by Bruce Price 12/9/13
It’s a pattern for almost 100 years. The so-called professional educators, the Education Establishment, are good at creating unworkable methods based on goofy sophistical theories. (The good developments in education don’t come from these people.)
You want progress? You want good news? You want people who are actually trying to make kids learn more? Then you start to look at people like Rudolf Flesch, Siegfried Engelmann, Samuel Blumenfeld, and more recently Professor E. D. Hirsch.
Hirsch was always in education in the sense that he was a brainy professor of English. But that was way up in an ivory tower at some place like Yale. He was most definitely not a member of the much-maligned (at least by me) Education Establishment, nor was he a crusader.
Then came the moment of epiphany (probably one of many). He realized his incoming students, and most of the people walking around in the street, didn’t know much. Compare Jay Leno going “Jaywalking.”
Due to the deliberate malfeasance of our public schools, the average American can hardly be expected to find Alaska on a map of the world or to know who Thomas Jefferson was. It’s disgraceful.
Hirsch set out to create a remedy. He wrote a book called Cultural Literacy in 1987. This book sketched out what all citizens should know. It was quite controversial, especially in liberal, progressive circles which foolishly disdain the idea that there is ANYTHING which all citizens should know.
He wrote another famous book called The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them. and several others. In general, Hirsch was a scold and a nuisance to an Education Establishment which seems to prefer keeping everyone living in the dark, if you can call it living.
Don’t imagine that I exaggerate. You can find quotes all the way back to John Dewey basically taking the Party Line that, hey, kids don’t need to bother with all that knowledge stuff. Apparently, the left has figured out that if you don’t know anything, you’re a lot more pliable. Today, thanks to the triumph of this anti-intellectual campaign, citizens are ignorant, the media investigate hardly at all, and we seem sometimes to be living in an alternative fantasy universe — the one reported by the Associated Press.
Fortunately for the country, Hirsch is a determined sort of person. He developed his ideas into an entire curriculum, still being rolled out, which is called “Core Knowledge.”
There may be a thousand details we could quibble over. But on balance, this is wonderful news. Classical academies like this thing. It works in poor eighborhoods where children come from homes that are not full of books or cultural discussions. It gives everybody a chance to participate in the American dream.
I’ve been harping on the knowledge issue for several years. It’s frustrating. The ignorance in our public schools is deep and seems deliberate. It would be very easy to fix. If you teach children one fact each day, which is virtually nothing, that means 200 per year, and more than 2000 by the end of high school. Do you think the kids coming out of high school today know 2000 facts? Do you think they know 50 facts? I was talking to a student at James Madison University and he mentioned a woman in his class who indicated in a conversation that she didn’t know who George Washington was. This woman graduated from a school in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a state alleged to have the fourth best schools in the country???
Try to imagine what the other states must be like. Well, I can help you. There is a new reality show on television. They asked a young man, he looked about 22, this question: “The Civil War, World War II, the Vietnam War — which came first?” He picked the wrong answer. How is that even possible? Well, that’s what you wonder if you’re lucky enough to have been educated. But if you’ve recently graduated from an American public school, you might well be thinking, well, which one is it??
Bottom line. Make your local schools adopt Core Knowledge or something better if they can find it.
More about Hirsch and his ideas: The Core Knowledge approach — is it right for every school?
More about knowledge: Let us now praise knowing stuff
100 facts every high school graduate should know: The QUIZZ
Bruce Deitrick Price explains education theories and methods on his site Improve-Education.org
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