The Great Shift

A few years back, Charles Murray wrote Real Education, which he marketed as having four simple ideas:

  1. Ability varies
  2. Half of the children are below average
  3. Too many people are going to college
  4. America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted

Meanwhile, Mr. Teachbad describes The Great Shift:

It is my responsibility to always be engaging the child, rather than the child’s responsibility to learn how to shut….up, think, and do some thing he or she doesn’t love once in a while. This HUGE shift in responsibility away from students and families and onto teachers is a topic unto itself. It represents an enormous social capitulation and places an utterly unfair burden on teachers.

They’re both largely correct, although I quibble with them on the details. But they’re not just right, they’re correlated.

The American educational system refuses to acknowledge the basic truth behind Murray’s four ideas. I suspect that it would easily accept them if the import of Ideas #1 and #2 weren’t disproportionately allocated by race. Check out exclusively white or Asian high schools and you will find high schools that track ruthlessly, since they have no unsettling patterns in their bonehead classes. Schools whose bonehead classes have over-representation of underrepresented minorities get lawsuits and multi-generational court orders.

So while the educational system refuses to acknowledge reality, it can’t acknowledge reality anyway, because our legal system gets very cranky and starts talking about disparate impact. Our elites get even more upset because, hey, if we can’t move everyone up the ladder equally in our multi-racial, multi-cultural society, then there might be something wrong with the society, and racism is always their favorite culprit.

But regardless of the reason, here we are. If the system can’t accept that abilities vary, and that academic results are strongly linked to cognitive ability, then the system needs someone to blame. The kids can’t be blamed–and here, unlike Mr. Teachbad, I don’t think they should be. They’re not signing up to take trigonometry and poetry analysis and demanding excellent grades for no work. Not that it matters, though, since the system isn’t giving the kids a pass out of kindness but rather necessity. Blaming the kids leads to the obvious solution—take the kids out of the class and, if necessary, out of the school. Back to the disparate impact penalty box and the elites prating about racism and institutional legitimacy.

Government is supposed to protect kids from bad parents, so even if the parents are bad (again, not a major culprit), the public can’t be expected to pony up billions to run schools if the schools are going to shrug and say “wuddyagunna do? It’s the parents.”

That leaves teachers. Mr. Teachbad is correct. It’s extremely unfair. But we can’t resolve it without facing up to the core truths in Murray’s four ideas.

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