TBT: Sailer and Spotted Toad on Education

The grand experiment in online learning continues apace, although it is (somewhat thankfully) reaching its summer-bound conclusion.  Unlike many colleagues and teachers I’ve spoken with about the hasty transition, I have thoroughly enjoyed the distance learning experience, but I am thankful for the advent of summer.

Recording lectures can be a marathon effort, not unlike actual classroom teaching, requiring rapid shifting from one topic to the next.  I try to record “horizontally”—that is, I try to record multiple lectures for the same class or subject at once—rather than “vertically”—recording for each day’s classes—as “horizontal” recording allows my mind to stay fixed on a single track, but this week I’ve been a “vertical” recorder.  Yesterday I recorded a review lecture on Jefferson’s presidency (with a dash of Madison and the origins of the War of 1812), then a review lesson on Congress, then a Music lesson about the Phrygian mode.  I call myself a “Renaissance Man” in the post below; I might be right!

Of course, almost all of teaching is, as one colleague recently put it, “rebuilding a plane while it’s in mid-air.”  A beautiful, gleaming craft takes off confidently in August; by Labor Day, you’re buffing out the first spots and adjusting the navigational systems; by October, you’ve replaced the entire fuselage.  Christmas is a lonely island in the South Pacific where you refuel and make calculations for the next leg of the journey, which feels like flying over 6000 miles of ocean with no land in site.  From January to Spring Break the plane pretty much gets rebuilt entirely, until it’s no longer properly the plane you begin with.

By summer, you’re flying the glider the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, and not the F-16 or B-52 or 747 you started with for the year.  Not only that, but your canvas wings are punctured and your tail-fin is missing.  You’re not even worried about saving the plane at this point—you’re just trying to land somewhere without killing yourself or anyone else.

But I digress.  It’s been, overall, a pleasant experience since day one, for reasons detailed elsewhere, and my Kitty Hawk glider is looking more like an F-16 at this point in the year than it usually does.

In casting about for this week’s edition of TBT, I stumbled upon this post from nearly a year ago, a look at Steve Sailer’s review of blogger (and former NYC science teacher) Spotted Toad‘s book 3 Ways of Going on a Field Trip: Stories about Teaching and Learning, which I read shortly after writing this blog post.  The book is a short read, and quite good, as it details the challenges a young Toad faced in adapting to the chaos of an inner city Middle School Science classroom.

With my own summer vacation approaching, and the blog focusing more and more lately on education, I’m kicking around the idea of putting together an eBook with my own reflections on teaching, with some unorthodox proposals about what the field could look like in the future.  Spotted Toad’s work could be a source of inspiration.

Regardless, here is May 2019’s “Sailer and Spotted Toad on Education“:

Demographer Steve Sailer has a review on Taki’s Magazine of a new book from blogger Spotted Toad.  The book, 13 Ways of Going on a Field Trip: Stories about Teaching and Learning, is a narrative memoir detailing Toad’s decade teaching in public schools in the Bronx.

Sailer, a dedicated statistician in his own right, lauds Spotted Toad’s statistics-laden blog, but points out that his memoir eschews statistics in favor of narrative.  This focus on narrative, as Sailer points out, does not detract from the book’s insights about education, but makes them more viscerally real for the lay reader.

Based on Sailer’s summary of the book (which I plan to purchase and read soon), Spotted Toad’s teaching experience led him to insights similar to my own; that is, that administrators and school boards spend too much time chasing education fads and pushing a romantic narrative about teaching, rather than just getting out of the way and letting teachers… well, teach.

Toad was hired as part of the once-fashionable Teach for America program, which placed young, enthusiastic idealists into poor school districts, usually in tough inner city schools.  The theory was that bad or lazy teachers weren’t engaged enough, so schools needed an injection of Dead Poets’ Society-inspired young’uns who would bend heaven-and-earth to reach urban youths.

Sailer speculates about why Teach for America was so popular in the latter part of the last decade, and suggests that it’s because upper-middle class New York Times readers forwarded glowing articles about TFA to their out-of-work, overly-educated kids.

That somewhat comports with my own experience, as I briefly considered joining TFA upon finishing graduate school at the height of the Great Recession.  I think it’s even more accurate to say it was popular because it promised work during a time when few people could find it, and didn’t require lengthy additional years of education and training.

Sailer pooh-poohs the idea that TFA could create qualified teachers, and he’s not entirely wrong—the program was certainly overly optimistic about its own efficacy—but I think the apprenticeship model of “learning on the job” is one of the better ways to learn the craft.  Most education classes are a joke, and other than a few useful pedagogical insights, my impression is that many of them are indoctrination camps for the latest progressive educational fads.  I’d much rather have a “pure” young teacher learning the ropes with the assistance of battle-hardened veterans in the trenches than to have that teacher languish away in a series of Two-Minute Hates for another couple of years.

Indeed, that’s been my big complaint with the State of South Carolina’s alternative certification program.  We have a teacher shortage, but you want me to shell out cash and three years of my time to teach in a crummy public school?  No thanks.  How about adopt my proposal to grant automatic certification to any private school teacher with three years of teaching experience and a Master’s degree in a relevant field, or with five years and a Bachelor’s?  That would solve the problem more quickly, and would bring a number of qualified teachers into public schools quickly.

My premise is that credentials don’t make a good teacher; classroom experience does.  I’m generally anti-guildist, as I fancy myself a bit of a Renaissance Man.  Of course, that comes from my personal experiences professionally:  out of necessity, I’ve taught a slew of social studies courses, as well as music at different levels, for nearly a decade.  I would have benefited from some education classes to learn solid pedagogical methods in some areas (particularly music education), but I’ve picked up many of these methods through trial-and-error, and sheer force of will.  When you have to get twenty inexperienced middle school musicians to play a Christmas concert, you figure out how to make it work (and sound good).

Regardless, Spotted Toad’s experiences hit upon some common problems in education, particularly education policy.  Toad writes of the coming-and-going educational fads and programs, some supported by big-wigs like Bill Gates, that are championed, implemented hastily (and at great profit to the companies that market and develop these programs), and then abandoned in five years when some new, shiny trend emerges.

Take a moment to read Sailer’s review this morning, as it offers some interesting insights into the push-and-pull of education policy, and an interesting, if sad, retrospective on the bungled federal efforts in the Bush and Obama Administrations to address education in the United States.

That said, for all the doom-and-gloom surrounding discussion of education in America, Sailer ends on a positive note:

For example, as I’ve pointed out over the years, on the international PISA school tests, Asian-Americans do almost as well as Northeast Asian countries, white Americans outscore most white countries other than Finland and few other northern realms, Latino-Americans outperform all Latin American countries, and African-Americans beat the handful of black Caribbean countries that even try the test.

We Americans do spend a lot to achieve these educational results, but our outcomes by global standards are much less terrible than most Americans assume. (In particular, Indian states that have tried the PISA bomb it, scoring at sub-Saharan levels.)

At least we’re beating our peers in other countries—usually.

Lazy Sunday XXIV: Education

The school year is back in full swing, and I am already beat.  It looks like it’s going to be a good year, and I have some very bright students, but my teaching load is substantially busier than last year, and my private lesson empire continues to grow.  Those are all blessings, but it means a lot more work for yours portly.

That’s all to say that I thought this Sunday’s edition of Lazy Sunday would be perfect for looking back at my education-related posts:

  • Lincoln on Education” – a little post consisting of remarks I made to the Florence County (SC) Republican Party back in September 2018 (actually, it may have been October—one of my “Historical Moments” was skipped in the program accidentally, so I reused it the following month).  I looked at the education—and the views thereon—of President Abraham Lincoln.  He was an avid learner, and saw education as the means by which he could improve himself.  Apparently, it worked!
  • Teachers Quitting in Record Numbers – Reflections on Education” – this lengthy post outlines my own observations about why teachers quit the profession—and some of its major problems.  My main idea was “flexibility”:  in pay, in lesson plans, and in certification.  Public education is a great deal for bad teachers—they coast along, cashing a paycheck no matter how well they do—but a poor one for good teachers.  Private education is great, but it can’t compete, at least in the rural South, with public education in terms of teacher pay and benefits.

    But the biggest concern is what I elegantly dubbed “administrative bullcrap.”  Teachers get loaded down with all of these duties that are only distantly related to their alleged jobs:  molding young minds.

  • The State of Education” – this post details the travails of a New York City French teacher, a good teacher whose experiences in multiple schools illustrate how public education is a bad gig for good teachers.  The stories are jaw-dropping, but hardly surprising now:  zero administrative support for discipline, a “talent show” that nearly devolves into a sweaty orgy, violent outbursts from animalistic students, etc.  Terrifying stuff.
  • Sailer and Spotted Toad on Education” – this post was a bit “meta”—it’s an overview of a review of a book.  That makes my post tertiary commentary at best.  The post looks at demographer Steve Sailer’s review of blogger Spotted Toad’s book 13 Ways of Going on a Field Trip: Stories about Teaching and Learning a narrative memoir detailing Toad’s decade teaching in public schools in the Bronx.  I’ve picked up the book but still haven’t read it (I’m working through Milo’s Middle Rages: Why the Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America; review coming soon), but it looks to be an interesting read.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday:  The State of Education Update” – this post is an update of “The State of Education,” written nearly on the eve of my return to this present school year.  As SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive, you’ll have to subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more to read it.  Tantalizing, no?

So, there you have it.  Now to fulfill my obligation to my wonderful SubscribeStar subscribers and get their delayed post done.

Happy School Year!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Lazy Sunday XI: Walls

Today’s post marks twenty weeks of consecutive daily posts—140 days in a row.  I’ve written so many posts, I’m beginning to forget that I ever wrote some of them.  If you’d to support my daily scribbling, consider subscribing to my page on SubscribeStar.

Walls work.  We understand this fact on a visceral level—humans have been building walls around their cities and kingdoms since the dawn of civilization, and continue building them today.  The Israelites rebuilt the Jerusalem’s walls as a form of national and spiritual renewal.

The only legitimate question regarding a border wall along the US-Mexican border is technical in nature:  how do you build an effective barrier along thousands of miles of varied terrain?  Technical questions are difficult to solve, but that doesn’t invalidate the effectiveness of a wall once it’s completed.  Further, even tricky engineering problems are solvable.

Indeed, many of the questions that plague our nation are not difficult to answer—it’s just that the answers are unpleasant, or politically inconvenient.  When a Democrat argues that the construction of a border wall is not feasible from engineering standpoint, it’s a smokescreen.  The progressives are only concerned about expanding their voting base on the cheap, while supplying their techno-elite masters with cheap, quasi-slave labor.

With that in mind, this week’s Lazy Sunday looks back at my posts on all things wall-related.  It’s a sign of our times that anyone has had to write even this much about walls:

  • Walls Work” – the title says it all.  This piece looked at a piece from American Thinker that pointed out dramatically how effective border barriers are.  When Israel constructed a wall along its border with Egypt, “it cut illegal immigration to zero.”  I emphasize that part of the quotation in the original blog post just to make sure no one misses it.  In cast the Israeli example isn’t convincing enough, consider that the…
  • Hungarian Border Wall is 100% Effective” – yep, Hungary built a fence along its border with Serbia in the second half of 2015.  The number of immigrants entering Hungary fell from 138,396 to fifteen.  Look at those figures again, numerically and side-by-side:  138,396 -> 15.  My knowledge of scientific notation has eroded too much to write out the exact percentage of that drop, but let’s call it 100% – 15.

    Granted, Israel and Hungary both enjoy relatively short borders compared to the southern border of the United States.  But the results speak for themselves.  The billions saved in medicating, educating, housing, and detaining illegal immigrants would be worth the one-time, up-front investment.  Aren’t progressives always lecturing us about government “investments”?  Further, the upward force on wages—no longer flooded with cheap labor from abroad—would create an additional return on this crucial national security investment.

  • Buchanan on the National Emergency” – in order to fund construction of the border wall, President Trump controversially declared a national emergency in February, which then allowed him to shift around existing national security funds to build a section of the wall.  Conservatives were, understandably, dubious and concerned about this executive action, which they feared constituted executive overreach in the vein of President Obama’s “phone and a pen” rule by fiat.

    Pat Buchanan—ever the lucid, original thinker—takes Congress, not President Trump, to task.  As I point out in this piece, Buchanan argues that the president was merely using authority Congress granted him in the National Emergencies Act of 1976.

    And as I argued in the first essay on this list, President Trump has a constitutional duty to protect national security under his Article II powers.

  • Nehemiah and National Renewal” – this essay was the first of a two-part analysis of the Book of Nehemiah, and has been featured on Lazy Sunday lists before.  In this essay, I argue that, just as rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls was an act of national renewal for the Israelites, so building a border wall would be a firm sign of America’s renewed commitment to its values and sovereignty.  Of all the essays on this list, it’s the one I most recommend you read.
  • Walls Work, Part II: Sailer on Walls” – this post covered a book review by Steve Sailer, a recent feature of my “Dissident Write II” list of great writers.  Sailer reviewed Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick, by David Frye, which makes a compelling case that walls protect civilization, allow for civilization, and create stable societies.

    America enjoyed the luxury of two moats—the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—for 150 years, before naval and aerial technology took those natural barriers away.  Now, we face a sinister, because subtle, existential threat in the form of mass illegal immigration.  A border barrier is one key step in stemming the flow—and of preserving our civilization.

    I’m hoping to pick up Frye’s book soon, and plan to write a detailed review of my own.  That review will likely be a SubscribeStar exclusive.

Enjoy your Sunday, and remember that “good fences make good neighbors.”

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Dissident Write II: Dissident Boogaloo

Yesterday I looked back at an old post, “Dissident Write.”  That piece detailed five of my favorite political writers.  Their work is engaging, insightful (occasionally inciteful), and memorable.

Staying power is difficult to achieve in the written word—think of all the famous authors’ books you’ve never heard of—especially when writing about the inherently transient and shifting topic of politics; it’s a testament to those writers’ skill that they achieve it.

With Memorial Day coming up—and summer break hot on its heels—it seemed like a good time to get around—finally!—to another list of excellent writers.  These scribes of Western Civilization’s twilight years possess the intellectual chops and mirthful fun that draw me to them.

Of course, if you like my writing, you can support it over at SubscribeStar.

All shameless plugs aside, here are five more must-read writers (with the usual disclaimer—I do not endorse or believe in everything these or any other writers believe, including other sources to which I link; I’m just intellectually curious and read expansively):

  • Conrad Black – As I was writing today’s post (on Wednesday) night, I searched for Lord Conrad Black and discovered President Trump issued him a full pardon for his egregious 2011 conviction on wire fraud and obstruction of justice charges.  Sheer serendipity.  Lord Black’s writing is robust and sophisticated, like an Arby’s Beefwich with class (a metaphor he would never stoop to employ).  Read his essay on his conviction and pardon—his barely-concealed rage at the rank injustice he suffered at the hands of grandstanding prosecutors and judges never breaks the surface of his polished, exact prose.
    Lord Black remains one of the few National Review contributors I will read.  I’m a conservative firebrand, but I appreciate that Lord Black is conservative in an older, loftier, more sanguine sense, a la William F. Buckley, Jr.  He’s a fan of FDR and Nixon (I am of the latter, but not the former), and has written books about both of them, as well as one about President Trump.  He’s an historian in the mold of the British nobility—a skilled researcher with the funds and time to dig deeply into the archives.  I highly recommend any of his articles, and I hope to read his massive books soon.
  • Dalrock – Dalrock is the pseudonym of an anonymous Texan, a father of two children and devoted husband.  Dalrock is also a traditional Christian, which makes him somewhat unusual as a fixture of the “manosphere,” the universe of writers and modern-day Sophists dedicated to promoting neo-masculinity and Western civilization.

    Dalrock is a bit out of place here because many of those writers—like the recently deplatformed Roissy of Chateau Heartiste—are pick-up artists (PUAs).  One day I’ll have to write an intellectual history of that movement, as it’s a fascinating, often disturbing glimpse into a world that went from giving nervous soyboys tips on how to pick up chicks into a movement that came to reject the sexual nihilism of our age.

    But I digress.  Dalrock is a true traditionalist in the biblical sense:  he actually believes and applies the Word of God.  He also goes hard after other Christians who try to smooth over the very clear teachings of the Bible on issues like homosexuality, marriage, and feminism.  He particularly harps on the heresy of chivalry, a gynocentric cult that wormed its way into Christianity, distorting our faith in inexorable ways (Dalrock rests this argument on no less a scholar than C.S. Lewis).

    Dalrock is probably the best writer to synthesize the social scientific works influential to the red-pilled mansophere with traditional Christian doctrine, and probably presaged the so-called “God Pill” awakening of key figures in that movement.

  • John Derbyshire – John Derbyshire now writes for immigration patriot website VDare.com, and releases a great podcast every Friday night/Saturday morning.  Derb immigrated to the United States from Great Britain in the 1970s; he married one of his Chinese students while teaching there; and he writes about math.  He’s also a cancer survivor.  Clearly, this guy has some interesting stuff to say.
    National Review
     fired a cancerous Derb because of a piece he wrote for Taki’s Magazine back in 2012 entitled “The Talk: Nonblack Version.”  You’ll recall that during that unhappy period there constantly seemed to be incidences of police officers killing young black men.  Most of those incidents were justified—as would always come out after weeks of rioting and white progressive virtue-signalling—but some weren’t.  The mainstream media began featuring stories about black parents giving their kids “The Talk”—how to behave around the police so, presumably, they wouldn’t get shot simply for being black.

    Derb’s controversial piece—still listed first under “Greatest Hits” on Taki’s Magazine—included advice to his half-Asian, half-Caucasian children on how to deal with black Americans they encounter in their lives (treat everyone with respect and as individuals, but keep your head on a swivel, essentially).

    Personally, I don’t think it’s Derb’s best work, but it didn’t warrant his firing.  NR grew excessively cautious and squeamish, so they let Derb go.  He beat his cancer, and continues to write at VDare.com.  His writing is also collected at his personal website, and he meticulously releases transcripts of his podcasts and a monthly diary of miscellany.  Derb’s mind is fecund and curious, so his writing is always lively and far-ranging.

  • Steve Sailer – Regular readers know that I often reference Steve Sailer’s work, especially his book reviews.  From border walls to education to surfing, Sailer writes and thinks creatively across a broad range of topics.  I’m a sucker for the polymathic Renaissance Man, a mold that Sailer shares with Lord Black and John Derbyshire.

    Sailer is a demographer and statistician, and his work on human biodiversity asks tough questions about life in a multiracial, multicultural society.  Sailer and Derb are a bit heavy on the race realism stuff, but Sailer’s deep statistical analyses of biology’s impact on human social development are fascinating (consider:  he has an entire essay on evolution and golf courses).

    Whether you agree with Sailer’s conclusions, he’s an erudite, far-ranging writer.  I always learn something new and intriguing when reading Sailer’s pieces.

  • Taki Theodoracopulos – The “Taki” of Taki’s Magazine, Taki (I’ll refrain from calling him “Theodoracopulos,” because it’s a pain to type, and because no one who works for him calls him that) is, from what I can tell, a super-wealthy journalist who spends his free time attending parties with the Royal Family and skiing in Gstaad, as well as mastering judo.  He also really, really hates Arabs.

    Taki’s writing is sometimes a bit self-indulgent, even for me.  But when you’ve got millions in the bank, you can afford to write free-flowing, semi-autobiographical essays about your karate lessons and attempted womanizing.

    Taki hearkens back to a vanishing breed of unapologetic nobility.  He wistfully yearns for the old New York, for when men wore suits on planes and women were feminine and winsome.  His writing his mirthful and wry, but also contains a hint of melancholic nostalgia for a better, vanished time.

So, there you have it.  Some more of my favorite writers on the Dissident Right (some, naturally, are more dissident than others).  As I wrote immediately before the list, I don’t necessarily agree with any or all of these authors’ conclusions, but I do appreciate their erudition, their style, and their commitment to the pursuit of Truth, wherever the facts take them.

Careful readers will note that many of these writers, as well as those from the first “Dissident Write” listicle, are contributors at Taki’s Magazine (and this list includes the owner!).  That’s no coincidence.  I stumbled upon TM a few years ago after reading about a campus protest against John Derbyshire in National Review (when I still subscribed to and read the print edition cover-to-cover every two weeks).  It’s really brought to my attention some excellent, relatively unknown writers, so I’m thrilled to share them with you.

Check out these writers’ work, and draw your own conclusions.  Have any recommendations?  I’m always looking for new, interesting perspectives.  Share your favorites in the comments.

Happy Reading!

–TPP

Walls Work, Part II: Sailer on Walls

Demographer Steve Sailer’s been nailing it lately in his book reviews.  On Wednesday, I wrote about his review of Spotted Toad’s new book on education.  Last week, Sailer reviewed another workWalls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick, by David Frye.  The key insight of the book:  walls make civilization possible (a corollary:  barbarians and invaders build bridges).

The book sounds fascinating, and like Spotted Toad’s work, it’s one I intend to purchase and read soon.  Sailer hits some of the highlights:  walls were, for thousands of years, the thin line between civilized societies and barbarians.  Where walls ended, barbarians ruled.

Walls provided effective protection against attacks until the Age of Gunpowder and heavy artillery ended their efficacy.  Constantinople withstood conquest for a thousand years before the Turks breached its great walls with the mighty bombard.

The current mania for “building bridges” is at odds with most of human experience.  Sailer points out all of the instances in which invaders have used bridges to attack their foes:  Persians crossing the Hellespont lashed pontoons togethera feat repeated when the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453.

Indeed, walls don’t just keep bad guys out; they also protect the freedoms of those within.  To quote Sailer (with an embedded quotation from Frye in italics) at length:

Frye pithily sums up:

[Where] there are no border walls, there will be city walls, and where there are no city walls, there will be neighborhood walls….

Thus, Walls concludes with a quick history of the gated communities favored by Hollywood celebrities, such as the Malibu Colony, Hidden Hills, and Beverly Park.

Of course, where there are no neighborhood walls, there will tend to be walls around yards, often with broken bottles on top.

Granted, in the United States, the Jeffersonian tradition was to defend the country with a strong navy, which allowed, among many other benefits, houses to have open front lawns. But traditional American neighborliness seems racist now, so we’ve undertaken to import millions of people from more clannish and hostile cultures.

Put another way:  a strong national defense—bolstered with well-maintained, well-defended barriers—promotes freedom at home.  You don’t need a wall around your house when law enforcement protects against criminals, the military protects against foreign invaders, and sound immigration policy keeps out criminal riff-raff.

Hungary’s border wall is nearly 100% effective at keeping “refugees” out.  There is nothing un-American or unpatriotic about a wall, and open borders are a moral hazard for citizens and immigrants alike.

History—the sum total of human experience, not the “moral arc” dream-state of progressives—supports President Trump’s border wall.  The burden of proof is on the anti-border crowd.  History suggests that societies without border barriers cannot long remain free, and will soon become militaristic conquerors devoted fully to warfare.  Walls allow the people inside to be safe and free, and to specialize beyond a constant fight for survival.

Let’s hope many more Americans read Frye’s book—or, at the very least, Sailer’s excellent review of it—and come to support the border wall and a strong immigration policy.

Sailer and Spotted Toad on Education

Demographer Steve Sailer has a review on Taki’s Magazine of a new book from blogger Spotted Toad.  The book, 13 Ways of Going on a Field Trip: Stories about Teaching and Learning, is a narrative memoir detailing Toad’s decade teaching in public schools in the Bronx.

Sailer, a dedicated statistician in his own right, lauds Spotted Toad’s statistics-laden blog, but points out that his memoir eschews statistics in favor of narrative.  This focus on narrative, as Sailer points out, does not detract from the book’s insights about education, but makes them more viscerally real for the lay reader.

Based on Sailer’s summary of the book (which I plan to purchase and read soon), Spotted Toad’s teaching experience led him to insights similar to my own; that is, that administrators and school boards spend too much time chasing education fads and pushing a romantic narrative about teaching, rather than just getting out of the way and letting teachers… well, teach.

Toad was hired as part of the once-fashionable Teach for America program, which placed young, enthusiastic idealists into poor school districts, usually in tough inner city schools.  The theory was that bad or lazy teachers weren’t engaged enough, so schools needed an injection of Dead Poets’ Society-inspired young’uns who would bend heaven-and-earth to reach urban youths.

Sailer speculates about why Teach for America was so popular in the latter part of the last decade, and suggests that it’s because upper-middle class New York Times readers forwarded glowing articles about TFA to their out-of-work, overly-educated kids.

That somewhat comports with my own experience, as I briefly considered joining TFA upon finishing graduate school at the height of the Great Recession.  I think it’s even more accurate to say it was popular because it promised work during a time when few people could find it, and didn’t require lengthy additional years of education and training.

Sailer pooh-poohs the idea that TFA could create qualified teachers, and he’s not entirely wrong—the program was certainly overly optimistic about its own efficacy—but I think the apprenticeship model of “learning on the job” is one of the better ways to learn the craft.  Most education classes are a joke, and other than a few useful pedagogical insights, my impression is that many of them are indoctrination camps for the latest progressive educational fads.  I’d much rather have a “pure” young teacher learning the ropes with the assistance of battle-hardened veterans in the trenches than to have that teacher languish away in a series of Two-Minute Hates for another couple of years.

Indeed, that’s been my big complaint with the State of South Carolina’s alternative certification program.  We have a teacher shortage, but you want me to shell out cash and three years of my time to teach in a crummy public school?  No thanks.  How about adopt my proposal to grant automatic certification to any private school teacher with three years of teaching experience and a Master’s degree in a relevant field, or with five years and a Bachelor’s?  That would solve the problem more quickly, and would bring a number of qualified teachers into public schools quickly.

My premise is that credentials don’t make a good teacher; classroom experience does.  I’m generally anti-guildist, as I fancy myself a bit of a Renaissance Man.  Of course, that comes from my personal experiences professionally:  out of necessity, I’ve taught a slew of social studies courses, as well as music at different levels, for nearly a decade.  I would have benefited from some education classes to learn solid pedagogical methods in some areas (particularly music education), but I’ve picked up many of these methods through trial-and-error, and sheer force of will.  When you have to get twenty inexperienced middle school musicians to play a Christmas concert, you figure out how to make it work (and sound good).

Regardless, Spotted Toad’s experiences hit upon some common problems in education, particularly education policy.  Toad writes of the coming-and-going educational fads and programs, some supported by big-wigs like Bill Gates, that are championed, implemented hastily (and at great profit to the companies that market and develop these programs), and then abandoned in five years when some new, shiny trend emerges.

Take a moment to read Sailer’s review this morning, as it offers some interesting insights into the push-and-pull of education policy, and an interesting, if sad, retrospective on the bungled federal efforts in the Bush and Obama Administrations to address education in the United States.

That said, for all the doom-and-gloom surrounding discussion of education in America, Sailer ends on a positive note:

For example, as I’ve pointed out over the years, on the international PISA school tests, Asian-Americans do almost as well as Northeast Asian countries, white Americans outscore most white countries other than Finland and few other northern realms, Latino-Americans outperform all Latin American countries, and African-Americans beat the handful of black Caribbean countries that even try the test.

We Americans do spend a lot to achieve these educational results, but our outcomes by global standards are much less terrible than most Americans assume. (In particular, Indian states that have tried the PISA bomb it, scoring at sub-Saharan levels.)

At least we’re beating our peers in other countries—usually.

Sailer on Progressive Split

Demographer and statistician Steve Sailer has a piece up at Taki’s Magazine entitled “Bernie vs. Ta-Nehisi,” detailing the major split within modern progressivism between old-school Marxists and social justice warriors.  Naturally, there’s a great deal of overlap between those groups, but Sailer looks at the major wedge between them:  their views on race.

First, let’s define our terms here:  the “old-school Marxists” like Bernie think race is a tool of the upper classes to divide the social classes.  Part of this approach, as Sailer points out, is electoral pragmatism:  align the have-nots against the haves, regardless of race, to maximize voters.  There are more non-rich people than there are rich, so promising Medicare for all and to “soak the rich” Huey Long-style can bribe voters of all stripes.

The other side—what I’ve referred to broadly referred to as the “social justice warriors”—are the ones obsessed with race, and who see racial injustice everywhere.  For Sailer, the symbolic leader of this group is racialist mediocrity Ta-Nehisi Coates, the former blogger made good because white liberals feel good about themselves when reading his rambling essays.

(I imagine it’s a sensation of righteous self-flagellation that isn’t too dangerous or life-altering for the reader:  they get the sadistic satisfaction of acknowledging their own implicit bias, racism, and privilege, while feeling like they’re making a difference because they breathlessly show their support for an erudite-sounding black guy.  But I digress.)

The former group wants to buy off all voters with as many publicly-funded goodies as possible; the latter wants to buy off minority voters with reparations and other publicly-funded goodies, all while chastising white voters (and gleefully awaiting the approaching day that whites are a minority, too).

Sailer, who refers to Coates as “TNC,” sums this division up succinctly:

The war between Bernie and TNC pits the old Marx-influenced left, with its hardheaded obsession with class, power, and money, against the new Coatesian left, which cares more about whether Marvel’s next movie features a black, female, or nonbinary superhero.

The rest of Sailer’s essay focuses on the obsession with racial identity and representation that dominates “Coatesian left.”  It’s not enough that everyone, black or white, share in Sanders’s redistributionist schemes; rather, blacks specifically must benefit at the expense of whites as a form of payback for slavery, alleged “redlining” in during the Depression, and “institutional racism.”

Further, the Coatesian/social justice Left demands “representation,” because a black superhero will magically improve the lot of black Americans.  Another Sailer quotation:

Coates’ notion that mass entertainment culture has been devoted to stereotyping black people as undeserving is, of course, absurd. But it helps explain some of his popularity in an era in which it is considered sophisticated to argue that Will Smith shouldn’t be cast as Serena and Venus Williams’ tennis dad because he’s not as dark-skinned as Idris Elba (while others argue that Smith, unlike Elba, deserves the role because he is an ADOS: American Descendant of Slaves).

Can you imagine what Socialist Senator Sanders thinks of these energies devoted to which millionaire should get richer?

Unlike Bernie, Coates is concerned with the old-fashioned comic-book virtues that appeal to 9-year-old boys: honor, status, representation, heredity, antiquity, and vengeance.

Revenge is a dish best served cold.  Maybe that’s why so many prominent Democratic presidential hopefuls are reheating such a tired idea.

Neither Sanders-style Marxism or Coatesian racial grievance will repair the United States’s fractured culture, but it will be interesting to see which side wins the Left.  Demographics suggest the latter will prevail over time.

Regardless, at bottom, both of these movements are redistributionist, and seek to plunder accumulated wealth and productivity to unprecedented degrees.  One might be traditional Marxism and the other Cultural Marxism—but they’re both Marxism.

Surf’s Up

Demographer and statistician Steve Sailer has a book review (“Surfer Privilege” at Taki’s Magazine) of war correspondent William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.  It’s about Finnegan’s idyllic youth in Southern California and Hawaii at a time when a working-class Irish family could afford real estate in some of the United States’ most desirable zip codes, while also supporting four children (Finnegan’s father worked in television, but was a pump jockey at a gas station upon first moving to Los Angeles; he could purchase a house and support his wife and child on that salary).

I recommend reading the book review linked above, as it contains classic Sailerean demographic analysis.  The real estate opportunities accessible to working- and middle-class Americans in the 1950s and 1960s are truly astonishing, and Sailer argues that, if you were born in 1946, the world was your oyster (Sailer was born in 1952, which he argues was also a pretty good year to enter into this world).

The real estate analysis rings true.  I’m 33 and earn a modest income as a history and music teacher at a small private school in rural South Carolina, which I supplement with adjunct teaching at a local technical college and with private music lessons (as well as the occasional music gig).  I’m also an extreme budgeter and put a significant chunk of my earnings into retirement accounts (IRAs and a 403(b) through my employer), and I drive a twelve-year old Dodge minivan.  While I live like a king compared to most people in human history, I still rent a little cottage and don’t support any dependents, much less a wife.  I’ll probably work hard for most of my life (though my long-term retirement planning should pay off over the course of decades; I’m definitely “getting rich slowly”), and I’m not counting on Social Security being around when I hit 70.

Had I been born when my parents were, I’d probably have a house, a wife, four kids, a pension, and a convertible, earning six figures in “consulting.”

I’m not complaining.  I highly value hard work, and I don’t think demography is always destiny (just look at all the miserable, divorced Boomers who are trying to figure out what went wrong).  I believe God has a purpose for us, and we live in our respective time for a reason (not that I haven’t, at times, experienced a sense of dislocation from our current era).

But Sailer’s demographic analysis of the period under consideration—a time that was so safe and prosperous, a kid could spend thousands of hours surfing and his parents didn’t much worry about him—is compelling, and points to long-term problems endemic in our culture today, such as mass immigration, an overly-rosy view of diversity, and idealistic subjectivism.

The Boomer generation was blessed to ride a long wave of economic prosperity and expansion.  As a product of the Great Recession, I’m growing more optimistic that future generations will enjoy similar gains.  I’m also cautiously hopeful that economic growth can prevent the unfortunate Millennial tendency toward idealizing socialism.

Hopefully, we’ll all be able to say “surf’s up!” again soon.