As a thought experiment, I would like to describe nation at a point in time. I’ll let you figure out the nation and time …
-> The country was once, uncontested, the most powerful in the world
-> … But it became embroiled in foreign wars
-> Became dependent on foreign military assistance
-> Created an oppressive tax structure
-> Increased the rift between the haves and the have-nots
-> Moved from a manufacturing economy to an entertainment economy
-> Saw a decline in family values and traditional morality
-> Saw a decline in math and science education
No, I am not talking about the United States of America in the 20th Century – I am talking about the Roman Empire in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and fourth centuries.
Actually, if you enjoy little compare/contrast exercises from history, you might enjoy Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” Although the wording is long-winded and archaic (it was printed in 1788), the information is very insightful.
If you want the dessert without slugging through thousands of pages, there is an Gibbon’s abridged version on Amazon that you can read on a plane ride.
Why is Decline and Fall one of my favorite tools? That’s a tough question. A few months back when I was creating this list and sharing it with a few close associates, Harry Robinson went as far as to challenge me, writing:
A question: are those really your favorite testing tools, or do they mainly make for quirky talk material (especially the Gibbons)?
I suppose that is a resonable concern. There are plenty of testing “experts” who are all flash and little substance. Then again, what do tools do, if not enable you to do better work in less time? So I suppose a valid question would be having read the decline and fall, what would you do differently?
Start out with me worried about the state of my nation, and it’s future. Decline and Fall paints one way that the fall could happen. The decline in math and science education is especially worrisome to me. Yet when I look at the formula for our educational system, which is a lot of low-to-middling paying jobs that are provide considerable job security, high student-to-teacher ratios, heavyweight teaching methods established by a federal bureaucracy, “objective” standardized tests that teach facts and not evaluation … I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.
I don’t see an easy answer. Next year, my elder daughter will be KinderGarten age, and she will probably do that at home, which will probably continue throughout elementary school.
Home Schooling? Really? Five years ago, that was not even on our rader. Thank you, Henry Gibbons.