You see, I was one of those Democrats who considered anyone who voted for Trump a racist. I thought they were horrible (yes, even deplorable) and had worked very hard to eliminate their voices from my spaces by unfriending or blocking people who spoke about their support of him, however minor their comments. I watched a lot of MSNBC, was convinced that everything he had done was horrible, that he hated anyone that wasn’t a straight, white man, and that he had no redeeming qualities.
Do read the whole thing.
Oh, look! More about that voter fraud I have been told doesn’t exist, and if it does, well, it doesn’t rise to the level of anything to be concerned about!
…why we red-necked, knuckle-dragging, gun-hugging, bible-thumping, cousin-humping, racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic Neanderthals with low sloping foreheads won’t vote Democrat?
These guys do:
Wait until November. Who’ll be laughing then?
UPDATE: The RNC has (timely for a change) responded, and done it well:
I’m not a fan of Glenn Beck, but as a friend put it, “sometimes he lays down information that’s tough to refute.” Give this a watch. Your tinfoil hat might blow off. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si-vMj-FB88]
Alexandria Occasionally Coherent on the impeachment of Donald Trump, Wednesday: “This is not just about something that has occurred, this is about preventing a potentially disastrous outcome from occurring next year.
IOW, “We’re impeaching him because we couldn’t beat him in 2016, and we can’t beat him in 2020.”
From July 4, 2012, Walter Russell Mead’s re-imagining of the “woke” Declaration of (In)Dependence:
The unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen Post-Colonial, Multi-Racial Societes of North America
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to strengthen the political bands which have connected them with the Global Community, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the cooperative and deferential station which a careful review of the relevant peer reviewed literature suggests is most appropriate for long term win-win outcomes, a decent and rigorously equal respect to the opinions of woman- and man- and transkind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the ever deeper union.
We hold these views to be consistent with the evolving cultural consensus, that all humans are equally obliged to the performance of certain Duties, that among these are the Participation in the Struggle against Racism, Economic Injustice, Genetically Modified Organisms, Homophobia, Nationalism and the Excessive Emission of Carbon Dioxide and Other Greenhouse Gasses. That to secure the performance of these Duties, Governments are instituted among humans, deriving their just powers from the considered Opinions of the Educated Classes, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Duty of the Enlightened and Credentialed Guardians of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect the Unquestioning Performance of their Duties by the Less Enlightened Members of the Public. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Change cannot come too quickly to suit the Convenience and the Predilections of an Enlightened Minority; Governments long established should be changed the Moment a Sufficient Number of Well Regarded Contributors to the New York Review of Books have determined that such Change is Morally Incumbent; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that intellectuals who have never run anything in their lives are the Fittest of all Living People to remedy virtually any evil by abolishing the forms of Government, Laws and Customs of Society to which the brutish and unreflective Common People are accustomed. And when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Failed Dogmas of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy evinces a design to allow said Common People to evade all obligations to the Global Community, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide New and Expanded Regulations for the future better restriction of the Lower Orders as they deem Meet for the Purpose.
Turn off your sound (fvcking autoplay…) Defence secretary Gavin Williamson says military ‘ready to respond’ to knife crime crisis
The UK armed forces “stand ready” to intervene in the knife crime epidemic, the defence secretary has said.
Gavin Williamson said military personnel “would always be ready to respond” to calls for help while the Ministry of Defence “always stands ready to help any government department”.
No request has yet been made, Mr Williamson said during a question-and-answer session on Tuesday night.
He added: “I know that the home secretary is looking very closely at how he can ensure that everything is done to tackle this problem at the moment.”
Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, had said she would be willing to bring in troops to support her officers as they battle a spate of stabbings.
So, after making possession of pretty much any weapon for the purpose of personal defense illegal, after making it legally risky to actually defend yourself or someone else, even with nothing more than your fists, serious violent crime in the UK has risen to levels requiring ARMED MILITARY TROOPS ON THE GROUND.
This is my shocked face….
Überpost alert! It is something I’ve been studying and thinking about since 1993, and writing about here for 15 years, so there will be a lot of internal links, external links, links to stuff that only exists because of the Internet Wayback Machine, etc. and a lot of stuff you’ve seen here before if you’ve been here very long. It’s about a lot more than education but it all starts there.
Lets get on with it, shall we?
“All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” – Aristotle
If you’ve read this blog for any extended period, you know one of my personal hobby-horses is public education. Specifically, its general failure to educate. That failure is hardly a new thing. Let me remind you:
Those are John Taylor Gatto quotes not necessary to requote in full here, thus the links. Here are a couple of other significant quotes:
The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues, and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.
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.
Henry Louis Mencken, 1924
Even Noam Chomsky concurs:
I quoted the Trilateral Commission view of the educational system, namely that it’s a system of indoctrination of the young, and I think that’s correct. It’s a system of indoctrination of the young. That’s the way the liberal elites regarded it and they’re more or less accurate. So the educational system is supposed to train people to be obedient, conformist, not think too much, do what you’re told, stay passive, don’t raise any crises of democracy, don’t raise any questions. That’s basically what the system is about.
Watch the whole clip. It’s about five minutes long.
I’ve written about indoctrination before, but my objection has been to what indoctrination is going on, not why:
…I am ambivalent on the topic of “indoctrination.” My problem is with what that indoctrination entails. (Leo) Rosten objects to the failure of the educational system to indoctrinate moral values. I’d say it still does. It just doesn’t indoctrinate goodness, kindness, and decency anymore. It indoctrinates “multicuturalism,” “tolerance,” “sensitivity,” “fairness,” “socialism,” and “self-esteem.” It fails to instruct in history, civics, ethics, mathematics, English, or for that matter, job skills. The education system receives “young skulls full of mush” and processes them right on through, sending them into the world with what Ayn Rand described as “a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears.”
The reasons for this are myriad. Diane Ravitch puts part of the blame (convincingly) on the textbook companies who are loath to put anything in a text that someone, anyone, might find offensive. I put a large part of the blame on the influx of socialist True Believers into the ranks of educators since the time of John Dewey. As far as public schools are concerned, we’ve abandoned the idea that education can liberate the human mind or human spirit. Schools are now warehouses, run by administrators terrified of lawsuits and too many teachers who are literally tyrannized by their charges and their parents. Indoctrination still goes on, though. Read this lovely little op-ed by Mark Bradley, a history teacher from Sacramento. I bet his classes are popular!
It would seem that if you want some good indoctrination, your only choices are homeschooling or private – often ecumenical – schools.
Indoctrination of children is not necessarily a bad thing, but somewhere along the line we stopped paying attention to what was and what wasn’t getting poured into their heads, and it started long before 1975.
In 2008 I wrote another überpost, The George Orwell Daycare Center, specifically illustrating the kind of indoctrination I’m objecting to, followed by an observation by historian, profound thinker and university professor Victor Davis Hanson. I believe that it is still possible to get a decent education out of many, possibly most school systems in this country – if you want one. This is due to those teachers who really do know their subjects and how to teach them, and students willing to do the work necessary to learn them. I think both still exist, however I graduated High School in 1980 so this may no longer be as true as it once was. It does appear that the ratio of such teachers and students to the general population is getting continually smaller. That question is “Why?”
Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security, and civility. We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur–others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.
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.
That last one is from the introduction to the 1983 report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education entitled A Nation at Risk: the Imperative for Educational Reform.
It was an act of war. Guerilla war. But the battleground had been carefully prepared, like the Maginot Line, for an entirely different war.
In the first decades of the twentieth century, a small group of soon-to-be-famous academics, symbolically led by John Dewey and Edward Thorndike of Columbia Teachers College, Ellwood P. Cubberley of Stanford, G. Stanley Hall of Clark, and an ambitious handful of others, energized and financed by major corporate and financial allies like Morgan, Astor, Whitney, Carnegie, and Rockefeller, decided to bend government schooling to the service of business and the political state—as it had been done a century before in Prussia.
Cubberley delicately voiced what was happening this way: “The nature of the national need must determine the character of the education provided.” National need, of course, depends upon point of view. The NEA in 1930 sharpened our understanding by specifying in a resolution of its Department of Superintendence that what school served was an “effective use of capital” through which our “unprecedented wealth-producing power has been gained.” When you look beyond the rhetoric of Left and Right, pronouncements like this mark the degree to which the organs of schooling had been transplanted into the corporate body of the new economy.
It’s important to keep in mind that no harm was meant by any designers or managers of this great project. It was only the law of nature as they perceived it, working progressively as capitalism itself did for the ultimate good of all. The real force behind school effort came from true believers of many persuasions, linked together mainly by their belief that family and church were retrograde institutions standing in the way of progress. Far beyond the myriad practical details and economic considerations there existed a kind of grail-quest, an idea capable of catching the imagination of dreamers and firing the blood of zealots.
— John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education
…between 1967 and 1974, teacher training in the United States was covertly revamped through coordinated efforts of a small number of private foundations, select universities, global corporations, think tanks, and government agencies, all coordinated through the U.S. Office of Education and through key state education departments like those in California, Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Important milestones of the transformation were: 1) an extensive government exercise in futurology called Designing Education for the Future, 2) the Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project, and 3) Benjamin Bloom’s multivolume Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, an enormous manual of over a thousand pages which, in time, impacted every school in America. While other documents exist, these three are appropriate touchstones of the whole, serving to make clear the nature of the project underway.
Take them one by one and savor each. Designing Education, produced by the Education Department, redefined the term “education” after the Prussian fashion as “a means to achieve important economic and social goals of a national character.” State education agencies would henceforth act as on-site federal enforcers, ensuring the compliance of local schools with central directives. Each state education department was assigned the task of becoming “an agent of change” and advised to “lose its independent identity as well as its authority,” in order to “form a partnership with the federal government.”
The second document, the gigantic Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project, outlined teaching reforms to be forced on the country after 1967. If you ever want to hunt this thing down, it bears the U.S. Office of Education Contract Number OEC-0-9-320424-4042 (B10). The document sets out clearly the intentions of its creators — nothing less than “impersonal manipulation” through schooling of a future America in which “few will be able to maintain control over their opinions,” an America in which “each individual receives at birth a multi-purpose identification number” which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of underlings and to expose them to direct or subliminal influence when necessary. Readers learned that “chemical experimentation” on minors would be normal procedure in this post-1967 world, a pointed foreshadowing of the massive Ritalin interventions which now accompany the practice of forced schooling.
The Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project identified the future as one “in which a small elite” will control all important matters, one where participatory democracy will largely disappear. Children are made to see, through school experiences, that their classmates are so cruel and irresponsible, so inadequate to the task of self-discipline, and so ignorant they need to be controlled and regulated for society’s good. Under such a logical regime, school terror can only be regarded as good advertising. It is sobering to think of mass schooling as a vast demonstration project of human inadequacy, but that is at least one of its functions.
That was also Gatto.
Our education system, as Gatto has noted, is largely based on the Prussian system established by the great industrialists of their era in order to produce a two-tiered output – the workers and the owners and managers. However, it was rapidly suborned instead to destroy Western culture:
Translated into practical terms and updated from its early-20th-century Italian cultural setting, (Antonio) Gramsci’s thesis is understood by the modern Left to mean:
Socialist revolution will never happen in a nation if its culture continually reaffirms and enshrines middle-class capitalist values. Thus, in order to pave the way for the arrival of a communist state, radicals must first insinuate themselves into and/or influence the media and educational system, and from these positions of influence change public attitudes about the status quo. To achieve political hegemony, you must first achieve cultural hegemony.
This was a significant change from Marx’s and Lenin’s original ideas about communist revolution, which basically involved simply seizing power, public opinion be damned, and afterward propagandizing the masses to accept the new order. Gramsci realized that Marx had it reversed, and that the propaganda and indoctrination must happen first, in order to make the populace open to the idea of revolution; otherwise, rendered complacent by middle-class values and comforts, the populace would never consent to the upheaval of a revolution.
The media and public schools were correctly identified by Gramsci as the most influential cultural institutions, and it was therefore those that the left realized must be targeted.
It is this sophisticated Gramscian plan, and not the more brutish Marxist idea of simply seizing power by force, which has guided leftist thought in America since WWII. And it is why the media and education have, over time, been slowly turned into engines of leftist propaganda. Gramscianism matured into “critical pedagogy” which is the real-world application of his educational theories, and countless left-leaning young adults have for decades been nudged toward careers in education and the media. Some time ago, we crossed a threshold in which the Gramscian infiltrators no longer had to ply their trade surreptitiously, but became the majority in the media and in education, and after that point the process accelerated rapidly as they took over both fields and turned them into ideological weapons.
Sugatra Mitra, Indian solid state physicist and now Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, England, was among the forefront of people who had to learn how to write software, and ended up doing more teaching of that than physics. This piqued his interest in primary education. Though his interest was specific to the British system, he came to a similar conclusion:
I tried to look at where did the the kind of learning we do in schools, where did it come from? And you know you can look far back into the past, but if you look at present-day schooling the way it is, it’s quite easy to figure out where it came from. It came from about 300 years ago, and it came from the last and the biggest empire on the planet. Imagine trying to run the entire planet without computers, without telephones, with data handwritten on slips of paper and traveling by ships. But the Victorians actually did it. What they did was amazing. They created a global computer made up of people. It’s still with us today, it’s called the “bureaucratic administrative machine.”
In order to have that machine running, you need lots and lots of people. They made another machine to produce those people – the school. The schools would produce the people who would then become parts of the bureaucratic administrative machine. They must be identical to each other. They must know three things: they must have good handwriting because the data is handwritten, they must be able to read, and they must be able to do multiplication, division, addition and subtraction in their head. They must be so identical that you could pick one up from New Zealand and ship them to Canada and he would be instantly functional.
The Victorians were great engineers. They engineered a system that was so robust that it is still with us today, continuously producing identical people for a machine that no longer exists.
I will come back to this later when I delve deeper into the education portion of this post.
So the purpose of “public education” isn’t so much educating, it’s building dependable uniform cogs for a machine run by elites. As I have noted in the past, despite the inspirational rhetoric of Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and President Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address, the purpose of governments has always been, until the American Revolution, to protect and expand the power and privilege of the powerful and privileged, not the protection of the individual rights of the cogs, not to be “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Referring back to that first Gatto link, you’ll note that our Founders were, as they pretty much had to be, self-taught. That has changed since the late 18th century, at first slowly, but exponentially.
Angelo Codevilla, Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Boston University, calls this “elite” our Ruling Class.
Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof. Like left-wing parties always and everywhere, it is a “machine,” that is, based on providing tangible rewards to its members. Such parties often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods and enhance mightily the upper levels’ wealth. Because this is so, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges — civic as well as economic — to the party’s clients, directly or indirectly. This, incidentally, is close to Aristotle’s view of democracy. Hence our ruling class’s standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government — meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc. Hence more power for the ruling class has been our ruling class’s solution not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make Americans kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it.
Laws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally.
(The party) is composed of two tiers. The lower tier produces many outspoken members who make their demands known to the upper tier. The lower tier is derived from the inner-city population that serves as the base of the party. The lower tier’s members are generally educated in public school systems and if they aspire to advanced training, they are educated in facilities provided by the state. This wing constitutes the majority of (the party’s) membership, but contributes little or nothing to party theory or platform. It votes the party line and is rewarded with cash payments, subsidized housing, subsidized education, and occasional preferential employment in government positions. The lower tier provides only a handful of clearly token individuals allowed to serve in high offices.
The upper tier, which includes most of the party’s management, virtually all the appointed and elected government officials, and all of the party’s decision-makers, is drawn exclusively from suburban areas where wealth is a fundamental criterion for admittance as a resident. These party members are generally educated at private schools and attend private colleges. They are not affected by food-rationing schemes, income caps or taxation laws, as the legislation drafted and passed by members of their social group inevitably contains loopholes that effectively shelter their income and render them immune from unpleasant statues that restrict the lives of lower-tier party members and all nonparty citizens.
(The party) leadership recognizes that in return for supporting a seemingly populist agenda, they can obtain all the votes they require to remain in power. Even the most cursory analysis of their actions and attitudes, however, indicates that they are not populists but, in fact, are strong antipopulists who actively despise their voting base. This….is proven by their efforts to reduce public educational systems to a level most grade-school children (in other countries) have surpassed, with the excuse that this curriculum is all that the students can handle. They have made the inner-city population base totally dependent on the government, which they control. — John Ringo from the novel The Road to Damascus
I’m by no means a fan of Pat Buchanan, but I think he was absolutely correct when he said:
Our two parties have become nothing but two wings of the same bird of prey.
So our system of Public Education has been largely turned into not only a system to crank out identical cogs, it also serves as a place for political indoctrination, and a place to ensure that a love of learning is beaten out of those cogs.
The political Left, once referred to as “the loyal opposition,” has been suborned by Marxists in order to pursue their holy quest for the Utopia promised by Marx. Marxism promised the birth of the “New Soviet Man” as a spontaneous outcome of a Communist society, but that has never occurred. Of course, the counter argument is that none of the societies that call themselves Communist actually have been. “True communism has never been tried!” But the supporters of Marxist philosophy eventually concluded that Gramsci was right, those men are required in order to achieve “True Communism” instead of them spontaneously springing up after “the Revolution.” The New Soviet Man had to be made, and the public education system has been the primary tool, along with the entertainment and information media, to pursue this goal.
To some tiny extent it has been successful.
Thomas Sowell, economist and philosopher and the best thinker in my opinion of the last 70 years, wrote in what I consider to be his magnum opus A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles that human beings philosophically break down, crudely but sufficiently descriptively, into two fundamentally opposed worldviews that they are effectively born with, not that they reach through reason:
Sowell calls one worldview the “constrained vision.” It sees human nature as flawed or fallen, seeking to make the best of the possibilities that exist within that constraint. The competing worldview, which Sowell terms the “unconstrained vision,” instead sees human nature as capable of continual improvement.
You can trace the constrained vision back to Aristotle; the unconstrained vision to Plato. But the neatest illustration of the two visions occurred during the great upheavals of the 18th century, the American and French revolutions.
The American Revolution embodied the constrained vision. “In the United States,” Sowell says, “it was assumed from the outset that what you needed to do above all was minimize [the damage that could be done by] the flaws in human nature.” The founders did so by composing a constitution of checks and balances. More than two centuries later, their work remains in place.
The French Revolution, by contrast, embodied the unconstrained vision. “In France,” Sowell says, “the idea was that if you put the right people in charge–if you had a political Messiah–then problems would just go away.” The result? The Terror, Napoleon and so many decades of instability that France finally sorted itself out only when Charles de Gaulle declared the Fifth Republic.
I would argue that France hasn’t exactly sorted itself out, but it is for the moment stable enough. (Editor’s note: This essay was written before the French Yellow Vest Movement. I may have been overly optimistic.) My point here is that those born with the “unconstrained” worldview are the ones that can be, and often enthusiastically are, receptive to the Utopian promise of Marxism. The problem is that those born with the “constrained” worldview aren’t, and they don’t understand that. As a result, as Charles Krauthammer put it:
To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.
So President Trump got elected to the shock of almost everyone, everywhere. No one in the political establishment, entertainment or information media could understand it. He was, despite his wealth and education, not part of the Ruling Class, but he was President and a danger to the status quo so everyone who is part or imagines themselves part or wants to be part of the Ruling Class has agreed that he won illegitimately and must be gotten rid of regardless the cost. All those people who voted for him? Moronic knuckle-draggers, Christian fanatics clinging to their faith, evil gun owners clinging to their pseudo-penises, evil greedy capitalists clinging to their ill-gotten gains, white supremacists longing to bring back slavery, etc, etc, etc. In short, the non-human enemy that cannot be reached so it must be wiped out. You know, like Hitler and the Nazis.
The irony, it burns!
The American Left is most strongly concentrated in urban and suburban areas. As previously noted, they control the information and entertainment media and the entire education system from Kindergarten to post-graduate. They therefore think that almost everyone thinks like they do. They swim in waters that they don’t ever think about. But the people who elected Trump exist in large quantities nationwide. The Left doesn’t consider that number. It’s their blind spot. These people live in “flyover country.”
When Trump appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education in 2017, the Left came further unhinged. DeVos, we were told, was unqualified, unprepared, “fundamentally incompetent,” a zealot, and – to the Teacher’s unions – apparently Gozer the Gozerian because she is enthusiastically in favor of education vouchers and school choice. Something the teachers unions vociferously oppose. You’ll notice that our “Ruling Class” already practices “school choice.” Their offspring attend private schools.
It is only from a special point of view that ‘education’ is a failure. As to its own purposes, it is an unqualified success. One of its purposes is to serve as a massive tax-supported jobs program for legions of not especially able or talented people. As social programs go, it’s a good one. The pay isn’t high, but the risk is low, the standards are lenient, entry is easy, and job security is pretty good…in fact, the system is perfect, except for one little detail. We must find a way to get the children out of it. — Richard Mitchell, The Underground Grammarian
School choice is not enough. We need to nuke the whole thing from orbit, and make the rubble bounce.
Sugatra Mitra, as previously noted, was among the forefront of people who had to learn how to write software, and ended up doing more teaching of that skill than physics. When the generic PC hit the market, his colleagues were astounded to find that their young children could learn to operate these complex, expensive machine without instruction. He decided to investigate this phenomenon:
I used to teach people how to write computer programs in New Delhi, 14 years ago (1999) , and right next to where I worked there was a slum. I used to think how on earth are those kids ever going to learn to write computer programs? Or should they not? At the same time we had lots of parents, rich people who had computers, and who used to tell me “You know, my son, I think he’s gifted, because he does wonderful things with computers. Oh and my daughter – surely she is extra intelligent.” and so on. So I suddenly figured that how come all the rich people are having these extraordinarily gifted children? What did the poor do wrong?
I made a hole in the boundary wall of the slum next to my office, and stuck a computer inside just to see what would happen if I gave a computer to children who never would have one, didn’t know any English, didn’t know what the Internet was. The children came running in. It was three feet off the ground, and they said “What is this?” And I said “Yeah, it’s, I don’t know.” They said “Why did you put it there?” I said “Just like that.” And they said “Can we touch it?” And I said “If you wish to.” And I went away.
About eight hours later, we found them browsing, and teaching each other how to browse. So I said “That’s impossible, because- You know how is it possible? They don’t know anything.” My colleagues said “no it’s a simple solution. One of your students must have been passing by and showed them how to use the mouse.” So I said “Yeah, that’s possible.” So I repeated the experiment. I went 300 miles out of Delhi into a really remote village where the chances of a passing software development engineer was very little. I repeated the experiment there. There was no place to stay, so I stuck my computer in, I went away. I came back after a couple of months, found kids playing games on it. When they saw me they said “We want a faster processor and a better mouse.” So I said “How on Earth do you know all this?” And they said something very interesting to me. In an irritated voice they said “You’ve given us a machine that works only in English, so we had to teach ourselves English in order to use it.” That’s the first time as a teacher I’ve heard the words “teach ourselves” said so casually.
Please watch the entire 22 minute video. It’s important for your understanding of the rest of this essay. If you’ve not seen it before, it’ll knock your socks off. If you’re unfamiliar with the man, watch several more of his presentations. But Self Organized Learning Environments and the School in the Cloud answering “big questions” are also not enough. Human beings need to be able to do simple math in their heads, to at least understand algebra, to read with comprehension and for enjoyment, to understand history, both Western and worldwide, to understand how different governments work (or don’t), and much more. In addition they need to be able to apply their knowledge to reach logical rather than emotional hypotheses and test them. They need to learn skills that have been, as Mike Rowe observes, abandoned in the pursuit of mostly useless, incredibly expensive college degrees with the specious promise that a piece of paper guarantees a well-paying career, thus leaving society with a disdain for jobs that require physical labor as somehow inferior and degrading. And they need to be taught a work ethic. I like Mike’s take on it.
As R.A. Heinlein put it:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
While there are autodidacts (I’m one when it comes to American history, education and Constitutional law), I don’t think many people are. Those people who aren’t need some direction, some pressure to learn. Generally it’s pursuit of better employment opportunities, but those are adults. We’re talking here about primary education. Again the Internet has become the place to go for everything from mathematics to chemistry to ancient history, to just about anything you can imagine, but someone has to provide that content and point kids at it with interest in learning it.
As far as content creation is concerned, there is multiple-degreed former hedge-fund manager and now The Most Influential Person in Education Technology, Salman Kahn, who in 2004 was tutoring his niece in mathematics long-distance using YouTube, Yahoo Doodle, a $900 desktop from Best Buy with a $200 microphone, and a closet as an office. Sound familiar?
Kahn established his non-profit Kahn Academy in 2008, beginning with a mathematics curricula, but with outside funding he’s been able to hire staff and expand to many, many other subjects. His major concern, however, is mastery of the subject. That requires keeping track of each student’s progress, and not allowing them to move on until they demonstrate that mastery:
I grew up with plenty of smart people. They would beat me at chess, they could solve brain teasers before I could, but then they would struggle in algebra. These were incredibly smart people who simply did not have the foundation in math that I had. I saw the same thing with my cousin, Nadia. She had actually gotten “A”s and “B”s in every math class. Despite that, she had some serious gaps in her knowledge that became more significant as the content became more difficult.
These gaps are due to the Prussian system – all students arrive in the classroom at the same time, are lectured by a teacher who has little to no time for individual attention but must finish the lecture before the next bell rings and then gives homework to the students to be turned in the next day. As he has said many times, would you construct a building this way? His example is that a contractor is hired to build that building, with a rigid time schedule. The contractor has X number of days to pour the foundation, regardless of weather or anything else. When the inspector shows up, he says “Well the concrete isn’t quite dry here, and there’s a crack there. I’d give it an 80%.” Well, 80% is a “B” and that’s good enough, right? So the contractor proceeds. But when they get to the 4th floor, the entire structure collapses. Who’s at fault?
The education system.
With the Kahn Academy the lectures are viewed at home where you can back them up or simply repeat them until you’ve got the idea. Only then are you given problems to work, which can be done in the classroom in collaborative effort with five or six other students helping explain anything the struggling student still doesn’t quite grasp, just as Dr. Mitra’s SOLEs are set up. Software keeps track of the student’s performance by providing those questions to solve, and once the student gives a sufficient number of correct answers in a row it determines that the student has shown mastery of the idea and allows moving ahead to the next concept. Each child learns at a different pace, with some progressing rapidly and others needing more time. The Kahn Academy model is the very definition of “No child left behind.” The critical thing is, short of a mental disability your kid isn’t necessarily more brilliant than other kids but they’re all a lot brighter than we give them credit for. It’s just that our “education” system forces them to not learn.
Back when I started this post literally years ago Kahn was working with a public school and concentrating on mathematics with this reverse system. I found an article about it which I can’t find now, but I do remember that the class he was working with was something like sixth-graders. One student really grasped math. She had advanced to Calculus in a very short period – a class I had to work hard to get into my Senior year of High School in the Prussian system. There were nine of us in that class out of about 200 Seniors. She was maybe 12 years old. But what struck me was a comment by one of her teachers: “How do we slow them down?”
We shouldn’t, but that “teacher” should be fired. I refer you back to that quote from the Underground Grammarian.
Kids learn, as Dr. Mitra has found, when they are intellectually challenged. They learn at different rates, as Salman Khan has exhaustively documented. And they generally learn best when allowed to collaborate in small groups, receive enthusiastic reinforcement from adults, and are otherwise left alone to teach themselves. No wonder the teachers unions are afraid. They’re pretty much not needed, and are instead an anchor slowing if not preventing not “education” but learning. The money thrown at “education” has no effect, but the education establishment constantly blames a lack of sufficient funding as the root cause of the failure of the education system, so more and more money gets poured down that particular rat-hole.
And where does that money go? Not into infrastructure, not into the classroom, certainly not into the pockets of teachers, no matter how good or bad they are, but into the pockets of an ever-expanding army of bureaucrats that “administrate” or monitor students for things like political correctness and diversity and tolerance. Like all government programs, failure means “throw more money at it.”
In addition children need to be challenged and allowed to work with both their brains and their hands to learn useful skills. That opportunity could come from access to “Maker Labs” now springing up, albeit slowly, around the country. Hopefully the growth of these learning centers will also be exponential. The problem here though is that such labs are expensive to establish, to stock and to maintain. That money has to come from somewhere, and the Ruling Class has no incentive to provide that funding, given that it does not produce the dependable, uniform cogs they depend on.
So we have the opportunity to switch to a system that allows the maximum possible development of every individual, rather than producing those uniform, unthinking cogs our current system relies on, but who wants that? Instead the Ruling Class wants to perpetuate this forever: