Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Department of Our Collapsing Collapsed Schools

Sweet bleeding jeebus. Even I didn't think it was this bad.

Via Gary Cruse of The Owner's Manual comes this OC Register column (registration required, or use username: nombre password: letmein - bugmenot works!). Just read it.
America as it ain't
It's no exaggeration to say the ignorance of college students is staggering

By Richard Nehrbass
The Huntington Beach resident is a professor of management at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

After America won its independence from Germany in the 19th century and Fidel Castro became the first ruler of the Soviet Union, Betsy Ross wrote "The Star Spangled Banner."

Wait, that's not right. It was after the Emancipation Proclamation secured our independence from France and Tolstoy established his reputation as a singer and Stalin became the president of Italy.

No, this isn't "magic realism," or some obscure French philosopher's post-modernist view of history. It's our world, as understood by our children. Grown children, sitting in my classes at a campus of the California State University, and almost entirely the product of California's public schools. To reach my classes, they have successfully navigated 12 years of American public education, graduating in the top third of their class. They have a history of A and B grades, they have admirable SAT scores. They are the flower of their generation. And they know almost nothing about their country, their culture or the world in general.

So serious is this problem that it is now often impossible for a college teacher to hold a discussion about anything that took place more than 15 years ago. Ask about Jimmy Carter, Gandhi or the Depression - or World War II or William Wordsworthor the civil rights movement of the '60s - and it's likely no one will know what you're talking about. Most of my students can't explain the difference between the political parties, or what the United Nations is, or name a single member of the president's Cabinet. They don't read newspapers or magazines, seldom watch the news on television, and think actually reading a book is an exotic and particularly cruel form of punishment.

Exaggerated? Unbelievable? Actually, it's even worse - as I discovered when I gave a short general knowledge quiz to my students the first day of class. There was nothing difficult about the test, just the sorts of things you would imagine no one could reach adulthood without knowing. When I collected the papers, one young woman told me she was "embarrassed" at what she didn't know. We all should be.

A few examples:

The vast majority of these soon-to-be college grads were not aware of even the most basic facts concerning their nation's history. Most, for example, could not identify the decade of any of America's wars. Any! Most couldn't identify the century. A mere 16 percent were able to date the beginning of the Revolutionary War to the 1770s, and only 12 percent chose the 1860s as the time of the Civil War. Two-thirds were unable to date the War of 1812. The mind boggles.

America's enemies in these wars? Fewer than one in three knew Great Britain was their country's foe in the American Revolution. Most weren't even able to work out who the United States fought in the "Korean" or "Vietnam" wars. When asked where the words "Four score and seven years ago" came from, only 17 percent were able to identify the Gettysburg Address. And just 17 percent (presumably the same students) knew what those six words meant.

To test simple arithmetic skills, I asked what 70 percent of 240 was. This is middle school stuff. But most had no idea how to figure it out. When asked to make change for a $5 bill when a purchase came to $1.37, one-quarter of California's future bachelors of science weren't able to figure it out.

Perhaps the problem is they're too busy studying current events. Perhaps, but only 16 percent could name California's two senators, and only 29 percent knew the Senate was composed of 100 members, though one soon-to-be grad said, "Fifty, two from each state."

World history? One student out of more than 100 - one! - could identify the authors of the Communist Manifesto. Two knew what the Magna Carta was. Joseph Stalin was the leader of what country? Sixty-one percent were clueless, though some thought perhaps Italy or Germany. Only 4 percent chose Lenin as the first leader of the Soviet Union.

The humanities? Two percent knew Keats was a poet, 12 percent could identify D.H. Lawrence, and 18 percent Tolstoy and Stravinsky. Gerald Ford, though, will be delighted to learn that half of California's best and brightest lauded him as the inventor of the automobile.

There were some positive results, of course. Sixty percent knew Nixon was the president who resigned in office, 95 percent chose Sacramento as their state's capital, and 81 percent more or less knew what the Holocaust referred to. ("When jewes were killed" and "killing of ethnical group" are actual quotes from soon-to-be university grads.) And 76 percent knew what happened on Pearl Harbor Day ("There was a bombing in the shape of a mushroom which killed many people and destroyed lands.")

But enough. After all, it's the system, not the students, that is at fault. Our young people are not stupid. Indeed, many are quite brilliant. But it's time we asked why after 12-plus years in our public schools, and a backpack full of As and Bs, they know so little about the world they live in. And it's past time for our nation's schoolteachers to take responsibility for what goes on in their classrooms. As things stand, they should be as "embarrassed" at the product of their labor as some of their own graduates are.
Go read Gary's commentary. Then read Billy Beck's.

I can't add anything to that.

College students! Jeebus!

UPDATE: Rodger Schultz, in his inimitable way, has a post up on public education.
From 1980 to 2002, in real money, spending per pupil in public schools increased by $3,600, rising from $5,400 per student to $9,000. That is a two-thirds spending increase.

The result .. (you guessed the result 20 years ago didn't you, ya big smart alek)? Last year U.S. students (8th graders) finished 15th in math and ninth in science when measured against 45 countries.

Which reminds me of the 1983 report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education that stated:
If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today,we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have in fact, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.
I don't think it was "unthinking." I believe Connie du Toit had it right.
The other day our Carpenter’s helper heard me say something along the lines of, "it is difficult to conclude that incompetence is the reason why our public schools have deteriorated. There comes a point where you have to suspect sabotage, or a conspiracy."

He asked me if I really meant that. I gave him the five minute explanation of John Dewey’s known affiliation with communists, his frequent essays and articles about the wonders of the Soviet education system, and his quote, "You can’t make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent."

I then went on to tell him about how public schools changed at the turn of the last century. That there were others involved in turning Americans from free-thinking individualists to factory drones. I also added that many people probably went along with it because it seemed like a good idea, but there were certainly enough people behind the scenes, who knew that the goal posts had been moved. THAT is a conspiracy.

Yes. There does come that time when you are forced to don the tinfoil hat.

The incompetence excuse only works once. Incompetence this great is impossible to attribute to accident.
Or is it, really, war? And there's been no "education 9/11" to wake us up to the fact?

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