The Politics of Education; and Why You Need To Take Sides
Education is a field full of deception. Here's how it got that way.
Posted Aug 16, 2012
Last Updated Aug 31, 2012
Education is an intellectually convoluted field. Perhaps 100 years ago it was simple. Teachers taught children the 3 R’s, civics, penmanship, geography, all the obvious subjects. That’s long gone. Now, education is a minefield of sophistries, propaganda, and outright lies.
A century ago, John Dewey and the Progressives embraced the idea that the schools should be used for social engineering. Academics slipped to second priority at best. Turning the US into a socialist country was what John Dewey and his followers cared about. Every perspective, and every judgment on what was good and bad in education, changed almost overnight. Of course, Dewey couldn’t come out and announce this shift from education to indoctrination. That’s how we drifted into a world of shadows, secrets, and deception.
The Education Establishment would say, "X is a great educational method.” What they meant was, "X will help us achieve our social and psychological goals.”
My sense of it is that the elite educators more and more became a cult operating some distance from the law. This country has 50,000,000 functional illiterates; we have across-the-board decline in all subjects, at every level. Do you think all this happened by accident? It’s more logical to assume that we have this failure because dedicated ideologues control the educational system. But why aren’t they condemned for their bad results?
There is an interesting parallel with the Catholic priests who engaged in pedophilia. All the key players are prestigious people with a private agenda that is at cross-purposes with their announced public agenda. They say they want to take good care of your kids; in fact, some have other goals. My guess is that the Catholic priests got away with so much because people do not want to think evil about people in positions of authority, especially priests. This same hopeful respect also surrounds teachers and people in the school system. It’s simply inconceivable to a parent that schools would say, "We will teach your child to read,” but then in fact use a method that is ineffective and causes psychological and cognitive problems such as dyslexia.
Way back in 1955 that’s exactly the shocking message Rudolf Flesch brought to the world in "Why Johnny Can’t Read.” Public schools were indeed using a method that does not work. Flesch explained it. But the schools --to their shame-- went on recommending the method that Flesch had exposed as a cruel hoax.
Keep in mind that image of a Catholic priest who commits child-abuse year after year, with many children. This is a criminal life that takes considerable energy and manipulation. What could be more convoluted than this life?
We saw this pattern in the Jerry Sandusky case. Look at all the people that got dragged into this, until finally the entire school had to be punished for the sins of one man. As bad as his actual sins were, I would like you to focus for the moment on the lies. Think of the lies he told to his wife, to his friends, and to these kids. It’s like going into a cave and there are thousands of bats up there in the darkness, fluttering their wings and making frightening sounds. You cannot have a normal, productive life in such a setting. Similarly, good education can’t be advanced when so much that goes on in the public schools is warped by an endless muttering of lies.
All of this so far is a setup for a declaration. One of the most important things that everyone can do is to confront the reasons for our Education Wars honestly. This may be one of the biggest political decisions in everyone’s life.
Education in the USA is mediocre because the Education Establishment perpetuates inefficient methods to advance a political agenda. The elite educators train their young teachers to repeat the same clichés, decade after decade. Now, when you look at the education statistics, analyze the anecdotes coming out of the schools, sift the ominous stories of students reaching college not knowing what 5 x 7 is, you can easily know that something is tragically damaged.
And my message is, if you let the Education Establishment lie to you, then you become an enabler, a co-conspirator, in this tragedy.
Parents especially need to be coldly objective so they can better evaluate what is best for their kids. Students need to be suspicious about the quality of the education they are receiving. (Demand better.)
You don’t have to trust me. Almost always, the methods preferred by our Education Establishment are NOT the methods used in good private schools or by successful homeschoolers. Trust that.
Private schools and homeschoolers are trying to get the best results in the fastest time, with the least stress on the instructors. In public schools, on the other hand, there is always this strange smell of weirdness because they do things in such inefficient ways.
The problem for reform is that the Education Establishment has 500 research papers (only a slight exaggeration) to prove that each bogus method produces good results. Thousands of professors advance their careers by writing papers that purport to prove that ideas which don’t work showed positive results in some little artificial experiment. A year later, this fairly empty proof is hailed as being akin to divine commandment. Soon, every bad idea is locked in place. Nothing can be changed. Nothing can be improved.
First step. Look at the Education Establishment’s egregious track record. You’ll know in your heart you are dealing with incompetents and phonies. Laugh at them.
Here is a summary of my own research during the past five or ten years. I started with reading theory and figured out for myself why Flesch was right and the official recommendations had been wrong. Ditto Reform Math, constructivism, learning styles, cooperative learning, and all the other theories and methods embraced by our Education Establishment. It was always the same pattern. Something that was praised to the skies turned out to be counterproductive. Seeing these gimmicks for what they are is very liberating.
For a quick rundown of what the public schools are doing wrong, see "The Top 10 Worst Ideas in Education.” (This is on Improve-Education.org, a site which specializes in explaining theories and methods.)
This video makes many of the same points: