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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Educational Quagmire

By now, at least half of the readers that made it to this article have stopped reading. That's right – by simply parsing the dreaded "E" word in the title, many readers have checked out. Either from an aversion to being reminded of an intractable problem, or from utter indifference, or from the staid and common mind set of "it's someone else's problem", few readers will care to be engaged in the topic of education.

But yet, to sustain this great democracy, it is incumbent upon every citizen to promote education. It is not a choice, it is not a luxury, but a mandated obligation. Since few understand this obligation and even fewer comply, society becomes embroiled in the perfect storm of ignorance and apathy.

The pretexts for the apathy are legion. From blaming the teachers' union boogeyman to simply blaming the teachers, to deprecating the grotesque amount of wasted money are some of the self assuaging ruses by which many justify their inaction. Analogously, others believe that the education presently being afforded through high school is just fine, since their little gem survived some school or excelled in some sport, or made it to some prestigious college.

And to these latter folks, a simple question: Because your precious Billy or Mary made it, survived their experience with public education, can throw the football, is proud of their alma mater, had you to break the law in order to fake some address so your child can go to the "good" school, does that mean that every child made it, survived, can throw the football, went to the "good" school, is proud of their alma mater? How about those, who are the overwhelming majority, which fell into the drug trade, that became victims of inept teachers and self-serving bureaucrats, that were brainwashed with some fringe political ideology, that cannot understand basic arithmetic or are incapable of reading or communicating despite having "passed" some politically motivate test a la the FCAT? Do we simply abandon those children, because your precious offspring made it? How about all other offspring, as in the 25% of nationwide high school students that drop out, or how about the 27% of Florida's 9th graders that don't obtain a high school diploma? Don't these students count?

If hedonism were a virtue, many would be guaranteed that eternal salvation John spoke about. The taxpayers of Marco Island fork over more than $30,000 per student per year to the local school board, but absolution doesn't come that easy – it requires involvement.

Here on Marco Island we are deeply engage in the apathy/ignorance quagmire. We find the special interest group adverse to anything that doesn't generate them a profit, garners them power, or promotes their bombastic faux efforts; the misinformed that justify their apathy by affording an irrational credence to the rumor that a high school will raise taxes; the Neanderthal mentality of affinity to an experience; those that were educated long ago ipso facto it's not their problem; the majority that simply refuse to pay the price for living in a democracy.

But don't fret, for these folks are not alone in the seeming concerted plan of "at first, do no good".

The contagion is not just limited to Marco. Well intentioned or just misinformed legislatures succumbing to political pressure enact imbecilic rules such as the no child left behind act, and the FCAT, thereby ensuring that all children are left behind at the same near-Neolithic level, creating contest-like atmospheres in the schools to improve an ephemeral system thereby initiating the teaching-to-the-test modality, and making political hay how the test scores have improved – meanwhile the federal government can't give away billions of dollars in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) grant money because few American and even fewer minority college students are qualified to effectuate a sustained graduate level program in STEM.

Something's wrong here. Any time teaching is done just to help kids pass an exam, it's wrong. The purpose of teaching is to provide an education, not to help kids pass a test. Subjects like science, art, history and music are being taught very little in a lot of schools. We're going to raise a generation of cultural idiots - people who don't know Beethoven from Mozart, Cezanne from Van Gogh, or Albert Einstein from Charles Darwin. I don't know what you do about dumb kids, or kids who didn't get any help from dumb parents. -- Andy Rooney.

And around and around we go, but build that dog park, build out the veterans park, build a historical museum for an area with less history than every banana republic in Latin America, discuss ad nausea how the local vomitoriums require more parking, turn over a plot of land that is clearly and unequivocally deeded a "SCHOOL SITE" to the syndicate for some for-profit power generating scam, afford importance to the banality of the local pan-civic organization that is anything but "civic" since "civic" is from the Latin civicus for obligation to a city, citizenship, or community affairs, and where on the planet does one find a city or a community without a complete basic education but on Marco Island. And let's not forget to build out the "ol' towne centre" – as if the real ol' – natives – people would even be allowed in lest it includes a casino, all easily justified because after all "there be gold in them darn hills". And nearly a mention to education sans the genuine interest by the three independent councilors, albeit drowned out from the syndicate's cynically morbid comment that solar panels are educational because the "children" can take tours of the solar farm and watch the solar panels work – as the school superintendent nods his head in approval. Arguably, the school up the road is good in many aspects as one considers that all but one Marco parent that ever had their child attend this esteemed place ever volunteered after school, every day or any day, to help African-American or Hispanic 10-12 graders read. Get it … 10-12 graders … helping them to read? How many still go now that their precious Mary has long graduated and is enjoying her ping pong scholarship at some wonderful northern university? Too far to drive? Interferes with the nail salon appointment, or Billy's football practice? That's ok, we'll let the educational system handle it, don't worry, don't feel guilty because after all you pay taxes – the ones that your accountant can't scheme you out of. It's ok, really, we'll handle it.

So those of us that have taken a gargantuan pay cut and teach at the university level to become the recipients of these students: can't read at a high school level, can't write at a high school level, have no clue what an "average" is, think that "the median" in statistics means the yellow line in the middle of the road, and on and on. Are all students are like this? No. Are they the majority? Probably not. Are there too many? Absolutely. For those that aren't, maybe one of those proud Marco Island graduates of the place up the road, there is the Honor Society or THE GREAT SCHOOLS UP NORTH. For the rest, that's ok, we'll let the educational system handle it, don't worry.

Anybody wonder why we spend tens of billions annually on education with questionable results? Well, consider the amount of remedial work required to remediate the failings of the K-12 system. Consider the bloated administrative bureaucracies with inherent malversations implemented as a matter of policy. Consider the social engineering, new-age psychobabble programs that cost aplenty and deliver nothing educational. Consider that the system hires "educators" with "education degrees" and disparages teachers with passion. Consider that all of these abuses would not be possible if We the People were engaged, were not apathetic, were not content that their Billy played on the varsity tiddlywinks team and Mary "made it", were not the multitudes addicted to remonstrating against teacher unions and illegal aliens and everybody but themselves of course.

And around and around it goes. Today, the Florida legislature is cutting funds to colleges. No news here since after all, your solar governor and your elected officials stole the lottery money years ago. But what is of interest is this quote;

"In the end, someone's got to ask the question of, `Where's the support for higher education?' '' said University of Florida president Bernie Machen.

Good question, simple answer. The support for higher education has been subsumed in a sea of apathy caused by high taxes spent on frivolous unessential services by a kakistocracy answering only to special interest groups.

The response to this entrenched misfeasance is a collective yawn but for the 21st century indolent equivalence of activism by bombarding a distributions list with serial emails decrying how President Obama is taking us to socialism, how such a travesty is happening in front of our very eyes, how these "radical" actions are leaving us both raped and un-empowered to prevent the loss of liberties. But yet one is never treated to serial emails about the moribund state of K-12 education. So from the very apathy and disengagement that leaves education to others, that clings to vacuous allegiances that denigrate anyone attempting to improve education, comes the complaints against a government that is adversative to classical American idealisms. So, who exactly didn't see this coming?

The very same that demand the status quo in education caused the uneducated to elect a person that has antithetical values to those established by the Founders. The loss of liberty is directly proportional to the responsibilities relinquished.

The chickens have come home to roost, and the leave-it-be bunch, and the I'm-too-busy-right-now-crowd, and the I-support-the-existing-ABCDF-school enthusiasts made it happen.

How is it that those who enjoy liberty the most, are for the most part the ones largely oblivious to their obligation to persistently improve education? They love their freedom of speech, their right to peacefully assemble, their rights to own arms, and all of the inalienable and enumerated rights in the Amendments, but for some odd reason missed the very first line of that very hallowed document "… secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, …".

The point, apparently negated by many, is that people are blessed with liberty. To secure the blessings of liberty, and to secure that same blessing to successive generations, the Constitution was established as a mandate: rights to enjoy and rights to protect so as to secure liberty for ourselves and our progeny.

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

The responsibility to secure the continuity of this great experiment has been abdicated, abandoned to bureaucrats emboldened by the protection afforded within the iron triangle. As if that crime was not enough, those that are tirelessly pursuing improvement in education for all students with novel ideas and suggestions that buck the statists are unsupported, and verbally bludgeoned with unconscionable, unending and exhausting criticism and ridicule.

When the day comes that not a highly educated straw-man president, but five highly educated bearded ragtag revolutionaries take away all that you have, check out where they went to school.

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