Donnerstag, April 28, 2011

How To Destroy An Economy...

Here's a case study.

Consider a country that has a divided school system. All children go to elementary school through the 4th grade. Based on grades, a teacher's assessment of the child's natural abilities, as well as discussions with the parents, children are the sent to three different types of schools: the clever ones are sent to a school designed to turn them into well-educated, widely read young people who, basically, reflect the top 25% of the country's potential; the bright ones, but with little ambition or from blue-collar families, go to what amounts to a trade school, learning the proper  tools to run a business or become an electrician (math, physics, but not much in the way of literature analysis); the third group goes to a school that is designed to churn out low-level employees such as retail sales people, gas station attendants, that sort of group, this time the lower 25% or so of the country's potential. That middle group is, of course, the larger of the three, with around 50%.

Those going to the clever schools overwhelmingly go on to proper universities, or enter management apprentice programs. Those going the bright schools go into all sorts of apprentice programs, and have a university path in fields such as engineering and other applied sciences. The others go out and get jobs, either directly or after a training period.

That, in a nutshell, is how the German schooling system works. First and foremost, it does recognize that there are differences in intelligence and that there are differences in social origin that can make or break individuals, and for all its flaws - and believe me, after putting my children through that system, there are many - it works well for Germany. You learn at an early age that choices made, right or wrong, have real-world implications down the road. You learn, as well, that you can surmount those decisions, but it takes hard work - transferring from the lower 25% to the upper 25% is not unheard of, but you have to prove to the system that you belong elsewhere - and is something that people respect and can be proud of. Muddling through lands you down at the lower cohort, but even someone not terribly gifted can, by dint of hard work and perseverance, can succeed. Children, of course, from wealthy families can afford to have tutoring to get them through the rough patches, and families with little money will struggle, but it's for a good cause: getting your Abitur - it is roughly the equivalent of an Associate Bachelor's degree in the US, i.e. high school + 2 years of college - means that you have, effectively, been approved by society as being someone who has passed the first test of becoming a productive member of society.

Now, there is one area in Germany that has been spectacularly successful over the last 50 years: Baden-Württemberg, the south-western corner of Germany. It's where Porsche and Mercedes call home; it's where the largest and most successful engineering firms are located; incomes are high, culture is good, life is well organized (there are rules about when you must sweep your sidewalks) and the virtues of the "Schwäbische Hausfrau", or Swabian Wife, are well known. It's a very self-satisfied area, rightfully so.

Now that there is a green-red coalition (German political parties go by a color in the normal vernacular: the Greens are the ecological party, the Reds are socialists, the Blacks are christian conservatives and the Yellows are a kind of liberal) running things in Baden-Württemberg, they have started the discussion about abandoning the three-tier system for a single school system.

In other words, they want to deconstruct exactly that system that has been a major contributor to the success of the German economy.

This is how you destroy an economy in the long run: dismantle the school system in the name of an illusionary system that "is more equal", forcing the bright and clever ones to be bored while pretending those left over are overwhelmed and frustrated. The Green-Red coalition was voted in - the coalition came after the election, not before it - after the Fukushima accident in Japan made the pre-nuclear policies of the blacks unacceptable for many swing voters: a protest vote, fundamentally, that now gives the more radical amongst the greens their opportunity to change how the country is run.

They are going after the school system first, as it is one area where they can simply make it so.

What is it with modern educators? They are sacrificing methods and systems that work in the search for something that is, purportedly, better: however, empirical evidence shows that these sorts of changes makes things worse, rather than better, but too many careers, I suppose, and too much professional status is involved for anyone to admit that the kids are worse off, rather than better.

This is how you destroy an economy: make sure the kids don't get an education that means anything. Make sure they know about gay history and how capitalism is bad, but not how to write something that people actually can understand or do their sums correctly. It takes a while, but it does explain how so many in the pedagogic business are on the political left.

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