Intellectual Arrogance

Individuals with expertise in engineering, medicine, and business believe their achievements entitle them to think their area of knowledge extends outside their profession. The recommendations that they make in subjects outside their area of expertise are examples of misplaced intellectual arrogance. Achievement in a particular field takes numerous years of study and many years of direct professional experience in that specific field in order to develop a truly knowledgeable level of understanding. It is arrogant, even for people with great personal achievement, to honestly believe they have a significant understanding of complex issues outside of their field of education and professional experience.

This intellectual arrogance has never been demonstrated more clearly than in recent pronouncements concerning education in America. Brilliant people in diverse fields outside of education feel perfectly comfortable making judgments and policy recommendations about education that impacts millions of students as well as educational professionals. Their audacity is appalling and their ignorance is inexcusable. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have announced their goal to prepare 80 percent of American high school students for entrance into universities. Eli Broad, another billionaire, gives money to school districts with the clear expectation that they will implement his business-based plans. Alan Bersin, a US Attorney political appointee, believed high school students would learn best with three hours a day of genre studies. He imposed this policy by threatening termination of educational professionals who disagreed with him. Similarly, mayors have their own ideas about how to improve student achievement, notably without any substantive research to support them. George Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy used testing to determine the success of schools, however testing in itself, has not provided solutions to educational achievement. Arne Duncan and President Obama pushed merit pay and charter schools when substantive research does not support either of these policy initiatives. Trump’s DeVos hasn’t a clue about educational research as her feeble efforts have ably demonstrated. The advocacy for these already repudiated initiatives reflects a lack of understanding of the ultimate impact on students and educational professionals.

These brilliant people mean well, but their lack of research, professional experience, and lack of understanding of complex issues in education prevent them from realizing the severe unintended consequences of their amateurish meddling. President Obama wanted America to lead the world in its proportion of college graduates. Obama’s aspiration, in combination with Gates goal of preparing 80 percent for college, is an example of applying a simple solution to a complex problem with an enormous unintended consequence. This college preparatory elitist curriculum drives up high school graduation requirements, which in turn drives up the high school dropout rate. The unintended consequence of their plan is to continue to sacrifice millions of America’s youth to dropping out of high school directly into crime and prison. This is the school to prison pipeline. These billionaires and politician’s meddling has resulted in real consequences and the enormous price tag that comes in the guise of more youth going to prison and ultimately higher costs to maintain prisons.

The urban high school dropout rate in America is 40 percent. A dropout is still an uneducated person even if they are pushed through gimmick online courses designed to reduce the dropout rate. Let’s be clear, these new gimmick programs do not constitute a high school education. Seventy percent of those in prison in America are high school dropouts, and the recidivism rate for ex-convicts is 70 percent. This arrogant meddling in education pushes millions of kids into lives of crime, prison, and desperation. We all pay the bill for incarcerating more people than any other country in the world—2.5 million, plus an additional 4.5 million on probation and parole.

What does all this mean? We need to listen to America’s schools of education and researchers like Diane Ravitch, not political hacks and billionaires who, frankly, haven’t done due diligence to learn about educational research demonstrating success before implementation of new policies. We know preschool improves poverty level kid’s achievement and high school completion. We know career academies graduate 95 percent of their students, all with an employable skill. These are the interventions that are essential to expand across the country. These are the well researched educational initiatives that can make a difference in America. Imagine a million fewer people in prison. Imagine a workforce with millions more skilled workers. This is the alternative future that education can provide. Truthfully, America doesn’t need any more college graduates. This is the wrong goal for American education. It’s time to listen to educational professionals and stop listening to the arrogance of well meaning billionaires and politicians. Career Academies | Coherent-education


James C. Wilson, Ed.D.
Author

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on Amazon.com

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on Amazon.com
 
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