August 20, 2011

Tolstoy v. Nabokov on "failing schools"

Sara Mosle, a schoolteacher who has been one of the more realistic critics of the education reform bandwagon, reviews Steven Brill's book Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix American's Schools:
Brill, however, insists that only “union critics of charter schools” believe successful charters “ ‘skim’ from the community’s most intelligent students and committed families,” adding, “None of the actual data supports this.” But in fact, according to Tough, KIPP’s own “internal statistics” show that its students in the South Bronx “arrived scoring better on average on tests than typical children in their neighborhoods.” And not just a little better: on reading tests prior to entering KIPP, Tough writes, “students often scored above the average for the entire city.” 
KIPP then builds on this sturdy foundation — and far more successfully than most charters, for which it deserves praise and keen attention to its methods. But KIPP and other successful charters have not yet shown they can succeed with every kind of student within a single school district, or even, for that matter, a single neighborhood. If we can’t make such distinctions, how will we ever help all children achieve? ...

Well, maybe we won't ever help all children achieve. Maybe, what we should try to be doing is to do better overall than we're doing now. Maybe we have to leave some child behind to help the rest because if we focus on the worst, we're going to hurt the rest.

From that perspective, if KIPP is skimming the hardest working students from the slums, well, that's great. We should encourage more and different kinds of skimming. If some kids aren't really interested in English literature, but are really interested in auto body repair, well, let's skim them into hands-on apprentice programs.
By book’s end, even Brill begins to feel the cognitive dissonance. He quotes a KIPP founder who concedes that the program relies on superhuman talent that can never be duplicated in large numbers. And sure enough, an educator whom Brill has held up the entire book as a model of reform unexpectedly quits, citing burnout and an unsustainable workload at her Harlem charter. Then another reform-­minded teacher at the same school confesses she can’t possibly keep up the pace. “This model just cannot scale,” she declares flatly. After relentlessly criticizing Weingarten, Brill suddenly suggests, in a “Nixon-to-China” move, that she become New York’s next schools chancellor. “The lesson,” Brill belatedly discovers, is that reformers need to collaborate with unions, if only because they are “the organizational link to enable school improvement to expand beyond the ability of the extraordinary people to work extraordinary hours.” But isn’t this merely what the reform movement’s more thoughtful critics have been saying all along? 
Brill likens the battle over the nation’s schools to “warfare,” but the better analogy may be to the war on cancer. For years, scientists hoped a magic pill would cure this ravaging disease. But increasingly, doctors have recognized that they will have to fight a multifronted war, as cancers (like failing schools) aren’t all alike. Each comes with its own complex etiology. 

Nabokov didn't believe Tolstoy's opening line in Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Nabokov's sci-fi novel Ada opens with a quote from an alternative universe Tolstoy: "'All happy families are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy ones are more or less alike.'" 

As Nabokov explained to an interviewer somewhere or other, the reasons for familial unhappiness tend to be commonplace: infidelity, alcoholism, lack of money, ill-temper, spite, stupidity, and so forth. Now, those banal ingredients might lead to some bizarre outcomes manifestations of unhappiness, but the bases tend to be boring. In contrast, Nabokov argued, happy families tend to have their unique private jokes, their eccentric balances, and so forth. Mr. Nabokov, for example, was convinced he was a genius and was mostly amused that the rest of the world hadn't noticed. (In fact, the rest of the world kept trying to kill Nabokov, driving him out of Russia in 1918, Germany in 1936, and France in 1940, but not even totalitarianism and world wars were a downer to Nabokov. And Mrs. Nabokov agreed with her husband's estimation of himself, and put up with ridiculous behavior from him (such as his refusing to let them live in the same house for more than one year to keep from dimming his memories of his lost estate in Russia) because he was a genius. When he was 59 when Lolita was published in America in 1958, suddenly the whole world agreed with them.

Kids, don't try this at home when you are a married grown-up. It probably won't work.

Really bad schools tend to have somewhat unusual reasons for being really bad. For example, one high school in South Central L.A. had terrible (even by the standards of South Central) attendance. It turned out that boys weren't coming to school because they couldn't play basketball at recess and lunch. (The boys weren't asking for much -- they just wanted to be allowed to play pickup basketball.) Why not? Because the teachers had stopped parking in their assigned parking lot because their cars kept getting broken into. Instead, they parked on the basketball courts right outside their classrooms, where they could keep an eye on their cars. The Green Dot charter was given control of that school, and quickly got some money together and fixed the fence around the teachers' parking lot, which freed up the basketball courts, which raised attendance. 

So, there's a Tolstoyan view of what why this school was so really bad. But, after they fixed its unique problem, the school was still average bad. Why? For the non-Tolstoyan reason that it was in of South Central L.A. and thus full of average South Central L.A. students. The depressingly boring reason why most failing schools fail is because they are full of failing students.

So, maybe we need solutions that will skim as many kids as feasible into a variety of schools or programs that will motivate individual students. But, we have to give up the debilitating myth that the goal of school reform should be to "help all children achieve" at some standard level.

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

inb4 Gladwell calls some schools Picasso schools, and some Cezanne schools.

Steve Sailer said...

Yeah, I should get paid $50k per speech to talk about the Tolstoy and Nabokov approaches to failing schools.

Anonymous said...

Niether here nor there: I have to deliberately mispronounce Nabokov so people will know who I'm talking about. Correct pronunciation: NUH-BAWK-OF. What everyone says: NOB-UH-KOV.

Henry Canaday said...

Uh, Steve, was that one obvious contrarian line worth enduring all of "Ada?"

europeasant said...

Failing students need simple factory jobs but China seems to be getting all of our factory jobs for itz failing students(relatively speaking).

AMac said...

> Well, maybe we won't ever help all children achieve.

...achieve to the one-size-fits-all standard of NCLB etc. And to the standards of Lake Wobegon (where all children are above average).

It's an interesting commonplace when smart and knowledgeable people fail to grasp a simple and obvious concept. Intellectual anaphylaxis.

Here's Steve Brill distilling his book down to half a page in the 8/13/11 WSJ. Op-Ed, Super Teachers Alone Can't Save Our Schools. The link rots after a week or so.

Anonymous said...

Well the idea that "we" do anything is absurd. It s Marxist hogwash.

Just how preposterous is this formulation is underscored by the strange notion that "better students" may be "skimmed" from the public school system by competitors. It matters not whether this is true or not; the point is that these students are not some sort of "public property" or "public resource" that must somehow be figured into an "educational policy" implemented by government. Nor are they to be looked at as a potential "talent pool"or "Furture HR resource pool" by "the community". They, supported by their families, are individuals concerned with their own lives and futures. They are free citizens pursing their own fates and shaping their own consciousnesses and lives. They are not the property or the resource of anyone, let alone that of the state or some strange collectivist construct of "the community".

It is just the sort of collectivist idiocy that as got us in this mess in the first place.

"Teachers" are in the end providing a service to consumers, they are not some sort of "public utility". In essence, they are to teach how to read, write and count, give the foundations of knowledge and learning, and, one hopes, expose their students to what is great in our civilization along the way. They most manifestly are not there to somehow "prepare them for life in the community", "enhance their self esteem", socialize them or indoctrinate them.

It is their family's job to prepare them for life, and it is up to the sutdents and their familoes how their educatnal requrements are met. It is not the task of the taxpayer or "the community", as if such a thing existed on this scale, to be concerned with other people's educaton. If the "public educational establishment" cannot compete in the market place, they need to do some soul searching and either be more competitive or find another line of work.

Public School needs to be a recourse of last resort--a sort of educational safety net--and a very limited drain on the taxpayer. The Feds need to get out of education altogether.

Parents need to directly pay for the education of their children and stop expecting the taxpayer at large to foot the blll. The current system we have nw s really just a form of Communism.

The problems will not be resolved until we reject its very model.

Anonymous said...

Paul Johnson made the same point about the opening line of Anna Karenina in his chapter on Tolstoy in Intellectuals.

J. Huston

Anonymous said...

"So, maybe we need solutions that will skim as many kids as feasible into a variety of schools or programs that will motivate individual students. But, we have to give up the debilitating myth that the goal of school reform should be to "help all children achieve" at some standard level."

A friend of ours adopted a two month old Mexican infant and sent him to a very expensive preschool. By the time the kid could walk and talk, he was hitting and threatening the other children. He was eventually expelled.

A slim majority of mestizo and black kids do not belong in a classroom, or anywhere else in an organized society. They're impulsive, hyperactive cretins totally lacking in empathy. The truth is, they serve no purpose on earth but to make those around them miserable: including the impulsive, hyperactive cretinous children they will inevitably have.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, the LAUSD is already doing this. One reason why those South Central schools where only half a dozen kids score above 1000 on the SATs are so bereft of brains and talent is because the kids with smart and/or motivated parents got their kids into one of the district's many magnet schools, charter schools, or the busing program. It's imperfect but works out okay. The talented black and Hispanic kids end up getting the hell out of their awful neighborhoods and nice white liberal parents who still send their kids to public schools get their precious diversity in small, controlled doses.

Anonymous said...

"In contrast, Nabokov argued, happy families tend to have their unique private jokes, their eccentric balances, and so forth."

I'd argue that in both cases, the behaviors are habitual ones that just happened to be a destructive pattern for the unhappy and a sustainable pattern for the relatively happy. I've also come to believe that in the happier families the wife usually becomes an extension of her husband (though the husband sometimes does this) which reduces strife from conflicting goals and desires.

I figured out how to fix an extremely dysfunctional family, btw. I came up with a plan that would've resolved most past hard feelings and provided the children with a solid upbringing the rest of the way but no one wanted my advice. Also, I have witnessed families able to cope fairly well with extreme problems out of one member so its more the combining of unfortunate responses to a stressor than any one issue.

How this relates to failing schools. Perhaps it is the concept of self-abnegation. A society in which the masses of average people develop a sense of solidarity and pride at being part of the working class will be healthier, I'd think, than one in which everyone believes it will eventually be their turn to rule. As far as I'm concerned, this is symptomatic of a social contagion which seems to have been started by those in the middle class who did, indeed, have upward mobility.

Also, I think that weird flighty person who leaves those long, disjointed comments referring to everything from ancient history to popular culture as really contorted evidence of a bizarrely unprovable thesis wrote this article not Sailer.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

CS Lewis also disagreed with Tolstoy on this, declaring that goodness is more free to be individual, while evil is an increasingly self-limiting prison. All the doors of hell are locked from the inside, and all that.

I tend to agree. I am a psychiatric social worker in acute care, and while schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in particular can certainly produce delusions or behaviors that seem novel, they are in fact depressingly similar after awhile. Paranoia might choose an interesting narrative - yet it is still paranoia and interferes with all manner of functioning. And drug abuse, head injury, and personality disorder all create a dull, discouragingly predictable course.

Billy Joel's "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints - the sinners are much more fun..." is one of the most inaccurate, and thus evil, bits of advice you will ever read. Sixty year old bikers or stoners - those that survived to that venerable age - are not remotely fascinating people.

How can anyone think that school pathologies aren't depressingly similar? If one hears about an inner-city school that is failing, don't we already know exactly why, and that discovering tricks about teacher parking will barely dent the problem. Or, if we hear that some inner-city school is succeeding, doesn't it immediately raise interesting speculation, not knowledge, about what must be happening?

(Okay, the cynics will say it's predictable that they are cheating somehow, but you take my point. I'm referring to modest, encouraging improvement, not the Magic School stories.)

Ray Sawhill said...

Funny how reluctant some people are to be grateful for a little useful makepiece progress on a variety of fronts. Instead, they DEMAND magically effective solutions, they CLAMOR for dramatic reforms, they WON'T SETTLE for anything less than universal improvements ... They usually like setting up anyone who has more modest and realistic aims as the enemy, too. How to explain this personality trait, or maybe even this personality type? It's so foreign to me that I really struggle to understand it. Does being so domineering and dreamy, I dunno, add drama and a sense of meaning to their lives?

And, hey, a question that has puzzled me even more than "why is there homosexuality?" is "why has evolution permitted the self-defeating, pain-in-the-ass, unrealistic, idealistic personality type to continue to survive? It's such a get-in-the-way-of-natural-evolution kinda element that I'd have thought it would be quickly bred out of the species.

Kylie said...

From the NYT article:

"Yet Brill wants us to believe that unions are the primary — even sole — cause of failing public schools. But hard evidence for this is scarce. Many of the nation’s worst-performing schools (according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress) are concentrated in Southern and Western right-to-work states, where public sector unions are weakest and collective bargaining enjoys little or no protection."

You characterize Mosle as one of the "more realistic critics of the education reform bandwagon" but the fact that she can write the preceding with no apparent irony suggests she is realistic only insofar as her tunnel vision allows her to be.

An article on failing schools and educational reform that uses the word "race" only twice, both times in non-racial context, is virtually useless, except as a good example of how a "nation of cowards" chooses to discuss an issue inextricable from the subject of race.

Anonymous said...

"Gladwell calls some schools Picasso schools and some Cezanne schools."

The problem is, what we actually need is J.-L. David schools and Gericault schools.

Full of students who are more like David and Gericault than like Diego Rivera.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that all of Mrs. Nabokov's friends knew that her husband was a genius. That's not as effective at generating female-to-male attraction as a man's international fame, but I'd imagine it would be pretty effective nevertheless. A small circle of his male friends would have known him to be a genius from having read his stuff or simply from having talked to him. The women in his social circle would have learned that he's a genius from the men. And once his wife's female friends knew it, she would have been sold on it herself. I'm sure that this cycle is repeated somewhere every day.

TGGP said...

Adam Ozimek against charges of KIPP skimming. He does acknowledge though that "KIPP tends to enroll less ESL students and students with disabilities".

Anonymous said...

You're so full of snark and digressions. Again, preaching to the choir, you've convinced no one.

Baloo said...

I'd say to make it most clear:

nuh-BAW-kuhff

stress on second syllable.

Anonymous said...

This seemingly intractable problem has one simple solution with a big pay off. In the city schools where I live 80% of the discipline problems are caused by fewer thann 10% of the students. If you can identify them by sixth or eighth grade and segregate them in holding pens (which will make it less jarring later in life when most of them go to prison), the rest of the kids would be free to swim or, peacefully, sink on their own.

ben tillman said...

Niether here nor there: I have to deliberately mispronounce Nabokov so people will know who I'm talking about. Correct pronunciation: NUH-BAWK-OF. What everyone says: NOB-UH-KOV.

You need to hang out with a better class of people -- like hockey fans. They know better.

panjoomby said...

EFFECTIVE systems MAXIMIZE the effects of individual differences. Ineffective systems minimize the effects of individual differences. High ability students gain more from good instruction. Good instruction bounces off the heads of low ability students. The better the instruction, the larger the gap between ability-haves & ability-have-nots. Poor instruction spreads out students less (so it keeps the “gap” manageable)!

ben tillman said...

Adam Ozimek against charges of KIPP skimming. He does acknowledge though that "KIPP tends to enroll less ESL students and students with disabilities".

That's not what he said. He correctly said "fewer" instead of "less".

Anonymous said...

If underperforming students REALLY WANT TO LEARN, putting them together with better students will do them some good.
But if underperforming students REALLY DON'T GIVE A SHIT AND PUSH GOOD STUDENTS AROUND, then it is time to SAVE THE GOOD STUDENTS.

If liberals don't believe in saving better students from bad students--because bad ones will supposedly gain from contact with good ones--, then the logical and moral thing for them to do is send their own kids into problematic public schools.

Anonymous said...

We need the Cuban system for failed schools.

And it's not just about intelligence but temperament and cultural attitude.
Consider black females vs black males in college. There are lot more female ones. Is it because black women are more intelligent than black males? No. If anything, black male intelligence may be slightly higher than black female intelligence. It's due to more aggressive black male hormones. Black males are even more disruptive and eruptive than black females. Also, a lot of black males emulate sports and gangsta culture where it's cool to be a badass thug. So, males are more likely to 'live for today'.

NOTA said...

Anon:

What's with the fortune cookie like anonymous put downs on Steve's blog posts? Do you imagine this could possbly convince anyone worth convincing? If you want to argue a point, it really helps to make an argument, cite evidence, etc. Telling me I'm wrong is kinda ineffective--the net is full of people telling me that, from millions of mutually contradictory points of view. Showing me I'm wrong works a lot better.

Vlad Nah-BO-kauf said...

Quoting the first line of Anna Karenina (not pronounced Karenina) is the hoariest of Maureen Dowd-level cliches. And I have an automatic block on my browser for whenever somebody uses "ultimate Nixon-to-China play"

p.s. How can a person be "full of digressions?" Hmmm.

slumber_j said...

@ second Anonymous: You're basically right of course, but Nabokov himself seems to have been somewhat more open-minded regarding the pronunciation of his surname. Here he is in a 1965 interview with Bob Hughes:

[RH]: As with Gogol and even James Agee, there is occasionally confusion about the pronunciation of your last name. How does one pronounce it correctly?

[VN]: It is indeed a tricky name. It is often misspelt, because the eye tends to regard the "a" of the first syllable as a misprint and then tries to restore the symmetrical sequence by triplicating the "o"-- filling up the row of circles, so to speak, as in a game of crosses and naughts. No-bow-cough. How ugly, how wrong. Every author whose name is fairly often mentioned in periodicals develops a bird-watcher's or caterpillar-picker's knack when scanning an article. But in my case I always get caught by the word "nobody" when capitalized at the beginning of a sentence. As to pronunciation, Frenchmen of course say Nabokoff, with the accent on the last syllable. Englishmen say Nabokov, accent on the first, and Italians say Nabokov, accent in the middle, as Russians also do. Na-bo-kov. A heavy open "o" as in "Knickerbocker". My New England ear is not offended by the long elegant middle "o" of Nabokov as delivered in American academies. The awful "Na-bah-kov" is a despicable gutterism. Well, you can make your choice now. Incidentally, the first name is pronounced Vladeemer-- rhyming with "redeemer"-- not Vladimir rhyming with Faddimere (a place in England, I think).

http://www.lib.ru/NABOKOW/Inter05.txt

Anonymous said...

"The problems will not be resolved until we reject its very model."

People who don't believe they need to be productive (have a job), don't believe they need what school offers. Many of them are right--they get paid to be unproductive and suck off the rest of us suckers. Until that changes, this idiocy continues.

Tie Your Mother Down said...

I think the whole problem is invoking Tolstoy, Cezanne, and William James when discussing *American public schools*. This is a status-signaling blogger style of discussion so as to avoid pondering time-honored blunt-force remedies. I've attended teacher union confabs as a local property-tax subscriber and it's a pretty similar experience to the 1st chapter of Peter Brimelow's book. In one PowerPoint seminar about two dozen of us were analyzing how certain lyrics of a Tupac Shakur song might best be put to use in class; I facetiously suggested that other pieces from John Lennon and Glenn Danzig could be included for diversity's sake, but unfortunately no one was offended. Then the other disheveled white guy in the room launched into a bizarre, concise rant about kids downloading wrong lyrics from the Internet. It was a pointless meeting for quasi-stakeholders, in other words.

As public ed outstripped the parochial system, the ineluctable process of EEOC-OSHA workplace-safety feminization (also described pithily by Brimelow) has ruined the underpinnings of discipline essential to an institution replenished by know-nothing kids each year. I admired Michelle Rhee's vaunted temerity but wasn't surprised when she got hers. When you send an overclass factotum to do a hard-ass nun's work you don't need chaos theory to imagine the results.

Also, I liked two of Nabokov's long-form amusements, as well his critical essays on Russian lit and the compilation of interviews. Ada sounds like a book for assistant professors that 9/10ths of Duke, Northwestern, and Stanford grads wouldn't comprehend in any portion. At the Ivy League they assume everyone is such a darling little genius that the prep school took care of it and everybody can follow her own star for 4+ years (I think it was Hutchins who observed that student ignorance is an undertapped asset in education, or it might've been Barzun or Dave Mamet)

Anonymous said...

I wonder how the better schools are in some place like Jamaica or the Bahamas. Their performance vs. American blacks could give information about what is possible.

Anonymous said...

"This seemingly intractable problem has one simple solution with a big pay off. In the city schools where I live 80% of the discipline problems are caused by fewer thann 10% of the students. If you can identify them by sixth or eighth grade and segregate them in holding pens (which will make it less jarring later in life when most of them go to prison), the rest of the kids would be free to swim or, peacefully, sink on their own."

The problem is that Pareto is ever so racist.

Anonymous said...

"You're so full of snark and digressions."

Hear that, Steve? You're positively Shandean! Keep up the good work.

eh said...

So, maybe we need solutions that will skim as many kids as feasible into a variety of schools or programs that will motivate individual students.

Mr Sailer: this is absolutely indistinguishable from the gobbledygook coming out of the asinine education establishment that you have, over the years, helped skewer.

At least you used quotation marks for "failing schools".

I think I'll start doing the same with "citizenism".

Anonymous said...

"Mr Sailer: this is absolutely indistinguishable from the gobbledygook coming out of the asinine education establishment that you have, over the years, helped skewer."

Aye, I had more respect for him as a closeted gay public intellectual type. Obviously the cad has a somewhat low IQ mistress for whom English is a second language who is now writing his articles. If you look a week or two back you'll see an attempt to merge those "so" sentence structures with Sailer's writing style. Unfortunately, his bimbo doesn't seem able to vary her writing style much so couldn't simply copy his. Imagine! Sailer likes his women dumb.

a bit of the old ultraviolence said...

Skimming just begets counter-skimming. Fortify the least-common-denominator child-jails against the bad tenth or third of pupils, and let the little meritocratic dears go back to quibbling about transgender dorms at Old Ivy. I'm tempted to quote Patches O'Houlihan's observation about dodging a wrench, but I see you lot are nattering about that AP English staple, Lolita

The funniest bits anyway were in the mockery of Beardsley Prep/College, and I'd also recommend White Noise to any upper-middlebrow iStevers.

Sister Agnes said...

And commenter #7 above more or less nailed it ("current system is a form of Communism").

Let's all consider not worrying about keeping Google well supplied with mobile phone evangelists or D.C. lawyers. "Back to basics" as John Major used to say; if we can try to focus on preventing the smarter kids from getting robbed or knifed, as opposed to just whisking them away into Nice White Lady Academies, they'll do fine on their own and become similar to real citizens in the bargain.

Shakes said...

Walter Williams once pushed the idea of "Academic Triage" to rescue the inner city students that can be saved. I agree with him. We desperately need to save some who will lead the next generation of black Americans.

Shakes said...

Here is Walter Williams on triage:

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=24795

"The triage principle is applicable to any disaster. When the average black high-school graduate has an academic achievement level on par with that of a white seventh- or eighth-grader, and the achievement levels of white seventh- and eighth-graders are nothing to write home about, I think we can reasonably say black education is a disaster. As such, we might benefit from what could be called educational triage.

There's no question that black youngsters from female-headed and/or low- and moderate-income households can excel academically. Partial evidence is the achievement levels of black youngsters who attend private schools such as Marcus Garvey (Los Angeles), Marva Collins Preparatory (Cincinnati) and Ivy Leaf (Philadelphia) and public schools such as Frederick Douglass (New York). At these schools, nearly all students are at grade level and often several years above.

Educational triage would acknowledge there are black youngsters who cannot benefit academically no matter how many educational resources are spent on them. They have little or no family support. Their very presence in school, through disruptive and criminal behavior, makes education impossible for others. Spending resources on these youngsters is the educational equivalent of medical practitioners spending resources on disaster victims who'll die even if treated. These youngsters should be removed and not allowed to take resources from and make education impossible for those who do have a chance for academic achievement."

Read more: Managing a disaster http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=24795#ixzz1VcPBsU10

Anonymous said...

Slightly OT, and I know it's preaching to the converted here, but this Forbes article suggests that offshoring manufacturing to China maybe isn't such a great idea. They quote two Harvard economists:

“So the decline of manufacturing in a region sets of a chain reaction. Once manufacturing is outsourced, process-engineering expertise can’t be maintained, since it depends on daily interactions with manufacturing. Without process-engineering capabilities, companies find it increasingly difficult to conduct advanced research on next-generation process technologies. Without the ability to develop such new processes, they find they can no longer develop new products. In the long term, then, an economy that lacks an infrastructure for advanced process engineering and manufacturing will lose its ability to innovate.”

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/08/17/why-amazon-cant-make-a-kindle-in-the-usa/

http://hbr.org/hbr-main/resources/pdfs/comm/fmglobal/restoring-american-competitiveness.pdf

Cennbeorc

Anonymous said...

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

I always figured Tolstoy put that in cause it had a high minded ring to it, not that he particularly thought much of that point.

In any case, I read it as saying something like "Happy families are a lot harder to write about than messed up ones. So screw them and let's go visit the Oblonsky's (or whatever)."

Happiness Writes White, as someone said.

Anonymous said...

And, hey, a question that has puzzled me even more than "why is there homosexuality?" is "why has evolution permitted the self-defeating, pain-in-the-ass, unrealistic, idealistic personality type to continue to survive? It's such a get-in-the-way-of-natural-evolution kinda element that I'd have thought it would be quickly bred out of the species.

Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, Ancient Carthage, Ancient Troy, the Ancient Persian/Sassanid Empire, Ancient Mesopotamia - they all went extinct on account of precisely this sort of nihilism.

And if, like most iStevers, you are at all aware of current demographic trends, then you know that most of Europe, Pacific Rim Asia, and Blue State USA are now staring at the exactly same fate.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe, what we should try to be doing is to do better overall than we're doing now."


Just hypothetically speaking, how will we know when we hit the achievement ceiling and are getting the best results that we can get given the natural constraints inherent in the task?

I mean, at any level of performance, no matter how high, we can still utter the phrase, "We should do better." But if we do everything thing that we can, at some point, this is just no longer true.

Sword said...

I read somewhere that a very large part of the population in Trinidad are descendants of both africans and chinese. It might give a lot of interesting data points to study school results of different Trinidadian schools.

Mitch said...

I agree with the triage, but why "skim off" the kids with potential? Why not "skim off" the trouble makers. Charter schools simply won't scale--there aren't enough teachers, they don't do sports well enough, and so on.

Trouble makers, on the other hand, if they are at all reachable, will do better in a small environment with the strict behavior requirements that charter schools can enforce. And if they don't like it, too bad, because they are required to go to school.

So the ideal would be to switch it around. Allow large comprehensive schools to refuse trouble making kids, and require charter schools to take them as a condition of their charter.

Kylie said...

" One reason why those South Central schools where only half a dozen kids score above 1000 on the SATs are so bereft of brains and talent is because the kids with smart and/or motivated parents got their kids into one of the district's many magnet schools, charter schools, or the busing program. It's imperfect but works out okay. The talented black and Hispanic kids end up getting the hell out of their awful neighborhoods and nice white liberal parents who still send their kids to public schools get their precious diversity in small, controlled doses."

On the contrary, I'd argue that this policy is disastrous for society in general. The success of a few blacks and Hispanic students will convince nice white liberals that such success could be duplicated on a much grander scale if only people (i.e., white taxpayers) were willing to fund it.

Nice white liberals never see individual black or Hispanic success stories as anecdotal evidence just as they never see the actions of white racist individuals as isolated incidents.

Anonymous said...

"why has evolution permitted the self-defeating, pain-in-the-ass, unrealistic, idealistic personality type to continue to survive?"

Only one possible explanation ... it must be sexy.

Anonymous said...

OT

How about the term "HOMOSTERIA"--meaning 'homo hysteria'--to denote the hysterical witchhunt carried out by PC against those who stand up agaisnt the radical gay agenda? So, people who support 'gay marriage' and fume rabidly against who those who oppose it would be Homosterics(homo-hysterics).

Anonymous said...

Gays and libs mock the notion that civilization will fall if we have 'gay marriage'. We should mock the notion that ours is a Nazi state where gays are terribly oppressed unless we allow 'gay marriage'.

Anonymously Yours, Anonymous said...

We might be able to solve a lot of issues if we were to diversify our schools in order to match the diversity of the talents of our students. Why not have institutes of sport that emphasize training kids for careers in athletics and related industries. I bet that a lot of troublemakers who are unsuited for college prep, would do a lot better in such an environment, and they wouldn't be ruining school for the academically inclined. Why not have more tech schools for the students who want to join the workforce immediately? Why not have more science schools to challenge the students who are not being challenged?

Maybe diversification (or perhaps I should say "specialization", since diversity is a dirty word around here) along with semi-privatization is the best answer.

TGGP said...

bell tillman, click the link. I copy-pasted what Ozimek wrote. He quotes Ravitch as using the word "fewer", but uses "less" in his own phrasing.

Anonymously Yours, Anonymous said...

@Ray Sawhill ~

"Funny how reluctant some people are to be grateful for a little useful makepiece progress on a variety of fronts. Instead, they DEMAND magically effective solutions, they CLAMOR for dramatic reforms, they WON'T SETTLE for anything less than universal improvements ... They usually like setting up anyone who has more modest and realistic aims as the enemy, too. How to explain this personality trait, or maybe even this personality type? It's so foreign to me that I really struggle to understand it. Does being so domineering and dreamy, I dunno, add drama and a sense of meaning to their lives?"

That is an absolutely true and relevent point. I don't know why, but it seems as though people, when they look at an issue, tend to ask the wrong questions. Maybe it is because most people simply have not been trained to think analytically. I would love to get a peek inside other people's minds to see how they construct their questions.

Do people ask themselves, what would I do if ruled the world? I suspect that many people think this way. It is perhaps an extension of a human tendency to defer decisionmaking to others (often because they are ruled by others). Since they are unused to thinking through decisions, when it comes time to consider an issue of policy, they adopt the position of "ruler" because, of course, rulers make the decisions for everyne else. Obviously, this is not a particularly useful question to ask because it is impractical. It also tends to produce pie-in-the-sky thinking. People invent utopias that have, and probably never will exist and then come up with some useless proscription for getting there.

I bet another question that people often ask is, this thing is broken so how do we fix it? This question is a lot more practical than the "ruler" question. It demonstrates a pragmatic mindframe and can produce ideas that are useful. But, is still a flawed question when it comes to policy issues because it views institutions as inanimate objects, incapable of making decisions for themselves. Institutions are actually collections of people, all of whom are capable of making their own decisions. This question also ignores the reality of time. It may produce a solution that makes things better immediately, but makes things worse in the long run.

The best question I know of is this one: if we gather as much evidence from the past, as to what has *made things better over time*, what policy has given the best results? This is based in reality. It doesn't assume some almighty position. It is scientific in approach. And it accounts not for immediate gratification, but long term solution. So, maybe the question is why don't more people ask this question?

Jack said...

the real "problem" with the schools, as we probably all realize, is that not enough white women with IQ > 110 are having lots of kids. Our policies need to change that, although advocating them will need to be couched in some PC-non"racist" lingo to sneak by the media.

eh said...

Aye, I had more respect for him...

I'd like to make it clear I have a lot of respect for Mr Sailer and his intellect -- e.g. his output of interesting, well-reasoned writing is amazing.

Charlotte said...

"A small circle of his male friends would have known him to be a genius from having read his stuff or simply from having talked to him. The women in his social circle would have learned that he's a genius from the men. And once his wife's female friends knew it, she would have been sold on it herself. I'm sure that this cycle is repeated somewhere every day."

I strongly suspect that any literate females in his vicinity would have been more rapidly convinced of his "genius", if such it was. More women than men have read Lolita, and have done since it was first published. Recently, we have "Reading Lolita in Teheran: a memoir in books" by Azar Nafisi, about the subversive act of reading this work in Iran. It spoke to women there for some reason. They seemed to see themselves as objects unequal to their protaganists. Most had had their version of Humbert Humbert in some aspect of life. At least that's what I got from their explanations.

Women are often the first to realize or intuit genius in a writer or artist. The salons of France especially were known for that, and were run by women known for their eagle eye in the area of some talent or other. Ezra Pound brought Joyce to the notice of Harriett Shaw Weaver, his first publisher, but it was up to her to take a chance on him. She became his patron.
This has often happened.
If you are motivated and able to read and understand high literature (one of those things you know when you encounter it), you're capable of discerning "genius." Now whether you appreciate that genius is another thing entirely.

ATBOTL said...

And if, like most iStevers, you are at all aware of current demographic trends, then you know that most of Europe, Pacific Rim Asia, and Blue State USA are now staring at the exactly same fate.

How can you exclude "Red State USA" with a straight face? With the possible exception of Utah, they are in the same boat. "Red States" such as Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia appear headed for white minority status in the near future.

P.S. said...

The USA today/Michelle Rhee erasure story is heating up. Might be a 2-edged sword for the unions though.

Anonymous said...

"Trouble makers, on the other hand, if they are at all reachable, will do better in a small environment with the strict behavior requirements that charter schools can enforce. "

We used to call this Alternative School. Do they not have such things now where you can mingle the small population of druggies, pregnant teens who've fallen behind and the occasional psychopath?

Anonymous said...

"I'd like to make it clear I have a lot of respect for Mr Sailer and his intellect -- e.g. his output of interesting, well-reasoned writing is amazing."

Either you don't notice the periodic glaringly inconsistent style of some of the articles presented as Sailer's or you're telling me that Sailer is the bimbo with blog dysentery as well as a few other odd characters. Hmmm. Maybe he's Whiskey, too.

David said...

I have often thought that Steve has people writing for him. No one man can write this much, most of it brilliantly insightful. Perhaps, like the moguls of old, but only occasionally in his case, he "has an idea" that he gets someone else to "write up." Is this possible? Is Steve really on the beach somewhere, cell phoning it in? "Malcolm had Picasso vs. Cezanne. Uh, why not Tolstoy vs. Nabokov. Write it up, Mary!" "Libya. What fools. Find a funny photo and write it up, John!" All while he takes another long sip of his mojito.

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