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Education: Let Down by our Leaders

Written by Bruce Deitrick Price

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Many Americans feel abandoned, first, by the people officially in charge of education: National Education Association, Department of Education, National Council of Teachers of Math, National Council of Teachers of English, the Common Core Consortium, and another 20 groups with pretentious names and sly agendas. These groups have plotted, many suspect, to dumb down our public schools. 

Parents have to grapple with the thought that our Education Establishment has deliberately devised reading methods (Whole Word) that make kids illiterate. They have dreamed up math instruction (Reform Math) that keeps kids from learning to multiply and divide. They’ve created teaching methods (Constructivism) that almost guarantee that children will not learn much factual knowledge. 

If learning is taking place, elite educators have a knack for formulating new policies and practices that end up neutralizing those occasional bits of good news. For parents, it’s a Kafka thing. They’re in an endless labyrinth, and never find progress.

Not just the people officially in charge of education have let us down, but all the people who should be protecting us from these strange invaders. Where are the media of all kinds, where are the elite universities  where is the Chamber of Commerce? Where’s the business community, where is the old money while they let the public schools subside into mediocrity? Where are the community leaders who should be fighting the progressive educators at every point? Why have the good guys abdicated? 

Rudolf Flesch explained why Whole Word couldn’t work in 1955. But Whole Word remains entrenched in the elementary grades, perhaps the longest running hoax in American history. Why did the people at the top of the society allow such a travesty?

Everybody is tired and befuddled. The Education Establishment does the same thing that Obama does: so many changes and proposals, so fast, most of them counterintuitive and weird. A few weeks ago as a shutdown unfolded and the healthcare website wouldn’t function, Obama wanted to redesign the hat worn by Marines. People objected that he wants “girly hats” for warriors. But why that, why now? 

Overload--that’s exactly how the Education Establishment does it. They’ve got a dozen main methods that don’t work as promised. What better way to keep people from noticing the defects then to propose a barrage of new methods on top of old methods. Common Core contains provisions for assessing what is called “text complexity,” the goal being to make sure kids aren’t reading anything too easy. Similarly, there’s a technique that recommends “close reading” of difficult texts  As many kids can hardly read at all, these techniques are spurious. They distract from the real goal, that kids learn to read fast and for pleasure.

The Education Establishment does not seem to be in the schools to honor parents, their beliefs, their allegiances. The Education Establishment seems to be devoted to squashing those things. There is a war waged by left-wing progressives, people who know they have all the answers. On the other side are parents, communities, families, religions, everything that might be called traditional. The progressives want to stifle the traditional. The Education Establishment is perhaps best understood as an occupying force like the Germans in France in 1941. We need more Resistance.

Academics have noted: “Detecting deception is difficult because there are no known completely reliable indicators of deception. Deception, however, places a significant cognitive load on the deceiver. He or she must recall previous statements so that his or her story remains consistent and believable.” 

This insight perhaps explains one of the most striking features of American education. Every possible theory and claim, no matter how discredited, is kept in play. How can anyone sort them out? We don’t see any comparative testing; we see nothing empirical in the whole field. There is simply a cacophony of claims and arguments--a good setting for deception.

 QED: we need less of almost everything the Education Establishment promotes. 

 Conversely, we need more homeschooling and private schools, more charter schools, more choice, more parallel education on the Internet. What we need more than anything is leadership. The leaders who should be protecting us and guiding us have abandoned the field. We have been let down by our leaders. It’s as if the elders are on tranquilizers.

 Many people are waiting for them to wake up. Perhaps it’s better not to wait. In every community there are people who had the blessing of good education, and their children received a good education. These people understand the value of a good education, and know what it looks like. They should step forward and explain to their neighbors what is going on. Provide the leadership our leaders are no longer giving.

Bruce Deitrick Price writes about educational theories and methods on his site Improve-Education.org.

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