|August 30, 1989||Volume 1 Number 3|
This month's gobbler is a series of audio and video cassettes entitled, "Where There's a Will, There's an 'A'." Endorsed by a well-known, unnamed movie actor, this product, if used as directed, can, in fact, guarantee that permanent harm can be inflicted on any child in the pursuit of an "A." This product is exactly what one would expect to find in a society that so values modern education. Like modern education, this product fails to account for the individual, healthy, natural interests and needs of children, and assumes that all children, whether they are interested in a subject or not, can and should pursue an "A" grade. This product denies the value of real skill. Children are not encouraged to learn for the sake of learning or to acquire knowledge for the purpose of improving themselves and their own lives. Children are encouraged to focus all their resources on the single goal of achieving an "A."
What educators and the producers of this month's turkey have failed to see is that the human consciousness is a very fragile thing. People cannot be conditioned and manipulated into abnormal, unnatural activity without being harmed. It is not natural for human beings to give up all their innate interests, gifts and needs in order to pursue a grade. Yet, this is what educators and the producers of "Where There's a Will, There's an 'A'" are demanding of children. When children go to school, getting an "A" in every subject is presented as the single most important goal in life. An "A" is the only truly acceptable grade. In fact, our research shows that no matter what people say or believe about getting a "B" or "C" in a subject, any grade less than an "A" registers as a failure in the human consciousness. People say that a "B" is "still good," but this is not true. A "B" equals an "F." This is so partly because the human consciousness perceives the world in dualities. Things are either up or down, in or out, high or low, black or white. Grades are either "A's" or "F's." If "B's" and "C's" were truly acceptable, people would not be so preoccupied with pursuing the "A's."
Our research shows that grading is always harmful to people. If a person receives anything less than an "A" the grade is registered as a character flaw by the human consciousness. If a person does receive an "A," that grade causes the person to shift over from a system of self-evaluation and self-acceptance to one in which all acceptance and evaluation of one's self comes from external sources. We have also discovered that if people need a system of evaluation, a simple "Pass -- No Pass" system is sufficient, and does not cause harm. A "no pass" simply tells a person what he or she is going to need to do to master the material in a given area.
A Failure-Oriented, Involutionary System
Before children start school, their natural systems of learning are still intact. They have not been taught to think of themselves as personal failures because they walked at eighteen months instead of twelve months or because they could not speak in full sentences at three. Most parents, even very unstable parents, accept the natural pace at which their children learn and grow. As soon as children enter school, they are asked to shift over from their own natural systems of learning to a completely unnatural system--one that is not geared toward their individual interests nor is it designed to support their natural paces and ways of learning. Little five-year-olds are taught that, in order to survive classroom life, they must at least pursue an "A" (whether they are capable of achieving an "A" or not.) The children who resist shifting over to the failure-oriented system are punished with severe forms of public humiliation, which most human beings simply cannot endure for very long. Children must choose to accept the pain of public humiliation or the pain of personal failure, and since very few can bear the humiliation, they choose to accept the failure-oriented learning system. They, in effect, shift themselves over into an unnatural, punishment and failure-oriented system in order to be spared the more extreme pain of psychological intimidation and public humiliation.
If children did not start school until the age of nine years on the average, they would not be trapped into this negative bind. By the time a child is nine, he or she has developed "himself" or "herself" enough so that public humiliation would not have the same devastating effect, and they would not so easily shift over to the failure-oriented system. But, because children between five and eight are so vulnerable, they do make the shift. Once they do, the unnatural, failure-oriented system begins to fatigue them and wear them down, something many parents can verify simply by looking at how the physical and mental health of their children deteriorated after the children started school.
Once subjected to grading, which would more accurately be called "degrading," children begin to view themselves as failures every time they do not get an "A" on a test or a report card. Children who do not get all "A's" are quick to conclude that they are unacceptable as human beings, and that there is something wrong with them. Research studies show that eighty percent of all children feel a sense of personal self-worth before they start school. By the time people finish high school, only five percent show signs of feeling personal self-worth. Furthermore, research studies also indicate that the suicide rate for children is higher among so-called learning disabled children--those who are the least able to achieve the all-important "A" grade. We suggest that the rising suicide rate among children is directly related to the feelings of personal failure and lack of acceptance inflicted upon them in schools, particularly in the form of grades.
The original ideas behind the current schooling system were religious ideas involving a notion of self-improvement. Many people believed that if a human being could read the Bible, then he or she could derive from the Bible a moral code of ethics and fairness. Many thought that if enough people could develop such a moral code then the world would become a better place. These ideas, combined with the practical need for people to be able to read and communicate, were essentially good ideas. The idea of working toward the good of the whole by improving the individual is always a sound idea, one that is evolutionary in its nature. There was nothing in this idea system about grading children and gathering "permanent records" on them.
Americans like to think of themselves as an evolutionary society, one that is constantly improving, in which people are accomplishing more today than they were yesterday. Yet, grading is involutionary. Before children start school (where they are graded), they do not feel like personal failures. However, after being in school for only a very short time, where every grade except an "A" registers as failure in the human consciousness, they begin to feel like personal failures. This means grades make children feel worse, not better. Grading causes people to go backward, not forward.
It must also be noted that achieving an "A" in school is a function of one thing and one thing only -- a person's ability to memorize and retain (temporarily) large quantities of isolated, unrelated facts. Educators have a memory fetish. They are so caught up in memorization that they cannot see it is only one form of human mental activity. Decision-making, judgment, reasoning, gathering and interpreting facts, discrimination and evaluation are all higher forms of mental activity. Memorization ability is not the same as intelligence. Dogs and cats can memorize.
Educators have also failed to see that memorization as a "learning" technique does not work. There is no evidence anywhere to indicate that having people spend 11,000 hours memorizing unrelated facts is the best way to help human beings learn. In fact, all research evidence points to the contrary. Most people cannot even remember taking a subject, never mind the contents of the course.
Before children start school (where they are graded), they do not feel like personal failures. However, after being in school for only a very short time, where every grade except an "A" registers as failure in the human consciousness, they begin to feel like personal failures.
Educators know nothing about how human beings learn. if you were to ask a group of educators why they do what they do, or how they came to decide that having children memorize unrelated facts and grading them on their ability to memorize was the most effective way to help people learn, you could probably throw some educators into cardiac arrest. if you asked a group of educators to show you the research that led them to conclude that all human beings learn best through rote memorization under conditions of extreme psychological duress, you might have to provide some of them with emergency psychiatric care. The reason educators break down under simple, reality-oriented questioning is because they have established a system rooted in madness and have oriented their lives around that madness, so that any confrontation with reality is extremely threatening.
Because educators know nothing about people, or about how the human consciousness is designed or how it functions, they have failed to account for the extreme limitations and fragility of each human system. Human beings have a limited number of memory circuits that are specifically designed to perform the memorization function. In a healthy, normal learning system, the limitations of any human memory system would never be reached. However, in the aberrant American educational system, where children start school too early and are forced, under conditions of extreme psychological duress, to fill themselves up with useless data, children reach their healthy memory limits by the fourth or fifth grade. This is easily verified in many recent studies which clearly show that most Americans can perform only up to the fifth grade level in many subjects, including math, history, geography and spelling. Furthermore, teachers have inadvertently discovered that children's memory circuits are filled by the fifth grade, which is thy educators continue to offer the same subjects year after year from the fifth grade right through college. How many times have you taken American history?
Furthermore, in a normal learning system, memory circuits are reserved for survival-oriented information only. Memory circuits should contain all the information people would need to function in adult society along with everything they would need to know to rebuild their society should some catastrophe occur. However, education is a non-survival oriented, involutionary system that forces children to fill their memory circuits with useless data that has no meaning or connection to their everyday lives or their survival. This month's turkey, "Where There's a Will, There's an 'A'," is an invitation to children and young adults to harm themselves, by using for memorization many mental circuits that were not designed to perform that function, in order to get an "A" grade. The producers of these tapes are encouraging parents to help their children fill themselves up with more useless, meaningless data that has no survival value. If America were hit with an unforeseen man-made or natural disaster of some magnitude, it is already questionable as to whether or not this society could, in fact, rebuild itself. The world problems that high school graduates must face today in their adult lives are far worse than the problems of twenty years ago. Yet, most parents would agree that today's high school graduates are much less prepared for life than they themselves were twenty years ago. The societies on earth today who could survive and rebuild after a nuclear holocaust are not the educated societies. They are the "primitive" groups like Eskimos and some African groups who have remained in touch with the land and have passed on the skills they need to rebuild their lives.
Educators say that the way to improve yourself is to improve your grades. Yet, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. It would be much more accurate to say that the way to destroy yourself is to improve your grades. Our research clearly indicates that the people who did the best in school-the ones with the most "A's" on their "permanent" records-are the most damaged and have the least number of practical and survival skills. The more children try to pursue an "A" the more useless data they must memorize. The more they memorize useless data, the more disconnected from reality they become and the more they damage their mental systems in the process. Further, the more children fill their memory circuits with non-essential, non-survival oriented data, the less they are able to acquire practical, survival-oriented data and skills. The people who did the best in school, who got the most "A's," are the least likely to be able to rebuild their society should some natural or man-made disaster occur. They are the people least likely to be able to build a house, set up a communications system, locate a power supply or rebuild a car engine. Many lawyers do not know how to change the oil in their cars. Many physicians cannot fix a leaky faucet. Think about it. Would you rather be left to survive a nuclear holocaust with a corporate executive or an electrician, a psychiatrist or a carpenter, a lawyer or an auto mechanic?
If a class of 25 students averages a "C+," then that grade must be assigned to the quality of the teacher's work. If a class of 25 students averages an "A," then that grade must be assigned to that teacher's work But grades should only indicate whether or not the teacher--not the student--has done his or her job.
Finally, in a normal learning system, learning would be a life-long process, and the older people grew the easier it would be for them to learn new things. In a normal learning system, people would constantly be making connections and understanding more about how the world really works. The more connections they made, the easier it would be to assimilate new experiences and new data.
Yet, once exposed to the current educational system, people stop learning as soon as they get out of school, whether they leave in the eighth grade or go on to get a Ph.D. Furthermore, most adults who were educated in the system realize that the older they grow, the harder it is to learn, even when they find something they are naturally interested in learning more about. The reason this is true is that the current educational system believes memory is learning, so that once the memory circuits are filled up, almost all learning stops. Secondly, when people do try to learn anything in this aberrant system, their mental circuits have usually been so overtaxed and misused that their systems have broken down, thus decreasing their ability to make connections and assimilate new experiences and data.
Let's Grade Teachers
As near as we can tell, grades were invented by educators who had no interest in their students, and who were teaching mainly because they could not find jobs doing anything else. Educators were usually the lowest paid people in the community. In fact, even today, many educators still receive low wages. This is primarily because they have failed to educate students, and because taxpayers have so much underlying hurt and resentment at teachers for what was done to them in schools that the taxpayers in many areas refuse to raise teachers' salaries.
Because education has caused the breakdown in the human consciousness of the essential relationship between cause and effect (see feature article for more detailed discussion), students, parents and teachers have completely forgotten that teachers are hired by students and parents to help children learn. Teachers are given the responsibility for insuring that children learn. However, this system is so aberrant and dysfunctional that when teachers do not fulfill their responsibilities, the students are punished. Educational institutions are the only places on earth where if someone is hired to do something and then fails to do it, the people who did the hiring are punished. If, for example, you wanted your daughter to learn to play golf, you would take her down to the nearest country club and hire the club pro to teach her to play. If your daughter did not learn to play golf, you would not pat the golf pro on the back and give your daughter an "F." You would take your daughter to another golf pro.
Similarly, if you wanted to train your dog, you would take your pet to a dog trainer. If the trainer was unable to help you with the dog, you would not give your dog an "F." Nor would you continue with the same dog trainer who was unable to produce any positive results with your dog.
In schools, children are consistently blamed for the failures and shortcomings of their teachers. In recent decades, American children have been doing worse and worse in school by the educational system's own standards. Teachers say that the reason children are doing worse is that teachers need higher salaries. If the golf pro failed to teach your daughter to play golf, you would not give him a raise. If the dog trainer was unable to help you train your dog, you would not give him more money to do the same things that did network in the first place. But, in the non-reality oriented educational system, children do worse and teachers demand and expect to be paid more for their failings.
Students and parents hire teachers. Students and parents are the masters and the teachers are the hired servants. The servants should not be grading the masters and blaming the masters because they have failed to serve. If a class of 25 students averages a "C+," then that grade must be assigned to the quality of the teacher's work. If a class of 25 students averages an "4" then that grade must be assigned to that teacher's work. But grades should only indicate whether or not the teacher--not the student--has done his or her job.
People in American government and American society as a whole are quick to say that every child has the legal right to receive a good education. (Whether that means each state has the constitutional right to determine where, when and how that education is being imparted is a question which many homeschoolers deserve to have answered.) But if, in fact, the state says every child has the right to an education, then is the state not obligated to provide that education? If every child has the right to an education, then no teacher should be satisfied until every child in his or her class has an "A" in every subject. Then, and only then, will teachers have done their jobs.
But, schools were not set up to educate children. Schools were set up to torture children, to strip them of all their natural interests and create generations of drones who would be satisfied working on factory assembly lines, in squalid conditions, at low wages. If schools were set up to educate children, there would be no bell curve and no psychological intimidation. Every teacher would make certain that every child had been educated in every subject so that, no matter how long it took, every child would obtain all "As." Any teacher who could not produce only all "A" students would be declared unqualified and unfit for teaching.
If teachers were honestly interested in educating children, they would not be able to force children to sit passively all day long, memorizing information they cannot use as it is presented and which is not in their range of interest. Failing grades are only a sign that the teacher has failed to provide the student with something the student is honestly interested in doing. The fact that so many students who "fail" in high school go on to do very well in trade school should tell teachers something about their own failure to find out what their students are interested in doing, and to provide those students with the education it is their legal right to receive. We believe that high school dropouts should band together and start lawsuits against their own state Boards of Education for the Boards' failure to provide them with the education they are legally entitled to receive. Furthermore, we believe that high school dropouts and high school graduates alike should sue for punitive damages to compensate them for the personal, psychological harm that the educational system has caused them by branding them personal failures and refusing to provide them with an education that would prepare them for productive, adult lives.
So, while an unnamed movie actor says, "Where There's a Will, There's an 'A'," we say, where there is anything less than an "A" there is an unqualified, incompetent and perhaps even reckless teacher who has refused to provide his or her students with a proper education. We say that where there is anything less than an "A" there is a student who is simply not interested in that subject at that particular time, and who is being punished for his or her natural disinterest.
Grades do none of the things teachers claim they do. Grades do not motivate children to learn nor do they improve a child's ability to learn (or, more accurately, to memorize.) If grades motivated students and caused them to improve, every child would continue to improve until he or she got "As" in every subject. All high school students would have an "A" in every subject. But, this is clearly not the case. In fact, receiving failing grades (anything less than an "A") kills a child's desire to learn. It kills a child's natural interest and motivation to discover what is going on in the world.
Most children generally remain at the same performance level throughout school, with rare exceptions, because school is based completely on a person's ability to memorize, which remains constant. When children do improve, it is only temporarily and only in specific subject areas. This improvement is not a function of grading. It is a function of the phenomenon we call "DRIFT." Drift occurs when a child's natural system of learning and personal interest accidentally intersect with the educational system. For example, a child of age nine (which would be the most natural time for most children to learn to read and write), who has an interest in reading and writing, might suddenly start getting better grades in these subjects. These improved grades might last a semester or two or a year or two, until the child had satisfied his or her need to learn these subjects. Then, the child drifts back out of the errant educational system and returns to the same "unmotivated" state with failing grades, including anything less than an "A" Educators are so out of touch with reality that they do not understand "drift." They believe that through their malignant, destructive grading system they have "motivated" and "inspired" students to learn.
We believe that the measure of a man's (or woman's) existence cannot be found in his SAT scores. The measure of a man's (or woman's) existence can be found only in the quality of his life.
Grades exist and are used because educators have convinced people that society can use grades to determine the worth and destiny of a person. To educators we say, how did John F. Kennedy's grades show his worth and predict his destiny? How did Mother Theresa's grades show that she would come to do the things she has done? Tell us, did Ronnie's second grade reading teacher predict his destiny? Did Albert Einstein's teachers use his low math scores and poor grades in reading to determine what he would become? The list goes on and on and on, because there is no connection, no relationship, between the worth and destiny of a person and his or her grades.
We believe that the measure of a man's (or woman's) existence cannot be found in his SAT scores. The measure of a man's (or woman's) existence can be found only in the quality of his life. What do you think Mother Theresa's SAT scores would be? Do you think she would even let you test her? How about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt? Do you think they would take the SAT tests and allow us to grade them now?
The greatest contributors to society have generally not been the superstar students. In fact, the superstar students with the all "A" averages have become the lawyers, the physicians, the corporate executives and the stockbrokers, who, as a group, have taken the most from society and given the least. Even precocious children generally do not make great contributions to humanity. Eccentric and practical, but not precocious, men and women like Edison, Einstein and Mother Theresa are society's great contributors. Precocious, smart children, when grown, usually sit around doing smart things. When parents make a big deal out of having a precocious child, they are using the child to ameliorate their own inner sense of loss of their own hopes and possibilities, which has resulted from the destruction they themselves incurred during their years of schooling.
No one can tell by looking at a person's grades what that person is going to do in life. Some great men and women take fifty or sixty years just to figure out enough about reality to be able to make a significant contribution. Others need less time to sort things out, and so make their contributions as young men and women. But rarely, if ever, are these contributions related to anything that was learned in school, and these contributions are never a function of anyone's grades.
The Bell Curve
The promoters of this month's turkey, "Where There's a Will, There's an 'A'," have also overlooked the fact that the entire educational system functions on the bell curve, and that nothing is ever allowed to interfere with that system. A perfect example of this can be found in Operation Headstart. Headstart began as a program for disadvantaged preschool children. The idea behind the project was to provide disadvantaged children with exposure to certain social and academic skills, which would allow them to start school on a more equal footing with children of more advantaged, middle-class families. As soon as educators and middle-class parents discovered what Headstart was up to, private preschools for middle and upper-middle class children opened up all over this country. No self-respecting educator or parent would allow disadvantaged children to threaten the edge of the middle-class children or the bell curve. Thus, Operation Headstart was quickly defeated.
Although the unnamed movie actor claims that 250,000 sets of "Where There's a Will, There's an 'A"' tapes have been sold over the past year, the actual percentage of people whose grades improved as a result of using these tapes is never mentioned in this product's ad. But, let us assume that 100 percent of all the students who bought and used these tapes began to get "A's", and that they spread the word until every family in America had purchased a set of tapes. Do you think educators would keep the system as it is and allow every child in America to get all "As" in every subject? Educators must find the bell curve. Educators believe they have been given the authority and responsibility for separating the saints (the "A" students) from the sinners (the "F' students), and for ferreting out the mediocre "B" and "C" students. No self-respecting educator is going to be undermined by a set of tapes. The bell curve has been and always will be preserved at any cost.
It should be said that the bell curve in statistics was a simple and remarkable discovery. However, the bell curve does not belong in education. The bell curve can only be applied to randomized situations. Education is not random. It is rigged--all that is being measured is a student's ability to memorize useless data. People either have good memories or they do not. In this game, all the prizes are always awarded to the same few people with good memories, while all the criticism is bestowed on those children who cannot memorize. All students do not have an equal chance of succeeding in this system. Educators do not use the bell curve to measure anything. They use it to degrade and humiliate children Educators would do much less harm with their bell curve system if they would write personal letters of apology to all the children at the lower end of the curve.
A Final Note
Educators, and producers of materials such as "Where There's a Will, There's an 'A'," have completely failed to recognize the who, what, where, when or why of a child. Our turkey of the month, "Where There's a Will, There's an 'A'," is, in effect, calling for more damage, more incompetence. This program is trying to lure parents into helping their children become more aimless and more useless, and less able to survive in the real, everyday world.
Finally, comparative studies now show that American children and young adults are falling behind their counterparts from other industrialized societies in every academic subject. Many Americans believe that children in this nation must be made to study harder, attend school longer and do more homework. They believe that products such as "Where There's a Will, There's an 'A"' are exactly what American students need to pull themselves up out of their apparent laziness, and apply themselves in school. What they do not see is that the reason American children are falling behind is that the current educational system is overloading children's memory circuits and breaking down children's abilities to learn, and at such a rapid rate that American children are almost completely bankrupt by the time they reach the fifth grade. They have very little resources left with which to memorize and retain data.
However, to those who are concerned about America's slipping behind in academic areas, we say, "Fear not!" All of the major industrialized societies in the world have adopted the American educational system, with all of its destructive and damaging practices. The children of these societies, like American children, are well on the road to destruction. In a few short years, these societies will catch up with America and the children of these nations will be as damaged and as bankrupt as Americans are now. They will be as empty, aimless and purposeless as every American high school graduate, and the children of most industrialized societies will score equally low in every subject area.