While pursuing a master’s in teaching, one of the propositions we were repeatedly told that we had to demonstrate a belief in is the ability of all students to learn. Another such major proposition we were required to profess is the right of all students to a free education (yes, that is actually how it was worded). These function much like articles of faith in the education field in the United States; voiced opposition to them is heresy and grounds for excommunication from the field.
Of course, a simple Economics 101 course is sufficient to dismiss with the second proposition. The old adage ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ conveys the truth that scarce resources and services come with cost. If a student is granted a positive right to an education by the government then someone else (taxpayers) has an obligation to pay for this education. Of course, this is in practice what folks in the education field mean when they say that all children have a right to a free education. They choose to market their idea in a way that plays on taxpayers’ sympathy for the children.
The first proposition also hides an otherwise obvious truth or two if you consider it for a moment. Yes, even a severely handicapped child can learn. Of course, it is often true as well that the more handicapped the child is, the more expensive it is to teach that child. Additionally (and more importantly for our purposes here) children have different capacities for learning. Even when presented with the same instruction, children demonstrate differing capacities for learning. In other words, children are unequal. This is unsurprising since all humans (and indeed all living beings) are unequal. Another way of saying this is that no two living beings are the same. Likewise, groups of people, based on all sorts of factors, are not the same; they are unequal. This is rather obvious to any objective observer; however, it is heresy in the US education field. Despite overwhelming evidence in the form of decades of testing information demonstrating the truth of inequality, so-called educators in the United States cling stubbornly to their faith in equality. Unsurprisingly, this rejection of reality in favour of a demonstrably false proposition leads to all sorts of counter-productive policy decisions and methodology.
A recent example of how those in the US education field are led astray by false propositions comes to us from EducationNews.org. Julia Lawrence writes about a serious proposal to eliminate college math requirements in order to boost the graduation rates of Black and Hispanic students and move towards a more racially equal outcome:
HetchingerEd is offering a rather radical proposal to increase the number of American students who graduate college: dump math. Specifically, the argument is that since many college students, a disproportionately large number of them of an African-American or Hispanic descent, are unprepared to tackle college-level mathematics courses, they might be stymied by a requirement that all those receiving a degree from a particular institution must pass the freshman version of the course.
As expected, this proposal has strong support from many in the US mainstream media. The New York Times recently ran an op-ed by Andrew Hacker entitled ‘Is Algebra Necessary?‘:
In it, Hacker makes an argument, well-buttressed by statistics, that the math requirement in New York City’s community colleges where he has been a teacher since 1971 is the main reason why students fail to graduate in a timely manner or drop out before completing their degree programs.
Since those pesky math requirements are holding back the march forward towards equality, we should just throw them out. This is what we are being told today. If we continue listening to people who base their analysis and proposals on false notions we can only expect to receive more such schemes. The longer we listen to them, the more they will wreck our education system.
H/T Rebellion Blog