K-12: Beware the talking dead

The Walking Dead, soon to be in its ninth season, has been one of television's most successful shows.  More than 110 episodes have been produced.  This is especially remarkable because every episode is like the others: zombies eat people.

How do we define a zombie?  Mindless.  Oblivious.  Marginally conscious.  Not a thought in their heads.  One notch above dead.  But their bodies work well enough.  After all, their main activity is staggering in pursuit of humans to eat.

Some philosophers are fascinated by zombies.  In particular, philosophers want to answer the big questions: what does it mean to be alive? to think? to be conscious?

Cynics will see the American educational system in this discussion.  It's a vast bureaucracy with billions of dollars and tens of thousands of people but somehow unable to do the simplest academic tasks.  Think of a zombie lurching across the street.  When professors promote reading programs that do not teach reading, how does that differ from a zombie hurting living people?

To establish their zombie quotient, here's what we would like to know about the Education Establishment.  Do these people reflect on their failures?  Do they feel guilty?  How much consciousness do they have about their own involvement in the decline of the public schools?  How much responsibility do they take for the dumbing down of America?

Samuel Blumenfeld explained in his 1984 book about the NEA, "Teaching children to read is no big mystery.  Teachers have been doing it for the last 3,000 years, and as the US government's own statistics show they were doing it well in 1910[.]"  At that time, the country was 99% literate.  Then Progressive educators were set loose to devour us.

The most striking thing about zombies is that they never stop.  They never assess the situation rationally.  They never doubt that their next step will be chewing your throat.  They are as relentless as a moving carpet of army ants.  It can be argued that our educrats are at times as destructive as an attack of army ants; they seem to feel no guilt, no remorse, no hesitation.  Having created tens of millions of functional illiterates and others similarly dumbed down, they still come back the next year, asking for more money to continue the same work.

If the Education Establishment were zombies, would you feel better about them?  On the ground that they don't fully understand what they're doing?  Perhaps it's too painful to suppose that these people do know what they're doing. 

All of these investigations have gained more immediacy as artificial intelligence has advanced.  How would a robot differ from a zombie?  Could it be argued that a humanoid robot is by definition a zombie?  So which is a bigger abomination: a robot kills you or a zombie kills you?  Or a branch of your government uses sophistic cunning to do the job?

Bruce Deitrick Price's new book is Saving K-12: What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?  He deconstructs educational theories and methods on Improve-Education.org.

The Walking Dead, soon to be in its ninth season, has been one of television's most successful shows.  More than 110 episodes have been produced.  This is especially remarkable because every episode is like the others: zombies eat people.

How do we define a zombie?  Mindless.  Oblivious.  Marginally conscious.  Not a thought in their heads.  One notch above dead.  But their bodies work well enough.  After all, their main activity is staggering in pursuit of humans to eat.

Some philosophers are fascinated by zombies.  In particular, philosophers want to answer the big questions: what does it mean to be alive? to think? to be conscious?

Cynics will see the American educational system in this discussion.  It's a vast bureaucracy with billions of dollars and tens of thousands of people but somehow unable to do the simplest academic tasks.  Think of a zombie lurching across the street.  When professors promote reading programs that do not teach reading, how does that differ from a zombie hurting living people?

To establish their zombie quotient, here's what we would like to know about the Education Establishment.  Do these people reflect on their failures?  Do they feel guilty?  How much consciousness do they have about their own involvement in the decline of the public schools?  How much responsibility do they take for the dumbing down of America?

Samuel Blumenfeld explained in his 1984 book about the NEA, "Teaching children to read is no big mystery.  Teachers have been doing it for the last 3,000 years, and as the US government's own statistics show they were doing it well in 1910[.]"  At that time, the country was 99% literate.  Then Progressive educators were set loose to devour us.

The most striking thing about zombies is that they never stop.  They never assess the situation rationally.  They never doubt that their next step will be chewing your throat.  They are as relentless as a moving carpet of army ants.  It can be argued that our educrats are at times as destructive as an attack of army ants; they seem to feel no guilt, no remorse, no hesitation.  Having created tens of millions of functional illiterates and others similarly dumbed down, they still come back the next year, asking for more money to continue the same work.

If the Education Establishment were zombies, would you feel better about them?  On the ground that they don't fully understand what they're doing?  Perhaps it's too painful to suppose that these people do know what they're doing. 

All of these investigations have gained more immediacy as artificial intelligence has advanced.  How would a robot differ from a zombie?  Could it be argued that a humanoid robot is by definition a zombie?  So which is a bigger abomination: a robot kills you or a zombie kills you?  Or a branch of your government uses sophistic cunning to do the job?

Bruce Deitrick Price's new book is Saving K-12: What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?  He deconstructs educational theories and methods on Improve-Education.org.