Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Educating Minorities (and Others)

OK, I’ve complained several times about the misguided practice of giving preferences to minorities. I’ve said that the way to help the disadvantaged is to start with primary and secondary education, helping children build a foundation for their lives. “So,” you might ask, “how do we go about that?” A good question and of course you know I wouldn’t bring it up unless I had some suggestions.

First, again we should begin and continue with the end in mind. There are some things every citizen should know, some skills every citizen should have. Primary and secondary schools are the place to teach that universally required material:

1. Students will need the ability to care for themselves, both financially and health-wise.
2. They will need some way to earn a living.
3. In the U.S. and other democracies they will need to vote wisely and otherwise participate in their government.
4. They will need to function in an increasingly scientific and technical society.
5. They will need good oral and written communication skills, including the ability to understand and to communicate information.

The waiter, the electrician, and the college professor all need these skills so we must provide them before they go their separate ways (except in the case of earning a living which they usually learn later). All students should have:

a. A health class to prepare them to care for their bodies. This should include disease prevention, good nutrition etc.

b. A class in personal finance, including the dangers and wise use of credit.

c. A solid preparation for citizenship. This should include how the country functions and how citizens can make a difference.

d. A class in critical thinking. Such a class will help future voters see through the nonsense in political ads and will help future consumers see through the similar nonsense in commercial ads. (Woops! Politicians and advertisers won't like this one.)

e. Solid math classes at least to the level of simple statistics.

f. Classes in basic biological and physical science.

g. At least one class in current technology, including how to prepare for changes in technology.

h. English classes, which emphasize reading and listening for understanding, and clear speaking and writing.

i. I'm going to add one more, a class that I've never heard of being offered but which is the most important of all: Every student should take a class in how to continue to learn outside of the classroom. Our modern society is changing so fast that learning should be a life-long process. This need not be continual enrollment in classes; it can be good reading, educational videos, attending lectures etc. A diploma should be regarded as a license to keep learning.

Those classes would teach skills that every adult should have and use. They should be taught in every school system so students learn them before they go off to work, job training, or college.

I regard each of the above as mandatory. Next time I’ll talk about how to get there.


OregonGuy said...

You mention that "Students will need the ability to care for themselves..."

Of course. So, how do you make schools responsible for this? Is teacher going to visit the home to make sure the bed is made and that your private parts are washed?

You mention that "They will need some way to earn a living." Who says? Hillary? You? Janis Joplin? If you don't have a job, you have choices. But when did I become responsible for someone else's inability to make good decisions for oneself?

You mention that "they will need to vote wisely..." I can't think of a single child that comes out of our public schools to whom I would ascribe any level of wisdom.

Your course prescriptions make sense. Until the last one. You can't teach children to be different than what they are. You and I are still involved in reading, thinking and learning. We choose to do this because we see the benefits of so doing. And, it is sad that so many of our youths find reading and writing a waste of time. But, that again is their choice. I wish it weren't so, but you know what they say about wishin' and fishin'.

Nice article. I know how frustrating our current educational system is.

Hal Lillywhite said...


Yes, we do have the problems you describe. However we can turn it around if we get parental and citizen involvement in the schools. For ideas on how to do that, see my latest blog (of 29 Aug)