Education's Dunces and Whipping Boys

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Mandating that teachers take subject tests and generalized prospective teacher tests is akin to closing the barn door after the horses have escaped. I fail to understand why administrators; school boards (local and state); college officials; legislators; No Child Left Behind designers and drumbeaters; and anyone and everyone involved in education, have not come to this same conclusion.

Erroneous, misdirected decisions continue to play major roles in the ongoing tragedy of bad schooling across America. Without accurate identification of the causes, and immediate application of appropriate remedies, true scholarship will continue to be unachievable except in a few unique schools where administrators and staff refuse to follow the failing policies and methods of progressive education.

To solve problems such as the United States currently faces in educating/re-educating its population, it is important to identify the causes, assess the effects, and act intelligently to stop the downward spiral. Once the slide has been brought under control, or slams violently to the ground (as I fear will be the case with public education), much work will be needed to stem and turn this Tide of Illiteracy and its consequences, both intended and unintended. It will take intelligent design and strong leadership to help this nation heal and recover. It will be important that safeguards are built into the new system to prevent such idiots (and I do mean to suggest feeblemindedness in too many of today’s educational leaders and advisors) from again gaining control.

There is also merit in recalling that the first step towards solving a problem is to find some humor in it.

For example:

Problem #1: Barn door was left open. Expensive horses have escaped and are now widely scattered over a sparsely populated area of dilapidated fences and roads without cattle guards. The horses must be gathered quickly and returned to the barn for they are the only source of production and income for the immediate and extended family, as well as for their heirs. Choose the best answer.

A. The family mandates that every individual in the family go through four years of Latch the Barn Door training, to be followed by high stakes — and very expensive — testing, which ends up proving nothing; solving nothing; preventing…nothing. In the meantime, the horses fan out in ever-widening circles, eating low quality grass and ‘intermingling’ with scrub mustangs, possibly never to be found. If ever found, their value will be so diminished as to render them candidates for the glue factory.

B. The family hires the best cowboys available — those who have proven their mettle on horseback — not by driving a car to a test center. These skilled herders gather the horses and return them to the barn in the shortest time possible. While the cowboys proceed to round up and return the horses, the family figures out which member forgot to latch the barn door. The family shows that person how a barn door latch works; explains the grave importance of always latching barn doors; restricts the offender to supervised-barn-access until an increased level of personal responsibility can be proven.

(Correct answer is “B.”)

Problem #2: A once-strong, once-free nation, sabotaged daily by its schools and universities, is watching generation after generation of its citizens become evermore dumbed-down; incompetent; unemployable; incapable of independent thought; confused by concepts such as: liberty, freedom, personal property, peace, free market, choice… Much of the population cannot read at all, or if they do manage to recall a few sight words, they use them at a barely functional level. The prisons, both adult and punk, are full of non-readers.

Employers are unable to find employees capable of reading manuals and running expensive, sophisticated machinery. Fast food restaurants paint little pictures of burgers, with/without cheese and fixings, so their employees can ‘ring up’ orders. Cash registers display the amount of change owed the customer since monetarily crippled clerks cannot count back change. Such cashiers are stunned and confused if a customer gives them extra coins.

Children attend schools with too many teachers who entered college with SAT scores below the 50th percentile; scores that would not qualify anyone for entrance into scientific or more scholarly majors. Colleges have dumbed down their offerings accordingly, so now the terms “teacher” and “scholarly” should rarely be used in the same sentence. Many administrators scored lower on the SAT than prospective teachers! Neither teachers nor administrators accurately use the English language, but are allowed to model and teach their substandard skills to students.

A crisis of unimaginable magnitude is close at hand, with the nation unprepared at every level — local through federal — to deal with the on-rushing tsunami of ignorance and incompetence. Choose the best answer.

A. The federal government should not only allow the chaos to continue unabated, but should make everything worse by usurping states’ rights and mandating poorly conceived plans of action. The president and Teddy should enact a No Child Left Unscarred plan that ‘solves’ the massive and pervasive problems by forcing each teacher to assume the role of a Whipping Boy, pushing the best and brightest ones to leave the field. The government should then declare all remaining teachers “Unqualified” and force them to take expensive, non-productive tests; sit through endless vacuous days of professional development (The term ‘professional’ being used facetiously, of course.)

When none of these actions improve real, true, actual, un-doctored, no-cheating-allowed-by-state-and-local-officials, no-bars-lowered test scores, the feds should flush more money through the system and finally — BLAME THE PARENTS and declare them to be the new Whipping Boys. (Remember that the parents were educated by the same system.)

The Feds should then mandate that all parents and children be corralled, then sorted, based upon mental health testing, unclothed genital exams, and personal courage and wherewithal to complain about the treatment they are being forced to undergo (We can guess where this last group will be sent.) Citizens of all ages should be declared incompetent and un-teachable. Their every move should be monitored and controlled as they are forced to report to attendance centers where staff members spend their days observing their charges with clear conscience. No instruction needed. Ah, This Perfect Day.

B. Congress digs out its crisp, clean, barely used copy of the U.S. Constitution and notes that any power not specifically delegated to the federal government is to be retained by the individual states, and finally orders the closure of the Department of Education. Congress rescinds all laws relative to education then sends each individual state a letter notifying them that education is a state problem, not a federal one; that henceforth there will be no federal educational monies available.

States decide that schooling issues should be handled at the local level, so finally close all 50 state departments of education and rescind all state laws relative to education/testing/certification… All state monies to local schools stop, and all taxes paid by the people to state and federal government for educational purposes are immediately returned to the counties of each state.

At the county level the monies are distributed to the respective townships, incorporated villages, towns, and cities. The wisest elders of each local unit talk to parents, neighbors, and businesses, determining the exact type of education that is preferred and affordable in each region. Those still capable of intelligent thought and deductive reasoning believe that: children haven’t learned because they haven’t been taught; that teachers haven’t taught because they were never trained; that teachers were never trained because of: a) low ability levels of teachers and/or b) low academic and instructional abilities of professors.

Citizens decide that college of education faculty have been too impressed by fads and snake oil salesmen to train teachers based on honest research which proves that explicit, structured instruction in phonics taught in small local schools has been the wining combination since the invention of the written alphabet (2,500+/— years ago.) The local elders call upon those citizens who are able to read, have a broad knowledge base, and actually understand that to be a reader one must be taught systematic, rather than incidental, phonics. Training classes begin to train an entirely new teaching force at the local levels, only. No credentials/certifications needed. Any teachers who cannot be trained, thus confirming that their low SAT scores were indeed legitimate, will be let go.

The need for school busses is reassessed and all effort made to educate each child as near to home as possible, in facilities as small and personal as possible. All schools further than a walk-home/ride-a-bike/horse distance are closed and torn down, with construction materials reused to build new appropriately sized schools. Real education again takes place across the land — just as it used to when intelligent, knowledgeable, capable teachers, speaking grammatical English, used school days to level the American population up instead of the current dastardly policies and methods that level the American population down.

For those who need the answer book…the correct choice is B.

PS: For those who believe that testing will accurately assess competency, let me explain that I passed the stockbroker examinations on my first try, sitting among people taking the tests for the 3rd, 4th, 5th times. I readily admit that I am a totally incompetent stockbroker so all those tests proved was that I am a good student and a good test taker.

If you believe that everyone who scores well on a prospective teacher test will be a good, or even a tolerable teacher…let me introduce you to some investors who probably still hold some very poorly performing stock…stock that they would gladly unload into your portfolio. Do tell them that I sent you! I’ve owed them favors for a long, long time.

Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is an educational consultant, homeschooling mom, and public school special ed teacher. She is available for presentations, inservices, and workshops.

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