Education: First, Fix The Rotten Foundation

Submitted by: Bruce Deitrick Price

Bill Gates said public schools are so bad they are a threat to the national economy and the society s long-term survival. What should we do?

Gates and, it seems, every group in the country is eager to offer policy recommendations that are supposed to fix education. Are they the answer? Or only a distraction?

These policy solutions tend to be administrative, bureaucratic, procedural, and of course financial. There may be good in all of them, but I worry that these approaches are too much like putting new paint on an old, termite-infested house.

Shouldn t we first fix the underlying rot?

Indeed, policy debates divert so much attention that people can forget that American education has a dark and secret heart. Here it is: almost every important educator from 1900 onward was an avowed Socialist, Communist or the like. That would be John Dewey, George Counts, Harold Rugg, William Kilpatrick, and dozens more. Almost without exception, these people were anti-American, anti-capitalism, anti-Western Civilization, anti-religion, anti-individualism, anti-parent, anti-knowledge, and anti- just about everything else that ordinary Americans valued.

The amount of good our so-called educators saw in the USA you could stash in Stalin s mustache. These people, it s fair to say, were at war with their own country.


These self-proclaimed experts chucked as much of traditional education as they could get away with. They snuck in as many goofy collectivist ideas as they could get away with. All because they believed in education as indoctrination, not education as knowledge. And that s the problem right up to 2011.

What these people mainly specialize in–my conclusion–is filling the air with sophistries and disinformation. For parents to talk intelligently about education has become almost impossible. And yet everyone has managed to reach the same basic insight: public schools are not nearly as good as they could be. Statistics confirm that view. Here s a particularly pathetic stat: the US has 50,000,000 functional illiterates. Such colossal failure is possible only because the foundation is rotten.

So let s talk about the rot we need to get rid of:

1) BOGUS READING INSTRUCTION — Whole Word, Sight Words, and Dolch Words (there are many aliases) have created 50 million functional illiterates for the simple reason that this method does not work. This hoax and the accompanying gimmicks known as guessing, picture clues, et al should be eliminated from the schools.

2) BOGUS MATH INSTRUCTION — Reform Math is a monster with many names (Connected Math, Chicago Math, Mathland, etc.) created by the same people who gave us New Math and now want to give us Core Standards. Reform Math forbids mastery, mixes simple and advanced, requires spiraling from topic to topic, and promotes using a calculator to compensate for a lack of basic skills.

3) COOPERATIVE LEARNING — Students always work in groups. A good approach for fostering a herd sensibility; a dreadful approach for creating independent thinkers and self-starters.

4) CONSTRUCTIVISM — Teachers are reduced to facilitators, their knowledge and academic training rendered moot. Students are required to invent their own new knowledge. This process will be long and slow. After all, the human race has been around for millenia and has collected tens of thousands of prime facts, insights, discoveries, theories, etc.

5) WAR AGAINST CONTENT — A witless policy pursued since the time of John Dewey. The apparent goal is to make sure that children learn as little as possible. In any case, that is the result.

6) NO MEMORIZATION — This is standard operating procedure in all grades and in all courses. It is an excellent policy if you wish to ensure cultural illiteracy and societal amnesia.

7) SELF-ESTEEM — Students must be praised even when they do bad work. Furthermore, a concern for self-esteem can justify eliminating virtually all content from classrooms, on the grounds that some students won t be able to handle the material.

8) MULTICULTURALISM — This sophistry requires children to learn more about faraway cultures, both in miles and years, than about their own. As the children have no frame of reference for understanding other cultures, little information is retained. Multiculturalism helps in the war against content.

9) HOSTILITY TO TESTING — A helpful policy if you wish to conceal that children aren t learning much.

10) TOO MANY IMPOSTORS — Left-wing ideologues pretend to care about education even while manipulating the minds of millions of children. Keep these people away from the schools, and the other nine problems will miraculously vanish.

(excerpted from 56: Top 10 Worst Ideas In Education on

SUMMING UP: I became wary of policy recommendations from watching Bill Gates push for small schools. I m guessing there are good small schools and bad small schools. Just as there are good public schools and bad private schools. A lot of policy stuff seems not to be determinative; it could work in one place but not another. What really matters is the true intentions of the people in charge. If knowledge is king, students will learn.

About the Author: Bruce Deitrick Price is the founder of

, an education and intellectual site. One focus is reading; see “42: Reading Resources.” Price is an author, artist and poet. His fifth book is “THE EDUCATION ENIGMA–What Happened to American Education.”


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