You can lead a child to a mediocre public education, but you can’t make him learn

I know reader Lulu is familiar with the American education system, and she might have even better comments on this one than any I can offer.  Nevertheless, I’ll stick take a stab at it.  First, the story:

Despite a seventh straight year of improved test scores statewide, results released today show California schools failed to make a significant dent in a historically immovable achievement gap – one that leaves black and Hispanic students lagging well behind their white and Asian peers.

Based on the rate of improvement from 2003 to 2009, it would take up to 105 years to close the white/Hispanic achievement gap and at least 189 years to close the white/black gap, which has failed to narrow by even a point in English since 2003, according to scores released today.

It would take even longer for Hispanic and black students to perform on the standardized tests on par with Asian students, who post the highest scores in the state in both math and English.

For decades, politicians have been in thrall to unions and race based activists who continuously demand more and more money to solve the problem.  To justify these demands, these people keep pointing to the fact that minorities are frequently in schools that are pathetically underfunded, which affects the buildings, the materials and the teachers.

Our common sense, however, coupled with the fact I set forth below, tell us that poverty is not the sole problem.  Generations of brilliant Americans emerged from the ghettos of turn of the century New York City.  Nowadays, people in India and China learn despite the fact that there may be one book per classroom.  And, on the flip side, as the article says:

Wealthier black students score well below their white and Asian counterparts, including those who are from low-income families.

The fact that poor people can learn, and rich people (from certain cultures) cannot establishes conclusively that the intractably lagging test scores minorities generate aren’t the result of money problems, but of culture problems.  And no, I’m not just going to point a finger at the black and Hispanic cultures and say that they’re cultures incapable of sustaining education — although I think both cultures value education less than generic white,  Asian or Jewish cultures.  Instead, I think the problem lies with our education system, which (as I’ve frequently complained), teaches “how” learning, not “why” learning.

“How” learning means that the children are simply taught how to do things.  They are not taught the way in which the discipline developed (which is not only fascinating, but can also yield a greater understanding of the discipline), nor are they taught why the particular subject matters.  Everything takes place in a vacuum, with tiny bits and bites of information and methodology being stuffed into the children.  This approach creates a Teflon brain, which is one in which information goes in and then just slides right out again.

For children who are raised in a cultural environment that emphasizes knowledge, the stick stuff in the brain (the part to which facts stick and develop) comes from the home.  Since I’m verbal and fairly knowledgeable, my kids understand inflation, they understand wealth creation, they understand the Cold War, they know about the Civil War, they appreciate why math matters, they know about the Holocaust, etc.  I’m creating the sticky environment in their brain in which the otherwise unmoored facts in school can take root.  Nor is mine the only approach.  Even if Mom and Dad speak no English (as was the case in many of the homes in which my Asian friends grew up), an enormous emphasis on education’s value will aid the child in creating his or her own sticky mental environment, one in which the facts take permanent root, even if meaning follows later.

Those children, however, who grow up in a home where the parents do not emphasize learning and do not offer knowledge, and who face a street culture that denigrates education (as is the case with Hispanic and black kids), are at a profound disadvantage.  At the domestic end, their parents aren’t giving them sticky brains, nor do they have an incentive to have sticky brains; while at the school end, the institution is completely anthetical to creating a rich mental environment in which facts can take root and grow.

I know this latest round of test scores is going to spur a demand for our bankrupt state to pour ever more sums into poor performing schools.  And I’m here to tell you that this is throwing good money after bad.  Until the American education system stops being an assembly line that just drills meaningless data into traction-free brains, nothing will change the test scores.

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    I’ll let Lulu do the real talking, but I wanted to share a brief conversation I had with a kindergarten teacher while we were on break from jury duty (another time with that story).

    She was explaining, the kids were coming less and less prepared and that kindergarten, unlike years past is more academically inclined, designed and geared. Her classrooms included lower and middle income kids.

    The shocker:
    Kindergarten was for some of these kids, the first time they ever held a pencil.

  • David Foster

    The Democrats have made it very clear that they are willing to destroy generation after generation in dysfunctional public schools rather than either (1) put serious performance standards on these institutions and their employees, or (2) allow the development of alternative institutions on a large scale.

    It’s been said that “if you’re not a liberal under 30, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative over 30, you have no head.” But our current “progressives” seem to be lacking in *both* the heart and head departments.


    But our current “progressives” seem to be lacking in *both* the heart and head departments.

    Empty suits.

  • Ymarsakar

    Look, people. If you teach children that their black or white history is full of sin, grief, and entitlement based upon “need” and not productivity, why the hell would any student be motivated to put his time and energy into studying the sins of Dead White Men?

    And for the blacks, why should they study slavery when obviously they are entitled to so much based upon that history? Do they need to learn that history, the true history, to be ‘entitled’? No, says the educators.

    So why should people be interested in math, science, or history? It’s not in any way shape or form related to their life experiences or career goals. Their response is always “I’m not going to use this when I go to work”. And that’s because the Left made it so. Critical thinking is no longer necessary to go to work.

    They’ll just make some government jobs and everybody will be happy not having to think about much of anything. Why should people strive hard in school when their college spots will be taken up by affirmative action blacks like Obama?

  • Ymarsakar

    And I’m here to tell you that this is throwing good money after bad.

    I know and you know that most of this money is just going to line the pockets of influential Dems and their friends.

  • suek

    >>So why should people be interested in math, science, or history?>>

    Part of this belongs to the feminist movement. Maybe. It gets a bit difficult to tell whether the chicken or the egg comes first. Within the feminist movement though, the idea is the emotion is a feminine trait and good. Logic and reason are masculine traits and therefore bad. Therefore, (using that bad masculine logic) disciplines that focus on logic – like math, physics etc – are bad or at least not very desirable, and disciplines that emphasize emotion – Literature, history maybe, drama, art etc – are good.

  • Ymarsakar

    There is also the aspect of negative reinforcement. A child that hasn’t been taught how to think will hit physics hard and then fail. They will be discouraged by how hard it is and then they will be discouraged again when they see ‘smart’ kids ace through it.

    But smart kids already know some of the best ways to think through a problem. They do it intuitively or just the brute force calculation way. That is their gift, inborn from birth or training.

    Others, however, were not trained this way, and probably weren’t born with gifts in the realm. So they are at a natural disadvantage, where they are young enough to be programmed that innate intelligence determines a person’s capability in subjects that requires expertise. This leads to the Democrat party’s obsession with intelligence and being ‘smart’. They called Obama a genius, not just someone who represented their views and policies, but an actual bona fide brilliant genius. By voting for the smart Obama, they themselves were made part of that smartness.

    That’s the kind of people who believe in the cult called Intelligence. And as a result, they stop trying. They stop trying to better themselves, to actualize their full potential. They just make up the excuse that “I won’t need it” or “I’m too stupid to get it so why bother trying to get more than a passing performance”.

    This is the Age of Mediocrity, which finally elected Obama to form the Age of Obama.