Monday, September 27, 2010

American Ignorance Part Daux

I was going to write about how I thought people, like those on the right, could go through school and even get college degrees and still remain ignorant of the world around them. How could this be ? I though I might get a handle on it. But now that I have done some research, I am still at a loss.

I remember in elementary school starting in the 3rd grade reading about life in parts of europe. We had the
Alice and Jerry series of readers in the school I went to in Ohio. It was not a big school and in a very rural area so not state of the art even for the 1950s. The book was call If I Were Going. We learned about England and Norway and France and even North Africa. Fourth grade was Singing Wheels which told of frontier life and fifth grade was Engine Whistles which continued the story of how this fictional town grew. Both of which explained very well not only the social conditions and life styles but also the technology of the time and how the changes impacted the people.

Sixth grade was Run Away Home which told of the Harding family's trip from New England down the eastern seaboard, across the south and up through California to Washington State. Give very good descriptions of the various areas.

Jr. High had what was called Social Studies but we also had a half year of Ohio History and a half year of psychology - which unfortunately I did not get a chance to finish because we moved that year. All of this sparking our imaginations.

So this small school made sure we knew something about places other than where we were living.

But college was quite different. Everyone was required to take a certain number of courses in the humanities and history. But for the most part these were very large lecture courses with little or no interaction. And unless you were majoring in the subject, most students just wanted to pass them and get them out of the way so the
important courses - those in your major - could be taken.
And I think this is where the problem lies. Education in this country for most people - those of us who actually have to earn a living some how - is a way of getting an entrance pass to some high paying job. And unfortunately that is how it is sold and that is how it is presented.

But how can we have a democratic government where the electorate is ignorant of the world around them ? Ignorant of basic science or history or arts or sociology or geography ? How can we have leaders who are knowledgeable in politics but dumb as dirt about everything else ?

There is a book out and you can down load a pdf of it call The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. It's mostly libertarian conspiracy swill, but the author does make a few good points. That the educational system in this country has been taken over by technocrats who may know the science of education but do not have a clue when it comes to the sociological and enlightenment aspect. We are teaching people narrow facts and figures and discouraging creativity and imagination. We have for a very long time failed to teach people how to learn. And to learn that the liberal arts in this country - history, art, music, philosophy - are continuously being shrunk or eliminated completely from public education and even some state universities, is out right criminal in my opinion.

There was a series that was broadcast on PBS called The Day The Universe Changed and another called Connections by a historian named
James Burke. Very interesting and entertaining. You can watch it on youtube. And I remember also watching You Are There which was hosed by Walter Cronkite. I recommend both of these series highly. They should be required viewing for everyone.


trkingmomoe said...

I grew up in the same education standards as C 2 years ahead of him in a county just south of him. I remember international fair days were moms would set up booths of various nations. They would dress in traditional costumes and we would get to taste foods and drinks from their booths. As well as all the geography and history, we also would sit and watch on a black and white TV that some one's parent brought to school so we could see the rockets take off from Cape Canaveral.

I didn't get to go to college until 10 years after graduation. Very nervious about being out of school for such a long break, I thought I would have to struggle. I had gotten out more from my education then they had. They may have had more difficult math but seemed to not know as much about our country and world.

I also think it has also to do with parents and what is important at home.

cmaukonen said...

It's a Catch 22 momoe. The parents attitudes are formed by their experience, their schooling not the least of which. And the parents attitudes influence their children's attitudes and the way they get educated and why.

And on and on.


I remember James Burke and Carl Sagan and all those wonderful science series on PBS.

Still great documentaries out there.

I love getting your perspective on education since you work at the university.

And I agree that many people get more of university studies after they have had more experience 'out there' in the real world.

Amike said...

I just learned something, a comment can't be more than 4, 096 characters... talk about dumbing down. I'll try this in two parts.

I really can't believe anyone can take Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt seriously. Of course I had to Google the book, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. I wish this book was libertarian conspiracy theory...but it's worse than that--its a dumb book, designed to make people dumber. Look at the sources she quotes approvingly. Jesse Helms a libertarian? John Ashbrook a libertarian? Nope and nope.
End of Part I

Amike said...

Part II.

How big should a grade school be? Let's try something simple, six grades, plus kindergarten. Now tell me how big you wish a class to be. to make the math simple, lets say 25. Taking the $6,300.00 figure at face value, not recognizing that average is as bogus as they come--schools are principally funded by property taxes so the elite suburbs spend much more per capita and the working class inner suburbs much less, not to mention what is spent per capita on the most crowded, densest populated schools. But I'll take that figure. 50 students per grade x 7 levels = 350 students. Make the school a little bigger? How about three classrooms per grade. That boosts the number 525 students. Now I do the math to get a budget for that school... That's going to give me a budget of 3,307,500.00 to educate 525 students. So let's see what we can do to economize. What can those kids do without? Well, I suppose we could make them walk to school...that would be a healthy thing to do, and would mean no school buses to purchase and maintain, no drivers to hire, no monitors to make sure the little dears don't get tanked by a Humvee. That would save a hefty chunk.

Supplies, texts, that sort of thing? Let them bring their own if they want them. Vaccination? a School nurse? How is measles prevention and care during flu epidemics "educational?" Dump those frills. Suck it up...tough it out. A building with some dignity? Who needs those? Those temples to learning erected in the 19th century? An anonymous box is plenty good. Turn those old schools into condominiums as some school districts have done. A school gets just as much respect if it looks like a Walmart as if it looks like a Greek Temple.

Maintenance? Cut the budget for that... if the kiddies break a rail or a stair, and the next kid breaks a leg, it will teach a valuable lesson in survival of the fittest. Who needs B. F. Skinner when we have William Graham Sumner.

Feed the kids? Stupid idea... they'll learn more on an empty stomach and also value their education more... the idea that nutrition and intellectual growth or ability have something do with each other is creeping socialism. NEVER MIND that all those other countries beating us at the education game keep their kids in school longer, pay their teachers better (in local standard currencies, not ours) and have smaller classes than we do. That's different. We're Amurrican!!! Teachers? Well, I guess we need some of those (shrug), but do we need to pay them more than we pay jailers? I thought all jails were created equal. At least at a median of 53,150 we're paying them less than cops, 55,180. Eeek! Those teachers are costing us 1,116,150. No wonder our taxes are so high. Custodians? Forget it... let the teachers and kids clean the place...they're the ones who made it dirty. Library? Librarian? Frills. We can't afford those. Music? That commie (or was he a nazi?) Horace Mann snuck that into the curriculum--claimed that singing was good for the lungs and would cut down the amount of tuber, toobur--heck, TB.

Ever since I met my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Gjesdahl, moonlighting selling clothes at Donaldson's Department Store my respect for him mounted and my respect for those who claim education is too expensive fell.

It is so easy to blame education at all levels for social ills. Too easy. Wouldn't it be nice to scapegoat some other vocation for a little while? If the so-called middle class got the education it truly deserved, I would shudder for the future, I truly would.

End of rant. (I do suppose that most people did catch the joke in "American Ignorance, Part Daux)

cmaukonen said...

Well Mike the school I went to in Ohio originally had K-!2 in one building. Built during the WPA.

But I get your point. The point I am trying to make is that with all this focus on School == $$$ we are leaving out School == Knowledge + Insight + Awareness. Among other things.