My four-year old son will likely be returning to school a few weeks from now. He will be attending a public school close to where we live. He wants to go back because he misses his friends, and this is something I sympathize with. Children should be spending most of their day playing, preferably unsupervised. It’s not the same when I play catch with him, or trucks or dinosaurs. At the same time, I know that this will retard his academic progress, compared to home schooling. His 3 “R” skills have gone through the roof over the previous six months since the onset of COVID-19.
Why? How can I say this as nicely as possible? Ontario’s public school system stinks. This judgement, by the way, is based on the standards the system itself sets. In 2017-2018 (the latest numbers I could find), almost 40% of Grade 3 students were below the provincial standard for math, and more than 50% of Grade 6 students failed to meet their higher standard. This should be considered a national disaster. Yet no-one seems to either care or even notice. And at a time where we seem to be increasingly sensitive to differences in outcomes between races, does anyone reading this not believe that there are huge differences depending on whether the child’s parents are white, black or of Asian descent?
This problem could be solved overnight. This problem should be solved overnight. There should be an Ontario-wide curriculum designed for every subject, and every single student should view that content, via the internet. It would require a computer in each classroom, and a large projection screen. All learning would be delivered on-line, and then teachers in the classroom would assume the roles of “police officers” and tutors, ensuring that discipline is maintained and helping individual students work through those areas that each finds difficult.
Ultimately, every single Ontario student would move ahead at approximately the same pace, resulting in 100% success in each academic discipline.
This would require frequent standardized testing. Many in the Educational Establishment think that, by definition, standardized testing is problematic. This is utter nonsense. Common sense tells everyone that standardized testing is not the issue. The issue is whether the standardized test correctly captures the desired learning outcomes. Let me use my son as an example. I am currently teaching him how to add all the numbers from 1 through 10. I use a standard card playing deck. I have taken all the hearts in the deck from the ace through ten, and all the spades in the deck from the ace through ten.
I test him on a daily basis. I shuffle the cards and match one red and one black card. When I started this exercise two weeks ago, he would typically get 2 or 3 out of 10 trials correct. Now he’s up to 5 to 6 on average. When he consistently hits 10/10, we’ll bring in the Jack, and designate that as the number “11”. When he hits 10/10, we’ll introduce the queen as number “12”. And I’m doing something similar with words and spelling: Start with short, simple words, and layer in more difficult and longer words gradually.
I would admit that evaluation would be easier earlier on in the education process. However, all high school subjects that are more “subjective”, such as History, Geography, and English, could be delivered similarly. To maintain consistency across the province, the primary testing method would be multiple choice. However, in order to pass at each grade, students would be required to write an essay in several hours. They’d be plopped in front of a PC, given a topic, and then off they go. Depending on the student’s age, the level of difficulty and sophistication would vary.
When I was growing up, there was a saying that war was too important a matter to be left to the generals. Today’s equivalent is that education is too important to be left to a corrupt Education Establishment that has clearly failed us and more importantly, our children.
There is going to be a Presidential election approximately three months from now. It is a statement on the state of Western democracy that the best that the Republican Party can do is Donald Trump and the best that the Democratic Party can do is Joe Biden. Whatever you think about Donald Trump’s substance, his style is borderline indefensible. Reasonable people look at him and feel visceral hatred. At the same time, it’s impossible to listen to Joe Biden speak, and overlook the obvious fact that he simply doesn’t have the mental acuity to lead a country with a vast nuclear arsenal.
That made Biden’s VP pick that much more important. When I first heard that it was Kalama Harris, I wondered if he really was interested in winning the election. The selection was that bad. Yes, she ticks the two identity politics boxes of gender and race, and this is very important to the Democratic base. But the upcoming election won’t be won or lost based on the hard-core on either side of the political divide. This election, like most recent ones, will ride on voter turnout, the electoral college map, and the state of the economy in the month before votes are cast.
However, there is one significant fact about Kamala Harris that ultimately explained why she was selected when there were several better candidates. Kamala Harris was Hilary Clinton’s pick, which means that she was the Democratic Establishment candidate. That Establishment did everything in its power in 2016 to rig the nomination against Bernie Sanders. That Establishment paid lip-service to the importance of a “minority” candidate and two talented and articulate candidates emerged. However, the minority groups that Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard belonged to didn’t cut the politically correct muster and the party rallied around Joe Biden to stop Bernie Sanders.
This is how I expect that the 2020 election will play out. I am writing this column on August 17th. I believe that Biden will find a way to weasel out of the Presidential debates. Maybe there’s one, but the Democrats will find Trump’s behaviour so egregious that he won’t “deserve” a second or third. A media that despises Trump will make any excuses on Biden’s behalf. Trump has been his own worst enemy with multiple petty tweets, and picking fights with those who should be his allies. All Biden needs to do is keep his head low, issue milquetoast statements, and he’ll be the next President of the United States.
Then once elected, the same media that ran cover for Biden, will miraculously and suddenly notice that he’s mentally not there. There will be pressure that he simply can’t resist to step down for health reasons and sometime late in 2021 or 2022 he will voluntarily resign. Then he will be lionized, compared to George Washington for ceding power voluntarily, and then Kamala Harris, the Democratic Establishment’s number one choice, will assume the role that they wanted her to have all along.
In 1989, American political scientist Francis Fukayama published a landmark essay, “The End of History”. The Soviet Union was in collapse and the United States was the undisputed single world Super Power. The Cold War was over. Fukayama observed this outcome and concluded that because people were naturally attracted to value creation and classical liberal values such as property rights and freedom of speech, authoritarian regimes would pull towards liberalization. This was the historical inevitability he perceived that was so much different than the one articulated by Marx and Engels in the 19th century.
Fast forward to the coronavirus. This is how I believe that this pandemic started, and how it came to spread around the world. I believe that COVID-19 was man-made. I believe that it originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. I believe that it escaped by accident. Once that occurred, the Communist Chinese government did everything in its power to contain the virus’ spread within its own borders, while it was indifferent to the contagion being released to the rest of the world. This seems to me to be the explanation that best conforms to the objective facts that most of us agree with. Yes, it is a harsh interpretation, but life itself is harsh.
The question is then: Why would a sovereign state act that way? Why wouldn’t the Chinese government do everything in its power to stamp out the virus? Perhaps the ruling elite in that country never bought into the “end of history” thesis.
Twenty-five years ago, it was virtually impossible to go into a Walmart store and find something that had been manufactured in China. Walk up and down the aisles today: It’s virtually impossible to find something that is not manufactured in China. And the West profoundly misinterpreted this economic development.
The belief was that as China grew, it would become more and more like us in every way. China had embraced free enterprise and championed private property rights. On the coat-tails of those economic developments other liberal values would flourish: Freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the right to protest. What we would see would be akin to the relationship between the United States and the European Union countries. Yes, there would be conflicts – this is part of the human condition – but ultimately there would be broad agreement around classic Western liberal values.
However, what this overlooked was that there is a third path between the Soviet Union model of a centrally planned economy and a strict authoritarian regime, and the United States free enterprise model coupled with strong individual rights. The third path is a quasi-free enterprise model combined with a strict authoritarian regime. This seems to be the path that China is following. And when I see the political and social chaos that is roiling the United States right now, it could well be that one generation from now, a new “End of History” essay could proclaim that the Chinese model is the one of the future.