Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is it any wonder government-run education is such a failure?

So this high school student is unable to pass a final math competency test, but because he's "autistic," he should just be allowed to graduate? Then why not give out diplomas upon request, and further cheapen their value? As Judge Smails said, "Well, the world needs ditch diggers too." This kid's big enough. He can get a construction job -- if he can get enough of a hold on himself to keep the job. Is his mother going to watch over his shoulder for the rest of her life? What will he do after she dies? He dreams of film school, but his pattern of speech is appropriate to someone about 10 years old.

In my father's day, a high school diploma was deemed evidence of basic academic competency. It was the difference between working on a farm and working indoors. Now government schools hand them out to just about everyone for merely showing up, and to weed out those who were handed diplomas, employers have to require bachelor's degree for clerical jobs that hardly need a degree. It won't be long before a B.S. or B.A. is so common, so easily obtainable, that a master's degree will be required. Like welfare, food stamps and other "social services," the particular government entity wants to hand out as much as possible. High percentages make it look good, and they also justify the budget for next year. It can be the projected percentage of "people going hungry" who receive food stamps, or the percentage of students graduating. In New York State, the Regents exams have been notoriously dumbed down over the years. I forget which happened first, but I think it was lowering the percentage required to pass, and when that wasn't enough, questions were made easier. Children are passed on to the next grades so they can have "self esteem," not learning a damn thing except for this: they don't need to work at or for something, because the government is all too happy to give it to them.

Now add the great medical hoax of the last two decades: psychiatrists and pharmaceutical manufacturers, enabled by government and lazy parents, make money giving drugs for children who are acting like children. I've never believed this "autism" hogwash, when some kid isn't smart enough or dedicated enough to put in the effort to learn, the lazy parents, unwilling to consider they did nothing to push the desire to learn. I knew someone whose 10-year-old son never learned to read, so of course he must be "autistic." In my father's day, the would-be high school graduate would have been called an idiot, and accepted as someone who wouldn't amount to anything. Parents are told their children have ADHD and are handed a prescription for Ritalin, when all that should be needed is for the children to be told to sit down, be quiet and pay attention. My second grade teacher's solution to a problem student was putting him in a corner, with a screen around him to isolate us. He was still held back that year, but it was effective at keeping him from disrupting the class.

My Macroeconomics I class was popular with non-econ students who needed a statistics or similar class as a general graduation requirement. The class wasn't what those students expected, and most dropped out after the first midterm. The professor ran his class as a serious gateway to an economics degree, not a one-time fling. There was one who kept on till the end, always asking rather stupid questions, which exasperated the professor to no end. Over lunch one day, a friend said, "Did you notice ____'s stupid question today?" So I wasn't the only one to notice the guy's inanity, his irregular shaving of facial hair, or his body odor. One morning, I had to stifle a laugh when he and a couple of others raised theirs hands with questions. The professor wanted to get to the serious students and said to him, "You, shut up." I refuse to call him "autistic" or having "Asperger's Syndrome." He was just an idiot in the literal sense.

With no ability to make logical correlations, how on earth did he get into college? It's unimaginable that he'd score decently on an entrance exam, or get decent grades in high school. I mentioned the "weird guy in my econ class" to another friend, who suggested that there might be some program allowing people of lesser intelligence to attend college. So, I said, what happens when this idiot is given credits just because and winds up with a degree? Aw, my friend replied, let the guy get his degree. But, I protested, what does that do for the degree that we were earning? The more are handed out to people who haven't earned one, the more employers can't trust that our degrees actually mean anything.

This seems what will happen with this latest "autistic" kid in the news. Wait for the "civil rights leaders" to levy charges of racism, and after the boy gets a diploma, he'll wind up at some college. Maybe he'll annoy the professors and dean enough that they'll give him a degree to get out. Film school is highly unlikely. Does his mother think she can help him with his projects?

Somewhere in the comments, someone quoted Albert Einstein: "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Except that Einstein didn't say that. There's no chapter and verse that can be cited, only some schmuck's book that can't point to anything concrete. In other words, Einstein said it as much as George Washington said "I cannot tell a lie" after chopping down a cherry tree. It's also a myth that Einstein failed math. Such stories are fabricated by people who don't want to believe they're less. There's comparative advantage in everyone, but not "genius."


Blogger Brad said...


Frankly, I think you're highly misinformed on autism. To be fair, I *do* think it's over-diagnosed, and the diagnostic criteria have widened enough that kids who wouldn't have been diagnosed when I was growing up are doing so today.

But autism is quite real. I know -- my son clearly has it.

Autism is *not* a cognitive disability -- you can have a high IQ and still have autism. It's a defect in communication more than anything. It's almost like the portion of the brain that interprets oral communication is miswired. Things that most babies naturally pick up (i.e. mimicking, eye contact, response to oral language, and eventually development of oral language) just don't come naturally. Again, it's not a matter of IQ. Although many folks with autism also have other developmental disabilities, there are many people of "genius-level" intelligence with autism too.

And it's something that you can see quite clearly. My son is still short of his 3rd birthday. From an early age, we knew that he was different from our older son. We could tell that he wasn't talking as much as we'd expect, but even more than that, we didn't ever get the normal baby "babble" that one expects. Shortly after he turned 2, we started really looking at figuring out what was going on, and got the diagnosis of autism. Since then we've had him in extensive therapy* to help him develop. In his therapy, he masters cognitive tasks quite quickly -- often surprisingly quickly to the therapists. And whether inside or outside of therapy, he shows quite strong ability to "figure things out". We got an iPad puzzle game, and within a few minutes he had completely figured out how to operate the game and started doing puzzles. Cognitively, he's fine. The communication, though, is coming along much more slowly. Thankfully, he is finally starting to show improvement, so we don't think he'll be unable to speak for his life (as some autistic people are), but we know he'll have some struggles far beyond what "normal" kids have.

All that said, whether the subject of the story should have been allowed to graduate is a completely different argument, and one that I don't necessarily care to have. I just wanted to point out, as someone who's corresponded with you for years here in the blogosphere, that I think you missed the mark on autism.

* (I mentioned earlier that most of what comes naturally to us don't come naturally to someone with autism. For some it's merely harder to learn these things -- in some extreme cases they never will. The therapy is mostly trying to lay down those neural connections through deliberate intervention rather than simply assuming they'll develop on their own.)

Monday, May 14, 2012 1:18:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

I'm afraid I don't see where I called autism a cognitive disability. What I'm saying is that who were once called "slow" are now excused as "autistic." I'm not saying anything about people of higher intelligence, whatever the hell that is. But "autism" has become such a crutch for students and parents alike, that I can't go a week without the news featuring some "autistic" student demanding special treatment because he's not doing well in school. Regarding the article I linked to, I flatly refuse to believe "autism." He just never put in effort, and his momma never tried to push him. Now he wants a diploma handed to him.

My elementary school called them "special ed students." In junior high, they were called "resource students." One malicious retard sat behind me in a regular class, and one day he used an ink pen all over the back of my coat. My father was outraged at how the school officials excused the behavior. "Oh, he's a resource student." In fact, the counselor said it with an obvious silent understanding with the principal, indicating the brat had done this before. My father was absolutely right: forget that the kid doesn't work at his classes, the only thing that mattered is that he'd ruined my coat. What was needed was a stout leather strap to the vandal's behind, not "compassion."

Well, I'm glad to hear your younger son is getting better. Some people are wired differently, of course, but has it been considered that he's not talking because he may not be interested in saying as much? Without the therapy, he may have still turned out just fine. Einstein's parents worried when he wasn't talking when very young (now that is true, unlike the myths). When I first started school, it was noted in a progress report that I'd often spontaneously sing to myself. I don't remember that at all, and basically I grew out of it. My friends and I would today be diagnosed with ADHD, and forcibly medicated because of our "disruptive" behavior. That is to say, we felt no need to show up, let alone pay attention, because we typically read several chapters ahead of the schedule. We never talked in the vernacular, and because we were well-versed in math and science, we'd be suspected of having Asperger's.

Monday, May 14, 2012 8:53:00 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

"I'm afraid I don't see where I called autism a cognitive disability"

I mostly drew it from this:

"I've never believed this "autism" hogwash, when some kid isn't smart enough or dedicated enough to put in the effort to learn, the lazy parents, unwilling to consider they did nothing to push the desire to learn."

I agree that if you're going to set competency tests for graduation, you should expect everyone to pass those competency tests to graduate. If this kid is truly autistic, and there is something specific to the design of the test that is an impediment to adequately testing his math skills, that might need to be looked at. But if he simply doesn't have the skills, he shouldn't get rubber-stamped as if he does.

But statements like "I never believed this 'autism' hogwash", especially when coupled with your below question about "has it been considered that he's not talking because he many not be interested in saying as much" belies a lack of understanding about autism. It suggests that you think the "autism" diagnosis is a label for being slow or being shy.

"Well, I'm glad to hear your younger son is getting better. Some people are wired differently, of course, but has it been considered that he's not talking because he may not be interested in saying as much?"

I don't think so. Per your later point, I agree that things are over-diagnosed -- I'm fairly confident that if I was growing up today, they might slap the "Asperger's" label on me as well. But there's a difference between an unwillingness and an inability to communicate. The skills simply aren't there. As for whether he'd turn out okay without the therapy, I think it's possible (although significantly harder). And I don't think his progress would be as strong without the therapy. I'm hoping that we can get him on solid footing so that by the time he goes to kindergarten, he's sufficiently caught up that he won't have to be put into the special ed classes.

You have a concern that parents are searching for alternate labels to excuse a child for being "slow". Perhaps you don't understand the trauma of having a child diagnosed with autism. Obviously my wife and I are concerned about the simple things, like whether our son will ever talk, like whether he'll become communicative enough to live a "normal" life and be successful in a profession, and those sorts of normal parent questions. But we worry about the bigger questions too -- what about dating and marriage? Is he going to be able to find a woman who can understand (and deal with) what's going on with him? Believe me, we wouldn't wish this diagnosis on him, but we know we have to deal with it.

You might want to read this to better understand the impact of dealing with autism:

It's the characterization of autism as hogwash that I took issue with...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

"I've never believed this "autism" hogwash" is because of all the claims that I could never believe as possible. It's not to deny there are some genuine cases, but it's so overused that I have to be skeptical of any claims. Maybe it's different where you are, but in New York it's practically epidemic -- I would sooner believe that there are NO genuinely diagnoses than all the supposed cases. Parents aren't reading to their children, never get them books and just let them be, then are surprised nothing's happening. (My own parents read to me constantly, and when I was 3 they found me reading newspapers. A family friend also bought me a Speak N Spell, which was about the coolest thing of the time.) This isn't to say you didn't try, please understand. By contrast, the one I mentioned with the "autistic" son was one of the laziest people I've ever known, and I have every expectation she's been a lazy parent, and that the kid is awfully good at video games and putting music on his iPod. Then there's the big money in diagnosing "autism" and other disorders.

"It suggests that you think the "autism" diagnosis is a label for being slow or being shy." You misunderstand. I'm not saying genuine autism is slowness or shyness. My order is the reverse, that an awful lot of parents are falling back on "autism" because their children aren't as sharp or outgoing. It's become a crutch. Now, you're an intelligent person, and I don't doubt you tried your part, but I'm laying odds on the high schooler being lazy and/or just not a smart kid, as opposed to "Oh he's autistic."

I can imagine what you're going through. My wife and I have been waiting to start a family, and if she's too old, there's a greater chance of a child with genuine mental retardation. What would happen after we pass on? (Note: we don't believe in abortion.) I've wondered the same about a close friend's son, who can't hold down a job because he's a slow learner. The only thing you can do, I suppose, is save every penny you can in a trust fund, and hope that someone family or a friend can help.

Here's another thing to consider. When I tested for sixth grade reading, I was put into the second-highest "accelerated" class. Supposedly I was good but didn't have the reading comprehension for the advanced class. Actually, it was horseshit. What happened: the short story used as a test, which was put away after I read it aloud, was so silly and uninteresting that I found nothing worthy of retaining. I had mistakenly assumed that I could dismiss this test and still be placed highest. By 5th grade I was already reading historical novels that adults would struggle with, and teaching myself enough science that a year later I was into microbiology and organic chemistry texts. Sometimes things aren't enough to hold a child's interest, and the child can't comprehend that he's not displaying things looked for by parents and teachers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 9:16:00 PM  

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