Stupid or Deprived?

Survived the trip to and from Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. Surprisingly undifficult. The traffic was not only relatively sparse but also were the crazies.

But a lot of the staff call grrr brrr was over the recent publication of student test scores by country. [Link] The academics took it as personal criticism and passed their insecurity on, in part, to the elementary and secondary schules. I put only partial blame on the schules. After all, they are only the nodes of the instrumentality. I do blame the country however, for swallowing the lie that if someone is educated (? – trained!) to “teach” then they can teach anything even when they have no other knowledge. That’s the state of secondary education today. Teachers who are educated to teach but lack any substantive knowledge to teach. This is not evident so much ta the primary level but at the secondary we have the problem that the teachers have not in many cases mastered the elementary stuff they are supposed to teach.

When you add the filter of standardized testing in, the product is universal ignorance and ineptitude. I shall not even discuss the effects of discrimination phobia and social correctness that neuter the institutions.

But when I look at the scores, I am not quite disturbed. No, they are not wonderful; they will not satisfy our collective desire that all of our children be above average, to paraquote Garrison Keeler. But they are not bad either. Let us consider.

In maths, the USA has a score of 481. The overall average of scores is 494 and the max and min are 613 and 368. Well within a sigma of the mean. And this in a country that has an ingrained hatred and fear and loathing of maths. The modal child is subjected throughout his schuling that he/she shan’t need algebra after graduation. Maths is a torture to be endured, not a subject to be mastered. And so long as we have this general attitude we cannot expect to do well on such metrics. People don’t do well when they are conflicted.

Reading is 498 with a mean of 495 and max/mins of 570 and 384. Hmmmm. About the same, statistically although the USA score is above the mean. But the sigmas are smaller and this may not be a meaningful distinction. But I consider it heartening given that I am continually told that GEN Y doesn’t read, it watches. So the reading skills seems to be about as good as the maths skills.

Lastly science is 497 with a mane of 501 and max/mins of 580 and 373. Again, essentially identical to the reading score. And again heartening given that science is the pariah/whipping boy of everyone from politicians to journalists. Confliction doesn’t do good, and quite frankly, the schules haven’t done a good job on teaching science EVER.

This is where the absence of knowledge among teachers demonstrates its failure, especially when coupled with the filter of standardized tests. Students can’t learn what the teachers don’t know or understand and what isn’t permitted to be taught. Maths and science require a lot more than learning definitions, looking at pretty pictures, and dissecting frogs. And I understand the frog bit is getting scarce. Maths and science take learning how to think and that is hard to learn. It takes at least four years in college and often more.

So I don;t view this as dismal. Just that we are fast becoming a third world country by virtue of autocratic organization and bureaucracy.

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