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Does the US even have a viable Plan A for HS education?

by ARGeezer Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 12:08:36 AM EST

Education has become a political football in the USA. An appalling number of students emerge with high school diplomas that don't really prepare them for anything practical. Conservatives want to hold the teachers accountable. We have had a changing series of standards and criteria that have succeeded in focusing efforts on preparing students for college. But the support available for college education for those whose families cannot afford to support them has been cut in favor of loans, debt from college loans has exceeded $1 trillion and college graduates are having increasing difficulty finding jobs that will enable them to pay their loans. This situation was the subject of a recent report on the PBS Newshour.

Meanwhile manufacturers, who offer living wage jobs with benefits, are frustrated that a high school diploma is no guarantee that an applicant can adequately perform most tasks in entry level positions. What are these skills? Per Bill Hoffer of Hoffer Plastics Corporation: "They need to be able to read blueprints. They need to follow procedures, document what they're doing. And that's all very important." A high school diploma, even with good grades in math, is no guarantee that the candidate has the needed skills for the job. College prep is not job prep it seems.

Per the PBS segment employers in the Illinois-Indiana area are turning to Work Keys, a program developed by ACT, Inc. It was developed specifically to test for skills employers found necessary and consists of three components - job skills assessment, job analysis and skill training - and the assessment covers twelve  areas described in the link above. Why can't high school math teachers teach these skills?

According to teacher Laurie Nehf of Elgin High School in Indianopolis:

"I'm not told to have them job-ready. I'm told to have them college-ready. I'm focusing on linear functions, quadratic functions, polynomial functions, higher-level types of questions from WorkKeys. Is it important that they know that a negative under a square root creates an imaginary number? No, that's not really that important."

But figures from Elgin High and schools throughout the USA indicate that fewer than 25% of our students are graduating proficient in math according to current standards, focused as they are on college preparation. Says Laurie Nehf:
"They just shut down. They get very frustrated. We won't accept meeting kids where they're at and helping them where they're at.

I would love to spend all my time working on percentages, fractions, all that stuff with number sense. That number sense skills is what matters in the real world.(Emphasis added.)


Some have argued that the US should have a Plan B for students not going to college. But with only 25% graduating with math proficiency the USA does not even have a Plan A, just a brutal hazing of teachers and students administered by a failed series of plans for "excellence" and programs for "accountability". It is the politicians who need to be held accountable. It is time to end the pretense that every student should be, or even can be, prepared for college, whether then want it or not.


Display:
Perhaps instead of piously maintaining the 'expectation' that all students are capable of college we should instead strive to make them workplace ready by 16. It might well be found that the entire system performs better this way. Students from less well off backgrounds could qualify for a decent job by 16 and, with those earnings, some may then chose to prepare for and attend college. Students with high ability should be able to test out of the workplace requirements section by the end of their sophomore year and then have options. Meanwhile we should start downsizing the administrations in our universities.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 12:23:57 AM EST
Er - what decent job would that be?

Functional illiteracy for the working class has become the whole point of education in the US.

Employers are complaining a little, but they'd be complaining a whole lot more if education actually worked to educated workers.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 07:13:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah. They are sufficiently literate that they can read the Bible. That, after all, is the point of literacy. The rest of the dis-function follows from that.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 09:40:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There needs to be a greater focus on assessment.

To be clear, assessment is not simply giving students grades.  It's more than that.  It answers a simple question.  As put forward by an illustrious ex-president:  "Is our children learning?" (Sarcasm.)

It make me sad because the whole "Is our children learning?" line used to kill.  Kids today don't get the joke...   Seriously though, American universities allowed themselves to become nothing more than credentialing factories.  We thrive on the myth of meritocracy, but the truth of the matter is that higher education in America has become transactional.  Money buys a degree, not an education.  And the more prestigious the school, the more bullshit the actual education.

It doesn't have to be this way. But, the problem is that actually answering that question as to whether the kids are learning would be deeply embarrassing, and call into question the whole Horatio Alger mythology we've been conned into believing.  

I'm firmly of the belief that for every course an instructor should specify expected students outcomes. (By the end of the course a student should be able to....)  Moreover, there needs to be an explicit identification of how these outcomes will be achieved.  I could say more on this, but that would drag this out.  

Finally, and this is a touchy subject.  There needs to be some sort of verification.  I strongly favor the idea of pre-test/post-test.  Measure the ability of students demonstrate outcomes before the class, and after the class.  The difference between these two is what actually constitutes education.  In fact, I would favor abandoning the entire system of ranked grades for one focused on mastery of outcomes. If nothing else this would be considerably more consistent than the current system, where grade have different meanings depending on school, instructor, and courses.

Consider the implications of this.  How much actual education, thus defined, actually happens in universities?  And, which institutions actually provide the most education?

In terms of education, taking a student who has mastered perhaps 5% of the outcomes associated with a course prior to entry, and having the leave having mastered 75% of outcomes is an enormous success.

On the other hand, where students enter having mastered 75% of outcomes, and exit having mastered 85% of outcomes, is basically a failure.

Yet, under the present system, we call the former failure, and the latter success.  And we pretend that doing so doesn't reinforce the patterns of pre-existing privilege in our culture.

Does that make even the least bit of sense?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 09:39:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The whole process is symptomatic of the intellectual rot created by MBA-think, where chutzpah and illusory self-aggrandisement become substitutes for insight, creativity, genuine innovation and social value.

The core ethic of neoliberalism is the appearance of competitive heroic value without true substance. So a university or school that goes through the motions of creating the appearance of high-value educational brand is competitively favoured wrt institutions where the children is really learning.

Part of the mythology is the simulation of objectivity where none really exists. So grade games are ideal for creating a pretence of achievement. Objective achievement-based evaluation is too much like hard work.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 12:28:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since the only specific subject mentioned in the diary is "Math", I'll attack from that angle:
"They need to be able to read blueprints. They need to follow procedures, document what they're doing. And that's all very important." ...

...

... Why can't high school math teachers teach these skills?

Reading blueprints, following procedures and documenting what they're doing are not "Math skills". They're general skills cutting across all disciplines. But, seriously, reading comprehension? Why is it not asked why English teacher cannot teach these skills?
I would love to spend all my time working on percentages, fractions, all that stuff with number sense. That number sense skills is what matters in the real world.
Um, fractions and percentages are high school skills? What the heck are children doing in middle school?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 05:49:46 AM EST
Stories from an unnamed uni.

Scene: Faculty Meeting.

Agenda: Faculty Discussion on New Course Introduction to Computation. (MATH 100) Course is to be remedial for students unprepared for Basic Mathematics. (MATH 101)

Question from Prof:  "Is not Basic Mathematics intended to be a remedial course for students unprepared to take the Intro to Math course?

Answer from Admin: "Yes."

Question from Prof:  "So we are adding a remedial course for the remedial course?"

Answer from Admin:  "Yes."

And yes, fractions were part of the curriculum for the original remedial course.  So I guess that we were down to teaching.....  numbers?????

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 09:10:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Still nothing to do with "reading blueprints", "following procedures" and "documenting work".

What conversations about remedial courses do they have over in the English department?

Scene: Faculty Meeting.

Agenda: Faculty Discussion on New Course Introduction to Spelling and Phonics (ENG 100). Course is to be remedial for students unprepared for Basic Writing (ENG 101).

Question from Prof:  "Is not Basic Writing intended to be a remedial course for students unprepared to take the Freshman Composition course?

Answer from Admin: "Yes."

Question from Prof:  "So we are adding a remedial course for the remedial course?"

Answer from Admin:  "Yes."



A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 09:24:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Basically yes.

We have a testing culture in America, but the sad truth is that even AP courses are primarily directed towards students being able to recall knowledge, not make active use of it.

Bloom's taxonomy is useful here.  Most student never move beyond the idea that learning means being able to recite what they've learned.  That's even the way that AP (Advanced Placement, basically knowledge tests that allow a student to be placed in a higher level college course, based upon what they've learned in high school)function.

The whole idea of a liberal arts education is that by progressing towards those higher level skills (applying and analyzing) that you essentially teach students how to make use of new knowledge. Maybe trying to illustrate this with an example helps.

Imagine a level.  Like the tool.   At the most basic level, you teach students what a level looks like.  Metal box.  Little tube in the center with two lines, and a bubble in the middle.  This is simple knowledge, not comprehension.

You can know what a level look like, and have no idea what the hell it does.  Comprehension means that you can tell me what a level does, but you still don't know how to actually use it.  That's a matter of applying the knowledge that you have.  Bubble between lines means that a surface is flat.  You can use the level. You can now use this tool.

Beyond this lies analysis.  Because you know that this bubble tells you that a surface is flat, you can fix the tool if the fluid leaks out of the tube. You can repair the tool, and you're getting a grasp of the principles at work here.  Gravity, relative density, and such.

At the highest level, you can actually make a new level, because you've mastered all the principles needed.

The idea of a liberal arts education is that you learn about topics in a given field, and it is the ability to learn that is the actual skill you pick up.

This a lot easier to explain in person......

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 10:07:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You keep talking about a college-level liberal arts education, but the issue is that people (even the college-bound) come out of secondary education functionally illiterate.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 10:38:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True enough.

I'm speaking to what I know.

And, honestly I think that this is the way that secondary education is designed in the US.

You use the term "functionally illiterate," but I think that we have to be very careful here.  If that phrase is to have any meaning, it has to be connected to some sort of expectation of what students should know. And, the expectation seems to be a very basic level of knowledge.

Part of the problem is that I think there is a tendency to want to have a very broad (in subject terms), but not very deep education at the secondary level.  If you really want to know what the standard are for high school education, look here.

This is one state, but is probably pretty typical. Even this is misleading, because students think know that all they really have to do is memorize.  Most high school tests are multiple choice, and that form doesn't give itself to asking questions that actually answer whether a student understands material.

And, in the end.  Students just don't care, because it's not like there are consequences for being a defiant little bastard and just refusing to do any sort of homework.  If schools try to enforce standards, wealthy parents will just revolt.  

It may be that this is the problem.  Schools aren't expected to enforce standards, and there's pushback if they try to do so. So students grow up in an environment where there are few, if any, expectations.

The very idea of public education, that the State should be determining what your children learn is somehow suspect.  So you get charters, etc....  Which promise to improve the situation, but make it worse.

And now I am being entirely jaded.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 11:19:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For definiteness, I call "functionally illiterate" to be unable to meet the following standard which has nothing to do with "knowledge" or even "information" or "trivia"
ACT WorkKeys includes twelve workplace skill assessments:

  • Applied Mathematics - applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems
The dreaded "word problems" in mathematics classes.

  • Applied Technology - understanding technical principles as they apply to the workplace
  • Business Writing - composing clear, well-developed messages relating to on-the-job situations
  • What, no powerpoint?

  • Listening - being able to listen to and understand work-related messages
  • Locating Information - using information from sources such as diagrams, floor plans, tables, forms, graphs, and charts
  • Workplace Observation - paying attention to details in instructions and demonstrations
  • Reading for Information - comprehending work-related reading materials such as memos, bulletins, policy manuals, and governmental regulations
  • What, no powerpoint?

  • Teamwork - choosing behavior that furthers workplace relationships and accomplishes work tasks
  • Writing - measures the skills individuals use when they write messages that relay workplace information between people
  • What, no powerpoint?

  • Performance - related to attitudes toward work and the person's tendency to engage in unsafe work behaviors
  • Talent - includes dependability, assertiveness, and emotional stability
  • Fit - how interests and values correspond to a particular career


  • A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 11:24:22 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    </snark>

    Power Point is a tool for presenting all of the desired understandings, not a substitute for knowing how to organize one's thoughts. Without the former Power Point just becomes another meaningless computer skill.

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 11:58:26 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Don't dis making slide decks before you've had to make one to present a multi-million dollar business case...

    It actually is an acquired skill, and one that, like concision and intelligibility, is not well respected in academia. Presumably because it is believed that there is a tradeoff between precision and concision and between correctness and intelligibility. Which is not as false as some consultants would have you believe... but not as true as some professors hold either.

    - Jake

    Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

    by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 12:28:16 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I suspect that, to a large portion of the US population, education consists of memorization and regurgitation. Worse, I have known too many adults who related school experiences of having been accused of lying when the answer to a question 'just came to them'. To authoritarians the answers come from the top of the hierarchy - often from God by scripture or direct revelation in the distant past. The result is that perhaps the majority of students learn not to trust themselves to be able to arrive at an answer on their own by just having the answer just come to them. Such people are, effectively, mentally paralyzed. To authoritarians and sociopaths this is a feature, not a bug and that is part of why such functional paralysis is as common as it is.

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 12:40:21 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    They come out inadequately educated (functionally illiterate is probably a bit strong) because they were overwhelmed. Unrealistic goals don't help. Challenges are good; asking the impossible is not. If you set expectations a lot beyond an individual's limit, results will drop.

    Giving everybody a college education is not a realistic goal. You need to divide those who can realistically go to college from those who cannot and school them in a different way.

    by oliver on Tue Jan 28th, 2014 at 02:09:08 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Drafting used to teach not just how to create a drawing but also how symbols are used and how the drawings are to be interpreted. CAD programs teach the same skills. But they have become much less common than drafting or mechanical drawing. I disliked my high school drafting course as there was too much emphasis on pretty lettering - never my strength. I taught myself everything else I needed to know to create two sided PCB layouts and specify the construction of boards, including gold plating of terminals, the fabrication of panels and enclosures for audio consoles, down to spec.ing the screw size and thread, preparing the silkscreening of the panels in two colors, etc.

    Because I was in a liberal arts curriculum for my BS I never had to take the time intensive college level mechanical drawing required of engineering students at the time. But, when the need arises I can sketch a recognizable representation of a three dimensional view by pencil - with a few erasures. That was sufficient for my needs in my profession.

    What is needed for students to qualify for entry level jobs is just a basic understanding of the presentation system underlying the drawing. A good drawing is an art work. An old engineering maxim is: "The art of engineering is in the presentation." That is true, even though there is a lot of bad art in that market. But the students don't need to be artists to succeed, though some are.    

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 06:03:43 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    What the heck are children doing in middle school?

    In 7th grade my son was taking pre-algebra. Granted, it was a magnet school, but I don't know if ratios and proportions were taught. Not as important as getting them ready for algebra in 8th, etc. so they can have trig in 11th and calculus at least by 12th.

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 01:32:53 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    If you don't have long division down by end-fifth and fractions and percentages by end-sixth, then someone is doing something wrong.

    The Danish curriculum looked something like this when I went to school:

    Primary:
    1st: Addition
    2nd: Subtraction
    3rd: Multiplication
    4th: Simple division and ratios
    5th: Long division, percentages, classical trig.
    6th: Algebra, more classical trig.
    7th: Moar algebra
    8th: Functions of one variable and general catchup for those who didn't get the 1st-7th curriculum the first time around.
    9th: Moar catchup.

    Secondary:
    10th-12th (in no standardized order): Calculus in univariate functions, vectors, analytical geometry.

    In my opinion, everything above 5th on this progression should be optional

    Everything from 5th down needs to be mandatory, because it requires the sort of drilling you can really only do to a captive audience: Nobody in the history of ever has voluntarily done four to five thousand simple arithmetic problems over a span of four to five years. But that's roughly what it takes for a person of average aptitude to become functionally numerate from a cold start.

    Additionally, in my dream world, 6th and 7th would displace 8th and 9th, and the 6th and 7th years should be used for (mandatory) basic statistical literacy, with a focus on how to (spot people who) lie with numbers - mean vs. median in skewed distributions; fun with time series; build-your-own histogram; units, axes, scaling. With modern computer assistance you don't really need algebra to understand statistics at a "citizen level." People who go into Serious Math will, of course, need to take formal statistics, but not everyone will do that.

    - Jake

    Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

    by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 01:03:17 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    From the link:
    ACT WorkKeys includes twelve workplace skill assessments:

    • Applied Mathematics - applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems
    • Applied Technology - understanding technical principles as they apply to the workplace
    • Business Writing - composing clear, well-developed messages relating to on-the-job situations
    • Listening - being able to listen to and understand work-related messages
    • Locating Information - using information from sources such as diagrams, floor plans, tables, forms, graphs, and charts
    • Workplace Observation - paying attention to details in instructions and demonstrations
    • Reading for Information - comprehending work-related reading materials such as memos, bulletins, policy manuals, and governmental regulations
    • Teamwork - choosing behavior that furthers workplace relationships and accomplishes work tasks
    • Writing - measures the skills individuals use when they write messages that relay workplace information between people
    • Performance - related to attitudes toward work and the person's tendency to engage in unsafe work behaviors
    • Talent - includes dependability, assertiveness, and emotional stability
    • Fit - how interests and values correspond to a particular career
    In other words, people are graduating high school functionally illiterate. The claim is being made that they are college-ready but not work-ready, but if you don't have these skills you will flunk out of your first year at college.

    What is the real issue here? Because sure as Hell it's not that college skills are competing with work skills for attention at the K-12 stage.

    A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 05:56:21 AM EST
    The problem seems to be that by defining the goal of education as college prep we succeed in preparing a small percentage of students, at least half of whom were probably going to qualify on the basis of acquired family knowledge and skills, to be successful in college. Meanwhile, by our own definitions, over 75% of students fail to become proficient in math by traditional definitions while somewhere over half become functionally literate, by traditional definitions. For the employer the result is that less than a third of candidates that are high school graduates actually possess needed skills.

    Part of the problem is attitudinal and developmental - adolescence in contemporary USA. A capable student who is actively disinterested will not learn in spite of almost all effort by others.

    I have personal experience of frustrated efforts with a nephew who blew off all attempts to help him with algebra and chemistry yet graduated with 'honors' from a Los Angeles performing arts magnet only to be placed in remedial courses for both math and English when he enrolled in one of the California State Universities. (This is the norm now.) He was a talented musician but did not finish his first quarter at university. Once he turned 18 he did whatever he wanted.

    When he became interested he did just fine. He joined the Air Force to get trained as a fire fighter and paramedic, was deployed to Kyrgystan in 2002, married the daughter of a fireman, at first he took what  openings he could find and is now a captain in a municipal fire department. So much energy is devoted to maintenance of self esteem in adolescence that it is very difficult for children with adverse home situations to do well and my nephew had had conflicts with his father before he came to stay with us to finish high school.

    Then too, to many of us at ET ratios and proportions, reading symbolic information from prints, being able to obtain and use detailed information from written documents and to compose competent written business documents seems trivial. But it appears it is not. So perhaps it would be better for all if we adopted Laurie Nehf's recommendation and met students where they are and did all we could to at least insure that they possessed the skills to earn a living when they exited high school. If nothing else this would better expose the problem of job shortages. If students could leave school at age 16 with a degree that meant something to employers, the remainder of high school might be more productive for those who are interested in college. And if even the college bound became certified as competent for the workplace they would be better positioned for work-study programs and have a Plan B.

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 11:52:17 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Migeru:
    What is the real issue here?

    Possibilities of the top of my head (though it turns out most of them has been covered):

    • Serfs are supposed to be illiterate (see TBG)

    • Upholding a sham meritocracy (see MfM)

    • Learning obedience (see ARGeezer). Long tradition of this in schools, I think the 19th century public education built on christian sunday schools.

    • Declining status of education (see MfM). I would also add that declining status of education and academia is logical and necessary if the business class is going to dominate in explaining the world.

    • Destroy and plunder the public sector.

    • Path dependency. There might not be any point of high school for all, but they are there.


    Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
    by A swedish kind of death on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 01:24:41 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I recommend the diary because I asked for it, but srsly...

    A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 07:25:18 AM EST
    An additional complication is that the entire question is infested with class politics.

    Possibly the most damaging thing to happen to both academia and craftsmanship is the way the leisure class has latched on to "superior education" as justification for their privilege.

    It's damaging for those who become craftsmen, because they are denied their fair share of political power.

    It's damaging for those who are incited to join academia for the privileges offered to academics (both those offered to academics and the privileges pretend-offered to academics but in reality only available to the leisure class). They have a much higher risk of washing out, a couple of dozen thousand bucks in the hole from student loans.

    And it's damaging for society's ability to materially provision itself, because the people who join academia for the perks would probably be more productive doing skilled labor.

    At least rule by divine right only fucked up theology...

    - Jake

    Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

    by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 01:51:52 PM EST
    At least rule by divine right only fucked up theology...

    Nah, they fucked up most of what they touched. One of the biggest complaints about James I was his use of patents to grant sinecures to his courtiers. Of course it didn't help that he was bi-sexual and some of the patents, such as for salt, were given to gay lovers. It was Puritan England, after all. But some things never seem to change. If you have divine right who could question your choice of sex partners? How impertinent of those Puritan divines.  

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 01:25:23 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    There is terminology confusion between "education" and "training."  Business wants trained workers with a list of skills.  (And they want them without having to pay for training programs.)  Education is an on-going process of acquiring wisdom (call it.)    

     

    She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

    by ATinNM on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 02:31:30 PM EST
    The last 25 years were full of education reforms at any level and everywhere. So much talk about performance, practical skills, creativity - but where are we now after those years? Certainly in math skills, the general level fell sadly and universally. Similar direction for most other sciences. Creativity, human skills? Very skewed outcomes, from really good to clueless.

    Education was critized at all times, remember
    "need no, need no education,
    need no, need no thought control..."
    ?
    Little did we knew then, how useless and manipulative education can be. There were old theories that education systems were created for industrial obedience from the start - but what can we say then about today? The rigid public education before the 80s had drawbacks - but it is one thing to say that we can (or have to) improve creativity development or what else, and the other thing is to see improvement happening on a wide scale (not just in elite schools).

    The status of teachers, educators changed dramatically. They are now under most pressure and blame. But training excelent teachers requires resources. How much public investment do we see for that? Funding policies became so miserable, that we might as well forget systematic improvements. Parents or students have to pay for everything - while most benefits go to some creditors and industry shareholders.

    And then there are visible class war shifts. Parents are now psyched about the competative aspect of education, ready to pay up (if able) for escalating private education. We have seen regulators actually deregulating finances, ecology. It is then thinkable that a central Education department is not just ignorant about rural kids in Kansas, but in fact is hostile towards them. Plan A, you asked?

    by das monde on Sat Jan 25th, 2014 at 05:10:29 PM EST
    As a reluctant educator, I have a rather jaundiced opinion of the purpose and feasibility of education.

    School learning is a poor fit for a variable portion of the population.  A lot of kids don't want to be in school, they don't want to listen in class, and they don't want to do homework.  I didn't want to be in school, listen in class, or do homework when I was young, so I understand entirely.  I think the proportion of kids who don't want to be in school and who resist the whole process has also been rising in recent generations, as it's become less of a route upwards and more of a meaningless series of hoops that guarantee nothing.  Why work hard towards a pointless goal?

    It's also pretty useless for much other than professions whose basic skills are dependent on school learning - historian, for example.

    The whole system should be scrapped.  Elementary-age kids should have various fun organized activities with other people their age, some of which might be educational.  They are pretty easy to manage, and don't resent adult guidance, and need to learn how to be social.

    People from 12-15 are pretty much useless from an educational standpoint.  Too much important physical and social development stuff is going on.  Sure, a tiny braniac minority can learn a lot during this age, but even for them it's not necessarily the best way to use their time.  Put them into a supervised work service program.  Go dig ditches in the forest and live in barracks, and be stupid teenagers for a few years.

    Then give people a choice.  Some can go to school and learn stuff, others can live as adults and build work skills.  If something needs to be learned later on, learn it later on, once the need is clear and the motivation is present.  Really, we don't need all that many people with serious professional skills and abilities anyway - the idea that everyone will have an academic or professional job is just silly, and lots of jobs can be learned to a very high level by on-the-job learning.

    Obviously, this will never work so long as going to the right school and studying the right thing is a clear class marker.  An educational system better matched to human development and ability will only really be possible once education is no longer tied to class status and achievement, and that will really only be possible in a classless society.  So good luck with that.

    by Zwackus on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 08:15:13 AM EST
    Zwackus:
    School learning is a poor fit for a variable portion of the population.  A lot of kids don't want to be in school, they don't want to listen in class, and they don't want to do homework.  I didn't want to be in school, listen in class, or do homework when I was young, so I understand entirely.  I think the proportion of kids who don't want to be in school and who resist the whole process has also been rising in recent generations, as it's become less of a route upwards and more of a meaningless series of hoops that guarantee nothing.  Why work hard towards a pointless goal?

    totally agree... with the internet one can pursue self-education like never before, once one is alphabetic and numerate it's a feast for the curious.

    school -as is- is redundant, a form of lobotomy. it can take years to heal the psychic lesions from bad schooling and rediscover the joy of using one's intellect for the sheer deliciousness of it.

    Zwackus:

    Go dig ditches in the forest

    better plant trees!

    when it comes to american ed, it's a big problem that to be incurious is seen as cool.

    asia will eat our lunch because the idea of family obedience and economic progress through education is more real to them than it is in the 'west'. it's cardinal, it's religion to them. a means to an end... money, social climbing.

    we tend to have a more idealised form of educational philosophy, enlightenment through developing the 'higher faculties' bla bla. nice idea but it doesn't pay the bills in today's world for all but a few.

    being able to work electrical circuits, basic plumbing, building skills (taught in HS in morocco), these are worth something in the real world.

    in india i read they teach old grannies to become economically independent through maintaining solar arrays, yet there's no equivalent chez nous.

    it wouldn't surprise me if in 50 years we are back to 90% working the land, as before the industrial revolution. just add high speed broadband, renewables and cheap public transport and parochialism is over.

    learning the skills needed to farm, to preserve, to use natural modes of healing, these will be more useful than any number of MBA degrees.

    and justly so... it's community that sustains and grounds people, and industrial capitalism shreds that social fabric as surely as it rapes and pollutes the commons that sustained those of the community who weren't whizzkids of some form.

    of course if we paid teachers a lot more, and created more playful curricula, we might see big changes.

    'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

    by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 08:45:47 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    with the internet one can pursue self-education like never before, once one is alphabetic and numerate it's a feast for the curious.
    Is school even delivering literacy and numeracy?

    A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 08:49:24 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    i think it's doing the basics, yes.

    of course your value of basics will differ!

    as zwackus says, if a student has no will to learn there's nothing to be done, but basic alfabetism and numeracy can be taught before the hormonal desire to differentiate and rebel kick in.

    if they haven't learnt those basics by adolescence, something's badly wrong not even covered by this diary.

    'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

    by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 09:27:57 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    It's funny about Asia.  I teach in Japan, and see the same lack of motivation here as elsewhere.  Since the bubble burst and Japan has been on a more level economic trajectory, the payoff for hard-core grinding has simply disappeared, and it's reflected in the younger generations.  A distinct majority simply doesn't want to go through the miserable and soul-destroying level of study necessary in the "traditional" educational track, so they don't.  The life you get in return isn't that much better than the life you'd get otherwise, and the traditional educational track more or less demands that one skip out on being a teenager and doing all the age-typical fun teenage stuff - all for the promise of working in a miserable office job in the future.
    by Zwackus on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 07:40:03 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    yeah the whole point of deferred gratification was to get greater gratification... remove that and all that's left is just another con.

    japan is a special asian case compared to the other tiger economies as they embraced modernism with such scary gusto it has even taken their sex drive away.

    ... or channeled it into geisha blowup anime dollette worship

    'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

    by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 04:30:03 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    japan is a special asian case compared to the other tiger economies
    Compared with South Korea and Taiwan it was pretty much the same regarding the brutal grind of preparatory schools.

    A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 04:31:57 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    certainly, my point was it was the first asian economy to go taylorist with a vengeance, and as such is a bellwether of sorts.

    or canary?

    'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

    by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 05:42:27 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    There is just no gas for modernism anymore. Japan is getting grip of this reality first. Back to feudal lordship, with a turbo help from financial judgement days (whether 1991 or 2008). If you are not among the alpha circle, there is not much point in sex.
    by das monde on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 06:09:26 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    das monde:
    If you are not among the alpha circle, there is not much point in sex.

    that worked out well for the Hapsburgs...

    i guess Japan shows us where uber-modernism crashes into its gaudy limits. the once-rutting plebs self-geld with internet addiction while the power to light up tokyo so it's visible from mars plumes its untreatable waste into the biosphere non-stop.

    but no fear that Cameron would be so imbecilic as to... oh wait.

    'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

    by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 07:50:37 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Some alphas are not like others.

    Peak growth shows a lot of entropy waste indeed. But is Japanese modernism still that relatively gaudy? Just remains of the legend, I tell. The market for technological awe is shrinking, the supply as well. Internet addiction is as special as their financial bubble, and even radioactive waste is repeatable anywhere.

    by das monde on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 09:18:58 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    a proper modernism is needed, but the hyper version japan demonstrates is actually entropy on steroids.

    'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
    by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 07:52:44 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    There is just no gas for modernism anymore.

    Modernism that so disproportionately benefits the elites does seem to be increasingly discredited. The currently dominant 'globalization' the reducto ad absurdum of the Enlightenment value of 'univerasalism, is only being advanced by elites renting or hiring the politicians and has very little popular support. Unfortunately the only ready alternative is 'traditionalism', which throws us all back on the whims of the elite. We are left with a fruitless dichotomy which must be transcended if we are to survive. That is the test that matters.

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 10:18:24 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I mean literally: there is not enough gas, oil, other dirty stuff to pump up the modernism with contemporary means. Big choices do depend on available resources. In the recent modernism, the elites were fluid and did not drastically differentiate themselves. Now we are probably heading back to more primate-lite societies. Do we know how else we can order more limited benefits?
    by das monde on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 10:57:56 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    ARGeezer:
    We are left with a fruitless dichotomy which must be transcended if we are to survive.

    transcending it is so 60's, it worked as an escape valve, but ultimately just that...

    turn on, tune in, drop out was an open invitation too political passivity, enabling the rummies and boltons and negropontes to make ground over the next three decades.

    transcendence's only real function is to prepare for death, helping us to stay sane in a crazy era.

    it doesn't get the legwork done.

    i wish i knew what did... the closest i have seen is the 5*ers, who are writing a new book on participatory democracy.

    as for the comments about japan and the rest of asia, japan was the first to take on western consumerism and then asianise it, taking it global so toyota and sony became the new coke and pepsi.

    then followed malaysia, singapore, s. korea and china all racing to do to japan what japan had done to us!

    so it goes... give man a brain, he'll figure out how to use it to poke himself in the eye.

    'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

    by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 10:23:52 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    In this context I use 'transcend' to refer to finding a path through the dilemma so as to avoid being gored by one, the other or both of the horns. The question is not whether some individuals can do this. Some can. The question is can entire societies do this facing the current problems. I believe we can, but wonder if we will.

    "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
    by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 10:49:46 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    No, Japan is not all that special when it comes to educational insanity.  As mentioned, China and Korea and Taiwan all have more or less the same educational system, and the same grind-for-success mentality.  It's worse in South Korea now than it ever was at the height of Japan's bubble economy.
    by Zwackus on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 07:06:47 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    And in response to the whole "giving up on sex" thing, that's a ridiculously overblown phenomenon of the Tokyo middle and upper-middle classes and their struggling spawn.  The same fools who cram their life away to get into Tokyo University are the same ones who end up as broken individuals in all kinds of ways, including in their sexual health and personal life. It's commonly said that people who get into Tokyo University are strange, and it's because they are broken by the process.

    There's a vibrant working class culture, especially in the areas of greater Tokyo outside the metropolis, of people connected in one way or another to the industrial economy and its associated service professions.  They are not broken and lame as are too many Tokyo strivers, they have active personal lives, get married at a variety of ages, and have a good number of kids.  It is from this class that Japan's small-business owners and entrepreneurs often come as well, as they've not been broken by the system.

    by Zwackus on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 07:12:59 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Zwackus:
     The same fools who cram their life away to get into Tokyo University are the same ones who end up as broken individuals in all kinds of ways, including in their sexual health and personal life. It's commonly said that people who get into Tokyo University are strange, and it's because they are broken by the process.

    residual dna from too-recent emperor-worship, a certain national superiority complex rooted in suicidal fanaticism, medieval honour codes institutionalised, all leading to blinkered thinking.

    fascinating... how much of that is true also of england, that other rainy little island that morphed to a surprisingly disproportionate degree of global influence.

    not that it's exclusive to islands or anything...

    'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

    by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 10:31:20 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Foreign media misrepresenting japan as a theme park of the strange? Say it isn't so!
    by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 28th, 2014 at 03:00:13 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I was going to write a comment, but it got really long, so I posted a diary instead.
    by rifek on Tue Feb 4th, 2014 at 10:09:53 PM EST


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