The Final Minority Report

Because Even Minorities Oppose Liberalism & Statism

The Mystery that is American Education

Another reason to break the teacher’s union…

What is the greatest mystery in American history? Rattle off a few answers. I bet you won’t think of mine…

Here is my nominee for biggest mystery: the decline and fall of public school education. Don’t agree? Give me a minute and I’ll convince you.

Here are the towering facts: The U.S. spends a huge amount on education; more per student than anyone else; more and more every year. Simultaneously, over the last 70 years, literacy has fallen, SAT scores have fallen, American competitiveness has fallen, and the general knowledge of ordinary citizens has fallen. Teenagers graduate from high school who can’t read their diplomas; the country now has 50,000,000 functional illiterates. I recently saw on television that the wealthiest, most successful country in the world–that would be us–hovers around 18th internationally on reading, and 25th in science.

I submit that all of these facts taken together are paradoxical; one might say, impossible. It’s as if I told you that an ordinary man consumed 5000 calories a day and lost weight. So this, I submit, is the greatest mystery in our history.

But why have our educators allowed this decline to take place? Or is “allowed” a trick word, and they have actually abetted this failure? Ah, mystery on top of mystery. This is a puzzle that academic historians should be trying to solve.

For starters, can’t we all agree that genuine experts, making a sincere effort, would have our schools functioning at a higher level? Why, oh why, don’t our educators do a much better job?

In the interest of brevity, let me just list the three most common answers given to that question:

1. Our educators mean well but they get caught up in fads.
2. Our educators have a lot of bad luck. Who could guess that all their wonderful ideas would have so many unintended consequences?
3. A harsher theory is that our educators, alas, are nitwits. (Smart people, it’s often remarked, don’t go into Education.)

The problem with all these theories is that, if true, we would see a greater range of outcomes. After all, there are thousands of these people. Now and then they’d have to get lucky; the law of averages would have to have its day. There’s only one problem with this: there are, it seems to me, no successful results, and no good ideas. All we see is a grinding mediocrity.

It goes beyond a failure to find ideas that increase education; many have embraced ideas that are clearly destructive. Our experts really don’t seem all that interested in education as most people understand this term. Reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography, for example, don’t seem to be priorities. What we see in education makes sense only if we assume that our educators have an agenda we don’t know about, or that they are malevolent, or both.

So what agenda, you’re wondering, are they actually focused on? What’s the answer to the mystery? Here is my deduction: that those at the top of the Education Industrial Complex, since the time of John Dewey, have been collectivists first, and educators second or third. The goal of creating an educated child was too often superceded by the goal of creating a cooperative child.

Broadly speaking, they undermined educational success in two ways. First, they found reasons to delete and dilute the curriculum. Second, the things they did teach, they often taught in confusing, unhelpful ways. I could reel off a list of 50 failed pedagogies, none of which lived up to the hype or the hope, things such as New Math, Reform Math, Constructivism, Bilingual Education, Self Esteem, et cetera.

The paradigm of bad pedagogies, of course, is Whole Word, I.E. any non-phonics way of teaching reading. Around 1931, every public school in the country was told that phonics was out, and the children should be taught by Look-Say (think Dick and Jane). This switch is one of most amazing (and revealing) events in American educational history. Try to think of another instance where a profession abruptly decided to reverse everything ordinarily done for centuries.

Once you assume that all these conclusions are true, you find there’s no mystery at all. Everything that’s happened in American education is as logical as 1 + 2 = 3. My estimation is that if we tossed out the ideological admixture, we’d see steady improvement. Don’t think we can improve things by tweaking around the edges. We need an intervention. We need surgery.

Advertisements

06/04/2009 - Posted by | Education, Free Market Economics, Free Press, Free Speech, Useful Idiots |

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: