The Corner


In We Are Doomed — shortly to appear in a handsome paperback edition, by the way — I had some good sport with modern educational theory, which I called “a vast sea of lies, waste, corruption, crackpot theorizing, and careerist logrolling.”

Educational lunacy plumbs its deepest depths in our teacher-training institutions. The doughty Rita Kramer explored those depths in her 1991 book, and she tells me things have gotten far worse since.

The National Association of Scholars published a piece the other day that makes some of the same points very forcefully, from the perspective of a teacher who only just survived ed school, having made it known to the professors that at least one of their flock didn’t share their progressive views. Some points:

First, you have to understand that educational policy is consumed by the achievement gap, which is the disparity between groups of students on most educational measures, particularly the groups of race and socio-economic income — and, if I’m going to be honest, it’s race that generates the most intensity. I don’t just mean that this is the number one priority. It’s the only priority. The achievement gap pervades every corner of American educational policy discussion.

What are the main schools of thought on the gap?

In the public domain, you’ll hear two contrasting views about the achievement gap, its cause and solution.

Okay, so there’s a left view and a right view, right? We-e-ell …

The first is the progressive view, the one associated with “progressive education,” which holds that social injustice, institutionalized racism, white prejudice, and other societal ills cause the achievement gap … [T]eacher education programs do not readily tolerate any deviance from the progressive view.

But there is another view, right? Oh sure:

The second view, what I’ll call the conservative view of the achievement gap, also focuses on student values. But instead of encouraging teachers to respect the student’s culture, conservatives say that parents and teachers of low-performing students are the cause of the gap, by failing to give the students the correct cultural values. Hard work, family values, commitment to the importance of education, and “no excuses,” to quote the Thernstroms … will close the achievement gap … The conservative view is held by most politicians of any ideology. Both NCLB and Race to the Top are based on this viewpoint …

The author of the NAS piece was in deep enough trouble with the ed-school professors for not agreeing with their progressive views. Heaven knows what would have happened if they had known the full scale of this student’s heresy.

If all you watched were the shout shows, you’d never know there was another way of assessing the achievement gap. And in fact, while progressives and conservatives have many adherents and could even be described as “groups,” those holding the third view don’t get together much… People holding this third view — again, not a group — don’t talk much in public. Let’s call this third view… the Voldemort View: academic achievement is primarily explained by cognitive ability.

Aaaaaarrrghhh! The reality! — it burns!


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