When I went into high school, I went into a very different environment than my brother had encountered almost 10 years earlier. He’d gone through a “sorted” system.
This didn’t apply in the village school, where the classes were fairly small (my graduating class was 12) but the reigning educational theory (and one I’ve come to believe is by far the better) was that people learned best in groups of their general ability.
Indeed, if you’re going to have a public school, and teach people as a cohort, it is easier and better to put kids of the same rough ability through at the same time. My brother was selected into the top rank, and many of his lifelong friends are doctors, top-ranking officials, and other such people.
When I came through revolutionary ethos had taken over, or rather Revolutionary! Ethos! because it was that derpy. Painting revolutionary murals — yes Revolutionary! Murals! — was more important than regular education, for ex, because it taught us the eternal truths of Marxism. To make room for such vagaries, we ended up striking from the curriculum things like Latin and Greek, classic literature and history, and — to the chagrin of my music teacher this didn’t matter to me, since I’d been struck by pneumonia the year before and lost my hearing to the extent I couldn’t hear notes. Before that I’d been slated for piano instruction, though — frivolities like music and dance (the later of which affected my best friend who was the most promising ballet pupil of her age range, but whose parents could not afford private instruction. I know what it’s like to deny a true vocation. Not only did I try to do it to myself for years, with writing, but I watched her being eaten from the inside out.)
But more importantly, at the ground level, the teaching philosophy changed. We were told that many students were mismatched into lower levels, particularly those who came from poor or lower educated homes, and this in turn made them unable to attain their true potential. This was true. Years later I made a precarious living teaching tenant farmers’ daughters the stuff they would have learned at home, in a more bookish household. And though the reason the parents paid (not much, trust me) for the lessons was the certainty this would allow the girls to get higher-class husbands; but from my efforts there emerged a couple of medical doctors and some professors who would never otherwise have even aspired to such heights. However true, though, the solution they arrived at was to abolish “ranked” forms (a form is a group of students who goes through all classes at the same time. In most European nations you’re not given a choice of what classes to take in high school. Heck, you might not get it in college. My college offered two electives in third year and three in fourth year, all the rest being set pieces. If this seems completely insane to you, imagine what the American system seemed like to me when I first came here for twelfth grade.)
So my first year in high school, I found myself in a “mixed” classroom, in which I not only was the best, but it was very easy to be the best. I coasted. It was easy to see how we were chosen, btw, because everyone in the form had a last name (and often a first name) that started with A. Yes, we were the A form. (How creative.)
And then I guess the teachers, trained in the old model, got tired of the glacial pace the new model imposed on everyone. Because the truth is, if you throw everyone into the same classroom, the ones who set the pace are the absolutely slowest. So somewhere, in the dark of night, in arranging the forms for the second year in high school — I can’t even imagine how they got everyone on board with this — the forms got reshuffled “randomly”. I only had a friend from the first year, in the same form, and she was the only one who’d offered me any competition.
The result was form N. I SHOULD have had an idea something was afoot, because our classroom was located in the old carriage house (the school had once been an earl’s palace) had no windows, and was kind of hard for random inspectors to find. (The classroom the year after was even more interesting, being atop the new building, past an expanse of broken furniture, in a room so small (it was a storage room the year before) that to go to the bathroom, if you set far from the door, you had to walk atop a row of desks. We had 32 pupils crammed in there. ) But I’m stupid, okay. So I sailed into class late (first day) and was shocked to find they were actually having a lesson (normally first day is a blow off.) Then when the teacher asked a question, I waited a while, because I knew no one would answer and I’d look GOOD. Except that in two seconds every hand in that classroom was up.
The teachers had picked the best students from every form, and made two forms. We’d go through the rest of high school together. The teachers loved us. Unless they were new, badly prepared teachers, and then they hated us. Even though by law we had to learn from the same books as the other students, our teachers found ways to supplement, including assigning us independent study projects, which we then presented. Mine for 9th grade (Portuguese High school starts with 7th) history was tracking the fluctuations of currency due to the influx of gold from the discoveries. I spent months in the municipal library tracking primary 17th century sources. It taught me not just proper research techniques, but also a lot about economics (which contradicted the Keynesian model being pushed down our throats in economics, incidentally.)
I didn’t think anything about the two models of teaching (they went back to the equalitarian one, of course, since it started being pushed in teacher preparation) until a friend said that the reason the teacher in first grade was being so hard on my literate, articulate older son was that “the aim of elementary school is to level the learning, so middle school starts with everyone at the same level.” This seemed daft, and I did in fact prevent them from making Robert learn to “guess” words, when he could already read them. (Mostly by screaming, “Don’t guess. Sound the d*mn thing out” at him, and by making him read to me while I was cooking or had my hands otherwise busy.)
WHY would you want to have kids unlearn the things they were supposed to learn, in order to make everyone alike?
I was thinking about this recently when someone complained of the deplorable (ah!) literacy of millenials, who seem to misspell their protest signs. I’d lay it at the door of this.
So the push for the grand, unified, equalitarian classroom had a point. Some students were being misclassified and this limited their potential. I actually agree with this, though I’ll argue they were less likely to be misclassified in my brother’s time than by the method they used by stealth in my time: in my brother’s time they used IQs. And don’t tell me those discriminate FOR people who are better at taking tests. I know that. Younger son has only recently conquered his panic fear of tests, while his brother ate tests for breakfast. We were lucky when we did have him tested, the psychology was aware of this and made it seem like a game/puzzle which he loved. BUT they were still more accurate, because the reason you’re better in the classroom might be linked to a ton of of other things, like better socialization or just a facility with words.
But by going to a “unified” classroom, now so far as I know used everywhere, what you do is not bring those kids up, but bring EVERYONE ELSE down, thereby leading to a dumbing down of the general population.
It is tempting to say that the progressive projected intended this, but that’s giving them too much credit. It’s more that like their progenitors in the French revolution, they never learned the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of results. And the only way to make results equal is ALWAYS to reduce to the lowest common denominator.
Which, in case you wonder, is why they’re pushing for universal college education. It’s four more years to pound in this stultifying “equality.” It’s an opportunity to make sure All Animals Are Equal!
But in the end, as with everything they take over, all they do is kill it, gut it, and wear its skin demanding respect. Because that’s not the way this works. That’s not the way any of this works. If the school turns out equal ignoramuses, the school becomes valueless and employers start looking for other things. Right now it seems to be internship experience. And in the end, some people will do better than others, because humans are not widgets, and can’t be made into widgets. Even the USSR didn’t manage it.
Meanwhile what the social engineers have achieved is a classroom that works badly for EVERYONE. And you know, one can’t help but suspect them of malice. Surely if what they wanted to do was elevate the unprepared smart, wouldn’t it be better to provide them with tutors at public expense? (Thereby helping the tutors, often the bright sons and daughters of the lower middle or working class, with some income to dissuade their parents from taking them out of school and putting them to work in factories.) In the end, it would have cost some money, but it would have rendered up much higher dividends, particularly if such tutors were provided in elementary and middle school, so that the kids got “sorted” right in high school.
But some people simply can’t stand the idea someone might be better than someone else, or perhaps the idea anyone is better than they are. (I remember reading a biography of Evita Peron in which she said the fact that rich people existed made her furious. At the time we were beyond broke and didn’t see our way out of that situation. I found her words incomprehensible. Part of what provided me with joy was the knowledge we might be eating dirt, but there were people living happy lives. In fact, sometimes, I made us sandwiches and we parked our car in a scenic “rich” neighborhood — it just occurred to me writing this, it looked much like where I live now — and ate there, to just bask in the beauty of the houses and the park.)
The people this system serves worst are the very gifted. They either become incredibly bored and tune out school altogether, or they go through life enraged against “society” that doesn’t understand them and treats them so shabbily. A lot of our radical losers are the product of this system.
While this accords with the Progressive aim of destroying all sorts of wealth (even intellectual wealth) and distributing poverty, it doesn’t serve anyone well, and it serves society and species very badly indeed.
We’ve spent at least forty years eating our seed corn and turning our best and brightest into enemies of civilization.
It’s time it stopped. You must homeschool. What if you can’t homeschool? Homeschool anyway. What I mean is we couldn’t either (mostly because I got REALLY ill just before Robert would have started kindergarten and I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t) so we sent them to school. And then we spent two/three hours a day at home deprogramming them and teaching them. It’s that long because you need to get them over the stupid cr*p they teach them. Like, for the longest time, Robert thought that glass was a non-renewable resource. But you should also push books/educational games/resources at them. And most of all convey that you expect their intellect to be limitless. There is no age range for learning, that’s a lie of the educational establishment. You might (or not) wish to cull out books with explicit sexual content (yeah, you try having a three year old passionate about Rome. I dare you) but other than that, you shouldn’t pull punches. Find out what they want to learn and feed it to them in vast quantities. And if they want to learn what you don’t know, find them tutors or courses online (there are excellent resources. Also, btw, the Great courses now has Latin 101. I hope they have Greek soon.)
Expose them to great works of the past. Bypass our “occupied” classrooms and pump them full of the roots of their own culture (by which I mean Western culture. Kindly remember whatever your genetics, culture is NOT genetic. Sure, teach them a bit of their genetic history and language if they want to learn. I don’t think anyone was ever the worse off for Chinese history or Bantu language. But make sure they know the culture they are growing up in, and its glories, better than anything else.)
The left is in a race to make traditional education irrelevant. We must help them. As we did to the news media, with news blogs and aggregators and eye-witness accounts, we must help traditional education enter oblivium by performing its stated function better and more deeply, and in a way that is appropriate to each individual.
We can do it, as my boss says, with “An army of Davids.”
Get to work.