Skip to comments.Lying to ourselves
Posted on 12/08/2005 10:28:30 AM PST by NapkinUser
In his Inaugural Address in 1965, Lyndon Johnson, coming off one of the great landslides, spread out the plans for his Great Society. It was the heyday of liberalism, and those were days of hope. After civil rights, education topped the agenda.
On April 11, at the grammar school he attended, LBJ signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the first federal education law in U.S. history, focused on disadvantaged children.
And after 40 years and trillions of tax dollars plunged into public education at all levels, how stands public education?
Well, it depends. Sam Dillon reports in Sunday's New York Times:
After Tennessee tested its eighth-grade students in math this year, state officials at a jubilant news conference called the results "a cause for celebration." Eighty-seven percent of students performed at or above the proficiency level.
Mississippi's fourth-graders did even better at math, with 89 percent performing at or above proficiency levels. Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Alaska reported equally exhilarating results.
Fly in the ointment: These were the results of tests designed by state officials. On the national test mandated by No Child Left Behind, only 22 percent of Tennessee's eighth-graders passed, and only 18 percent of fourth-graders in Mississippi could do fourth-grade arithmetic. By national standards, four of every five kids in the Tennessee and Mississippi public schools are failing.
Inescapable conclusion: State officials are dumbing-down tests so even the slowest kids can pass, to keep the federal dollars flowing in and federal sanctions from being imposed.
Put crudely, state officials are colluding in a fraud to deceive parents, kids and themselves about the progress, or lack of it, being made by the public schools. They are like baseball officials who, unhappy with the paltry production of home runs, lower the mound, narrow the strike zone, create a new rabbit ball, bring in the left- and right-field fences and look the other way at steroid use then celebrate all the great hitters who beat Babe Ruth's record.
In four states Missouri, Wyoming, Maine and South Carolina state test scores closely tracked federal scores. In South Carolina, which sets world-class standards, 30 percent of the kids passed the feds' eighth-grade math test, but only 23 percent passed the state test. Apparently, educators in South Carolina don't believe in lying to themselves.
The ultimate test is how American kids stack up in a world where leadership in math and science eventually translates into military power and global dominance. In all recent world tests where they have competed, the Chinese on the mainland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea come in at or near the top, as Americans bring up the rear. We may lie to ourselves about how well we are doing, but the world will one day find us out.
The lying has been going on a long time now. Between the mid-1960s and mid-1990s, Americans wrung their hands at falling SAT scores of high-school seniors in math and English. Some educators wailed that the tests were cruel, unfair and culturally biased. So, testing criteria were made less rigorous and altered to make comparisons with earlier years more difficult. Now, the SAT scores are no longer cause for concern.
"Humankind cannot stand too much reality," said T.S. Eliot. The reality is that a vast acreage of U.S. public education is a wasteland.
"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" said George Bush pungently in Florence, S.C., in the 2000 election. As we now know and, in truth, have known for decades American children are not learning as once they did. And the ethnic gaps in achievement that existed 40 years ago persist up to today. Nothing has changed.
Why? Classrooms are far smaller. Teacher salaries are far higher. School budgets are far larger. Where it cost $250 a year to educate a child in Washington, D.C., in 1950, which probably translates into $2,500 today, the per-capita cost of educating kids in Washington schools is over $10,000. While that is among the highest in the nation, Washington test scores remain among the lowest. We have Head Start and school lunches, and every demand the reformers have made has been met. The I.Q. tests have been thrown out, and the track system abolished.
Explanations for the failure are many. The collapse of the family. Kids coming to school unmotivated and unprepared. Disruptions in the classroom. Violence and drugs in the schoolyard. The lure of television, videogames and the street pulling kids away from desks, where generations spent hours doing homework. But are these the explanation, or excuses? Does it make any difference?
At the turn of the millennium, pundits were saying that not only had the 20th century been "the American Century," the 21st would be, as well. Brits were probably saying the same thing back in 1900.
Great, indeed, is our capacity for self-deception.
Now, Google "The Frankfurt School" of the 1940's to see where the current sorry state of public education originated.
Kudos to the Freeper who pointed out the defining characteristic of education in the United States in the latter half of the 20th century . . . that we went from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching remedial reading and writing in college.
And those two items became the biggest boondoggles in history. God help anything the Dims decide to target for "improvements".
8th Grade Final Exam - Salina, Kansas, 1895:
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. 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)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. 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?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?
Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e'. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. 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.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.
Health (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Where are the saliva, gastric juice, and bile secreted? What is the use of each in digestion?
2. How does nutrition reach the circulation?
3. What is the function of the liver? Of the kidneys?
4. How would you stop the flow of blood from an artery in the case of laceration?
5. Give some general directions that you think would be beneficial to preserve the human body in a state of health.
let the market rule.
Let folks see the differences in the standard of living and job opportunities between states with well-educated workforces and say, Arkansas.
They'll then demand better schools.
And with the federal government out of the way, schools will be free to teach.
Consider that the problem was not nearly as bad when the federal government was not in the education business, beyond providing research money which in addition to it's stated purposes, also provided for the education of engineering, science and math (and occasionally economics and other social sciences) graduate students. Given that, I'd say we "include" the federal government as the Constitution allows, which is to say by getting them out of the business. Much of the problem is federal $$ and the strings that go along with them. Then there are all those federal mandates which no longer even have federal $$ attached to them. Many of those are from the unelected federal courts, but many come from Congress and the Executive Branch bureaucracy as well.
According to the Supreme Court (in the Gun Free School Zones case) education is not commerce, and thus the federal government has no power or authority in that areas.
It's a fallacy to say that just because a problem exists in most or all states, that automatically the feds must be involved. When they are involved they tend to run the train, and devise "one size fits all" solutions. Let each state and each school district find it's own solutions, or not, as the case may be. I think that without the carrot of federal dollars, and the stick of federal mandates, states and local school districts will find solutions that work for them, and will copy things that work for others.
I wonder what percentage of current college graduates could pass that test?