School Daze

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Published : March 12th, 2018
907 words - Reading time : 2 - 3 minutes
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Category : Editorials

Sunday night was Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s turn through the CBS 60-Minutes wringer of censure with a visibly frustrated inquisitor Lesley Stahl trying to hector her into self-incrimination. The sad truth about American schools is that they’re a mirror for the painful collapse of the society they supposedly serve — a process ongoing for decades before Ms. DeVos came on the scene.

The expectation that some uber-regent can or ought to fix public education is bound to disappoint a news media searching for saviors. The further we leave the 20th century behind, the more anomalous its organizing principals look, especially the idea of preparing masses of young people for mass, regimented work at the giant corporate scale.

There’s a big divergence underway between the promises of schooling and the kind of future that the 21st century is actually presenting — of no plausible careers or vocations besides providing “therapy” and policing for the discontented masses stewing in anomie and compensatory pleasure-seeking, with all its nasty side effects. In the meantime, we’re stuck with wildly expensive, out-of-scale, giant centralized schools where the worst tendencies of human status competition are amplified by smart phones and social media to all but eclipse classroom learning.

Education in the years to come is destined to become more of a privilege than a right, and it will probably depend more on how much an individual young person really desires an education than just compelling masses of uninterested or indisposed kids to show up everyday for an elaborate and rather poorly supervised form of day-care. But it’s difficult to let go of old habits and obsolete arrangements, especially when we’ve spent countless billions of dollars on them.

I call the future a World Made By Hand because it is going to be entirely unlike the sci-fi robotic fantasy that currently preoccupies the thought-leaders in this culture. A lot of what will be required in this time-to-come will be physical labor and small-scale skilled work in traditional crafts. There never were that many job openings for astronauts, not even in the 1960s, but in the decades ahead there will be none — notwithstanding Elon Musk’s wish to colonize Mars.

Even if you believe the current model of education must be defended and “fixed,” two issues stood out in Ms. DeVos’s interrogation. One was the question of behavior in the classroom. The Dept of Education under Mr. Obama put out a directive to reduce suspensions of black and Hispanic students because they were being punished at a greater rate than whites and Asians and it looked bad.

Lesley Stahl tried to put over this idea as if it were just a matter of racial animus.

“…let’s say there’s a disruption in the classroom,” she said, “and a bunch of white kids are disruptive and they get punished, you know, go see the principal, but the black kids are, you know, they call in the cops. I mean, that’s the issue: who and how the kids who disrupt are being punished.”

I doubt that it happens that way. Rather, it’s probably the case that there is more disruption among the black student demographic, and probably more violent disruption. The reasons may range from bad parenting (especially absent fathers), inability of students to express themselves (and subsequent frustration) due to poor language skills that are not corrected in school, and the victim narrative that emanates from the universities and distorts culture everywhere else. But to actually state that would be branded as “racist,” so the authorities have to dissemble acrobatically to evade the truth, and in the end it’s learning that suffers.

The other issue was the Obama-era directive (“guidance,” they call it) that sexual misconduct be prosecuted more aggressively by colleges and universities. That led to an era of campus kangaroo courts in which due process of law was cast aside in favor of medieval-style star chambers where the accused had no right to a lawyer, or cross-examination of their accusers, and other established legal protections. Apparently, the producers of 60-Minutes thought that was a good idea, and that Betsy DeVos should not attempt to change it.

Of course, school shootings are the most shocking symptom that something has gone terribly wrong in the system we’ve set up for occupying children and teens. It will be very hard to do anything about that without turning the buildings into something like medium security prisons. We’ve already managed to design them to look like that, but now we’re seriously talking about turning teachers into armed guards. And I’m sure we’ll be spending additional billions to fortify the entrances with metal detectors and officers to mind them. That will only shove the school districts a little closer to bankruptcy.

I felt a little sorry for Ms. DeVos. She seems to understand, at least, that the trend is taking us away from the system we currently know to some uncharted territory of social organization.


This blog is sponsored this week by McAlvany ICA. To learn more visit: https://icagoldcompany.com/


New Paintings by JHK 2016 — 2017


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Book 1:
24hGold - School Daze
Book 2:
24hGold - School Daze
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Book 3:
24hGold - School Daze
Book 4:
24hGold - School Daze
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James Howard Kunstler has worked as a reporter and feature writer for a number of newspapers, and finally as a staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975, he dropped out to write books on a full-time basis. His nonfiction book, "The Long Emergency," describes the changes that American society faces in the 21st century. Discerning an imminent future of protracted socioeconomic crisis, Kunstler foresees the progressive dilapidation of subdivisions and strip malls, the depopulation of the American Southwest, and, amid a world at war over oil, military invasions of the West Coast; when the convulsion subsides, Americans will live in smaller places and eat locally grown food.
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The part that I find troubling in these conversations, regardless of perspective, is how much they revolve around the extremes. i.e. situations and individuals that encompass less than the 1%. The majority of what happens in schools is good. The issue is not that schools are in despair, but that there is an incredibly negative focus from those outside any sphere of understanding. How many of the people in these conversations have been in a school in the last 10 years? 15 years? It is akin to me offering advice on how to fix global economic issues because I have been to a bank before. Our society is plagued by a media that has no interest in protecting anything, including the last remaining efforts at protecting our children and future. They are all—-all of them—-CNN, NBC, FOX—-not concerned with this society. They instead wish for it to burn so they can film it and blame others for letting it burn. Schools broken?? Bullshit. What is broken is a willingness to open our eyes and form our own opinions.

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@bfsiedel, While I agree with much of what you posted, regarding whether or not school is broken depends upon one's expectations of public school. It is possible to learn in public school, but I think warehousing/baby sitting is the primary utility of public school. Of course parents Want their children to get a quality education, but parents Need to work. Things are changing, slowly. Home schooling and cooperative education are growing, and the pace is picking up.
Like other government infrastructure, education is crumbling, and the cost of fixing it vs letting it crumble and starting over are starting to even out. Much like everything else.
The part that I find troubling in these conversations, regardless of perspective, is how much they revolve around the extremes. i.e. situations and individuals that encompass less than the 1%. The majority of what happens in schools is good. The issue is not that schools are in despair, but that there is an incredibly negative focus from those outside any sphere of understanding. How many of the people in these conversations have been in a school in the last 10 years? 15 years? It is akin to me offering advice on how to fix global economic issues because I have been to a bank before. Our society is plagued by a media that has no interest in protecting anything, including the last remaining efforts at protecting our children and future. They are all—-all of them—-CNN, NBC, FOX—-not concerned with this society. They instead wish for it to burn so they can film it and blame others for letting it burn. Schools broken?? Bullshit. What is broken is a willingness to open our eyes and form our own opinions.

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@bfsiedel, While I agree with much of what you posted, regarding whether or not school is broken depends upon one's expectations of public school. It is possible to learn in public school, but I think warehousing/baby sitting is the primary utility of  Read more
J. - 3/15/2018 at 12:23 PM GMT
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