Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sanitizing Our Children's Minds, More GIGO

I maintain the slim and slippery hope that this research is doing some good. The motto of American public k through 12 education could well be, "Ignorance is bliss".

American public education is run by a circle jerk of politicians who are a byproduct of the system they so despise. I am less upset with the lack of funding for mandates as for the lack of quality, if any, that the mandates represent. The legislation of education is a colossal and expensive failure that rewards publishers, test corporations, and a compliant education industry that is happy to go along to get along.

Tonight is especially trying. Ashford is a small town full of diverse, wonderful people who are always at the short end of the political stick. Our candidates stand no chance of competing with the larger towns to evrer get elected to state office regardless of the quality of candidates. We are held hostage to Tolland in the 53rd District and Mansfield in Region 19. The bigger towns roll in state money while the small towns try to make Lincolns scream. It seems nobody in the provincial politics outside of Ashford could see fit to vote for our candidate. I'm totally bummed - more braindead politics.

The same phenomenon exists in the world of textbook publishing, information is scrubbed so hard to please the big markets that nothing worth memorizing is left to memorize for testing purposes. The byproduct of textbook learning is equivalent to an exercise in anti-learning - our kids are dumber for the effort.

Here's a sample of A textbook case of failure, Politically driven adoption system yields shallow, misleading materials by Alex Johnson, Reporter, MSNBC, Updated: 10:05 a.m. ET May 16, 2006. Click the title bar to read the entire piece.

“This is where people miss the boat. They don’t realize how important the textbooks are,” Wang said. “We talk about vouchers and more teachers, but education is about the books. That’s where the content is.”

If America’s textbooks were systematically graded, Wang and other scholars say, they would fail abysmally.

American textbooks are both grotesquely bloated (so much so that some state legislatures are considering mandating lighter books to save students from back injuries) and light as a feather intellectually, flitting briefly over too many topics without examining any of them in detail. Worse, too many of them are pedagogically dishonest, so thoroughly massaged to mollify competing political and identity-group interests as to paint a startlingly misleading picture of America and its history.

Textbooks have become so bland and watered-down that they are “a scandal and an outrage,” the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit education think tank in Washington, charged in a scathing report issued a year and a half ago.

“They are sanitized to avoid offending anyone who might complain at textbook adoption hearings in big states, they are poorly written, they are burdened with irrelevant and unedifying content, and they reach for the lowest common denominator,” Diane Ravitch, a senior official in the Education Department during the administrations of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, wrote in the report’s introduction.

“As a result of all this, they undermine learning instead of building and encouraging it,” she added.

A closed market
The culprit is the system by which many states choose what books their students will read. Because the market is a small one, textbook publishers must cater to the whims of elected school board leaders in the biggest states that buy the most books: Texas and California, which control a third of the national market, the Association of American Publishers estimates.

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