"The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants" - Albert Camus

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why Can't Johnny Think?

Remember the book Why Can't Johnny Read?  Quarter of a century later, some seem to be just as clueless as they were back when the book was published.

I recently watched a segment on the local evening news called 'the mystery of failure of high schools'.  The report centered around the supposed reasons why overwhelming majority of high school graduates require remedial classes in college. 

It greatly amuses me to watch the puzzlement displayed by presumably intelligent reporters while presenting such programs as they state the obvious rather than a mystery to those of us who are sadly aware of what is going on.  Just as astonishingly, one can't help but wonder why only a very few who are perceptive enough dig further to ask the even more probing questions that beg for attention.

The more relevant question in the light of alarming trend towards a progressively clueless public who would self identify as conservative over liberal by a margin of 2:1 yet, at times, buy unquestioningly in to the snake oil being sold by Democrats, should be Why can't Johnny think? After all, being able to read and write without the ability to engage in higher level thinking does not advance the cause of a free society very much!

According to study after study, anywhere from 60% to75% of high school graduates require remedial math and english classes in college.  Moreover, many other studies have found that up to half the college graduates are still ill-prepared to take on the rigors of the real world after the supposed rigors of 4 years of college.  A mystery?  Hardly!  Not unless you are still under the mistaken impression that public schools teach trivium (no, not the music band), and colleges - including Ivy league ones - are institutions of 'higher learning' in the literal sense of the phrase.  You can thank public school unions and teacher/professor tenure for this grave failure.

The problem is really two distinct problems: First being one of the failure of elementary and secondary schools in providing true, classical education - as in trivium - which is the foundation for critical thinking; and second being one of college campuses having become congregations for radically leftist professors who are eagerly awaiting the poorly educated, indoctrinated freshmen in order to cement them as life long progressive, these days aka Democrat, voters.

I have written numerous times about the rise of cultural Marxism in the U.S.- more specifically in public schools - starting in the 1950s.  Since then, the teacher unions - AFT, NEA, UFT, as well as lesser known ones - have been taken over completely by Marxist devotees like Randi Weingarten.  Who can forget the infamous quote attributed to late Albert Shanker: "When school children start paying union dues, that‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”  or the top lawyer for NEA, Bob Chanin, saying "This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing drop rate rates, improving teacher quality, and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, or collective bargaining."  Then there is the image of public school teachers dragging their young students to protests against Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin?  While we are at it, let's not forget the recent example of North Carolina high school teacher screaming her head off at a student that insulting Obama (which the student did not even do) is a criminal offense, or any one of countless news stories of radical leftist teachers indoctrinating their students on the superiority of collectivist systems over capitalism!  The examples are endless...

It is the forerunners of these same radical teachers who followed the blueprint of cultural Marxism that Antonio Gramsci laid out for them a few decades earlier.  The genius of Gramsci was that he (and later new generation Marxists like Saul Alinsky and Frances Fox Pivens) realized brute force could never transform a society successfully without much bloodshed.  The smarter alternative was changing the culture through affecting education, entertainment, and any other institution that played a role in influencing people.  Once moral standards were weakened and sufficient state dependency was achieved, society would collapse and Marxism rise victoriously without actually having to get the blood of people on their hands. 
For their part, radical educators got to work like none other.  Within a decade, most teacher union bosses who did not share their ideology were replaced by those committed to Marxism.  Teachers unions, like other public employee unions, only strengthened throughout years unlike private sector unions.  As a result, it became progressively harder for parents and other advocates for children to have a meaningful say over their education.  After all, how do you think it became acceptable for too many school districts to replace emphasis on civics, history, philosophy, and logic with "Heather has two mommies", minority studies, earth day, and every other pet cause of all sorts of, if not outright Marxist, collectivist splinter groups?!
The game plan was simple and executed to near perfection: Undermine the education process so that the youth not only get indoctrinated in leftist propaganda, but the process left incomplete so that the logic and rhetoric stages of education would never be taught as they would enable the students to critically think and question the indoctrination they received under the guise of education.

The cultural-Marxists have been very successful in a general sense, but there may be some hope.  The problem with the best laid plans of collectivists is that they under estimate human nature.  As much as security is important to many, individual liberty which is antithetical to collectivism of any sort, is even more important.  Reality of an ever increasing segment of the society falling prey to the clutches of government dependency and collectivism is thus countered by just as powerful a motive.  

Whether the question being posed is why can't Johnny read, or why are we number 27 globally in math scores, or whatever academically related issue, learning the three Rs is a far cry from learning to think critically.  Overwhelming majority of U.S. schools still fall short on that account.  The challenge is to start teaching critical thinking skills once again so that Johnnies of this world can make the cruical connection between their liberties and individual initiative; and that requires activism on the part of parents.

1 comment:

Tel said...

This happened a little bit in Australia, but somehow not as much, which is strange because on the whole unions are stronger in Australia than they are in the USA.

Now I think of it, maybe the stronger unions in Australia were more willing to compromise and become more mainstream, less radical Marxist. Maybe Australians are just a bit more laid back overall.

I have some ideas about how to fix the problem, and I am quite interested in other people joining up with me on this matter. The biggest technological boom for education has been the Internet, and since the Marxist teaching staff are no longer teaching much genuine material, some sort of computer-based online education would probably be actually cheaper and do a better job of teaching.

We could at least teach basic principles of logic, mathematics and maybe some copies of famous speeches and classic texts that are now out of Copyright. This could all be done for a fraction of the cost of a conventional school, and the material would be freely given away.

I know it does defeat the profit motive to attempt to gather private money and give away the produce, but it makes sense from this point of view:

* I would rather live next to an educated family than an uneducated family, so by educating my neighbour I help myself.

* Same in spades when it comes to voting.

* The best way to defeat public takeover of all cultural institutions is with private charity, so there is a non-financial return on investment here.

Something to think about.