Listen now | Yascha Mounk talks to Freddy deBoer about education, intelligence, and equality.
Thank you. This subject is my primary life obsession and this interview helped crystallize one missing ingredient in the discussion. Mr. Mounk, like the rest of mainstream Western culture, equates a meaningful life with financial success. As he puts it, kids in other countries who graduate in the bottom tenth percentile of their class, are "set up for meaningful lives, where they might not be CEOs, but they will be able to participate in the economy in a meaningful way." This paradigm for meaning explcitly precludes the possibility of a meaningful life for people like my former students, who I taught "College Prep" English, nearly none of whom went to college of any kind, and who now work as line cooks, aestheticians, flight attendants, bartenders and firemen. The thing is, I've interviewed them. They like their lives, for the most part, especially my bartender (my best reader, the only one I thought was destined for an elite school) and fireman and flight attendant. Who am I, who are we, to tell them their lives have no meaning? What we need to do as step one in the process of rethinking education and fairness and success and failure and smart and dumb, is divorce the idea of a meaningful life from a lucrative, intellectually stimulating life.
A terrific presentation. What is critical to examine is the structure of jobs. Anyone who is able should have access to a job which provides some form of economic security and dignity. This is what white non college workers want. Yes, there are a small percent of non college individuals who are not really able to perform a range of jobs. In Denmark it is estimated that this is about 7% of the working age population. These Danish individuals are provided with housing and other services and a cash income so that they can live in dignity. In the United States in 2018 17% of the population of the US lived in poverty by OECD standards (the OECD standard is higher that the US poverty line which is based on the standard of living in 1955).
Thanks. I'm on a school board where I've been saying for decades that rather than dumbing-down the teaching so that everyone can do well on the tests, we should work to convey that the kids' worth doesn't depend on the test scores. I don't know how to do that, but then I'm not an educator. deBoer seems to recommend the same thing, which is always nice to hear.
Freddie de Boer was allowed to brush off the question of why some schools perform well and some don't. Particularly egregious was his analysis of Finland - Finland's schools are superb for many reasons, none of which are "the dropouts get to bum around on welfare".