Friday, March 4, 2011

Post No. 160: We Finally Figured Out What’s Wrong with the American Education System


© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Over the years when attending conferences, the Logistician chastised us for renting cars. He claimed that public transportation was the way to go, since one gets a real feel for the people of a region.

After hearing him rail for many years, we finally relented, and became regular public transportation users, both at, and away from, home. Earlier today, we saw an example of “getting a real feel,” in action.

After boarding our bus, since it was 28ºF outside, we headed to the rear, which although noisy, is generally warm. We sat in the side-facing seats on the right side, and noticed to our left, 3 heavily clothed and hooded kids, ages 10, 9, and 6. They seemed an energetic bunch, bursting with promise and curiosity.

Initially, we did not notice the absence of their Mother.

The middle, wide-eyed 9 year old made some eye contact, and seemed receptive to chatter. Since it was 10:15am on a weekday, our first question was whether they were in school. All three nodded affirmatively. We then posed the question, “Do you like school?”

The 6 year old, huddled up in her pink hood, did not respond. The grinning 10 year old shook his head, and the 9 year old energetically nodded her head. There was a middle-aged man seated closest to us, in the rear shotgun seat and to the left of the 10 year old, wearing sun shades and listening to his iPod. He turned toward the kids, quietly removed his earplugs, and directed his attention to our 3 interviewees, as if he wanted to hear their responses.

Next we asked the 9 year old what her favorite subject was, to which she replied, “Science.” The 10 year old identified math as the bane of his existence . The Mother returned from the front of the bus, and sat to our left and to the right of the 6 year old. She initially appeared to be pleased that we were talking to her kids about school. Speaking to the clean-cut 10 year old, who took off his hood revealing a close haircut, we suggested that he consult with his 9 year old female friend to his side, since math is an integral part of most science.

Our 9 year old forcefully threw her hood back, informed us that “she” was a “he,” and revealed a full head of beautiful, medium brown, 7 inch locks. He was clearly irritated as our misidentification. We tried to lighten up things, by “relating” to our new found 9 year friend, by revealing that in the 1970s, we had people mistake us for members of the opposite sex also.

We continued to glance over to the right toward the Mother, who by now was simply staring outside her window, absorbed by her own thoughts. She looked familiar, although we could not exactly recall the circumstances. She no longer appeared to be interested in our conversation.

We thought that we would take the risk and continue with the 10 year old, not wanting give up on him. We asked whether there was any subject which he enjoyed, to which we thought he replied, “Spanish.” Now we were making some progress, so we thought, so we posed a few Habla Espanols, which appeared to bewilder him. Not making any connection, we assumed that he probably meant geography and the nation of Spain.

Once again, we were wrong. He finally spit out, “Spinach.” “Like the food, the green, leafy vegetable?” Without even looking our way, and detecting our confusion, the Mother screamed, “Shut your mouth boy, talking that foolishness! I get a headache just listening to you.”

Our trio of young Musketeers instantly became bumps on a log. We then recognized the Mother.

Just last week, we saw her slap the 9 year old back into the 20th Century, when the munchkin made the mistake of trying to walk across the bus aisle while the bus was negotiating a curve. Shortly after the slap came a line we’ll never forget.

“Keep it up. I’ll turn you in to the authorities and you’ll soon be just a memory on my wall.” We considered writing a post right after that incident, and got sidetracked.

A couple of weeks ago, a regular reader, CorfuBob, started off a comment with the sentence, “You and I, Inspector, were born with privileges denied most people.” We asked CorfuBob to elaborate and provide us with some insight into why he thought that the Inspector was so “privileged.”

He never responded.

Apparently he felt that he didn’t need to do so.

15 comments:

  1. Corfubob? Not 'need to' respond? I did not see your question but was on the way now to check for responses - which are important to me.

    I thought we were probably privileged by having had calm enough backgrounds to allow us to develop our own personalities and characters in line with our own real selves.

    Your moving story on the bus left me worried for the three kids. They are probably going to be damaged by constant character assassination by a neurotic and insecure woman - but hopefully she had just been having a bad day. You can make a better judgement by having seen into the young eyes, and sensing the confidence in their voice.

    It is difficult for outsiders to judge any particular instance of corporal punishment, without knowing the history of relationships involved, but once the situation becomes reported speech 'difficult' becomes 'impossible'

    Looking at the bigger picture - the one that matters - the current trend of social polarisation, the deliberate programme of the rich to work the poor to the verge of revolution, violence within poor families is going to increase.

    And will the rich care? Of course they will! The 'market' for violent, poor, young people is growing yearly. And if there is no real threat from abroad (history suggests Muslims will step up to the mark, with a little help from the West of course), one will easily be invented.

    Here in Greece, any expression of violence in public is virtually unknown - it really is. But young people are much more strictly controlled from birth. Education is poor, expectations are low, most people are content. Sad eh?

    Be patient Inspector, my internet connection is still poor, but I look forward to your posts for their language and content. Do you mind if, later on, I paste stuff into your comment column if it seems appropriate?

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  2. An interesting story, Inspector. My own childhood was fraught with psychological insecurities but these were inflicted by my siblings, not my parents. Belittled on a regular basis and an occasional beating from one's brother does not help one's self esteem and leaves one with a different sense of "family." None of that hurt my progress at school, however. But your point is well made. There is more to school than just the hours in a classroom.

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  3. It seems to me that what the Inspector was suggesting is that parents play a significant role in the development of curiosity and intellectual initiative at a very early age. His indication that the kids turned into "bumps on a log" strongly suggest that interpretation.

    It's been my observation that parents frequently treat inquisitive and energetic kids as behavior or discipline problems, instead of figuring out how to craft and mold this raw talent.

    I also suspect that the woman is a single mother, and thus the appropriateness of Mike Huckabee's concerns about Natalie Portmann.

    Inspector, how old do you think the mother on the bus was?

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  4. Anonymous: Our guess is that the Mother is 28. She struck us as angry and disillusioned.

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  5. BTW CorfuBob:

    We've been meaning to mention this since you became a regular contributor, and particularly since Libya has been in the news.

    You joined us after one of our Fellows, the Logistician, headed to Rio de Janeiro for an indefinite sabbatical while studying at a samba school.

    However, in 1986, it was his goal to travel around the world for a year. He was in Naples, Italy on April 15, intending to proceed to Brindisi to catch a ferry to the Island of Corfu, when the U.S. bombed Libya.

    Needless to say, the Mediterranean erupted, and the next day he immediately turned around and headed north to Florence and then Nice. He frequently spoke of his disappointment in not being able to continue his trip. He understood that Corfu is a special place.

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  6. Anonymous, though I think Huckabee is right to be concerned about the glorification of single mothers by the Hollywood elite (it's not as tough if you are rich enough to hire a nanny or two), I doubt the woman on the bus was influenced by that at all. She may have been a divorced mother, rather than a woman who became pregnant twice with benefit of marriage.

    Inspector, as always, I gave this more thought over the past few days and started thinking about how some parents often forget how much a child must be taught by the parents even before entering school and that it doesn't end there. Parents are the first glimpse of society that a child gets. And too many parents think children just civilize themselves and have an innate knowledge of life. I wonder if that woman also had a mother much like herself.

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  7. Oops! Should be "without benefit of marriage", not "with".

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  8. Thanks Douglas, as always, for your contribution.

    You wrote: "...I think Huckabee is right to be concerned about the glorification of single mothers by the Hollywood elite...."

    As soon as we saw the word, "glorification," we questioned whether the acts on the part of the Hollywood elite are affirmative in nature, and specific in terms of advocating a position. It also made us think of Charles Barkley's position that he is not a role model simply because he is a former pro sports athlete in the public eye. He argued for years that the "role models" are in the home and community.

    Being who we are, we had to look up the definition of glorification, because we are not as sharp as the vast majority of our readers.

    Per our dictionary, "glorify" means 1. "To give glory, honor, or high praise to; exalt. 2. To cause to be or seem more glorious or excellent than is actually the case. 3. To give glory to, esp. through worship."

    Assuming Natalie Portmann did not affirmatively utter words to the effect, "It's okay to an unwed mother," and did not say, It's a good thing to do," is she guilty of the glorification or is the beholder? Also, should she disappear and not go out in public at all, or wear a disguise, while she is pregnant?

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  9. The pronouncements of showbiz, its products, and types like Huckabee are of gratifyingly little significance in my corner of the planet. But let me affirmatively utter that it IS okay to be an unwed mother. My No1 daughter is such, and is honest, wise, caring, and a great role-model to her 4 year-old treasure. Introduce yourself to them at Dr-Awsom.blogspot.com.

    To expect the usual celebrity to understand what effect their words and actions can have on admirers is asking too much perhaps - like asking a politician to be compassionate.

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  10. Sad story. While we do need a license for a lot of things, parenting is unfortunately not on one of those things. From time to time I have observed people with similar behaviour (no slapping) over here. Those people do not seem to realize what kind of damage they're doing.

    Interesting that a lot of people here assume that the woman is a single mother.

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  11. Wsteffie:

    Welcome back. We missed you.

    Most of the Fellows associated with the Institute were born between 1948 and 1953, and grew up in the South. Most responsible parents of this region during that era physically whipped their kids hides raw, on a regular basis. (Teachers were also granted the privilege of inflicting corporeal punishment, along with many neighbors.)

    While we do not have any empirical evidence to support the following assertion, our sense is that 99% of kids who received those beatings will tell you today that they helped formed their character, and that the lack of such beatings is a significant factor in the "corruption" of today's youth.

    You indicated that many of our readers assumed that the woman in the article was a single mother. Although we did not indicate her race, the following is an article about single parents. The statistics might surprise you.

    The woman in question in the post was a black woman. In America, roughly 75% of black children are born out of wedlock.

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  12. It's good to be back Inspector and I've missed the site too.:-)

    I was born in 1959 and do recall having classmates that received the occasional slapping as well and they've turned out all right. I do feel privileged having grown up during that time because life was much easier. My dad had a high paying job and my mom was a homemaker. There was discipline and my parents did lay out the rules clearly. If we violated them that meant punishment. Not going outside with friends for a week and having to perform additional chores in the home instead or playing Monopoly with my parents did help. Fact is, those particular punishments meant that our parents had to make some additional time for us. There were only three TV channels and TV transmission was from 3pm until midnight. No unemployment, I-Pod's, I-Phones, MTV or designer clothes and overall less stress. Higher education was free and we choose professions based on what we felt passionate about. We were taught to do a good job and do the right thing. Today's kids are not so much taught to do a good job, but rather to be better than everybody else, no matter what it takes. Today I see more angry parents (both single and married) not willing to make time for their children. It's of course much easier to slap your child and put them down verbally and then place them in front of TV than to make time and talk. TV, I-Pod, Playstation and so on are today's parents assistants.

    In my view it's not so much the lack of beatings itself that are corrupting our youth today, but rather the lack of discipline and consequences.

    Thanks for the statistics, they are not surprising to me at all. While I do see the large possibility that the woman you observed is a single mother, I also see the possibilitiy of her being an angry married woman.

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  13. Sad story. While we do need a license for a lot of things, parenting is unfortunately not on one of those things. From time to time I have observed people with similar behaviour (no slapping) over here. Those people do not seem to realize what kind of damage they're doing.

    Interesting that a lot of people here assume that the woman is a single mother.

    ReplyDelete
  14. It seems to me that what the Inspector was suggesting is that parents play a significant role in the development of curiosity and intellectual initiative at a very early age. His indication that the kids turned into "bumps on a log" strongly suggest that interpretation.

    It's been my observation that parents frequently treat inquisitive and energetic kids as behavior or discipline problems, instead of figuring out how to craft and mold this raw talent.

    I also suspect that the woman is a single mother, and thus the appropriateness of Mike Huckabee's concerns about Natalie Portmann.

    Inspector, how old do you think the mother on the bus was?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Later today at 12 Noon, EDST, CSpan2 Book TV will air a book discussion, featuring the book, "Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools"

    ReplyDelete

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