Monday, December 10, 2012

Goodbye Atticus and Holden

Catcher in the Rye dropped from US school curriculum 
Schools in America are to drop classic books such as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye from their curriculum in favour of 'informational texts'.
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.

Books such as JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird will be replaced by "informational texts" approved by the Common Core State Standards.

Suggested non-fiction texts include Recommended Levels of Insulation by the the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California's Invasive Plant Council. 
The new educational standards have the backing of the influential National Governors' Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and are being part-funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Great. Kids will lose To Kill a Mockingbird (the best novel ever written) and Catcher in the Rye, and gain... insulation manuals and inventories of plants. It will make them "ready for the workplace". Sigh.

In Ancient Greece, both freemen and slaves could be educated. Slaves were taught a trade, to make them more effective slaves, but were denied education in the trivium-- rhetoric, grammar and logic, and the quadrivium-- geometry, arithmetic, astronomy and music. The trivium and the quadrivium taught men to think.

Slaves were denied education in the trivium and the quadrivium because the intent was to make slaves useful by training them in a trade but to prevent them from thinking for themselves.

Education in the trivium and the quadrivium became known as "liberal" education-- education for free men.

Increasingly our public schools are moving away from a classical liberal education. Our kids are fed pre-digested tropes of various sorts, generally of a secular/Leftist bent. Religion gets virtually ignored. They know nothing of the Bible-- the foundational text of our civilization. Forget philosophy-- how many high schoolers could tell you what Aristotle's Four Causes are, or what Categorical Imperative means, or could discuss Aquinas' Five Ways? Questioning Darwin in a biology classroom leads to federal court. Ditto with a student prayer on an auditorium wall or student acknowledgement of Christ in a graduation ceremony. Now we are dropping great literature from our curriculums, and replacing it with "instruction manuals".

More and more our children in our public schools are being trained to take instruction, to conform, not to think for themselves, not to be free men and women. 


  1. The trivium and the quadrivium taught men to think.

    How do you fail so badly at this fundamental activity?

    They know nothing of the Bible-- the foundational text of our civilization.

    Useless fairy tales for idiots. But that's what Sunday school is for. Take it up with your local church.

    Forget philosophy-- how many high schoolers could tell you what Aristotle's Four Causes are

    Funny stuff. Even philosophers think the four causes are silly, pre-scientific nonsense, sorta like earth, fire, air and water.

  2. On another friends page yesterday I had noted:

    "It seems par for the course to me. All too believable.
    Drone workers do not need an imagination - just government approved instruction manuals. Bit by bit they whittle away culture and creativity in the name of efficiency.
    The very fact the Gates foundation is involved solidifies this in my mind. A bad tree cannot bear good fruit."
    Your classical comparison is excellent, Dr Egnor.
    Time to get out the hatchet.

    I don't know how anyone can possibly be so utterly dim.
    You are the PERFECT slave, at least mentally. "[I]diots"? You must look UP to them, then. I have met dogs with more wit and charm.
    Here's a challenge for you: Go without "earth, fire, air and water" for a week. Avoid them and all their by-products. I am almost positive you will STILL not be able to see the logic of the ancients, not even at the last moments (in 5 minutes or so).
    You will no doubt expire muttering something about Freud or Darwin...or maybe cursing your father or God.
    But, at the very least, after that you can be put to better use by your masters.
    Maybe if they are nice masters they will read something from the 'fairy tales' before they finally get their money's worth from you.
    I pity you. I really do.
    May God have mercy on you, for the world will not.

  3. Shortly after I retired, I spent some time as a volunteer at our local literacy center teaching GED math.

    My students were, for the most part, admirable people. They were adults, most often working parents in low-income jobs, and they were making a personally costly effort to better themselves. To a person they were products of the public school system, and, to a person, every single one of them had been promoted to at least the 9th grade.

    Some of them could barely write. Virtually none of them could solve a word problem, largely because they were functionally illiterate. Not many of them could handle basic money decimals. Fractions? Out of the question. Of course, everyday concepts like percent and ratio had to be taught from scratch.

    Think about it. Think about what it might be like to look at your pay stub, or your credit card statement, and not have the slightest idea whether it's right or not.

    Taking up more complex issues like compound interest was also out of the question. I felt I could not extend the time these men and women were taking away from family and work one evening more than absolutely necessary. But I did spend one evening on bank accounts, saving, credit cards, and mortgages. Life skills, in the 21st Century. In that class, I had a standard question: "If you buy a $100,000 house with a 30-year mortgage at 4%, how much money do you think you will \end up paying the bank at the end of 30 years?" The most common answer (besides "I don't have the slightest idea") was $104,000.

    One might think, "Well, that was the dropout population". Yes, but the outlook is grim for college-bound graduates as well. The National Conference of State Legislatures observed that:

    "The need for remediation is widespread. Thirty-four percent of all students at public colleges and universities enroll in at least one remedial course. The number is higher at community colleges; on average, 43 percent of students require remediation." More voters.

    It is so expensive to remediate ignorance that some state legislatures are finally passing legislation to defund remedial courses at state institutions of "higher" learning.

    A large part of the problem is misallocation of effort, as Egnor points out. Politics and pop psychology propagated by Progressive poseurs have trumped content. I read a newspaper article several years ago (WSJ, I believe), that reported the result of some international comparison of high school age students, and American students trailed miserably in science and math (as they always do, in any of those studies). But they did shine in one area: self-esteem.

    If there is a single public institution that represents the apotheosis of Progressive politics, it is the public school system in America. And having taught students from both sides of the high school diploma, I can tell you that the entire edifice should be torn down and re-engineered back to basics like mathematics, reading skills, grammar, and the Western canon of literature. Our schools are an embarrassment... a horrendously expensive embarrassment.

    We have graduated a huge slug of functional idiots into the mainstream of American life, and we are going to pay for that. You can't find a tech CEO that isn't begging for more H1-B visas because we are graduating students in bullshit "interdisciplinary" majors like "climate studies", "environmental sciences", and "health sciences". Even the guru of the watermelon eek!ophile, Marin County, Fair Trade coffee and organic cotton clothesline set, Al Gore, got a D in "Rocks for Jocks"... oops, sorry... "Earth Science", at Harvard.

    I'm not much of a movie fan, but a colleague suggested I watch Idiocracy. Frankly, I didn't find it amusing in the least. As bad and hackneyed as it was, it was prophetic.

    1. I read a newspaper article several years ago (WSJ, I believe), that reported the result of some international comparison of high school age students, and American students trailed miserably in science and math (as they always do, in any of those studies).

      The current crop of students have spent almost all of their education in the environment engendered by the "No Child Left Behind" policy. Exactly who was it who backed this anti-educational project again?

    2. Right. Blame Bush. How original.

    3. Yes, it's almost as if Bush's actions while President had consequences.


    4. And almost as if Barack Obama's haven't.

    5. Right. Blame Bush. How original.

      That's an interesting complaint coming from someone who said "Politics and pop psychology propagated by Progressive poseurs" is at fault for the weak performance of the current crop of students. But the current crop of students have been educated almost entirely under a nationwide regime implemented by a conservative President.

      And you whine when this is pointed out. So, which is it? Do politics affect education or do they not? Or do they only affect education when the horse you are backing isn't calling the shots?

    6. Who said anything about the "current crop" of students? Me? Did you see those words used anywhere, in anything I wrote? It's not hard to debate if you just make up the debating points as you go along, moron. Let me guess, you're one of the Idiocracy, too.

      This is not a new problem. The GED courses I taught started in 2002. It wasn't "Bush's fault" then, was it? They had quit school and moved on before Bush was President.

      We didn't get where we are in the last 4 years, the last 12 years, or even in the last 20 years.

      And whining? I don't even have kids, you twit. If I did, I would have home-schooled them or sent them to a private school; like many Chicago teachers do, and like the Progressive-in-Chief, President Lackwit, does. But I do see the damage multi-decadal waste and lunacy wreaked on children.

      Why are you happy that a third of freshmen need remedial reading and math?

      You people are f**king sick.

    7. We didn't get where we are in the last 4 years, the last 12 years, or even in the last 20 years.

      Actually we did. It doesn't matter what education standards were twenty years ago or more. It matters what education standards have been for the last twelve years. Because those are the standards that students who are currently finishing their basic education have been taught using.

      But your response highlights the hypocrisy of your original whine. Claiming that "Politics and pop psychology propagated by Progressive poseurs" are responsible for poor student performance while at the same time not noticing that the policies promoted by conservatives seem to have been at best as dismally ineffective, and given current trends much worse for students, is rank hypocrisy. And it reflects poorly on your alleged education.

    8. I'll be the first to agree that the Democrats haven't done enough to undo Republican messes, but which precise actions of Obama are you referring to?


  4. Here you see the conservative mindset, such as it is, displayed in all its glory:

    Incoherent ranting against "climate science", implication that studying the Bible will help students compute mortgage rates, blaming problems against "progressive politics", etc.

    It's fun watching conservatives exhibit the same mindless behavior that lost them the election.

    Crusader, on the other hand, is too insane to even comment on. Just read his comments over and laugh.

    1. Obviously part of the Idiocracy, "Anonymous" thinks there is a "link", an "implication", between my comments on mortgage interest and the Bible. Assessment: not clear on the "imply" concept. Probably a Climate Studies graduate.

      A real sample is always illuminating, so here's Al Gore, Climate Studies guru and co-author of a Nobel Prizewinning PowerPoint presentation: " People think about geothermal energy - when they think about it at all - in terms of the hot water bubbling up in some places, but two kilometers or so down in most places there are these incredibly hot rocks, 'cause the interior of the earth is extremely hot, several million degrees..." (emphasis added)

      The Consensus View is that Gore was referring to whatever planet he came from.

    2. George, you could use one of those remedial classes your colleagues teach at community colleges to learn that Al Gore is a politician and not a climate scientist.


    3. Hey, Doc Hoo, good ta seeya.

      Sharpen up your reading skills, son. I said "Al Gore, Climate Studies guru..." You know what guru means?

    4. Anon,
      I know you'd be too cowardly to take the challenge.
      You're all talk, Anon. No walk.
      Do without "silly, pre-scientific nonsense" for one week. Skip the earth, air, fire, and water for a few days - even a few minutes. See how far your dogma gets you without air to breath. Leave air in, try the week without warmth and water. Without food and the ability to cook it.
      Call me crazy, but you're the one living in an (SUB?)urban womb, kid.
      Leave that little cocoon for long and the world will eat you and your post modern hide alive.

  5. Poor Boggs, who thinks quoting Al Gore has anything to do with the subject at hand. Climate studies majors study climate science texts, which are very likely over the head of Boggsie. They don't study Earth in the Balance.

    As for the implication, take a look at Egnor's original remarks. He was upset about deletion of the Bible, of Catcher in the Rye, and of To Kill a Mockingbird, Aristotle, and Aquinas. None of these are going to help a student compute mortgage rates.

    It's not my fault if Boggsie can't follow the discussion. But then, idiots like Boggs are fond of finding faults in others without self-reflection.

  6. Oh dear, I think it's miffed. Thin-skinned about Climate "Science", is it?

    And, by the way, the PowerPoint was An Inconvenient Truth and the quote was from comments by ol' Al himself.

    Homework hint: if you want to find an implication in my comment, look in my comment: "basics like mathematics, reading skills, grammar, and the Western canon of literature."

    You're gonna have a great future in the hot grease industry or a "green job" like installing weatherstripping.

  7. Oh, this is rich, and right on topic.

    I picked up a copy of a magazine that arrived a few days ago. Glancing through it, I was skimming the Letters section and discovered the following flawless gem, perfectly illustrating the state of higher education today in America:

    "The November issue of [wait for it] has been both very interesting reading and a very useful resources for my Social Media Communication class at C**** College. I partucularly found John McManus' article, 'Won't get fooled again' of value with its pointers on verifying online news and information..."
    Signed, K*** H******, Associate Professor of Communication

    I won't keep you in suspense. The publication in question is The Costco Connection, a monthly advertising rag published by Costco and mass mailed to their members. This is what passes for a "useful educational resource" in many places these days.

    Dr H. is a full-time faculty member and a former government hack. Sorry, I meant government worker. No, wait, that's inaccurate... government employee.

  8. Public schools suck. They're a good example of why I don't want the government to take over healthcare. It has nothing to do with opposing quote-unquote universal coverage. To say that I oppose universal coverage is a misrepresentation of my position.


  9. Thin-skinned about Climate "Science", is it?

    No, we just laugh at your Egnorance. I'm here for the laffs. You don't think people take Egnor and his fanboys seriously, do you? We find all that stupidity amusing.

    In climate science, students don't study Al Gore. I'm saying it again because you seem too stupid to understand it.

    1. 'We'?
      We are Royalty now, are we?
      Nay! Methinks not.
      'We' is most likely a reference to all the 'voices', characters and people that 'laff' in that empty, echoing hall Anon calls his head.

  10. More and more our children in our public schools are being trained to take instruction, to conform, not to think for themselves, not to be free men and women.

    I think the opposite is true. At least in the Netherlands, but I think similar trends are happening all over the Western world. I teach university students from freshmen to graduate students, and I see (sadly) a decline in basic technical skills like math and grammar, but I also see an increase in social skills and creativity. A lack of skills in math is fairly easy to repair, but a lack of skills in creativity and independent thinking not so much. I have supervised several students from China (from big state engineering schools), and they are usually quite skilled at the technical level, but also very uncreative and in need to get ideas handed to them.

    1. When I taught in the UK (in the 80's), British students were far superior to the students I was teaching at a private university in the US. Both in mechanical engineering by the way, although my field is mathematical physics (acoustics).

      But the very best graduate student I ever had (re: technical skills) was Chinese. And he barely spoke English.

    2. Performance on standardized tests, in which US students lag behind their Asian counterparts is just that: performance on standardized tests. By itself it does not guarantee success in a chosen profession. Students rom China and Korea tend to have high exams scores, but that often reflects the fact that their education is based on cramming and memorization.

      I have to agree with troy that US students may have weaker technical skills at first, but they tend to be more creative. And with time they get even if not get ahead. My experience in academia (a major research university) shows that the most successful PhDs in science come from all continents, including North America. This pessimism about the US education is a bit overblown.


    3. I can add that my own child went to public schools in the Eastern US, got into one of the elite private colleges, and is now in a top graduate program at a major research university. No home schooling.


  11. Oops!

    Massachusetts 8th graders are among the best in the world in math and science.

    Too bad for Egnor & Boggs: Massachusetts is one of those damned liberal enclaves, with Democrats and socialists and atheists and environmentalists and Priuses everywhere you look.