No to romantics and defeatists

In condemning educational romanticism, Charles Murray advocates defeatism, writes Liam Julian in The Weekly Standard. Murray attacks the idea that all children can achieve proficiency and a college degree. Julian agrees with that, but not with Murray’s belief that below-average students wouldn’t learn more in better schools.

Just because 50 percent of children will always be below average, it does not follow that the average itself cannot be shifted — that what it means to be “average” cannot be substantially improved. And it does not follow that a lot of students in dismal, depressing, decaying public schools could not be learning a lot more than they currently are.

A third of students don’t earn a high school diploma. It’s not romantic to think that most could master the high school curriculum if taught well from kindergarten on. College? Maybe not. But they need enough education to be self-sufficient adults.

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Comments

  1. “if taught well from kindergarten on.”
    This implies that education is 100% in the hands of the schools. A lot of a student’s ability to get a high school diploma is dependent upon their atmosphere at home.
    A lot of students could do much better than simply become self-sufficient adults. However, there are so many factors involved that it would be impossible to control them all.
    But of course that doesn’t mean that we give up trying.

  2. I don’t always agree with Liam Julian, but this is one that I applaud. While Murray would reject looking at the examples of any other nations (different genetic stock, you know). Many of the countries that are ahead of us on the international tests have a higher bottom than we do.

    Elizabeth–there was a time that I believed that a key difference between the outcomes of urban and other districts was the social capital entering the doors. But in the course of raising my children I have spent considerable time within those buildings, and encountered all kinds of assumptions about our home life. I say, stop worrying about trying to control everyone’s home life and focus on controlling what happens in the school building during the school day. There is plenty there to work on.

  3. Good point!

  4. Maybe those one third who don’t finish high school if resources weren’t wasted on the assumption that all kids are going to college. New York State requires that all students get a Regents Diploma, which used to be a college bound only diploma. There are a lot of kids who would be far better off in a vocational school than in high school. Not only would they learn more, but it would free up some resources to REALLY prepare the college bound students for college. It’s shocking how many college students have to take remedial math or English when they arrive.

    BTW, Murray is not a defeatist or racist; what he is is a realist who recognizes that IQ (“g”) plays a role in education.

  5. Miller Smith says:

    Strawman argument. Murray’s arguments aren’t about below average dids in bad schools. If one actually thinks this about Murray, one has not read his very large body of work on how good schools can and do a much better job than those bad schools with such children.

  6. timfromtexas says:

    To say that our education syatem is suffering from a surfeit of romanticism is a surfeit of politeness.

  7. timfromtexas says:

    To say that our system of education is suffering from a surfeit of romanticism is a sufeit of politeness.

  8. Rex said, “BTW, Murray is not a defeatist or racist; what he is is a realist who recognizes that IQ (”g”) plays a role in education.”

    Miller said, “If one actually thinks this about Murray, one has not read his very large body of work on how good schools can and do a much better job than those bad schools with such children.

    Tim said, “To say that our system of education is suffering from a surfeit of romanticism is a sufeit of politeness.”

    Thank you, guys. It’s likely that few of those in education have ever read Murray. They react to others who are critical of Murray. Given the state of the education field and especially those in ed schools, I don’t know if educational romanticism will ever die.

  9. It’s not merely romantic to believe that, when given equal opportunities to learn, vastly more students could become prepared for college.

  10. Murray is refreshingly realistic and correct. Not everyone can or should go to “higher education”. Many people would benefit more from vocational ed, rather than purely academic studies. Respected and wise education policy experts, such as Diane Ravitch, concur with Murray. I am a teacher. It’s common sense that not everyone learns the same way, has intellectual depth, or even has the same values. We need to extract the best out of everyone–from a much larger pool of talents and abilities. There is an elitist notion that society should venerate lawyers and sociologists with PhDs above plumbers and auto mechanics. Pure snobbery. Not to mention….the BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars wasted since the 1960’s on compensatory education programs that have not narrowed the so-called “achievement gap”. ‘Nuff said.

  11. LisaK–I could be mistaken, but I think Diane Ravitch may be surprised to find that she concurs with Murray. Have you a source on that?