March 5, 2010

The Teacher Training Paradox

From the NY Times Magazine "Building a Better Teacher," which argues for better training of teachers:

Lemov himself pushed for data-driven programs that would diagnose individual students’ strengths and weaknesses. But as he went from school to school that winter, he was getting the sinking feeling that there was something deeper he wasn’t reaching. On that particular day, he made a depressing visit to a school in Syracuse, N.Y., that was like so many he’d seen before: “a dispiriting exercise in good people failing,” as he described it to me recently. Sometimes Lemov could diagnose problems as soon as he walked in the door. But not here. Student test scores had dipped so low that administrators worried the state might close down the school. But the teachers seemed to care about their students. They sat down with them on the floor to read and picked activities that should have engaged them. The classes were small. The school had rigorous academic standards and state-of-the-art curriculums and used a software program to analyze test results for each student, pinpointing which skills she still needed to work on.

But when it came to actual teaching, the daily task of getting students to learn, the school floundered. Students disobeyed teachers’ instructions, and class discussions veered away from the lesson plans. In one class Lemov observed, the teacher spent several minutes debating a student about why he didn’t have a pencil. Another divided her students into two groups to practice multiplication together, only to watch them turn to the more interesting work of chatting. A single quiet student soldiered on with the problems. As Lemov drove from Syracuse back to his home in Albany, he tried to figure out what he could do to help. He knew how to advise schools to adopt a better curriculum or raise standards or develop better communication channels between teachers and principals. But he realized that he had no clue how to advise schools about their main event: how to teach.

But are the failures in these examples ones of teaching or of discipline? Perhaps teachers need more institutional support in disciplining their students? Individuals who are skilled at both teaching a useful subject matter and at outwitting knuckleheads in mind games in struggles for personal dominance have better jobs available to them (such as being head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers).

Our society doesn't much emphasize training people in exercising authority anymore, so schools could use more specialization by hiring as Assistant Deans of Discipline the kind of guy who likes putting young punks in their place.

Unfortunately, the trend in public schools, exacerbated by disparate impact lawsuits over suspensions and expulsions falling more heavily on protected classes, has been in the opposite direction toward putting most responsibility for discipline on the shoulders of teachers, who are supposed to call parents.

But the parents of troublemakers are typically overwhelmed themselves, and would often appreciate some help from society's institutions.

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

75 comments:

Anonymous said...

"In one class Lemov observed, the teacher spent several minutes debating a student about why he didn’t have a pencil."

Teachers in years past would not have put up with this. They wouldn't "debate" their students, they would tell them to bring pencils. End of discussion. My mother was a teacher and everyone was amazed she could keep her students quiet and working. It was pretty simple: you give basic commands and expect them to be followed. These are elementary school students! She was not a fan of the new styles of teaching.

John Derbyshire said...

Yo Steve: Bob Weissberg's forthcoming book makes it all clear. We're trying to impose an academic culture on a populace that doesn't really want it. The problem with education is not supply, it's demand; not the teachers, the students; not lack of choice, lack of enthusiasm.

sykes.1 said...

It is depressing to watch the Darwinian process play out. The upcoming generation will be incompetent, effeminate and narcissistic (like Europw is now), and an authoritarian China or perhaps a fanatical Islam will impose its will here in the US.

Paul Mendez said...

I know several people who have left teaching, or took a pay cut by moving to a private school. One reason they all mentioned was that parents aren't just disinterested in backing up teachers these days, they are actively involved in undermining teachers' authority.

If a teacher disciplines a student today -- whether in a ghetto school or a posh suburban school -- the parents are going to take their kid's side. In the ghetto school, the parents might threaten to beat the teacher up. In the suburban school, they will attack the teacher's career.

Often, I read in the paper about middle-school students whose parents have obviously abetted their anti-establishment "individuality" by encouraging them to wear controversial clothes, have weird haircuts, not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, etc.,

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one that was always annoyed by the he or she usage in modern writing and is now jarred everytime the he is completely dropped in favor of she. The fact you can not even use the male pronoun alone anymore to stand for all (as we have done since the moment writing began) to the almost mandatory she tells us everything we need to know about Western Civ.

The He/She wording is even used by the likes of the Market Ticker guy. And if you were to take him on his word he has the biggest/baddest balls in the world, the size of Godzillas, yet even he always uses he or she in his writing.

Of course, I think America was doomed the moment the franchise was given to women. I mean that 100% (and yes I am married to a beautiful woman and have a daughter).

Paavo said...

We should let teachers select their pupils. Or at the teachers should be able to transfer any troublemakers to another class, which could be the discipline class.

And then one would just pay according to things that teachers have been able to teach their students. So teachers would want to keep as much as students as possible, if those students wouldn't compromise the learning of others.

Or maybe one should balance the this with some sort of popularity rating, so teachers wouldn't just threaten students to better results.

This way, if you have a lot of kids that couldn't really read in the last test, the teacher who is the reading skills specialist would want all those bad readers, because she/he could get a good payoff teaching them to read.

alltogether the specialisation in teaching is not very desirable. You could have one teacher teaching all the subjects in high schools. Instead of specializing in subjects, teachers should specialize in different kinds of learners.

Anonymous said...


But the parents of troublemakers are typically overwhelmed themselves, and would often appreciate some help from society's institutions.


Actually, the parents of troublemakers are usually troublemakers themselves ...

Luke Lea said...

Web cameras in all public school classrooms would provide a non-intrusive way to monitor student misbehavior and teacher incompetence. No more he said, she said.

JW Ogden said...

O like this line:

by hiring as Assistant Deans of Discipline the kind of guy who likes putting young punks in their place.

Bill said...

But the parents of troublemakers are typically overwhelmed themselves, and would often appreciate some help from society's institutions.

Meanwhile, back on planet earth, 11 youths were arrested after they participated in a riot at a Western PA middle school, and a local news account says:

One parent, Michelle Washington, was angry that her son was arrested.

"They'll see us in court."

RGH said...

When I got a job as a technical trainer for a private company I had to audition three times in front of their trainers and sales staff to prove I could teach. In my prior career as a public school teacher, no one ever made any attempt to determine if I could actually teach before hiring me -- all they cared about was my certification . Also, as a technical trainer they were entirely unconcerned that I didn't know anything about what they were hiring me to teach. They judged that it was easier to get a good teacher to learn the material than to get a subject matter expert to learn to teach.

Jim Bowery said...

Just make the juvenile detention system budgets come out of the child protective services budgets, and start putting the "knuckleheads" in The Breakfast Club.

Anonymous said...

so true Steve- you go to your local mma gym pick out some big boys- pay them a good salary 40k a year- and let them discipline the kids. They're out of work at 2:30 and in the gym- they've got good health insurance for their inevitable multiple injuries and crazy kids aren't ruining any chance at learning in school.....Booom!!

Dan in Dc

Usually Lurking said...

But the parents of troublemakers are typically overwhelmed themselves, and would often appreciate some help from society's institutions.

I am surprised to hear you say this. In my experience, they are not overwhelmed, but underwhelmed. They just do not think that much of their child misbehaving.

They may shout his name, or look on disapprovingly, but, in the end, do little to actually discipline the child.

Anonymous said...

HOMESCHOOL YOUR CHILDREN!!!

Anonymous said...

"A paradox is a statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition."

Is it really a paradox that good teachers can't teach kids, especially disruptive ones, without discipline? Would "common sense" or "self-evident" be a better descriptor than "paradox"?

I must've been the last generation to go through corporal punishment in schools. The Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary did my totally-out-of-control kidself a favor in regularly rapping my knuckles with a ruler.

It's frightening to think what would happen to them in a tough urban school today.

silly girl said...

Reminds me of the sign on the ceiling of my dentist's office:

There is nothing the dentist can do that will make up for what the patient will not do.

Fred said...

The irony is that the kind of school environment that would work best for these young knuckleheads (military school) is only available for upper middle class, mostly white, knuckleheads. Why not make a public military school an option for kids whose parents don't have the money or interest to send them to a private one?

Rebelyell said...

The most important variable in determining student performance, outranking class size and teacher grade-point average by far, is the teacher's score on the ACT test, which is little more than an IQ test that rewards effort to some extent.

Anonymous said...

Of course discipline is the core issue. There is good evidence that disciplinary and cultural differences explain Catholic schools' better record at training poor NAMs even with lower paid lay teachers. [Anyone who thinks that Catholic schools do well only because of spending or selection should look at the research of Altonji among others]. Without such measures it becomes exceedingly difficult to get kids to participate in the learning process.

When my own children went to an integrated Catholic grade school in a lower middle class area (one-third non-Catholic blacks at the school) I was impressed by how well order was maintained and how uniformly polite all the kids were.

In contrast the range in behavior of the different parents at school functions was quite striking and it was easy to see which were the traditional and which the more dysfunctional families.

Half Sigma said...

Nowhere in the article does it say that using better discipline methods will close the black-white gap.

The article does say that teacher performance can be improved, which is good. Unstated is the sad fact that degrees in education are a TOTAL WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY because the teachers aren't learning anything useful in these programs, like how to keep order in the classroom. It's amazing that such a massive amount of "research" is produced by education professors, yet there's no actual useful research which can be used to teach teachers how to teach better.

Anonymous said...

I graduated high school in 1966. In the 12 preceding years the unwritten teaching mantra was:

"Sit down, shut-up and listen or get out!"

There Mr. Lemov...you may send my consulting fee to me c/o Steve Sailer at this blog.

Chicago Correspondent said...

Teaching isn't really a high status job even though there's a lot of lip service paid to it by those who wouldn't want to do it themselves. Most teachers I had, as I remember, were just mediocre average people who couldn't make any subject sound interesting but just plodded through the lesson plan. Boredom set in quickly and the kids would try to create diversions, being good at sensing the weaknesses of the teacher. Often I got the feeling neither the teachers nor students really wanted to be there. Lesson plans were one size fits all, even though there was a wide range of ability in a class of thirty students. Don't want to over-generalize but my impression of public school was that it was intended as mass education for the masses, cranking out the future citizens who would know just enough to work, pay taxes, fight the future wars, etc. Private elite schools were for the better folks who were destined to do the thinking for the rest of us. More discipline? They had plenty when I was there and didn't find a prison environment conducive to generating enthusiasm about learning. Might work in other cultures but not so much with Americans.

More Anon said...

"exacerbated by disparate impact lawsuits..."

Has anyone put together the economic figures on the costs of insuring against such lawsuits? Isn't the lawsuit the main driver of the diversity industry and its academic and media sycophants?

The Diversity Recession's causes aren't limited to the housing loan market.

Anonymous said...

A bit off-topic, but related:

A few days ago the NYT had an article about how Diane Ravitch has changed her mind about the high-standards-enforced-by-standardized-testing regime that she used to favor, as well as on charter schools. She says that we can now see the effect of this approach, and that the effect is not good.

I seem to recall that Ravitch used to think that all students should get a pre-college-high-standards-liberal-arts education in high school. This is of course totally idiotic, as Charles Murray has pointed out, so maybe Ravitch, despite her reputation as a thoughtful scholar, is actually an abject idiot.

I don't have time right now to check the accuracy of what I've written above about Ravitch. The real story may be somewhat different. Maybe she's not an idiot.

My reason for posting now is to throw out the following. Could it be that the trends that are bothering Ravitch are really caused by the deteriorating quality of our student population, which she refuses to see, sincing seeing the deterioration makes one a racist?

Likewise with Lemov, the problems he sees seem to be problems of student quality, but when he sees education not working, he puts the blame entirely on the teaching methods.

Veracitor said...

Syracuse is fairly poor town. Syracuse schools have a lot of underclass and minority students and this Syracuse school-district report shows that more than 40% of hispanic students drop out of high school there and a lot of black students do poorly.

Although I believe "better discipline" probably could help, I think the Syracuse story (of setting "high standards" for "less academically- oriented students") smacks of a problem you have discussed before, Steve, using the example of requiring all kids to pass algebra II to graduate from high school-- setting standards that many of the students can hardly achieve is a recipe for (statistical) failure.

When we see poor academic achievement (including poor attachment to the school process) we need to analyze the characteristics of the students as well as the teachers. No amount of teacher training can boost the IQ's the students matriculate with. Even superbly trained teachers can only boost student IQ's by a small amount before graduation.

When I hear a teacher trainer lament that he can't figure out how to train teachers to turn every poor minority kid in Syracuse into an MIT prospect I figure the trainer is either a fool or desperately afraid of the political-correctness police.

Anonymous said...

Steve Absolutely...discipline is the crux of the problem...In-School Suspension, Boot Camps, and embedded special instruction schemes are completely overwhelmed already by the numbers of miscreants.
There simply is no way to herd the errant, the alternative fix rosters would swell even larger than the regular school body in many cases...so shools shepherd them along until the appropriate law enforcement interface gets to have them...and they act stupid there, too...

Lost Cause until Cromwell, Pershing, or the next Iron Fist comes along.....but I suppose, the power of positive thinking can make it better....
Buroaker

Slampo said...

"Perhaps teachers need more institutional support in disciplining their students."

Bingo.

Anonymous said...

But the parents of troublemakers are typically overwhelmed themselves,
===


OR they are trouble makes themselves!

Anonymous said...

We're trying to impose an academic culture on a populace that doesn't really want it.


No, we're not. We're trying and failing to teach some basic literacy to kids. We were able to do this, once, before "modern" teaching techniques. But that society had discipline and self-responsibility from to bottom.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, they are not overwhelmed, but underwhelmed. They just do not think that much of their child misbehaving.


They may shout his name, or look on disapprovingly, but, in the end, do little to actually discipline the child.


Yes, I know parents like this, and they tell me flat out that it is the job of everyone else but them to make sure their children behave themselves and learn in school. Since they shirk responsibility for their actions (or inactions) it's hard to be surprised that their children develop the same traits.

But social liberalism teaches that every individual will rise to his maximum potential if only he is free to do what he wants. Liberals and libertarians have a lot to answer for.

Anonymous said...

Yo Steve: Bob Weissberg's forthcoming book makes it all clear. We're trying to impose an academic culture on a populace that doesn't really want it. The problem with education is not supply, it's demand; not the teachers, the students; not lack of choice, lack of enthusiasm.

umm....duh. i'm pretty sure steve and most readers here already knew this.

Anonymous said...

The most important variable in determining student performance, outranking class size and teacher grade-point average by far, is the teacher's score on the ACT test, which is little more than an IQ test that rewards effort to some extent.




Can you link to a study which says that? I suspect the typical junior-high school teacher today has a considerably greater IQ than in the past. But teachers in the past got much better results.

Pay The Pathology Tax said...

Close the black-white gap? What a load of hooey that is. Why close only that one gap? Blacks need to close several "gaps" apparently?

How about the black-jewish gap?

How about the black-asian gap?

How about the black-hispanic gap?

How abou the black-desi gap?

Blacks aren't even the largest minority in this country any longer. And the triage-ing of black pathologies is exhausting the rest of the populace.

Just one example: Calculate the black community's total negative impact on real estate values across this country. That number is stratospheric.

The total cost of triage-ing black pathology - higher insurance rates for everyone else plus lower real estate values for everyone else plus remedial education plus prisons plus extra policing plus healthcare - and it must be far above a trillion net tax dollar drag on our economy per year.

The cost of babysitting the black community in this country is simply beyond belief.

KissTheGoat said...

Go back to hitting. Sure, a teacher can't rely on it as the meat of class discipline but, it goes a long way as a backstop.

Ho No! said...

What is more crucial is the need to discipline the parents of those kids. If kids mess up, teachers are supposed to call up the parents who are supposed to discipline the students during the time when the students are away from school. In other words, there is no magic bullet that will turn lousy kids into good kids only during school time. Students or young people have to be guided all times of the day, and most of this must be done by parents. Teachers do most of the teaching, but parents must do most of the disciplining. Suppose teacher tells a kid to behave but the kid won't listen. Ideally, the teacher will notify the parents who will teach the kid some manners.

But, look at the parents of most of these kids. Single mothers. Dumb as shit. Crude, rude, lazy, hateful, arrogant, touchy, foul, and disgusting. If a teacher told a parent that her kid is acting lousy, the stupid parent won't feel any shame but act all angry and even get physical at the teacher as if she had been personally insulted.
As for the 'fathers', in most cases they are not around as a lot of these women have children with a string of boyfriends.
Since many of these single mothers happen to be black, teachers are physically afraid of them. White women are no match to black women. And even white men don't wanna get into screaming matches with black women(who might also bring their boyfriends to beat up the 'white boy'; worse, many black highschool students are bigger and stronger than even white male teachers).
There is also the element of 'white guilt', which says whites should treat blacks with kid gloves at all times and try to sympathize and understand. Thus, blacks have come to feel entitled to being treated with profuse respect even when they don't deserve any. Black community demands than earns respect and gets it all the time from dumbass liberal white society.


As long as there's no way to discipline the parents, there is no hope of disciplining the kids. Problems may exist in the school but they originate outside the school.

Fiddle Caste said...

Since progressives love Castro and Che so much, I say use the Cuban method. Beat up bad kids, enforce strict discipline, ban popular culture, prohibit specifically black organizations, and make students do stuff like farm work once in awhile(if only to burn some of their fat).

Larissa said...

I recently volunteered in my son's second grade class and was impressed by how on task his teacher kept the children (she's an excellent teacher). There seem to be a few children that were zoning out, however. I live in a middle class area, with a small lower middle class section.

Anonymous said...

Let me help a few readers get a better understanding of what teaching entails. I presently teach in an exurban Florida district.

One of the last problems facing schools is teacher ability. The major problem is the monopoly statist system and the easy money policies that have funneled tremendous wealth to school districts. Few people understand that spending $18K/year on student education is going to generate an incentive structure designed to maintain system floatation at all costs. Within the education establishment, so many people are raking in good to great money that any hiccup is severely punished. If the public were to ever learn the truth, the game would be jeopardized.

Therefore, every employee is incented to hide problems. The school superintendent only wants principals who can "manage" discipline. In turn, principals only want teachers who can "manage" discipline. A teacher is thrown under the bus if he fails even just a few students regardless of their performance. The principal cannot tolerate failing students or discipline problems since the superintendent cannot tolerate principals who fail. Thus, nothing gets done. Teaching is nothing but a crock wherein teachers have the hardest jobs, but make the least. Even in rural areas you can find principals who make $100k, an amount that they would find impossible to match in another profession and an amount far above the local populace.

I think it was von Mises who said something to the effect that in government your job is to keep your job. This is absolutely, 100% true. The incentive structure is to CYA at all times with regards to documentation and not revealing problems. A similar paradigm is present in all government work. There is no upside to your job, regardless of what you do therefore your focus becomes maintenance of income.

Until you work as a teacher in a dysfunctional district (ours: 33% latino, 33% white, 33% black), you cannot comprehend how insane everything truly is. The worst kids are treated with kid gloves, out of fear of lawsuits, while the best are left to flounder. Teachers are powerless. Discipline in school should be easy: if you cause disruption you are kicked out and sent to trade school. Of course, nothing like that is going to happen anytime soon. Rather, people will continue to berate the average teacher, who only seeks to do good, instead of criticizing the poorly designed system we have today. It is utter rubbish to advocate that an educator should spend his day managing student behavior.

Anonymous said...

We're trying to impose an academic culture on a populace that doesn't really want it.

Yo Derb: what is being imposed is about as far from an academic culture as you can get and still have something that vaguely resembles school. It's not an academic culture; it's a social engineering experiment.

Anonymous said...

wow, what a bunch of nazis. Lack of discipline is hardly the problem, except in the poorest inner-city schools. Schools are stifling and unnatural. I wasted many years in a school, where when the teacher talked, you could hear a pin drop, but anything useful I learned, I learned by following my own curiosity (and I managed to become a professr at a major university). Kids should be aided in following their curiosity, and those that are uninterested in academic subjects, can become plumbers or any of a million other occupations society needs that don't require any academic training.

Anonymous said...

Although, I should add that passing some kind of civics and general literacy test should be required of voters.

Anonymous said...

My SO is a teacher and the environment is toxic.

Smart people chose schools very well and make sure that their kids get into AP and Honors classes, or get them educated overseas.

One could almost see the current system as a conspiracy against the middle class.

Difference Maker said...

Of course, I think America was doomed the moment the franchise was given to women.

Indeed. I agree. And women love me

Anonymous said...

What about the talent of the teaching profession changing after women were allowed to enter other professional jobs other then teachers,nurses and secretaries. I would suspect that modern teachers are on average less talented then there 1950's couterparts. Women had far fewer professional choices back in the 1950's. After women's "liberation" you probably had some holdovers who had been teaching for a while that lasted into the 1980's. I would say few talented young people aspire to be a teacher, or for that matter a nurse or secretary. The good ones in these professions are rare.

Anonymous said...

"wow, what a bunch of nazis."
"I managed to become a professr at a major university"

How painfully unsurprised am I that a prof at a major uni would demonstrate the quality of his learnedness by name-calling us all nazis.

Anonymous said...

I'm 40 and think that my generation (X) had a unique view of this transition. In elementary and secondary school, teachers were either old-school, no-non-sense WW II generation or they were first generation baby-boomer, flower-children. Of course as kids we all preferred the hippies to the "grandpas/mas" but you can guess where the greatest learning took place.

Funny thing, it's hard to pin down just how those Greatest Generation koots kept us in check. We were terrified of the old guard teachers but it wasn't like they beat us or implemented draconian rules; we just didn't ef with them out of fear/respect, I guess.

Students today have only experienced soft headed boomer educrats and have no reference for a well disciplined and productive learning experience/environment.

After grad school I substituted for a year in my old school district and the place was an absolute zoo, from 12 down to K. Now the Nortenos and the Surenos require an actual police presence at the high school. Twenty five years ago old Mr. Taylor was enough to put the fear of God into us with just a glance.

Anonymous said...

Yo Steve: Bob Weissberg's forthcoming book makes it all clear. We're trying to impose an academic culture on a populace that doesn't really want it. The problem with education is not supply, it's demand; not the teachers, the students; not lack of choice, lack of enthusiasm.

In India, we have the opposite situation. Too much demand, not enough supply.

Starker said...

"what a bunch of nazis." Sweet Jesus, it didn't take long for Godwin's Law to rear its ugly head. Look puss, I assume you're female so I'll be as gentle as possible. Steve Sailer, John Derbyshire, Half Sigma, silly girl and Jim Bowery, among others, are part of my crew and when you insult them, you're dissing me. Get it?

Now you're an academic so I'm half willing to let you cop an insanity plea here. But I think you need to learn some manners New York style. You have to learn that you can't hurl nuclear insults around without being held to account.

It doesn't say "Starker" on my driver's license, but at least I've chosen an identifiable nom de guerre. Also, I'm virtually the only white man in the Bronx -- Riverdale doesn't count -- so if you want to send your man up here to discuss the finer points of Nazism with me I shouldn't be hard to find. Further details available on request.

But what about you? Where do you do your professing? Also pick a name so I can identify you next time. Also, "professor," "nazi" takes an upper case "N" and "proffesr" needs an second "o."

Charlie said...

Dr. Johnson explained why he studied in school: "my master whip'd me well."

End of discipline problems.

It's not that you can't teach schoolchildren without whipping them. It's just that in practice, you won't. When corporal punishment ceased, so did learning in the classroom. Most Americans now are semi-literate and know nothing they didn't get from mass media or vocational training.

The reason our society still functions is that school was never that important anyway; we could just officially convert K-12 institutions into massive daycare facilities, and the only change would be a great deal of saved money on textbooks and education degrees.

Antioco Dascalon said...

major university professor,
You should know, then, that your personal anecdote carries little weight. You obviously were on the high-IQ end of the scale in school. Of course you were bored! School cannot cater to the top 1% of students. Yes, the top 1% can follow their interests, but that doesn't mean that it works for the rest, especially the lower half of the bell curve. So, they don't need basic education and can be plumbers? Then how will they know whether they should get an AR morgage? Or whether to vote for universal health care? Or to support a war? Education is more than vocational training.
Your post reminds me of the sexual revolution, where the educated and elites said "You don't need to get married anymore! Follow your bliss." Now, 40 years later, the educated are getting and staying married, while the underclass is wallowing in divorce, single-motherhood, etc. Following your common-sense and instincts if fine if you are high-IQ (or self-disciplined). If not, discipline is key as is someone else telling you what to do.

Garland said...

In Ed School, they talk about “classroom management,” rather than discipline. But they don’t really even teach classroom management either.

Certainly an entire school needs to be on board and ready to accept a steady stream of troublemakers sent out of class for discipline. As Anon from exurban Florida says above, discipline should be easy and it’s absurd that managing student behavior is even a major aspect of the job.

As for appealing to parents, another problem is, of course, when they don’t be speak English.

Anonymous said...

I attended public schools in Sydney in the 90's. New South Wales had a two tiered public school system with an upper 'selective' tier reserved for our intellectual elite (+2 sigma) and a lower 'comprehensive' tier for the residual. Moreover, since subjects had, at the time, three difficulty levels - hard, medium and easy - the comprehensive tier effectively consisted of three tiers. Altogether, this intellect-based stratification spared mediocre and spineless comprehensive students - i.e. a generation of middle managers - the burden of dealing with the most quarrelsome and unruly students (mostly Arabs, Turks and Australians) on a daily basis, while inculcating into a generation of academics and engineers (mostly Chinese, Indians and Australians) the notion that rank r << rank r + 1.

none of the above said...

Is there any good data on how much of different student performance is explained by the racial or socioeconomic mix of the class alone? To a first approximation, a class full of middle-class whites and Asians is going to do better than a class full of poor blacks and hispanics. But without knowing how large this effect is, it's hard to know how much lower performance we should accept.

Baloo said...

"Of course, I think America was doomed the moment the franchise was given to women."

Mokita.

Anonymous said...

Bruce Shortt, author of The Harsh Truth about Public Schools, recommends parents of good students remove their students to hasten the collapse of the public system so that it can be totally redone. He is religious, so that is part of his motivation, but he makes many of the same points about waste, expense, violence and general idiocy. If we weren't paying for public schools with tax dollars, we would have enough in our pockets to pay for private ed. It could be run better and more efficiently by private entities. The best part would be that we wouldn't be stuck paying pensions and health care for retirees of the system.

Larissa said...

I agree with the person who said that lack of discipline is not really a big problem except at inner city schools or with certain "problem" children who are very disruptive. I remember at times, in school, having trouble paying attention or sitting quietly, I think there is a lot of wasted time. Good teachers minimize it, but less good teachers tend to have way too much down time and give out too much busy work.

Anonymous said...

It surprises me that no one has yet noted that compulsory education laws account for most of these problems.

We have as a society so thoroughly swallowed the notion that people are creatures of their environments that it is possible for a nominally conservative Republican administration to put forward legislation with the title "No Child Left Behind." There seems to be no recognition that some children must be left behind at some point, because they are ineducable past it.

It is probably the case that the large mass of people with IQs between 100 and (say) 90 or 85 have absorbed all the education they possibly can by the eighth grade. It is a cruelty to them to subject them to four more years of nominal education which in practice amounts to nothing more than warehousing. Yet the age at which a youngster can drop out of school has been steadily raised. Forty years ago, in my state, that age was 15. It was subsequently raised to 16 and then to 18. I cannot imagine that any thoughtful teacher or principal privately believes it is doing this group of their charges any good. The only honest rationales for compulsory education through age 18 are that it prevents the ranks of the unemployed from being swelled by the addition of large numbers of 16- and 17-year-old unemployables, and that it provides the public educational system with additional funding on the dollars/pupils/days formula used to calculate the amount of state aid in most jurisdictions.

Completely forgotten in this calculus is the effect the presence of the ineducable has in diminishing the benefit the schools can offer to those who actually have a capacity for education, particularly at the high-school level. The high-school diploma has consequently become all but worthless as a mark of educational achievement. Employers have in turn come to rely on the possession of a university degree as a minimum credential for hiring, and thus the university has been degraded from a place of scholarship into a superior sort of vocational school. Those interested in actual scholarship now do so at a post-graduate level. Thus the effects of keeping the ineducable in public schools long past the point at which it does them any good have had systemic ramifications far beyond the public schools themselves.

In 2004 the Templeton Foundation published a report entitled "A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students" in which it concluded that, given the institutional limits of the public school system, and the unlikelihood of any significant change in them, the best approach to the education of the gifted was to accelerate their passage through it so they spent the minimum practicable time in its clutches.

Based on personal experience and observation, I believe this to be true. The return on investment in education of the gifted and talented is much greater than it is for any other class of children, yet the public schools are largely indifferent to it. Procrustean egalitarianism and the lowest common denominator rule the day.

not a hacker said...

I witnessed the essence of the problem on a muni bus in S.F. just last year. I was sitting with 5 chinese 16-year olds as the bus approached Lincoln High School, one of the city's "neighborhood," i.e. non-academic, high schools. These were normal, non-feminized boys, the kind you could have expected to be B students 25 years ago. Instead, they were having an explicit conversation about how "gay" it was to study and get good grades, and boasted about their D's and F's the way some guys boast about the pussy they're getting. These were obviously middle-class kids, so it's clear that the black Uncle Tom paradigm ("Whitey wants me educated so I refuse), has spread to other groups.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

I'm 40 and think that my generation (X) had a unique view of this transition. In elementary and secondary school, teachers were either old-school, no-non-sense WW II generation or they were first generation baby-boomer, flower-children. Of course as kids we all preferred the hippies to the "grandpas/mas" but you can guess where the greatest learning took place.


I am about your age and your observations match my experiences.

Truth said...

"Kids should be aided in following their curiosity, and those that are uninterested in academic subjects, can become plumbers or any of a million other occupations society needs that don't require any academic training."

The level of white, born-upper-middle class snobbery here is highly discouraging; does it take more real training to teach The Merchant of Venice, or to make water flow from the street to someone's water heater, sinks and stove?

I would bet that if you switched jobs with your local plumber for a week, he would do a much better job at yours than you would at his.

Truth said...

"Although, I should add that passing some kind of civics and general literacy test should be required of voters."

Why, most of you 140 IQ geniuses here vote for either demicans or republicrats every time, right?

Truth said...

"Just one example: Calculate the black community's total negative impact on real estate values across this country. That number is stratospheric."

That is making the idiotic assumption that real estate is a zero sum game. Wrong. When white move out of a darkening area, they move into a farm community on the exburbs that previously sat on 50 dollar an acre farmland. and the values there go up as the values in "the hood" go down...then 50 years later they move back.

Truth said...

"These were obviously middle-class kids, so it's clear that the black Uncle Tom paradigm ("Whitey wants me educated so I refuse), has spread to other groups."

So all of your problems boil down to "blame blackie?"

Anonymous said...

Kids should be aided in following their curiosity


Thus you illustrate the stupidity of major university professors, as well as the fallacy that high IQ corresponds to anything like real-world intelligence. Thank you, sir. You have done us all a great service.

Anonymous said...

The giant huge problem with unschooling, with the concept that "kids should be aided in following their curiosity," the one that nobody wants to admit to, is that there are just never going to be enough smart, loving, responsible adults whose curiosity led them to want to spend their lives facilitating the curiosity of children.

The one thing that traditional pedagogy and modern pedagogy share is that they are both solutions to the problem of how to get the kids out of the way. It might be possible to develop a whole unschooling culture, one where children wandered around having their curiosity facilitated by lots of different adults and it got all spread out enough so that people could still get stuff done, but you would need a whole culture to do that. I have no idea how you'd get there from here, particularly since hardly anybody even wants to.

I am a homeschooling mother so I am not talking from a perspective of not liking kids or wanting to stuff them in airless classrooms. In the last week I've facilitated my child's curiosity about superheroes, the Cold War, moon landings, kites, gluing pictures of birds to sticks, thermodynamics, and Beowulf. You know what I haven't done? Earned any money. I also haven't made myself pretty, practiced any of my hobbies, read anything serious, gotten much housework done, or had an adult conversation with anyone offline who I am not married to. This is pretty much my life. Not many people are willing to do this.

Anonymous said...

That is making the idiotic assumption that real estate is a zero sum game. Wrong. When white move out of a darkening area, they move into a farm community on the exburbs that previously sat on 50 dollar an acre farmland. and the values there go up as the values in "the hood" go down...then 50 years later they move back.

So the "broken windows" fallacy of economics metastasizes into the "broken cities" meta-fallacy?

Why not go the whole nine yards and break the entire nation?

Oh wait - my bad...

Anonymous said...

I am a homeschooling mother so I am not talking from a perspective of not liking kids or wanting to stuff them in airless classrooms. In the last week I've facilitated my child's curiosity about superheroes, the Cold War, moon landings, kites, gluing pictures of birds to sticks, thermodynamics, and Beowulf. You know what I haven't done? Earned any money. I also haven't made myself pretty, practiced any of my hobbies, read anything serious, gotten much housework done, or had an adult conversation with anyone offline who I am not married to. This is pretty much my life. Not many people are willing to do this.

No, there aren't many.

But, on the other hand, I can probably count on my fingers the number of "serious reads" [in all of recorded history] which are as fascinating as watching a child learn.

Your investment will be repaid - all in due time.

kudzu bob said...

I agree with the above posters who said that giving women the vote was America's worst idea.

And America's second worst idea was turning control of our classrooms over to women.

Anonymous said...

"The level of white, born-upper-middle class snobbery here is highly discouraging; does it take more real training to teach The Merchant of Venice, or to make water flow from the street to someone's water heater, sinks and stove?

I would bet that if you switched jobs with your local plumber for a week, he would do a much better job at yours than you would at his."


Dad gummit, I hate agreeing with 'Truth' but she is right on this one.

Even if kids hate school and aren't geniuses, many of them are interested in practical pursuits. They can be educated to be productive. It is the over feminization of education with way too much humanities and way too little vocational build it and fix it that sucks the life out of many students who could be productive workers.

kudzu bob said...

"I would bet that if you switched jobs with your local plumber for a week, he would do a much better job at yours than you would at his."

Twoof always tries to have it both ways, by denying that a racial IQ gap exists, while downplaying the importance of intelligence. We have here a textbook example of the latter.

It doesn't occur to him that any professional could, after a year or so of apprenticeship, become a reasonably competent, if unenthusiastic, plumber. But I would hate to try to train a plumber to fly a jet plane or do a root canal or teach Finnegans Wake.

What a miracle of miniaturization, that so much stupidity be squeezed into a mere few hundred cubic centimeters.

Truth said...

I'm, not talking about flying jet planes or performing root canals, and I would bet any amount of money that there are more people in American society capable of teaching Finnegan's Wake than installing a septic tank or a Water on Demand heater on an off-the-grid, country property.

Truth said...

...And by the way, professor, usually when one describes an adversary he who "tries to have it both ways," he is describing one who attempts to champion two diametrically opposed points of view; do you see any logical reason why one could not "deny that a racial IQ gap exists" while simultaneously "downplaying the importance of intelligence."

(Of course I've done neither, but I'm willing to confine the argument to the pedantic, persnickety, pompous, pontificating manners of linguistics that you like to dwell on, in order to keep you engaged.)

Anonymous said...

I can probably count on my fingers the number of "serious reads" [in all of recorded history] which are as fascinating as watching a child learn.

Your investment will be repaid - all in due time.


Maybe it will, maybe it won't. That's not the point. The point is that if everyone doesn't do this together, which is pretty unlikely, it's an unbelievable amount of work. And while it's awesome and amazing etc etc etc to watch my children learn, it would also be nice to be able to... oh, go to the dentist before a tooth falls out? There are real, large costs to rearing children this way in a society that allows this choice to individuals but does not support it as a collective endeavor. The point I was making is that people who aren't doing this can fap about how it is the ideal method of education, but are they personally being constantly interrupted by questions about boogers? Hell no. They wouldn't tolerate their worktime being intruded on like that. And if their coworkers bring their kids to work with them more than on the approved ceremonial occasions, they probably get really pissy about it.

Dano said...

"Our society doesn't much emphasize training people in exercising authority anymore, so schools could use more specialization by hiring as Assistant Deans of Discipline the kind of guy who likes putting young punks in their place."



My old high school had an "associate principal" whose job was basically this. Teachers who had trouble just sent their students to his office. He was a middle-aged Italian-American guy with a Clint Eastwood glare and a drill sergeant's voice.

His only problem was that certain students spent so much time in his office that he started to get a little chummy with them; still, he was always able to snap back into "discipline mode" when he needed to.