I call myself an education reformer. For brevity's sake, let's just say I believe in facts, knowledge, basic skills, mastery, and in taking each child as far as each one can go.
Please visit Improve-Education.org if education is a special interest of yours.
I have 350 education articles, videos and book reviews on the web. Most of my articles are intelligent and lively, even literary. Below are three of my sentimental favorites.
JANUARY, 2015: I'm assembling a collection of these articles, which will be titled "What have they done to our public schools?" Our decline is explained; what we should do is explained. I would particularly want to hear from any publisher that would like to get involved in the ed wars. If we do not save the public schools, we're not going to save anything else.
People In Favor Of Dumb Schools,
Wave Your Arms In The Air Like You Just Don´t Care
Better still, make silly faces and tell knock-knock jokes.
Even better, put a bag over your eyes and flee to a dark room. Hide. Maybe then you won't notice the creeping dumbness crippling the country.
Maybe your conscience won't bother you as the schools dumb down additional tens of millions of children, making them ignorant and semiliterate.
Maybe you've already forgotten a time when people knew stuff: who Napoleon was, where Japan is on a globe, the number of stars on the US flag. Ah, those were brash and vibrant times. People could make references to common information and know they would be understood. Yes, I'm telling you the truth!
People would say things like, "Nice play, Shakespeare." Uh, maybe I need to explain this. Shakespeare, you see, wrote plays. So when somebody did something goofy, people would say, "Nice play, Shakespeare." Well, you have to take my word for it. It's a clever remark. People would laugh. Really!
But never mind. All that is gone now. There is no common knowledge, no common culture. People know what they know and their friends know. But nobody knows what the people across town know. We're seeing the ultimate atomization of a population. Everyone is separate, everyone is alone, everyone knows close to zero. That's the secret, don't you see?
Our elite educators have stolen the icing off the cake, the cherry off the banana split, the rainbow from the clouds. They are the dark angels of dumb, and they can't stand your learning any little thing. They have devised a medicine cabinet of pedagogical poisons, all designed to empty what is left of your brain. One of these gimmicks says that teachers should celebrate "prior knowledge." Well, little robots, that's the only kind you are going to have from now on--what you bring in the front door. Assuming they let you take it out. It's quite possible they won't approve of what you brought through the front door. In which case your mind will be strip-searched, and all that useless nonsense will be confiscated. In such cases, you won't have new knowledge, you won't have prior knowledge, you won't have no knowledge. You'll be perfect.
Well, maybe we have to applaud a job well done. It takes a kind of genius to create a population as ignorant as ours is today. Just look, we have 50 million functional illiterates, people who can't read beyond ordering a cheeseburger, filling the gas tank, or figuring out which streets to take to the mall. Schools are like Celebrity Jeopardy for Kids: foods that start with C, sounds a cat makes, distances that are not one mile. And those are the Honors Programs.
Doesn't it make you wonder, what kind of sickos are so in love with ignorance? Personally, I think facts are fun. I know that knowledge is power. There's my educational philosophy. With just those two slogans you could build world-class schools.
But our educators--what are their beliefs? Facts are wasted time; and knowledge is power they don't want you to have. How can they control you if you know anything? How can they dictate every detail of your life if you have a single opinion?
Thomas Jefferson said it so beautifully. You can't be both ignorant and free. So which is it, bub? You prefer ignorance? You like what the educators have done to you? Schools today are sort of like a lobotomy without the surgery. Didn't hurt at all, did it?
Admit it, you don't know what a lobotomy is. You don't know who Thomas Jefferson is. I'll tell you, he was a president of the United States. Oh, sorry. You don't know what the United States is either.
They have taught you well. Our Education Establishment has turned education into a one-word oxymoron. Night descends. That barking dog you hear is us. "Nice Shakespeare, play." Makes just as much sense, doesn't it? "Play Shakespeare, nice." They all compute. That's the genius of our world now. Everything computes. Nothing computes. You're alive but dead. And why should that matter if you don't know? How could you know? You're in a dark room, with your eyes shut and a bag over your head, making sure you couldn't possibly know.
Because let me tell you, just start to think about it, even for a minute, then the pain will start. These images will stab through you, these vistas and visions, bright with energy and light, of you in a world full of information and knowledge and the excitement of dancing facts. Not all slack and stupid and dull like now. No, this is you smart and getting smarter, learning stuff and knowing things, full of the most wonderfully interesting details, so that for the first time in your life, you feel alive. And you imagine yourself looking back with this huge swell of gratitude for all the dedicated schools you attended and the earnest well-educated teachers who awakened the fire in you. And you feel a joyful communion with these teachers and these schools and all the other students in them. And a friend does something silly and you say, "Nice play, Shakespeare." And everyone laughs.
Education: Chariots of Lies
Sorry, did I say lies? I meant fire. Chariots of fire. They sound, and look, a lot alike. Fuzziness, please remember, is as good as accuracy. For many disadvantaged children, it's better. They should not have to deal with further rejection and humiliation. You'd understand that if you weren't a capitalist stooge. This is one of our most important lies. Sorry, I meant truths. Our job is to correct the ills of society, and provide advantages to the disadvantaged. Fuzziness is an important tool in this agenda.
Let's say that A is almost as tall as B. Surely we can reasonably say that A is taller. He lacks self-esteem. You cannot possibly educate the poor minority child unless we can build up his self-esteem. If A were not the victim of institutionalized prejudice and a starvation diet, he would surely be taller. It's only because of social injustice that A might appear to be a tiny bit shorter than B. We can correct this injustice. That's the main thing. Anyone who is not a reactionary can understand this.
FUZZY IS YOUR PAL
Schools should not serve the purposes of the ruling class but of the dispossessed class. Fuzziness, as noted, is good, and lies are often more honest than truth. It is not possible to engage in serious societal transformation without their help. I should emphasize that eliminating evil is the highest priority. That A appears to be a fraction of an inch shorter than B is evil. That A cannot read as well as B is evil. That A cannot perform meaningless academic activities as well as B is evil. That is, these things are lies and they must be overcome. Fuzziness is one way to do this. Fuzzy is our friend.
We have come to a bold new era in education as chariots of lies. I mean fire. The point is, this kind of precision is a bourgeois trap. We must never fall for the trick of saying that one thing is better than another thing. That's a value judgment, and has no place in a secular humanist universe. Each person's truth is as good as the next person's truth. You are entitled to think the world is flat. In this way we gained greater social cooperation and cohesiveness. We do not waste energy on conflict and debate. Critical thinking, which we teach in our classrooms, always leads to flexibility. When I say blue, can you see red? Then you are ready to graduate. Indeed, you have graduated. You are now flying across the sky in a chariot of fire. Or lies. Whichever you prefer.
The distinguishing trait of Western imperialism was always to say that 2 + 2 equals 4. This is outrageous and bogus. 2 + 2 might be 4. But there are always other circumstances, and other values that come into play. Sometimes, for the good of the group, you need to conclude that 2 + 2 equals 5. When you can do this, you have graduated from high school. Did I say high school? I meant college. There is nothing else for you to learn.
The great genius of collectivist hegemony is that one is all and all is one and, all in all, we are lucky to be in such a wonderful society. And not in the prison known as precision.
All the differences, all the rejections, all the unfairness, have been eliminated. Social justice is not just a phrase, it is a way of life. It transcends the old religions, ensuring that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first, and all those in the middle will be one of the other, depending on their ID number. There can be no halfhearted measures, no shrinking back. On some days 2 + 2 will equal 3. But of course! Surely that is obvious to everyone. Perhaps there will always be those benighted souls who cannot see through a glass darkly. These people will need to be reeducated, until we achieve the perfect unity that everyone is entitled to.
Chariots of lies. Such an inspirational vision. I'm sorry, did I say lies instead of fire? Now, I'm teasing you. What possible difference could it make whether I say fire or lies? It's all the same as long as the right people are in charge; and they make sure the correct decisions are made. Thereby guaranteeing everyone an equal share of whatever is left after the right people have finished dividing everything up and taking their fair share. Leaders have such awesome responsibilities; they must receive proportional rewards to sustain them through their hard labors.
Personally, I have no doubt that we can expect our leaders to do exactly the right thing. Doubt is in itself an example of social injustice. There can be no doubt you embrace the totality of the New World. You love it, and you forget that you and the world were ever separate. This is peace that passes all understanding. This is the goal of K-12 education. I foresee an age when people will think and read differently, and count differently, and are not bound by the old rules, by the old limitations. They will truly be liberated. A will become B, and B will become A. And saying that one is taller than the other will be recognized as the nonsense it is.
To learn more about the novel 1984, which first introduced the idea that in totalitarian societies 2 + 2 could equal 5, read "15: 1984: The Cover Up" (www.improve-education.org/id20.html)
Knowledge is the best defense. Teach facts, then teach more facts. At some point genuine critical thinking becomes possible! See YouTube video titled "How To Teach Anything & Everything."
For more praise of a traditional approach to education, see "45: The Crusade Against Knowledge" on Improve-Education.org.
For advanced analysis of how 2 + 2 equals 5, read Orwell's "Ignorance Is Strength." (http://www.newspeakdictionary.com/go-goldstein.html)
American Children Are Strangers in a Strange Land
The Education Establishment has managed to separate the country’s children from the country. A secret quarantine is in effect; children have been consigned to live in detached bubbles. To a
degree rarely seen in history, children are exiles in their own country.
Physically, kids look the same. They are babies in cribs; play in the backyard; have pimples, and become restless teenagers. Little by little, they become adults. You could alter the hairstyle, do a little photo retouching, and all the children would look like the children at the time of the Revolution. Nothing has changed. In appearances, that is.
Inwardly, everything is changed. American children wander forlornly in an alien landscape they know little about and understand less. They have no history, no geography, no math, no science. They’ve been taught to dislike their country. Instead of knowledge, they’ve learned detachment and sarcasm, indifference and boredom. They’ve been systematically deprived of the skills and perspectives that would allow them to enjoy culture or navigate intellectual pursuits.
They are inside the society but curiously outside. Separated from it in the way that a neighborhood’s birds and rabbits exist separately from the humans in the neighborhood. They see each other and warily pass; maybe some minor interaction takes place. But birds and rabbits grasp little about what humans are doing or why. Similarly, children stare uncomprehendingly at those strange creatures, adults, living in some parallel life.
The goal for the country’s children seems to be the attainment of a pleasant emptiness. White marks on a white wall. It’s long been common to say that children’s minds are a blank slate, a tabula rasa. But what American public education has achieved is unprecedented: the tabula remains rasa.
How do we describe this state? An intellectual lobotomy? Cognitive neutering? Certainly not all children are stunted in this way. Perhaps 10% or 20% a receive a good education. I’m talking about great majority of average kids. Soon they’ll be raising kids themselves. They’ll vote. They’ll build a country. Or unbuild it.
How in the world did the Education Establishment create this brave new child? In fact, there are four steps, which can be quickly described:
First, every school has to discard as much information as possible, using whatever pretext is handy. Some facts are not relevant; some are not multicultural; some are politically incorrect; some facts are too difficult for a particular group. It doesn’t matter how you do it. The goal is that everything be thinned until finally you turn chunky beef soup into watery gruel. All the facts taught anywhere in the entire school should not fill up a small book. Now you’re talking.
Second, insist for a hundred reasons that kids not be expected to remember or retain any of this thin fare. Rote memorization is laughed at. Drill and kill is scorned. Teaching to a test is attacked. So, there is little in the school to start with, and little of that ends up in a child’s head.
Third, create easy, preferably subjective tests so that almost everyone gets an A or a B. These good grades suggest that children are mastering a great deal of knowledge. Parents are charmed by all the success. Nowadays educators are coming up with even more devious forms of testing, such as scrapbooks, peer review, and authentic assessment. The drift is away from expecting children to actually know anything specifically. Feelings and opinions are quite enough. Explaining how you approach the problem is praised. Correct answers are frowned upon.
Four, everything in the school and in the classroom must be enveloped in a smog of important-sounding, newfangled methods: constructivism, self- esteem, cooperative learning, critical thinking, national standards, 21st-century skills, and dozens more. Gobbledegook is made flesh. Apparent activity is all-important. In many respects the school is theater, show biz, mime. Teachers pretend to teach; students pretend to learn. At the end of the process, the children know nothing.
Everything that occurs in school is like a dream you had last night or the night before. Surely some interesting things happened. But you can’t say exactly what. It’s all very hazy now. Then even the memory of having a dream is gone. Rasa.
More evilly, what might actually be possible, and even easily achieved, is lost on the wind. In a world where everyone walks with a limp, running is no longer imaginable.
And so children, as never before in history, are turned into eunuchs of the mind. To the degree the Education Establishment can pull it off, children remain knowledge virgins. They are not unhappy. It’s all they’ve ever known, these strangers in a strange land.
"The Education Enigma--What Happened to American Education"
(a 2011 collection of articles by Bruce Price)
can be obtained on Amazon.
©Bruce Deitrick Price 2011