Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Spiraling Cost of Ignorance.

Seed: The American War on Science makes the urgent point that we are importing an increasing proportion of bright innovative minds from other countries; countries that are starting to actually compete for those minds.

Part of the problem, Seed mentions, is the widespread anti-intellectualism exemplified by our "decider-in-chief."

But this cannot be dismissed as a problem of the left or the right; it's a problem for everyone.

If this supply of foreign minds is threatened, as it appears to be, by a combination of market forces and government blunders, our only alternative is to cultivate a home grown supply of science professionals. That means tapping high school seniors who are doing worse in science than at any other point in the past decade, according to results from the Dept. Of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress, which was released last week.
In this light, it's clear that the religious and ideological motivations behind No Child Left Behind have failed to achieve anything positive, not even their unstated goals of causing parents to stampede towards home-schooling and private providers.

An elevated level of mediocrity is not a desirable outcome, nor is it a permissible outcome. I'm all for smaller government and see no reason why public school districts should be immune from a judicious weight-loss program, but far too many ideologues of Left and Right seem to consider the goal of an educated citizenry to be almost beside the point of their own agendas.

Now that I think of it further, I think there is a great dependence on the trusting, sheep-like ignorance of the masses by idielologues and educationalists of both Left and Right. They have become unused to being held accountable for the outcomes of their often bizarre policies.

We need to return to the fundamentals - and by that, I do not mean the simplistic rote skills advocated by the Right, nor the emphasis on inoffensive collective compliance so beloved by the Left.

By "fundamentals" I mean that we need to teach students how to learn for themselves. We need to teach critical thinking skills. And above all, first of all, these things need to be taught to teachers.

These insights are stunningly unoriginal.

Indeed, as you are manifestly reading this, and presumably sought it out, it's quite likely that you have heard it before, or even stated something quite similar yourself. So you might wonder why those in charge, directly and indirectly, of our educational institutions cannot manage to evolve some sort of system that would express perfectly what was outlined in rough strokes by Plato and Aristotle.

This reference - which has nothing directly to do with education - well illustrates why our largely self-appointed Lords and Masters of all publicly expressed philosophies seem to privately collude to encourage our collective credulity.

It's not a coincidence that multimillion dollar lobbying campaigns net billions in tax transfers year after year, no matter which party is in charge. That's simply a return on their investment. And if that doesn't work, a night with a hooker (or a staffer) in a "hospitality suite" with a hidden camera or two laying around can always loosen up any opposition you might run into along the way. Washington DC is imperial Rome, folks. It's not only worse than you think it is, it's worse than you can imagine it to be.
The problem those of us who are unaccountably immune to the amazing piles of utter bullshit presented to us as "work product" by our elected misrepresentatives are still to easily swayed by political persuasion. "Yes, but we have to maintain our majority" or "Yes, but we have to gain the majority."

We need to require a higher standard than the right color of tie and the right line of patter. We need people who's stated principles matter more than the current crop of influence peddlers and low financiers.

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