Life is hard in the column racket, I tell you. The work load is crushing. Every week I get many hundreds of emails (well, OK, I would if I did, but this is close enough for journalism) asking, Fred, Fred, what beneficial and meritorious measures will you enact when you become dictator? What will you do to set the course of American society for centuries to come?
My first step as dictator will be to reform schooling: To this end I will put a bounty on education theorists, no bag limit. Moreover, I will establish rental stalls where the civic-minded can rent duck guns for the purpose. Next, I will have teachers colleges pumped full of linoleum cement. These places are the dark night of the mind. They turn perfectly good children into goobering phone-pecking mental blank slates who can barely read.
You may think that things are not as bad as they are. Ha. They are, and have been. Many years back, before the invention of fire, I wrote a piece for Harper’s on the black schools of Washington. In ir I wrote this:
“The bald, statistically verifiable truth is that the teachers’ colleges, probably on ideological grounds, have produced an incredible proportion of incompetent black teachers. Evidence of this appears periodically, as, for example, in the results of a competency test given to applicants for teaching positions in Pinellas County, Florida (which includes St. Petersburg and Clearwater), cited in Time, June 16, 1980. To pass this grueling examination, an applicant had to be able to read at the tenth-grade level and do arithmetic at the eighth-grade level. Though they all held B.A.’s, 25 percent of the whites and 79 percent of the blacks failed. Similar statistics exist for other places.
“in his book The Myths That Divide Us, in my view the best overview of the racial problem in America, details them on pages 227-228. Not a pleasant read, but worth the effort. Amazon has it.)”
See? People barely at the tenth-grade level were teaching twelfth-graders. How bass-ackward is this? The twelfth-graders should have been teaching the teachers.
Nothing has changed. Today such stories abound like lunatics in a Democratic administration. Our children are taught by people with the brains of doorknobs. How can we allow this?
OK,more scholarly reforms that I will impose. Teachers in grade school will be required to have IQs of 100, middle-school 110, high school 115 and a degree in their subjects. See, this will rid the schools of people too dim to understand what education is or what it is for and who probably have trouble finding their way home at night. Yes, I know it’s rude to point out that a whole class of people aren’t very smart. OK, I apologize. Doorknobs are people too. But they need to find something else to do.
On a happier note (as a committed curmudgeon, I don’t like happy notes, but occasionally they add variety), I will raise salaries of teachers until I get people meeting these standards. The cleansing effect will be immediate and the cost, whatever it might be, worth it. Teachers are more important than anyone in society but dentists and bartenders. Under my beneficent regime, they will get the respect they deserve, but we will get the teachers we deserve. You know, balance, or something.
Next, I will behead anybody who says that dodge ball is violence or thinks that recess should involve a cooperative and affirming game led by a caring adults. Kids hate caring adults, or healthy kids anyway. Me too.
I will bring back tracking in high school. And AP courses in all academic subjects, especially nerdy one, admission by rigorous entrance exam. You know, things like Python programming. (This doesn’t mean programming an actual python. It’s something about computers.
Current didactic practice is child abuse, especially of smart kids. You have a girl of IQ 145 and she faces a teacher who reads at the tenth-grade level (see above) and she and others like her are bored to the point that the school ought to have a resident suicide counselor. But she can’t have courses at her level because that would be, like everything else in America, racist. In my enlightened regime, anyone who says “racist,” or even looks as if he might be thinking it, will be sent to Leavenworth for life.
There will be no affirmative action. If you are good enough, you don’t need it. If you need it, you aren’t good enough. We all have limitations. Deal with them. I want to be a star point guard on an NBA team, but I am ancient, half-blind, and my jump shot isn’t what it was when I was fifteen. I would like to get a doctorate in mathematics from CalTech. I like Pasadena, and there would be interesting people to talk to. I’m just not smart enough. This is disappointing, but it isn’t discrimination. Though I do think the Lakers should let me try out as a walk-on.
How did we get this way? To begin with, America embraces resentment-fueled fiat equality, which is like fiat currency: based on nothing. If Stephen Hawking and Mike Tyson do not perform equally well at theoretical physics, then there must be a conspiracy against Mike. When I was growing up, or at least getting older, in Alabama ages ago, when pterodactyls flapped over the earth, I was seen carrying a book. This wasn’t much done. Jimmy-Jack ‘Callister told me, “You ain’t no gooder’n me.” This, more smoothly expressed, underlies American politics. Ain’t nobody allowed to be no gooder’n anybody else.
That’s the first cause of our degeneracy. The second is women. Yes. See, before femlib, women had to be secretaries, nurses, or teachers. This was hard on smart women, but it was good for schools. I remember teachers who didn’t just know things but who bought into the Euro-American view of education and why it was important. Today smart women are all biochemists.
This was good for biochemistry but it left the schools in the hands of the doorknobs. A teacher who can’t quite tie her shoes on a good day after three cups of coffee is unlikely to grasp the European intellectual tradition and very likely to be resentful of it. This left niceness and feeling good and self-esteem as what schools were for. And it shows:
I’m not kidding about the gals in biochemistry. For example,Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, Nobel Prize, for discovering clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic repeats. They probably read above the tenth-grade level.
Many years ago, in the mostly white and allegedly good schools of Fairfax County, Virginia, I saw a student’s project on the wall in the hall, intended to celebrate the contributions of Italians to physics. In big letters, it said “Enrico Fermi and Nucler Physicts.”
This probably would have driven Fermi to take poison in despair. Fortunately he was already dead, which probably saved him. But what kind of school would honor a kid for not being able to spell? What kind of country would tolerate it? And what if the kid wants to get a job some day?
OK, that’s education. In my next civic-minded column, I will expound on reforming Congress. I will now retire to my basement, where I am designing a high-throughput guillotine.