Category Archives: Education

Don’t Know Much About History

Not only the public school system, but universities are failing to teach American history and civics.

Among college seniors, less than half–47.9%–correctly concluded that “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” was from the Declaration of Independence. More than half did not know that the Bill of Rights prohibits the governmental establishment of an official religion, and “55.4 percent could not recognize Yorktown as the battle that brought the American Revolution to an end” (more than one quarter believing that it was the Civil War battle of Gettysburg that had ended the Revolution).

Of course, a lot of these things they should have been taught in high school, but weren’t.

Ethnic Cleansing

By Arabs:

Arabism flies in the face of historical fact. Ethnic minorities in Lebanon, as throughout the Middle East, have suffered at the hands of Arabs since the Arab-Islamic invasions in the early Muslim period. Of the efforts of Arab regimes and their ideological supporters in the West to de-legitimize regional identities other than Arab, Walid Phares, a well-known professor of Middle East studies, has written: “[The] denial of identity of millions of indigenous non-Arab nations can be equated to an organized ethnic cleansing on a politico-cultural level.” This tradition of culturally suppressing minorities is the wellspring of the linguistic imperialism regnant at Middlebury’s Arabic Summer School.

Yet healthier models for language instruction are easy to find. In the Anglophone world, Americans, Irish, Scots, New Zealanders, Australians, Nigerians, Kenyans, and others are native English-speakers, but not English. Can anyone imagine an English language class in which students are assumed to be Anglican cricket fans who sing “Rule Britannia,” post maps showing Her Majesty’s empire at its pre-war height, and prefer shepherd’s pie and mushy peas? Yet according to the hyper-nationalists who run Middlebury’s Arabic language programs, all speakers of Arabic are Arabs–case closed.

A leading Arabic language program shouldn’t imbue language instruction with political philosophy. It should instead concentrate on teaching a difficult language well–on promoting linguistic ability, not ideological conformity. Academics should never intellectualize their politics and then peddle them to students under the guise of scholarship. Those who do may force a temporary dhimmitude on their student subjects, but in the end they only marginalize their field and themselves.

This is, in some ways, even more egregious than that loon up at Wisconsin who wanted to teach 9/11 conspiracy theories in a class on Islam, because it’s actually much more insidious.

[Via Jonah Goldberg, who also writes today about the Swastika and the Scimitar]

President Bush undoubtedly didn

Data-Free Policies

Glenn notes an article about how the obesity wars have moved into the schools.

…like other misguided public health campaigns (remember “Just Say No”?), putting children on de facto diets at school just doesn’t work. In a 2003 experiment involving 41 schools, more than 1,700 children

A Lousy Investment

Malcolm Kline says that politicians’ efforts to steer even more money into the black hole of college education is misguided:

In a recent conference call on the plan, both lawmakers rebuffed three attempts to get them on record explaining why college and university administrators have nothing to do with the exploding cost of higher education. It

Yes, And So?

At this point, I’d like to think that teaching Marxism in an economics course is the academic equivalent of teaching Biblical literalist creationism in a biology class. But nutball academics don’t agree, of course:

Siddique plans on filing a complaint with the USG regarding an introductory economics course, because it ignores “Marxist economic viewpoints, privileging capitalist ones exclusively.”

Just a little blowback from the recent efforts to get a little balance into the college classrooms.

Something We All Really Knew

There is such a thing as a stupid question:

Saying that there are no stupid questions devalues the process of inquiry. Questions are the engines that power the growth of knowledge, and we cannot rely solely on a random interrogatory process. Although unstructured strategies such as brainstorming and free association have their uses, we need to balance them with a disciplined approach to questioning. Students must learn to expand on initial answers as they ask new questions.

I think that this subject relates to this one, at least remotely.

[Via Geek Press]

Is Our Children Learning?

This is an issue that I think deserves more attention than it’s getting:

A recent survey of eight-to 18-year-olds, she says, suggests they are spending 6.5 hours a day using electronic media, and multi-tasking (using different de-vices in parallel) is rocketing. Could this be having an impact on thinking and learning?

She begins by analysing the process of traditional book-reading, which involves following an author through a series of interconnected steps in a logical fashion. We read other narratives and compare them, and so “build up a conceptual framework that enables us to evaluate further journeys… One might argue that this is the basis of education … It is the building up of a personalised conceptual framework, where we can relate incoming information to what we know already. We can place an isolated fact in a context that gives it significance.” Traditional education, she says, enables us to “turn information into knowledge.”

Put like that, it is obvious where her worries lie. The flickering up and flashing away again of multimedia images do not allow those connections, and therefore the context, to build up. Instant yuk or wow factors take over. Memory, once built up in a verbal and reading culture, matters less when everything can be summoned at the touch of a button (or, soon, with voice recognition, by merely speaking). In a short attention-span world, fed with pictures, the habit of contemplation and the patient acquisition of knowledge are in retreat.

This is a plausible thesis, though a lot of research needs to be done to validate it. Certainly, judging by Usenet (and even the comments section here), rational argument may be becoming a lost art (though the implication of this article is that it’s a problem for the current generation of children, not necessarily, or at least as much, past ones). On the other hand, logical fallacies and inability to argue logically are hardly new, or they wouldn’t have been named and described for such a long time (going in fact back to ancient Greece). But that only means that it’s a quantitative issue–that it’s becoming more of a problem, particularly with more opportunities for discourse.

I don’t know whether not this is a serious problem, but it’s worth giving some thought to. I also don’t have any obvious easy solutions if it is, other than a retail one. Parents have to make sure that their kids learn to read and write, and spend a significant amount of time doing it, rather than just playing with electronic de-vices and icons.

Radicalized By College

Here’s an interesting interview by a student who became a conservative as a backlash against the pervasive miasma of leftist dogma at Brown University:

I was a junior by the time I finally decided to criticize particular segments of the campus. Again, I was a football player, and that took up a lot of my time. So rather than immediately join some leftist student-group, I was forced to be a spectator of campus activism at first. There was always a lot of controversy on Brown’s campus, and I spent a lot of time observing the behavior of my classmates. I had an immediate repulsion to them for a lot of reasons. It wasn’t that I was pro-life, and they were pro-choice. Or that I was against affirmative action, and they were in favor of it. Those weren’t even opinions that I had formed or cared about. My objection to liberal activism was more about my classmates’ zealotry, and the fact that I knew I was forbidden to disagree or disapprove of them. In other words, I had a negative reaction to the ethic and demeanor of liberals before I even disagreed with liberal thought. I found Brown’s leading liberal forces to be deviant, oppressive, and improper before I reached any other conclusions. Ironically, they were viciously labeling everyone but themselves as mean, dumb, and racist. But I saw it in reverse. In fact, Out of Ivy documents the campus left’s hypocrisy, and their readiness to lie, smear, stereotype, and discriminate–all accompanied by their assertion that they were the fluffy-hearted champions of tolerance and understanding.