Thursday, May 28, 2015

Society's Played Us a Terrible Trick

I saw this meme tonight, and wanted to weep, or maybe smash something.  Luckily I couldn't comment on it, so I decided to rant about it here.

First of all, this is not even a reasonable depiction of "our" education system.  (I wonder who the "our" is; if it's human beings in general, there's something to it, but I suspect the US is meant.) Yes, the American education system is flawed, like every other one.  But it is not a one-size-fits-all system.  It could use more flexibility, but it already has quite a lot, more than most countries do.  And I doubt, frankly, that other cultures give their children more wiggle-room; they just cram them into different, but no less confining boxes.

Second of all, not everyone is a genius.  I sent a chat message to the friend who'd shared it, with a little list: Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, Carly Fiorina.  Easy, right?  But I could have added Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sam Harris, and gone on a long time.  Most people are not geniuses.  That's okay, you don't have to be a genius to live a happy, productive life, or to be a decent human being.  (On the other hand, some geniuses are none of those.)   The mass of ordinary human beings aren't all alike either, and their differing abilities, talents, and needs can be recognized and accommodated and nurtured without pretending that they're all geniuses or princesses.  Indeed, good teachers recognize this and will try to do it if they can, if they aren't hampered by work overload and inadequate resources; bad teachers will try to force all kids into a convenient mold, but they can be corrected, and they don't represent the whole system.

I'm currently reading The Manufactured Crisis (Perseus Books, 1995) by David Berliner and Bruce Biddle, which rebuts numerous right-wing falsehoods about American education.  It's very annoying to find people disseminating nonsense from a presumably non-right-wing direction.  (The Reaganite big lies Berliner and Biddle debunked have had considerable staying power and coverage, and I still encounter them twenty years after The Manufactured Crisis was first published, often among liberal and progressive types, so I shouldn't assume that the people who are sharing this image know better.)

(Next to the above image was this meme, a picture of a lion and lioness, captioned "Every King needs its queen."  What if the king is gay?  What if the queen is lesbian?  Lions aren't monogamous anyway.  What is this shit?)