“All the children are above average”

John Derbyshire writes

If you’re not cynical about education in the U.S.A. today, you’re just not paying attention. Robert Weissberg, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois–Urbana, has been paying close attention. In Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, he takes no prisoners, exposing the corruption, trashing the faddish crackpot theories, and lamenting the decline of what was, 50 years ago, poised to become the world’s finest system of education…

“Bad Students, Not Bad Schools might be called an Emperor’s New Clothes book,” he [Weissberg] tells us. “It says what everybody (or nearly everybody) knows to be true but is fearful of expressing in public.” It is, in short, intended as an antidote to educational romanticism. Call it educational reductionism: a clear, fact-based account of human potential, human differences, the place of intellectual achievement in a modern society, and the relation of all those things to America’s particular traditions of liberty and personal autonomy.

This piece by Derb is well worth your time if you’ve any interest at all in the state of education in the 21st century USA.

It brought to my mind this: Some years ago, I recall listening to Garrison Keillor and his homey Prairie Home Companion. Keillor spoke of his hometown, where “all the children are above average.” Ha ha; very funny.

Fast forward, and we were treated to that silly premise put into law: No Child Left Behind. And that was from an alleged conservative, President Bush. It’s clearly getting worse, now that government is in thrall to soft-hands academics.

I’m old enough to have gone to university when most high school graduates went into trades, when an “A” actually meant exceptional effort and results. No, I didn’t get many “A”s; made the few I did get all that more meaningful.

Schools today, starting with what used to be called “institutions of higher learning,” down to elementary schools, now must not only dumb down their curricula, but must ensure that success (and failure) be exactly proportionate to government-mandated racial and gender categories.

I’m left with not knowing which group is the worse: those who push the “we are all capable of anything” nostrums, or those who believe them.


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