Thursday, January 14, 2010

A conspiracy of suck

One of the stupidest things I've ever encountered is the notion that the lousy state of public education here in the USA is somehow a conspiracy by "Them" (for some mysterious "Them") to make us stupid so they can rule us. Which is complete and utter bullshit. Look: school boards here in the USA are local. Schools are run by local communities, not by "Them". It's true that states can set a curriculum, but the curriculum is a minimum, and half the time the schools ignore the damned thing anyhow except insofar as it's embodied in exit exams because most of these curriculums are stupid and there's nobody in the classroom with the teacher to validate that she in fact taught every stupid thing in the curriculum guide.

So that whole conspiracy thing is bullshit. What you are seeing is the education We The People want. Parents don't discipline their little heathens and don't want the schools to do so, either. Parents don't give their children any intellectual stimulation at home and don't want their children to get any at school, either, because if the little brats could think their way out of a cardboard box then the little brats might start doubting some of the "truths" they're told by their parents about invisible guys in the sky and crap like that. The old people who dominate school board elections don't want anything taught in the schools that weren't taught in the schools when they were kids 60 years ago, and want the exact same teaching methods used in the classroom that were used when they were kids 60 years ago, despite the fact that the world is much different now from what it was 60 years ago and if you look at the actual numbers, 60 years ago was even worse than today. If the school district has "those" kids in it -- you know, THOSE kids, brown, maybe speak one of them thare foreign gabbles instead of God's language, the language He wrote the Bible in, English? -- they don't want to pay taxes to educate "those" kids and underfund the schools in that district to the point where all the good teachers and administrators leave, which means that the schools fall apart because only the incompetent or the venal are left. And so on and so forth. The only conspiracy in the U S of A, my friend, is the conspiracy of STUPID. 50% of all people are below average, and that average is pretty much suck.

Even authoritarian dictatorships don't crash their economic viability this way. See: South Korea prior to the democracy era, Singapore today, China today, etc. If someone conquered the U S of A they couldn't do a better job of destroying our schools than we've already done ourselves. Yet... the majority of kids do leave school with some basic skills like reading and arithmetic. It IS possible to get an education in our schools. Just horribly frustrating both for the teachers and the kids, both of whom are trapped in a system designed by cretins (a.k.a. We The People) for generating cretins. We get the schools (as a nation) that we want -- and deserve. Alas.

- Badtux the Former Teacher Penguin


  1. Geeeze, BT. I know you're cranky, and all, but this is right on the edge of chasing the kids from your lawn. If it's so they'll go do their homework, then OK.

    I don't think you need a big conspiracy - though the idea of having a population just bright enough to follow their overlords bidding doesn't seem to be too much at variance with the recent Bush administration agenda. And, really, isn't this what Every-Child-Left-Behind was all about? Teaching to a test, rather than teaching concepts and thinking, with draconian financial punishments for those that don't comply?

    Somewhere along the line we stopped teaching civics, too; and I wonder about critical thinking skills. They got drilled into me as a Chem major. But I was in college in the mid 60's.

    My grandchildren seem to be getting decent educations, but I don't know how representative that is - they're going to above aveage schools.

    I think your basic premise, that "we the people" design the schools is pretty far off base. Most people trust "experts" to do skilled tasks, like surgery, plumbing, or teaching the kids, and take it for granted that the job will be done right.

    What should we cretins be doing different? (And if I were from Crete, I would resent that.)


  2. Jazz. everybody thinks they're an expert on education because they managed to survive their own education. If a teacher tries to do anything different from what the teachers did when they were kids, parents come down on the school like a Republican on a (same sex) intern. Worse yet are the school board members, none of whom, in general, have any qualifications to run anything more advanced than a lemonade stand (and for a lot of them I'd be suspicious about what was in that lemonade), yet they read some bullshit in an airline magazine by some moron somewhere about whatever the latest fad-of-the-day is and then try to impose it on their school district, utterly ignoring their own curriculum experts who work for the district and their own teachers and administrators because some blowhard ranting in an airline magazine about how the "educational establishment" is ignoring whatever "innovation" they're peddling obviously knows more than teachers and principals who actually work with the kids every day and have some idea how those kids learn and think, right?

    - Badtux the Cranky Penguin

  3. (Continued) I saw this up close and personal through three years of teaching then three years of working on the administration side of things (IT, not frontline, but I was working up close and personal with the front line administrators to make sure they had what they needed to deal with all the bullshit coming down the stream). Almost never are policies, curriculums, etc. set by the real experts. They're set by parents ranting at school board meetings, they're set by semi-literate school board members who have no clue what current research says and would just wave off the current research if they *did* know what it said ("that's just some ivory tower intellect-chual stuff!" they'd sniff), they're set by state departments of education that are staffed primarily by people who have no practical experience in the classroom as a teacher, they're set by politicians at the state and national levels who want to be seen as "doing something" about education and thus pass atrocities like the Every Child Left Behind Act because they read in some airline magazine somewhere that it'd be a good idea, and so on and so forth.

    Yet, as you mention, the majority of children do learn enough to qualify as a "decent" education by some definition of "decent" that includes basic reading and arithmetic skills. As I previously mentioned, It IS possible to get an education in our schools. Just horribly frustrating both for the teachers and the kids, both of whom are trapped in a system designed by cretins (a.k.a. We The People) for generating cretins.

    As for what "We the People" could be doing differently: Let teachers teach. Let the researchers research and pass their results down to administrators and teachers without having politicians step in and say "No, the old way was good enough for me when I was growing up, it's good enough for our children too!" Quit doing bullshit that hurts education, like No Child Left Behind or measuring schools based on how many "disciplinary incidents" they have. Quit second-guessing teachers and administrators when they discipline the little brats, which in turn will eliminate nonsense like "Zero Tolerance" that ought to really be called "Zero Sense" but it exists because of parents who storm the school board, lawyer in hand, complaining that "your schools are being mean to our innocent little white / black / Hispanic / Vietnamese school children because my child got consequence A for having a knife at school and little Johnny who brought a Cub Scout knife to school for show-and-tell only got consequence B!" In other words, let the experts get this shit straight. And fix the goddamned funding situation, for cryin' out loud... there's no reason why suburban schools should get more money than urban schools, when you do that the teachers and administrators with talent migrate to the suburban schools and leave mostly morons and crooks behind in the urban schools as teachers and administrators. And I think I'll shut up now, because I need to get back to work...

    - Badtux the Cranky Penguin

  4. While I don't think it's a "conspiracy", I do think a lot of the weakness in our education system is the natural result of the repub philosophy of "cut taxes and cut spending" over the past three decades.
    Now, my being dropped from your blogroll; that was a conspiracy.

  5. Well. Now there is a post to chew on.

    I was just watching a docu-drama on Che Guevara, who I know very little about, and thinking about "guidelines" and "standards" imposed upon teachers.

    Have you raised any of your own kids?

    Completely unimaginable from this post.

  6. Nuns, the last thing I have any desire to do is deal with kids on a daily basis. Been there, done that, got the post-combat PTSD to show for it. (Just kidding -- mostly). Much less stressful to attempt to educate people on these here blog thingies. My cats love to cuddle without needing orthodontists or pediatricians and they're happy to have fresh kibble, water, and kitty litter, they don't whine and throw tantrums because they don't have the latest fashion that "every kid has!". I'll skip that pleasure, thank you very much, and stick with the purr-balls.

    Yeah, my opinion of all those standards and guidelines thingies gets obscene quickly. Yet it's still possible to get a decent education in today's schools with the right advocacy at school and pushing the kid in the right directions at home. It happens all the time. It's just frustrating and takes way more effort than it should because the whole system is set up basically to enforce the norm that the majority want, which is mediocrity.

    -- Badtux the Been There Done That Penguin

  7. Uh, in my life time, I have spent quite a bit of time encouraging idiotic teaching items. Giving an attaboy to someone that was challenged to get a "C" in college. Once encouraged a nun who told me the world was flat. I don't want a well educated competition. If I did, I would move to India or Egypt.

    Leave the ignorant little tweakers alone. I don't need competition.

  8. Is our School VP's learning?:

  9. Really?

    The feds have no influence on schools?

    Trial lawyers and the ACLU haven't scared the Obama out of the poor local school boards?

    The teachers Unions have no accountability for the cluster f*ck in the schools?

    And that curriculum in school: lots of RRR and no social engineering, right?

    And since the 50's schools haven't been preaching to parents to let the "professionals" edumacate the kids?

    Mom is a PhD and a college prof/administrator. Even SHE can see why the school system is down the crapper.

    And, yeah...the parents today were the hippies of yore. It's "them" who wanted kumbaya in the schools.

    I am thankful I was in school when the three r's were THE thing to learn, and a teacher could whack a little cur with a dusty eraser without the PC Gestapo storming the school...

  10. Dude: you bring up all that bullshit, but that's just what it is -- bullshit. I was *inside* school districts for six years as a teacher and administrator, and I can tell you that the ACLU had no (zero) sway on our policies, teacher unions had no (zero) sway on our policies (in most states today it is illegal for teacher unions to strike, and without the power to strike, they have no - zero - influence upon school district policies), the official curriculum had no (zero) social engineering in it but was heavily academic oriented, and we were constantly pestered by parents going to school board members and demanding that we not be mean to their darling little Muffy, or that the school bus stop be moved a block to the south so that her darling Biffy doesn't have to walk a block in the rain to get on the bus, or etc. And if a teacher dared to teach in some different way from what parents expected, you could expect parents to be all over it. I was astounded when a school board member and a parent walked into the 4th grade classroom at one school I taught at and started berating the teacher *in front of her class* for not teaching the way they expected her to teach. That teacher was a friend of mine and she was a good teacher, but that wasn't important, what was important was that she teach the way the parents expected -- i.e., in the exact same way they'd been taught.

    In short, reality, as vs. your bullshit, is entirely different from what you state. You're repeating bullshit you heard on Faux News or Hate Radio as if it is real, and it's not. It's made up. It's nonsense. Yes, we had to fill in a bunch of paperwork to deal with federal bullshit. My first task as IT manager was to modify the discipline program so that it could track firearms incidents in the schools, for example, to comply with the Gun Free Schools Act's reporting requirements. But none of that affected what actually happened inside the classroom. That was under complete local control, and the parents had a big role in driving what happened there. And got the education they wanted for their kids, an education that was mediocre (just like their own education) but that's what they wanted, and that's what they got. Alas.

    - Badtux the Former Teacher Penguin

  11. Jazzbumpa: "No Child Left Behind" was largely authored by Ted Kennedy, not Dubya.

    Tux: didn't take you long to pull the Faux/Hate card, huh? Wouldn't that be considereed a personal insult?

    Check my IP-I haven't been to the states in 3 years. Unless there's a Spanish version, there IS no "Faux News" or American political outlet where I am.

    And I have no doubt that as a school teacher you saw no flaws in the system, that the failure was on the parents (who certainly share a great deal of blame.)

    I know few teachers who do. After all, their "critical thinking skills" were finely tuned by their profs in ed. school, just like ~theirs~ were. That is also part of the "system": indoctrination of teachers to be compliant servants to that "system."

    I got a real edumacation in how the "system" really works in 1992 when I took a shot at an open Board of Edumacation seat in Hillsborough County FL (Tampa) as a member of the Libertarian Party.

    I ran unopposed in the primaries, but I got the perfunctory/mandatory vetting by the local Teachers Unions. I wasn't a Democrat, so the evening was rather contentious. It was clear I wasn't going to be a lapdog and certainly would be a pittbull for accountability, and they made absolutely no bones about how they fully intended to make my life miserable during the election; there was NO way they wanted anyone who wasn't lock-step "with" them was going to win. (I had an argument with the LP over their requirement to put the ENTIRE LP platform to gain their meager support, and I knew that was a deal-breaker: I didn't see what legalizing prostitution had to do with local edumacation.)

    Later, as a former pro athlete, and possessing two Masters, an old college teammate, now a HC Head Coach, wanted me to be a p/t assistant coach. I had to "apply" for special status to be "hired" for this $1500 a season after school job. I was gonna do it for fun and to help a bro; I knew a little something about football. But I got shot down by the union and school board. Why? An ART TEACHER got priority because he needed the money and I didn't have a teachers certificate...although TWO advanced degrees in meaty subjects. I wonder how much he knew about coaching QB's to run a triple-option "T-Bone" offense. Who would have benefitted the kids more? He got hired and my buddy the HC had a frickin' albatross around his neck all season.

    Yeah, I know how the "system" works, but I see it on the outside. I never went to teachers college, I was never indoctrinated to go along to get along.

    I also blame parents for foregoing emphasis on their kids edumacation. Seems that extra shiny car in the McMansion is more important than nurturing their kids personally.

    But I also fault the "system", and how it evolved. And, yes, there is a TON of social engineering going on. Sex Ed, social promotions, inability to discipline kids (don't want the ACLU to send a "cease and desist" letter, do we?), rewriting history, and political indoctrination (there are a TON of school-sponsored Youth for Obama videos on youtube) just to name a few.

    But it's what society wants: a bunch of uneducated, coddled "look at me" vacuous morons that will be the leaders of tomorrow.

    You know, sometimes I'm grateful I got paddled by the principal in the 4th grade for saying "Mrs. Vick makes me Sick" to the substitute. And to this day I worship Mrs. Colley, my 73 y.o. senior calculus teacher, wheelchair-bound from polio as a girl, a spinster and with little humor, whacking me with a chalkboard eraser from 25 feet-with more accuracy than a Yankee Stadium peanut vendor-to "PAY ATTENTION, MR. C*****! YOU CAN'T PLAY FOOTBALL FOREVER!!!"

    Yeah, there's something to be said about the Good Old Days. I'm glad I got my educationalo foundation then.

    Respectfully Submitted-


  12. Uhm -- I don't have a degree in education. I have a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. I became a teacher through an alternative certification path that required me to take 15 credit-hours of education courses then a semester of student teaching, not via "Ed School".

    As I point out, the penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here. My blog, my property, my rules.

    So anyhow, you're repeating a bunch of bullshit of which you have no personal experience but you "know" it is true because, well, just because somebody told you it's true. I still call bullshit on it. I taught in two different school districts and did substitute teaching or student teaching in two others, and was IT administrator for a coalition of sixteen school districts, and the actual reality of what I saw was that society gets the schools that it wants and is willing to pay for. The average American does not value education highly (thus your sneers about "ed school professors" and "indoctrination"), and gets schools that, well, reflect his values.

    Now, you can continue spewing nonsense that you have no personal experience of and no evidence to support, but at this point we've established that it's just plain stupidity with no evidence to back it (you don't have evidence, or you would have introduced it), so ... see the posting rules. 'Nuff said. If you have a point, make it, and *introduce evidence to support it*. Otherwise I call bullshit, and will simply delete it if you repeat it.

    - Badtux the Education Penguin

  13. Translation: Leave me to my opinions, my mind is made up.


    You must pee sitting down.

  14. Dude. Personal experience is not opinion. Personal experience is what I actually experienced, in reality. You're like the dude insisting that if I look out the window and see a blue sky and say, "whoa, the sky is really blue today!", it's just my *opinion* that it's a blue sky.

    You're the one talking bullshit about things you have no experience of and no actual data to support. Being told it's true by somebody doesn't make it true. If you haven't seen it for yourself and have not seen peer-reviewed research or statistical data showing it's true, it's just bullshit, period, and we've way too much bullshit cluttering up the body politic right now.

    So where's your data? You have none. No personal experience. No pointers to research studies. No statistical data. All you have is bullshit that somebody told you sometime. And I'm a penguin that calls bullshit what it is: bullshit.

    - Badtux the "Give me data not bullshit" Penguin


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