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-education, pro-teacher, and anti-Education Establishment. Basically, that's the professors who devise policy. They love social engineering.
It was like one of those things that David Copperfield does, when he makes an airplane appear and disappear. The entire world seems to be caught up in this magic.
Our Education Establishment performed exactly that level of magic. They converted one sort of language to an entirely different kind of language. Specifically, they converted a phonetic language to a hieroglyphic language.
But guess what? It's even better than that. Everything had changed. But nobody could see any difference.
Everything had changed. But nothing had changed. How is that possible?
Behold the genius. Nothing had changed for adults or educated people. The language they had gone to school with and learned to read with, it was right there on the page in front of them. What's the big deal? There it was. Hickory dickory dock, the mouse runs up the clock. Any kid that has trouble with this simple thing called English must be a dunce. That's why, quite often, you see so little sympathy for kids who are struggling. The adults do not know what the kids are struggling with.
For children, there was a different reality. What they saw on the page was a hieroglyphic language. Why? Because their teachers told them to learn it the way all children had learned hieroglyphic languages through history.
Chinese, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Sumerian hieroglyphics-- it's the same challenge in every respect. You look at diagrams or designs on the page and you commit them to memory, one by one, over a long grueling period of years. It's precisely this approach to learning the language that makes it hieroglyphics. You could turn French into hieroglyphics, you could turn Spanish into hieroglyphics. You can turn any language to hieroglyphics if you tell the child, "Look at this design and memorize it."
The child, of course, cannot explain or understand any of this. He is six years old. What does he know? He tries to do what his teachers tell him to do.
Meanwhile, the teachers carefully withhold any information about letters or sounds. In the golden early days of Look-say, teachers were forbidden to teach the alphabet. Try to grasp the enormity of that.
If you're looking at a word and you don't know any letters, all you see is a design. So there, by simple sleight-of-hand and abracadabra, English words are converted to English hieroglyphics.
English Hieroglyphics sounds paradoxical, oxymoronic, impossible, anything you want to say. All of those things are true. English cannot be hieroglyphics if anyone intends to learn to read it. But our Education Establishment pulled this off and, the amazing thing is, the scam goes on.
Rudolf Flesch, in his famous 1955 book, talked about how bizarre it was that education officials wanted to throw away all the advantages of phonetic language. They wanted to teach English as if it were hieroglyphics. In fact, I don't think Flesch ever gets around to talking about English Hieroglyphics. He was always speaking of a metaphor. And many people sort of missed the point. I coined the phrase English Hieroglyphics to dramatize just how crazy our reading theory has been for 75 years.
Here is a longer presentation of this idea, with some good links: "English Hieroglyphics are fun and easy to read."
This title is not original. It’s most often used to discuss pedophilia and the silence of the victims.
Another take occurred 20 years ago when the exquisitely liberal Linda Darling-Hammond attacked Wendy Kopp’s Teach for America. A belligerent and reckless attack which argued that Kopp’s program was probably destroying children. Who, Darling- Hammond wanted to know, will speak for those children? (The funniest part of the attack was the claim that Kopp was “deprofessionalizing teaching.” The ed schools did that long ago.)
My own “Who will speak for the children?” has more in common with the pedophilia angle but minus the sex. Public schools are abusing children educationally. Who will speak for these intellectually abused children?
The teachers don’t always know their methods are dysfunctional. School officials may be equally oblivious, or corrupted. Parents aren’t likely to crack the code and be able to tell a teacher, “Here’s what you’re doing wrong.”
The children know they’re failing. They know that school is an unhappy, difficult environment. Whatever is supposed to happen there is not happening in their case. But they don’t know why.
Reading? Can’t do it. Arithmetic? It’s really difficult and doesn’t make sense. Everything else is just an unpleasant swirl that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
So who’ll speak for the children? You, ideally. Everybody in the society has to be more sophisticated about public education.
First rule, you cannot trust the people in charge. Look at their track record. It’s abysmal.
Second rule, you need to find out for yourself what's going on in the schools. You’ll be amazed.
Third rule, the Internet is full of information on every subject. Use Google to search for answers to the mysteries as you encounter them.
One easy way to start the search is Improve-Education.org, my site. I try to explain all the weird things going on in the schools. Why can’t they teach reading and simple arithmetic? Why does every educational activity seem to be done in the least efficient way?
Go to Improve-Education.org. Halfway down the homepage, you’ll find a SEARCH SITE box. Enter topics you’re interested in.
Here’s a second easy way to find answers. Go to Google and enter a topic and the name Bruce Price. Google will find every page where all the words occur. (I have 100 articles on sites other than my own.)
"College professor should be more involved in K-12 education" is the actual title of a very important article, if I do say so myself.
The basic idea is that college and university people think they can hide up in the clouds. Meanwhile K-12 is stuck in second gear. Students reach college but don't have college-level skills. These poorly prepared teenagers will destroy college as traditionally envisioned.
The big concept in this article is this: all levels of education are connected. Anything bad that happens at one level will hurt all the other levels. College professors need to take sides before it gets worse.
The National Association of Scholars (NAS) could help in this situation. Maybe you know of other groups. I've urged the Chronicle of Higher Education to get involved. SchoolLeadership2.0 might help.
If you are working at the college level or know people who are, please check out the article. Pass it on.
The big suggestion in his article is that people in higher education need to understand the failed theories and methods used in K-12. Then our academics could explain to their communities what has gone wrong in the public schools. (The main culprits are Whole Word, Reform Math, Constructivism, Cooperative Learning, Prior Knowledge, Learning Styles, Self-Esteem and many other sophistries that actually work to undercut education. Professors are the best people to explain these things. After all, they were all concocted by professors, professors of education.)
The article is built around the story of Arthur Bestor's 1953 book "Educational Wastelands – the Retreat from Learning in our Public Schools." Bestor was a world-class visionary and a gutsy guy. Everything I'm saying in this article he was fighting-mad about 60 years ago. Coming back today, he would probably have a heart attack from seeing how far the schools have sunk at all levels. Obama talks about college-ready and career-ready. All these kids are being socially promoted from the lowest grades onward and then suddenly they are up in college and they don't know a damn thing. It's just a sick joke to use the phrase "college ready" in this context.
If college professors really believe in the life of the mind, they have to become much more proactive in defending the values of higher education.
First the bad news. Common Core, propelled by grants which had a suspicious resemblance to bribes, spread across the country like kudzu in North Carolina. All but a few states surrendered coherent thoughts, like tipsy journalists meeting Obama for the first time.
This was a really big issue. People needed to understand that none of the ideas had been tested or proven. None of the people working on this were asked to do so. Who were these people? Really, the people behind Common Core were pseudo-experts like the National Council of Teachers of English, National Council of Teachers of Math, and so many others in education. They pretend to be independent. But really they seem to be puppets run by the people who have been running schools all along (i.e. the Education Establishment).
Anyway, this thing was pushed through with unseemly haste. The state governments should be embarrassed and disgraced.
Now, there is some good news. As many as 20 states are reconsidering. Some states have looked at the economic consequences and don’t like them. Some are hearing a lot of complaints from parents. Some legislators are actually looking at what the Common Core Commissars want to do.
One small example: I’m working on a piece now about “close reading,” which is just nonsense. We have second graders who don’t know how to read but now we’re going to insist that they do “close reading.”
Here is a short statement giving eight reasons why Common Core must be rolled back:
There is so much talk in the newspapers, especially here in Virginia, about a War on Women. The Democrats have been very clever about turning Sandra Fluke's sex life into a so-called War on Women.
It's not just that Democrats took something and made it into a lot more. It's that there is a much more serious war going on in America. And the phrase "War on Women" suggested the obvious parallel phrase "War on Children."
At first, this phrase was a shock and almost painful to think. But everything that I've figured out about our public schools is very nicely summed up in those three words: war on children.
It starts in K and goes to 12. It's a sort of dumbing-down, if you like that phrase. One might also call it anti-education. One might call it systematic leveling. The people in charge (what I call the Education Establishment) are mostly some sort of socialist. For them it's an ideological given that children should be kept more or less equal. That's why these wannabe commissars are so effective and so dangerous.
They don't think of themselves as destroying the minds and dreams of children. They think of themselves as building a brave new world, and if children have to be sacrificed to that dream, well, as the great Walter Duranty said, you can't make omelets without breaking some eggs.
So they can happily promote educational methods that basically don't work, at least in an educational way. But they do work in a collectivist way. They make students more or less the same. That is, they make students mediocre.
That's the vision that glows in the minds of our Education Establishment. All students hold hands and sing in gentle harmony. They play well together. The big enemy is individualism; it must be stamped out. Children must learn to be cooperative, not competitive.
Maybe if all children were more or less equal to begin with, this whole process wouldn't be so destructive to most of them. Maybe if we didn't have any enemies in the world, we could get away with putting so much money and energy into social engineering.
The problem is, every child is different. They have hugely different potentials. We can't know what those potentials are unless we push them gently along. That approach is obviously best for each individual person.
Meanwhile, the world's gotten more complicated but the schools have gotten dumber. This just makes no sense to anyone (except our enemies).
But guess what? Our Education Establishment has a grip like death itself on the schools of America. They are not allowed to improve. As a quote in the article indicates, we know the answers. We just seem to lack the political willpower to do anything about it.
That's close to the truth, but it's not the whole truth. We have the political willpower to fix the schools. But the Education Establishment has greater political willpower to make sure that doesn't happen.
Really, give credit where it's due. We have people in charge of education who (I would say for obvious social engineering reasons) absolutely don't want great schools. Every stat shows you that kids aren't learning to read, don't learn to master arithmetic, and don't learn basic facts about the world, this country, our history, or anything else.
Now, I'm not saying that the top 10-15% of the kids are not well-educated. There are excellent schools; and there are gifted programs even in bad schools. (But I often suspect the main reason we have gifted programs is to keep those gifted parents out of the way!)
So that leaves 85% of the kids who are mainstreamed at the same level. Not completely bad. But not good either. We always seem to be at about 23rd in various international competitions, in every subject. We spend more than almost everybody else spends per student. How do we manage to end up far outside of the top five? Quick answer: ideological fanaticism and hard work.
I'm afraid the Common Core will just try to lock in all this mediocrity, despite the impressive talk about new and improved "standards."
Suppose a football team announces that in the next season there will be a new standard: all players will run the hundred in 9.2. That's the standard. Which is absolutely not the same thing as saying that anybody can actually do it.
This is one thing our Education Establishment has been absolutely brilliant at throughout the past century: PAINTING THE PRETTY PICTURE.
It's like one of those billboards for a new housing development – everything is so beautiful – but somehow the development is never built and there is just a pretty billboard standing out forlornly on the highway.
At this moment the Common Core Crowd is painting a beautiful picture of all the new things your schools will do. The standards have been announced! What could be the problem?
Surely every player can run the hundred in 9.2. That's just a given now.
Similarly, every student will be able to read fluently. They will be able to multiply and divide. They will know that the Civil War happened in the 19th century. That will be a huge jump, by the way. All three of those things.
My point is, if our Education Establishment could do these things and really wanted to do these things, why didn't they do them for the last 30 years????????
Why should we think they will suddenly now start doing them???????
Forgive my cynicism. I suspect all the talk about fancy new standards is just a way of keeping our minds off the fact that things stood still for 30 years. Or maybe got a little worse.
New article is here: http://www.examiner.com/article/nation-at-greater-risk-but-everyone-pretends-not-to-know-why At the end are three related articles that might help some parents to work around the obstacles.
My hope was that Bill Gates would realize I was right, he'd be intrigued that I was such a good judge of these so-called educators, and he would get in touch to say, okay, big talker, what should we do? Heck, I really believed that the two of us could save the country. His name and power, and my ideas. The country's problem, you see, is that we have embraced nothing but bad education ideas. So if we get rid of them and put some good ideas in play, we'll be golden. There is nothing abstract or far-fetched about this. It's completely doable if we had intelligent leadership.
A month ago, I wrote another article along the same line called "Bill Gates is too trusting." Here, I went further and suggested that Bill Gates should lead an effort to outflank the Education Establishment. He could set up publishing groups to create better math curricula, better reading instruction, etc. Very feasible for a guy like Bill Gates.
By a commodious vicus of recirculation, all of this led to an interview on educationviews.org, --
"An Interview with Bruce D. Price: Some Thoughts on Bill Gates, Education and Influence"
This interview quickly covers all the main issues. Please check it out and leave a comment.
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:
Bruce Deitrick Price
- Remain a novelist, artist, poet, and art director. But main activity is writing about education reform.. The schools, now bad due to ideology and laziness, could be easily improved. That claim is clearly explained in new book "Saving K-12--What happened to our public schools. How do we fix them?"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 find some interesting articles. I have 400 ed articles, videos, and book reviews on web. Please use them in your own battles.)
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