“Stupid in America”

On 20/20 this evening, John Stossel aired a special report called "Stupid in America."
I admit it, we are John Stossel fans in our home. Not that we agree with every opinion he has, but we admire his sensibility and the fact that he calls things as he sees them.
The program was very interesting, and seemed to reveal a debate of larger proportions going on in our country — over deeper worldview issues, perhaps the ideas of Socialism v. Capitalism? Hmm. Well, this show may have been the kick in the pants I needed to finally get around to reading John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education.
At the end of the program, Stossel said something along the lines of, "Well, this was our show on education. We hope it sparks a debate." Boy did it. If you missed the program, you can catch a few video clips here.


3 thoughts on ““Stupid in America”

  1. There are those who will mischaracterize Stossel or those who agree with him as being “anti-education.” This label is inaccurately conveyed, as it should be labeled “pro-education reform”. So to use “anti-education.” and denominate those is misinforming.

    The “War on Public Education” is a straw man. There has never been such a war. Any time spent defending against it is time that diverts much-needed time and energy away from the real issues. If there’s no war, then what’s the fuss? Who are these imaginary soldiers? They are simply observers, who pointedly remind us of the many facets of public education which can use serious reform. They however, are very interested in the views and observations of intelligent peers who can contribute to the debate in a constructive way. Part of the debate is calling a spade a spade, shining a light on egregious examples of the misdeeds of public educators, their union, administrators, and aspects of the system itself.

    Yes, there are many public schools where excellence is part of the daily culture, where students are given the best chances to lead productive lives after graduation. There are countless public educators who nobly fight the good fight against ignorance and poverty, and who, despite terrible obstacles, defeat these foes daily.

    It should not be offensive to truly dedicated teachers and administration to point out the ugly truth where it may lie. These blemishes aren’t just isolated in a system that is by far mostly good; they are endemic. Some examples of serious issues, in need of reform: teacher unions, political activism, teacher certification, mediocrity, opposition to competition, home schooling opposition, zero tolerance, and lack of accountability.

    There are four kinds of teachers and administrators staffing public schools. First, there are dedicated teachers and administrators who are effective. Second, there are dedicated folks who aren’t. Third, there are people for whom “it’s just a job,” lastly, and most seriously, there are incompetent teachers and administrators.

    Members of the first group should take no offense at any criticisms of the other three groups; they should be leading the charge for reform. The second group, (due to curriculum or techniques), can be retrained, the third group needs to be weeded out, and last group need to be fired, period.

    These reforms along with tax credits and free market choice will provide the best environment. True competition can cure most of these ills.

    Don’t fall for the ‘We are Great!’ mantra.

  2. INSIDE AMERICAN EDUCATION [1992] by Thomas Sowell. I read your dad’s copy 10 years ago. Still true today. If you haven’t already, check it out. Very enlightening.

    From Library Journal
    “The purpose of education is to give the student the intellectual tools to analyze, whether verbally or numerically, and to reach conclusions based on logic and evidence.” With these words begins a treatise on the failure of American education–elementary, secondary, and college levels–to prepare today’s students for the future. Among the many causes of this failure are the poor intellectual capabilities of elementary and secondary school teachers; the politicizing of education, especially the emphasis on world-saving agendas; the affective approach to curriculum (striving to reshape the attitudes of students); and the presence of “assorted dogmas,” including multicultural diversity, relevance, and educating the whole person. All these causes and more are clearly discussed, with some frightening true-life examples, to illustrate that students aren’t learning the basics because the basics aren’t being taught.

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