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Public School Education — There is Bad News and Good News

The bad news is that John Dewey’s “progressives” are winning big. They mobilized every educational front group and every pedagogical gimmick to achieve the goal of controlling what goes on in the schools, as a way of achieving a fundamental transformation of America, to coin a phrase. 

The educational front groups include the National Council of Teachers of Math, the Common Core Consortium, National Education Association, International Reading Association, National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and many more. Their favorite pedagogical gimmicks include Whole Language, Reform Math, Balanced Literacy, Constructivism, Project-Based Learning, Cooperative Learning, 21st-Century Skills, and many more. 

So it’s clearly a far-flung, intricately coordinated attack, like Hitler’s military roaring into Russia during the summer of 1941. The progressives want total control so they can turn the schools into social engineering experiments. Traditional approaches will be denigrated; knowledge will be disdained. John Dewey gave the marching orders 100 years ago. Our Education Establishment probably feels it is close to total victory, thanks to all the new gimmicks contained in Common Core Standards.

So how can there possibly be any good news? Hitler’s Wehrmacht could tell you. When you advance 100 miles into new territory, overrunning everything in sight, you can easily gobble up too much too fast. 

At some point, even the most successful invaders find they have overextended their lines and exposed their flanks to counterattack. There’s the good news.

In education, this has a peculiar form. Quite simply, the public is starting to see the comic bizarreness of it all. Everywhere people look in education they see frantic activity (and frantic spending) but nobody’s learning very much. Millions of kids can’t read well or do simple math. Surely, someone must be playing a prank, and the whole country is being punked.

The public watches the foolishness and rolls their eyes. What, is the circus in town? Who are all these clowns running around with their funny little cars and pratfalls? 

We see the garish makeup, the big red noses, and the comedy routines. But we are no longer amused. What does this Clown Corps think it’s doing? How can they squander billions every day, but somehow the children get more ignorant and less literate?

 Summing up, public education in America resembles a Rube Goldberg contraption with the Three Stooges operating all the levers. The good news is that the public can no longer take these people seriously, no more than the majority of the public now takes Obama seriously, and for the same reasons. The public sees the Emperor has no clothes, he’s tipsy, and stumbling around in public. 

Here’s one way you know the Education Establishment has gone too far. More people talk casually about abolishing the Department of Education. Even a liberal professor of education agrees.

Here’s another way you know. Common Core rolled over the country--altogether 45 states embraced it, thanks to lavish bribes (stimulus money repurposed as Race to the Top grants). But now most of those states are suffering buyer’s remorse. Indiana has pulled out. Other states will follow. Hallelujah.  The sooner every state cancels Common Core, the safer the country will be.

Another way you know is that the Internet is full of videos where children are crying because they can’t do their homework, parents are at meetings to denounce the failed methods used in the schools, and employers complain ever more loudly they can’t find educated workers.

In fact, Our Education Establishment has been practicing the art of going too far for decades. But now the public is noticing. The election of Obama may have pushed our education commissars over the edge. Perhaps they were worried they might have only eight years, and they needed to complete their project immediately. Helter-skelter, with a rush of urgency, they had to drive out every traditional approach, terminate every old-fashioned teacher, silence every conservative voice, and banish every administrator who wasn’t a complete toady. Common Core—with its top-down, same answer for every situation—was supposed to finish the job.

Recall the famous World War II movie A Bridge Too Far. Our Education Establishment has committed the strategic sin of A Gimmick Too Many.

Siegfried Engelmann explains the main flaw  “The system adopts instructional programs and practices that have never been tried out on a small scale—like the Common Core standards. The same is true of many instructional programs. They are adopted, then tried out for the first time. That is completely backward.”

Education circusThe main effort is to drive content out of the school. They’ve got a dozen pretexts for doing this. After you’ve deleted as much content as possible, you garble whatever is left. Each year, the typical student ends up learning less than the year before. We will hear constantly about “social justice,” which roughly translates “If everyone is mediocre, that’s fairer.”

 All this dumbing down makes even the people in charge dumber. In the process, they make a mockery of their claim to be “educators.” Anti-educators is more accurate.  It’s time for the circus to leave town.

Bruce Deitrick Price explains education theories and methods on his site Improve-Education.org.

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