Wade through several hundred discussions about education. You finally realize it all comes down to one question: did all this crazy bad stuff happen by accident, or do the people at the top get up every morning scheming to keep kids semi-literate, unable to do much arithmetic, and ignorant in any direction you look?
I'm fascinated by this question because, for one thing, the crazy bad stuff seems too vast to be accidental. You can’t take your eyes off it. Watching Rome burn must’ve been a similar experience. The waste, the incompetence, the reckless malice. Whatever the exact cause, finally you’ve got a city on fire. Not just any city. The world’s greatest city. And what have we got today but what should be the world’s greatest education system--and it’s on fire. But not in a good way.
Second, one of the most successful people in America told me years ago, "Bruce, I agree with a lot of what you say but I can't go along with the conspiracy stuff." That puzzled me. "Conspiracy stuff? You mean when John Dewey and his whole gang of socialists went to a conference and schemed to take over the ed schools, infiltrate the public schools, and thereby brainwash all the students? Why don’t you want to call that a conspiracy? Obviously it is one." For my money, it's a conspiracy the size of Antarctica. QED: we're not going to make progress in our public schools until people start facing the obvious facts. Probably everybody in the Education Establishment for the past 100 years was part of this conspiracy. It was these people who deliberately dumbed-down the public schools.
Third, once I got used to the idea that all the “crazy bad stuff” was surely the result of clever human activity, then my interest shifted to HOW. Wanting to win a fight, and being willing to do anything to win, is not the same as saying you have found the best strategy. Well, our Education Establishment is brilliant at sophistry. So what they did was to create schools with relentless, manifest activity that never seemed to advance very far. They turned public education into a Potemkin Village. That was the pretty but fake little town that Russian officials created so that Empress Catherine would think she was ruling a prosperous and happy country. Similarly, parents and community leaders are supposed to think that their public schools are doing just fine.
But that’s not the case. According to Charlotte Iserbyt’s famous phrase “the deliberate dumbing down of America,” our public schools are engaged in a deception. The key word, of course, is “deliberate.” The con, as I would term it, was carried out by the simple device of finding inferior methods, and using them whenever possible, to whatever extent was possible. For example, the Education Establishment might say that Whole Word was superior and phonics was obsolete. Well, not everyone accepted this nonsense. So the Education Establishment didn’t always win all the time. On the other hand, they never stopped trying to win. When one of their bad ideas was rejected, they came up with two or three more bad ideas. The public schools are now encumbered by dozens of bad ideas. Have you ever seen a caterpillar weighed down by parasitic wasp larvae? It was this sad sight that made Charles Darwin doubt his religion.
For a quick rundown of the bad ideas, see “56: Top 10 Worst Ideas in Education.” www.improve-education.org/id83.html
Many public schools still teach sight-words. Take precautions.
School starts in less than two months. Take steps now to make sure your kids understand the basics of reading. The basics are simple. You can teach them.
A problem occurs if children are made to memorize sight-words without ever hearing about the basics. So here are the basics 1-2-3:
1) Children must learn to say, and then to print, the alphabet (the ABC's). They can identify any letter they see.
2) Then they learn that the letters stand for certain sounds, A is for aaa.
3) Then they learn the blends; that’s when you say the T-sound (tuh-) and an A-sound quickly....and you get "taa."
That’s the basis of everything that goes on in a phonetic language. Most children will figure it out for themselves given enough time. The problem is that less-verbal kids need direct instruction the most.
If the child ends up at a school that still teaches sight-words (also known as high-frequency words, Dolch words, whole words and other names), that child can be slowed down drastically.
Here are some resources you can use. They all deal with the same problem from different directions. So pick one and start:
"Hey! Teach these kids to read." This is a good article for getting started. http://www.rantrave.com/Rant/HEY-Teach-Those-Kids-to-Read.aspx
"54: Preemptive Reading – Teach Your Child Early” Explains the phonics concept at greater length.
"The Bouncing Ball Project.” Features several videos with a bouncing ball. Children will understand the directionality of English and the concept of syllables. We welcome feedback.
Best video on reading. Please view.
If too small, view on YouTube.
Best video on reading. Please view.
If too small, view on YouTube.
One bizarre aspect of any discussion about public education is that everybody tiptoes around the real reason why the schools are mediocre.
We spend billions of dollars. Millions of people work in this area. The whole country embraces public education.
So why do we have low literacy rates, widespread ignorance among ordinary citizens about simple things, etc., etc.??
The people in charge can’t be trying to do a good job. Put another way, whatever it is these people mean by “education” is not what most parents want for their kids.
John Dewey and everybody else in charge of public education from 1900 onward was a socialist, a communist, a collectivist, or something of the sort. This is not a secret. Most of these people used the word “progressive” to describe themselves, and this was a common synonym for socialist.
The only thing that seems to be hidden is the degree to which these people would push their socialist agenda--rather than focus on the educational services they are paid to care about.
Bottom line, it clarifies every discussion about education if we understand that the DNA of this field is far to the left. Socialists want to eliminate private property, religion, family, and freedom. To accomplish all this, they try to dumb down the public through education.
Clearly, the American Revolution was not fought on behalf of these disgraceful goals.
For a longer discussion, see “Socialism versus Education.""”
I usually call myself an education crusader, education activist, or education reformer. The basic idea is the same: things aren’t ideal and I want to improve them.
But these terms are misleading. They do not tell what I actually do all day, which turns out to be much more like what police investigators do. Or what, I like to think, Sherlock Holmes is doing right now in his stories.
There’s a crime. The police, detectives, investigators, and forensics people arrive at the crime scene and try to reconstruct what happened and who is guilty. That’s what I’m doing all day.
Truly, American public schools are the biggest crime scene in the history of the country and probably the world. All day, weird counterintuitive things are going on. Things that give the opposite results from what is claimed. Victims, suffering and dying, are scattered everywhere.
All the while, the Education Establishment lays down a barrage of false clues and tainted evidence. Every bad idea is praised as an upstanding citizen. Every bad result is concealed by jargon and disingenuous alibis. The Education Establishment blames parents, TV, drugs, sex, the kids, the Internet, sports, popular culture--in short, everything but themselves.
The criminals in the story are presented as heroes. The crimes are treated as victories or, at worse, momentary setbacks, innocent mistakes, and in any case the work of somebody else.
So if we want to solve a crime we have to ignore all the BS. Be cop-cool and lab-clinical. First, start with a description of the crime. For example: we have 50 million functional illiterates. Now, that’s a crime. How could it happen? The game is on, as Sherlock would say.
Our public schools created this result by using a lethal, unworkable method called Whole Word. Rudolf Flesch solved the crime in 1955. But the Education Establishment went right on. It’s like watching a criminal at a trial, continuing to lie. Whole Word was what cops call an MO or method of operation. Still going on in schools today. You say, how could they get away with it? Well, how could O. J. Simpson kill two people and walk?
I think it’s what we call a corrupted jury. The Education Establishment is a billion-dollar syndicate, and protects the members of the gang and pays them well.
And what would be the motive, which is the main thing to deduce in criminal behavior. All of our educators are progressives, collectivists, socialists of some kind, and this has been true since the time of John Dewey 100 years ago. Their big goal is social engineering, creating a Brave New World, making a new kind of kid. Once you start thinking like that, you really don’t care if children know where Japan is on a map or what 6 x 7 is. And that’s the collateral damage we get.
I remember when I found Sherlock Holmes and how much I enjoyed all the stories. I’ve enjoyed trying to solve educational crimes just as much. For an interim report from police lab, see “Top 10 Biggest Crimes in Education.” (aka Top 10 Worst Ideas) www.improve-education.org/id83.html
Here's a theme I've been talking about for a few years. The country's intellectual and financial decline is partly due to the mediocrity of the public schools. This decline can be reversed by adopting proven theories and methods. That's a doable project:
Free The Schools
a simple four-step plan
Our Education Establishment has an 80-year record of praising
and protecting bad pedagogies. Enough.
Here is what we need instead, starting now:
1. REAL READING. That means systematic phonics for several months until children learn to read. That means no Whole Word, no sight-words, no Dolch words, no high-frequency words. These gimmicks are all the same thing and the reason we have 50 million functional illiterates.
2. REAL ARITHMETIC. Schools use sensible, coherent programs such as Saxon Math, Singapore Math, or the like. (They do not use Reform Math in any of its forms-- Everyday Math, Connected Math, TERC.) Children master basic skills, know the multiplication tables, and can find answers. No more spiraling, fuzziness, or dependence on calculators.
3. REAL LEARNING. It’s knowledge-based and fact-filled. Children learn basic information in the fields of Geography, History, Science, Literature, etc. Students advance in a logical way from the simple to the complex--which leads to genuine critical thinking.
4. REAL EDUCATION. It’s academically correct (as opposed to politically correct). The emphasis is on building study skills and scholarly character. Students know a great deal, and know how to learn more. They can do independent work. They understand that precision, rigor, and honesty are the same things.
FREE THE SCHOOLS
is simply what all good schools have done throughout history
and are now doing around the world.
Good education is not rocket science.
Get the asinine theories and methods out of the way. Real education will thrive.
We especially need this in the early grades,
where lots of children have to play catch-up.
If you can use or advance this campaign, please do so.
If there are people or groups we should contact,
leave info at: Word-Wise, 757-455-5020.
A short article on what NOT to do:
56: Top 10 Worst Ideas in Education.
A short article on what schools SCHOULD do:
“A Bill of Rights for Students 2013”
[both on Improve-Education.org]
YouTube video version of FREE THE SCHOOLS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaT2S4Vep-w
YouTube video version of FREE THE SCHOOLS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaT2S4Vep-w
The last straw: my paper in Norfolk just ran an article praising local schools for adopting all the recycled bad ideas from New Math, Reform Math, Constructivism, Cooperative Learning and all the rest. There is nothing new, not one good idea. But this newspaper is all aglow.
How can parents defend themselves against this nonsense if the media always aid and abet the Education Establishment? The short answer is that parents should not expect much help from the school system or local media. Parents need to familiarize themselves with the bogus theories and methods, understand why they don’t work, and know that we can easily do better.
It’s sad and pathetic the way the Education Establishment pretends to care about math. In truth, they do everything possible to make sure that children don’t become good at arithmetic and math.
Close-up, their MO is to litter the landscape which so many obstacles, perverse instructions, and upside-down signs that most children give up. They tell the world that they are just not gifted at math. They don’t try any more math courses. And science is close to math, so they’ll avoid that too.
And that’s how the Education Establishment wins, even while mouthing pretentiously about their love for lifelong learners and the rest of it.
But let’s stand back a long way and try to see the one essential thing the Education Establishment does. Here it is. They make sure that the children, from day one, experience failure, only failure.
Conversely, good teachers and good curricula present things that children can master. They gain confidence. They want to move toward more adventurous challenges. That’s the way it is for all ages, in all subjects, all the time. If you don’t think you can do something properly and you’re experiencing failure day after day, you will run.
Joan Dunn, in her wonderful 1955 book “Retreat From Learning,” wrote what I think is the most profound statement you will find about education: “The children suffer academically because learning is neglected, and the time that should have been devoted to skull work in reading, writing, thinking, and speaking is given over to chatter. Nobody knows this better than the children. They want to be taught step by step, so that they can see their progress. The duller they are, the more important and immediate is this need.”
It’s the duller students that are most destroyed by the Education Establishment, those so-called experts who should be creating schools which make sure that slower students are given every chance.
To do that, you would want to look at how John Saxon designed his textbooks. You give students a morsel. You make sure they understand it. You give them little tests. You then review what they learned. When you’re sure the children have really got it in their brains, then you move to the next morsel. You never go ahead until the students feel in control.
That feeling of being in control is the key to everything. If you know anything about Reform Math, the very essence of it is that the children never feel in control. (“Everyday Math: Innumeracy By Design” is a collection of comments by irate parents about this diabolical curriculum.
To show how Reform Math works in practice, I put an article on hubpages (title: “Why American Kids Can't Do Math") where I said, let’s do a thought experiment; let’s imagine you are trying to make sure that a captive population never learns to do arithmetic. What will you do?? Very much what Reform Math does!
For contrast, here is an article about John Saxon and his ideas.
Dear Valerie Strauss,
I’ve been writing about education for many years; I’d like to share with you my explanation for why the public schools are mediocre despite huge budgets.
Newspapers are full of analysis that I don’t think tells us much. There is definitely something counterintuitive about the field of education. It makes me think of optical illusions, such as the one way where steps are going up AND they are going down.
The problems in education are hidden in plain sight. They are the theories and methods endorsed by our Education Establishment. If you examine these theories and methods one by one, you find a surprising consistency: all are more destructive than they are helpful.
The breakthrough for me was reading theory. Ever since 1931, the Education Establishment pushed Whole Word (or sight-words) as a way to learn reading. It doesn’t work; it cannot work. But they keep pushing it. Freeze that frame. Everything you need to understand education is right there.
Reading is the paradigm. But the same pattern replicates itself over and over. Each new method is much praised and massively promoted; we are supposed to accept it as a panacea. A decade or two later the stats get worse. We look closely at this thing and we realize that it’s not working. But the Education Establishment doubles down.
You probably remember the famous drawing from Gulliver’s Travels: a huge man held down by dozens of tiny, almost invisible strands. Public schools are something like that. Kids don’t learn to read as well as they should. They can’t do arithmetic as well as they need to. They don’t learn basic knowledge as well as they could. They are encouraged to guess and approximate....There’s an across-the-board attack on every aspect of the kid’s education and every aspect of the kid’s character.
On an optimistic note: I believe all these ideas were systematically inserted into the schools, and they can be systematically withdrawn from the schools. I suspect you could improve quality by 10% and cut costs by 10% almost without lifting a finger. You would just have to stop using all the bad ideas.
If we try to decide motive, we will get lost in political discussions. I know people who say it’s a far-left plot, while others say it’s a far-right plot. A documentary called “Zeitgeist” maintains its neither the left or the right, just ruthless SOB’s at the top who want everybody else to be stupid.
Well, Valerie, my purpose is to urge you to throw this analysis out there, provoke the public, and challenge the elite educators. Inquire innocently as to why they can’t do a better job.
The main thing is to open up the debate. Get people talking.
What I fear is not just the terrible stats but a terrible paralysis. I don’t see the Chamber of Commerce, Mission: Readiness, the media, the elite universities doing anything. I think the Education Establishment has deliberately battered everybody into passivity. People hear the same arguments over and over for decades, but nothing changes. Superman does not show up. Ordinary citizens feel helpless. If the official leaders can’t do anything, what can parents do?
The only hope is that the grown-ups get more involved. The smart, practical people (and I think you’re one of those) can start pushing the envelope, start agitating, start pointing out that the emperors of education are not only naked but abusing children.
Okay, that’s my explanation. If you want details for any aspect of it, please tell me.
PS: For details, see this short discussion of individual methods: “Top 10 Worst Ideas in Education.” ( http://www.improve-education.org/id83.html )
NB: Valerie Strauss blogs on the Washington Post as The Answer Sheet. I originally created this as a letter to her, but she didn't answer so please pass it along.
A band director in Texas wrote to me with a complaint that was evidently a part of his daily life: “Too many administrators and school boards will ONLY hear arguments for music education that come back to ‘It improves test scores in Subjects X and Y.’ When we constantly frame a discipline exclusively in terms of what it provides to OTHER disciplines, we ignore its intrinsic value.”
Interesting point. It got me thinking. Below is my letter back to him. This discussion, with thousands of variations, is probably occurring all over the country. We are trying to answer the question, why study music? By the same token, why study ANYTHING? I’ll bet there are people in our Education Establishment who will be pushing that very agenda in the near future. So we have to be able to answer these questions. My answer:
“...I’m all in favor of kids doing lots of different things. End of story. I would like them to play as many sports as possible, I would like them to take shop and learn how to fix an engine, I would like them to study computers, I would like them to study all the academic subjects. I would try to create, even among ordinary kids, Renaissance Minds to whatever degree it’s possible. So they should know music.
"Additionally, I would like children to have as many different ways to be successful as possible. So we have chess clubs and drama classes and anything else you can do. The world is multicultural, multi-disciplinarian, not to mention politically correct. There may be kids good at music and little else. So we need music.
"There is an entirely separate thing, which might be called discipline/technique/practice/precision. My sense is that public schools are often in the position of attacking character, in the old-fashioned sense. Kids can be lazy, they can be late, they can be half-ass about everything. But you can’t be half-ass when you’re playing music. You keep the beat and play the tune or you don’t. In this same vein, kids should learn cursive, draftsmanship, and realistic art. I was just talking to someone 3 days ago about how all children should have to draw an apple with a #2 pencil, totally realistic. That’s quite comparable to playing some simple song well on the piano. Precision. Everything they do in the public schools seems to be in pursuit of imprecision.
"Also, in my ideal school, music would be complementary to history, science, psychology, religion, et al. In other words, music teaches many other things. People should know who Beethoven is. They should know what a symphony is. It’s much better to learn about Beethoven in a music class where the music can be played in a natural way. For my money this is not the same as art appreciation, although I’m all in favor of that. There is just a lot of general knowledge that kids should know; and any way the school can be clever about teaching that knowledge is a good thing.
"So as I look over this, I see I’m making an argument, at every junction in a child’s life, for learning SOMETHING rather than nothing. Ever since the time of John Dewey, the elite educators have at every junction made a case for NOTHING rather than something. That is why I have such contempt for them. Oh, here’s a relevant piece I put up a few weeks ago, about the value of knowledge. (http://www.edarticle.com/article.php?id=28929)
"... I have a fairly bleak sense of what is happening to education. So if academic content, knowledge, facts, and skills can be taught, in any way possible, to even the smallest degree, that’s something to celebrate.”
PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATION, FROM ONE HORIZON TO THE OTHER,
IS INCREASINGLY A THREE CARD MONTE.
TRY TO FIND WHICH CARD THE EDUCATION IS UNDER.
YOU NEVER WILL. MY MODEST PROPOSAL: START RESISTING NOW.
We hear the same debates over and over, year after year, leading nowhere. Why is there so little progress?It almost seems that no one analyzing the public schools has grasped the essential problem.
Personally, I'm sure that super-brain Bill Gates doesn't grasp the problem; and if not he, then who? (Gates and just about everybody else seems to think there's some magical administrative, bureaucratic, or economic fix. I suspect this thinking is wishful.)
And yet the world of Bill Gates is where we find the best metaphor for our malaise. That metaphor is software. The biggest computer, with no matter how many exabytes of RAM, is only as good as the operating system. Yes, the glorious, subtle, almost godlike kernel. If it's cleverly crafted, then all
systems are golden.
If the OS, on the other hand, is creaky, buggy, and otherwise all too human, you can hardly send an e-mail or navigate around a website.
The richest country in the world spends more billions than anyone else but we end up 20th in one subject, 25th in the next, 30th in another. Obviously, the Public Schools OS is a monster of inefficiency.
Recent National Assessment of Educational Progress scores are terrifying. NAEP scores reveal that only one-third of fourth graders (and as well eighth-graders) read at a proficient level. Translation: two-thirds of America's children are to some degree illiterate. And the same scores apply in mathematics. Science, too. Everything. We're dumb and getting dumber.
Even if you work for the world's sleaziest PR firm, you cannot spin these stats. We have a school system that seems determined (even programmed) to do a bad job. "Educators" who hate "education" -- that's a hard paradox to wrap one's mind around.
The obvious first step is to fire these incompetents. Even so, we are no closer to explaining the counter-intuitive failure of the Public Schools OS.
At this point, I am going to jump to a startling conclusion, one you may want to doubt. But it really does explain a lot.
Here's the conclusion: the Public Schools OS is not intended to work if by "work" you mean produce educated children.
Remember that famous lyric, "You say potato, I say potahto... let's call the whole thing off"? When John Dewey and his progressive educators say "education," they don't mean what parents mean. Hardly. They mean social engineering; they mean what Lenin, Castro, Chavez, and Bill Ayers mean by "education." These ideologues do not care if children learn to read and write at a high-level or can point to Japan on a map. By "education" they mean indoctrination that produces think-alike children. If that fries the cognitive circuits, no problem. Maybe it's a plus.
In short, the Public Schools OS is malware. It's a network, a matrix, of elaborately confected sophistries that invariably do the opposite of what is claimed. That's because the actual goal is a non-educational one.
Consider reading. Whole Word (i.e. sight-word reading instruction) is a medley of methods that cunningly prevent children from becoming fluent readers. So we have 50,000,000 functional illiterates.
Math? Reform Math is a cluster of techniques that prevent children from mastering much math. That's why we don't have enough scientists and engineers.
Knowledge? Constructivism says that children will discover the facts they need. They won't! Suppose I'm trying to teach you to play the piano, speak French, or climb mountains. Would it make sense to leave you, a smart adult, to discover the field's essential knowledge by yourself? That's what our schools do.
Learning in general? Self-esteem prevents asking very much of students. Let them stay dumb and empty as long as they feel good about themselves. All by itself self-esteem will destroy a school system.
But self-esteem is only one of a dozen ingenious worms and Trojan horses. Other lethal viruses include multiculturalism, prior knowledge, diverse learning styles, cooperative learning, relevance, no memorization, authentic assessments, et al.
Look closely and you will find that each component (or sub-routine) of the Public Schools OS is a clunker by design. That's from an educational point of view. As social engineering, they are all works of sublime genius!
In short, Public Schools OS is like Stuxnet, the clever software juggernaut used by Israel against Iran. So brilliant. And if you're cynical and perhaps politically extreme, you may think it's clever what the Education Establishment has done to this country. I think it's sabotage, and unforgivable.
We ought to reboot with a new OS. Watch the country soar. Watch education budgets plunge. Right now John Dewey's Club For Hackers has hijacked the schools. That's the "essential problem."
Warning to students: your public school may be shortchanging you.
You’re told that you are receiving a world-class education; you are being prepared for college and career in the 21st century. This might be a big exaggeration. Chances are, you’re hardly being educated at all. You are probably not ready for a real college or a demanding career.
Did you hear of foreigners visting New York where merciless cabbies charge $700 for the ride into Manhattan? Tourists sometimes don’t know the most basic things. They can be easily tricked. Could that be you?
First order of business, throw away the rose-tinted glasses. Be realistic about how much, or how little, education you have received.
Start by focusing on what sort of educational experience you have actually had. Identify anomalies and deficiencies. Then you can figure out how to fix them. Here’s a checklist:
1: Can you read fluently and with pleasure? Or is reading something you do poorly, and therefore you try to avoid ever needing to do it? If the latter, then you know you have been cheated of the most basic skill there is. You do have a right to learn to read.
2: Can you do basic arithmetic with confidence? Can you multiply and divide, using the common algorithms preferred all around the world? If not, you are probably the victim of Reform Math curricula such as Connected Math, TERC, Everyday Math, and similar.
3: With regard to basic facts and knowledge, what information do you actually know? Can you point to Japan on a map? How many degrees in a circle? Why is George Washington famous? What’s a moon?
4: Do your teachers actually teach? Or do they expect you to find or otherwise invent information for yourself? Why is the teacher there, in that case? Is there a realistic chance that you can reinvent the wheel, rediscover the rules of math, and formulate anew the facts and lessons of history, science, etc.?
5: Is every activity a group activity? Are you always forced to sit at a table with 4 or 5 people? Are you supposed to learn how to do something by doing it simultaneously with other people? Do you expect to be driving a car with a group, getting married with a group, going to your first job interviews with a group? Why are you being made to work with a group--did you ever wonder this? Isn’t the insulting message that you can’t be expected to complete jobs by yourself?
6: Did you hear lots of talk about Prior Knowledge, as if what you learned years ago is all that matters? Did your classes always seem to be mired in the past? Did you ever wonder, well, let’s get on with it, I’d like to learn something new? “Prior knowledge” can be a euphemism for running in place, which is the very oppposite of what a school should be doing.
7: Do your teachers ask about your Learning Style? Are you being encouraged to think that you are a right-brain learner, or left-brain learner, or a visual learner, or an auditory learner, or a kinetic learner, or some other kind of learner that makes you different from other people?
(In the real world are people going to say, “You’re a visual learner? I guess I have to draw a picture for you? Haha!” Whether in a factory, on the battlefield, at an executive meeting, or family gathering, are other people supposed to cater to your alleged lopsidedness? Not likely. And let’s say for the sake of discussion you are a visual learner. That’s all the more reason why teachers should try to develop the other, non-visual parts of you.)
8: Are you constantly praised for no good reason? Self-esteem demands that students be given constant praise. But you know in your own mind that you don’t deserve the praise? Did you ever have a thought: who’s conning whom here? I’m not doing a damn thing and my teachers are telling me how wonderful I am.
9. Is there constant chatter about Critical Thinking? But there’s almost no concern with logic, rhetoric, reason, deduction, or even accuracy? If anything, didn’t you find that your school encourages you to guess, to approximate, to accept fuzzy answers and indeed fuzzy thinking?
Summing up, doesn’t it almost seem as if your education is a guided tour to nowhere? You are taken all over the countryside but somehow ended back near where you started.
You got older. Your tastes in clothes and music changed. You watched several thousand hours of television. But what more did you learn during all that time?
It’s almost as if you were deliberately prevented from being educated. In what ways are you now more fully prepared to earn a living, to perform a specific job, or to take responsibility? Truth is, public schools in the United States typically give a shallow, almost trivial education. If you want your education to be deep and substantial, you are going to have to make it happen yourself.
For starters, you have to redefine education as something positive, wonderful, and worth working for. There is such hostility, or at least indifference, toward education. The schools themselves hardly seem to believe in what it is they are ostensibly doing.
For the future, it’s a matter of stepping up your game. Take charge of your own education. In not that many years, you will be a voter, an employee, a parent, maybe a business owner or a community leader. The more you know, the more you can help your society.
Try to read a newspaper every day, a magazine cover-to-cover every week, and a book every month. Identify areas where you don’t know much and reflect on how you can most quickly fill that void. There’s a website, or maybe 10 of them, on every subject. Online education is becoming a real force in education reform. Whatever you want to know is out there, readily available.
But don’t think of this as work. That may be a prejudice that your schools have given you. Think of it as fun. The brain likes to learn new stuff. The brain likes to be engaged. It’s wired that way. Humans are a learning animal. They want the fireworks of new knowledge.
That’s the secret at every level, for each teacher and every student. Celebrate learning. Think of education as something you chase after, not something you try to avoid. Demand more from your schools, and from yourself.
Here's a quick test
(100 easy questions)
that will reveal how much you know:
Here is comment I just left on BETRAYED, a well-known blog:
“Laurie Rogers is doing a great job analyzing the administrative and bureaucratic maneuvers of the education bureaucrats in Washington state.
Still, I’m frustrated. Here’s my question. Does anyone actually know what is going on inside these people’s heads?
There seems to be a pattern going back 75 years. The bosses at the top find rookies who will drink the Kool-Aid. From that point on, these people fight to the death for ideas that don’t work very well.
But how do these people see themselves? Does anyone know from actual conversations what they think they are doing? And has anyone ever encountered a top educator who was embarrassed or eager to confess? (I want to interview that person.)
For what it’s worth here’s my own “triage”--the three types of elite educators. TYPE S is smart and subversive; they know exactly what they are doing. TYPE D is dim, believes anything, follows orders, and may actually have no idea what damage they are creating. TYPE C is a careerist, wants the cash, and does what it takes to keep the paychecks coming.... My suspicion is that TYPE S is rare but those people are the real problem.
If you don’t want to run this for whatever reason, that’s okay. But I do think some psychoanalytics might be appropriate here. When we first observe the Education Establishment at work, the inevitable reaction is something incoherent like: are these people conspirators or just nuts?? That’s a big spread. Years later, the confusion just grows.
If we knew their psyches, we could better oppose their schemes.
Bruce Deitrick Price
Any educators wishing to confess, please contact me at Improve-Education.org."
Media, academic, military, big biz--they are not helping the public to understand the crisis in our public schools. Sad to say, the powers that be are not serving the people.
It's up to the leading members of the community to do this job. Video suggests how to start.
BACKGROUND: The first post on this blog (see below) is titled: MILITARY AND BUSINESS LEADERS NOT FORCEFUL ENOUGH ON EDUCATION. This seems more and more to be a huge problem. These people don't really seem to be trying. Why not? If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. I'm just one guy but I often feel I've got more ideas and more passion than these big organizations. Alas.
Anyway, if you're part of an organization that really wants to improve education, let's work together.
The country continues to be plagued by illiteracy. The reason is simple. The country continues to be under the heel of some of the most reckless and reprehensible “experts” imaginable.
They make little children memorize the SHAPES of words, which most little children simply can’t do. Ergo, these children experience major reading and cognitive problems.
Don Potter, the phonics guru and as well a teacher in Texas, recently sent me this illuminating note: “This has been a banner year for me. I have rescued dozens of students from the clutches of the sight-word monster. I am looking forward to rescuing more in the year to come. The parents marvel that I have been able to improve their children's reading with phonics in a very short time. They are also very upset to learn that their children were suffering, not genetic defects that screwed up neural pathways, but old fashioned artificially induced whole-word dyslexia caused by sight-word instruction. Every student coming to me has a copy of the Dolch Sight Vocabulary List in their Homework Folder.”
Note that the parents had embraced the idea that their kids were mentally impaired (dyslexic) but are now shocked to find that the kids are normal! (In fact, it’s the school that is mentally impaired.) There in a few dozen words is the whole story of dyslexia in our time. Parents and kids accept the school’s nutty diagnosis but in many cases will be angry with you if you tell them, sorry, you’re fine but you are the victim of a hoax. (I have a video on YouTube called "The Strange Truth About Dyslexia." People leave really violent comments on it.)
QED: the Dolch Sight Vocabulary List should be removed from every school.
Now, I want to give you a little more detail about the reading debate...but not too much! Reading theory quickly becomes murky; and I believe our Education Establishment uses the general confusion to keep their bad ideas in play.
Happily, I’ve found an excellent way to explore some of the subtleties. Raymond Laurita was a major crusader 40 years ago; in 1967 he published an article titled “Errors Children Make in Reading.” I’ve cut his article down to the best parts; and I promise you will be glad you read them. They explain how Sight-Words do their evil work:
On hearing the errors of these unfortunate children, the first impulse is to attribute them to a lack of intelligence or even some form of mental aberration. The linguistic monstrosities these children perpetrate appear to be without semblance of logic or consistency...
The primary cause of reading difficulties in virtually all of the over 700 cases of reading disability I have treated over the years was related to difficulties the child encountered in attempting to cope with the problems imposed by whole configurations....
When a child is exposed to a whole word configuration such as “could” for example, without sufficient preparation, we are literally opening a Pandora’s Box of possible confusions....
To the immature child who hasn’t developed adequate visual and auditory identity and association between individual language symbols and the words they form, the word “could” will undoubtedly be confused later with a variety of configurations; among them: cold, called, cloud, canned, cooled, clawed, cord, would, should, etc....It isn’t difficult for the more than casual observer to understand why so many children become reading problems. They simply cannot cope fast enough with the need to learn numerous and unrelated whole word configurations on a purely visual basis.
It must be remembered that children who learn by the sight method, and this constitutes the majority of children in the United States, have been scientifically conditioned during the initial exposure period to a learning experience which by its very nature elicits a purely visual response to a configuration without assistance from auditory clues. No sincere educator can pretend that this initial exposure period hasn’t a most profound and enduring effect on the immature child, for by a series of carefully arranged stimulus-response activities, he has been literally conditioned to a visual, configurational attack on language. The result is inevitable.
The argument of those who persist in exposing all children indiscriminately to a visual configurational attack is usually based on post-facto reasoning, for they tend to cite the large numbers of children who have learned to read without first making auditory and visual associations with the individual letters of the alphabet. It is my belief and that of others that children who learn to read using a gestalt approach which exposes them to whole word configurations at the outset, are children who have had either prior preparation which prepared them for the experience or are those children gifted with better than average capacities of visual perception, discrimination and memory....
Alex Bannatyne writing in The Disabled Reader, states “This latter method, commonly called look-and-say, may be effective with those two thirds of first- and second-grade pupils who are sufficiently gifted in the realm of language to be able to learn to read quickly. I believe that these verbally capable children rapidly teach themselves to analyze words phonetically in spite of a deliberate non-phonetic approach on the part of the teacher. That this is so can easily be tested by asking children who have learned to read well using the look-and-say method to sound out difficult words; this they usually do quite competently....”
The subtlety and infinite diversity of the errors that the child becomes subject to in his developing confusion have to be seen to be believed....
Another example saw a child respond to the word “grab” with the response “drag.” This is an extremely common type of error for it has in addition to the visual confusion an overlay of confused auditory association. The consonant blends gr and dr are extremely difficult to differentiate for the child with inadequate auditory perception and discrimination. The two sounds are very similar as are the lip movements which are made to create them. In addition to the auditory confusion and the close configurational pattern of the two words, the child was also reversing the initial and final consonants. This child also referred to a “furry” animal as a “funny” animal and read about a character who went swimming in the “winter” instead of in the “water.” Both of these errors had a configurational base with the error involving the words furry and funny complicated by a discrimination confusion between the n and the r. This child also made the following progression in mistaking the word “Oh.” He went from oh to on to no and finally concluded the series with not.
These confusions are not extreme examples of severely disabled children but are instead rather common samples that every remedial teacher will meet on a given day if the time is taken to record the mistakes children make.
Often a child will read a sentence such as: “The little boy went into the jungle and saw a big giraffe.” and substitute for the last word: elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus or even dinosaur. Most adults fail to realize the subtle yet logical cause for this kind of mistake. It is really very logical for the child who has been conditioned to respond to visual stimuli. He isn’t thinking in terms of auditory clues, rather he is sure only that the little boy has seen some kind of large jungle animal. Unless he is a capable, linguistically talented child, his auditory associational training hasn’t prepared him for a total attack on the word, thus why shouldn’t it be a hippopotamus, elephant, rhinoceros or even a dinosaur. They are all “big” words in terms of size; they are all large animals and to the small child the possibility of a dinosaur residing in the depths of the jungle is a distinct possibility....
Observing a child who has lost some of this marvelous human capacity to respond with reasoning and logic, is a terribly depressing sight, and when one considers the number of times that human frailty in the form of faulty teaching and inadequate methodology has been the cause of this loss, the situation takes on the aspects of a tragedy....
QED: the Dolch Sight Vocabulary List is the reason we have 50 million functional illiterates. It should be removed from every school. All the phonics experts say that children learn to read in the first grade. The Whole Word maniacs say that children will read someday, maybe, perhaps in middle school, but don’t be surprised if they experience ADHD, depression, dyslexia, and chronic illiteracy.
Don Potter publishes this article and many like it on donpotter.net. His site is an archive of historically important material.
My own focus is on providing artillery for parents to use in their daily battles with school administrators. Many of these officials may actually have no idea how far over to the dark side they have drifted. (They make the mistake of trusting the pronouncements coming down from on high.) So send them a copy of this article: “Fake Reading Theory is the Slave Trade of Our Era.”
In a recent Times column entitled “Occupy the Classroom,” Nicholas Kristof went to bat for the idea of “early childhood education.”
He quotes the dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, as she forcefully states what we already know: there are significant performance gaps between rich and poor students; and those gaps widen in later years.
Question is, what does our Education Establishment intend to do about these gaps? Nicholas Kristof is sure that we should do something. And that something, apparently, is to do more and more of what we are already doing but force it on younger and younger kids. This proposal may be very dishonest.
First of all, I’m suspicious that this is merely a funding ploy. If the economy forces communities to cancel jobs in higher grades, the Education Establishment will simply create thousands of new jobs in Pre-K. The same number of teachers will remain employed. How ingenious.
Second, if the Big Plan is to extrapolate from the anti-intellectual, anti-cognitive, anti-knowledge, anti-academic, distinctly lightweight approach to education that we now find in far too many kindergarten and elementary schools, then we should just save the money.
If the Big Plan is to do unto three and four-year-olds what we now do to six, seven, and eight-year olds, then we need a better plan.
Here’s the crucial question. What is it precisely that defines those gaps between rich and poor students?
It’s nothing nebulous, murky, theoretical, abstract, or hard to pin down. It’s precisely all the easy, ordinary, fundamental knowledge everybody should know. Middle-class parents are teaching this stuff from an early age. Poor parents don’t know the stuff themselves, they forget to teach it, or they’re too busy surviving.
Here’s what we’re talking about: the alphabet, how to count to 50, the names of colors, animals, seasons, days, holidays, basic science, history, geography, maps, etc., etc., etc.
Head Start or any other program that purports to help poor children has got to immediately address the knowledge gap. Everything that children in a richer home might automatically know must be taught, AS A CRASH COURSE, to the children from poor families. This is how you create the equality that liberals always say they want; but then they refuse to create it.
I think Occupy the Classroom is an unhelpful name. What we need to do is to Occupy the Education Establishment and try to make it support helpful, practical ideas, for a change.
Ever since the time of John Dewey, our top educators have been hostile to basic knowledge. That's the big problem. How to spell correctly, the multiplication table, where Spain is--all the stuff that is just second nature to families further up the social scale tends to be neglected in poor families. Ergo, the public schools have to start confronting this problem immediately, for a change.
So the real enemy here is the kind of empty, so-called education that is basically a low-cal confection made from a stew of slick sophistries, with names like Whole Language, Reform Math, Relevance, Constructivism, Self-Esteem, Cooperative Learning, 21st Century Skills, Critical Thinking, Learning Styles, Prior Knowledge, Multiculturalism, and another two dozen. Harvard, in fact, is one of the main culprits in perpetrating this stuff.
Well, here’s my vote. Get rid of all the folderol and start teaching facts and more facts, basic skills, and mastery.
GIVE POOR KIDS PRECISELY THE EDUCATION THAT RICH FAMILIES PAY FOR AT PRIVATE SCHOOLS.
Here is our mantra, provided by none other than John Dewey himself: “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children.”
(For more on slick sophistries, see “56: Top 10 Worst Ideas in Education.”)
(PS: My literary site Lit4u.com has been redesigned. Name means "Literature For you." Not pretentious and opaque, but fun, feisty, and unexpected.).