Saturday, September 12, 2009

Public school indoctrination in America

Yesterday, I blogged about the indoctrination that is an inherent part of any government school system, whether in Cuba, the U.S., England, North Korea, or any other country. Government officials have a vested interest in ensuring a citizenry that accepts the official version of things and a citizenry that is compliant, obedient, and supportive of the government. Over a period of many years, people’s mindsets are molded to encourage them as adults to let off steam by carping about the foibles and inefficiencies of politicians and bureaucrats but never to challenge, in a fundamental sense, the role that government plays in people’s lives.

Let’s compare the public school systems in Cuba and the United States. They are similar in the fact that governments in both countries own and operate the systems. Children who attend the schools are there because the law has mandated their attendance. The schoolteachers and administrators are government personnel. Whether at a national, state, or local level, the textbooks must be approved by the government and the curriculum is set by the government. In both countries, attendance is “free.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the indoctrination is the same in both countries. In Cuba, for example, it is ingrained in schoolchildren that the CIA, with its program of assassination, torture, and regime change, is a force for evil in the world. In the United States, Americans schoolchildren are taught that the CIA is a force for good in the world and that it is essential to the national security of the country.

It would be difficult to find a better example of a purely socialist program than public (i.e., government) schooling, especially given its central-planning features. Thus, it’s not a coincidence that Cuba’s public-school system is the pride and joy of Fidel Castro, one of the world’s most ardent devotees of socialism.

Interestingly, while public schooling is also the pride and joy of Americans, most of them have no idea that America’s public school systems are socialist in nature, which itself is a testament to the success of the indoctrination that takes place in the institution. From the first grade to the twelfth, Americans are taught that public schooling is one of the core features of America’s “free enterprise system.”

An even better testament to the power of indoctrination in public schooling, however, is the conviction that it instills in students that socialist programs are essential to society. A good example of this phenomenon occurs in the health-care debate. Whenever libertarians suggest that the solution to the health-care crisis is simply to repeal Medicare and Medicaid, health-care regulations, and medical-licensure laws, most Americans go ballistic. Without Medicare and Medicaid, the poor and the elderly would die from lack of medical care, they cry. Without regulations and medical licensure, quacks would be conducting brain surgery on people, they say. Free markets are fine but not in such an important area as health care, they claim.

How have people arrived at such deeply held convictions? Take a wild guess! Oh, by the way, national health care in Cuba is also a pride and joy of Fidel Castro.

Perhaps the best example though of the power of indoctrination in public schooling is with respect to the very idea of public schooling itself. Whenever libertarians suggest that this entire socialist system should be junked, that school and state should be separated, and that a total free market in education should be established, statists go haywire. Free enterprise is great, they say again, but not in an important area like education. Why, how would the poor get educated without public schooling? they ask. With a free market in education, we’d quickly end up with a nation of dumb, illiterate people, they say.

Another example of what public schooling has done to instill a faith in socialism and to damage people’s faith in freedom and free markets is with respect to the overall welfare state itself. Whenever libertarians call for a repeal, not a reform, of this immoral and destructive way of life, statists respond, “Without the welfare state, the poor would die in the streets.”

Of course, that’s ludicrous, especially given that free markets are the means by which the poor are able to maintain increasingly higher standards of living. For example, compare a nun here in the United States who has taken a vow of poverty with a nun in Guatemala who has done the same. The nun here will have a much nicer standard of living as a result of the positive economic spillover that inevitably takes place in a wealthier society.

An important prerequisite to getting America back on the right track is a restoration of people’s faith in freedom and free markets and an understanding of why socialism is so immoral and destructive. Fortunately, what public schooling has done to inculcate a love for socialism and to inculcate doubts about freedom and free markets is reversible. Libertarians are proof positive of that.


British students who get extra marks simply for turning up

Students are being rewarded with marks simply for turning up to university lectures. The practice has been criticised as a form of bribery and blamed for turning lecture halls into “drop-in centres”.

Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, writing in the Times Higher Education magazine, argued that giving students marks towards their degree for attending lectures was based on the experience of secondary education and relied on compulsion and bribery.

“The real problem with rewarding timekeeping implicitly devalues the work and effort made by students who are genuinely interested in regarding the seminar room as a place of intellectual engagement rather than as a drop-in centre,” he said. Marks are awarded for attendance at a range of institutions. At the University of Kent’s English language faculty, students gain 5 per cent based on seminary and workshop attendance.

The method has also been adopted by the University of Glasgow where 10 per cent of a final mark in an English literature course is based upon attendance alone. A spokesman for the university said that the practice was employed “to encourage a culture of attendance among new students unaccustomed to the amount of responsibility for their studies that university places on them”.

Laurence Goldstein, head of the School of European Culture and Languages at Kent, said: “If a bit of coercion awakens them to the joys of learning, then it is probably justified.”


Beauty therapists and bouncers used as 'cheap' cover teachers in British classrooms

Thousands of former beauty therapists, driving instructors, postmen and bouncers are being used as 'cheap labour' in classrooms. Schools are employing unqualified 'cover supervisors' with just a few days' training after ministers made a pact with teachers' unions to limit their members' workloads. The supervisors are meant to stand in for short periods only and just to keep order while pupils complete work set by teachers. But research commissioned by the Government reveals that some are taking classes for whole terms or longer.

Many had little or no link to education before entering the classroom. Some had worked in the beauty industry, Post Office and as driving instructors. Others are former bouncers, soldiers or security guards, hired for their ability to keep classes under control.

The growing reliance on unqualified helpers - who take classes of children as young as five on wages of just £6.50 an hour - follows a deal ministers struck with unions in 2003. The aim was to limit the time teachers spent covering for absent colleagues. But the research from London Metropolitan-University reveals that, instead of employing extra teachers or traditional supply staff, many schools routinely use supervisors.

The researchers, who surveyed 1,764 heads, 3,214 teachers and 2,414 support staff and studied 19 schools in-depth, found 80 per cent of state schools were using unqualified support staff to cover lessons when teachers were absent. Some are teaching assistants with 'higher level' training, which means they are allowed to teach, but many more are cover supervisors.

The report said: 'While, in theory, the cover supervisors' role was to supervise, most reported that they sometimes did more than this.' It added: 'In a minority of schools, support staff, including cover supervisors, were deployed to teach whole classes for prolonged periods of time (several weeks in primary schools, or over a whole term or more in secondary schools). 'In secondary schools, those who did this generally taught lower sets.'

One cover supervisor interviewed by researchers had worked for the Post Office for 28 years. She said she thought the work would be easier and sometimes returned home in tears after struggling to control rowdy pupils.

Research leader Professor Merryn Hutchings said: 'Cover supervisors were teaching - setting a task, giving advice and commenting on work. 'They are not trained or in any way qualified for that. It's fine to use them for short periods but we find that some in secondary schools are taking the bottom set for weeks on end. That is distinctly worrying.'

Teachers also raised concerns. One told the research team: 'I feel it's cheap labour.'

The report suggests teachers' workload has not actually reduced, because extra Government initiatives have been introduced.

Shadow Children's Secretary Michael Gove said last night: 'Raising the status of teachers is vital to raising standards. Unfortunately the Government is taking things in the opposite direction, piling teachers with bureaucracy and recruiting untrained staff.'

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said: 'We are absolutely clear that we want teachers in front of classes, not cover supervisors. It is the responsibility of heads to make sure good practice is maintained.'


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