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Teaching with Eyes Closed

Teachers, perhaps more than anyone else, should recognize the intractable fact of inequality.

by
Janice Fiamengo

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July 22, 2013 - 12:04 am
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It would be difficult to find a more staunchly left-leaning profession than teaching — at both the public-school and university levels. Although individual instructors may hold conservative views, teachers as a group are firmly progressivist, committed to “social improvement” through state intervention. Solidarity with the putatively oppressed has led schools to embrace a variety of ameliorative causes, most recently, in Canada, a gay-oriented anti-bullying campaign that is at times stridently anti-Christian (though also, ironically enough, pro-Muslim) and a zealous environmentalist philosophy that teaches children to condemn oil and gas production.

Perhaps the most notable and pervasive form of teacher progressivism is egalitarianism, the commitment not only to equality of opportunity but also to equality of outcome as a social goal. This is a form of utopian thinking that radically minimizes or outright denies innate differences in human ability and intelligence, ascribing to social factors such as class privilege and “ableism” all significant variations in student performance.

According to this ideology, young people are held back from achieving their potential by factors not of their own making: by poverty, social prejudice, or pedagogical obtuseness — factors seen as ingrained and pervasive in contemporary North America. Official affirmation, cultural sensitivity, and institutional support are necessary to combat these conditions. Thus a document produced by the Ontario Ministry of Education (2009) finds it necessary to devote close to 100 pages to stressing how Ontario schools should work to reduce “bias and barriers” in the classroom so that “all students feel engaged in and empowered by what they are learning.”

Throughout this document and in North American schools at large, the overwhelming emphasis on “bias and barriers” means not only that poor performance is almost never understood to be a student’s fault and that responsibility for failure is social and systemic, but also that individual achievement, the result (as the worldview holds) of unmerited privilege, cannot in good conscience be admired or applauded — must even, in fact, be minimized. The only exception to the attitude of downplaying both achievement and failure is the case of the oppressed person who achieves success; his (or more often her) achievement can and must be celebrated, even beyond its worth. Only those deemed shackled by poverty or prejudice can be applauded.

As a result of this philosophy, schools are now dedicated not to recognizing and promoting individual merit but instead to hiding the fact of individual differences from both the achievers and from those who struggle or fail. Schools also seek to devise systems to accommodate and overcome difference in order to produce the equality they believe to have been distorted and denied. Such pedagogical practices as group projects and alternative means of evaluation (”Service learning” is the latest example, whereby students earn part of a course grade for volunteer work) are measures towards this end.

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Top Rated Comments   
It's your right to disagree; may we ask how? Could you give an example? My wife is a teacher and also disagrees with a lot of the writing about her profession, but she has reasons and she can accept a discussion of them.

The simple fact of your disagreement is not a rebuttal, much less a refutation, and it speaks very poorly of your skills as a (former) educator to think that "I don't like this" is in any way evidence that you are correct and the author is in the wrong.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
C.S. Lewis also turned his intrepid mind onto this subject in Screwtape Proposes a Toast. Here is the second part:

“The spirit of I’m as good [equal] as you has already begun something more than a generally social influence. It begins to work itself into their educational system… The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time. Let, them, for example, make mud pies and call it modeling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem.” An even more drastic scheme is not possible. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma — Beelzebub, what a useful word! – by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval’s attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT. In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers – or should I say, nurses? – will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching… Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. That is part of the same movement. Penal taxes, designed for that purpose, are liquidating the Middle Class, the class who were prepared to save and spend and make sacrifices in order to have their children privately educated. The removal of this class, besides linking up with the abolition of education, is, fortunately, an inevitable effect of the spirit that says I’m as good as you. This was, after all, the social group which gave to the humans the overwhelming majority of their scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, composers, architects, jurists, and administrators. If ever there were a bunch of stalks that needed their tops knocked off, it was surely they.” C.S. Lewis – Screwtape Proposes a Toast

http://screwtapeblogs.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/screwtape-proposes-a-toast/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (18)
All Comments   (18)
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I believe that people have innate differences and that their environment strengthens their differences. Public schools, ideally, would offer a level playing field in which the brightest would succeed regardless of their race. With the help of mentors, tutors and extra help from various sources AND the cooperation of the family, those without innate ability can succeed and receive an education. However, I have found by my own experience that, for some, education is not encouraged by the family regardless of what resources are used. Sometimes little cooperation is available.All students should have an opportunity to learn.....sometimes students use it and sometimes they don't.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Equality of opportunity & equality of outcome are *both* wrong. Equality _before the law_ is the only equality consistent with a nation based on individual liberty.

Equal opportunity requires that each of us act exactly the same.

"I want every person to have the same opportunities I have had."

So you want to make everyone exactly like you--because that is what you'd have to do to make sure everyone has the same events occur in their life as you had, then have the same reactions to them as you had,, approach them with the same desire, ambition, effort, as you had, in order to have the same subsequebt events occur and so on--is that what you really want to do?

Here's the result of so called equal opportunity--and the actual goal of egalitarianism: totalitarianism.

"The best ordered state will be one in which the largest number of persons ... most nearly resembles a single person. The first and highest form of the State ... is a condition in which the private and the individual is altogether banished from life, and things which are by nature private, such as eyes and ears and hands, have become common, and in some way see and hear and act in common, and all men express praise and blame and feel joy and sorrow on the same occasion, and whatever laws there are unite the city to the utmost ..." (Plato's _Republic_ & _Laws_ c. 370 BCE)

As usual, the conservatives give the Left its basic premise then set about to argue on particulars.

Left: Would you go to bed with me for a million dollars?
Conservatives: Hell yes!
Left: Would you do it for, say, $5?
Conservatives: Hell no! What kind of girl do you think I am?
Left: Well, we've already established that. Right now, we're dickering on the price."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If they truly believe in perfect Egalitarianism, if they truly believe they are all exactly the same . . . then they'll be happy to all be paid exactly the same. Take away the graduated pay scales that pay more for more years of experience. Take away the increases in pay for those who have Masters or Ph.D.s. Give them all the exact same wages because they're all the same.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In other words, politically correct morons actually believe everything that Stormfront writes.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And, all of this is only possible if the left destroys the idea of spirit, a soul, a meaning to life. The belief of the growth of the soul through life lessons is no longer a concern.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The "activist" scholar came in with the New Left, but even before that, teaching was heavily ideological. There are no golden ages of school instruction, sad to say. See http://clarespark.com/2013/05/06/the-new-left-activist-scholars/.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was a teacher for 26 years and totally disagree with the author.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's your right to disagree; may we ask how? Could you give an example? My wife is a teacher and also disagrees with a lot of the writing about her profession, but she has reasons and she can accept a discussion of them.

The simple fact of your disagreement is not a rebuttal, much less a refutation, and it speaks very poorly of your skills as a (former) educator to think that "I don't like this" is in any way evidence that you are correct and the author is in the wrong.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You disagree that different people have different innate abilities? You disagree that " false affirmation offered to the inadequate and the praise withheld from the excellent undermine the trustworthiness and authority of teachers and of the whole education system"? You disagree that there are unmistakable gradations of intelligence, capacity, and character in students?

Then you are very much part of of the serious problem of the dumbing down of America's children.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How can anybody be against Mom and apple pie? Likewise, how can anybody be against equality, national defense and any number of things the Progs claim to be a part of their holy grail? To speak of government excesses, illegal acts and unconstitutional authority being used in the pursuit of these "noble" goals is to be "un-American" or worse, like throwing Granny over the cliff.

Taking the high ground is nothing new. King George III, the king during the American Revolution stated, I desire what is good; therefore everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor. Of course, what is "good" is not defined nor is there any indication who the "good" is for, the king or the people.

We are in a similar situation here today in that the government sets out a Utopian goal and the dumbed down masses follow meekly along striving to meet the goal with no thought of its rationality, legality or any thought of what trying to reach some unreachable goal does to the American way of life.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
C.S. Lewis also turned his intrepid mind onto this subject in Screwtape Proposes a Toast. Here is the second part:

“The spirit of I’m as good [equal] as you has already begun something more than a generally social influence. It begins to work itself into their educational system… The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time. Let, them, for example, make mud pies and call it modeling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem.” An even more drastic scheme is not possible. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma — Beelzebub, what a useful word! – by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval’s attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT. In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers – or should I say, nurses? – will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching… Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. That is part of the same movement. Penal taxes, designed for that purpose, are liquidating the Middle Class, the class who were prepared to save and spend and make sacrifices in order to have their children privately educated. The removal of this class, besides linking up with the abolition of education, is, fortunately, an inevitable effect of the spirit that says I’m as good as you. This was, after all, the social group which gave to the humans the overwhelming majority of their scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, composers, architects, jurists, and administrators. If ever there were a bunch of stalks that needed their tops knocked off, it was surely they.” C.S. Lewis – Screwtape Proposes a Toast

http://screwtapeblogs.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/screwtape-proposes-a-toast/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And please remember how LONG AGO C. S. Lewis lived and wrote. This takeover, this establishment of education as a way to mold and control the masses began many decades ago. (Lived: Nov 29, 1898 - Nov 22, 1963).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I haven't studied the history of the educational system from it's inception, but I do know the most influential time of change was instigated by John Dewey and his Frontier Thinkers of Columbia University. He's dubbed, "The Father of Education".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
C.S. Lewis also turned his intrepid mind onto this subject in Screwtape Proposes a Toast. I’ll break his thoughts into two separate quotations and two separate comments.

“Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose… You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated [equal natural rights secured by equal law]. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal [in outcome – regardless of creativity and labor]… The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept; and therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority [laboring, tax-paying middle class led by entrepreneurs] in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority. No one must be different from himself in voice, clothes, manners, recreations, choice of food… They’ve no business to be different. It’s undemocratic… Under the name of Envy it has been known to humans for thousands of years. But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices. Those who were aware of feeling it felt it with shame; those who were not gave it no quarter in others. The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it — make it respectable and even laudable — by the incantatory use of the word democratic… Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labour more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level [middle class pulled down to the proletariat]. But that is not all. Under the same influence, those who come, or could come, nearer to a full humanity, actually draw back from fear of being undemocratic… They might (horror of horrors!) become individuals." C. S. Lewis

http://screwtapeblogs.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/screwtape-proposes-a-toast/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My favorite CS Lewis quote, directly about education, from The Abolition of Man:
The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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