Written by Bruce Deitrick Price
“Oh-oh, yes you are the great pretenders
Pretending that you’re doing good
Your need is such that you pretend too much
You’ve done all the damage you could”
The top 1000 people in public education, let’s call them the Education Establishment. They make all the decisions. Our public schools are what they are because of this tiny elite.
Some observers think these people are incompetent, clumsy, addled. Maybe many are. But at the very top I suspect you find people with total clarity. They know what they’re doing. They know it’s not what most of the public wants. But they have an agenda, a collectivist agenda, and they’re not going to let anything get in their way.
If anyone points out that a great percent of children don’t learn to read, don’t learn to do basic arithmetic, and don’t know much basic foundational information, at that point our elite educators become great pretenders.
They insist they mean well. They insist that their every decision is based on reams of research. They insist that everything is improving, we merely need new kinds of assessment to show that.
They pretend that all of their progressive, modern, newfangled approaches are the best. Give these people credit. They are some of the finest hucksters in history.
But finally, these people have to know the damage they are doing. They have to know that their theories and pedagogies are fake. The paradigm for educational nonsense is called Whole Word. You make children memorize English words as graphic designs; and now we have 50 million functional illiterates. But that great damage is not the point at the moment. The point is that the nonsense-makers pretend not to know.
When New Math appeared in 1965, the American public, columnists, book reviewers, etc. agreed it was a disaster. In a few years, it disappeared from American life, despite being in development for 10 years. Do you think these Ph.D.’s accidentally designed the worst curriculum in history? It’s more logical to assume they carefully designed the worst curriculum in history. When they got caught, they pretended they thought it was a great idea.
Move forward to 1985; the same gang brought out a whole new bunch of math curricula collectively called Reform Math, but sarcastically called New New Math, Voodoo Math, Fuzzy Math. There were actually 12 separate curricula, each with a dozen authors. That’s a gigantic pile of Ph.D.’s but they came up with an incoherent and destructive curriculum. Then they pretended to believe in it.
To fully appreciate how horrible Reform Math is, look at the discussions and debates that went on in many small town all across America when parent groups would rally against these things. And all the time the parents were complaining, the local representatives of the Education Establishment would blandly pretend that the program was very good if people would give it a chance.
Maybe the low-level educators believe this. It is not possible the education elite believe this. (Professional mathematicians and other experts publicly denounced Reform Math.)
The next big gimmick was called Constructivism and this is where, instead of my telling you something, I tell you to go find out for yourself. Maybe it’s a good technique for teaching a few special insights. But you have to set up these eureka moments; this takes time and patience. Typically, a good lecturer can communicate far more info in less time. Constructivism will be slow; and the material learned will be spotty. But the Education Establishment wants to pretend that this is actually a superior form of education, for all subjects and all ages.
So that’s the perennial pattern. We are overrun by really bad ideas which naked emperors tell us are splendid, like their splendid clothes.
And every day in their offices, these professors look at the stats coming in from across the country and they know that their ideas are dumbing the country down. They pretend to be concerned. They pretend to be working on the next generation of curricula, that will be so much better than the junk they confected 10 years ago.
As best I can understand it, being in the Education Establishment is like being a priest in a religion. You have to embrace church dogma, totally. But finally the tenets of a church come back to faith. Then we’re talking about God, infinity and complex things that you can’t check out personally. But the gizmos that our Education Establishment promotes are not of this rarefied variety. These bad ideas are in the classroom. You can see they are goofy and don't work. You can measure the bad results.
So you know the elite educators are pretending. They know they’re pretending.
“Oh-oh, yes you are the great pretenders
Adrift in a world of your own
You’ve upped your game and to our real shame
You’ve nibbled us down to the bone”
Bruce Deitrick Price explains theories and methods on his site Improve-Education.org.