Ravitch ends with a call for a voluntary national curriculum, and believes that a consensus around better education is possible. On this point I do not share her optimism: parents who want creation science for their kids are not going to accept the teaching of evolution, and any push to establish common curriculum is likely to raise an outcry similar to that surrounding the 1994 history standards, drawn up by a panel of left-leaning historians and vociferously denounced by Lynne Cheney, the former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and other conservatives.
A nice article, and I’m glad people in America are questioning the reliance on public testing, which has already taken the joy out of most learning in South Korea; naturally and as always the problems with American education are identified without offering any solutions, and that is likewise naturally because the solutions are too frightening to offer: the public education system cannot be fixed because the public education system is fundamentally flawed. So long as you force people to do what they do not want to do, so long as you force them against the grain, they will perform poorly, whether you test them, give them a ‘voluntary national curriculum’ (whatever that is), inspire them, encourage them, or throw mountains of money at them. Let them do what they love (and want) instead, and they will excel.
As evidence, for Exhibit A, I offer the world; for Exhibit B, an anecdotal case in point: despite a love of science I always performed poorly in science classes (thanks to a lack of confidence with abstractions) and one day found myself stuck in the normal or so-called ‘retard’ chemistry class. I was better with the liberal arts and therefore felt not a little dishonored by the lowly status into which I had sunk, surrounded by students who would continuously sing the McDonald’s theme song in the middle of the teacher’s lecture—unaware of how they could so willfully enslave themselves—and taught by a teacher who was so burned out by his miserable duty that he finished class on more than one occasion by making us watch videos of collapsing buildings and controlled demolitions.
The great moment came when our teacher had to describe the origins of the universe. He began with the scientific creation myth, and then, sidestepping all the political hullabaloo, taught us as many other creation myths as he could fit into thirty or forty minutes of classtime; in the beginning there were worlds piled on towers of turtles, swords dripping mercury into the ocean so as to precipitate the formation of islands, piles of golden sand rising from the dark lifeless waters, disorganized chaos where moist things were dry and dry things were moist, ghosts of light drifting over the sea, prime movers, vast world trees touching the stars with their gilded leaves, etc., etc. He read these myths from a book and would not look up at his class, because that class had descended into the same primordial chaos so often described as preceding creation: kids were talking, laughing, throwing things, and singing the McDonald’s theme song, everywhere.
The teacher was too tired to fight them with discipline, and it is indeed pertinent to ask whether a feigned obedience forced by fear of punishment and humiliation is preferable to simple freedom. I was different from most (but not all) of those kids because I possessed certain academic passions, but I think the majority “fell through the cracks” a long time ago, and schooling of any kind was a waste of their time as well as a waste of the state’s time. If they don’t want to go to school, why force them? Who among us can say that most of our education was not an enormous waste?