We spoke today while awaiting a professional service, with two charming young ladies, twins as it happened. They were completing their sixth year of public education in our city, irrespective of Kindergarten. Our conversation was itself an education.
They were both “gifted’ students in what are considered advanced programs at their school, classes considered too difficult for ordinary students. A few questions elicited the fact that the two differed; they were not identical twins. One was an inveterate reader, devouring books by flashlight under her blankets at night when it was assumed that she was sleeping. Her sibling was unlike her, preferring math to reading. Both were obviously intelligent; one was intellectual. They made the otherwise stultifying waiting room a pleasure … of sorts.
We learned that they had somehow reached the end of the sixth grade entirely ignorant of parsing nouns, diagramming or classifying sentences and distinguishing the subjective from the objective case. Nor could either read or write cursive script — handwriting — but relied upon either a keyboard or a labored sort of hand drawn printing when a keyboard was unavailable. Their grasp of the rules of punctuation was so simplified as to be primitive by our standards. But they were experts on sex practices, including various deviations, in detail. Both these young ladies were proficient with computers though unable to write a program for one.
We were charmed; these two were overflowing with charm and sociability. We were dismayed; they were samples of ‘gifted’ students. Exceptional ones. We were not surprised, the ongoing decline of U.S. public education in the world is well, if quietly documented.
We cannot help noting the indignation with which labor unions greet the Federal H – 1 B or “guest worker” visa program. Foreign workers are invited in to perform jobs that it is alleged, too few Americans are capable of undertaking. Disney recently replaced its IT department with such. The numbers of these and other “immigrants” are large and have been growing under both Democratic and Republican leadership.
U.S. labor unions are clearly — but quietly — dismayed at this. Like American Jews and Catholics, they recognize that their erstwhile champions, the Democrats, have thrown them under the bus. But the Republicans offer no better; little difference in fact. They are increasingly left with nowhere to turn.
There is some will say, some justice in that. They did not worry about the price being paid by others when they were on top. It is said that the unions have had much to do with shaping public education. And that is true. But they are not on top any more; the politicians have now little to gain from cozening them now. It is becoming too expensive. They are like the discarded lovers of some ambitious courtesan … a type that is after all, an at bottom just another sort of politician.
For those we have no sympathy; they knew what they were doing. Our ears are deaf to their crocodile tears. For our two charming, ‘gifted’ young about to be seventh graders who will face a competitive world bereft of the tools being mastered by others through no choice of theirs, we wish to weep.