Western education

The state of education across the world

Re: Western education

Postby Heather » 28 Mar 2013, 19:09

Gavin wrote:The trouble is, in the modern world, they'll let them through, they'll probably change the grading system as they've done here so that they pass. They'll be made "professors". But other countries won't do this and we'll lose against them.

I recently read an article (can't find the link right now) about how these "low-income" (that's code for black) students are welcomed into good universities because of affirmative action programs. When/if they graduate, they find that no one will hire them, because there's no affirmative action in the real world, at least not in private business.

I think it's cruel to implement affirmative action and grade inflation. It's cruel to inflate these kids' egos and give them false hope for the sake of a "diverse" campus, and then set them into the real world where they have no chance of competing, and will remain unemployed unless they manage to find comfortable government jobs or low-level academic positions.
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Re: Western education

Postby Gavin » 28 Mar 2013, 19:25

I agree it's an act of cruelty, good point.

When/if they graduate, they find that no one will hire them, because there's no affirmative action in the real world, at least not in private business.

Yes, we've got the same thing going on here. Multitudes of "media studies" and [you-name-it]ology "graduates" who cannot spell properly, are all left-wing and then wonder why they're not being hired. Some years ago they reclassified all the polytechnics as universities too, which put another nail in the coffin (as if there is something to ashamed of about going to a polytechnic! People have different aptitudes). It's also very hard for companies to sack an inadequate performer if they take the risk of hiring them. It's no wonder the economy is in this state.
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Re: Western education

Postby Caleb » 29 Mar 2013, 00:43

They neglected to mention that down the road there is a school full of first generation American kids whose parents were from Korea. Those kids are just really good at science and didn't need to compose a K-Pop song to get there. Those kids are on their way to Harvard or MIT.

Maybe I'm so used to this kind of idiocy now that it doesn't even shock me so much. What I find really interesting though is that students in Taiwan don't do any of this nonsense. Actually, they don't even do much lab work. They also don't use technology in the classroom at all. There are problems with education here, to be sure, yet East Asian students consistently rank very highly on international tests of both science and mathematics. Look at the faculty list in a hard science for any major U.S. university. They're almost all Asian, Eastern European or Jewish. How many black guys are there? How many of the others got there by composing haiku or polka?

To be honest, as a teacher, all the things touted as "The Great Solution" -- making the work more contemporary/relevant, technology in the classroom, funding, smaller class sizes, etc. -- are complete red herrings. I could tell you exactly what was wrong with that classroom in the first two seconds. Look at the way the kids are sitting. Many are in various states of being slumped over the desk from merely supporting their heads on their hands to actually having their heads on the desks. They could have Steve Jobs' personal computer in the classroom or Snoop Dog teaching the class and such things wouldn't solve the deeper issues and attitudes in that classroom, of which the students' postures are one symptom.

Incidentally, has anyone watched the (third) series (of) "The Wire"? When I saw the white teacher, he reminded me of Prez.
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Re: Western education

Postby Gavin » 29 Mar 2013, 02:00

Caleb, those are surely very uncomfortable truths for the apologists, indeed.

Something else I meant to mention about this rap thing: my grandmother died about a year ago. She had a very long innings, was in her late nineties.

Shortly before she died all the family went to see her in the nursing home in Scotland. We gather that her last sight in life was that of an African orderly woman who with whom she had very little in common and who could not speak English very well. My mother is still very upset by this. She wanted to be there. She wanted, at the least, my nan to see someone from her own culture as she passed away.

Anyway, sad though that it is in its own right, it isn't my point. The gathering happened at a care home in Scotland. (My nan lived in Scotland for a good deal of her life an somewhat amusingly used to openly say to everyone that she could not abide the Scots, mainly because they could not abide the English.) At the gathering some local Scots inner family members turned up. They had their young son with them, probably about 12 years old, I don't know.

He proceeded to launch into the most cringeworthy rap performance for my grandmother. It was horrible. He knew all the words. She just looked on in confusion, the parents glowed with pride. My wife and I didn't know where to look. Everyone was too polte to say anything, but I was pleased when it was over.

You learn rap, you get "cred" at school, I guess. You learn the clarinet, you get bullied.
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Re: Western education

Postby Caleb » 29 Mar 2013, 04:03

I was going to write something about middle class white people and rap/black culture, but I think this clip from the second season of the Wire says it much better. The bit at the end is hilarious.

Also, back in the day, I knew a Peruvian guy in Australia. He absolutely despised all Latin American music because he called it "symphonies of despair", i.e. music of the underclass. Ironically, his favourite band was Oasis, and the Gallagher brothers are/were the very epitome of trashiness. Still, he is probably the only Latin American I've ever met who didn't embrace his "authentic" culture.
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Re: Western education

Postby Andreas » 29 Mar 2013, 21:06

Toxic sentimentality in Canadian and American classrooms--babies are brought into schools to teach children proper empathy:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/american ... 03-28.html

There is nothing obviously wrong or bad about these programs, but somehow they manage to seem naïve and slightly sinister at the same time.

Of course the education "experts" interviewed in this news piece say this is a wonderful way to teach children social and emotional skills. But shouldn't this be mostly the responsibility of a child's parents and family? Don't any of the children in these classes have infant siblings at home? If not they, then their friends? Aren't families and parents, or a church or other religious institution, the ones who should be instilling essential morals and attitudes, like a basic solicitude regarding infants, elderly or infirm people? We're in a bad way if we need schools to teach lessons in basic kindness--the very existence of these "empathy programs" implies that no one else is, or that schools are being called upon to do what families are failing to do.

The "experts" tell us that the "empathy programs" reduce bullying in school. This may be true or not, or partly true, but I find it troubling that the "experts" want to address this problem by trying to ensure that children have the "right" kind of emotions, rather than by giving them a clear message that bad behavior will lead to punishment.

The idea of using a baby to produce a desirable behavioral result in others of course reminds me of Dalrymple's discussion, in Spoilt Rotten, of the "baby on board" signs and stickers one sees on cars. He sees this as a kind of aggression against others, and in this school situation it also seems somewhat manipulative.
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Re: Western education

Postby Elliott » 31 Mar 2013, 09:39

I've just listened to the mp3 (the video wasn't playing for some reason).

Well, what a joke.

I can understand the pragmatic attitude that you may as well use this rap technique because "it works". Let's assume that it does work for some students, as I can believe that it would. Which students does it work for? Surely, the idiots. They are people who will never get anywhere in science anyway but, by careful stooping to their level, the establishment can eek some pathetic positives out of them. I think we have to ask, if allowing rap is the only way to get these kids into science, maybe they're just not kids who should be taught science in the first place?

My mind keeps going back to the character of Geordi LaForge in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He's the chief engineer onboard the ship. He's black and he (sounds like he) comes from a pretty working-class background. He doesn't sound that intelligent. But the programme's claim is that even someone who otherwise isn't very intelligent might have a real aptitude for science and engineering - their brain might just work in amazing, surprising ways that "conventionally intelligent" people wouldn't think of. It's a nice idea, but what are the odds? I can see the idea that one of these black kids, who is seduced into science by way of rap, might just become a great scientist... but what are the odds?

I think the whole thing about making education relevant to children's (teenagers') lives is fraught with a threat of total insincerity and institutional self-loathing. Does the establishment respect itself or not? Does it believe in what it has to offer, or not? If it does, it should be much more forthright about saying to kids: knuckle under and work, and you'll benefit from what I can give you, otherwise don't waste my time.
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Re: Western education

Postby Gavin » 20 Jun 2013, 13:21

I just wanted to mention in this thread, in case I didn't mention it before, that I was actually never taught history at all at school here in England. We could choose GSCE subjects and I didn't choose history, and that was it. I have become ever more interested in it since, though, and now read accounts of all manner of things whenever I can.

Also I am skeptical whether today the average schoolchild could tell you who Wellington was, or Nelson, Montgomery, or any of our military figures from the past. I suspect they are instead simply vaguely taught that we are guilty, have a debt to repay.. and boy can they see we are repaying it.

It's funny because back in the days of Admiral Nelson (the late 18th century) he had the acclaim and adulation that rock stars and actors receive today. The latter were considered insignificant in comparison. Now not only can most children not name anybody of note in our past, but they cannot in our present, either. They wouldn't know anything about who heads up our army or navy or who our ambassadors are abroad, they probably barely know who is in the cabinet (although - these days - these are not, I believe, the patriots, rather the aforementioned people are).

Youngsters (15-16) will know, though, who Cheryl Cole is dating, when Kim Kardashian is going to have a baby and who scored the most goals in a football match. None of these things seem as important to me as the history of our nation: what we can learn from the past, who fought for our hard won freedoms. I suppose this is a kind of decadence that can arise from comfort, from an illusion of stability and perpetual security.

Just thoughts, just musing, as I listened to BBC radio.

Here are a couple of stories relevant to this topic:

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Re: Western education

Postby Andreas » 09 Sep 2013, 18:48

An interesting development in the French educational system. As of this week, French public schools will post a "charter of secularism" (la Charte de la laïcité) on their premises.

http://www.education.gouv.fr/cid73666/c ... ecole.html

This document makes a number of points, among them: the French Republic is secular, its schools are secular, no one can use their religion as an excuse to disobey school rules, and no topic is exempt from scientific or academic questioning. The very fact that these obvious principles have to be stated suggests they're not being respected or enacted.

Commenting on the Charter and crime in Marseille, a journalist/blogger in Le Figaro, Ivan Rioufol, identifies multiculturalism as the problem.

http://blog.lefigaro.fr/rioufol/2013/09 ... usses.html

Dans ces deux cas, le multiculturalisme à l’oeuvre démontre ses méfaits et ses risques à venir.

Sauver Marseille, sauver la laïcité, revient d’abord à identifier ce multiculturalisme. Imposé par des minorités revendiquant leur autonomie, soutenu par la pensée dominante qui assure que l’Etat-nation est devenu une notion réactionnaire, il affaiblit la république et la cohésion nationale, au point d’être porteur de possibles conflits. C’est contre lui qu’il faut lutter, ce que ni la droite ni la gauche n’ont osé faire ces trente dernières années. Tout au contraire : en abandonnant l’exigence d’intégration et en vidant la laïcité de sa substance, les dirigeants successifs ont contribué à cet état désespérant d’une ville ingouvernable et dangereuse, et de grands principes inapplicables en certains lieux du territoire. Rien n’obligera à respecter la charte placardée.

In both cases, multiculturalism at work shows its harmful effects and its future risks.

Saving Marseille and saving secularism means identifying this multiculturalism [as the problem]. Imposed by minorities claiming autonomy, supported by dominant thinking, which ensures that the nation-state has become a reactionary notion, it is weakening the Republic and national cohesion, to the point where it is the source of possible conflicts. We have to fight against it, something neither the right nor the left have dared to do over the past thirty years. On the contrary: in abandoning the demand for integration and emptying secularism of its substance, successive leaders have contributed to this desperate state of an ungovernable and dangerous city, and of grand principles that can't be applied in certain parts of the country. Nothing will oblige anyone to respect the posted Charter.

It's ironic and amusing that the first school where the Charter was posted is a lycee named after Samuel Beckett.
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Re: Western education

Postby Connor » 07 Nov 2013, 05:33

The following article provides a somewhat amusing (if also depressing) account of the faddish nature of modern education:

Four decades of failed school reform

The editorial is written by a man who just retired after 43 years of teaching English at a typical public high school. In his time, he's seen an endless parade of trendy ideas on how to educate kids, complete with obnoxious lingo and tremendous funding. His conclusion is that nothing - not one bold reform - had any lasting effect on the schools, the teachers, or the students. Bear in mind that this is not coming from some reactionary curmudgeon who hates public education, but from a man who passionately taught his subject for many years.

Unlike many of you, I have no real experience in being an educator myself. Lately, though, I've been reading much about the education industry that exists in much of the Western world, and it really does sometimes seem to be a cracking facade.

I'd be interesting in hearing reactions from some of the teachers and ex-teachers on this forum. Have you learned to fear the word "reform" like the man in this article?
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Re: Western education

Postby Mike » 07 Nov 2013, 06:54

Thanks for that link, Connor. Every word of it rings true for me.

Connor wrote:I'd be interesting in hearing reactions from some of the teachers and ex-teachers on this forum. Have you learned to fear the word "reform" like the man in this article?

Not any more. I just inwardly roll my eyes at it now.

I haven't been in teaching for quite as long as that gentleman, but I've seen literally dozens of fads come and go. And every time, it's dressed up as (a) something completely new (which it never is), (b) a panacea (which doesn't exist in education, as anyone with an iota of common sense would realise anyway).

To take one classic recent instance: several years ago, Asperger's Syndrome was all the rage. Kids were being diagnosed with it left, right and centre (usually on the most absurdly flimsy evidence), largely because we were getting an endless parade of experts into the school lecturing us earnestly on how best to teach kids with Asperger's. Anyway, about five years ago we moved on to something new, and I barely heard the word for a while. Just yesterday, one of my colleagues (who has been to some recent inservices) mentioned something about one particular kid with mild autism and I was moved to ask whether it might be Asperger's instead. She looked at me in a funny way and said "You know that term isn't used anymore."

Well, that's a faux pas I won't commit again. The need to avoid an unpleasant moment prevented me from then asking who would be accountable for our education department spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on various Asperger's programs...
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Re: Western education

Postby Andy JS » 09 Nov 2013, 19:28

I think this is a fascinating Panorama documentary showing what life was like in a London comprehensive school in the 1970s.

The school in question was Faraday High School, East Acton, (which is now the King Fahad Academy).

The programme was broadcast in March 1977, although I think it was filmed during November 1976:

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Re: Western education

Postby Mike » 10 Nov 2013, 23:16

Thanks for the link Andy - that was interesting to watch.

I have to say, by comparison with today, and given that it's a comprehensive school in a largely working-class area, the discipline problems don't seem all that bad (although the presence of the cameras might have had something to do with that). Having said that, you can see pretty clearly that some of the teachers are approaching burnout (the English teacher in particular).

The biggest and most obvious contrast with today, apart from the lack of technology etc., was the headmaster. Here was someone who was (a) obviously a good and dedicated teacher (only half a minute or so into his English class at the beginning this is quite obvious), (b) actually still teaching even as the head of a school (this is virtually unheard-of today, in Oz at least), (c) taking an active role in policing the corridors, ensuring kids were where they were meant to be, etc.

These days, in my neck of the woods, heads/principals are almost never to be seen in the corridors of the school, and wouldn't be seen dead in a classroom. They will be perpetually in their offices doing paperwork (busywork), or in meetings, or off at inservices. And almost none of them, in my experience, have or had any inclination towards teaching at all. They are managers, and that's exactly the way the education department likes it.
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Re: Western education

Postby Paul » 16 Nov 2013, 03:12

Oh good, I thought, I will enjoy watching this. Nostalgia of course, it's my time and some curiousity about Comprehensives. 1976 is also for me a very nostalgic year, maybe the last of the best. A legendary summer of course and the West Indies in England. 1977 brought mass strike action, a Winter of Discontent .... and Punk Rock. The weather was never again quite the same.

And so it was good - for about two minutes. I liked seeing all the pupils arriving on foot. No mass log-jam of vehicles in small school streets and the chaos thereon.

I liked seeing the blackboards, and the ones with the musical scale printed on them. Ha yes, there used to be those roll types that had several surfaces and one of them always was a musical scale. Lovely - but dated of course now.

I agree the head teacher was good and it was good to see him interfacing with various aspects of school life, mainly teaching of course. Having said that, I don't remember a time when any head teacher wasn't prominent here and there (and everywhere it seemed) but I understand it's different now. They're all glorified accountants now are they not - like prison governors and hospital managers and, and, and...........?

This head teacher had an easy style though and seemed to be popular with the girls too.

Other than that.....!

Mike, I'm utterly astonished that you said 'the discipline problems don't seem that bad..........

My goodness, what are you used to? You did say 'by comparison with today'. I feel for you. How have you not had a meltdown - on day one?

The whole place is like a damned zoo! And this is 1976. I'm absolutely flabbergasted. Any one of my teachers would have cut a swathe through all of it like a legionary on campaign, the female teachers included. It's very depressing. No wonder we're in such a shambles.

Various points:

Did you notice 'Imagine' playing as the intro' track?

Nobody wore school uniform and many of the boys had ridiculously long (though natural for the 70s) hair. Unthinkable. We would have been whacked and sent home with a strong letter, backed up by a phone call.

They were all addressed by their first names at register time. Far too cosy.

All the 'foreigners'. Say no more.

Oh go on then. They were mainly the ones acting up. They would have been outside, in the rain, picking up litter off the playground. Then sent home. Obviously I know that can't happen to thousands of pupils for any length of time. But what else do you do? I'd have had them all in boot camps.

They were openly smoking in school...! Your feet wouldn't have touched the ground - and regularly didn't (though I never smoked). I can scarcely believe it. How naive of me. There was smoking at school of course, among a dissolute (and brave) few, but it was ultra-covert.

The history class shown first was a melee. I noticed all the black pupils seemed to be on the back row, the very worst place to put them. They would have been prominently up front - under easy observation and within range!

Pens, pencils, paper and books seem just to have been wasted, at vast expense surely. We all had to provide our own pens (and ink if they were fountain pens - many were), even including Biros. Other than that, only pencils were available - which then meant you had to copy all the work again in ink - in your own time. I think pencil writing was allowed to remain though, but if it got erased or faded you were in trouble. With certain teachers of mine pencil writing in class was mandatory and you had to copy again at home in ink - very neatly. We had jotters for class and better quality exercise books for home. Losing books was a caning offence. There seemed many occasions here of a lack of textbooks. What was going on?

There seemed no real disciplinary procedure for punctuality. It's bewildering.

What about where a cupboard was locked and the teacher couldn't get in because the key had been stolen? Ha, ha - I can imagine that scenario.

The woodwork and 'creative arts' class was interesting. I think we did 'crafts' for just one year (for some reason) but it was tagged onto Art and used up a one hour Art period in the week. I can't see the use of saws and other tools being allowed today in that fashion, but is it any wonder? I further wonder how many fingers were sawn into over the years. Some of the pupils were like chimps with a human implement. No wonder then that industry had to be dismantled.

The Games lesson was also interesting. Notice how quiet (more or less 'normal') the pupils were in this class. That's not just because kids like playing games. It's because everyone instinctively knows that games teachers are hard cases.

Why were they playing basketball? What's wrong with five-a-side football indoors and other English pursuits? The gymnastics was good. I can imagine much of that has been banned too today.

The English class (with the female) was a disgrace and such an important subject too. Poor woman, but completely unsupported by the system I'm sure. It took 20 minutes for the class to come to order. Twenty minutes! They might as well not have bothered. Might as well have them in the playground in the pouring rain. I don't know how that teacher felt safe in fact. If it's worse today.........?

What about the studious pupils? There's absolutely no way these cases could have been in the kind of classes depicted. How could they? So it's obvious that some streaming must have occurred. I bet those pupils had to hide at lunch-hour and other free periods. It was interesting to notice that all the cases shown were 'foreign' or of ethnic backgrounds. The university hopefuls seemed to be a European girl (Polish perhaps?), an Asian lad who wanted to be a doctor and the truanting black girl who seemed to have a decent and concerned mother.

It was good to see the head teacher patrolling the corridors and ejecting loiterers in the school building at lunch time. At least that rule still held - probably out of sheer necessity to combat mass vandalism and theft.

Then there was actually a depiction of a problem class. But they were all problems?

How terrible. Embarrassing too. My school time in 1976 was light years away from that. I would have been completely depressed, maybe dangerously so.

I'm glad I never even vaguely considered teaching as a career. I'd rather be a janitor (but not in a school) than endure that. Phew!
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Re: Western education

Postby Rachel » 17 Nov 2013, 00:56

My time at a Comprehensive in 1988-94 was similar to that, in both the blackboards and the unrulyness. They still had head teachers doing some of the lessons then. I am very surprised to hear from Mike that headteachers in Australia don't teach or take an active involvement.

I was wondering if some of the teachers were being less strict then they would normally be because they knew cameras were watching. All my teachers were leftovers from the 1960's and 70's - the same generation as these, and they used to shout more.

That is a good point about the song "Imagine" being played in the film.

I liked the expression on the kid's faces when they played Wagner in assembly. It obviously wasn't "in" for anyone to like classical music.
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