The New Educational List

Interspersed with podcasts and shorter works, I’ve been listening to an audiobook of Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1782).  As anybody with a decent respect for the discipline of history can attest, a tremendous amount of its value may be found in the lesson in and reminder of human nature.  Whether in the East or the West, among the civilized or the barbarians, in the intrigues of the royal court or the religious order, or with men calling the shots or women, we are never free of the fact that we are human.

We are fallen and should never presume purity or perfection.

The men/women angle came to mind while reading Erika Sanzi’s latest reminder that our education system is failing boys:

There was a time decades ago when girls trailed boys in math and science and we as a nation deemed that to be unacceptable. Starting in the 1970’s, initiatives and organizations sprung up all over the place to help girls catch up. And they did. But as girls began improving in math and science, boys were on a decline that people either ignored or, worse, scoffed at as “just deserts” for those who had unfairly benefited from The Patriarchy.

  • Boys are more than twice as likely to get suspended from school and almost three times as likely to be expelled.
  • Boys represent two thirds of the special education population. Almost 80 percent of these boys are Black and Hispanic.
  • 60 percent of high school drop-outs are male. 93 percent of prison inmates are male and 68 percent of them do not have a high school diploma.
  • 85 percent of juvenile offenders are functionally illiterate. 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

Yes, one does run into the notion that this is merely gender comeuppance, but one also gets the impression of a belief that boys are just not built to be as scholarly as girls.  Just so… Gibbon’s lesson.  The same was said of girls some time back.  The difference is that we’ve institutionalized the principle that girls’ way of learning and being schooled, more generally, is appropriately considered to be the universal method.  If it doesn’t suit boys, then that’s proof that they’re inferior.

We can most definitely admire human society for its ability to self-correct, but that is an indication that we are unique in doing so at all, not that we’re particularly good at it.  The steering of our society is like that of a boat, and our between deck is always half-full of water.  As we adjust course, we lean, and the water rushes to the lower point, increasing the tilt.  When we scurry to correct, we turn the helm too far because we blame the direction of the tilt, not the fact of having turned too dramatically, and the interior water rushes to the other side with even more force.

We blame that which was too high for its own condition of being too low, and praise that which was too low for becoming too high by no cause of its own.  For the sake of our children, we need to realize that our sense of balance was formed under different circumstances, but we can’t, because we’ve submerged the institutions that used to give us a sense of higher goals.

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