Education Establishment: Like Genghis Khan and his Barbarian Horde

Bruce Deitrick Price Eight hundred years ago, Genghis Khan spread destruction from China to Europe, across a landscape more than 3000 miles wide. His skilled horsemen were also expert archers. They attacked in great swarms, and then galloped on to the next town. Genghis Khan was a ruthless conqueror. Wikipedia notes: “These campaigns were often accompanied by wholesale massacres of the civilian populations.” Hold that thought. American public education is more similar than we would like to think.  At frequent intervals, the bosses decide to introduce new methods. Usually they do this aggressively and recklessly. That is how you know you can’t trust these people. There should be years of testing and refinement. New ideas should be implemented in a single city or area, so that results can be evaluated and improved. But that’s not the way our Education Establishment operates. They prefer what the Germans called blitzkrieg, or lightning war. Victory is announced as a fait accomplit. Don’t bother resisting, that’s the message sent out to the American public. This massive meddling occurs across the entire country. Genghis Khan would be impressed. The year is 1931. This country is mired in a depression. That’s when the Education Establishment decided to launch a new method of teaching children to read. Instead of phonics, the logical way to teach a phonetic language, the Education Establishment forced Look-say (often called Dick and Jane) into every public school. Here is a summary of the next 80 years: Look-say was renamed and repackaged again and again. As fast as a school system would toss out one variation of Whole Word, the Education Establishment would sneak in another. Results: we now have 40 million functional illiterates. (Most remarkable, the Education Establishment knew at the outset that this method does not work, because Dr. Samuel Orton had published exactly those conclusions in a 1929 article.) Let’s go forward to the year 1962. New Math,  as radical a departure as Look-say, was sold to the country by a PR blitz comparable to the Edsel and New Coke campaigns. Almost every school succumbed to the onslaught. The complaining started immediately. A few years later this inferior math program was widely abandoned. (As with the launch of Look-say, sophistical theory was sold to the country as the final evolution of a skill. In fact, the sophistry was the undoing of that skill. Reading and math skills have never recovered.) Now we go to the year 2009. President Obama has just been elected and Common Core Standards hit the country. The Education Establishment claimed that Common Core was what all intelligent countries were using, so we needed to catch up. Henceforth, everything was going to be done at a higher level. Every child would be made college-ready and career-ready. At first, only a few brave people opposed Common Core. Now, many states have backed away. Congress is even now trying to scale this thing down. Along with these major attacks by our barbarian horde, there were also many slow-motion campaigns for such oddities as Constructivism, Multiculturalism, Self-esteem, Relevance, Reform Math, and such. In these cases, the public heard very little. But the teachers were indoctrinated and classroom instruction was changed. When asked why, teachers would murmur “Constructivism… Multiculturalism…” as if this jargon was all the justification that anyone could require. Siegfried Engelmann, one of our real educators, stressed that you have to test a new curriculum on a large number of children for years. Our Education Establishment does not believe in practicing what lawyers call “due diligence.” Here is the big picture. Our Education Establishment is almost always pushing shoddy goods. For that alone, these people should not be trusted with another dollar. But there is a second part of this equation, and that is the contempt shown for parents and children. Millions of children are stunted from the first day of school onward. They can’t read. They can’t do basic arithmetic. They know very little factual information. Even as our “experts” stunt children, they brag about the wonderful job they are doing and ask for more money. Our Education Establishment specializes in concocting gimmicky new approaches, hardly testing them at all, and imposing them on the entire country, more or less at once. The basic strategy, perfectly practiced by Genghis Khan, is to attack the enemy with overwhelming force across a vast front, smash everybody that resists, and keep moving. But some people still draw back from the possibility that there is a coordinated effort to undermine K-12 education. Some people hear Charlotte Iserbyt’s book title “The deliberate dumbing down of America,” and wonder how could it be deliberate? It’s deliberate because John Dewey  his colleagues 100 years ago, and his successors ever since have preached from the same prayer book. They are progressives, i.e., socialists or communists. They are mainly interested in  creating a cooperative child. They do not value the educated child, as such a child will get in the way of their social engineering. Siegfried Engelmann coined the phrase “academic child abuse.” It’s frightening to think of brainy people sitting around a table trying to come up with pedagogical novelties that will diminish children. If you look at the evidence, this is a picture you can’t avoid. All these bad ideas didn’t grow on trees. There wasn’t a UFO that came down with aliens urging: “Teach children to read with sight-words–we need slaves.” The public shouldn’t be so patient and indulgent. If K-12 education were a business, it would be sued and shut down the next day. Americans shouldn’t accept less from their public schools than they accept from a fast food place. But they do. If you compare public schools to Burger King, Burger King looks like some sort of paradise on earth. Conversely, the public schools look like overpriced greasy spoons. ————————————————-]]>

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