The Rotting American Public School System’s New Philosophy: “If At First You Don’t Succeed, Call Failure A Success.”

In the ultimate expression of “The Great Stupid,” New York has gone to a bad Jerry Lewis movie (no, they aren’t all bad) for inspiration in revising its education policy. Faced with terrible math and reading scores for students—in some school, not one achieved what was considered minimum proficiency— a state school board lowered the standards so more students would “succees”. This was the measured response after, as one media source reported,

“A scoring committee that reports to the Board of Regents said Monday that they must take into account the results of last year’s tests for students in grades three through eight. Some schools posted shocking results — in Schenectady, no eighth grader who took the math test scored as proficient. And the scores for the third through eighth grade tests throughout the state were much lower in 2022 than in 2019, a result no doubt of the absence of in-person learning during the first year and beyond of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

No doubt? There are several reasons this crash is occurring. One is that the disastrous decision to close the schools in response to the health “experts” and news media-driven panic over the Wuhan virus seriously (and perhaps permanently) set back the intellectual development of America’s young. Before that, there was already evidence that U.S. IQs are declining, and not just in the White House. The politicized public school system now devotes crucial class hours to teaching black kids that they face a lifetime of permanent oppression in a racist nation, and making white kids believe that their skin shade signifies evil embedded in their DNA. Then there is the little problem of the education profession being riddled with incompetents from top to bottom, as well as today’s children spending more time on social media and video games than reading, while their parents have abdicated their traditional duties to stimulate their children’s intellectual life at home.

Meanwhile, pushed by the unions, some districts are transitioning to a four-day work week for teachers, allegedly to reduce stress. I guess not being qualified or competent at your chosen field would be stressful.

Of course, this is just one of a series of moves across the country to achieve “diversity, equity and inclusion” by making it difficult for talented, motivated students to excel, and easier for less able students to slide by. Many school districts are eliminating gifted and talented programs. There is a trend to stop flunking students no matter how inept they are or how little school they actually attend, both to ensure graduation and to avoid lowering their self-esteem. Teachers are being blocked from disciplining disruptive students. Students who can’t meet required proficiency in writing, math, and English are getting promoted and passed through anyway, and because minority groups (except Asian-Americans) remains stubbornly behind in standardized test scores, there is a movement to eliminate them as well. (The tests, not the students.)

To be fair, I cannot say this is an entirely new development. When I was in the Georgetown Law Center administration, we were faced with affirmative action admittees from elite colleges like Yale who literally could not read or write a coherent sentence. Years later, working at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, I was assigned an intern from a prominent mid-western college who had been a straight A student throughout her educational career so far (she was a Junior). She could not write with what I considered middle school proficiency, and didn’t know it. I had to break it to her, and she wept in my office.

But the practice of defining proficiency down in public education in order to make children feel they are smarter and more informed than they are had not become epidemic at that point. Jonathan Turley, who has written about the problem several times, concludes his latest expression of despair this way:

It is the dumbing down of America, but administrators, boards, and unions insist that it is better for these students, who face dismal prospects for future employment. In the meantime, we are pouring billions into schools that cannot produce a single proficient student in basic subjects. If this were a business, there would be criminal fraud charges across the nation.

Predictably, one of Turley’s knee-jerk woke trolls responds,

You complain that what is going on in NY is “killing public education” and is gutting “its standards rather than improve its quality of education”. What you don’t want to discuss is conservative FL Gov. DeSantis’ “anti-Woke” agenda that is dumbing down the quality of education in spades in the sunshine state…

He goes on to define “dumbing down” as not sufficiently indoctrinating students in Critical Race Theory ideology. It is warped priorities like that driving the intellectual crippling of the nation’s rising generation.

13 thoughts on “The Rotting American Public School System’s New Philosophy: “If At First You Don’t Succeed, Call Failure A Success.”

  1. I tried to volunteer at the local public high school to help out the AP English teacher. She ran me off, which is a story for another day. But one of the amazing things was that ALL the juniors and seniors were in the “Advanced Placement” sections! Which made no sense whatsoever. And the school paid the testing fee for all of the students to take the AP test. Crazy.

  2. Meanwhile, pushed by the unions, some districts are transitioning to a four-day work week for teachers, allegedly to reduce stress. I guess not being qualified or competent at your chosen field would be stressful.

    I happen to personally know a teacher (she is the wife of one of my very best friends and college roommate) who teaches in a suburb of Nashville, TN. The stress on her is virtually 100% driven by the feckless, woke school administration and the requirements they generate, presumably in accordance with district policy. The problems she has to deal with daily are legion, but some of them are:

    1. Not being able to discipline or expel unruly or threatening students;
    2. Inability to score a failing grade for any student, ever;
    3. Requirement to teach only to the standard of her least capable students (who also tend to be the most troublesome);
    4. Constant truancy without consequence;
    5. Additional burdens, including requiring teachers to support their lessons from their personal funds;
    6. Etc. ad infinitum.

    So New York will lower teacher working requirements, but will require the same “results.” Thanks for nothing.

    Teachers are abused by their administrators beyond reason, and the sad part is, they get help neither from the unions nor their own community leaders. It is no wonder they are upset, but thanks to union indoctrination, they blame everything but the actual cause.

    • Not being able to discipline or expel unruly or threatening students. From personal experience, I can attest that is the worst situation to have in the classroom. Stressful beyond belief.

  3. Every child knows that they’re learning mostly useless items and it was probably ok years ago with the parents disagreeing with their kids and siding with the schools. But today… today the parents are more inclined to agree with their children because… well they’re not wrong. I homeschooled my child during Covid. I did a LOT of soul searching. Does he really need to know how to write and format a business letter? Cursive? Do you need to memorize times tables, you actually do have a calculator with you all the time. History? Do we need to know dates? What about states and capitals? The parts of a cell? I mean you can find this in seconds online if you need to know it. Our lives have been fundamentally changed due to technological advancement and the schools and its curriculum haven’t kept up. Until the schools become relevant today we will continue to see failing scores on useless knowledge. I am not saying everything they’re teaching is useless, and I believe learning to read and write cursive and many other things should remain and I think it would be a good idea that these kids can at least point to where a state is located on a map, etc but what about coding? Statistics? Communication? Time management? Personal finance? Home economics? I would pick off of those over algebra2, but we teach algebra from 1st grade and we still fail at it but never bother with time management. Now the schools have decided to teach these diversity, etc items that should be taught at home and reinforced within the community when they can’t even get the basics taught. No. We need to focus on the essentials. They don’t have time to parent like that too, but they have lost their focus. It’s hard, I know it is, but the purpose of the school is to teach; specifically basic, so they can continue to learn. If they don’t have the fundamentals nothing else matters. The kids have more discipline issues and it takes away from the learning. The teachers have less ability to divert if the class is curious. Then there is the test itself and the Common core standards and some are just odd. Have you looked at them? They have a few requirements that are not age appropriate and it’s discouraging to them early on so of course they give up. It emphasizes reading. Now don’t get me wrong I’m an avid reader but my child isn’t. He hates to read. He sees no point and… again. I agree with him a little bit. In the age of video and YouTube and podcasts and audiobooks… yes you need to know how to read but … you absolutely can be educated and not read very much. It’s not nearly as critical as it was 100 years ago. What about trades? Welding, mechanics, etc? Are those less important? They certainly are to the schools. They don’t test for that skill.

    • Without going into too much detail I would say that reading as a skill builds vocabulary that will not be gained watching a short UTube video. Additionally, the following trades require good reading comprehension: construction, welding, electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics, robotic programmers and service techs and farming. The idea that these trades don’t require good reading competency must originate in a limited understanding of what it requires to become a journeyman or master of the craft.

      Further, each of the above also require good math skills such as geometry and trig. Algebra is learned to teach the process of formulating a means to arrive at an answer. For the most part algebra is simply an understanding of the principles or rules of math.

      The problem isn’t that you won’t use the skills, the problem of education is that teachers fail to explain the practical applications. I could have learned or understood geometry had the teacher focused less on getting us to regurgitate a theorem proof and instead developed examples that allow the student to associate the concept with something relevant to them.

      Not everything needed to be known is on UTube or can be accessed without paying a fee. Moreover, gaining an understanding of different linguistic dialects from different time periods is readily available in books. Not necessarily so on the web.

      • Even going beyond your defense of learning basic literacy and math skills, I have to ask those who are video-and tech-obsessed, “What do you do when the lights go out?” Anyone dependent on fragile technology to learn and communicate will be in a heap of trouble if this complex system fails, as I believe it is likely to do. In this time of “rolling blackouts” and a vulnerable power grid, it is a real consideration.
        I’m no Luddite; I am currently helping homeschool my grandsons (ages 8 and 5) and we often use short video clips in our curriculum to introduce new concepts and illustrate specific aspects of topics we are already exploring, but we do not and would not rely on these things solely, or even primarily. I find that video clips usually present information in a flashier but more superficial way than books do and encourage passive rather than active learning habits. It is hard for a mere paper book to compete with the instant gratification of video programming, but the stimulation of the imagination that comes from reading is difficult to equal. Like it or not, the repository of the world’s accumulated knowledge is still largely book-based. Despite many Gen-Z protestations to the contrary, Wikipedia is not an authoritative source.
        Video programming for education (and entertainment) certainly have their place, but proficiency in reading and writing are a must. We need to raise kids who can “adapt, improvise and overcome,” but poor reading and writing skills don’t accomplish that objective.

  4. Talking with my Daughter, prior to Baby #1 head of Library in an independent private school – this is Australia, and my Daughter in Law, a State Primary School teacher, the subject of home schooling has come up repeatedly. There is clearly a huge burden on the parents involved, assuming that they are determined to do it well, but the benefits can be enormous. Well handled home schooling produces well rounded kids who achieve to their abilities.

    I suggested that the answer is for 10-15 parents in a local area to get together and directly hire a competent teacher as ‘tutor’ for their little group. Challenges, sure; but the potential is astonishing! Since many teachers work split shifts these days, 2 on and 3 off, then swap for the next week, it would be possible to find a couple of teachers that are still working within the ‘gubmnt’ school system, keeping their accreditation, but being available in the homeschool environment.

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