On the Probable Salutary Effects of a More Proactive Approach to Schooling

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.

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Comments 19

  • Re: Teachers colleges. My mother, born in 1918, was the youngest of four, with two older sisters… both graduates of NYC teachers colleges. The older of the two, Evelyn, was a remedial-reading teacher in the NYC public school system (Brooklyn). I remember her telling me and my younger brother (around 1962) about a student whom she called “Mr. Pig”. Why? Because he kept his brown-bag lunch in the desk, and used to sneak bits-and-pieces of it during class… and left crumbs. Meanwhile, my mother earned a BA in Physiology from Hunter College in 1939, then married my father — who earned his BS in Geology from CCNY post-WWII, followed by an MS/PhD in Geology from Harvard. But her older sister still felt/acted superior and entitled… though long gone, she’d feel right at-home in today’s public-school system.

    There’s a “good side” to teaching. In the Book of Job (Job 5:7) it’s written אדם לעמל יולד (Man was born to labor). Our Sages taught that the letters of לעמל (to labor) are an acronym for ללמוד על מנת לעשות (learn in order to do). But others taught that they’re an acronym for ללמוד על מנת ללמד (learn in order to teach). OK, but don’t we say “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”? So, what’s the deal? It’s that when a man learns, and works, it’s all good: he supports himself, his family, and contributes to his employer and fellow workers. But if, through the years that he works, he revisits his lessons, deepens his knowledge and understanding, and becomes a Mentor, then he’s come to embody that second-level understanding of “learn in order to teach”.

    After I left the US Army (an 11C, ’71-’76) I went to a Vo-Tech school, where all the instructors had worked YEARS in their fields… Mentors, all of them… in all fields of study. So… let’s ask more of our children’s teachers… let’s demand that they be worthy of the title.

  • The precipitous in education…both standards and competency… started in the 60’s but accelerated exponentially after Peanut Farmer Carter created the Federal Department of Education. Once that occurred the outcome was preordained. As Tom Clancy observed once the government is good at collecting taxes, killing people and ingnoring rights. It’s not much good at anything else. Putting the government in charge of education guaranteed a negative outcome.

    • Finland has one of the best educational systems in the world, and it is completely run by the government.
      China also has an excellent public education system….

  • In post-public-education America the purpose of the system is a jobs program to receive uneducated college grads, to warehouse and program kids, and maintain a political activist union corps for election ground games. It seems to be working as intended.

  • Generally, teachers who majored in real subjects, not education or xxx studies, are a lot smarter than those who didn’t…

  • What competent person wants to teach in grades 1-12 anymore? Disrespectful students, demanding parents, interfering administrators, poor pay and insistence on a woke agenda. Our stated goal of every kid reading at the 12th grade level is very unreachable.

    • I participated in an interview of a guy who applied for a programming position. He said he used to be a math teacher but at the PTA conference he met with parents who did not want their children to get an education, they wanted them to grow up on welfare.

      Which is why he gave up on being a math teacher.

  • So its much better in cartel mexico right LOL. Anybody with half a brain knows we are screwed until the war is over.

  • You will never attract good teachers until you restore discipline to the classroom.

    When I was in college (1993 – 1997), some of the students in some of the classes that I took were future teachers. In general, they were not very smart.

    • The problem with discipline is it can be a method for killing creativity.
      A great way to indoctrinate youngsters in to following mindless rules invoked by overreaching authority.

  • @Mark

    Re: “You will never attract good teachers until you restore discipline to the classroom.”

    Just chiming in to second your remark. I taught high-school chemistry some thirty-odd years ago in the early 1990s in a racially-mixed school near Atlanta, GA. I did it for a single year and was lucky to escape with my life. I was threatened with a knife on several occasions and – no lie – a student was murdered over Christmas break for his Air Jordan b-ball shoes. Students having babies with other students (out-of-wedlock, of course), drugs, absentee parents, broken homes, etc. – the whole nine yards of social pathologies of modern America.

    The real reason I couldn’t get out of that place fast-enough was because the administration invariably took the side of the students when a dispute came up between a student or students and a teacher. Why? Because the students got to rate all staff, including the administrators, and they lived in fear of poor ratings, so they backed the students and left their faculty swinging in the breeze.

    I instead went into basic and applied life sciences research at two medical schools and also companies like Abbott Labs.

    I can’t speak for all schools, but the one where I taught was de facto a minimum security prison or containment facility for teens, not a real educational institution. The real tragedy of the thing is that the 10-15% of the students who were there to actually learn, had to take a backseat to putting out fires, behaviorally-speaking, caused by the hardcore trouble-makers.

    I went into that place a somewhat naive kid and emerged a hardened, much more-cynical person. The experience sure as can be ripped the blinders from my eyes, I’ll tell you…

  • Allow me to make some practical suggestions in a far more serious vein that might reform the public non-education crisis in this country. I have some insight as someone who has spend 8 years in a public school and 4 years in a parochial one.

    1. Get rid of compulsory attendance laws.
    It is totally unjust to force children into sequestration for the better part of 12 years of their life. If it was not for the prettified propaganda surrounding our public schools, we might call it slavery or Communism. Indeed, our public schools seem to be the most socialist undertaking that the American government has ever embarked on.
    Compulsory attendance also has the effect of forcing children who don’t want to attend school to attend. They end up becoming the punks and troublemakers that demoralize the classroom. It needs to be debated whether imprisoning children from the adult world for the most crucial time of their development years adds any education value to them.

    2. Introduce school choice to the extreme.
    If we still truly believe that it is the mission of the larger society and government to educate each child, then we should make it easier for parents to select which school they want their children to go to. This will mean that instead of the local government building a school in their district, they will provide subsides for parents of low income to go to any school they wish to go. No child should be forced to go to a specific school based on where they live. This might enable smarter, more literate children to go to better schools where they can be educated at a higher level.

    3. When a child is enrolled in a school, the principal should meet with the parents. He or she should take the most copy of the school yearbook and show the parents the photos of the teachers. The principal will ask this question:
    “These are the teachers who will be instructing your child. Will you be comfortable with leaving your children in their care?”
    The Principal will then show the parents photos of the previous classes and the faces of the school children and ask:
    “These are the classmates your child will be with. Will your child be comfortable in their presence?”
    These two questions will preclude any complaints and issues about racism, bullying, and social anxiety that the prospective pupil might have.

    4. Make it far easier for drop-outs to go back to school.
    As I said before, it is extremely silly to lock children away for 12 to 16 years and expect them to mature into full adults if they have zero contact with the adult world. If we still believe that it is the mission of the government to educate every single American child, then we should make it easier for a child to drop out, get a job, and then return to school when he or she feels ready. Such an experience will make it easier for an adolescent to decide what he wants to do for the rest of his life. They can get a taste of what sort of work they will be good at and what they will enjoy.
    As a side note, this suggestion might also preclude any complaints about racism from the black community. Blacks complain that whites are trying to withhold education from them. If blacks were more easily allowed to return to school after dropping out for a while, then this complaint will be nullified.

  • I recall interviewing someone for a computer programming job who was from Colorado.
    He was a math teacher who gave up teaching because at the PTA meetings he talked to parents who said they did not want their children to learn anything, they wanted them to grow up on welfare.

  • Dorothy Sayers first delivered this speech at Oxford University in 1947.


  • Our schools and laws were developed upon western foundations, for children and people who no longer exist. In California, only 21% of school children are white — the rest of the nation is rapidly following California. We’re far beyond the point of no return.

  • Back in graduate school , a statistics professor asked the class ” what is a good measure to identify which department to find the smartest students on campus”? Someone answered GPA.
    The professor then said the students in the education department had the highest cumulative GPA’s on campus. So is that where the smartest students are? What does this tell you about statistics?

    There are lier’s, damn lier’s and then statisticians…….

  • In the words of Rockefeller’s General Education Board in 1906, “We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science… We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply.”

    Frank Lester Ward (the first president of the American Sociological Association) was even less bashful: the purpose of formal education, he said, was now to be “a systemic process for the manufacture of correct opinions” in the public mind.
    “It should”, he added, “therefore be brought under the exclusive control of government, since ‘the result desired by the state is a wholly different one from that desired by parents, guardians, and pupils.’”
    “Unruly children are drugged for social compliance more than for the mental health of the individual.”
    “Puzzlement and doubt are, however, already crimes in the totalitarian state. The mind that is open for questions is open for dissent. In the totalitarian regime the doubting, inquisitive, and imaginative mind has to be suppressed. The totalitarian slave is only allowed to memorize, to salivate when the bell rings.” –
    Joost A. M. Meerloo: The Rape of The Mind.

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