We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, April 8. 2015
A major essay from a Maggie's hero, Roger Scruton, with a survey of the evolution of the modern university. He begins:
Tuesday, April 7. 2015
The NYT seems to feel that the Success Academies are too hard on the delicate snowflakes, but I think this is what education was like in the US until John Dewey and the progressives got to it. Also, what parochial schools and many private schools still are like. It seems to work well.
The emphasis on testing seems a bit excessive, though.
Monday, April 6. 2015
Wednesday, March 25. 2015
One of my proposals is for kids to learn stuff anyway they can, with degrees issued by degree-offering institutions following oral and written examinations.
You can tell quickly whether a person knows their stuff in an oral exam. You can ramp up your questions to determine the limits of their knowledge and thinking. If some kids need to be spoon-fed their education, so be it. There's been enough of this overly-costly "college experience" nonsense.
You can almost do that today, but you still have to pay. One of the brightest fellows I know got his BS in Physics from a highly-prestigious university in three years without ever going to class, while playing drums in a touring rock band. Picked up the syllabi, and showed up for exams.
What's your opinion?
Thursday, March 19. 2015
That was our ironic term for my all-boys boarding school. Since then, times have changed and the ruling class ain't what it usta be (and never was), but I'll tell y'all about it here, if you are interested. (No, it's not Groton)
The history of American education is fascinating to me. I'd like to write the book but it seems like too much work and my writing has no zip to it, no flair, wouldn't sell. I wish I could write like Michael Lewis.
Private boarding schools (prep schools) are a relatively recent development (late 1800s) in the northeastern US and California, but had a long history in England. Prior to that, children of the prosperous in the US were mostly home-schooled (tutors) to prepare them for college.
Public education in the US, since the mid-1800s, was based on the Prussian/German model, as are American universities. The older American private secondary schools, however, were modeled on English private ("called "public") schools. But, as always through human history, the brightest and most talented kids were/are self-educated in the end.
My school was as much about the cultural experience as it was about the information and skills acquired - but those were high-level too. In fact, they tried to pack in everything you might need to begin adulthood in a time when college was considered adulthood. Four years of this would make much of college today redundant.
Below the fold, I will tell you about it all and how it worked well even for kids like me without superior IQs.
Continue reading "Secondary Education for the Ruling Class"
Tuesday, March 17. 2015
Who is "we," pardner? While attacking straw men, bringing race into a non-racial discussion, and demonizing "individualism", he seems to be arguing for a top-down, one-size-fits-all, centrally-organized system of primary and secondary education in the USA. He suggests that it be oriented ideologically, and claims it would be "for the common good." He is a Bismarckian with that Prussian control attitude towards the masses.
Thus it's a little dissonant to read his views, coming as they are from the president of hippy-dippy, free-spirit, granola-ridden and hugely expensive, and private, Bard College. But maybe it's not odd.
I'd bet home schooling drives him nuts. As usual with Liberals, "I know how to deliver your pursuit of happiness and I would like to shove it up your butt." I hate hearing the elites and the experts pontificate about what "we" should do. I'd rather hear myself pontificate about freedom and free choices in life. Even the freedom to apply to the somewhat offbeat Bard College if you want to.
Monday, March 16. 2015
Saturday, March 14. 2015
The guy annoys me a lot, but it's a good intro (in series, automatically) to several of the common fallacies we can all fall into: The Guide to Some Common Fallacies.
This brings to mind something I have been thinking about. I think colleges (and high schools) ought to offer lots of one or two-month courses, as my prep school did. These were mostly ways of applying basic knowledge to real life.
We had lots of short course options: intro to logic, public speaking, argumentation and fallacy, etymology, the Parthenon and Greek architecture, opera history, local geology, basics of meteorology, ornithology, paper-making, the math and science of sails and sailing, human anatomy, emergency first aid, typing (was required), the natural history of New England woodlands, intro to the American legal system (by a local lawyer), how doctors think and diagnose (by a local doc), the life and music of Brahms, Freud's main theories, What banks do and the math of banking, Adam Smith's life and work, ballistics and firearm design, geology of the sun, the US Constitution and the Federalist Papers, etc. etc., - along with the usual full trimester things and the required daily sports and daily chapel (which was, in effect, a 4-year Bible study). Wonderful. In four years, you could do a lot of them.
(We all had to be on a dirty jobs crew throughout the year too. Slave labor saved the school money, and protected us privileged boys from being complete spoiled brats. Dishwashing, leaf-raking, mowing the sports fields, serving at faculty tea, vacuuming the dorms, cleaning the chapel, and so much more!)
With the short courses, you had to learn it fast, which was good brain-training. The masters got to chose their own offerings from their own interests and hobbies. 10 kids per class, max.
Our required trimester courses? That's another topic, but they were good indeed and there were no choices at all. It's a shame that few colleges are as fine and as demanding as was my prep school. Gosh, it was fun, and they improved my Skeet skills too. The things that make preppy preppy, I guess. Not brains necessarily, but exposure, discipline, and training.
Monday, March 9. 2015
How to Get the Best Return on Investment For College. They mean Bismarckian, ie practical for society's interests and your work/career. Germans always thinking about society's interests.
Sunday, March 8. 2015
Compared to their cohorts around the world, American millennials come in last or near-last by just about every metric.
Wednesday, March 4. 2015
When I was young, Sweet Briar had already evolved from an elite finishing school to a serious college for female children of the gentry, and especially those with horses. Skidmore used to do the same. Their goal had been to produce excellent young wives for gentry men; literate, infused with a dose of southern charm, graciousness and manners (even though at least half were from the north), prepared to help any kids with homework, to pour tea, to read a book each week, to go on fox hunts, to shoot shotguns and rifles, to throw a dinner party, to be equipped to run family affairs and to handle social relations delicately, to run Junior Leagues, church organizations, and garden clubs - and to discuss any topic intelligently with a hubby, from the sciences to art history to international issues.
Women well-equipped to create beautiful family lives for the gentry class and to raise lots of fine kids and future good citizens and future good parents.
The lovely college mostly kept to that mission until they responsibly recognized that the market was running against them. Sad. Many families over the past 100 years are grateful for their mission. Charming campus, with sweet, genteel and refined young women. It all fades into history and fond memory.
I admit I am old-fashioned. I married an extremely-bright Randolph-Macon girl. Lucky me to catch a southern gal from the horsey set. She is still ticked off about the War Between the States, but, thank God, she likes me and my friends up here in Yankeeland. Hostess of the Century, I think. I just show up, and there's a fun party with interesting folks. I pour, and enjoy the bright, interesting people she collects and who are drawn to her sparkling self.
Monday, March 2. 2015
Saturday, February 21. 2015
All of us in positions to employ people know that a college degree, in many or most cases, is meaningless credentialism much of the time, these days.
For life-enrichment or for the hard sciences, college can great, especially if money is no object and if the kid is a natural scholar. The latter is, at most, 5-6%.
In choosing friends, we might prefer people who know a lot about a lot of things, but for employees one applies different metrics. We train all of our own people, including our paralegals. We use a marine corps boot camp system. Many wash out, but are better for it. Some even thank us for letting them discover what level of effort and learning is expected from work in the for-profit world.
Many times, college is a negative from a business standpoint. We exist to make money honestly and nothing more. When we hire, all we ask ourselves is "Can this person make, or save, us money?" And in case they do not, can we let them go without a lawsuit? I would never say that we avoid women, older folks, or minorities, for that reason because there are laws, but we have had enough expensive troubles with that in the past. We just want the highest performance and we want you available 24 hrs/day if needed, no excuses.
Do an extraordinary job, exceed expectations, go the extra mile, make yourself attractive, and spread good cheer? We will reward you handsomely with money, benefits, love and appreciation.
When we hire new lawyers (rarely in recent years, unless they come with deep portfolios of corporate clients), of course they have degrees. We ignore their degrees, bearing in mind that legal work required degrees only recently (historically). We see people with recent law degrees working in Starbucks and living with their parents.
All real law is learned in apprenticeship, preferably under a genius mentor. All real learning is, ultimately, self-education.
Friday, February 20. 2015
This education theorist is obviously an idiot. He proposes to teach prepared. synthetic synthesis before those empty brains have any fundamental knowledge. Maybe the foundational knowledge is just too hard to learn or teach. It is both.
Synthesis? Do it on your own time if you can. Got your calc? Got Avogadro's Law? Gas laws? Got the laws of thermodynamics? And the laws of electromagnetism? Got the math of cardiac physiology? If you have these things, and more, maybe we can talk "synthesis." I would wager the author knows none of these.
New ideas about formal education can be assumed to be wrong.
Wednesday, February 18. 2015
From my perspective, a college degree is good for a few things. These are not limited to: expanding one's view of the world, improving one's own process of inquiry and learning (my father's old line is you go to college to get an education, not to get a job), and to become technically proficient in a variety of specialized fields where proficiency is otherwise difficult to achieve. I'd toss in that it's also a means of networking and learning social skills to improve future prospects in both life and work.
College is not the only place to learn these things, though it's probably one of the better places to learn them. You could say the same for the military, in some respects. Be that as it may, limiting one's view of a person's potential and capabilities to very specialized qualifications, such as college or military backgrounds, is a bit odd.
Mike Rowe explains why:
Continue reading "Mike Rowe on Qualifications Versus Competency"
Monday, February 2. 2015
Saturday, January 31. 2015
It's my alma mater, so I think it's a good place. Tough but supportive sort-of: they will certainly toss you if you don't want to get with the program. Many claim that Andover has smarter, more competition-minded kids, but a colder atmosphere. A visit to Phillips Exeter Academy.
The Exeter Harkness table. You can't hide.
By coincidence, Jeb Bush at Andover.
In my view, most of the elite New England prep schools are extremely demanding academically, socially, athletically, and emotionally. The stress and frequent misery and humiliation are part of their mission, like boot camp. Nobody gets As. These schools feel that if one kid gets an A, that is just proof they are not pushing the kids hard enough. I got 2 As in four years, and I worked my butt off. The mandatory 3-hour study hall every evening helped me learn, and the mandatory chapel, formal meals, lights-out, no TV or radios, and other structures helped center me. After class on Saturday mornings we had choir practice, then sports. Sundays, sleep late, then required church, formal lunch, 2 hrs study hall - then free for the rest of the day but you had better be ready to be called on, on Monday morning: "You read the essay, yes? And Madison's paper? So defend Madison's position on ... in light of the new Constitution."
Sad to say, these academies are not as structured these days but remain academically rigorous.
Caught with tobacco, drugs, drink? Sent home for good in shame, immediately. Sports required for 3 hours every afternoon, regardless of ability. Sex? We were not coed quite yet, which helped concentration enormously.
Friday, January 30. 2015
Are we witnessing an epidemic of PC bullying? Of course, and the contagion has spread out of academia to the real world. People have become fearful of what and how they talk, as if we were in the old East Germany. Fact is, you can pass yourself off as a victim, you can bully and intimidate all you want.
The argument is that only certain (usually academic) elites can be rational, so it is the job of our moral and intellectual superiors to protect us from bad ideas, bad words, and unhindered speech. Good, concise piece: Yes, Political Correctness Really Exists - Social media gives new muscle to German Marxist Herbert Marcuse's arguments against free discourse.
There is truth in that notion that the biggest megaphones are loudest, but this concern misunderestimates people - even the benighted hoi polloi like us who believe everything on NPR. As you might expect, here at Maggie's we take some amusement from a world full of loony-tunes and liberal fascists -regardless of the size of their megaphones - because we have faith that good old American common sense and resourcefulness will endure and see through the insanity.
Indeed, I believe the Left would be happy to hinder my free speech. I have no desire to hinder theirs, even though I sometimes feel it is fundamentally malevolent. As we often claim here, the desire to control others is a form of mental illness.
CS Lewis: Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.
For an amusing take on the topic, Another Progressive Self-Excommunicates Over Political Correctness Thugsquads
Thursday, January 29. 2015
Saturday, January 24. 2015
Thursday, January 22. 2015
Monday, January 19. 2015
Memorize everything you can which you find worthy. Poetic verse, biblical verses, aphorisms, and song lyrics most lend themselves to it, but so does anything worthwhile.
Actors readily learn an entire play, so why not we? Memorized verse always comes in handy. Orality, Literacy, and the Memorized Poem - Hearing art's heartbeat.
Thursday, January 8. 2015
Tuesday, January 6. 2015
It seems not to mean much, these days. What Does “College Ready” Mean?
My impression is that higher ed is an industry today, government-subsidized. They will take almost anybody regardless of IQ, character, academic achievement or curiosity, etc. and run them through their credentialing machine for big bucks.
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