The Cost of Wokeness in Schools: Real Education

 

The woeful state of American education has been a concern for some time. No matter what we do, our kids’ skills and basic grasp in math and language just keep getting worse. The statistics have always been appalling, but it’s now crossed over into actually shocking.

In her fabulous book on educational theory Consider This, Karen Glass writes,

We know that today’s schools, in general, are failing to give children an adequate education, as evidenced by the rate of illiteracy, the remedial courses college have to provide, and the embarassing lack of general knowledge paraded before us when individuals are waylaid and asked questions about history or geography which they are unable to answer.

Well-meaning current educators, seeking to correct these problems, sometimes propose schemes of education which set out to equip chidlren with “tools of learning” or “critical thinking skills.” These educators seem to hope that replicating particular educational methods or practices from the past will produce these same superior results today.

But intellectual prowess was not the primary concern of the classical educators. Their reason for education had an altogether different goal. When we understand what motivated their educational efforts, we will see that there is a sharp difference between the historical, classical approach to education and our modern one. It is not a difference merely of methods, but a difference of purpose.

Karen published her book in 2014, and the state of education has only gone even farther downhill. In our hyper-partisan world, thousands of educators have given up even trying the latest fads to teach critical thinking skills; now they’ve decided the best use of their time is not teaching kids how to think, but what to think. And it’s no wonder that our already floundering educational system has now just utterly sunk to the absolute bottom of the pool.

Yesterday we received a free book as part of a program that sends free books to Jewish kids to enhance their connection to their faith and culture. I’m not going to name the program because complaining publicly about such a generous program is already kind of a bratty move, but I could not resist critiquing the latest book we were sent. The program is already infected with a fair amount of wokeism, but yesterday’s book really highlighted just how wokeism corrupts everything it touches; not just with insipid politics, but a general dumbing down as well. It’s no wonder: When your focus in writing a book is pushing an agenda instead of producing quality literature, the literary quality suffers.

The book we received was called A Moon for Moe and Mo, and Amazon describes it this way:

An interfaith friendship develops when Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, overlaps with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan–an occurence that happens only once every thirty years or so.

Moses Feldman, a Jewish boy, lives at one end of Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, while Mohammed Hassan, a Muslim boy, lives at the other. One day they meet at Sahadi’s market while out shopping with their mothers and are mistaken for brothers. A friendship is born, and the boys bring their families together to share rugelach and date cookies in the park as they make a wish for peace.

When I first read this book aloud to my children I wondered if I was the first person to ever actually do that; reading it aloud to a child. My kids walked away from the book confused by so much, even the desired agenda didn’t take hold. Giving two characters the same name with slightly different spellings sounds cute until you’re reading it to a child and you realize they can’t tell the difference between the two main characters. That’s a pretty big problem.

Here’s the other: The author never explains that Moe is Jewish and Mo is Muslim, and so, my kids walked away thinking that Ramadan is a Jewish month. It says Moe is celebrating Rosh Hashanah and then on the next page says Mo is preparing for Ramadan, calling it the holiest month of the year. My kids then thought Ramadan is a Jewish month because on the previous page it’s discussing a Jewish holiday and it’s never explained that Mo is of another faith. You can’t teach tolerance between different faiths if you don’t explain they’re of different faiths in the first place.

After we muddled through the book, I sat wondering “how does this happen?” How does a book go from a book proposal to fully illustrated, edited, printed, and chosen for this program without any of these glaring issues pinpointed? The answer, to me, was obvious: Along the entire process, they had an agenda about promoting “tolerance” etc instead of producing quality literature.

The corrupting influence of wokeism has already completely destroyed Hollywood; think about how many classic movies or television shows could ever be produced in the environment we currently find ourselves in. Conservatives often bemoan that phenomenon, but infrequently notice the other creative arenas that wokeism has destroyed with its insistence on prioritizing their agenda over quality.

All forms of entertainment, including children’s literature (remember the Dr. Seuss controversy earlier this year?), have been infected, and the destruction of quality children’s literature has long-lasting consequences for our society. Adults of my generation and older at least grew up sustained by quality literature over the course of our childhoods that nourished our hearts and minds. Unless the home libraries of today’s youth are filled with nothing but the classics (those that are still available, that is) we’ll only see further devolution of kids’ grasp on not just reality, but basic academic standards as well.

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  1. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    Having just finished a visit with my grandchildren, this post is so important to me. The older two had just done a little skit based on The Three Little Pigs so their father got a book from the library with the pigs as ninjas. Not bad EXCEPT it was now 2 brothers and a sister and, of course, the sister was the smart, strong, hard-working, studious pig. Both my son and I, independently, just read the book as 3 brothers (the drawings did not make that much difference between the brothers and sister luckily). Why mess up a perfectly good version of the classic story? Because the agenda is more important than anything. I’m sure you’re right that no one bothered to read the book aloud to see the problems and confusion of the same names, etc. Thanks so much for writing about this. 

    • #1
  2. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    By and large, “classical” education in the US was the province of elite institutions, though it did inform education in general. One of the main drivers of American education was the Protestant idea that everybody ought to be able to read the Bible for themselves, and being able to read and write was useful and (what with the content of the readers used) elevating. Then came the mass immigrations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which were significantly driven by the need for industrial labor; being able to read, do arithmetic, and write is good for commerce and industry. Schools were motivated largely by that need, but also served as talent scouts for higher education and specialized art and science schools.

    But. By the 1930s, the NYC teachers unions were Communist dominated, and the Columbia Teachers’ College (the most prestigious teacher training institution in the country, and the wellspring of curricula that shaped American education) was falling under the sway of the Frankfurt School. 

    Meanwhile, the CPUSA, under orders from Moscow, was penetrating Hollywood and was seeing to it that the Left’s themes got promoted and the wrong ones got killed. While Ronald Reagan and his comrades had some success, by the 1970s the New Left was beginning to be entrenched, with the results we all know.

    Finally, it’s all very well for Karen Glass to strive for “heart” education, but—to what does “wokism” appeal if not to the heart?

    Oh, and 

    yesterday’s book really highlighted just how wokeism corrupts everything it touches; not just with insipid politics?

    I think you misspelled insidious.

     

    • #2
  3. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    I read once – though it was sometime ago — that we produce very mediocre 18 year olds but the world’s most capable 28 year olds.   I cling to the hope that it is still true.

    [I’d add that 2 of my 3 kids (step kids officially) were very liberal when they left school, but now as they approach late 20’s the are all quite conservative]

    • #3
  4. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Bethany Mandel: Giving two characters the same name with slightly different spellings sounds cute until you’re reading it to a child and you realize they can’t tell the difference between the two main characters.

    Slightly off topic, one of the alphabet books we somehow acquired for our daughter used an eye to represent the letter E. Yep, “E as in eye”. That one didn’t stay in the rotation.

    • #4
  5. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    It’s often been observed that for social media sites, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.  (I’d modify that to say that you’re the raw material out of which the actual product–the advertising–is fabricated)

    Well, to many Democrat politicians…most of them, I fear…kids are merely the raw materials our of which future Dem voters may be fabricated.  And teaching of math and literature is scarcely required for that.

    Plus, it makes their parents happier, in the near term, to think their kids are doing well, hence they (the parents) are more likely to support the educational establishment.  And in the slightly longer term, when the kids are not doing well at all, why there are all kinds of things and people that can be blamed.

     

    • #5
  6. Dominique Prynne Member
    Dominique Prynne
    @DominiquePrynne

    The only metric that matters is the graduation rate.  The graduates don’t have to actually know anything.  But there is even trouble in Charm CIty over that:

     

    The success of any school, and its students, is often measured by graduation rates. If that is the case, Baltimore City Public Schools is going in the wrong direction. Data just released shows, for the second year in a row, graduation rates in City Schools have dropped and the number of students graduating is at a six-year low.

    Dr. Sonja Santelises is Maryland’s highest-paid school superintendent. In 2020, she earned $339,000. That same year, City Schools’ graduation rate, for the first time in six years, dropped below 70 percent.

    https://foxbaltimore.com/news/project-baltimore/baltimore-city-schools-graduation-rate-drops-to-six-year-low

    The dismal academic ability level which passes for the average “high school graduate” is also the basis for my objection to “free college”.  (One of many of course).  I think state-funded universities should be prohibited from offering remedial classes.  If the college student needs remedial reading or math, they should not be enrolled in college.  I guess the community colleges could offer those classes, but with no federal or state grants applied toward that class from the student’s financial aid.  (How about the student’s high school be billed by the community college for the remedial class? :) 

    • #6
  7. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: Giving two characters the same name with slightly different spellings sounds cute until you’re reading it to a child and you realize they can’t tell the difference between the two main characters.

    Slightly off topic, one of the alphabet books we somehow acquired for our daughter used an eye to represent the letter E. Yep, “E as in eye”. That one didn’t stay in the rotation.

    Something ghotiy* about that book for sure.


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    * gh as in “enough”

       o as in “women”

       ti as in “action”

     

     

    • #7
  8. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Bethany Mandel:

    The woeful state of American education has been a concern for some time. No matter what we do, our kids’ skills and basic grasp in math and language just keep getting worse. The statistics have always been appalling, but it’s now crossed over into actually shocking.

    These are not statistics.  This is a Tweet that we can’t read that purports to show poor results for perhaps 14 students in a single city.

    There is good information about educational results available at the NAEP Data Explorer, here.  You have to familiarize yourself with the website and the data, but it provides a wealth of actual statistical evidence, which does not support the claim in the OP that students’ “basic grasp of math and reading just keep getting worse.”

    Here are a couple of graphs from the NAEP Long Term Trend (LTT) data set.  These are for 17 year olds, and unfortunately, the most recent assessment was 2012.

    Math first:

    You can see that there’s no long-term downward trend here.  This is actually remarkable, as the demographics have been working against the national average, due to the increasing percentage of lower-scoring black and Hispanic students.  The median score is up from 301 in 1978 to 307 in 2012, down only slightly from the all-time peak of 309 in 1999.

    Now, reading:

    Here, the trend is also generally flat, despite the demographic headwind.  The 1971 median score was 285, up to 287 in 2012, though this is a bit down from the peak of 290 in 1988, 1990, and 1992.

    The main NAEP data is reported differently, and the test and scoring change from time to time, so you can’t use it for long-term trends.  Also, it reports for 12th graders rather than 17-year-olds, and the scale of the scoring doesn’t match the LTT results.  The main data has the advantage of including separate results for racial and ethnic groups.

    The 2019 scores are down a bit, and may indicate a recent negative turn, but it’s not a very big difference.  Here are the numbers, first for math:

    White student median: 162 in 2009, 162 in 2013, 160 in 2019

    Black student median: 131 in 2009, 132 in 2013, 127 in 2019

    Hispanic student median:  138 in 2009, 141 in 2013, 138 in 2019

    Here are the reading scores:

    White student median: 299 in 2009, 300 in 2013, 299 in 2019

    Black student median: 271 in 2009, 270 in 2013, 265 in 2019

    Hispanic student median: 276 in 2009, 277 in 2013, 276 in 2019

    These variations are minor, except for the unusually poor results for black students in 2019, down about 5 points in both subjects.

    This is just a small example of what it would look like to base a discussion of educational results on actual facts and statistics.  I expect more from contributors than the unsubstantiated claim made in the OP.

    • #8
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I spotted one disturbing trend in the NAEP data discussed in my prior comment.  The scores for the lowest-performing students are getting notably worse.  This is more pronounced in reading than in math.

    Here are the reading scores for 12th graders at the 10th percentile:

    White student 10th percentile: 248 in 2009, 250 in 2013, 240 in 2019

    Black student 10th percentile: 222 in 2009, 221 in 2013, 209 in 2019

    Hispanic student 10th percentile: 226 in 2009, 229 in 2013, 221 in 2019

    The trend in math at the 10th percentile is similar, though smaller.

    This is not a problem for all of “our kids.”  Something seems to be causing a deterioration in performance among kids at the bottom of the distribution.

    • #9
  10. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    The 2019 scores are down a bit, and may indicate a recent negative turn, but it’s not a very big difference. Here are the numbers, first for math:

    White student median: 162 in 2009, 162 in 2013, 160 in 2019

    Black student median: 131 in 2009, 132 in 2013, 127 in 2019

    Hispanic student median: 138 in 2009, 141 in 2013, 138 in 2019

    Here are the reading scores:

    White student median: 299 in 2009, 300 in 2013, 299 in 2019

    Black student median: 271 in 2009, 270 in 2013, 265 in 2019

    Hispanic student median: 276 in 2009, 277 in 2013, 276 in 2019

    These variations are minor, except for the unusually poor results for black students in 2019, down about 5 points in both subjects.

    This is just a small example of what it would look like to base a discussion of educational results on actual facts and statistics. I expect more from contributors than the unsubstantiated claim made in the OP.

    Now throw in the stats for Asians . . .

    • #10
  11. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Stad, I didn’t include Asians because the NAEP data is limited with respect  to Asians.  Asians and Pacific Islanders were grouped together for most of the reporting period, making it difficult to evaluate the long-term trend for these groups.  NAEP changed their reporting guidelines in 2011 to report Asians separately, but there weren’t tests of 12th graders in that year, so the data for this group is limited to 2013, 2015, and 2019.

    In reading, the median scores for 12th graders are:

    White: 300 in 2013, 298 in 2015, 299 in 2019

    Asian: 300 in 2013, 302 in 2015, 302 in 2019

    So there’s not much of a difference in reading, but it’s different in math.  Here are the median scores for 12th graders in math:

    White: 162 in 2013, 161 in 2015, 160 in 2019

    Asian: 175 in 2013, 173 in 2015, 178 in 2019

     

    • #11
  12. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Stad, I didn’t include Asians because the NAEP data is limited with respect  to Asians.  Asians and Pacific Islanders were grouped together for most of the reporting period, making it difficult to evaluate the long-term trend for these groups.  NAEP changed their reporting guidelines in 2011 to report Asians separately, but there weren’t tests of 12th graders in that year, so the data for this group is limited to 2013, 2015, and 2019.

    I thought you wanted us to call them Orientals.

    • #12
  13. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Bethany Mandel: Yesterday we received a free book as part of a program that sends free books to Jewish kids to enhance their connection to their faith and culture. I’m not going to name the program because complaining publicly about such a generous program is already kind of a bratty move, but I could not resist critiquing the latest book we were sent.

    For @bethanymandel and all Ricochetti with children and/or grandchildren under age five: sign up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. You won’t regret it.

    • #13
  14. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Stad, I didn’t include Asians because the NAEP data is limited with respect to Asians. Asians and Pacific Islanders were grouped together for most of the reporting period, making it difficult to evaluate the long-term trend for these groups. NAEP changed their reporting guidelines in 2011 to report Asians separately, but there weren’t tests of 12th graders in that year, so the data for this group is limited to 2013, 2015, and 2019.

    I thought you wanted us to call them Orientals.

    As I understand it, the U.S. is pretty much the only country in the world where the word Oriental has become politically incorrect.

    But back on topic, Oregon has dropped the requirements for getting a high school diploma.  You no longer have to prove that you can read and write.

    • #14
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