Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Education gone amok

How can the California PE FAQ be so confusing? I guess that is what happens when it becomes bureaucratization. The modus operandi seems to be legislate the corner case. If some rare bad thing happens, create a large framework of laws to make everything worse, but at least make sure that the bad thing doesn't happen. Then a new bad thing happens and the process starts all over again.

PE seems to be a case of the good intentions gone amok. First off, the instructor must be a properly credentialed PE teacher - unless none are available, in which case any union member can fill in. Yep, credentialing may have at one time been a means of helping ensure quality teachers, but now is just a union protection mechanism. Bureaucracy rears its ugly head.

The PE regulations also provide a lot of talk that really doesn't amount to much. Where are the standards like there are for other subjects?  PE would be easy. Run a mile in 8 minutes. Do 30 push ups. It lends itself to measurement much better than academic standards. Yet that would be too politically incorrect. What about the out of shape kids? (Wait, isn't that the whole point of education?)

And then there is the whole team sport thing. Team sport participation doesn't really count as PE. Why? Probably because they would be getting too much exercise and not enough indoctrination.

Then we have the California Star test. In 2nd grade, the math questions are read to the students. They don't trust them to be able to read. In second grade! Ironically, a bunch of these kids walked out of the test and picked up their thick Harry Potter books. But, because they had to wait and twiddle their thumbs until the teacher could read the problems. (I'm glad they didn't do that when I was in second grade. I always preferred the written problems.) There was probably somebody somewhere that complained about getting bad math scores because they couldn't read. (Wait - aren't there reading tests also? Well, it isn't as if there is any coherent logic to this.)

At one time, the education system provided people with a common set of tools that they could use to interact in society. Now, education has tried to reduce that denominator as far as it can go. Pretty soon we will just have grunting as the standard. It attempts to cater to "subgroups". Why study T.S. Eliot when we can find a Vietnamese-Mexican Woman poet who wrote at the same time? The matching subgroup would obviously appreciate her writing more, even if the world at large previously disregarded it as fluff. (We wouldn't dare teach anything that was popular with the masses.)   Under-represented minorities in certain fields are praised and more are encouraged to follow in their steps. But isn't this just a way of propagating the elitism? (The literature "canon" is mostly white men. Lets add women and minorities. That way we can still maintain an elitist "canon". Quality doesn't matter. Elitism does.)

We also have the case of technology in the classroom. The problem is that the students often know more about it than the teachers. If the technology really does help learning, could we just shorten the teaching day to allow kids to spend more time learning physics with Angry Birds?

What do children need to learn?  How to get along with different people? How to live in a community? Well, with large magnet schools, people are back to more self-selected equality. So much for getting along with different people.

Maybe it is to enforce equality. Teach down to the lowest level. That way nobody has an advantage. The problem is that this just accentuates the advantage of the well-to-do. With degraded standards, those with resources will learn, while those without will stagnate at the "basic" level.

Perhaps it is just a means of providing jobs. At least our education does that well.

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