Why Jonny Cant Rede Growing Up Dumber Than Anvils

By Fred Reed

Coma In The Schools
Today: American schools and how they got to be the dark night of the mind — why our children's heads have become vast, hollow, echoing places, like empty oil drums, and why they can't read stop signs without counting on their fingers. After today, you'll never have to read about education again. You'll know everything. I figure a column ought to be like an appendectomy. You only need to do it once. Here it is: Our kids can't read because we don't care whether they can read. Yep. That's how simple it is. The problem isn't television or drugs or even invisible pervasive dumb-rays shot by space aliens. There's no mystery about it. We just don't care. We talk a good show. But it's all talk. If we were serious, we'd do something. There are problems we can't solve, like AIDS, and problems we won't solve. Education falls into the second category. We know how to run good schools. To teach, say, algebra to eighth-graders, get a smart teacher lady who knows algebra, and who likes adolescents, to the extent that it is possible to like adolescents. Find a solid workbook with lots of problems. Trap her, the workbooks, and the students in a room. Tell her to teach — not just sort-of teach but to stretch the minds of the libidinous little monsters, and tell her to give bunches of homework, and that the school will support her if she flunks the nonfeasors, if it means the entire class and all their relatives to remote generations and strange phyla. Then go away. This works. It always has. We just won't do it. Thing is, parents have to help, and too many of them don't. They aren't really interested, or they're swamped trying to be single mothers or make the mortgage, or they both have jobs and want the government to raise their children. This isn't good enough. Parents need to explain to their churning hormone wads that learning is not optional. And

and park with her on deserted back roads. bleary-eyed damn about your dumb-ass self-esteem. because girls do that. All I care about is algebra. and nothing has ever struck me as quite so uninteresting as your self-concept. Kids esteem themselves when they have accomplished something worth esteeming. I don't give a faint. he shouldn't be in the class.there have to be consequences. I love you." If this sounds brutal.) Granted. but you are going to do your algebra. and then relapse into tyrannosaur mode and shriek. she will play your heartstrings like a bull fiddle. good. eventually. Remember. Quadratics will become an endangered species. It's a design feature. The answer is still. well. then he can blessed well learn it. Fathers in particular should speak as follows to their treasured experiments in homebrew DNA-splicing: "Son. respect himself. Kids will get away with what they can get away with. and her life will be ruined if she can't go to some concert of musical illiterates masquerading as a rock band. If you have a daughter. old Willy Bob will factor quadratics something fierce. and some evil-minded football player will get his darling Sally Carol with the lovely blue eyes and golden hair and nine-pound braces. "No. life won't be real easy for a few years. She'll tell you piteously that she'll do better. and hide under rocks. If he isn't smart enough to learn algebra. The kid will respect you for it and. wan. Boys act like James Dean in a sulk. you aren't asking the impossible of the tad. Here's an equation. Teen-agers are intolerable. If he's smart enough. (That's a piercing insight. But if young Willy Bob realizes that you really will keep him in on Saturday night. No algebra equals no Saturday night dates. I may patent it. if people insist on performance." The aforesaid works. I've been forty-eight years on this sorry planet. We are now through with this discussion. It works better with some kids than . There's nothing like the expectation of dismemberment to boost performance. And I'll tell you something else.

or one who barely speaks English. can't puzzle out . Who feels happier about himself — a child with a decent education and the confidence that goes with it. until I got bodacious fine teachers that you could show in the county fair. whatever that is. results might follow. you would have to be in the upper third of the GREs. Pretty soon they'd get respect from the community because they'd be worth respecting. they don't like the whole idea of education. It would be like duck hunting. Next I'd pass some laws. In fact. We don't care enough to buck them. Further. and sign a statement that you hated self-esteem worse than rabies or pellagra. Bag one and bring the varmint in stuffed. It would be about as hard as getting ticks in a cow pasture. each year. when I'm dictator. And you know something? It would do wonders for the kids' self-esteem. With exceptions. and have a degree from a real university in the subject you taught. I'd give'm great retirement programs and their summers completely off. I'm going to put a bounty on the National Education Association. and that you would teach children to read and write and know stuff and if you didn't you would be boiled into tallow and made into candles and sent to India. You can catch anything with the right bait. and you always lose a few. we aren't going to do it. in moments of fatuous optimism. Thing is. and get home when their kids did. The teachers unions. are absolutely in the saddle. To teach in grade school. Then I'd raise salaries by five thousand dollars a year. obsessed with protecting their jobs. to teach in high school you would have to be in the top ten percent. Not in education. and you'll get a keg of Budweiser and three free nights of bowling. so they jaw-storm about feelings and attitudinal change and empowerment. Still. where they can't read at night.with others. but more satisfying. The schools aren't going to improve. but not enough exceptions. I reckon you might need a long afternoon to find twenty kerbillion smart women who wanted to actually contribute something to society. but it works better than anything else. If a few hundred parents showed up at school with a rope and a focused look. You can't teach what you don't know. I reflect that it could be done.

I reckon countries just plain get the schools they deserve. That's scary. We don't care enough. and figures to spend his life sleeping under bridges? Never happen.warnings on a table saw. .

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