« Jaundiced view | Main | Boxed in »

Dear Dr Schadenfreude:

By Owen Paine on Wednesday April 6, 2011 11:20 AM

Gotta love these public schoolteachers' unions, am I right? Especially now they and their members face... total online wipeout!

Why, it's like the weavers of yore and their guildhalls facing the onrush of Blake's satanic mills. Where's the Mahatma of the three R's?

Here's the iron maiden of Times Square:

"Students in kindergarten through grade 12... are taking online courses.... Nationwide, an estimated 1.03 million students... took an online course in 2007-8, up 47 percent from two years earlier... About 200,000 students attend online schools full time, often charter schools that appeal to home-schooling families... Advocates.. say they allow schools to offer not only makeup courses, the fastest growing area, but also a richer menu of electives and Advanced Placement classes when there are not enough students to fill a classroom. But critics say online education is really driven by a desire to spend less on teachers and buildings, especially as state and local budget crises force deep cuts to education."
[Cue the bell of doom]
" They note that there is no sound research showing that online courses at the K-12 level are comparable to face-to-face learning. "
Had enough? Sorry, one more, and you're gonna hate this most of all, you totalizers!
"About 200,000 students attend online schools full time, often charter schools that appeal to home-schooling families"
Yes... home schooling families!... Not credentialed professionals... families... Oh, the children, the poor poor children! Next thing you know, getting credit for academic stuff will be like, like, I dunno... acquiring a drivers license... or a fishing license or a barber's license, and equally fragmented and partitioned: "Son, for this job I'll need to see a few licenses... Civics II and yer Algebra I and your... "

Well, frankly, Miss Peach, I don't give a damn. To hell with all that 19th century Horace Mann stuff. It's past its expiration date. Liberating? Come now. It's nothin' but universal compulsory childhood hostage-taking. It's right out of Buster Brown's too-tight shoes, his Sunday go to meeting suit, his tutorial ear-twisting, his hours of finger-drumming and foot-shuffling and ass-shifting -- one big 5 through 17 spiritual thumbtack applied to a kid's evolving soul. If there's purgatory here on earth, that there, next to listening to amateur chamber music, is the genuine article. Why, it's worse than a paying job!

And for a twelve-year-old! Why is that even in question? If the little fuckers had the right to vote on it -- you know, categorical imperatives uppermost in their minds -- do you really imagine they'd be in school?

To hell with mass elementary schooling, and secondary too. It's a nanny Gulag, straight from Calvin's breakfast table.

Besides, Miss Peach, I don't care about you and your, what is it, 3 million sorry-ass do-good members' jobs. You want solidarity? I bet you do. I bet you'd like us to figure "after you they'll come for me".

Well, brothers and sisters, they already CAME for me! And where were you when that happened? Raising childhood horizons, no doubt. Where will you be when they automate landscape oil painting? And create online doctor's checkups, and Robo-parsons, and virtual lawyers, and generally crucify the rest of the liberal professions? Where will you be when they replace state legislatures and mayor's offices with two-way TV call centers and direct household lawmaking (subscription required)?

It's happened, it's gonna continue to happen, anti-corporate grapes of wrath notwithstanding. And to me, it's delicious, it's delirious, it's delightful.

Comments (35)

I don't buy this, though I also have an iron in this fire, albeit not at the k12 level.

We face the question of employing people, and teaching seems to me to be much more useful and real than left anti-bureaucrats grant.

And I never feel good when the argument aligns with Newt Gingrich's plans.

I'm all for changing education. But I'm also all for expanding it and retaining public control over provision.


I love it.

A little taste of the future:



"We face the question of employing people"
and if i thought we needed a wpa i'd certainly hire three million teachers to teach
absolutely free
adult education courses
with or without viable attendence levels

notice adult free and.... voluntary (sp?)

chronic willful remeeedial spelling class for u paine

see i have an iron in the fire too

but fact is we don't need no stinking wpa gulags


far be it from me to reveal my true inner thoughts

but on the proper age frame
for pub-school freely provided complusory "ed"

far from starting at age 6
i'd try to end it there
or as close to there as the three r's allow

ie 6 months thru 6 years
nice and catchy

well maybe thru 8 years no ...10 but that's tops
no damn school draft for 11 year olds

btw mr dawson
welcome back


Thanks, Michael! I can never understand if MJS and OP's scorn for public education is elitist, sour grapes, or epater le bourgeoisie. Because health care in the US is over-expensive, inequitable, bureaucratized, does that mean we should become Christian Scientists?



Mandatory public school attendance and public education... Not really the same thing, are they?


"Because health care in the US is over-expensive, inequitable, bureaucratized, does that mean we should become Christian Scientists?"
in effect yes...after say age 70


i think fb caught my wave

public education:

free and compulsory
6 months to 6 years ...okay 12 years

but no teen draft ..never

i'll not move even another month farther

after that its assumed to be an operation for adults like community collegs are now

not like middle and high schools

free adult voluntary


FB: I see your point, and I see OP jumped right on board. So now I'll ask MJS, if he's listening, whether he agrees too? I take it both would say it's the compulsory aspect that is responsible for the huge mass of questionably competent gradgrinds we've all encountered in public schools.

I take it also that the compulsory part is intimately linked to the baby sitting/social engineering function of education.

Nevertheless, what exactly does OP imagine all those 11 year olds will do, when they stumble into the sun of the real world, with no jobs or even good basketball courts to turn to?


Fundamentally, I do agree. There might be some wiggle room about the age, but compulsory schooling should end a lot earlier than it does; it should have a much narrower focus; and it should consume less of the day than it does now.

FB and OP didn't get into grades and rankings, but I'd get rid of those altogether. I wouldn't give any kind of diploma at the end of compulsory education, or ever.

I'd enable people to qualify for certificates in subject areas: algebra, mediaeval history, classical Greek, chemistry, what have you. Everything would be pass-fail, and the failures wouldn't be reported or even recorded.

I'd certainly employ lots of teachers to teach whoever drops in and wants to learn, and wouldn't charge the students more than some nominal sum.

The people in charge of issuing the certificates would be different people from the teachers. Or maybe teachers could do it, but never for their own students.

I wouldn't pay anybody to teach any soft subjects -- no "studies", no lit-crit, no poli-sci, though I would certainly teach languages and literary history and of course history-history.

And I certainly wouldn't expect schools to form people morally or socially. In fact, any attempt to meddle with the students' souls would lead to summary execution.

As for what 11-year-olds should be doing -- how about playing stickball, running around in the woods, and hanging out in vacant lots telling lies to each other about their love life?


MJ: Thank you. I can live with that. John Stuart Mill didn't even have to start school, did he!

Known Pain:

What is this? The blog of transcribed dreams? A lot of the currently unemployed could be put to work scraping the mashed 11 y.o.s off the roads. The vacant lots are fenced.

Midshipmen? Footmen? Cabin boys? Catamites?

And the girls? Back to Boswell's London?

Other changes must top the agenda. Since Mom "works", the 11 y.o.s will have to find other minders, i.e. their father's former bosses. Dad can hang out in the woods.


This part needs emphasis
As a real hands on totalizer and advocate of socializing socialization
I want to underline
6months to 6 +n years is absolutely compulsory
And filled with nasty deweyite nanny goading
You don't get to fly over the cook nest till you want sex so bad you turn
Yourself into
A Jean genet or Lolita or a young freeman Paine my great great unclimbable,m quite proud of him
That great pilgrim had sex with the pastors wife while still in knickers


"And I certainly wouldn't expect schools to form people morally or socially. "

I'm not actually so much against this, or mandatory attendance, necessarily.

I think that the socialization aspect of schooling is important. If you meet any home schooled kids, their lack of social skills tends to be pretty noticeable. In my experience they're always big time gomers. I mean, what's worse: having to go to a school, or not getting laid until age 28?

I guess I should just give my utopian school ideas:

Let's say we keep mandatory attendance, and even stretch it to 9-to-5, and have it go year round, until age 16. OK, bear with me now. I think it might not be so bad, depending on what the kids actually do while they're there. I could imagine schools being a lot more like a childcare/rec center with compulsory teaching of the basics before age 10, and none afterwards.

For hard subjects subject would just have one big, difficult 3-4 hour exam (all multiple choice for most subjects), which the students can take whenever they feel ready. You'd have a dedicated test room where students can check in and attempt the exam as many times as they want, pass/fail, fails not recorded. In addition I'd have the schools offer more vocational training and professional certification for stuff like plumbing, electrical work, getting the basic architect's stamp for designing houses, whatever.

In terms of teaching, you would have 1 teacher for each major subject available for tutoring at any time 9-5. If you had an online curriculum like Khan academy, with online instruction, exercises and practice tests, that would free up a lot of time for one teacher to help anyone who needs the help. There would be no mandatory class time.

The rest of the soft subjects would be non-credit and would merge into the rec center aspect of my utopian school. Basically, while the kids are there they'll be free to do whatever they want, and have an array of activities that they actually want to do. You'd have a big computer lab for surfing the net, a lot of intramural sports, a video game room with some xboxes or whatever, a little cinema for watching movies, theatre classes, music classes, practice rooms for bands, a little recording studio, video editing/media arts studio, a pool, a good gym, an auto garage, woodshop, a community garden, a restaurant kitchen with cooking classes, skateboard/bmx park... and whatever else the kids want to do.

The point in making it compulsory and universal would be so that rich kids are forced to get some much-needed socialization, and so that their parents can't opt out and pull the funding. For poor kids, the idea is to give them a space where they have access to fun activities and a sort of a Class-free zone. Free time ain't so fun when you're poor, have no toys and live in a shit hole, or you have messed up parents, while all the rich kids are off skiing or swimming in backyard pools that you're not invited to.

Brian M:

FB for the win! As an poor kid, nerdy and bookish with poor social skills, the idea of being stuck at home in my working class suburb all day doesn't really ring any bells for me.


fb i like and respect you

"but how frighful this all seems
Let's say we keep mandatory attendance, and even stretch it to 9-to-5, and have it go year round, until age 16. OK, bear with me now"

no i can't its too aweful
and to think its to blend the economic classes
till they reach 16

oh and
so brian m can get laid

okay this place as mapped out
oughta exist but on a voluntary basis only

who can question this:

the local hi tech library
oughta be directly connected
to the local hockey rink
by a tutorial breeze way
with lots of side doors



-- just for chau-pig eyes only ms zebra --

i'm sure brian m II
will show up regularly

".. making it compulsory and universal "

simply "... so that rich kids are forced to get some much-needed socialization"
who cares ??
"... so that their parents can't opt out and pull the funding"

is that how it would go
you'd hold their little chauncey howels hostage
so rich papa will dummy up for amenities
forget about it

relying on new money types are you ??

why they evade taxes already
and of course
you don't kmean most old money
notion of a place to stash their male off spring
is usually a spartan shit hole
especially if they can make
the fuckin mother lovin fuckers
stay there
and hey
in this case uncle makes it compulsory

"nothing i can do for ya son its the law "

whatever would require you to be

"stuck at home " if not schooled ???

and poor has little to do with it


Class-free zone

can't exist

not even with identical uniforms
and zek hair cuts

the proles would roll their sleeves wrong
or something

the urge to self differentiate is endemic
and at 13 to 16
back ground is something
you throw at peers real hard
or throw away real fast

and that has no class limits


"simply "... so that rich kids are forced to get some much-needed socialization"
who cares ??
"... so that their parents can't opt out and pull the funding"

is that how it would go
you'd hold their little chauncey howels hostage
so rich papa will dummy up for amenities
forget about it

relying on new money types are you ??"

Either or. Even in America, the antipathy towards taxes doesn't seem to hold when it comes to funding the "good" public schools in wealthy suburbs and exurbs. It seems to me that they are more than willing to pony up the cash.

Beyond that, you get the strivers raising hell in the PTA meetings and the aspiring politicians running for the school board, who also have to send their kids there for the sake of appearances. I find that they actually end up funding the schools pretty well.

"whatever would require you to be

"stuck at home " if not schooled ???"

Uh.. bus fare. Money to eat out or go see a movie or buy a bicycle.

"and poor has little to do with it "

I think that's just plain wrong.

"Class-free zone

can't exist"

Sure.. I agree with all of that comment, but I still think you can at least level the playing field a bit. The kids would still bifurcate and be as mean as ever, but probably do so more according to looks, athletic ability, musical ability, personality or whatever.


Oh you mean the merit class


But I don't want them mixing with anyone but each other
It's their only punishment the competitive little scutts

I'm not for leveling anything either for that matter
And if proles aren't getting an even break all the better
I want high wages and short hours for mcshutske jobs
And plenty of um
And a very lavish earned social dividend

The illusion in merit heads it's on the fair and square round here
Or that it could ever allow them to honestly sleep at night

needs clear undermining

I recall some nice stuff on this in the critique of the gotha plan


Bus fare ?
Come now
are there no back bumpers
No turn styles to jump

As to lunch
That's what fruit stands are for
Five finger discounting

I was born rich so I got into destruction not stealing but stealing
Teaches by hard knocks
a far better skill set then vandalism

reality check:

As pertains to Father Smith and education: Do as he says, not as he does ---- with his own kids:


Probably just trying to clear the field of competition for his privileged, privvy school offspring.

As pertains to Father Smith and education: Do as he says, not as he does ---- with his own kids
As the man said: Experience keeps a hard school but a fool will learn in no other. It was, in great part, the experience of seeing my kids through school that turned me off on 'em -- the schools, I mean, not the kids.

When the first one toddled off to his first day, I was still a believer. Indeed it took years to beat some sense into my head. But now I'm Mister Expertus Loquor.

reality check:

Fair enough. I am not very far down that road yet, so I have yet to have such sense beaten into me. Though admittedly, I am already alert to the possibilities....

reality check:

Michael, if you wouldn't mind, can you elaborate a bit on your own experiences here? My interest in this is ideological, in part, but also personal, as I am no doubt a fool enrolled at Experience U, though happy to transfer credits, when I can, from other institutions.


I try to avoid the autobiographical mode, apart from the occasional isolated anecdote. There's a book or twenty to be written about how and why the schools are so bad, and if I were a more industrious person, I'd try to write one of them. But it comes down to two original sins:

1) Mission creep -- the aspiration to form character as well as teach arithmetic; and

2) Ranking: the willing embrace of the thoroughly evil role of assessing relative merit, by means of grades, test scores, etc.

Need I add that like all institutions, the schools are mostly pursuing their own interests, and the kids are just cannon-fodder in the school's relentless campaign of self-aggrandizement -- regardless of all the lofty humanitarian rhetoric.

reality check:

These are all fine observations, Michael, if a tad obvious. Hardly the stuff that would seem to merit your sound & fury. In this area, the autobiographical mode might perhaps be more persuasive and resonant.


"if a tad obvious"

is that to be considered helpful

or just evidence of your frustration


The observations certainly seem obvious to me, RC; but I find that they're not only not obvious, but they sound absolutely insane, to most people. Clearly some education is called for, chortle chortle.

Grading, for example, and homework -- these are real sacred cows; but what do they really do for most kids, or most families? Less than nothing. Way less. Downright damaging, not to say disfiguring, in fact.

I assume the buy-in occurs because everybody thinks their little Johnny is going to be one of the fortunate 98th percentile, if his nose is kept relentlessly enough to the grindstone.


i larned a lot by watching the jehovah witness operation

they understand
"no college " is fundemental to their youth wing
and they manage to retain
lots of second generation members

secular leftists need to bring up their kids with an equal rejection of the greased merit pole

its hard i know
but with organizational support its possible the jehovahs prove that conclusively


the woodstock gen really hit the shitter when they had kids going into the school years
precisely because woodsters had a specialness cult easily converted into yupster merit poling


the embougerment aspirations of boomer gen wage class types
was simple consumer stuff
really far less counter revolutionary then
merit pole climbing
as usual its the upper middle class striving to get into their kids into the professions that broke the back of the "counter culture "

ahh the figments of the college kids


here's the ket

if you want to chop the merit pole

you don't start in high school by then its too late

you start in pre school like the jehovahs do

if you let a bright upper middle clas kid strive and the poor dear has the misfortune to succeeed
you get ...lawyer types like
obama and hillary
and just about every MD of my generation
positively the pits these MDs

and if these kids fail ???
hell that's worse
now they really believe in the merit system

well either way
these kids need a pre emptive rejectionist front to join from about age 12


for the job class however
blocking the merit pole climb
is a simple matter of preventing
prole class brain drain

college is educating rita time for them


I wouldn't pay anybody to teach any soft subjects -- no "studies", no lit-crit, no poli-sci, though I would certainly teach languages and literary history and of course history-history.

MJS your prescription sounds just dreamy. A little surprised that literary history makes the cut, though.

I find it striking how little actually teaching and learning enter into conversations about public education. It's always about babysitting, jobs and the dreaded 'socialiization', which to me is just a nice way of saying disciplined, indoctrinated and made to conform.

If I had kids, I'd home school them for sure.


Literary history has a factual component. Lit-crit hasn't. Lit-hist makes material from bygone days more comprehensible, which is a Good Thing. Lit-crit more often than not obfuscates and misrepresents, which isn't. (Though as Owen will tell you, I have a sneaking fondness for Northrop Frye.)

Of course I wouldn't outlaw lit-crit; if people wanted to write and read books in that vein, they'd be welcome to do so. I just wouldn't pay anybody to teach it as if it were a "subject" -- much less, har de har, a "discipline". And that goes double for "studies".


It's only the socialization process that's useful about schooling
The confrontation with the well organized others

The pub school set up is just
too late too long and too self righteous

Home schooling is frightfully ego empire ish
Why we'd end up with zillions of ....Trotsky ties
Groupies and other flavors of stocker bomb caster and
pimple squeezed

Post a comment

Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Wednesday April 6, 2011 11:20 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Jaundiced view.

The next post in this blog is Boxed in.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License

This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31