Filed under: Bureaucracy, Domestic Policy, Education, Law, Liberalism, Politics, Progressivism, Regulation, Statism, Taxes | Tags: American K-12 Schools, Cursive Returns!, It's Not the Money
What about America’s public education? There are a lot of complaints about K-12 as well. Many hope that Betsy DeVos, the newly confirmed Secretary of Education, can make a big difference in the schools that are failing our most-at-risk children in poor neighborhoods. She is a big proponent of school choice, which allows parents to choose where their child should go to school—something well-to-do parents do quite naturally without realizing that choice is not available to all. One of the great tragedies of the Obama administration was the president’s failure to support the nation’s capitol’s Opportunity Scholarships which have changed the lives of poor kids.
Most ordinary Americans support their community schools, and believe public education to be a good thing. Yet college professors are complaining that their incoming students don’t know anything. There was a small note of cheer this week when I ran across an article that said “Cursive Writing Is Making a Much- Needed Comeback in Schools.” Alabama and Louisiana passed laws in 2016 that mandate cursive proficiency in public schools, the latest in 14 states that require cursive. Fads, unfortunately, pass through the education system destroying everything in their wake. There is a generation out there who never learned cursive skills. They hold a pencil awkwardly, and write in big block letters.
Penmanship proponents say writing words in an unbroken line of swooshing l’s and three-humped m’s is just a faster, easier way of taking notes. Others say students should be able to understand documents written in cursive, such as, say, a letter from Grandma. And still more say it’s just a good life skill to have, especially when it comes to signing your name.
A remarkable amount of dross comes out of the schools of education. When computers arrived on the scene, they decided everyone would communicate with keyboards, and all kids needed was to learn “keyboarding.” You also have to learn how to read other people’s handwriting. I was lucky in that my father and an aunt had the world’s most execrable handwriting possible, and learning to cope with them made me pretty good at deciphering anyone’s scribbles.
The act of handwriting helps to fix the thought in the mind. You learn better if you write it down. That’s why people intuitively write lists, directions, rules and anything they want to remember. The more you write things down the better you will do in the memory department. This is an actual scientific fact. It’s all very nice to have things in 12 to 15 point type in a clear font, but the teeny keyboards you can pull up on your phone are not an improvement on a pencil and a scrap of paper. (If this kind of thing is of interest to you, try to get your hands on the 4 books by Richard Mitchell, beginning with “Less Than Words Can Say” or simply Google “Richard Mitchell underground grammarian,” and you will have access to his works)
“Diversity” is another fad that swept the schools. Children obviously couldn’t learn properly unless the classroom had a wide array of skin tones, ethnicity, countries of origin, language, etc., etc. That schools were supposed to be about reading, writing and arithmetic, as they used to say, escaped the educators in the education schools. Teachers used to learn how to teach in “Normal Schools.” These were 2-year schools that covered the basics of grammar school. (There was also once a reason why they called it “Grammar” school) By the time kids got to high school, it was a bit more demanding so teachers gradually were required to have a college degree. Departments of Economics, Philosophy, Physics, that sort of thing, were apt to look down on Departments engaged in how to draw the letters of the alphabet on a blackboard, and unimpressed with PhDs in Education, which has made Professors of Education very sensitive, and apt to fall for the latest new thing.
Even more recent is the discovery that many black adolescent boys behave badly in school, and get sent to the principal, sent home or expelled more frequently than white adolescent boys. Obviously racism. And the cure is to just not expel or punish those who misbehave if they are black. If you know anything about kids, this is an invitation for more bad behavior. There is a rash of teachers being attacked in schools across the country. Science says successful students need hours of physical activity every day. They don’t get enough exercise. Boys particularly. But we have to protect children from physical dangers. Did you ever wonder where the teeter-totters went? Or what happened to the swings and the merry-go-round?
Parents trek to the schools for parent-teacher conferences and the teacher tells them how splendidly their kid is doing, and you assume all is well. But you have not learned the basic lesson of the schools. All problems are to be solved with more money. Class size is deemed to be a major problem, if the classes were smaller your kid would get more attention. More money. Even the courts have gotten into the money problem ordering states cough up equally for all districts everywhere. Some of the best schooling I ever had was in a one-room country schoolhouse with a very good teacher, a pump on the front porch, a stove in the classroom and two separate outhouses in the separate back corners of the property. It’s not the money, it’s not the playground (there wasn’t one, just fields) it’s not fancy equipment. It’s a skilled teacher. And the Schools of Education are failing, and it’s not their money either.