Monday, February 20, 2006

Educational Apartheid

This is just a quick note in support for the Lizard Queen's entry on education: "Back to Basics."

My buddy and neighbor being a teacher, and me wanting to be, we've been discussing this. I'm going through the teacher certification process, and one of the things that has been rammed down our throats, time and time again, with reference to study after study's empirical support, has been this simple notion:

Effort, more than any other factor, defines a
student's likelihood of high achievement in school.

We don't have to belabor this. We all know very bright folks in high school (sorry, there's an instinct to call them "kids," but, really, they're not. They're psychologically-deranged adolescents who are adult in every sense of the word except for emotional stability and the accumulation of experience-based wisdom. In simpler cultures, these folks are already shouldering an adult's load, and the fact that they're sheltered from that in ours is simply a sign of the complexity of our society. Okay, off my personal soap box.) -- Likewise, most of us know somebody who isn't particularly bright, but has "made it" in life to a position significantly cushier than their smarter but lazier colleagues... through dint of simply continuing to do their best, and then to make their best a little better.

If every career educator knows that effort is the number one factor... then why has the Education Establishment been so hot-and-bothered to divide student classes between higher and lower-IQ students and track them into "college bound" and "send them to shop class" academic tracks? If our Establishment wanted all kids to go to college, they'd put everybody in the college-bound track, and throw a greater proportion of their resources into helping folks who were having a hard time staying afloat.

Because what it boils down to now, with or without their parents' awareness, is that some bureaucrat is defining what minority percentage of the student population gets to escape a second-rate education and take the classes that will actually prepare them for success in the outside world. The rest of them get to hang out with less funding, less-rigorous standards, and usually less-motivated teachers... certainly less hope of getting into a good four-year school for the training they'll need to make the big money.

Which, btw, isn't a swipe at trades. We need good tradesman, and many a nose-in-the-air liberal arts graduate student would be reduced to tears by trying to juggle the mental burden involved in a plumber's typical day. I know, I've been there, watching some of my peers laughing down their noses at guys who could fold and spindle them into origami birds simply by talking about how you handle different kinds of concrete. Ya wanna talk concrete? Do you have any idea how much there is to know about conrete? This stuff is hard, and that's why a skilled tradesman can command such a high hourly rate. But some of these tradesmen will go through their careers never quite finding their places, because they're kick-ass tradesmen and craftsmen who should have been kick-ass chemists, mechanical engineers, and doctors.

And we need those folks, too. Lots and lots of them. Kids should be getting a schooling that will give them an actual choice in the matter by the time they get to their high-school counselor, rather than being shunted into "oh that's too hard for them-land" for the sake of some administrator's convenience.

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