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Dispatches from Inside the Classroom


Dispatches from Inside the Classroom

The failure of schools is public knowledge at this point, regardless of whether or not the public chooses to acknowledge it. We’ve seen pictures of leftist propaganda that passes for curriculum, graphs showing the increasing inability of students to read or do basic math, and clips of teachers who should be locked in asylums rather than leading classrooms. These are the biggest fires and should be the ones that the right tries to extinguish first. That being said, the issues with education, particularly early childhood and elementary education, run back much further and go down much deeper.

I’ve worked at a summer camp, a preschool, a before-and-after-school program, and a public elementary school. Fortunately, the ones in my community seemed at least somewhat insulated from the insanity you see on the internet. The administrators weren’t sinister. The teachers weren’t unhinged. The students weren’t violent. And still, I would never put my future children in any of my former workplaces.

In all of these environments, the goal was enforcing conformity. Not conformity to any meaningful traditions or higher values, but rather conformity for the sake of convenience and control.

Right after high school, I worked at a summer camp where there was a counselor whose preferred method of discipline was having the 87 elementary schoolers in the program sit still and stay silent for five minutes. Maybe five minutes doesn’t sound that bad, but it was never actually five minutes. Any time any child moved a muscle or made a sound, she reset the timer back to five minutes.

There was one six-year-old boy who was the star of any athletic activities, but he was also the reason the timer would repeatedly be reset. The counselor eventually told his parents that he should be tested for ADHD because he had trouble sitting still and staying silent for extended periods of time. Of course he had trouble sitting still and staying silent for extended periods of time—he was a six-year-old boy. The counselor wasn’t interested in making his life better: she was interested in making her life easier. The parents thanked her and said they’d make an appointment as soon as possible. Apparently, it’s never too early to learn that if you don’t conform and comply, they’ll drag you down and drug you up until you do.

In the preschool where I was an assistant teacher when I was in college, the lead teacher spoke almost exclusively in first-person plural.

“We always follow the rules, right?”

“We share our toys with each other, don’t we?”

“We should all help clean up a mess, even if we weren’t the ones who made it.”

Once, a five-year-old boy got in trouble for calling one of his classmates dumb.

The lead teacher said, “That’s not how we talk to our friends.”

The boy replied, “Yeah, well, he’s not my friend.”

This devolved into a drawn-out talk in which the teacher tried to convince the boy that “we’re all friends here.” When the boy still wouldn’t apologize, she sent him to the school director’s office, where he waited until his mom came to pick him up.

Like the six-year-old boy in the summer camp, the five-year-old boy in the preschool was punished for not buying in to the collectivist project.

Schools are not in the business of fostering great leaders. If the instructors see a spark of some powerful quality—energy, individuality, defiance—they’ll put it out before it can catch fire. They are here to mass-produce obedient citizens. It’s been this way for a long time. This is how you get people who followed (and in some cases, still follow) all the COVID restrictions, who believe everything they hear on TV, who celebrate victimhood while denigrating success. In my experience, the teachers who do this don’t necessarily have bad intentions. For the most part, they’re just average people who see averageness as a virtue and want to “help” everyone else become as average as they are.

If there is a Caesar or a Napoleon among today’s American children, he will probably be given a Ritalin prescription and sent to behavioral therapy before he loses his first tooth.

One of the only times the lead teacher used first-person singular was for the daily “morning affirmations.”

“Repeat after me,” she would say. “I am special.”

The kids would echo, “I am special.”

This pattern would continue over and over with a variety of adjectives—brave, smart, beautiful, athletic, funny, etc.

The point was to build their “sense of self,” the lead teacher explained to me. It seems counterintuitive to have children build their “sense of self” by parroting the exact same phrases about themselves as everyone else in the classroom. It might have been somewhat constructive if each child were choosing a positive adjective that genuinely described them, but instead all the adjectives were chosen for them and applied equally to all their peers. If everyone is special, brave, smart, beautiful, athletic, and funny, then no one is. All these words lose their meaning, and that’s probably the point.

While I was working at the preschool, I was also taking undergraduate child development courses. To this day, some of the dumbest people I ever met were either students or professors in these classes. Early childhood education is a field that typically attracts girls who make up for what they lack in IQ points with EQ points. EQ, meaning emotional quotient (although one of my professors inaccurately said it “stands for emotional intelligence”), consists of five components: empathy, social skills, self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation. I know this because I had to write a journal entry in that professor’s class in response to the question, “Why is EQ more important than IQ?” Preschool and elementary school teachers today are generally more interested in instilling empathy than inspiring enlightenment. Social-emotional development is an essential part of a comprehensive education, but when it is chosen at the expense of actual knowledge, it results in an effeminate and ineffective society. For example, you can at least partly trace the lack of competency and HR-driven hypersensitivity of the typical corporate workplace back to teachers who valued emotions over intelligence. On a political level, support for left-wing causes, such as letting illegal immigrants across the border or letting violent criminals out of prison, is also typically motivated by the selection of sensitivity over sense. The philosophy of the classroom is the philosophy of the country, and vice versa.

After college, I interviewed for a teaching position where the principal showed me graphs of student test-score results, one grouped by race and another grouped by income. Then he asked me what I would do to “close the achievement gap.” I don’t remember what I said, but I got the job. The answer didn’t matter because they weren’t interested in real solutions. When they say they want to close the achievement gap, what they mean is they want to reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator.

As part of a teaching credential internship program I never finished, I would have to create lesson plans accompanied by detailed explanations as to how I would provide accommodations for English Learner students, students with ADHD, students with autism, students with anxiety, students with dyslexia, students with dysgraphia, students with dyscalculia, students who are blind or visually impaired, students who are deaf or hard of hearing, and students who are physically disabled. Every activity in the lesson plan had to be able to meet the needs of all these groups.

Federal law requires students with disabilities to be placed in the least restrictive environment possible in order to offer them the most opportunities to interact with students who do not have disabilities. The government’s efforts to put students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment possible actually end up creating a significantly more restrictive environment for everyone else. All of the students are now essentially limited to the highest potential of the lowest-performing student. The state attempts to outlaw nature’s injustice by legislating their own man-made version of justice, and in doing so, they produce something far more unjust than the original “injustice” ever was. This is one of the main objectives of leftism, and it extends far beyond the realm of education.

Schools should cultivate excellence, but this would require having excellent people as teachers. This is difficult to achieve because excellent people are talented enough to have better career options than teaching and smart enough to choose those options. Existing teachers are notoriously paid little (and still overpaid at that). This gives most of them an inferiority complex that makes them even more liberal than they already were. I still get emails from the National Education Association telling me to vote for Biden in November so that we can tax the rich and forgive student loans.

At the same time, you see a false sense of superiority in teachers. A lot of public-sector workers developed an inflated level of self-importance during the COVID era, and teachers were among the worst. I taught remotely in 2020 and 2021, and it was the easiest job I ever had. But somehow, other teachers convinced themselves that they were heroes for reading picture books to their computer screens and posting links to online math-games. They don’t see the simultaneous feelings of inferiority and superiority as contradictory because socioeconomic inferiority and moral superiority are positively correlated in their eyes. I ultimately stopped working in this field because the vilification of merit and the glorification of mediocrity – both of which are increasingly hard to escape, regardless of your chosen field—were too exasperating to stand and too entrenched to change. This system sustains itself by driving out anyone smart enough to see how stupid it is.

Although most teachers overestimate their worth, it’s also important not to underestimate their impact. When it comes to the issue of declining birth rates, raising birth rates alone won’t solve as many problems as some might think. It’s not enough to have kids; you actually have to be the one to raise them. In the before-and-after-school program, we had kids who were on campus from 6:30 in the morning until 6:30 in the evening, five days a week. A little girl asked me once if we could play a game where she acted like the daughter and I acted like the mom. She should have been able to live a life where she acted like the daughter and her mom acted like the mom. A lot of child-care workers and teachers are too willing to play this role of surrogate mother. These teachers call their students “my kids” in a way that suggests they personally gave birth to all of them. They feel like they know these children better than their parents do, and I guess, in some cases, that’s true. The term “latchkey kid” became popular in the 1970s after second-wave feminism increased the amount of dual-income households. With the decreasing presence of mothers at home came the increasing power of teachers at school. Over the last several decades, teachers have proved that misuse of power can be just as damaging as abuse of power. Our society often puts the most power in the hands of those who least deserve it, and teachers are both a cause and an effect of this destructive pattern.

The short-term solution that seems to appeal to parents dissatisfied with the current situation is homeschooling. If I had kids right now, maybe I would be one of those parents. But ideally, by the time I have children who are school-aged, there will be better options than that. We’ve ceded too much ground when it comes to education as is. Instead of retreating from the education system, we should focus on retaking it.

Public education is an arm of the state. The current administration has deviated from reason and is devoid of ethics, but instead of accepting that as a problem, we should turn it into part of our solution. We have a major intellectual and moral advantage over these people, and we can weaponize it to win. Figures like Chris Rufo have modeled how to use school boards and state legislatures as battlegrounds in the fight to improve our education system. If Trump becomes president again, he should make Rufo or someone like him the Secretary of Education. We need to get the right people into positions of power, whether those positions of power are in a local school district or the Department of Education. Colleges should also develop better teacher preparation programs that prioritize excellence over equity and integrity over inclusiveness. Even if we started by making this a reality at just one university, that could save hundreds of thousands of students from detrimental schooling.

Private schools could also be a good answer to the problems in education, but not in their current state. Where I live, even Catholic schools display pride flags and BLM signs. Private schools based on specific educational philosophies, such as the Montessori or Waldorf methods, offer a possible template for success. If we devised our own educational philosophy that aligns with right-wing values and formed small independent schools modeled on this philosophy, these could possibly be ideal places for the current and future children of people in this sphere.

Of course, these are long-term approaches that would take a lot of time, money, and effort. In the meantime, if you have children in the public or private education system, one of the best ways to counteract the weakness in schools is through strength in families. I’m grateful that my dad had a job that allowed my mom to be a stay-at-home mom when my brothers and I were growing up. Even though we attended flawed schools, this upbringing ensured that we were shaped more by our parents than our teachers. If men succeed in the sphere of work and support their family on a single income, and if women succeed in the sphere of home and create the best possible environment for their family, they can raise their children to become the superior people that our inferior education system fears.

Although working in the education system was obviously discouraging, being around the little kids in it was incredibly encouraging. Children are the remnants of what America once was and the promise of what it could be again. They have pureness of heart, desire for achievement, hunger for knowledge, spirit of adventure, and enthusiasm for life. Schools that maximize the potential of each student, rather than standardize the potential of all students, would in turn help maximize the potential of our society. I didn’t just write this article to say, “You have no idea how bad it is.” I also wrote it to say, “You have no idea how good it could be.”

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