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?