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March 15, 2011

Memorization, Christie & Shifting Politics

Nick Diaz

This push toward so-called “21st Century Skills” – as if educators, of all people, knew in 1910 what skills would be required of students for the next 90 years – would be relatively harmless, outside the immense expenditure of time and money, if certain advocates didn't minimize actual content knowledge.


I've said for years that a person cannot think "critically" without having some knowledge about which to think.


I’m constantly reminded of some of my previous writing on, in response to other assertions by educationists to the effect that technology makes memorization unnecessary. I quoted some lines from a song by Jakob Dylan:


“Cupid, don’t draw back your bow

Sam Cooke didn’t know what I know”


In order to understand these two simple lines, you’d have to know several things:


1) You need to know that, in mythology, Cupid symbolizes love.

2) And that Cupid’s chosen instrument is the bow and arrow.

3) Also that there was a singer/songwriter named Sam Cooke.

4) And that he had a song called “Cupid, draw back your bow.”

5) That Jakob Dylan is Bob Dylan’s son.

6) Bob Dylan is one of the most influential musical and cultural figures of the 20th century.


“Progressive” educators, loudly and in large numbers, insist that students should be taught “thinking skills” as opposed to memorization. Consider that, if it’s not possible to understand a couple of lines from a popular song without knowing by heart the references to which it alludes – without memorizing them – what chance is there for understanding medieval history, or modern physics, without having a ready grasp of the topics which these disciplines reference?


One can't "think" until one has something in his head to think about.


* * * * * * * * *


There’s a reason why New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a rising political star. While many people on both the Right and the Left disagree with him on some issues, we all need more leaders like him, with the courage to act rather than play patty cake with the people who may not have the country’s best interests in mind.


Governor Christie is correct, too. There would not have been the need to lay off anywhere near as many teachers in New Jersey if the state teachers’ union had agreed to a wage freeze and to contribute to their benefits package. New Jersey teachers don’t pay a dime toward their benefits; it’s all provided by state taxpayers.


We have major economic issues. People are losing their jobs and homes, and these union leaders believe they are entitled to a 5 percent salary increase annually as well as having their entire benefits package paid for by the decreasing number of people employed in the real world – as opposed to the fantasyland known as the government sector.


Besides, as long as the state teachers’ union continues to wink while one of its local leaders stated that he will pray for Christie’s death, Governor Christie should continue to speak his mind clearly and plainly. Imagine the outrage if it had been a member of the Christie Administration who had said he was praying for the death of the head of the state teachers’ union.


"Dear Lord, this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor."


Yes, the union heads apologized; it’s the new civility…


* * * * * * * * *


It seems like a strange time to move to the Left, but it seems to be happening nonetheless.


Since his self-confessed “shellacking” in last November’s election, much has been said about how President Barack Obama’s rhetoric has shifted to the philosophical “Right.” Gone are the pejorative remarks about how Americans must stop consuming more than their “fair share” of the earth’s resources, and the scolding of oil and pharmaceutical companies for earning “record profits.” (The president’s re-election chances would probably be enhanced should American business set profit records these days).


“In” are the kinds of comments that are typical of an American president. Mr. Obama recently announced that he wants to embrace “Thomas Edison’s principles,” and that he desires for Americans to “invent stuff” and “make stuff.” Imagine that…


The president has even stated that he wants to open-up more foreign markets so American companies can sell more of their products and services globally.


Indeed, the past couple of months have seen a dramatic change in the president who spent two years bowing to foreign heads of state, and lamenting and apologizing for the USA’s superpower status.


While the president and most of the country have moved, at least nominally and temporarily, to the Right, Big Labor doesn’t even seem willing to move to the Center. In fact, some unions that represent the country’s public school teachers seem to have moved further toward the philosophical Left, even as state and local governments struggle with debt and deficits, and in some cases, the threat of bankruptcy.


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