Tuesday, August 9, 2022

 Defeating the Purpose of Education

Updated: May 2024
Most people would agree that the primary purpose of education is to prepare children for a good and productive life. Having been involved in education for over 50 years I would describe the proper education of children as preparing them to earn a good living doing work that pays well and is fulfilling, learning to live in harmony with others and in compliance with society's laws, to understand and enjoy science, the beauty of nature, enjoy and produce art, literature, and to generally find happiness in life. The U.S. Declaration of Independence emphasizes "the pursuit of happiness".

In the past few months I have reviewed the results of education reform in Louisiana to see if it was accomplishing these important goals for our precious children. I have come to the conclusion that almost everything teachers are required by their bosses (the legislature, BESE and the DOE) to do in Louisiana education is defeating the purpose of education. 

One of the highest priorities of education should be to prepare students for the world of work. There are common skills we need to instill in students for any career whether it be academic or physical labor. Our students need to learn a set of values and habits that can be referred to  good work ethics. That means that you show up for work on time every day, that you do your job right, and are generally dependable. We should be teaching that attending and doing well in school is the same as a job. Students need to be taught  good work ethics in their school performance. We are now teaching the exact opposite in our schools today. Students don't have to show up consistently at school, they can skip a lot of school (see this article on truancy), they can be disrespectful to their teachers, disrupt classroom activities without real consequences, they can refuse to do homework or prepare for tests and they can fail all their tests and they are still promoted to the next grade and are seldom disciplined. (see my study on state test results and automatic promotion) also this more recent study on accountability. Just look at the statistics: 40% of students are classified as truant every year, they  seldom make up the days they missed without an excuse, 35% fail two or more of their LEAP tests and they still get promoted to the next grade. School authorities regularly violate state law on compulsory attendance and testing and promotion laws with the tacit approval of the Department of Education. The school's performance score would go down if they enforced these laws. Our schools are teaching almost zero responsibility and a terrible work ethic. This defeats the purpose of education.

Don't expect BESE to approve real accountability for students and parents. Don't expect BESE to insist on schools enforcing the mandatory attendance law, and don't expect BESE to enforce the laws requiring denial of promotion to students who repeatedly miss more than 10 days of school and fail all their state tests.

BESE instead will continue making teachers and administrators the scapegoats for the lack of courage in enforcing mandatory standards that are clearly described in state law. 

I just don't want to hear any more education officials or politicians talk about "raising the bar".

Sunday, August 7, 2022

 The Inconvenient Truths About Education Reform

During the last 16 years, the agencies in charge of public education in Louisiana, namely the Louisiana Legislature and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) have tried out almost every major education reform attempted by any state. It would be correct to conclude that Louisiana is now the most educationally reformed state in the nation.

 Most of the education reform efforts have been either initiated or promoted by the Louisiana Association Business and Industry (LABI) using lobbying and political action. Over the last 10 years, LABI has helped finance and elect almost all BESE members that hold elected positions. It would be fair to say that for the last 16 years LABI has pretty much controlled education reform in Louisiana. This post is a report card on LABI's education reform record.

The following are the education reform initiatives promoted and controlled by LABI over the last 16 years: 

1.   Many public schools with student state test scores below the state average have been taken over by the State Recovery District and converted to charter schools that are privately managed. Such schools are exempted from many school regulations in exchange for producing better student performance, mostly on state tests.

2.   The state legislature has also allowed children attending failing schools (as determined by average state test scores) to transfer to private or religious schools with state funding following the students. This voucher system has been in effect for over ten years now and is heavily promoted by the big business lobby.

3.   BESE has required that all public schools since 2012 teach students according to the new Common Core Standards, particularly in math and English courses. The Common Core standards  are considered college prep standards.

4.   Since 2012, the Legislature and BESE have required that teachers be evaluated with half of their evaluation based on the progress or educational gains of their students. Teachers can be fired and lose certification based on these evaluations. 

5.   Schools and parish school systems are rated and compared with each other by an accountability system based primarily on state test results and preparation of students for college.


One would assume therefore that because of the reforms pushed by the big business lobbyists, public schools would now be providing school children with the most cutting-edge educational training in the country. Inconveniently however, data shows that the exact opposite has happened. Here are the major results of education reform in Louisiana:


#1. New Orleans public schools, before schools were taken over and converted to charter schools on average were performing in the bottom one-fifth compared to all other public schools in the state. Now these schools, which have recently been returned to the New Orleans school board, are performing in the bottom one-fifth compared to all other public schools. There is no perceptible change in the performance of their students, and very few students from RSD takeover schools are prepared for college. Those that have attempted college have mostly dropped out in less than a year, many burdened with debt for money borrowed to attend college. 


Other schools in the state Recovery School District included students from public schools in EBR, St. Helena, Pointe Coupee, and Caddo. The state has since given back the schools in St. Helena, and Pointe Coupee after disastrous results with some schools approaching collapse. Most of the schools taken over in Caddo and East Baton Rouge still in the Recovery District continue to be failing schools by all major measures.

 #2. For the students attending various religious and private schools by use of “opportunity scholarships”,  studies conducted by the University of Arkansas and Tulane show mostly a decline in performance of Louisiana voucher students compared to similar students that did not transfer from public to private schools. The latest average test scores of these students as reported by the Department of Education are far below the state average. The 8th grade math test scores released last week reveal that less than 12% of voucher students scored proficient in math. Even so, LABI and its allies are demanding more "school choice". 

 #3. The new testing of students based upon the Common Core standards had two primary goals: (a) To close the achievement gap between underprivileged (low-income students) and students from homes with higher income (b) Greatly boost the preparation of all students for college attendance. Graduates were expected to produce higher ACT scores, and many more students were expected to attain college diplomas. All of these efforts have been dismal failures. ACT scores have declined steadily and the gap between privileged and underprivileged students has grown wider. 

The Board of Regents recently predicted that for every 100 students entering high school today, only 18% will gain a college degree of any kind. That would be the lower college performance than before the reforms.


The average scores of students taking the new state tests are extremely low. The real achievement on the new state tests is so low that the State routinely keeps the real achievement secret by only publishing the so called “scale scores”. Citizens can only see the real raw scores by filing public records requests. The raw scores for passing are set so low that some students pass some of the high school tests by random guessing. Students are routinely promoted from one grade to another even if they fail to score satisfactory on any of their state tests. Many students graduate as functional illiterates because the state has removed almost all real standards for a diploma. This link is to a study I conducted using the actual data behind the deceptive scores and promotions of students today. 


#4. The reforms have mandated that teachers be evaluated partially based on the test results of their students. In the original evaluation plan designed by the LABI endorsed State Superintendent John White, the bottom 10% of teachers evaluated by their student’s test results were destined for eventual dismissal and decertification if they did not improve their student test scores sufficiently. The problem with this new system of evaluating teachers, was that there were serious defects in the scoring system that gave incorrect evaluations particularly to teachers of both high performing and low performing students. Teachers of some high performing magnet school students were getting ridiculously low evaluations. By the time flaws became evident, the university professor who had devised the test-based scheme had left the state leaving the system unfixable. This entire fiasco that played out over several years seriously damaged teacher morale and resulted in many highly respected teachers leaving or retiring early. 

In addition to disrespect of teachers by big business lobbyists, recent emphasis on reducing student suspensions by the State Department of Education has resulted in many teachers having their hands tied in enforcing classroom discipline in violation of the state law called the Teacher Bill of Rights. Many teachers are experiencing extreme disrespect and even threats by students who experience almost no consequences for serious disciplinary infractions. Teachers are simply advised to "de-escalate" when students blatantly defy their teachers.  

In recent years many teachers started retiring early and discouraged their children and relatives from seeking education degrees. Now Louisiana is experiencing a serious teacher shortage causing a major lowering of the standards for entry into teaching in Louisiana. Almost any college graduate can now get a teaching certificate with no training in teaching.

 #5. The entire scheme of rating and ranking schools by student performance has basically produced exactly the opposite result from what was promised. Now instead of preparing more students for college, the school scoring system encourages promotion and graduation of students without regard to real achievement.  In recent years, it became evident that the system was neglecting to prepare the great majority of students who would not or could not attend college. The new State Superintendent, Cade Brumley, has recently made major efforts to beef up vocational/technical training, however, many students who would benefit more from vocational or skills training stayed in the college prep track while still performing below standard. When efforts were made to add courses in pre-nursing, business management, training in carpentry, electrician, plumbing, air conditioning and refrigeration, etc. it was found that relatively few students were willing to sign up for such careers. Local superintendents are finding that, in addition to Louisiana having placed a stigma on vocational training, the watering down of standards in the college prep courses meant that most students were not worried about failing such courses. But the vocational courses require real work and meeting proficiency standards. Now it’s hard to fill up classes in some excellent vocational courses. Many kids would rather get an automatic diploma by staying in the college prep track. Many underprivileged students that graduate now are scoring too low on the ACT to qualify for TOPS scholarships. It they do attend college after graduation, they often take out loans that become a burden when most of them drop out of college. 


Now after 16 years of reform, fewer students are truly qualified for college, few are preparing for careers, and Louisiana students are performing academically worse than before the reforms. These are the inconvenient truths about education reform.



Thursday, June 16, 2022

 Converting Public Schools into Charters

Is the privatized “business” approach producing better results?

School reform supporters for years have promoted the conversion of public schools into charter schools as a way of improving efficiency and installing more businesslike management of public schools. Legislatures in most states have been pressured to authorize more and more charter schools as the way of producing better academic results for children. Sixteen years ago there seemed to be no better place to experiment with charter schools as the ultimate school reform model than the New Orleans public school system.  That school system was thought to be failing in providing students with the kind of education they needed to prepare for college and careers. 


In 2005, as hurricane Katrina physically destroyed much of the Orleans public school system, the Louisiana legislature passed a law allowing the State Department of Education to take over approximately three-fourths of New Orleans public schools. According to the new state law, school takeover (only in New Orleans) became automatic for any school producing less than the state average score on state tests. Any such school was arbitrarily declared to be a failing school in need of takeover. The Department of Education was authorized to turn such schools over to charter school management organizations in an agreement that removed many state requirements and standards in exchange for greatly improved academic results. Over the term of the charter, if the schools improved average test performance significantly, the managers could continue running the school. But if they failed to produce academic results, their charters would be revoked.


The majority of charter management organizations came into the Orleans system starting with the 2006-07 school year. State officials had fired almost 7,000 experienced teachers and staff as a way of cleaning house and allowing the new managers a fresh start, unhampered by previous teacher contracts. Most charter groups began by hiring new, mostly younger teachers with no education credentials. Most new teachers were provided by Teach for America. Also, many of the charter school managers had no education credentials. The New Orleans business community and the state authorities believed that a strictly business approach focused primarily on academic results was the medicine that the New Orleans public schools needed. Now, over the last 16 years almost all public schools in New Orleans have been converted into charter schools. It is now basically the only all-charter school system in the United States.


This recently released report by the Louisiana Pelican Policy Institute, a business funded “good government” group has produced a dashboard that compares the most recent data on all public-school systems in Louisiana. It provides a way for us to compare expenditures and results in public schools.  We can now get a good idea about whether the school reforms in New Orleans have lived up to their promises.


It is important to note that not all public schools in New Orleans at the time of takeover had been deemed to be failures. Even though the Orleans public school system, as a whole, fell into the bottom quartile of public school systems in the state based on academic achievement, there was a group of public schools in New Orleans that were performing well, even before 2006. Several highly selective schools had been producing high academic achievement and great college prep results. So approximately one-fourth of the Orleans schools were left intact because of acceptable results. Those schools, even though now converted into charters, continue to be selective in the students they serve and continue to produce exemplary results. But there is still a major problem with the state test scores of the other three-fourths - the reformed takeover schools.


The recent study shows that taken as a whole, the New Orleans all charter system is still ranking in the bottom quartile of all public-school systems in the state. This is in a state that performs near the bottom of all states on national testing and college preparedness. For example, the new dashboard reveals that for the four academic subjects of math, reading, science and social studies, only 18% of all New Orleans public school students are now rated proficient or better. (I averaged the results of the 4 academic subjects) 

 In the key subjects of math and reading, Orleans performs at the 24th percentile compared to all other state school systems. This is approximately the same as the Orleans school system performed before Katrina!   


What about efficiency in the use of per pupil dollars? Has the new business-oriented model resulted in more efficient use of tax and grant dollars?


One thing that the all-charter system has been successful in doing is attracting a generous flow of charitable foundation money to these new experimental schools. A sizable portion of per pupil dollars in the reformed Orleans public system come from charitable and foundation grants. So the reformed all charter school system is certainly well funded. 


The Pelican Policy Institute study has provided a rough measure of how the school money in Orleans is now allocated. Total per pupil funding of the New Orleans system now adds up to $24,434 per student. For Louisiana, this is lavish funding by any measure. The state average per pupil funding is now $11,755, less than half the per pupil amount for New Orleans. How do the New Orleans schools allocate their per pupil funding compared to all other public schools? According to the Pelican Policy dashboard, New Orleans now spends 23% of all its funding on administration and 36% on classroom instruction. (Salaries of the Charter managers are not published as far as I know) The state average for other systems in Louisiana is 8% for administration and 56% for the classrooms. (All non-charter public-school administrators and teacher salary schedules are public records) 


Did the increased funding allow the reformed Orleans school system to hire a better quality of teachers? The state auditor recently found that more than half of the Orleans teachers are not certified as teachers. In addition, most of the teachers now employed in Orleans are Caucasian while 90% of the students are African American. This ignores studies that show that children learn better from real role models of their own ethnic type. So much for the new business approach. 


Finally, on average, the other school systems in the state have 31% of students achieving proficiency in the 4 basic subjects tested. This compares to 18% achieving proficiency in the new reformed Orleans system. 


The standard for school failure and state takeover in Louisiana has changed drastically in the last 16 years since the great charter school experiment was launched in New Orleans. Now there are practically no schools being taken over by the state based on academic performance. Now, few charters are revoked even when they continue to produce extremely low performance, but there is still a major movement to add even more charters statewide. Charter organizations have found it to be more advantageous to start new charters where the managers can attempt to attract mostly higher performing students instead of being expected to actually improve the performance of low achievers. My question: Is this happening because charters are deemed to be more efficient in producing better results, or is it because charter school operators see to it that generous contributions go to state politicians?

Comment: The statistics cited above, I believe, make a very convincing case that the school takeovers and conversion to mostly unregulated charters have not improved the overall academic performance of New Orleans students. In addition, there have been many cases of fraud and abuse by some unsupervised managers. There have been numerous cases of data manipulation, and corruption to ensure that charter managers could keep their jobs where they often determined their own high salaries. The very young, inexperienced TFA corps members were not in a position to blow the whistle on abuses because they needed positive recommendations as they went on to pursue their real careers outside the teaching profession. 


Unfortunately, I believe there has been serious damage done to the futures of many New Orleans children. Students have often lost their neighborhood schools and been forced to bus to unfamiliar environments. The scramble for higher test scores among charter managers has often caused the loss of resources and neglect of students with disabilities who could not be used to improve test scores. Also, the push to teach only college prep subject matter to all students has resulted in the neglect of vital vocational and technical training that could have prepared many students for productive and rewarding careers that do not require college training. True college prep students have received less rigorous college prep because teachers were also trying to tend to the needs of lower performing students. 


Finally, the greatest loss to New Orleans students, in my opinion, was the removal of thousands of excellent role models when experienced African American teachers were fired and often forced to leave the communities at the beginning of the reform effort. It is my belief that fewer students in the Orleans system are now inspired to attain college degrees than before the reforms because students have lost many role models in their communities of their own ethnic group who were college graduates and wonderful teachers.



Sunday, May 15, 2022

 Important notice to all teachers


I am pleased to announce that my new book on parenting titled Parenting According to Nature will be available from Amazon as a Countdown Deal in the Kindle or eBook format for 77 hours for only 99 cents starting at 4:00 PM Central time May 19, then at $3.99 for the next 77 hours! The regular price is $6.99 for the eBook format and $14.95 for the paperback version. I am hoping that many teachers will take advantage of this great discount to study this new approach to parenting and teaching and provide me with comments and suggestions. You can make these at my blog at The Louisiana Educator.  I would also really appreciate any positive reviews readers may want to post to the Amazon book description. Any such positive reviews would help promote sales of the book, but more importantly, could help parents to learn more effective methods of parenting. The book also describes the growing threats to children’s health and welfare arising from the internet, social media, and many bad nutrition and pharmaceutical choices. The book is based on exciting recent findings about the natural drive for learning in all children discovered by evolutionary scientists. Understanding this special drive for learning should help all of us to utilize better approaches to parenting and teaching based on our genetic programming. Please help me spread the word.
See the previous posts on this blog for excerpts.
Also, Amazon allows you to read the preface and the first two chapters for free on their website by checking the arrow above the cover photo titled "Look inside".


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

 Hidden Threats to Our Children

Parenting Excerpt #3


Many American parents today are losing control of the social lives of their children. Children today are being exposed to serious dangers coming from the internet and social media.


The following excerpt shows how children are distracted from family life and the proper influence of their parents in acquiring social values. Many children today are vulnerable to peer groups, deadly drug sources and even child molesters posing as children. Facebook recently did a study indicating that teen girls may have higher incidences of suicide caused by Instagram.


(Excerpt from Parenting According to Nature)


“Take another candid photo or a short video of a typical family sitting at the dinner table, if you can ever catch them all there. When you examine the photo or video, you will probably not see an image of a happy family enjoying dinner together and conversing with each other. What you are likely to see instead is about half the family looking at and furiously texting on their smartphones—while sitting together at the dinner table! They seem to be totally uninterested in members of their own family. I will return to this mismatch between our brains and our technologically distracted culture in the how-to section.

For all the above reasons that threaten our happy lives and the very existence of our nation, we must prioritize education for survival in rearing our children, very much like what prehistoric hunter-gatherers did for their children. We are not so special or better than early humans we sometimes disparage as “cavemen.”


Harmful peer groups can have an impact on our children

Millions of young people are attracted to social groups that often have their own cultural norms that are contrary to a healthy culture. Some peer groups dabble in crime, form dangerous gangs and are destructive to society. Many parents and school authorities seem to be unaware of the powerful influence of peer groups on our children until bad things happen that can be lethal or that can seriously damage a young person’s chance for a healthy and prosperous life. The epidemic of street crime in many major cities is produced by a subculture of young people that have created their own dysfunctional culture right under the noses of parents and public officials. In addition to the damage caused to young people from high poverty communities, there are many young people from economically advantaged families that can easily get influenced and have their lives threatened by the drugs and violence and even sexual predation generated in these dysfunctional sub-cultures.


 As I was writing this, there was a news report that during the same time that 700,000 Americans died of Covid-19, 100,000 mostly young people died of drug overdoses. It seems that many of the victims had no idea that lethal amounts of fentanyl had been added to recreational pills they were taking. Why would young people today trust the word of drug dealers that these drugs are safe? Parents and school health programs should provide intensive training programs to teach our children the dangers of taking any unnatural substances into their bodies. These unnatural substances include opioids, methamphetamine drugs, unnecessary pharmaceuticals, and even highly processed fast foods. These issues that are critical to good health should be addressed in a redesigned health and physical education part of the school curriculum.


The only time we should allow our children to be actively involved in peer groups is when we as parents are monitoring these contacts and are certain that these groups do not pose dangers to our children. Some peer groups that are beneficial for instilling positive cultural norms are those organized by religious communities as a way of providing valuable cultural training outside of the formal school setting. Church groups of teenagers and preteens are often effective in providing children with values that include generosity, social good works, healthy group exercise, and creative expression such as choirs, sports, and values education. One of my grandchildren participated in a church group that spent a couple of weeks each summer working in a Habitat for Humanity project. Both valuable social skills and work skills were learned.”


My book: Parenting According to Nature accessible here on Amazon does a lot more than sound an alarm to modern parents about losing control of the social lives of their children. It gives parents a practical how-to guide for building strong bonds with their children and guiding them to appropriate religious and social development. It includes suggestions for the development of healthy cultural values that will ensure that children develop productive careers and healthy bodies and minds. Please consider this new approach to rearing healthy, happy children.


Friday, April 22, 2022

 Louisiana Rediscovers the Career Diploma

(Includes an excerpt from my new book, Parenting According to Nature) 


This is an article in the national publication, Real Clear Policy, touting Louisiana’s major push recently to provide Louisiana high school graduates with a variety of vocational/career certifications. The article is proclaiming this shift in the Louisiana graduation emphasis by State Superintendent Cade Brumley as a bold new initiative! Superintendent Brumley certainly deserves credit for finally beginning to provide thousands of Louisiana high school graduates with valuable career training, but this change in emphasis was mandated by a law passed in the Louisiana legislature almost over 13 years ago. 

The article in Real Clear Policy calls this a "bold move" to overhaul career and technical education in Louisiana high schools. According to the story "the program will develop economically relevant graduation pathways for high school students." When I read the article, it reminded me that I had discussed this issue in my new book on parenting. Here is an excerpt from my book, Parenting According to Nature on the subject of career education:


“In 2009 I took these ideas to local school superintendents across the state, and with their support drafted legislation (SB 249) which was called The Career Diploma Law, and got it passed through the Louisiana legislature that year. The bill had almost unanimous support of both Representatives and Senators and was signed by the Governor. The Career Diploma law provided a vocational pathway for graduation to students who wanted to pursue a career that did not require preparation for four-year colleges.”

Here is a direct quote from the career diploma law passed 13 years ago in Louisiana:

 “(b) Students pursuing a career major shall be afforded the opportunity to dually enroll in a community or technical college or participate in a business internship or work-study program,”  

“The only problem for this legislation was that the state superintendent of education in Louisiana at that time, who had no credentials in education, had opposed the legislation providing for the career diploma, and basically refused to implement the law. That’s because he and members of the State Board of Education had been convinced to adopt a new education reform strategy that was the national rage at the time, particularly among non-educators, that aimed to prepare all students for college. 

Philanthropist Bill Gates had been convinced to support and promote a new curriculum for all public-school students in the U.S. called the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards also came to be strongly supported by the Obama administration. The Louisiana State Board of Education adopted this new curriculum, even before it was written, at the urging of the Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education. The actual set of standards was then hurriedly designed by a small group of mostly testing company executives and their experts. The goal of the project was to have all states “voluntarily” adopt the new Common Core State Standards. The leader of the effort was David Coleman, the president of the College Board, which produces the SAT tests and tests for advanced placement (AP) courses in high schools. Coleman had never spent one day as a classroom teacher in the K–12 education system. In fact, most of the writers of this new curriculum had little experience as classroom teachers and sought almost no input from professional educators in writing the standards. This was part of a new trend where non-educators apparently decided to take education reform into their own hands with little or no consultation from professional teachers. This new college prep curriculum flew in the face of recommendations from educators who saw a greater need for vocational and career education for most students who would not attend college.”

The article in Real Clear Policy gives Bill Gates credit for announcing 20 years ago that U.S. high schools were not doing a good job of preparing students for lifetime skills. Here is a quote from a Gates speech at that time: “America’s high schools are obsolete. By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.”  


Ironically Gates, who had dropped out of college to develop a software company that made him one of the richest persons on earth, now spent over a billion dollars of his foundation’s money to force all American children to be taught a lot of stuff they would never use in real life. The Louisiana Career Diploma law however, had been passed specifically to allow our high schools to teach “kids what they need to know today”. The adoption of the Gates supported Common Core standards basically paralyzed all efforts to make our high schools more relevant to the 70% of our students who were not going to attend 4-year colleges.  

So now, after an entire generation of Louisiana children have attended schools under the Common Core standards, our Board of Regents has projected that only 18% of today’s ninth graders can be expected to achieve any type of college degree. So, the program had made our college attendance rate even lower than before in Louisiana. Now, all these years after passage of the Career Diploma law in Louisiana, our Department of Education and even the business community have rediscovered this law and decided to implement it as a “bold move to overhaul high school career and technical education”. It sure would have been great if our education reformers had done this 13 years ago.



Thursday, April 21, 2022

 Parenting According to Nature: Excerpt #1

Why  cultural learning is now a critical part of rearing children

This excerpt from my new book describes examples of why teaching our children is so important to producing competent and successful young adults. This is the link to the Amazon ad for my book.


"Scientists have found that cultural adaptation and learning are different for different cultures and are usually precisely matched to the environment. Even today, people of different cultures find it very difficult to move to a different geographic area such as from high rainfall plains to the desert, or the tropics. They must be specifically trained for each environment.

It takes a tremendous amount of highly sophisticated training to create a successful human, well adapted to his environment. Here is just one example: Anthropologists studying a very primitive tribe in Tierra del Fuego, South America, were amazed at the complex process used by the hunters of the tribe to create weapons. Sitting with highly skilled elder hunters, the researchers found that there are 17 different precise steps in the production of an arrow. The elders explained how to straighten the shaft, which is preferably made from branches of a certain tree that are not originally very straight. Just adding the feather fletching requires several steps using particular wing feathers of a particular kind of hawk, with the left-wing feathers used in a different way than the right-wing feathers. Young boys spend many hours and days learning the construction of and perfecting their weapons, not to mention how much practice it takes to hunt rabbits and birds with these weapons. Let’s just say that it takes probably a lot more sophistication for primitive del Fuegians to learn the skills needed to construct effective arrows than it takes today’s teenagers to learn algebra. Another key point I will address later is that the primitive young hunters are much better motivated to learn their arrow-making skills because their skills are much more relevant to their everyday survival than algebra is to teenagers.


Cultural evolution has become the most rapid form of human evolution

Genetic evolution is still occurring within the human species, but that process is too slow to provide the adaptations humans need in our rapidly changing environment. Cultural evolution is a better and faster alternative. Now, our large brains with their huge capacity for learning allow us to pass on innovations to our young, resulting in an accelerated rate of human progress to create more and more complex societies. This modern form of evolution is suitable for transmission to offspring by making use of the long training and enculturation period for which human children are genetically designed. 

 Humans did not genetically inherit the knowledge or skills needed for making fire, bows, arrows, boats, pottery, or computers. They had to learn these skills from their parents or other, wise elders in the tribe or, in our case, sometimes from modern scientists. Compare these learned skills to the inherited skills used by bees to give directions to other worker bees to a newly discovered pasture filled with nectar rich flowers. Bees are not taught this direction giving system, which consists of a sort of “dance” that tells other bees the direction and distance of the flowers. That system of direction-giving which is encoded in their genes probably developed over millions of years and cannot easily be changed to adapt to new conditions. In humans, giving directions to other humans to a beehive loaded with honey can be much more precise and more versatile because it is learned behavior conveyed by using language. 

The development of language in humans was a form of cultural adaptation based on the need to communicate information about the construction of complex tools, hunting and fishing techniques, plant identification, seasonal changes, and transmission of knowledge to succeeding generations. It is believed that spoken languages in human ancestors were gradually developed probably starting over a million years ago. The development of language caused a type of genetic co-evolution in humans that selected for improved adaptations of the mouth, throat, and larynx making speaking easier and allowing language to be more complex. Language has continued to evolve, giving us the ability to transmit ideas more effectively, which Henrich (see note below) believes raises the average IQ (intelligence quotient) of the species. Researchers have found that the IQ of children is very closely related to the number of words they know and their resultant ability to communicate and even to think more effectively. This is an important discovery that should be utilized in teaching our children to be better adapted to the modern environment using a greater mastery of vocabulary and language."


Note: Joseph Henrich, a leading evolutionary scientist, has developed successful new theories explaining the importance of cultural learning in humans. His work shows why it is so critical that we carefully train our children for success in life.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Parenting According to Nature Now Available on Amazon

I am very happy to announce that my book on parenting is now available here on Amazon! The eBook version is only $6.99. The paperback is $15.99

I wrote this book because I believe the most important job we parents have in life is that of properly rearing our children. In researching and writing this book I wanted to provide young parents with a practical how-to guide for preparing their children for a successful and happy life. 

This new book is a unique approach based on two years of research on the latest discoveries of evolutionary biologists and anthropologists about successful child rearing. My book attempts to describe the most effective ways parents can prepare their children for survival and for living a happy life in the complex environment of today. There are some very good time-tested methods used by parents throughout human experience for raising happy, successful children that can be very effective today if properly adapted to our modern world. 


Here is the thing: Children are born ready and quite willing to learn what they need to succeed in life from their parents and other teachers. Kids are born hungry to learn from us. All we need to do is feed them lots of useful information, great life skills, and a heathy culture if we want them to be successful. 


Unfortunately, there are many pitfalls and dangers to our children in our modern environment today. Everything from the food they eat, the games they play, and the peers they associate with are very critical to their success in life. It is up to us as parents to keep them on the right path to success and happiness. It takes about 20 years to properly train a young human to be a successful adult. That’s quite a challenge for parents. A lot of things could go wrong. But we also know that raising children can be a very joyful and rewarding experience. We know that the happiest people on earth are those that have a great family life where our legacy as social beings can be fulfilled.


Take a good look at Parenting According to Nature. You may just find some great ideas for successfully rearing children in the crazy, exciting world of today.  Here's an image of the new cover art for the book:

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

 My new book on parenting is coming soon!

I have been very busy for the last year and a half researching and writing this book on parenting. It is based on the latest research about why and how children learn, and why we teach our children.

I am planning to make the ebook version available on the Amazon web site by March 15, 2022. Soon after, a paperback version will be available also from Amazon. It may also be available for pre-ordering in a couple of weeks.

Stay tuned for more information on how this book came about Thanks, Mike Deshotels