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25 September 2012

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walrus

There appears to be evidence that confirms your view


http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-09-24/confirming-us-dumbification-verbal-sat-scores-just-hit-record-low

My personal experience also supports your contention. I have an extremely wealthy friend who made his money in the U.S. through building an education consulting firm. His opinion of the state of the quality of education provided by American public schools is simply unprintable.

His description is that most of it is bored automatons simply reading through the standardised textbooks and then following with multiple choice questionnaires - no learning takes place.

Then of course there is the stupidity of institutionalised discrimination by funding public education through local property taxes, resulting in people being arrested for the ludicrous crime of "stealing education":

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/02/woman-sentenced-to-twelve-years-for-drug-dealing-stealing-education/253742/

But the best bit I saved till last: The Texas GOP values ignorance above all else and opposes the teaching of critical thinking skills as a matter of policy:


"Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/texas-gop-rejects-critical-thinking-skills-really/2012/07/08/gJQAHNpFXW_blog.html

The economic consequences of mal-investment in education are obvious. The irony is that many of the best education programs are the result of American research.

Lars

The worst part of this is that you are right. The only glimmer of hope is that you no longer need a publisher to be published.

I have not read the porno books that my wife (and enough others to make them best sellers) spent the summer absorbing but I know enough about them to further despair.

But unless you have read some of the authors you mention, how are you going to be able to even recognize great writing?

turcopolier

TypePad HTML Email

Read mine. Pl

Jim Ticehurst

Bravo Sir...Well Said..."To Thine Own Self Be True"

All One Has to Do...To Verify..That K-12 Education in America...Is Corrupted and Wasteful.. ...In Most of the Important Fields..of Learning...is to watch Jay Leno go ask People on the streets basic questions about anything..

If there is a Manifesto..It Has Become Manifest..and America has become what Jefferson Feared Most..With a Growing odor of Mold and Decay...on Musty Books..and Encased Declarations..and Self Serving Elected Officials..Pathetic and Unprincipaled.. .....There is No Light in Yonder Window..The Torch Sags in the Ladys Hand.She too,has grown Feeble....And People Feed on Daily Diets of Data Soup and Kilo-Bye Kool aid..All Intellectual ..and biological Poision..packaged and Sold..with every push of the Button..

Thank God I grew up at a Time when I would wear out the Batterys in a Flashlight..To Finish a Good Novel ..A Great Book Of Poems ..or Live a Historical Event ..Through the Process of Reading...and I Cherish my Library..of Books.

Cal

You're right Colonel..that why we are reduced to reading the same books again and again. My Faulkners, Melvilles, Hemingways,Thomas Wolfes, etc, are worn thin. I've had to go back to Englishman like Thackery and re read his 'The History of Henry Esmond' and 'The Virginians' for a while. I recommend both those novels for those who haven't read them.

former 11B

Yes sir you are correct. There would be no publisher for Melville or Hemingway. A story about a man fishing? Soooo boring!

I always thought I could write a book that would be at least as good as the drivel that I see marketed these days. Then I realized it would be pointless. There is no market.

I run across snippets of good writing on various blogs and that's about it. For military matters, this blog is as good as it gets. Maybe when the lights go out, family reading by torchlight might become fashionable again.

Probably not.

Dongo

I strongly feel that this nation got dramatically dumber the day that Gore Vidal died. With that, I'll get back to reading his Lincoln.

seydlitz89

Col. Lang-

Agree sir. I guess it all comes down to how one defines "literacy"? Is it just reading the label on a medicine bottle, or something far more? . . . Or basically a collapse of our values? Where exactly are our "conservatives" and "progressives" assuming they to be the ying/yang of US politics? I just see narrow interest.

otr

Hemingway was wordy. He could have used some twitter.

That said, youts of today are actually used to laborious reading. Just look at all the Harry Potter stuff. Yes, it's not Tolkien, but it's a lot or words. We just need to teach them some taste.

Matthew

Col: As an American by choice, I am always amazed by the causal disregard so many other Americans have for US history/literature. The Great Experiment--Our Experiment-is worth life-long study. In the Federalist Papers we produced history's single most penetrating and articulate exposition of a political system by its actual participants. How many Americans have read them?

Why the lack of interest? Is it because we sense our governing class is venal and cynical? I don't know. Matt Taibbi called this alienation "the Great Derangement". It's hard to have great literature without great beliefs. And by great beliefs, I mean belief in (read acknowledgment of) Tragedy, Wisdom, and Justice, not the current trend of retreating into "magic thinking" and religious fundamentalism. Well, pace, Sunset Boulevard, America is still big, it's the people who got small.

When F. Scott Fitzgerald said there were no second acts in American life, IMHO, he meant that Americans don't undergo fundamental change. The hero is supposed to leave home, face many trials, and return a changed man.

But we don't reward change. How many times has Donald Trump risen debt-free like a phoenix from the ashes of bankruptcy, only to spew the same Trumpisms? He's all Act I, Scene 1. And always will be.

My humble explanation: We closed the frontier. Expanding the frontier was our Odyssey. And with the exception of NASA, we never replaced the frontier. With settled borders, consumerism as popular culture, and all these proliferating MBA's, how can we produce another American Original, like Abraham Lincoln. Each election produces another Ivy Leaguer careerist, well-versed in cocktail party etiquette, mistaking flattery and D.C. echo-chamber chatter for wisdom. A fact is not a fact until it has been repeated by the Right People.

Sadly, we do not produce solitary people. We do not have leaders who retreat into quiet and return changed. Can you imagine any of Washington's Morning Joe's spending their evenings mastering Euclid's Elements like Lincoln did? I can't.

But, then, Lincoln was a man from the frontier.

mbrenner

Here's one view from academia. Much to say, so a few points

1. Everything the Colonel says about literature is correct. One caveat; the high school curriculum is richer (at the better schools anyway) than it was in my day. But students don't read beyond that. At college, literature is disparaged.

2. Yes, their knowledge of history is minimal - at best. In a class of 40 I.A. majors, only 3 could identify Angela Merkel. Mo one could identify General Kayani.

3. Social media are the killer - of just about everything that is intellectually worthwhile. In one sense, the medium is the message, In another, I'm convinced that there is a power socio=psychological dynamic at work insofar as students (and many of their elders) are compulsively insulating themselves from reality in anything but that which impinges on them personally. It's ego protection, it's narcissism, it's laziness, and its fear about having to make sense of and cope with all those stimuli from outside. In short, an embracing of the village mentality. Ever try asking directions from people and getting blank faces when in fact they've been living or working within spitting distance of it for years (but never turned right instead of left all this time and relying on their GPS to get around).

4. Many students are sharper, more mature and outgoing than they've ever been at 21. They are being deprived, though - and depriving themselves. Social media nullifies their healthy impulses. The few that escape it will find themselves isolates, alone or in small groups, estranged from the society around them.

Tyler

'The SATs nowadays are easier than back in the day, so that makes the scores even sadder.

As to your second contention ("institutionalized racism") uh no. The schools in the US reflect the going notion that everyone is equal in ability and biological facts like IQ are simply inconviences that can be fixed by "social justice". Parents looking for "good schools" are speaking in nice white peoplecode for not a lot of non asian minorities.

They don't want their kids getting mugged by diversity, don't want their kids getting culturally enriched by a group of 'urban youths', don't want their kids having to compete with the non English speaking children of illegal immigrants. The Kansas City school system spent the most of any district in the country on its urban youth, ordered (shock) by a federal judge and what do they have to show for it? A failing school system and wrecked buildings.

Until America can acknowledge racial realities, we will continue to throw goodmoney after bad until the entire edifice collapses under the bloated weight of the bureaucracy created to enforce politically correct goodthought.

Tyler

Spengler would say this is another sign of the death of a civilization. Of course, how many students know who Oswald Spengler for that matter?

Fred

Read Pat's, they are excellent.

Mark

It is interesting how the view of literature has changed. Leaders of the early republic those that the progress of the nation and its ability to attain a high quality of life was reflected in the quality of its literature.

Teaching literature is now largely considered extraneous to education that focuses only the basic skills required to work on the factory assembly line. This has been true at least since the 50s. But, those type of factory assembly line jobs, that provided a living wage, are rapidly disappearing. The result is that public education, in large urban districts, focuses on classroom management and test taking, rather than on education and seeking knowledge.

The curiosity and learning energies students exhibit outside of school is lost because of the focus of public education (including most Charter Schools).

Fred

Literature? Why we have wonderful fare like 'The Hunger Games".

As to the article, I admit I have a short attention span. I plead this 1st sentence as a mitigating factor: "It took 10 years for US troops to become expert on Afghanistan,..."
Perhaps we should investigate how the consultants brainwashed the generals.

There are even nicer gems within, like 13 ready brigades - so we can get into building multiple nations on every continent - The United States excluded, of course. I can here the argument now: Spend American money on the American people? Just what kind of American are you?

turcopolier

Matthew

The WASP gentry who founded this country valued such learning and, in the main, had the time to read and discuss it. The quality of their writing and thought in the founding documents displays that. My theory is that the decline into present ruin of the WASP ruling class and those who became part of that group through education and assimilation accounts for a lot of this loss of culture. The men who taught me literature as an undergraduate were all survivors of that class with one exception and he was a bit of a curiosity. This was in the late 50s and early 60s. pl

Patrick D

Tough call, colonel.

On one hand, I agree. The general level of appreciation for great literature has been dropping for a long time. No doubt that has something to do with it not being taught or taught well.

On the other hand, I had gifted teachers that taught me about great literature but I had little appreciation for it as a kid. Like youth, great literature is wasted on the young. I think one needs some life experience to recognize and appreciate it.

I read Moby Dick for the first time in my mid-30s and have re-read it twice since. It is an amazing book on many levels and contains timeless insights about human thought and behavior. It would have been totally wasted on me as a high school kid or undergrad.

Perhaps that is the challenge of teaching literature; setting the hook just enough so students pick it up again on their own decades later when it will have more meaning to them as adults.

J Y B

I wholeheartedly agree with this post. This is one of the reasons we choose to homeschool (along with limited finances). My eight year old and I just finished “Circe’s Palace” from Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales. She loved it. I don’t buy that true literature is too boring for today’s kids. It’s all about how you establish one’s appetite. If you start young and raise them on it, they will love it for a lifetime. I see it in their preference for music and art as well. I may not be an expert in all these areas, but at least I can introduce them to what is truly great.

Babak Makkinejad

Ralph Waldo Emerson (July 24 1838)

"Gentlemen, I have ventured to offer you these considerations upon the scholar's place, and hope, because I thought, that, standing, as many of you now do, on the threshold of this College, girt and ready to go and assume tasks, public and private, in your country, you would not be sorry to be admonished of those primary duties of the intellect, whereof you will seldom hear from the lips of your new companions. You will hear every day the maxims of a low prudence. You will hear, that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. 'What is this Truth you seek? what is this Beauty?' men will ask, with derision. If, nevertheless, God have called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. When you shall say, 'As others do, so will I: I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat the good of the land, and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient season;'--then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and poetry, and science, as they have died already in a thousand thousand men. The hour of that choice is the crisis of your history; and see that you hold yourself fast by the intellect."

http://transcendentalism.tamu.edu/authors/emerson/essays/litethics.html

Jose

My nephew had a summer reading list that included "The Hunger Games" plus a selection of four other books. Once I bought him an e-reader, he read all the others and completed the allowed maximum projects. Started the year with four easy A's, but sadly only about one in five even bothered to do the assignments. I questioned the selection with my siblings and our spouses and we came up with kids are not being challenged anymore. But as adults, it is hard to challenged yourself when you have adult responsibilities. It's a vicious cycle, so throw in the towel.

BTW, I take Tolkien over Hemingway any day, greatly over rated IMHO...lol

Best view of what Business School, a necessity in today's world, is all about:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JO5S_6OD2A

Grimgrin

Has anyone here read "Voltaire's Bastards" by John Ralson Saul? It's an interesting book, concerned with the history of how process driven 'rational' elites came to control all western governments, the way this control has distorted and damaged the language and cultures of the countries they rule.

Babak Makkinejad

And Thomas Wolfe over Melville, Hemingway, and Faulkner.

Jane

Former President Clinton (Rhodes Scholar) as of 2010:

First of all, I still spend about an hour a day trying to study this economy.

Jane

Any one interested in seeing what this group would make of our host's selection of one of the Federalist Papers?

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