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Six Roads to Dysfunctional Schools
Right Side News ^ | 4/21/2011 | Staff

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.

Let’s take a quick look at a half-dozen of the most famous concoctions. I predict you’ll have a startling realization: all of these things are counterproductive. Worse still, they seem to be that way by design.


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 don’t 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! You’re 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.


Constructivism’s 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 won’t usually happen at all. Constructivism is vastly popular now in the public schools, a good explanation for why kids know so little.


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 shouldn’t bother retaining information. Let’s 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 don’t 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.


The whole point of Dewey’s 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 everybody’s grades are muddled. But that’s the point in the collectivist classroom.


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 don’t 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.


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. It’s 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. It’s the paradigm of bad education. It can’t work. It hurts children.


It’s good to acknowledge how clever, slinky and difficult-to-understand these six approaches are. The average parent doesn’t 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 I’m 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 Stalin’s 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. I’m thinking of the really good tricks where you stare in wonderment and stammer: how’d 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. How’d the educators do that? When did it happen? The tiger was there, suddenly it’s gone. Like the kid’s future.

Coda: it’s crucial to get rid of these tricks. That’s 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 “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, 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.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: governmentschools; schools; skooles; skules
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Schools have to leave the indoctrination business, toss aside the gimmicks, and return to the education business.

How to put a condom on a banana is hardly education. The skulls full of mush will then believe that they can have sexual relations as long as they have a banana and a condom with them.

1 posted on 04/22/2011 8:37:57 AM PDT by IbJensen
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To: IbJensen
I was a hold out on eliminating our public school system till recently when Glenn Beck pointed me in the direction of the "We are one" teacher's toolkit.

Teachers Toolkit (pdf)

It includes this handy student pledge form.

AS A STUDENT who believes in acting collectively and who supports workers’ right to bargain for good jobs and a better life, I am interested in doing one or more of the following (please check all that apply):

I want to connect with the union movement on my campus or in my community.

I want to help organize a teach-in like today’s for others on my campus or on a different campus.

I want to support workers’ organizing and collective bargaining struggles on my campus and in my community.

I want to learn about the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute programs. Please e-mail me information.

I would like to become a member of Working America, the community and student affiliate of the AFL-CIO. (

I would like to talk to someone about becoming an organizer for Working America.

When they start weaponizing the youth of America, the schools are beyond repair.
2 posted on 04/22/2011 8:46:24 AM PDT by cripplecreek (Remember the River Raisin! (look it up))
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To: IbJensen

Here it is in a nutshell: a politicized, politically correct educational establishment that teaches garbage in the interest of social engineering lies at fault. Which is why home-schooled kids typically do better by all objective measures.

Allow me to simplify this: teach crap, get crap. And that’s your problem right there.

3 posted on 04/22/2011 8:46:55 AM PDT by Noumenon ("How do we know when the Government is like that guy with the van and the handcuffs?" --Henry Bowman)
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To: IbJensen
The list is good, but woefully incomplete.

I would say that you could do all of these things but if we do not return to expelling problem students that improvement will be marginal.

I also will say that there is no way public institutions will be able to compete with home-school cooperatives running advanced curricula.

4 posted on 04/22/2011 8:47:32 AM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: IbJensen

What a clear, concise, and accurate summing up of several of education’s big problems!

5 posted on 04/22/2011 8:48:00 AM PDT by American Quilter (DEFUND OBAMACARE.)
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To: IbJensen

We should try and give high school seniors a 1958 graduation test and see how they do. It would be an eye opener as to how much they have learned. California only has, about, a 50% graduation rate and we are told they need more money? Amazing. We should also cut teachers pay every year that the graduation rate is below 80% and not allow them to dumb down the education to accomplish this. Also, tenure should go out the window.

6 posted on 04/22/2011 8:48:56 AM PDT by RC2
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To: cripplecreek

Watch these YouTubes of James Clavell’s (author of Shogun, Nobel House) short story, The Children’s Story. James Clavell saw the possibility of the re-education of children via the public schools as an issue back in the 1980’s.

7 posted on 04/22/2011 8:49:37 AM PDT by ExTexasRedhead
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To: ExTexasRedhead

Many people don’t seem to grasp the significance of it but but the schools was where Hitler solidified his death grip on Germany. He weaponized the youth and put a little gestapo informer in every home.

The German people learned to fear their children with good reason.

8 posted on 04/22/2011 8:56:05 AM PDT by cripplecreek (Remember the River Raisin! (look it up))
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To: American Quilter

Forced busing destroyed America’s metropolitan schools. Everything else is just so much twaddle.

9 posted on 04/22/2011 8:56:10 AM PDT by chadwimc (Proud to be an infidel ! Allah fubar !!!)
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To: American Quilter

Yep. Let’s see.

1, I don’t do any group work. Students stand or fall on their own.

2, I drill. I want students to know stuff automatically. I try to give them mnemonics that will help their recall.

3, I break down new words using old words. That’s what phonics is all about.

So yeah, my students are starting to pick up that I teach differently. It took them 6 months but they are asking me why I am doing this.

10 posted on 04/22/2011 8:56:53 AM PDT by BenKenobi (Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. - Silent Cal)
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To: RC2

The intentional dumbing down began with the socialist Dewey in the 30’s. All curricula was infected by the 50’s in the public schools....led to the sexual revolution in the 60’s....designed by the cultural Marxists Gramsci, Lukacs, Marcuse, etc.....(like Bill Ayers) . These evil individuals have been allowed to indoctrinate our children — kill the Christian paradigm and natural family—to destroy the individualism and self reliance that this paradigm had created—to create the atheist dysfunctional hedonism that we see today.

These Marxists have got to be kicked out of the elite circles that write curricula. Eakman writes about the evil methodologies which are designed to create hedonistic, self-indulgent atheists...who will be easily herded and controlled by totalitarianism.

11 posted on 04/22/2011 9:00:00 AM PDT by savagesusie
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To: MrEdd

There would probably be fewer behavior problems if the schools actually dropped the stupid programs that make students feel stupid.

12 posted on 04/22/2011 9:01:39 AM PDT by goldi (')
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To: IbJensen
The following are the words of Zacharias Montgomery, who had been denied a position in government because of his stand on the "public school question," in his 1886 Book entitled "Poison Drops in the United States Senate . . . ." Although his treatise dealt primarily with the public school question, the following remarks might be helpful to those who, today, consider themselves as TEA Partiers, or Taxed Enough Already candidates. Whether they win or lose, they will know that they have taken a stand for liberty.

Excerpts from Zacharias Montgomery:

"My countrymen, disguise the fact as we may, there is in this country to-day, and in both the political Parties, an element which is ripe for a centralized despotism. There are men and corporations of vast wealth, whose iron grasp spans this whole continent, and who find it more difficult and more expensive to corrupt thirty odd State Legislatures than one Federal Congress. It was said of Nero of old that he wished the Roman people had but one head, so that he might cut it off at a single blow. And so it is with those moneyed kings who would rule this country through bribery, fraud, and intimidation.

"It is easy to see how, with all the powers of government centered at Washington in one Federal head, they could at a single stroke put an end to American liberty.

"But they well understand that before striking this blow the minds of the people must be prepared to receive it. And what surer or safer preparation could possibly be made than is now being made, by indoctrinating the minds of the rising generation with the idea that ours is already a consolidated government ; that the States of the Union have no sovereignty which is not subordinate to the will and pleasure of the Federal head, and that our Constitution is the mere creature of custom, and may therefore be legally altered or abolished by custom.

"Such are a few of the pernicious and poisonous doctrines which ten millions of American children are today drinking in with the very definitions of the words they are compelled to study. And yet the man who dares to utter a word of warning of the approaching danger is stigmatized as an enemy to education and unfit to be men tioned as a candidate for the humblest office.

"Be it so. Viewing this great question as I do, not for all the offices in the gift of the American people would I shrink from an open and candid avowal of my sentiments. If I have learned anything from the reading of history, it is that the man who, in violation of great principles, toils for temporary fame, purchases for himself either total oblivion or eternal infamy, while he who temporarily goes down battling for right principles always deserves, and generally secures, the gratitude of succeeding ages, and will carry with him the sustaining solace of a clean conscience, more precious than all the offices and honors in the gift of man.

"History tells us that Aristides was voted into banishment because he was just. Yet who would not a thousand times rather today be Aristides than be numbered amongst the proudest of his persecutors.

"Socrates, too, in violation of every principle of justice, was con demned to a dungeon and to death. Yet what name is more honored in history than his? And which of his unjust judges would not gladly, hide himself in the utter darkness of oblivion from the with ering scorn and contempt of all mankind ?

"From the noble example of Aristides and of Socrates let American statesmen learn wisdom, and from the undying infamy of their cow ardly time-serving persecutors let political demagogues of today take warning"

So said Montgomery in 1886.

13 posted on 04/22/2011 9:05:14 AM PDT by loveliberty2
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To: IbJensen

I still appreciate the “new” math classes I had in JrHS in the 60’s (SMSG).

14 posted on 04/22/2011 9:16:57 AM PDT by Paladin2
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To: Paladin2

15 posted on 04/22/2011 9:19:05 AM PDT by Paladin2
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To: Noumenon

Also, I think that it would be better to have students read what, for example, Frederick Douglas WROTE, himself ... instead of reading what 5 mediocre authors SAID about what he wrote.

There is no person who can better convey facts than the individual who wrote them. No literary hack or textbook author can compare to the authentic source.

16 posted on 04/22/2011 9:22:11 AM PDT by SMARTY (Conforming to non-conformity is conforming just the same.)
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To: cripplecreek

Our public school system recently was tossing aroud ideas on how to get the “community” more involved in the schools, and thus, bring in more money and volunteerism. One of the ideas proposed was to install a laundromat in the school. I am not kidding! Makes me view my children’s $6000 private school tuition as an investment, not an expense.

17 posted on 04/22/2011 9:26:45 AM PDT by SteelCurtain_SSN720 (If you pass the rabid child, say "hammer down" for me)
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To: cripplecreek

barack hussein obama, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm

barack hussein obama, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm


18 posted on 04/22/2011 9:35:20 AM PDT by jbp1 (be nice now)
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To: BenKenobi

Good for you! More importantly, good for your students.

My children go to a very good charter school. It’s consistently the top-rated school in the district. The charter school teaches phonics. The kids have to memorize things, such as spelling words and multiplication tables. They drill a lot of basic arithmetic. It’s not a religious school, but the school’s teachers and administrators are socially very conservative. Values and character instruction are integrated into every grade’s curriculum. The school holds the kids to high standards of conduct. Hard work and achievement (rather than “self esteem”) are among the values promoted.

Even there, I see the influence of some of these pernicious educational theories creeping in. My fourth grader has algebra and geometry topics sprinkled into his math. The math curriculum in every grade skips around far too much, in my opinion. My kindergartener sometimes has to do “word shape” puzzles in which he has to find the proper word to fit into each box based on its shape. I see my kids assigned more group projects than I would like. (I’ve hated group projects ever since I was the kid who had to carry the other kids in groups.)

Some of these curriculum issues are driven by forces outside the school’s control. For example, the fourth grade FCAT (our state’s assessment test) includes some algebra and geometry problems. So, our school has to teach some algebra and geometry by the fourth grade. Still, I wonder if the school will be able to resist the trendy liberal curricula and modern educational theories long enough for all of my children to get a good education there.

19 posted on 04/22/2011 9:37:09 AM PDT by FiscalSanity
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To: jbp1

he bows to saudi kings
and says many stupid things

20 posted on 04/22/2011 11:37:35 AM PDT by hyperconservative (adopt or foster a horse, cat, dog or rabbit lest they die)
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