Now that I have worked in Asian education for awhile, one question I field again and again from Americans concerns why Asians seem to test so much better than non-Asian Americans. (How much better?: “an Asian American student must score a whopping 450 points higher on the combined math and verbal sections of the SAT to have the same chance of being admitted as an African American applicant.”) But the difficulties of Asian education – conformism, authoritarianism, rote-learning – are well-known and should close the gap, right? Increasingly, I think the culture in which the system is nested matters, and here too much of the US is downright wacky: Christian paranoia increasingly makes it hard for US teachers to do their job.
Nothing channels your standard issue, Bush-era Christianist lunacy like the title quotation from the 2010 Texas school board’s resistance to evolution in state textbooks: "somebody’s got to stand up to experts." Hah! That’s just classic: an educator saying, ‘Boy, all the readin’ and writin’ done wrecked yoh mind…’ Here’s the link. So we have an educator warning against too much education, insofar as deep education makes one an feared ‘expert’ in some area, like, oh, biology or physics. The irony of an educator declaiming ‘too much’ education is so rich, it would be comic if it weren’t so disturbing…
It’s the decline of western civilization here, folks. You wanna know why biotech jobs flee to Singapore and South Korea? You wanna know Asians outscore Americans time and again in science?
Well, if you treat science as an Islamo-liberal conspiracy to hide Obama’s Kenyan communist plot to impose evolution through Nazi-health care on God-fearing patriots rooted in the good earth of the heartland, then there you go. You think the Chinese or Indians are having science-stunting debates in which elected officials, not licensed experts, decide what ‘science’ is? They’d laugh you out of the room over here if you tried that.
Or how about the picture above, available here from the Creation ‘Museum’ in Kentucky? (Sorry, but I had to put museum in quotes. I visited it last year – at $20 a ticket! – and it’s basically US Protestant creationism. They couldn’t even be ecumenical enough to include Catholics. What a hoot!) Anyway, the above pic is a recreation of the Garden of Eden. Find on the bottom, about one-third in from left, a penguin. Yes, I couldn’t believe that either when I first saw it in the museum, and it sure takes guts to even include the ‘Garden of Eden penguin’ in the museum’s advertising. Penguins were running around Mesopotamia 6000 years ago; it’s all about the ideology, baby!
If that doesn’t answer your question about US decline, I don’t know what will…
I think that in general, the US high school education system is degenerate. You don’t need the above for that (or Bush W). Just look at the DC public school system. That system has had the MOST money thrown at it with nothing to show but free condoms for students, overcrowded DC jails, and extremely high drop out rates. Also mind you the DC public school system is not bogged down in religion. The new mayor of DC Fenty (D), finally decided that he had had enough and replaced the African American school superintendent with an Asian American (highly qualified educator) woman and the African American community is in revolt at the change. Has nothing to do with Texas or GW or religion. In addition Fenty is an African American himself.
“an Asian American student must score a whopping 450 points higher on the combined math and verbal sections of the SAT to have the same chance of being admitted as an African American applicant.”
Are you basing the entire US public school system on Texas? Keep in mind that the law that you are referencing just went into effect so it has nothing to do with past disgraceful US primary, secondary and high school education. It has nothing to do with the example that you mentioned above either. Once again I find your logic hard to follow. In fact I would challenge you to really examine why the above (SAT) is the way that ti is. A great place to start would be with the DC public school system, since DC has had one party rule and virtually no religion in public school (I am not saying that religion should be in public school-religion should not, but this would be a counter-point to your blog).
I really don’t understand the US public school system. I never participated in it so I am ignorant of it. However, when I attended international schools in Europe we were expected to do ALOT more. At my last international school for example, some of my classes were in English, French and another foreign language of my choosing (providing it was taught). I spoke three languages a day at school. Then we had math, science, history, etc., etc. We also had music classes, where we not only learned to play musical instruments but also the history of classical music. We also had P.E. class. In addition we had sports teams. So in general I find it hard to understand why so many Americans complain that their children’s high school schedules are so demanding. I have even read of one district that was replacing red grading ink for purple in order not to hurt the kids feelings.
When I first came to the US I attended one of the best boarding schools in the US. The school is in Texas. 99% of this school’s graduates make it to college. In addition they made every-student take EVERY SAT beginning their junior year.
I agree that creationism has no place in public school. However, Dr. Bob, I feel that you have mis-led your readers into thinking that the US public system is the Texas public school system. You have also mis-led your readers into thinking that the Teacher’s Union/and ALL school boards in the US are some sort of Christian Religious, Bush W driven organization. In the interest of intergrity, I think that you should examine why the California, DC, New York (getting better), Detroit, Baltimore, and other failing school districts in the US are the way that they are. Unless it is your contention that they are all failing at cause to Christianity?
Also, don’t students at Catholic high school students in the US preform better than their public school counterparts?
I do think that more academics should be required to work in the “real world” so that they can view what and how the people that they are teaching are applying the knowledge that they were taught. In addition academics should be require to work in their field. For example, US IR professors should have to work in the US State Department or some other foreign capacity (for say one tour) were they would actually be responsible for their theories. They could practice their craft and see the direct result of their implementations. Not surprising, some of the very best college professors that I had were those who came from the “real world”. Those who were former diplomats, etc., who not only studied theory but were responsible for implementing it.
Maybe I am old fashioned, but this is just me.
Please allow me to bring up events in Afghanistan.
What do you make of the replacement of General McChrystal and the demotion of General Petraeus from CENTCOM boss to the boss of Afghanistan?
With General Petraeus in charge of Afghanistan the administration finally has someone who can sell a longer US engagement in Afghanistan past the withdrawal date already set. This was a brilliant move by the President. It is well known that Sec Def Gates and others have been pushing for a move to negate the withdrawal date set in stone. The administration has been heading this way as well. In General Petraeus, they have the one man who can sell the change on The Hill; and give the administration political cover for changing its mind. Great coup.
As brilliant as McChrystal is (and I mean that 100%), he is not a diplomat nor could he have sold anything on The Hill. McChrystal is a special ops man. He is all “high speed, low drag”. His mentality is that of an arrow. It is no wonder that his command didn’t last in this case. I do not in any measure intend to insult the General. He probably would have made a better deputy commander of Afghanistan.
Anyway General McChrystal got off very easy. He didn’t even loose a star or get a formal reprimand. He was allowed to resign/retire. Now he is free to make millions at some think thank or as a consultant for one of the mega-consultancies in DC.
Case in point, General Petraeus is about to relax the ROE (Rules of Engagement) in Afghanistan.
I just re-read your blog again and find it incredible. Is it your position, as an educator, that Christian paranoia is the reason the US has had a long history of failing public schools? The reason that US high school teachers struggle in inner city high schools? Was that the reason that Centennial High School in Columbus, Ohio had major problems? The reason that so many college graduates can’t find France in a map? Did you attribute your failing students (in the US) at cause to Christian influence in their education pre-college?
Are public high schools teachers in Baltimore facing difficulty in the classroom because of Christianity or because of socio-economic reasons and crime? This piece that you wrote is quite fascinating. If you want to attack Christian doctrine attack it but to couch it in this is rather disturbing.
I also found the below very interesting, where are you getting this from?
“Well, if you treat science as an Islamo-liberal conspiracy to hide Obama’s Kenyan communist plot to impose evolution through Nazi-health care on God-fearing patriots rooted in the good earth of the heartland, then there you go.”
Who is pushing this on US educators? Do you have concrete examples? This is an incredible charge. Maybe you should write to the South Central LA School Board and instruct them how to resist the Christian onslaught. This in turn, will turn that school district around.
I must say that as a person of color, that I am offended by this blog, because you have just made a mockery of real problems facing inner city schools and most important, the poor children who must endure all kinds of real world problems just trying to get to school. Yes, many of these students are minorities or come from lower income families; and to read this from you, an educator, writing from a position of “white privilege” is very disturbing to me.
Maybe I am overreacting, but it is rather insulting.
“It’s the decline of western civilization here, folks. You wanna know why biotech jobs flee to Singapore and South Korea? You wanna know Asians outscore Americans time and again in science?”
I assume by this that you intend that the US in fact IS western civilization. Unless you also mean that France, Britain, Germany, etc. are facing a Christian onslaught on their eduction system as well.
You’re overreacting. It’s a fair point that much of the failure of the US educational system is cultural – I mean, at some point it just doesn’t matter how awesome the teacher is, how new the computers are, how great the facilities are – if parents don’t give a crap about education, their kids won’t. Nothing will change that. And then you’re into the viney thicket of culture where it always seems as if nothing can be done.
However, it’s equally fair to look at the American tradition of distrust of experts, which is wide and far-ranging. Are you really saying this doesn’t exist? If so, I’d throw your questions right back at you: How much do you really know about this country? We have pluralities who care nothing about the scientific consensus of climate change, who attribute it to a conspiracy theory. Overlapping those people to a large extent are those who thing evolutionary their is (a) an international conspiracy of God-hating socialists, (b) the result of brainwashing, or (c) the work of Satan. Surely this is not news to you – is it? If so you need to broaden your sources of information.
A large bloc of influential and energetic American voters doesn’t trust scientists because they’re wrapped up in idiotic fundamentalists/millennial paranoia and believe that too much education distracts from God and the written word. On that point Bob is unequivocally correct.
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