One thing our public schools do well is undermine real education.
K-12 education is a big swirl of unnecessary problems and impasses. Millions of children are damaged by what seem to be ideological decisions. Our self-appointed experts, which I call the Education Establishment, appear unable to improve the schools. Worse, they don't seem to want to.
Let’s identify the three main problems as the first step toward fixing them:
First, our schools seem to become dumber by the year and probably by the month. Government statistics say that the majority of our students, in both fourth grade and eighth grade, are below “proficient" in reading and math. Jay Leno, Jesse Waters, and Mark Dice have created scores of videos where people on the street are asked simple questions. For example, who won the Civil War? A woman looked wildly around and blurted out, “France?” Now, if an American doesn’t know who won the Civil War, you have to ask: what does that person know? The obvious answer is: shockingly little.
Prof. Patrick Deneen at Notre Dame, finding that many students on his campus did not know the answer to this Civil War question, was appalled. He wrote a bitter complaint and posted it on the Internet, asserting that his students were “know-nothings.” He concluded that our school system is intended to produce “cultural amnesia" and is doing a superlative job.
Here’s how this amnesia trick is performed. American public schools discourage memorization. Furthermore, teachers are virtually prohibited from teaching knowledge directly; students must create their own new knowledge. School subjects are not studied in an orderly logical sequence. No, subjects are divided into odd chunks, which are then studied in illogical sequences. A school system cannot achieve something as vast as “cultural amnesia" without a serious, sustained effort. This array of malpractice has created extraordinary failure. In a commonsense world, the people in charge would be fired. All the many theories and methods leading reliably to mediocrity would be abolished.
QED: the decline in all academic subjects is obvious; this is obviously caused by the Education Establishment’s bad decisions.
Second problem: all this dumbing-down takes place on a silent, uncomplaining landscape. A great passivity prevails. Our upper-class people, our celebrities, our movers and shakers of all kinds, our community and political leaders, our foundations, our great universities, and most shocking of all, our media—all seem not to care that our culture is dumb and getting dumber. Where is the protest? Where is the resistance? Where is the counterattack?
Does anyone complain at all? For example, we have almost 50 million functional illiterates. Has your local media mentioned this as something wretched and unforgivable? Everyone seems to be an Honorary Member of the National Education Association and its program of steadily eliminating traditional methods and standards.
QED: Our upscale people and achievers from all parts of the society must be more involved. Make some noise. Provide the leadership that your community needs.
Third problem: people do not understand the nuts and bolts of what is going on in the classroom. How can they fight back? If children are dumbed down, there must be programs and methods that make this happen. These need to be understood and then rejected.
Every American has to be a little more interested in the mechanics of bad education. Everyone has to understand why Sight-words don’t work, why Reform Math is a phony, why Constructivism is a hoax. All of these are cheap tricks. Once you recognize how a cheap trick works, you say, oh that’s all there is to it? Yes, that’s all there is to it.
For example, Constructivism dictates the teachers must stand to the side as facilitators, as passive guides. No direct teaching is permitted. Isn’t it a safe bet that much less education will take place. The school starts by preventing teachers from doing their essential job. It’s downhill from there. Similarly, in Common Core Math, children are confused and defeated by many kinds of unnecessary complexity. Get rid of that complexity, and children will learn arithmetic again.
Then you get to Sight-word reading, which all studies for the last hundred years indicate will give you inferior results compared to phonics. What word can you put on this? If a man hits himself on the head with a hammer, we would tell him to stop hitting his head with a hammer. If teaching Sight-words means kids can’t read simple English, we should scream: Stop teaching Sight-words.
QED: as long as you're ignorant of the basic tricks used throughout the school, the Education Establishment will sneer at you. They’re con artists and you’re the mark, the victim. Refuse to play the part.
So that’s the big picture. First, schools are getting dumber and everyone should try to reverse this process. Second, the leaders who should be forcing reform and improvement stand passively aside, when they should jump into the battle. Third, Americans don’t understand the cheap tricks used throughout their public schools – but they need to.