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."