In Today’s Education News: The Kimono Slips

If it weren’t for double standards, our education establishment wouldn’t have any standards at all.

D.C. Public Schools graduation rate on track to decline this year. Of course, as is all but universally the case in newspaper articles about schooling, this article hides rather than reveals what’s going on here. You read enough of this stuff, and a clear pattern emerges: the education system investigates itself in order to produce two seemingly contradictory outputs. One the one hand, Something Must Be Done. That something, boiled down, is always, without exception, More Schooling. On the other hand, Something Is Being Done, and this time it will work!

Don’t pass Go until you’ve firmly grasped the main feature here: the education system investigating and reporting on itself. Just as parents are strictly forbidden access to the classroom except under strictly controlled and supervised conditions, there is no independent ongoing oversight of schools. Think about how nice your job would be if no one else was allowed to review what you do, you got to define your own challenges and measure your success against standards you get to determine. I’ve read but have not independently verified that school finances are similarly opaque: they do not report or budget according to GAAP or any other standard, but report and budget in a manner unique to schools.

A prime feature of education as an institution is that its operations are all but invisible to the outside observer. At the K-12 level, this means simply keeping parents out of the schools when schooling is actually taking place. School boards, which used to represent parents’ interests, have dwindled in number and power until they provide, if anything, merely a place for putative adults to blow off steam. They used to hire and fire all school officials. Now? You’ll take what you’re given and be happy.

At the college level, in addition to banning parents from the classroom, the opacity of school operations has the additional weapon of ‘academic freedom’. There was a time, difficult as it is to imagine, when parents and even students could get even the President of Harvard fired. People who worked at colleges were expected to be outstanding individuals, since the formation of the youth was being entrusted to them.  But for about a hundred years now, under the guise of ‘academic freedom’, we peons who pay the bills aren’t allowed to judge, let alone fire, any professor – only their peers, with their magic peer-wisdom (peer review, anyone?) are even allowed to have an opinion. Very handy for critical theorists, deconstructionists and other parasitic bottom-dwellers.

But kids eventually graduate, or at least leave. Those kids, having been thoroughly processed (whether they graduate or not) are then handed back to the Public, as it were. As long as they were in school, they were in a certain sense invisible. We certainly couldn’t walk in and check on them, that’s for sure. But more deeply, they were in someone else’s custody and under someone else’s control. They were not our problem.

But once they graduate, they might just be our problem. Who is micromanaging them now? Now graduation fits the above description to a ‘t’ – the education establishment decides who gets to graduate according to rules they and they alone make up and enforce. If you read the article, note that the schools set standards, the schools failed to enforce those standards to allow for ‘improved’ graduation rates. THEN the schools decided to enforce them, at least a little, and graduation rates plummet.

What’s going on here – and, again, spend a few decades reading these sorts of articles, and it will be evident – is what I call a state of permanent education reform. There must be Problems to be solved. The solution must always be More Schooling. But the solution cannot be allowed to actually solve anything, because then the crisis would pass. We must believe there’s a crisis to justify the endless cries for more funding and more teachers – the guise More Schooling takes. The idea that less schooling could address all these problems must never be thought: Crimestop has been taught, perhaps the only thing successfully taught, for 3 generations now and running.

Reading that article, would you hire anyone based on his having received a diploma from a DC high school? Did you spot the part where a kid would flunk out if he skipped *30* classes? There’s only about 150 class days per year. The level of hand-holding – of extra credit, summer schools, special programs, of the system stepping in to manage the children in order to obtain (part of) the results the system wants – does not bode well for the future success of these kids once they’re on their own.

It’s long been contended by critics that only about 50% of public high school students in America graduate in 4 years. In other words, half drop out one way or another, even if many go back later to get a GED or finish up later. But nobody keeps track of this, because how is knowing what kids do after they escape the system supposed to help the system?

D.C. graduation rates reflect the percentage of students who receive their diplomas in four years. Twenty-six percent of students who started freshman year with the class of 2018 have either withdrawn or transferred out of the D.C. Public Schools system. The city still needs to determine how many of these students transferred to another school, and how many dropped out.

In other words, the single fact of most interest to the public – how do the students do after they’ve left – is the question the schools “still needs to determine”.

The next time you hear criticism of homeschooling, unschooling or any other method of raising children, remember that for every weirdo parent teaching their kid the world is flat (figuratively speaking) there are a 1,000 kids being processed by the current schools who can’t even graduate based on requirements determined by those same schools. The homeschooler will be judged by standards never applied to the public schools.

And that homeschooler took responsibility, and didn’t take public funds. The same can hardly be said for the public schools.

 

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

4 thoughts on “In Today’s Education News: The Kimono Slips”

  1. My friend, an adjunct Engineering professor, says that at the University level it is the administators who make decisions, not peers. I sent him this article & described it as a rant. He rebuked me & said it was purely descriptive.
    http://archive.is/JoNfc

    A former coworker who was trying to help some neighbor kids said that one was about to graduate high school who could not read, write, or do single digit arithmetic. This “student” was applying for scholarships to Community College. Is adult literacy in the USA really above 90%? 80%?

    1. Thanks, good article. Pournelle’s Iron Law says that, in any institution, there will be those who care about the goals the institution was set up to pursue, and those who care about the institution itself. In every case, over time, the later group will end up running things.

      The professors (presumably – although the various flavors of critical theory would count as counter-examples, where compliance is all that’s desired) are interested in teaching what they know. To such a one, the bureaucracy is a necessary evil. But to the bureaucrats, the institution is the goal, and the professors *almost* a necessary evil.

      Your former coworker’s experience is unfortunately not unusual. It is not the goal of the graded classroom model to teach kids anything besides learning that the structure is to be obeyed and indeed internalized: we will tell you what group you belong to, when to stand, sit, and walk, when you may eat or use the restroom. We will tell you your worth based on tests. Whether a kid learns to read or do math is beside the point, however heartfelt the desires of the teachers.

    2. Re: literacy in the US – it hardly matters if you can sound out the words on a page if you either never read or are unable to understand what you read. I’d say 25% would be high, if we mean reading and understanding. 10% might be high.

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