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Saturday, June 23, 2012

End of the Year 2012

I'm in the middle of the essay collection "A Mencken Chrestomathy", and because he writes about 'pedagogy' in a series of essays, I feel compelled to write a companion blog post.  It would be difficult to equal Mencken's disdain for Organized Education, but I feel I'm coming close.  Here's why.

The scuttlebutt in my district is that the History department (I refuse to use the term 'social studies') in our partner high school has been 'doctoring' grades.  A reliable source tells me that this has actually been going on for at least a decade.  This, however, is not news.  Teachers in my district are encouraged, even strong-armed to make the grades as high as possible, as often as possible.  As 90% of educrats are unable to provide any quality assessment, only passing percentage is used to gauge learning.  If the passing percentage is low, a teacher risks being called 'downstairs' for a tongue lashing.  All kinds of invective are hurled at the teacher in order to convince him to 'review' or 'scrub' or 're-assess' his grading policy or the grades themselves.  This farcical process usually ends with the teacher changing the grade(s). Naturally, Johnny or Suzy Administrator will now brag on his resume about how amazing he was, and how great his passing percentages were.  The hapless taxpayers are on the hook for this nonsense - now to the tune of $155,000.  That's just for my school.

Because of this History Department malfeasance, the English, Earth Science, and yes, History Departments had to grade while being 'watched' by an educrat from either the State or BOCES.  All of us are trusted to be in rooms with teenage males and females, often with the door closed, but when it comes to grading a State Exam - not so fast.  Our 'watcher' had us in a room at our sister school, grading at a table with two other teachers - but there was no crosstalk, no long breaks, no "cheating" allowed.  This made our lives easier.  Instead of doing all of the administrative tasks that go with a NYS Regents Exam, we were only to grade, and then give the folder of graded writing to the Over Lord.  Doing the grading bubble sheets was the purview of our Superior, so as he completed the (now pure) grade recording, all the usual crosstalk, grade comparing, chatter, was able to be done.  I'm happy to report, however, that none of the aforementioned horrors took place.  The unabashed joke that is the NY State English Regents was graded peacefully and without blemish.

At some point, this system will crash.  Left out of this narrative are other cases of incompetence, calumny, cloddishness and general name calling.  Twisting in the wind is the most persecuted species in American History - the American taxpayer, who craves to have his money removed from his bank account because "it's for the kids".

Recommended reading: A Mencken Chrestomathy - a collection of H. L. Mencken essays
Education: Free and Compulsory, by Murray Rothbard

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