Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Corrupt to the Common Core

Corrupt to the Common Core
©2015  Ross Williams


American children are dumb and getting dumber.  I say this while fully aware that I am issuing the same gripe as every generation of oldster since Socrates lamented children gobbling their food and sassing their elders.  And on most such criteria I'll have to acknowledge complaining is pointless: children of one age are not, in general, any more ill-behaved than children of any other age.  I'm not talking about behavior in any event.  I'm talking education.

I usually complain about the quality of history education … seeing as there is neither quality nor education involved in it.  History is typically taught by bozos who believe a random series of disjointed details is "history", and I have to suspect this teaching method is about 9,000 years old.  This, naturally, plays into the Santayana Trap: "Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it" … and not simply in summer school.  The basic reality is this: history cannot be learned when History is never taught.

The proper method of teaching History places less emphasis on the details — the names, the places, the dates, the battles — and more on the pertinence.  Details are important, but not critical; pertinence — why the details mean a damn — is what's critical.

To teach History so that it matters, so that the Santayana Trap can finally be avoided, requires teaching three things, only one of which is even approached although not deliberately, and none of which are an active part of the curriculum.  Those three things:
1] sequence
2] consequence
3] pattern matching.

Sequence: events happened in this order.  Consequence: this was the result of those events happening in the order they occurred.  Pattern matching: we are observing those same events occurring in roughly the same order today … and we can expect a similar result.

Anyone who's read my essays on matters of historical imperative and dislikes it when I say that I hate being right all the time … now you know why I say it.  History is not simply a regurgitation, arbitrary, of factual details, usually random.  It is a series of repetitive cycles made all the more repetitive because no one, seemingly apart from me and George Santayana, is aware that the same damned things are repeating themselves all over everyone … and not uncommonly spilling barrels of blood in the process.

How else can we explain the undeniable march toward dictatorship this "free country" of ours is taking?  Do we not learn from History?  [The answer is no].

"Democracy will survive only until the majority learns they can vote themselves a share of the treasury."   I can't count the number of times I've had to say this.  Greek democracy [hellenic] became a military dictatorship when they ran out of rich people to tax and the coffers ran dry [and, proving that Greeks are particularly immune from learning from the past, in this case their own, today's Greek social-democracy is in the last stages of ditto]; Roman republicanism, oligarchically democratic, became a military dictatorship after buying off the rabble with bread and circuses for a few centuries and the rich people outside of politics who funded it all stopped being rich enough to fund it all [the rich inside politics always seem to be exempt from tax laws for some reason…].  These are the sequence and the consequence.

Here is the pattern matching: Our own wealthy are currently fleeing to foreign tax havens leaving foreign governments to fund our own bread and circuses, and were it not for Posse Comitatus, a military dictatorship would be our ultimate destination, as well.  Instead, we can look forward to becoming a bureaucratic-authoritarian police state of the type we rebelled against in the first place.

…ooops, too late.  See?  Right again.  All that's left for us now is to wait for the revolt to start.  Watch for the police enforcers of the authoritarian bureaucracy to be ambushed individually, and then collectively.  Good thing we don't see that happening today … right?

This historical illiteracy, though, is a universal ignorance.  I am particularly concerned about ignorance specific to American children imposed upon them by the bureaucratic authoritarians purporting to educate them.  American children have been losing educational ground in the subjects of math and science to their foreign competitors for going on fifty years now.  This was the consequence of the Soviets launching Sputnik.   Both the Soviets and the Americans plundered the nazi regime of its rocket scientists who made living in London during the war so invigorating.  The American and Soviet object was to become the first to beat V2 rockets into space-bound plowshares. …and then arm them with swords, if the pattern holds, which it does.

But the Soviets beat us to it and sent a satellite into orbit before us.  Eeek!  Obviously our math and science education was lacking.  Quick, eggheads!!  Pull a new educational philosophy out of your ass and impose it on every child in the nation!!

"New Math" was the result.  At the same time, and obviously a grand and ironic coincidence of cosmic proportions, American children started falling behind the children of other countries in math and science, slowly at first and then more rapidly, as if a snowball were rolling down a hill.  New Math taught that every child was a raw Euclid, Pythagoras, Newton or Einstein, and all he needed was to learn the philosophy of mathematics and voila! he would dazzle the world with his brilliance.  Actual mathematics was considered secondary.

This, if you think about it for more than a second, is grade-A horseshit.  And the "thinking about it" thing, having failed to be accomplished, is the reason the United States imposed New Math.  Mathematics, for 98% of everyone, is for making correct change and filing tax returns; "philosophy" is unnecessary to these tasks, and only gets in the way.  The rocket scientists will emerge on their own without any assistance — indeed, despite the assistance — of the knee-jerk simpletons trying to mold rocket scientists from grade-schoolers who count on their fingers.

After two generations of bureaucratic-authoritarian New Math curricula turning American students' minds into mathematical mush that could not make change without a calculator and a ten mile head start [the tax-filing thing is its own problem], the US fell into the middle of the national mathematics education pack.  The bureaucratic authoritarians decided to pull a newer New Math egghead educational philosophy out of their ass, … because History never, ever repeats itself, and their first stab at it was so successful.

They determined that the major problem in math education was the rote memorization of addition and multiplication tables, and having to reverse field for subtraction and division, that bothered some of the denser students to whom math is only for making change.  These students, a minority, resort to tricks and gimmicks to get the hang of it and ultimately limp their way through high school mastering the ability to make change armed only with a calculator.  The majority of students can handle the memorization enough to expand into algebra, where true mathematical philosophy actually enters the picture.  Many of them thereafter succeed to the point where they are capable of handling the next philosophical step into trigonometry, and the further philosophies of calculus, and beyond.

But a few individuals whose minds don't naturally grasp mathematics must resort to tricks and gimmicks to grasp even the change-making basics, and they will often find these gimmicks on their own.  But unless they are formally taught those tricks, the newer New Math morons fret, how ever are they to become rocket scientists?  The answer is, naturally, they won't, ever.  For them, math is confined to making change for a dollar.

The way mathematics has been taught for millennia, and from which all forms of higher mathematics has been derived, is by teaching arithmetic by rote and working up from there.  Two plus two is four.  Nine times seven is sixty-three.  These must be memorized.  In the end, there are fewer basic arithmetic memorizations than there are Game of Thrones characters, or Marvel superheroes, and these don't seem to be beyond the grasp of most children.  Yet, there are those who cannot grasp arithmetic and they add and subtract on their fingers.  Newer New Math seeks to correct this disparity of some children counting on their fingers  … by making everyone count on their fingers.

One example I've recently run across was explained — boorishly and inappropriately arrogantly — by an acolyte of the newer New Math lunacy, is that nine times seven is not sixty-three; instead, TEN times seven is seventy and you subtract ONE times seven from that result to get sixty-three.  But "nine times seven is sixty-three" is incorrect.  And because some children need to learn math this way in order to get it into their heads, ALL children will be taught this way.  And only this way.

Never mind that when math is taught by rote arithmetic that these tricks will naturally evolve on their own among those who need the tricks, thus allowing the majority capable of learning arithmetic by rote to advance to higher math, and those who cannot to become ultimately able to do enough math to make change, which is all math is for to the vast majority of us.  Never mind that the insistence that this new method doesn't fall back on basic memorization of arithmetic tables is a fabulous lie in itself.  Nine times seven is difficult and no student can be expected to remember that; however TEN times seven minus ONE times seven is not difficult, and the fact that it relies on three times the memorization to solve one problem doesn't appear to darken the brows of the morons excusing the newer New Math philosophies.

Never mind that the problem with "old math" was the [false] premise that only one method of teaching basic math [rote memorization] was ever used; teachers were only too glad to suggest the tricks and gimmicks to their slower students who needed them.  Never mind that the newer New Math does not simply teach one and only one method of arriving at a correct mathematical solution, and one which only satisfies the educational needs of the minority who cannot do math otherwise, but that any correct answer not obtained in the tricked out gimmicky way is actually wrong; the correct answer is false unless you obtain it by traveling a convoluted route in which you must "show your work".  Making change for a dollar now involves four sheets of college-ruled notebook paper to map out that route.  And a calculator.

And never mind that History will inevitably repeat itself making American students dumber and dumber until they cannot do more math than can be accomplished on ten fingers.  Enterprising students will observe that they also have ten toes, thus doubling their ability.  And, of course, boys will still be better at math than girls, because they can always count to twenty-one.