29 August 2012
Samuel Johnson said that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. In this election year, that’s good to keep in mind. But in education rather than politics, Johnson needs to be amended: PROCEDURALISM is the last refuge of scoundrels.
In this regard, unionized education is the belly of the beast. When was the last time an educational union insisted that its members show results and that if they don’t show results, they need to be canned? Pigs will fly and hell will freeze over first.
The whole point of unions is to protect their membership, and the shield that protects them is procedure. As long as procedures are being properly followed, with every step properly documented, the membership is safe.
So Johnny isn’t learning to read or write or do arithmetic. As long as the teacher is following the curriculum point by point, the teacher is secure, and to hell with Johnny.
If education is ever going to change for the better in America, it will be by putting proceduralism to death. What’s needed are not procedures but results. We’ve become so enamored with procedure (isn’t it great all the new fangled approaches to teaching) that we’ve lost track of results.
The old approach was: bad results—punishment; good results—reward. Even the Rule of St. Benedict makes this clear. That Rule, so moderate in so many ways, has a brief chapter (#45) that strikes our modern ears as utterly foreign:
When anyone has made a mistake
while reciting a Psalm, a responsory,
an antiphon or a lesson,
if he does not humble himself there before all
by making a satisfaction,
let him undergo a greater punishment
because he would not correct by humility
what he did wrong through carelessness.
But boys for such faults shall be whipped.
To be sure, I’m not advocating whips for boys and girls. Rather, I’m advocating whips for teachers guilty of malpractice by scrupulously following procedure and neglecting their students’ achievement. I’m advocating whips for administrators who don’t back up teachers, refuse to enforce discipline, and thus fail to empower teachers to get results. I’m advocating whips for parents who don’t give a @%$# about their kids’ education.
What’s the solution? I propose the following amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Teachers and administrators at any publicly supported educational institutions (K thru 12 thru college thru university) shall have guaranteed employment for at most 12 months at a time. In every course of study at publicly supported educational institutions, there shall be clear, publicly available, state-wide criteria for competence and achievement. Teachers and administrators less than 90% of whose students fail to meet these criteria shall be fired or put on probation for one year, and fired for any second such failure.
A happy by-product of this amendment is that it would cancel tenure at all state universities, thus easing the stranglehold that secular liberalism has on today’s academy.