Education assininity, and some odd questions
I taught English at all levels: high school (fun but exhausting), college (better), adult education (best of all!) and a few times at the primary school level (my second favorite thing - right after rolling naked in broken glass.)
From time to time I'd heard about various lunacies in American primary and secondary schools, and more sinister stuff like totally unfounded accusations of sexual abuse, prosecuted by authorities with the help of "experts," who had to subject children to real abuse to get "evidence" of phony abuse.
Anyone remember that before Janet Reno incinerated 50-odd children in Waco, Texas, she warmed-up by sending a number of almost certainly innocent people to prison for terms up to and including life, on the most bogus charges you could imagine?
See here: http://www.opinionjournal.com/medialog/?id=105001974
and here, for example: http://blog.neo-libertarian.com/posts/1130795746.shtml
I wondered of course, if these cases were typical, even common, or just statistically rare extremes. But I nonetheless decided that I'd never under any circumstances get involved in primary or secondary education in America.
Now look here: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MTIwMWJmMjEzYzk5ZDYxNzEwNDViMmI0MjgzOWM1ZDQ=
at John Derbyshire's article, 'Short-changing the Gifted,' about the cancellation of more of the College Board's Advanced Placement exams.
Da Derb knows something about secondary education, if you follow another link provided, here: http://www.johnderbyshire.com/Opinions/Straggler/073.html
you'll see that some years back he taught at a special school for "Educationally Sub-Normal" boys in a Liverpool slum.
These were teen boys who, "Without their having any known physical, mental, or emotional abnormality, they had finished their primary schooling still unable to read or do basic arithmetic."
It's an interesting, and depressing article.
"It was depressing work, with little to show for months of effort. Perhaps the most depressing thing of all was that none of the boys was very capable at anything. To play soccer, for example, needs a modicum of thought as well as some minimal physical fitness. Our boys could not rise to it. The masters-boys soccer match was a rout of them, strapping 15- and 16-year-olds, by us, wheezy desk-wallahs with a median age around 40. Up to that point I had assumed that even seriously un-intellectual people must have some ability at something. That this is not necessarily the case, is one of the saddest true things I ever learned."
But to my mind what's really depressing is the quote from supposedly "normal," or even brighter-than average New York Times reporter Deborah Solomon, when interviewing Charles Murray, author of 'The Bell Curve' and 'Real Education.'
DS: "Europeans have historically defined themselves through inherited traits and titles, but isn't America a country where we are supposed to define ourselves through acts of will?"
CM: "I wonder if there is a single, solitary, real-live public-school teacher who agrees with the proposition that it's all a matter of will. To me, the fact that ability varies — and varies in ways that are impossible to change — is a fact that we learn in first grade."
DS: "I believe that given the opportunity, most people could do most anything."
CM: "You're out of touch with reality in that regard."
Note that comment in bold.
John Derbyshire's poor boys, for whatever reason, nature or nurture, could not help being what they were.
What's this woman's excuse? It takes a willful disregard of the evidence of everyday reality to come up with an assinine statement like that.
There's a word for people who do that habitually. The word is, "stupid." Dumb is forgivable, stupidity is not.
First of all, an observation. At a journalism seminar I attended a while back, the lecturer pointed out one of the principles of good journalism vis-a-vis interviews.
He said, "There is one star in the interview - and it isn't you."
An interview is a time to ask tough questions, not for a debate. There's a difference. Your own opinions might inform the questions, but it's the interview subject's opinions you're reporting on. Yours belong on the op-ed page.
Now for something totally different. A question that has bugged me for years, stemming from my background in anthropology.
Homo Erectus, thought to be our direct ancestor, appears from the skeletal remains to have been a small man from the neck down, and about half a man from the neck up.
Meaning, he had a cranial capacity about half the modern norm.
(Of course, Neanderthal man evidently had a cranial capacity about 300 CCs more than the modern norm, and everybody in the field really wonders what that means.)
Yet, he survived and thrived in environments as diverse as the African veldt to Java. And, he was less "strapping" than the Derb's students at that Liverpool school.
What is the difference, if any, between a modern retarded person and an archaic Homo Erectus, in terms of basic capability and ability to cope with life?
Next: I'm going to take on the other end of the spectrum, and reflect on the stupidity of the educated inteligentsia.