Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Back in the U.S.A.

It was terrific this weekend getting away from the foreign country of the Washington metropolitan area and going to Real America. I went to the Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte on Sunday.

NASCAR fans are the best Americans around, and they exemplify the characteristics that have made America such a great country: common sense, patriotism, intolerance for political correctness, competitiveness, devotion to country, honor towards the military, personal independence, and Christian values. Though you see different races and ethnic groups, there is no bogus multiculturalism; it is unity for the values that have made the greatest country in the world. No wonder liberals cannot stand NASCAR fans.

What a refreshing change to see true America that liberal traitors despise. The opening ceremonies featured a moving rendition of taps with reverential silence by the crowds, "God Bless America" on bagpipes, a rousing rendition of The Star Spangled Banner by LeAnn Rimes, and an excellent opening prayer by a chaplain at the awesome, conservative Catholic college of Belmont Abbey that (horrors to liberals) featured the phrase, "And we ask this your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen." I noticed throughout the prayers the fans had bowed their heads.

Best of all were the many troops who had come over from Fort Bragg in uniform. It was heartwarming to watch NASCAR fans approach the troops, give a word of thanks and appreciation, and then shake the troops' hands.

Despite what liberals believe, a study of the history of Western Civilization will easily show that the defenders of civilization have always shared these values that NASCAR fans hold and have been very similar in character. It has always been the elites who have caused problems for society, which have to be rectified by the nonelites who hold traditional values. Elites may call NASCAR fans "rednecks," but these loyal Americans--far more noble and less barbaric than liberals--are what hold America together.

H.W. Crocker III, in his excellent survey of Western Civilization Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church, states about the knights who held Europe together through the assaults of the Vikings, the Huns, and Islam:
But their hearts were in the right place. One can usefully think of them as rather like the motorcyclists who descend on Washington D.C, every Memorial Day wacing American and MIA flags. Only the "Bikers for the Bishop of Rome" would be waving the papal flag or the white flag with the crimson cross of the Crusades. The best of them would be staffing monasteries, designing cathedrals, and creating the cultural tapestry of the Middle Ages.

The effete East, where almost every heresy to threaten Western Civilization arose, did not have the values to withstand these assaults. The West did, thanks to those who were loyal--just as NASCAR fans are loyal to American values--and held together the West to bring about the flowering of cultural, intellectual, scientific, and military superiority over all other cultures. While liberals gleefully and stupidly embrace every fad antithetical to Western values--liberalism, multiculturalism, socialism, etc.--conservatives have held the country together, built it up, defended it, and made America into the great country it is.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Weekend Geography Quiz III

What capital city with 80,000 inhabitants in less than one square mile is this? Clue: The country has a huge tourist industry. The following is the international airport:

Thursday, May 24, 2007

El Condado de Fairfax

Where would you guess this school is located? Texas? California? Mexico?

Wrong. It is in Fairfax County just 10 miles from the White House.

Fairfax County Public Schools are generally a barometer of trendy "progressive" fads that spread throughout the nation, so watch out!

Two questions for Fairfax County Public Schools and, in particular, the principal of this particular school:

1) What kind of message does this send to Hispanic students trying to learn English?

2) Is it fair to privilege one ethnic group above others in the United States?

We have always been a multiracial melting pot with English as the unifying language. Students from all over the world from Asia to Africa, Europe to South America learn English as their first foreign language. They expect that English will be national language of America.

Except hare-brained liberals who have been indoctrinated in socialist multiculturalism. They feel that "career day" and "PTA meeting" are far too difficult for Hispanics to understand. Therefore, they must translate everything for them. At the same--a real plus for liberal education leaders like this principal of Bucknell--they feel they come across as elite, sensitive to foreign cultures, and oh so much more understanding than those Americans who wish for Hispanics to learn our national language and assilimilate for their own good and the good of our country.

There is a huge disconnect going on here: The elite liberals want to show their sensitivity for all the world to praise; Hispanic parents simply want their children to learn English and would rather their children be immersed in the English language, something that liberals are loathe to accept. After all, without bilingual education and multiculturalism, they cannot demonstrate how much they care and receive promotions and kudos from other elites.

Bilingual education is a dangerous multicultural trend that is both harmful to students and society.

Here are some suggestions for further research. Check out:

1) Linda Chavez's think tank Center for Equal Opportunity. They have excellent resources for combatting harmful bilingual education.

2) Matt Sanchez's editorial about bilingual education and his experiences with it, despite being born in the U.S.A.

3) Mexifornia, the terrific essay by Victor Davis Hanson.

4) Articles about bilingual education from Education Next, the terrific education magazine by the Hoover Foundation.

If liberals in Fairfax County Public Schools are going to go ahead and show their sensitivity by translating everything into Spanish for Hispanic parents, there would be one thing I would like to have them translate: a message by the Diocese of Arlington telling parents about their pledge to not turn any parent who wants their children to be educated in Catholic schools, no matter what the financial conditions or legal status of the parents.

One thing all Hispanic parents should do: Pull your kids out of "progressive" Fairfax County schools and place them into solid Catholic schools, where your kids will get an excellent American education, great universal Catholic values, and valuable character education, and they will be much more likely to achieve success and avoid joining gangs. They will learn Catholic ritual and not feel a need to get the ritual and values they lack in nihilistic Fairfax County schools from gang members.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Setting High Standards For Yourself

Harold W. Stevenson and James W. Stigler prove convincingly in The Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing and What We Can Learn from Japanese and Chinese Education that one of the main reasons the Confucian countries far outperform the United States in achievement tests is because they set high standards for their students. In addition, they teach to the middle in classes and they do not place their students on different tracks. Everyone is expected to perform to their utmost ability and attain their highest potential. Discovery learning and child-centered "progressive" techniques that liberals love are eschewed.

Incidently, the Confucian countries in education use methods that our military and athletics teams and coaches use, which is why they are so successful in academics while the United States dominates both militarily and in sports culture and the Olympics. The enemy to success has always been "progressivism" and liberalism. The common simile of liberalism being like acid, destroying everything it touches, is true.

While living in Korea, some of the things I most respected about Koreans were their competitive spirit, high standards, and how they would push themselves to constantly improve their lives. My Korean friends would always be learning something new, whether it be tennis, Asian painting, or foreign languages.

In short, Americans should push for much higher standards in their own lives. One of our top goals should be to constantly improve ourselves intellectually, spiritually, and physically. Here are some high standards that everyone can set for themselves:

  • Stop watching television or limit yourself to only a couple of hours a week. When I lived in Bangkok for a year, I had no TV in my apartment, and it was such a blessing. I could accomplish so much more without the distraction. Even now, I don't care for TV at all.
  • Instead of watching television, learn several foreign languages. It is an urban myth that children learn foreign languages better than adults. The truth is that adults are far more efficient learners of foreign languages than kids and can learn them much faster. The only area that kids beat out adults is in pronunication. It is difficult for adults to learn to speak another language with native pronunciation. But in all other aspects--speaking, listening, reading, and writing--adults outperform kids. While it might take kids six years to learn a language to intermediate level, adults can do it in less than a year.
  • So start learning foreign languages and set strong goals for yourself. If you are 30 years old, say that by the time you are 35, you will know fluently three Romance languages and two Asian languages and stick to these goals. These goals are not impossible. I've recently taught myself Italian to the intermediate level in about six months. Definitely learn our common Western language of Latin.
  • Some excellent texts I find for learning foreign languages are the Living Language series. It is what they use in Fairfax County Adult Education classes, the large county of one million inhabitants that I live in. They are cheap, excellent quality, and effective. The CD's are more expensive, but you can easily check them out from the library. University of Hawaii press has good material for Asian languages.
  • Purchase Diane Ravitch's terrific book The Language Police. The book is wonderful and enlightening, but best of all is the Ravitch-Atkinson Sampler of Classic Literature in the appendix, with notes about the merits of all the great works selected. Set a goal that you will read every book listed. Classic literature will provide much fulfillment in your life, especially to those who have been exposed to too many postmodernists.
  • Explore our great American cultural heritage in music. Arhoolie Records is a great place to start. We have such magnificent cultural roots in music. Almost all great music started in the South. Learn about our Americana traditions. Some excellent singers who have consistently explored American tradition in music are Maria Muldaur (gem after gem of blues and jazz albums in the 90's and 00's) and the wonderful French Canadian singers Kate and Anna McGarrigle (both American and Canadian folk traditions).
  • Set a goal to travel to various countries. Pick a region, such as Asia, you would like to specialize in and explore that area in depth.

  • It is very important to be spiritually healthy. The Rosary is magnificent and extraordinarily powerful Catholic tool of prayer. I've seen a bumper sticker stating that it is the "atomic bomb" of prayer. Please try it and say it every day.
  • Thankfully, in traditional dioceses such as the Arlington Diocese, where I live, many churches have 24 hour Eucharistic adoration. Take advantage of it.
  • Finally, go to Confession at least once every couple of months. Cut out all sexual distractions and immoral actions.
  • Separate yourself from those who lead you down the wrong track in life.
  • Attend a Roman Catholic mass that is more traditional in nature, with good music and a reverant liturgy. Again, the Arlington Diocese, thankfully, has many excellent conservative priests, particularly the younger ones under 45. But if you are in a more liberal diocese, you can still seek out more conservative parishes.

  • Try to go to the health club or gym at least twice a week. Luckily, my employer has a large gym that is only $8 a month to join, so I go twice a week.
  • Don't drink or smoke. It is far better to be sober than drunk and smoking enslaves you. If you smoke with some willpower it is not difficult to quit.
  • There is no excuse to be overweight. It is simply a matter of how many calories you put into your body versus how many your burn off. Cut out all snacks and eat a light meal for dinner.

Don't become enamored with liberal shallow pop culture. Stick with these high intellectual, spiritual, and physical goals. Discipline is the key to leading a life of right action. Unfortunately, in most "progressive" schools today, intellectual, spiritual, and physical discipline and high expectations are nowhere to be found.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Weekend Geography Quiz Question II

From these pictures, which city is this?

Clue: The following ancient city destroyed by the Mongols in the 1200s is down the great river that passes through the above city:

Think of a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling, and you will definitely know the answer. I'll post the answer in a couple of days.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Liberals' Favorite Religion: Themselves

During my studies for a B.A. in Asian Studies at UMUC while I was working in Korea, one of my most difficult but rewarding classes was the required Asian Philosophy. It was taught by a Canadian professor with a PhD in philosophy who lived in Seoul, and the textbook was the excellent Asian Philosophies by John M. Koller (highly recommended but expensive).

The class was challenging because for the average American, the material is completely foreign. Furthermore, the religions and philosophies of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Confucianism (more a philosophy than a religion), and Taoism have a highly developed tenets and thousands of years of writings. Imagine learning Catholicism and Protestantism for the first time in a semester class having only had a superficial exposure to Christianity. I thought I would never survive the term. However, my effort paid off and I ended up with an "A" in the class, and living and traveling around Asia helped me with my comprehension of the philosophies. I also took another class in Anthropology of Asian Religions by the terrific Janice Sacherer Turner, the foremost authority in the world of the Himalayan Sherpas, who got her doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris.

As a Catholic not at all interested in converting to Eastern religions (although I have great respect for the traditions)--Catholicism has the fullness of truth-- I was always interested in how many similarities there were with Buddhism, particularly the Mahayana version, with Catholicism. In addition, both Theravada and Mahayana have strict moral and ethical codes with the Noble Eightfold Path.

For example, premarital sex, homosexual sex, and contraception are wrong in Buddhism. There is a hell in Buddhism where the wicked go. The boddhisatvas are very similar to Catholic saints. There are many aspects with Catholicism. In fact, in the amazing and wonderful movie Into Great Silence, there is a definite Eastern feel that is 100% Western in culture and tradition. It is just that people are not familiar with this aspect of traditional Catholicism that it feels foreign to them.

From a Catholic theological perspective, there are reasons for the similarities. The great Asian religions were created before the Incarnation of Christ, so they do have some revealed truths, and these truths are the ones that find their similarities with Catholicism, the fullness of truth.

What always is comical about liberals, though, is how they almost always reject the rich and noble tradition of Catholicism (or other Protestant religions) and our beautiful language Latin and turn to Eastern traditions and philosophies.

There is a common Catholic saying: "Heresy always begins below the belt." Almost always, liberals reject Catholicism because the teaching about proper sexuality is too much for materialistic liberals interested in instant self-gratification to handle. They coolly state, "I will not serve" and either (1) continue to think of themselves as Christian but attempt to reformulate the religion in their image by dumbing it down (see God is Love's comment on Matt Sanchez's post "Scaling Terrorism," a perfect example, or (2) reject Judeo-Christian philosophies altogether and turn to exotic and fun religions and spiritualities that conform to their sexual proclivities.

The second always has comic results for those who actually know the Eastern religions and philosophies--either by living in Asia or having studied firsthand the actual philosophies-- because liberals almost never follow the true Eastern religions, such as Buddhism or Taoism, the latter particularly in vogue with shallow liberals these days. They rejected Catholicism for its strict moral rules in rebellion over the sexual rules that God has in fact ordained for our own true happiness, yet they then reject the exact same aspect in the Eastern religions. Self control and restraint below the belt is extremely difficult for these adolescent liberals (think Richard Gere), which is why, of course, they rejected the dignity of Western religion in the first place.

For instance, study the history, beliefs, and actions of Taoism, and witness how far shallow liberals have bastardized this great Chinese tradition. From a newletter advertisement I received in the mail "Healing Tao Retreats" about the wonders of the liberal Tao:

What does Tao teach about sexuality?

The principles of energy flow are nowhere more pleasurable and downright fun than in the bedroom. Single or married, straight or gay, the Daoist arts of the bedchamber profoundly improve sexual health. From strengthening your glandular and hormonal systems, to experiencing truly mystical full-body orgasms, the ancient chi science of sexology will allow you to merge spirituality with sexuality. In alchemy, this sexual play occurs deep inside your body-mind--very dynamic fun meditations.

Strange--this is a very novel form of Taoism, one that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Taoism I studied in my Asian Philosophy class and which was described in Asian Philosophies, the text we used. Come to think of it, the Buddhism that liberals often practice (e.g. Hollywood stars) bears no resemblance to the Buddhism in Asia. Liberals just pick and choose superficial aspects of these exotic religions and philosophies and mesh them to themselves, of course never conflicting with their liberal sexual lives. After all, that is why they left Western traditional religion: They wanted to get away from anything that limits their pursuit of sexual and material fulfillment. The emptiness that arises, they then try to fill with Eastern philosophy, rejecting the exact aspects that they reject in Catholicism.

In the end, liberals simply do what they do best: Worship themselves.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Geography: What City Is This?

Geography used to be an important field of study for students; unfortunately, with the ascendancy of the education philosophy of John Dewey in the 1920s and 1930s, it became a field subsumed under "social studies." For obscurant, anti-academic matter liberals like Dewey and his disciples, a subject like geography, as with all subjects, has no value unless it serves a political means to advance a social agenda, in Dewey's case socialism. To these "progressive" oafs, if academic subject matter does not promote correct social attitudes and politically correct behavior, it is only "trivia," hence the hostility by "progressives" to subject matter.

Geography, as with art and architectural history, literature, and history, needs to be taken back from these liberal, utilitarian educationists who, in the name of "social correctness," have stripped these noble fields of any inherent value, thus effectively killing interest in these subjects.

One example: As I was flying from Bangkok to Singapore, I sat next to an interesting young guy from England, and we chatted throughout the two hour flight. He majored in geography, which I stated was a fascinating subject. He stated he thought so too when he first decided to specialize in it, but the "geography of feminism" and other deadly postmodern courses killed his interest. That is postmodernism for you and typical of so many subjects that clinical, utilitarian liberals, who are so wrong politically, economically, and ethically, are out to destroy through their tiresome and misguided activism.

Therefore, in the spirit of Richard Halliburton's wonderful classic travelogue The Royal Road to Romance, perhaps the best of its kind ever written, I will attempt to help take back this subject of geography by getting back to what the subject of geography is supposed to embody: a study of the adventure of mankind in various lands, topographies, and cultures. The study of geography should inspire a joie de vivre, wanderlust, and desire for adventure and romance. In addition to this inherent interest in and of itself, by studying geography and traveling to other lands and cultures, one can hopefully understand one's own land and history better.

In honor of the great subject of geography, which literally means "to describe the earth," every weekend I will post a picture of a city or region around the world. From the topography and architecture in the picture above, does anyone know which city this is? Clue: It is a city with a population of two and a half million.

I will post the answer in a couple of days.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Liberal Revision of History

The overriding problem with history textbooks used in public schools today is that so many left-wing pressure groups within the education establishment must approve the sensitivity and political correctness of the books that the end result is banal and insipid nonsense that leaves students with no comprehension of what makes the West and our freedoms and way of life unique.

The only concepts students are left after 12 years of public education are that (1) the West is racist, imperialistic, and socially unjust; and (2) anything exotic (outside the Western culture) is wonderful, fresh, and morally superior. They have no understanding for their own Western heritage and savor an uncritical, Pollyannish exuberance for exotic non-Western cultures.

A nation with this kind of collective amnesia with never be able to defend its values and way of life, which is fine with socialists opposed to our Western religious heritage, capitalism, and military power in defense of freedom and liberty, often the very same people writing the texts. Terrorists often know our history much better than we do. Quiz question: What was the significance of September 11, 1683 that noted Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc stated in 1938 in The Great Heresies was a "date that ought to be among the most famous in history?" Well, at least Osama Bin Laden knows his Western history.

For The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, Diane Ravitch reviewed the most popular history textbooks widely used in public schools. Most textbooks follow what she terms the "cultural equivalence" narrative approach, which teaches gullible students that all cultures are equal:

All the world's civilizations were great and glorious, all produced grand artistic, cultural, and material achievements, and now the world is growing more global and interconnected. Some bad things happened in the past, but that was a long time ago and now the cultures of the world face common problems.

In keeping with the imperative of avoiding ethnocentrism, no culture is "primitive." The idea of progress has disappeared, because no culture is more or less advanced than any other. Even those that had no literacy and only meager technology are described as advanced, sophisticated, complex, and highly developed. These are comparative terms, but cultures are never compared to one another.

A variation on this goofy "all cultures are equal" theme is the more malevolent theme that the U.S. is a horrible country filled with injustice:

In a significant variation on the cultural equivalence theme, Houghtin Mifflin's world history text for middle school students, To See the World, implies that every world culture is wonderful except for the United States. It lauds every world culture as advanced, complex, and rich with artistic achievement, except for the United States. Readers learn that people in the United States confront such problems as discrimination, poverty, and pollution. Those who came to this country looking for freedom, the book says, found hardship and prejudice; the immigrants did all the hard work, but the settled population hated and feared them. Despite these many injustices, people kept trying to immigrate to the United States, but many were excluded because of their race or ethnicity. Compared to the other cultures in the world, the United States sounds like a frightening place. Why people keep trying to immigrate to this unwelcoming, mean-spirited culture is a puzzle.
Two examples of the false history most uneducated students (future liberals) will have been inculcated with by obscurant liberals in the public schools:

1) In school textbooks, Islam is promoted as a wonderful, exotic religion that "spread" (how?) throughout the southern and western Mediterranean Africa and east through Asia that produced a highly sophisticated, peaceful, tolerant civilization with scientific geniuses and wealth and prosperity for all until the wicked Crusades which ransacked with no provocation whatsoever a great civilization.

This history is patently false. The Crusades were the direct result of Islamic terrorist expansion that threatened numerous times our Western civilization. The religion's goals have not changed; however, our textbooks and mainstream media refuse to criticize this religion. Result: Stupid children who grow up to be Hollywood producers.

Father Mark Gruder, PhD, in a talk at Christendom College, has countered this false history. His speaking the truth is anathema in most college campuses today, who like to stay in the "cultural equivalence" and "every culture better than the West" la-la land. The Christendom College news article describes his talk:

"The mainstream media likes to paint a picture that Islam is peaceful and that it is just extremists who hold this point of view,” he continued. “But that simply is not true. While I was working on my Doctoral Dissertation, I spent a year in Egypt and other Muslim countries. During that time I got to see first-hand what the Muslim children were learning. And it was pretty enlightening! Parents would teach their children songs about killing the infidel—songs about death and destruction. Cars, with loud speakers attached, would drive through the streets repeating the message, ‘Let their woman be raped, their men be killed, and their children enslaved.’

“To be able to accurately judge a religion, we have to pay attention most importantly to what it teaches its children, not to what it says to the outside world,” Gruber said. “No progress will be made unless we speak to each other with self-respect and honesty. There is hope for peace, but we must face the facts and use common sense.”

Unfortunately, for far too many schoolchildren, they gain no common sense about history and cultures because they are ignorant of the facts, lack any foreign travel experience, and being uneducated, thanks to the "cultural equivalence" textbooks, have no understanding of the West or other cultures, just the gloomy cynicism of the West and cheerful, credulous, uncritical picture of foreign cultures and societies.

2) The glorious Aztec empire, a highly sophisticated civilization with great education and science (the same people who love Cuba love the Aztec empire, which like Cuba didn't have a particularly high regard for human rights), existed in Central America until the Catholic imperialists Hernan Cortez and his cruel crew demolished it, forcing the conversion of the Indians. Historian Warren Carroll tells it like it is, in a recent talk about the great Holy Roman Emperor Charles V:

This period as a whole is the most dramatic in the history of Christendom; it’s not surprising that Shakespeare lived during it,” Carroll quipped. “It was under Charles that Cortés and Magellan were sent,” Carroll said. “He sent Hernán Cortés to smash the Satanic Empire of Aztec Mexico, built on human sacrifice, making it a place which the Mother of God could visit, as she did in Guadalupe. It was Charles who sent Magellan and his men to make the first voyage around the world.”
This kind of open, honest, and true presentation of what makes the West and our heritage unique and the kind of values that led to democracy and human rights is not at all explored in the vast majority of schools and universities today. In fact, despite being among the foremost scholars in their fields, don't bet on Dr. Carroll or Father Gruder being invited to mainstream campuses any time soon.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Why the U.S. Scores Poorly on International Achievement Tests

As an addendum to the post below on Singapore:

Here is a copy of the results of the TIMSS exam given in several nations around the world on page 9. The study is worth printing out. Singapore ranks at the top, all of the Confucian Asian countries are at the top of the rankings, and the U.S. ranks at the bottom of the industrialized nations, thanks to "progressive" techniques employed by the left-wing education establishment.

Three recommendations--I found each of them invaluable in my Master of Education--for every person interested in education policy and history of American education:

1) The Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing and What We Can Learn from Japanese and Chinese Education by Harold W. Stevenson and James W. Stigler. This book explains why the East Asian countries are doing so well in mathematics and science achievement tests. Hint: It is not because they use "progressive" techniques of education, like ruthless "progressive" professors attempt to trick young, gullible future teachers with very little foreign experience into believing.

It also explains why the U.S. is doing so poorly, despite our powerhouse economy and all the money in the world to throw at schools. Hint: It has to do with liberals' "progressive" teaching techniques that have been in public schools for the past 80 years or so.

2) The Schools We Need: And Why We Don't Have Them by E.D. Hirsch Jr. This is a wonderful gem of a book. Thankfully, the excellent Social Foundations head of the UVA academic center in Northern Virginia, Bernadette Black, though a Deweyan liberal herself, was fair and balanced in providing students with all perspectives (just as education schools should be but rarely are; the UVA Social Foundations program at the Northern Virginia academic center because it can draw from all the Washington think tanks is an exception).

In The Schools We Need, a highly influential book that "progressives" detest because it is so accurate, Hirsch argues clearly and persuasively that the U.S. is failing students and parents because "progressives" have a suspicious view of academic matter. They think schools are for everything under the sun except academic achievement. As such, they then actually perpetuate social inequities because their bogus "progressive" techniques that have failed and have been recycled under different names for the past 80 years or so are the dominant forms of teaching in the public schools. Because so many students lack "intellectual capital" from early on in elementary schools, they have nothing to build upon in higher grades. These "progressive" theories of education have harmed American children's desire and ability to learn.

Very valuable glossary of "progressive" terms and jargon that often fools Americans into thinking the terms mean one thing, e.g. "discovery learning" when the terms mean something completely different is in the back of The Schools We Need, and is worth the purchase price itself.

3) Finally, a fantastic 20th century history of American education by Diane Ravitch, Columbia University PhD, foremost authority on the history of American education and, in particular, the New York City public school system, and scholar at several think tanks: Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform. This is an invaluable tool for anyone interested in the history and philosophy of our education system here in America and why the schools have had so many problems and have not lived up to their promise.

Most libraries should have the three books, but each is definitely worth purchasing as a reference.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Singapore as a Model

In education departments across the country, comparative education is the hot new field. The top two education schools in the nation--Columbia's Teachers College and the Stanford University School of Education--have entire programs dedicated to it. You can specialize in comparing America's education system with others from around the world and even specialize in a particular region, such as Asia, Africa, or Europe. The trend is spreading throughout the country. For instance, in my Education Policy specialization at UVA, we had to take a least one course in comparative education. Having lived in Asia for several years, I chose Asian Education.

In this spirit of diversity, I nominate Singapore as a model that we can learn from here in the United States. When I lived in Asia, I always flew Singapore Airlines, not only for the great service, but also because I loved to get free stopovers in beautiful, fascinating, orderly Singapore. This prosperous city-state, just two degrees north of the equator at the tip of the Malay peninsula, is a staunch U.S. ally in the War on Terror, has one of the best economies in the world, and is the most orderly and well-run country in the world. The city is stunning, with so many fascinating places to visit: Sentosa Island, a terrific zoo and night safari, beautiful gardens throughout the city such as the Botanical Gardens, great museums, terrific transportation system, and excellent colonial architecture. There are no drugs and very little crime, and the people are friendly and well-cultured.

Our education system could learn many things from Singapore:

1) English as the national language, the medium of instruction from primary school on in order that no one ethnic group has to learn the language of another. There is no "bilingual education." Singapore acknowledges that English is the world language of commerce and having students not learn it puts them at a disadvantage.

Why here in the U.S. should we put signs in Spanish when we are a multiracial and multiethnic society like Singapore? English, like in Singapore, should be the unifying language.

2) A very low tolerance for leftist antics, such as the methods used by "social justice" professors and the teachers they have trained.

3) Pride in one's heritage that transcends ethnic divisions. The relationships and tenets of Confucianism are prized as well as a healthy pride in its Western colonial heritage. This pride is for all ethnic groups and promotes a common cultural Singaporean identity.

All ethnic groups in the U.S. should have pride and an identity with our Western, Christian, and classical heritage, even if the mother countries were not influenced by it. Like Singapore, we have always been and should remain a multiracial society, not a multicultural, balkanized society that the "social justice" advocates want.

4) Excellent, low-cost textbooks that stress academic achievement and facts instead of "discovery learning" and "constuctivist" learning techniques, such as the dumbed down "fuzzy math" curricula popular here in the United States.

Singapore has consistently scored in first place for math and science in the TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) tests, as compared with the United States which consistently scores towards the bottom of industrialized states. The Singapore Math series (and its other subjects), used in the schools, has become so renowned that it is even commonly used in homeschooling in the U.S. Would only our public schools use these kind of texts (and save a heckuva lot of money too). As Harold W. Stevenson and James Stigler state in their classic comparative education study The Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing and What We Can Learn from Japanese and Chinese Education, "American textbooks tend to excessively long, repetitive, and distracting and underestimate what children can understand."

In fact, much of Singapore's philosophy towards education is guided by its Confucian attitude. We could learn a lot from Singapore and the East Asian nations, and the recommendations in The Learning Gap--high national standards, defined academic goals of education, not labeling or tracking students and teaching towards the majority, not relying on money to solve problems, teaching to the whole class instead of small individual groups, and not underestimating what children are capable of academically--would be ideal for the United States. Catholic schools in the U.S. have been doing these things for years, hence the much higher achievement in Catholic schools, particularly in the inner city.

Thus, comparative education would appear to be a very noble field that could highly enrich the United States and make us continue to be at the top of the playing field economically, scientifically, and culturally. The descriptions of comparative education programs and classes make sense, such as this from Stanford University:

ICE is a multidisciplinary, international, cross-cultural program of training that places educational problems into an international and comparative framework. Core courses explore how education is related to economic, political, and social development in both developed and developing countries. The program provides a strong theoretical and empirical base for studying education in a rapidly changing global context and for understanding the how and why of successful policy-making to improve educational practice in different social settings.
And this Spring 2007 course description from UVA at the Falls Church academic center:

This interdisciplinary course examines education issues in selected countries
and focuses on the relationships between education and society and the role of
education in national development. Education topics, which transcend national
boundaries and have implications for American schools are also addressed.
Sound good so far? Enter "social justice" professors and "progressives" who so dominate all education departments thoughout the nation.

The studies such as The Learning Gap, which demonstrate the truth about why Confucian countries so outperform the United States, will generally not be made available to students in comparative education courses taught by "social justice" professors and "progressives." After all, these studies are a threat to "progressive" techniques.

Instead, these professors often amazingly convince students that "progressive" techniques that have been used in public schools in the U.S. since the 1920s and have consistently failed and been recycled numerous times (which is why we rank so low in comparative academic achievement) are actually the reason that the Asian countries score so high. (The real reasons are highlighted in blue above.) As this narrative (George Orwell calls it doublethink) unfolds, it turns out that we are not successful compared to the Asian countries because (have you heard this before?) the "progressive" teaching techniques have not yet been implemented correctly to the degree "progressives" and "social justice" professors would like, thanks to conservatives. Never mind "progressives" have had 80 years of virtual domination of the education establishment to do whatever they like.

Thus naive, gullible young students with little foreign experience and who have been taught all their lives by "progressives" actually will believe that Singapore has high achievement in math and science because it is a "multicultural" society with several different languages--therefore, we have proven that the U.S. is strong because of diversity and multiculturalism. In other words, gullible and poorly educated students will emerge from these prestigious M.A. and PhD programs with not a clue as to what the truth is.

The worst is when these education departments with sister programs at universities abroad actually convince other countries that their successful education systems need to be reformed, such as Japan's, in order that these countries gain more societal individualism that has made the U.S. so successful. (It is always comical when liberals attempt to take credit for our success which has come despite our mediocre school system not because of it.)

The U.S. could also learn from what happens when successful countries with conservative education systems attempt to adopt U.S. style failed practices such as "discovery learning" and "student centered" learning. American "progressives" actually convinced Japan that their education system needed "progressive" techniques, and in 2002 Japan embarked upon a radical overhaul of its system. The result since then has been plummeting international test scores.
In order that countries do not make mistakes such as these, comparative education is a valuable field of study--if only you can escape the dominance of the "social justice" and "progressive" obfuscation that so dominates today's education departments.