I didn’t know what to expect of this lecture, but after hearing this, I was left speechless and literally sitting with my mouth hanging open. In the very beginning of his lecture, here is what he said that shocked me.
American education “…well it is an emperor’s clothes situation. This is the way I put it in the introduction to the book: the problem in American education is not low test scores, or obdurate teacher’s unions or a lot of the other usual suspects, the real problem with American education is that is that it is living a lie. And the lie is that people believe that children can be just about anything he or she wants to be only if the educational system tries hard enough to teach them. Nobody really believes that. If you get people alone and put a few drinks in them, and make sure that they understand no one will repeat what they said, they will agree that some kids are actually pretty dumb and there is nothing you can really do about it and other kids are much smarter than they are. In the same way that some kids are better at basketball or better at music, and other kids can’t carry a tune, and others stumble over their own feet. Ability varies. It is something that American educational system from Kindergarten to Graduate School runs from as if it were the plague.”
He illustrates said belief by the lack of any articles saying that the reason why no articles about the failure of No Child Left Behind is that some children can’t raise their standardized test scores is that they simply aren’t smart enough, and the reason why not all students go to college is that college level material is too tough for them.
I watched the lecture twice, so far, between then and now and can’t wait to read the book.
Here are the four theories in the book as direct quotes from the lecture.
1. Ability varies. A simple truth.
2. Half of the children are below average. A simple truth.
3. Too many students are going to college
4. The future of America depends on how we educated the gifted students.
Murray is the co-author of the famous book “The Bell Curve”.
You can watch or listen to the lecture from FreedomFest 2008 on the BookTV website, here.
If listening to this lecture does not inspire thought, then I don’t know what will. I recommend this lecture to all parents, to all home educators and to all teachers. Take a listen and start thinking.
To be truthful, I feel that I was sold that bill of goods, by the American public education system. As a student in the system I was led to believe that if I only studied hard enough and played by the school rules, adhered to their system, I could be smart and educated and could be anything I wanted to be. At age seventeen the lie in that was made apparent to me when I tried to get a little part-time, after-school job that I was completely capable of doing based on the training I got in school, but access to that job was denied to me. I won’t get into that now though. That was just the first thing. I have found over and over again in life that despite doing the right things, the fact is that not all the doors in the world open up to everyone, even if they are educated and able. Until I heard this lecture by Charles Murray, I had never heard anyone criticizing that notion of the American education system before; it was both scary to consider accepting yet his ideas are somehow exciting to contemplate.
I’ve been thinking, “What does this mean for my children?” and “What does this mean for our homeschooling?” I’ve also been thinking about institutional schooling and college, the formal education system itself and the difference with self-education and continuing to learn throughout our adult lives versus the over-focus that seems to be on education from grades K-12 and up through the college years.
I also have been thinking of the trophy kids who were raised with doing all the right things in school, doing lots of extra-curricular activities, going to college and graduating, who are struggling in the workplace, quitting jobs left and right and continuing their adolescence into their 20s, relying on their parents for financial support and housing. And I am asking myself if that is a perfect example of how following the rules in the American education system from preschool through college has failed to produce the kinds of mature, thinking adults that our country needs and if it has failed the individuals themselves, if they cannot keep a steady job and support themselves as adults.
What do you think of Murray’s theories?
Charles Murray’s book: Real Education
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