Friday, September 01, 2006

Tomorrow's Engineers, Today

When I first arrived in wonderful California in 1965, as a mere lad, I was stunned by all that seemed possible here. There were clean, pleasant cities with wonderfully bizarre-looking buildings and wide, well-maintained streets and freeways, good-paying jobs and the widest variety of types of terrain/scenery one could imagine. There were beaches, mountains, deserts, rivers and lakes, all close enough for a weekend outing, at most.

Cities were similar, yet different, and all jammed together so that it was hard to tell exactly what city I was in at any given moment, while driving. There was also air I could sink my teeth into--that would sometimes burn my eyes and catch in my throat.

A price worth paying, I thought at the time.

I found a job quickly: there were many jobs available. After the first year, I'd left the first job for a higher paying one. Finally, after a little over a year, I got the job I'd been after: a surveyor-apprentice with what was then known as the California Division of Highways. I was involved in building freeways!

One thing I've remembered for all these years: every one of my employment interviewers commented that I had an incredible advantage, having gotten my schooling outside of California. Even back then!

The photo with this entry comes from The Orange County Register, September 1, 2006. It leads a story about California's government children's prisons. The headline: "More Schools Meet Federal Goals," and is a mostly self-congratulatory story apparently written, or at least coached, by a member of the state's Dept of Education, about the improved scores "achieved" by Orange County's children's prisons. Seems they've generally improved a bit over last year.

Pardon me while I hawk up an expression of doubt.

Since the mid-seventies, I've had the opportunity on numerous occasions to interview prospective employees and make hiring decisions regarding these individuals. Though I have no formal schooling in personnel matters, I think I'm a better than middling judge of character. I'm generally happy with the decisions I've made. The one common thread I was able to observe, though, was that high school graduates seem incredibly under-educated to me. On the other hand, the two college grads I had a hand in hiring seemed far better. They were graduate geologists that worked in my lab for a couple of years, then moved on to jobs that made better use of their education and talents.

The high school grads I dealt with, while intelligent lads all (or I wouldn't have hired them), seemed to be deficient in the knowledge of stuff that ought to be taught them in school.

Which brings me back to this newspaper article. The photo shows a quite atrocious construct that looks to me to be a kindergartener's work. I guess it's supposed to be a bridge. In the photo, it's falling over under a load. Good thing the photo's caption tells me this, or I'd never have guessed.

These are sixth graders!!

When I was in seventh grade, lo! these many years ago, we had a science fair at Valley Junior High School in Grand Forks, North Dakota. No science maven, I, so I had no entry in the science fair. A girl for whom I felt fondness at the time was, however, so I attended the science fair.

The recollection that has relevance here, is the fact that one of the thirteen-year-old exhibitors at the Valley Jr science fair built a bridge out of popsickle sticks, string and Elmer's glue that not only looked like a real bridge, but was able to support the weight of the HO-scale cars, trucks and miniature people figurines which he placed 'pon the bridge.

Today's kids aren't stupid--I know some of them. But, they're being horribly shortchanged by the children's prison administrators and teachers.

And here, in spite of the criminally poor job they're doing, they have the gall to congratulate themselves on having improved minutely over the period of a year. They ought to be ashamed!

Why aren't these sixth-graders reading Aristotle? America's Founding Documents? Ayn Rand?

Why aren't they working in algebra? Geometry? Trig?

Why can't they diagram sentences? Why, for cryin' out loud, can't they, any of them, spell?

Why can't they make change? Write a check? Balance a checkbook?

I fear for the Republic.


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

1 comment:

Ol' BC said...

Oh my Claude, Colonel. I've asked the same questions hundreds of times. I have a couple of theories. Teachers are no longer allowed to instill discipline in their classrooms. But, also, many of our teachers aren't very bright. They switched to education after they realized they couldn't make it in the field of their choice. Nonetheless, we should insist on the fundamentals being taught, but we don't.