Beyond the Cusp

September 13, 2018

President Trump is Missing the Mark

 

President Trump made the theme of his campaign as MAGA, or Make America Great Again. Well, perhaps the first thing one need establish is exactly what made America great to begin with. Just for the record, it was not a booming economy or record high stock prices or any economic measure one could take and claim this was American greatness. What made and will make America great were, are and will be her people, but only if they get the right start at life and that requires the right attitudes and reliances to be ingrained in early life and reinforced throughout the education cycle. What the basic core element was that made America great was what has been referred to as that “can do” attitude, the idea that no challenge is too great and nothing can prevent the individual from success. Unfortunately, that work ethic and self-reliance is no longer the central concept in the public schools where now instead teachers are expected to find gimmicks and systemic concepts by which everybody succeeds. This is accomplished by the there is no individual effort and everything is a team effort where everyone succeeds if any one of the team succeeds. More about this as we go.

 

During World War II, there was an interesting thing which the Germans instructed their soldiers to target. They were told to target the Russian officers, target the French officers, target the British officers, and whatever you do, never target the American officers. There was logic and reasoning behind these commands. The Russian, French and British soldiers were completely reliant on their officers to order them in battle and without an officer to lead them; they were simply a bumbling bunch with no real direction. This is not to put these soldiers down, as they were just as brave and strong and daring and often heroic as any but they also were more reliant on their officers. The Americans, on the other hand, were orderly and predictable when there was an officer giving the orders; but should the soldiers be left to their own devices, well, the Americans continued to advance and tried to take any objective but would do so in often the most unthinkable and definitively unpredictable manner. The American soldiers were far more of a danger to the Germans when they did not have an officer in charge, so the Germans attempted to make sure not to shoot the American officers. That is that “can do” individualist attitude for which the Americans are famous, as well as their less delicate manners which often are found rather insulting by those raised in a more traditional society such as Europe.

 

Even when we were in school, we were instructed as individuals and everything was a form of competition where some would succeed and some would fail. Seldom outside of sports were there such things as teams. Assignments were given to everybody and we all did what we could to be amongst the best because we knew our grades would reflect exactly our efforts and their success level. There was no leaning on somebody else’s efforts to gain your grade because you always stood alone and your work spoke for you. Further, teachers recognized each child’s style of writing and reasoning; so if you had some means of getting somebody else to do your composition or report or any assignment, the teacher would not only know you did not produce the work and fail you, but knew whose work you were passing off and they also were given a failing mark. But, from everything we have seen with our children and their schooling, the days where every individual succeeded directly according to their own work achievements and everything was an individual effort, which forced one to be self-reliant, are gone. Individuality was encouraged and self-reliance was taught as well as practiced and teamwork was left for the physical education department, and even there, individual effort was still the measure in the end.

 

In the parts of the education we have been exposed through our children, all of whom now have children and they have seen the identical system still being stressed, even more so, is that everything is a team effort. I was also fortunate in taking a few math and education courses back a couple of decades past, probably even longer, but whom wishes to admit to how long ago things were. What I was horrified to learn was that as a teacher, my rating was commensurate to the number of children receiving above average grading. We were told that the idea of modern education was to assure that every student learned how to utilize cooperational work to their advantage. Teachers were instructed to use advantageous teamwork schemes to maximize the individual team’s efforts by proportionally implementing sufficient abilities for each team while not overloading any teams with unproductive students. We were taught that as long as there is a standard bell curve to the abilities where such a curve could be skewed towards the lesser productive end if a team had at least one outstanding individual to make it still average out. Further, by using the correct balance of teamwork, every student would benefit from those who had the abilities and dedication and through working alongside of such productive members, the less productive students could learn how to best advance through belonging to a good team. So, the lesson for the best students is be prepared to be leached off of while the lesson for those who used to be the failing students is simply attach yourself to a winner and allow them to drag your sorry and worthless body over the finish line. Just so you understand, this is how many, if not most or all, public education now functions, they use teamwork so that more students are passing each grade and graduating often with impressive yet unearned grade point averages. This is also why colleges are now offering courses without credit or with one credit teaching rudimentary reading, writing and arithmetic, you know, the three R’s (reading, riting and rithmetic; they were a little lenient in their descriptions but we had to spell them correctly).

 

What made America great was that those who could were easily recognized by their exceptional grades and often the recommendations of their teachers. The best performers were not utilized to drag four or five classmates to the next grade off of their work. Luckily, teachers were also told that they should change the team assignments on a regular basis such that everybody would “get their chance to be productive.” This was also done such that the least productive students would receive a lesser grade as they would be placed in teams with all the productive students who themselves were on different levels. This way the few students who were exemplary would continue to shine above the rest. The problem comes with the rest who would almost all receive at the worst a passing grade and more often than not a ‘B’ but not higher. About the sole way of receiving a ‘D’ or failing outright any longer would be to not bother to show up to class. But, mind you, if you came to class on the day teams were assigned and then next came to class on the day your team made their presentation and just stood in the back and maybe were given a three-word sentence to say where perhaps there were four-syllables, then you would very likely pass the course. For all too many classes in public schools, not all but the majority, the requirement for a passing grade is attendance, if you show up for class every day, you will pass and potentially receive a ‘B’ for your exemplary efforts. What is worse, some jobs have gotten to the point that if an employee can be relied upon to be there every day and even on-time, they are considered a great employee. There actually is a condition called Chronic Lateness which if you are late to work on a regular basis at least two or three days on average per week, then you cannot be fired for being late, you have a disease, Chronically Late Insane People (CLIP). There is one for the books as in our day, also called back in the day, this disease got you fired, not understood and coddled.

 

That is another item which modern society suffers from, everything is not your faultiness. Rather than have people face their bad habits and work to improve themselves, now it becomes a disease, a symptomatic illness, a societal disability or whatever theoretical problematic symptomatic illness or pathology to which they can attach a label. Once it has earned a name, then come the self-help groups with group therapy where you learn of more and different ways you can get over on the system due to your illness. And now that you are in a group, you have more power and you may even have a web presence, then you have really made it. It is all part of the nobody need take responsibility for anything even their own action and mistakes because nothing is actually any individual’s fault as everything is done in groups and societal evolution has decided that society is always inevitably to blame for everything. Really, take sleeping on the job, it could be SWD which means Shift Work Sleep Disorder. But what if you are not a shift work employee? Well, at least there is a group you might join and see how they might help by telling your boss that you are not alone in this problem. Imagine your boss who has warned you and is threatening to fire you for sleeping on the job and they get a call from Sleeping at Work Policy Group. Yes, that will put them straight that you are not alone and have a group behind you, or at least an imaginative friend who is willing to make such a call, but there is such a discussion group so it may be worth a try. But just about everything one can imagine can be described as some form of disorder and thus requiring that one be given that little extra space that us normal people do not have. There was one condition we were unable to find any sympathy for as no help group was available for people who leave work early, though it was considered a sign of dementia for which there is a whole heap of groups which will help, if you can remember their name and meeting place and time. What was that condition about again?

 

Apparently, individuality now comes with a self-help-group and if you are one of those nose to the grindstone types, expect to have every dullard placed in your group at the start of each semester and to never have another exceptional person partnered with you until you reach the real world. What we need to Make America Great Again is a return to individual efforts and actually allowing for failure. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes failure is exactly what a person needs to make them serious about their efforts and to focus them on what is real and required of them. Many, if not most, but at least many of these disorders are simply the result of lack of discipline. We have often read the symptoms of the disorders they are medicating elementary school children and through to graduation and into adult life and we look at the symptoms and basically go check, check, check , yeo, had that one, that one in spades, oh heck yea, that too and that and that on and on and we learned to control ourselves. We blame many of our peers, the parents for much of this. The, my Johnny has a sleep disorder and has to take frequent naps and here is a note from his therapist. Or at the other end of the scale, what do you mean he failed the test, he did not fail, you failed to teach him correctly and you had better fix this problem right here or else I will call my friend on the School Board of Education. Or the parent who demands that their child always be teamed with another child so that both will pass and it happens both ways, where a deficient student’s parents demand with the other parent’s support that their child be teamed with a high performing child and the other way around as well. It is all part of if one child fails, then we have all failed. That is crap because if one child failed, either they did not try or they actually are not capable of doing the work and need to be trained for some form of work, which does not require academic skills, they will obviously not make a Harvard Physics Professor.

 

MAGA

MAGA

 

So, President Trump, you want to Make America Great Again, then start with the public education system. We have some suggestions. First, teachers must be required to pass a college level test on the subject they will teach every five years and if they fail, they will be made to take classes which will bring them up to speed and then they can take the test again. Teachers will receive their pay scale from the grade they get on the test and each five years they are requalifying and will receive an increase or decrease in pay resulting from their proficiency. Teacher’s pay scales will be raised considerably as will the expectation placed upon them. Any teacher whose students regularly fail to achieve when tested in the subject taught by the teacher will be placed on probation and if their students do not achieve higher proficiencies, they will be let go as teaching may not be their forté and perhaps they should try something else. As for where to get the funds for paying teachers far higher salaries, that is an easy one. First, get rid of three-quarters of the counselors, three-quarters of the vice-principles (no school need more than two); reduce all schools to a single principal; no weapons in school means no weapons in school; allow for expulsion as otherwise you are endangering the learning atmosphere; offer alternate education where one can learn a skill such as an apprentice learning how to drive a rig or use a bulldozer or grader and other skills because not everybody is college material or even desires to be a lawyer or doctor; fire most of the administrative staff leaving a secretary for the principal and a general office worker; slim down the kitchen staff and allow parents to volunteer to assist in the kitchen; any student caught with a weapon or drugs will be suspended the first time and expelled the second no deviations; return the reform school system with special teachers who have the training with the desire to educate the most difficult kids and finally; return to it being the PTA and not the PTSA or even worse the STA with no P at all, as parents need to be included in their children’s education but the children are not to be responsible for how they are educated, just on getting educated. The current system is a failure because it is attempting to make every student fit the exact same mold and that means taking too many square pegs and shoving them into round holes and it just does not work. Further, by excluding expulsions of the most disruptive and dangerous students, you are robbing those who actually desire an education of receiving what your system was presumed to provide. Some people are simply failures at life and no amount of teamwork will alter that in any way. It would be a better service to the community and to the country to allow those children who honestly want to learn a place which is safe and secured with an atmosphere conducive to learning. A school in the inner city and a school out in farm country should be just as well staffed, well provided, having competent quality teachers, clean, safe, quiet and well run as one in the most affluent suburban school system. This should be the effort, make all the schools almost indistinguishable from one another such that every child willing to work hard and live cleanly within the rules of the schools, which should be the same in every school, will receive a top of the line education from competent teachers and staff who really care and know their subject.

 

What is astonishing is the price per student in each state where we found at the top were District of Columbia: $19,396; Alaska: $20,172; New York: $21,206 and New Jersey: $18,235 while at the other end there were Oklahoma: $8,082; North Carolina: $8,687; Mississippi: $8,456; Nevada: $8,615; Florida: $8,881; Arizona: $7,489; Idaho: $6,923; and Utah: $6,575. There would be another item which would save all of these school systems radically in the price per student; do away with the Department of Education and strike from the books every single regulation which this agency had even an advisory opinion in the writing and implementing. Return control of the school systems, universally across the United States to the individual cities, counties and whatever is the smallest jurisdiction possible. We would not mind if every individual school were run by the actual area from where their students originate. Further, permit any parent to place their child in any regular normative school whether in their district or not or even in another state provided that the parent takes responsibility for all transportation to and from school and activities. The Federal government and in principle state government should not be paying a single penny for the school systems which should be financed entirely locally. Government should trust the parents will demand and provide the best possible learning institution for their children and history had much proof of this. Way back before the Civil Rights movement, the schools were run on a principle of separate but equal and while they were separate, they were far from equal. But what was also apparent was that despite the lack of funding for the schools in the black areas, there were some students who came from these schools who proved to be of unparalleled excellence and who have written on the education system and its failures with far more poignant truths than I dare to write about. We will just include a small sample of articles by Thomas Sowell, after whom little else is left to be said, “The Education of Minority Children,” “Black Students Thrive at Charter Schools,” “Teachers’ Union Lies,” “The Illusion of Education Reform,” “The Moral Dry Rot in Academia,” and much more including “Education at a Crossroads Parts I & II, The ‘Diversity’ Fraud,” “The Left and the Masses parts I, II & III” plus “A public black prep school no more: What racial equality in education has wrought” along with numerous other articles all timeless can be found here. And as stated, there is little if anything else to add after Thomas Sowell, who is the product of the educations system of a bygone era who proved with effort you can overcome any and all obstacles, especially if there are caring parents or mentors to push you.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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