German philosopher Schiller in a work entitled "The Miad of Orleans"
(1801) remarked, "Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in
vain." Interestingly, that phrase became the source of a science
fiction book by Isaac Asimov. However, in my wanderings and musings, it
led me to formulate an attempt at a corollary that appears below. It
seems to hold some watrer in the year 2014.
There is little to be said for mere
stupidity, except that it seems to be in ascendance lately. Here is an
expression I constructed that expresses the idea:
"No mental tool
honed by human intellect, curiosity and experience can long resist
being dulled by simple ignorance or stupidity." R. J. Kizlik,
What should be learned?
When it should be
learned? How we are to know it has been learned? Who is responsible for the actual
learning? How is learning facilitated? What arrangements and systems are best
suited for these purposes? What is the appropriate role of government in education?
How do online college
programs fit into the new and traditional systems for
delivering higher education? Are charter schools really the answer to the
persistent problems of public school education? All of these questions are
fundamental. How we answer them have grave implications for this increasingly important and visible part of the culture. There is
no paucity of opinion on these topics.
There is so much information produced by
government, commissions, special interest groups, academicians, and school systems
themselves, that one may question whether the status and effectiveness of
formal education in the United States are even remotely knowable or understandable.
Perhaps, but from children killing other children and their teachers, to lack of respect
of students for their schools and teachers, to allegations of rampant waste and a
"dumbed down" curriculum in both the K-12 and college systems, the societal
function of education is under fire. Many would argue rightfully so. Adding to all of
this is an army of education "experts" and
"consultants" who often advocate solutions to education problems that
sooner or later become sources of future problems. Somehow the skills,
knowledge, and will necessary to actually improve the system are lost in a sea of recycled
fads and meaningless jargon. We have a hard time separating the wheat from the chaff and
keeping the wheat. Vouchers, charter schools, and the growing home schooling movement
add to the already bewildering milieu. "Facts" shift daily, and the
interpretation of the information that rains down upon us all is colored by political,
philosophical, personal, and yes, even religious agendas. What are we to believe? In whom are we to trust? Are
U.S. schools doing better or worse now than a few decades ago? Can the system actually be
improved? What is improvement anyhow?
Beyond that are questions about priorities and who determines what these
priorities are, what the costs of attaining them are.
Recently, it was revealed to me by an
impeccable source that a university with which I have deep ties and
experience, in at least one of its departments, will implement a policy
that professors and other teaching staff such as instructors may not
fail more than 10% of their students. This is madness of the first
order, but not surprising given that over 40% of incoming freshmen in
state universities take at least one remedial course. It is coming
to pass that a thick percentage of college students are taking a lot of
high school level courses during their first two years. A perfect
exemplar of Chthonica.
I often wonder,
in times of reflection on a long career as an educator if those who make the
big decisions about curriculum, staffing, organization, policy and yes
funding, have actually learned anything from the experiences of the past 50
years. My gut feeling is not really. Have these people no shame
in simply declaring the latest "research" proves one thing works so much
better than what it is intended to replace? To a large extent, every
educational research study could end with the simple declarative sentence,
"It all depends." And therein lies the rub.
now approaching the end of 2013. The economic crisis in which the world is immersed is
improving in some countries and becoming worse in others. Perhaps really hard choices will have to be made about "value,"
especially in our education expenditures. In my rather long career, I saw
unfathomable waste of money, due to the way institutions are funded, and the
entrenched systems that perpetuate the resistance to change and economy. Of
course, when tax supported education had a seemingly endless source of
funding, everything was on the table. Now, even the table is in jeopardy.
Personally, I am among many who are quite
skeptical of education reform efforts. Experience can be instructive, sometimes
uplifting, and other times chthonic to say the least. In my career in education I
have seen "reform" ideas come and go, and then like Lazarus, rise from the dead
to be reborn under different, often more "catchy" names. Other reform ideas remind me of the Frankenstein
monster - "programs" cobbled together from the dead, unworkable parts of other
failed ideas. And on and on the cycle goes. In education, there is plethora of
information but a paucity of knowledge. The problem is, we in education often treat
information as if it were knowledge, with predictable, often disastrous results.
of the relationship between the supply of a service or product and its price
and demand has always interested me. For centuries economists have sought to
explain this dynamic relationship, giving rise to a variety of schools of
thought and models that claim to predict what will happen when one of the
variables changes. There are the so-called "supply side" enthusiasts,
proponents of Arthur Laffler inventor of the "Laffer
Curve." They ushered in their ideas with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
It really didn't work very well, but millions of people were convinced it
was the right track. This is just a little background to say a
few things about vouchers and the charter school movement. Point one:
quality education services (meaning excellent teachers, good curricula, and
concomitant facilities) are not in abundant supply. Repeat, they
are not in abundant supply. The notion of giving "poor kids" or
kids from poorly performing schools a voucher that they can take to some
other (read private or religious) school ) and thereby get a quality
education is crazy. Just think for a moment about it and you have to see
schools are something of a derivative of the voucher idea, except in this
case, the voucher is given to a private corporation to operate one or more
schools. The voucher is based on the same funding formula as public schools.
From first hand experience, I know that on the average, charter schools pay
teachers anywhere from 30 to 60 percent less than the public school rate.
Although the jury is still out on whether charter school student
performance on standardized academic tests is better, worse or the same as
that of public school students, the fact remains that this movement will
surely gain ground in the coming years, simply because its proponents are,
in the words of the late Eric Hoffer "true believers."
This is a risky page. It is also a
serious page. Many, including some of my former colleagues, will not like it. Too bad. Here
you will find links to other sites that present different, sometimes even dark
and contrary viewpoints. Thinking is required here, as well it should be. The sites listed
below are not "Smiley Face" mentality
sites. God knows, there are enough of them already. They are, however, sites
that contain information that can help you separate the wheat from the chaff and keep the
wheat. There is, you know, a lot of chaff out there.
This site includes a lot
of information and links about not sending children to public schools, or
for that matter any schools . While I think this is a bad, bad idea, I
include it here for you to read and make up your own mind.
Should Teach? Quality Counts 2000
is a special report from Education Week. Funded by the Pew Foundation,
you'll find this an excellent summary of how well we educate teachers in all 50
states. Something of an eye-opener.
The Grandfather Education Report
This is a thought provoking place, with some of the best information about
education available anywhere.
The Society for a
Return to Academic Standards
concerned with the erosion of academic standards share their thoughts, anecdotes, and
Unique, to say the least. It's about knowledge, and is an interesting
example of "web weaving."
Center for Education Information
provoking site for serious minds. A different slant on the "teacher shortage."
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Want information about
education that is not homogenized, pasteurized, or otherwise dumbed down? Go there. The
site also contains reviews of state education standards.
Kossor Education Newsletter
This is different, and
certainly challenges all of us to think differently about education.
A great source of articles, opinions, and commentary about everything from
school vouchers to home schooling.
Coalition of Essential
A serious place. The "less is
more" philosophy is explained. Go there and find out what this means.
The National Center for Policy Analysis
Different, and disturbing, this site features a wealth
of information on topics ranging from teacher preparation to standardized testing.
Generation Y Wants to Like, Teach
get the idea.
A rather somber look at what incoming
American college students know and don't know about their own history and
Paolo Freire Information Read about this radical pedagogist. His ideas and insights will challenge
you. Some have called him "the most profound education thinker of the 20th
Science I couldn't resist this one. A cornucopia of science
misconceptions from a variety of sources, some of them quite surprising.
"Anything not understood in more
than one way is not understood at all."
thriller novel I wrote for the Kindle:
The Bucci Strain: Imprint
Robert Kizlik &