Stupid In America, now with added st00pidity

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Back in January, John Stossel took an extra-stupefying look at why American children go into the system smart and come out dumb. The TV special Stupid In America left a nation dumbstruck and generated a whopping 296 comments from you, the fabulous little people. Now the Gimme A Break man is back, and irate teachers are hot on his tail. Says ABC:

Hundreds of Teachers protested outside ABC after John Stossel aired his special, "Stupid in America". They demanded he "teach for a week" so his cameras would reveal how difficult teaching is. Did they let him? We'll tell you what happened when we update the special during the full hour of 20/20 this Friday, September 1 at 10pm.

UPDATE: STUPID IN AMERICA: HOW WE ARE CHEATING OUR KIDS

School officials complain they need more money, but that's a myth. American schools spend about $10,000 per student, totaling $250,000 plus for a class of 25. Where does that money go? Stossel asks South Carolina school official Dolores Wright, "How much money would be right?" Wright answers,"…Oooh. Millions. And it would really make it right…The more, the better."

The more the better? As John Stossel reports, that's another myth. Most of the countries that outperform us spend less per student than we do. American high school students fizzle in international comparisons, placing well behind countries, much poorer countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and South Korea. American kids do pretty well when they enter public school. A recent study claimed public school 4th graders outperform kids in charter schools, but as time goes on, they do worse. By high school, they are well behind.

Why? Foremost, says Stossel, it's the government's monopoly over the school system, giving parents no choice in where to send their children. In other countries, choice fosters competition, and competition improves performance. Stossel questions government officials, union leaders, parents and students. He also shows some of the innovations that have occurred when choice is allowed.

So are American students stupid? "No, we're not stupid…but we just, we could do better," says one high school student. Another tells Stossel, "I think it has to be something with the school, 'cause I don't think we're stupider."

Stupid In America: How We Are Cheating Our Kids will air at 10:00 pm (big hand straight up, little hand on the one-zero) this Friday.

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  1. A recent study claimed public school 4th graders outperform kids in charter schools, but as time goes on, they do worse. By high school, they are well behind.

    Why? Foremost, says Stossel, it’s the government’s monopoly over the school system, giving parents no choice in where to send their children.

    This is a curious observation. Why would 4th grade public school kids not fall behind too, given the government monopoly they must toil under?

  2. there is a H&R post somewhere recently that blows up said “recent study”

  3. Fortunately for us, the first thing that they do in college in America is make you do high school over again, for real this time.

    Most community colleges test everyone upon entering in the basic skills – reading,writing and mathematics. They then place you appropriately. They don’t assume that you learned anything just because you have a diploma.

  4. The real problem with education is students first, parents second, schools third.

    Kids don’t want to study or do homework.

    Parents don’t enforce their kids to do homework, some don’t help and some can’t help their kid’s with homework.

    A school can not force kids to do their home work, nor force parents to supervise.

    For the kids that try hard, do all of their assignment and still have problems need, and may want help. They are the exception.

    No one want to point the finger at the kids. It’s easier to blame the schools.

  5. The U.S. education is revealed often, when Jay Leno goes to the streets and ask questions. Even college educated and some school teachers are dumber than “dirt”. How things have changed since the 1950’s.

  6. TrickyVic makes a good point. You can’t force someone to learn who has no interest.

    A very interesting thing I’m observing, as my daughter enters (public) middle school… the school district is battling to better student learning (or test scores, at least) by pushing a very intensive curriculum. I have to say, it’s pretty hardcore, with lots of work. 7:30 am to 3:00 in the afternoon. Parents of the previous year are saying to expect at least 3 hrs of homework a night. Plus several required extra curricular science seminars throughout the year. This is for 6th grade.

    I can say with certainty that this would not have served me very well when I was that age. I was too busy being eleven. My daughter is certainly at a more advanced stage than I was at the time (I went to Catholic schools) in math and language skills due to her schooling. I think she’ll be OK with the growing workload. But I would have been in despair had I been given her burden.

  7. Lots of reasons why schools suck: the notion that kids bear no responsibility for the learning process, so if a kid isn’t learning it is always and only the fault of the teacher; emphasis on sports and extracurricular activities over the education itself; social stuff like self-esteem seminars viewed as more important than actual knowledge; the idea that a diploma is an end in itself, not a symbol of actual acquired learning; and some truly damnable educational theories, like emphasizing “whole-word” reading over phonics.

    Whole-word reading makes perfect sense if you’re teaching Chinese, where each word is represented by a single character, but it completely negates the advantages of an alphabetical language: if I give you a word you’ve never seen before, like “franglebunch,” you still have a pretty good chance of figuring out how to pronounce it, because you know that letters tend to correspond to certain sounds. But that isn’t taught anymore. No, now it’s “whole word” reading, not “sound it out and tell me what it says.”

  8. As a college educator, and someone who has dealt with many (future and present) teachers, the problem is actually a lot more complicated that this. Our best and our brightest do enormously well. Heck, from my experience interviewing for Dartmouth, unless the kid is published already in a research journal, he is not getting in. There are so many national programs (summer institutes, competitions, research opportunities) that competition among the top students is probably better than it has ever been.

    We also do remarkably well with special education students (we spend an awful lot of money on them). Unfortunately, I know a lot less about this area.

    However, all of this comes at the expense of the “average students”. We are looking at a very bimodal distribution of students these days. Either they are a star or they are nothing.

    And this is not unique to public schools. Ask any college admissions office about these wonderful home school students you here about today. By in large if the parents have a graduate degree, the student is a super-genius. But otherwise, the student is worse than the average high schooler, as hard as that is to believe.

  9. Great premise, poor conclusion. I briefly attended school in Germany, one of many countries where students out-test Americans, and let me tell you there is far, far less choice for parents there.

  10. Part of the problem is that the basics seem to be de-emphasized. I was fortunate to attend a private fundamentalist Christian school as a youngster. Whatever one thinks of the theology, I was drilled in the essentials over and over again. Phonics was the forefront of the reading programme, and I could recite several charts of phonetic equivalents. Addition was drilled and drilled and drilled. Multiplication and subtraction likewise. We read and read and read some more.

    Perhaps the only negative is that we were taught to read with significant passages from the KJV. As such, I spell like a Brit. They corrected me when I got to public school, but I reverted as an adult.

    – Josh

  11. Great question but a poor answer. I briefly attended school in Germany, one of many countries where students out-test Americans, and there is far, far less choice for parents there.

    Also there are numerous problems with the analysis. I don’t have all day, but first to jump to mind: one of the reasons school costs more in America per student is that here, communities traditional wrap adolescent athletics in with the school facilities and budget. This is not always the case abroad, and even where it is, rarely do foreign communities prize their high school sports teams to the extent so many small American communities do theirs (there are, of course, a few exceptions). Those giant football stadiums that the whole town enjoys cost a lot of money.

    All around, the issue is more nuanced that people generally give credit for. Having seen both “good” and “bad” public schools in both America and Germany, there are benefits to being bad and costs of being good. You haven’t been depressed until you’ve seen a truly burnt-out 17 year old, or had an 11 year old tell you they aren’t smart enough to acheive their dreams. Traditionally mediocre secondary public education fosters creativity, as anyone who hung out in the hallways discussing philosophy or writing songs for their band could tell you – and America’s strength has always truly been it’s creativity.

  12. I remember a sobering moment from my High School Experience in 1994:

    The debate was “Should seniors be allowed to leave campus during free periods?”. Obvious we all wanted it but the teachers naturally were worried that we would misbehave, leave for the day, or even get into a wreck that they would be liable for.

    I offered up the suggestion “Why not tie priviledges to performance and grant priviledges to those who have shown previous responsibility, judged by things such as good grades and low rates of skipping class?”
    The teacher leading the discussion threw me a look of disgust and disbelief and said “this will not be discussed”. Later I was “reprimanded” for making such a selfish suggestion (selfish, because I had good grades and did not skip class) and reminded me that, “in this school we believe in fairness, and that means either everyone gets a priviledge or no one gets it. NO EXCEPTION”

    In the end they gave it to us, but their hostile reaction to the mere idea of rewarding individual good behavior and their insistence that “fairness” could never mean anything other than “everyone or no one”, regardless of individual qualities, left a profound impression on me.

  13. As long as we’re challenging conventional wisdom, I’m going to suggest a few points that seem obvious to me:

    1) Kids today are smarter than we were.

    2) Schools today are better than ours were.

    3) No matter how good schools become, there will always be outrage about how bad they are & demands for more money. There will never be a front page story in any newspaper announcing that schools are doing pretty well & we have no reason to worry. Even if schools were perfection, that story would be unacceptable to schooling special interests, parents, the general public, and the news media. So, regardless of what the facts are or ever will be, this argument on all sides is mostly based on fumes.

  14. Josh – I spell like a Brit because I read too much Tolkien when I was in HS.

    You know, I don’t know much about education, generally, because my school was decent and most of the people I know are pretty bright. ‘Course, we had mostly mid to upper middle class backgrounds, so I’m not sure me and my friends are a representative sample.

  15. If American schools were so great, cretins like John Stossel would be dismissed.

  16. Tim,
    Thanks for linking to that past thread. It was one of the most edifying for me, even though I came away battered and bruised. Sometime afterwards I thought of something I wish I had said then, so I’ll take the opportunity to say it here. I argued that all schoolteachers should posses a basic minimum capacity for rational thought. I was challenged as to what benefit this would incur to someone teaching English or History. This is what I would have liked to have replied:

    Rigorous thought is like a workout for your brain. What I am saying is that a healthy mind requires exercise in the same way a healthy body does. Perhaps I should have picked a better example than algebra. In this case, algebra is like a treadmill. You ask me to provide a specific example of what it will enable you to do, but the benefit is not the ability to walk in place, the benefit is the strength gained from having done so.

  17. I spell like a Brit because it colours my writing by adding superflous letters and it makes me appear cultured like an episode of Masterpiece Theatre.

    And I like British writers who use initials like J.R.R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling.

  18. Stossel’s premise – that there exists a “government monopoly over the school system? is patently absurd. America offers more choice than any other country in the world. Try to home-school your child in Germany or Belgium. Ask a Chinese parent how much input she gets into her child?s school system. The issue is not that American children are forced to go to public school, the issue is that every taxpayer is forced to pay for those schools. It is true that a lot of taxpayer money is wasted in our public school systems, but let?s not pretend our children would learn any better if we stop funding public schools or gave parents who don?t really give a damn about their kids education a ?choice? via a voucher system. Stossel is being a weasel.

  19. Stossel pretty much blew his credibility when he referenced a test on 20/20 that hadn’t actually been done.

    Personally, while I obviously agree the government has no business running schools here, I think the number one reason students here perform so badly is cultural. Face it y’all: Americans think ignorance is “cool”, intelligence is “nerdy”, & thinkers are to be spied on. No duh we’re going to have stupid children.

  20. “Stupid In America: How We Are Cheating Our Kids will air at 10:00 pm (big hand straight up, little hand on the one-zero) this Friday. ”

    Tim, thanks for the laugh.

  21. My dad new a guy that owned a junkyard and had no education (circa 1954). The whole family worked hard to survive. One day the teacher brought his third grade kid home and told Mr. Boyster that his kid was not doing his homework.

    Mr. Boyster replied excitingly, “homework, you take care of the school work and I’ll take care of the home work.”

    People pay well (taxes) for our childrens education. They give the school system the trust of their kids for 13, yes 13, years in the prime of their development. The system should do much better. Teachers should be trained to motivate kids to learn, that is part of teaching. If we just want to spit data at them, use electronics and rid ourselves of “teachers”.

    If a school is doing poorly, I’d temporarily cut sports and all things connected to it. They may get fat but they would have an incentive to be smarter. They can loose weight.

    As a guess, I would say a community would more than likely celebrate their football team winning a state championship more than that would a scholastic achievements. Things beget things.

  22. Our schools do seem to stink compared to other countries. But it always strikes me that somehow the US manages to turn out a small group of incredibly creative, self-driven and independent people. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the internet revolution and its entrepreneurs took off here, and not in Europe. Our schools don’t teach most kids much, but they also don’t suffocate the true genius who doesn’t need any school. In the grand scheme, that might be better.

  23. Geof, I think the internet revolution took place here because of our economic/business environment, not our schools. Europe has had a number of important people in the history of the Internet but they weren’t able to use the power of corporations to the extent Americans were.

    But maybe you have a point. You don’t generally see smart American kids who are burned out on learning because there’s really no learning taking place in our classrooms.

  24. There isn’t an easy, single-villain explanation for the failure of public secondary schools. There are, however, a host of small factors that add up to serious underperformance. Most of these factors are motivated by considerations that are easy to understand and sympathise with. However, it is exactly this sort of prioritizing rationale above product that produces bad education. Some of these include:
    1) Teachers are unable to discipline students. Punishments for behavioral infractions are generally standardized by the administration, and allow many disruptive students to do so effectively with impunity provided they do anything short of completely outrageous.
    2) Teachers are also tied into school board politics, since the board can effectively remove anybody they want for any reason. I’ve known two excellent teachers who were hounded out by parents for failing to meet their standards of political correctness.
    3) Text books are, for the most part, terribly written and uninformative. Many are actually incomprehensible without the teacher present to decipher them.
    4) The lack of a central educational philosophy ensures that subjects are taught compartmentally. The impression I get is that this approach is not optimal, from a cognitive standpoint. One of the often neglected advantages to private schools is that, freed from the administrative overhead, they are capable of a greater degree of design finesse, and can “connect the dots” a lot better.
    5) The use of technology in the classroom tends to be, as a whole, pretty unimaginative.
    6) Finally, students aren’t particularly punished or rewarded for their academic performance, only for their behavior. My gut tells me that more motivation in this area will be necessary to overcome anti-intellectual attitudes that seem inevitable with adolescents.
    Okay, I’ve reread all of this and it sounds a lot like the complaints of a bitter nerd. So, take it in the spirit it’s given.

  25. I spell like a Brit because I am.

  26. Stossel doesn’t have enough credibility or subjectivity to warrent attention.

    I was pleased to see many comments on this thread recognizing that teachers, indeed public education, might not be responsible for all of the perceived lack of learning on the part of today’s American students.

    My grandmother, having completed eighth grade, would have beome a teacher in Kansas had flooding not kept her from completing her final training. My father returned to college and became a teacher when a new freeway took his service station and garage. After several years as a laboratory technician, I completed college and became a teacher. Over the years we had many discussions about education. I also had the benefit of seeing many of the report cards, papers and notes collected throughout our educations, leading to some observations.

    2006 graduates from our public high school are better prepared for college than my own children were in the early nineties; my children were better prepared than I was in the late sixties; I was better prepared than my father was in the early forties; and my father certainly had advantage over his mother’s 8th grade education.

    Neither my father nor grandmother were lacking in knowledge, ability, or skill. I marvel at the knowledge, ability and skills of my children. I don’t believe for a minute that it is our public education is failing our children. If there is failure (and there certainly is for some), it seems to me that it rests with our cultural lack of respect for learning and education.

    My grandfather (one of thirteen children) who had to begin working after finishing only six years of education urged me to finish college. Pointing to his neck, he told me, “From here up belongs to you. No one can take it away. From here down will belong to somebody else if you let it happen.” Smart man, who never stopped learning.

    Our public schools aren’t just to impart discrete bits of knowledge. There purpose is to give willing students the tools necessary for a lifetime of learning. In that light, I feel pretty good about the accomplishments of the public education system I know.

    Doug Not Too Far From Retirement

  27. People are missing the point when they spell out the problems of the government education monopoly…

    None of those things would have to be a problem if people choose schools. You simply choose a school which doesn’t have those problems.

  28. On the cost point, comparing expenditures across countries is bogus. The U.S. is one of the wealthiest countries in the world by a long ways. So any labor intensive activity, like schools, will cost more here than elsewhere. A more fair comparision would be % of average income spent on different countries school systems. But we also have the most % of poor, underclass people of any of the super wealthy countries. Take our poor folks, drop them over into a Swiss city, and I guarantee their scores will fall.

  29. On phonics vs. whole word reading:
    Both actually have limitations so it’s better to mix systems thoughtfully – phonics is limited in that many words in English do not follow enough of a regular pattern. I learned to read without a phonetic approach but that doesn’t mean that an early introduction to phonics couldn’t have helped. Overall, finding ways to motivate children to read and then to wisely choose the best systems to help them makes the most sense. Reading involves not only letter by letter deciphering but also understanding denotation, connotation, pronoun references, ellipsis, and other various lexical and textual cohesive devices. It’s not just a letter by letter or word by word process.

    On the U.S. vs. other countries:
    I think too much is made of the test scores. Students in Japan and Korea test out better than U.S. students on a number of academic subjects but what about their ability to think critically or creatively? My impression is that they tend to lag behind U.S. students here. And there’s sometimes a confusion between good education and good testing. Japanese students might know their own grammatical system (and maybe even abstruse English grammar) better than U.S. students but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that there are much better senior high school essays, with more evidence for logic, coherence, and critical thinking generally, written by American students than by Japanese students.

    Rather than reform American education so that it models the rest of the world in stuffing ginormous amounts of questionably useful (or reliable – ever see a Japanese history text book?) facts into their brains, pushing them towards greater stepford wifery, the emphasis should be on developing students critical and creative thinking skills. In one area the U.S. should adopt the system of other countries. In many countries the schools are graded so that all students must take tests and apply to get into even the public schools of their preference. If they don’t score well enough they must choose a school a rung or two down. Or a private school. What’s ironic is that the private schools in other countries are sometimes just for the kids who couldn’t get into the better public schools.

    I agree with the signer above who said the crisis in education might be just one more way the media likes to latch on to something to create a story.

  30. Sure there are many good public schools in America, but the big point of Stossel’s earlier 20/20 piece is that if you’re poor and the school your kids have to attend is a festering hellhole, you’re stuck there. It’s one of the least “progressive” results of government I can think of, and you could only change it over the teacher unions’ dead bodies.

    The European schools featured in his special are good not because they have more money, it’s that children aren’t forced to go to any particular school based on where they live. Good schools attract more students and more money. Bad schools improve or close.

  31. A few examples of the limitations of phonics:
    ‘ea’ can be pronounced as ‘ee’ as in ‘treat’ or ‘ay’ as in ‘great.’ ‘ow’ can be pronounced as a long ‘o’ sound as in ‘bow tie’ or as ‘ow’ as in ‘cow.’ ‘gh’ can be pronounced as ‘f’ as in ‘laugh’ or silent as in ‘caught’ or ‘g’ as in ‘ghost.’

    And then there’s the famous George Bernard Shaw example of ‘ghoph’ which can be sounded out as ‘fish.’

    Not an argument for dispensing with phonics but just that yes, probably better to mix systems. Mix reading systems not economic systems! (I know, *groan*).

  32. Hale and Nathan both make good points that I second. To these, I would add:
    1. The system is structured in such a way that good teachers will always work much longer than they are paid for. And unlike in corporate America where I’ve been well rewarded for doing more than the minimum, the good teachers do so only for their own piece of mind and receive no additional official recognition past the below-average ones (perhaps this is why r4 got the reaction he did.)
    2. There is a strain of intellectual egalitarianism in America.
    3. A number of parents seem to think that education is the sole dominion of the school. If Johnny comes home and does nothing but play video games and hockey after school, but he still ain’t smart, it must be the school’s fault.
    4. Curriculum is political. Whether it be that the Iriqoius wrote the Mayflower Compact for the Pilgrims (New York) or the Intelligent Design is at least as valid as evolution (Kansas), we teach our kids a LOT of worthless garbage. Take “Heather has two mommies”. I’m fine with normalizing children with non-traditional value systems if there’s no trade-off. But the opportunity cost is that there’s less time to spend on, ya know, MATH and ENGLISH. The book seems a little outside of the school’s scope compared to those two, doesn’t it?
    5. The money that makes it onto the school site (excepting at sports-mad high schools) if generally (yes, I’m generalizing) well-spent. The percentage that is skimmed off the top at the district office by administration for salaries and pet projects is CEO-like in its excess, yet adds absolutely no value to the learning process.

  33. “IS” generally (see point 5)

  34. TrickyVic:

    Kids don’t want to study or do homework.

    Explain to me how kids here are inherently less interested in learning than other countries. I don’t think there’s a kid born anywhere who wants to sit in school all day rather than play and goof off.

    To those defending the current system: the defenses I’ve seen consist of “we still produce smart kids,” which ignores how much smart kids ignore what they’re taught before college (I don’t believe swimming underwater automatically gives you Legionnaire’s disease or that radio telescopes are for the purpose of listening to the speeches of Lincoln still bouncing off the hills, as I was taught in grade school); “tests don’t measure creativity,” which is goalpost-shifting; “we have it better than we used to” which doesn’t explain why we lag compared to other countries; “choice isn’t a feature of other systems,” which ignores the other systems where choice is a factor and elides the question of poor performance; and “spending isn’t that great in other countries,” which ignores the fact that per-capita spending in countries with similar per-capita incomes to ours is vastly lower than the US.

    So once you’re done saying “Stossel is a bad man ick,” you have to say what you’re going to do to make the current schools better, how this will be different from every other reform there’s ever been, and why you expect to get this through the education bureaucracy when similar reforms have failed to make an impact.

  35. And then there’s the famous George Bernard Shaw example of ‘ghoph’ which can be sounded out as ‘fish.’

    Which is why language–and math–require age-appropriate techniques that reflect the learner’s development…the vocabulary of most 6 year olds is served quite well by phonics…whole word instruction at early ages is like asking someone who doesn;t even recognize the numbers 1 thru 10 to be able to multiply.

  36. Face it y’all: Americans think ignorance is “cool”, intelligence is “nerdy”, & thinkers are to be spied on.

    If you think this is unique to America you must not have had any contact with people from Australia and working-class Britain.

    In Australia they chop the tops off the “tall poppies”.

  37. TV, shecky, and Jennifer make excellent points here.

    But forgive me while I wave the red shirt of “multiculturalism”, which I think is a huge factor here.

    These “poor” countries mentioned, who do “better” than us (Poland, the Czech Republic and South Korea) are pretty much homogenous as far as population.

    We, on the other hand, have groups of people who, in varying degrees, work against the system. They throw wrenches into the machine and slow it down for everyone else.

    And the kicker is, that in the ideology of “multiculturalism”, this type of behavior is not only tolerated, it is very much encouraged.

  38. Public schools don’t encourage thinking, they encourage “sit down, SHUT UP and listen”, which stifles the natural curiousity most kids have. I graduated high school with a 2.6 because I just was not inspired to learn. The prison-like herding of our kids (THAT’S THE BELL, SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN!!) serves to make us all stupider.

    Happy note: I had a 33 ACT and went to college and netted a 3.7. Hmmm…you think I was just some lazy kid, or that I was tired of being treated like cattle?

  39. For once, I agree with AR…want to improve kid’s academic performance? Consider making school interesting and relevant.

  40. AR:

    I take it you?re a fan of Roger Waters.

    The problem is, many schools need rigid discipline because they are forced to accept worthless thugs into the fold. But even that isn’t enough to keep schools from turning into defacto prisons, where the ignorance of thugs rule.

    I think it would improve things greatly if the trash was decisively separated from the decent kids.

  41. Well, MNG, I think you’re certainly right. The thugs cowed nerds like us “cuz we was too smart” (note: I went to a mostly white high school full of white thugs, so it’s not like I am stereotyping races here, this is how the thugs liked to speak). However, the forced learning model sucks…the best part of college is that you can ask “Why?” As in, “why is this relevant?” You can also question and argue. Try that in high school, end up in detention. College isn’t about forcing you to learn, it raises questions and topics that hopefully ignite learning passion in you, so you find out about it on your own. Public schools, not to repeat myself, basically are “SHUT UP and don’t question me!…what? how dare you question the teacher!? Detention for you, mister!”

    Great.

  42. A few thoughts about American Education:

    1) Government school teachers are dumber than rocks. Their SAT, ACT, and GRE scores are consistently among the lowest in academics. The knowledge content of their courses is thinner than chicken broth.

    2) All academically successful children are homeschooled. ALL of them. I doubt there are any exceptions. So, why bother with institutionalizing your child, wasting most of their life, depriving them of play and exercise, and allowing them to grow fat, when it is the parents who are doing the teaching anyway. All the school is doing is sending home a free curriculum ( homework) for the parents to follow.

    3) Stossel is right about the government school monopoly. Many posters here have commented on the American creativity. If the funding followed the student we would see daycare centers adding kindergarten and first grade. The local dance studio would become a school. The community theater would open a school. Sports would be privatized and the taxpayer would no longer be paying for Big League farm teams. Schools would open that would ease the strains of the working parent’s schedule. Our nation’s highly creative summer camps would become become boarding schools. There are likely thousands of ways that schools would be more creative and convenient, and would better serve the needs of real kids and their parents with their varied lives.

    Look at the amazing variety of summer camps available to students of every interest, talent, and even disability. ( They even welcome children who are behavior problems.) This is what the free market can offer education.

    4) The “socialization” learned in school is merely prison survival skills. The cliques, and gangs and the highly stylized fashions that identify the groups are merely the school child’s prison tattoo, and too many kids are adopting tattoos as well. Thankfully humans are resilient and most overcome this highly dysfunctional “socialization” in adulthood. Sadly, some do not, and suffer the consequences of their brutalizing school experiences for the remainder of their lives.

    5) Our voucher, parent, and student funded colleges and universities are the envy of the world, but our price-fixed monopoly government schools are the source of continual community acrimony over curriculum and policy issues.

    6) Homeschoolers are doing fabulously well academically. I predict that homeschooling will become the gold standard against which all other forms of institutionalized education will be measured.

    By the way, my 3 homeschooled children were in college by the ages of 13, 12, and 13. All were finished their college general courses, and Calculus 3, by the age of 15. Two finished university with B.S. degrees in mathematics by the age of 18. The oldest of these two recently finished a masters in mathematics. The oldest is a highly ranked athlete. He has traveled world wide. He spent 2 years in Eastern Europe on a humanitarian project, and is now fluent in Russian, and will graduate from university at the same age as his contemporaries who were institutionalized for their education.

    This is not at all unusual for homeschoolers, and remember, please, that my kids ( as do most homeschoolers) never spent more than 2 hours a day in formal studies. The rest of their day was spent in highly creative play. They exercised vigorously and have healthy strong and slim bodies. It was a fascinating process to watch, but gradually their highly intense play gradually transformed itself into highly creative and intense and intensely focused adult work.

    Think about it. How can a child learn to concentrate if from the moment he enters daycare as a toddler, his day is continually interrupted by Pavlov’s bells. A homeschooling child’s life is not run by the sound of a bell. Is is any wonder that institutionalized children have Attention Deficit Disorder?

    In conclusion:

    Homeschooling is the most natural and healthy way to raise a child to an emotionally and academically secure adulthood. Obviously, many children will need to be institutionalized for their education. This is too bad, but necessary. We need orphanages too, but no one would suggest that it is the best way to raise a child.

    If a child must be institutionalized for their education, at least we should allow the funding to follow the child, and not support a sclerotic, price-fixed, government monopoly on K-12 schooling.

  43. Here’s a thought: From an economic viewpoint, whats the incentive to do homework? Being lower middle class in America aint quite the same as being LMC in Czech republic.

    If we want our kids to ‘succeed’, maybe un-success needs to be a little more painful.

  44. AR:

    I see a lot from the teacher’s point of view, since my wife was (until recently) a public school teacher (she’s now private, and even though the pay sucks, she doesn’t have to deal with trash any more).

    She has some say as far as what she teaches, but ultimately she has to follow the curriculum set by the administration. And there are instances where she finds material stupid and pointless.

    Now let’s say some loud-mouth in her class openly challenges said material. Now, can she honestly say “Yeah, I think it’s dumb, too, but if I don’t teach it, I’ll be fired”? No. She has to tell the kid to shut up and read the damned book.

    Teachers get so much shit it’s unbelievable. Everyone (kids, parents, administration) knows how to do their jobs better than them, and are very quick to point that out. Teachers are supposed to “challenge” the kids, but if they score a kid too low, than all of a sudden the lawyers are calling. Administration, like any management system, is very reluctant to take on any heat, so they are quick to throw their teachers to the wolves. Many parents are flaming assholes who think their kids are perfect. Many kids, especially these days, are very shrewd in gaming the system where they get the maximum result with the least amount of effort.

    I’m sure Ms. Jennifer can extrapolate on this.

  45. >All academically successful children are >homeschooled. ALL of them.

    Not true, but here is a more correct statement:
    All homeschool parents are insufferable bores to be around, unless they are insufferable religious nuts.

  46. “Kids don’t want to study or do homework.

    Explain to me how kids here are inherently less interested in learning than other countries. I don’t think there’s a kid born anywhere who wants to sit in school all day rather than play and goof off.””

    Sandy, first of all I did not compare our country to any other, so that question is moot.

    The issue of non-interest I present is based from my recent experence in college. In my mid-life crisis I decided to go college. I had a mission to do the best I could. I considered the responsibility of learning to be mine and only mine.

    I was suprised that very few actually read their assignments, and many rarely did the homework. Some rarely attended class at all. My efforts were greater than most I was around and it paid off. I did very, very well. I would not consider myself as the smartest in the class.

    I heard lots of excuses for bad grades, mostly blaming the professor. I had the same professors as my peers and I made good grades. The difference was in my disipline, commitment, and desire to excel. In other words, I, not my parents, not the school, made ALL of the differnce.

    It’s long overdue for the students to stand up and take responsibility for themselves. If they did, they would excel regardless of the quality of the school. You know, if your learning topic X you can use other materials than what the school gives or sells. It all depends on your desire.

    The moral of this story, if you WANT to learn, you WILL learn.

    Anything else is just an excuse, and what better way to excuse it than blame it on someone else.

  47. I’m sure Ms. Jennifer can extrapolate on this.

    Oh, yeah. The school system where I taught used to have a sign posted in the lobby of the admin building: “There are no failing students, only failing teachers.” (Note to new teachers: if you don’t have tenure yet, DO NOT stand up at a faculty meeting and ask if this can be taken one step further, so that “There are no failing teachers, only failing administrators.” Trust me on this.)

    One year I saw this statistic in my union magazine: about 50 percent of new teachers leave in the first five years. And despite the stereotypes, “salary” was at the absolute bottom of the complaint list. Most complaints involved administrators who wouldn’t support teachers in disciplinary matters; my first year I had a 19-year-old senior who already had an adult arrest record (for actual crimes, not drug-possession bullshit), and despite the fact that he didn’t do a lick of work in any of his classes it was officially the fault of his teachers that he learned nothing. We all should have worked harder to motivate him, you see.

    But there’s other problems, too: in one single class I’d have kids ranging from borderline-retard all the way up to genius. I had to teach to the middle, which was fine for the perfectly average kids but the below-average ones were in over their heads and the above-average ones were bored silly.

    And I got in HUGE trouble when I failed a kid who was a very important athlete. (We’re not talking about a kid who only failed by a point or two; we’re talking about a kid who had a numerical grade of around 30 on a hundred-point scale, because he never did any homework and only did class assignments when he felt like it.)

    And all the political multicultural bullshit: when I had to help rewrite the British Authors curriculum, I had to include works from non-white males, which is kind of difficult when you’re teaching English lit from the pre-20th century era. I met that requirement by replacing “Macbeth” with “Merchant of Venice” (for Shylock’s speech), but later got in trouble when I explained the non-PC meanings of some of the play’s jokes. (And I didn’t bring it upon myself to explain these jokes, but did so to answer a kid’s question.)

    Modern schools combine the absolute worst aspects of right- and left-wing thought.

  48. I’m sure Ms. Jennifer can extrapolate on this.

    Oh, yeah. The school system where I taught used to have a sign posted in the lobby of the admin building: “There are no failing students, only failing teachers.” (Note to new teachers: if you don’t have tenure yet, DO NOT stand up at a faculty meeting and ask if this can be taken one step further, so that “There are no failing teachers, only failing administrators.” Trust me on this.)

    One year I saw this statistic in my union magazine: about 50 percent of new teachers leave in the first five years. And despite the stereotypes, “salary” was at the absolute bottom of the complaint list. Most complaints involved administrators who wouldn’t support teachers in disciplinary matters; my first year I had a 19-year-old senior who already had an adult arrest record (for actual crimes, not drug-possession bullshit), and despite the fact that he didn’t do a lick of work in any of his classes it was officially the fault of his teachers that he learned nothing. We all should have worked harder to motivate him, you see.

    But there’s other problems, too: in one single class I’d have kids ranging from borderline-retard all the way up to genius. I had to teach to the middle, which was fine for the perfectly average kids but the below-average ones were in over their heads and the above-average ones were bored silly.

    And I got in HUGE trouble when I failed a kid who was a very important athlete. (We’re not talking about a kid who only failed by a point or two; we’re talking about a kid who had a numerical grade of around 30 on a hundred-point scale, because he never did any homework and only did class assignments when he felt like it.)

    And all the political multicultural bullshit: when I had to help rewrite the British Authors curriculum, I had to include works from non-white males, which is kind of difficult when you’re teaching English lit from the pre-20th century era. I met that requirement by replacing “Macbeth” with “Merchant of Venice” (for Shylock’s speech), but later got in trouble when I explained the non-PC meanings of some of the play’s jokes. (And I didn’t bring it upon myself to explain these jokes, but did so to answer a kid’s question.)

    Modern schools combine the absolute worst aspects of right- and left-wing thought.

  49. I’m sure Ms. Jennifer can extrapolate on this.

    Oh, yeah. The school system where I taught used to have a sign posted in the lobby of the admin building: “There are no failing students, only failing teachers.” (Note to new teachers: if you don’t have tenure yet, DO NOT stand up at a faculty meeting and ask if this can be taken one step further, so that “There are no failing teachers, only failing administrators.” Trust me on this.)

    One year I saw this statistic in my union magazine: about 50 percent of new teachers leave in the first five years. And despite the stereotypes, “salary” was at the absolute bottom of the complaint list. Most complaints involved administrators who wouldn’t support teachers in disciplinary matters; my first year I had a 19-year-old senior who already had an adult arrest record (for actual crimes, not drug-possession bullshit), and despite the fact that he didn’t do a lick of work in any of his classes it was officially the fault of his teachers that he learned nothing. We all should have worked harder to motivate him, you see.

    But there’s other problems, too: in one single class I’d have kids ranging from borderline-retard all the way up to genius. I had to teach to the middle, which was fine for the perfectly average kids but the below-average ones were in over their heads and the above-average ones were bored silly.

    And I got in HUGE trouble when I failed a kid who was a very important athlete. (We’re not talking about a kid who only failed by a point or two; we’re talking about a kid who had a numerical grade of around 30 on a hundred-point scale, because he never did any homework and only did class assignments when he felt like it.)

    And all the political multicultural bullshit: when I had to help rewrite the British Authors curriculum, I had to include works from non-white males, which is kind of difficult when you’re teaching English lit from the pre-20th century era. I met that requirement by replacing “Macbeth” with “Merchant of Venice” (for Shylock’s speech), but later got in trouble when I explained the non-PC meanings of some of the play’s jokes. (And I didn’t bring it upon myself to explain these jokes, but did so to answer a kid’s question.)

    Modern schools combine the absolute worst aspects of right- and left-wing thought.

  50. All academically successful children are homeschooled. ALL of them. I doubt there are any exceptions.

    Since I just mentioned that I graduated from college with a 3.7 (earned two degrees in 3 1/2 years, no less) and went to publik skools, this elitist statement makes you look like an idiot.

  51. ( Youknowitstrue)
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Homeschoolers are insufferably successful academically and socially. It irritates those parents of institutionalized children who are achieving less.

    If you find an academically successful institutionalized child you will also find parents who are doing everything the homeschooing parents are doing, except the instituionalized child is tired, over scheduled, stressed, and likely overweight.

    So?…Why bother with wasting a child’s life, creativity, and important play time sitting in for 7 to 8 hours in a factory-like buildings and school buses, marching to Pavlov’s bells, and attempting to make the best of a toxic social and academic environment?

    Homeschooling will become the gold standard against which institutional schooling is measured.

  52. ( Youknowitstrue)
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Homeschoolers are insufferably successful academically and socially. It irritates those parents of institutionalized children who are achieving less.

    If you find an academically successful institutionalized child you will also find parents who are doing everything the homeschooing parents are doing, except the instituionalized child is tired, over scheduled, stressed, and likely overweight.

    So?…Why bother with wasting a child’s life, creativity, and important play time sitting in for 7 to 8 hours in a factory-like buildings and school buses, marching to Pavlov’s bells, and attempting to make the best of a toxic social and academic environment?

    Homeschooling will become the gold standard against which institutional schooling is measured.

  53. ( Youknowitstrue)
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Homeschoolers are insufferably successful academically and socially. It irritates those parents of institutionalized children who are achieving less.

    If you find an academically successful institutionalized child you will also find parents who are doing everything the homeschooing parents are doing, except the instituionalized child is tired, over scheduled, stressed, and likely overweight.

    So?…Why bother with wasting a child’s life, creativity, and important play time sitting in for 7 to 8 hours in a factory-like buildings and school buses, marching to Pavlov’s bells, and attempting to make the best of a toxic social and academic environment?

    Homeschooling will become the gold standard against which institutional schooling is measured.

  54. “the vocabulary of most 6 year olds is served quite well by phonics…whole word instruction at early ages is like asking someone who doesn;t even recognize the numbers 1 thru 10 to be able to multiply.”

    Sure phonics is fine for the six year old and as a way to get started but then when he starts seeing that ‘ea’ can be pronounced three or four different ways, that ‘ow’ can be pronounced two different ways and other consonantal clusters and diphthongs have alternate pronunciations it’s time to mix in some whole word reading practice as well.

    And how is it I learned to read without phonics?

    Not saying ‘whole word reading is better’ but phonics does have limitations. Judicious mixing is best.

    As for using test scores on academic subjects alone as the yardstick for a good education system I believe this would be a mistake. If we changed what we tested on the results might be a bit different. In any case, do we really want a society of just competent robots who can whip out a lot of data or do we want a society composed of critical and creative thinkers? Just copying the Korean or Japanese systems will give us the former.

  55. RE: All academically successful children are homeschooled. ALL of them. I doubt there are any exceptions

    I think what the original post was meant to convey was that the better part of learning is done in the HOME, not in the classroom. The post did say that schools provide a free curriculum in the form of the homework sent home with students. I take that to mean that what happens in the classroom is more or less dictated information; what a student, or a student and his/her parents do to absorb and expand upon that information, is truly learning.

    Neither of my parents had more than a high school education (my dad earned a Bachelor’s degree in his mid 30s – he was 20 when I was born, mind you) but they always encouraged me and my sibs to learn. They checked homework, asked if we had any questions about it, read to us, encouraged us to play, think, create, paint, read books outside of what we were given for homework, etc. In that sense, I WAS a homeschooled kid – the complement of instruction I received at home truly eclipsed anything I learned in the classroom. What I learned in class was more or less knowledge by rote; what I learned in the home was how to analyze, think, and apply that knowledge.

    That is what, I think, made high school so tough for me. I could not sit back and take what they taught me, I was bored smart kid who barely graduated. Yet I received honors in college, sort of like Randian. It may have also helped that I attended University as an adult, but in college, I was encouraged once again to think and analyze and apply. It was learning for a purpose beyond getting a diploma – it was learning to enrich life.

  56. Sure phonics is fine for the six year old and as a way to get started but then when he starts seeing that ‘ea’ can be pronounced three or four different ways, that ‘ow’ can be pronounced two different ways and other consonantal clusters and diphthongs have alternate pronunciations it’s time to mix in some whole word reading practice as well

    An analogy: in English most words become plural by adding an “s” to the end. But of course there are exceptions: we say “children” rather than “childs.” For a young kid, however, you should teach the basic rules of grammar and then, once they’ve mastered the basics, you go on to teach the exceptions. It would be ridiculous to say that exceptions like “children” mean that it is useless to teach young’uns the “s makes the plural” rule.

    Phonics is the same way. How does a 6-year-old benefit by being taught that “cat” is pronounced “kaht,” rather than learning the sounds made by the letters “c” and “t,” and the way vowels differ depending on whether or not there’s a silent “e” at the end of the word, and the way “c” differs if it comes before an “i” or an “e”? Obviously phonics won’t work for everything, especially not more advanced vocabulary, but it does provide a basic knowledge toolkit which whole-word reading does not.

  57. Dear Matt:
    As an Alumna, I have the pleasure and privilege of interviewing candidates for admission for one of the most elite universities in this country. Every year, I interview kids from public and private schools who would knock you socks off — haven’t yet interviewed a home shooled kid, but let me tell you that kids today are brilliant.
    Home schooled kids who I have met at the university often are brilliant as well, but by NO MEANS are they the only outstanding scholars in this country.

  58. American high school students fizzle in international comparisons, placing well behind countries, much poorer countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and South Korea.

    Not if you take demographics into account. White students in the US do the same as white students in Europe, and about the same as Korean students in Korea.

    Of course, it’s not PC to notice that, much less point it out. ‘Tis much easier to just pretend that it’s not true, even though it’s very well documented, and just keep parroting the liberal “failing schools” mantra.

    American kids do pretty well when they enter public school. A recent study claimed public school 4th graders outperform kids in charter schools, but as time goes on, they do worse. By high school, they are well behind.

    Again, not if you take demographics into account.

    Internationally, the highest-scoring group of students in the world is: Japanese students in US schools.
    Blame the students of blame the school?

    I’ve already posted HnR refs to this data – ignore away!

  59. “For a young kid, however, you should teach the basic rules of grammar and then, once they’ve mastered the basics, you go on to teach the exceptions. It would be ridiculous to say that exceptions like “children” mean that it is useless to teach young’uns the “s makes the plural” rule.”

    Except that in some cases you are not talking about exceptions but common alternate pronunciations. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t teach phonics. Yet, nothing wrong with mixing in whole word reading into it. Really, it is quite possible to learn this way and well. I learned without phonics and have taught children successfully when judiciously mixing the systems.

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