Daily Archives: September 14, 2010

Quote of the Day: “A warning sign here in Canada”


Waiting for Superman trailer

Bill Gates, who’s retired from Microsoft and is donating billions of dollars to promote education, is at the TIFF for the premiere of his film Waiting for Superman.  Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Toronto Star:

The candid panel discussion that followed — which included Guggenheim, superstar educational activist Geoffrey Canada, and Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates — turned up the voltage on an already powerful film.

“The power of this movie is partly why I’m optimistic about change on this issue,” Gates, who is interviewed in the film, told the crowd at the packed Winter Garden Theatre.

“Waiting for Superman” follows a handful of children and families in public schools across the country. Despite decades of promises by politicians that no child will be left behind, drop-out rates are sky-high and many children fail to learn even the basics. The film details how the system has been paralyzed by complacency, a bloated bureaucracy and powerful teachers unions. It also follows activist educators who are desperate to make changes, especially in inner city schools.

In 2006, an international survey ranked the U.S. at 25th out of 30 developed nations when it comes to teens’ proficiency in math and science. Canada took the fifth spot on the same assessment.

“Use us as a warning sign here in Canada,” producer Lesley Chilcott said. “My understanding is things are starting to slip here.”

Allan Bloom


Allan Bloom on The Closing of the American Mind.  (The rest of the interview after the jump.)

Today is American philosopher Allan Bloom‘s birthday (1930-1992).

Frye does not mention Bloom by name, but he is clearly referring to The Closing of the American Mind in “Some Reflections on Life and Habit”:

Our present mood in regard to education, however, is past-centred rather than future-centred, and is more inclined to ask, Are doing as well as we used to?  This is mainly a reaction to elementary and high school educators who do not understand why we should transform our environment by reading Shakespeare when we can so easily adapt to it by reading Stephen King.  I was recently looking through a book that has been on the bestseller list for a long time, and which propounds the thesis that students have been cheated out of their education, socially and morally as well as intellectually.  I thought, in reading it: somebody writes this book every ten years; I have lived through four or five cycles of similar protests, and have in fact contributed to some of them. . . Some books are often, like this book, warmly received and are accompanied by a feeling that something should be done.  Nothing is ever done, so there must be something that the protest has failed to reach.

Two points occur to me in this connection.  One is that there is seldom any recommendation for action in this field except to prod the educational bureaucracy. . . The other is that what the public picks up from such books is what literary critics call a pastoral myth.  The past was a simple time, the myth runs, when things were a lot better, so let’s get back to them.  But just as the future does not yet exist, so the past has ceased to exist, and an idealized past never did exist.  I distrust all “back to basics” slogans because I distrust all movements that begin with “back to.”  (CW 17, 348)

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