Friday, September 01, 2017

Out Of The Ashes of American education

Anthony Esolen, a professor at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire and recently of Providence College, Rhode Island, has written a stinging critique of modern education and American society in general titled Out Of The Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture -- published by Regnery Publishers, 2017.

It's a short book - 203 pages – but contains much wise social commentary and observations on everything wrong with American education, if there's any such thing. Esolen is not one to beat around the bush. If you don't agree with him it isn't because he is opaque. For instance, chapter one is titled, Giving Things Their Proper Names: The Restoration Of Truth Telling. It is divided into several sections with their own headings, one of which is Are We a World of Liars?

“In a word, yes. It is almost impossible in the modern world not to accept lies as a matter of course. We are told that a woman can make as good a soldier as a man. Except for the rare amazon, that is a lie”

In the same vein a few pages later: “Here is a quick and generally reliable rule to follow. If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.”

Most of what he says in the book is glaringly obvious, but it is so seldom spoken or written that it becomes heroic when written or spoken audibly. When referring to teachers who have acquiesced to imparting depravity, he writes:

“It will not do merely to restrain them in this or that regard. They are not fit to teach your children the multiplication table. They are not fit to be near them at all. Every moment that your children are in their presence, they will be breathing the putrescent air from the diseased heart and spirit of the instructors, in an institution whose walls stink of it, it has lingered there so long.”

Just a few years ago, in the memory of almost everybody, a statement like,“First let us establish that there are such things as the sexes.” would have met with everybody's assent. Most people reading it would be wondering why such a thing would need to be established at all. Now such a proposition is not just questionable, it might even be “controversial” or hate speech or some kind of micro aggression.

Esolen is such a hater (maybe even a Neanderthal) that he writes:

“We are taught from the time we enter the indoctrination centers that the only differences between men and women are trivial matters of plumbing. It is not true.

When the European missionaries came to the new world to evangelize the natives, they did not find creatures of a different species. They found human beings, male and female. They did not find any tribes in which the women met in council, hunted the large animals, smoked the peace pipe, trained up their daughters in savage displays of physical courage and endurance (the “sun dance” of the Plains Indians, for example) and established elaborate hierarchies of honor. They did not find any tribes in which the men took care of small children, gathered roots and berries, made themselves up with pretty decorations to delight their women … and made “nests,” as it were, as clean and neat as possible, for the sake of the little ones, and because that is the way they liked things best.

They found men and women. That is what you will find wherever you go in the world.”

I can't disagree with any of his assessments about the shipwreck of the schools or his suggested remedies. The one thing I think is absolutely essential that isn't mentioned and is never mentioned by anybody in the reformist camp is the necessity of prohibiting government involvement of any kind in schooling or anything else having to do with forming thoughts, opinions or beliefs. No matter who is in charge, be it Aristotle, Pythagoras, Isaac Newton or Erasmus, they won't always be in charge, and the forces of coercion will always seek control. All compulsion should be eliminated. Certainly there will be parents that don't send their children to school or teach them themselves, but there always have been and always will be unfit parents. Compulsory schooling has always been about teaching children the “right” things, not about education.

This is a book that will be appreciated by anybody interested in the social, cultural, educational and intellectual collapse of society and its possible remedy.


British 'Cheating' scandal: Head teachers shift blame to exam boards

Teachers risk being placed in an “impossible position” when setting tests in the subjects they teach, Britain’s most prestigious private schools have warned amid a row with exam boards over cheating.

For the first time, leading headteachers have urged exam boards to introduce stricter safeguards after admitting some teachers are “tempted to give their pupils too much help”.

It comes after Telegraph revealed that teachers at Eton and Winchester College were suspended over allegations that they leaked exam questions ahead of upcoming papers.

It is thought that staff at top private schools may be over represented on exam boards - which devise the questions - as they are some of the leading experts in their subjects in the country.

Chris King, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) acknowledged that more teachers who also work as examiners may be swept up in the scandal.

However he said it was up to exam boards to prevent a "conflict of interest" between teachers who set exam papers and teach them.

Mr King, who represents the leading private schools in the country, added that the issue had “concerned” headteachers “for some time”. He added that an urgent meeting had been brought forward to seek assurances from exam boards that “sufficient safeguards are in place”.

“We need to ensure that senior teachers who take on the responsibility for setting exams are not placed in an impossible position, and the very few who may be tempted to give their pupils too much help cannot do so,” he said.

“We have now requested this meeting is held more urgently than first proposed.”

Earlier this week the Daily Telegraph revealed that Winchester College had suspended its head of art history amid accusations he gave pupils "advance knowledge" on two exam papers.

Laurence Wolff, 56, son of the distinguished scientist Professor Heinz Wolff, was suspended with immediate effect after he was found to have given students “prior information on exam questions on two papers”.

It came after Eton College dismissed its head of economics, Mo Tanweer, following allegations that he had shared confidential information about an upcoming economics paper.

There is no suggestion that any other teachers or students at the two schools have been involved in wrongdoing.

The controversies have prompted fears among headteachers that other academics may be engaged in malpractice, which could cause serious reputational damage to the schools implicated and result in students affected having their marks voided.

Education experts have called for ministers to ban teachers from setting exams while teaching the same subject, which often allows them to supplement their income and bolster their CVs.

But a chief examiner at one leading exam board told The Daily Telegraph that it is “completely unfeasible” to ban teachers from taking part in the examination process.

Neil Sheldon, who has been an examiner for more than 40 years, said: “Right at the beginning it was certainly the case that the majority of those involved in setting and monitoring exam papers were university people.

"But that has dwindled to virtually nothing and now virtually everyone is teachers. Who else would do it?

“There isn’t realistically an alternative to having teachers do it but there need to be very clear checks on integrity.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the Commons education select committee called on schools to disclose the names of teachers who work for exam boards.

"The same teachers shouldn’t be involved in the same exam boards. You can't be poacher and keeper at once," he said.

"It should be utterly transparent. Exam boards and headteachers should make it clear which teachers are involved with which boards, they should just have it readily accessible on a school website. They should work together to make sure there is no cross over."

An Ofqual spokesperson said: "Trust and confidence in the exam system is paramount. We review all instances of reported malpractice each summer, and the actions the exam boards have taken. We will consider if any further action, investigation or strengthening of rules is required."


Australia: Schoolboy sex articles spark review of gay ‘health’ website

HEALTH Minister Greg Hunt has ordered an urgent review of a federally funded gay health website that has published articles about schoolboy sex with men.

The Australian reports the Health Minister was unaware of the Emen8 website, which was established with a federal government grant intended for health promotion.

It recently published an article titled “Who’s the perfect daddy for you?” which provides an analysis of the relationships that can occur between mature and younger men.

The article asks: “Does your fantasy include some condomless after-school action with your papa”, despite the site being restricted to adults.

Other articles reportedly feature tips on picking up at the gym and reviews for kinky sex toys.

Another recent article appears to be at odds with national health guidelines on safe sex. The article titled ‘Australian Opposites Attract study: condomless sex with an undetectable viral load is safe sex’ reports on recent study that found HIV-positive men with an un­detectable viral load were extremely unlikely to transmit the virus to a HIV-negative partner.

The study found no instances of HIV transmissions between more than 300 partners it tracked. It warned however that the “true transmission rate” could be higher at up to 1.56 per cent a year.
The article does not mention the warning and conclude “condomless sex with an undetectable viral load is safe”.

It also does not mention other sexually transmitted infections could be contracted through unprotected sex.

A spokesman for the Health Minister said The Australian that any associations with “underage or unsafe behaviour” was “utterly inappropriate”. “Any funding provided by the Australian government for health education should be used for health education and must be in appropriate context,” the spokesman said.

“This grant was provided in 2016 for health education. Minister Hunt was not aware of the website and has now ordered an urgent review.”

ACON Chief executive Nicolas Parkhill yesterday defended the site.  He told The Australian the organisation was confident it was in accordance with the original tender specifications.“In  rder to effectively target this at-risk population group, the tone and voice of some articles on the site need to reflect their culture, interests and behaviours; the language resonates,” he said. “The content integrates sexual health messages that are familiar to a range of gay men.”

The site was established through money from the Prevention and Service Improvements Grants Fund, which aims to tackle bloodborne viruses and STIs in priority populations.

ACON and the VAC, both majority-funded by their respective state governments, were successful in a joint application to develop resources for “gay men and men who have sex with men”, receiving $1.6m over two years.


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