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Bruce Deitrick Price

K-12: The Other Child Abuse

Phil Saviano, starting before he was 12, was repeatedly molested by a Catholic priest in Boston. Decades later, believing he was dying of AIDS, Saviano passed up hush money from the Church so he could expose the pedophilia problem in the Church.

Saviano approached the Boston Globe in 1998. They weren’t interested. Then they wrote about individual priests but not the broader problem. In 2001 the Globe published increasingly aggressive articles about the Church’s dirty— and widespread— secret. There were scores of abusers, and hundreds of victims, in Boston alone. But Bishops were protected, and individual priests were moved around from church to church, and even from country to country.

This exposé became Spotlight (2015), a well-received movie starring Michael Keaton and several other stars.

Director Tom McCarthy stated the movie’s central question:

“These moments where we know people have done things wrong and we don’t, as a society, we don’t stand up to them, it takes years and years and years and the question is why? Why does it take so long?”


The same question can be asked about the reading crisis in our public schools. Rudolf Flesch explained this problem in 1955 but here we are 60 years later, still beset by the same abuse. “And the question is why? Why does it take so long?”

Some may point out that pedophilia is a more horrific crime against children. Unarguably the rape of children is indeed a horrific crime, and not taken seriously enough by many governments. The trauma may be so severe the victim never recovers. Even so, illiteracy— caused by bad reading instruction– can also last a lifetime. There are today 40 or 50 million Americans needlessly stunted by this neglectful abuse of the developing mind. I contend that the lack of attention given to the physical abuse of children also applies to the systemic mental retardation by policy of our children in the education system.

There is another interesting parallel. Saviano could not believe that Catholics were not much more indignant. According to a Catholic publication;

“What irked Saviano in 2002 still irks him today: how little Catholics seem to care about all this. He saw that again during Francis’ visit here in 2015. The Pope back-burnered the abuse crisis. Yet he was rapturously welcomed.”

Exactly. Flesch spent a lifetime stunned by the public’s surrender to destructive teaching methods. Flesch died thinking he was a failure because he could not fix the situation. Everybody who tries to improve education runs into this brick wall. The Education Establishment is able to perpetuate the use of proven failures. Apparently, these elite educators believe that limiting literacy is the quickest way to achieve their collectivist dreams. If leveling and political control are the goals, semi-literacy is a sure way to get there.

According to Truthdig,

"The illiterate and semi-literate once the campaigns are over, remain powerless. They still cannot protect their children from dysfunctional public schools."

Catholics put up with the abuse of children. American parents put up with the stunting of children.

In both cases, debased experts betray everyone who trusts them.

In both cases, the victims are tormented ruthlessly but the solution is always obvious: stop doing this.

The hell of illiteracy, for millions of children, can start in the first grade  Many children cannot memorize more than a few dozen sight-words the method of choice in most public schools. Very quickly, these children realize they cannot do something the other children can easily do. Parents are informed that their children may have something horrible called dyslexia. If the children express too much discontent at their abuse, they are given Ritalin. In any case, they become part of statistics in the National Assessment of Education Progress: two-thirds of our fourth-graders and our eighth-graders are “below proficient” in reading.

As Flesch and many other reading reformers have explained, most children should routinely learn to read in the first grade  Then they would be happy students and able to move on in their education. Sight-words cripple individual children; sight-words cripple the entire educational process.

As Spotlight’s director noted:

“We know people have done things wrong and we don’t, as a society, we don’t stand up and the question is why? Why does it take so long?”

That exactly sums up the country’s pusillanimous relationship to our Education Establishment as these pretenders continue to get away with abusing children.

Educator-author Siegfried Engelmann coined the phrase academic child abuse, a precise way of referring to the many dysfunctional theories and methods preferred by our public schools, theories, and methods that seem to be used in the schools precisely because they are flawed and inefficient. The prime example of academic child abuse is sight-words. Why don’t we stand up?

ADDENDUM: Want to see depravity in action?

“When the boys were in Sunday catechism classes, Holley would appear in the room and pull faces, mimicking the nuns behind their backs. He would show them card tricks.

“The boys loved it. The young priest was picking them out to be special. Little did they know of the horrors to come.

“'He was grooming us,' Saviano told Daily Mail Online in the living room of his cluttered second-floor apartment in the Roslindale area of Boston. "The priest figures out ways to get closer to either the child or the parents...

“But soon Holley's jokes became more risqué. His deck of cards suddenly featured black and white pictures of nude women, then color shots of men and women in sexual acts.

“Soon the priest was an unofficial sex-ed teacher to boys at an age when they were only too willing to learn.”

The priest does all this—betraying vows and destroying lives—to serve his personal appetites. Elite educators probably think they are also serving a higher truth.

Bruce Deitrick Price explains theories and methods on his education site (His new book is Saving K-12 — What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?”)

The Editor

by The Editor