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After Rove There’s Work to Be Done Conservatism

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Half of High School Grads Fail Seventh Grade Math

by Christopher Chantrill
August 26, 2007 at 6:18 pm

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FOR SIX generations, writes the military historian Victor Davis Hanson, the government has been educating his family in his hometown in California. But things are not going well on the hometown education front any more.

[A]fter a haircut, I noticed that the 20-something cashier could not count out change. The next day, at the electronic outlet store, another young clerk could not read — much less explain — the basic English of the buyer’s warranty. At the food market, I listened as a young couple argued over the price of a cut of tri-tip — unable to calculate the meat’s real value from its price per pound.

It’s not just California. In Washington State Bruce Ramsay writes in the Seattle Times:

At community colleges, half the students take remedial math. At the University of Washington, atmospheric-sciences professor Cliff Mass says, “I saw a profound drop in math skills starting in the mid-’90s.” New-age math, he says, has created “a whole generation of students who can’t do fractions.”

The official measure of math skills is the Washington Assessment of Student Learning... a new-age test... [C]onsultant Michael Cohen, who has reviewed the WASL, says the actual math in it is seventh-grade level.

So, in left-coast Washington State half the kids entering community college can’t do seventh-grade math.

To Hanson what’s needed is some top-down authority. “We should scrap... sermons on race, class, gender, drugs, sex, self-esteem, or environmentalism,” and encourage the rational ability to make sense of the presence from a knowledge of the “abstract wisdom of the past.” We should allow teacher credentialing from academic subjects as well as teaching credentials. And we should end lifetime tenure.

But Rep. George Miller (D-CA) has another idea. According to Debra J Saunders, he wants to broaden the mandatory testing of students under the federal No Child Left Behind Act to provide

multiple measures of success. These measures can no longer reflect just basic skills and memorization, but rather critical thinking and the ability to apply knowledge to new and challenging contexts.

You mean like in new-age math?

This top-down political centralization is exactly the problem, according to David Green, Director of Britain’s conservative think-tank Civitas.

Some services just can’t be subject to remote central direction because, by their very nature, what makes for success is local and personal.

And that applies in particular to education. Politicians, tenured bureaucrats, and organized special interests don’t do local and personal. And yet “we should” do something. Given the manifest failure of education under compulsion, it is time to think about the very nature of education and the social environment under which it can flourish.

Danny Kruger, a staffer fop British Conservative Party leader David Cameron, has done so. In On Fraternity he analyzes the three enthusiasms of modernity: Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!

Liberalism reduces everything to the individual and the egoic demand “I shall.” Socialism with its ethic of equality reduces everything to coercion and “You must.”

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority—the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says “We should...”

Our current education system is a blending of the individualist “I shall” and the socialist “You must.” It reflects a social and political philosophy which understands only a bipolar world consisting of the individual “creative” will and centralized state coercion. It hates the notion of authority and uses all its power to destroy the “non-coercive social persuasion” that lies at the center of conservative philosophy in Burke’s “little platoons” and Berger and Neuhaus’ “mediating structures.” No wonder it is failing.

We conservatives know what needs to be done. We know that the only way to solve the education crisis is to break the monopoly of government education and establish the principle of parental control and education choice.

But even if school choice did not deliver better results than monopoly government education there is still the principle that a child belongs to its family before it belongs to the state. Writes Danny Kruger:

To the Right... the education of children is the supreme, almost exclusive responsibility of the parents who brought them into the world. Not the state, not ‘society’ in the abstract—which is the state—but the family, is rightfully responsible for a child’s schooling. Parents should be in charge.

And let us be clear about this. This parental right includes the right to be wrong, even against the weight of the education experts.

But a parent would have to be a real doofus to match the experts that are sitting around watching half of our high school graduates failing seventh-grade math.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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