A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: "It is not the role of ministers to prescribe which songs children sing ..."
Previous entry: Are Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper bad parents for not going private?
Monday May 05 2008

Here.  Quote:
image

Educational romanticism characterizes reformers of both Left and Right, though in different ways. Educational romantics of the Left focus on race, class, and gender. It is children of color, children of poor parents, and girls whose performance is artificially depressed, and their academic achievement will blossom as soon as they are liberated from the racism, classism, and sexism embedded in American education. Those of the Right see public education as an ineffectual monopoly, and think that educational achievement will blossom when school choice liberates children from politically correct curricula and obdurate teachers’ unions.

I am certainly a romantic in the sense that I believe that millions of children could be doing massively better than they do at school.  But I do not hope to see “educational” achievement blossoming.  Just achievement.

Murray’s point is that many are of limited “intellectual ability”, and maybe they are.  But many non-intellectuals do indeed flourish, as soon as they leave school and get stuck into real life.  This is because in real life, intellectual cleverness is not, to put it mildly, the only virtue that matters.

To repeat something which I suspect you are going to read a lot more at this blog if you stay with it: good education does not mean mere exam success, higher academic standards, etc.  It means what you need to learn to have a good life.  And for many, the best way to start learning about real life is to start real life.

Quote again:

The parallels between the trajectory of the Soviet Union’s attempt to reform its economy and the trajectory of the federal government’s attempts to reform the public education system are striking. By the mid-1980s, Soviet leaders knew that they had to introduce supply and demand into the economy, but they couldn’t bring themselves to try honest-to-God capitalism, so they tried to decentralize decision-making and permit some elements of a market economy while retaining central price controls and government ownership of the means of production. The reforms were based on premises about human nature that were patently wrong. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the educational romantics - and George W. Bush is the Percy Bysshe Shelley of educational romantics - knew that public school systems everywhere had become bureaucratically top-heavy and that many inner-city schools were no longer functional. They knew that the billions of federal money spent on upgrading education for disadvantaged children had produced no demonstrable improvements. But they thought they could fix the system. Bush’s glasnost was to implement accountability through measurement of results by test scores. Bush’s perestroika was a mishmash of performance standards and fragments of a market economy in schools, while retaining public funding of the schools and government control over the enforcement of the new standards. ...

Amen.  But, the conclusion to be drawn from this is not to be satisfied with the Western educational equivalent of the Brezhnev regime.  The conclusion, which Murray hints at obliquely but does not spell out: capitalism for all!  The real thing.

It worked and works for adults.  Freedom for adults – all adults - had and continues to have exactly the kind of transformational effects that anti-romantics regard as delusional.  Yet they happened and happen.  So, why not try the same thing with children?

If the modern electronic industry (in the form of things like the thing I’m typing this into) had not happened, most anti-romantics would say that it was utterly impossible.  Yet capitalism routinely extracts extraordinary achievements from very ordinary people indeed.  The subtitle of Murray’s article is: “On requiring every child to be above average.” Under rip-roaring capitalism, just about every adult is “above average”, by the standards of pre-capitalist times, and by the standards of the still severely non-capitalist places now.

Maybe children can’t do freedom.  Maybe, by their nature (nature again), they can’t handle it.  But we could at least make a start with adolescents.  We could at least liberate the big children, the children who aren’t really children at all.