Jun 112015
 

Andrew Bernstein

 
 
 
 

Bob Metz and I interview Dr. Andrew Bernstein on episode 404 of Just Right.
Dr. Bernstein holds a PhD in Philosophy from the Graduate School of the City University of New York. He has taught Philosophy at the State University of New York at Purchase, Marist College, Hunter College, and the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is an Author, speaker for the Ayn Rand Institute, and an advocate for Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.

Mar 222012
 

On March 22nd, 2012 I sat down with Lord Christopher Monckton for a one-on-one discussion of education, journalism, Catholicism, Islam, conservatism, and philosophy.

Mar 082012
 

Stockholm SyndromeLast week the Fraser Institute released a ranking of the schools in Ontario based on the scores each school received from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO).

The EQAO is an arm’s-length Crown agency of the Government of Ontario instituted under the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris in 1996.  Its mandate is to conduct province-wide tests at key points in every student’s primary, junior and secondary education and report the results to educators, parents and the public.  The question on EQAO’s tests are developed by Ontario educators and linked directly to the learning expectations in The Ontario Curriculum. The EQAO has an annual budget of approximately $33 million.

When I was a trustee on the London Board of Education I remember the reaction of the teachers, administrators, trustees and unions to this form of standardized testing. They were opposed to it.  But not opposed on any solid educational grounds.  They opposed it purely on partisan political grounds.  The memory of the hatred the teachers unions had for the Mike Harris years is still seared into the minds of many today.  That was a time when the common pronunciation of the word “harASSment” was changed to “HARisment” to reflect the harASSment the teachers felt they were being subjected to by the HARRIS govt.

Every time the EQAO scores are released we see the same teachers and administrators line up to condemn the results mainly because of the sense of effrontery they feel at having their profession assessed by the government.

And no wonder.  The results (although I have to admit many failings in the validity and reliability of the testing) have always shown how poorly the public education system is at achieving the results mandated by their own curriculum.  And while the nature of the curriculum is a topic for another day, suffice it to say that it is a failure in itself; a failure to teach the necessary literacy and numeracy skills to proceed to the next stage in their lives.

The ranking of school scores is always frowned upon because it reveals something of the education system which teachers and boards would like to ignore.  First, areas of lower social demographics or immigration do poorer than schools that have children from more affluent and established families, and second, that if these factors are accounted for what is revealed is the poor teaching ability of the staff at particular schools.

In London the elementary school which scored the lowest was Sir John A. MacDonald, a school which is in a lower income area of town and has a considerable number of immigrant children. However, these same demographics can be found in many other schools in this city and in the province and these schools scored higher than Sir John A. MacDonald.  In fact almost every school scored higher since “Mac” had a score of zero out of ten.

What I find most interesting is not that a school can perform so poorly on the EQAO tests but that the parents of the children attending this school don’t protest but instead actually praise the teachers and staff at the school.

I believe they are suffering from a form of “Stockholm Syndrome”.

From Wikipedia:

“In psychology, Stockholm Syndrome is an apparently paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.

“Stockholm Syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”

Perhaps the most infamous victim who exhibited “Stockholm Syndrome” was  Patty Hearst, kidnapped by the so-called Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. After two months in captivity, she actively took part in a robbery they were orchestrating.

Parents of these poorly scoring schools, in fact most parents who have children in the public education system, a system which graduates many children who are illiterate are incapable of functioning at the same level as say students who graduated in the earlier half of the last century, seem to rally around in defense of the school system whenever it feels threatened by things such as standardized testing.

Why?  They, like a kidnap victim, are presented with little choice.  They are forced to have their children educated in the Ontario Curriculum (whether in public or private schools).  They are forced to pay into the system even if they wish to send their children to another school or home school they are still forced to pay into the public or Catholic education systems.  They feel bewildered at the array of the ever increasing complexity of the curriculum deliberately made so by the teaching profession with the sole purpose of excluding any layman from doing what is actually a rather simple task – teaching.

Left with this feeling of being captured in a system of force they, like Patty Heart actually support the system even when data shows the harm that it is doing to their children.

Here is an excerpt from one parent who had children in Sir John A. Macdonald which aired on the Andy Oudman radio program here in London:

“I have no problem with the education my children have received at Sir John A. MacDonald.  I see remarkable things at that school every day.  The staff are incredible!  Just incredible.  And I’ve seen a lot of teachers. I’ve probably seen a hundred different teachers over the last 12 years and this group of people are a team.  You can feel it when you walk into the front door of that school; the camaraderie, the compassion the care and the excitement for teaching.  They want to see every child succeed, and whether that’s one step ahead or 10 steps ahead, every step ahead is progress for our students regardless of their background, regardless of their ability. That’s what we focus on.

“I’m not a teacher and I know that the foundation they received from Junior Kindergarten to grade eight was exceptional.

“We’ve considered moving not because of the school. We would find a way to get our kids back to the school if we moved out of the area. Mac is an exceptional place.”

This after hearing that her children’s school was ranked 2,689th out of 2,695 elementary schools in the province.

Stockholm Syndrome can be the only explanation for why parents praise a school system which is crippling their children’s minds.

But the education system is not the only area where we see the “Stockholm Syndrome” at work.  It can be found in any area where force is used to, in-effect, victimize or capture the public with no alternatives just as with actual kidnap victims.

When we are told that fire-fighters make over $100,000 a year we don’t hesitate to praise the good work they do, even though the good work they do is done so infrequently and is usually done by unpaid volunteers in countless communities in the country.  The same praise is given to policeman even though the police department has refused to come in under budget year after year.

Our health care system is praised as the best in the world even though it clearly is not.

We have, as a society become a mass of kidnap victims who have become sympathetic towards our captors, repeatedly giving them salary raises, re-electing them to Parliament, and singing the praises of the essential work they provide us even though we somehow know deep down that they are essentially harming us, and leaving us with little or no alternatives.  We either side with them or accept the fact that we are all victims, held captive, by force, every day of our lives.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #240, March 8, 2012)

Nov 242011
 

Pink Floyd The Wall“Give me the child until he is seven years and I will give you the man.” Jesuit maxim.

A recent report by early childhood educators has called for the introduction of two year old toddlers to the public school system.  The authors of the report cite studies by their colleagues demonstrating the supposed benefits to the child for such an early introduction into the structured institution of the state-run school but they have also cited ancillary possible benefits of keeping women in the work-force rather than staying at home rearing their children.

The real benefit, of course is neither seen by the mothers nor the children.  It is realized by the educators.  Not simply in their financial gain from the estimated $1 billion in federal funds necessary for the program but in the propagation of the ideology of the vast majority of public system educators today.

“Give us the child for eight years and it will be a Bolshevik forever. “  Vladimir Lenin

It is no secret that the political ideology of the public education system is one that differs greatly from many if not most of the parents who find no alternative for the education of their children.  From the newly hired supply teachers fresh out of teacher’s college to the veteran Directors of Education to the Ministers of Education themselves the ideology of the system can be properly defined as being on the far left of the political spectrum.  There is no doubt in my mind that the purpose of previous governments in making it possible for children to attend half-day junior kindergarten to all-day junior kindergarten to now toddler kindergarten is the promise of molding the child’s mind into one that is amenable  to the ideology of the left.  Few intelligent adults fall for it.

If we take a look at the schooling of previous generations we find many positive results.  Our forefathers were intelligent and socially adjusted people.  They are the people who made the world what it is today and yet many of them did not even finish high school.  Many didn’t have the advantage of kindergarten and yet they thrived.  How can this be? This is flying in the face of all of the current research on early childhood education.

The monolithic public education system has been, and continues to be the source of many social conflicts. In Toronto we have the accommodation of the children of Muslims who leave class to pray in the school gymnasium while no such accommodation is afforded any other religion.  A place of learning the truth of nature such as math and science has been reduced to a mosque.  Can you imagine the conflict going on in the minds of the children when the teacher, after perhaps instructing his students in science then dismisses half the class so that they can pray to some super-natural imaginary deity?

Also in Toronto we see the vilest form of ignorance rear its ugly head after decades of silence; the establishment of schools based on race.  These afro-centric schools, designed to teach black-skinned Canadians about the history of a continent they have never visited rather than the history of the country they were born into are an affront to reason and an insult to the very children they are segregating on the bases of their distant ancestry.

Not too long ago there was a tussle between the parents who preferred their children to be taught how to read using a method of systematic phonetics rather than the “whole-language” method.  The illiteracy rate under whole language was up to 17% of high school graduates.  That’s right, 17% of graduates were illiterate.  It naturally begs the question how could they have graduated.  When I was a trustee on the Board of Education for the city of London I asked the same question to the Director of Education.  His answer was that the Board has never failed a child.  All children graduate under the child-centered learning system otherwise it would be an admission that the system was a failure.

There is the on-going debate of how young a student must be before the teacher shows him how to put on a condom.

There are debates on the teaching of evolution to children of parents who believe that the world is only 6,000 years old.

There the never-ending debates on class sizes, standards of dress, standards of conduct, standards of punishment, standardized testing, group instruction verses individual instruction.

There are the parents who can only shake their heads when their child has to stay home for several Fridays each year because his teachers are taking part in professional development even though these same teachers have two whole months in the summer to keep up with their profession.  Not that such professional development has been seen to improve their teaching skills one iota over the decades.

And while on the topic of teachers we have the teachers’ unions which can and have held every student in the province hostage when they strike to increase their already overinflated salaries.  Given the poor results of their teaching I would think that most of them don’t deserve half of what they get.

What galls many of us though is the political indoctrination of our children into a destructive ideology.  All children in our school system have seen the Michael Moore documentaries calling for such things as gun-control, socialized medicine, and welfare statism.  All have been inconveniently inconvenienced by the propaganda film of Al Gore.  Many of the schools turn their lights off for one day of the year and study in the dark as they worship “Earth Day”.  Many promote “Buy Nothing Day,” perhaps the most destructive instruction that they can get; the idea that consumerism is evil.

All of this overt and unapologetic manipulation of our children’s minds, much of it out of our control, combined with the poor learning results has led me to the conclusion that given the choice of no formal education at all or 20 years at the hands of these so-called educators I would recommend no formal education at all.

It is my opinion that a child will be better off intellectually, spiritually and emotionally if they stayed at home and played on their computer rather than submit to the daily dose of lies they receive at the hands of our publicly funded educators.

It is no secret, at least to those who have studied the matter that teaching a child to read takes very little time.  In a matter of months a child can be taught to read anything.  Over time their vocabulary increases and comprehension comes naturally with experience.  It is this natural propensity for children to learn that these early childhood educators wish to take credit for.

What can be the cure for these grievous miscarriages of education?  Ultimately it is the complete abolishment of the public education system.  But, of course we all realize that isn’t going to happen so how do we proceed from here?

First we reject en masse this report that two year old children go to a state-run school.  It is not necessarily objectionable that toddlers go to school as many are already in competent day-care at that age.  In fact, Montessori and other private schools offer excellent educational instruction for toddlers; far superior to any which could be offered by over-paid government bureaucrats, which is what public school teachers are.  Every one of them, you may ask?  No, but the vast majority of them.

After we reject toddler kindergarten we can push to roll back the junior kindergarten program.  We can simultaneously demand that the government offer tax credits to those who choose to send their children to private schools.  Today, only the Catholics are afforded the opportunity to see their tax dollars go to the school system of their choice.  This same choice should be given to all parents.  If you choose to send you child to a private school you should be able to list that school as the recipient of your education taxes.  If you prefer the state to teach your child you could have them direct your taxes, not just to the public system, but to the individual school which your child attends.  It is simply unjust that you must pay for the education of someone else’s child against your will, as we do now.

But what of the poor neighbourhoods, and the children of poor parents?  If we are to continue with a public education system it is not out of the realm of possibility that rather than funding a system we fund the student instead.  This notion that because some small percentage of us can’t afford to educate our children makes it necessary that we fund a monolithic bureaucracy of a school system is like using sledge hammer to push in a thumb tack.  It is overkill.  Help the child who needs it but not the child who doesn’t.

The public education system has gotten away with their incompetence for far too long.  It has become a sacred cow.  The two platitudes the educators will spout if we dare to complain of their ineptitude are the following:

  1. “It’s for the kids’ sake.”  To which we reply; No it is not.  It is all about you, you overpaid, overbearing, bureaucrat with delusions of self-importance.
  2. “You’re just a teacher basher.”  To which we reply; Yes, and deservedly so.

The notion of “teacher bashing” is a bromide quickly spat out by the teachers’ union bosses who feel that their gravy train is being threatened so they retaliate, not with reasoned, cogent argument for why they are destroying the minds of our children but with schoolyard styled name-calling.

Teachers have to be held accountable, but at the root of the poor teachers and their methods are the teachers colleges.  Who teaches the teachers is the question which must be asked.  What are the teachers being taught and by whom?  I lay the blame for most of the problems of the public education system on the institutions of higher learning.  For the rest of the blame just look in the mirror.

When we continue to joyfully accept the nanny state’s offer of “free” day-care in the disguise of education we have only blame ourselves when our children graduate unable to read or write, or when our children find only contempt for us as parents for the years of mindless boredom and macaroni artwork we put them through.

The bottom line is that education is far too important a value to leave to the government.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #227, November 24, 2011)