Carlos

Public Schools

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the depth of understanding, the ability of the average 17-year old to verbalize a sentence on the subject without the word "like", and the relative proportion of youth who have any exposure whatsoever to its content, has gone through a steep decline while youths that age "find themselves".

When was it that an average 17 year old was displaying such knowledge if 60 years ago 70% of American population did not attend high school at all (and I will only assume neither did their parents - so there was no exposure to such materials at home)?

I do think that we should expect such knowledge from an average teenager today given current graduation rates.

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I see it is very easy to focus on the negative and be contemptuous of public school graduates, and of the general public. My reaction is to designate those afflicted with public school syndrome as one of the matters beneath the worth and energetic expense of my contempt, and focus on those aspects of reality I can change to shape the world I want to see. For example, I sit on an educational committee, even though I do not care for committees, which selects textbooks, learning materials and designs curricula so that my views are at least heard by the decision makers. And it's not *just* common sense; the "less formally educated people" Free Capitalist references and who I meet in the course of work (in fact, I chose my work specifically so that these would be the sort of people I encounter daily), generally, have a better understanding of chemical reactions and physics than many college students I have tutored.

I don't fault the victims of public schools - they were children forced to attend mind-damaging/stultifying classes. But, I sure don't care for the results.

Given the existence of those schools it is helpful to at least have better textbooks (e.g. promoting one book over another because it's meatier, better written, and doesn't have environmentalist propaganda.) Some places may just be too corrupt though - I remember reading Richard Feynman's tale of being invited to review a science textbook for (as I recall) the state of Texas. He took the job seriously and was set to go through the book until he discovered that it was just a cover filled with blank pages. No dummy, he later asked other reviewers what they thought, and they *really liked it*...

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What about the parents? I have an option of either educating my kid myself or delegating that role to another party. If I find that the service (public or private), which I have chosen, is not adequate, it is MY responsibility to pick up the slack and supplement my child's education (or find people who can).

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What about the parents? I have an option of either educating my kid myself or delegating that role to another party. If I find that the service (public or private), which I have chosen, is not adequate, it is MY responsibility to pick up the slack and supplement my child's education (or find people who can).

You might have that option but some do not. Some are already getting taxed heavily in one form or another and do not have the extra income to afford that choice. My children all go to public school, and we moved to an area that is supposed to have the best schools in the state. But my wife and I still find ourselves always having to supplement or watch over what is being taught everyday.

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My children all go to public school, and we moved to an area that is supposed to have the best schools in the state. But my wife and I still find ourselves always having to supplement or watch over what is being taught everyday.

I have to do that too, perhaps only slightly less and in the future I am not sure if I will be able to afford private high school (certainly not on one salary) but not only I am not worried - I feel rather optimistic about my son's overall level of education and thus his future.

I tend to blame the parents the most, specifically, their passivity.

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the depth of understanding, the ability of the average 17-year old to verbalize a sentence on the subject without the word "like", and the relative proportion of youth who have any exposure whatsoever to its content, has gone through a steep decline while youths that age "find themselves".

When was it that an average 17 year old was displaying such knowledge if 60 years ago 70% of American population did not attend high school at all (and I will only assume neither did their parents - so there was no exposure to such materials at home)?

I do think that we should expect such knowledge from an average teenager today given current graduation rates.

As I wrote above, I am referring to what I believe should be the expectation of an average 17-year old with the modern conveniences we have today. I am saying there should be a better expectation of the average 17-year old today compared to what one would expect of a 17-year old living 60 years ago living without even reliable electricity. Also, as was stated by other posting members (and by myself in other threads), the materials available to, and comprehension expected of, a child 60 years ago were both more complex and standards higher at any given age equivalent comparison to a child today. What the average child learns in an average public high school in North America today is about 2 years (and I'm not even referring to the remedial/alternative sorts of high schools) behind what students of the same grade learned 60 years ago. So in both age and grade-wise comparisons, the average 17-year old today is expected to learn less in any given average curriculum than 60 years ago --> generally learns below the expectation and manages to be deemed as passing anyway --> expectations are further lowered. As such, basing academic expectations of youth on graduation rates is not an appropriate benchmark.

So that I don't come across as falsely nostalgic here (i.e., not everything in the past was better by grace of it being in the past), I want to make it clear that the majority of youth who had the opportunity to read something like Wealth of Nations at the time of its publication probably didn't have much reading selection, and back then, reading was done when one could (so better make it count!), at dawn or after a long day by candlelight. Therefore, there is an aspect of knowledge acquisition by far greater intellectual ambition exhibited generally by youth then. That is, one learns because one wants to learn (and remember life expectancy wasn't great either), wants to be able to discuss certain topics with friends and classmates, and the only time to learn it is between dawn and 0600hrs. Nothing beats volitional choice when it comes to a learning.

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My children all go to public school, and we moved to an area that is supposed to have the best schools in the state. But my wife and I still find ourselves always having to supplement or watch over what is being taught everyday.

I have to do that too, perhaps only slightly less and in the future I am not sure if I will be able to afford private high school (certainly not on one salary) but not only I am not worried - I feel rather optimistic about my son's overall level of education and thus his future.

I tend to blame the parents the most, specifically, their passivity.

I agree with you and that is why my wife and I put so much effort into all three of our children. I love them and want the absolute best for them that I/we can provide.

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It's not the 'educated' people that hold the hope for the future, precisely as was previously commented. The stuff they learn in the East and West coast colleges is utterly atrocious (much worse than leaving peels on the shelves). On the other hand, regarding the less formally educated people, it's to their habits in life and their 'common sense', just like in the earlier days, that we can hold out hope to. Although I too am worried about the dissolution of those habits. ...

The 'common sense' you are referring to is what Ayn Rand called the American sense of life. It is all that has saved us, but will not be enough over time without an intellectual defense because ultimately the explicit wins out over the implicit.

Ayn Rand wrote in "Don't let it go" in Philosophy: Who Needs It (from the Ayn Rand Letter of November 22 and December 6, 1971):

If America is to be saved from destruction—specifically, from dictatorship—she will be saved by her sense of life.
but
If America drags on in her present state for a few more generations (which is unlikely), dictatorship will become possible. A sense of life is not a permanent endowment. The characteristically American one is being eroded daily all around us. Large numbers of Americans have lost it (or have never developed it) and are collapsing to the psychological level of Europe's worst rabble.

This is prevalent among the two groups that are the main supporters of the statist trend: the very rich and the very poor—the first, because they want to rule; the second, because they want to be ruled. (The leaders of the trend are the intellectuals, who want to do both.)...

The academia-jet set coalition is attempting to tame the American character by the deliberate breeding of helplessness and resignation—in those incubators of lethargy known as "Progressive" schools, which are dedicated to the task of crippling a child's mind by arresting his cognitive development. (See "The Comprachicos" in my book The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution.) It appears, however, that the "progressive" rich will be the first victims of their own social theories: it is the children of the well-to-do who emerge from expensive nursery schools and colleges as hippies, and destroy the remnants of their paralyzed brains by means of drugs...

Is there enough of the American sense of life left in people—under the constant pressure of the cultural-political efforts to obliterate it? It is impossible to tell. But those of us who hold it, must fight for it. We have no alternative: we cannot surrender this country to a zero—to men whose battle cry is mindlessness.

We cannot fight against collectivism, unless we fight against its moral base: altruism. We cannot fight against altruism, unless we fight against its epistemological base: irrationalism. We cannot fight against anything, unless we fight for something—and what we must fight for is the supremacy of reason, and a view of man as a rational being.

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We cannot fight against collectivism, unless we fight against its moral base: altruism. We cannot fight against altruism, unless we fight against its epistemological base: irrationalism. We cannot fight against anything, unless we fight for something—and what we must fight for is the supremacy of reason, and a view of man as a rational being.

That is worth repeating - and it's why, to further stress recent exchanges in other threads, that the ideas of Objectivism must be understood and taken seriously, and vestiges of altruistic and collectivistic premises identified and eliminated in one's thinking. Like it or not, those of us with an interest in the ideas of Ayn Rand are at the forefront of cultural change, and the better job that any of us do in personally implementing, and also explaining, those ideas, the better the world will become, which is in everyone's self-interest.

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...Some places may just be too corrupt though - I remember reading Richard Feynman's tale of being invited to review a science textbook for (as I recall) the state of Texas. He took the job seriously and was set to go through the book until he discovered that it was just a cover filled with blank pages. No dummy, he later asked other reviewers what they thought, and they *really liked it*...

He was on the California State Curriculum Committee reviewing elementary math text books (before he gave up). From his description of his experiences, the one with the blank pages wasn't the worst of them, but yes, some of the other committee members had "rated" it without realizing there was nothing in it because the publisher had gotten behind and sent it as a kind of filler to try to stay in consideration. See "Judging Books by their Covers" in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!.

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He was on the California State Curriculum Committee reviewing elementary math text books (before he gave up). From his description of his experiences, the one with the blank pages wasn't the worst of them, but yes, some of the other committee members had "rated" it without realizing there was nothing in it because the publisher had gotten behind and sent it as a kind of filler to try to stay in consideration. See "Judging Books by their Covers" in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!.

Thanks for the refresher, I'll re-read that one of these days.

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It's not the 'educated' people that hold the hope for the future, precisely as was previously commented. The stuff they learn in the East and West coast colleges is utterly atrocious (much worse than leaving peels on the shelves). On the other hand, regarding the less formally educated people, it's to their habits in life and their 'common sense', just like in the earlier days, that we can hold out hope to. Although I too am worried about the dissolution of those habits. ...

The 'common sense' you are referring to is what Ayn Rand called the American sense of life. It is all that has saved us, but will not be enough over time without an intellectual defense because ultimately the explicit wins out over the implicit.

Not, ewv, if the men with the good sense of life refuse to listen to the bad explicit people. That's what's happening around the country. Furthermore that good sense of life was not a fluke and did not develop by accident, but was a necessary result of the virtuous life that the Americans of old, and still many today, have been living. That's how that sense of life received such a drastic upsurge with Reagan, without any philosophers to fuel it. So as long as the men continue deriving their virtues from reality, and continue ignoring the nihilistic philosophers, we'll continue to at least hang on, we'll be ok.

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As I wrote above, I am referring to what I believe should be the expectation of an average 17-year old with the modern conveniences we have today. I am saying there should be a better expectation of the average 17-year old today compared to what one would expect of a 17-year old living 60 years ago living without even reliable electricity. Also, as was stated by other posting members (and by myself in other threads), the materials available to, and comprehension expected of, a child 60 years ago were both more complex and standards higher at any given age equivalent comparison to a child today. ...

I wasn't in school 60 years ago, but most of the country did have reliable electricity for electric lights then -- In fact there were advantages: less distractions from television, computer games and 'texting' on cell phones. :D I'm not sure what the academic expectations generally were for seniors in high school then, but there was a post war attitude of getting back to work and productivity doing positive things for serious accomplishment, with the understanding that economic improvement required focus, hard work and doing well in school (as oppposed to pandering to pseudo-self esteem and 'group activities').

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The 'common sense' you are referring to is what Ayn Rand called the American sense of life. It is all that has saved us, but will not be enough over time without an intellectual defense because ultimately the explicit wins out over the implicit.
Not, ewv, if the men with the good sense of life refuse to listen to the bad explicit people. That's what's happening around the country. Furthermore that good sense of life was not a fluke and did not develop by accident, but was a necessary result of the virtuous life that the Americans of old, and still many today, have been living. That's how that sense of life received such a drastic upsurge with Reagan, without any philosophers to fuel it. So as long as the men continue deriving their virtues from reality, and continue ignoring the nihilistic philosophers, we'll continue to at least hang on, we'll be ok.

People of common sense "not listening" is not sufficient when you are made to do as you're told. It is the intellectuals and the elite who increasingly run the country and make and enforce the laws. The more we move towards dictatorship, the harder it is for people to resist or even slow down bad policy without being crushed.

"Common sense" is not a philosophy -- what is regarded at any time as common sense depends on a prior philosophy. Today you still see 'common sense' people shaking their heads at what government does, but without knowing the proper alternative; having enough sense to see that something is wrong doesn't tell you what is right and leaves you vulnerable to the dominant cultural and political trends. We increasingly see statism and subservience regarded as the new "common sense". Try discussing individualism and the proper role of government with someone who doesn't like what the government is doing in some respect and you quickly see how far you get appealing to "common sense" and what they regard as common sense.

The original American sense of life didn't come out of a vague 'virtuous life of Americans of old': both came from the intellectual foundations of the Enlightenment in contrast to the tribalism, statism and mysticism that remained and grew in Europe. The role of the intellectuals is not irrelevant to the course of a country and an individualist sense of life will not last after being battered for generations in the schools where children increasingly never experience it.

Reagan did partially articulate the American sense of life, temporarily pulling us out of the downward spiral of the Carter years, but there were too many inconsistencies in explicitly accepted premises to last.

From Ayn Rand's "Don't Let it Go":

A nation's sense of life is formed by every individual child's early impressions of the world around him: of the ideas he is taught (which he may or may not accept) and of the way of acting he observes and evaluates (which he may evaluate correctly or not). And although there are exceptions at both ends of the psychological spectrum—men whose sense of life is better (truer philosophically) or worse than that of their fellow-citizens—the majority develop the essentials of the same subconscious philosophy. This is the source of what we observe as "national characteristics."
An adolescent can ride on his sense of life for a while. But by the time he grows up, he must translate it into conceptual knowledge and conscious convictions, or he will be in deep trouble. A sense of life is not a substitute for explicit knowledge. Values which one cannot identify, but merely senses implicitly, are not in one's control. One cannot tell what they depend on or require, what course of action is needed to gain and/or keep them. One can lose or betray them without knowing it. For close to a century, this has been America's tragic predicament. Today, the American people is like a sleepwalking giant torn by profound conflicts. (When I speak of "the American people," in this context, I mean every group, including scientists and businessmen—except the intellectuals, i.e., those whose professions deal with the humanities. The intellectuals are a country's guardians.)

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The original American sense of life didn't come out of a vague 'virtuous life of Americans of old': both came from the intellectual foundations of the Enlightenment in contrast to the tribalism, statism and mysticism that remained and grew in Europe.
I don't want to press on disagreement, because we really don't disagree much in this thread, but I just wanted to address this point here. Americans did indeed derive their sense of life from their particular occupations and the particular habits which they 1) brought along from Europe and 2) developed further here, away from some of the worse European elements you refer to. But the Enlightenment intellectual ideas were not the foundation, they and Locke came rather late, early 18th century, when the people were already good. The reason those ideas were accepted so eagerly is because the people were already good.

And there's nothing vague about my "virtuous life of Americans of old". I have very specific things I mean by it, though I didn't want to split off into details because it's not the thread for it. But in short, yes I have to cite on the classical example you know it, that's how the classical peoples developed their virtues as well, by the same kind of virtuous life with implicit philosophy. The early pre-Enlightenment virtuous Americans weren't any less because they was "pre-"; Enlightenment merely gave outward expressions to what they already knew.

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The original American sense of life didn't come out of a vague 'virtuous life of Americans of old': both came from the intellectual foundations of the Enlightenment in contrast to the tribalism, statism and mysticism that remained and grew in Europe.
I don't want to press on disagreement, because we really don't disagree much in this thread, but I just wanted to address this point here. Americans did indeed derive their sense of life from their particular occupations and the particular habits which they 1) brought along from Europe and 2) developed further here, away from some of the worse European elements you refer to. But the Enlightenment intellectual ideas were not the foundation, they and Locke came rather late, early 18th century, when the people were already good. The reason those ideas were accepted so eagerly is because the people were already good.

And there's nothing vague about my "virtuous life of Americans of old". I have very specific things I mean by it, though I didn't want to split off into details because it's not the thread for it. But in short, yes I have to cite on the classical example you know it, that's how the classical peoples developed their virtues as well, by the same kind of virtuous life with implicit philosophy. The early pre-Enlightenment virtuous Americans weren't any less because they was "pre-"; Enlightenment merely gave outward expressions to what they already knew.

If you read the history of the earliest settlers under the influence of Calvinist religion you see that things weren't so good for quite a while. There was a growth of individualist ideas even in Europe before the formulations of the Enlightenment (which did not spring out of a vacuum) and by the time the American government was being formed about a century or so later in the last part of the 18th century, Enlightenment ideals were common. See Bernard Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. I don't mean to imply either that philosophers are the only people who can think of good principles. If it is true that you need ethics the most on a desert island, then people trying to survive in a wilderness will either come up with better ways to approach life or they won't make it at all. Being away from the dominance of clergy and royalty in Europe was a big help., but philosophical ideas and values do not come from "habits" and "occupations"; there were plenty of people in Europe with the same occupations with the same habits of work that did not have the American sense of life.

There is no doubt that the nation was founded on Enlightenment principles in contrast to the earlier primitivism, and that that made the freedom and individualism of early America possible to thrive. In terms of political philosophy and its affect on government, it has been downhill ever since. See the interesting but sad historical account in Arthur Ekirch's The Decline of American Liberalism (which covers from prior to the Revolution through the mid-50's). "Common sense" hasn't stopped the march towards statism and fascism, which was pushed by European intellectuals. Subjecting children and college students to bad philosophy has been making things worse, and the government near monopoly on public education has all but locked that in. What people regard as "common sense" depends on what they have been taught or indoctinated to believe.

People who accept mysticism, sacrifice, collectivism in any form, and a duty mentality because that is what they are taught from an early age are constantly undermined in any attempt to live. The earliest American settlers almost didn't make it because of that and some colonies did not survive at all. There is no reason to believe that the dominant intellectual trends will not do the same damage to this country and its sense of life that they have done elsewhere if they are not explicitly challenged in time to head off dictatorship or chaotic civil war. As statism and brute force become stronger and more prevalent in all realms of life, they destroy the very possibility of decent people living, let alone thriving, no matter how explicit or good their principles, as illustrated in the extreme case by Ayn Rand's We the Living. Kira's sense of life and common sense did not save her and neither did anyone around her who didn't like what was happening to them.

You can't count on a causeless "sense of life" to indefinitely save a country against destructive intellectual and political trends.

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If you don't mind my sticking my 2 cents in:

If you are talking about early 17th century America, then you need to differentiate between the northern and southern colonies. Those colonies that grew out of the Plymouth/Puritan group were every bit as religious as any in Europe, saw the New World as a place to build a new shining City on a Hill--a new Jerusalem, and were as mystical as any Inquisitor in Europe. The southern colonists were looking to make money. Duel personalities from the beginning.

Both groups learned the hard way that they must live in this world if they were to continue in this world. Whatever the surroundings, few who came out of Europe could have been prepared for life in a completely wild country, among a primitive people. (If you look at some of the things people brought with them to the New World, it is easy to see that they expected to live much as they had before.)

By the time of the Revolution, however, people were close enough in their beliefs that Jefferson referred to the "American mind," meaning that most Americans were familiar with certain philosophers, especially Locke, and that the premises operating by that time were shared by most people.

I won't go into what went wrong. I'm assuming that most of you understand the land mines hidden within the philosophical soil.

Even those Americans with the best sense of life have become disarmed to the point that they don't realize how much they accept from those they recognize as dangerous to the country and to themselves. Speaking of just one area, observe the conversations about anything having to do with environmentalism. Even those who understand that most of it is bunk, and that the goal is the end of the Industrial Revolution, use the vocabulary and talking points of the enemy. For instance, almost every discussion about elite advocates of global warming revolve around the fact that they don't live up to their own rhetoric (essentials?). With few exceptions, environmentalists now control the conversation. They have become instituted within the culture and many people now believe that everyone must be controlled a la businessmen. In our schools--especially elementary schools--the amount of time spent on environmental issues, and the focus of lessons that have nothing directly to do with the subject, is astounding. The viros spend a lot of money supplying project material to schools. Learning to revere mother earth passes as science. Dick and Jane now spend their time volunteering, recycling and making friends with diversity. Eating a piece of blubber teaches students what it is like to be an Eskimo (a superior group living in harmony with nature)--a social studies lesson that takes the place of history.

As long as we allow the government this kind of control over our children, we are in a danger that only grows with every generation.

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He was on the California State Curriculum Committee reviewing elementary math text books (before he gave up). From his description of his experiences, the one with the blank pages wasn't the worst of them, but yes, some of the other committee members had "rated" it without realizing there was nothing in it because the publisher had gotten behind and sent it as a kind of filler to try to stay in consideration. See "Judging Books by their Covers" in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!.

Thanks for the refresher, I'll re-read that one of these days.

Here's a link to the chapter.

I'm a bit unhappy when I read about the stars' temperatures, but I'm not very unhappy because it's more or less right -- it's just an example of error. Then comes the list of problems. It says, "John and his father go out to look at the stars. John sees two blue stars and a red star. His father sees a green star, a violet star, and two yellow stars. What is the total temperature of the stars seen by John and his father?" -- and I would explode in horror.

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Then I came to my first meeting. The other members had given some kind of ratings to some of the books, and they asked me what my ratings were. My rating was often different from theirs, and they would ask, "Why did you rate that book low?" I would say the trouble with that book was this and this on page so-and-so -- I had my notes.

They discovered that I was kind of a goldmine: I would tell them, in detail, what was good and bad in all the books; I had a reason for every rating.

I would ask them why they had rated this book so high, and they would say, "Let us hear what you thought about such and such a book." I would never find out why they rated anything the way they did. Instead, they kept asking me what I thought.

We came to a certain book, part of a set of three supplementary books published by the same company, and they asked me what I thought about it.

I said, "The book depository didn't send me that book, but the other two were nice."

Someone tried repeating the question: "What do you think about that book?"

"I said they didn't send me that one, so I don't have any judgment on it."

The man from the book depository was there, and he said, "Excuse me; I can explain that. I didn't send it to you because that book hadn't been completed yet. There's a rule that you have to have every entry in by a certain time, and the publisher was a few days late with it. So it was sent to us with just the covers, and it's blank in between. The company sent a note excusing themselves and hoping they could have their set of three books considered, even though the third one would be late."

It turned out that the blank book had a rating by some of the other members! They couldn't believe it was blank, because [the book] had a rating. In fact, the rating for the missing book was a little bit higher than for the two others. The fact that there was nothing in the book had nothing to do with the rating.

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Are we currently on a trend of massive intellectual decay that could endanger America, or is this alarmism?

Currently (2004 data), 85% of American adults age 25 and over have completed at least high school and 27% of American adults age 25 and over have a college degree. In comparison, in 1950 the % of American high school graduates was only in low 30s and college graduates was 6% (was America in trouble then with most people not having an education at all?). Things are not great but I don't think that "doom" is comming.

Adam Smith wrote Wealth of Nations as a sort of textbook for his students -- they were between the ages of 15 and 17! How many recent college grads, pick the college, Sophia, do you know that can understand that book?

I think it is usually a part of the History of Economic Thought - (first or second year - so 17-18 years old) and sometimes reviewed later. I don't know many Economy graduates (do you?) so I can't comment.

Several points:

1) How many schools are teaching the history of economic thought to freshmen and sophomores?

2) If they do, how many curricula are not actively perverting this classic, relying on the inability of students to see through 101-level misrepresentations and errors to discredit capitalism?

3) Freshmen and sophomores tend to be a year older than you represent them.

4) The fact that it's "reviewed later" is the issue.

5) even if they were to take the book apart word by word, there's no reason to assume that the epistemology beaten into them would allow them to "get" the book -- only their "interpretation" of it.

6) I work with hordes of college students. Classics I took apart in Grades 6-8, in the public school system of an "emerging" nation, in a class of 85 students, mind you, are not only not being taught in high school, but are perverted in ways that wouldn't be possible if these college kids could read.

7) Dr Ridpath mentioned this disparity in one of his lectures. I took him to be half-serious when he said that graduate students could barely get through Wealth of Nations these days.

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Public school graduates from superpowers like Cyprus -- ;-) -- are wiping the floor with our grads. What more data do we need?

Further, given the anti-reason stance of our pre-K to PhD curricula and ever-plummeting standards across the board, are high attendance percentages indicative of anything?

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Mr. Rockwell makes some interesting observations about the science - math debate.

Why do we keep falling for this? Once in every second-term presidency, the chief executive lectures the country about the impending disaster of a shortage of mathematicians and scientists. People think: oh no, we'd better get on the stick and create some in a hurry!

Thus does the President want to spend $50 billion over 10 years — a figure these people made up out of whole cloth — and we are all supposed to submit, cough up, and turn our sons and daughters into natural-science brainiacs. And the President is just sure that his great job-training mission is not limited to Silicon Valley but extends to all cities, rural areas, and ghettos in America.

He is not only raising false hopes, diverting career paths, and wasting money, he is raising a non-problem and purporting to solve it with a non-solution. The central-planning approach to boosting science was tried and failed in every totalitarian country, and the same will be true in nominally free ones as well. Still, it seems that megalomaniacs just can't resist the urge to push the idea, which is why mathematicians and scientists leftover from Soviet days are driving cabs and tending bars in today's Russia.

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The reason the whole math and science racket bamboozles us again and again has to do with our own limitations and our perceptions of foreign countries. We think: heck I know nothing of these subjects, so I can believe that there is a shortage! And surely math and science are the keys to just about everything. And look at those Japanese kids in school that we see on television. They can run circles around the tattooed bums that populate American public schools. We are surely "falling behind!"

In the first place, it wouldn't actually matter if it were true. The whole point of the international division of labor is that we benefit from the skills of everyone around the world. If there were one country in the world where everyone knew math and science — call it Nerdistan — and one other country in the world where everyone specialized in art and literature — call it Poetistan — both countries would enjoy the benefits of both talents provided they were engaged in trade. The Nerds could enjoy poetry and the Poets would have lots of hand-held contraptions. And since the professions in both countries were presumably chosen by market means and voluntary choice, that configuration of talent yields the best of all possible worlds.

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Also, as Daniel Greenberg writes, "Average salary scales for professors show the marketplace value of different disciplines: law, $109,478; business, $79,931; biological and biomedical sciences, $63,988; mathematics, $61,761." He points out that the editor of Science Magazine even noted the absurdity: "Why do we keep wishing to expand the supply of scientists, even though there is no evidence of imminent shortages?"

Actually, Donald Kennedy's entire article is worth a read. He points out that the worst thing that could happen is for government to attract people into a technical field that they really can't handle. They only end up working outside the area in which they are trained, or adding to the ranks of the unemployed.

The Myth of the Math and Science Shortage

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Here's a link to the chapter.

Thanks, Paul. My recollection was a bit different in details, it was good to re-read the original. I'm glad that it's online for anyone to read.

Here's a thought that just occured to me: What are the Japanese, or Singaporeans, say, using for grade-school textbooks? They should be translated (in S'pore's case it's probably already English) and republished and used here!

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