Thursday, October 11, 2007

Boortz on American schools

I want you to focus your attention for a moment on a quote by C.S. Lewis that someone sent to me over the weekend. Read it .. perhaps a few times .. and then try to tell me with a straight face that C.S. Lewis, who took the eternal celestial dirt nap 44 years ago, wasn't talking about government education in 21st Century America:
"What I want to fix your attention on is the vast overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence -- moral, cultural, social or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how 'democracy' (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient dictatorships, and by the same methods? The basic proposal of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be 'undemocratic.' Children who are fit to proceed may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval's [of the same age] attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT. We may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when 'I'm as good as you' has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will vanish. The few who might want to learn will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway, the teachers -- or should I say nurses? -- will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men." C. S. Lewis

Now don't you want to go back and read that again? I guess I read it 20 times over the weekend ... just amazed at how well a man who has been dead for so long has perfectly nailed our current system of government education and what it is doing to our children. And referring to government school teachers as nurses? Brilliant! Absolutely effing brilliant! (Excuse me, I got carried away there for a bit.)

This country is in trouble. No, I'm not talking about the threat from outside – the biggest element of which would be Islamic radicalism. I'm talking about the threat from inside. The men who marched in bare feet wrapped in rags over frozen ground in 1776 – leaving a trail of blood for the British to follow – would scarcely recognize us. They put their lives on the line for independence, far too many of us strive for dependence. They embraced freedom. We embrace security. The men of 1776 were extraordinary. We reject the extraordinary for the mundane.

Our schools are turning out perfect little government subjects who have been taught that, somehow, it is bad to excel, but virtuous to simply fit in. Do you think the men and women of just two generations ago could ever imagine a school system where children aren't allowed to play tag because it involves chasing and unwanted touching? Of course you don't want to be touched! That makes you "it!" How about a school system that won't honor a valedictorian because other students might feel slighted or left out? Read again that sentence from C.S. Lewis where he says that the "nurses" are "far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching." We have schools now that grade with shapes instead of letters. "What did you get on your math test today dear?" "I got a square, mom!" In some schools teachers won't use a red pen to grade papers because red denotes errors or a bad grade, and they don't want the precious little students to get upset.

All you have to do is look around you to see what a miserable failure our government schools are. A huge percentage of entering freshmen at state colleges and universities have to enroll in remedial courses in order to bring them up to college speed. In Georgia we have students who, thanks to rampant grade inflation, graduate from their high schools with better than a B average who can't handle freshman-level courses in college without first going through a remedial program.

Our kids are being taught by the worst of the worst in their government schools. Check out the education school at most major universities. The freshmen who chose to pursue a degree in education come from the lowest level of the entering class; and those who go on to pursue a graduate degree in education come from the lowest ranks of their undergraduate class. This is how you get teachers sending home report cards that read "Johnny are learning to spell good."

If we don't do something to break the grip of these government schools, and the teacher's unions that run them, we are going to lose this entire country to mediocrity. We are going to continue to churn out generations of mind-numbed government subjects who can readily identify the faces of the current pop culture, but who couldn't tell the vice-president from the speaker of the house if their iPods depended on it.

The answer is competition. We need school choice. If you want to continue with taxing the stuffing out of the people to pay for education, fine. Just let the money follow the children, as they do in much of Europe. Let the parent investigate the choices and then make a decision as to where their child will go to school, public or private. Then send the money chasing after the child. Only competition will drive these schools to strive for excellence. The security of government mandated attendance will only foster laziness and complacency.

Several weeks ago Hillary the Hideous loudly proclaimed that "privatization isn't the answer to anything." As I said at the time, this means that Hillary Rodham must think that government is the answer to everything ... including education. The teacher's unions heard her loud and clear. Last week the American Federation of Teachers endorsed Hillary. No surprise. Look for the National Education Association to fall in line.

If we are to save our Republic we must create a generation or two of independent-thinking young adults who value freedom over security and who know the truth of what it was that made this country great. We will never get this from our government schools. Putting it bluntly, government schools and the teacher's unions that control them, and our politicians, are killing this country.


Australia's universities of Leftism

WHEN federal Treasurer Peter Costello and Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey attacked the credibility of two researchers over a report that found workers worse off under Australian Workplace Agreements, it looked like a classic case of blaming the messenger. That impression was heightened when one of the researchers, John Buchanan from the University of Sydney's Workplace Research Centre, threatened legal action against the ministers over their descriptions of his work as contaminated by trade union connections. But Buchanan's howls of protest regarding his academic impartiality sound a wee bit precious now after revelations in The Weekend Australian that, in a 2005 speech, he described himself as a socialist and counselled his comrades to "strike the enemy (that is, the Howard Government) hard."

Perhaps more disturbing than the firebrand rhetoric, however, is that Buchanan appeared to have already made up his mind in February 2005 on the key issues that he would be reporting on 30 months later: "We are going to see wages get more and more unequal," he said. "We are going to see hours become more fragmented and we are going to see more casualisation and contractors." So why do research?

I was prepared for the Australia@ Work report and the kerfuffle that followed by some other research on the Howard Government's workplace laws released in August. Down and Out with Work Choices, by three academics from the Women and Work Research Group, also at the University of Sydney, concluded that the changes brought about by the new regime "have been negative and deleterious, reducing decency and democracy at work and in society".

Never mind that this was a conclusion based on interviews with just 25 low-paid female workers. More extraordinary was that two of the researchers, Rae Cooper and Marian Baird, chose to launch their report at NSW Parliament, sitting alongside NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca, the man identified, more than any other, with the political campaign to use the workplace changes to bring about the downfall of the Howard Government. This was politicisation on a new level and suggested some of our publicly employed intellectuals have decided the game is up for John Howard, so what the hell?

None of the above should come as a surprise. A quick scan, using the internet, of research centres at universities reveals that many are structured around the "softie Left" world view that former Media Watch host David Marr memorably nominated as the primary qualification for entry into Australian journalism.

The University of NSW, for example, boasts a Centre for Corporate Change, a Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, and a Co-operative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism. Indeed, sustainable is the buzzword in university research: we have a Centre for Sustainable Technology at the University of Newcastle, a Foundation for Sustainable Economic Development at the University of Melbourne, a Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities at La Trobe, an Institute for Sustainable Systems and Technologies, along with a Centre for Research into Sustainable Health Care at the University of South Australia, a Centre for Research in International Education and Sustainability at the University of New England and, in an apparent attempt to establish a sustainable monopoly, a Sustainability Institute at Monash.

Other highlights of my search included the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at Newcastle, the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion at Macquarie, the Centre for Equity and Innovation in Early Childhood at Melbourne, the Centre for Colonialism and its Aftermath at the University of Tasmania, the Social Justice and Social Change Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney and the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining at the University of Queensland.

What's in a name, you ask, and you could be right. Scholars in all of these centres could be pursuing good work. And perhaps there is no reason to be concerned that, in the era during which the mainstream political class has come to accept the logic of the market, an academic paid to conduct research into the Australian labour market still describes himself as a socialist. For me, however, it confirms a point made by Paul Kelly in last week's Australian Literary Review: "A healthy democracy will see a healthy gulf between its politicians and its intellectuals. But this gulf in Australia is a chasm that demands serious attention."


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