Beyond the Cusp

November 15, 2014

Future and Hope for the Western World

 

The future is determined just as much by the nurturing and education provided for the next generation during their youth, formative years and on through their years of education and initial introduction into the workforce as it is by their genetic makeup which is still provided by the natural selection that leads to determining who their parents are. Where we may be on the cusp of great breakthroughs in genetic engineering and closing in on providing parents with choices for genetically altering their future child’s DNA makeup and thus provide for what are called designer children, we have yet to get beyond the cusp and make such opportunities acceptable to the general public. I am sure that should the time come and we are able to literally design a child, leaving only the most minor possibilities of any unseen crisis, and produce a next generation of geniuses, but thus far we are not quite beyond the cusp and stepping into what may be a very strange new world. Once we arrive at the point where the first designer child is produced successfully and a healthy, intelligent, beautiful and handsome wonder-child is born, I suspect rather than being met with cheers and adulation of being the first child in a new era of humanity, we will instead face mobs of protesters demanding this kind of monstrous building of abomination of nature be immediately outlawed and only naturally conceived children be permitted. Of course these demonstrators will eventually tire of their objections, or at least making a public display of those objections, and designer children will be as common as are naturally selected children of today. The problem would be when only designer children or minimally selected pairing of best case DNA from the natural parents for children will be required in a means of aiding natural selection and optimizing the next generations.

 

No matter how close to what is deemed perfect human children biological research may permit society to produce, all of that is worthless if the education system they are given is not up to the optimum level that might be possible. This is apparently a subject of great debate amongst two different generations, the parents of young children through college age young adults and their grandparents whose educational rigors did not grant the wide array of course selection nor did it have the advantages of computers, the internet, social media, and all the other advantages, difficulties, challenges and new educational theories such as the currently very seriously debated and in many cases rejected system known mostly as Common Core. All of that debate aside, the objection appears to be most prevalent amongst the grandparents who look at some of the signs they have observed and the sometimes unbelievable ignorance revealed by numerous interviews and test results given to children in elementary education through to college and university students even those studying for advanced degrees such as Masters and Doctoral programs.

 

One of the glaring recent examples was the interviews of random students at Harvard about current politics and historical questions mostly pertaining to American history. Only a minority could identify Vice President being currently Joe Biden. An even smaller percentage identified John Roberts as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Where I would forgive the average High School student not knowing who was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, these were students at Harvard and whom will be the leaders and shapers of the future of the nation and many of whom will become the lawyers and judges, possible even Supreme Court Judges even to the high position of Chief Justice. These were presumably the crème de la crème of American education; these were students at Harvard. As disturbing as those results may have been, there have been numerous tests performed on students from middle school, there cannot be anything named junior as in junior high school as junior gives of a connotation of inferior and might damage sensitive psyches, high school and through all levels of college which have produced similar indications that the education system is not up to par or students are simply not retaining anything about civics, government or history. The levels displayed often appear like they could use these youths as the stars for a sequel to the movie, and I am reluctant to even let it be known to the world I even have viewed this movie, Idiocracy.

 

Perhaps some examples of questions which stymied so many students, and granted that some of these interviews were handpicked to make the point that there is something amiss in the American, and very likely across the Western World, education systems are in order. When students cannot identify who was the President of the United States during the Civil War as President Lincoln, and I would have even taken President Jefferson Davis assuming the student was from Alabama, Georgia or any of the other southern states which made up the Confederacy, or they cannot name which country from which the United States fought to gain their independence and name Britain or England there is a problem with the education system. Students were unable to name the three branches of the United Stated Federal Government as the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. These are not trick questions setup to fool or mislead the students; they were straight forward and elementary questions. I almost understand when people attending an anti-nuke rally or other ecological rally against pollution or some other similarly themed action are willing to sign a petition to restrict one of the worst greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere named dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) as they are likely to simply take for granted the petition seekers are representing an actual cause celeb and are not pranking them so they do not fully ingest the question and are just signing to support a similarly themed petition, or so they think. In reality, water vapor in the atmosphere is the greatest of the greenhouse gasses but is also so vital to our existence and the existence of virtually every land animal and plant that we accept its presence as vitally necessary so the petition is not false, simply misleading as no such cause has arisen. Asking who the allied powers were in World War II and against whom they were fighting is not a question which should be as great a challenge for the student population in high school or college. Naming the date that we celebrate the United States gaining its independence as the fourth of July is not that difficult. Probably the worst display was on a late night show where they were giving examples of the dumbest of the dumbest set of answers found from archives to history and civics questions from random universities (and I know these were extremely handpicked but with this question that should have been impossible for anybody to miss the answer) and they could not name what nation the United States fought in the Spanish American War. I am at a loss for words to explain how utterly unbelievable it is that there actually were students who guessed at the answer. Some of the examples were, France, the southern states (they did not even call it the Confederacy), Europe (at least they got the right continent even if they missed the actual nation), the Soviet Union, and of course now we get Britain and England. Most of us have heard these questions and answer combinations which would usually be considered outtakes except they were the exact kind of answers they were seeking. I am aware that it probably took quite a number of interviews of students rushing between classes, but still some of these questions are way to basic to have been missed by anyone.

 

Then there is the final point which recently hit the news and was not so much of a surprise as it was the depth and near universality of the criminal deceits that a university would go to simply to have a stronger and more talented football or basketball teams. One of, if not the, best commentaries on the scandal that broke from the University of North Carolina (UNC) was Phantom courses disservice to black students by Walter Williams. In my ‘innocent youth’ I remember the jokes that at some universities there were student athletes taking courses such as Advanced Basket Weaving and other inane and ridiculous courses but never did we imagine phantom courses where students were given grades sufficient to have them retain player status and not be prevented from taking the field due to academic deficiencies. What makes these crimes even worse is that professors received payment for teaching a class that did not exist in reality. These courses were placed within the school for specific social science curriculum and the student’s grade was determined by what was required for their academic qualifications to play their sport as was the number of these courses each student athlete was assigned to raise their averages. These courses and the inflated grades also gave the university the required diversity representation within the student body to qualify for certain Federal Government grant programs which means that these courses were a part of intentionally defrauding the Federal Government and the tax payers of the United States. These frauds, which can be expected, or something similar, to exist in many a university which fields competitive football and basketball teams, are likely to be revealed elsewhere should this investigation be broadened, as it deserves to be, to other universities where such courses may exist. I am sure that other sports programs are likely to be scrutinized and such scrutiny will produce even more and similar problems and frauds.

 

This fraud and any others existing in the American university systems also uncover another even more serious problem, the lack of quality educational opportunity within the public school system as a whole and with particular problems within the schools which serve those troubled neighborhoods which allows certain students to disrupt the education of the entirety of the classes offered. When students are given a passing grade for the reasoning of social promotion both the student and society are being cheated. A major component of this problem is the Federal Government and its various programs and minimal requirements for schools to receive full funding and not be classified as a troubled, problematic or whatever title might be used to classify a school as substandard which places the teachers and administrators of such schools under focus and scrutiny. Needless to point out that such scrutiny due such a rating is anything but friendly and their demands go beyond the schoolroom and into the main office and often will force changed at the top thus great pressure is placed on teachers to assure that every student passes the testing. This produces what is often referred to as teaching to the test where the class becomes practiced in answering the actual questions on the test potentially without having ever studied or been exposed to anything outside of the test regimens. Additionally, over the past couple of decades there has been a litany of schools where cheating on the qualifying tests have been revealed. These deceptions range from teachers prompting the students while they are testing to changing students’ answers to allow for them receiving a higher rating and preventing the school from losing its standing academically.

 

These practices of altering test answers, teaching solely to the test, social progressions through the school system without failing, giving the students answers for the test while they are taking the test and so many other defrauding of students and society has other ramifications such as graduates from high schools not having the ability to read, write and perform elementary mathematical skills. Some of these student athletes learn very early on that they will be exempted from academic requirements and will receive special attention and reprieves which allow them to pass and continue their academic ratings such that they remain eligible for playing their sport. One has to wonder what future many of these athletes will have when they graduate from college still unable to read, write or do elementary arithmetic, not even mathematics, not even the very basics. Providing the student athlete who was granted grades which were not a true accounting of their abilities or actual learning manages to be accepted to a college because of their false grade point average (GPA) and are unable to make the team in their sport or even other less money generating sport, how can they ever pass an actual course when the first time they are being pressed to actually display learned knowledge and retention. In some cases such students may not even be able to write their name beyond block capital letters? They have a high school diploma which they are incapable of reading and will likely have failed and been academically dismissed from college and now need to find work and they realize they have no skill or capabilities that qualify them for employment except menial labors or, if they are fortunate, some trade, operating equipment or performing a specialized skill such as welding or were taken on to apprentice for such a skill such as carpentry or plumbing. The problems arise when there are nowhere near sufficient jobs which require largely physical strength and stamina and then many of such educationally-challenged students who are incapable of filling out an application to receive their paycheck or the required W-2 tax form are unable even to get those jobs. Even more distressing is that the level of knowledge which students taking the required classes to receive a teaching license will also have received an education which potentially will leave them with inadequate levels of knowledge to be fully capable of teaching most courses. This in turn hurts any student who was assigned to have the under-qualified teacher and the cycle begins anew. The areas which have the highest numbers of unqualified or under-qualified teachers are the sciences and mathematics. These particular courses to be qualified as a teacher of mathematics or the sciences are far more rigorous and require numerous hours in higher level mathematics and whatever science one would choose such as biology, physics, chemistry and the numerous others. Since there is a dearth of teachers who become qualified to teach mathematics or the many sciences, the result is that teachers with a general teaching degree end up covering teaching mathematics or some science class despite potentially never having seen that level or even having taken related courses and still be put in a place where they must show proficiency. This begs the question of what would be the advantage of designing students with astronomical IQs if the education system is so broken that it can only provide one with a sub-prime level of education and knowledge. Perhaps the near future we will have a society of brilliantly ignorant young adults holding graduation certificates that hopefully they can actually read. If there exists one school which does not prepare their students with a decent and complete education then as a society we have failed a good number of children which is something which should be eliminated. Our greatest legacies for the most of us are our children and grandchildren and the generation beyond, we must not fail them from the very start with a failing school system; we must not simply trust the education system and should teach them as best we are able. As for any disruptive students who make an education near to impossible we must have a school which deals solely with such students with provisions to take them to those classes thus allowing the rest of the students who are seeking knowledge to receive their lessons without disruption and even intimidations which make learning impossible and murders their future in the process.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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