Skip to comments.The Real Problem In Our Public Schools
Posted on 08/27/2012 3:28:34 PM PDT by BruceDeitrickPrice
Dont trust what you see in the media about education. Almost every discussion is a distraction or a lie.
School size, class size, the place of unions, teacher training, vouchers, charter schools, budgets -- there are a lot of things that people argue about. Everybody has a theory; every parent has a horror story. But these debates dont seem to advance much from year to year.
You can probably go around the country and find good schools on both sides of these issues. One school does X; the next school doesnt do X. But they both turn out about the same. Obviously X is not a fundamental issue.
If you want to understand our public schools, you have to look deeper. You have to look at what the professors of education call theories and methods. These are the big ideas--the software, we might say--that determine how the system operates.
A century ago, John Dewey and other educational philosophers stated that the purpose of public schools is to create a new kind of child, more cooperative, less individualistic. Scores of theorists articulated the classroom methods that would best fulfill this vision.
In short, the whole educational universe is much more ideological than people think. John Dewey and all the other early thinkers were progressives or socialists. They thought that the purpose of schools was to create a new kind of citizen, who would accept a new kind of country.
Thats where the trouble started. Traditionally, a schools purpose was to teach children basic knowledge and skills. Suddenly, the purpose was to turn the United States into a socialist country....
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If you look at all the theories and methods, youll be hard-pressed to find one that actually creates more knowledgeable students. But no official is going to explain why. So we have a strange crime scene indeed, with millions of walking wounded, an endless chattering of excuses, and no Superman to save us.
The Education Establishment claims that every method is a perfect solution. In fact, they are often destructive. Back in the 1930s, phonics was thrown out; schools were forced to use Whole Word. Now we have 60 years of data showing that this is a disastrous method. But today, in first grades throughout America, youre likely to find children memorizing sight-words.
During the last 25 years, almost every public school made children learn arithmetic with one variety or another of Reform Math. These curricula are illogically designed, and children reach college not knowing what 5 x 7 is.
I can go through the entire list--Cooperative Learning, Constructivism, Self-Esteem, Prior Knowledge, Diverse Learning styles, and all the rest--and show you that the actual effects are not what is promised. Instead we see dumbing-down.
If America wants to reclaim its schools, people need to take a look at these theories and methods, learn why they dont work, and meditate on what kind of fanatics care more about indoctrination than about educational success.
If we want to fix public schools, we have to get rid of the bad ideas. They were deliberately inserted in the schools. They can be deliberately eliminated.
Dont be sidetracked by the discussions in the media. Stay focused on the dreadful performance of our so-called experts. Internationally, were 25th in math. Our own national assessment in reading indicates that two-thirds of our students are below proficient. This is pathetic. The people in charge should be fired.
The broader pattern is that our Big Media wont report facts and our Big Education wont teach facts. Neither is our friend.
(Bruce Deitrick Price founded Improve-Education.org in 2005.)
All of this is true, but there is one bigger problem. It starts with students who have no desire or motivation to learn and no parent or parents who seem to care either,
Eliminate the Department of Miseducation and the parents will fix this given the authority.
Well, maybe students think that they are wasting their time trying to learn inane math programs and dolch words. Maybe they know that they are being taken for a ride, and there is nothing they can do about it because the state says they have to be there regardless of whether they learn anything or not.
Maybe the parents feel the same way too. Maybe students and parents should have more choice.
The problem is multigenerational. The parents were indoctrinated by the government schools.
Government schools were ideological from the beginning. You need to know more about the Unitarians and the Owenites. Read Sam Blumenfeld’s “Are Public Schools Necessary?”
Maybe these are good points. But I’m not writing about the history of education as history. All of my interest is in what can we do now. And one of the things we can do is help pillars of the community, etc. to understand why we have dismal education statistics. Maybe then they will be motivated to oppose the Education Establishment. I’m always amazed by the passivity of the groups that should be coming to the rescue: Chamber of Commerce, military groups, big media, political parties. I want to encourage them to look more objectively at the theories and methods used in the schools.
I am a product of “new” math — it made little to no sense to me when it was taught and to this day I struggle with basic math.
My dad, a professor of Math and Physics, couldn’t make sense of it either — he couldn’t understand why math was being taught in such a convoluted manner instead of a, clear, straightforward manner that everyone understood.
He said after “new” math, students entered first level university classes not knowing fractions.
The interesting part for me is that both you and your father found New Math (or was it Reform Math?) to be incredibly difficult and unproductive. It’s not just bad, it’s really bad.
More and more I move on to the conclusion that the people designing this stuff were deliberately undermining math in the USA. How do we avoid this conclusion?