Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dymphna’s Packet O’ News for May 13th

Tonight we have the old nature vs. nurture argument presented as a reason for lousy schools, various stories about how totally down the toilet our economy is going, some ethical issues in D.C. (duh!), and a sad story about more Haitians drowning in their attempts to reach the U.S.

Be sure to read the essay on a possible reason for the Air Force One fly-by over New York City. If it sounds paranoid, it’s because we live in paranoid times. It’s a top-down problem which the One was supposed to solve but seems to have made worse.

Hat tips to Fjordman, Heroyalwhyness, JD, and Net Right Nation. Hope I didn’t miss anyone.

Happy perusing…
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Middle-class children have better genes, says former schools chief… and we just have to accept it

Middle-class children are more likely to be clever than those from poorer families because they have ‘better genes’, former Ofsted chief Chris Woodhead said yesterday.


He suggested that grammar school pupils were more likely to be middle-class because ‘the genes are likely to be better if your parents are teachers, academics, lawyers, whatever, and the nurture is likely to be better’

In an interview with the Guardian, he argued that Labour had betrayed a generation by refusing to accept that some children were not suited to formal secondary education.

Ministers should accept that some youngsters are simply born ‘not very bright’ and allow them to pursue practical training instead of forcing them into the classroom.

Hogswallop. Our country, and I am sure Britain as well, is full of bright, productive people who came from impoverished backgrounds. This dude needs to accept the glaring failures of government schools which are more concerned with being politically correct than they are in educating children.

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Overloaded boat sinks off Florida, killing 10

A boat overloaded with around 30 people, possibly Haitians being smuggled to the U.S. from their desperately poor country, sank off the Florida coast early Wednesday, dropping the occupants into the sea. The Coast Guard rescued 17 and was searching for others but said at least 10 died, including one child.

“The boat was obviously overloaded,” Coast Guard Capt. James Fitton said. “It’s a tragedy that someone would be so callous with human life.”

The economic conditions in Haiti are deplorable, and I don’t see them getting any better any time soon,” said Andy Gomez, a University of Miami expert on Caribbean migration. “And the Haitian-American community has developed a pretty good network here in the last five or 10 years, just as the Cuban-Americans have done, so there’s more of a reason to come.”

Four tropical storms and hurricanes battered the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country during last year’s harvest season, killing 793 people, crippling agriculture and causing $1 billion in damage to irrigation, bridges and roads.

Some of the survivors ought to tell our President that they were willing to risk death to come to a country he feels compelled to apologize for.

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Who Gets the Prize?

President Barack Obama is considering a list of more than six contenders for the Supreme Court that is dominated by women and Hispanics, one that includes judges and leaders from own his administration who have never donned a judicial robe.


The president is widely expected to choose a woman for a Supreme Court that has nine members but only one female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He is also under pressure from some Latino officials to name the nation’s first Hispanic justice. Moreno and Sotomayor are Hispanic.

Whomever he picks will be one of those "Living Constitution" types who reflect Obama's transnationalism and the continuing drift away from our founding documents by the elitist law schools. It's a shame

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Pope’s Would-be Assassin Wants to Convert to Christianity

The man who shot Pope John Paul II says he would like to convert to Christianity at a baptism ceremony at the Vatican soon after his release from prison in January, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Over the years, Mehmet Ali Agca has made frequent claims that he is the Messiah or Jesus Christ, raising questions about his mental health and leading to speculation that he had converted to Christianity.


Agca shot and seriously wounded John Paul in St. Peter’s Square 28 years ago, on May 13, 1981. The late pope met with Agca in an Italian prison in 1983 and forgave him.

Agca is currently serving a prison term for killing Turkish journalist Abdi Ipekci. The gunman is due to be released on Jan. 18, 2010.

Definitely a head case. The man thinks he should be baptized in the Vatican. Good luck with that.

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The Visual Subtext of the Statue of Liberty Fly-by Photo

By Victor J. Massad

One image alone was released from the expensive photo op that terrified New Yorkers last month. Out of God only knows how many images taken during the mission, only one was chosen. It speaks powerfully to the American public -- in symbolic language.

The ominous and imposing aircraft dominates the scene in such a way that, in gestalt parlance, no one could mistake the figure for the ground. The figure is an aircraft that serves as Air Force One, representing the Messianic omnipotence of the Obama presidency. Below it, part of the background -- a small and less relevant thing in comparison to the aircraft -- stands the Statue of Liberty, representing the individual freedoms that Americans have come to treasure and enjoy.

The message and its purpose could not be clearer: we must reset our priorities. Now that the democracy is at last headed by this magnificent and elegant man, we must put the federal government and its needs ahead of our paltry individual freedoms. Of what value, after all, is the property Americans have spent their lifetimes to acquire, or one’s right to defend oneself with a firearm, or even the privilege of living in an upwardly mobile society that used to be the envy of the rest of the world, in comparison to the Leader’s magnificently powerful icon, glistening like a phoenix in the sun?

The question is whether, in the absence of any mainstream reporting as to the symbolic purpose of the photo, its wide dissemination will actually have the originally-intended effect? In psychology, this is referred to as the “peripheral route to persuasion.” It refers to the phenomenon whereby an audience is more affected by symbols in a message than by the logic of the message itself. It is most effective when the audience is passive, such as the state of mind of the average television viewer. It is a technique that is commonly used in advertising (for example, when the man running on the beach throwing a Frisbee to his dog is shown as the announcer recites a drug’s perilous side effects).

In the case of “Air Farce One” the President’s communications people may have reversed their former position to withhold the photo from public release under the logic that the peripheral persuasiveness of the photograph would ultimately prevail over the cognitive reasoning that the thing was a waste of taxpayer money. And, given this president’s success with peripheral persuasion, they may very well be right. The passive and apolitical television viewer will likely see the photo, take in its symbolic value, and go away thinking the whole thing was nothing more than another Washington gotcha game.[…]

definitely read it all…as good an explanation as any for a bizarre incident.

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Speeding Towards the Financial Crash

by Ed Morrisey

Two related stories signaled investors today to push the dollar lower in overseas trading last night. First, former GAO chief David Walker notes a bond warning from Moody’s that US Treasury bonds may lose their top rating - and that could cost us dearly:

Long before the current financial crisis, nearly two years ago, a little-noticed cloud darkened the horizon for the US government. It was ignored. But now that shadow, in the form of a warning from a top credit rating agency that the nation risked losing its triple A rating if it did not start putting its finances in order, is coming back to haunt us.

That warning from Moody’s focused on the exploding healthcare and Social Security costs that threaten to engulf the federal government in debt over coming decades. The facts show we’re in even worse shape now, and there are signs that confidence in America’s ability to control its finances is eroding.

Prices have risen on credit default insurance on US government bonds, meaning it costs investors more to protect their investment in Treasury bonds against default than before the crisis hit. It even, briefly, cost more to buy protection on US government debt than on debt issued by McDonald’s. Another warning sign has come from across the Pacific, where the Chinese premier and the head of the People’s Bank of China have expressed concern about America’s longer-term credit worthiness and the value of the dollar.

Why does McDonald’s make a better risk? McDonald’s doesn’t run massive deficits. And the Chinese are right to be worried about their investments, as the AP reports on how much worse those deficits will become, and much sooner than the political class admitted […]

in other words, if you’re less than sixty years old, don’t plan on getting any of that money back they stole from you for Social Security. The current thieves will have long left office by then, and Pelosi will be sitting back taking it easy at her winery

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If you attack President Barack Obama’s policies, are you attacking America?

According to today’s left, the answer is yes: Barack Obama is America. And opposition to Barack Obama or any of his policies is, therefore, by definition, anti-American. Just listen to alleged comedienne Wanda Sykes at the White House Correspondents Dinner this past week: “Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails. … He just wants the country to fail. To me, that’s treason. He’s not saying anything differently than what Osama bin Laden is saying.”

This is not a sentiment mouthed merely by the uncouth followers of the Obama administration. It is a sentiment repeatedly expressed by Obama himself. In his inaugural address, he averred, “The ground has shifted” beneath his critics. In his December 2008 meeting with governors, he informed them, “We are not going to be hampered by ideology.” While the Obama administration attacks the Bush administration daily, the Obama administration tolerates no backtalk from outgoing Bush officials; former Vice President Dick Cheney, who recently defended the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, was chided by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs for expressing ideas “the last election rejected.” Debate must end; dissent must stop.

Every tyranny begins with a few simple steps. First, the budding tyranny takes far-reaching control of the economy in the name of the people - what syndicated radio host Jerry Doyle has called “economic fascism.” Often, such economic fascism begins with talk about speculators. “Until we apply terror to speculators - shooting on the spot - we won’t get anywhere,” Lenin said in 1918. Hitler directed the Nazi electoral platform against “Jewish speculators” in 1928. Today, Obama derides investors in Chrysler as “a small group of speculators,” bluntly stating, “I don’t stand with them.”

the petty tyranny of this administration is even reflected in the daily Press Briefings. Today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was acting like a martinet -- grabbing cell phones from reporters. I wonder how long it will take them to turn on him?

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Health Care Hardball

The Chicago approach to governing” is what Republican senator Judd Gregg calls the White House’s tactics on health-care reform: “You’re talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement, and throwing them in the Chicago River.” Gregg is referring to the administration’s plan to use reconciliation, an obscure parliamentary procedure, to pass health-care legislation this year. He isn’t alone; Republicans are up in arms over reconciliation. But the White House itself should be worried about the plan, which could result in reforms far more radical than it envisions.

Reconciliation, employed just a couple of dozen times since 1980, was created in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. It limits debates and amendments and prevents filibustering, meaning that Senate Democrats would need to muster just 50 votes, not the usual filibuster-proof 60, to pass health-care legislation. Some question the fairness of such a move, since reconciliation was originally intended for budgetary issues. That’s partly why Senator Robert Byrd opposed President Clinton, back in 1993, when Clinton flirted with the idea of using reconciliation to pass health reform.

Fair or not, Congress made reconciliation part of the final budget bill that was approved in late April. The White House has been key in pushing the idea. From a distance, this may seem to be overkill. The president’s approval ratings remain robust, his opponents disorganized. With Senator Arlen Specter’s defection, the Democratic Party is on the cusp of having 60 seats in the Senate. Democrats, in other words, would seem to need no Republican help in reforming American health care. So why all the talk about reconciliation?

Perhaps because the White House’s health-care agenda is too radical to appeal to moderate Democrats. Take the idea of a public health plan modeled on Medicare and open to all. Since public programs have a competitive advantage over private plans-they employ wage and price controls, leading to artificially low premiums-many people, perhaps tens of millions, would doubtless opt for a Medicare-style plan over their usual private insurance. Needless to say, this proposal has already sparked sharp resistance from some Republicans, but when specific legislation (along with a big price tag) comes forward, it’s likely that opposition will grow, not shrink, with the addition of more conservative Senate Democrats like Bill Nelson and budget committee chairman Kent Conrad. The usual 60 votes needed to pass legislation in the Senate may not be so easy for the White House to obtain. And thus the administration’s embrace of reconciliation.

The catch, though, is that without the support of Republicans and, potentially, of moderate Democrats, the White House will depend heavily on liberal Democrats like John Conyers, a congressman from Michigan, who are well to the left of the administration on health care. In the last Congress, Conyers proposed a bill that would create a Canadian-style socialized health-care system; it won the support of almost 90 House Democrats. Without the need for Republican and moderate Democratic support when their legislation reaches the Senate, these representatives will have a free hand to write a bill that even the White House could find too radical.

Senate Republicans have a choice. They can try to stay relevant by compromising, or they can play their own hardball-avoiding any White House talks so long as reconciliation is on the table. That tactic is risky, since it depends on a White House rift with liberal Democrats, but it has one advantage: it could save American health care from Conyers and his allies.

(David Gratzer, a physician, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute)

this doctor explains to the Republicans the necessity for growing a spine. I hope they’re listening

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John Murtha opponent says aide threatened him

The Republican who challenged Rep. John Murtha in 2008 says a top aide to the embattled Pennsylvania Democrat threatened to have him recalled to active duty in the U.S. Army so he could be court-martialed for engaging in politics while serving in the armed forces.

Bill Russell - who challenged Murtha in 2008 and intends to do so again in 2010 - said Murtha chief of staff John Hugya made the threat during a National Rifle Association event in mid-March.

Ret. Col. Gregory Ritch, a former Army Reserve officer who served as Russell’s commanding officer, said he heard Hugya make a similar threat in January.

“[Hugya] said, ‘When the [new] secretary of the Army comes in, we’re going to call his ass back to active duty and we’re going to prosecute him under the [Uniform Code of Military Justice],’“ Ritch said Hugya told him during their January conversation.

Ritch said he reported the incident to a military lawyer at that time, although he didn’t think Hugya was serious until Russell informed him of the second threat in March.

Russell was on active duty for part of the campaign - from April 2008 to June 2008 - but then retired and was no longer in the Army Reserves during the remainder of the race.

Ethics experts said the comments attributed to Hugya - while unseemly - don’t present a clear-cut ethics violation.

Russell said Hugya approached him at an NRA event in March and said, “I got something for you. What are you going to do when we get the new secretary of the Army seated and have your ass recalled to active duty for that s-- you pulled last summer?”

Russell said that he and Hugya then engaged in a nasty exchange over comments Murtha made in 2005 about the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines. Murtha, himself a former Marine colonel, alleged that the Marines had killed the civilians “in cold blood,” a claim that infuriated current and former Marines […]

the emphasis is mine. Murtha is a good example of a Dem bottom-feeder. His hand is plunged into the pork barrel up to his shoulder. But will his constituents care about his or his aides’ ethics if he keeps money coming into the district?

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From the Washington Examiner:

Feds Are Broke But Keep Right on Spending

There is a cleverly constructed sentence in the AP report about the 2009 budget deficit being $89 billion higher than expected, which will raise the projected annual deficit to $1.8 trillion, or nearly four times as much as the previous record. Here’s how AP explained it: “The unprecedented red ink flows from the deep recession, the Wall Street bailout, the cost of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus bill, as well as a structural imbalance between what the government spends and what it takes in (emphasis added).” In sports journalism, such a sentence is called covering for the home team, which in this case includes the present and previous White House occupants and the present majority in Congress.

The two key words in that sentence are “structural imbalance.” Sounds like something beyond the ability of mere mortals to change, doesn’t it? Part of the natural order, kind of like the swine flu. It just happens.

Out in the real world beyond Washington, “structural imbalance” means: Washington politicians are on a spending rampage the likes of which has never before been seen anywhere in human history. The spenders include President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, plus a supporting cast of bureaucrats like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his predecessor, Henry Paulson, and the Democratic majorities in the Senate and House (joined by a few Senate Republicans). These officials are terminally afflicted with what Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, calls “federal spending disease” (FSD) an incurable addiction in which the sufferer is utterly unable to stop spending other people’s money. An intervention by voters is the only effective treatment.


Remember that phrase: Federal Spending Disease. It’s akin to swine flu because those who are afflicted with it are definitely porkers. These people don't have the disease, they're carriers. In other words, their FDS is going to kill the rest of us.

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States to feds: Stay in D.C.!

A movement to reclaim for states all rights not specifically designated to the federal government in the U.S. Constitution is exploding across the nation, with 35 states already acting or at least considering such proposals - and one state lawmaker estimating the nation as a whole could save $11 trillion in coming years if it would succeed.


…according to the Tenth Amendment Center such provisions have been launched in at least 35 states. They all address the Tenth Amendment that says: “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

South Carolina’s S. 424 is an example. It is titled: “To affirm South Carolina’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution over all powers not enumerated and granted to the federal government by the United States Constitution…”

The political class is clueless about this. We went (as part of a group) to see our Congressman, a very nice man in a beautifully tailored suit, to discuss the Tea Party movement. He couldn’t comprehend that it was not about Republicans or Democrats. We repeatedly said it was a national response to the malady of our bloated federal government. He thinks, despite our explanations, that the 10th Amendment movement - which he’d never heard of, even though his own state legislature is pondering a resolution - is “really about secession”. The very notion seemed to frighten him past being able to think about it, but that’s just my opinion. The real news just never gets through the D.C. Bubble.


Tyrone said...

"Hogswallop. Our country, and I am sure Britain as well, is full of bright, productive people who came from impoverished backgrounds. This dude needs to accept the glaring failures of government schools which are more concerned with being politically correct than they are in educating children.I too believe our schools are failing us, but I think if you examine this article closely, you'll find that all 3 of us are kind of on the same page in that.

Perhaps they are failing us precisely because those who benefit the least from a formal education are forced to be in the same institutions those who benefit the most from formal education. If those more suited for plumbing were put to work with plumbers they would have several more years with which to master their craft.

If we didn't have to dumb down the high school material to accommodate them, we could spend more time teachings the students that want to learn and less time sending behavioral problems to detention.

filthykafir said...

I'm with Tyrone. Here's why. In our still-relatively-mobile economy, people who have achieved middle-class status, as opposed to poor status, did so through the application of superior intelligence, on average. Even allowing for the phenomenon of regression to the mean(1), the children of parents who have achieved (or simply maintained) the middle class will be brighter (have greater academic and life potential) than those of parents who failed that achievement.

We may make jewelry from either gold or lead; each has its beauty, function, and value. But, one still glitters and one doesn't, and no amount of rouge or rhetoric will change that fundamental, elemental, difference.

We may agree the schools are, generally, poor. Even so, some children will learn more and some less, depending on factors entirely outside cultural influence. We needn't succumb to the quasi-marxist argument that "it was society done it."

(1) Regression to the mean describes the statistical (and quite real and inescapable) phenomenon whereby the offspring of highly intelligent people are relatively less intelligent then their parents and the children of low-intelligence people are relatively smarter than their parents. The IQs of the offspring of either extreme on the continuum of score distribution trend in the direction of the mean, 100. (This statistical phenomenon may be observed with measurements other than IQ, as well.)

Anonymous said...

Lets be aware that Chris Woodhead is the only recent chief of Ofsted (the OFfice for STandards in EDucation) who has dared to be politically incorrect.

Before passing any comment on the current parlous state of the UK State educational system, it is necessary to understand some history, and the political ambitions of the ruling Labour party.

Post 1939-45 war, the system consisted of local Primary schools up to age 11. At about 10 years old, a pupil sat an 11+ test intended to provide the necessary intelligence and aptitude information about the pupil so that they could be correctly allocated to the appropriate Secondary school. Secondary schools came in two basic sorts: Grammar which was intended for the top 20% or so and geared to provide them with an academic education to get them into university; and Secondary Modern which was intended to provide an education for the rest up to school leaving age.

Though much attacked for the divide that it created at 11+, the system was actually quite good at bringing on intelligent kids from working class backgrounds. It presented the equality of opportunity.

However, since the 1970s, Labour wanted equality of outcome. So by various means, some fair, mostly foul, they trashed the education system by introducing Comprehensive schools in most areas. Instead of raising the standards of the lowest achievers, it has had the effect of reducing the standards of the highest achievers, and one could make a serious case that such an outcome was in fact what was intended. One would need to look at the Fabian Society literature as prime sources for that argument.

Realising that they were open to the charge that they had "dumbed down" the education system, the various governments of the day looked for quick fixes, and slowly but steadily, the school leaving age has been increased from 14 just before I was at grammar school with the intent now to make it 18. And all with pseudo academic subjects, as that is all that schools can cope with.

This is also necessary to achieve the government's arbitrary target of 50% of all 18 - 21 year-olds in University education. And to achieve it, they are trashing the University sector as well. Bachelors degrees are becoming worthless, especially in subjects such as "Media Studies". But with funding to higher education based on the "bums on seats" principle, it can only get worse.

Sorry for the long diversion on the history, but it is these latter moves that Chris Woodhead is rightly objecting to. No one need imply that a skilled craftsman is any less intelligent than a lawyer, just that their intelligence is better expressed through different tools.

At present, large swathes of the UK school population are being set up to fail. They are being encouraged to aim at targets that it is quite clear are wrong for them. At the same time the old apprenticeship system has been destroyed, as has the night (evening) school approach to bettering oneself. It is as though the Labour government actually wants to create a disaffected yoof wot knows nuffin. Nuffin but gangs n drugs and da bling dat goez wiv risin to da top o dat tree.

Dymphna said...

RE: “regression to the mean”: how bright do you think the inbred children of the British monarchy are?

In his high school days, the Baron was one of those Grammar school kids in Yorkshire. He stayed thru his A levels, which allowed him to skip a year of college when he came back to the States.

What impresssd me is his grasp of European history and English literature. The amazing amounts of memorization required for the latter! He can still rattle off reams of Milton and Blake.

But US and British schools are now in a sorry state. In a near-by University town, the local public high school sharply divides its college prep students from the hoi polloi. The former are segregated into separate classes completely, even separate lunch hours, and separate buses to and from school.

The rest are left to fend for themselves as long as they pass the SOLs (Standards of Learning) set up by each state.

The principal of this school admitted to me that they had no middle ground -- i.e., it was college prep for one group and just going thru the motions for the rest, except for those who escaped to the vocational school in 11th grade.

In this second group,of those just being warehoused, there is a large dropout rate. Surprise.

In the local Catholic school, somehow they manage to educate all the kids, even the "not-so-smart" ones. These kids come out literate in reading, writing and math. They are ready for post-high school training in whatever non-academic field they may choose.

Fortunately, there is an excellent community college that provides this kind of training. And employers want the Catholic school kids because they are trained to be productive and to accept the moral authority of their elders.

Home schooling produces the same results.

Dymphna said...

The problem is the ideologues have gotten hold of the education biz in this country. There is a comfortable sinecure waiting for anyone willing to jump thru the hoops to become accredited and to spout the party line.

In America, the teacher's union is very powerful and joining it is mandatory if you're hired by the public school system.

Private schools can pick and choose, but they are forced to pick from among those who can afford to pay 10,000K a year for their tuition. Not all of these rich kids are smart, believe me.

When the Baron was ekeing out a living as a landscape artist, he tutored some of these kids to raise their scores enough to pass the SATs required for college. Rich parents paid good money to have their unmotivated, uneducated children dragged through the slog necessary to master the basics of Maths.

City Journal (on our sidebar) follows education issues. It is an excellent resource on what works in education and what doesn't.

BTW, our highly-touted "No Child Left Behind" education pork barrel provided not one penny for vocational training.

Like much else that government has mauled, our schools are in a sorry state. Anytime gummint gets into the picture, standards will go down.

All that said, some children are naturally bright, despite their circumstances. The impoverished ones, if lucky, find a mentor here and there to encourage them in their struggles.

The greatest gift any adult could give to the next generation is to take on the task of mentoring just one of these kids. It would be time-consuming, but the pay-off in satisfaction for the mentor is great.

We have to care enough about what is happening to step in and be part of the solution.

Tyrone said...

Sure there are poor kids that are smart and rich kids that are stupid. However, the rich kids are never going to be forced to learn a trade by their parents, whereas the poor kids could thrive by learning trade skills. Members of my family are prime examples of this. Many of the members of my family that dropped out of school and never thought twice about college are far better off financially than many people I know with degrees. They also have the added advantage that their jobs cannot be shipped overseas - ditch-diggers and brick-layers need to be where the ditches and houses are going to be.

The great thing about America is that you can rise above your circumstances if you want to make the effort to do so. The bad thing about America is that if all you really want to do is be a farmer or a construction worker, the education system has little to offer, will discourage you, and later on will even try to make you feel like those trades are inferior goals.

Unknown said...

That people actually ARE different cannot ever be grasped by politically correct societies.

Although children who grow up to become "blue collar" and "white collar" are gross simplifications, they tend to describe the general idea of this distinction between children pretty well, I think.

And what's the use of forcing future blue collars through endlessly boring lessons on subjects they simply don't WANT to comprehend? By forcing future blue and white collars to adhere to the same goals and standards in school is going to frustrate and bore one half by being too hard and frustrate AND bore the other half by being too simple or too repetitive, all while both parties engange in mutual teasing, strife and quarrel. A school engaged in a fight of "jocks vs. nerds" is hardly beneficial for anyone, jocks or nerds.

Confronting "jocks" with 2nd-order integrals will needlessly weaken their self-esteem for subjects they will never need to be successful, rouse their anger at "intelligence" or stifle the remainder of their interest forever. - Confronting "nerds" with too-easy goals or angry, bored or disenfranchised "jocks" will weaken their self-esteem, leading to isolation or feigned/acquired stupidity and stifle their hands-on talents or everything else.

Forcing people to do what they don't like always leads to bad results. Forcing different groups to adhere to the same ideals is even worse.

Anonymous said...

Erik wrote: Confronting "jocks" with 2nd-order integrals...

Uumm.. Here is the 2008 Physics exam paper.

GCSE PhysicsSuch is the degradation of standards of education in the UK, that second order integrals may well be out of the range of the competance of the teachers themselves, leave alone students.

It is fairly obvious that this paper has not much to do with physics, but is really a test of how well students have absorbed current propaganda. This state of affairs is not an overnight phenomenon, but is a result of over three decades, for whatever reason, of government interference in education. The tragedy is that the current level of competance of teachers of maths and physics is such, that they are in no position to reverse the downward spiral. It will take a minimum of 30 years (on the basis that it is much quicker to destroy then to build), for education in the UK to recover.

It is pointless, as well as self-defeating to bring up genetic reasons for the streaming of pupils, as it raises hackles all round. It is true though that pupils are likely to get parental support for subjects in which parents themselves feel comfortable. A skilled machinist or tool maker, for instance, has skills on par of that of a surgeon. A pupil from a "working class" background is thus going to get good support from machinist Dad if he wished to be a mechanic or a machinist, rather then to study classics at Oxford.

Ofcourse there will be exceptions, and some students from backgounds that do not have an academic background, will succeed in highly demanding subjects, with or without parental or social approval. In the main though, I believe that the background of the pupil is far more important.

Dice said...

Motivation is a bigger factor in US public schools. I had a C average and pulled down a 1360 on my late nineties SAT, perfect verbal score(the maths weren't too shabby either, since 1600 was a perfect score). Why the C average? Why do the makework?

Unknown said...

When I was at college authors whose ouput were extraneous to the subject at hand (Film Studies for instance) were prominently placed on the curriculum. Franz Fanton, Edward Said and Judith Butler were three Marxist theorists who I was encouraged to read.

These same names showed up on my Literature and Drama Studies reading list though no one could ever say why they were essential reading, what their scribblings had to do with literature or anything else, and I doubt if any student bothered reading them. I know I didn't.

It is interesting though that Marxist theory holds a prominent place even in curricula not related to political theory, economic theory or social sciences. Possibly woodwork and metalwork students in Vocational schools are told to read Engels. It wouldn't surprise me.

Dymphna said...

Whether we go the nurture or nature route to describe intelligence (not academic prowess), the variables are too great to ever answer the question in any final form.

For example, we haven't covered the doctor who wants his son to go to medical school while the kid just wants to fix cars. Parental contempt can be toxic.

Or the blue collar girl holed up in her room reading Austen while her family makes fun of her for "putting on airs".

DP111 has a great point about the ineptitude of teachers. In the US, the teacher population is consistenly drawn from the lowest level SAT scores...or lowest to make it into college, anyway.

When we started homeschooling, the teacher/administrator who was responsible for the oversight of our progress couldn't spell and never seemed to have heard of paragraphs. It was embarrassing.

And as long as there are teachers' unions the quality will continue to decline.

Tyrone said...

we haven't covered the doctor who wants his son to go to medical school while the kid just wants to fix cars.That's not the school's issue. That is a family matter and should be dealt with as such. In a perfect world, the parents, child and teachers would all decide together what path might be best and most realistic for the child.

Anonymous said...


To illustrate the catastrophic fall in standards in the UK, I chose subjects such Physics and Maths, where an objective assessment can be made. It is here that we see the standard that is being set by the education authorities, and hence the standard that teachers themselves need to attain before they can teach.

When Erik wrote about 2nd order integrals, I almost fell off the chair laughing. Math teachers in UK comprehensives would not know what Erik was alluding to, even in the most vaguest of terms.

When I quoted a figure of 30 years to get back to standards prevalent in the fifties and sixties, I was being very optimistic. It requires two or three generations of ever increasing standards of pupils to teachers, teachers to pupils, pupils to teachers,etc, before we get there. That positive cycle was broken in the seventies, and alas it is the negative cycle we are in.

It must be noticeable by now, that no real significant breakthrough in Physics has occurred in the last generation. The much vaunted technological revolution of the last few decades, is really nothing but the continued exploitation of fundamental breakthroughs of the immediate post-war years.

PapaBear said...

re: regression to mean: this effect is most pronounced at the extremes of the bell curve. The result is that the children of the extremely intelligent are more likely to be somewhere between their parents level and the average IQ. However, they ARE very likely to be above average. It is born out by statistics that the average intelligence of the children of intelligent people will be above average.

Yes, there are plenty of children of poor people who grow up and become middle-class or wealthy, but how many of them are children of immigrants who grew up poor because their parents just didn't have the skills to immediately do well in American society.

Unknown said...

The much vaunted technological revolution of the last few decades, is really nothing but the continued exploitation of fundamental breakthroughs of the immediate post-war years.In the US Congress accepted federal involvement in education in 1958 as part of a "brain race" against the Soviets. This was in the wake of the panic over the launch of Russia's Sputnik satellites and the failure of the Vanguard satellite ("America's Sputnik") to get off the ground - so technological advancement would have been at the forefront of people's minds.

I've lost the link but there is a site somewhere on the internet that shows a scanned copy of a test paper from a village school dated over a hundred years ago and written for American children of about 12 years of age. The contrast between the standards of education in the 19th century and today are amazing.

Anonymous said...

Schools now have teachers who themselves were the victims of government interference in schools when they were pupils. So we have a spiralling downwards in educational standards. Poorly taught pupils who become poor teachers, who give rise to pupils, who are worse then the generation before, and so on.

The last two decades has seen a concerted attack by governments, both Conservative and Labour, on the last bastion of academic excellence - the universities. These institutions are also now in free fall. Singapore and other such places, do not regard a British degree of any worth, and consequently do not send their students here. Yet just 30 years ago, a British university degree was considered the best. Only Oxford and Cambridge are still exempt from this malaise. I wonder for how long these two venerable institutions can hang on, given the financial pressure they are being subjected to by Nu Labour in its mad drive, for what in newspeak, it terms as "modernisation".

Devaluing education leads to the debasement of the nations history and achievements, and thus makes it easier for ideologues to mould the nation to their will. We see this in progress in the UK, with the BBC in charge of NuEducation. The tragedy is that it has also made it vulnerable to cultural dismemberment by a predatory culture.

Anonymous said...


I hope you can find the link to that exam paper.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned the BBC in the forefront of NuEducation. Amazingly, here is an example.

Bitter-sweet memories of Berlin Airlift
And its analysis by NorthbyNorthwest

Goebbels & Goering : victorious at lastHe writes

So, just as your mind’s eye is tracing the frothy spittle down my McCarthyite cheeks as I rave on about an innocent little piece about something that happened 60 years ago, think how this is being read in Islamabad and Cairo, in Ankara and Nigeria, in the Caribbean and in mill-workers’ cottages in Leeds and Burnley where 1066 is never mentioned, and in Halifax, West Yorkshire and in curry houses in Downtown Halifax Nova Scotia.

What impression will this give to people who don’t grow up with the perspective and (limited) historical knowledge that The Great Escape and Tora Tora Tora and Kelly’s Heroes and Schindler’s List provide? What will the people who listen to their imams and sheikhs ranting on television about how the evil Jews sent poisoned cucumbers into ‘Palestine’ to make Muslims sterile? How will it be read in the republic of Ireland and Indonesia and a France whose newspapers told them that the British authorities deliberately withheld food from Bobby Sands and the other terrorist hunger–strikers?

Why would the populations of those countries have any reason to think that Britain was one the right side in World War Two and the Berlin blockade? Why should their few democratic politicians and many, many undemocratic ones ever consider siding with us and our forces against the great evils at large in the world today after smearing, filthy innuendo like this?

People act according to their beliefs, and if the BBC leads half the world to think the RAF consists of merciless killers, I dread to think how long our own Black Hawk Down people would survive amongst BBC-indoctrinated natives in or near any likely war zone.
To mention the obvious, falling educational standards do not just affect the economy and your future pension, but can have deadly consequences.