May 16, 2007

John Edwards' "College for Everyone" Plan and "Chalk"

The Democratic Presidential candidate wants the taxpayers to shell out for his plan that "would pay for one year of public-college tuition, fees, and books for any student who is willing to work hard and stay out of trouble."

In Los Angeles County, harbinger of America's demographic future, only about 1 student out of 6, public or private, scores at least 1000 on the SAT (500 per test segment), and that's under the easier post-1995 scoring system (1000 now is the equivalent of an old school 890). In the LAUSD, only 1 of 12 scores 1000.

The farther below 1000 you score, the more likely is it that you have something better to do with your life than dither around in college for a few years before giving up. But no politician ever talks about the opportunity cost of subsidizing students who aren't college material to waste their time in colleges.

Meanwhile, the little indie film "Chalk," a sympathetic mockumentary about high school teachers made by two Austin teachers, takes a less messianic view of education. Here are excerpts from my upcoming American Conservative review:

Hollywood screenwriters routinely regale us with uplifting tales, such as last winter's Hilary Swank drama "Freedom Writers," of teachers who rebel against what President Bush denounced as "the soft bigotry of low expectations" and inspire their impoverished students to prodigious accomplishments. In this gentle but unromanticized movie, however, the teachers view the students as similar to the constantly malfunctioning office photocopier: just another frustration of the job...

As good as "Chalk" is,
American public schooling still awaits its own well-deserved Catch-22. Consider the madness of the federal No Child Left Behind act that mandates "that all children should reach a proficient level of academic achievement by 2014," a goal that can be reached only by palpable fraud. In 2002, 67 percent of all students scored below proficiency on the federal government's NAEP exam. After three years of NCLB, the 2005 test found that 69 percent were too low.

Education's overwhelming reality is that, unlike in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average, in America half the students are below average in intelligence. Yet, because equality of outcome, not doing the best we can with what we have, is the goal, public education is dominated by fantasy and frenzied faddishness -- This new vogue must be the magic bullet that will turn us into Lake Wobegon H.S.! -- alternating manic-depressively -- Eh, what's the use of even trying? -- with the lassitude of despair.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

11 comments:

Bob said...

Farming out the education of one's own children to other people is the height of irresponsibility, and always was. Nothing but mischief can result from this improper application of the division of labor principle. Note that more people send their children to "experts" 8 hours per day for the better part of 12 years than have strangers take care of their pets. Anything to get the kids off their hands; but Fido is a valued family member.

In America, it started many years ago, when industrialization tempted busy people to dump the kids somewhere while the coin was earned. (Better than swaddling clothes, they figured.) Marginal women - old maids, church ladies, poor relations - worked for a pittance alternately babysitting, inspiring, boring, and terrorizing their future-farmhand charges, who came out mostly okay. (Though many of the highest achievers were homeschooled.) Then the "experts" infiltrated and education became just another racket. For a while, many tried to do a good job and there were many wonderful, quiet successes for a few generations. But in historical terms, the triumph was transient. The logic of a racket will not be denied: the lust for power and prestige and rent-seeking grows, particularly when the vector is the irresponsibility of people. Now we have a vast, multi-billion-dollar bureaucracy that is so broken that anyone's learning anything on its account is an exception (something that happens in "good" schools, to the right demographic); kids learn in spite of, not because of, the system.

Everything I ever got out of school (including NYU) was contained in the library books. Nothing else.

Another useless, misbegotten industry, producing destruction.

Google John Taylor Gatto. He's good on much of the real history of "Education."

jody said...

this is the major problem for america that i talk about a lot. america is planning to use mexicans to compete economically with china. it won't work.

mexicans drop out of high school. the chinese become engineers. US politicians seem to be either unaware that this is the situation, or if they know about it, they seem to be convinced it will work out.

mexicans are rather average humans. europeans led america to greatness in every field of endeavor, but mexicans probably won't lead america to greatness in any field of endeavor. this is the hidden cultural cost of replacing europeans with mexicans.

Udolpho said...

What an unspeakably bad idea.

But a great way to further destroy college education by creating an influx of losers.

tommy said...

That sounds like a great way to inflate college costs even more for serious students.

Thanks Mr. Edwards!

essex said...

Steve, I could not agree with you more on this point:

[i]The farther below 1000 you score, the more likely is it that you have something better to do with your life than dither around in college for a few years before giving up. [/i]

On the other hand, what else are these folks supposed to do? It is true that many people are intellectually unfit for white-collar jobs and that sending them to college is a waste of time and money. However, our society has nothing else to offer them. The factory jobs they would have taken 40 years ago are long gone.

The question Edwards and others should be addressing is: What do we do with people who are too dumb to be successful in the modern economy? Of course, a politician wouldn't put it exactly that way, but it's an important issue that nobody dares to mention because it would violate the taboo against suggesting that some people are dumber than others. (It's almost OK to say that some people are smarter than others, but the corollary is verboten.)

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day this will make some educational qualifications useless. For examples, BAs or BScs will become less useful, as colleges will be forced to dumb things down further to allow more people to attend.

Employers who care about the quality of their employees will just shift to using other indicators.

Or, perhaps, as Steve points out, they will outsource more work to small start-ups that can fly under the EEOC radar where generally only high-quality males (who are usually white) are employed.

C'est la vie.

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, one of the singular achievements of 8 years of Dubyah-ism will have been No Child's testing requirements, which prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the staggering burden these low-IQ minorities are going to exact on our society.

See e.g. the following links:

The Nation's Report Card: 12th-Grade Reading and Mathematics 2005
http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2007468

LAUSD hits new low on API
http://www.dailynews.com/portlet/article/html/fragments/print_article.jsp?articleId=5535873&siteId=200

California raises bar on school scores
Campuses are required to make progress toward closing the gap between whites and minority students.
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-schools28mar28,0,3452729.story

Battling the 'No Child' Backlash
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/21/AR2007032101785_pf.html

Of course, the NEA is fighting the testing requirements tooth & nail, and one of the great battles of the final two years of Dubyah-ism will be fought over his decision to veto [or sign] whatever test-emasculating legislation eventually is sent to him by Pelosi & Reid.

On the demographics of the thing though, quite frankly, I don't see how America as we once knew it will survive:

Of U.S. Children Under 5, Nearly Half Are Minorities
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/09/AR2006050901841.html

Anonymous said...

Steve says:


As good as "Chalk" is, American public schooling still awaits its own well-deserved Catch-22. Consider the madness of the federal No Child Left Behind act that mandates "that all children should reach a proficient level of academic achievement by 2014," a goal that can be reached only by palpable fraud. In 2002, 67 percent of all students scored below proficiency on the federal government's NAEP exam. After three years of NCLB, the 2005 test found that 69 percent were too low.


Looking at a normal distribution, that suggests that the standard requires that everyone have an IQ of about 105 by 2014.

Good luck with that!

MensaRefugee said...

Maybe the problem with the States is it has gotten too big. On a local level people will fight to keep out dumber more violent people - the reasons are so obvious that the political correctness we all carry in our heads (also known as a moral code) is overruled. But in Washington, what reason do they have to really care about something happening in California?

So, in a large state, the politicians relentlessly chip away at local control to gain more power, while knowing and caring less and less, as is natural, about the far reaches of the empire.

Anonymous said...

Some more data points on the manifest, fundamental importance of testing:

60% of 8th-graders failed science
http://www.star-telegram.com/news/story/104812.html

Fail TAKS, don't graduate. Many want to change that.
http://www.star-telegram.com/593/story/104833.html

No Arlington schools 'unacceptable'
http://www.star-telegram.com/593/story/104929.html

By the way, the Fort Worth school system has the following racial breakdown:

55.1% Hispanic
27.1% African American
15.9% White/Anglo
1.7% Asian/Pacific Islander
0.2% Native American

PDF DOCUMENT: Fort Worth ISD District Profile
http://www.fortworthisd.org/comm/District_Profile_2006-07.pdf

tommy said...

MensaRefugee,

Maybe the problem with the States is it has gotten too big.

Yep. I think small countries the size of Finland do a lot better representing their populations than big countries like the United States.