What the CIA really needs is better elementary educators
"I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills — skills I have acquired over a very long career." —Everyone's favorite quote from the movie Taken
Yesterday, my friend Anne sent me the new CIA recruitment video that's making the rounds and asked me what I thought. That set me off, because the problem isn't with the CIA, no matter how ridiculous its videos are. The problem starts much, much earlier, back in grade school. Here's what I told her, with some additional comments included.
Usually, people self-recruit into the intelligence agencies — although, in the mid-1980s, I once saw an ad for working with the CIA in the American Association of University Women magazine. Sometimes recruiters would hear of someone with another agency and invite him over. Back in the day, the basic requirement was for people who were multi-lingual, were college-educated, and usually had some experience with long-term travel or living in other countries, giving the candidates some personal experience from which to draw.
I get why they are doing these videos, but meeting quotas is not going to improve our intelligence operations. I remember, starting in the late 1980s and continuing, apparently, right up to today, there was fierce competition in federal agencies for recruits to help expand employee diversity. It's not an objectively bad goal, because true diversity limits groupthink.
However, these are government jobs — they don't pay that well. Corporations could offer much more and usually excelled over the government with diversity recruitment. Everyone — repeat, everyone — was going after a smaller and smaller pool of all potential employees.
In 2017, the DOE released a statistic revealing that 75% of young boys in California schools could not read or write at grade level. As such, they're simply not available for recruitment into a lot of government or corporate positions, let alone as intelligence analysts, airline pilots, corporate lawyers, or board members.
No amount of wokery is going to improve equitable distribution statistics unless and until our education system focuses on basic education and serves up educated graduates. Yes, we'll probably have to spend twice as much to teach the struggling children to the point of success. But that's what we should do out of compassion and a true sense of justice, as well as national self-preservation. If it takes classrooms configured to one-on-three or four learning environments, then let's do it.
Education administrators need to be honest and honestly examine why some schools succeed and others don't. Public schools need to recruit and hire competent, qualified, and joyful elementary educators. Drill the basics. Have fun with the peripherals. Ignore the wokery. Figure out why charter schools are succeeding and apply those lessons. Wind up the gifted and let them go. A lot of our worries will fall away. It may take a generation, but it should and can be done.
Abolish teacher tenure. These are not university professors, garnering millions in grants to the university because they are at the forefront of their specialties. These are public-grade schoolteachers. They need to stay sharp, committed, and focused on excellence.
I realize that tenure increases the number of teachers near the top of the pay scale, which increases cash deposits into political campaigns via the rendering of increased monthly dues into the NEA's coffers. Sorry, Randi Weingarten, but we don't pay taxes to keep deadweight "educators" employed. We pay them to ensure that our communities' children succeed in life. If we want educated children, we need up-to-date, literate educators.
We need to keep feeding poor school kids breakfast and lunch but stop sending them home with homework. Instead, send them home with correct and completed lessons and the task to explain it to their parents/guardians. That would do more to reinforce learning than trying to do homework while ignoring the thousands of distractions from family, friends, entertainment, sports, gaming, e-communicating, and just plain relaxing and having fun.
If that takes an 8- or 9- or 10-hour school day, with overlapping shifts of teachers and classroom aides, and a nap built in, then so be it. Structure the day around the fact that boys and girls are different. Every 45 minutes or so, boys should be run off their feet. Girls need some of that, too, but having a chance to socialize refreshes them almost as much as burning through testosterone does for the boys. If putting them in separate classrooms improves the outcome, then go for it.
Engendering educational success will bring us as close to a workable "equity" as anything else we could do for our society. It will also give us an aware, educated populace, ready to take on the challenges of our times and technology, including service to the country as an intelligence analyst, if that's what someone wants to do. I can't think of a better use for my local tax dollars. Can you?
Anony Mee is a retired public servant.
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