[PLUG-TALK] Kids, get off my lawn (was telephones ... )

Keith Lofstrom keithl at gate.kl-ic.com
Mon Feb 11 13:17:40 PST 2013

On Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 05:34:58PM -0800, Rich Shepard wrote:
>   However, things will soon become much worse. There's an article in today's
> Washington Post -- the Web version -- that reprints a letter from a retire
> high school teacher warning college/university faculty why the students
> entering their facilities are grossly unprepared and have no idea how to
> learn or communicate. Apparently, it all started in 2001 with the No Child
> Left Behind act. That put the focus of everything K-12 on standardized test
> scores so schools, and their teachers, focused all effort on teaching how to
> score high on these tests. The recent Race to the Top federal program
> exacerbates the problem. It's a depressing article, but demonstrates that
> all we thought about K-12 failures were underestimates. I'm sure glad that
> I'm not younger. And I see the results of uneducated young adults in many
> environments.

Schools have always been mostly awful and occasionally wonderful. 
They have never transformed barbarians into scholars - the fools
stay fools, the kids who want to learn find the means to do so
and the teachers who will help them.  With the internet, some
of those teachers can be halfway around the world.

Out of millions of Oregonians, there are perhaps ten thousand
who think brilliantly, and a million that know how to get to
work on time and push the buttons they've been trained to push. 
There are millions more useless lumpen - though a few eventually
wake up and make something of themselves, some brilliantly. 
That is why gifted teachers stay in their mostly unrewarding
jobs - not making everyone smart, but finding those few diamonds
in tons of muck, and making it safe for them to come out of the
intellectual closet.  The vast majority of non-gifted teachers
hate exceptions (plus or minus) and prefer processing robots.
Overseas, schools turn more lumpen into robots - and more
potentially brilliant kids into robots, too.  Mass production,
of robots and educational statistics.  Nothing to envy.

I got D's in grade school, and graduated summa cum laude from
college, mostly due to the efforts of non-professional teachers.
I would have done better, earlier, without public school in the
way.  But for the million button pushers, public school trained
them to do their simple tasks, so it fills a need.  It is a pity
that the useful kids are being distracted by obstreperous lumpen,
but that is training for real life, too.  The parents of the
lumpen pay taxes for the schools, and vote for the fantasy that
overworked and often apathetic teachers will transform their
offspring into scholars.  It is unlikely they will send their
darlings to the boot camps that might salvage a few of them.

That continues into college, of course - some lumpen end up
with PhDs, pushed all the way through the system with a heap
of Daddy's money.  They still end up untrained and useless,
but with blinding delusions of entitlement.  Rinse and repeat,
until some get elected President.  Somehow, we survive this.

I am typing this from a library right now.  Once I taught myself
to read, libraries are where I learned, and where I still spend
many hours a week.  If you really want to learn, you are your
own best teacher, and the rest of your teachers can be found
all over the world and throughout history.  It was ever thus.


Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com         Voice (503)-520-1993

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