by 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.
“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.
Bruce Deitrick Price explains education theories and methods on his site Improve-Education.org