Friday, October 5, 2007

Dum and Dumer

One of the transcendent ironies of our age is the fact that the very people who believe that one can discern "differences in general neurocognitive functioning" based on a person's political persuasion, and who are susceptible to the notion that preschool children who are "easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited and relatively over-controlled" tend to become conservatives as adults, have done their level best to raise a cohort of pupils who are equal parts poorly educated students and grossly uninformed citizens. Whether one looks at the elementary, secondary or higher education setting, the news from the leftist-dominated education plantations continues to disappoint.

For the bargain price of more than
$10,000 per student
for FY2006-07, Illinois parents were offered up a heaping helping of dismal results on this year's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (according to the Chicago Tribune.) The scores for fourth- and eighth-graders were "lower than or equal to the national averages" and were out of sync with results from state exams which showed Illinois students making double-digit gains in most of the grade-level reading and math tests.

On the (NAEP) reading exam, for example, only 30 percent of the state's 8th-graders scored at or above the proficient level, a drop from 35 percent in 2003. But there has been an 18 percentage-point gain -- from 64 percent to 82 percent passing -- on the state 8th-grade reading exam in the same period.

Critics contend the wide disparity proves Illinois -- and other states -- is watering down state tests in an attempt to meet the demands under No Child Left Behind federal reforms. Illinois made dramatic changes to its state exams two years ago, giving students more time to complete tests and lowering the passing bar on the 8th-grade math exam.
Worse yet, while the so-called "achievement gap" between white students and minorities closed somewhat, this was as much due to "minimal" improvement on the part of white students as it was due to minority students making real gains in performance. (This phenomenon should not surprise, as it has been discussed exhaustively elsewhere.) It should also not surprise anyone that if students are unable to meet classroom expectations, they might well be expected to become disenchanted with the educational process altogether. Such is evidenced by a recent New York Times article about states lagging in high school graduation rates; under No Child Left Behind, individual states have been able to set their own graduation rate goals, with more than a few establishing the barest minimum possible as a goal. (See above graphic.)

While not entirely surprising, the most disturbing fact is that these sorts of abysmal performance outcomes come with an exorbitant cost.
According to data from the website of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), over a relatively brief timescale - 1961 to 2003, to be precise - expenditures per pupil for primary and secondary education have more than tripled, from $2,507 to $8,468 in 2004-05 dollars. And according to the IES' Common Core of Data, for the 2004-05 fiscal year, per student expenditures ranged from $14,117 for students in New Jersey to $5,216 for Utah students, with absolutely no correlation between per pupil spending and educational outcomes.

What might come as a shock to many is the fact that -
according to a report from the Intercollegiate Studies Institutes' American Civic Literacy Program entitled, "The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education's Failure to Teach History and Institutions" - a $40,000 price tag might not ensure that college students are getting basic knowledge about American history and government.
An Ivy League education contributes nothing to a student's civic learning. Indeed, there is no relationship between the cost of attending college and the mastery of America's history, politics, and economy. Moreover, of the 50 schools surveyed, including Brown Georgetown, and Yale, 16 showed negative learning - in other words, at 16 schools seniors scored lower than freshmen, suggesting that they will graduate with even less civic knowledge than what little they had as freshman.
As we look at the process of education in its totality, the poor outcomes manifested at all levels are of a piece with the prevalence of liberal dominance in every area of educational pursuit (as evidenced by the work product of progressive "researchers.") That a student could know less apres college than before only makes sense if one accepts the fact that - to the liberal way of thinking - the purpose of education is to further the inculcation of liberal ideals as opposed to the acquiring of skills and objective knowledge. As discussed elsewhere, liberalism "
is still something that must be imposed; its adherents must be indoctrinated." To the extent that the Left has convinced Americans to accept poor educational performance at gold-plated prices, they have succeeded at indoctrinating both children and their parents.

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