SAT scores fall, literacy falls, and American competitiveness falls. Why can’t we fix these problems?
“Do you like riddles?” asks Bruce Price, founder of Improve-Education.org. “Here’s the big one. Why are public schools so dreadfully difficult to help? The government throws big money. Foundations and commissions give smart advice. Nothing changes! It often seems that public schools exist in a parallel universe, where nobody is serious about education.”
The answer, according to a new report on Improve-Education.org, is that the Education Establishment, for many decades, has been sidetracked by social engineering schemes. Elite educators devised dozens of classroom strategies whose real purpose was creating more cooperative children, not improving academics.
For the full report, see “38: Saving Public Schools--A New Paradigm” on Improve-Education.org. The message is that we need to start reform by cleaning house. We need to identify and eliminate all the unworkable methods that never should have been adopted in the first place. It’s a long list.
This report is a must-read for everyone trying to improve public education.
“The decline of the public schools is a totally fascinating mystery,” says Price, who has been writing about education for 25 years. “Money flies around, new policies are earnestly promoted, but we don’t see improvement. The unseen obstacle is that the top educators cling to their collectivist dreams. Those schemes are the problem. Here’s my take: before we can try effective new policies, we first have to discard all the tired old ideas now crippling the public schools.”
Price points out: “Keep in mind that all these ideas are presented to the public as panaceas. They may be panaceas from a social engineering point of view. Judged educationally, however, they are usually counterproductive and should be trashed.” Here are some of the major troublemakers:
WHOLE WORD (also known as Look-say, Dolch Words, Sight Words, etc.) makes sure that nobody becomes a fluent reader. This approach is the main reason that the US now has 50,000,000 functional illiterates.
“NEW NEW MATH” (e.g., TERC, Connected Math, Everyday Mathematics, MathLand, and others) makes sure that nobody masters much math.
NO MEMORIZATION says that children should not be required to memorize anything. Children can “look it up.” This rule guarantees that nobody will ever know anything.
CONSTRUCTIVISM encourages students to invent (i.e., construct) their own answers in every situation. Results: everything in the school slows down while children figure out as if for the first time that 4 + 6 equals 10.
COOPERATIVE LEARNING dictates that every school activity must be a group activity. Children do not learn to think for themselves.
SELF ESTEEM offers an all-purpose excuse for not teaching anything. No matter what a teacher tries to teach, some children might not get it all, which will make them feel bad. Solution? Teach less.
FUZZY MATH, FUZZY ENGLISH, FUZZY ANYTHING. These are sarcastic names for the pedagogical concepts that guessing is good, wrong answers should get full credit, and precision is not a reasonable expectation.
HOSTILITY TO TESTS, GRADES, HOMEWORK, AND EXCELLENCE. Schools discourage standards and competition. Everything becomes slower and sloppier.
A DEVASTATING SYNERGY: The cumulative effects of these methods can wreck any school.
“In many unexpected ways,” Price explains, “education is a house of mirrors. Even 100 years ago John Dewey and the other early educators were careful to conceal what they were really trying to do to the country. So all along we’ve had some duplicity, some dishonesty. The results today is the mysterious under-performance that I call ‘the education enigma’ (which is the name I chose for my new book). There’s a lot of sophistry and mumbo-jumbo you have to fight through to solve this enigma. The bad news is that schools were dumbed down deliberately, for social engineering reasons. The great news is that we can improve them the same way--deliberately. I say, let’s get started!”
(See “38: Saving Public Schools--A New Paradigm” on Improve-Education.org. “THE EDUCATION ENIGMA--What Happened to American Education” is a short, lively read. Available on Amazon.)