Monday, January 29, 2007

No Child's Behind Left Child left Behind


Here's what I had to say back in October 2004 (slightly modified):

Just in case you haven't noticed, I’ve had a love hate relationship with formal education—both the mandatory 12 years of primary/secondary school and my dual experiences as an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student.

You see, I consider myself to be smart, and I was a good student in school, and maybe I'm just biased as a result.

I just disliked many of my (government) school teachers and many of my (government) school teachers barely tolerated me.

I say many because there were actually a few instructors that liked my work and I liked them, but these were the exceptions rather than the rule. I had a problem with the educational process in that I found it to be tedious and overly bureaucratic.

I guess that my mind didn’t fit the model of the student that they were trained to teach.

My primary failure seemed to be my belief that I was actually there to learn something and that there was too much crap and politics that had to be dealt with in order to get your daily dose of readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic.

In post World War II America, the government has bought (or possibly sold ) the general public’s simplistic belief that a high school diploma automatically guarantees quality employment and economic success.

To this end, the public (government) school system has made every effort to hand a high school diploma to every person (read that so-called student) that can show up in a classroom for some minimum number of days over a twelve year period.

Rather (but not Dan Rather) than supporting and maintaining the quality while increasing access to a primary and secondary education, the end result has been the degradation of standards and the output of basically the same number of qualified graduates as were produced before government intervention.

The key word is qualified.

You heard me right, everyone is required to go, but the number of successful high school students is quantitatively the same.

It’s a matter of supply and demand.

In spite of this increased availability of educational programs here in Georgia, today over 40% of high school students drop out before graduation.

Do you get this?

They are virtually giving away high school diplomas based on attendance and still nearly half of the students don’t have enough sense and discipline to hang around long enough to get one.

And the sad reality is that the diploma has no real market value in its current form.

I say that that's because a diploma has become basically a certificate of (non)attendance.

You see, the Imperial Federal Government of the By God United Damn States of America made their first foray into higher education with the passage of
the Higher Education Act of 1965 (all 499 pages in PDF format if you want to read it,) and back then the next target of the Federal Government’s newly formed Department of Education was a college diploma.

Since the high school diplomas weren’t getting enough people a country club membership and a new Caddy Seville every three years, the belief was that adding four more years of education with the obligatory government meddling would certainly do the trick.

Of course the Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale wouldn’t in theory have to participate, but the state colleges and Universities were in for an onslaught of ill prepared “High School” graduates with government backing.

Lewis Grizzard, one of my personal idols and a famous southern humorist, newspaper columnist, and staunch University of Georgia alumni was once quoted as saying (paraphrasing): “they say if you drive through the UGA campus, they will throw a diploma through your open car window…taint true…you got to stop your car.”

How true that has become, Lewis.

The State of Georgia went as far as to use education as a basis for implementing a state lottery, the result being the HOPE Scholarship program and state funded pre-K and Kindergarten programs that were heralded as the end-all save-all solution for Georgia students.

The jury is still officially out, but after ten years the initial results are that the HOPE program has done very little to improve education in Georgia. The few good high school teachers that were out there have suffered under pressure to inflate grades to make students have the necessary “B” average to qualify for a Hope scholarship.

The few good college professors are now pressured to hand out A’s and B’s in order to allow students to maintain HOPE Scholarship eligibility. And the reality is that a large percentage of the students entering college with Hope Scholarships are not really qualified and as a result, many have to take remedial classes in English (their native language) and math before they can even enter the normal curriculum.

As is usual with found money, the state government has had a spending spree of using HOPE funds to pay for non-scholarship expenses like computer technology that no one on the educational staff can fathom and for building new facilities all over the state that either aren't needed or are under-utilized.

In the ensuing financial crunch caused by low qualification standards, the state legislature has had to wrestle every year with potential changes to program requirements. The problems are not unique to HOPE, they are just amplified by the availability of public money.

Racial leaders and activists claim that “rich people’s” kids get a disproportionate share of HOPE money—they want income limits on recipients. Inner city school proponents refuse to acknowledge the academic deficiencies of the current standards and oppose the use of SAT scores as part of the qualification process.

As a result, the college remedial programs continue to bulge at seams.

Again, at the heart of the issue is the concept of supply and demand.

Here is my simple (but accurate) Redneck analysis for your enjoyment (and liberal disdain.)

Suppose that by some miracle we actually managed to make the following changes in our society:

1. Every child was a willing and able student.
2. Every household provided a nourishing academic environment.
3. Every school has qualified teachers, useable facilities, and adequate funding.

Given these improvements and assuming that the academic standards were ethically maintained, I guarantee you that the socialists and utopians would still be unhappy.


Because there would still be students with B, C, and even failing grade averages.

All students are not in fact created equal.

Everyone can't be Valedictorian.

Further, even if you could get every high school student up to a B performance level and handed them a HOPE scholarship, there are not enough seats in college classrooms to park their butts in every day for two to four years.

If you were to somehow carry this concept through to the college level and actually get every student a college sheepskin, then you will find that there are not enough jobs that require a college degree (even a degree in "Underwater Basket Weaving" or god forbid—"Education") to use all of the applicants which they receive.

Only the top students would get the best jobs and attain the highest levels of success in the workplace.

As I like to say, “everyone can’t be a rocket scientist.”

Well, actually, you can be a “rocket scientist,” but you might be an unemployed rocket scientist unless you want to start your own company and work for yourself. (Kudos to Dick Rutan.)

So back to my original point...

“No Child left Behind?”

Baah, Humbug...I say kick them (and their parents) in their behinds until the child has no behind left if they aren't interested in getting a REAL education.

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