February 6, 2009

Bad schooling ideas never die

After I reported yesterday that Bill Gates had given $1 million in 2001 to long-time Weatherman fugitive Rick Ayers (brother of President Obama's extremely distant acquaintance Bill Ayers) to start "small learning communities" within Berkeley High to, among other things, take students to Cuba to study "social justice," a reader who graduated from Berkeley High in the 1970s reported that the exact same idea had already been tried way back when the Ayers brothers were making bombs instead of agitating for "small schools."

And it failed then in the 1970s, too, just as Gates has discoverd his couple of billion bucks he spent promoting the Ayers Bros. hobbyhorse has failed in the 2000s. From Time Magazine, April 10, 1972:

Now a few public schools are trying to create some alternatives of their own within the system, using wings of existing buildings, storefronts and lofts to house small subschools, each with a different educational emphasis. The intent is to break up the impersonal mob scene that many schools have become, and to give students choices—even if it sometimes means letting them choose racial separation.

... But the trend has gone farthest in Berkeley, Calif., which now has 18 such schools at all levels and plans to add six more next fall. ... In 1968, Berkeley became the first city with more than 100,000 people to integrate its schools voluntarily by busing both whites and blacks (38% of the pupils ride to school). But Berkeley's integration brought demands from minority groups for more attention to their particular learning problems and more emphasis on their cultures. At the same time, many of Berkeley's middle-class white kids were in open rebellion against what they considered stultifying school rules and courses.

For both groups, "the melting pot never melted," says Larry Wells, coordinator of the alternative schools. Instead of trying to submerge diversity, Berkeley is now trying to encourage it, replacing the image of a melting pot with that of a mosaic....

Berkeley High is a six-block-square complex of buildings holding 3,000 students. For approximately 1,800 of them, the conventional curriculum of courses—and a rich fare of electives—is fine. But 1,200 students have chosen to enter the more cohesive atmosphere of one or another of the six alternative high schools that are housed within the big complex.

Community High, for example, is earnestly disorganized. There long-haired boys and girls help screen prospective teachers, call staff members by their first names, and get phys. ed. credit for karate. Both blacks and whites take courses in "Soul in Cinema" and transcendental meditation. ...

Most of the alternative high schools are kept integrated by aggressive recruiting and informal quotas (Community High, for example, has 65 Third World students and 120 whites, with a white waiting list of 75). The Agora School aims specifically at fostering an appreciation of racial differences and keeps its staff and student body exactly one-quarter each white, black, Chicano and Asian. But three other alternative schools that meet away from Berkeley High are less concerned about integration.

Blacks Only. The Marcus Garvey Institute, housed in a former factory, is devoted to "taking care of business," chiefly for black students, including some who are on the verge of dropping out. Graded, seminar-type classes offer "Black Economic Development," emphasize basic math and reading. Whites are welcome, the staff insists, but since blacks assumed control this fall, whites have dropped to 12 in the enrollment of 60. Going even farther, Black House accepts only blacks, and Casa de la Raza takes only Chicanos....

More than just race is at stake, for the issue touches upon the central problem in all the proposals for decentralizing the nation's large institutions. from auto plants to city governments. Self-determination easily becomes narrow parochialism. In Berkeley, principals of the conventional schools that accredit the small units worry that the alternative schools may become too haphazard to remain worthy of their diplomas. The small schools' volatile independence, on the other hand, is often precisely what makes them useful as escape valves....

Berkeley's original subschools began with modest grants from the Ford and Carnegie foundations; the system now has a 21-year, $3.5 million grant from a new federal experimental schools program that provides $200 extra for each child in a subschool—on top of an average per-pupil expenditure of $1,675, one of the highest in the nation.

My reader writes on what happened later in the decade:

In the fall of 1975, there was a crippling teachers' strike, the grant money had run out and the sub-schools were crumbling. We all had a private laugh at the black separatists suddenly having to change their rhetoric and actually seek common ground with the rest of the school to try and keep their fiefdom going. Only one or two of the sub-schools survived, informally, and those were for white overachievers.

Then, Rick Ayers revived the failed small (radical indoctrination) schools within Berkeley H.S. idea around the beginning of the decade and got a half million from the feds and a million from the Gates Foundation. Academic failure ensued once again, and just before the Gates Foundation grant ran out in 2007, Ayers quit and enrolled in the Ph.D. in Education program at UC Berkeley so he can train teachers rather than students, propagandizing wholesale rather than retail.

This is an example of a general rule: Although the K-12 education industry is obsessed with promoting "new methodologies" (i.e., panacea-of-the-month), there aren't any. Schooling is an old, old business, and just about everything has been tried before, and proven not to be the miracle breakthrough that was hoped for. But memories are short, and a sucker is born everyday, with Bill Gates being merely the richest sucker, so why give them an even break?

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


Stopped Clock said...

All readers of this blog may be interested in reading http://diversityteam.blogspot.com/ , a blog that deals with similar subject matter but which is ideologically more or less the opposite of this one.

Anonymous said...

Anyone interested in good schooling ideas should read Hess and Petrilli, "Wrong Turn on School Reform," in Policy Review.

Anonymous said...

In the face of your claim that there is nothing new under the sun in education, most Education Colleges in our universities do not accept transfer credits if they are over 5-7 years old. Apparently anything older than that is just too out of date. The only other colleges with similar short sunsets for transfer credits are I.T. colleges, because the rapid change in computer-related material.

Anonymous said...

As you say education is an old, old business.
It is likely that the first schools developeed with the first usage of written alphabets - and that puts them around 5000 years old.
The ancient Egyptians certainly had schools as we know them today (ie classrooms of children aged from 5 to early teenagers) and it is well known that the Greeks and Romans developed pedagogy into a fine art.
That said, teaching a child to read and write (which is of course an unnatural and uninstinctive thing to do thing to do), must have always been hard work and throughout the the very long history of education no 'magic bullet' answer has ever been found, only the realisation that certain pupils pick up education quicker than others.
This was, in fact, the first motivation behinfd IQ tests when Binet in France (at a time when educational psychology was firsy being developed), wished to establish a scientific basis for grading school children and giving graded cohorts the special attention each deserved and needed.
Thus, originally, IQ had nothing to do with distinguishing 'high-fliers' but was a way of identifying the slower pupils.

Anonymous said...

"In the face of your claim that there is nothing new under the sun in education, most Education Colleges in our universities do not accept transfer credits if they are over 5-7 years old." (Anon)

Right, what changed is the madness and intensity of the anti-white indoctrination programs. The fear is that anyone that missed the last 5 years might not be anti-white enough. New forms of political correctness are being invented all the time, and generally build on the old ideas.

Anonymous said...

What I found most striking about the quoted article from Time Magazine was not the silly experiment in education it described (the liberal principal of my own Long Island high school basically ruined the place before fleeing to head up a school in a more liberal community in Colarado), but the relatively evenhanded and informative nature of the article itself. It is real reporting, or something close to it, giving the reader enough information to draw his own conclusions about whether or not these schools are a good idea. It sounds like the Time Magazine I read faithfully throughout my childhood and teenage years. Time Magazine's content today consists mostly of gossip and political spin, which makes it a poor source of news (which is why I have stopped reading it, except in doctor's waiting rooms).

Anonymous said...

I wonder what schools would look like, if the only thing that mattered in school policy were the results. Because it's very clear that many school reforms, and almost all mainstream discussions, are all about identifying the reformers/speakers/journalists as being on the side of the angels. If this should happen to help some kids learn to read, of course, that would also be okay.

There's a bitter irony here, too. To a first approximation, it's the black and brown kids that are getting a crap deal from public education. But any reform that actually helps them, but also leaves the reformer susceptible to charges of racism, is simply never going to happen.