Tuesday, October 11, 2016

`For Too Many the Stopping Place'

Today we fly to Boston for a week of interviews at private schools in New England. I’m a product of public schools, and have no complaints about the education I received (despite Base Five in third grade). But for decades public education has been systematically diluted into a second-rate hybrid of babysitting and social engineering. Children are catered to and patronized but seldom educated. Learning is no longer the point, and parents have a fulltime job undoing what the schools do so efficiently. When I was my youngest son’s age, thirteen, dumb kids were the biggest obstacle to learning, making the process needlessly protracted and unpleasant. Today, dumb teachers and administrators are the biggest obstacle, with dumb kids as their natural sidekicks. Public school teaching is often a default career for the feckless.

Time and internet availability will remain uncertain until next Sunday. In advance I am posting each day this week education-themed passages from writers I admire. In Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning (1991), Jacques Barzun writes:

“All children can learn and do learn. By the time they first go to school they have learned an enormous amount, including a foreign language, since no language is native to the womb. So if they stop learning when in school, it must be because the desire to learn is killed by protracted non-achievement and non-teaching . . .

“For the normal and healthy, it is the very character of the school that seems to stop learning, and this at a point of no great difficulty: simple reading, writing, and arithmetic. The fifth grade is for many too many the stopping place.”

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