"Stupid in America"


I'm looking forward to this when it airs on Friday. Stossel is probably the most interesting TV journalist today and this piece outlining problems with America's education system is sure to be a good one. Although one thing that is disappointing is that he seems to be pushing the private school vouchers angle--a policy that I think is a bad idea in the long run.

I saw it, and it was thought provoking. It's a little bit off-putting how Stossel only argues one side, but I guess there's nothing wrong with that as long as the viewer also looks into the arguments of the opposing side.

Why do you oppose the vouchers? It sounds pretty good to me.

Emanuelle In America was stupid ironically enough

cajones, great post! tosses up the devil horns to cajones

Andrew, the program actually has swayed me a LITTLE on vouchers. I was unaware that Europe's system runs on voucher; I find that compelling.

My main reasons for skepticism for vouchers is kind of ideological: I see it as slowing down my ultiamte goal of geting RID of public education rather than just reforming it. I think that government money will lead to the problem of government CONTROL. And it'll be hard for private schools that accept vouchers to say they won't allow for government control/influence, because I can bet you that the second vouchers became implemented, we'd see high-profile prosecutions of fly-by-night "schools" propped up to bilk the system as a symbiotic scheme between con-men and shitty parents.

Once the government has its foot in the door to fight fraud, it'll demand other powers: like input into the curriculum. What'll be the precedent for this? A law-abiding Jewish family on Long Island will ask why the fuck they're paying their hard-earned tax-money to subsidize some Sunni Wahabbi Madrassa that teaches their kids to hate Jews. They'll file a lawsuit (that any juror with any common sense will feel sympathetic to) and then suddenly the government has even more power over voucher-accepting schools.

Maybe next the unions decide they want in on this and try to get voucher-accepting schools to unionize as a condition of accepting vouchers. And then, voila, these "private" schools are suddenly public schools! Why hasn't that happened in Europe? That's a compelling counter argument, but not one that toally assures me it couldn't happen here.

More later.

BTW Andrew, I think you'd like those Paul Graham columns I linked to in this post.

I am familiar with the works of Paul Graham.

Yeah, I figured as much with your IT background and everything. I didn't know if you were familiar with his thoughts on the education system though.

Some misc observations on the special:

I found it HILARIOUS when there was the one teacher at the rally who said, "there aren't really any bad teachers" or something like that. The funny thing is that there was a time when most people thought that way: they thought of teachers as these wonderful champions of humanity who can do no wrong. These days, I tend to think the opposite, I think public school teachers tend to be mediocre minds who get into the job because they get off on having control over other people (they might spin it as "helping" people, but often the impulse to "help" is the impulse to rule). Politically incorrect, but true in many cases, IMO.

One thing I really liked was how Stossel showed the unthinking sloganeering and platitudes of the ed establishment. Pure gold was the old witch with her "Competition isn't for children! It isn't for education! It isn't for human beings!" LMGDFAO! Go back to North Korea you totalitarian bitch!

Finally, I was MILDLY disappointed that homeschooling didn't even get a cursory mention in Stossel's report. I think this is the result of him not talking to any of the higher-profile members of the ed-reform/alt. ed. movements: John Taylor Gatto, Izzy Lyman, Charlotte Iserbyt, and Samuel Blumenfeld. OK, ok, these people only qualify as "high-profile" if you've been following this movement with the same single-minded obsessiveness that I have. I realize, of course, that Stossel was trying to START a debate and give a first glimpse to the unenlightened rather than push the envelope for those of us who are already disgusted with the ed establishment.

On a side note, Dr. Blumenfeld wrote a great piece on wnd.com regarding poor reading comprehension skills among COLLEGE graduates and Charlotte Iserbyt's landmark work The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America can be downloaded for free, here.

Stossel should have smurf-slapped that NY teachers union official. Her and people like her ARE the problem with education in America.

Truer words were never spoken

ttt for RJD

Seniority. Just plague the students and taxpayers with your mediocrity and self-importance long enough and you too will make an average of $48,000/yr (that's the # for NY where I went to HS) and be immune to firing.

I think merit pay is good, but it has to be done the right way(meaning pay actually reflects merit).

Standardized tests are not so good. In the book Freakonomics, they give a description of how they detected teachers cheating for their students on standardized tests, because the teachers had the incentive to get more money by raising test scores.

Andrew, unless I'm missing something, couldn't you just fix that problem with exams that are administered, proctored, and graded independently of the teachers?

I want to add one other observation to my list above. I LOVED how Stossel pointed out the fact that the international academic standing of US students WORSENS as these kids "advance" through the grades. This furthers the John Taylor Gatto/Paul Graham/Buddhadev thesis about how the gov't school system is basically an expensive/wasteful exercise in mind-fucking America's children. I'm more convinced than ever that anyone who would defend gov't schools in their current form is beneath contempt.

Baddhahev, where in NY did you live that teachers make that little.

I'll assume you're addressing me. The $48,000.00 median figure is taken from the 1994 Information Please Almanac. I do suspect that teachers around where I went to HS (Buffalo) made more.

48K is "that little"? LOL! I consider 48K BEYOND fucking generous--especially considering that daycare workers make about $7-$9, don't get benefits, and kindly spare kids and parents a lot of the horseshit sanctimony and self-importance that teachers curse us with. "Oh we're so wonderful! Why don't we make as much as CPA's do? We're in this because we like to help people!" FUUUUUCK YOU!!!!!!

Frankly, gov't school teachers, as they perform now, are not generally much more value-added than daycare workers and shouldn't be making much more. You might think I'm just engaging in hyperbole, but I'll point you to the reasearch of Simanek to show you that it's true: http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/decline1.htm.

Teachers are by and large unambitious (that is why they became teachers)

They also become teachers because it's a good way for mediocre minds to get secure, cushy jobs.

Again I ask, how can merit pay be implemented fairly?

Well, honestly I don't care. In my view of how education should be, schools would be private entities and would make a financial analysis to come to whatever system of employee compensation they felt appropriate--just like any business does.

But just for shits and giggles, let's explore "merit pay"--whatever that is. Define "fairly"? What system do you propose that is "fair" that would be a metric to compare merit pay to? Is the current one where Ms. Crabtree the incompetent spinster man-hating social studies teacher makes $65,000/yr and is essentially unfireable just because she's hung around for 10 years? LOL! I can't come up with something to satisfy you until I hear your definition of "fair." As you put it, I'm all ears.


Edit: While we're asking questions, I'm curious about somethign with you as well. Could you please look at this thread? Thanks. I'm just curious about your overall worldview.

Well, I guess I meant merit pay in some abstract way if we could actually objectively measure merit.

Standardized tests are not that bad. I'm not into that bullshit about how they're culturally biased except to the extent that some cultures don't read books or do homework.

As long as there are strict security protocols in place to prevent teacher and student cheating, and as long as the tests are reflective of the important knowledge, then it's a reasonably good way to judge merit objectively.

You might find interesting this story:

on the low literacy level of college students.

And even though the college students scored poorly, they scored much better than the average population.

In that case, before you go saying things like, "I'm more convinced than ever that anyone who would defend gov't schools in their current form is beneath contempt," you may want to consider that you're not exactly speaking from a position of experience or authority.

I can understand your perspective and your inherent resentment here. I would certainly resent being told how to parent my hypothetical kid which is precisely the reason I started this other thread.

Anyhow, in my case, sparing you and the reading public a lot of personal details, your supposition about my experience with children would be incorrect. I don't have children of my own, to be certain, but I do have "experience," and have even been party to the parent end of parent-teacher communications--several times, in fact. My views aren't ideological idealism, they're also, to a great extent borne of what I experienced going through the system and what I watched another experience.

If you'll forgive my continued curiosity, I notice that you express an understandable resentment towards being given parenting advice from those who don't have children. However, at the same time, you place your kid(s) for 6-7 hours in a gov't school where you have no guarantee that the kid's teacher will necessarily have children. In fact, your kid's primary influence in that school will be peers--other children--who almost certainly don't have children (or maybe they do, which is even worse). Now I'll understand if you prefer not to get into it (I, afterall, wouldnt' feel comfortable divulging personal information here), but how do you reconcile this inherent contradiction?

And, of course, some public schools are much, much better than others. I'm certain, for example, that the elementary school where I live now (Redmond, WA) is probably one that parents in say, downtown Detroit, would greatly envy. But it's like my mentioning that I can probably take my 80-year-old neighbor in a fistfight: it doesn't necessarily prove that I'm a competent fighter.

Finally, may I ask which statement I have made that isn't reflective of reality and how so?

Edit: Andrew, thanks for that link. It's pretty damning when BOTH the American Institutes for Research and NCES are saying this stuff. As for college grads having at least greater comprehension skills than non-grads, I'll again mention that I can take on my 80-year-old neighbor no sweat...

cajones is also a well-caffinated indian. He forgot those attributes.

Ultimately "parenting" boils down to "influence." This is something teachers agree with me on because ask any of them and they'll tell you that from the behavior, they can tell what kids grew up with babysitters and what kids grew up with a stay-at-home mother or father.

In the case where my earlier reference to my personal experience comes in, when the kid hit age 5 and started going to school, there was an almost immediate corsening of the kid's behavior despite my inluence and the influence of the kid's mother.

Educating and parenting, thus, can't be entirely disentangled. This is further evidence by the McCurdy study in the Smithsonian Institution's Horizon journal that looked at patterns of child genius and found that children whose biggest influences are other children (as they are in even the "best" schools) are less likely to develop genius.

Again, I concede the point that some government schools are better than others. However, they all share faults that are inherent to the core nature of modern government schooling--regardless of how "good."

- They ALL take (7 hours/day)*(180 days/year)*(13 years) to teach material that probably actually requires a third or a quarter of that amount of time to impart. Note again the example of psychologist JT Fisher: Illiterate at 13 and high-school grad at 16 and ultimately he didn't consider himself much more intelligent than the average person. - They ALL reinforce social pathologies by sticking children among children (again, note Paul Graham's and Gatto's observations). - As Stossel pointed out, American gov't school kids universally drop in their international rankings as they advance in grades (i.e., get more of the gov't schooling in their systems). Just think about that. Res Ipsa Loquitur - They ALL regularly teach leftwing-agenda-oriented bunk in social science classes. How many kids, for example, think that slaves were primarily acquired in Africa by white slave-traders running around with nets and cages and capturing them? Iornically enough, it's sometimes still the "good" schools in the affluent areas that still present discredited work like that of Alex Haley or Rigoberta Menchu.

I could go on and on. And indeed, I already did go on and on in several other threads on this topic. Yes I'm very passionate about this issue. The facts and statistics are on my side (as Dr. ASDF found out the hard way when he tried to debate me on this issue and was reduced to vague, ever-shifting platitudes in the course of doing so).

I don't want kids in the future to be cheated of developing their minds. Sure, some kids will always get the shaft and that's unavoidable in an imperfect world, but we can do so much better than how we're doing now. Education doesn't have to waste so much time and money to get the job done. It doesn't have to be so joyless, petty, and spirit-crushing.

I believe there's a better way of doing things and people who would stop that--whether they want to send CPS thugs after homeschooling parents, whether they keep clamouring for more money being pumped into the gov't schools, or whether they strive to dope up every little boy on Ritalin--ARE beneath contempt.

Those were the things (CPS, money-grabbing, ADHD meds, etc.) that I characterized as "defending the gov't schools in their current form." I mean, if we're talking about some parent who's just saying something like, "I'm happy with my kid's government school. I like the job they do," then no, I'm not characterizing that parent as "beneath contempt." Mistaken and short-sighted, but not beneath contempt.

I would add to the contempt list those who ideologically undermine homeschoolers with bunk about "socialization."

Buddhadev -


I feel the same way about people that like to pass judgement on others based on their own fallacious hasty generalizations.

Then I'll rest easy since I haven't done any such thing. :)

cajones, seriously man, I'm not trying to sway the choice you made regarding your kids' education. That wouldn't be an effective thing to do anyway since questioning a parent's judgement usually just puts the parent on the defensive and makes him or her more pissed off about what you're saying. Not to mention the fact that it's rude.

Hopefully I've just given you some things to think about and maybe shared facts, stats, and anecdotes with you that you weren't aware of before--even if these ideas don't necessarily go past an ideological level for you and aren't anything you'd want to apply.

Off-topic: just out of curiosity, are you and theseanster Indian? I mean, Indian in the way I am--think dots rather than feathers.

Rob: In the through the nose, out through the mouth. You're right, I feel better now. :)