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. 🙂

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?

Who Has the Fear?

Reading Time: 1

For 100 years in America, government, business, and the education establishment built schools and laws about education. The purpose of these government schools and education laws was to produce compliant, unimaginative, order-taking automatons

Don’t believe me?  Here’s Woodrow Wilson, educator and president, speaking on the American plan for education:

We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.

The Tea Party scares the hell out of the ruling class. The NEA, Washington, DC, and Washington University fear the idea of the class of people they programmed to “perform specific manual tasks” thinking and voting independently. Think unions want workers who think independently and create things of meaning?  Are you kidding me?

We who march, rally, speak, make videos, and vote are the enemy of the ruling class, not a mere alternative. 

We are the people, and we no longer need rulers. And that has the rulers panicked.

November 2 marks the beginning of the end of elitism in America.