Free universal enstupidation 9

Fred Reed is a man who rants cogently and eloquently. Sometimes we agree with him, often we don’t, but he’s usually worth reading.

We find much to agree with in this provocative article of his, but also quite a lot to question:

I wonder what purpose the public schools serve, other than to warehouse children while their parents work or watch television. They certainly don’t teach much, as survey after survey shows. Is there any particular reason for having them? Apart from their baby-sitting function, I mean.

Schooling … should be adapted to the needs and capacities of those being schooled. For unintelligent children, the study of anything beyond minimal reading is a waste of time, since they will learn little or nothing more. For the intelligent, a public schooling is equivalent to tying an anchor to a student swimmer. The schools are an impediment to learning, a torture of the bright, and a form of negligent homicide against a country that needs trained minds in a competitive world.

Allowing for some hyperbole, we accept those points.

Let us start with the truly stupid. Millions of children graduate—“graduate”—from high school—“high school”—unable to read. Why inflict twelve years of misery on them? It is not reasonable to blame them for being witless, but neither does it make sense to pretend that they are not. For them school is custodial, nothing more. Since there is little they can do in a technological society, they will remain in custody all their lives. This happens, and must happen, however we disguise it.

For those of reasonably average acuity, it little profits to go beyond learning to read, which they can do quite well, and to use a calculator. Upon their leaving high school, question them and you find that they know almost nothing. They could learn more, average not being stupid, but modest intelligence implies no interest in study. This is true only of academic subjects such as history, literature, and physics. They will study things that seem practical to them. Far better to teach the modestly acute such things as will allow them to earn a living, be they typing, carpentry, or diesel repair. Society depends on such people. But why inflict upon them the geography of Southeast Asia, the plays of Shakespeare, or the history of the nineteenth century? Demonstrably they remember none of it.

Some who favor the public schools assert that an informed public is necessary to a functioning democracy. True, and beyond doubt. But we do not have an informed public, never have had one, and never will.

Nor, really, do we have a functioning democracy.

On that point he goes on to explain:

Any survey will reveal that most people have no grasp of geography, history, law, government, finance, international relations, or politics. And most people have neither the intelligence nor the interest to learn these things. If schools were not the disasters they are, they still couldn’t produce a public able to govern a nation.

“A public able to govern a nation”. Yes, that would be a description of a functioning democracy. But as the “witless” and those who have “no interest in study” will always constitute a significant part of the demos, it would follow that “a functioning democracy” is forever impossible. And yet – how informed must a public be, or how many persons must be well informed, to sustain “a functioning democracy”? Ill-informed or even illiterate persons can be astute, for instance, about money. (As the old song goes: “He signs his checks with Xs but they cash them just the same.”)

But it is for the intelligent that the public schools—“schools”—are most baneful. It is hideous for the bright, especially bright boys, to sit year after year in an inescapable miasma of appalling dronedom while some low-voltage mental drab wanders on about banalities that would depress a garden slug.

Yes, that’s all too often the case.

The public schools are worse than no schools for the quick. A sharp kid often arrives at school already reading. Very quickly he (or, most assuredly, she) reads four years ahead of grade. These children teach themselves. They read indiscriminately, without judgement—at first anyway—and pick up ideas, facts, and vocabulary. They also begin to think. …

Yes again. Those who want to learn will learn.

The bright should go to school, but it is well to distinguish between a school and a penitentiary. They need schools at their level, taught by teachers at their level. It is not hard to get intelligent children to learn things, and indeed today a whole system of day-care centers only partly succeeds in keeping them from doing it.

By “day-care centers” he means the public schools of course, and we think he’s right that intelligent children manage to learn without much help from public school teachers.

They like learning things … When I was in grade school in the early Fifties, bright kids read, shrew-like, four times their body weight in books… In third grade or so, they had microscopes (Gilbert for hoi polloi, but mine was a fifteen-dollar upscale model from Edmund Scientific) and knew about rotifers and Canada balsam and well slides and planaria.

These young, out of human decency, for the benefit of the country, should not be subjected to public education—“education.” Where do we think high-bypass turbofans come from? Are they invented by heart-warming morons?

To a remarkable extent, dumb-ass public schools are simply not necessary. … The absorptive capacity of smart kids is large if you just stay out of their way. A bright boy of eleven can quickly master a collegiate text of physiology, for example. This is less astonishing than perhaps it sounds. The human body consists of comprehensible parts that do comprehensible things. If he is interested, which is the key, he will learn them, while apparently being unable to learn state capitals, which don’t interest him.

What is the point of pretending to teach the unteachable while, to all appearances, trying not to teach the easily teachable? The answer of course is that we have achieved communism, the rule of the proletariat, and the proletariat doesn’t want to strain itself, or to admit that there are things it can’t do.

An interesting view; true if communism is “the rule of the proletariat”, and if the proletariat rules. In any case, whoever is ruling is getting it wrong.

In schooling, perhaps “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” isn’t a bad idea. If a child has a substantial IQ, expect him to use it for the good of society, and give him schools to let him do it. If a child needs a vocation so as to live, give him the training he needs. But don’t subject either to enstupidated, unbearably tedious, pointless, one-size-fits-nobody pseudo-schools to hide the inescapable fact that we are not all equal.

We’d hope that nobody with a substantial IQ would deliberately set out “to use it for the good of society”. If he uses it for his own good it would be almost impossible for him not to be contributing something valuable to others.

That the type of education or training provided should suit abilities and answer vocational needs is a thoroughly reasonable proposal.

And government should have nothing to do with education.


(Hat tip, our reader and commenter Frank)

  • I don’t really agree with this article.  Although I agree that public school has largely devolved into indoctrination day-care centers, I do think they are an excellent resource if implemented correctly.  My personal feeling is that their devolution is a direct result of liberalism and political-correctness taking hold in this country.

    I remember when I was a kid, and if I got in trouble in school, I was more afraid of my parents’ wrath than anything the school would do to me.  Now, from what I understand, the teachers have to be cautious of disciplining a kid because the parents will defend the kid!  How are educators supposed to actually perform their job in this kind of environment?  I can easily say that I was a reasonably intelligent kid, but without the school and my parents making sure I was doing my work, I would have floundered, and probably failed all those classes in which I was not interested.  My parents also really drilled into me how important education is.

    Teachers should not be “afraid” to fail kids that do not perform.  Also, parents should be held more accountable for how their kids perform and behave.  I think teacher unions and liberal parents are the real problem.

    The problem is not that kids are pushed into this “one-size-fits-all” education system.  A common educational foundation is very important for the young generation.  The example in this article discusses how a smart kid should pursue learning about physics if he is interested, instead of being forced to learn state capitals.  Learning state capitals, and all the other little stuff kids learn adds value.  I have no problem with that.

    The bottom line is accountability.  Liberals have completely destroyed the concept of accountability in our society.  If a child performs poorly, it is not his fault – he doesn’t have the “opportunities” to perform better.  Teachers, parents, AND children should be held accountable for student performance.  If a child wastes his time in school, fail him and make him repeat it.  Parents should support this type of system, but most likely won’t because it’s “mean” to their kid.  Of course, in the long run, it is the best and only way to ensure a productive and hard-working future generation.

    • George

      When I came up in the public schools we were made to study , our parents made us study and behave in school and taught us good home training and discipline.  But today , because of political correctness and teacher union corruptness , and miscreant pupils we have utter chaos .  Kids are being passed who don’t deserve to be passed, teachers are grading  — ” on the curve ”  instead of the what the child actually learned , achieved and passed via qualifications. I agree with your  statement  Paresh that parents should support this type of system  but the problem is  THEY DON’T   and  WON’T  !

      • What concerns me is how do we combat these problems?  I just see more and more of this entitlement mentality in kids these days.

        So many kids have iphones that their parents just bought for them.  I don’t have an issue with a kid having an iphone, if they earn it and realize that you have to work for stuff you want.  If my daughers want them (they are too little right now), I will come up with a way for them to earn them, like through house chores or a gift for good grades.  That’s how my folks did it, and it really taught me how to value work, and delayed gratification.

        It is apparent to me that most people are not taught these values at a young age.  This is clearly evidenced by the ignoramuses in the “Occupy” crowd… railing against oil companies (evil corporations in their minds) while using their iphones (for some reason a good corporation, even though they employ hundreds of people in China).

        I am really concerned that the culture in this country is so far gone, that it is just a matter of time before we turn into Europe… even if Romney wins.  I mean, he can control spending and all that, but what I’m talking about is a CULTURAL problem.

        • Liz

          You’re right – it is a cultural problem.  A result of leftists weasling their way into positions of influence in both the culture and the educational system.  Then it becomes a vicious cycle – the products of the system grow up to perpetuate it.

  • George

                                     I have a problem with the title — [   Free universal enstupidation  ]  .   First of all , it is  NOT free  , but taxpayer funded even for those who don’t work or pay taxes and yet have children attending these GOVERNMENT (public ) schools and the ones doing the subsidizing  are often the ones who do NOT  have children themselves in these public  (  government  )  schools. 
                                  Discipline in these public ( government  ) schools is horrific and school students have to deal with bullies ,  worthless curriculum and students who have no desire to learn or better themselves but use the schools as social gathering places to congregate and misbehave.  The teachers become nothing more than baby-sitters for miscreants and juvenile deliquent ungovernable brats.
                                     I was listening to a radio talk show and the guest ( I forget the name ) who was an expert in the school system stated that our school system was designed for such purpose and that onlyb a small percentage in our national social system were expected to run the society while the great majority (bulk) of citizens were meant to be like the ( worker ants ) doing the menial work to keep things going and all they need is the bare minimum basic education and no more .
                         The private schools did not have to be tied down by such restrictive regulations and rules as the government (public) schools , however many of the private schools were often religious schools ( like Catholic schools ) that were reported to be proselytizing or indoctrinating the students with a religious theme and agenda while indeed maintaining discipline because they were free from the “handicapping” rules and requirements of the state or county government regulations, rules and procedures. So on one hand you have a “plus” and on the other you have a  “minus” .   Being raised by school teacher parents myself  , I know definately how the system works from inside experience.
                                    Another burden that teachers have is that these bratty students come to school with an attitude and no discipline and the teachers have their hands “tied”  in maintaining discipline and if they should do what is necessary , the teachers could face being fired , sued or criminal charges or a combination of all. Even worse the teachers today could face being killed by school thugs bringing guns to class and shooting the teacher / or  fellow students in a fit of rage.  Many of the inner city schools in poor low-income districts are like a war zone where  the students run the the facility ( the inmates running the asylum or jail ).  The schools in essence become human warehouses that pass along or promote inept failing students just to get them out of there and out of the way to make way for other loser pupils.    Many of the teachers themselve are now underqualified and with the pay they receive , it doesn’t attract the most learned professionals. It’s no wonder that our society today is in such shambles and chaos. Go figure !

    • Jillian Becker

      Of course you’re right, George, that the “free” education is not free – not for tax-payers, anyway. I was using the description it usually goes by to indicate what the post was about.   

      • George

        I know —I was being comically sarcastic .    It was right on the money.   Ha ha

  • Frank

    Jillian,Like you, I don’t always agree with Fred. But he was right on the money with this one.

  • Liz

    I think this article gives a very accurate picture of what public education has devolved into over the last 50 years. 
    It’s no coincidence that this has been parralleled by a devolution from a “functioning democracy” to a socialist welfare-state disaster.