Education without meaning

Regular readers know that I periodically rant about public school education, which feeds kids massive amounts of bite size, PC information, leeched of content and meaning. One of my bookworms, having spent weeks studying California missions, was able to name all the missions, describe adobe production, and detail the abuses heaped upon Indians. She had no idea how the missions got to California, how the Spanish were involved in the missions, how the Spanish got to California, the religious purpose the missions served, etc. It’s as if the school gives the kids lots and lots of little pieces of marble, and announces that, in their hands, they hold David.

Just the other day, you heard me grumble about a massive school recital that had teachers blathering on about global warming (it’s all our fault, in case you didn’t know), and kids zealously wrapping about recycling. The walls were festooned were pictures of kids picking up garbage from the beach.

In other words, after a year in public school, my bright little bookworm has learned math at a procedural level, without having any idea what she’s doing (which is why, within weeks of a lesson she’s aced, she’s entirely forgotten how to to do), she’s well on her way to being completely up to date on all the horrible things Americans and other white people have done to every one else in the world, she lectures me about waste, and she’s reading for an advanced degree in beach cleaning. Grrrr.

It turns out I’m not a lone malcontent. The same dreary politicization of education, with children being forced to memorize endless factoids that are not allowed to hold any place in their imagination, while at the same time being deluged with political pap, is going on in England, all in preparation for tests that are aimed at memorization skills and multi-culti mastery. At least one prestigious think tank is now on the attack (emphasis mine):

The curriculum in state schools in England has been stripped of its content and corrupted by political interference, according to a damning report by an influential, independent think-tank.

It warns of the educational apartheid opening up between the experience of pupils in the state sector and those at independent schools, which have refused to reduce academic content to make way for fashionable causes.

No major subject area has escaped the blight of political interference, according to the report published by Civitas.

“The traditional subject areas have been hijacked to promote fashionable causes such as gender awareness, the environment and anti-racism, while teachers are expected to help to achieve the Government’s social goals instead of imparting a body of academic knowledge to their students,” it says.

The report, The Corruption of the Curriculum, comes as the General Teaching Council, representing the teaching profession in England, calls for the scrapping of all national curriculum tests.

Civitas casts doubt on the value of much of what children are now “taught”. History has become so divorced from facts and chronology that pupils might learn the new “skills and perspectives” through a work of fiction, such as Lord of the Rings, it says.

Teenagers studying for GCSEs are being asked to write about the September 11 atrocities using Arab media reports and speeches from Osama bin Laden as sources without balancing material from America, it reveals.

In English, the drive for gender and race equality has led an exam board to produce a list of modern poems from around the world without a single poet from England or Wales being represented.

The new 21st-century science curriculum introduced last September substitutes debates on abortion, genetic engineering and the use of nuclear power for lab work and scientific inquiry, it says.

Designed to make science more popular, the results of a study show it has had the opposite effect, with pupils less interested in the subject and less keen to pursue it in the sixth form than they were under the previous, more fact-based lessons.

Future scientists will be even more likely to come from independent schools because the new GCSE courses will leave state pupils ill-quipped for further study, it says.

Most comprehensive schools are teaching the new science for examination next year but the vast majority of independent and grammar schools have seized the opportunity to continue to teach biology, chemistry and physics as separate subjects.

Martin Stephen, the High Master of St Paul’s, a leading boys’ independent school in London, warned of the “terrifying absence of proper science” in the new courses and said his pupils would be taking the International GCSE in the three separate sciences.

If we’re not careful, just as our past was once England (and a fairly good legacy of freedom and democracy it gave us), soon our future will be England too, and that, sadly, is a very depressing thought.

UPDATE: On the subject of what an English education once was, let me recommend one of my all time favorite books, Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. In his book, Fussell examines the intellectual life of the British as they went into World War I, and how it changed as they went through and eventually came out of the first modern war. It’s a beautifully written book, balancing a history of the war itself, literature, poetry, and the biographies of the war’s great literary figures (from Rupert Brooks, to Robert Graves, to Siegfried Sassoon). I can’t find my copy right now, but I distinctly remember him writing that it was the first war were every soldier, from top to bottom, was literate, and even those soldiers from the lowest social echelons were literate in a way we can’t imagine today, casually making reference to Shakespeare, Chaucer, Pope, Bunyan, etc. Even when I lived in England, some 25 years ago, I was impressed with the casual familiarity my British friends had with their country’s great literary works, something I doubt you’d find amongst college students nowadays.

Incidentally, I have in the past recommended another of Fussell’s works, a collection of essays entitled Thank God for the Atom Bomb — a book, interestingly enough, that no longer seems to be in print. In that book, Fussell compelling argued that Truman, in dropping the bomb, was not motivated simply by a desire to show off to the Soviets. Instead, he had before him accurate information that the Japanese intended to fight to the last man, woman and child. They’d already shown staggering, indeed insane, fortitude, in prior engagements with the Marines and the Navy. They’d also shown themselves to be particularly cruel to prisoners (think Bataan Death March). Truman had reason to believe that, even though America would definitely defeat Japan, it could only be done at the cost of another 30,000 – 40,000 American lives, with an almost unlimited number of suicidal Japanese deaths. In this context, it made perfect sense to drop a single bomb that would (a) result in about the same number of Japanese deaths anyway (because no one could have imagined the years of radiation poisoning; (b) end the war in minutes; (c) save tens of thousands of American lives in a war the Japanese started and, oh yes, (d) give the finger to Uncle Joe in Moscow.

As it turned out, Fussell’s theory about the reasonableness of dropping the atom bomb turned out to be right on the money. After decades of historical revisionism that tried to paint the Japanese dead in Hiroshima and Nakasaki as the first and worst victims of America’s heedless plunge into the cold war, recently revealed papers showed that Truman (and Fussell) were right.

Sometimes it’s worth remembering that there might be a certain virtue to the “ripping off the bandaid” school of warfare, since slow bleed warfare can be just as deadly, but possibly even more demoralizing, not only for the inevitable loser in the war, but for the victor too.

UPDATE II: Re Rob’s comment: Rob, did you read the article about the use of computers in Marin County? At great expense, all the kids from 5th grade and up have been given computers, despite the fact that more and more studies are showing that, for at least half the kids in any given class, the only things they learn are (a) how to use computers (which is useful, but could be a discrete class); and (b) how to cheat. Knowledge is not improved and, indeed, analytical abilities go downhill as kids simply get better and better at cutting and pasting, with ever less time going into thinking.

Things are not going to change, however, if the school supe’s comment is anything to go by, a comment that tells much more about educators and this particular superintendent’s ego, than it does about the children’s needs:

“We hosted the Ministry of China here,” said Chris Carter, superintendent of Reed Union School District, of which Del Mar is a part. “A man who wants to know what we do, how we do it — and take it back to 230 million students. And here, we get negative press for it.”

I’ve never had any dealings with this superintendent, but I’ve heard from those who have that this is pretty typical of her attitude: I’m right and everyone else in the whole world is wrong.

UPDATE III: This is a very meandering post. Let me meander back to my point about the atom bomb: Truman properly fulfilled his function, as commander in chief, to dramatically minimize American casualties while still achieving the inevitable end of American victory — an end that would have been equally bloody for the Japanese, although they would have died more traditional deaths, at the receiving ends of bullets, bombs and bayonets.

Over at America’s North Shore Journal, the blog’s proprietor has looked as something the American press routinely ignores in its rush to publish casualty numbers out of Iraq: the proportion of Americans killed in the line of duty to the portion of Jihadis killed. The numbers are striking: our troops are being incredibly effective, while minimizing the risk to themselves — which is, after all, the way wars should be fought, unless you’re a member of the American media or the liberal establishment, in which case you pray for American deaths for reasons of political opportunism.

Speaking of which, I saw in the grocery store a Newsweek cover, which I can find at Newsweek’s website, so I assume it’s old, which asked whether Bush’s departure from White House means America can repair its standing in the world. Or, decoded, it asked whether, when the cowboy who looked after America’s interests leaves, can we please, please, please have either Edwards, or Hillary, or Gore, or Obama, or some other good Democrat who will willingly subordinate America’s interests to UN and European policy makers so that, even as we’re destroyed from the inside out, and from the outside in, liberals won’t have to suffer anymore by being insulted at cocktail parties by the transatlantic cronies.

(Hat tip for update III goes to the temporarily ailing lgf.)

UPDATE IV:  Here’s Cal Thomas on the same report about the British education system.

Quisling continues

Norway's government earned an ugly name for itself during WWII because of the conduct of one Vidkun Quisling. He was the leader of Norway's Nazi party and, after the Germans invaded Norway, he was the Government's first leader. For the remainder of the War, Norway had a collaborationist government. Unlike their leaders, most ordinary Norwegians acquitted themselves fairly well during the war.

Norway is again making decisions about dealing with murderous fascists, since its government just announced that it is planning on opening negotiations with Hamas. This would be the same Hamas that loudly cheered the murder of 9 people in Tel Aviv yesterday, and the brutal injuries inflicted on almost 70 others:

The Norwegian government says it is considering meeting representatives of Hamas during their visit to Oslo in May even though some countries have refused to recognize the new Palestinian government.

"The government believes in dialogue, including with groups whose actions we do not agree with," Norwegian Aid Minister Erik Solheim told public radio NRK.

Solheim did not specify at what level a meeting could be held, saying only that Norwegian high-ranking civil servants or members of parliament could take part.

The spokesman for Hamas' parliamentary group, Salah Bardawil, and Mohammed al-Rantissi are scheduled to visit Oslo on May 15 at the invitation of the Norwegian Palestine Committee, according to Norwegian news agency NTB.

Solheim said Tuesday: "Dialogue is the best way to stress that we cannot accept violence against civilian targets."

"The goal of a dialogue with Hamas must of course be to obtain a progressive change in Hamas' point of view when it comes to resorting to violence and recognizing the state of Israel," he said.

In post-Cold War politics, dialogue is everything; morals, values, and integrity are nothing. I have my doubts, by the way, that the ordinary people of Norway will replicate their WWII conduct and separate themselves from their government's newest Quisling act. Despite the damage Islamic immigrants inflict on ordinary Norwegians, Muslims can proudly announce that Norway as a whole sides resolutely with the fascists in the Middle East, and turns its back on the only Democratic government out there.

Interestingly, on the same day that Norway abandoned any semblance of decency, Japan announced that, while it will continue to honor prior commitments to the Palestinian people, it will not have any future dealings with Hamas. I'd prefer it, of course, if Japan would cut that entire rotten edifice off at the knees (since Hamas is controlling the Palestianians now and will benefit from all funds already promised), but it is still a step in the right direction, and shows Japan acting with a wisdom and integrity utterly absent from most of Europe. I don't know if this represents a Japanese cultural trait, the fact that Japan doesn't have any Islamists within its midsts (so it's not running so scared), or Japan's still close relationship with the US. Regardless of the reason, I'm grateful.

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