[Milton-L] Why teachers retire early if they can afford it

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Wed Jun 11 16:37:33 EDT 2008

James Rovira wrote:
> Except for misspelling the word "drunkard" he expresses himself well,
> so I hope she told him he has indeed learned something from his
> English classes :).

There is no evidence that would satisfy minimally rigorous standards of
evidence* that anyone learns to write in English classes. Those who SEEM
to learn in English classes are with rare exceptions those who would
have written well without ever entering a classroom. My son, for
example, wrote better sentences than I can write from about third grade
on. (*There would have to be a double-blind testing of two groups of
students, tested every year while in school and for at least 10 years
after graduation. The groups would have to be randomly selected prior to
entering school.)

Writing is _not_ a general human aptitude but a special potential, like
gymnastics, singing, or algebra. How many on this listserve would be on
it today if from first grade on they were required to show aptitude in
singing, gymnastics, gourmet cooking, & mathematics (rising at least to
the level of theory of equations by the time they were seniors in high

The best student I had 40+ years ago in an Intro to Lit class -- best as
long as discussion of the boks was in conversation, not writing -- never
wrote a single complete sentence for me, but his speech was not only
correct, it was very nearly beautiful in balance, complexity, etc as he
discussed Rabbit, Run in my office. The rest of the class were dullards
in comparison, though a number wrote far better than he did. Writing is
not even a test of reading competence. Writing is an index to writing,
and nothing else.

Now, go to the library and look up archives of help-wanted ads in the
1920s and 1930s. Notice the increase in the number of jobs that, though
not rquiring any skill taught in high school, still required a
high-school diploma. Now study the job market from the early 1950s on.
Notice the incrasing proportion of positons that require a college
degree though they require no skill learned in college. The same jobs
that formerly were held by high-school grads, or even high-school
drop-outs, now requiring a college degree.

Forty-five + years ago the French sociologist Andre Gorz visited one of
the elite technical schools in France, schools which more or less
guaranteed 'good jobs' to their graduates. He asked what was taught in
the school that the students could not learn on the job. After some
thought, the reply was Calculus. Then he asked: Is calculus reuired in
the jobs they will hold.? Answer No. The vast proportion of students in
undergraduate classes are learning (or being taught) nothing that will
be of use to them either as employees or as human beings. And given the
proportion of colege graduates who support u.s. imperial aggression (as
was I 60 years ago), education is more apt to stultify than expand one's
sense of the world. My son  brought back photographso of horrors in
Kuwait, and his fraternigy 'brothers' said "Cool"! That is rather more
revolting than bad writing or plgiarism. (I think I mentioned before
that they uproariously "Supported the Troops" they also stole every
thing my son left stored in the frat house while he was [sic/sick]
"defending freedom abroad.")

It is right to give students the _opportunity_ to exploe the areas we
happen to value. It is wrong to cooperate so whole-heartedly in merely
making the job of corporate personnel officers easier.

Incidentally, more along the line of what Gorz discovered. My son for
several years has been rapidly climbing the managerial ranks at the
Chicgo Mercantile Exchange. Two years ago they asked him to get an MBA
(nights) for which they are paying the tuition at the University of
Chicago. Clearly, not because he will learn anything of use in his job
at the Merc; it just 'looks better' if their executives have the MBA.


[I'm suffering from advanced macular degeneration and cannot really see
what I'm typing here so please excuse any typos.)

More information about the Milton-L mailing list