Sunday, March 19, 2006

# Posted 4:05 PM by Patrick Porter  

YOUNG FOGEY TIME: I will sound like an old man with this post. Oh well. I was once doing a job interview for a summer school in England, and the guy who hired me said that 'the kids we get here are all very socially and sexually well-adjusted. They just don't know where Africa is.'

I discovered the following alarming statistics from Christopher Hitchens essay 'Why Americans are not Taught History.' According to the 1994 'National Assessment of Educational Progress in U.S. History', 53 per cent of twelfth graders were unable to specify 'the goal that was most important in shaping United States foreign policy between 1945 and 1990.' 59 per cent of eighth graders could not say which conflict was brought to mind by 'Yalta', 'Lend-Lease' and 'Hiroshima.' The New York Times in 1995 found that only 49 per cent of American adults could say that the Soviet Union was on the same side as the United States in World War Two. According to a Roper survey, 40 per cent of college seniors could not place the American Civil War in the correct half of its century.

Some similarly alarming findings in Britain, where a chunk of respondents confuse mythic and real events:

A quarter of those interviewed were not sure if the Battle of Trafalgar was a real historic event, while one in seven did not know the Battle of Hastings really took place.
And down in Oz, according to a staffer, Geoff Gallop retired as Premier of Western Australia because he was tired of explaining to beautiful 18 year olds at press conferences that there were two World Wars and two George Bushes.

So what is going on at schools? Or is the explanation to be found in the wider culture?
(6) opinions -- Add your opinion

The abandonment of the canon since Dewey's time, and especially since WW II has resulted in several generations of progressively less educated educators. Ignorance begets ever greater ignorance.
What is also disturbing is the lack of motivation among the young (fortunately, Patrick, I don't have to worry about sounding like an old man; I am one).

For example, when I was in high school, "World" history consisted of European history and nothing was taught about Asia, Latin America or Africa.

If I wasn't motivated to go out on my own and find out more on these subjects, I would still be blissfully ignorant of them.
In that same Hitchens essay he points out that it has always been that way. Something about people not knowing who Linclon was in the 1940's.

I had the pleasure of attending a public school in the states. They are run like prisons. I would guess that more than 60% of the teachers are totally useless. Here are some of my favorite examples.

In one science class I was required to take the teacher would read magazines during class. The only thing we did in the class was science crossword puzzles. If you missed a box you got a zero, but you could fill the whole thing in with random letters and get 100%.

One of my english teachers called me Hubris the entire semester and kept threatening to fail me. She would pull chickenshit by doing things like giving me an F on a test because the book we read was the abridged version and my answers were from the regular version that I had read years earlier. We had to watch disney movies and do coloring projects. (this is in my senior year while I was 18 years old)

Also you have to do the same things every year. In february you watch "Eyes on the Prize", for a history unit about the sixties you watch "Woodstock" and for some reason I ended up reading Of Mice and Men in 9th,10th and 12th grade.

Basicly the teachers suck. Sorry about the rant.
I'll say the fault lies in no small part with the teachers -- or, rather, with public school districts that will hire abysmally ignorant and functionally illiterate people as teachers, while rejecting Harvard grads with post-grad degrees. (No bitterness there, really -- once they provisionally accepted me, I was so dismayed by the total lack of knowledge or interest in pursuing or passing on the same among the experienced teachers that I sought work elsewhere.)

Adding all the fluff (lessons about tolerance instead of science, and teachers convinced that comma rules are a sign of patriarchal hegemony (not kidding!), and so forth) doesn't help, of course, but a skilled and determined teacher could include fluff yet still teach what's important.
I'd say it's the lack of a set system. No one has ANY idea of what needs to be taught. For Pete's sake, there is no idea of what an education should consist of.

Maybe we should revive Classical Education.
"maybe we should revive Classical Education"

Look at my comment above. There is no maybe.
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