Schools Don’t Need More Technology–They Need Less

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I was on my high school’s board of education for a year. It was quite an honor, honestly, but I screwed it up.

At the time, I was a software architect. They put me on the board as the technology guy. I was supposed to make the case for more funding for smart boards and other tech stuff.

But I said kids really don’t need more technology in school. Technology, I said, was like sex education: they’ll get more than they can handle on the streets or watching TV. What they need is a better understanding of how they can use it.

I was thrilled to read that Eric Greitens agrees with me. Maybe not on the sex education part, but on the technology.

This is from Eric’s new book, Resilience:

Today we spend huge effort and millions of dollars to bring more technology into the classroom, when the great majority of students in the great majority of circumstances can learn almost all of what they need to know with a supportive family, a pencil, some paper, good books, and a great teacher. The schools that produced Shakespeare and Jefferson and Darwin had some writing materials, some printed books— and that was it.

Greitens, Eric (2015-03-10). Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life (Kindle Locations 1551-1554). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

The more I learn about Eric Greitens, the better I like him. He understands that a good home and good teachers are more important to education than computers and whiteboards that record what’s written on them. If what’s written on the board is wrong or stupid, smart boards record errors and stupidity. That helps no one.

Here’s more from Resilience on this point:

Imagine you’re a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old school kid at Radley Hall in England in 1837. Here are some of the questions on your winter exam:

  • Why is not virtue either παθος or δυναμις?

  • Give Aristotle’s reasons (4) why true self-love cannot exist in vicious men.

  • Find the length of an arc whose chord is 18, and the chord of half the arc 10 ⅓.

  • Give the characters of Alfred the Great, Cardinal Wolsey, Henry the Eighth, and Queen Elizabeth.

Greitens, Eric (2015-03-10). Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life (Kindle Locations 1554-1558). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

I think I can handle the last question, but only superficially. So, are we moderns really smarter than 19th century Englishmen?

Schools don’t need more technology. They don’t need money to buy smart boards. They need the courage to empower their teachers to teach. We train teachers, then tell them to simply follow Pearson’s marketing education guide. That’s not teaching; it’s robotics.

Maybe Eric Greitens gets it because his mom was a special education teacher, like my wife. 🙂

Today Is National Stomp On Marx Day

Reading Time: 1

Join the fun and Stomp On Marx!

boot-marx

Stomping on things is all the rage on some college campuses. But the kids are missing out on the real fun.

Here’s an exercise I highly recommend for teachers of kids age 14 and up.

Stomp On Marx!

Here’s how you do it.

1. Download and print this picture of the father of communism, Karl Marx. (click for larger image)

Karl-Marx-007

2. Ask each student to stand and stare at the image for 30 seconds.

3. Ask the student to place the image on the floor in front of him or her, face up.

4. Ask the student to Stomp On Marx—right in the middle of his face.

Remember, print only ONE copy of the picture and make all the kids share it . . . because Marx would have wanted it that way.

After the last student is done, ask the class to write a short paragraph describing the experience. Then give everybody an A no matter how half-assed or idiotic the paragraphs were.

Better yet, assign legitimate grades for the writing quality, the honesty, and the thoughtfulness of each paragraph. Write the letter grade on a Post-It Note for each paragraph and stick it to the paper. Then instruct all the students who received an A to trade their grade with a student who got an F. Bs switch with Ds.  Cs get to keep their mediocre, “showed no effort” grades.

Hang the short essays on the wall outside the class. Hang the mutilated image of Karl Marx above the essays.

Finally, update your resume, because you’re about to embark on a new career.

Here’s The Dirty Little Secret About Teachers Nobody Is Telling You About

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I know a teacher pretty well, and I know nasty little secrets she’s not telling.

She sneaks out of bed at 4:45 every morning. No one else is up. No one’s watching her. At that hour, she can do whatever she wants without consequence.

She sneaks downstairs and puts on her make-up in front of the TV. She also encrypts mysterious lesson plans into a little black book. Names and numbers. Goals and strategies. Like a KGB agent plotting a mission to flip a Navy Radioman.

akhennessy

At some point, she eats breakfast and creeps back upstairs to do her hair and get dressed.

Yeah, it’s 14 degrees out, but this teacher’s on a mission. She fires up her Jeep and backs out of the driveway at 6:25. She’s packing her lunch and books and papers and a plot. A plot no one’s telling you about.

That plot’s what’s so threatening to America.

See, there are kids who don’t think as straight as your kids. They struggle. They’re vulnerable.

This teachers knows who they are. She knows their weaknesses and their strengths. She knows how to get into their heads and plant subversive ideas. And she’s really damn good at it.

So these kids who’ve been pre-selected for failure get these ideas in their heads that upset the plan. They start scoring better on secret little tests, so the teacher gives them bigger tests.

They go from 50 to 74 in just a year. Plus they get along better with other kids.

Kids who should be ashamed of their flaws instead grin those obnoxious, gapped babytooth-missingtooth-grownuptooth-grins because, for the first times in their lives, they scored with their grade level.

That’s how dangerous this teacher is.

Now the question is: what the hell do we do about her?

We spent our adult lives vilifying the evil Public School Teacher. We molded caricatures of these creatures sure to rally public sentiment against their nasty breed. We developed narratives – complete with pathetic victims — designed to make the kindest heart turn to stone when confronted with The Teacher.

And these evil teachers, shrewd as they are, ignored our work and went on trying to turn little, predictable failures into happy people with meaningful lives.

Bastards!

But we have hope. In every district there’s one or two crappy teachers—imposters, really. People who use the classroom to advance personal political agendas and hold back the smart kids. Just like there’s Navy sailors who sell secrets to the Soviets and priests who diddle little boys and CEOs who hide debt and lie about revenue. At least we can take solace in the knowledge that not all teachers are heroes.

Reality Check

For conservatives, ragging on teachers, blaming them for our stupid kids, is a sport. Yes, the teachers’ unions are working to undermine America. But so are 4 out of 5 Fortune 500 CEOs.  Do you really think the CEO of GE gives a crap if America remains the world’s strongest economy? Eighty percent of Fortune 500 CFOs would, in their words, destroy shareholder value in order to meet Wall Street’s quarterly expectations. And we’re demonizing teachers?

Teachers are not their unions. From kindergarten to 49-years-old, all but a couple teachers I’ve ever met live and die for their kids.  And I bet I’ve met more than you have.  (For one thing, I was in college for 32 years.) Sure, the Department of Education has been a disaster for learning, but teachers didn’t create the DoE. Jimmy Carter and Congress did. And Ronald Reagan didn’t kill it as he promised.

Here’s What It’s Like To Be Married To A Teacher

Do you have any idea how many times I’ve been driving down the highway wishing my wife would just fucking quit teaching so I didn’t have to hear about her students?  I mean, she married ME, not THEM, but even on Valentine’s Day the only thing she talks about is how this one fifth-grader is mentoring kindergarteners and that one is reading at grade level and another one hasn’t been suspended in a year.

So I ask you: who’s the selfish, angry, greedy bastard in all of this? The teacher who lives and dies for her students, or the Tea Party “leader” who’s sick of hearing about her damn kids?

If you think Bill Hennessy works for America’s future, you’re wrong. It’s his wife. A teacher. And as much as I love her, I’m afraid, in that regard, she’s not an exception. That’s the way teachers are.

Happy Valentine’s Day, baby. A little late, but that’s because I didn’t pay attention to Sr. Ann Gregory when she tried to teach me about calendars in second grade.

My fault, not hers.

American Schools Replace Great Fiction With Government propaganda

Reading Time: 3 minutes

[Originally posted on Redstate.com]

English was my favorite subject in school, so much so that I can still recite from memory large passages of the books we read, like A Separate Peace:

I went back to Devon School not long ago, and found it looking oddly newer than when I was a student there 15 years before.

And who doesn’t know this by heart:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Literature, more than other subject, advances individualism. Writing unleashes the individual. Reading unleashes the mind from conformity. As I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I am free to think, feel, and believe whatever I wish regardless of what some teacher or professor wants me to believe.

Here’s what scholar Karin Sarsenov says of the subject in her paper, The Literature Curriculum in Russia: Cultural Nationalism vs. The Cultural Turn:

Teaching literature in school is by its very nature a tricky endeavor. On the one hand, the canonical works taught remind us of the ultimate transcendence of the individual. The fact that a particular writer is taught in school means that this person’s views, intentions, experiences, feelings, politics and aesthetics have surpassed their contextual situatedness, overcome the forces attempting to marginalize them, and have emerged as the dominant cultural discourse. In this respect, masterpieces represent the ultimate manifestation of individual agency. In the intimate experience of reading, individual agency is also accentuated – reading is a process which cannot be controlled from outside, and in which the inherent hermeneutical openness of art allows for unexpected – and sometimes perhaps even unwelcome – interpretations [emphasis added].

As a tool of individualism, then, literature poses a threat to central control of education and of the mind. So, now, the federal government has begun a purge of literature from primary and secondary education curricula.

From the Telegraph:

American literature classics are to be replaced by insulation manuals and plant inventories in US classrooms by 2014.

A new school curriculum which will affect 46 out of 50 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 per cent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready pupils for the workplace.

How We Got Here

Forty-six states have surrendered control of school curricula to the federal government under the remarkably successful and sweeping “Race to the Top” challenge.

By entering the challenge—with no promising of winning the money—states agreed to replace local school district curricula with federally mandated subjects and standards: the common core state standards. The process took less than two years, and ensures that the federal government will dictate every aspect of a child’s learning forever.

Propaganda Replaces Art

So what will replace Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird?  Recommended Levels of Insulation by the the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California’s Invasive Plant Council.

Common Core Standards doubles down on the 100-year-old compulsory education ideal of producing conformists, disciplined, unquestioning factory workers. Seth Godin challenged this failed system even before Common Core Standards appeared on the scene:

As we get ready for the 93rd year of universal public education, here’s the question every parent and taxpayer needs to wrestle with: Are we going to applaud, push or even permit our schools (including most of the private ones) to continue the safe but ultimately doomed strategy of churning out predictable, testable and mediocre factory-workers?

As long as we embrace (or even accept) standardized testing, fear of science, little attempt at teaching leadership and most of all, the bureaucratic imperative to turn education into a factory itself, we’re in big trouble.

By replacing individualistic fiction like Catcher in the Rye with government propaganda and calling it “literature,” we’re following the Soviet model of producing cogs for the state machine.

So where’s the liberal outrage at this anti-intellectual policy? Or has the left swallowed whole the statist view that people are mere tools of the central planners?

Colleges Suffocate Free Speech

Reading Time: 1

Colleges in the United States are systematically destroying free speech, free thought, and creative writing. Sixty-five percent of colleges and universities censor students, even in creative writing classes.


Hillsdale or nothing.

 

Studies Show Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Vote

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The new fad among Democrats is to see how many illegal aliens they can pack into a voting booth.  While we conservatives decry this illegal and anti-American grab at tyrannical power, we should take some solace in this sobering fact: those illegal aliens probably know as much about the American political system as most 13th generation Americans.

 

The fact is, most Americans are too stupid about politics to vote, which explains the 2008 election.

Just look at these horrendous numbers from Xavier University:

For example, when asked questions about our government and political leaders, the survey results found:

  • 85% did not know the meaning of the “the rule of law.”
  • 82% could not name “two rights stated in the Declaration of Independence.”
  • 75% were not able to correctly answer “What does the judiciary branch do?”
  • 71% were unable to identify the Constitution as the “supreme law of the land.”
  • 68% did not know how many justices are on the Supreme Court.
  • 63% could not name one of their two US Senators.
  • 62% could not identify “What happened at the Constitutional Convention?”
  • 62% could not answer “the name of the Speaker of the US House.”

Who doesn’t want the highest possible number of people to vote?  I don’t.

My vote should not have to compete with that of a moron who can’t blurt out “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” when asked to name the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. (A “moron” is someone with a mental age between 8 and 12, for those of you who vote Democrat.)

If you don’t know that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, you should not be allowed to vote–photo ID or not.  Nor should your political opinions carry weight among the 15 percent in this country who actually know something.

Combined with another survey released last week showing that liberals are politically ignorant, closed-minded, judgmental, hate-mongers, you realize that the voting franchise has been diluted too far.