March 13, 2013
Is this a ploy to supply more workers for McDonald’s?
Mayor Bloomberg, so focused on the social engineering of New York City, seems to have added a forceful item to his list:
a staggering 80% of high school grads entering the City’s community college system can’t perform well enough to take college courses.
The failure applies across the board: reading, writing, and math.
Bloomberg isn’t even announcing an investigation into this horrendous situation. Nor is there any word of teacher or principal firings.
Why not? Because the outcome of a probe would reflect disastrously on the school system and the Mayor. Students are being promoted from grade to grade without learning what they’re supposed to learn. Students are fraudulently “earning” high school diplomas.
A detailed examination of how this fake education operates could turn up all sorts of nasty facts. Are many teachers changing students’ test scores to make them look better? Are teachers grading on such a ridiculous curve that failure equals success? Are principals pretending they don’t know what’s going on? Are they actively aiding teachers in the massive fraud?
If the truth were known, government funding of the City’s public school system could be cut. The feds might even come to town to find out how deep the lying and cheating goes. And once investigators sit down with teachers and ask them serious questions, the lid on the scandal would surely come off, and the explosion would be heard far and wide.
None of this begins to register how students feel, as they move from grade to grade in elementary school and high school, and don’t know what they’re doing in the classroom. It’s a Twilight Zone of pretense from A to Z.
Forget the absurd “self-esteem” argument. Pushing students ahead in school when they don’t deserve it is a ruse the kids understand. They know their “achievements” are built on a foundation of sand. They know it’s all about gaming the system.
“Sure, I feel a lot better about myself, because my teachers cheated and gave me grades I didn’t really make.”
For several years, I worked as a tutor at Santa Monica College, and I saw students wandering into my area because their lower-level education had failed. It was a mess.
At that point, the faking was over. I had students who could barely read at a sixth-grade level. What’s the answer? Give a kid six years of reading work in a month? Are you kidding? And if you think that’s bad, try moving a student’s writing level up the same distance just as quickly. You’d be better off pushing a big truck from sea level to the top of a mountain with your bare hands.
Spokespeople for the NYC community colleges make it sound as if they’re handling the remedial training of these failed students with aplomb. I can tell you it’s a tremendous strain, and in many cases it doesn’t work at all.
You aren’t merely reminding students of what they once learned but then forgot. You’re supplying them with what was never imparted. You’re also trying to break through powerful resistance, because the kids don’t want to admit how little they know. They sense how deep and wide the abyss is. Understandably, they want to stay on firm ground. But there is no firm ground.
They never learned how to read, write, and do math well. It never happened. Try saying, “Well, kid, you have to go back to sixth-grade-level stuff.” Right away, at the age of 18, they picture themselves at little desks with children who are 11 and 12.
Bureaucrats, of course, solve these problems by throwing more money at them. Billions and billions of dollars. And they cook up fancy names for new programs. No child left behind. Equal opportunity. They pretend to discover mechanical fixes.
“Oh, you see, the real reason the kids are having trouble is they don’t have computers. So we’ll pay for computers.” That’s on the order of a doctor telling a patient, “Your arm isn’t working right, so I’m going to give you a pair of glasses. Finally, you be able to see what’s on television.”
After the damage is done, and you have huge numbers of kids who graduate from high school and can barely read, setting up a remedial program that will really work is quite a challenge. You need lots of staff, and your people have to be good. They have to know what they’re doing. You have to get back to basics. No fancy aids and machines. This is intense one-on-one tutoring. You’re in it for the long haul. In the failed schools, the teachers were inattentive at best, and at worst they were cheaters. You can’t go that way again. You can’t skip the hard parts just to make yourself look good. You can’t screw the kids over again.
But you can’t assume the kids were never complicit in their own downfall. They were. They were there. They played their part in the con. That has to be overcome, because many kids will try to skate, glide, and slide through their second-time-around education.
They’ll hope against hope they can wangle their way through by faking it. It’s what they know how to do best.
Bloomberg can deal, from his high balcony, with sodas and sugar and coffee and guns by making proclamations. But when it comes to education, he’s taking on (ignoring) a real tiger.
It’s likely he’ll cheat just as teachers and principals and students have been cheating. He’ll skate, too. When his term as mayor is done, he’ll walk into the sunset, after issuing a parting statement loaded with salesman’s bluff. But the cage will open and the tiger will come out.