Indoctrination Camps

Steve Benen at the Wash­ing­ton Month­ly has a post up about the Repub­li­cans who want to do away with pub­lic schools. He quotes Rick San­to­rum talk­ing about Mussolini’s Fas­cist Italy. His uncle

used to get up in a brown shirt and march and be told how to be a good lit­tle fascist.…I don’t know, maybe they called it ear­ly pre‑K or some­thing like that, that the gov­ern­ment spon­sored to get your chil­dren in there so they can indoc­tri­nate them.

The upshot here is that there are sev­er­al Repub­li­cans who are increas­ing­ly will­ing to talk about doing away with pub­lic schools alto­geth­er. This amounts to a will­ing­ness to do away with uni­ver­sal edu­ca­tion (since they would even­tu­al­ly want to cut the vouch­ers to less than what schools charge).

What’s fun­ny here is when have the schools not been about indoc­tri­na­tion as well as edu­ca­tion? When I was in school, we said the Pledge of Alle­giance (“under God”) every day. What is that if not indoctrination?

Con­ser­v­a­tives have lost the bat­tle over con­trol of the indoc­tri­na­tion mes­sage and their final last ditch effort is to do away with pub­lic edu­ca­tion alto­geth­er in hopes that the vast major­i­ty of pri­vate schools will indoc­tri­nate the way the Con­ser­v­a­tives want.

To recap: when the com­plaint is that the schools are indoc­tri­nat­ing, they mean the schools are indoc­tri­nat­ing the wrong thing.

When they want to do away with pub­lic schools, they want to do away with uni­ver­sal education.

Voucher Study

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Arkansas has a report out on how Mil­wau­kee’s school vouch­er pro­gram is doing. Fred­er­ick Hess writes at The Enter­prise Blog:

Wolf, who has led this effort as well as the fed­er­al­ly endorsed eval­u­a­tion of the D.C. vouch­er pro­gram, sum­ma­rized, “Vouch­er stu­dents are show­ing aver­age rates of achieve­ment gain sim­i­lar to their pub­lic school peers.” Trans­la­tion: when it comes to test scores, stu­dents with vouch­ers are per­form­ing no dif­fer­ent­ly than oth­er kids.

If I recall cor­rect­ly, I many times heard the argu­ment for vouch­ers to include the idea that a vouch­er sys­tem would improve the pub­lic schools which had to com­pete for stu­dents. That being the case, that the vouch­er stu­dents “are per­form­ing no dif­fer­ent­ly than the oth­er kids” would be the ide­al, not a fail­ure. And there is the “stu­dents are show­ing aver­age rates of achieve­ment gain…” Gain over what?

There is this from Hess: “black stu­dents in the pub­lic schools have the low­est read­ing scores of any cohort of black stu­dents in the coun­try.” So that would seem to indi­cate that there has not been much improve­ment. But maybe only the most chal­leng­ing black stu­dents remain in the pub­lic schools and the rest got into the vouch­er system.

I am too lazy to read the study itself so right now I am a bit con­fused over whether the vouch­er sys­tem failed or not.

Hat tip to Jonathan Chait at The New Republic.

We Fail To Teach Because We Are Afraid of What Will Be Learned

Louann has an inter­est­ing post up at Holt and Beyond con­cern­ing a fifth grade boy she has under­tak­en to tutor.

I scrapped the text­book after one night of try­ing to read it. I swear text­books destroy brain cells. I told the boy that I didn’t like the book. He looked sur­prised and then pleased. He said, “It’s bor­ing, isn’t it?”

Bor­ing indeed. And the boy’s per­cep­tion of that could more eas­i­ly be evi­dence of the boy’s intel­li­gence than it is evi­dence that he is dumb.

And why are his­to­ry text­books so awful? Because too many peo­ple have input into them. On the one hand, there are com­mit­tees of “edu­ca­tors” decid­ing what fac­toids should be learned by all stu­dents. Then the text book is writ­ten to include all of the fac­toids. This ren­ders, at best, a tor­tur­ous nar­ra­tive. Then there are the peo­ple who mon­i­tor all the edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to root out any bias they per­ceive. God for­bid a child learns any­thing that might be ideological.

There is a near­ly end­less sup­ply of great read­ing his­to­ry and biog­ra­phy books, the read­ing of any one of which would lead to more learn­ing than the entire­ty of text­books. But these books can not help but con­tain some bias or another.

The empha­sis on fac­toids yields very poor results. Few remem­ber the fac­toids for long and few have any under­stand­ing of the forces of his­to­ry since that was nev­er taught to begin with.

Note: Some of this was post­ed as a com­ment to the linked Holt and Beyond post.

Some Thought Must Have Been Involved

The ques­tion often aris­es “What were they think­ing?!” Or, more often, in my own mind “What was I think­ing!?” In my expe­ri­ence the answer to such ques­tions (expe­cial­ly the lat­ter) is invari­ably “Think­ing? There was no think­ing involved.”

But there must have been some thought involved at the Low­er Meri­on School Dis­trict in a Philadel­phia sub­urb. They man­aged to enable them­selves to spy on the stu­dents, even when the stu­dents were at home, through the lap­top web­cams. This did not just happen.

This leads to the ques­tion “How did these peo­ple come to be in charge of edu­cat­ing our children?”

Noth­ing leads a child down the straight and nar­row like the feel­ing of not being trust­ed, right?