How long can we effectively Govern ourselves, if we can’t effectively Educate our children?

Real knowledge, like everything else of the highest value, is not to be obtained easily. It must be worked for, studied for, thought for, and, more than all, it must be prayed for.”

— Thomas Arnold

My two sons began their new homeschooling year in earnest today, and my wife and I have big dreams for them… by today’s standards, at least.

education 7446You see, we want them to have SOME clue as to how many Supreme Court justices there are, and to be able to list all three branches of government in the U.S.A., or to know why the Declaration Of Independence was written.

I know: crazy, right?

But if we manage to do just that, the two of them will be geniuses, comparatively speaking.

(Courtesy of —

Ilya Somin has another great report which follows a recent speech by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’connor. In it, Her Honor laments the general ignorance of Americans when it comes to critical matters of how their own nation works, and wonders how we’re supposed to govern ourselves out of our problems if we don’t even know the rules of the game we’re playing

Two-thirds of Americans cannot name a single Supreme Court justice, former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor told the crowd that packed into a Boise State ballroom to hear her Thursday.

About one-third can name the three branches of government. Fewer than one-fifth of high school seniors can explain how citizen participation benefits democracy.

“Less than one-third of eighth-graders can identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence, and it’s right there in the name,” she said.—

Beat the average

Of course, it’s not as if everyone has gotten the message that civics (as well as classic literature, algebra, and geography) are all THAT important to today’s youth. No, there are those in academia whom argue quite the opposite, such as David Kirp, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote a recent piece on which argued against Private or Charter schools and their focus on more Classical methods of education.

Actually, he went much further than that:

“…the autonomy of private and charter schools—the attribute so prized by the market advocates—may really be getting in the way of their improvement.

Rather than taking advantage of their freedom by being creative in how they teach math, many private schools still use an outmoded pedagogy that stresses memorizing formulas, not problem-solving.”

Ummm, what?

So according to Professor Kirp, the basic rules of Euclidean geometry which I memorized long, long, ago (e.g. A-squared + B-squared = C-squared) are less important than “problem solving”?

Would someone like to explain to me how you’d know how to “problem solve” the hypotenuse of a triangle without knowing that formula?

angry-nun-with-ruler 1Moreover, I didn’t realize that learning was supposedly such a zero-sum affair. Back when I was being raised, slightly before the discovery of fire, we were expected to learn both WHAT to do (formulas) and HOW to do it (problem solving).

The nuns never so much as implied we could choose just one or the other. Silly nuns.

Yet if memory serves, committing such building blocks of learning to memory was once referred to as “knowledge”, and in addition to math included memorizing tracts of verse, being able to describe various historical battles, or knowing how to diagram a sentence. These were all the minimum standard. When did they become not the minimum, but superfluous?

I can only posit that truly knowledgeable children aren’t easily fooled, …which might explain why there seems to be such a dearth of them today.


The Kirps of the world likely believe us to be loathsome sadists, by filling our boys’ skulls with useless facts ‘n such. No matter. According to one of our Supreme Court judges (…there’s NINE of ’em, by the way…), my wife and I are actually readying both boys to be smarter than the majority of the nation.

Huh. Who knew?

“If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” 

— Benjamin Franklin


11 responses to “How long can we effectively Govern ourselves, if we can’t effectively Educate our children?

  1. Great post. I saw the O’Connor quote and then the cheating news from Harvard and I decided it all meant the end of the world. I have six kids in public schools, and we are extremely involved in their work, but it is frightening what would happen if we weren’t. The school system seems purposely designed for everyone except the children.

    • SIX??!? Whoa, you and your wife are saints.
      And I can understand the amount of work helping with their schooling must require. You have my prayers.

      The Public Schools are most definitely NOT designed for the benefit of the kids: they’re built on efficiency models, not effectiveness models. And those models have been continually enforced by the Teachers’ Unions.

      Which tells you all you need to know…

  2. I just read an article the other day from Last Resistance called “Bad Schools Make Good Liberals.”

    High schools have become public indoctrination centers, transforming kids into miniature Liberals. Whenever Conservatives try to make schools better by offering vouchers and choice, the Democrats shut it down. The Left knows that if we turn out truly educated, well-rounded graduates, they will never win an election ever again. So to protect their own interests, they keep schools down, squishing them underneath the government boot.

    This article also quoted Sandra Day O’Connor as you did, so I know you are along the same lines here! I have been saying for years that not only are public schools their OWN worst enemy (NOT conservatives), but that they will likely do themselves in completely in another generation or so. Because when you factor in bullying and the like, in addition to poor education, parents in much larger numbers will eventually say enough is enough.

    • You’re right on point, Miss Wendee.
      And thanks for the link: great article…!

      Yes, the Libs and the Teachers’ Unions fight harder for this than anything (other than abortion), because young, dumb, mind-numbed students have inertia. Meaning that you statistically more likely to STAY mind-numbed than not, which just compounds the Leftist voter rolls like money in the bank.

      ***(…Or, at least like money USED to compound in the bank, before Obama depressed our interest rates to effectively zero, and our money does NOTHING in the bank, …but I digress).

      A quick suggestion, my friend:
      If you have NOT yet watched “Waiting For Superman”, you should. Immediately.

  3. It’s no wonder that the Kirps of the world would have so much disdain for traditional education. THEY need a group of uneducated citizens who will be unable to see through the bastardizing of our system. JTR…. Your sons will either lead a return to our values or the mush heads will be trying to lock them up…..

  4. Have you considered the McGuffey Readers? Yes, those were the books our folks studied in school and yes, you can still buy them. I think number four or five is equal to freshman level in high school. Back in the day, it was a fifth grade book. They also have the math series and others.

    Also, Linda over at No One Of Any Import home schools her boys. She might be a fount of info.

    • Oh, yeah: I remember those readers, Mr G! And yes, I read Linda’s stuff, too; she’s wonderful. My wife has a pretty good handle on her curriculum through THIS year, but we’re always looking for new sources/reference materials.
      I’ll mention the McGuffeys to her, for sure.

      Always appreciate input, partner. Can’t have too many options!

  5. I went to private school until 6th grade when it became too expensive fer my parents. So I was homeschooled from 7th to 12th grade. I took a year off after graduation then joined the Navy. (Stay with me there’s a point here somewhere) I made an 89 on my asvab, the national average in 1997 was around 35. In 2004 my GPA at TX A&M was 3.8 and I only had to take one refresher course (which was algebra)

    ……OK here’s my point, DON’T STOP HOMESCHOOLING, IT WORKS. I just want to encourage you to continue doing what you’re doing. We too are homeschooling our son and the rewards are phenomenal

    • It’s amazing to me, LibSlayer….. I’m going to be turning 54 next month, so I attended the Pittsburgh Public School System back in the mid 60’s and early 70’s. We got an EXCELLENT education.

      Now, the Pittsburgh Public School System is a train wreck. Another experiment in Liberalism gone awry.

      They always trot out the line: it’s for the children. Well, guys and gals, you have failed the children miserably!

  6. First of all I have a confession I cannot name any of the Supreme Court Justices. I thought to myself I can name one, Sandra Day O’Conner, then, I read further. Crap, former. It has not been too long since I graduated high school, so I don’t think it has changed too much. I feel that one of the major problems is the amount of choices do you want to take US government or world history, OR pottery…. Ok maybe I couldn’t have taken pottery in place of US gov. but close enough. Because I never realized how important it was to know more about the government than I already knew at 17 it was not an important subject to me and I had no interest in it. Therefore I didn’t take it and didn’t care. Social studies are not an elective but what kind of social studies is a choice and what kids have more of an effect then they or I realized. I was more concerned with what classes I could take that would let me take the electives I wanted. As for math I think I see his point the way I took it is that like me most students are only being taught the formulas not why they are used or how they work. It took a professor at CCAC to actually get me to understand math. He showed us how a formula was used and why he didn’t just give us a bunch of formulas to memorize, so you see JTR there is a one or the other that can be taught I wish it was always both formulas and problem solving. I always used the wrong formulas in the wrong problems. I was never really taught WHY a formula was used I was just told to use x with y and usually got confused and used z instead because I didn’t know the WHY of the formula. I think this all points to a bigger problem, not the fact that today’s youth can’t name Court Justices or do math although that is obviously a problem. I think the bigger problem is the teachers. Teachers in this country are treated like crap and paid crap wages. I just listened to a news story yesterday that talked about the fact that teachers in Philadelphia pay for a lot of their own supplies for their classes. If we don’t give our teachers and students the tools they need to succeed we can’t be surprised when they don’t. My mom is a teacher, and a good one to boot. I saw how much work she put in to be a good teacher and knew how much she struggled as a single mother to survive on what she made. Sadly, and understandably a lot of teachers don’t want to put in the time in effort to teach and get kids interested in subjects if they can’t even survive on what they are making. IMHO that is what should be looked at right now because soon like JTR said anyone who can name the Supreme Court Justices will be a genius, and I think that will only be because it is easy to name your colleagues. We live in an age of Google the problem is kids are more likely to learn the inaccurate facts they find on Google then they are to learn from a teacher who just doesn’t care. Sorry for the rant lol.

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