Ideas on education, the English language, and the teaching profession.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Tracking in School (Part One)
As much as people hate to admit it, humanity comes in three forms: the high class, the middle class, and the lower class. The higher class enjoys the most freedom, the most influence, and the most the world has to offer, but shoulders the most responsibility. The middle class enjoys all these things as well, but to a lesser degree. The lower class does not enjoy these things but are dependent on others. The gospel rightfully acknowledges the three levels of almost all societies when Christ tells his story about the three men and the talents that their master dispenses. The first two do great things with their responsibility over the talents, but the poor man buries his share in the ground and produces nothing while the master is away.
People often argue with this outlook on humanity citing it as a lingering form of backward barbarism from the uninformed past. They optimistically posit their progressive idea of an equal plane being possible for all people. To them, the only thing that separates the lower class from the higher class is mere circumstance. These progressive minds continue to favor some kind of compensation to the lower class by taking away from the privileged upper class. Despite history providing numerous pieces of evidence to the contrary, they believe that this will fix the class disparities of humanity and push it towards a better future. In reality, this approach simply lowers the universal standard and makes almost everyone low class. At this point, all the proverbial servants will bury their talents and lose the ability to even conceive an idea of achievement or success. Fortunately, the society that makes this collective of inferiors will be lucky to even sustain itself. Like the Soviet Union it will either utterly implode and start from scratch again, or gradually compromise its ideals of equality for profit like China.
However, there is another poor, though not quite as extreme, policy that establishes and maintains an artificial hierarchy based on entitlement rather than merit. For example, Rome rose on the basis of a meritocracy. Wise leaders offered the possibility of advancement in the form of the empire's military and bureaucracy. People born of humble farmers in an obscure province could rise to become a general or imperial advisor in the great city of Rome. Unfortunately, Rome's downfall came when wise leaders foolishly mistook a privileged upbringing for a virtuous one and forfeited the system of rewarding merit to a system that rewarded breeding. In the hierarchy that flourished from roughly the time of Gaius Marius's military reforms (107 BC) to the death of Marcus Aurelius (161 AD) social mobility truly existed and virtue facilitated a rise in the ranks. Individuals made their mark on this part of history providing many admirable and impressive characters for posterity to enjoy forever after. These same individuals would have suffered terrible oppression brought on by inferior minds continuously in power during Rome's decline after the age of the Antonines. The government froze the classes that started saturating anyway, and the imperial government started to reduce the population to serfdom by heavy taxation. From this, one might as well make yet another speculation about Rome's reason for decline and say that the culture tried to oppose the natural hierarchy of man that transcends royal mandates. Rather they should have accepted it and explored the possibilities presented.
Great nations like early Rome come into prominence by embracing this natural order of humanity to a certain extent. They create opportunities for the three classes of people to find their designated place in society. The virtuous high class must lead, the middle must follow and maintain, and the lower class must correct themselves or suffer indefinitely. Plato wrote about this hierarchy in his Republic recognizing the necessity of virtue, but oddly enough, not of the freedom of choosing to be virtuous. True progression (as opposed to collectivists) results from "laissez faire" of natural virtue manifesting itself in individuals. Ayn Rand correctly asserts that those who are blessed with a wise upbringing and superior talents will bring up all the people around them by being left alone to live in greatness. This freedom allows the same souls suffering serfdom half of millennia ago to now enjoy being kings of their own households lazily imagining what their next luxury will be. Abject poverty of homeless starving people that consumed over half the population now affects a tiny portion of the population. As long as all people are free to prove themselves worthy of any of the three levels accorded by nature and morality, then human progress and a rising quality of life will follow.
However, this suitable hierarchy only comes when people are allowed to succeed AND fail. A false hierarchy doomed towards universal poverty exists when people aren't allowed to fail or succeed. The high class is artificially placed with the low class, and vice versa. Thus the world goes to the greedy and foolish men while the good guys perish. In history, this process starts as a decline and ends as a dark age. In modern terms, this mismatch constitutes the way of the third world. The cultures that preserve man's natural and moral hierarchy allow the good guys to govern the world responsibly (by allowing the people to govern themselves) while the foolish and greedy suffer punishment and receive correction. In history, this process starts as rise and ends as complete cultural hegemony. Only a few great nations have gotten near to a perfectly free state respecting a hierarchy of virtue and natural ability, but none have ever maintained it long enough to keep from declining once more into corruption. Fools will always be around to let the failures succeed and the successes fail, and they will always do so to their own demise.
They do it because they think they can break the hierarchy, but it will never happen. Humans will always have three classes of people: the leaders, a small group of people who have creativity, aptitude, and responsibility; the followers, a large group of people who have competence and responsibility towards the leaders; and the misfits, the smallest group of people who have neither competence nor responsibility. The leaders need promotion, the misfits need correction, and the middle need to set the highest standard possible.
Every group will always come in roughly the same numbers when they are born, but a suitable approach can maximize each group's potential. While the misfits will always be around each generation, they can be turned from destructiveness with extra help. Once people recognize the existence of these three groups, then these that have caused every failure in history might be corrected for good, and cut the hierarchy to two groups.
What better place to start this constructive liberating solution for society's corruption than school?