Schooling As “Sincere Ignorance and Conscientious Stupidity”

22 03 2007

Isn’t it pretty much irrelevant to reform educational methods, once you ignore the real elephant in the civic classroom? Can true education of any kind exist within the framework of legal compulsion to attend and perform, or does the choice of non-choice define everything after that, limit it to mere schooling and not education?

Seems to me many points of “the moral compass” such as respect, initiative, not to mention the vaunted democratic “values of equality and individual rights” are much harder to teach captives than free citizens. It might be flat impossible. How can you “educate” kids to volunteer their own service by REQUIRING it of them? Animal trick training is far short of developing human compassion, respect, love, character and good citizenship among real live autonomous boys and girls.

Does compulsion teach any kind of tolerance other than tolerance of authority?

Where’s the credibility for developing any of these supposedly fine character traits in free citizens, once you disrespect the individual and take his or her rights for the lessons?

Maybe it’s theoretically possible, but my professional opinion is that it’s gonna be harder than a gnat passing a camel, or however that moral lesson goes . . . 😉 JJ

Schools have a duty not only to teach academics, but also to integrate ideals such as respect and honesty into the curriculum
NEWSDAY March 18, 2007
, acting superintendent of the North Babylon Union Free School District.

. . .In the effort to restore human and civic values into the fabric of children’s lives, schools have a very important role to play. . .In fact, New York State education law requires instruction in civility and character education, focusing on basic civic values such as justice, honesty, self-discipline, due process, equality, majority rule with respect for minority rights, and respect for self, others and property. The law speaks for a shared value in our state that education is not just about the basics.

So it’s a shared value in the whole state that school must teach all these values to kids? Then why does it need to be LAW? And why then, aren’t the schools through which we all believe it must be done, set up to be just, honest, self-disciplined, respectful, free and responsbile models of democractic values in action?

While learning about the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, for example, students can reflect on the values of equality and individual rights. They can learn to appreciate our system of laws not just as a collection of legislation, amendments and court decisions, but as a historic attempt to balance individuals’ rights against the common good.

See above.

schools need to require that all students participate in some form of community service, where they actually can engage in experiences that will provide additional opportunities to understand, appreciate and adopt values.

Reread introductory rant here.

In the end, the best lesson in values is the example we give as individuals and as a society.

Exactly. Would that public schools and acting public school superintendents blathering officiously on and on like Rob Reich, knew how to teach this one lesson!

Martin Luther King Jr. gave my generation a free moral education integrating these character lessons into real civic life, without using the law to force it on kids in school:

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

– Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963




8 responses

23 03 2007

So now STAR is scrapped for MAP. Big whoop.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Senate passes replacement for ‘flawed’ teacher merit pay plan
Associated Press Writer

Confrontation and acrimony over performance pay for teachers that has distracted school districts for more than a year neared an end Wednesday when the Senate passed a bill to repeal and replace Florida’s existing program.

The bill (SB 1226) would do away with the Special Teachers are Rewarded, or STAR, program the Legislature passed last year. Instead, it would create the Merit Awards Program that will give local unions and school districts more flexibility in developing performance pay plans tailored to their needs.

“This gets closer to what we believe would be a true workable compensation reward system,” said Florida Education Association president Andy Ford, whose union includes locals across the state. “The STAR program has really torn school districts apart.”

Critics complained STAR has been too rigid, puts too much reliance on standardized student tests to determine which teachers would get bonuses and gave districts too little time to develop local plans. Teachers and their unions filed administrative and legal challenges, and some districts refused to participate even thought it would cost them millions of state dollars allocated for the bonuses.

A 39-0 roll call sent the compromise legislation to the House for a final vote scheduled Thursday. It is supported by House leaders, the statewide teachers union and associations representing school boards and superintendents.

Ford said bill should remove a wedge that STAR has placed between school boards and unions. That could have been avoided if lawmakers and other state officials, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, had seriously considered what teachers and their unions were saying before STAR passed, Ford said…

23 03 2007
Nance Confer

Exactly! Big whoop! The only change I have seen is that the teachers get a bigger bribe. Or more teachers get included in the bribery scheme.

The world still revolves around the FCAT and absolutely nothing of substance is changed.


28 03 2007

Written as a response to Greg but I decided it belonged here instead —

As some here, including you, acknowledged earlier, home education isn’t what makes creationist beliefs or child abuse or general illiteracy, prejudice and hate speech, nor is public schooling the solution to any of them.

Because you are so much smarter than the average bear, you may naturally think of all sorts of things to improve other people and their behavior, beliefs, health and productivity, etc. Sometimes “those people” whoever they are seem stupid to you for not doing things your way? Heck, I feel that way every day in traffic; I reroute school buses and redesign intersections in my mind, landscapes too. And don’t even get me started on other people’s children in public places! I used to be an elementary school principal and I still have that VOICE and the urge to use it. It’s a constant struggle not to act on my many ideas to fix things and people, or at least contain them, limit their deviance from my standards. 🙂

So yeah, I’ve got the I-can-fix-everybody bug. But I was raised on the lightbulb joke about psychologists (my mother was a university guidance counselor) — how many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to really WANT to change.

On NPR yesterday a learned critic of the corporate self-help industry from some university (I was in the car talking with kids, sorry) pronounced self-help training immoral and ineffective if it didn’t wait for people to *want* to change, and forced the improvement lessons and policies on them by the edict of well-meaning highers-up. How smart do we need to be to know that doesn’t work, and to realize the same truth applies to kids, families and humans generally?

Our schools, nosy neighbors, our science, churches, government and even our movie stars seem not to care any more whether a person WANTS all the changes they think up for our own good. I don’t force lessons on my kids, and I surely don’t want lessons forced on free citizens, not in the name of THEIR kids and not even in the name of my own. It doesn’t work so why bother?

28 03 2007

I don’t mind that Greg ticked me off with his probing but unresearched swipes at hsing. He’s allowed to tick me off. 🙂 But he does not seem to be learning or even attempting to learn that there is a world outside the narrow slice of creationist hsing that he has chosen to focus on. At least not at last count. I’ll have to make my way back to his site later.

I hope you posted your thoughtful comments there too, JJ. Wherever his “there” is now. I’m not clear if this is in response to his creationist science thread or his what do hsers do thread.


28 03 2007
Nance Confer

Well, I just went over to Greg’s blog and, once again, he has managed to tick me off. Is he just deliberately obtuse or does he have some mission against hsers?

I am not hopeful of anything worthwhile coming out of this exchange.


29 03 2007

Maybe you should link your “progressive homeschooling” Culture Kitchen essay at his place?

So this run-with-your-false-belief-about-people is Harvard-educated ANTHROPOLOGY in action? Huh. Brings out the snark in me, probably there’s a biological explanation for that . . .

I guess defining anthropologists as all the same wouldn’t be very scientific, would it? There are apparently many subtypes with both similarities and differences, and presumably unique individuals within each sub group? Gee, I wonder if the same is true for HOMESCHOOLERS??; we’d have to ask an expert, if we could find one . . (we wouldn’t want to dismiss out of hand ALL biological anthropologists as hopeless)

OTOH, I tried to represent the HS community as dispassionately as possible and play nice at his place — here’s my last comment (which has several hotlinks if you read it there instead of here):

Thinking Homeschoolers have responded with restraint, research, self-examination and great compassion for the possibility of any abused child anywhere, see for example NHEN’s “Thoughts on Protecting Children in Homeschooling Families” — and I note that we’ve done this even when the “topic” is thrown out as the worst kinds of prejudice and sophistry, or when it turns out the “topic” really isn’t abused kids but stealth-attacking home education by public school apologists, with whatever explosives they can wrap their ideology in and toss out into the public zeitgeist. See Mssrs. Rob Reich of Stanford’s philosophy department and the globetrotting former teacher union mercenary Michael Apple for example, if this point needs support.

It gets old though — I give you Nance as Exhibit A.

COD – no need to gamble; the annual PDK-Gallup Poll (see several years worth reviewed here) demonstrates that the majority of parents do believe (mere belief) that the nation’s public schools generally are terrible BUT the school their own child attends is just ducky. Something like 80% of all respondents –memory only, but I worked with these data for many years before I retired from school administration to home educate my own kids– give their own oldest child’s school an A or B grade.

When I worked for the schools, I said (naturally!) that this meant schools were great. These days, I take it more as a reminder that it’s human nature to believe what you need to believe, to get through the day and feel like a good-enough parent. And that it’s human nature to be affected by whatever the mainstream targets to thump up on (not just schools, how about homeschooling?) when you have no evidence to the contrary and don’t perceive it will affect you personally either way. Also, just because a belief doesn’t come with evidence, doesn’t make it automatically false . . .
But it is still all about belief, not facts and analysis and valid conclusions for making sound public policy.

Of course I’m no biological anthropologist, think we could get one to take a more incisive look? 🙂

Greg – those poll data apply to all parents, elementary school too.

16 04 2007
Freedom of Education Quoting Snook School Post « Cocking A Snook!

[…] of Education Quoting Snook School Post 16 04 2007 Just noticed a boldface quote from this post featured at the Freedom of Education homepage — where there’s plenty to feast on […]

29 03 2008
Valerie Moon, Rob Reich, NPR and THE Conversation « Cocking A Snook!

[…] . .We all have our pet peeves, and how we feel about reliance on governmental oversight skews opinion about making laws and regulations as much as being an ‘advocate’ for a particular undertaking, […]

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