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Strange Famous Forum > Social stuff. Political stuff. KNOWMORE

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darianluv



Joined: 08 Oct 2002
Posts: 350
What you think you know  Reply with quote  

Other Opiates
What kids know.

By Mark Goldblatt



t's a freshman writing assignment I give every semester: Respond in your journals to the following quotation: "Religion is the opiate of the masses." After the students copy the words into their notebooks, I ask them to name the author. I do this now out of a mixture of curiosity and masochism; very likely, none of them will know. In the ten years I've been assigning the quotation, only five students have immediately identified Karl Marx as the author — and all five were foreign students. So as usual, in the semester just ended, after the initial silence, I offered them a hint: The author was German.

They pondered this for a moment. Finally, an older black student named Maxine raised her hand. "Was it Martin Luther?"

The class roared with laughter.

Their reaction puzzled me. It didn't seem such a bad guess. Luther was German, and he did write about religion. As Maxine glanced around, another student tapped her on the shoulder. "Don't you know he was a brother?"

The reason for the laughter suddenly dawned on me. The entire class had assumed Maxine meant Martin Luther King — their jaws dropped as I explained who Martin Luther was.

That moment has stuck with me because it highlights what, to my mind, are the two great problems with students now entering college. The first is familiar enough: They don't know what they should know. The second is more subtle yet even more worrisome: They assume they know much more than they actually do know. In this instance, not only did the students fail to identify arguably the most famous quotation of the last two centuries, or to recognize the name of the leader of the Protestant Reformation, but they felt secure enough to laugh at an educated guess far closer to the mark than they realized.

Through the years, we've grown accustomed to New York City's students lagging behind the rest of the country's on standardized tests; accustomed, as well, to American students getting blown out of the water by their peers in Far East or European countries — or, indeed, in any country where hunger does not eclipse education as a parental concern. Less familiar are surveys in which American students show markedly higher rates of satisfaction with the poor education they are receiving; they are, in other words, utterly ignorant of their own ignorance.

It is a trend that should worry us because, unlike in the past, ignorance is no longer tempered with humility. Rather, after years of psychotherapy disguised as pedagogy, ignorance is now buoyed by self-esteem — which, in turn, makes students more resistant to remediation since they don't believe there's a problem. This resistance, indeed, is part and parcel of a wholly misplaced intellectual confidence that is the most serious obstacle to their higher education. For the last two decades, I've taught freshman courses at CUNY and SUNY colleges in the city; the majority of my students have been products of the city's public schools. I am saddened, therefore, to report that more and more of them are arriving in my classes with the impression that their opinions, regardless of their acquaintance with a particular subject, are instantly valid — indeed, as valid as anyone's. Pertinent knowledge, to them, is not required to render judgment.

Want to scare yourself? Sit down with a half-dozen recent public high-school graduates and ask them what they believe. Most are utterly convinced, for example, that President Kennedy was murdered by a vast government conspiracy. It doesn't matter to them that they cannot name the presidents before or after Kennedy. Or the three branches of government. Or even the alleged gunman's killer. Most are convinced, also, that AIDS was engineered by the CIA — even though they cannot state what either set of initials stands for. Most will voice passionate pro-choice views on abortion — even though they cannot name the decision that legalized it. Or report the number of judges on the Supreme Court. Or define the word "trimester." Most will happily hold forth on the hypocrisy of organized religion — even though they cannot name the first book of the Bible. Or distinguish between the Old and New Testaments. Or state the approximate year of Jesus's birth (a trick question). Most will bemoan global warming — even though they cannot name three greenhouse gases. Or convert Fahrenheit temperatures to Celsius. Or say what planetary phenomenon causes seasons.

Let me stress that I'm not talking about stupid kids — though yes, as painful as it is to acknowledge, there are in fact stupid kids. But in this case I'm talking about bright kids, talented kids, curious kids — kids who will occasionally concoct ingenious, if wrongheaded, theories to compensate for what they don't know. Several years ago, for instance, a student of mine suggested that a semi-colon got its name because it drew attention to the words around it. She thought the spelling was: "See me colon." Clearly, if she's clever enough to come up with that, she's clever enough to learn the proper use of semi-colons; it's just that no teacher ever bothered to correct her punctuation.

She, and students like her, have been robbed — and not simply of the instruction they should have received through 12 years of primary and secondary schools. They have been robbed of their entrιe into serious cultural debate. Robbed even of the realization that they are stuck on the outside looking in. They are doomed to an intellectual life of cynicism without ever passing through knowingness, a life in which they grasp at platitudes to resolve momentary disagreements and do not possess the analytical wherewithal to pursue underlying issues.

They are lost generations. It's too late for them to catch up. But we owe it to their children to do better.
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 2:42 am
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Sage Francis
Self Fighteous


Joined: 30 Jun 2002
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Thank you so much for posting this.
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 3:09 am
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darianluv



Joined: 08 Oct 2002
Posts: 350
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Thank Mark Goldblatt. He wrote this.

And thank Djdee, He made me want to post this.

Mark goldblatt is the one that wrote Africa Speaks, the thread about the five percenters.
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 3:13 am
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Machiavel



Joined: 30 Oct 2002
Posts: 766
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man so true. I dont know the presidents before or after kenedy, although i did know that quote as did all my friends by 10th grade.

It is sad tho, that while our college system is constantly amongst the best in the world, our public required schools are among the worst. The only thing they teach you is to conform.

It is kinda sad though, that in school, parents are so worried about their children getting good grades (in nicer shcools i have no experience with innner city schools) that they basically make the teachers pass the kids when they have no business passing. And yet most of them get A's. They then go to college, and there is this instant pressure by family, and societey (in some colleges such as engineering) To get A straight 4.0. Then all of the sudden reality hits, This isnt high school, you cant slide through your classes like you could before. Not only that but in alot of classes you will likely end up working your ass off for the C- that passes you. Well thats my experience. And of course there are other colleges such as business (no offense to business majors) which is basically a joke, and anyone can pass without putting forth any effort. But what can you do.

The government will obviously not spend the required money to even ATTEMPT to THINK about fixing the situation, especially with bush in office. it really is sad.

Possibly what is making it an even more blighted situation is that students are so dumbed down (on average) they basically dont question anything. no one stands up for any political beliefs and if they do its not enough people to move the government in any way. So we end up with criminals like george bush in the oval office, and no one caring that we are about to go to war with iraq. But i guess im getting off the point. There is a moral here, but being a product of public education, im obviously to dumb to figure it out.
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 3:19 am
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darianluv



Joined: 08 Oct 2002
Posts: 350
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http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-goldblatt090302.asp
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 3:44 am
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Dee



Joined: 19 Jul 2002
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Before you say anything else, understand that I actually DO agree (partially) with this article.

I still maintain that the guy who wrote it is a blubbering idiot who wrote a book where he lampoons black culture.

However, he does have a point.


A more interesting point is that he's bashing young people like most of us, unaware, perhaps, that I'd say a good number of adults are similarly overconfident and uneducated.
For instance, Bill O'Reilly, who I"m quite confident Goldblatt would be a fan of. Bill O'Reilly calls Islam "the language of our enemies," among other things, and his confidence and lack of education is quite ridiculous.

Maybe I'm reading to much into this, but I think he's unfairly targeting young people. There has always been a vein of anti-intellectualism in this country. "Don't talk so smart" kind of thing.
And frankly, I think the stupidty of our president proved my point...its not high shool grads who are stupid. Its everyone.
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 7:10 am
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ChiefColdHands



Joined: 23 Jul 2002
Posts: 182
Location: Lansing, Michigan
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Thats so sad.

i just got out of a city high school in june and everything said hits home. its all true.

and people wonder why i have issues with kids who have been in private schools all their lives. or even just through high school.

jealousy's a motherfucker.

but whats a guy to do? read a few good books, and try to vent my frustrations at open mics.

we're a generation destined for community college.
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 7:45 am
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darianluv



Joined: 08 Oct 2002
Posts: 350
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blah

Last edited by darianluv on Fri Nov 01, 2002 11:47 am; edited 1 time in total
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 7:56 am
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gerhupsom vanbone



Joined: 03 Jul 2002
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Yeah.

Back when I went to public school in fourth grade I could get away with never doing my homework and never doing my math quizes, and all I had to do was take an hour out of my regular classes to take special education classes because people think I have a learning disability.

It was so fucking easy.

But I had problems with paranoia and I have sensative hearing.and they had way too many fire drills and there was too much people there.So I asked my mom if I could go to a small christian school cause its small and I had friends there.she said yeah and thats where i am today.

I dont know how it compares with public high school but 5th and 6th grade were definately better.

I was taught about Martin Luther and and the thing he nailed to the church wall and the protestant reforemation though.Wasn't taught how to spell.


this is a rambling of sorts.
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 8:26 am
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August Spies



Joined: 09 Aug 2002
Posts: 1979
Location: D.C.
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I agree with this article, certainly something ive noticed. All I can say is im glad the kids, even if ignorantly, are holding teh better opinions (organized religion is stupid, there was certainly conspiracy involved with JFK, pro-choice etc...)

but I also agree with "Maybe I'm reading to much into this, but I think he's unfairly targeting young people. There has always been a vein of anti-intellectualism in this country. "Don't talk so smart" kind of thing.
And frankly, I think the stupidty of our president proved my point...its not high shool grads who are stupid. Its everyone."
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 8:59 am
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Dee



Joined: 19 Jul 2002
Posts: 7872
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darianluv wrote:
The point is you become confident in your opinion when you don't have all the information. Ego's and ignorance. You prove the point well.

Jamoke.



What the fuck is wrong with you? If you disagree with me, if you think I'm "ignorant," fucking tell me why and stop being a bitch.
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 9:10 am
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Wallet Inspector



Joined: 02 Jul 2002
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Location: Weymouth, MA
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djdee2005 wrote:
I'd say a good number of adults are similarly overconfident and uneducated.


Hmm... such as the leader of our country?




Last edited by Wallet Inspector on Fri Nov 01, 2002 10:28 am; edited 1 time in total
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 9:34 am
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darianluv



Joined: 08 Oct 2002
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blah

Last edited by darianluv on Fri Nov 01, 2002 11:47 am; edited 1 time in total
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 10:08 am
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Dee



Joined: 19 Jul 2002
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What the fuck are you talking about? Can you make one sentence that includes a clear idea? In other words, you want to make some fucking sense?
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 10:14 am
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la raquelita



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 42
Location: san diego
blame  Reply with quote  

I think it is up to everyone to take responsibility for themselves. If you don't think you know how to use a semi-colon, get a grammar book and figure it out. I've never been to a private school, but I can't really imagine that they're radically different from public schools, they both are looking (somewhat) for the same product, I think they both encourage conformity. Challenge yourself. "Be the change you want to see in the world". Read. Write. Experience life. Don't blame other people for your shortcomings.

Although I'm highly oversimplifying this point, and obviously a kid from the 'burbs is going to get a better public education than from her peer in the inner-city, I think it is a point that needs to be made. Just challenge yourself.
Post Fri Nov 01, 2002 10:25 am
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