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Archive for February, 2013

School District

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Every once in a while, I stumble across odd situations in the local news, and I follow them until I can make sense of them.

I’m not sure that I can make sense out of this one, exactly, but I’ve got some ideas.

A little over a year ago, a homeless woman from Bridgeport named Tanya McDowell was arrested for “stealing education.”

In case you’re wondering what that means, it’s simple–McDowell supposedly lived in Bridgeport, but she took her child across city lines and registered him in a Norwalk school, giving a false address to give the impression that she and the child resided in the district where the school was located.

When I first heard this story, I had some questions that I thought were obvious, but that nobody else seemed to be considering.

The first of these was that I did not understand how, if the woman was homeless, she could be said to “live” anywhere in particular. 

Isn’t that the nature of homelessness?  McDowell might not have been living in Norwalk, but she wasn’t actually living in Bridgeport, either. 

All I can say is that there must have been some method of working this out, because McDowell was duly charged and sent off on a long and convoluted road that ended (more or less) yesterday, when she was sentenced to five years in prison for a series of offenses that were discovered during the investigation into “stealing education.”

In other words, Tanya McDowell was  nobody’s idea of a saint, or even of a reasonably responsible human being.  She wasn’t homeless because life had turned sour on her and she just hadn’t gotten the breaks. 

And my guess is that she also wasn’t very bright.  While out on bail on the “stealing education” charge, she managed to get herself arrested again for selling drugs to undercover officers.


Here’s the thing.

It’s unusual to find a homeless mother trying to get her child registered for school at all.  It’s not just the fact that many of the homeless are either drug addicted or mentally ill or both. 

Even in the best of cases, what you almost always find are people who are almost terminally disorganized, whose skill levels and levels of education are low, whose sense of time is tentative and who tend to find it difficult to establish and maintain routines.

In McDowell’s case, the impression I got was that the basic issue was drugs, and that’s the way that goes.


Here’s the thing.

McDowell’s attempt to register her child in a better school district was neither stupid nor irresponsible, even if it was criminal.

The Bridgeport schools are as bottom of the barrel as you can get. Not only are the academic achievement levels low–low enough to be called bottoming out–but there are endless problems with drugs, weapons, and gangs,  dizzyingly high levels of out of wedlock pregnancy, and drop out rates that just won’t quit.

If I had a child sentenced to spend his time in such a school, I’d do anything I could to get him out, too.

And when I ask myself whether I would think she was a better person if she’d just registered her child in the allowed district, I’m not sure my answer would be yes.

In the meantime, of course, everybody involved with this case and everybody who’s heard about it has been going ballistic.

There’s been enormous support for McDowell across the country and a general feeling that she should not have been prosecuted on the “stealing education” charge. 

In the meantime, the towns have been going nuts, scared to death that if McDowell got off lightly on the education charge they would be faced with a tidal wave of false registrations and a pool of severely disadvantaged students needing special conditions and circumstances they’re not in a position to provide.

And the Norwalk issue is ironic.  Norwalk is in no way one of Connecticut’s better school systems.  It’s a crowded industrial city itself. 

It’s just a lot better than Bridgeport.

McDowell has, by now, been hit with a fine large enough so that the chances are she will never get out from  under it.   She’s gone from being homeless with a chance (maybe) to pretty much permanently unable to get her life back to anything any of us would consider “normal.”

She’s lost her child.  She’s going to spend five years in jail on the drugs charges. 

She’s landed in a horrific and possibly unsolvable mess.

And it’s arguably all her own fault, especially with the drugs.


Criminal or not, that thing with the school registration is a sign of something.

It’s a sign that there’s something truly salvagable here, something in Tanya McDowell that is deserves to be acknowledged.

I’m not too sure how.

I just know that coming down on her like this feels entirely wrong to me.

Written by janeh

February 28th, 2013 at 8:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Faux Snow Day

with 2 comments

We are supposed to be getting a snow storm today–in fact, we’re supposed to be getting it already.  The web sites I go to for weather have been screaming about it for days, because that would make three week ends in a row with snow, and that would be very impressive.

At the moment, however, I’m sitting in my office, and it’s warmer than it’s been in months.  It’s a little cloudy outside, but otherwise than that, nothing is happening.

I don’t even have all the available heat in the house on, which is pretty impressive for this point in February.

Maybe it will cloud up later, and snow will fall on my head all afternoon.

I doubt it.

But I doubt it.

This morning the local news websites were hemming and hawing around “well, maybe mostly rain,” and the snow map didn’t even have the worst predictions over my neck of the woods.

I hate the phrase “neck of the woods.”

I’ve never understood what it was supposed to mean.

When I think about it, I always imagine Ents.

At any rate, Ents notwithstanding–

About a week and a half ago I read a book called A Trick of the Light, by Louise Penny.

I read it because the author and I had both been mentioned in an article in Publisher’s Weekly.

For those of you who don’t know, PW is the industry magazine for booksellers.  Being mentioned there in positive terms is generally considered to be a good thing.

In this case, it was also not a hugely unusual thing.  She and I had been mentioned together before. 

And when it happened, as when it happened this time, I always told myself I’d have to get hold of one of Penny’s books and see what I thought of it.

So I finally did, and then–just to check it out–I posted a status to Facebook asking if anybody else had read Penny’s work, and what they thought about it.

Now, this is not a post about Penny’s book.  It was a good book.  I enjoyed reading it.  I would be happy to read another one. 

Her characters are engaging, the setting of the novel was intriguing, and the whole thing rang true.

What flummoxed me was the responses I got to my status on Facebook.

All those people liked Penny’s books, too, but they were nearly universal in cautioning me to read the series in order.  The characters develop from book to book, they warned me.

And they did think it was a warning.

But here’s the thing–I read a lot of series whose characters develop over time, and I almost never read them in order.

I’m sure there must be some advantages to reading in order, but there are also disadvantages. 

For one thing, I frequently come to series late in the day, so that there are multiple volumes out there and the earliest ones are already out of print.

For another, I have the firm conviction that every mystery novel should be able to stand on its own. 

Unlike novels of other kinds, mystery novels focus on a crime and its solution.  That crime and that solution needs to be thoroughly explored and explained within the single volume, or what you have is a very bad mystery novel.

It would be a very bad mystery novel even if its characters were marvels of completeness and complexity to rival Dostoyevski.

This attitude, that there is something compelling and necessary about reading a series in the order in which it was published, seems to me so wrongheaded that I don’t know how to approach it.

I do know that some writers create problems for themselves on this score by letting spoilers about earlier mysteries into the later ones, but not only do most writers not do this, I would say, from my experience, most of them don’t.

I’m also not sure that I care when they do.

Especially in cases where the earlier books are OOP anyway, I’m not sure why it matters–but even when the entire series is in print, I don’t read novels so that I can see if I can outwit the writer on the solution.

“I figured out who did it before the end” is not, for me, a reason to think that a detective novel is bad.

For me, the disadvantages to this approach to reading mystery fiction seem so obvious, I can’t understand why anybody does it. 

I don’t even take this approach to novel series where the continuity is the point.  The first novel I ever read in Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent series was the third one in, and after that I read them as I found them.  It was definitely not in order.

Maybe I’d be less frustrated about this if I didn’t also think that there are people out there who would enjoy my books but who are not reading them because the early ones are not in print. 

Matters of personal future royalties aside, however, I really don’t understand why people do this, even though I know most people do.

After all, if you get interested in the development, you can always go back and reread the series in order.

The copyedited manuscript beckons.

It is trying to kill me.


Written by janeh

February 24th, 2013 at 10:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized


with 2 comments


So I’ve been thinking about the exchange yesterday. 

And a number of things occur to me.

The first is that the woman who wrote the book reviewed in the NYRB obviously had an agenda–she wrote the book specifically to outline that agenda.

The second is that I tend to assume that anything that is presented to me as social “science” research is an exercise in “proving” predetermined conclusions.

I tend to assume that because that has been the case in the vast majority of instances when I’ve gone and checked out study protocols, etc, after I’ve read the reports of findings that sounded…well, off.

No control groups.  Tendentious or ambiguous survey questions. Sampling error that’s more like sampling abuse.  The nearly universal  practice of conducting studies using volunteer (and sometimes paid) college student  sample groups under the apparent assumption that there will be nothing significantly different about the responses of such groups from that of the responses of, say, a collection of garage mechanics who never graduated from high school.

It’s things like that that explain why I don’t get terribly upset when I hear that Republicans have managed to get a federal law passed forbidding federal funding  for social “science” research.

I mean, good for them.

But what I think is much more important is that this book, as reviewed–and even some of the statements of the reviewer, who isn’t really entirely happy with the ideas–

This book as reviewed seems to me to be one  more volley in the seemingly endless war to redefine human beings in a way that will make oligarchy–real oligarchy, not the imagined “corporations are evil” variety–respectable again.

In spite of the theoretically addictive nature of junk food, I find that I can take it or leave it, and if I decided I want to leave it, nobody can force me to take it.

The government can force me to take it if I don’t want to buy insurance from insurance companies or if I don’t want to pay for insurance that subsidizes “mental health” “benefits.”

The assumption of the book as reviewed are breathtaking,  if you think about it.

Rights, which were originally assumed to inhere in the person irrespective of his mental abilities, moral virtue, level of education, or anything else are, in works like these, simply presumed to need to be earned.

You get a right to make your own decisions IF  you use that right “responsibly,” meaning in the ways the people administrating rights belive to be acceptable.

But such a thing is not a right.  It’s a privelege granted to you by the people who control priveleges, which in this case would be members of the educated upper  middle class.

And–surprise!  surprise!–what these people mean by living “responsibly” and in accord with “scientific evidence” is living the way they do themselves.

The class bias of all these things is even more breathtaking than the rest.

This was blatantly clear in Bloomberg’s attempt to ban “sugary drinks” over 16 ounces at restaurants and other venues in NYC.

A venti caramel Frappacino at Starbucks is certainly a “sugary drink” and way more than 16 ounces, but it was exempt from the ban because–because–

Because People Like Us drink those, and they’re obviously not bad for us because we’re thin…unlike those stupid, undisciplined slobs who blight the prospect of our beautiful city by walking around bulging out of all that size XXX spandex.

But you can’t be judgmental.  It’s not their fault.  They really want to be Just Like Us, but they can’t manage it on their own.  They can’t control themselves.

So we’ll “help” them.

Most of the people who champion this sort of thing call themselves progressives, but these policies and assumptions are not progressive at all.

They’re distinctly regressive–a return to the morals legislation and the definition of human nature that plagued both the Middle Ages and the Victorians. 

I know I’m not the first person who has noticed that what all this is–including that book, as reviewed–is a class war considerably nastier and more unforgiving (and more truly destructive) than anything involved in our arguments about the capital gains tax.

But the fact that this is going on, and not only on issues like this, seems to me to be the very worst news about the state of the culture.

But that’s a subject for another time, and I’ve got a copyedited manuscript to finish with.

Written by janeh

February 23rd, 2013 at 10:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

And Another Few Notes

with 9 comments

I actually read the article Mike Fisher posted the link to a few days ago.  For awhile it was showing up on Facebook on a regular basis.

And I thought then what I thought now. 

In terms of any discussion about whether government should be allowed to “nudge” or coerce  its citizens to  make its version of the “right” decisions, the information is entirely irrelevant.

The issue is not whether people often  make bad or  mistaken decisions, or whether human nature is hardwired to make such decisions more likely than not in lots of cases.

Of course all that is true.  I’ve got three thousand years of literature to prove  it.

The issue is this–what is the proper relationship of the government to the people.

Democracy assumes that the people control the government.

Government cannot coerce private choice in a democracy not because we assume that individuals will always make the right choices, but because adult citizens are assumed to have the close to absolute right to decide their private business for themselves.

What the writer of the book reviewed in that article was actually proposing was an end to democracy.

Democracy would be replaced by oligarchy. 

This oligarchy will be staffed by “experts” who will be “trained” in “science.”

They will therefore know what we want, even if we say we don’t want it. 

(One of the things I found interesting about both the  book reviewed and the reviewer is that they tended to take people’s responses to questions  like “Do you want to  live a long, healthy life?” at face value.  My guess is that no matter how the question was asked, the answers were less clear than you might think.

Consider my friend from college, with deep problems with depression. Every medication they’ve ever put her on has made her completely frozen–no depression, but also no libido and no ambition.

It turns out that she can self medicate with cigarettes.  She has none of the side effects of the prescription medications.  She’s  happy.  She’s had a spectacular career.  She’s gone all over the world.

Of course, as she  herself knows, she’s also k illing herself.

But if you asked her if she wanted to live a long,  healthy life, she’d certainly say yes.

If you asked her if she wanted to live a long,  healthy life AT THE EXPENSE OF being the way she is on medications, the answer would be an unqualified no.)

But whether it’s the “science” of how people make decisions, or the “science” of how junk food gets us “addicted,” the  purpose is the same–to reduce the individual from the status of a citizen to the status of a child, who can’t be left alone to make his own decisions because he’s just not competent to make them.

Written by janeh

February 21st, 2013 at 10:09 am

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A Link For The Day

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Go here:


I’d say I was flabbergasted, but I’m used to it.


Written by janeh

February 19th, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Bad Books, Of More Than One Kind

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So it’s very early in the morning, and I’m sitting at the computer at school having my office hours, which nobody will come to.

Until the last week, when they’ll all come at once.

But I’m here, and I’ve got work to do, and I should really go do it.  Instead, I’m writing this, because the work I have to do here isn’t really for today, and I can do it at home later.

Next to my chair I have my big black leather tote bag, and in that tote bag, aside from the usual things, like quizzes to hand back and the textbook, I have the book I’ve been trying to read for nearly two weeks now.

It’s driving me crazy.

The book is called Francis Bacon: The Major Works (including New Atlantis and the Essays), an Oxford World’s Classics mass market paperback edition edited by a man named Brian Vickers. 

I don’t know anything about Brian Vickers, and I couldn’t find the usual short bio in any of the usual places.  His acknowledgments are datelined Zurich, and include a thanks to a university in Tokyo.    I assume he’s a Brit of some kind and a native English speaker, getting that mostly from clues in his introductions and his notes.

But it’s not his biographical or his academic credentials or his institutional affiliations that I want to talk about here.

It’s the design of this book.

Mr. Vickers may not be responsible for the design of this book, and if he isn’t, I’ll have to apologize.

Because whoever is responsible for it should be banished from publishing forever.


This book includes within it several major works by Sir Francis Bacon, in whole and in part.

There is a general introduction at the front, which is fine.

There are also particular introductions to each of the works.

Then there are vocabulary notes–words the author thinks the reader may have trouble with, defined in modern terms.

Then there are translations of the Latin and Greek phrases Bacon often uses.

Then there are actual notes, little asides on things like the Great Chain of Being or the politics of Elizabethan and Jacobean England.

See those last four things?

They’re all together at the back of the book.

The individual and particular introductions are at the start of the notes for each piece, yes.

But the other three things are all smushed together, so that every time you do want to consult a note, check your Latin translation, make sure of your vocabulary, it’s almost impossible to find what you’re looking for.

You’ll get the page number, in bold, and then a positive cascade of stuff, mostly undifferentiated.  If you’re looking to check a Latin translation, you have to dig through inches of vocabulary words that are often just plain silly.

I mean, is it really necessary to tell me what “lucky” means? 

But because the vocabulary notes seem to be aimed at a not very well read 4th grader, there are literally thousands of them. 

So you turn to the back, find the page number, and start wading.  The Latin translations are identified only by their first and last words (quoque…est) so they’re often buried almost entirely out of sight. 

By the time you find what you’re looking for, you’ve often forgotten what you were reading, and have to go back and start over to get the sense.

Most of the time, this doesn’t feel like reading. 

It’s more like some crazy obstacle course, made all the more miserable by the fact that I can tell that if I could find a way to navigate this thing without all the bumps and problems, I’d actually be interested in the material.

I don’t find Bacon the secular saint a lot of people like to pretend he is these days, the great innovator in the sciences, and all the rest of it.

I know too much about his personal life to admire him on any level.

But this is an authentic voice from an important time and place, and there have even been some surprises–for instance, the fact that he is a Humanist only in the Christian sense, and not only believed in God but believed in hunting heretics.

There’s something they don’t tell you when they give you Francis Bacon as a model of an early scientific skeptic.

The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t matter what he was.  This book never lets me relax long enough to think about him. 

And I end up, after a few hours, being physically uncomfortable. 

This is not a book to make a Sunday morning with Bach. 

I tried it, and I ended up with Beethoven at six a.m., sounding like doom.

I also realized that there was a time of day after which I just couldn’t go on with it.

So I did something I almost never do–I started another book, in the middle, to read at night.

That book is Louise Penny’s A Trick of the Light, a fair play mystery in a series featuring a chief homicide investigator with the Quebec Surete.

I picked the author because she and I were featured in a Publisher’s Weekly article on fair play mysteries (it was a while back), and I was of course interested.

It’s a very nice book indeed, with very engaging characters.

I’ll post a complete report when I’ve finished with it.

I’ll post a complete report on the Francis Bacon–if I finish with it.

The only things keeping me going at the moment are my internal conviction that I must always finish what I start, and the fact that there really is material in there I’m interested in.

Written by janeh

February 13th, 2013 at 11:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Short Report From The Trenches

with 6 comments

It’s Monday.

The snowstorm was on Friday and went a bit into Saturday.

Schools were closed Friday and there was no mail service in all of NE on Saturday.

Classes were cancelled Saturday and Sunday–yes, there are Sunday classes some places–and now…

Schools are closed in most of the towns around here, as are colleges and universities.

The roads, it seems, are not all plowed yet.

Our road is plowed, and various grown children have gotten the snow off our walk.

The snow walls on either side of our walk are up to my shoulders, and the snow walls on the road are probably over my head.

I haven’t gone out to look.

But this probably the first school snow day I’ve ever experienced when the temperatures are supposed to be over 40 by noon.

It’s cold in this office, and my work is done, so I’m going to go grade papers or something else useful.

But I’m beginning to think that our response to this snowstorm is a form of institutional PTSD.

We’re usually a lot calmer about this sort of thing.

Written by janeh

February 11th, 2013 at 9:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Ne Plus Ultra

with 9 comments

It’s Saturday morning, and the word is that we’re likely to see a little more snow over the course of the morning.

It is, however, not snowing now–but it did, yesterday, a lot.

I’ve heard estimated totals for this part of the state of between eighteen and twenty-two inches.  I’m not going to go out into the yard with a yardstick to make sure.

I will say that I tried to get out onto the porch this morning to size things up just by looking at them, and the screen door was so impeded by snow I could move it, and had to get Greg up to push it out for me.

He wasn’t pleased, and he’s going to be even less pleased by all the shoveling that’s going to be going on a bit later.

I should buy a snow blower, I know.  I think about it every year, but I never seem to do it.

I just want to note that we don’t ever seem to be able to get beyond schools when we talk about education on this blog.

What I was trying to say was this:

1) Forget about schools.  Let’s by pass them altogether.

2) Let’s have employers hire and fire on the basis of competitive examinations ALONE.

3) If you want to send your kid to school to prepare for those examinations, fine.  If you want to homeschool him, fine.  If you want to send him to the library and let him do it on his own, fine.

4) The big point is this–a high school diploma or a college degree will count for NOTHING.  It will NOT be a credential that gets you a job, or that indicates your skill level in anything.

5) The tests will NOT be devised by government entities of any kind.

6) Instead, individual employers will work up their own tests–taking what advice they want–that will be tailored to their being able to identify candidates with the skills they need.

7) I expect that what will happen is what has happened with E. D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy project–the individual tests and curricula will circulate, and employers and other entities will adopt the ones that work the best for them.

8) What happens to hiring and firing teachers, or to the curricula of specific schools, or government education policy, will be entirely irrelevant.

No committees or bureaucracies will be necessary, and that’s a good thing–because no committees or bureaucracies will be able to devise a successful method of skills evaluation.

They’re coming at it from the wrong end.

They’re always coming at it from the wrong end.

We’ve all gotten so used to the idea that Schools Are Where We Learn Things that we’ve forgotten that for most of history, they weren’t.

Let’s get rid of schools as the places that certify skills and knowledge–they’re completely useless at it.

We can, of course, still retain them as places we want to send our children for other reasons.

But I bet none of them will cost $50,000 a year or require a mountain of debt to attend, and we can ditch the college loan system entirely.

I’m going to go organize the shoveling.


Written by janeh

February 9th, 2013 at 11:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Getting Right With Websites…Or Not

with 7 comments

The title has nothing to do with what I want to talk about today.  It’s just an indicator of my frustration.

I got in to school a little later than usual yesterday, so I wasn’t able to get any real work done on the computers.

To make up for that, I’ve been trying to sign in to the college website this morning, only to be continually told that my “session has timed out,” even though I’ve JUST signed in.

The site gets like that sometimes, but it’s making me crazy.

I have been reading the comments and I’ve got a couple of notes:

1) I agree with Cheryl that some bureaucracy will always be necessary, but it’s a necessary evil, and it should be kept as minimal as possible, which is a lot more minimal than it is. 

At the very least, bureaucracies should not have the ability to issue regulations that have the force of law, and they should be required to enforce only objective standards.

No bureaucrat, major or minor, should have the right to say “this is what this regulation means to  me” and then enforce it that way.

That will always lead to favortism, corruption and empire building.  There is nothing else it can lead to.

2) I’m not with Robert about  multiple choice tests.  I think they’re a bad measure of anything.

We give our  students multiple choice tests to determine their literacy levels when they enter, and too many of the kids who get good scores on those are completely unable to write a coherent and grammatical sentence.

What I want are long tests hand written out, preferably with individual examiners from some entity entirely unconnected to the schools, and with some tests (say, for history) done orally.

And yes, I know.  This would be very expensive, and I’m not likely to get it just because of that.

But that would at least give me some indication of what they actually know and are able to do.

3) I knew about our statistics on the international tests, but all I have to say about that is–they are obviously not testing correctly for what needs to be tested for.

My students are virtually all white, but even in my advanced class they are almost all incapable of writing ANYTHING grammatically, and most of their reading comprehension levels are minimal.

It’s one thing to read a passage, be given a set of possible answers, and be good at figuring out which of those answers may be correct.

It’s something else to be given a short story or essay to read and be able to figure out from that alone what the text is saying.

I’m going to go try to sign on to that website again.

Written by janeh

February 7th, 2013 at 9:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Off To The Races

with 13 comments

I’d like to remind everybody that the lists are not some kind of challenge, and that the list for January is unusually  long. 

January is dead time for teaching, and on top of that is was dead time for writing, too.  I got sick, I got questions that needed resolving in the manuscript–in the end I worked on Real Work in the mornings and then sort of curled up  into a ball and read things.

Now teaching is definitely back into gear, and that  means a whole other set of preoccupations.

For me, the biggest continuing  issue is the wholesale bureaucratization of college teaching.

And I will admit that on some levels I sort of get it.

The state and federal governments are pouring enormous amounts of money into “college,”  and students are running up trillions of dollars in debt, a lot of it guaranted by the Federal government through guaranteed student loans.

For t hose reasons, it has become vitally important that the governing bodies be able to “prove” that they are getting their money’s worth.

That might even be a good thing, if the entire enterprise wasn’t predicated on supposed “facts” that are not facts.

The biggest non-fact is the idea that students with a high school diploma have the skills a high school diploma is assumed to import.

In reality, of course, such students often have nothing like those skills.  The closest you come is with students who have taken a GED, because in at least some areas–especially math–they are actually required to know something.

In subject areas like English, the testing is a joke–essays graded by the “holistic” method that does not bother to notice errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling, “reading comprehension” questions that–well, I don’t know who grades those things, but the “comprehension” tested for does not seem to translate into an actual ability to understand what they read.

At the very bottom skill levels, students don’t need remediation as much as they need an entirely new pass through primary school,  middle school and high school.

We are talking about kids who don’t know the things we expect of fourth graders–the parts of speech, yes, but also who wrote the Gettysburg address and why, and who fought in WWII.

In composition this is worse than a mere annoyance, and the simple fact is that you cannot take a kid who has done  no real academic work at all in the past 12 years and “fix” it all in a semester of two. 

The process of learning any language–even your own–is far more complex than that, and takes more time.  It cannot be short cutted by gimmicks like vastly expanded class hours  bunched into a single semester.

The Department of Education, in the meantime, has its own narrative:  college teachers are pampered, priveleged and lazy.  They only work a few hours a week and spend the rest of the time goofing off.  Colleges and universities are money grubbing and essentially fraudulent.  They’re cunning and indefatigable at finding new ways to charge students and governments more money.

That is the only possible reason why they might require students to take more than one remedial course.  If they were really doing their jobs, students wouldn’t need more than one. 

And then look at the way they’re disorganized–the same course taught by two different teachers can be completely different, even assign different books and textbooks. 

And there’s nothing to say what the course is for or what it’s supposed to do or what the students are supposed to get out of it.

So if they want our  money, we’ll fix all that.

Fixing all that is what we’re supposed to be in the process of doing at the moment, and in aid of that there are constant semester-by-semester changes in the bolierplate for the syllabus, detailing  new “course objectives” and “measurable outcomes.”

The course objectives are written in Educationese and are only sometimes decipherable by ordinary mortals.  The measurable outcomes are often not measurable in any objective way.

The whole process is about to tip over into the surreal.

Since it doesn’t matter if anything actually gets done, what we will do, more and more–we’re doing some of it now–is to produce more and more complete paper records that things have been done, whether they have been or not.

This is what happened in the primary schools and the middle schools and the high schools, so that these days a high school diploma means exactly nothing at all.  A student with a high school diploma could know a lot and be a great writer and a decent mathemetician.  A student with a high school diploma could think that “when” is a verb and that Pearl Harbor started the Vietnam War.

Except, of course, that this isn’t exactly what happens. There are schools–Wilton, New Trier, Walt Whitman–who produced reliably competent graduates at everything but their lowest skill levels, because the parents of the students there know what is actually needed and insist on it. 

Which  means that  if you live in a very rich town, and have parents who know what to advocate for and how to advocate for it, then you’ll get a high school education.

If not–well, maybe  you’ll get lucky.

I  hear people talk endlessly on forums everywhere about “income inequality,” but although lots of them are willing to tax everybody up the smithereens to even up the score (at least temporarily), nobody is willing to fix t his.

And this is determinative.

It is already the case that where you go matters more than what you study almost universally across the board.

At the end of this latest round of bureaucratic fixes, we’ll have gutted the lower tier four years and the community colleges to the point where students who can afford nothing else or who have the grades for nothing else will be unable to  learn what they need to know. 

It won’t be taught.

Written by janeh

February 4th, 2013 at 10:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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