A Liberal on Education

The Wall Street Journal’s Science Editor Asks?


Sharon Begley on her broom

Sharon Begley on her broom

Do School Systems Aggravate Differences in Natural Ability? is the headline published prominently in the Wall Street Journal by its Science Editor. “Why doesn’t 12 years of schooling raise the performance level of kids who start out behind?  Do current educational practices lock in early cognitive differences among children?”  After dropping a few catch-words like developmental milestone, creativity, gumption, and character, she even suggests that a child may “suddenly master logical thinking or problem solving”.  Sharon Begley (Wall Street Journal 6/2/2006)


       The above liberal thought comes from the old notion that all students should learn equally, and after 12 years there should be no differences.  Those who start out behind should catch up during twelve years of school, and the schools’ efforts should focus on avoiding or removing this gap in learning.  This notion was given great credence by the courts in Brown vs. Board of Education.  The schools have been trying to equalize educational outcomes ever since.  Education with no gap in learning only occurs in the Land of Oz.  The idea that any part of learning comes from suddenly mastering anything is waving a magic wand.

         The loaded terms and slanted questions from this liberal thinking are a clear tip-off to the Wall Street Journal’s Science Editor, Sharon Begley.    The complete text of her article is an exposé of a classic liberal journalist in activist mode.  Lock-in, aggravate, and suddenly are simply biased terms which obscure the fact that Ms. Begley doesn’t have a clue about education, testing, statistics, or research design.  Not much science here!

The Antidote:

        There is little mystery explaining why some students do well in school, and others do not.  Using the SAT as a measure of doing well in school, one statewide study of 33,000 students identified the schools’ academic programs as the primary contributor to success.  Participating in these programs produced results that were head and shoulders above all other predictors.  These are the programs designed for the more ambitious students, those who wish to get ahead through education, and most students who see high school as an intermediate step.

         Somewhat surprisingly the education level of both the father and mother were next in line in importance.  Clearly this may be viewed as both a genetic contributor and an environmental or cultural contributor.  Most liberals have great difficulty accepting any limitations through genetics, as though such clear positives or negatives may simply be swept under the carpet in learning.  As environmental contributors, well educated parents, both of whom live in the student’s home, provide a boost to learning, or not, throughout ones school years.

          Finally 1) working part time and 2) participation in school athletics were both negative predictors of doing well on the SAT.  These time consuming activities are clear distractions, and bring into focus the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.  If a student chooses to spend valuable time on non-school activities this is time taken away from school work.  Some students reported working from 20 – 30 hours per week, and others may well spend this much time preparing for and participating in athletic events.

          The schools must guide learning for each according to his abilities.  The student who is interested in a subject, goes to class, listens to the teacher, reads the daily assignments, does his homework, turns in all papers, takes all examinations, and receives top grades in a class is expected to outperform his classmates who are not as dedicated.  This is as it should be and standardized tests measure this performance reliably.  To believe that any student who has no interest in the subject matter, does not go to class, does not listen to the teacher, does not read the daily assignments, does no homework, does not turn in papers, and misses examinations, should perform just as well as those who do, is living in a fairyland.  To expect otherwise is waving a magic wand.

          Professional educators recognize the work required in being a good student, and for them magic is called hard work.  Sharon Begley appears to believe that spending 12 years in school should make everybody the same, regardless of all the things that good students do.  The complete text of the above study on 33,000 students using the SAT may be found at: http://oldmonkeytales.com/?page_id=141.  It is a heavy read, but sets aside many myths about doing well in school

Author’s note:  A short time after publishing the above liberal hogwash, Sharon Begley was released from the Wall Street Journal to peddle her liberal propaganda elsewhere. Science editor – humbug and hogwash!

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