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Edumakayshun

May 9th, 2014 - 2:11 pm

By some standards we are better educated than any humans who have ever lived.

CBS News says that a high school diploma is only the beginning. “Positions that used to require just a high school degree are increasingly being filled by college graduates, according to a new survey.”

The rise in educational requirements extended beyond just associate and bachelor’s degrees. Some employers said that in positions where they used to hire candidates with bachelor’s degrees, they are now primarily hiring people who hold a Master’s degree.

The US now spends a vast amount of money on public education. And yet a number of scandals have suggested that the ‘education’ provided is not all it should be. One witness at a high profile murder trial could not read her own deposition, which she had dictated, saying she didn’t read “cursive”.

The problems with modern education were illustrated by a an incident which took place only a few days ago. A Detroit public school teacher was fired after she used a broomstick to break up a fight between two large teenage boys in her classroom. Video taken by one of the students shows everyone standing around simply watching the fight in progress. According to the school rules enacted in order to prevent “child abuse” the Detroit teachers are forbidden from using corporal chastisement.

One of the children, really the size of a man, emotionally recounted his trauma at being hit by the broom though his mother expressed the hope that a suitable monetary compensation would go far to allay his distress. Authorities said the proper procedure was to summon school security personnel to break up the fight. However the radio provided the teacher for the purpose was inoperable. The woman was placed in an impossible position, since she is by regulation also responsible for the ‘safety’ of her charges.

The fight is shown below. The teacher attempts to break up the fight at around the 30 second mark.

One wonders: what did people do before modern education? How did our ancestors learn to hunt game animals, farm, sail wooden ships across oceans, build bridges and railroads or fight World War 2 without a high school diploma or master’s degree? The video below illustrates what education in the past consisted in for a large number of people.

Work experience.

A fight would be broken up instantly by older and stronger men who would chastise them with more than a broom. In those days older and more experienced persons were supposed to be your teachers. Age meant knowledge and authority. Instead of being charged with child abuse the men who corrected a public brawling would probably be commended by the authorities.

One should not idealize the world of the past, but education before institutional schooling had its advantages. First of all instruction of necessity conformed to reality. It was learned in the presence of moving masses of steel, timed events and actual human expectations. The link between theory and practice was unbroken.

Second, education consisted in learning work attitudes as well as specific skills. One learned to be part of a team and how to get along. At all events the inadvisability of turning a workplace into a wrestling ring was brought home very sharply. Last but not least, students often got paid to learn. Perhaps not the wages that are mandated today, but at least they left ‘school’ without $250K in student debt.

The learning experience of the past was more than the award of a diploma. It was the transmission of culture.

Today we have more formal education than ever.  But it may be time to ask: of what should it really consist? Is it a credential? Or is it a set of attitudes and skills that will help the learner get by in life? Are we getting value for money from the vast multibillion dollar educational establishment? What can we learn from the past?


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Top Rated Comments   
I grant that I am old. But there are things that I learned as a matter of course in elementary school, that high school graduates can't do. Because they were never taught. Among them are reading and basic arithmetic without a calculator.

It has been going on for a long time. I collect old books. In fact, my house is full of books. Last time we counted was at least 15 years ago, and we had over 4000 volumes not counting what I call my "working library". And we definitely have not downsized, in fact the opposite. Once again, proof that I am old.

In any case, a few years ago I was in an even smaller mountain town than my own a couple of counties over called Silver Cliff. At a thrift store, I encountered a multi-subject school book used there in the late 1800's-early 1900's by 4th graders. I got it because of a handwritten exchange of "love" notes between a little girl and a little boy on the inside cover.

Then I looked at the subjects. Keep in mind that this was a small mining town in the mountains, and this was used by the miner's kids.

Arithmetic/ beginning geometry, as expected.
Geography, as expected.
Reading/English, as expected with a vocabulary that would baffle most high school students today.
History, as expected, but far more detailed than today..
Latin, as NOT expected [4th Grade!!!].
Beginning Greek, which was bloody amazing.

In Colorado, since the late 1970's per capita school spending in real terms after accounting for inflation has doubled. We passed a really screwed up constitutional amendment a few years ago that mandated that education spending go up above inflation every year forever regardless of need or fiscal requirements elsewhere.

If I could take one of those 4th graders, and teach them how to use a computer and modern communications equipment, and how to deal with culture shock; I probably use them in place of a college graduate. And with their proven ability to learn, probably in a couple of years time they could replace a bunch of specialist degrees once they learned a bit of political correctness.

We have been swindled. If we got rid of 99% of everything administrative [including Federal and State mandates] above the school principal level, and the things that emanate from those higher levels, K-12 education would return to excellence. If we got rid of 99% of everything above department head level in higher education, our universities would be the envy of the world again. And it would all cost a fraction of what we have now.

In Colorado, we spend $10,374 per K-12 pupil as of the 2012-2013 school year. The average teacher makes $49,046 a year, which is down from a peak of $56,445 in 1992. [Source Colorado School Finance Project]

Say 30 kids per classroom, bringing $311,220 in funding per classroom. Take out the teacher's salary and you have $263,174 in funding for each and every classroom. Note that the cost of the building itself comes from a separate Capital Construction budget funded by capital construction bonds. There does have to be utilities [HVAC, electricity, water pro-rated for each classroom and the pro-rated share for each classroom of certain other personnel [nurse, janitors, secretaries, any counselors, etc.]. Let's be very generous and say $63,174 from each classroom. That leaves $200,000.

There are certain books and supplies, however. But we know that the school budget does not cover them, because parents are expected to send supplies for the class with each student AND teachers have to reach into their own pockets to cover things. But let us once again be generous and say $10,000 per classroom. Oh, and don't try to count things like computers in each years budget; because they don't replace that kind of equipment until it is both obsolete and worn out.

So that leaves $190,000 in funding FROM EACH CLASSROOM over and above the cost of the classroom level teaching.

Where does it go?

How about paying for every administrator above the level of vice-principal? Better than half the money spent on education is actually spent on non-teaching related, arguably non-education related, functions.

The more we spend on education, the more bureaucrats we fund and the less the system focuses on the students and the more it concentrates on the bureaucracy at their expense.

Subotai Bahadur
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Kids have to learn so much more today. I challenge any sixty year old to go into a Grade 12 class that is not in his speciality and try to keep up."

That is absolute hogwash. A few of the advanced students in the better districts, perhaps.

For the overwhelming majority, we are passing kids out of school who can't think, know little or no history, and are barely literate.

18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
W, you have pushed my hot button with this one.
Anticipating other commenters, I will keep it short.
As a hiring executive I was pushed to increasing the minimum degree requirement in order to hold steady the entry skill levels.

Later, when doing Federal Government work, we had to buy into the 'credentialing' process; credentials trumping skills. Wise government contractors double team the Federal Bureaucrat and do her work for her, leaving only the signature block for her action. She got her job via AA and some sort of funny degree. At my old firm we have several 'PhD's but for thesis' women just to match the client.

Now, as a retired person still consulting in my field, I am beginning to develop plans for firms to hire bright high school grad or even drop out boys and train them ourselves. I believe it is cost effective.

ta
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (91)
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17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'll always remember Major Jesse T who, when the grad school dean asked him to stay on for a PhD, responded "My pappy always told me not to get educated beyond my intelligence."
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I heard an interesting story last week, that the people involved are puzzling about. The recently-graduated son of a high achieving father was hired at the bottom rung of the firm to begin his ascent into professional adult success. I am told that his degree was in the firm's field, and he should have had the basic tools to do the job effectively, especially at a beginning level and with other employees assigned to help and mentor him.

Almost immediately the young man began having problems. He wouldn't ask questions to clarify expectations, he blushed bright red when addressed directly and couldn't or wouldn't answer, began coming in later and later, and finally just disappeared altogether. Turned out he was at the parental home in hiding. He subsequently tendered his resignation.

I was told that he didn't appear to have a substance problem, but that his distress was all mental. This is one tiny example of a 20-something with the proper education who is failing, but I have to wonder if his lack of any effort stems from concern about the education his parents just paid tens of thousands of dollars to give him.

Alternatively, schizophrenia kicks in in the early-20's, too, which would mean that his education and life experience thus far have nothing to do with anything.
(show less)
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's credentialing and indoctrination, not education. There is no real value added to having an elementary school teacher having a Master's Degree in Education. There might be in having high school teacher having graduate degrees in their fields, but of course if they are in math or sciences, that degree is likely to get them a better paying job in the dreaded private sector.

Of course, the requirement for graduate degrees also serves to keep the schools that provide them in business and provide jobs for people who otherwise would be working at McDonald's as they have no marketable skills outside of academia.

I'd recommend to everyone with a degree in the "Humanities" that they go back to school to learn a trade. Welding, machinist, small engine repair, carpentry... At some point those skills will be much more marketable than anything that they've learned in college.

18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am probably as old as Subotai however, I can attest that we were better educated. We were required to learn English, Math and some history in the early grades, before we advanced. If you didn't do well thereafter, it was probably because you didn't try. As for cursive, I am an outstanding example of not being able to write with either hand, and so had to print my entire life.
I have substituted in the high schools fairly recently, and they don't ask for much, so get what they ask for.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why do most women have beautiful handwriting, and most men scrawl out a mess?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
As I have mentioned here before, back in the 90's I had a chat with a man who had been selected as THE Teacher of the Year a couple of years previously.

He said, "Do you want to know how I got to be Teacher of the Year? It was very simple. I just looked at all the regulations and requirements that were imposed on me as a teacher, and I ignored all those I did not agreed with and instead just did what I thought was right for the kids."

That sums it up right there, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. The Fed Govt has spent $2 Trillion on "Education" since forming the Dept of Education, and like all Feral Govt programs, the money is used mainly to impose draconian requirements on the taxpayer who pays for it all. The cattle are on a treadmill that runs the slaughterhouse they are being led to.

Now, in the case of that teacher, people who knew him when he was growing up said, "Yeah, he was noted for ignoring the rules when he was a kid, too.'

We need fewer, not more bureaucrats, and we don't even need "good" teachers as bad as we need teachers who commit sabotage.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Teacher of the Year nowadays is for political and not pedagogical achievements.

In my town, we have a charter school [which the District fought against tooth and nail] that promptly had the pick of all the best teachers in the district applying for transfer. It involved a pay cut. They fought for the slots anyway. It is run by E.D. Hirsch's "Core Knowledge" theories and covers K-8. It has been here for about 20 years [that thought just made me feel even older] and every year, every grade has topped out the state standardized testing. And when they transfer to the High School, they top out the grades there.

Yet the Teachers of the Year come from the regular District schools.

Subotai Bahadur
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
The unfailing sign of breeding is being able to listen to the William Tell overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.

I fail that test. I grew up in the 50s and I was exposed to the Lone Ranger (first on radio, than on TV) before classical music.

For the same reason: I can't listen to Wagner (especially "Das Rheingold") without thinking of Flash Gordon (Buster Crabbe incarnation) being hauled before Ming the Merciless, the latter seated on his throne wearing that campy high-collar Satan outfit.

Sunday mornings, 11 a.m., Flash Gordon, after Sunday school. Does anyone else have this "problem"? C'mon, admit it. Show of hands?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
And at noon on Saturday, when the Bugs Bunny show would come on TV, the air raid sirens would crank up for the weekly test.

Fortunately, the nearest one to our house was a couple blocks away.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
All right, I can't listen to "Ride of the Valkyries" without singing the words, 'Kill the wabbit Kill the wabbit KILL the Wabbit.... What's Opera, Doc?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
For today's music video we have a cogent commentary on the downside of government run by lawyers.

http://youtu.be/iZ-gfalEWI0?t=1m40s

Didn't Shakespeare say something about "First, let's kill all the lawyers"?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment? that parchment, being scribbled o'er, should undo a man?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm surprised Obama hasn't chimed in, "if I had two sons, they would have looked like these boys"
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm surprised that Obama has not chimed in:

"If I had 273 daughters they would all look like those kidnapped Nigerian girls. And it's a real shame we can't do anything about that kidnapping because the Republicans continue to focus all our resources on that phony scandal about Benghazi."
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't worry. Michelle used Obama's weekly radio address to say "In the Nigerian girls, Barack and I see our own daughters ...". You know, family. Just like Trayvon Martin.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is time to realize that the cost of US labor is too high and the only way to make educating our children affordable is to offshore them. Anywhere there is cheap labor will do, central and south America, southeast Asia. Some children may decide to stay on as dish washers, landscapers, painters, or sex workers but we can afford the attrition. Eventually we can hope that they remit payments to their ailing parents. This may hurt our sprawling and unregulated abortion industry but will have manifold benefits otherwise. All developing nations have liberal immigration policies that will allow this. Only the US has draconian immigration policies. /s
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let's use some of Subatoi's freed up from education money to start 'Back to Africa' or 'Back to Mexico' or 'Back to where ever you think you came from' movements. Recruit, say, 16 year olds from the worst areas, send them to the land of their cultural roots, give 'em a gun and a few rounds and tell them about Lord of the Flies.

It could be administered by state school boards.

Job done.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
For a decade or two now, I have favored a new government program called "grub-staking". That the government would give anyone who agrees to sign on the dotted line a generous chunk of money to leave America and never, ever, come back. Say, for a round number $100,000. The ex-American could go anywhere in the world with their tax-free $100,000 and put down roots, if that country would agree to accept them. Black people, for example, could return to Africa. Mexicans could return to Mexico. Homeless crazy people could go anywhere there's a warm beach with lots of coconuts and fish. BUT THEY CAN'T COME BACK. Ever.

I wonder how many people would take a lump sum payment to begone to somewhere else to start over, or whether they'd want to stay here in America with their welfare checks, their Obamaphones, and their foodstamps.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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