Thursday, June 16, 2011

The war on education

Public education is basically disintegrating around the country. Budgets have been cut to the point where there will be 60+ students per classroom next school year -- classrooms which can barely hold 35 students -- and teachers with 12+ years of experience are being laid off. The latest is TexBetty over at Mock Paper Scissors.

One of the big reasons I left teaching was because it became clear that neither American parents nor American students cared about education and learning. The question I incessantly heard was, “how will knowing X make me money when I graduate?” If there were not dollar signs involved, neither parents nor students were interested in it.

We’ve substituted the almighty dollar for everything that was once great about this culture. Fifty or a hundred years ago, kids could be rowdy but they had a basic respect for learning. Today, it’s all about dollars. Fifty or a hundred years ago, even the right wing wanted to help the poor and downtrodden, they just had a difference of opinion as to the right way to do it. Today, it’s all about “I got mine and eff you.” This country is in a death spiral caused by the discarding of all values other than worship of the almighty dollar, and if you can, get out now, before it becomes impossible.

- Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin


  1. The amazing thing is that many of the people who worship the almighty dollar don't have a snowball's chance of ever seeing much of it. They live in a dream world where they think if they give enough to those that already have it, somehow the rich will feel grateful and let some dribble down to them.

    More likely, they will just get pissed on.

  2. You were a teacher!

    Dare one ask, in the interest of pursuing the facts of which you are inordinately fond, what subject you taught?

    Jest askin'!

    David Duff

  3. I taught for a couple of years and more than anything I wanted to strangle the parents. Motivating students was the most difficult part. Having said that, I miss it and now in retrospect I find that challenging them challenged me. I sometimes think of going back but right now is not the best time with all the cutbacks.

    I agree though that $$$ has a lot to do with what they want out of life. Maybe we should both go back and challenge the $$$ ideology?

  4. Jerry, the deal is that they see their lizard overlords making millions by grifting, and nobody making millions by being actual productive citizens who, like, actually invent and build and make stuff, so what is the average dimwit-American supposed to think? Clearly the old rules about "study in school, work hard, and you'll get ahead" no longer apply in America, so they dimly view the values of their lizard overlords and attempt to adopt them as much as a non-sociopath can adopt the values of sociopathic lizard overlords. Remember, 50% of Americans are below average, and average doesn't appear too bright anymore...

    Duffer: Math, computer science, and, one year, special education at a special school for "behavior disordered" children. The latter is where I learned that arguing with children who aren't interested in rational discussion but only in obtaining attention via stamping their feet and saying stupid things they may or may not believe is a useless endeavor. The funny part is that even the worst of my students there, a moody young street kid whose family was one of the principal importers of heroin in the neighborhood and who was pretty much feral (he looked almost exactly like Mowgli in the Disney animated production of The Jungle Book, but behaved as if raised by real wolves, rather than the anthropomorphic ones of that book), had more empathy for fellow human beings than our lizard overlords who will happily throw old people, sick people, the handicapped, and children under the wheels of a bus if it means they can keep more of their money. Because keeping their money is more important than the health and well-being of old people, sick people, the handicapped, and children. The only value our lizard overlords have is worship of the almighty dollar, and non-sociopathic humans are viewed merely as prey. Those are the values that inform American society today.

    - Badtux the Non-lizard Penguin

  5. Señorita Andalucíana, I missed the stimulation of teaching for a couple of years after I left the field, but I did not miss the stress, the long working hours (during the school year I basically worked from 7AM in the morning until 9PM at night due to grading papers, making up tests, and preparing for the next day's classes, as a junior teacher I of course had many more preps than a senior teacher would have had since I taught the leavings the senior teachers did not teach), and the continual disrespect from so-called adults. Even veteran teachers in the faculty lounge would rant about that one.

    After I left teaching and started doing IT for a collection of school districts, I was regularly in close personal contact with school attendance and discipline officers (I was in charge of reporting their student demographic and discipline data to the Department of Education, as well as deal with situations where the Department of Civil Rights would come in and demand records because of reports that we were being mean to those poor innocent little children). I found that even the central office administrators were frazzled by the stress of dealing with the parents. They wanted nothing more than to educate children, but were continually being second-guessed and hamstrung by people who knew nothing of the art and practice of teaching, who had nothing to contribute but ignorance and superstition, yet continually harassed the school board into overriding the central office administrators when the administrators made decisions to try to improve education. Because, y'know, we can't be mean to those innocent li'l childrens by expecting them to, like, actually attend school and learn and behave, y'know?

    - Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

  6. "The only value our lizard overlords have is worship of the almighty dollar, and non-sociopathic humans are viewed merely as prey. Those are the values that inform American society today."

    I suppose that would include the likes of Bill Gates, would it? He was 'over here' this week giving away $1 billion - repeat, $1 billion - for child vaccines.

    David Duff

  7. Bill Gates is an interesting case, Duffer. Like most Aspies, he's not capable of interacting with other human beings in a normal manner. The only reason he has a wife is that he basically bought her with his billions. On the other hand, Aspies tend to be obsessive and not cognizant of the feelings of the people around them, but they aren't by nature sociopaths. Bill doesn't quite understand why what he did to get his billions was not liked by the people around him who he browbeat, cheated, abused, and screamed at in order to get what he wanted to fulfill his obsession, but he does understand that he's supposed to care about other people.

    In short, he's like a sociopath that doesn't *want* to be a sociopath and who is emulating non-sociopaths even though he doesn't have the neural wiring to quite understand why non-sociopaths do those things. Which doesn't describe most of our lizard people overlords, who not only are sociopaths, but *proud* to be sociopaths rather than those mushy "liberals" who care about things like "fairness" and "charity" and "caring" and "sharing".

    - Badtux the Technology Geek Penguin

  8. I see.

    (Er, actually, I don't but I'm just trying to be polite. You see, even profession psycho-babble is frequently rubbish, but amateur efforts, well . . .)

    David Duff

  9. Dude, I like your comments even more than the post, lol

    I don't remember being curious about how much money I would make if I learned certain skills in school. I do remember being incredibly frustrated with math. The only A I ever got in math was a business math class I took at a Jr. college. The math gene skipped me, but the kid got through physics and calculus, chemistry and a bunch of other classes that would have sent me straight into a panic attack.

  10. Nunya, you and I would have had to share the dunce's cap if we had been at school together. I failed maths, physics and chemistry at 'O' level (it used to be the main exam you sat at age 16). However, it is worth noting that people like Henry Ford, a farmer's son, had no particular scholastic record. Personally, all the wealthy men I have ever met (quite few, as it happens) have been scholastic failures.

    I would go on to suggest, in a whisper in case our host is listening - you know how touchy he can be, that the main problems with education, 'over here' as well as 'over there', are, first, the education bureaucracy; second, the teacher training colleges; and third, the teachers, themselves.

    David Duff

  11. I thank you for backing up my assertion that disrespect for teachers is rampant, Mr. Duff. Thank you for proving my point that people who know nothing of the art and practice of teaching, who have nothing to contribute but ignorance and superstition, continue to cripple education by insisting that the fact they managed to survive their schooling makes them somehow an "expert". As someone who has actually stood in front of a classroom full of unruly disrespectful children and found it was nothing like my pre-teaching preconceptions, your assertion amuses me.

    As for teacher colleges, we don't have those here in California, you get a four year degree in a subject matter, then two years of teaching certification at the post-bachelor's level. My own BS is in Computer Science and Mathematics, not education. So I am amused at your notion that "teacher college" is the reason for the poor quality of education. Perhaps you should blame the phases of the moon too?

    As for the quality of teachers, they vary. I will modestly say that I was a barely adequate teacher but if I had stuck around would have been a fairly good one. But why? To be disrespected by cretins like yourself? To be despised by parents as "mean to students"? To get pay that was literally ONE THIRD of my current quite resplendent salary as a lead of a development team of young engineers -- which, incidentally, is virtually the same job as teaching (since my principal job is to direct them how to create the product that I, the VP of Engineering, and the CTO have designed, much as how in teaching I may have directed students in how to solve quadratic equations) but far more respected and remunerative? If there IS a teacher quality problem, I suggest you look in the mirror, dear Duffer...

    -- Badtux the Educated Penguin

  12. It's fascinating that someone who "failed maths, physics and chemistry at 'O' level" is nonetheless a self-proclaimed expert on the subject of global climate change, understanding of which requires knowledge of "maths, physics and chemistry at " some fairly high level.

    "But it's all right, ma, everybody must get..." Hmm. I wonder if THAT is Duffy's problem.

  13. Taking your salient points in order, I do know something of teaching, and at first hand, too, because I went to school for 11 years. Thus, rather like a regular customer at Walmart, I can give you a well-informed opinion of their capabilities. All that, of course, as well as an opinion gained from watching the steady decline of education standards as exampled by their product which I see lolling about on street corners whilst well-educated young Poles and Czechs do all the work!

    'Over here' teacher training colleges are used after applicants have gained their degrees and they sound somewhat similar to your system. There are techniques to teaching and they should be taught to potential teachers. Unfortunately they seem to instill nothing but silliness into them.

    You will forgive me, I'm sure, when I suggest (no, perhaps that's too strong for you) hint that there is a dollop of hypocrisy in a man bitching about parents who want their children to be taught something that will allow them to earn a buck who then gives up teaching because he wants to go to a job that will provide him with a large increase in bucks!

    As for Batesy's intervention, I can only suspect that his reading is so feeble that he is forced to imagine things he thinks he has read. No where on my blog will you find me claiming to be an expert on scientific matters - or on much else either! Indeed, this is a quote from my post last Wednesday:
    "As regular readers will know, I never believed in the theory of global warming, not because I am a terrific science swot - I failed maths, physics and chemistry at 'O' level - but because of the sort of people who were pushing it, and the way in which they pushed it."

    It's OK, Steve, I accept your apology!
    David Duff

  14. Duffer: Those who can, do. Those who can't, bitch on the Internet about the poor quality of those who do. Enough said :).

    - Badtux the Snarky Penguin

  15. PS -- I've had surgery on my foot for the aftermath of a motorcycle accident. By your logic, that makes me 100% qualified to do surgery :).

    - Badtux the Yet Another Snarklet Penguin

  16. This has been an interesting exchange of views and I was going to leave the last word to you but your final comment, alas, provoked me into making one last point: your experience of undergoing surgery does not qualify you to "to do surgery" but does qualify you to comment on that particular surgeon and hospital.

    I would add that if practical, hands on experience is to be the only qualification for commentary then 99% of 'Blogdom' would close down tomorrow, and most conversation would cease!

    Finally, I'm glad we steered through this exchange without hissy fits on either side!
    David Duff

  17. BadTux,

    I never gave my teacher's hell, nor did I give any of my daughter's teachers hell. We did tape one one time because I didn't believe that he could be that bad. He was. We never did anything with it, and we found her a tutor, so she got through the class.

    I did have to put my foot down with an administrator, but that was only after I knew that she understood that she was going to have to make some changes and work hard in order to clean up the mess she made.

    I woud have been easier for me to let the short bus take her to the alternative school, but that is not what she wanted. I was fortunate enough to be able to transport her to a different school, and then summer school every year for 4 freaking years. She might not have finished college without that support, and that means money and encouragement.

    She's thinking about getting a teaching credential for elementary age and I think it's wonderful. No, she won't become wealthy, but she gets a light in her eyes when she talks about working with kids in that age range and I'm good with that. She had some really great teachers along the way. I'm sorry it was a bad experience for you, and I'm sure for many teachers.

    I would like to add that my sister AND my daughter were inspired by the same teacher at the same school, and he also inspired another girl who graduated from the same HS and college with my kid.

    So there are great teachers and parents and crappy parents and teachers, eh?

  18. By pure coincidence I came across this quotation:

    "The faculty of judgment is a special talent which cannot be taught, but must be practised. This is what constitutes our so-called mother-wit, the absence of which cannot be remedied by any schooling. For although the teacher may offer, and as it were graft into a narrow understanding, plenty of rules borrowed of others, the faculty of using them rightly must belong to the pupil himself, and without that talent no precept that may be given is safe from abuse.
    Immanuel Kant - Critique of Pure Reason

    Hat tip to:

    And that is positively my last word - no, really!
    David Duff


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