Skip to comments.Six Roads to Dysfunctional Schools
Posted on 04/22/2011 8:37:56 AM PDT by IbJensen
Many wonder why American public schools are so dysfunctional.
This question is more easily answered than you might suppose.
Throughout the 20th century, the Education Establishment devised scores of seemingly sophisticated pedagogies. Aggressively sold as ways to make schools effective and students smarter, these celebrated methods invariably turned out to render education less effective and students more ignorant.
Lets take a quick look at a half-dozen of the most famous concoctions. I predict youll have a startling realization: all of these things are counterproductive. Worse still, they seem to be that way by design.
1) PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND SELF-ESTEEM:
Consider a seemingly harmless and even appealing method called Self-Esteem. When educators claim that this new approach will lead to greater self-esteem, the public says, go ahead, surely everyone needs more of that! In practice, teachers are expected to give praise even when students dont make an effort; students become complacent and less industrious. Even worse, you have a relentless pressure against making academic demands on children, because failure will damage their self-esteem. You see where this is going? Finally, the teacher says, Hello, class! Youre wonderful. That is all that can happen. The moment the teacher actually teaches, the self-esteem levels will drop, which cannot be tolerated. Self-Esteem, all by itself, can render a school null and void.
2) PUBLIC EDUCATION AND CONSTRUCTIVISM:
Constructivisms basic claim is that children must invent their own new knowledge. A mountain of so-called research make this process sound as if it is wonderful, necessary, and inevitable. But we need to ask, how would children learn the names of the states or the important events of the American Revolution? Now you start to see the flaw: basic information can rarely be taught with Constructivism. A child might need hours or days to construct his way to a page of facts. The teacher must constantly nudge children toward their discovery of new knowledge, much as children are given hints to find Easter egg. In fact, these magical events wont usually happen at all. Constructivism is vastly popular now in the public schools, a good explanation for why kids know so little.
3) PUBLIC EDUCATION AND THE ART OF MEMORIZATION:
The Education Establishment came up with two slogans that have been used relentlessly for more than 60 years: Rote memorization is bad and They can look it up. This gospel (which cuts across all subject and all grades) states that children shouldnt bother retaining information. Lets confront what the Education Establishment is actually saying here: students should have empty heads. (Testing is kept soft and subjective so that students are not often asked if they know or dont know something.) Since the time of John Dewey, there was always a hostility toward teaching foundational knowledge in the first place. But demonizing memory is the easiest way to make sure that, should anything be taught, nobody can recall what it was.
4) COOPERATIVE LEARNING IN PUBLIC EDUCATION TODAY:
The whole point of Deweys collectivist theory is to create cooperative children. They work and play well together. The next step invariably was to put four or five children at little tables, to let them think of themselves as a group, not individuals. Work will be performed by the group. There was no individual achievement, only group achievement; no individual blame, only group blame. As a practical matter, children never learn how to think for themselves or act by themselves. They always have the shelter and comfort of being inside of a group. The better students carry the weaker students, and everybodys grades are muddled. But thats the point in the collectivist classroom.
5) PUBLIC EDUCATION AND NEW MATH / REFORM MATH / NATIONAL STANDARDS:
There are many separate curricula under those three headings, and yet they all have one thing in common: they mix advanced, complicated math with elementary arithmetic. The sales pitch is that children will learn to appreciate math at a higher level. The actual result is that children dont learn to do basic arithmetic. The proper way to teach arithmetic is that children master the simple stuff (1+2=3), then move to the less simple, then to the intermediate, and so on. New Math and its intellectual descendants were failures, and were abusive to children. Learning long division is hard enough. Just imagine that the crazies at your school mix in base-eight, set theory, some Boolean algebra, geometry, and pre-trig. Result: almost nobody can do arithmetic in a confident, automatic way.
6) SIGHT-WORD READING IN THE PUBLIC EDUCATION AGENDA:
Focus on the central fact that English is a phonetic language, like Latin and French. Its alphabet and word forms were designed to quickly communicate phonetic information, that is, you see a b, B, b, a script b, or B in any of hundreds of typefaces), and your brain immediately knows: buh-. English words are so similar; and every word comes in many different forms: bright, BRIGHT, etc. Its almost impossible for an ordinary human to memorize even 1,000 of these shifty little designs, never mind the 50,000+ word-shapes you need. But the Education Establishment pushed Whole Word relentlessly, claiming that children must memorize the English language one word at a time as graphic configurations. I would argue that Whole Word is prima facie impossible. Memorizing even a few hundred sight-words can take several years; so literacy happens very slowly. All the things that children used to learn in the first, second, third and fourth grades became impossible, not just reading but also geography, history, etc. Whole Word is, I believe, the official hoax of the Education Establishment. Its the paradigm of bad education. It cant work. It hurts children.
Its good to acknowledge how clever, slinky and difficult-to-understand these six approaches are. The average parent doesnt have a chance. I bet the average teacher has no clue that these things are toxic waste. Administered with love, they are still toxic. A library has been written extolling these methods. For me to debunk them in a paragraph is a tall order. But Im hoping I can tempt you to linger over each analysis long enough to feel the contradiction, the sticking point, the sophistry that finally makes these things fall apart in the classroom.
John Dewey and all the people who succeeded him were avowed Socialists. They wanted to make a new world. and as the New York Times once observed in defense of Stalins starving the Ukraine into submission, if you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs. Or a hundred million American kids.
The six gimmicks discussed could be called bait-and-switch. One thing is promised, something else is delivered. But I think these six are of a higher order, more like big-time magic acts. Im thinking of the really good tricks where you stare in wonderment and stammer: howd he do that?? Each of these things, we are told, is the best, most modern, most wonderful way to teach; but the kids inexplicably end up crippled and lobotomized. Howd the educators do that? When did it happen? The tiger was there, suddenly its gone. Like the kids future.
Coda: its crucial to get rid of these tricks. Thats the easiest, cheapest way to improve public education. Schools have to leave the indoctrination business, toss aside the gimmicks, and return to the education business. Teachers actually teach. Kids actually learn.
(See related essays on Improve-Education.org: 42: Reading Resources, 45: The Crusade Against Knowledge, 52: The Conspiracy Chronicles, and others.)
Study American public education and you will probably reach a point where you are reluctant to look further; because you have started to sense just how perverse the field is, and how dumb and destructive many of its practices are.
Conversely, the easiest way to improve education is to rein in current bad practice.
Bruce Price - is the founder of Improve-Education.org, a lively intellectual site with articles on Latin, birds, Pavlov, phonics, sophistry, 1984, the assault on math, design, teaching science, why our educators do a bad job, and much more.
7. EDUCATION AND KIDS WITH AN ATTITUDE THAT LEARNING IS FOR “WHITE FOLKS” OR “GRINGOS”
8. NO FATHER IN THE HOME
9. STUPID PARENTS HAVE STUPID KIDS
One thing I heard a few months ago, from SWEDEN of all places, was that apparently, each family gets a voucher of XXXX and can choose any school, anywhere they wish with it, no forced attendance by district.
On one hand I like the idea.
On the other hand, it would probably end up infecting every school in the country with just enough bad kids to screw all of them up, due to parents thinking the problem with their kids is the schools, and not THEMSELVES and the way they’ve raised them.
Sweden values education more than we do, and I think too many parents in the US take no time at all teaching their kids, or even teaching them to WANT to learn, instead, throwing them at school and expecting their teachers to handle it all.
The problem with U.S. education is that it is PUBLIC!
“Public” by definition means that it is socialist-funded, godless, collectivist managed, and run by the voting mob. How on earth can that be successful?
When is Bruce going to give it up? He persists in his quixotic quest to reform the unreformable.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to fix schools that are fundamentally, to their very core, socialist-funded, collectivist-managed, godless, and owned by the voting mob.
Solution: Begin the process of getting government out of the education business from pre-K to graduate school!
I’ve taught 7th grade for 17 years, and every Friday we play a review game in class on that day. The game is usually based on whatever sport is in season (right now, it’s baseball) and win-loss records are kept on the wall for all to see.
Rote memorization earns your team points. The more you can memorize, the better you help your team. They have to know what they’ve been taught. Everything’s fair game, from stuff that I taught the previous day, to stuff that I taught in August.
Of course, they also learn a good lesson about the dynamics of working in a group, i.e., that working in a group pretty much sucks, because there’s always knuckle-heads that everyone else has to drag along. I never attempt group work for any serious assignment, because I know that the work I would get would only reflect the abilities of the best student in the group. The others would just have that kid do their part for them.
I’ve seen kids who had no motivation to do anything decide that they weren’t going to be the object of scorn and ridicule from their classmates any more and actually learn the information.
Not only that, when they pick new teams, the lazy kids get to experience the humiliation of being passed over for the hard workers.
By the end of the year, they realize the reason that they know all that they know is because they had to COMPETE, and that, if they let up, someone else will move ahead of them.
That’s possibly the best lesson they can learn, anyway.
While they were still in high school, I took a number of them on a long weekend trip to a beachhouse to which we have access. Much to their disbelief, frustration and even some anger, with my not recently educated, 50 something, degrading memory, I beat the pants off them in any game we played that weekend that involved a knowledge of facts, be it Jeapordy or Trivial Pursuit or anything else.
Think about that: my memory is clearly not what it was, and I have not attended school for almost 40 years, but I still had a better grasp of history, politics, science, literature, sports, etc. than the very best of daughters' generation.
The lesson here is that our schools are failing not just the dropouts but also those who succeed.
Even Edmund Burke, in his "Speech on Conciliation . . . ." before the British Parliament in 1775, made the following observation about education in America and its effect on their ability to understand liberty, as well as their ability to stave off threats to their liberty, or, as he put it, "snuff the approach of tyrany in every tainted breeze.":
"me, Sir, to add another circumstance in our colonies, which contributes no mean part towards the growth and effect of this untractable spirit. I mean their education. In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study. The profession itself is numerous and powerful; and in most provinces it takes the lead. The greater number of the deputies sent to the congress were lawyers. But all who read, and most do read, endeavour to obtain some smattering in that science. I have been told by an eminent bookseller, that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported to the plantations. The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone's Commentaries in America as in England. General Gage marks out this disposition very particularly in a letter on your table. He states, that all the people in his government are lawyers, or smatterers in law; and that in Boston they have been enabled, by successful chicane, wholly to evade many parts of one of your capital penal constitutions. The smartness of debate will say, that this knowledge ought to teach them more clearly the rights of legislature, their obligations to obedience, and the penalties of rebellion. All this is mighty well. But my honourable and learned friend on the floor, who condescends to mark what I say for animadversion, will disdain that ground. He has heard, as well as I, that when great honours and great emoluments do not win over this knowledge to the service of the state, it is a formidable adversary to government. If the spirit be not tamed and broken by these happy methods, it is stubborn and litigious. Abeunt studia in mores. This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defence, full of resources. In other countries,the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze."
Perhaps the kind of "educated electorate" America's Founders envisioned would understand that the consequence of deficits and debt is slavery, oppression, and tyranny. Perhaps such an electorate would recognize tyranny masked as a promise to "redistribute the wealth" of others who have earned it to cronies, union big wigs, and assorted other voting blocks in order to assure power for the person making such promises.
I’ve been teaching nine years. I’m using your ideas. Thank you.
When the Founders envisioned education they likely had their **own** educations in mind: homeschooling, private tutoring as needed, one room schools organized by parents, and dame schools in the homes of neighbors.
For the older children they likely expected apprenticeships in the early teens, and home based academies that prepared the brightest ( who could afford it) for entrance into college, again, as young teens.
Our Founding Fathers would be **appalled** to see our nation's children attending compulsory, socialist-modeled, collectivist managed, godless, prison-like, and voter mob owned government schooling. Children who attend these schools learn to be comfortable with:
voter mob compulsion.
collectivist control of their lives, deaths, and even their thoughts,
prison-like social institutions
His stand against such government-controlled schooling was based on his analysis of the movement in America to the Year 1886, and he documented much of his reasoning with facts from government reports.
Those of you participating in this thread may be interested in reading his lengthy treatise online and perhaps referring others to it.
Here are the details:
"Poison drops in the federal Senate: the school question from a parental and non-sectarian stand-point: an epitome of the educational views of Zach. Montgomery on account of which views a stubborn but fruitless effort was made in the United States Senate to prevent his confirmation as Assistant Attorney General (1886)"
Author: Montgomery, Zachariah
Subject: Education -- United States; Education and state
Publisher: Washington, D.C. : Gibson Bros., printers
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Call number: AXU-5456
Digitizing sponsor: MSN
Book contributor: OISE - University of Toronto
His reasoning on the consequences for a people or a nation of such a system of education was sound. Sadly, those who opposed his position treated him badly and ignored his warnings--just as they ignore citizens today who do the same.
Scary. Even at a good school, the nonsense creeps in.
Word shape puzzles??? OMG.
Please show the original article to the principal.
Funny you mention the FCAT, I work for the organization that makes them. :)
I take issue with #3.
There is simply too much to know these days.
Knowing how to find the information you need and how to apply it is critical. Being able to educate yourself on the current task at hand, solve the problem and move on is how you make progress overall.
Thanks for posting this. Those six items are the most concise summary of today’s education that I’ve ever seen. You have read through Thomas Sowell’s books to get those six items in your head...but he hits them all. My kids never spent a day in public school...and none of these items are new to me, but to see it all right there is amazing. This is going home page.
(a day late Wintertime, but I know you’ll like this posting)
Government schooling was the first whack at the foundations of the family.
Government schooling absolved the **father** of his responsibility before God to educate his children.
My bet is there are one or two questions involving algebra and geometry.
If the children had a sound mastery of 4th grade arithmetic their scores on these standardized tests would be outstanding, even if they did get the one or two algebra and geometry questions wrong.
Thats possibly the best lesson they can learn, anyway.
In every adult work and social environment in which I have been involved pleasant cooperation, reliability, dependability, and especially **competency** were the qualities that were valued. While there may have been competition with outside business competitors, competition within the group was NOT helpful in any manner.
While I agree with you that your methods are likely effective in helping children learn in the typical classroom environment, but, fundamentally, is it natural or normal for children to be segregated from the larger society, in prison-like buildings, and confined for large parts of the day to socialization with children all of the same age?
Would an adult willingly place himself in a situation where he would be “humiliated” and subjected to “scorn”? If an adult would find it very difficult to cope with this type of social abuse, why on earth would we think it is good for children? Perhaps it is the environment itself that is responsible for the lack of motivation.
Much of the “socialization” learned in our prison-like government government schools is prison-gang survival and coping strategies. These dysfunctional habits must be **unlearned** and replaced with healthy interpersonal skills if success is to be achieved in the workplace, family, and larger society. Thankfully, humans are highly adaptable. Most make the transition. Sadly, some do not.
If our Founding Fathers were to walk through a typical government school they would be horrified at how we treat children. When they spoke of education they likely had their own educations in mind. That would include:
**homeschool with tutoring as needed from relatives, friends, and some paid tutors.
** very small dame schools in the homes of neighbors
** very small one room schools organized by parents that included children of all ages
** Apprenticeships for older children, and home-based academies to prepare the brightest ( who could afford it) for entrance into college as **young** teens.
Those six items are the most concise summary of todays education that Ive ever seen.
Ah! But....The problem is that people wrongly believe that if they could just fix those 6 problems that government schools would be fixed.
Government schools can’t be fixed because ( by definition) government schools **are**, to their core, socialist-funded, collectivist-managed, voter mob-owned, compulsory, prison-like, and godless.
“Government schools cant be fixed because ( by definition) government schools **are**, to their core, socialist-funded, collectivist-managed, voter mob-owned, compulsory, prison-like, and godless.”
Good point - I haven’t looked at it that way. Of course the first step is getting parents up to speed...so these 6 items at least let them know what to look out for. I was having a talk with a co-worker just yesterday, and she was bringing up some of these.