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Old 18th September 2019, 10:28 PM   #1
Puppycow
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The education rat race

Longish article by George Packer in The Atlantic:

When the Culture War Comes for the Kids
Caught between a brutal meritocracy and a radical new progressivism, a parent tries to do right by his children while navigating New York City’s schools.
Quote:
The mood of meritocracy is anxiety—the low-grade panic when you show up a few minutes late and all the seats are taken. New York City, with its dense population, stratified social ladder, and general pushiness, holds a fun-house mirror up to meritocracy. Only New York would force me to wake up early one Saturday morning in February, put on my parka and wool hat, and walk half a mile in the predawn darkness to register our son, then just 17 months old, for nursery school. I arrived to find myself, at best, the 30th person in a line that led from the locked front door of the school up the sidewalk. Registration was still two hours off, and places would be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. At the front of the line, parents were lying in sleeping bags. They had spent the night outside.

I stood waiting in the cold with a strange mix of feelings. I hated the hypercompetitive parents who made everyone’s life more tense. I feared that I’d cheated our son of a slot by not rising until the selfish hour of 5:30. And I worried that we were all bound together in a mad, heroic project that we could neither escape nor understand, driven by supreme devotion to our own child’s future. All for a nursery school called Huggs.

New York’s distortions let you see the workings of meritocracy in vivid extremes. But the system itself—structured on the belief that, unlike in a collectivized society, individual achievement should be the basis for rewards, and that, unlike in an inherited aristocracy, those rewards must be earned again by each new generation—is all-American. True meritocracy came closest to realization with the rise of standardized tests in the 1950s, the civil-rights movement, and the opening of Ivy League universities to the best and brightest, including women and minorities. A great broadening of opportunity followed. But in recent decades, the system has hardened into a new class structure in which professionals pass on their money, connections, ambitions, and work ethic to their children, while less educated families fall further behind, with little chance of seeing their children move up.

When parents on the fortunate ledge of this chasm gaze down, vertigo stuns them. Far below they see a dim world of processed food, obesity, divorce, addiction, online-education scams, stagnant wages, outsourcing, rising morbidity rates—and they pledge to do whatever they can to keep their children from falling. They’ll stay married, cook organic family meals, read aloud at bedtime every night, take out a crushing mortgage on a house in a highly rated school district, pay for music teachers and test-prep tutors, and donate repeatedly to overendowed alumni funds. The battle to get their children a place near the front of the line begins before conception and continues well into their kids’ adult lives. At the root of all this is inequality—and inequality produces a host of morbid symptoms, including a frantic scramble for status among members of a professional class whose most prized acquisition is not a Mercedes plug-in hybrid SUV or a family safari to Maasai Mara but an acceptance letter from a university with a top‑10 U.S. News & World Report ranking.
The best solution is probably don't have kids. Unless you want to put up with it.

Although this is about upper middle class parents in New York City, Japan also feels a lot like this to me. Most parents here are also competitive and willing to spend extra on their child's education, such as by sending them to Juku after school, or to a private school. With such social pressure on parents, is it any wonder that so many people decide to just not have kids these days?
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Old 19th September 2019, 05:17 AM   #2
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Packer doesn't say so directly, but he is making the assumption that such bizarre behavior is necessary for the success of your children. He does acknowledge that "New York’s distortions let you see the workings of meritocracy in vivid extremes.", but never admits to the possibility of life outside of New York. It is possible to raise healthy, successful kids without all this pressure, we do it in the flyover states all the time. This particular culture war is fought by an all-volunteer army.
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Old 19th September 2019, 05:21 AM   #3
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At some point it becomes more effort to assist your child compared to just sabotaging the efforts of all the other children.

just saying.
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Old 19th September 2019, 11:53 AM   #4
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I got a chuckle out of the notion that he "hated the hyper-competitive parents" that made it necessary for him to stand in line in the cold darkness.
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Old 19th September 2019, 12:00 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
I got a chuckle out of the notion that he "hated the hyper-competitive parents" that made it necessary for him to stand in line in the cold darkness.
He says only "New York" would force him... so is it the City or State of NY that forced him to register his kid for nursery school? None of them take online registrations?
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Old 19th September 2019, 12:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Only New York would force me to wake up early one Saturday morning in February, put on my parka and wool hat, and walk half a mile in the predawn darkness to register our son, then just 17 months old, for nursery school.
New Yorkers always feel so goddamn special. I did the same thing, sans wool hat, in Dallas ******* Texas for a school that my kid never even went to. It was just their backup pre-school in case we didn't get into the one we really wanted that had a more humane registration system.
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Old 21st September 2019, 10:57 PM   #7
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That's actually an excellent article. Packer, who's reliably liberal if not 100% "woke", seems to have caught on that the local educational establishment is crazy:

Quote:
The bathroom crisis hit our school the same year our son took the standardized tests. A girl in second grade had switched to using male pronouns, adopted the initial Q as a first name, and begun dressing in boys’ clothes. Q also used the boys’ bathroom, which led to problems with other boys. Q’s mother spoke to the principal, who, with her staff, looked for an answer. They could have met the very real needs of students like Q by creating a single-stall bathroom—the one in the second-floor clinic would have served the purpose. Instead, the school decided to get rid of boys’ and girls’ bathrooms altogether. If, as the city’s Department of Education now instructed, schools had to allow students to use the bathroom of their self-identified gender, then getting rid of the labels would clear away all the confusion around the bathroom question. A practical problem was solved in conformity with a new idea about identity.

Within two years, almost every bathroom in the school, from kindergarten through fifth grade, had become gender-neutral. Where signs had once said boys and girls, they now said students. Kids would be conditioned to the new norm at such a young age that they would become the first cohort in history for whom gender had nothing to do with whether they sat or stood to pee. All that biology entailed—curiosity, fear, shame, aggression, pubescence, the thing between the legs—was erased or wished away.

The school didn’t inform parents of this sudden end to an age-old custom, as if there were nothing to discuss. Parents only heard about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to the bathroom after holding it in all day. Girls told their parents mortifying stories of having a boy kick open their stall door. Boys described being afraid to use the urinals. Our son reported that his classmates, without any collective decision, had simply gone back to the old system, regardless of the new signage: Boys were using the former boys’ rooms, girls the former girls’ rooms.
And:

Quote:
The school’s pedagogy emphasized learning through doing. Reading instruction didn’t start until the end of first grade; in math, kids were taught various strategies for multiplication and division, but the times tables were their parents’ problem. Instead of worksheets and tests, there were field trips to the shoreline and the Noguchi sculpture museum. “Project-based learning” had our son working for weeks on a clay model of a Chinese nobleman’s tomb tower during a unit on ancient China.
And:

Quote:
When his teacher assigned students to write about how they felt about their identity, letting the class know that whiteness was a source of guilt for her, our son told her that he couldn’t do it. The assignment was too personal, and it didn’t leave enough space for him to describe all that made him who he was.

“Isn’t school for learning math and science and reading,” he asked us one day, “not for teachers to tell us what to think about society?” He was responding as kids do when adults keep telling them what to think. He had what my wife called unpoliticized empathy.
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Old 22nd September 2019, 04:39 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
"Isn’t school for learning math and science and reading”
No.
Quote:
“for teachers to tell us what to think about society?
Yes.
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Old 23rd September 2019, 12:44 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
No.
Yes.
In BC, the mandate of the Ministry of Education is: "To prepare the next generation of citizens."
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Old 23rd September 2019, 06:59 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
That's actually an excellent article. Packer, who's reliably liberal if not 100% "woke", seems to have caught on that the local educational establishment is crazy:
Yeah, it's an elementary school.
Quote:
Parents only heard about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to the bathroom after holding it in all day.
And there's more.
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Old 16th October 2019, 06:02 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
The best solution is probably don't have kids. Unless you want to put up with it.
Kids are the most awesome thing that ever happened to me. We are absolutely giddy that we homeschool.

We are doing an intensive rock and roll drumming camp with a former studio musician right now and on the way home the school busses are dropping off the kids.

We see moms texting and surfing the 'net, sitting in their new SUV's. Fat girls.

We think "shame on you". Because that school is scoring 17th percentile in the world. Tied with Mexico. Spending $36K per student this year. The lazy moms who won't teach their own kids.

Of course, what is going on in the schools is social programming and the War on Boys is a nationally integrated system of abuse - just for being boys.

So the best solution for us as parents was to have these wonderful children and educate them ourselves. They are farther ahead than we ever dreamed possible.
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Old 18th October 2019, 02:39 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by AlaskaBushPilot View Post
Of course, what is going on in the schools is social programming and the War on Boys is a nationally integrated system of abuse - just for being boys.

Yes, apparently The “War on Boys” Narrative Is Back. Ugh. (Ms. Magazine, Jan. 9, 2015).
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Old 23rd October 2019, 12:33 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by AlaskaBushPilot View Post
Kids are the most awesome thing that ever happened to me. We are absolutely giddy that we homeschool.

We are doing an intensive rock and roll drumming camp with a former studio musician right now and on the way home the school busses are dropping off the kids.

We see moms texting and surfing the 'net, sitting in their new SUV's. Fat girls.

We think "shame on you". Because that school is scoring 17th percentile in the world. Tied with Mexico. Spending $36K per student this year. The lazy moms who won't teach their own kids.

Of course, what is going on in the schools is social programming and the War on Boys is a nationally integrated system of abuse - just for being boys.

So the best solution for us as parents was to have these wonderful children and educate them ourselves. They are farther ahead than we ever dreamed possible.

Let's wait and see what happens when your kids try to get into college.
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Old 23rd October 2019, 04:43 PM   #14
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And someone;'s whole "edgy anti establishment anarchist " routine is getting old.
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Old 24th October 2019, 09:54 PM   #15
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Unlike somebody else's whole pro-establishment and allegedly centrist routine, which is refreshing and brand new every time?
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Old 25th October 2019, 06:54 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
New Yorkers always feel so goddamn special. I did the same thing, sans wool hat, in Dallas ******* Texas for a school that my kid never even went to. It was just their backup pre-school in case we didn't get into the one we really wanted that had a more humane registration system.
The bastion of Liberal elitism, yes, yes they do.
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Old 29th October 2019, 11:53 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
New Yorkers always feel so goddamn special.
There is a junk / gossip columnist, I think she's in the NY Post, and she uses "only in New York" as a catchphrase for whatever anecdote she shares. The stories could be from just about any city anywhere, like a dispute over a parking space or high rent -- "only in New York!"

Spending per pupil in Alaska is high at $26K, with some rural districts at $30K. Yikes.

Last edited by carlitos; 29th October 2019 at 12:00 PM. Reason: fixed AK spending #
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Old 1st November 2019, 01:53 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by carlitos View Post
There is a junk / gossip columnist, I think she's in the NY Post, and she uses "only in New York" as a catchphrase for whatever anecdote she shares. The stories could be from just about any city anywhere, like a dispute over a parking space or high rent -- "only in New York!"

Spending per pupil in Alaska is high at $26K, with some rural districts at $30K. Yikes.
Only in New York would a columnist use that catchphrase!
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Old 6th December 2019, 04:20 AM   #19
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America’s Education Problem

This is a podcast from the New York Times. Some depressing news about the state of education in America.
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Old 9th December 2019, 02:46 PM   #20
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Thanks. It's in my queue to listen, maybe during my commute. I hadn't been listening to the Daily lately, but try to scan the past few weeks for interesting content.
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Old 9th December 2019, 04:17 PM   #21
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I'll just quote a bit from the transcript:

Quote:
Dana, so bring us up to today. Where are we in this process?

Dana Goldstein
So over the past few weeks, two big new pieces of evidence have come out, and they paint a pretty depressing picture for American education and American kids. The first was the gold-standard tool that researchers use to look at American education. It’s called the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It showed that only one-third of American fourth and eighth graders can be considered proficient readers — just a third. And across the board at every level, students had declining reading scores over the past two years.

Michael Barbaro
Declining.

Dana Goldstein
Yeah, going down. With all these efforts to make things better, those scores were going down. So this was a very sad day for many in the world of education, the world that I’ve been covering for over a decade. And then just a few days ago, I had another sad story to report, which was on the test that is considered the gold-standard international global test — the Program for International Student Achievement — it showed that there were 20 percent of American 15-year-olds who do not read as well as they should at age 10. So they really are missing very basic reading comprehension skills. And it found that American performance is flat in both reading and math since 2000. So this entire time period —
So only one third of American 4th and 8th graders are proficient at reading for their age and 20% of 15-year-olds can't read at the level of a 10-year-old.
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Old 13th December 2019, 08:11 AM   #22
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I listened this morning. Kind of depressing.

The stat that they discussed at the end was that only 14% of students could discern between fact and opinion. They had them read a news article about dairy, then a press release from a dairy advocacy group, and the students were largely unable to tell the difference. Our education system is failing to teach the baloney detector.
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Old 14th December 2019, 09:28 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by carlitos View Post
I listened this morning. Kind of depressing.

The stat that they discussed at the end was that only 14% of students could discern between fact and opinion. They had them read a news article about dairy, then a press release from a dairy advocacy group, and the students were largely unable to tell the difference. Our education system is failing to teach the baloney detector.
Yeah, that one made me wonder too. You would think if they all just guessed randomly, that 50% would get the right answer. Are they saying 86% got the answer wrong when there are only two choices?
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Old 15th December 2019, 08:25 AM   #24
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Perhaps there were four choices:

1. A is fact and B is opinion.
2. A is opinion and B is fact.
3. A and B are both fact.
4. A and B are both opinion.

So each, randomly chosen, would be 25%, and 75% would be wrong. 86% is not as far off from 75% as it is from 50%.

Still, it's awfully troubling.
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Old 15th December 2019, 11:44 PM   #25
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I re-read the transcript. It appears that there was a series of questions, not just a single question, so that seems to explain it. 14% was the number that could "reliably" distinguish between fact and opinion. IOW, the percentage that got all of the questions correct.

Quote:
dana goldstein

I think it is. I mean, how can you feel pride when you think about that 15-year-old who can’t read as well as a 10-year-old should? With those types of literacy skills, they’re not going to be suited for work that’s going to pay a living wage in this economy that we’re living in. And just beyond that, beyond what happens to that person on the job market, education is about so much more. That person needs to be a citizen. That’s why we started public education in the United States, so that we could create people who would be good voters and make wise choices about who their leaders should be. And there’s this one statistic from the international exam that just came out that I just keep going back to, because this number upset me, which was that only 14 percent of American students could distinguish, reliably, between fact and opinion.
michael barbaro

14 percent is kind of extraordinary. How did they measure that?
dana goldstein

So I have a sample question from the exam here in front of me that illustrates what it is that American kids can’t do. And the exercise goes like this. It shows students two pieces of writing. One is a news article about research on milk and whether it has health benefits or health detriments.
michael barbaro

So this is classic journalism.
dana goldstein

Pretty much. Yeah. And the second is produced by a group that students are told is called the International Dairy Foods Association, and it speaks to all the wonderful benefits of drinking milk.
michael barbaro

So this is something from a trade group.
dana goldstein

Exactly. Students are then presented with a series of statements based on what they’ve read, and they are asked to determine, is this a fact or an opinion? And I’ll give you an example. “Drinking milk and other dairy products is the best way to lose weight.” Fact or opinion?
michael barbaro

Opinion.
dana goldstein

Exactly. It’s opinion put forward by people that want the public to purchase more milk products.
michael barbaro

The trade group.
dana goldstein

Exactly. And these are the types of questions that the majority of American students were not able to get right.
michael barbaro

They’re failing to distinguish between fact and opinion, between that which is being told to them by people with specific interests and those that are objectively true, the result of research or investigation by reporters.
dana goldstein

Exactly. And think about the implications of this in a world where there’s so much misinformation on social media, political advertisements that are trying to sway your opinion.
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