The Children Left Behind – Graduation Day; 2022

By:  W.D. Noble


The year is 2022.

The location could be Lincoln High School in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, the new Cedar Ridge High School near Austin, Texas, or one of thousands of smaller schools like North Laurel High School near London, Kentucky. The outcome is the same – because the students at Lincoln, Cedar Ridge, and North Laurel were all educated under the auspices of the new textbook standards passed in 2010 by the Texas Board of Education, which influenced textbook publication in over half of America.

The results?

______________________________

Jim Green (known to his family and friends as “Jamey”) had just received an email. His heart sank; his emotions a mix of incredulity, shock, disbelief, and anger.

He had the valedictorian spot ‘aced’ at least two months earlier; he’d done well on his S.A.T. exam (the gold-standard for testing the readiness of American high-school graduates for life in college); there was no reason for the news he’d read and re-read on this, the day of his graduation from high-school.

He’d been rejected from a large overseas university, where he was hoping to study history.

Getting into a school for Jamey wasn’t the problem – he’d been accepted already from two colleges close to home; the financing was there, thanks to Jamey’s father and his frugality. But the real prize of an education overseas was denied him.


He’d failed their entrance exam.

Some of the terminology in the test, he remembered, was foreign to him – they referred to ‘capitalism’, while everything he’d been taught referred to ‘free enterprise’; absent were references to Friedman and Hayek, while the economics questions on their test referred to people he’d never heard of – Galbraith and Keynes and others.

He’d never heard of the term “separation of church and state”, save for its reference as a flawed interpretation (everyone knew that the First Amendment was there to keep government out of religion, and that the United States had been founded as a Christian nation).

History was no better. There were few references to American exceptionalism; instead, he was asked to describe the effects of America’s failure in Vietnam, among other things – concepts he’d never studied. The idea was a bit frightening to him.

He knew next to nothing about Thomas Jefferson; reading about Jefferson or his work wasn’t a requirement. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen? He had no idea about this. They never asked him about John Calvin, the 16th-century theologian who had replaced Jefferson in his textbooks so long ago. Suddenly, he felt very alone – and aware of what he didn’t know.

What was a Deist? What was Natural Law? These were terms referenced to the French Revolution – another subject not taught, along with ‘the Enlightenment’. Enlightenment? Again – no idea; no reference.

In comparing Greek democracy to American democracy, he fared no better. Democracy? “America is a republic,” he thought. “Everyone knows that.” Asked to discuss ‘representative democracy’, ‘constitutional democracy’, and ‘Greek democracy’ led to a blank on the test form – he simply didn’t know these terms.

Terms used about America’s involvement with the rest of the world – terms like ‘imperialism’ and ‘aggrandizement’ – were unsettling, unfamiliar, and led to missing yet additional questions.

Current events and sociology questions went unanswered, or missed when he took a stab at them. Roe vs. Wade? Everyone knew it was a bad idea – there’d been no discussion of the subject during four years of school. Racism? It was hardly discussed. Gay? They didn’t discuss it – he had no idea about the causes of ‘being gay’, other than that it was a personal choice, like eating disorders or alcoholism.

Even the terms used to date things were foreign. What did “B.C.E.” mean?

He’d been asked to identify a painting in an art-history question – but because the painting was of a nearly-naked woman, he’d never seen it before – and had no idea it was located in Pompeii. What was Pompeii? He didn’t know.

Science? He didn’t know the name ‘Neil Armstrong’ – or the date that a man first walked on the moon. He believed, as did nearly all of his classmates, that the world was created; the product of an intelligent design – but apart from the name, he knew nothing of Charles Darwin.

Jamey shut off the computer. It was time to get ready to go to graduation. Afterward, the youth group at church were holding a graduation party. He’d start a summer job (more fortunate than most) the next week, and before he knew it, he’d be enrolling in college….

__________________________

Graduation day; 2022. Jim Green would go to a school in the U.S. He’d eventually forget his disappointment – and come to believe that, in the end, foreign schools were for foreigners. He knew that the best jobs went to people educated in those institutions – but an American college was good enough, he rationalized.

In an American college, he’d have an easier time adapting than he would overseas, also. Plus, the curriculum would more closely mirror what he’d learned in high-school. He’d be closer to family and friends, too.

He was too busy shrugging off the email to consider a final detail – when he got out of college, he’d compete for a shrinking job-pool with others, educated as he was – in a System Which Left Them Behind.

 

About astranavigo

Astra is one of the clever monkeys occupying space on the Third Planet From The Sun. While it was an early wish of Astra's to be one of the first to go to Proxima Centauri, he knows this is not to be; instead, you can find him here (some of the time) using simple tools to create communication. Holding up a mirror and saying 'Looky! Mistofer Emperor! Y'ain't wearin' no clothes!" is but one of the services he provides here. Others are subverting prevailing wisdom, peeing in people's Cheerios, trashing on their Imaginary Friends (he does this a lot,) and shifting paradigms without benefit of a clutch. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he hopes he'll never have to learn the true meaning of some of his dystopian fiction.

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8 Comments on “The Children Left Behind – Graduation Day; 2022”

  1. Don’t you guys just *love* academic censorship?

    Seriously though, the education system in this country is headed for the toilet and I doubt that there’s much anyone can do about it at this time: unless there’s an armed insurrection (elections are a joke, as the incoming candidates aren’t significant;y different from the incumbants they replace) there is no chance of any real change in government – hence no chance of avoiding this disaster…

  2. A terrifying cautionary tale…too bad it happens to be true already.

    Also too bad our over scheduled children no longer want to know more than they have too, it’s all just too much for them. I’m thinking we should stop treating soccer and baseball like it’s going to be a career and free up more time for education.

    P.S. we don’t need an armed revolution we need teachers and parents who are willing to get fired in order to teach real information.

  3. And my parents wonder why i want to go to a school overseas, even if it is harder at least i’ll learn some things that I need. It disturbs me that we want to ‘censor’ ideals just because they don’t match up with everyones beliefs; for example I’m a Pagan I worship many gods(not satan), but i do know the holy texts of Christianity, and to some lesser extent Islamic text and Jewish Torah I know them because i want to know them i want to be able to think and debate, and you best believe i’d rather teach my kids to have a choice than some of the things we’re being taught now

    That was a terrifying but true glimpse and a good one at that

  4. Chris – I agree; we don’t have a democracy; representative or elective/republican; we have an auction – with the truth, along with many other things, being available either to the highest bidder or to the one with the biggest mouth. Insurrection? Balkanization is more like it.

    Grainne – While we need less soccer and more education, we need to define that. To my mind, elementary/grammar school should be about fundamentals; secondary education should be four years of personal development and finding one’s passions, whether that be in the arts, the sciences, or something else. Post-secondary education should be about refining that ambition – even if that post-secondary education is about learning a trade.

    Shadow – Your comment leaves me a sliver of hope that perhaps there are enough young people with the desire to DO something; that perhaps (if we’re all very fortunate), we can turn this thing around.

    I’m not going to hold my breath, though. Texas is more powerful than we think.

    -W

  5. [quote=grainnerhuad]we don’t need an armed revolution we need teachers and parents who are willing to get fired in order to teach real information.[/quote]

    And then what? Once the only teachers willing to contradict the establishment are gone what’s to stop the beast from filling their post with mindless drones that will regurgitate whatever swill the social order wants them to?

    The society we live in is far too corrupt for conventional reforms – an insurrection is required for any measure of real change to occur. However, I think that this population is just too goddamn jaded by this time to muster the energy for this (too distracted by things like “American Idol” or how many kids Angelina Jolie wants to adopt this week…). Hence my desire to get as far out into the country as possible, build a bunker and wait for the social establishment to collapse on itself…

  6. I almost think we’ll be lucky if we make it to 2022. The educational system has been crumbling for years. The University of Alaska, which Sarah Palin didn’t attend- preferring instead to go to a small college in Idaho- has fairly high requisites, but standard with most University programs. Over half the high school graduates that applied at the U. of A. needed to take remedial courses in language arts and/or mathematics before they could actually enroll in college level academics. Teenagers who had dropped out of high school began taking the remedial courses as a means of acquiring their high school equivalency diplomas and as a preparation for college. The hallways became filled with the under twenty set that saw this second opportunity for higher education as a short cut to the work world. Apparently, none of them understood the term, “self discipline”. They invaded the snack kitchen, emptying the room of snacks and beverages, completely ignoring the honor system of placing payment for their goodies in the donation can. They took advantage of the lack of monitors to drag them back into the class room, to linger in the halls chattering and disrupting the concentration of serious students. Eventually, the U. of A. had no choice but to transfer the bulk of their remedial classes to a nearby high school for night classes. In this instance, i blame the parents more than i do the teachers. Already seeped in the illusions of entitlement instead of earned rewards, they unleashed their irresponsible children on an unsuspecting educational system, and despite complaints, were fully convinced it was the fault of the system and not their cherished darlings who could do no wrong.

    Among those who did settle down to the requisites of a college education, there was still an appalling lack of regard for form and study. When professors asked for ten page term papers, the criteria handed in was full of cutesy pictures revealing their computer skills, but the text documents couldn’t have amounted to much over two thousand words. One of the local weather forecasters failed the Earth Science class at the U. of A. She had absolutely no grasp of meteorology, but the local network wanted her because she was pretty and flirted a lot.

    The American educational system is dummying down because that’s what people want. If the skill level is too hard for their comprehension, than the standards of the skill level must be lowered. It is crucially important to feel like a winner; winner defined as the one of top of the pile, with very little concern for true qualifications. How you reach the top isn’t important; lying, cheating, exploiting, flaunting your wares; it’s all good. The important thing is that you get there.

    Of course education is going to flounder; along with the arts, the sciences and progressive thinking; when the illustration arrives again and again, it isn’t in what you know, it’s in who you know and how capable you are of pulling strings.

  7. did you send this to Glenn Beck ?? you should … just wonderful. I can’t believe this “story” got so little attention in the “liberal” press … if society does everything for “future generations” what exactly are we doing by allowing this to happen ,,, can I not pay school taxes if I object to what is NOT being taught ?? How can we take a stand ?? or is it really to late to make a difference anymore ?? Brilliant !! (I’m a friend of Grainne’s, if none of what I write makes sense, maybe she can explain what I meant to say )

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