Getting Schooled

A sober and somewhat depressing essay about the states of education and teaching within the United States.

Here are just a few of the longstanding problems plaguing American education: a generalized decline in literacy; the faltering international performance of American students; an inability to recruit enough qualified college graduates into the teaching profession; a lack of trained and able substitutes to fill teacher shortages; unequal access to educational resources; inadequate funding for schools; stagnant compensation for teachers; heavier workloads; declining prestige; and deteriorating faculty morale.

There’s a Reason There Aren’t Enough Teachers in America. Many Reasons, Actually. Thomas B. Edsall NYT 12/14/22

I‘m hardly surprised to read about the many failures of the American education system. We need to prioritize education as much as we prioritize health care and defense spending. I had not factored the effects of the “culture wars” but I can imagine the toll it has created among many teachers. The job is hard enough now without adding politics and wacky prohibitions about what is taught and what books pass a purity test.

Education and teaching was much better when I attended school between 1958 to 1974. Teachers were generally respected. There were very few incidents of parental interventions. There was bullying but not to the degree seen today. There were no worries of a crazed gunman running into a class and shooting students. There was interest in pursuing teaching as a career. How that has diminished since I attended school!

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students graduating from college with bachelor’s degrees in education fell from 176,307 in 1970-71 to 104,008 in 2010-11 to 85,058 in 2019-20.

Edsall NYT 12/14/22

The failure to provide or receive a good education is a bane for the rest of one’s life. We know what the problems are. How to fix all the holes in our education system is another matter.

Running on Empty

As I get older, there is a growing list of things that I can longer do or have lost interest in doing them…

Image by publicdomainpictures from pixabay
  • Playing basketball
  • Sex
  • Jogging or running
  • Ability to focus on a televised sporting event or show
  • Enjoy dining out
  • Patiently waiting in lines
  • Doctor appointments
  • Driving at night
  • Driving long distances
  • Children parties
  • Commercials, advertisements, public address notifications
  • Traffic
  • Politicians
  • Talking politics
  • Elections
  • Donald Trump
  • Eating apples
  • Religion or talking religion
  • Feigning interest in conversations or with people where I have little compatibility

Takeaways from the Results of the Midterm Elections

  • While Democrats did not win (they lost the House), in betting parlance, they easily covered the spread and earned a draw.
  • The Democrats backed into a decent result as opposed to earning it.
  • Democrats’ best friend = Donald Trump. Trump handpicked, endorsed and campaigned for many of the GOP candidates who were generally mediocre, unqualified and sometimes uncivilized.
  • Trump also selected the Supreme Court members who put over the repeal of Roe vs. Wade that spurred angry young single women to the polls.
  • Possibly voters took notice of the January 6, 2021 Congressional Hearings and decided to mete out their punishment of a party that supported a takeover of the nation’s Capitol and electoral process.
  • Election results have encouraged Joe Biden to run in 2024. Election results did not discourage Donald Trump to run in 2024. Both are delusional old men who should leave the game for younger players.

Thoughts after Reading The Pope at War by David Kertzer

  • Excellent book. Reads like a novel. Highly recommended for students, scholars and readers interested in World War II and specifically the Catholic Church’s role dealing with the leaders of Italy (Mussolini) and Germany (Hitler).
  • While understanding that the Pope needed to proceed cautiously on the diplomatic front to protect the Church and Catholics who lived in Italy and Germany, Pius XII generally caved to the demands of the Fascists and Nazis.
  • In pre-war Germany, there was evidence of abuse committed by Catholic priests. This was used as a negotiation card by the Nazis to get Pius XII to agree to their terms.
  • Pius XII’s reluctance to speak out against the atrocities committed against the Jews was an act of moral cowardice.
  • Pius XII did not address the Nazi bombings of London, Rotterdam and Warsaw as they occurred. However he lobbied the Americans and British not to bomb Rome and the Vatican.
  • Kertzer provided stories where priests and nuns refused to aid Jews seeking to hide or flee from Nazi pursuers.
  • Pius XII did lobby Nazi authorities to protect Jews who did convert to Catholicism. He did very little to protest the poor treatment and murder of Jews.
  • Pius XII was fully aware of what atrocities were occurring.
  • Many of the atrocities against Jews were committed by Nazi officers and soldiers who were Catholic.
  • Pius XII does not merit any consideration for canonization. He certainly was no saint.

Survival of the Richest by Douglas Rushkoff

Subtitle: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires

What the top .1 of 1% think and how they look to control their lives and how they want to control the lives of the rest of humanity.

My notes from this intellectually engaging book..

Taking their cue from Tesla founder Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Palantier‘s Peter Thiel reversing the aging process, or artificial intelligence developers Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether. Their extreme wealth and privilege served only to make them obsessed with insulating themselves from the very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion. For them the future of technology is about only one thing: escape from the rest of us.

page 5

This Silicon Valley escapism– – let’s call it The Mindset – – encourages it’s adherents to believe that winners can somehow leave the rest of us behind.

page 10

Studies have shown that the more power a person has, the less “motor resonance“ or mirroring they do of others. Of course, people seeking power may be predisposed to this behavior. But further research has suggested that after people have gained power, they tend to behave like patients with damage to the brain‘s orbitofrontal lobes. That is, the experience of wealth and power is akin to removing the part of the brain “critical to empathy and socially appropriate behavior.” Poor people are much better than their wealthy counterparts at judging other people’s emotions. Their capacity to make “emphatic inferences“ based on facial muscle movements is far superior.

As NYU business professor Scott Galloway has explained, “we’ve decided that capitalism means being loved and empathetic to corporations, and Darwinistic and harsh towards individuals.“ Government readily bailed out banks and businesses in a 2008 recession, and the Covid crisis increased total billionaire wealth from 8.9 to 10.2 trillion in just the first year, despite the pandemic’s negative impact on everyone else. 

page 34

The reduction of reality to information and humans to genotypes all too conveniently dovetails with capitalism’s imperative to render everything into a suitable form for the marketplace. Everything is data, and everything has a price, and everything can scale. The described, codified object is all that matters; anything else falls away like junk DNA, inferior species, or the majority of human beings. The wealthy technologist makes it into the cloud, while the masses are left behind competing against one another in the realm of matter. Like Christ or any other saved figure, only the fully encoded individual can be transubstantiated to the next level. 

So goes the atheistic eschatology  of The Mindset.

page 95

Bernays wrote the book on propaganda – – literally, it was called Propaganda – – in which he explained that the manipulators of public opinion are the true, invisible power in any society. The masses are too stupid to make decisions for themselves, anyway, so their rise to power in a democracy must be steered by propaganda, a “mechanical, advanced and necessary” science of population control. At the time, many journalists and politicians spoke out against Bernay’s tactics and beliefs. He and his colleagues, however, saw themselves as conducting an essential social service. The elite, and even progressives among them, feared the potential power of the unchecked crowd to wreak havoc. They witnessed the madness of crowds in Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union alike and wanted to prevent such crises from happening in America, much as Hillary Clinton feared the “basket of deplorables”, who might elect a demagogue as president, or those young technologists feared the insurrectionists at the Capitol. If one could only push a button and make that all go away.

page 101

Government emphasis on job training, high-tech skills and art general compatibility with a digital future has led schools to emphasize STEM—-science, technology, engineering and math – – over the softer, squishier subjects like English, Social Studies and Philosophy. Education has shifted away from liberal arts, which wrestle with those fundamental questions of purpose and dignity while also building the faculties required to think critically about media and messaging. Those skills are dangerous to leave behind.

page 146

Liberation from The Mindset…

Stop supporting their companies and the way of life they’re pushing. We can actually do less, consume less and travel less – – and make ourselves happier and less stressed in the process. Buy local, engage in mutual aid, and support cooperatives. Use monopoly law to break up anti-competitive behemoths, environmental regulation to limit waste, and organize labor to promote the rights of gig workers. Reverse tax policy so that those receiving passive capital gains on their wealth pay higher rates than those actively working for their income.

page 185