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Schooling Scholars on Classroom Success

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Posted on Aug 20, 2010
kindergarten
AP / Jeff Gentner

Beverly Wilson leads her kindergarten class through a song at Lakewood Elementary School in St. Albans, W. Va., in September 2007.

By Moshe Adler

These days everyone seems to think teachers need improving—even people who uncover evidence to the contrary. A group of economists from Berkeley, Harvard and Northwestern recently made headlines when they published a study that was ostensibly about the relationship between teacher quality and student success as adults. The economists made three observations. The first is that when children are assigned to kindergarten classes randomly, test scores in some classes are higher than in others. The authors argue that these differences must be due to differences in teacher performance (as well as peer effects). The second observation is that children who attend high-score kindergarten classes earn more money in their adult life. Based on these two observations, the economists conclude that we should invest in raising the quality of teachers, and The New York Times goes a step further and argues that teachers should be paid according to their performance.

However, the economists also made a third observation that they dismissed as having no bearing on their conclusions: Children who attend high-score classes in kindergarten perform only negligibly better on standardized tests than other students in later years. Why? The authors claim this finding isn’t important. As Raj Chetty of Harvard, one of the economists who produced the study, told the New York Times, “We don’t really care about test scores. We care about adult outcomes.”

Obviously the authors do care about test scores, but only the ones that fit their hypothesis. If a child scores higher than her peers at age 5 but not in later years, why would she earn more than her peers do at age 27 (the age of the adults in the study)? Obviously it is not what she had learned in school that increased her earnings. But if not to begin to prepare their students for academic work in subsequent years, what should kindergarten teachers teach, then? And if academic performance in later years does not matter, what should teachers of any other grade teach? When placed in context, it becomes clear that rather than highlighting the value of teachers’ performance, what this study really does is cast doubt on the value of kindergarten education as a panacea for poverty.

The most interesting numbers in this study are those that the authors do not discuss, because they make it possible to compare the students in the study with students in general. The students in the study were 27 years old in 2007, and their average wage was $1,232 a month. Those who attended the highest-scoring class earned on average about $1,330, and those among all students in the study, regardless of which class they attended, who received nearly perfect scores on the standardized test earned on average about $2,080 a month. In 2007, the average wage for all 27-year-old full-time workers in the U.S. was $2,792, and the top 10 percent among these workers earned $4,800 more. Even the median wage was 20 percent higher than what these top kindergarten achievers were making. Clearly sending your kid to the best kindergarten class will not save her from poverty, and neither will exceptionally high scores on kindergarten standardized tests. What should these parents have done differently?

These children lived in Tennessee, and the very best thing their parents could have done for them would have been to move to another state. Tennessee is a “right to work state” with a law that gives an employer the right to employ a worker even when this worker does not pay union dues. This means that a worker can enjoy the high wages that a union brings without paying the costs that the union must endure, and the result is that union membership in Tennessee is remarkably low, 5.5 percent in 2007 as compared to a national average of 12.4 percent. Tennessee shows its hostility toward workers also by not having a state minimum wage law. Thus, in Tennessee the federal minimum wage applies, but the state does not enforce it. It is not surprising, then, that the median wage in Tennessee in 2009 was $2,456 a month while for the nation it was $309 higher, at $2,765.

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There is of course no doubt that our public education system is broken. There is also no doubt that wages, whether in Tennessee or elsewhere, are too low. But blaming “bad teachers” is not the answer to either.

What schools need is more teachers so that classrooms can be smaller. In addition, teachers should be given incentives to make teaching a lifetime career, because the experience of teachers matters. In fact, these are the only valid results of the Tennessee classroom study.

What workers need are laws that permit them to vote for closed shops and that put a cap on the ratio between the highest- and lowest-paid employee, and a minimum wage that is a living wage. Teachers are workers who, like the rest of us, need and deserve better working conditions and better pay. What’s good for teachers is good for the rest of us.


Moshe Adler is the author of “Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science That Makes Life Dismal” (The New Press, 2010). He teaches economics at Columbia University and at the Harry Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College.


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By gerard, August 25, 2010 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

The idea of “equivocation seen as a failure” is profound.  Equivocation cannot be tested right or wrong.  Equivocation requires a mind trained in balancing pros and cons and considering various points of view.   
  Equivocation is well outside of the boundaries of elementary science and math.  Equivocation is a powerful element in all the arts and human “nature”—a primary element of what we call “beauty” and “humanitarianism.”
  Equivocation is considered dangerous by religious and political extremeists.

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By Géza Éder, August 25, 2010 at 8:51 am Link to this comment

“I watch movies for a living and the change to the artform over the same period
you describe has just been appalling.  Ears and eyeballs are never left to
wander, they’re always made to focus and glue.  Notes of equivocation are seen
as a failure. “

Great observation grin  Also, no errors, no mistakes, nothing random that just happened that way (in movies) - every little thing has to be designed, planned and controlled.  Mostly by focus groups.

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By Egomet Bonmot, August 24, 2010 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

Geza – You’re point of view from Hungary is fascinating.  I completely agree
with you and as another oldtimer with thirty years of adult life behind me I’d
like to give my own highfalutin pronouncement on what’s wrong with the
culture:  It’s too emphatic.  Points of destination are constantly set before
children and adults in every sphere of life.  Nothing is arrived at. 
Twentysomethings, you’ve just *gotta* know that it didn’t used to be this way. 
I watch movies for a living and the change to the artform over the same period
you describe has just been appalling.  Ears and eyeballs are never left to
wander, they’re always made to focus and glue.  Notes of equivocation are seen
as a failure.  It reminds me of Japanese t.v. 20 years ago.

In education the whole idea of intuition has been re-branded “self-direction”,
which throws it into the familiar category of personal improvement, as if it were
some kind of pantomime to be rehearsed for one’s own betterment.

That and the nonstop distraction of wired connectivity of course.  That weird
sense of a permanent present, and kids’ near-constant isolation with peers of
their own age and social class (now I’m stealing from J.T. Gatto.)

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By Géza Éder, August 24, 2010 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment

Maybe I misunderstood what you said, my impression was that you also kind of said the same thing as him, sorry about that.  My comment was mainly a reply to WarrenMetzler’s though, sorry grin

Anyway, about the “chicken and egg question”...here’re my vague thoughts on it:

I work in creating and adapting electronic curricula to public education, for a Hungarian state owned company, so I go through quite a lot of them, and I see a pressure that looks pretty obvious and clear to me: where 30 years ago textbooks (and popular science stuff, which was pretty high quality in the Eastern bloc, with lots of awesome Eastern Europian and Soviet writers) said it was important to look “deeper” and not be deceived by appearances, right now a lot of actual teaching materials are superficial, encourage manipulation (and lying) and the whole culture of “as long as it looks/sounds good, it’s good”.  Before, children were taught not to judge based on first impressions - now, they are taught how to make a good first impression, no matter whether false or true - and this doesn’t only happen in the mass media, it happens in school teaching materials also.  I know this sounds like a shallow overgeneralisation, but I just can’t put it any other way.  This clearly undermines any school-taught values completely, which is a huge reason why nothing but religion and dumb forms of nationalism remain here as real operative values, beside self-interest.

And at least in Hungary, it’s certainly an outside pressure.  These things clearly changed when the economic system changed.  Just like the “quality” of students changed in very good relation to access/consumption of mass media.  This is not an internal process here, it’s obviously mostly influenced by external pressures (just like, for example, the appearance of several Intelligent Design books on “science” bookshelves of bookstores at about the exact same time…even though there’s no historical basis for this movement in Hungary, but I could list lots of stuff).  Maybe it’s easier to see these things here, outside America.

Also, if people’s behaviour (statistically speaking) coincides with high level interests, and you can clearly see the pressure exerted by these high level interests to this end, and there’s very little pressure in the other direction, I think there’s a good chance one might cause the other, at least partly.

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By Egomet Bonmot, August 24, 2010 at 11:09 am Link to this comment

err… Geza, my response to adamantine9 spoke directly to the notion of a corrupting youth culture which s/he brought up.  Imho it’s rather a chicken & egg question whether capitalism produces a culture of venality or the other way around—whether anomie caused by the falling away of moral certainties makes us hit the stores and just not give a damn.  Why not leave the reading comp prizes to the makers of the SAT?...

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By gerard, August 24, 2010 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

Here’s one for you:  I was campaigning a middle class neighborhood to encourage citizens to vote in favor of a school bond issue to repair a decaying classroom building.  Waiting to talk with the principal, I was asked to take a seat in the reception room and wait. The principal was busy.
  Beside me sat a young girl, perhaps 15 or so, with a pen in her hand and an open spiral notebook on her lap.  For some moments she wrote nothing, just chewed on the end of the pen.  Finally she clamped her fist around the pen point, leaned over closer to the paper, her hair falling forward across the notebook.
  For some moments she remained motionless, then pulled back upright again.  I glanced over and noticed she had managed to write one word—“I ...”
After a few moments the principal came out.  Before ushering me in, he spoke gruffly to her:  “Are you finished?” and moved to take the notebook in hand.
She blushed and hung her head.
  Observing her inability to “perform” he dropped the notebook back into her lap. “Just sit here till you write what I said,” he ordered, then ushered me into his office and closed the door, smiling “Good morning!  Now, what can I do for you?”
  I ......

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By Géza Éder, August 24, 2010 at 10:15 am Link to this comment

Err, people, the poster said this:

“These attitudes merely reflect broader conditions in our country: a corrupting and pervasive youth culture sold—capitalist greed triumphing over moral decency—to our young by venal media corporations, and, even more influentially, the sorry and desperate socio-economic state of the homes and communities served by perhaps most US public schools.”

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By Géza Éder, August 24, 2010 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

And really, you can only be “100% responsible for all you do” in a free society where institutions help you and prepare you to do this. Western individualism and universal personal responsibility is pretty much a myth to pacify the “suckers” and calm the conscience of “winners”, seeing how Western civilisation is actually the least individualistic.

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By Egomet Bonmot, August 24, 2010 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

adamantine9—

I in turn am amazed at your willingness to be point person in this epic failure of our kids.  You’re right to mention the smug incuriousness that infects students and the culture.  But how could it exist without their compulsory attendance in factory schools that are meaningless to their lives—and to those of their teachers too, if they’re honest with themselves?  I know it’s a tough job market out there but jeez.  Read your J.T. Gatto!

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By Géza Éder, August 24, 2010 at 10:09 am Link to this comment

@WarrenMetzler: errr…my impression is that you completely misunderstood adamantine9’s post, in which she/he seems to be blaming social structures (and institutions) and not individuals.  Anyway, noone says that some (very few) individuals can’t overcome the problems with institutional structures, the problem is that these structures (of which institutions are only a component) actually inhibit individuals, not help them.

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By adamantine9, August 24, 2010 at 9:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As an ACTUAL high school teacher, I may have something to contribute to this conversation. I’m always amazed when I see at any rate many articles about our failed US school institution because of their glaring absence of any mention of the culture brought to school each day by a large, and, depending on the school in question, possibly overwhelming, contingent of the students. This culture (seen by me in students of all races and ethnic backgrounds) is a set of attitudes which include arrogant anti-intellectualism, the glorification of violence and physical domination of others, snarling disrespect for teachers and other school officials, and a nauseating pride in ignorance. These attitudes merely reflect broader conditions in our country: a corrupting and pervasive youth culture sold—capitalist greed triumphing over moral decency—to our young by venal media corporations, and, even more influentially, the sorry and desperate socio-economic state of the homes and communities served by perhaps most US public schools. It may not be an exaggeration to say that materializations of the very worst aspects of life in the US get compacted and channeled through the school door every morning. All this, I submit, is so obvious to school teachers as to seem to them not worth saying. But outside observers such as the author of this article, presumably, and many of my fellow commentators to it seem oblivious to it. My point is to suggest that people who study our public secondary education establishment begin to give to the deplorable facts of student ill-readiness to learn the heavy emphasis they deserve in any causal analysis of school failure. Perhaps this corrected emphasis may lead to public acion aimed at—literally and simplistically speaking—turning our country around (but probably not). As a corollary, school sociologists ought to stop blaming teachers—or certainly blaming them exclusively—for public education’s failures. Of course, bad teachers exist, but need it really be said that it is asking too much of teachers to effectively fight, by themselves, class by class, the terrible, combined effects on their students of a predatory youth culture industry, and our economic decline into banana republichood?

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By gerard, August 23, 2010 at 6:46 pm Link to this comment

Hey, John Ellis, for Pete’s sake!  I hope you don’t think I was seriously recommending cutting out music, arts, library books, computers etc. etc?
Might I suggest that you keep your mind open for satire when you read these posts as many people use it frequently, but not always, so you have to learn to recognize what to take seriously and what to let go by with a cynical smile.  There is a devil in some of us that likes to turn things upside-down now and then just for the fun of it. With us it’s a way to dismpower the gnawing pain of reality. Religion does that for many people, but not for all of us.

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By Cammie Novara, August 23, 2010 at 11:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The second I saw this hilarious Yes We Scam! B.S. We Can Believe In! Obama Approval Plummets commentary my first thought was Truth Dig’s web visitors absolutely must have an opportunity to read this! http://hubpages.com/hub/Yes-We-Scam-BS-We-Can-Believe-In-Obama-Approval-Plummets

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By Géza Éder, August 23, 2010 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

And imo it’s not just about the future.  Childhood is the most valuable and important part of most people’s lives, with the greatest capacity for happiness, and teachers (and thus schools and the entire educational structure) have an absolute responsibility to make the most of this time.  Not just so that they can become “productive workers” or even “good democratic citizens”, but because childhood happiness is important in itself, and because it’s simply impossible to compensate for a fucked up childhood.

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By bpeterson1931, August 23, 2010 at 9:33 am Link to this comment

The conventional wisdom is that schools are broken.  This brokenness is something that the wise can easily see as they peer over their reading glasses.  The implication from these same wise folks is that educational problems are just an anomaly and can be repaired by fixing teachers, poverty, school buildings, curriculum adjustment, standardized testing, etc, etc.  They seem to ignore a real fix, that is, an honest discussion with the folks in the mirror.

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By Fernando Collor de Mellow, August 22, 2010 at 7:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There are unions and there are unions.  Behemoths like United Teachers Los Angeles want to bask in the reflected glow of, say, last century’s steelworkers, but the truth is they’re a corrupt, bloated and incompetent bureaucracy & a living embodiment of the Peter Principle.

I’ll hit the picket lines for hotel workers, but teachers’ unions like UTLA are a disgrace.

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By gerard, August 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm Link to this comment

Bust the union and then pick the teachers off one by one.  Divide and conquer.  (Julius Caesar, BCE, II believe.)  All politics is divided into three parts:  Right, Left and Totally Insane.) Bust the school building, require the “underprivileged” to sit there physically, on empty stomachs, learning English as a Second Language, and scorn their native cultures. 
  Cut audio-visual equipment and computers, music, art and other “frills” like library books. Reward sports over everything else.  Test every other minute to check on “under-achievers”, test teachers on “performance” and call “security” when all else fails. Do not repair plumbing. 
  Criticize parents for being “illiterate” meaning “don’t speak proper English.” Get the school nurse to prescribe ritilin for “hyperactive behavior.” Ignore semi-somnolence due to boredom or sleeping on a couch with broken springs.
  Finally, turn “public education” over to private enterprise to “run the schools right” and walk away with a satisfied smirk.  You “did what you could,” but they “just don’t value education the way we do” etc. etc. My kids are in private school, Why should I care about other people’s kids?  I did my share!”  Or “My kids are all grown and moved away, and my social security is limited so why should I have to pay taxes and vote for bond issues to support the schools around here?  What do I get out of it?”

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By kerryrose, August 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment

Blackspeare

Unions prevent abuses from administration.  Period.  Union bashing is nothing but requesting carte blanche for administration.

If you are speaking from experience it is not as a teacher.

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By Blackspeare, August 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm Link to this comment

Syncing teacher performance directly with salary is a fool’s mistake.  The more lucrative the job, the less qualified the applicants.  Before the teachers’ union, those individuals who went into teachers were dedicated and took pride in their profession.  As soon as the union(s) took control, salaries went up and performance went down.  Today, once a teacher has five years experience, the job is a piece of cake.

P.S.  I talk from experience!

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By felicity, August 22, 2010 at 8:14 am Link to this comment

Anecdote - Years ago when teaching in a junior-high-
school, I would on occasion get ‘rejects’ from private
schools in my English and Math classes.

“A behavioral problem” was the reason for the reject.
Whenever I hear that private schools don’t have nearly
the problems public schools face, I do not wonder why.

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By ardee, August 22, 2010 at 4:57 am Link to this comment

Public education has been under attack, mostly by the right, for many years now. I believe it is because the word “public” appears next to the word “education”. As these folks are dedicated to prove that govt fails to work, an easily refuted claim even though there are far too many cases in which govt does indeed fail, dragged down by the very same right wingers in fact as they find ways to prove their case.

Public education has been a force that brings us together. Perhaps that is at the heart of the storm of mostly inaccurate critiques.

I do appreciate the comments that preceded me here on this thread, showing an astuteness that gladdens my heart.

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By kerryrose, August 21, 2010 at 11:38 am Link to this comment

I saw an interesting program on an inner city program that utilized the community to improve the school.  No, not the teachers, or SmartBoards, but the physical appearance of the school.

The parents and community rolled up their sleeves and transformed a dilapatated wreck of a jail school into a freshly painted, sparkling hallways, bathrooms and classrooms.  Guess what?  It worked.  The school showed a graduation rate from 40% to 64%.

Everyone knows, including children, if your environment is dirty and gross with cracked walls, broken toilets, peeling paint that you don’t matter and no one cares.  A clean environment tells children, ‘You matter, we care, this is what you deserve,’ and they respond.

I wish someone could explain to me how the businesses in major urban areas (NYC) are making billions, but somehow their money is not used for the surrounding community.  In the suburbs property taxes=school taxes.

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By gerard, August 21, 2010 at 10:32 am Link to this comment

Seems like there might soon be enough people with enough native smarts to understand that some powerful influences are turning people against each other, stimulating disagreement and making people sick in order to keep people from united action.
  Schools, public and private, have contributed to this disintegration just as much as other social institutions of both church and state.
  For at least the last 200 years, Americans have been encouraged to see themselves in terms of “white or non-white,” “haves or have-nots,”
“powerful or powerless,” “young or old,” “American or foreign,” etc. with the “upper” rank superior to, more “deserving” than the “lower.” Thus is the value of “having enough to go round” minimized and greed and excess of the few, justified. We have become “several very different nations, completely divisible, with liberty and justice for nobody”.
  This creeping sickness has been made worse by the waste of human and material resources on incessant wars and attempts at international dominance.
  Once the dishonesty and greed reaches the breaking point, as all excesses are bound to do, we will make
some great (and painful) changes. (This is too widely known to be a prophesy.  It’s a requium.
  Shall we now join the “positive psychologists” and work for their recent profession of “universal well being’ otherwise known as “human flourishing.”
  What is it?”...what people choose to do when they are not oppressed, when they choose freely—using what’s best inside you to belong to and serve something bigger than you are ... positive relationships, and achievement, mastery and competence.”(what?  no food, clothing and shelter? no peace? no justice?)  from “The War on Unhappiness” by Gary Greenberg, August Harpers.
  Read it if you want to wake up to where Uncle’s head is at! Enhanced Interrogation? Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (from which most of us are suffereing more or less)? It’s all in your head.  Can I sell you some of my Human Flourishing Shampoo?

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By dr wu, August 21, 2010 at 10:01 am Link to this comment

Give parents of failing students who go to failing schools with failing teachers the two keys to success they need to turn this dismal picture around: decent jobs and affordable housing. The rest of the nostrums—charter schools, uniforms, Catholic Schools,drill and skill curriculums, teach to the test, smaller classes, high paid teachers, Ivy Leagues classroom teachers, automated learning systems, etc.,etc. is just plain BS

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By Géza Éder, August 21, 2010 at 9:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@kerryrose: you’re so right.  To oversimplify, the numbers people become economists and the words people go into PR and marketing…although I’m not quite sure that they’re really “whizzes” though.

Anyway, in my opinion the main problem is that it’s not the school, not the family, not the town or city or even “nation” that brings up children any more, it’s mostly the mass media.  In Hungary the (huge) decline of academic performance coincides pretty well with a huge selection of mass media becoming very easily accessible for example.  People can go on about the responsibility of parents and schools, but as it goes, they just don’t have enough power (and these two should go together), as the cultural environment is so much out of their control in every way.

I mean, most people (Americans definitely) seem to oppose the idea that people as *parents*, as a group, should have rights concerning how the general cultural landscape looks.  It has to be determined by total “freedom” to manipulate and influence children in any conceivable way, and there can be no requirement of good will and respect towards children and their (and their parents’) autonomy.  If a kid watches 10 hours of TV a day, hey, it’s that kid’s fault, or their parents’, but in no way can TV programming (and videogames etc) be allowed to be shaped so that programs (ads and the rest) are not shallow, easy to digest, addictive, miseducating and so on.  This is exactly like saying that if you leave the door of your house open when leaving for work, your possessions are fair game for a burglar and you shouldn’t be surprised if everything’s gone when you get home (and there’s no place even for moral outrage - it’s your fault only).  Except, of course, we’re talking about childrens’ lives here, which are a bit more important than any material possessions.

And schools just can’t compete with media.  Learning is hard work, requires a lot of effort and focus, and it often takes a lot of work and time for a student to feel “success” - the same success (positive reinforcement) that TV programmes and videogames give them every five minutes (Halo, for example, is “thirty seconds of fun repeated over and over again” for example, a pretty awesome explanation, and a good indication of how addictivity is enhanced in these games; or consider Jonathan Blow’s opinion on WoW ( http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=16392 )).  Add to this the decreasing amount of time parents get to be with their children, the increasing pressure of ubiquitous private electronic communications, the huge money in researching the aspects of psychology that help manipulation (especially compared to actual pedagogical research), and what do you get?  There’s not nearly enough research and debate on this subject, and all the debate there is is basically whitewashing of certain forms of media (look at the pathetic video game article on this site…I’ve spent more than a decade on Internet gaming forums and the article’s at the level of 16 year old kids defending their hobby (except that the best forums do have actual discussions surpassing this pos.))

Anyway, you can consider this just another “blame the media for parental irresponsibility” post if you want (this is the pattern people usually fall back to), but just consider this: if a kid watches 7 hours of screen media a day (the average American kid), how much time is left for parents and schools to educate them?  If the media they consume is designed to achieve easy ends (and entertainment is far easier than teaching), if the amount of research behind it far surpasses educational research of the same type, if it’s supported by loads and loads of money, will it not have a far bigger educational effect than parents and schools - taken together?

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By felicity, August 21, 2010 at 9:23 am Link to this comment

Egomet Bonmot - You nailed it.  To pick up on your
“schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant” I
would add that there is some sort of anti-
intellectualism (anti-intellectuals if you will) rife
in this country, concomitant with a pro-rich also
rife in this country. 

Children, in spite of the erroneous belief that they
live on a different plane than adults, ‘get’ that
education is only worth the effort if getting one
will make you rich because the amount of wealth one
accrues is the measure by which one is admired in
America. Children know this because they’re
surrounded by adults who reflect it.

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By gerard, August 21, 2010 at 8:26 am Link to this comment

This country hasn’t been governed “by the people for the people” for a very long time.  It’s been governed “by the corporations for the corporations” includidng the Pentagon which is a corporation to end all corporations, and is doing just that as rapidly as possible. (It’s called “private contracting.)
To pretend otherwise it to deceive oneself, to desert democracy and end up on the dust pile of history.
There is something we can do, but we aren’t doing it. We have left the ball park to go take a leak, or get a burgher and a coke. It is doubtful if we will get back before the game is over.

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By Egomet Bonmot, August 21, 2010 at 8:05 am Link to this comment

From John Taylor Gatto’s “Why Schools Don’t Educate”:

“Our school crisis is a reflection of this greater social crisis. We seem to have lost our identity. Children and old people are penned up and locked away from the business of the world to a degree without precedent - nobody talks to them anymore and without children and old people mixing in daily life a community has no future and no past, only a continuous present. In fact, the name “community” hardly applies to the way we interact with each other. We live in networks, not communities, and everyone I know is lonely because of that. In some strange way school is a major actor in this tragedy just as it is a major actor in the widening guilt among social classes. Using school as a sorting mechanism we appear to be on the way to creating a caste system, complete with untouchables who wander through subway trains begging and sleep on the streets.

I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my twenty-five years of teaching - that schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very hard, the institution is psychopathic - it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to different cell where he must memorize that man and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.”

The rest is available online.

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By kerryrose, August 21, 2010 at 5:58 am Link to this comment

Is there any other way to rate success than by how much money is earned?  Is that the way we should define success?

We had a generation (or two) of math and science whizzes who, instead of venturing into the sciences, research, or medicine, went straight into the financial system because that is where ‘smarts’ could earn you the highest salary.

As a result the United States lags behind much of the world in sustainable development, updated infrastructure, and initiatives in health, among a thousands other areas. 

What we got was a lot of wheeling and dealing in the market systems in this country, and with interference in financial systems of other countries for a goal of personal enrichment.

Is this indicative of a good education?

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