It’s no secret that something’s gone horribly wrong in education. Despite over a century of careful study of how to teach human beings, it’s clear we’re not learning as much as we used to. A simple glance at a college entrance exam from over 100 years ago shows that today’s high school graduates aren’t even close to the level of knowledge that 19th century high school graduates regularly demonstrated.
With high school graduates dropping so far in skills, it’s only natural to see either of two things in higher ed: a massive increase in the failure/dropout rate, or a massive decrease in the standards of higher education.
It’s the latter by far, as I’ve detailed many a time in this blog. The question thus arises: what’s happening to our high school (and, presumably, pre-high-school) students? While certainly, it’s quite possible that the incompetence and corruption I’ve detailed in higher ed has counterparts in our public school system there are other issues that could also be a factor beyond the dumbing down of the material.
We’re currently running all sorts of experiments on the human race, and I suspect as long as technology continues to rapidly improve, we’ll be running even more in the near future. Never before has the world’s infrastructure allowed for ideas and inventions to be exposed to humanity so quickly.
As a quick example, online pornography is, well, ubiquitous, starting perhaps 20 years ago. A few years ago, researchers were curious if watching such things was harmful, but could not run the experiment: they were incapable of finding males not exposed to it. You can’t run a legitimate experiment without a control (I do wish we could tell Education specialists this important concept…). Let’s just hope watching porn isn’t a real problem…it seems harmless enough, but what would have happened to society if, after 10 years of watching it, it caused severe problems in the viewer? Half the population could have been crippled, warping society for generations.
It isn’t just technology which can affect the entire population in short order, political systems and social programs unlike anything the world has ever seen can be devised and implemented within a few years…it’s reasonable to consider the effects of such systems.
r/K selection theory is an evolutionary theory (theory!) that a species can engage in two basic strategies for continuation of the species. The r-selection strategy is to have lots and lots of offspring, and for the parent to not care too much about survival of any particular offspring. The classic example of a species following this theory is rabbits, although certainly more extreme examples exist, such as snails which lay millions of eggs, caring nothing for them, leading to less than 1% reaching maturity.
The K-selection strategy is to have few offspring, but the parent invests a great deal of time raising them.
Now, this idea need not be the defining factor of all individuals in a species—certainly, zoos have noticed that some individual animals make more attentive parents than the others, even as the inferior parent animals have plenty of children.
So, while humans tends towards the K-selection strategy of preserving the species, some parents are more inclined to having a few children and raising them well, while others are fine with having many children with little sense of parental responsibility for those children.
One of the many experiments unleashed upon humanity, or least American citizens, in recent times is the Welfare State: no matter how many kids you have, you and they will be taken care of. This started most glaringly with the New Deal, with a clear doubling down with the Great Society, giving an important message to those who would listen: breed all you want, and let government take care of educating, feeding, or whatever else your children might need.
My grandfather, to judge: “I gotta feed these young’uns somehow!”
–My grandfather used to transport moonshine, back when it was illegal. He had his reasons, as my mother had 10 siblings.
Granted, in agrarian societies, having many children was encouraged, because having many helpful hands on the farm was a good thing. It was nevertheless understood that the farmer still was responsible for feeding his children, and in turn those children were responsible for the parents once they were too old for hard work. In these societies, it was the smarter, better, and more resourceful farmers who would have more children, because they could afford to be responsible for them.
Today, being irresponsible means having lots of children, the opposite of what it used to mean. We’ve inverted our social norm in this grand experiment.
Now, government will feed your kids and even takes responsibility for your retirement. We’ve had around 4 generations of this huge social experiment, this huge inversion of morality, a morality which, pre-inversion, allowed humanity to dominate the planet. Despite the inversion, we kept freedom of choice, where individuals get to decide if they want to go with r-selection, or K-selection, for their offspring.
My father: “I pay my tax dollars to send some kid to public school, and on top of that I’m supposed to pay to send my kids to private school?”
–my father still sent me to private school, even though he hated paying effectively double what his responsibility should be, paying for the r-selection people. I only have 1 sibling.
Freedom of choice meant everyone was ok with this, but there is one obvious problem here: we make our decisions as a democracy. The people who chose to have few children, and care for them, are typically outvoted now, and get to watch as their tax dollars go to pay for endless programs for the children of the people with many children. The K-selection people who only have the children they can care for are now a minority, and I suspect it’s by a wide margin.
The US government has now run this selective breeding program for about a century. Often when you selectively breed an animal for one trait, you get other traits as well. German shepherds weren’t bred for hip problems, they were bred for intelligence…and so now some owners have the misery of watching their intelligent pet suffer with every step. 50 years is more than enough time to breed wild foxes to be as tame as puppies…with many other “bonus” traits as well.
It’s no great stretch to think selective breeding works with humans. Our bountiful social programs have been breeding humans to be r-selection favored. Perhaps the r-selection followers are also bred to be less inclined to study (I’ll not suggest the more obvious idea), as this trait is less common amongst the K-selection followers who are more willing (again, I’ll not suggest “able”) to consider the consequences of having children, and thus do what they can to limit their breeding to what they can personally be responsible for.
Could it be that the immense collapse in the caliber of our high school graduates despite all we’ve (supposedly) learned in Education as a field is neither due to the complete failure of Education, nor due to the immense corruption and incompetence of our “leaders” in higher education, but simply a result of our government’s eugenics program regarding its citizens?
If so, how do we reverse this? Can we reverse this? Dare I even ask if we should reverse this? I believe it’s better if humans can know things but I like to consider: before changing things, I want to make sure the change would be a good thing. If we’d asked questions like that a century ago, perhaps we’d have more people interested in, and capable of understanding, the answers today.
I lean towards reversal, however, as we’ve compensated for the decay by erected an incredibly corrupt community “college” system where over 90% of the coursework is identical to what we teach in our (generally debased) high school system. I would prefer “college” to mean college, after all.