How to Fix Education: Step One

There are 3 basic things wrong with modern k-12 education:

  1. Age-graded classrooms
  2. Age-graded classrooms
  3. Age-graded classrooms

Taking 5 and 6 year-old children, each of whom is a distinct individual, member of a particular family and community, and a child of God, and grouping them by age with no regard for those differences, tells that child in a way more direct and powerful than any mere words, exactly how important his own life, family and community is, and how he is to view his God.

In all approaches to education(1) up until the invention of the graded classroom model, who the child was and what he already knew and what he needed and wanted to learn were the basis of all teaching – and schools were structured accordingly. The model least unfamiliar to Americans is probably the one-room school. In its heyday, the typical one room school, built and run by the local families, employed a young unmarried woman to teach all the children up until the age of about 14. She would assess what each child knew and didn’t know, and pair up the kids so that a particular child might be learning to read from a child younger than himself while teaching math to a kid older than himself.  Each day, each child would be called up to ‘recite’ to the teacher, so that she knew how it was going. Such education, which by all objective measures produced better educated students than the current model in a fraction of the time (2), was held around the work the kids needed to do on the farm.

One room schools reinforced the relationships that brought those kids together in the first place: family, work, neighbor, community. The teacher managed a process by which all students learned how to learn and how to teach – by doing it.

The graded classroom model was designed specifically to destroy those relationships, and replace them with obedience, conformity, and ignorance. The graded classroom places children into arbitrary groups run by someone hired by bureaucrats and protected by a union, who follows lesson plans concocted by utterly inaccessible ‘educators’ and whose major task each day is to put a stop to natural social interactions (“Stop talking! Pay attention!”). Instead of building upon the natural relationships of siblings, families, neighbors and coreligionists,  modern school seeks to destroy those relationships and replace them with loyalty to the state (3).

As John Taylor Gatto points out, the greatest triumph of modern schooling is that few people can even imagine doing it any other way. Thus, even most home schoolers, who have taken heroic steps to separate themselves and their kids from public model schools, are just looking for a better graded classroom – we know this, because they still (mostly) concern themselves with year-by-year curricula and worry if their kid is ‘performing to grade level’. It doesn’t occur to them, at least not to the depth required to do something about it, that ‘grade-level’ is no more real than the tooth fairy, no more based on science than phrenology, and is in fact nothing more than the instrument by which they are controlled. It is how teacher in the schools are controlled as well – no matter how well-meaning, teachers keep their jobs by focusing on getting their kids to test at or above grade-level. There is no more perfect control than that which issues arbitrary and objectively meaningless orders – and gets them obeyed anyway.

All arguments for graded classrooms are lies. They are not more efficient for any value of ‘education’ that is not an Orwellian euphemism. We do not need them. We do not need to put our children under the care of professional educators. We are not incompetent. There is no evidence the graded classroom model ‘works’ better than anything else, and lots that it is an abject, appalling failure (4). Lies, lies and more lies.

Once we get rid of the graded classroom, we can begin to have a rational discussion about how we should educate our children.

  1. Education differs from training in this respect: education is for the sake of the person being educated, and only indirectly for the benefit of society; training is what you do to soldiers and horses, to serve their master’s goals. Someone may want to be a soldier or a tailor or a bricklayer and seek the training of his own free will – but the purpose of such training is primarily to enable him to do what others want him to do. All education is in this sense ‘liberal education’ – anything less is mere training, which tends toward the enslavement of those not otherwise liberally educated.
  2. Not surprising, since ‘education’ is not the goal of modern schools, and never was.
  3. As discussed at great length on this blog under Schooling 
  4. e.g., “If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.”

    Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983, via Chaos Manor

Weekend Update: Milestones, Tahoe, Woodworking Abomination, etc.

1. So: sometime today, given normal traffic, this blog will get its 100,000th view. About 35,000 visitors. Don’t know what makes up views and visitors, except there are enough caveats, provisos, quid pro quos to make the common sense understanding (whatever that might be) unlikely to align with these numbers. Whatever. W00, and, I might add, Hoo.

“There are a few provisos, a couple of quid-pro-quos. Rule number one: I can’t kill anybody. Bleurk! So don’t ask. Rule number two: I can’t make anybody fall in love with anybody else. You little punim there! Rule number three: I can’t bring people back from the dead. It’s not a pretty picture, I DON’T LIKE DOING IT! Other than that, you got it.”

2. Up in Tahoe for the long weekend, with a couple of families from school – one mom very graciously gets her sister to rent us a cabin (in the Tahoe sense of a two-story building on snow-plowed roads that sleeps 16 or so in suburban comfort) so that the cost is very low per person. Unlike previous years, we gocher snow Right Here:

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View from the kitchen table. More snow on the way through Tuesday. Lots more snow as you head further up the mountains. 

Over the Echo Summit (7,382′), snow was piled a dozen or more feet high on either side of the road. Right after the summit, the road bears left and descend along a cliff over the course of a couple miles to about lake level (6,225′). Usually, this section is a bit bracing, what with very scenic and life-threatening drops a suddenly flimsy-looking guardrail away. This time, there was a view-obstructing yet somehow comforting pile of cleared snow along most of the route. Good thing, too, since there was a light snow that was *just* starting to stick.

I lived in New Mexico (Santa Fe, Albuquerque) long enough to learn that snow sucks. Those people with their ice fishing and tobogganing and what not are in denial. Go ahead and kid yourselves however you need to to survive until spring, where you’ll have a couple weeks of nice weather before it turns hot, nasty and mosquito-infested. No, snow is not fun, at least, past the age of 12 and after about 5 minutes. It’s just cold, wet and occasionally dangerous.

3. The truly dedicated and obsessive reader might recall that, last year, when we also went to Tahoe, we attended Mass with very nice people in a lovely (after the manner of its kind) church that had certain carpentry features that triggered my OCD I found really distracting.

We attended yet another lovely Mass with the kind people of South Lake Tahoe today. We sat in another section, so I got a different view of what Frankenstein’s Monster would have looked like if Dr. Frankenstein had been a church carpenter:

Ah! My Eyes!

4. Lots of drafts.  A couple of which might even be interesting, that I hope to get out while I should be out playing in the snow. Right.

Chicken Cordon Blue

Mom was a great straight ahead cook, able to whip up something delicious from whatever was handy. She could make a great meal starting with, say, a can of soup, some noodles, and, as far as I could tell, magic. Some her best stuff came out of cans, always with some kicker added that made it different – we didn’t eat straight up canned food but rarely – but she could also make a great meal starting with vegetables right out of the garden – or even a live rabbit or chicken. (1)

She taught all 9 of her kids how to cook in the best possible way: anyone who wandered through the kitchen when she was cooking was immediately drafted as an adviser/taster. “Does this need more spice?” “Should I put more X in this?” “How does this taste?”

By simply asking us kids questions and respecting our answers, Mom invited us into her cooking world.  All of grew up thinking our palates were good, our decision about cooking were good – and so, that we could do it.

Mom of course also let us help when we wanted to, and turned us loose when we were ready. By the time I was around 13, I’d make kid staples for me and my two little brothers: pancakes, chocolate chip cookies, that sort of thing. Mom was cool with it, and the little bros totally didn’t complain.

So 9 out of 9 Moore kids could cook up a storm.(2) No matter which brother or sister we visit, fresh quality grub is not an issue. (And plenty of it – there were 9 of us after all. Still trying to learn to scale back, now that we’re down to one resident kid in our house. Old habits.)

The big difference was this: Mom grew up during the Depression – for most of her life, mom cooked under a strict budget. The idea that you’d buy expensive stuff and fool around with it was completely foreign to her. So, while the cooking was good, it tended strongly toward what an East Texas Czech girl would think of as normal American cuisine.

This inherent thrift, sad to say, has not been passed along. Once I got settled and had a real job, I would occasionally try stuff that mom would never or very rarely try – like fresh salmon or crab, or fancy soft cheeses (the kind of stuff I first encountered in college events like art show openings. It should go without saying that we weren’t doing many art show openings when I was a kid.)

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Nice presentation, but I’d kick those Brussels sprouts up a couple notches with a cream cheese and slivered almond sauce.

My kids have taken this practice to the extreme. Once a few years back, we rented a SoCal beach house for Thanksgiving (off-season – cheaper than motels for 7 people). This house had a nice TV and cable – two things we didn’t have at the time. (3)

So what do these 5 TV deprived kids watch, when the entire cable world is their oyster? Cooking shows, of course.

Earlier in the week, I had bought the large value-pack of chicken breasts at Safeway, because I needed 2 but buying 6 or more is cheaper. (Did I mention this scaling back thing is difficult?). Had these chicken breasts that needed cooking up.

Yesterday, I ask David, age 12, what would you like for dinner that involves chicken? I listed off the usual: fried, breaded and fried, chicken Caesar salad, chicken stew, chicken soup – and he says “chicken cordon bleu.”

Ooo-Kay. Had no idea what chicken cordon bleu even is, but I googled it, saw how easy it is – so, yesterday, made chicken cordon bleu for the first time for dinner.

David  had no idea what chicken cordon bleu was, either. It was just the fanciest named thing involving chicken that he’d ever heard of. My son was messing with me, in other words.

He went with me shopping for Swiss cheese and ham, and looked over the recipe with me. He critiqued my chicken breast pounding technique – Alton Brown uses a glass pie plate and *presses* the chicken thin. Silly me – I was wondering what the recipe meant for me to do to ‘gently pound’  the chicken flat. Gently pound? Huh? David watched me mangle the first breast (it cooked up fine, especially when covered with breadcrumbs and cheese – sheesh!) until he could stand it no longer – he’s a polite kid – and started coaching me.

Well. The remaining three turned out lovely.

Anyway, it came out delicious, and really is easy. The consensus: it was pretty good, but my buttermilk Panko-crusted fried chicken is way better.

Duh.

  1.  Those days, thankfully, were in the past by the time I would have been old enough to notice the bunnies getting it – I’m 7th of 9 kids, 18 years younger than the oldest.
  2. Grandma Brilliant, who was a classic Irish matron, when she found out I was raised by a Czech-American mom, took that as a complete explanation of why I, despite being a man, could surprisingly cook. No explanation for this view was ever offered.
  3. Still don’t have cable – PAY for that stuff? No Thanks.

Divorce: Lying Starts at Home

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At least he didn’t kill his own children. But the divorces did – how do you say ? negatively impact a whole lot of people. (BTW – doesn’t his face look like a code monkey’s? The beady eyes and beard?)  

Divorce is like having both your legs amputated. It might be necessary in some extreme cases, but only a madman would make it anything other than a desperate last resort. And, afterwards, you can never walk unaided again.

Via some Twitter feed or other, I was made aware of this testament to our culture’s love affair with comforting self-deception and willingness, almost eagerness, to make someone else suffer for our sins, a currently popular song called When You Love SomeoneContinue reading “Divorce: Lying Starts at Home”

Update, Upcoming Book Reviews

Home from work today with a Martian Death Cold or something. If my head clears up enough to think for a while, plan to finally review a book or two – Forbidden Thoughts, maybe Souldancer (although I should really reread that last one). Also got the rest of the Moth & Cobweb series out so far, as well as the Rachel Griffin books. Need to find that sweet spot between too sick to go to work (man, we modern sissies!) yet clear-headed enough to write reviews. And let’s not talk about the education history stuff, OK?

Speaking of education history, never finished Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed  because AAAGH! MY EYES! I mean, because it follows a traditional Marxist analysis while at the same time remaining abstract to the point of meaninglessness – but I repeat myself – and my stomach for such nonsense is not as sturdy as it might be. Am trying to plow through now.

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“It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” – Dolly Parton (1)

It takes a lot of brains, sometimes, to be this stupid. Not that Freire is all that sharp – he’s learned to apply the Marxist/Hegelian template, which, if I am not mistaken, studies have shown lungfish can be trained to do.

The key is to stay way up in the clouds. Don’t drag the real world (except under the guise of ‘concrete reality’, whatever that might mean) into it until you’ve softened up the target established the intellectual underpinnings, as it were.

Here’s a more-or-less random chunk, for your edification and amusement:

While the problem of humanization has always, from an axiological point of view, been humankind’s central problem, it now takes on the character of an inescapable concern.[1] Concern for humanization leads at once to the recognition of dehumanization, not only as an ontological possibility but as an historical reality And as an individual perceives the extent of dehumanization, he or she may ask if humanization is a viable possibility. Within history in concrete, objective contexts, both humanization and dehumanization are possibilities for a person as an uncompleted being conscious of their incompletion.

It’s not so much that it is incoherent per se (by Marxist standards it’s practically Hemingway), it’s just that in education departments all over America this book is assigned to teenagers and twenty-somethings who, it can be safely assumed, have no philosophical or historical background, no practice deciphering jargon-laden pseudo-philosophy – and no instruction or background in clearing Marxist weeds so that the thoughts – when you get down to it, childish revenge fantasies packaged for people with daddy issues – can be seen for what they are.  In fact, they are encouraged to see this as the height of trenchant analysis and compassion. You know, the kind of compassion that gets 100 million defenseless people murdered.

And that, sadly, is the trick: whereas a liberal education, traditionally, was intended to provide the student with the intellectual, philosophical, logical and aesthetic background needed to do battle with these dragons of incoherence and despair, modern training (not education in any meaningful sense!) lines the kids up and marches them into the gaping maw.

They never know what hit them, and go on through life never laughing at Marx, which, in the abstract, is the correct response.

  1. Story: have a major client in Nashville, and so have taken people out to dinner quite often there in nicer restaurants. Thus, I once ate dinner inside of 10′ from Dolly Parton. Nobody bugged her – I certainly didn’t. That’s the whole thing about country: the stars remain accessible – and the fans give them a little space. Very cool.

 

Catholic Schools Week: A Modest Proposal

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Children’s Choir of Russia. No reason. Bet they sing better music…

(Usual disclaimer about how all the people involved are no doubt better Christians than me, no hard feelings, just calling it as I see it.)

Got blindsided this morning at Mass, as it is Catholic Schools Week, and not having any kids in K-12 Catholic schools, I didn’t see it coming.

What ‘it’ is is all the schoolkids and their parents showing up for the same Mass. This Mass includes several homilies/sermons – the normal one after the Gospel, as well as a pre-Mass sermon about what we’re all celebrating today (hint: Our Lord and Savior’s redeeming sacrifice as manifested on the altar didn’t seem to figure prominently) and the post-Mass sermon wherein we recognize and thank all sorts of people and remind everyone that there will be donuts and coffee at the school’s open house after Mass.

Remember the part in the V-II documents wherein Mass is supposed to contain performances, musical and otherwise, by kids at every opportunity, because nothing says ‘full, active participation’ like listening to children sing goofy social justice songs during Mass?

Me neither.

On the good side, the children’s choir is much better at this parish than the average in my experience, and they even – amazing! – sang some Latin commons. Whoa. This is not to be discounted – that these kids have learned some beautiful music could change their lives. A very good thing.

But the first and last songs, which nobody except the kids in the choir knew and for which no music or text was supplied, sang about ending discrimination and achieving justice. God may have been mentioned at some point, don’t know, I was kind of not listening after a while out of self-defense.

I If anyone ever wonders why we didn’t send our kids to Catholic K-12 schools, well, this about sums it up.

Anyway, as a public service, thought I’d write a song I’d like the little darlings to learn, and sing every morning right after the Pledge of Allegiance and never, ever sing at Mass:

The I’m Not All That and  Need to Lean Something Song

O my head is empty,

There’s nothing inside.

And teacher’s no better

There’s no place to hide!

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! My head is empty!

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! I don’t know a thing.

There’s no shame in saying

I don’t have a clue

I am still quite little

Now, how about you?

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! My head is empty!

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! I don’t know a thing.

If I pay attention

And read stuff that’s old

I might just learn something

Before my body’s cold.

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! My head is empty!

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! I don’t know a thing.

Needs work.

Here’s another ditty, sung, perhaps, to Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens Adore Him. Or not. Trying to reach kids where they are. Suitable for no occasions.

Lord Have Mercy! I’m a Clueless Punk

Lord, Have Mercy, I’m a clueless punk

Not surprising, since I am 10

I’ve been plied from birth with hippy bunk

Same as mom and dad and their kin

Now we make believe

Truth we can retrieve

If we spout the buzzwords right!

Lord, enlighten me!

I would like to see

What in particular’s OK in Your sight.

You’re my friend, Lord Jesus, that I got –

Not as fun as Maddy or James

This whole church thing, fun it’s surely not.

Why can’t we play video games?

Once each month or two

Motions going through

Grandma thinks there is a point!

No theology!

Never bended knee!

All my friends want to blow this joint.

Still, My Lord, I think there’s something

To this praying, kneeling and stuff

You have plans, I get the feeling

Being sort of nice ain’t enough

When I reach the end

I will need a Friend

more than just the final boss!

Help me win this game

Life is not the same

When you look down from that Cross

Weekend Update

1. Still waiting for the Most Epic Rain Since, like, way back in 2005 to hit. All the radar images and projections sure look impressive, but, so far, have yielded less than a third of an inch of rain locally over the last 20 hours. They claim it is raining elsewhere, but why would anyone trust them?  If we don’t get at least 3 inches by Monday, I may have to write a rather sternly-worded letter to, ah, well, someone who can Do Something about this!

Something like this:

“Advan-ced” kills me every time.  (Also, this tune always brings to mind Chesterton’s quip: ‘Ten thousand women marched through the streets shouting, ‘We will not be dictated to,’ and went off and became stenographers.’)

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A Norman doing it all wrong. 

2. Saw a tweet hoping to muster support for efforts to ban fracking in Sherwood Forest. Eyebrows shot upwards with bracing alacrity. Don’t we know the Forest is for the enjoyment of right-thinking Normans, who will punish with death any impoverished Saxons who dare try to use it for their ends?  Some things never change.

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Normans doing it right.

 

 

 

 

3. Christmas: the 12 days during which we are sore tempted to become yet more incarnate, in the sense of adding more carne, as it were.  A hazard I bravely endure is sharing a house with a gaggle of good to great cooks. We were having, for example, scones and fresh lemon curd, or waffles, maple syrup and whipped cream for breakfast, and  fresh baked pitas, fresh hummus & falafals and all the fixings, and fresh made pasta in a onion garlic cream sauce with fresh-baked bread for dinner. And that’s when we were eating at home – it was worse at family events, where we (by which I mean my wife and daughters) provide the desserts.

I’m sure many of you would bravely step in to relieve me of my fate, but my doom is my own. Sorry about that.

Then there’s fruitcake. I should mention that I do not share the general disdain for fruitcake, because I think of the fruitcake my mom used to make which, like everything she made, was outstanding. What passes for fruitcake in these degenerate times is a mockery!

Well, my beloved wife, bless her, has her own recipe for what is called a Christmas pudding, but one would be hard pressed to tell it from a fruitcake of the species my mom used to make. See below:

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Unfortunately, I messed up my attempts at pictures of the flaming part – yes, one warms up a little brandy, pours it over the top and sets it aflame – it burns a lovely blue. The smell of brandy is appropriate, as that topping you see is brandy butter whipped smooth.

The Calorific Vision.

Monday, I tell you, back on the wagon! Assuming I don’t explode first.

4. Kids heading back to school/work. Elder Daughter left last Sunday, packed off Middle Son today – put him on the train rather than make the 11 hour round trip on Interstate 5 because its supposed to be raining in an epic manner. Younger Daughter will be heading off to Rome (she chose Thomas More College largely to do the semester in Rome, it would seem) weekend after next. It’s sad to have all the kids home and them have them leave again, but it is sure good to see them.

After that, back to what passes for normal around here.

5. Still working on the Novel That Shall Not, For The Time Being, Be Named. Mostly background stuff and high-level descriptions. But still keeping it up. As Bullwinkle often said: This time, for sure!