Equalizing Outcomes – Educational Tyranny

Inequalityby Anniel8/18/15
How do we change thinking on education until we understand at least some of how we got where we are? Getting rid of Common Core, the Department of Education, and unions are the first items that need to be addressed. Those items are beyond the scope of what I write here. Let’s agree for our purposes that the local schools need to be just that, local, period.

Every serious educator I know says the best thing we can do for our students is to have small neighborhood schools. One of the advantages of such schools is crowd control, as in not so much opportunity for gangs to be formed. The teachers know their students, and their families. Instead of a large coterie of principals, assistants, counsellors, ad nauseum, there could be low bureaucratic overhead, and actual emphasis placed on teaching and oversight of both students and teachers.

And now I want to face squarely the big money issue. Every request for funding comes with the obligatory “It’s for the Children” claptrap, which really means it’s for the Teacher’s Unions and the monuments to stupidity they support. I can personally vouch for the two following stories.

One High School in Anchorage, Alaska undertook a very extensive and expensive remodel, which included a very costly copper dome ceiling in the library. The librarian was thrilled by its beauty – until the end of the first school year after its installation. She was told the last day of school that she would have to box up and store every single book by the next week-end because the copper ceiling had to be removed. This was so new science labs on the floor above the library could be constructed. The contractor knew beforehand that the science lab work would necessitate the removal of the copper ceiling, but installed it anyway, probably on orders from the District. The cost for removal and reinstallation? Who knows?

To meet the 1% For Art requirement when the District completely rebuilt the High School my children attended, a two story atrium entrance was draped with colored parachute like materials, purchased as “art”, and hung at great expense, until the Fire Marshal noted that the “art work” covered the fire suppression system and the District had to remove it.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHANGING NATIONAL SCHOOL REQUIREMENTS:

• Work to get rid of the Department of Education, Common Core, and to curtail some of the union’s power.
• Stop squandering resources on things that don’t matter. No more marble floors, copper ceilings, expensive artwork, or even homages to politicians are needed. A practical smaller, easily maintained building is enough. Inspect it at least yearly, and make repairs when needed. Don’t wait until the roof leaks and then go to the State or federal government for funds.*(See Notes, Below)

ACTUAL TEACHING

I can’t recall who said it, but teaching requires just a few things, a bench with a teacher at one end and a learner at the other. A stick to write in the dirt may be enough to teach the basics if that’s the only thing available. Stay with the basics, adding only a few frills like art and good music. Books are important but might sometimes be optional if the teacher is really thinking and decides to have a lesson using good stories or facts. Men used to teach relying on memorized poetry, then teaching it to their hearers, who also memorized it. We probably should exercise our minds the same way today, by requiring some memorization.

Don’t lie to children by telling them they can achieve anything they want. Not everyone gets to be the Sugar Plum Fairy, the captain of the football team, the ace pilot, or the greatest tenor in the world. Live with it.

Insist on proper dress and decorum in the classroom. Good manners towards all should be stressed.

Discipline is crucial to the ability to learn. Self-discipline is the most desirable of all traits, and recognizing the need to work is a revelation that each student must come to. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to actually do away with the tyranny of “equalizing outcomes.”

DOING AWAY WITH EQUALITY OF OUTCOME:

The greatest impediment to change can also be the greatest asset. It comes in unequal pairs, the strongest half, usually, is the mother, while the weakest, is the father, if he’s even in the picture. I have only one suggestion here, and that is for the whole school to emphasize parents reading aloud to their children. Get parents on the bandwagon if at all possible. Try to enthuse parents on Back-to-School night. And let those same parents know right away, maybe at PTA meetings, that there will be no pandering or grade inflation. That their child will be treated fairly and graded according to his or her efforts, and that grades will not be changed.

The following poem is kind of treacly, but emphasizes the parent’s responsibilities:

THE READING MOTHER

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.

Strickland Gillilan (1869-1954)

That poem could lead to the telling of stories of faith and courage and of people like Ben Carson, whose mother helped lift him and his brother from poverty to the fine men they are today.

One item never thought about much, is using older or faster students to work with younger, perhaps slower ones. My youngest daughter’s favorite teacher always requested that he have two grade levels in his classroom. He knew how to place students together so they both benefitted from their task. One year he placed my daughter with another girl who could barely read. They spent part of every day reading aloud. My daughter says that he never embarrassed the other girl, nor did my Cate feel put upon. The slower girl’s reading improved markedly. At the end of the year the girls were very close friends and remained so until the other girl moved away.

When my middle son, Alex, was in high school, he was in a class where the Juniors and Seniors who wished to could go to the elementary school next door and spend an hour reading to the kindergarteners. Alex loved it and even now remains friends with some of the kids he worked with.

I, personally, do not think computers should be used in elementary schools until children have learned to write, both print and cursive, so their brains develop properly. Use Slingerland methods and don’t worry about so-called “cross dominance,” or sloppy writing until you need to.* (See notes.)

Yes, I do believe that it is tyrannical to try and equalize outcomes. Only one of my children has had an actual IQ test, which means nothing when parents and educators are more concerned with rearing good and decent people and geniuses only if they have to. In order to skip 6th Grade, some “crucial” milepost in the minds of educators, one of our sons was tested. He topped out the test completely. So his IQ is unknown. He was fortunate enough to not think that was any big deal, and he still prefers good character to supposed “smarts.” If anyone had attempted to “equalize” by holding him back, I’m not certain what we could have done. I do know that not all of his friends were brilliant, but both he and they benefitted from combining their individual strengths and weaknesses and learning from each other.

Remember, Richard Feynman never thought he was a “genius,” but he surely knew “numbers.”

One of my son’s pet peeves with education is putting all students in a grade level “class” instead of allowing them to learn a subject at their own pace. If there is a third grade child who is good at math, let him go to an “open” class and proceed at his own speed. If there is a sixth grader in the class working faster, so what? Maybe he can assist the younger student or ( gasp!), learn something from the younger student.

I almost forgot, my son says he never felt he was “better” than the other kids, if anything he knew they thought he was “weird.”

In order to meet the needs of students at all levels of ability, schools need to get back to the basics, offering the same opportunities to all and ignoring no one. If all else fails, we need to insist on Charter Schools or maybe turn to Home schooling if necessary.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TEACHING:

• Stick to the basics, including art and good music (which really are basic).
• Don’t lie to the students about what is expected of them,nor tell them what they can and cannot do. They need to discover their own strengths, and weaknesses.
• Require proper dress and decorum. Good manners from both students and teachers should be enforced.
• Discipline should lead to self-discipline and learning the work ethic.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ENDING EQUALITY OF OUTCOME:

1. Require parents to participate in their child’s education by reading
aloud to him or her.
2. No pandering to parents or children. No grade inflation allowed.
3. Treat students fairly, tell them why they received the grade they did and
refuse to change grades, even if they whine.
4. Let older and more advanced students mentor the younger or slower
ones.
5. Mix classes of differing age groups.
6. No computers until students have learned basic handwriting skills.
7. Teach by subjects, not what grade a child is in.
8. Establish Charter Schools, or Home School your own children if you
must.

One last recommendation I have is a book by my all-time favorite children’s author, Avi, titled The Secret School, published in 2001, Harcourt Children’s Books. Available on Kindle.
* * * *
*Notes. Previous Stubborn Things Articles of interest:
“The Model Public School” — F.J. Roca, 7/9/15.
“(Hand)Writing to Learn” — Anniel, 6/16/14.
“Back to School – Really?” — Deanna Chadwell, 8/14/15.
And many others. Type “Education” in the Search Function or click on the Education tag. • (1147 views)

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14 Responses to Equalizing Outcomes – Educational Tyranny

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    A very interesting list of recommendations, though it probably isn’t possible to require any parental action. There can be ways of encouraging it that might work at least to a modest extent. (Most of the books suggested in that poem are unfamiliar to me, at least in terms of having read them. We had The Lady of the Lake in 9th grade, and I doubt anyone in the class actually read it; I haven’t read anything by Scott since.)

    One way to get some nice art might be by getting prints of famous works. Those are a lot cheaper than original art — and in a lot of cases probably also a lot better.

    You’re right that computers shouldn’t be allowed in class until later, but I would add that students need to learn arithmetic on their own as well before relying on them. All too often, people seem to assume that computers will always be available, so there’s no need for any skills they can replace.

    As for class size, my last 3 years in high school were at a small local private school, so our teachers did know the students personally. Most of my earlier classes also had relatively modest class sizes, so the teachers at least usually could know their students (though the administration probably didn’t).

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Because you are taking this subject seriously, Annie, I will as well. And I will try not to be too pedantic or intellectual in my observations:

    Every serious educator I know says the best thing we can do for our students is to have small neighborhood schools.

    All things being equal, there should be more local control of schools (not state or Federal). But I think most states do have a mandate to provide a government-supervised education (aka “public schools”). How they do that varies, but the same types of one-size-fits-all problems exist whether its the state or Federal government that tries to micromanage and fix everything.

    Generally speaking, you want as much authority for anything governmental to be at the lowest level possible (the subsidiarity principle). That said, and although many conservatives have made a fetish out of the word “federalism,” it should be noted that bad ideas are still bad ideas, whether at the Federal or local level. And it is no panacea by any means just to bring local control to schools…simply because the locals can be as liberally bonkers as anyone else.

    • Stop squandering resources on things that don’t matter. No more marble floors, copper ceilings, expensive artwork, or even homages to politicians are needed. A practical smaller, easily maintained building is enough. Inspect it at least yearly, and make repairs when needed. Don’t wait until the roof leaks and then go to the State or federal government for funds.*(See Notes, Below)

    Agreed, although frugality is not a leftwing value. And I’m not sure how conversant conservatives are with the concept anymore. Grandiosity seems to be the watchword at all levels.

    I can’t recall who said it, but teaching requires just a few things, a bench with a teacher at one end and a learner at the other. A stick to write in the dirt may be enough to teach the basics if that’s the only thing available. Stay with the basics, adding only a few frills like art and good music. Books are important but might sometimes be optional if the teacher is really thinking and decides to have a lesson using good stories or facts. Men used to teach relying on memorized poetry, then teaching it to their hearers, who also memorized it. We probably should exercise our minds the same way today, by requiring some memorization.

    I have no doubt that there is some very good software out there that is indispensable in learning highly-specialized topics or that can *assist* in learning the basic ones (reading, writing, ‘rithmetic). I’m certainly not anti-technology. But I do believe that a one-room schoolhouse with discipline, good paper texts books, suitable rewards, helpful guidance, a blackboard, and good teaching techniques would kick the living ass out of classrooms (large or small…this “small class size” nonsense is simply a way to increase the number of union employees) that were hi-teched up the ying-yang. So much energy is spent on irrelevancies. It’s as if people really do expect that they are *required* to make learning easy and fun as its central feature or else they can’t teach.

    And that attitude, I would say, is the one that arises when the lunatics are running the asylum, when the whole idea of suitable discipline is not even an option. Then what are teachers left to do but to try to appeal to Little Johnny in an obsequious fashion just like in the famous Twilight Zone episode, “It’s a Good Life” (also remade in the movie) where everyone is scared to death of the child who has the power?

    Insist on proper dress and decorum in the classroom. Good manners towards all should be stressed.

    Absotively. This is part of the under-rated and under-served discipline side. Also, at least in my school, not one iPhone or tablet would be allowed in the classroom. Not. Zilch. Zippo. Good manners, indeed. And decorum. And your teacher is “Mrs. Anderson” not, “Good morning, Mary.” We need to keep the distinction between who is an adult and who is the child (they are therefore a pupil when young…not a “student”).

    and that is for the whole school to emphasize parents reading aloud to their children. Get parents on the bandwagon if at all possible.

    Public schools might as well be called “McEducation.” Most parents just drop them off in the equivalent of fast-food education, make it to a cursory meeting or two, and that’s it. As long as there are lots and lots of feel-good pretty multi-colored rainbowesque children’s drawings on display in the hallways (they are usually covered with them), all must be okay. (What a great deed of propaganda, whether intentional or otherwise.)

    Parents need to become more involved. But they also need to become educated themselves about education. Thomas Sowell writes in “Inside America Education” that educators have become very good at deflecting criticism even from motivated parents. It’s like trying to break down the doors of the mafia. In theory, your average well-intentioned parent should have a good effect by being involved. In practice, at least according to Thomas Sowell, they are first going to have to develop a little savvy about what is really going on.

    But, yes, reading to and with their children would solve a host of problems. First, it would raise the importance of education in the eyes of the children where in some places an education is considered “acting white.” Second, any time spent with a book learning something is time away from TV, video games, and far worse things for many children. Third, it gets parents a little more involved in the education process. It becomes not just a thing dumped onto faceless bureaucrats. Fourth, and by no means last, it is indeed a worthy and great thing to excite a child’s active (not passive) imagination and wonder with stories of pirates and gold and dragon’s breath. Replace, say, rap music with Ivanhoe or Treasure Island. Would not that have a remarkable effect on character as well?

    Yes, I do believe that it is tyrannical to try and equalize outcomes.

    Exactly. As much caterwauling and hand-wringing as there is for “the poor” and the “underprivileged,” their existence does not give anyone the right to rob other children of their lives.

    And to face this question down firmly, we must dig down to the Cultural Marxist assumptions that underlie this “equalization.” You’ll often hear Democrats talk about those who are successful as having “won life’s lottery.” That is their view of life and success. Those who succeeded didn’t work hard. They didn’t have parents who valued education more than others. No, they were just lucky.

    And that is to say, therefore (and here is where pure evil enters the equation) that those who do not achieve as well as others are therefore victims, for if achievement is indeed purely a matter of luck or unfair privilege (perhaps even “white privilege), then it is perfectly fair and just to hold those achievers back so that “the poor” and the “disadvantaged” can be given a break.

    This attitude rapes both those who aren’t high achievers (by not introducing them to the tools of success and by expecting less of them) and those who, for whatever reason, can achieve more. Why is it not good to have talented doctors, and teachers, and whatever? Why is it good to put some asshole’s Marxist narrative above that of the underachievers who might well achieve great things if given the tools and the expectations?

    I have absolutely no use for those who say that this caterwauling for “the poor” is some act of compassion. Bull-loney. (You thought I was going to use that other word.) It is pure cowardice and narcissism. One of the most rewarding things is not apologizing for ignorance, a lack of effort, or other shortcomings. It’s overcoming those shortcomings. That is what should energize and invigorate all those libtard (and other) hand-wringers who go on and on about “the poor” and would destroy achievement itself if only to show how supposedly damn good their compassion and intentions are. Enough of that. And I do therefore think part of the solution to education is getting more men involved in it.

    • Stick to the basics

    I think this is hugely important. You’ve listed a lot of different sort of macro techniques (get older kids helping younger kids, no pandering to children, no grade inflation, no computers, etc). And that’s all well and good. And I agree with most of it. But the elephant in the living room is WHAT is being taught and HOW it is being taught.

    Teach children how to read. No ifs, ands, or buts. And you do so with tried-and-true techniques (generally phonics) and not all the newfangled techniques that simply waste time and are very poor at teaching children to read.

    We could keep everything in public education just as it is now — under-qualified teachers, too much bureaucracy, too much wasted money — and if the academic subjects were the focus, and they were taught using proven techniques, you would have a remarkable jump in performance. We need to have the discipline to stay focused on this central fact. All other aspects are meant to serve that, including discipline itself.

    If older kids teaching younger kids can help with this, then fine. Otherwise such things can very easily become just a “newfangled technique” that is simply substituting motion for real action. It can be just another way to disguise poor teaching techniques and what the entire point of education is in the first place. The point is not to try out techniques. It’s to teach kids the three R’s (and history, etc.).

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Regarding parental involvement, patriotpost.us has a nice Thomas Sowell quote on the subject today. The link is:

      http://patriotpost.us/posts/37043

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Yeah, that is a good quote. Cuts to the basics of it.

        • Anniel says:

          It certainly does cut to the basics. You can tell that the subject of education is more important in the minds of contributors to Stubborn Things than just about any other item. We all know something is wrong in our schools, and F. J Rocca’s last article, “Rotten to the Core”, about the Soro’s funded schools and the involvement of Ayers and Obama is an eye-opener indeed.

          So, what to do becomes a stew of controversy at all levels.

          Yes, technology does have it’s place and may even be a game changer in ways we can’t foresee, but if it is misused, and it is, it can make matters so much worse. Many pupils who live remote in Alaska rely on computers, and sometimes U. S. Mail service, to get an education. And the cultural considerations being foisted on States by illegals are causing even worse problems.

          I know people involved in higher education who say we need to change our approach there. We’ll see, but the universities and colleges do seem to be very controversial.

  3. Anniel says:

    Class size, in and of itself, has little to do with achievement if good deportment is strictly enforced. But the size of the school overall can make or break the whole set up. You wind up warehousing troublemakers when you build large schools. I actually think one-room schools, or some facsimile, are a good answer to a lot of our present problems. That’s one reason I recommended Avi’s book, ” The Secret School.”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The problem with the focus on class size is that it ignores the matter of teacher quality. A good teacher can do better with 40 students than a bad teacher can do with 20. So if you have a good teacher with 20 and a bad teacher with 20, half the students come off very badly, while the others gain little.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Ditto. Class size is another peripheral issue. It could be the straw that eventually breaks the camel’s back. But the back is weighed down not by class size but by a thousand other straws that have little or nothing to do with teaching good academic subjects using proven techniques by competent teachers with adequate classroom materials in a safe and disciplined environment. Period. The rest is irrelevancies.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’ll stick The Secret School up on the Bookshelf when I have the time.

      Regarding large schools, architectural standards (or just the money thrown at them) have changed. But the high school I went to (large, but certainly not the largest) looked like a Federal penitentiary from the outside. It was an old school. It was said it was the largest cement structure west of the Mississippi built without reinforced concrete. Sounds like an urban legend…but the building was indeed old.

      Certainly there is the possibility of creating a different attitude and mindset shuffling kids off to what are, in essence, gigantic education/daycare mills. Although clearly less efficient in terms of operating costs per pupil, I would suspect the proverbial one-room school house would create quite a different atmosphere. Surely it does regarding, say, a small humble wooden one-story church as opposed to a crystal palace.

      But, again, I would say that even on the floor of the Astrodome in crowds of 1000, if they taught phonics instead of “whole word” and other bizarre, useless techniques that Bruce Price outlines in some of his articles, including How Schools Hold Children Down, we’d be better off than we are now.

      • Anniel says:

        Not that many years ago we sent our four oldest children to what was termed an “ABC” (Anchorage Basic Curriculum) School. No “gifted” programs were allowed and all students, even those who already read well, had to pass a memorization test on what were called “phonograms.” The phonograms had a specific name I’ll have to ask my kids if they remember, but they were phonics on steroids. Parents were encouraged to volunteer, so I worked in the library where Iditarod Musher Dee Dee Johnrowe’s mother, was the librarian. Dee Dee lost her sleds and her dad’s hand-made tools in the recent fire near Willow. She was a real blessing to other mushers who lost everything in the fire. Her mother, my friend, died a week later. That just popped out there, sorry.

        The ABC School was reluctantly set up by the district in an old
        building scheduled for demolition. The principal and most of the teachers were outstanding. The school consistently had a waiting list for every grade, and outperformed all other schools in the state on the basics. The School District refused to do another such school for over ten years, in spite of the overwhelming requests. We do have two elementary and one Middle/High School ABC style schools now.

  4. David Ray says:

    My suggestion is not to suck up to Ted Kennedy type idiots by letting them write”outcome based” education bills.
    One: liberals never reward our graciousness (or in Bush’s case, foolish graciousness. )
    Two: some students cast themselves adrift via belligerence & lethargy and should be left behind.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Very good points. Conservatives also need to be very cautious about trusting the intelligentsia to write suitable standards.

      • David Ray says:

        Bush wasn’t so cautious with that blustering drunk and signed a bill that left the tax payers behind. (Ted & “intelligencia” aren’t exactly two words that agree, but the result was the same. )

        • Timothy Lane says:

          This is the key flaw of the GOP Beltway Bandits: they fail to see the havoc set up by the Plunderbund. Even though The Donald is hardly the answer, this persistent failure has led to the Trump boom (to the extent that it doesn’t simply reflect his vastly superior name recognition).

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