Sunday, October 07, 2007

About Me

I am stuck on the "about me" page.

I have this whole pile of work that I want to put up on my website. The problem is that I am really not all that pleased about myself. I have academic research that I've wanted to publish for the last 20 years, but I had never been able to publish because, well, as you see, I have this one little embarrassing incident in my past that I have not been able to figure out how to overcome.

It is just a tiny thing, but is something that I really don't want known.

It is not all that big of a deal.

It is just the tiny little insignificant detail that I flunked out of the University of Utah.

I didn't just flunk out of the U, I actually managed to flunk three of the most asinine classes ever conceived. I flunked classes that football players took during game season since you really didn't have to show up or do the work.

Yep. I did the unthinkable. I flunked out of the Education department!

It is not like there is even the least tiny bit of academic rigor in education. Compare a room of public school teachers with say a room full of computer engineers. The room of public school teachers is like floating in an intellectual vacuum.

It is not that I didn't understand the curriculum. The education curriculum is really a joke. You read Plato, Rousseau, Dewey and Marx and if you are a pro-union Democrat, then they hand you and degree and you can begin feasting at the big tax funded table called public education.

By the time I had started taking education classes, I had already read Kant, Hegel, Marx, Russell, Sartre, Mao, Camus, Freud, Chomsky, Marcuse and many other giants of modern leftist thought.

At the time, I was still proudly progressive. I knew all of the tricks of projection, questioning people's motives, or peppering speech with purr and snarl worlds. I knew all of the paradoxes, and could let go with a hate-filled sneer that would put Keith Olbermann to shame.

I was learning to master the technique. I just made one little tiny gafaw in execution.

The gafaw was really quite funny.

One of the requirements of an education degree is that students must stand up in class and denounce vouchers and private education.

In this exercise, the professors wanted to show us how to use a particularly effective propaganda technique. This technique is to present your partisan view as balanced and open minded. You do this by presenting your side as well reasoned, and by over praising the weakest and most negative aspect of your opponents view. The technique of praising the faults of your opponents can really devastate a person.

If you pull of this technique right, people will see you as balanced and open-minded. If you do it right, your can really destroy the group you hate.

Anyway, we were having the class where the students denounced vouchers and charter schools. I stood up and talked about how having all of the students in a community going to the same school promotes diversity and community. I also talked about how walking to school was healthy exercise and reduced the pollution that was contributing to global cooling (this was way back when mankind was on the brink of extinction from global cooling). My pro-public school argument effectively showed the left as open-minded and only considering the good of humanity.

The next step was to present the right as unbalanced. I began by over-praising the power of competition. I spoke about how privatization would lead to spotless schools with tight, anal-retentive discipline. Private schools would produce singled minded students walking in lock step with the ideology of the school's owners.

I could see that my professor was quite pleased with the presentation. If I sat down at that moment, I would have secured my degree with no further effort.

Proving that I am idiot, I continued and said "if you really want to transform the education system with privatization, you wouldn't privatize the school, you would privatize the classroom. You would let the teachers form companies, develop their curriculum and contract with the school district."

My backhanded praise was to show that the right did not think through its argument. The idea of teachers owning the means of production seemed absurd. The goal is for the state to own the means of production. I gave some quick off the cuff reasons why teachers forming companies and owning the classroom would directly improve the classroom experience.

When I reached the end of the presentation, the professor had gone bug-eyed.

A week after my little in class outburst, I was cornered by three of my professors. They told me that they were "the gatekeepers" of the education system, and they were there to see that I was locked out of the system. For my little gafaw, I didn't just flunk one class; I flunked three classes and was given a promise that I would flunk any education classes at the U or at SLCC. (These were the only schools I could afford at the time).

Flunking three classes for one gafaw was devasting.

At the time, I thought the idea of privatizing the classroom was absurd. On later contemplation, I realized that the method would achieve an effect more profound than any other form of privatization. I can see why professors would fear it.

If you privatized the classroom, then teachers would become entrepreneurs and students would experience the power of the free market first hand. If you privatized the classroom, then whole school system would become a reflection of the economy at large. If students saw their teachers struggling to make payroll, reinvesting profits and handling personnel conflicts, students would directly absorb these skills. If the students saw the teachers as owners and not workers, the students would learn the power of ownership.

Promoting teachers from public servants to entrepreneurs and owners would effectively show students that the path to prosperity is freedom.

Conversely, the secular progressive view of a teacher as a cog in a great machine teaches students to live and think like slaves. An army of "activist teachers" who despise freedom teaches students to see themselves as cogs in a great bureaucratic machine.

I spoke the way I did because I thought privatizing the classroom was absurd. I felt all hurt and dejected at the time. I have never been able to publish any of my works, because most academics think things like flunking out of school matter. I've lived most of my life in abject poverty because many employers hold the same idea.

After the flunking out incident, I really began thinking about what the free market was and how, as absurd as it sounds, that freedom can actually be liberating.

Unfortunately, I've never been able to act on my new thoughts. I lack the credentials to get into the system. To tell you the truth, I really do respect the opinions of others. The very fact that three University professors felt so strongly against me that they were willing to falsify academic to flunk me did affect the opinion of myself.

Anyway, Utah will have a chance to vote for or against the public education system. Some two decades after being flunked out of the U, I find my mind still dominated by the questions that had compelled me to seek a degree in education (I want to write an online Calculus Book).

Am I just bitter because the establishment chose to flunk me, or is my anger at the U based on the fact that the professors at that school give grades based on political grounds rather than academic grounds?

I thought about writing posts in favor of vouchers. The posts can all be nullified simply by pointing out that I was "flunked out;" therefore everything I say is just from bitterness, and not the result of reason.

David Horowitz has written on the Left's War Against Academic Freedom.

4 comments:

Reach Upward said...

I have long felt that our system of credentializing workers via the college/university degree system could be accomplished far better through other methods for most career paths. Firm in that belief, I dropped out of college in my junior year. I hadn't run afoul of any political agendas, nor had I gotten bad grades.

Like many young idealistic people, I soon discovered that being an entrepreneur required risks and sacrifices that I was unwilling (or unable) to make. I felt better suited to being an employee. Although I rose through the ranks of various jobs, I soon found that few employers shared my vision of credentialization, particularly in the career path into which I eventually found that I excelled.

With much encouragement (and even financial support) from family, I returned to school. But I went to a private for-profit university. The coursework was rigorous. I only ran into one professor who was a jerk. The university counseled the guy, but ended up canning him. Try that in a traditional university with a 'tenured' prof. My undergrad experience was good enough that I later went back for a master degree. It was a lot of hard work, but it was rewarding. We learned about real-life applications in our coursework.

I don't know anything about the private university's education courses; although, I think they have them. I do know that traditional universities look at my degrees like they're dog doo-doo, but my degrees command respect from employers. I still think that for most career paths we could find a better way to credentialize people than to put them through a college degree program.

y-intercept said...

I believe in the degree system. I believe in high academic standards. I even believe that there should be gatekeepers -- especially in education. There are some really nasty people in this world that want to get at the kids.

I really didn't complain at the time because I believe that teaching schools have a duty to weed out anyone who gives them a queasy feeling. Safety of the children should be the first and foremost concern, followed by academic standards. It is all about protecting the kids.

Problems arise when the gatekeeping function is politicized. The teachers at the U were weeding people out on politics for the purpose of gaining hegemony in the schools.

Our schools are worse for this.

BTW, at the time, I still considered myself to be progressive. The truth of the matter, I had pretty much already rejected the underlying methodology of the left.

I am really mad at myself. I knew that they were weeding out conservatives. I just couldn't understand why they also weeded out me. I made a gafaw of speaking kindly of the free market.

The truth be told, a person who is in the process of systematically rejecting your belief system is far more dangerous than those who rejected the idealogy out of course.

Cynthia Blue said...

Wow that seems pretty drastic, failing three classes for expressing your opinion. I tried the U after HS and it overwhelmed me as a kid, so I went to SLCC when I was in my 30s.

I'm against vouchers. If people want to send their kids to private school then they should pay for it. I don't want to pay for their private school. :p

y-intercept said...

cynthia,

Utah has the highest percent of students in public schools in the nation. The result of this is that we have the highest number of public school students per taxpayers, and the really odd thing that our public schools spend less per public school student than any other state while we have the highest tax burden.

This voucher program will pull students out of the public schools and free up $4000 per student for use in public schools to help get the spending on public schools up to par.