Indoctrination instead of education in schools

In the name of equity, schools have become indoctrination centers (“I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated,” Common Sense with Bari Weiss, Apr. 13).  By doing so, they make a mockery of their mission to develop critical thinking in students.

As long as divergent ideas are punished, students are severely shortchanged.  I submit that they can handle controversial material.  In fact, it is what will deeply engage them more than anything else.  Yet we persist that they must be protected lest we harm their self-esteem.

What Paul Rossi, a teacher at Grace Church High School in New York City, did by pointing this out took great courage.  The school’s administrators deserve to be fired, and Rossi deserves a citation.  I hope he gets it.

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Teaching creativity is a chimera in higher education

Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz called on colleges and universities to make teaching creativity their No. 1 goal (“ ‘The major challenge facing every university, every teacher, is how to teach creativity’ “ yahoo.com, Apr. 7).  But I submit that everything they do today is guaranteed to fail in pursuit of that objective.

I say that because individuality has been replaced by groupthink.  How many students feel free to express ideas that don’t toe the party line?  If they try, they are cancelled by fellow students and more importantly by their professors.  As a result, they don’t have an opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills that characterize critical thinking.  I expect the situation to get much worse.

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College admission based on personal essays

More and more colleges have eliminated the SAT and ACT for the purpose of admission because they claim standardized test scores are biased.  Instead, they are requiring applicants to submit a personal essay (“Inconvenient Facts for the War on Testing,” The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 6). 

I say the real reason is that grading of personal essays is more subjective, which allows them to increase racial diversity.  The truth is that not everyone is college material. That has nothing at all to do with race.  But colleges are dead set on engineering a racial mix regardless of students’ proven ability to handle rigorous academic work.

Since merit seemingly no longer matters, why not just admit everyone who applies, as in public high schools?  I’m being sarcastic now, but there will be a day when that may be the case.

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College admission based on personal essays

More and more colleges have eliminated the SAT and ACT for the purpose of admission because they claim standardized test scores are biased.  Instead, they are requiring applicants to submit a personal essay (“Inconvenient Facts for the War on Testing,” The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 6). 

I say the real reason is that grading of personal essays is more subjective, which allows them to increase racial diversity.  The truth is that not everyone is college material. That has nothing at all to do with race.  But colleges are dead set on engineering a racial mix regardless of students’ proven ability to handle rigorous academic work.

Since merit seemingly no longer matters, why not just admit everyone who applies, as in public high schools?  I’m being sarcastic now, but there will be a day when that may be the case. (To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

The value of ‘racist’ novels

Rather than eliminate novels that are seen today as racist, they can be a valuable teaching vehicle (“I’m A Black Mother And Educator. Here’s Why I Let My Kids Read Racist books,” Huffington Post, Apr. 4). These books need to be understood in the time period in which they were published and the author’s intent.

Consider Huckleberry Finn, which is a staple of 11th-grade English classes.  Although, Twain uses the N-word 219 times, he makes Jim the personification of morality.  If the book were pulled from the curriculum solely because of the use of the N-word, students would be deprived of an opportunity to delve deeply into the author’s meaning.

Students can’t develop critical thinking if they are never given time to debate controversial issues.

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The A-List college obsession

The Operation Varsity Blues scandal showed what some parents were willing to do to get their children into marquee-name colleges (“Panic Mode,” Time, Apr. 12).  But their actions were so unnecessary.

The truth is that what students major in is far more important in landing a well-paying and satisfying job than where they spend four years hitting the books.  I submit that majoring in computer science at, say, the University of Mississippi is more productive in that sense than majoring in gender studies from Harvard University. My views on this were published by the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal on Apr. 9th (“Regional Colleges Can Compete by Emphasizing Choosing the Right Major”).

So what the desperation comes down to is really about buying a brand.  That may satisfy some students and parents in the short run, but in the long run it won’t matter much.

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Erasing student debt is a bad idea

With student debt now $1.6 trillion – up from $250 billion in 2002 – forgiveness is being considered by politicians (“Erasing Student Debt Makes Economic Sense. So Why Is It So Hard to Do?” Time, Apr. 1).  They argue that it would be good for the economy in the long run.

I say it’s a bad idea because it sends a clear message about individual fiscal responsibility. What about those students who have successfully paid off their loans?  Don’t they deserve compensation?  One of the most important lessons young people need to learn is how to handle their finances.  If they know that the government will always be there to bail them out, it will encourage even more poor decisions.

The truth is that young people have been wildly oversold on the importance of a four-year degree.  Rather than spend thousands of dollars on degrees that are not worth the paper they are printed on, they need to rethink their career plans. Community colleges, which offer a wide variety of courses in virtually every field, are a far better option.

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The proper use of standardized tests

Once again, standardized tests are in the news (“Standardized tests aren’t the problem, it’s how we use them,” the Brookings Brief, Apr. 1).  This time the argument against them is that they are useless because the pandemic has disrupted the education of students across the country.

Although that’s certainly true, the better argument against them is how they are used.  If they are used to name and shame, then they do little to improve educational quality.  The proper purpose should be strictly as diagnostic tools.  That’s what Finland, whose students consistently shine on tests of international competition, does. 

Unfortunately, to most people all tests are equal. That’s a huge mistake because tests are designed with different purposes in mind.  Great care is necessary in drawing inferences about outcomes. We don’t assume all antibiotics are equal.  Why should tests be different?

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Teachers unions’ shutdowns will backfire

By resisting reopening of schools during the pandemic, teachers unions unwittingly accelerated parental choice (“School Choice Advances in the States,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 30).  Education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships, and vouchers are evidence that unions are losing public support.

Until they took an unyielding stand, parents tended to be in their corner.  But their patience has finally run out, as seen in West Virginia, Georgia, South Dakota and Arizona.  I support teachers unions, but I think they have shot themselves in the foot by failing to be more flexible.

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Using a lottery for admission to elite schools

In an attempt to racially diversify their student bodies, elite high schools are replacing merit with a lottery in deciding who is admitted (“Top High Schools Scrap Merit-Based Admission. Will the NBA Follow? The Daily Signal, Mar. 18).  This is the latest attempt to undermine whatever excellence remains in the nation’s public schools.

It’s largely in reaction to the overrepresentation of Asians in the best high schools.  Yet if we truly believe that hard work and intelligence are the keys to success in school, then a lottery makes a mockery of those words.  The truth is that if students are admitted by lottery, too many will soon find out that they are over their heads.  They will then drop out.

In professional basketball, most of the players are black.  We don’t demand a lottery to racially diversify teams.  We accept the fact that black players are the best.  Why can’t we do the same in education when Asians consistently outperform their peers?

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