-- Education IMPROVED --
1) Main site is Improve-Education.org. Articles there are scholarly (in a lively way) and intended to last for years. This blog is for short newsy bits. 2) This site is pro-teacher, anti-educator. Educators are the people who make policy. They love social engineering. 3) Title of my fifth book is: "THE EDUCATION ENIGMA — What Happened To American Education.” It can probably do more to save the public schools than anything else. Good gift. On Amazon.
Nominally, this article is about three schools in the Tidewater part of Virginia.
But what the article is really about is a better way to run schools and teach children. This approach is called the classical method. These are all the best ideas from Greek and Roman schools, collected, organized and, during the Renaissance, often blended with Christian teaching.
The basic concept, which is just so completely obvious if we didn't live in the long, dark, cold shadow of John Dewey, is that children are changing and evolving in all those early years, from 5 to 18. So let's exploit those changes. Use them for the good of education.
Dewey did not recognize any change. He was trying to move children from A, whatever they are, to B, what he wanted them to be. That's as unsubtle as Stalin sending another thousand people to the gulag.
Some of these good schools today are Christian academies, some are classical academies, some are Christian classical academies. Indeed, don't get mixed up by the details and distinctions. Henceforth, let's ignore them. What matters is that these schools are very serious about creating educated graduates. This is what all schools were trying to do 100 years ago, until the great Darth Vader Dewey showed up.
I urge everyone to take a look at this article or similar articles. Learn a little about the classical approach. Don't get sidetracked by the details, as I say. Focus on the fact that when the children are six, they like certain things so let's give them those things. When they're ten, they like to do other things, so let's give them those things. It's so brilliantly simple, you want to scream insults at the silly people who run our public schools. These people have not had a new idea in 75 years. What they have new is jargon and marketing phrases. Their biggest goal in life is making more ignorant students.
What the classical approach is trying to do is to make more educated students.
There's no question that these students work harder....But do they really?? Have you ever been on a trip where, due to somebody's bad planning or bad luck, you spent the whole day hanging around accomplishing nothing? How much fun was that? Well, that's a perfect capsule description of what goes on every day in our public schools. Children are bored. They're smart enough to know that they're not moving very fast. They're not learning anything very interesting. They often get A's even as they think, I don't know anything.
I'd think most animals and most humans would rather be busy, productively engaged, even worked or overworked, rather than they would like to be sitting around all day doing nothing much, nothing useful, nothing intellectually stimulating. But the truth is, when children are six, they don't even know what it means to be worked or overworked. The British Empire was built on six-year-olds working in factories, 10 hours a day. At that age, they might not have known enough to know that they should hate what they were doing. At least, they could see something real being created by their hands, by their work, by their attention to detail.
The only way to get public schools back on track is that they take it as a sacred mission, when kids are still four, five or six, to bring them all up to the same speed knowledge-wise. Dewey's ideological zealots hate the idea of children learning anything-- so the whole educational process is rendered moot. The classical approach is trying to teach something every minute of every day, but doing this in a way that is simpatico with the child's nature and temperament.
If education has a bright future, it's in that last sentence.
There are almost 250 comments. Together they almost tell the history of this debate. Possibly some of these people are genetically damaged; I don't have anything to offer these people. But a great number of others have probably been damaged by sight-words. You might think they would be happy to hear that there is hope. Not so. They have been told another reality for so many years, it's become part of their lives. if you go to the Examiner story, be sure to see the video of an English politician who caused a firestorm a few years ago by simply announcing that dyslexia is a myth.
The reporting tends to deal with administrative problems, testing, grading, budgets, bold new claims, and lots of alibis.
(Here, for example, is a report on Norfolk schools. The title is "School officials and Virginian-Pilot are good at making excuses." Five front-page stories or prominent editorials are examined. They seem to be substantive, but typically deal with complex outlying problems that parents can't possibly influence.)
The real, central problems are overlooked. Namely, that a big percentage of kids drift into the third grade unable to read. They can't do basic arithmetic. They don't know very much.
The thrust of progressive education, ever since John Dewey started the whole thing 100 years ago, was to downplay traditional or academic education. That is, kids don't really need all that factual stuff.
The emphasis was switched to indoctrination, social activities, and preparing kids for a new socialist America. It's obvious with this shift in priorities that your kids wouldn't be well-educated. The astonishing thing is that this misdirection is allowed to continue all these years later.
Evidently, the people who are promoted in this field (the professors at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, for example) must be true believers. They must push forward with all the same old anti-education, anti-knowledge approaches. Of course, they often dress up these destructive ideas with new jargon.
Point is, newspapers have a responsibility to the community. They must serve the parents, not the NEA. They should pressure schools to examine their unstated premises.
I just got a letter of from a man whose first-grade kid is very smart but can't read. This kid comes home with lots of homework, but most of it involves memorizing sight-words. That's the crime. That's the story. Why doesn't the Virginian-Pilot talk about the low literacy rates and the reasons for them?
Newspapers don't seem to have enough vision to know they need more READERS. That's hard to understand. But surely they feel a sense of obligation to the community they live in. If children are not learning the basic skills, the entire society is enfeebled.
The article conflated drones and robots, probably confusing lots of readers. I sent in this response:
Just in passing, Pravda casually alleges that US public schools have been taken over by Communists. That's what I've been explaining for years. I had to leave a comment:
"To save our schools, the first step is to realize they didn't go to hell by accident. John Dewey, his so-called Progressives, and all the people following them, have been Socialists, Communists, Marxists, etc. They degrade the schools as a way of making kids dumber and more pliable. The same ruthless twits, as I think of them, are now campaigning under the banners of Social Justice and Fairness. For these far-left people, bad education is a good thing.
(These people, the ones at the top of the Education Establishment, are probably best understood as the Pigs that Orwell described in Animal Farm.)"
Until we deal with motives, there's no way to make sense of the mediocrity found in so many public schools. It's deliberate mediocrity. That is what is so tough to accept. Doctors who make people sick?? So-called education experts who seem always to lower scores?? Same weirdly counter-intuitive deal. For further analysis along this line, see "Education: What Lurks Below The Surface?"
A few years ago, the big question for me was whether we should say that the public schools are bad because of incompetence or subversion.
Incompetence is a pleasant cop-out. You have clumsy people who can’t do a job right. You have the gang that can’t shoot straight. You have F Troop, an old TV program. They’re clumsy and sort of ridiculous. But you don’t have to deal with that whole realm of intentional malfeasance, of evil.
More and more, when I looked at the patterns over decades -- the same dumb methods and bad results--you couldn’t conclude it was incompetence. Even the most incompetent persons, when they see themselves doing badly over and over and over again, will seek help and find better answers. But our Education Establishment never does. They keep all their bad ideas in play decade after decade. It’s quite a shocking thing.
When Rudolf Flesch wrote his famous book in 1955, you might have thought that the schools would banish sight-words forever. Wrong. Public schools today are just as keen on sight-words in the first grade as they were 50 years ago. The only thing that changes is the jargon and supporting arguments, that is, the razzmatazz they feed to parents and teachers.
I have no trouble now using the words subversion and conspiracy. They seem correct. Now, I’m more focused on motive or mental state. Are these people sociopathic, pathological liars, sadists, or what? There is something so seriously wrong with a group that can consistently harm children -- that is, dumb them down in a variety of ways. How would YOU describe that group?
For best antitdote to this assault, see BILL OF RIGHTS FOR STUDENTS 2012
The message preached here is that the Education Establishment doesn't care about "education" as most parents define the term. The Establishment is lost in progressive visions for a collectivist future. If you can't change these ideologues, try at least to maneuver around them.
Homeschooling is alive and well in the USA. This is very important, not just for homeschoolers, but for everyone.
We need diversity: public schools, private schools, charter schools, homeschooling, etc. We need competition, which is why vouchers are so important.
The bigger point is that the Education Establishment has, for the most part, a monopoly. They abuse this monopoly. They refuse to correct their bad behavior and their flawed methods. So the best defense is to encourage alternatives and options. Let the public see that education can be handled in many ways. Help the public to understand that many of the favorite methods used in the public schools are, in fact, inferior.
The bottom line on American education is that we wouldn't need these alternatives, just as there wouldn't be a billion-dollar tutoring business in this country, if the public schools did a good job. They don't. I'm sure they could do a better job at less cost. They simply do not seem to be interested in doing a better job. They seem to prefer mediocrity. It fits in with their ideological preference for leveling and collectivism.
Are you interested in raising standards? One good strategy is to defend and support all other forms of public education. This strategy is especially crucial now that the Education Establishment is trying to grab more power over schools and curricula, under the banner of Common Core Curriculum.
The linked article contains specifics about Hampton Roads in Virginia. But it's a good big-picture article about the situation nationally.
All the things we call basics and fundamental knowledge....our Education Establishment has waged a relentless war of attrition against them. It's time to stop the war, and to save all the essential things that children have a right to expect when they attend public schools.
If you're involved in school reform, please take a look at this handy 10-point agenda for improving public schools: A BILL OF RIGHTS FOR STUDENTS 2012. (On Improve-Education.org. Form can be printed.)
Some of these experts, with 25+ years in the trenches, actually claim they have no failures. Every--or close to every--kid learns to read by Christmas of the first grade, or for sure by the end of the year.
Please stop and savor this. Apparently humans are wired to read. Given half a chance, they learn it easily enough. Teach them the alphabet, get across the idea that the letters represent sounds, as in B is for Ball. Then it's not a big deal. Some kids pick it up almost automatically. The slower kids need direct instruction for a few months.
The reason we think that learning to read is so difficult is that our Education Establishment, for almost 80 years, has used a method that does not work. In order to protect themselves, these phonies have to pretend that reading is a really exotic skill, like singing opera, and only the rare few can really break through.
If you actually look at this completely illegitimate pedagogy, the puny goal that the Whole Word experts were aiming for was a very limited literacy all through elementary school. This low agenda pretty much destroyed all of the education that had traditionally taken place in the early grades... It seems that about half the children reach a stunted level called functional illiteracy and never move past that point throughout their lives!
To make people confront just how stupid and evil some of these theories are, I just posted an article titled "Fake Reading Theory Is the Slave Trade of Our Era." Please send it to your local school board.
As a simple practical matter, as long as the Education Establishment can get away with using sight-words to teach reading, our entire system of public education will remain at a retarded level.
AN EDUCATION PROFESSOR WROTE YET ANOTHER COLUMN ALLEGING THAT EVERYONE IS PICKING ON TEACHERS, AND PLEASE SAY A FEW KIND WORDS TO YOUR LOCAL TEACHERS. BAH HUMBUG. (Here's the comment I left:)
Columns like this are somewhat disingenuous and not very helpful. The premise is that the whole world is lining up to criticize teachers. This is not true.
I write about education every day, often negatively, and rarely even mention teachers. I never blame our problems on them. In my view, teachers, along with students and parents, are the victims of an often dysfunctional system.
All of my criticism is directed at the so-called experts at the top, what I call the Education Establishment. These people, mostly professors and ideologues, have devised all the bogus methods used in the schools. These people are responsible for the 50,000,000 functional illiterates this country has, and the continuing low scores in math and basic knowledge.
If we are going to improve education, we need clarity. Let's stop using teachers as a propaganda ploy that lets the Education Establishment escape scrutiny.
Let's ask: Who actually makes policy? Who controls the theories and methods used in k-12 education? Who manipulates the system from far-off control centers such as the Harvard Graduate School of Education, not to mention the DOE and NEA?
My own recommendation, often stated, is that we replace the top people. We need education officials (preferably local) who care more about knowledge and the mind than about social engineering. That would be wonderful to see.
Bruce Deitrick Price
HERE'S WHY THIS ARTICLE IS SO DANGEROUS. A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK THAT IF WE JUST HAD BETTER TEACHERS, EVERYTHING WOULD BE FINE. NOT SO. THE BEST TEACHERS IN THE WORLD CAN'T DO A GOOD JOB IF WEIGHED DOWN BY BOGUS METHODS. WHOLE WORD WILL ALWAYS PRODUCE LOTS OF ILLITERACY. WE NEED TO GET RID OF THE BOGUS METHODS, AND THE PRETENDERS WHO CREATED THEM.
(Longwood College, Department of Education, Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk,
Letter sent to Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
Be suspicious of Common Core Standards
I want to say how proud I am that Virginia has not jumped on the Common Core bandwagon. Kudos to Governor Bob McDonnell and Dr. Patricia Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Suspicion is the only rational reaction. Does this country’s Education Establishment have a history of improving education? Quite the opposite. That’s why critics invented the term “dumbing down.” If you want more of that, you know where to find it.
As for 40+ states signing on, remember that Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan went around the country with suitcases of cash (nominally grants but better described as bribes) to seduce states into signing on. Most would not have done so otherwise.
Especially scary is the notion that schools will now concentrate on literacy and numeracy, two subjects that our Education Establishment has mangled for many decades.
I suggest letting the other states test this thing. Wait a few years. Then we’ll at least have hard data.
ADDENDUM: it's truly amazing the way our local media pushes for this stuff.
A reading coach in Missouri told me a revealing story.
A nine-year-old boy, unable to read; showed up for remedial help. Pointing at “bead,” the tutor explained, “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.” The puzzled third-grader looked up and asked: “What’s a vowel?”
Which prompts the question: “Has the state of Missouri lost its mind?”
Specifically, the school board members, administrators, superintendents, principals, politicians, civic leaders, and all the other people in charge of public education, all the people who let a smart boy reach the third-grade without being able to read. What process of deliberate non-education allows this?
“What’s a vowel??” Isn’t that like asking what’s a number, what’s a street, what’s an hour?
I blame all these officials, these Hard Hearted Hannahs, who seem not to care that reading is the one essential skill. What are these officials afraid of, that American children might actually become literate? That they might become engineers or skilled workers, people who can build a TV or something else to help us compete against the Chinese. On the other hand, such kids might learn to think for themselves. Perhaps some officials don’t want to take that chance....
For rest of article, see: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2764099/posts
Des Moines Register ran editorial with this head: "What occurs at home a key in education."Pull quote: "It is at home where a child’s educational future is largely determined."
I'm seeing this idea everywhere, like kudzu. Sure, there's some truth, but it's finally a dishonest CYA. I left this comment on the Register site:
"The spin in this editorial is the #1 Favorite Excuse For Schools Doing A Bad Job.
Please observe the key ingredient: nothing bad is EVER the fault of the schools or the so-called experts running those schools. All bad outcomes are the fault of the kids, drugs, TV, computers, the internet, 15 other cop-outs, and especially PARENTS. They are just the worst. Uggg, parents!
Forget about it. A century ago many kids arrived in school much less literate and acculturated. The parents just got here. Or the parents were illiterate farmers and workers. It is precisely the task of the public schools to take the kids that show up and transform them into educated citizens. No excuses.
Here's a blue-sky idea. What if the schools stopped messing up young minds with Dolch Words and start teaching the kids to read? What if the schools stopped messing up young minds with Reform Math and taught them to do arithmetic? What if the schools stopped messing up young minds with Constructivism and start teaching facts and knowledge?
Bruce Deitrick Price
Here is the pattern for more than a half-century: a THIRD of high-school students can't read at the fifth-grade level. That’s what LIFE magazine reported in 1946! We see more or less the same stat today. Every third kid is illiterate (and thinking about dropping out). That’s because the schools insist on using bad methods. It should be a huge scandal.
Schools that can’t teach kids to read probably can’t do anything right. Because they don’t care. Or they’re ideologically motivated to level differences.
Education Establishment should adopt wisdom of Medical Establishment: FIRST, DO NO HARM.
See full version: "Do You Believe in Man-Made Educational Harming?"
It's around the ages of 3,4,5. Right in there, a child needs to learn the alphabet, and the most primitive sort of phonics. Letters represent sounds; and all the words that start with the letter B start with the same buh- sound.
Similarly, all the words that start with any given letter start with the sound represented by that letter.
So, maybe you think that's all very obvious. Not at all. For the last 75 years, the Education Establishment in this country has tried to hide the alphabet and the sounds. Children were trained to see the design or configurational aspects of letters, not the sounds that the letters represented.
This was a grand triumph of stupid over smart. The name of this gimmick was Whole Word. The most important thing that parents want to achieve is to keep this nonsense away from their children. If you don't take preventive steps, then the children will go off to pre-K, K, and first grade, and some schools will make them memorize sight-words. At that point you may lose them, or reading may lose them.
For a very simple guide to early reading and literacy, see this new article on hubpages: THEY NEED TO READ. For ages 1-4.
Here's the main conclusion I've been pushing: most children--if you just kept them busy with nursery rhymes, singing, printing letters, in short, all kinds of verbal and literary activities--would probably start reading without a whole lot of specific training. The more verbal kids are going to read just the way the more musical kids can pick up playing an instrument. They make it look easy.
Unexpectedly, it turns out that it's the less verbal kids that need the most systematic instruction. They need to learn the phonics rules so they will feel in control. When they feel in control, they can start to slowly improve their skills. But if you take the kid without a lot of verbal skills and you tell him to memorize 50, 100, then 200 sight-words, he is totally lost. It's a bare beginning for reading purposes, but he can't even master that, not with instant recall. Everywhere he looks, he sees alien unknown words. A few years later they will say he has ADHD, he's dyslexic, he has mental problems...
Yes, he has a huge mental problem. His school made him illiterate. The Education Establishment made him illiterate.
- Bruce Price
- Remain a novelist, artist, poet and art director.But main activity is writing about education reform (always with full name, Bruce Deitrick Price). The schools, now bad due to ideology and laziness, could be easily improved.I invite everyone to join my crusade or start your own. The worst thing is letting the Education Establishment continue its reign of incompetence.Visit Improve-Education.org. (Or Google Bruce Deitrick Price and any education topic; you'll probably find some interesting articles. I have 300 ed articles, videos, and book reviews on web. Please use them in your own battles.)
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