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No one as ignorant on the Constitution as Sarah Palin should be allowed out of high school. Apparently, she was one of those children left behind when our education system fell apart. But, it isn’t just civics that seems to be missing. There’s a whole lot more: critical thought, reasoning, evaluation of facts, understanding of what constitutes knowledge, awareness of the world around us, a certain understanding of history, and a feel for the underlying tenets of western civilization—some very fundamental things are simply absent.

You might argue that Palin is only one example, a data point. The problem isn’t that bad. But that doesn’t account for those millions who blithely listen and cheer as she de-educates vast swaths of the American populace. If she’s unusual, then why has she got thousands of cheering supporters?

Grumpy old men (and women) have bemoaned the deterioration of society for as long as we can see back into the mists of time. We know that because we have a sense of history. That’s apparently a luxury, these days. I look around and don’t see much evidence that core values are being taught, let alone learned.

It’s no surprise that we of the Baby Boom think the next generation has a lot to learn. For one thing we came of age during a time of economic surplus, built on the ruins of the Greatest War by the Greatest Generation. By the time we got on the scene you didn’t put milk in your coffee, you put cream. So, we had education lavished on us. Is it any wonder we’re education snobs?

Perhaps it’s inevitable, anyway. Each generation, as it ages, looks at the following and wonders how they could be so (fill in the blank). The answer is simple. If you’re from generation X, you have twenty years’ more experience than generation X+1. They’re always going to look hopelessly ill informed and careless.

Yet, that doesn’t explain the complete lack of historical perspective we’ve seen in the George W. Bushs, the Dick Cheneys and the Sarah Palins of the world, who are willing to throw habeas corpus to the wind (for example) or invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Something is just plain wrong with these people, and it isn’t that they are young and inexperienced. If it were two or three examples, then the individuals might be to blame. But, there are hordes who don’t know, say, if it’s a body of water between Iran and Saudi Arabia why it’s called the “Persian Gulf”. Or, if it’s called “Greenland”, then why is it covered with ice? There’s a deeper reason.

I posit that it’s their education. It’s defective.

And, one of the things we should fix in the next administration is education. I’m not talking about more money (although, that’s probably necessary) or stricter standards or some new teaching method. I’m talking about what we teach.

No one should get out of high school without a full course in the essentials of civics. They need to know mechanics like how to register to vote,* how to research what’s on the ballot, how a bill becomes law, and even how to start a campaign. They need to know certain facts, like jurisdictions, the parts of government, and how government is done differently in different states. But, more fundamentally, they need to know what it means to be a constitutional democracy with a representative government and why we have evolved that form of government. They need to understand why we believe this is the fairest form of government, and we need to give them the basis for buying in to our system of democracy. They need to understand why they should serve on a jury, even if they could make a few more bucks by begging off and showing up at their usual job.

This should extend to understanding the basis of law: common and legislated, tort law, equity, constitutional, and other legal concepts. They should understand the basis of real and intellectual property. They should understand where the concept of owning land as property came from, how it came out of feudal law, and how the land in this country was taken away from the indigenous people, divided up and parceled off to settlers. They should understand how money is created by law and how the economy works.

As a result, they should understand how capitalism works. They should understand how corporations are formed, how to get money to form them, and the roles of the people involved. They should be taught concepts like fiduciary responsibility and contractual obligation. They should know the difference between capitalism, socialism, communism, and fascism.

One of the reasons that McCain and Palin can get off calling Obama a socialist or a communist as if that makes him a bad person is because so few people in our society know what any of those things are.

A little history wouldn’t hurt, either. If our country is going to be a world leader, then why is it that we know so little about the world? Perhaps the American people should make their presidential candidates answer questions about history, culture, economics and government rather than what-if questions about who they might appoint to the Supreme Court. Is it too much to ask that they understand where to find Paraguay before it becomes a hot spot with two divisions of U.S. troops?

Sarah Palin, how many time zones is it from Fairbanks to Moscow? John McCain, which Baltic country weathered a sustained cyber attack in the last couple of years? George Bush, how many British men returned from Kabul in the 1840s after invading Afghanistan from India?

And, if you were that lone survivor, do you think you would recommend another invasion?

Very soon, every American will have re-learned all the institutions that Franklin Roosevelt’s administration created or revamped. Not just Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but the WPA and the Federal Reserve System. Let’s hope they don’t have to learn exactly how he was able to stimulate the economy (with war spending) or have to live in a Hooverville. Let’s hope they don’t have words like “dust bowl” or “soup line” in their vocabulary. If a little macroeconomics was taught in high school, perhaps everyone would be able to tell you what those institutions do because they learned it in class instead of on their 401(k) statements.

Even more fundamentally, they could tell you why they are important. They would understand the historical context of their creation and could give the reasoning for it. They could also reason from existing situations to relevant solutions to new problems. If they understood the reserve rate, then they might question why companies could create new securities without a similar reserve requirement; how a credit default swaps market could come into being without some kind of reserve. And, in this way, our society might be protected from many avoidable disasters.

What irritates me the most about Palin’s candidacy is not that she represents some alien form of political thought, but rather that she represents no thought at all! And, even not that she’s so vacuous, but that the McCain campaign is so disorganized and absent of plan that it put her up to be VP without explaining what the VP actually does or how she would be expected to answer simple questions about it.

Q: Brandon Garcia wants to know, "What does the Vice President do?"

PALIN: That's something that Piper would ask me! ... [T]hey're in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom.

How much better it would have gone! How much better if she’d simply gotten a call from the McCain folks before the convention:

“Sarah Palin. This is the McCain campaign. We have a mission for you. We want you to be Vice President of the United States. Nobody you meet on the campaign trail will know what this person does. Anyone who accidentally learned in school has long since forgotten because they never see a VP actually do anything. Significant. They don’t do anything significant once they are elected. So, we’re going to brief you. It’s a very simple job. Here’s all you need to know about it:

Article I, Section 3, Clause 4: The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

Article II, Section 1, Clause 6: In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

“I realize it’s a thin portfolio, but that’s all we got for you.

“By the way, Sarah. That part about ‘President of the Senate’. In the entire history of the republic, all that means is that they follow the rules of the Senate, calling it into session, recognizing people to speak, that kind of thing. You might get the false impression that they are in charge. No. In fact, the Senate has this ‘President pro tem’ guy** who does all the grunt work, and you don’t really have to show up in Congress at all. And, in fact, you don’t get a say in anything unless there’s a tie. Everything else is handled by the Senators and their chief, a guy called the ‘Senate Majority Leader’. The Senate takes care of everything itself because they’ve been told (by the Constitution):

Article I, Section 5, Clause 2: Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

“So, if you’re asked anything about the job, just say that you are there to step in and pick up the ball where McCain leaves it if he can’t continue to do the job of President, that you’ll occasionally have to preside over the Senate on formal occasions, and that you’ll break any ties in the President’s favor, if you really need to. But, whatever you do, don’t scare anyone by making them think that you’d try to get involved in actual legislation or do anything in the administration on your own! They’d compare you to Dick Cheney. And, he’s even less popular than Bush.”

Fortunately, Palin will not be needed in the next administration for any official federal duty. I’m pretty certain of that. But, that doesn’t fix the problem. We need to do better at educating our citizens about the fundamentals of western civilization. If we don’t, then we might lose it.


* In fact, maybe we should lower the voting age to 16 just so that we can have students register in class and get them in the habit of voting before they leave school. If they’re going to have JROTC at their high school, then they ought to be voting. At least for commander-in-chief.

** Occasionally, the President pro tempore is a gal.

Originally posted to Liberal Thinking on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 03:11 AM PDT.


Is Sarah Palin uniquely disqualified to be VP?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Education Is the Key (10+ / 0-)

    I'm convinced that education is the key to turning around the slide toward nutty right-wing ideas. The Bandits depend on people's ignorance so they can soak up as much money as possible. A little knowledge about core principles would make it more difficult for them to control our government.

    •  Just remember (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking

      Fully 50% of the population is of below average intelligence.

      •  IQ Up (0+ / 0-)

        A rising tide lifts all boats. I think that's a quote that Reagan made, probably quoting someone else.

        Yes, it's sadly true. I wish we could get those in the lower 50 percentiles into the upper ones. But I think some law of thermodynamics applies. Right?

        The good news is that IQs apparently have been rising over the years. Call it nutrition, call it education, call it blind luck, but it seems that people in our time are smarter than the ones a century ago. So, I'm hoping that by flooding the education system we could lift a few IQ boats.

  •  Hey (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking, lazybum, TL Eclipse

    She's 35 right?  been a resident of Alaska?  Isn't Alaska a state?  and gosh darn it she has faith.  Faith to me is accepting things without any concrete evidence or basis, but that's no small matter.  She looks pretty good in her 150K outfits, and I'm sure that was money well spent, perhaps that could have bought a homeless person a home.  Ahh, nevermind the homeless will be with us for sometime and Sarah Palin will be here for only a short while.  2 weeks longer, I predict.

  •  Certainly there education is defective, (4+ / 0-)

    but this is not entirely a matter of pumpming more money into teacher's salaries and the rest of the system, althought that would help.

    It's a culture that despises learning and devalues study, devalues reading for one thing. This is why even though people bitch Obama has a point about turning off the tv. Abraham Lincoln's grade school was probably very primitive by modern standards but he managed to educate himself anyway.

    I look at these kids and one thing stands out above all. They never read. There are no books in their homes. Perhaps it is just a bias. I come from a time and community where there were always piles of books around. We even read the bible, along with the encyclopedia and a new world atlas every few years. The television was a little thing in the corner that my parents turned on for an hour in the evening.

    What's so hard about Peace, Love, and Truth and Progress?

    by melvin on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 03:36:32 AM PDT

    •  Imagine (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking, melvin, lazybum

      a liberal reading the bible instead of banning it, that certainly can't be true.  What your referring to is the "wiring" of our society.  Penmanship, math skills, reading, and writing are becoming antiquated.  Children become bombarded with so much stimuli they can't pay attention more than 30 seconds.  These children later grow up into adults with a 30 second span of attention and later praise the likes of Rush Limbaugh and others because they surely must speak the truth since they repeat it so often.

    •  Bring Back Letters (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify, melvin, lazybum

      At least Markos has done his share by getting a half-million people to read off their computers every month.

      I remember reading the dictionary. Not cover to cover, but I'd look up a word and then look up the words used to define it. Some people just like books more than others. But I managed to do that while still getting a lot of time in with Moose and Squirrel.

      Did you notice that when Obama said that parents should turn off the TV that all the lines on CNN's twister dial polls went to the max? I think he hit a nerve.

    •  Irony (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking

      the possessive 3rd person pronoun is spelled "their"

  •  Leading horses to water.... (0+ / 0-)

    We have civics classes in our schools.  In most states, it's a required course.  But as the old adage says:  "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

    The larger problem is that the kind of education you're proposing can't be taught until college.  In primary education (K-6) children haven't developed the abstract reasoning centers of the brain they'd need to fully grasp civics.  In secondary education (junior high and high school), the judgment centers of the brain are being rewired - that's why kids at that age take so many foolish risks - so they lack an essential element of civics appreciation.  Add to that parents' political leanings and their kids' tendencies to accept or reject those leanings for relationship reasons, and it's not a good time to try to teach civics and political philosophy.

    And of course not every young adult can or should go to college, so ... you're never going to reach that universal level of civics education.  It's a great idea in theory, but the realities of human cognitive development and young adult choices and opportunities (such as whether to attend college or get a job) mitigate against it.

    •  Drinking Horses (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice, NCrissieB, k8dd8d

      Perhaps. But we had a civics course in my eighth grade. Many of the essential ideas I've outlined here were in our American Government class (for high school seniors). I took and understood macro and micro economics courses before I graduated high school. We also had field trips to see presidential candidates (Humphrey, Wallace and Nixon) give their speeches.

      Granted, there is a developmental level to the brain and you would be wasting your time to teach them something that most kids their age couldn't learn.

      But, I don't think you need to be in college to get the essential concepts. Really, I just think we underestimate people this age.

      •  I think we overestimate :) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Liberal Thinking

        I think we tend to overestimate what we can teach children, especially in adolescence.  I agree that the ideal time to teach basic civics is junior high school.  There is a very narrow window between the development of abstract reasoning skills (age 10-11 or so) and when the judgment centers begin rewiring (age 12-13 or so).  That window corresponds pretty well to junior high school in the U.S. system, and that's the ideal time to introduce kids to civics.

        Because civics relies on both abstract reasoning and judgment.

        The ideas of civics - why we have institutions of government and law, what we need and want them to do, what options have been attempted in the past, what worked, under what conditions, and why - are abstract questions.  These are not lists of facts that can be memorized.  They're sets of questions to be discussed and explored, ideas with which we conduct thought experiments.

        And when we conduct those thought experiments, we're applying judgment more than measurement.  We often have to ask what the alternatives were (and are) and evaluate the relative benefits and risks of those alternatives, while trying to be aware of and neutralize our own biases.  That's "judgment," a kind of reasoning we don't do well in our teens, because the judgment centers of the brain are being rewired as we move from childhood to adulthood.

        We as a society increasingly demand that teenagers act like young grownups, but that's an unreasonable demand.  Teenagers are not twentysomethings-ten-years-younger.  They're teenagers and the judgment centers of their brains are, quite literally, "down for maintenance."  It's unbelievably frustrating - my youngest is now 16 - but it remains a biological reality of human cognitive development.

        My next youngest is 22 and he's finally at a point where he's starting to really work with the ideas he thought he'd 'learned' in junior high and high school.  He gets frustrated with that, because what seemed so clear and direct when he learned it then now seems murky and uncertain and (his words from a conversation last night) "a lot of guess-and-hope."

        I smiled and told him he was right.  A lot of these issues are "a lot of guess-and-hope."  While we can and do learn to make more informed guesses, we also hit the limits of information-based certainty.  The more truly educated we are, the more we're aware of those limits.  We recognize that we're "guessing-and-hoping," and we get more cautious in doing so.

        That is, we start to develop a virtue that has all but disappeared from our civic and political lexicon ...

        ... wisdom.

        •  An Excellent Perspective (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NCrissieB, k8dd8d

          I think you have a great perspective on this.

          I would only say that I don't think we need to give up. Rather, I think we need to make it age-appropriate. I don't think even kindergarten is too young to start to teach simple concepts, like fairness, that are further developed in the basic concepts of law (for example, equity) that might be appropriate at a later age.

          Certainly, as I get older, many things seem a lot murkier than they did when I was a kid. And, I don't think that everyone develops wisdom, even in old age. In fact, a lot of people don't ever seem to cotton on to simple ideas of responsibility and honor, ideas that we'd maybe like to think are universal among adults.

          But I am truly dismayed that so many of the basic principles of our society are never even mentioned in passing, I think, in most schools. How can you be an informed voter if your understanding of society lacks many of the basic concepts of how democracy, capitalism and the legal system work? Yet, I think we expect people to pick this up through osmosis.

          So, if someone like Palin comes along, I'm not surprised by her lack of knowledge or that she has a following of ignorant voters. I'm just shocked by it.

          •  I'm neither surprised nor shocked. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Liberal Thinking, indyada

            First, there is a "bottom 20%" on any metric.  Twenty percent of Americans still think the earth is flat.  That's not for lack of education to the contrary.

            Second, there is a myth that education is the cure-all for ignorance, but too often "ignorance" is defined as "disagrees with me and other people who think like me."  Let's take Joe the Plumber and critics who say Joe is "voting against his own interests" by supporting McCain:

            The general meme over the past couple of weeks has been that Joe the Plumber would pay less in taxes under Obama's plan than under McCain's plan, so Joe is "voting against his own interests" by supporting John McCain.  In 2008 parlance, this makes Joe a "low-information voter."  He's "ignorant," and if only he'd been better educated, he too would know that Barack Obama is the better candidate for him.

            But there are a lot of unchallenged assumptions in that narrative, not least among them that any "well-informed voter" will choose the candidate whose tax proposals most benefit that voter.

            What if Joe sees it differently?  What if Joe thinks the big problem is that white males now must compete with women and nonwhites for jobs and other privileges that used to be exclusively reserved for white males, and Joe thinks that is the real problem in modern America?

            Barack Obama is unquestionably about empowering more Americans, and we Democrats (and a lot of others!) see that as a good thing.  But Joe might not.  Joe might think that a better America is a return to some (largely imagined) past, when every white male who wanted to work could earn a living, because he didn't have to compete with women or nonwhites for jobs and other privileges.  Seen from that perspective, Obama's "empowering more Americans" translates to "creating even more competition for white males."

            If this is Joe the Plumber's reasoning - and some comments he's made since McCain made him the GOP's Everyman 2008 suggest this is indeed his reasoning - Joe is not a "low-information voter."  He thinks America would work fine, for white males, if it only had to work for white males.  Barack Obama obviously does not want an America that works only for white males, and thus Obama will not serve Joe's interests.

            You and I could argue with Joe until the end of time that Joe's vision - an America that works for white males first and foremost, and everyone else takes the leftovers - are immoral and unjust.  But we shouldn't be surprised or shocked by Joe's vision of America.  We can't call Joe's vision "un-American."

            Indeed it is the America our Founders established:  where only white males (indeed only white male landowners) could vote, blacks were property and Native Americans not even legal "persons," where married women could not own property except for their clothing and jewelry.  That was the law of the land.  That's the America Joe the Plumber seems to want back.  The "original" America, where white males didn't have to compete with the rest of us.

            The difference isn't information or education.  Joe probably learned about the civil rights movement, and how it empowered women and non-whites.  He just doesn't think that was a good thing.  Our disagreement with Joe lies not in his ignorance, but in his civic values, his vision of what America ought to be and who America ought to work for.

            Permitting both the existence and expression of dissenting civic values (even those you and I may find repugnant), debating those values openly, using reason rather than violence, peacefully mediating different visions of what America ought to be and who America ought to work for ... all of that is the essence of our democracy itself.

            In that respect, an education system that ensured we would all agree on those civic values - that we would all agree on what America ought to be and who it ought to work for - is "un-American."  It tries to eradicate dissenting values in the cradle, so we won't have to debate and mediate them in adulthood.

            Whenever you're tempted to say "we shouldn't have to have this debate," ask yourself what that really means ... in terms of what democracy really is.

            •  I'm Fine With the Debate (0+ / 0-)

              First, I know that I'm campaigning in the land of the willfully ignorant and the stubbornly stupid. Many people are not ignorant or stupid from lack of education. They just don't want to be informed or think clearly because it would undermine some cherished belief (or bundle of them).

              Nor do I want to stomp out debate by teaching the one and only way that people should think. That would defeat my goal of getting more critical thinking and real reasoning into society.

              My target is to get more of the core competencies for being a citizen into the curriculum. There are certain fundamental concepts that are really uncontroversial for the operation of a liberal democracy. Those ought to be taught. Whether students really understand them or whether they decide to believe them is an individual matter. Since these concepts have stood the test of time I'm willing to believe that most students in a dispassionate presentation will accept them and find them a clear set of guidelines to operating in an open society.

              As for Joe, I suppose I am the one billionth person to comment on him and I expect a prize. He has been exposed as a fraud, but nevertheless McCain has transformed him into a myth so that he can continue to attack Obama.

              For any real white working man in this country, I'm sure that they have plenty of reason to hate some of the changes of the last half century. As a white man in my fifties, I can be sure that my life was harder than it would have been if we had continued the bigoted, misogynous society that has begun to disappear over my lifetime. Tough. I don't think that I'm entitled to an easy life. So, I don't see where Joe or any other white man gets to rain on Obama's parade for that.

              How do we reach the people represented by the plumber? I think Obama did a remarkable job. He put his case clearly and reasonably, without going back on what he stood for.

              But there's more to it than that. The Republicans have built a society that is totally dysfunctional for the working people in this country. Those people have consistently let craven politicians divide them over the most trivial issues so that the rich can continue to fleece them. My message to the working white guys in this country is simple: "Get with the program because we are truly all in this together. You've believed the Republicans for years. Are you rich enough to buy that business, yet?"

    •  I so disagree with your statement (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking, Simplify, NCrissieB

      that the kind of education you're proposing can't be taught until college.  In primary education (K-6) children haven't developed the abstract reasoning centers of the brain they'd need to fully grasp civics.

      We have to start with what IS developmentally appropriate in elementary school, and build on it as they get older so that they have some idea about it and some interest in it.

      My children are 8, 10, 12.  They understand the US is organized by the Constitution, a document that the founding fathers created when the US split from England.  They have been asking very appropriate questions throughout this election:

      --what would happen if one of the candidates died?
      --could Bush have been selected as a VP for McCain?
      --what happens if a plane crashes and both the VP and the President die?
      --can a Republican pick a Democrat as their VP (and vice-versa)

      We are laying a foundation of understanding so that LATER they will have the building blocks for the further thinking and reasoning you are suggesting they cannot get until college.  But if you don't introduce it until college, they won't give a rat's ass about it.

      They can learn citizenship.  I teach it to Girl Scouts.  I had fourteen 9, 10 & 11 year olds captivated last week while they learned about the flag, and about the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (at an age appropriate level).  Not a one of them (except my daughter) had any idea about these things, but now they do and they are PROUD that they do.  They are presenting the colors at a Veteran's Day Assembly at the school many of them attend, and I made it a point to make sure they understand the history of the flag before they do that, and why it's important to honor our Veteran's.

      My own children are currently homeschooled, precisely because everyone in the school system thinks like you....that they cannot learn anything and everything has to be dumbed down.

      Kids can grasp lots of complicated ideas if we take the time to break it down to what is appropriate for them, and relate it to why it's important.

      If we'd never gone to Iraq, we wouldn't have needed a surge. Take that, McCain!

      by k8dd8d on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 08:57:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Facts, yes. Complicated ideas, no. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You can't simply teach kids anything at any age, not even "if you take the time to break it down to what is appropriate for them, and relate why it's important."  You can teach facts - all of the questions you described are fact questions - but you can't teach complex, abstract ideas.  The parts of the brain that 'do' abstract ideas don't develop until age 10 or so.

        Unfortunately, the parts of the brain that 'do' judgment - evaluating risks, weighing alternatives, etc. - start to get rewired at around age 12-13, in to account for all of these new abstract reasoning skills.  Again, this is why teenagers are so prone to taking foolish risks.  It's not "bad parenting;" the risk-assessment parts of their brains are quite literally 'down for maintenance.'

        Civics, of the sort LT mentions, is all about BOTH abstract ideas AND judgment.  It's not about facts like line of succession or whether McCain could've chosen Bush as his running mate.  It's about why we human beings create institutions of government and law, what the options are, what's been tried, what worked, under what conditions, and why.  Those are not lists of facts that can be memorized.  Most are not 'facts' at all.  They are reasoned beliefs, and the basis for that reasoning is often judgment:  we can't be certain we're right, but the alternatives we're aware of seem even worse.

        For that kind of exploration, you need both the abstract reasoning and judgment centers working, and for most children that's a very narrow window of opportunity: ages 11-13.  That's why we teach civics in junior high school.  Before that kids lack the abstract reasoning skills and after that they lack the judgment skills ... until the brain starts to stabilize at around age 19-20.

        I'm sure your kids are exceptional and under your tutelage they'll disprove everything we've learned in fifty years of studying cognitive development.  But for the mass of humanity, we have to deal with the learning organ - the brain - and its gene-coded growth and development cycles.

        •  This is what's so wrong with education (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Liberal Thinking

          I see kids all the time who grasp complicated ideas, but if the adults spend so damn much time thinking they cannot learn anything, then everything gets dumbed down.

          All learning is foundation.  You teach them what they can grasp at each developmental stage so they have a wide and broad foundation to learn more.

          If you say they can only learn facts, then fine, TEACH THEM THE FACTS, and then when they get to the magic age of understanding, they will already know the facts so it will be easier to understand the reasoning behind it.

          Don't assume because they don't get the deepest level of meaning that they aren't getting any.  They need all the pieces that they get at each stage and put it together into the larger picture when they are ready.

          That doesn't mean we wait to teach them anything until they are ready.

          This isn't about my kids being exceptional, it's about no one willing to teach them anything but rote learning.  We cannot teach them to think if we don't expect that they can.

          They don't grasp the deepest level of things, but they do grasp more than you would expect, which will lead to more later.

          This is what's missing in education, IMO, that idea of building a foundation for later learning.

          If we'd never gone to Iraq, we wouldn't have needed a surge. Take that, McCain!

          by k8dd8d on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 07:58:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm sure you know best <nt> (0+ / 0-)
            •  what do you do when you are in the trenches (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              and you see something different than what the generals are saying?

              If we'd never gone to Iraq, we wouldn't have needed a surge. Take that, McCain!

              by k8dd8d on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 08:32:37 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Maybe listen to the older veterans? (0+ / 0-)

                I have two children of my own, ages 16 and 22, and three stepchildren ages 28, 33 and 36.  I raised the 28-year-old from the age of 3.  I've been in the trenches you're now in.  You're not the first person to see these problems, and while I agree that our education system is far from perfect, it actually works better than you'd think when you're in the trenches.

                We will, after all, resolve this debate on November 4th with an election, not a revolution.  That says a lot about Americans' understanding and acceptance of our democracy.

                Something to consider....

        •  There Are Other Reasons (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NCrissieB, k8dd8d

          While I understand that the human brain has a certain developmental path, I don't think this is the only factor.

          First of all, there is wide variation in how fast someone's brain develops. It may be that most kids don't learn judgment until late in the game, but there are some that simply get there faster. We should not always teach to the mean.

          Second, the messages we give kids stick in their brains for their entire lives. That's why you can still hear your mother and father's voices after all these years, yelling at you to pick up your room or whatever. (Or the parental surrogate, whoever that might have been, presuming you had one.) IMO, it is very important to say the right things even though the results might not show up for a few decades. When they get to be thirty, they may begin to hear those voices and realize what they really mean.

          And third, even if their judgment centers are getting rewired while they are teenagers, I think giving them the right teaching at that point may have an influence on how they get rewired.

          So, to a certain extent, I think we should tell them the right things, even if we don't expect immediate results.

          •  I agree with you as a parent. (0+ / 0-)

            As a mom, I've worked hard to teach my kids good civic values (see my other post of today).  But that teaching of civic values is a parenting task, not a public education task.  Our schools ought not to eradicate dissenting civic values in the cradle; that is not "democracy."

            And in terms of the core issues of civics, consider that this debate will be resolved on November 4th with an election, not a revolution.  That says a lot about Americans' understanding of and respect for democracy.

            Yes, Palin is wrong on the Constitution.  Others have been and are wrong on the Constitution - it happens every day - and that's why we have judges and courts of law.

            Ultimately, Sarah Palin has a dissenting set of civic values - a different vision of what America ought to be and who America ought to work for - from those you and I hold dear.  Her civic values resonate with a lot of other Americans.

            The First Amendment - permitting the existence and expression of dissenting civic values - is perhaps our most cherished value.  So let Sarah Palin have and express her absurd opinions, and argue a case for why she's wrong.  That's what America is really all about.

      •  I'm a Puddle (0+ / 0-)

        That was one of the most moving things I've read here. I'm so glad that you take the time to teach them. And, those are awesome questions, some of which I've gotten from adults.

        I think we should all be intensely proud to be Americans. We have a tradition of sound principles that have long been the envy of the world. We as a society are remiss in not teaching those principles in a way that reaches 100% of the population.

        Thanks for your comment.

  •  Your title is seriously scary... (4+ / 0-)

    Palin should never be allowed to teach anything, period.

    And your education problem isn't isolated. A poll some years ago showed that about 20% of British people think Churchill is a myth and more than 50% believes Sherlock Holmes was real...

    MILITANT AGNOSTIC : I don't know, and neither do you!

    by subrosa on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 03:55:05 AM PDT

    •  lets not forget ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking, subrosa
      about the "majority" of americans who resist the idea of evolutionary biology, because it clashes with the story tales in the bible. all the education in the world won't fix that level of dumb.
    •  Seeing as I'm currently in the Uk (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking, lazybum, subrosa

      I can attest to that.  Britain suffers from much of the same problems America does, but suffers in a much more British manner.

      •  They Maintain a Stiff Upper Lip? (0+ / 0-)

        "I had 300,000 shares of Northern Rock."

        "I'll get you a scotch and soda."

        •  300,000 shares of Northern Rock? (0+ / 0-)

          Its only money mate, the great thing about america is that you can be washed out, washed up, broke as a joke, reputation in shards, life in pieces, but you can pick yourself up and still start over no matter where you want...if it makes you feel better my retirement fund took a hit too, but it doesnt matter, since I plan on working till about 90.  Whiskey sounds better.  Hope is right around the corner.  I think it was Hoover who used to tell us that.

    •  Yes, But for Some Reason, You Read On (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      As the politicians say, "I regret if anyone was scared by my pun."

      Really, though, she is teaching people about the Constitution. More as an object lesson than as a constitutional scholar.

      And, yes, this is a world-wide problem. I shudder to think what kinds of civics lessons they get in Beijing.

  •  She said education was a waste of time (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking, lazybum

    and she went Abroad to Hawaii

    so there you have it folks

    One Wife , 2 daughters, one house and worn out shoes President Elect Obama has walked in my shoes My friends

    by maylingblu on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 04:37:56 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking

    I agree that our whole culture is wrong on education.  It's not just money or testing that's going to change it.

    I can give examples from our experiences in three school districts in three states that would make your hair stand on end.

    The culture favors dumbing everything down.

    I've spent the last twelve years building my children up, figuring everything I put into them is foundation for future learning, on the premise that the more you know, the more you can learn.

    They are either going to be visionary or dinosaurs, I just don't know which yet, but they think and reason beyond any of their peers.

    If we'd never gone to Iraq, we wouldn't have needed a surge. Take that, McCain!

    by k8dd8d on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 09:03:16 PM PDT

    •  You're Very Welcome (0+ / 0-)

      I think you can tell from my responses (a bit delayed) to NCrissieB that I think we really need to change this attitude. I specifically think we should stop dumbing things down. It's one of the reasons, IMHO, there are so many behavior problems in schools.

      When I give talks, I've noticed that when I gear the talk to the smartest part of the audience I get better results. If you gear it to the average person, then the smart people are bored and either leave or cause problems. If you gear it to the smartest, then most of those coming will bring themselves up to that level. Even if they don't, they feel better and more like they got something out of it.

      My feeling is that we leave a lot out of education for various reasons. Maybe one reason other countries do better is because they don't have our limiting beliefs. Good going on making sure your kids don't suffer from the same low-expectation attitude.

      •  I've finally gotten back (0+ / 0-)

        and read all your responses and I would say that we are very much on the same page about this issue.

        I appreciate all you've said here and thank you again for bringing up an issue that is near and dear to me.

        If we'd never gone to Iraq, we wouldn't have needed a surge. Take that, McCain!

        by k8dd8d on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 02:27:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Very well written article - will copy/save this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking, Simplify


    Am in bed with my Nokia Communicator 'phone but wanted to thank the author for such a comprehensive review of the importance of education.

    Regards, Douglas in Maine (age 70)

    -- ARTCRAFT Music Rolls L. Douglas Henderson Wiscasset, Maine 04578 USA Home Page -

    by artcraft on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 09:08:55 PM PDT

  •  YES! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking

    and you said it so well.  Thank you.

    Steny Hoyer = a slam dunk argument for term limits

    by jlynne on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 09:20:07 PM PDT

  •  Late to the Party, but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking

    I wanted to put in my $.02.  

    A Modest Proposal

    Every morning at the high school in my town they have morning announcements over the P.A.  I think that they should put the Bill of Rights in rotation with announcements about after school meetings and other events.  If the kids heard one amendment every morning in two weeks they would have heard the whole Bill of Rights.  If they just kept that up the whole deal every two weeks every year, by the time they left after 4 years of high school, those would be in their heads always.  They wouldn't know how NOT to know them.  

    I'm an American I can handle the truth!

    by stas61690 on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 05:25:12 AM PDT

  •  Terrific Post, but let's fix a word (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking

    Use tenets, not tenants.

    If this ends up being cross-posted, I'd hate some curmudgeon on the right use a slip like that to discredit the whole thing.

  •  Since teachers lost their right (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking, NCrissieB

    of free speech last year, it's going to become more and more difficult for children to get a good education.  

    A teacher has to tread on thin ice when talking about this.  Even when teaching the facts about the Constitution, a teacher must make sure she doesn't make Palin look uneducated or stupid.  She could be fired so easily.

    •  Good Point (0+ / 0-)

      That's probably why it has to be fixed from the top (the people) down. Maybe they need some special statutory relief from Congress, like a Good Samaritan law, to take care of them.

      Get cracking, Congress! The people demand it!

    •  That was a good decision. (0+ / 0-)

      Teachers ought not to teach their personal political opinions, such as honking in support of protestors against the Iraq War.  Just because we agree with this teacher's opinion doesn't mean she should be teaching it in the classroom.

  •  i'd be happy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking
    if all they taught were two subjects:

    1. Critical Thinking
    2. How to research topics

    I could care less about people knowing about geography, history, or anything else. If they can think for themselves, I'd be happy.

    I think our entire education system is set up to produce mindless automatons who do and believe whatever the nearest authority figure tells them to. And that's the root of the problem.

  •  Thanks, HansScholl (0+ / 0-)

    I appreciate your pulling this out of oblivion, and I'm only sorry I didn't get a chance to see it live on the rescue list.

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