46: American Public Schools Seem To Be Designed To Fail
There are so many bad ideas in the public schools. It’s almost as if somebody didn’t want them to do a good job.
Here’s a quick look at the 10 worst ideas now undermining education.
Eliminate these flawed methods and
schools will automatically get better.
American Public Schools Seem To Be Designed
statistics, studies, and commissions indicate that schools are failing.
Even the Education
Establishment agrees: “The system’s broken top to bottom! But give us more money, we’ll get it right next
Maybe we ought to identify all the places where they went wrong up to now.
Definitely we ought to do that.
Here’s a quick run-down of the main bad ideas crippling the public schools,
in no particular order.
Carefully-timed praise can be an effective
motivator. But telling somebody every day, “You’re wonderful,” will soon have no effect at all.
Why try harder if you get praise for doing nothing?
It gets worse. Self-Esteem is the all-purpose terminator
for serious content. No matter what you try to teach, some children won’t learn the material. They will feel bad; they
will lose self-esteem. Which must be prevented at all costs.
Solution: don’t teach that material. Don’t
teach any material.
2: COOPERATIVE LEARNING
Kids have to do everything in groups,
which means they don’t learn to think independently.
Smarter students will probably be slowed down. How can
any students be graded accurately?
For a change of pace, working as part of a team might be helpful. But Cooperative
Learning is another of those dictatorial dogmas that seeks total control. Kids must be in groups all the time.
The basic idea is that children should, create their own new versions of all
knowledge. Teachers can’t say that 7 + 8 = 15. Children must figure this out for themselves.
FACILITATORS, must not teach. Instead, they must carefully steer children toward their discoveries.
takes time. It virtually guarantees that children will learn
only a part of the knowledge that educated people should
4: NO MEMORIZATION
For the past century, as part of a crusade against knowledge
and content, modern educators have denigrated memorizing ANYTHING.
A constant refrain heard in public schools is:
“They can look it up.”
Children are not expected to know even the most basic things. All of education
is slowed down. Millions of adult Americans end up cultural illiterates.
A common theme in all subjects is that children shouldn’t know--they should guess. Guessing is good.
whole point of being educated is to stop guessing, except for unknown things like, “Who’s going to win the World
Schools traditionally helped children learn the information in dictionaries, encyclopedia and libraries.
Now schools teach as little as they can get away with. Students have no other choice but to guess.
The main sin of modern education is to pretend that English is not a phonetic language and should
not be taught phonetically.
The Education Establishment promotes Sight Words, Dolch Words, Whole Words, Instant
Words, Fry Words, Memory Words -- everything but phonetic words, which is what English words are. The result is 50,000,000
Destroying the teaching of reading is the best way to destroy any chance a child has of
Modern educators have shown considerable ingenuity
at devising methods for teaching math that don’t teach math.
New Math circa 1960 was the first attempt in
this direction. The public laughed. The educators went back to their labs and came up with a dozen new programs collectively
called Reform Math.
All these curricula have several common traits: advanced concepts are stirred in with simple
arithmetic so that kids and parents stay confused; basics and mastery are not stressed; calculators are really stressed; students
go off to college not knowing what 6 times 8 is.
8: FOUNDATIONAL KNOWLEDGE
for success in all education is to start with the simplest bits of information (i.e., Foundational Knowledge). Whether it’s
arithmetic, reading, geography, history, or driving a car, we crawl first, then walk, then run, then we can move on to dancing
Intelligent education teaches a LOT, teaches it EARLY, and teaches it in a SMOOTH, ORGANIZED way.
Modern educational theory finds endless reasons for teaching LITTLE, teaching it LATE, and teaching it in a JUMBLED,
9: NO HANDWRITING
Handwriting --the way we write our signatures--is very
beneficial for learning a language.
Modern educators try to skip penmanship. Students reach the end of high
school and can not “write” English words except as printing.
Many phonics experts express the belief
that cursive handwriting is an excellent discipline in itself and for mastering all aspects of language: letter forms, spelling,
reading, and writing.
Modern education tends to accept (or even prefer)
Invented spelling is good. Guessing is good. But precision is dismissed. Grammar is not taught. Close counts.
All that matters, we are told, is that students are trying. The process is important. Results are not.
are trained to accept being ignorant, sloppy and vague.
Each of these bad ideas is a leech sucking blood out of the
It’s amazing that some people still think all this inefficient nonsense could happen
by accident. Not likely.
The genius of American education has been misdirected into concocting methods that sound
good but work badly.
Schools that wish to improve have a clear path to follow: get rid of the bad ideas.
Review the article. Do the opposite of what each method requires.
Also see: “38: Saving Public Schools"
"34: The Con in Constructivism"
"36: The Assault on Math"
"42: Reading Resources"
"47: Teach One Fact Each Day"