The United States High School Accreditation Conspiracy
This Article Explains:
1) Why graduates of high school programs accredited by agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education lose out to graduates of unaccredited programs by a four-to-one margin when applying to elite colleges;
2) Why graduates of high school programs accredited by agencies recognized by the US Department of Education are not prepared to compete on an equal footing with graduates of unaccredited high school programs during their college years, eventually, by a three-to-one margin, dropping out of competition for graduate school assistantships in the fields of engineering, mathematics, physics and chemistry;
3) Why dropout rates from programs accredited by agencies recognized by the US Department of Education top those of unaccredited high school programs by a six-to-one margin;
4) Why graduates of high school programs unaccredited by agencies recognized by the US Department of Education are, by a five-to-one margin, more likely to be happy with their chosen profession;
5) How the US Department of Education eschews responsibility for the performances of accredited public high schools.
Do We Need Yet Another Conspiracy Theory?
Don't we have enough folks shouting conspiracy when it comes to oil or aliens, the Kennedys, 9/11, or, my gosh, Elvis?
Well, of course we do!
Do we need one more pseudo intellectual like myself developing yet another conspiracy theory? Of course not!
However, when conspiracy is used in reference to aliens or Elvis, it really does require someone with investigative talent to put the pieces together, and, even then, experts like Dr. Michael Starbird of the University of Texas at Austin, will tell you that, with the millions of interactions going on every day, everywhere, if one wishes to focus on a few, then it is possible to conditionally prove just about anything.
All that aside, in the case of the high school accreditation conspiracy in the United States, the results have been so disastrous for so long, and "arrangements" between education officials and what amounts to sole source accreditors, so public, it no longer requires a Sam Spade to develop a convincing theory regarding an accreditation conspiracy.
Actually, it takes no talent at all. So, I am the perfect person to do it.
Just being interested in the subject is sufficient for the disaster that is American public secondary education to simply jump out at even the least aware researcher.
The problem is, so many people have staked their livelihoods on this particular conspiracy that changing the system is nearly impossible.
US President after US President has indicated that change in the public schools was imminent; and, President after President has left the public schools the same or worse after making good hearted and misguided attempts at reforming the structure of public education. Each President has actually strengthened the systems that frustrate change at every level. (And, the catalyst for the final trip to the bottom of the developed world for our secondary schools was actually the only public school teacher we've had as President in the past hundred years, Lyndon Baines Johnson who taught at good old Pearsall High School, in Pearsall, Texas.)
Pearsall's students today, if taught properly, would all become successful adults.
Sadly, Pearsall is in the thrall of the same accrediting system as the rest of public school America; the same accreditation conspiracy that has ruined millions of talented young people, and is still going strong.
I invite all to use Pearsall as a model for what is wrong with the accreditation system in the United States. If all Pearsall's programs were run as their sports programs are run, i.e., with student volunteers freely choosing to develop their God-given talents, Pearsall would be a wonderful place to learn. However, sports are the one exception to the accreditation system in America's secondary schools. Sports teams work with volunteers, and change strategies every year to accommodate individual talents. No one is asked to be varsity first string before he or she is prepared. And, even if a person is asked, they can always say no. When we eliminate choice, when we eliminate care for the individual as the accreditation conspiracy demands, it is then, and only then that we destroy lives.
Four Ideas Sum Up the Reasons for the Accreditation Problem
- People continue to do what they are rewarded for doing;
- If there's a problem, follow the money;
- Power begets power;
- The goal of providing equal opportunity in public education was replaced, in the US, with the goal of providing equal results.
Equal results, the Northern European model, may seem to be a great idea to intellectuals on college campuses. However, lowly sophomore that I am, attending a College not accredited by a DoE recognized agency, may I humbly suggest that the population of the United States is nothing like that of 20th or 21st century Netherlands or Belgium.
Marcus Aurelius distributing bread to the poor
In addition to changing the best public schools in the world to the worst in only a few generations, this decline has translated also into bachelor's degrees at most US colleges becoming the new high school diplomas, and Master's degrees becoming the new bachelors. One only has to read books like Gone for Good by a tenured member of the Duke Graduate School of Hydrology to understand why. (However, that is a subject for another article at another time. For now, we'll just remain with the topic at hand.)
Remember the words of Marcus Aurelius, the last great emperor of the Roman Empire, whose family saw the very same tragic decisions being made in Rome relative to education, as have been made in Washington DC and the majority of State capitals,
“From my grandfather, Verus, I learned good morals and the government of my temper.
From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a manly character.
From my mother, piety and generosity, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.
From my great-grandfather, not to go to the public schools, but to have good teachers at home....”
Let's briefly take the four ideas listed above one at a time, and clarify their application to the problem of accredited high schools in America, accreditation as defined at the beginning of this article.
A) People Continue Doing What They Are Rewarded for Doing
For clarity's sake, for the rest of this article, when I refer to "accredited schools," I am referring to public high schools that are accredited by agencies recognized by the US Department of Education to function as accreditors of schools. It matters not at all whether the DoE takes responsibility for only college accreditations. Agencies like, for example, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) uses one master format for accreditation wherever they are called upon to serve. That is what this essay is focusing upon when there is reference to such agencies.
More to the purpose of this subsection though, administrators of accredited public secondary schools in America are universally folks who function best with a top down, pre-planned curriculum, that is, a curriculum that does not require prior knowledge of who the students will be in order to be fully accredited. That means the public school in your neighborhood.
When they, administrators, were themselves teachers, they had no difficulty walking into classrooms not knowing the learning styles, maturity levels, skill levels, aptitudes or interests of their students. Give them a textbook and marching orders and they were content. (Not to be too harsh, that was the only way for them to keep their jobs as well.)
And, it is only those sorts of individuals who are promoted in accredited public schools.
One does not receive a step up to a larger desk by questioning whether it would be better to know about individual students before deciding what the best approach to instruction might be. Teachers like that, that is, teachers who insist on knowing who the students are before designing curriculum and adopting methodology, are either fired or put on life support somewhere in the back of the school. (When the public hears of a fired teacher, the reaction normally is....GOOD. Unfortunately, what they have just been made aware of is the sound of their local school taking yet another step backward toward the goal of ensuring their children receive an even poorer educational experience. Teachers who dare to step out of line on behalf of students are the ones that are fired. So, PLEASE don't celebrate too loudly when you hear of administrators sweeping bad teachers away, as is happening in Washington DC. Those kinds of administrators are a major part of the problem.)
The point is, people who are innovative are dumped by US public schools. The word "innovative" and the designation "public high school," are mutually exclusive concepts in the United States.
Rewards (continued employment and promotion) go to those teachers who obey and administer pre-planned, no nonsense, one size, school board approved curriculum, delivered from pre-planned, no nonsense, one size, school board approved textbooks.
People do what they are rewarded for doing, and, in the US, people are rewarded in the public schools for obeying.
If administrators can "teacher proof" a school, so that the instructors have absolutely nothing to say about how, when and where a subject will be presented, so much the better in their minds.
Bottom line: Saying it again, this time a little differently: People do what they are rewarded for doing, and getting the best from each student is not what people are rewarded for doing in US accredited public high schools.
B) If There's a Problem, Follow the Money
I believe anyone who has taken the time to get this far in the essay understands that every dollar spent on public education below the college level goes to support one kind of school.
However, the Department of Education (DoE) is quick to point out that they don't accredit high schools, and they don't authorize their regionally recognized agencies to accredit high schools.
However, the DoE is a source of funding for schools at the State level, and the states use DoE recognized accrediting agencies for their high school accreditations almost exclusively. Why take the chance of doing otherwise? If the schools fail, at least the states can then say that they are following the guidelines approved by the DoE.
And, when states do use DoE recognized accrediting agencies, those agencies have only one way of evaluating schools.
Everything must be pre-planned, one size, etc. It is NEVER required by a DoE recognized accrediting agency that the students be known FIRST, and only then curriculum and methodology planned.
Translated in terms of money then, since we are in the section relating to money:
Public high schools have three sources of funds coming into their coffers, federal, state and local.
States do not receive federal funds string free. Federal money comes into a state for distribution to local districts, and, along with that money, come federal standards, standards most "safely" presented to students using a system and accreditors the DoE understands and accepts.
If a state were to fail to meet DoE standards AND, at the same time, not use standard accreditation criteria, the DoE would simply tell the state to shape up or they will take over. "Shape up" meaning to do things the way the DoE likes to see them done, and, in turn, how their recognized accrediting agencies like to see things done.
The states also contribute money to the local public schools. In most cases, those states just follow federal methodologies, as do local schools.
One can easily determine if their local public schools are following the federal model as translated at the state level.
If local school boards must approve curriculum and textbooks before the school year begins without reference to the individual students to be taught, congratulations, you have a one size fits all offering for area students. The curriculum is set. If the students who show up aren't advantaged by the curriculum and methodologies pre-planned, well, sorry.
Characterized a bit differently, local funds for the public schools must be augmented by state and federal money. That being the case, local schools must follow the lead of the state, and the state must follow the lead of the federal government. If any piece of the school funding is missing, bedlam is the result.
The title of this essay includes the word "conspiracy." Conspiracy in this instance means that administrators at all levels of government have agreed to use the standard top down (adopt curriculum in advance without reference to individual students) format. It is that agreement, an agreement (as Shakespeare might say) "most foul" that this essay is addressing and labeling a conspiracy.
There is just no money available at any level for a student first system to be used. (In case anyone is wondering where such a model might be described, please read Harry Dent's book The Roaring 2000's chapter 5. Just because we have a public school system that has placed us at the bottom of the developed world, that doesn't mean we have to stay there. Or do we?
So, bottom line. If there's a problem, follow the money.
C) Power Begets Power
If the reader has gotten this far in the article, you are to be congratulated. Statistically only 5% of the readers will. Just hard to get folks interested in this topic.
However, if you have gotten this far, you will undoubtedly understand the significance of the cliche "Power Begets Power."
Once we have a top down system, with people betting their training and earning expectations on obeying the rules, and thus gathering to themselves assistant principalships, principalships, assistant superintendent and superintendent slots, as well as state and federal positions relative to running a John Dewey inspired school system, anyone, absolutely anyone who threatens that system is going to end up as roadkill.
However, to top off injury with more injury, what happens when foundations look at spending money for "innovative" programs within the public schools? Surely they have the power to change things with their millions? Nope, not a chance.
Foundations donate money to accredited entities. That is, foundation managers work with local, state and federal education administrators who in turn allow the foundations to support the "correct" school model. They, foundation managers, must, and do, become part of the conspiracy of power that generation after generation strengthens the very system we don't want, the very system that keeps America at the bottom of the public high school academic world.
Stated differently: Show me a foundation that has contributed one penny to a school not accredited by some agency recognized by the US federal government, and I will show you a foundation that isn't registered in the United States.
Not to pick on the Gates Foundation, but, at first, that Foundation was interested in identifying innovative public schools, schools that seemed to be effective. Then the Foundation realized that those schools actually were taking a great group of students and getting about 50% of what was possible from them based on their potential.
So, the Gates Foundation decided to contribute to the smaller schools. That's the ticket, right?
Well, not really.
Smaller schools allow the kids to feel special, of course. However, that's usually where the advantages stop. Smaller accredited public schools simply impose the one size, pre-planned, no nonsense, school board approved curriculum more effectively.
D) Equal Results Replaces Equal Opportunity as National Goal in America
And, finally, one of the biggest reasons that our public accredited schools are failing is that we have adopted the European concept of equal results as opposed to equal opportunity.
That means that no matter how much a student detracts from the learning atmosphere of a classroom for whatever reason, whether it be the student is sleeping or lacks motivation or is a discipline problem without being so bad that the teacher can simply get the student suspended; no matter how immature a half dozen or so students in every classroom are that holds back the rest of the group, no matter how disparate the skill levels in a classroom, we are bound and determined to have an equal result. And, in this one area, we have done a wonderful job. We are all now last.
Since the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson, public schools have not been able to discriminate (in the positive sense). That very word, essential for common sense living, used to be a positive idea. We encouraged people to discriminate. That's the way effective systems are designed.
Not in America during and after the Johnson administration.
Where discrimination is so needed, we pile students into classrooms segregated by age as if they were plums on a tree, ripening at the same time and in the same way; impose a one size curriculum; make it impossible to weed in and weed out folks based on interest and talent, lest someone feel as though he or she is a target of, gasp, discrimination.
As a consequence, the US spends the most money of any public school system in the world, so that we can look up at everyone else from the bottom of the developed world, and announce that American students do as well as those of Cyprus. Cyprus?? Well, maybe on a good week.
Treating people all the same is and always will be a disaster.
Our founding fathers wanted to give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed. There was nothing in there about allowing those who didn't want the opportunity to drag the rest of the Country down. However, that point seems to have escaped our society for some reason.
Hey, look, I'm must a sophomore in college. I attend a college that is not accredited by a recognized agency of the US federal government.
I wager if I were attending such a college, this article would never find its way onto the school's blog.
Thank God for my college. I wouldn't attend anywhere else.
My Original Promises
So, how does all this information lead us back to the explanations for the clear evidence that elite colleges prefer graduates of unaccredited programs by a four-to-one margin or that graduates of unaccredited programs perform dramatically better when it comes to the sciences or to life choices relative to vocation?
Statistics relative to all of the realities mentioned at the beginning of this article are readily available, and I encourage all who have read this article to verify them for themselves.
Each of them has one basic reason for its existence.
People do better when instruction is tailored to who and what they are at the time instruction begins.
We cannot hope to put hundreds of people together, as disparate as we are in America, group them by age, treat them all the same as if they were pickles in a barrel, and get anything but a mob ready to fight, which is exactly what the American school model adopted from the Prussian military was designed to do. Is that what we want for our children?
Perhaps it is what a government might want, but, even there, government is now understanding that the basis of prosperity is being compromised when students cannot bring themselves to cooperate with the force government is so quick to use to achieve its limited ends.
One cannot subject an individual to years of force, ignore his or her individuality, and expect that person to understand that study and personal development is a pleasant, even exciting prospect.
Instead we have people who drop out of that impersonal system by the millions, or who quickly choose the wrong "passion" because they have not been taught in school how to evaluate options, bide their time, and look with excitement upon the prospect of what the next day can bring.
Until we do the right thing by our children, that is, treat them as individuals with individual aptitudes, maturity levels, learning styles, attitudes and skill levels; until we learn about each student before beginning instruction; before we give back to the student his or her free choice, every day education is available to him or her; until we eliminate the superstructure that thrives as an army general staff controlling the schools; until all this happens, America will never recover its educational leadership below the graduate school level which thrives on international, not American talent.
However, we have waited so long, and seen so much tragedy already. What will it take for us to understand as a society that people thrive when education is looked upon as an opportunity, and each person is given the leeway to accept that opportunity exactly where he or she is in life and for the right reasons.
That can't happen in military camps which happen to have great basketball and football teams, teams, incidentally that are great because they are freely chosen by students who want to be there and who want to strive to perfect the talents they have been given.
If the rest of the schools followed the sports model, and all students in every academic unit strove as our athletes strive, America's secondary schools would once again be the envy of the world.
However, as it is, people are willing to cut the physics, English and history budgets to augment the sports budgets. Considering the way accreditation forces academics to be taught, it is no wonder. People DO know the difference.