A StubbornThings Interview 1/19/16
Bruce has been kind enough to share some of his thoughts on the state of education in this country. Read ahead. You will find very little whistling past the graveyard. Bruce seems to understand the enormity of what we are up against. — The Editor
ST Editor: What motivated you to start writing about education?
Bruce Price: I saw items in the newspaper that stunned me by their stupidity. I remember an article circa 1985 where a teacher in Maryland was suspended for telling his smarter students they might enjoy “The Prince.” It was not on the official curriculum so the principal condemned this eager teacher. A year ago I wrote an article called “K-12 education is a crooked house.” Imagine you’re walking down the street and you notice carpenters building a house with crooked doors and windows. That’s a shock. But what happens next is even more shocking. When you try to warn them that this house will cause nothing but problems, they respond: “It’s great the way it is. We are experts. Mind your own business.” That pretty well defines the relationship that any intelligent person will have with our Education Establishment. They like crooked. I like analyzing their crookedness.
ST: What is Common Core?
BP: First of all, remember that Common Core is a huge thing, all grades, all subjects, festooned with details in every direction. If you try to read it all, you might need several hours. So this answer will necessarily be sweeping. For more than 100 years, two major goals animated the “progressive” left. First, to reduce local and state control while increasing federal control. Second, to create simple, cooperative children who prefer being part of a group, this being a transmission belt to socialism. John Dewey worked out the whole plan by 1910: take control of the ed schools, indoctrinate teachers, and send them into the countryside to indoctrinate the next generation. Education as traditionally understood was never a goal. The point was to transform the country. The simplest way to do that was to engage in what Charlotte Iserbyt called “the deliberate dumbing down of America.” I would say that K-12 education for a century has been a slow-motion coup d’état. Common Core was intended to be the culmination of all these left-wing schemes.
ST: Is the current fad for “equality” the reason for the many unproductive tactics seen in the schools?
BP: Yes, as suggested in the previous answer. John Dewey, when explaining socialism, referred to it as “democracy.” Bill Ayers, Obama’s terrorist friend and a professor of education, uses the phrase “social justice.” We also hear a lot about “egalitarian,” “fairness,” and “educational equity.” The Education Establishment is going to level society even if that requires cutting off heads and feet. Here’s what we are up against. If your kid knows how to spell Mississippi, and my kid doesn’t, my kid will have low self-esteem. We can’t allow that. Therefore no one will learn to spell Mississippi.
ST: Given the empty courses at many colleges and the huge cost of going there, what advice do you give to parents?
BP: Caveat emptor (repeat 10 times). Just as most people have become shrewd consumers of alcoholic beverages and electronic devices, they must be equally shrewd consumers of what is peddled at colleges. As a part of dumbing down the society, there is a lot of intellectual junk at colleges. As a part of turning the country socialist, there is a lot of PC pablum. Each student must find the deep, valuable, lasting courses. Take only substantive, academic offerings where content has been fairly settled for a few decades. That is, avoid fads. Take courses where you need a professor to guide you through a range of materials. If there is a competent 100-page book available on a topic, read that instead of taking a course. To get full value from college, you have to work at it. Oh, and always remember: caveat emptor.
ST: Shouldn’t the Department of Education be abolished?
BP: Yes or at least greatly reduced in size. Everyone should be working toward this goal. (The DOE was one big step in the federal takeover of education mentioned in the second answer.) However, I recommend putting even more emphasis on big solutions that we might be able to pull off in the short term. For example, abolish Common Core and let’s make sure that virtually all children learn to read by the end of first grade. This is doable, cheap, and would end half the problems we have in K-12. (If schools won’t do it, parents should teach children to read at the age of five.)
ST: A friend in Washington state showed me official documents outlining a drastic, Orwellian overhaul of public schools; children would learn to be “global citizens”; the idea that an answer was right or wrong would be discarded. What’s that all about?
BP: You have to think of our Education Establishment as a phenomenon much like kudzu and crabgrass, not to mention cockroaches. These people never rest; they never give suckers an even break. If one vacuous idea is shot down, they will create two more vacuous ideas. They will advance as far as each individual community will retreat. One excellent illustration of the entire panorama is New Math, circa 1962. It was vicious and stupid. The public hated it from the get-go. Our experts laid low until 1985 and came back with Reform Math, which was 12 almost identical curricula with different names! As the public got sick of them, the experts came back with Common Core Math. The common denominator is that these curricula are ineffective by design and turn children away from math.
ST: Is home-schooling still a growth industry?
BP: Very much so. The last figures I’ve seen show that almost 1.8 million children are homeschooled. Most articles I write elicit comments that if your children are not being educated, it’s your fault because you didn’t yank them out of the evil public schools. Many parents also comment that it’s more fun than they thought it would be. The dirty little secret is you could teach your kids more in three hours than the public school will teach them all day. Another dirty little secret is that the Education Establishment hates homeschooling and would love to encumber parents with more rules. I suspect that Common Core, had it been fully implemented, would have led to more meddling with private schools and homeschooling. So everybody should support home-schooling whether they do it themselves or not.
ST: Why are parents so uninvolved in keeping tabs on government schools?
BP: Some parents are lazy and self-involved, certainly that’s part of the answer. But everyone should keep in mind how brilliantly diabolical our Education Establishment is. Their great gifts are Murkiness and Marketing. They constantly come up with fake new methods, pretentious new theories to justify those methods, new jargon to confuse everybody about the methods, and new advertising slogans to make people think they’re getting a good deal, when their children’s brains are being fried. The Education Establishment has turned K-12 education into a fog-enshrouded swamp. Even the people in education cannot explain what’s going on there. Predictably, parents are confused and don’t understand how to improve the situation.
ST: Are there sinister forces out there whose purpose is quite other than helping children get a solid academic education?
BP: That’s pretty much the only forces there are. Similarly, I would say there are nothing but bad ideas in our public schools; that’s because the Education Establishment has systematically eliminated the good ideas, and inserted viruses in their place. The overriding mission is to create a socialist America. This ideology taints everything. Power to promote that ideology is a constant goal. When you get to the high-level administrators, professors, and publishers, then money is also a motivator. At the very top of the society, both left and right, there seem to be people who want control and stability more than anything else. Keeping people half-educated turns out to be the method of choice. I think we would be safer if our citizens were smarter. It seems the powers-that-be disagree. I think their strategy is tragic but still utterly fascinating.
ST: What could a conservative president do to help with true education reform?
BP: Many months ago, Trump said that Jeb Bush is not a feasible candidate because he supports Common Core. Clearly Trump would fight Common Core. Right there I knew that major reforms could become possible if the right president got in. If you’d like a rule of thumb, here it is: everything supported by the Education Establishment should be opposed to the max. Whatever most private schools do is probably an excellent blueprint. The president should strive to make it possible for communities to pursue their separate visions of excellence. We want educational diversity, choice, experimentation, and innovation.
Bruce Deitrick Price explains education theories and methods on his site Improve-Education.org. For info on his four new novels, see his literary site Lit4u.com.