Hello, dumbness, my old friend!

RottenAppleby Bruce Price   11/27/13
The title is a riff on the famous line by Simon and Garfunkel, “Hello, darkness, my old friend.” Like the original, this article is a sad song about darkness.

It’s common to hear critics and reformers complain about the poor results achieved in public schools. Still, most people assume that school officials are well-intentioned. Surely, they try their best.

But statistics are relentlessly negative. Some critics venture to suggest the experts have dirty hands. That is, the schools intentionally use techniques that keep children confused and unsuccessful.

“A Nation at Risk,” the blue-ribbon report issued in 1983, concluded that our public schools were so bad they constituted an attack upon the country. Three decades later, the attack seems to continue.

Charlotte Iserbyt is well-known as the author of The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. Her book is a long chronicle of the failed theories our elite educators profess to believe. Note the phrase “deliberate dumbing down.” This charge, heard for the first time, may sound outlandish. How could people be so evil as to dumb-down children? Iserbyt’s book is a 700-page brief that some people are that evil.[pullquote]How could people be so evil as to dumb-down children? Iserbyt’s book is a 700-page brief that some people are that evil.[/pullquote]

Even without this book, the country’s education statistics make the case overwhelmingly.

The essence of a good education is momentum. Children are enthusiastic and engaged. There is a feeling that everybody is running effortlessly down a hill.

But the common denominator in most public school classrooms is inertia and boredom.

Basic skills aren’t mastered. Schools make the work seem pointless, so why would any ordinary person want to study it? Or the work is made to seem impossible, so the intelligent response is to give up.

For example, Reform Math seems deliberately scattered and shallow. Children reach middle school not knowing fractions or how to multiply.

Or consider Project-Based Learning, a major new fad. A PBL site lists 100+ boring topics that children might study–“How are funding decisions made?” “Home Ownership -–the positives and the negatives.” None of this will inspire young students. Quite the opposite.

We could look back to the Antebellum South where it was illegal for slaves to learn to read. Nowadays, we have nothing so obvious as a law. What we have are notorious techniques that achieve the same results. Virtually no one can learn to read English by memorizing thousands of sight-words. But the Education Establishment insisted for 75 years on making children go down that dead-end road.

Another parallel: 200 years ago in China, the daughters of rich families had their feet bound. This created a mincing, ultra-feminine walk. The binding of feet served a broader cultural purpose of making these females helpless and dependent.

The schools seem to employ methods known to create students with low literacy and low knowledge. The minds of many children in our public schools are “bound,” we might say.

At the end of high school, these minds are largely unfit for anything but basic jobs. The schools rarely try to push people up to their limit; rather they are allowed to settle toward mediocrity.[pullquote]We could look back to the Antebellum South where it was illegal for slaves to learn to read. Nowadays, we have nothing so obvious as a law. What we have are notorious techniques that achieve the same results. [/pullquote]

In American public schools, excluding some gifted and high-end classrooms, there appears to be a deliberate attempt to level children. John Dewey plotted to use the public schools as a path to a socialist America. His philosophy was in effect: “Hello, dumbness, you are my friend.”

Samuel Blumenfeld, who has spent a life trying to understand what the Progressives did to reading, said: “For Dewey, the greatest obstacle to socialism was the private mind that seeks knowledge in order to exercise its own private judgment and intellectual authority.” Dewey urged that reading be given less emphasis.

The Education Establishment, invariably far-left, seems to have a single thought: If we make them dumb, our time will come.

This is a bleak conclusion, a tragic reality. It’s important that everyone confront it, and take sides.

If our public schools are undermining the country, then we must change the leadership. We need people who believe in education that lifts and empowers all students.

If we can’t toss out the leaders, we must work to eliminate the many failed theories and methods that make schools dysfunctional.


Further reading/viewing:
Reading is Easy” (short YouTube video)
The Assault on Math” (article on Improve-Education.org)
The Con in Constructivism” (article on Improve-Education.org)
GOOD SCHOOL, BAD SCHOOL, HOW CAN YOU TELL? (short YouTube video)
PS: Oppose Common Core Curriculum.
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Bruce Deitrick Price explains education theories and methods on his site Improve-Education.org
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15 Responses to Hello, dumbness, my old friend!

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    The essence of collectivism is that it has no room for the independent individual mind, which might challenge the wisdom of the group. And since collectivists control public miseducation, they design it to create good little sheep. If they truly meant well, they’d correct their methods when they prove to be failures. They do so only with great reluctance.

  2. Kung Fu Zu says:

    People complain a lot about teachers, but I think the administrators are the main culprits.

    “200 years ago in China, the daughters of rich families had their feet bound.”

    Over thirty years ago in Singapore, I saw a very old woman, who had bound feet. Although I knew about the custom, it was very strange to see a person wobbling across the road because of it.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I agree that the teachers themselves aren’t the primary culprits; the problem is partly in administrations, partly in the schools of education, and partly in the union leadership. Too many teachers simply don’t know any better, and some probably just don’t want to admit to themselves what’s happening. Judging from the decline in teachers’ union membership, there are plenty who know, but up to now have considered it risky to challenge it.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This is just a brilliant essay. Child abuse is not too strong of a word for what these libtards are doing to our children.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    You all have spoken well of the institutional wreckage, in the form of schools and curriculum, which causes desolation, but what of the cultural inputs? How can we ignore what years of a diet of video games, with their preponderance of fleeting images and unhinged violence, do in cultivating a plebian character of mind? Brains that are fed an onslaught of what is essentially junk food naturally find discipline torturous–and the rudiments of learning require increasing amounts of discipline, quiet reflection, intelligent communication and feedback…..all which I am afraid is in short supply in many homes and schools.

    When we add to the infernal mix a subterranean philosophy that reinforces the human as merely a qualitatively higher order of animal, along with television archetypes that: mock virtue, worship adulation or notoriety, advances the priority of body over intellect, advances the desirable lifestyle of players, pimps, hoochies, bangers, and chiselers over the “square life;” downplays the purgatory of altered states of consciousness, and laughs at marriage, morality, God, temperance, chastity, accountability……..well, you know where I’m going.

    Faced with so much raw material that has essentially been inoculated against the possibility of “the examined life” before the age of 10, schools have a tough time making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. We have rotten schools no doubt, and not all of them are in poor neighborhoods. But if we are honest and look at the culture through a clear unjaundiced eye, we would see a tango of decline–in which institution and soul are reflexively corrupting one another while rendering the true end of education–minds that are worthy of free men, a veritable improbability.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’m not sure how much it matters that kids today spend hours playing videogames when in my day they might spend hours watching TV (as I did). On the other hand, the contents may make more of a difference.

      • Glenn Fairman says:

        Considering the psycho-sociological narratives of: “I Love Lucy,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Leave it to Beaver” and their contradistinction to “Grand Theft Auto,” MTV (circa 2013) and ABC’s loathsome “Modern Family”—perhaps content does make a significant difference in how one apprehends the world.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I’m not sure how much it matters that kids today spend hours playing videogames when in my day they might spend hours watching TV (as I did). On the other hand, the contents may make more of a difference.

        There’s this great episode of “The Simpsons” from many years back. The premise is that the writers or animators go on strike and so “Itchy and Scratchy” — a favorite after-school cartoon of all the kids — are on hiatus. The kids thus come home from school and, seeing nothing good on TV, they go outside and play. They play all the old, productive, creative games such as baseball, cowboys and Indians, riding bikes, flying kites — the whole Normal Rockwell picture. And they’re all happier for it.

        But then the writer’s strike ends and they all come back inside to sit on the couch and mindlessly watch pap like so many zombies.

        To some extent, it is the content. But to a large extent, it’s simply the medium. No matter what you are watching on TV, you are still a coach potato. You develop the habit of being passive and a-mused rather than engaged and active. You develop the mindset where someone else creates your jollies. To use a fancy phrase, the locus of concern or of control becomes external rather than internal. We are primed to become a stupid Obama-worshipping mob instead of hard-working, value-seeking small-r republicans.

        I actually had parents who would say “You’ve watched enough TV. Now get outside and play.” But too many parents today use television as a babysitter. It’s the price we pay for feminism, for telling women that children are indeed a “lifestyle choice.” And even the most vibrant and competent of women do not have enough hours in the day to be both a career woman and a mother. Many make a pretty good job of it nonetheless. My sister-in-law is one of the few who does it well. But many more do not. She is the exception that proves the rule.

        In the last few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to turn off “Itchy and Scratchy” and do more active and/or more involved things — such as reading. And even my reading has tended more towards non-fiction and the search for facts and meaning and not just passive entertainment. I usually do a little of both. But I can’t just sit and read fiction books back-to-back because in the back of my mind is this vision of my life passing me by.

        As for the harm of video games, that may have been over-sold. It’s just the nature of boys and men to get their jollies from action, excitement, and a sense of danger. I think it’s mostly a matter of how much time people spend playing these games that is the real issue. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the gentlest, most caring adolescent can sit down in front of a video game and immerse himself in the most violent of games and be no worse for it.

        In some ways, I think it’s a good way for young boys and men to stroke their male genes, especially in an increasingly feminized culture which regularly (and often subtly) demonizes masculinity. I noticed this “substitution masculinity” several years ago when owning and driving trucks became all the rage for men, even if they had little or no use for one. Their balls had been figuratively cut off at work and probably even in their relationships. Owning a masculine truck was a way to preserve something of the manly. This also could be a factor behind the tattoo craze, although unfortunately many women are involved in that as well. There are obviously many factors that go into a cultural desire to deface your body. The old-fashioned way to beautify the body was by working out. Now, like everything else, you simply “market” yourself with a superficial construct.

        Everyone is going to live their life differently. But it would improve every life to unplug from the vulgar and idiot-producing mainstream of popular culture. I have little doubt that there are evil people in education who have such a grudge against others that they would willingly and consciously obstruct little Johnny’s ability to learn to read. But I think much of the acquiescence by normally decent people that gives these evil people and their plans such power is because they have been dumbed-down. They have lost the instinct for excellence of any kind. “Itchy and Scratchy” can do that to you, and not just from the venue of the boob tube. “Itchy and Scratchy” is all over our culture.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I didn’t have a TV when I went to college, which got rid of the addiction (I still refer to “elads” or “electronic addicts” and have tried to make sure that doesn’t happen to me again). My reading tends to alternate between fiction (I’m currently reading Queen of Wands by John Ringo) and non-fiction (I previously read Mortal Combat by Michael Burleigh), though that can include magazines (I plan to read the latest issues of National Geographic, Smithsonian, Civil War Times, and Military Heritage next) — though news and political magazines (weekly or biweekly) are read more intermittently.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            That all sounds like the sound of a sound mind, Timothy. 🙂 Right now Mr. Kung has got me reading some J.S. Fletcher. I’ve started with “The Middle Temple Murder.” It’s actually reading pretty well so far. Concise, fairly intelligent, and not just a string of Christie-like (Agatha, not Chris) clichés.

  5. Kung Fu Zu says:

    “The Simpsons”

    I am happy to say, I have never seen a complete episode of the Simpsons. I must admit, yellow cartoon characters do not appeal to me. I had a good friend who loved it and I tried to watch it with him, but I couldn’t finish.

    As to the passivity of our intellectual pursuits, I recall when the group Boston came on to the scene and their first album became the best selling intro album of all time. It sold many millions of copies. Some editorialist, maybe George Will, bemoaned the fact that so many people were sitting around passively absorbing music rather than reading, which took intellectual input. I recall the writer was shocked that there was something like only 1 or 2 million “hard-core” readers in the country. He went through the calculation of how he had arrived at the number, which included stats from Borders and other book stores, if I recall correctly.

    As to TV, having lived overseas for many years, I was fortunate to miss much TV. For several years, I did watch a fair amount of German TV as watching local TV it is a good way to learn the language and get up to date on colloquial speech. You can’t imagine how strange it is to see John Wayne speaking German with a completely different voice. “Listen Pilgrim” loses something in translation.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The point about hard-core readers makes me think of a button I once picked up which notes that National Enquirer readers are part of that small group of people who actually read, and concludes, “Have a nice day.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I must admit, yellow cartoon characters do not appeal to me.

      I haven’t watched The Simpsons in years. But it was some of the best satire on TV. It’s still going, as far as I know.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I’ve seen the “Treehouse of Horror” Hallowe’en special (which is different each year, I gather) a couple of times, but that’s it.

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