Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's About The Kids!!! (Education)

Each generation looks at ones behind it and says something along the lines of  "kids today...".

In many of the previous generations, the commentary was usually prompted by the current pop culture coupled with current technology. Jazz came about with the "Swing Generation". Rock and Roll came about. Hippies joined with folk and "protest rock" to define a generation. Then we had Disco battling with Punk Rock. Next we had the nu-wave, hair metal, and Rap. Then Rap and Grunge.

Among these we had radio, then movies, then television, then color television, then cable, then satellite. Now we have the internet and iTunes.

These sorts of pop-art and technology shifts have brought about eye-rolls, that "kids today..." comment, and statements about values, work ethic, and morality. The simple fact is that we advance as a species. Our technology advances. Our art follows suit. Looking back, we still have held certain values and morals dear. Murder is wrong. Slavery is wrong. We are born with certain inalienable Natural Rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness also known as Private Property.

However, Ayn Rand wrote a great essay in her book Return To The Primitive about "Comprachicos". In the essay, she indicted progressive programs in some colleges and kindergartens for indoctrinating students with  socialist ideals. In 1971, she cautioned against the government school system heading down that road. It is frightening how prophetic some of her extrapolations have become.

I attended a public grade school and a private high school. I can tell you that my grade school days were largely devoid of much socialist indoctrination. But it was there, in some classes. These days, however, I look at the kids in the generations behind me. I do not say "kids today...". Instead I worry about them. I look at my generation and the older members of the one behind it. I ask them "what are you teaching to the kids today?".

An Economics Professor named Jack Chambless has appeared on Neal Boortz's radio program a few times. Hearing him speak prompted me to start reading his blog. I do not always agree with his perspectives on some subjects. However, I learn things about economics from him. I also look at his experience as a college professor for insight into today's students.

Prof. Chambless posted a recent essay question and one of the essays he received: Government Education in Action. The answer given left me in shock. If I had given such an answer in my high school economics class, I probably would have not only failed the assignment, I probably would have been prompted to drop the class for something more remedial. The spelling and grammar is on a sixth grade level, at best. The student obviously did not read the assignment. The student also, evidently, could not comprehend the question. It seems the student also failed grade-school geography as he could not tell the difference between the state of Indiana and the country of India.

Even more disturbing is the embedded proof of socialist indoctrination. The student wrote about raising tax rates in response to tornadoes. In addition, the student tried to answer part of the question by stating that increasing education will prevent further tornadoes or, at least, make people better prepared to respond to them.

I lived in "Tornado Alley" during several points in my life. While I was stationed in Kansas, I saw one funnel cloud form on the other side of a lake where I was swimming. The cloud came suddenly and moved fast. My education taught me how to avoid the twister and seek appropriate cover. However, no amount of preparedness can prevent the sort of property damage these natural disasters bring. Granted, education may produce better technology in the future. Given the products of today's education system, I question even that possibility.

The problem isn't that kids aren't smart. They are. They are just as capable of greatness and prosperity as my generation, my father's generation, and my grandfather's generation. So, if is isn't the kids, what is the problem? How do we fix it?

We can play the finger-pointing game for eons. Finger-pointing won't do a bit of good unless each facet responsible accepts its responsibility and accountability.

So I open this as a discussion, an exploration into the problem and the situation. I ask for comments on this essay. I want to hear from college students. I want to hear from high school students. I want to hear from grade-school parents.

Let's address the facets responsible from my point of view.

First, teachers. Teachers enter into an understood contract to teach. That means teach. It does not mean to preach some political agenda. It does not mean sitting in the back of a room while kids do what they want. It does not mean accepting lower standards. It means having a clear standard and sticking to it. It means those who do not make it either get extra help on their own or they repeat the class. It also means reviewing the course materials and making sure they are accurate and relevant.

What are the kids taught? Well, for one thing, they are taught to worship the worst President to hold the office in my lifetime.

Instead of being taught to be generous and share, they are taught to demand that others share. This is evident in those among the Occupy movement. The kids are taught that if somebody else has achieved and earned something, that they deserve their "fair share" of the labor and acumen that other person earned. Further adding to this problem is the fact competition has been eliminated. If two kids compete, they both win the same, despite who exceeds the other. The initiative and motivation to improve are thus removed. No scores are kept in athletic competitions. Everybody gets a trophy. I wonder if they still allow chess competitions where there is a clear winner and a clear loser.

An example in playing chess comes from my own experience. My seven year-old step daughter received a chess kit. She asked me to teach her how to play. I taught her how the pieces moved. I did not, however, let her just win. I would point out that some moves may be bad decisions. At one point she tried to tell me that I had to let her win because it was her turn, and it was only fair. I also do not let her win in card games. There is a lesson I am imparting about "fairness" and "justice". That lesson seems to be vacant from our schools.

Jada Williams wrote an essay for school. It was an essay contest she was encouraged to enter. The subject was to read Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life and write about it. Jada was ostracized for her essay. Her grades went from As and Bs to Ds and Fs. Did that book change her academic abilities? Yes it did. She had trouble with some of the language in the book. She read it, looking up many of the words. She re-read the book researching some of the ideals and the history surrounding them. She read the book again. Then she wrote her essay. She was appalled that she had to look up so many of the words in order to understand the book. She felt her teachers left her ill-equipped for the task. She also saw numerous inconsistencies in what she was taught in her "Social Studies" and history classes when contrasted with her research. Her resulting essay ended up winning the essay contest. Her school refused to submit the essay. However, word got out once Jada's parents got involved. The essay ended up in the judges' hands. It was a work I would have expected from a junior in high school back in my days. By current standards, it was considered a college level product. Jada's "crime", however, was to dare educate herself and demand her teachers do their jobs. Her punishment was to be removed from the indoctrination center that was posing as a learning institution.

Jada has appeared in several interviews to include a series of segments with Glen Beck. Opinions of  Glen Beck's views kept aside, Jada is right. Her "teachers" failed to do the jobs they were contracted to do. Instead of arming the children with facts and faculties necessary for critical thought, they armed the kids with opinions devoid of valid, accurate, and logical premises.

Kids today come out of grade school with higher "critical thinking skills". They do. However, what the teachers fail to impart upon them are facts and the ability to research and find facts. If you ask a kid for the definition of a word, it is unacceptable for them to start their answer with "Lexicon, to me, means...". That is what they are improperly taught to do. Instead, they should be taught to either give the definition (a fact) from memory or grab a lexicon (dictionary) and look the word up (research to gain facts). They are taught, to an extreme, that opinions should be valued over reality (facts). The result is reasoning and debating skills such as I outlined in my essay about my little black wagon. Why should this be deterred when their liberal teachers and the mainstream media propaganda politburo rely on such?

The end-result the comprachicos desire is college students and young adults that believe their feelings and opinions matter more than facts. It is to push a false ideology of moral relativism. That is in order to further the false ideal that things such as the Constitution do not matter. The product will refuse the founding ideals of our political system as expressed in the Federalist Papers, the writings of Thomas Paine, and the discourses of John Locke and Montesquieu. To them, these facts and basic premises won't matter. Their current opinion, to them, will matter more. You see, to them, the US Constitution and laws are "subject to opinion" without factual basis. "I don't agree with the facts because I don't like them. So I make up my own reality based upon my opinion". The court of public opinion replaces evidence, facts and reason. Mob rule replaces the rule of law. Tyranny steps in to "restore order". The mob falls into line because they are taught to never question their socialist masters who filtered  the truth in the first place.

Next we have school administrators and teachers' unions. Those subjects comprise several blogs I have written as well as numerous ones I could write. The bottom line answer is that they impede the education of our children. They are more interested in covering their own rectums, lining their own pockets, and then covering for their own inept teachers than they are in taking care of our children. If they cared about the kids, they would spend more time lobbying for better school supplies and higher education standards than they would joining the "occupy" protests and pushing socialist political agendas.

These same bureaucrats, lobbyists (unions), and administrators also attempt to teach children that their parents have no authority. They try to teach children that the government and the bureaucracy know better what is better for the kids than parents do. The recent inspections of lunches brought from home are a glaring example. A school in North Carolina told a child her turkey sandwich, banana, and apple juice were a bad lunch. Her mother must be stupid. The school then gave the child processed and fried chicken nuggets and french fries to replace the lunch she already had. This was one instance.

In San Antonio, a first grader asked her mother to start packing her lunch for her. The girl complained  the food at school tasted bad and gave her tummy aches. The young lady is used to rather healthy meals at home. She likes fruits and salads. She likes healthier home made foods to more processed foods. She is a finicky eater not so much due to her tastes but, like any kid, she'd rather play than sit at a table and eat. Yes, I know this child rather well. Her mother informed the school that she was no longer going to pay for the lunch program. She informed the school that the food disagrees with her child and seems less healthy. Even if the nutritional levels are comparable, what good will food do if the child won't eat it? Now, the meals the child will eat that are brought from home undergo scrutiny from the school administrators. the mother fears repercussions upon the child if she fights the system for her child's benefit. 

Another source of education for our kids we can find an element of fault comes from part of modern pop culture. Our kids are taught by that great babysitter: the idiot box. Kids are taught "what right looks like" by reality TV shows such as Jersey Shore. They are taught what issues are important from mainstream media. The entertainment and information platforms are filtered and skewed to push a determined political ideology. They are devoid of all the facts. They present only what supports their opinion instead of all of the facts relative to the issue. They present facts and conjecture that does not apply to the issue in order to obfuscate the issues. the example demonstrated is that being in front of a camera and being an idiot is more a metric of success than actual accomplishment. But who puts the kids in front of the boob-tube in the first place?

Despite what government officials, teachers, bureaucrats, and unions attempt to indoctrinate the public and the children into believing; Parents are the primary educators in a child's life. It is a parent's responsibility to provide for the education of the child. It is evident that schools and pop-culture displayed in the biased media won't suffice. It comes down to the parents, such as Jada William's mother and father.

Parents need to make the time to educate the kids. Weekend trips should be for family bonding, yes. They should also include something fun yet educational. A trip to the beach should include telling the children why we have waves and tides. It should include a game about finding out which shells belong to which shellfish. A ride in a car could contain a talk about how internal-combustion engines work. When you make a turn and you feel that pull to one side of the car or other, you can talk about how centripetal and centrifugal forces work. A game of Uno become a math problem, teaching addition or subtraction. Baking cupcakes can be a lesson in fractions, division, comparative mass, and thermodynamics. Walking through a tea garden in San Antonio can be a lesson in photosynthesis, plant reproduction, honey production, and the chemistry involved in infusing tea leaves into water to make tea. There are also so many historical sites to visit. The Alamo in San Antonio, the town of Tombstone, Ocmulgee park (near Macon, GA), Andersonville, Arlington, Donner Pass, etc, are all places along the road to stop and discuss history, architecture, culture, and even politics. These are fun and tangible. (Of note, I do not find Andersonville very fun. I have been there. It rips at my heart. I watched my father break into tears there. But it is a place I think every American needs to visit.)

If you put on some inane TV show, turn down the volume and talk to your child on how a television works. If you don't know, use the contraption you are reading  this essay on to research it. After that, if nothing educational or interesting comes on that brain-melting box, turn it off. Read with your kids. Take turns, each reading a page. Play scrabble, it is great for teaching spelling and diction/vocabulary. When your kids asks you to remember something, have them write it down. Pay attention while they so do and work on their writing skills to include spelling, grammar, and syntax.

Make the library a treat. I loved mine when I was a kid. We not only had all sorts of books to explore, the library had numerous classes. I learned how to do basic animation and photography there. The 8mm films made by the students are still available there. I heard rumors that they are also now on DVD.

The teachers, school administrators, and bureaucrats that produced the student Prof. Chambless depicted in his article should be ashamed. They most likely are not. They most likely point fingers at each other as well as state and federal elected officials. In private, they rejoice that they created slaves to the nanny-state. However the real shame is to that student's parents who failed to pay attention to what and how the the child was taught. They failed to double-check homework. They failed to take responsibility and handed the kids over to the politicians, bureaucrats, unions, administrators, and comprachicos. They may have trusted them. Trust does not mean you do not inspect or spot-check. They failed to hold those people accountable. In the end, they failed the kids. The result is a college student who doesn't know the difference between India and Indiana. the result is a college student who cannot spell "satellite". The results is a college student who thinks they can get by with presenting an opinion without first doing the research. The result is a young adult who thinks he is "entitled" without effort.