by Bruce Price 12/3/13
If you like irony, you’ll love this. That was once a time when schools did not have pencils and paper. Chalk and blackboard were luxuries. Books were a rarity. Classrooms, by today’s standards, were slums.
But today’s students are surrounded by thousands of books. Paper, pens, and pencils are everywhere. A tsunami of computers and other electronic devices flows through each school. Plus, there are hundreds of websites specializing in each individual subject. Khan Academy will teach you a hundred subjects all by itself.
Need a picture of the gallbladder? Google Images has more than 1000. I just checked.
Never before in the history of the world has education been so easy. Fifty years ago, teachers had to be ingenious to find or invent what were then called teaching aids. Typically, they were primitive and boring.
Now there are sophisticated teaching aids everywhere, like low-hanging fruit in a friendly jungle.
On the other hand, almost in defiance of this galloping onrush of technology, our Education Establishment works to make teaching more difficult. If education is thriving somewhere, these professors come up with a program to justify doing less of it. So that to a disappointing degree, education is almost at a standstill, surrounded on all sides by glittering possibilities.
Ever since the time of John Dewey, our elite educators have tried to craft collectivist schemes. The goal is clear: every child stuck in a low gear. Why else would they insist on Whole Word to teach reading? Everyone knows it doesn’t work. Why would they force schools to use New Math and Reform Math? These things are math-killers. Kids don’t master even simple arithmetic, and end up dependent on calculators.
You really see the dark genius in something called Constructivism or Discovery. Basically, teachers have been ordered not to teach. Students are supposed to track down knowledge for themselves, which doesn’t happen quickly. The only person in the classroom who knows anything must now remain silent. Why would you implement this policy unless you are trying to stop education in its tracks?
Wherever you look, there are barriers erected against making sure children acquire basic skills and foundational knowledge. The tools and technology are there like never before in history. What’s missing is the desire.
No, it’s worse than that. The desire is raging but for leveling, for preparing children to become members of a Brave New World. That’s why Bill Ayers is a professor of education. Instead of blowing up banks, he can attack the country legally.
Now, we are confronting something called Common Core Curriculum, which will put everything under federal control and probably lock it in place at a low level. So-called Standards are best understood as goals that will rarely be reached. The Education Establishment brags about the Standards, as if by rhapsodizing about them, they will magically become reality. “These people,” Siegfried Engelmann wisely observed, “are fundamentally looking for magic.”
The Education Establishment will chatter on about proficiency, grade level, and everyone becoming college-ready. In fact, there are kids in college who can’t do simple arithmetic. In what sense were they ever college-ready? So there is fraud taking place.
If we let teachers teach, and let them use all the new tools that are readily available, we would have a Renaissance.
The problem is, the Education Establishment won’t get out of the way. In the name of social justice, these ideologues want to make kids the same.
No matter whether we’re discussing an elementary school, a music school, a computer school, or a sports camp, the proper goal is always self-evident. You work with the kids you get; you take each one as far as you can. That’s obvious to the commonsense mind. You cannot help kids except by helping them to excel. If the plan is to keep kids at the same level forever, that should be called what it is, child abuse.
It’s a funny thing about American culture now. This self-evident approach is what we see in the Special Olympics. Handicapped children are encouraged to run races and compete in sporting events. That they may do it badly doesn’t matter; that they do it at all matters. They will feel better for trying. That matters. Let children try to fly. This should be the spirit of all schools.
All of these common-sense elements are what our Education Establishment tries to obstruct. There is something of a backlash against Common Core. That’s a start. But there needs to be a backlash against almost everything going on in the public schools. Too often, mediocrity is the secret goal.
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Bruce Deitrick Price explains education theories and methods on his site Improve-Education.org
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