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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dumber Than Dumb

A while back, Bunkerville posted "Next Generation, Dumb As Dumb Can Be?" I found myself returning several times to Bunkerville's post and also reading the more lengthy essay at The American Dream.

*Only 43 percent of all U.S. high school students knew that the Civil War was fought some time between 1850 and 1900.

*More than a quarter of all U.S. high school students thought that Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean after the year 1750.

*Approximately a third of all U.S. high school students did not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

*Only 60 percent of all U.S. students knew that World War I was fought some time between 1900 and 1950.


[According to a 2009 study of high school students in Oklahoma]:

What is the supreme law of the land? 28 percent
[answered correctly]

What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution? 26 percent [answered correctly]

What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress? 27 percent [answered correctly]

How many justices are there on the Supreme Court? 10 percent [answered correctly]

Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? 14 percent [answered correctly]

What ocean is on the east coast of the United States? 61 percent

What are the two major political parties in the United States? 43 percent

We elect a U.S. senator for how many years? 11 percent

Who was the first President of the United States? 23 percent [answered correctly]

Who is in charge of the executive branch? 29 percent
Read the rest HERE at The American Dream.

In my view, one of the causes of the disaster that is our education system is the emphasis on promoting self-esteem, particularly the promotion of fake self-esteem. Lo and behold! Along comes THIS ARTICLE in the January 15, 2012 edition of the Washington Post. Excerpt:
In schools, self-esteem boosting is losing favor to rigor, finer-tuned praise

For decades, the prevailing wisdom in education was that high self-esteem would lead to high achievement. The theory led to an avalanche of daily affirmations, awards ceremonies and attendance certificates — but few, if any, academic gains.

Now, an increasing number of teachers are weaning themselves from what some call empty praise....


Underlying the praise backlash is a hard seed of anxiety — a sense that American students are not working hard enough to compete with students from overseas for future jobs....
Please read THE ENTIRE ARTICLE. Note that it took decades of research to figure out that promoting self-esteem at the expense of learning doesn't work.

The Washington Post article struck a chord with me. I recall my teacher training (1970-1972) and all the emphasis place on instilling self-esteem in students and on avoiding the memorization of facts. As as Spanish major, I kept pointing out that no substitute exists for memorizing vocabulary lists; my words very nearly got me booted from the program. Later on, around 1996, I was instructed by the administration of the private school where I worked at the time not to mark x's on the wrong answers but rather to circle the correct answers — with a purple pen and not a red one. Mustn't "traumatize" the students! To facilitate the use of purple instead of red, the school administration gave us a stock of purple pens and confiscated a red pen wherever they found one. Yes, administrators there regularly searched the teachers' desks to enforce the no-red-ink rule.

The philosophy of self-esteem at all costs is but one cause of the problems with our educational system. Feel free to list other causes in the comments section to this post.

Of more importance....How do we solve the problem(s) with our education system? Or is it too late?


  1. What purpose is our education "system" supposed to serve? The State? The Individual? Is it to prepare us for "work" or "life"?

    These are the questions that need to be answered before we start offering up any "solutions".

  2. FJ,
    Valid questions!

    Care to give us your take on those?

  3. I fear for us all. The youth can text a gazillion words a hour though!
    Not sure how much that pays on a job.

  4. I measure intelligence differently.

    Although I'm fairly certain my nephew knows little about history outside some World War 2 battles simulated in his Call of Duty video game, this is the sort of lumbering moron who is amazed that pet dogs will tear up the sacks of groceries he left on the kitchen floor instead of putting them away and still have the audacity to be offended when you ask him if he's being an ass or just merely retarded.

  5. Care to give us your take on those?

    Much as Plato advises, I would emphasize "gymnastics" (military exercises) but would also defer to the judgement of Mr. Adam Smith upon that subject. Here

  6. Progressivism is a constant struggle against common sense and wisdom.

  7. Once again I refer everyone to The Gods of the Copybook Headings, a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

    There really is nothing else that needs to be said on the subject in question.

    Kipling was right, everyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. It's as simple as that.

    Read the poem.

    ~ FreeThinke

  8. The government, including the states, have no business being in the "education" business.

    Privatize all the schools and watch things change. The cream will rise to the top so fast it will be butter.

    Instead of stealing gobs of money from the citizens to fund the bureaucratic monsters called "schools", allow people to use that money to educate their children.

    Since that will never happen, the next best choice is to home school.

  9. @FT

    I don't Smith was trying to invoke the 'gods of the marketplace' when he wrote his prescriptions for education... his was more an attempt to remedy marketplace ills through education. Not that you were implying that he was.... ;)

  10. ...in other words, the division of labour upon which capitalism is based renders us individually ever stupider if collectively ever more brilliant, the more extensive the marketplace's reach. Smith recognized this fact and proposed a "public educational system" to help overcome some of these deficiencies.

  11. Those results are a disgrace. I'll bet they all know about global warming and condoms.

  12. The purpose of education varies with the society that provides it, but here in the United States, the primary purpose was to teach children from very early on to be good citizens.

    Lincoln said: "Let reverence for the [law] be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, [in] spelling-books, and almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation...."

    This reverence for the law is why our history is taught along with world history, so children will grow up knowing the sort of oppressive government that they might have had.

    Education only secondarily was intended to help young people cope with finding employment and being successful. They were expected to do that or fail, on their own. Today, revering our Constitution has disappeared from the curriculum.

    Our education system was created to serve the state, not the individual, and prepare us for life as citizens who functioned well within the framework of our laws, and NOT prepare us for work.

  13. “Liberal institutions straightway cease from being liberal the moment they are soundly established: once this is attained no more grievous and more thorough enemies of freedom exist than liberal institutions.”

    - Nietzsche

  14. Those are devastating results and I would hope that it would be a wake-up call to teachers, and superintendents to fix this problem.

    Quit teaching them about homosexuality, birth control and indoctrinating our kids to become politically correct zombies. And focus on Mathematics, reading, writing, spelling, science, history, etc. I firmly believe Jehovah God should be allowed back into the public school arena. You can't go wrong with the 10 Commandments.

    I am tired of hearing about teachers pushing their liberal agendas down their students throats.

  15. Wow, those numbers are pathetic. I can answer ever one right, and many when I was in 4th grade. How can the schools be THAT bad at educating kids?

    About the artical, I found it interesting. I have always been praised for my intellegence (and tested well for that matter) when I was younger, but all it did was make me lazy and swell my head, thinking I could get away with little effort because everything was easy. As my high school teacher can tell you, that backfired. The other thing is, it didn't inspire self-confidence, it was just pressure to do better than you could. Praise for actual achievments that you EARNED is one thing, but praise for barely participating or natural talent being wasted will help no one. And mostly, self confidence comes from yourSELF (name much?) and no amount of praise from others can give it to you. And lastly- encouragment (which kids need) and empty praise (which no one needs) are two very different entities.

    The view that people can do no wrong is idiotic: people mess up, fact, and if not reigned in, will continue to mess up. Punishments and corrections exist so that we may learn from our errors- and frankly, people learn much more from failure than from victory (I know someone famous said something like that, forget who).

    To make changes, the problem must be identified. Problem: too much praise (thats easy fix), too little correction (easy if the parents go along), kids not caring about learning (parents again- but not easy), education being biased and straying from the truth (ehh, no clue). Then again, inplements any changes will be tricky- not just the teachers, but the books, students and parents need to change (and I stress parents- frankly, they can force kids to learn, teachers can't).

    Just my two cents.


    PS no comments on the goverment part cause it goes a bit over my head.

  16. Wildstar,
    I have always been praised for my intellegence (and tested well for that matter) when I was younger, but all it did was make me lazy and swell my head, thinking I could get away with little effort because everything was easy. As my high school teacher can tell you, that backfired.

    Yes, I can definitely tell all here how that backfired. I am your high school teacher!

    As you have learned, the world is filled with things you don't know -- and often acquiring knowledge about those things is hard work -- not to mention what analytical thinking requires.

    Einstein said:

    “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

    HERE is a vast collection of things that Albert Einstein said. Possibly of interest to you, Wildstar.

    Interesting how you point out the importance of impact good parenting, particularly that parents need to play an important role in their children's education. In my view, parents have abrogated much of their responsibility and handed over that responsibility to the teachers and the schools.

    Profound statement:

    encouragment (which kids need) and empty praise (which no one needs) are two very different entities.

    There is indeed a great difference between encouragement and empty praise. It is a great shame that our educational system has ignored that difference for far too long!

    And what do you mean by no comments on the goverment part cause it goes a bit over my head? Hardly!

  17. Wow. My fourth grader knows this stuff! Damn near all off it; even my second grader who has trouble learning shouted out quite a few answers!


  18. Not dumb. The knowledge of certain rote facts isn't much of a measure of intelligence.

    More important may be to understand why kids don't find any of this relevant. Why it isn't interesting.

    To assume they're "dumb" is inaccurate and limiting.

  19. I don't know but it seems to me the dumbest people I've seen are over 50 and Republican,

  20. Leticia Said: "I am tired of hearing about teachers pushing their liberal agendas down their students throats."

    Leticia proves my point, lol!

  21. A SAD NOTE:

    Z's great friend at GeeeeeZ -- Pris, whom some of you may know -- has just lost her husband of 50 years after struggling to survive a cardiovascular incident that suddenly occurred a short time ago without warning.

    If Z reads this post, I'd appreciate very much her extending my condolences to Pris.

    There can be nothing harder to bear than losing one's spouse.

    "Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can't remove."

    I hope that's true.

    ~ FreeThinke

  22. Who won American Idol last year? 93% [answered correctly]

    I do though agree a bit with Ducky. This is rote memorization, not always a strong suit of kids.

    As to why? It is because the left has, through years of indoctrination, quashed any desire to know about the US.

  23. Fortunately Liberalmann

    I don't know but it seems to me the dumbest people I've seen are over 50 and Republican,

    is here to provide an even better example of what public schools are producing.

    This statement is devoid of any rational thought. It is nothing more than a childish, pathetic striking out. In other words, the typical "yeah, so what" diatribe the left passes off as debate.

    I have to suspect that even Ducky is appalled at such idiocy.

  24. Yes you could -.-
    Yes, hard work, mine and every kids bane.

    On the quote page I found one you might like: " Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. "

    And okay, that was an excuse because I didn't have anything to say.


  25. FT,

    There can be nothing harder to bear than losing one's spouse.

    As one of my older friends told me long ago, "Nothing prepares you for the loss of your mate."

    Pris and her husband were married for 50 years. Now, the excruciating grieving and loneliness begin.

  26. Duck,
    Rote facts may indeed be boring.

    But they ARE important.

    Not everything is interesting and engaging.

  27. Chuck,
    through years of indoctrination, quashed any desire to know about the US


    I guess that our educators would prefer that kids "discover themselves" instead of actually acquire knowledge.

  28. Great comments, and thanks for the linky.

  29. I blame the parents. My kids went through the 'awful' public education system..two daughters each with a PhD in the sciences.

  30. They are important , AOW, yes. Events need to be located on the continuum, the structure and the intent of government needs to be understood.

    Those can be learned fairly quickly with motivation.

    Still say the issue is the lack of motivation. Something that is rife in the culture.

  31. LiberalM, you just proved my point with you ridiculous comment.


  32. Most of the Jaywalkers on Leno's segments are "college students"...I don't know how these kids even got out of high school let alone a reputable (if there is one these days) university. I suppose that's why the SOTU address was written to be comprehensible to 8th graders.

  33. Here's what I said to Ducky regarding education over at SilverFiddle's place:


    Forget about making things "interesting" for the little bastards.

    There are some things one MUST know, whether one is "interested" or not.

    Toilet Training
    Brushing one's teeth
    Eating with a knife, fork and spoon
    Tying one's shoelaces
    Telling time
    Learning the The R's
    How to budget one's resources
    How to balance a checkbook

    After that it's pretty much up for grabs. Things like acquiring knowledge of Greek and Latin, appreciating The Films of Francois Truffaut, the Art Songs of Hugo Wolf, the fine points of Palladian Architecture, How to Read the Messages in Stained Glass Windows in Europe's Gothic Cathedrals, The Art of Fugue, the growing of Prize Tuberose Begonias, and how best to produce a Grande Marnier Soufflé as presented in Larousse Gastronomique are simply not for everyone. Those who are truly capable of appreciating such things will find a way to learn more about them -- on their own.

    A true thirst for knowledge and culture must be slaked. State "programs" are no substitute for passion, baby.

    ~ FreeThinke

  34. Amen to all of it.
    I'm amused by Rosetta Stone and other language software ads. "You can learn a second language naturally, without tedious memorization, just as you had learned your first language!" Suckers buy it?
    I learned English making flashcards and writing the words over again and again. And reading, of course.
    We "naturally" learn our first language in infancy/childhood and through immersion. Media can help, but it's no substitute to "tedious memorization".

    Name calling is what distinguishes truly educated individuals.

    Edge of the Sandbox

  35. I think Blacksheep nailed it. Public education serves the state. It should serve the individual, who will need knowledge, and critical thinking, to be a good citizen, not a steadfast belief in AGW or social justice.

  36. If you don't know this, you should. After you're through reading it, take a stab at telling us what you think it means. - FT


    As I pass through my incarnations
    _____ in every age and race,
    I make my proper prostrations
    _____ to the Gods of the Market Place.
    Peering through reverent fingers
    _____ I watch them flourish and fall,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings,
    _____ I notice, outlast them all.

    We were living in trees when they met us.
    _____ They showed us each in turn
    That Water would certainly wet us,
    _____ as Fire would certainly burn:
    But we found them lacking in Uplift,
    _____ Vision and Breadth of Mind,
    So we left them to teach the Gorillas
    _____ while we followed the March of Mankind.

    We moved as the Spirit listed.
    _____ They never altered their pace,
    Being neither cloud nor wind-borne
    _____ like the Gods of the Market Place,
    But they always caught up with our progress,
    _____ and presently word would come
    That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield,
    _____ or the lights had gone out in Rome.

    With the Hopes that our World is built on
    _____ they were utterly out of touch,
    They denied that the Moon was Stilton;
    _____ they denied she was even Dutch;
    They denied that Wishes were Horses;
    _____ they denied that a Pig had Wings;
    So we worshipped the Gods of the Market
    _____ Who promised these beautiful things.

    When the Cambrian measures were forming,
    _____ They promised perpetual peace.
    They swore, if we gave them our weapons,
    _____ that the wars of the tribes would cease.
    But when we disarmed They sold us
    _____ and delivered us bound to our foe,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
    _____ "Stick to the Devil you know."

    On the first Feminian Sandstones
    _____ we were promised the Fuller Life
    (Which started by loving our neighbour
    _____ and ended by loving his wife)
    Till our women had no more children
    _____ and the men lost reason and faith,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
    _____ "The Wages of Sin is Death."

    In the Carboniferous Epoch
    _____ we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter
    _____ to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money,
    _____ there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
    _____ "If you don't work you die."

    Then the Gods of the Market tumbled,
    _____ and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
    And the hearts of the meanest were humbled
    _____ and began to believe it was true
    That All is not Gold that Glitters,
    _____ and Two and Two make Four
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings
    _____ limped up to explain it once more.

    As it will be in the future,
    _____ it was at the birth of Man
    There are only four things certain
    _____ since Social Progress began.
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit
    _____ and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger
    _____ goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished,
    _____ and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing
    _____ and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us,
    _____ as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings
    _____ with terror and slaughter return!

    ~ Rudyard Kipling

    Submitted by FreeThinke

  37. Edge of the Sandbox,
    Rosetta Stone does have its good aspects, particularly the development of an authentic accent in the language studied. In fact, I do advise my Spanish students to explore Rosetta Stone before enrolling in my Spanish classes.

    However, most conversation-only-based foreign language courses do not facilitate good writing or original expression. All too often, such courses result in students speaking in canned phrases that they don't fully understand. In other words, they may understand what they hear but cannot speak much beyond social niceties, nor can they read and understand the literature written in the foreign language. And the grammar issues that are neglected!

    We "naturally" learn our first language in infancy/childhood and through immersion.

    And the years required to reach a scholarly level!

    In my view, total immersion is wonderful after one has studied a few years of the language -- traditional study, I mean.

    Memorization of vocabulary is an absolute requirement for learning any language.

    Most foreign language experts want the learner to think in the language. However, that takes time. Furthermore, some ideas simply cannot be pictured because of the abstract nature of ideas.

    There is no substitute for extensive reading in any language studied. That applies to English as well.

  38. Originally, the intent of education was the goal of literacy. Around the time of the close of the Middle Ages, most people acquired education, specifically the ability to read, so as to read the Bible and, with the coming of the Age of Enlightenment, the classics.

    Here in Virginia, for many years, compulsory education ended at the conclusion of 8th grade. I think that the underlying idea was that citizens needed to be literate -- "an educated citizenry" and all that meant that the citizenry wouldn't fall prey to false ideas and tyranny.

    Over the years, compulsory education extended to age 17.

    Now we see that many Americans believe that college education is a necessity. But is it? The best auto mechanics I know didn't go to college; they did go to vocational school and served apprenticeships.

    If the purpose of education is to serve the state, then vocational education should be a part of the educational system. After all, what the state really wants is workers to tax.

    As for critical thinking, it is the enemy of statism.

  39. FT,
    About the poem....I know what copybook headings were.

    There is value in learning proverbs and mottoes. But if those are all that education consists of, then no thinking occurs. People become mindless robots and revert to their baser human nature, from which are spared only if we learn to think. Copybook headings should be only a starting point, IMO. If they are the be all and end all, they are nothing more than brainwashing and promotion of laziness.

    We (mankind) are pawns is another theme in the poem, and the education system promotes the condition of keeping us pawns.

    So, there's my interpretation. You may not agree. And there is more to the poem than I had addressed in this comment.

  40. Duck,
    Motivation is one of the hardest goals for any teacher to accomplish. What motivates one student will not motivate another student.

    That said, if a teacher can find out what motivates a student and tap into that something, the student will be motivated to learn even more.

    But getting to know students well enough to motivate them individually is a Herculean task. And so many factors outside the classroom play in, too.

    Do grades motivate? Often, but not always.

    I have found that competition typically motivates. Learning games (Classroom Jeopardy, Classroom Squares, Classroom Feud, poker chips as visible proof of questions answered correctly, speed tests, etc.) motivate most students. The conundrum that always arises: the student who does his absolute best but is far behind his peers.

    But games are ineffective if one is addressing critical thinking and analysis.

    Teaching is an art. We lost something -- the vocation -- when we made teaching a career.

  41. BB Idaho,
    I blame the parents. My kids went through the 'awful' public education system..two daughters each with a PhD in the sciences.

    Effective education results from a partnership of school and parents.

    If the parents have no regard or esteem for education, typically their children will not either. In fact, once children realize that their parents don't support the teacher's efforts, the teacher might as well throw in the towel. It's over.

  42. "Copybook headings should be only a starting point, IMO. If they are the be all and end all, they are nothing more than brainwashing and promotion of laziness."

    I would agree, AOW, and I'm sure Kipling would too, but I believe the larger, more basic inference Kipling would have wanted us to draw would be that Eternal Truth is unchangeable, and that all attempts to deny what-used-to-be obvious, good common sense principles is bound to fail and lead to great disillusionment, disappointment and devastation.

    I believe Kipling was trying to warn us about the potential ill effects of the trendy "Progressive" thinking that was becoming fashionable in the early days of the last century.

    It may sound silly to remind anyone that 2 + 2 = 4 and that water will make you wet, but the so-called "liberal" initiatives have so intoxicated, confused and misled the "Have-Nots" by telling them they could -- and should -- be "Haves" without going through the process of earning the status they desire, that Common Sense seems to have been virtually killed off.

    It seems such an obvious message to me -- but even in Kipling's time, a century ago, the warning signs were already up for thoughtful, insightful individuals like Kipling.

    I doubt very much that he meant to tell us that merely memorizing a list of truisms would be enough to get us through life successfully.

    ~ FreeThinke

  43. FT,
    even in Kipling's time, a century ago, the warning signs were already up for thoughtful, insightful individuals like Kipling


    All the problems that we see today are not new, but they ARE the consequences of over a century of Leftism, humanism, etc.

    In fact, all of history is a sad catalog of the flaws of, isn't it? Man is ever searching for a way to dominate others, to extend his own power, to brainwash others.

    Right now, I'm wading through John Milton's Paradise Lost. Have you read it? Like Satan, man thinks that he is "hot stuff" and oh-so-deserving of glory and power.

    Milton's version of the fall of Lucifer is quite interesting. If you'd like me to explain, I'll continue.

  44. Good morning, AOW,

    I think we re in near-perfect agreement about the Kipling.

    I regret to have to tell you I've never read much Milton. I'd b very glad to see what you might have to say about Paradise Lost. I suppose it's available right here on this miracle machine we use everyday?

    ~ FT

  45. Kipling was a great poet, but IMO
    a man of his times regarding British imperialism. A tragic
    result was his pulling strings to
    get his 18 year old lieutenant
    son into WWI. The son was killed in one of those senseless attacks agains massed machine guns...
    "If any question why he died,
    tell them "because our fathers lied" ..Kipling

  46. Parents have to take a more active role. You can't depend on the education system to teach and expose your kids to everything (not these days, anyway).

  47. All I've got to add is that the concerned absolutely must read:
    The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto and
    The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America by Charlotte Iserbyt.

    These two free, online books detail and document how our educations system was hijacked and deliberately turned into the monstrosity it is today. It's by design by very powerful people to create an easily manipulated population.

    As a parent of a former public school student, I can tell you that parental involvement is discouraged. They only want you there to promote their stupid fundraisers, after they receive oodles of tax $$. Proud homeschooler now.

  48. Republican Mother,
    Thank you for commenting.

    I'm familiar with those works you mentioned.

    The sad reality today is that teacher training, for all its bells and whistles, actively promotes dumbing down. Teacher training has been doing so for 40 years that I personally know of.

    I work with groups of homeschoolers; of course, as compared to the rolls in the public school system, our numbers are very, very small.

    Sadly, parents today have bought into the wrong-headed idea that bells and whistles (fancy textbooks, for example) promote learning. Instead, as you pointed out, what we have today in mainstream education is creating an easily manipulated population.

    Furthermore, we are faced with the reality that most parents today were "educated" in much that same way.

    A ray of hope? Hillsdale College!


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