Regional State School Stories – Some Brief Thoughts About How Did This Happen

(These thoughts have to be brief because (a) I’m here again, and, (b) the Hex hatch is on! )

Speaking of fly fishing, my next post will be about the connection between fly fishing and the fact that you can’t count on professors to change the system.  Now for the thoughts.

First, a not very deep thought: people just do what people do, they survive in whatever situation they happen to fall into.  (Speaking very generally, of course.)  Second, things don’t ususally change overnight, especially the culture of a system, like education.  People responding, just change, and, more importantly, the people change; that is, new people take over.

(Bankers used to follow the 3-6-3 rule (borrow at 3%, loan at 6%, on the golf course at 3pm). Those bankers have been replaced.  The new bankers didn’t start changing the system.  The system changed and everyone thought that the same bankers would keep going on.  No, with the new system, if you won’t do it, someone else will.)

Back to the “brief” explanation.

In the sixties there were three important things going on: America’s desire to produce lots of scientists and engineers; America’s desire to see everyone have a chance at a college education; and, Vietnam.

We will start with scientists and engineers.  A friend told me that he made more going to grad sdchool than working.  So money for research and education was pouring out.  That’s fine, but, now, add no accountability and public trust in universities, and not all those new engineers and scientists are going to be people that should be in those fields.  Any system (universities, too) will try to provide what is asked of them.  Eventually, they will just provide what they think people will be happy with, especially if they don’t get caught.  Many people will also have ways of fooling themselves into thinking that they aren’t doing anything wrong.

Now to all  those new “universities”.  Colleges that used to hire good Masters degree graduates to teach undergraduates who were going to be teachers, (I think they were called “Normal” schools) suddenly became the local “university”.  Of course, they needed “professors”, so they got them.  There was money to produce them, etc…

Oh, yes Vietnam.  Because few people wanted to fail a student and see him get killed in Vietnam, grades started inflating dramatically.  Thus, it was even easier to find a math grad, make them a grad student, pass them no matter what. (You don’t want to return the grant money, or not get another one.)

These people become professors who teach potential high school teachers.  What do the students do? I will end this with a personal story from when I was a sophomore in high school.

We had a great chemistry teacher, who was replaced with a very afraid, retired person who had never taught before, and remembered little of her chemistry and gave many A’s for nothing.  Do you think anyone went to the principle and complained that they wanted to work harder?  No, we just made fun of the teacher amongst ourselves and didn’t learn much chemistry.

Finally, after scary economic times in the 70’s and administrators who were willing to do “what was necessary” (though it wasn’t), the system became a place to make “consumers” happy.  Give them what they think is an education and send them on their way.

I hope this makes some sense, no time to reread it, got to GO FISHING!  (Fishing and professors will appear in the next post, tomorrow, I hope.)

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