Ushering in a New Dark Ages, One Student at a Time

 

I had planned my next Substack to be a follow-up piece to my rant on leaving New York City and discussing why progressives hate kids. However, an article in the New York Times grabbed my attention and I want to talk about it.

Since the New York Times is paywalled, let me first briefly summarize. The article, entitled “At N.Y.U., Students Were Failing Organic Chemistry. Who Was to Blame?” begins:

“In the field of organic chemistry, Maitland Jones Jr. has a storied reputation. He taught the subject for decades, first at Princeton and then at New York University, and wrote an influential textbook. He received awards for his teaching, as well as recognition as one of N.Y.U.’s coolest professors.

But last spring, as the campus emerged from pandemic restrictions, 82 of his 350 students signed a petition against him.”

Those protesting students claimed Dr. Jones’s class was just too hard and blamed him for their poor test results. Shortly before the beginning of the fall semester, Dr. Jones’s contract was terminated by the university. About 20 of Dr. Jones’s chemistry colleagues signed a letter, stating among other things, that the university’s actions could “deter rigorous instruction” and “enfeeble proven pedagogic practices.”

I wish to make four observations.

First, this article was on the front page of the Times. It wasn’t relegated to the metro section or hidden next to random education coverage. A relatively obscure 84-year-old semi-retired professor was pushed out by some whiny undergraduate students. Yet, this was deemed worthy of A1 placement by the New York Times’s esteemed editors. Why?

Is the Times, which has fully embraced anti-meritocratic, woke social justice ideology finally waking up to what is happening to our education system? Are they at long last realizing there is a story here and that our raging culture war isn’t simply a cause celebre of far-right fascists opposed to teaching slavery and Republican opportunists? Only time will tell. But perhaps a look at their comments section will help enlighten them.

As of my writing this, the article has received over 6,000 reader comments, more than any other Times article I remember seeing. Further, a quick glance at the most recommended comments are near unanimously supportive of the professor, unsupportive of the students, and show recognition of the dangers of grade inflation and the lowering of standards, especially in fields like medicine. To paraphrase one commentator, there’s nothing like the thought of not waking up on the operating table to mug you to reality.

Which brings me to my second, and most obvious observation. What kind of doctors are we going to have in this country? Anyone who attended a decent college knew that it was organic chemistry that ruthlessly separated the future doctors from those who wound up with Masters in Public Health degrees. Moreover, we’ve already seen a dramatic decline in the aptitude of our medical professionals in recent decades as our best and brightest now go into finance and tech, not medicine and science like in yesteryear.

Now, we’re seeing the fruits of social justice ideology infused into medical schools and pre-med programs, as standards dramatically decline for both admission and graduation. Once again, the blatant hypocrisy of progressivism is naked for all to see. How thoroughly equitable that the rich will be able to afford to import their qualified physicians from China and India while the poor and middle class will be stuck with the coddled midwits who had been given a free pass to and through med school?

My third observation relates to the damage we’ve done with our enormous overreaction to covid, which I discussed in my last substack.

“In the last two years, [test scores] fell off a cliff,” Dr. Jones wrote. “We now see single digit scores and even zeros.”

Dr. Jones continues:

“After several years of Covid learning loss, the students not only didn’t study, they didn’t seem to know how to study.”

We have broken children not only socially but also cognitively. Contrary to the promises of public health officials and child psychologists, teachers unions and politicians, kids are decidedly NOT resilient. That many kids no longer have the attention span or ability to read or to study is far worse than a year of learning loss. We have destroyed a generation of children in what should rightly be considered one of the greatest human rights crimes in history, and have utterly mortgaged our future because of it.

Finally, we get to my fourth observation and the buried lede of the article:

“The entire controversy seems to illustrate a sea change in teaching, from an era when professors set the bar and expected the class to meet it, to the current more supportive, student-centered approach.”

Knowingly or not, the author of this New York Times piece has captured, in one sentence, the crux of our fight. We are fundamentally changing the mission of schools in this country. The switch from teacher-centered learning to student-centered learning is a many decades-long initiative of progressive education. But it has vastly accelerated in the past few years.

In a child-centered environment, what matters is that the student feels good, not that the student is learning and succeeding. The teacher is a friend, not an authority figure. Subject matter is dictated by the student, not the teacher, and certainly not what society has always deemed important. Here we see how toxic social-emotional learning supersedes reading, writing, and math instruction, and how good grades cease to be an indicator of mastery, but are given out like candy to prop up bruised egos.

In a nutshell, child-centered learning is the opposite of how humans have always educated their children and antithetical to creating a class of wise, informed, and resilient citizens.

More than anything else I’ve read lately in the media, this Times article about a canned NYU orgo professor encapsulates all in one piece the crumbling state of our education system, the hypocrisy of woke ideology, the cruelness and short-sidedness of our covid policies, and the obvious danger to our future society. I can only hope that more Americans will begin to wake up, as just perhaps the New York Times has.


I also want to share with you the latest episode of the podcast I co-host with Beth Feeley, Take Back Our Schools here on Ricochet.

Courage is a Habit

Tweets with replies by Courage Is A Habit (@CourageHabit) / Twitter

On this episode of Take Back Our Schools, Beth and I talk to fellow parent activist, Alvin Lui. Alvin is the founder of Courage Is A Habit, an organization that creates tools and strategies for the average parent, school board candidate, and legislator to take action in defending children from indoctrination in K-12. Alvin discusses his organization’s work exposing aspects social-emotional learning (SEL) in our schools and explains how SEL is a gateway to teaching critical race theory (CRT) and radical gender ideology. Alvin also tells about his widely-shared expose on the American School Counselors Association (ASCA), an organization that is training school counselors to indoctrinate children towards CRT and the transgender cult. Finally, Alvin shares his views on what local parents need to do to make a difference in their own children’s schools.


I hope you enjoy these episodes of Take Back Our Schools. As always, please share any ideas or suggestions, including for podcast guests. You can contact me through the website: speakupforeducation.org or email me at andrew@speakupforeducation.org. I am also on Twitter @AndrewGutmann.

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  1. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    If there is blame to be placed over the notion that the college students failed organic chemistry – and perhaps there should be – that blame should not be laid at the feet of this well respected university professor.

    Organic chemistry is a difficult subject. Many of those in the profession who use the term “chemist” did not excel in the subject. (Although their job duties allow them to use the designation.)

    But if our students are inside a system which from Day One at a local  pre-school is set up to ignore a student’s failings, as after all the parents wish for little Dylan or little Sylvie to get into one of the more prestigious Ivy League colleges, then the student becomes ill prepared for real learning.

    Twenty five years ago, teachers in Marin County were fleeing their profession, as parents were forcing them to spend almost as much time  defending their giving Dylan or Sylvie a bad grade as was spent on lesson plans or grading papers.

    Imagine the horrors that these parents experienced when their child faced having a “B” or – horrors upon horrors! –   a “C” on their record, rather than the “A” that would allow for the child to attend Yale or Harvard. And the student might only be in grammar school while  the drama unfolded.

    Not only that, but due to various factors such as affirmative action as well as the multiple injections kids were receiving, so many youngsters were applying to colleges despite not knowing how to study and while afflicted with ADHD  and other learning impairments. By 1999, it was common knowledge that the admissions committees at America’s universities had lowered their entrance standards, as otherwise it would be too difficult to find as many students as they had admitted in the past.

    Am I sad to realize that a university fired a decent teacher possessing excellent abilities to train the next generation of students how to learn organic chemistry?

    Yes, I am. In fact his dismissal  terrifies me.

    But the tragic situation is the logical end result of policies that have been decades in the making.

     

     

    • #1
  2. JAW3 Coolidge
    JAW3
    @JohnWilson

    Student centered teaching is about the MONEY paid and the leverage the parents have to see that their Children get the best grades that they can buy for them.  IMO.

    And I was scared to death the first two years of undergrad in the late seventies. I overcame the fear and moved on.  What good is an education if the student isn’t stressed tested and either passed or not.  The professor is probably peers with the professors I learned from as well.  Cheers on him and his standards!

    • #2
  3. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Love you podcast. Very interesting guests!

    • #3
  4. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    I’d like to see these college administrators being required to use only doctors who took the ‘easy’ version of the med school course, and fly only in airplane piloted by people who took the ‘easy’ versions of the written and practical exams.

    And use medicines developed only by those who took the ‘easy’ versions of the organic chemistry, microbiology, and virology courses.

    • #4
  5. Andrew Gutmann Contributor
    Andrew Gutmann
    @andrewgutmann

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Love you podcast. Very interesting guests!

    Thank you for listening!

    • #5
  6. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    The title of this post is chilling; it’s exactly right.

    When we were kids and read about how great civilizations failed, how the Nazi regime could ever have happened, how all these things that seemed such locks – all these great cultures that were eventually destroyed, we couldn’t imagine how it came to pass. What were the people thinking??

    And now we are watching it all happen to us, before our eyes.

    • #6
  7. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    The more detrimental things you see happening to our country because of COVID, the harder it is not to believe it was deliberate . . .

    • #7
  8. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Andrew, I would encourage you to post these first on the Member Feed, since a good number of members make it a point to avoid the Main Feed.

    • #8
  9. Andrew Gutmann Contributor
    Andrew Gutmann
    @andrewgutmann

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Andrew, I would encourage you to post these first on the Member Feed, since a good number of members make it a point to avoid the Main Feed.

    Thanks. Will do next time.

    • #9
  10. Andrew Gutmann Contributor
    Andrew Gutmann
    @andrewgutmann

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    The title of this post is chilling; it’s exactly right.

    When we were kids and read about how great civilizations failed, how the Nazi regime could ever have happened, how all these things that seemed such locks – all these great cultures that were eventually destroyed, we couldn’t imagine how it came to pass. What were the people thinking??

    And now we are watching it all happen to us, before our eyes.

    Sadly, I agree.

    • #10
  11. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Yes I am sad that 82 kids thought it was OK to try to get a teacher disciplined for making the class too hard, for all the reasons that you state in this excellent post.  But I’m flaming hot angry at NYU administration for actually firing him.  They did not grow up during COVID and have no excuses for being idiots.  

     

    • #11
  12. Peckish Cedar Coolidge
    Peckish Cedar
    @PeckishCedar

    When I was in college my major required us to take 15 hours of advanced chemistry or physics.  Organic chemistry, which had the reputation of being a student killer, was included in the chemistry requirement, so I picked physics.  I did well, but ironically I have never used the advanced physics and use self-taught organic chemistry every day.  I wish I could go back and do it again, but those days have long passed.  

    Anyway, to second what was said before.  Classes like organic chemistry were used to weed out the students that didn’t belong in the sciences or in college period.  Heck! First Semester Freshman Chemistry 101 was used the same way and it nearly got me.  College is not about getting a diploma, its about forcing children out of their comfort zone and learning how to survive (at least in one limited way) and become thinking adults.   Its not so much what you learn, but learning how to learn.  College is supposed to be hard.  It is not for every one.  And that’s okay.  I know many people who never went to college that make more money and had greater success and are much wiser than myself.  They learned adulthood another way that was just as good and sometimes better.

    I also knew some professional students who never grew up.  Many professors I had back in the 70s were of this stripe.  They knew how to study, take tests, and possibly teach, but that’s it.  They became institutionalized and couldn’t survive outside their ivory tower.   Politicians are basically the same critter.    The best professors I had were retired engineers and scientists who had real world experience (and often weren’t PhDs).  They were tough on us because they knew the world was tough and unforgiving.  This new crop of students who wish to be stuck in perpetual adolescence and the political, pansy-a$$ college administrators who enable them are a perfect recipe for disaster.     

     

    • #12
  13. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    I began college almost fifty years ago with the intent to go on to medical school. I never even made it to organic chemistry. First semester inorganic chemistry made clear to me that I had no business getting anywhere near the practice of medicine. I was very glad to figure that out early in my college studies so that I could reorient my goals. 

    A high failure or drop rate may be a sign of bad teaching. But this was not some newbie untested teacher. He had been doing this for decades, with apparent success. It seems unlikely that his teaching suddenly got worse. 

    I read in another report that the complaining students (notably far less than a majority of the students in the class) complained in part because the grades they got were “not an accurate reflection of the time and effort” that they had put into it. In other words, they expect a participation grade, which is not necessarily the same as a grade reflecting their mastery of the subject matter. Is this what we get from now the second generation of kids raised with “participation trophies” and not keeping score in soccer games?

    But we have read for years stories about professors being terrified of bad reviews from students, reviews that often seem to be driven by student feelings more than actual learning. 

    • #13
  14. Britanicus Member
    Britanicus
    @Britanicus

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Andrew, I would encourage you to post these first on the Member Feed, since a good number of members make it a point to avoid the Main Feed.

    Why would one avoid the main feed?

    • #14
  15. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds
    @MarjorieReynolds

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Love you podcast. Very interesting guests!

    Me too. Your interview with Stella O’Malley a few weeks ago was fascinating. 

    • #15
  16. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Britanicus (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Andrew, I would encourage you to post these first on the Member Feed, since a good number of members make it a point to avoid the Main Feed.

    Why would one avoid the main feed?

    You’d have to ask them to be sure, but it seems they find the Main Feed to be too controlled by the Ricochet overseeing elite, or something.

    • #16
  17. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Also, one of the Hillsdale campi should scoop up this professor real quick.  If only to write their new textbook or something.

    • #17
  18. ElizabethJ Coolidge
    ElizabethJ
    @ElizabethJ

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Britanicus (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Andrew, I would encourage you to post these first on the Member Feed, since a good number of members make it a point to avoid the Main Feed.

    Why would one avoid the main feed?

    You’d have to ask them to be sure, but it seems they find the Main Feed to be too controlled by the Ricochet overseeing elite, or something.

    As a newby to Ricohet, where else is there to go to see the posts?

    • #18
  19. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    There was an article earlier this week by a Davidson professor lamenting the increasing number of students unable to pass his economics class. https://www.jamesgmartin.center/2022/10/failing-introductory-economics/

    It seems that they wouldn’t attend class and then wouldn’t do the work outside the class. It’s like a lot of students are going to college who really shouldn’t be there and or don’t appreciate the opportunity to learn. My kids see similar attitudes in their high school, even in honors classes. Students assume they’ll go to college, but they don’t want to have to work too hard to earn good grades. 

    • #19
  20. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    ElizabethJ (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Britanicus (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Andrew, I would encourage you to post these first on the Member Feed, since a good number of members make it a point to avoid the Main Feed.

    Why would one avoid the main feed?

    You’d have to ask them to be sure, but it seems they find the Main Feed to be too controlled by the Ricochet overseeing elite, or something.

    As a newby to Ricohet, where else is there to go to see the posts?

    At the top of every page, see where it says “MAIN FEED” and “MEMBER FEED” and “PODCASTS”?

    Click on MEMBER FEED to see the MEMBER FEED.  Those are posts that cannot be seen by non-members, until/unless they get “promoted” to the MAIN FEED.

    At least, that’s how it works on a computer.  If you’re using a phone (which I think you shouldn’t), I have no idea how it looks.

    • #20
  21. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    There was an article earlier this week by a Davidson professor lamenting the increasing number of students unable to pass his economics class. https://www.jamesgmartin.center/2022/10/failing-introductory-economics/

    It seems that they wouldn’t attend class and then wouldn’t do the work outside the class. It’s like a lot of students are going to college who really shouldn’t be there and or don’t appreciate the opportunity to learn. My kids see similar attitudes in their high school, even in honors classes. Students assume they’ll go to college, but they don’t want to have to work too hard to earn good grades.

    Imagine the damage done by the dual enrollment programs in high schools.  

    • #21
  22. Andrew Gutmann Contributor
    Andrew Gutmann
    @andrewgutmann

    Marjorie Reynolds (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Love you podcast. Very interesting guests!

    Me too. Your interview with Stella O’Malley a few weeks ago was fascinating.

    Thanks. Stella was great. One of my favorite episodes that we’ve done.

    • #22
  23. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Peckish Cedar (View Comment):
    Classes like organic chemistry were used to weed out the students that didn’t belong in the sciences or in college period. 

    One of my physics professors said the same thing about the junior-level physics courses . . .

    • #23
  24. davenr321 Coolidge
    davenr321
    @davenr321

    The key to college general chemistry is to have mastered all the math already, like in high school. Unlike me…

    but: 40 years ago I passed it and the next full year year of organic chemistry, on the first shot. I did it to prove to my parents that I could do it, and to spite everyone around who doubted me. I got a “high” C each semester with a full prof who didn’t believe in curves. I passed biochem, and found that I was pretty darn good at analytical chemistry later on. Yeah, I have anger issues.

    These crybabies at that restroom in Greenwich Village can kiss my, er, aren’t worthy of me dropping my copy of Morrison & Boyd on their feet. I hope this negativity impacts NYU’s accreditation. This ought to be a death sentence to their undergrad biology program.

    • #24
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