of emphasis on these disciplines is keeping us from reaching what I believe could be our full intellectual potential. People don't value language and literature, and now many companies force their new hires to take remedial English classes because they can't write a damn letter. People don't bother to study other cultures, and now we have large portions of the population who can't point to Australia on a map and bask in xenophobia and ethnocentrism. People don't bother to learn history, and politicians pull the wool over their eyes again and again. I could go on all day with this.

So yeah, I'd completely support a more holistic approach to education, but with the understanding that we would still need to devote our strongest focus into training in a discipline that would allow us to serve society doing something we love (and hopefully getting a big paycheck while we're at it)
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Re: American educational system

Unread postby Objectivist » Tue Jan 25, 2011 4:06 am

I honestly can't believe what I'm reading here...

laojim wrote:Students come to school after watching murderous television and playing shoot-em-up computer games and expect to be entertained. There is not much you can teach a child who supposes, as a matter of faith, that they themselves are the crown of creation and cannot be expected to work as hard as actually reading a book and doing some independent critical thinking. In other words, they tend to be lazy and stupid. Ignorance is curable but stupidity goes to the bone. American culture encourages and rewards stupidity while looking with suspicion on intelligence


WeiWenDi wrote:The teacher is usually the one to take the blame, when even the best teachers encounter students who simply do not want to learn. I think this speaks to a greater malaise in society where we conceive of ourselves as entitled; and demand not edification but gratification from those who have access to information. The questions we need to ask, then, are what the social rules are that create these expectations?


TooMuchBaijiu wrote:some people just don't care about education. Kids, adults, the willfully ignorant can be found anywhere. I heard that 1/3 of the population never read a single book after high school, and that an even higher number never read after college. And I don't believe it's our "decadent culture" that's the culprit, but the way some people are wired. You can lead the horse to water...

So why make them drink? Teach those who aren't interested in a classical education the basic skills, then train them in a skill or a trade, and then let them find work in those fields. That way we can help ensure that those who stick with the classical way are there because they want to be. And if in the future those who went the blue-collar route change their minds and decide to change to a career that require a college degree, institute programs that will give them a second chance to take education more seriously


Every single one of you sound like Libertarians. Why do we make schooling compulsory? Why do we force kids to go to school? Why does government waste so much money on so many kids that do not care at all about what they are doing while in school? I'm surprised to read what you all have said here. The typical response I get from those left of center on education is that government needs to throw more money at the problem.
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Re: American educational system

Unread postby Lady Wu » Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:11 am

Thank you, WWD, for taking the lead and separating the thread. :)
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Re: American educational system

Unread postby TooMuchBaijiu » Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:16 am

Objectivist wrote: Why do we make schooling compulsory? Why do we force kids to go to school? Why does government waste so much money on so many kids that do not care at all about what they are doing while in school?


Oh, I'll find a way to disappoint you yet. Do you really think I at any time would consider supporting anything that would make education anything but compulsory? In fact, if it were up to me, I'd make dropping out of school illegal. In fact, I believe that university tuition all the way through the post-grad level should be completely free, as long as the student shows that he's capable of handling the workload (I don't believe in paying for failures) We don't need any more unskilled laborers who can barely read and write. There's little to no place for them in our society; most of the jobs they would've gotten in the old days have been outsourced to the Third World. We need intellectuals, skilled technicians, people who can actually do something.

All I said was that students who don't wish to go on with a classical education after about, say, the 8th grade or so should be given training in a vocation. Which, I believe, should be funded with your tax dollars (Frightening, innit?) But don't be too despondent; I think this might just be cheaper than throwing money at students who don't care and won't use anything they're taught in high school anyway.

Sorry man, I just don't see any reason to make the collective intelligence of this society fall any further.
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Re: American educational system

Unread postby Sun Fin » Tue Jan 25, 2011 12:23 pm

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:In fact, if it were up to me, I'd make dropping out of school illegal. In fact, I believe that university tuition all the way through the post-grad level should be completely free, as long as the student shows that he's capable of handling the workload (I don't believe in paying for failures) We don't need any more unskilled laborers who can barely read and write. There's little to no place for them in our society; most of the jobs they would've gotten in the old days have been outsourced to the Third World. We need intellectuals, skilled technicians, people who can actually do something.


I agree, I think tuition fees should be scrapped as well! Plenty of talented peple who could be doing very well paid jobs (essential for the economy) are put off going to uni or at least the better ones, in the USA at least where tuition fees vary and maybe here soon as well. I can understand making education compulsury after 16 (current age in the UK) as long as by education school isn't meant. I'm talking about provisonal courses. Of course I'm an advocate of grammar schools as well so I believe in the seperating of the very talented and the rest anyway!

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:All I said was that students who don't wish to go on with a classical education after about, say, the 8th grade or so should be given training in a vocation. Which, I believe, should be funded with your tax dollars (Frightening, innit?) But don't be too despondent; I think this might just be cheaper than throwing money at students who don't care and won't use anything they're taught in high school anyway.


We had something simular in my school called Work Related. You spent 2 days in school, 2 days in college (doing a provisonal course) and a day at work to give you life skills. It started for people in Yr 10 so your Grade 9 and I think the essence is a really good idea. It needed a bit of work cos they stopped turning up at school after a while and stuff but the essential idea is good!
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Re: American educational system

Unread postby Objectivist » Wed Jan 26, 2011 3:54 am

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:Do you really think I at any time would consider supporting anything that would make education anything but compulsory? In fact, if it were up to me, I'd make dropping out of school illegal.


Yet you have this opinion...

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:Some people just don't care about education. Kids, adults, the willfully ignorant can be found anywhere. I heard that 1/3 of the population never read a single book after high school, and that an even higher number never read after college. And I don't believe it's our "decadent culture" that's the culprit, but the way some people are wired. You can lead the horse to water...so why make them drink


What can you possibly achieve by forcing someone who does not care about education into the school system? You're only going to make things worse for the children who want to learn and the overall system. Schooling is not about education. It's more about creating good citizens. We overload and confuse our children with too much information at once.

Standardized testing has proven completely useless in the world. Most of the richest people in America achieved their success by being creative and inventive, and it often has little to do with what they learned in public schooling. Like I said previously...the human genome project (perhaps the highest form of scientific research in the world today) was started by a guy who didn't go to school. Can you explain that?

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:I believe that university tuition all the way through the post-grad level should be completely free, as long as the student shows that he's capable of handling the workload


Well, then I believe that teachers should be working for free as well. So should the school administrators. Doctors, Lawyers...all should work for free. No one should ever have to pay for anything, ever. You do not understand the concept of innovation being driven by profit.

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:We don't need any more unskilled laborers who can barely read and write. There's little to no place for them in our society; most of the jobs they would've gotten in the old days have been outsourced to the Third World.


It takes approximately one hundred hours to teach the skills of reading and writing. Most parents who apply themselves with their children can have their kids accomplishing this before they go to kindergarten. We rely on strangers in schools to teach our kids things, who know nothing about our kids or their individual needs. No one ever takes care of something as well as something that is their own.

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:All I said was that students who don't wish to go on with a classical education after about, say, the 8th grade or so should be given training in a vocation.


What if that thirteen year old kid doesn't want to go to vocational school? What if they aren't interested in learning a trade at that age? You cannot force things upon kids without taking away rights and freedoms. Perhaps this means less to you than your utopian society.

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:I just don't see any reason to make the collective intelligence of this society fall any further.


Ted Kennedy once released a paper stating that prior to compulsory schooling (1850) the Massachusetts state literacy rate was at 98 percent. After that, the figure never stood above 90 percent again. Sure seems to me that the collective intelligence of this society is hurt more by compulsory schooling than helped. That's what you fail to understand.

Schooling is a business...nothing more or less. No one can educate you but yourself.
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Re: American educational system

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Wed Jan 26, 2011 5:12 am

Objectivist wrote:Schooling is not about education. It's more about creating good citizens.


This is completely nonsensical: education, schooling and the creation of good citizens are all different means of saying the same thing. If you want fully-functional human beings with a good grasp of what it means to be human, that requires... well, education - which is about teaching children how to examine themselves and think critically. Schooling does not mean creating docile labourers or sycophantic, greedy businessmen.

Objectivist wrote:Well, then I believe that teachers should be working for free as well. So should the school administrators. Doctors, Lawyers...all should work for free. No one should ever have to pay for anything, ever. You do not understand the concept of innovation being driven by profit.


Now there's just one repulsive, thoughtless idiot notion strung after another. Teaching is not something that can be done well driven by incentives of profit; it is a form of service to the greater glory of God by fashioning young minds in his image - it should be driven by creative desire and the spiritual disciplines of the ancient monastic academy. Part of the problem now is that teaching is too greatly profit-driven; because the τέχνη ideal reigns in the modern American schooling system while παιδεία is shunted into the margins like a thieving servant, you have teachers' unions fighting with parents fighting with administrators - and the pupils lose out completely.

Also, every time I hear the word 'innovation' in regard to teaching techniques, I throw up a little in my mouth. Since the turn of the century teaching has been driven more by unsubstantive fads and ephemeral fits of fashion than by principle; more by economics, psychoanalysis and 'efficiency' than by self-examination; and what have we to show for it? Homo modernus is a far more thoughtless, fickle and one-dimensional creature than Homo archaeus ever was - and I am highly sceptical that another 'innovation' (added upon the heaps of its dead and useless forbears) is ever going to solve that problem.

Objectivist wrote:Ted Kennedy once released a paper stating that prior to compulsory schooling (1850) the Massachusetts state literacy rate was at 98 percent. After that, the figure never stood above 90 percent again. Sure seems to me that the collective intelligence of this society is hurt more by compulsory schooling than helped.


Ignoring, of course, the myriad demographic changes that happened in the past 160 years... and, of course, the fact that this factoid is simply wrong on multiple levels. According to the Massachusetts Department of Education and the NAAL, in 2003 Massachusetts had an adult basic prose literacy rate of 91%, and an adult basic document literacy rate of 92% (adult basic quantitative literacy rate was 85%; Massachusetts ranked well above the national average in all three categories). And although the 1850 figure is a much-quoted factoid, I can't find any sourcing for it anywhere - of course, since there was no NAAL test back then to provide us with a comparison, basically you're just spitting out two completely meaningless numbers which have no useful statistical relationship to each other whatsoever.

(Massachusetts being one of the best-educated states in the nation; if we were going by the CIA Factbook's definition of adult literacy - that is, people 15 and over 'able to read and write' - Massachusetts would have a literacy rate of over 99%, which is the US national average.)
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Re: American educational system

Unread postby TooMuchBaijiu » Wed Jan 26, 2011 5:35 am

Objectivist wrote:What can you possibly achieve by forcing someone who does not care about education into the school system? You're only going to make things worse for the children who want to learn and the overall system. Schooling is not about education. It's more about creating good citizens. We overload and confuse our children with too much information at once.

Again, the idea behind sending those who don't care about education to vocational school is so that they don't drag down those who do. I feel that the schools and the teachers can gain more ground if the student body is wholly motivated to learn. It would seem that you agree.

Objectivist wrote:What if that thirteen year old kid doesn't want to go to vocational school? What if they aren't interested in learning a trade at that age? You cannot force things upon kids without taking away rights and freedoms. Perhaps this means less to you than your utopian society.

Wait, what? Are you seriously treating thirteen year olds like legal adults? Do you really think you'll find one thirteen year old in ten who actually wants to go to school? Hey, maybe you're right, me and my evil socialistic ideas are oppressing these liberty-loving children. Well, I repent my collectivist ways. Let's treat them with all the freedoms under the sky. Let's give them the right to vote. Driver's licenses. (Hell, why should they need a license?) Let's let them buy cigarettes and liquor and .45 Magnums, and let's let them have sex with people three times their age. Freedom baby, yeah!

Seriously, though, I can concede that forcing legal adults to stay in school could be infringing their rights. I mean, it would be idiotic to let them throw their lives away, but idiocy isn't a crime.

Objectivist wrote:Standardized testing has proven completely useless in the world. Most of the richest people in America achieved their success by being creative and inventive, and it often has little to do with what they learned in public schooling. Like I said previously...the human genome project (perhaps the highest form of scientific research in the world today) was started by a guy who didn't go to school. Can you explain that?

I've mentioned before that I'm no fan of standardized testing. And while yes, there are quite a few massively successful individuals who needed education even less than Pink Floyd, the vast majority of those in the professional and capitalist classes have had college degrees. In fact, it's a fact that the further people go in their education, the more successful they tend to be.

I mean, come on man, would you allow yourself to be operated on by a doctor who never went to college, but "read a lot of books"?

Objectivist wrote:Well, then I believe that teachers should be working for free as well. So should the school administrators. Doctors, Lawyers...all should work for free. No one should ever have to pay for anything, ever. You do not understand the concept of innovation being driven by profit.

I spent five minutes trying to figure out how you came to that from what I wrote. All I can say is that profits were what was on my mind. Currently, society pays so that the youngest of its members can be educated. Now I believe that society should...pay so that the youngest of its members can be educated. I just believe that dropping them after high school doesn't do any good, as more and more jobs (about half of the ones out there, I believe) require some kind of degree. Now, a skilled, educated society is a prosperous one. A society that isn't prosperous is one with a large surplus population comprised of unskilled workers, many of whom will not be able to find a job because someone in another hemisphere will do it for a dollar a day. They either become a drain on society because everyone else has to support them, or we pretend they don't exist, which works wonders until they break into your f---kin house.[/quote]

Objective wrote:It takes approximately one hundred hours to teach the skills of reading and writing. Most parents who apply themselves with their children can have their kids accomplishing this before they go to kindergarten. We rely on strangers in schools to teach our kids things, who know nothing about our kids or their individual needs. No one ever takes care of something as well as something that is their own.

This I actually mostly agree with. There are no better teachers than parents. There are also no worse teachers than parents...monkey see, monkey do, right?
Objectivist wrote:Ted Kennedy once released a paper stating that prior to compulsory schooling (1850) the Massachusetts state literacy rate was at 98 percent. After that, the figure never stood above 90 percent again. Sure seems to me that the collective intelligence of this society is hurt more by compulsory schooling than helped. That's what you fail to understand.

If Ted Kennedy said that, then he is wrong. The literacy rate of the U.S is 99 percent now. Unless Massachusetts is by far the stupidest state in the Union, there's no way that could be accurate. Now, if Ted Kennedy were talking about functional literacy or sub-literacy, he may have a point, but these are concepts that have only very recently been given any thought. And besides, Massachusetts has had public education since 1821.

Edit: I will say that while the basic standard of literacy is indeed at 99 percent, functional literacy is pretty low. 1 in 7 can write their name and read simple books and the like, but can't calculate their bills or write a coherent letter. Now, full literacy is embarrassingly low. Only about 15 percent performed at the highest levels in Prose, Document, and Quantitative skills they were tested on, according to the NAAL. I confess, I took one of their tests a couple years ago and got the highest levels in all segments of the test...except one. I was unable to correctly calculate interest rates over a ten-year period. But in my own defense, if it really was my money on the table, I would've been sure to have taken a closer look. However, I could only find rates for functional illiteracy in the U.S and Canada, which actually has an even higher rate than we've got.

However, the U.S census of 1840 only asked whether or not you could read and write, which until very recently was the one and only thing that decided whether or not a person was literate. The census did not ask how well. Therefore, I see no reason to believe that the quality of education in 1850's Massachusetts was in any way better than the quality of education today.

Look, I'll leave you with this: A great man once said: "The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves."

Now, if I had to choose between your viewpoint and John Adams'...I guess that after some real deep contemplation I'd have to go with a man who helped build one of the most powerful nations in history.

And hey, WeiWenDi...did you have to beat me to the punch? Now I sound like a parrot :lol:
Last edited by TooMuchBaijiu on Wed Jan 26, 2011 7:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: American educational system

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Wed Jan 26, 2011 6:06 am

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:And hey, WeiWenDi...did you have to beat me to the punch? Now I sound like a parrot :lol:


Naaah... you sound far less curmudgeonly than I do, and far more amusing. Kudos for this, by the way:

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:Wait, what? Are you seriously treating thirteen year olds like legal adults? Do you really think you'll find one thirteen year old in ten who actually wants to go to school? Hey, maybe you're right, me and my evil socialistic ideas are oppressing these liberty-loving children. Well, I repent my collectivist ways. Let's treat them with all the freedoms under the sky. Let's give them the right to vote. Driver's licenses. (Hell, why should they need a license?) Let's let them buy cigarettes and liquor and .45 Magnums, and let's let them have sex with people three times their age. Freedom baby, yeah!


Welcome to Space Holland! (That's the version of Libertopia where my old college roommates dreamed of taking Mission Vao from KotOR for a night of drink and depravity... too much information?) Anyhow, good point about the public school system in Mass predating 1850 - I hadn't thought to look for that, busy as I was blowtorching through the bullshit literacy statistics.
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