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How Schools Hold Children Down

Posted 24 months ago|23 comments|1,224 views
from: THE 3 WORLDS OF GULLIVER
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Written by
BruceDPrice
Virginia Beach, VA
Behold the mighty Gulliver, in the prime of his life held down by a few dozen strands. This has always been an arresting image. It seems paradoxical that such little ropes could restrain this gigantic creature. But let's imagine that instead of rope tied to pegs, we use piano wire secured to metal beams. Then you realize that probably even a mighty athlete could be firmly secured with ten or twenty wires.

It's simply a matter of having the right restraints cleverly arranged. You have to make sure the wires press down on the right parts of the body.

Let's consider the typical child in the typical school. What would you have to do to make sure that, education-wise, the child was adequately restrained?

(Do you wonder why anyone would want that? Some political philosophies demand that citizens be kept under control. Some ideologies insist that all runners run at the same speed, otherwise the race isn't fair. Some people are ruthless control freaks. Some elitists want everyone else kept in their place. Some pundits say, blame dumbing-down on greedy corporations. It turns out that there are many forces working against genuine education, and here are some of their techniques.)

Suppose you could keep a child from reading right away. Indeed, many of the early Progressive educators believed that reading shouldn't begin until fourth-grade, so they were very comfortable with reading retardation. G. Stanley Hall, the professor who mentored John Dewey, thought that illiteracy was a satisfactory outcome for ordinary children. Parents, of course, didn't buy this malarkey; they were always pushing for literacy. What could Progressive educators do? They had to come up with ineffective reading instruction so they could appear to be teaching children to read. But almost no one would learn to read at a high level. Ordinary kids would be forever semi-literate. That in a nutshell is the history of Whole Word, which has stupefied tens of millions (famously explained by Rudolf Flesch in "Why Johnny Can't Read"). If a child cannot read in a comfortable, capable way, you can easily imagine how little progress will occur in Geography, History, Science, Literature, etc.

But that's just a start. How would you keep a child from doing arithmetic? Numbers are everywhere: clocks and calendars, road signs and speedometers, buying things and counting change. Probably most kids would learn a good deal of math if you just left them alone. Here is the genius of New Math (and the later variation called Reform Math) -- it never left children alone. Even as these pedagogical interventions refused to teach mundane useful math, they relentlessly forced children to wander helplessly in advanced math. This was quite a clever trick. Most of the parents didn't know much math; so they were cowed into silence by constant references to algebra, geometry, statistics, set theory, engineering, trigonometry, pre-calculus, base eight, place value, properties of operations, and lots of other jargon. Who could be against such wonders? These programs (New Math and a dozen varieties of Reform Math) were brilliantly designed. Children went all the way through high school, arrived at college, and still couldn't multiply 7 x 6 without a calculator. (One persistent problem was that some children have a knack for math. How could such naturals be slowed down? Simple. You make all of math instruction revolve around verbose word problems. These kids haven't been taught to be good readers. Of course they will struggle with word problems. Problem solved.)

All right, now at this point the children don't have both arms, so to speak, but they're still running loose, they're seeing, hearing, talking. Educationally speaking, they are much too active. If teachers merely discussed interesting facts, these children could still learn a lot. So that had to be stopped. The name of this technique is Constructivism (or the Discovery Method). In this vacuum-friendly pedagogy, teachers don't talk about interesting facts. They are forbidden to do so! Rather, the children are supposed to discover facts for themselves. As they can hardly read or count, they will discover facts only in a very rudimentary sense. Still, they are made to seem busy all day. This keeps the parents at bay.

No reading, arithmetic, or knowledge. You underestimate the commitment of our Education Establishment if you think they stopped here. No, they came up with many more devices for making sure that the education-elevator remains permanently on the first floor.

Self-Esteem, for example, dictates that children should not be allowed to feel badly about themselves. If some children learn more than others, the ignorant children will lose self-esteem. This evil cannot be permitted. The key is to make sure that everything is taught to everybody at the same low level.

Cooperative Learning, another leveling device, has been remarkably successful at eliminating some of the last vestiges of traditional education. Children work in groups of about six. All children are doing essentially the same thing; typically they are engaged in a project. Usually it will be something that sounds very grand, for example, Environmental Priorities in the Third World. The big feat here is that the children will use Google to find enough phrases to create a portfolio or poster listing those priorities. What each child actually understands might be very little; what they remember next year might be close to zero. But if every child has a high opinion of himself, and parents think, look at this fancy stuff my kid is working on, that's enough. Meanwhile, children never learn what it means to be independent and self-reliant.

With the technique called Learning Styles, children are divided up according to a new sort of "racism": you have kinesthetic learners, auditory learners, visual learners, and many other kinds. Teachers expend a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out what kind of learner each student is, so they can tailor their lessons to fit various sorts of brains. Teachers are already exhausted before the first instance of teaching takes place. Learning Styles is something like karma and astrology combined. If you had a past life as a lion but your moon is in Taurus, no one can be surprised if you don't succeed. Learning Styles is an all-purpose alibi when schools do a bad job.

Another determinist technique is called Prior Knowledge. This one is particularly bizarre. The central premise is that children know lots of old stuff, and it will surely get in the way of learning new stuff. There is almost nothing anyone can do. The old stuff will sit there like an overturned truck in the middle of the road; traffic can't advance. The teacher must be very careful to catalog this old knowledge and struggle bravely to escape from its grip. But according to some theorists, Prior Knowledge is like having a genetic defect. You're stuck with it. (Note that the central trick in ALL of these techniques is to make sure the victim is at fault. The deep problem usually turns out to be something in the child's past or in the wiring of his brain. Certainly, schools cannot be held responsible if children show up with genetic defects.)

Still another cornucopia of bad outcomes is made possible by a relentless emphasis on guessing and fuzziness. Close is good. The one correct answer is never glorified, indeed it is scorned. Children are told to indicate various ways of possibly trying to find an answer. These hapless children are expected to use context clues, picture clues, and prior knowledge. They should talk it over with their group, and take a shot. If they can show any reason at all why they came up with the answer they did, they can get an A. (Now just for fun, imagine that each of these children actually knew the right way to find the answer, and then found it. Think how satisfying that would be for them. But that sort of euphoria might encourage children to be more serious about their education, exactly the opposite of the desired goal.)

So you see, it's just one wire after another stretched tightly and tautly across the bodies and minds of the children. Each of them is a little Gulliver tied down by a swarm of lilliputian con artists.

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Instead of the empty techniques discussed above, our schools should be teaching basic skills and foundational knowledge, as outlined in "A Bill of Rights for Students 2012" -- http://www.improve-education.org/id90.ht...

Note: "26: How To Teach History" and similar are articles on Improve-Education.org.
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24 months ago: Bruce, Your article puts the academic world in perspective for me.
My father was in the service, so we moved a few times which didn't help when one school was more advanced than the other. They put me in a couple of schools to try out. One was a Catholic school that was out of control. I didn't like the nuns at all, and I never was in an aggressive environment before. The nuns played favorites and were selective in who they cared to pay attention to. They didn't even know how to teach. They seated students in the classrooms according to how well they did, and who they favored. I was there 2 days, and that teacher hated me, and I hated her. I became quieter in this kind of environment, which wasn't good. I can remember a rough school with fights breaking out between the students at recess and an undercurrent of trouble. I couldn't deal with it.

In the same town there was another public school where my father had attended when he was a student, and the classroom functioned similar to a small school house. They combined 4th,5th, and 6th grades together because of small classes. The teacher was older but made you learn It makes me wonder if mixing different grades isn't such a bad idea. The one problem that I noticed was that there was a mix of students, some from well off families, and others not so well off, and minority students. There was some differences there that were separating us from each other. That was the beginning of exposure to segregation. It didn't continue in the higher grades.
I went on to attend a Junior HS in the same town that concentrated on education and no one was left behind. They mixed regular academic classes with 2 days a week during school hours to take extra curriculum in whatever we chose. Home economics, cooking, photography, science, sewing, art, Red Cross volunteer work, ballet, tap, musical instruments, band, choir, and performance. They also taught etiquette which adapted you to understanding how to act at home. We had a mixed bunch of students from different walks of life, and there were no problems. Everyone got along.
We took outside trips to the museums and went to plays and visited manufacturing companies and private businesses. These were all good learning experiences, and it made you expand to a higher level of thinking. The school prepped you early on for life after HS, and encouraged college. If I had to describe it, I would say it was based on a more mature level of education reaching out to the student to do well.
This school centered on culture combined with advanced academics. We had PE teachers that were lively and presented their programs in exhibits on stage. They were interesting people. The teachers were terrific mentors, and this is what is lacking in the system today. Nobody cares at all, except maybe a handful of people.
When we moved into our new home in a more of a growing community environment, the school system was the worse. My grammar was better and my English was advanced when I started coming from another school. My previous school began introducing algebra and languages in the 7th grade, so I was geared to learning.
The negativities with this new school were that it became apparent it was different, and I had to get accustomed to it. In that class it was all about being cool, and they didn't care about doing well. They were cliquish and clearly interested in their relationships with each other. There were pregnancies in that class. They got out of control at times, and the teachers had to lock us in the room and leave. Poor me! That's how bad it was. I was happy to move on to high school, but the same kids went too. They were still a problem. My home life was good, so I was able to handle things well. Then you think about the other people who don't even have that and go through this.
All in all everything turned out well. There is always a struggle.
BruceDPrice
BruceDPrice
Virginia Beach, VA
24 months ago: Sunny, I'm very comfortable with the notion that any people, with any type of school, can get good results IF THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO GET. Sometimes personality gets in the way, ego, conflicting theories, all kinds of things. But the worst thing, the most tragic thing, is when the people in charge are not actually trying to provide good education. They want dumb and dumber.

The good news is that we could fix the counterproductive theories and methods discussed in the article, by the simple device of eliminating them.
24 months ago: Priceless Post Bruce !:]

But what is the motive in dumbing down the populous? Take a look at these...

"Education: Promise and Paradox ...education is linked both to fertility rate and resource consumption. Educating females reduces fertility rates and therefore population growth. By reducing fertility rates and the threat of overpopulation a country also facilitates progress toward sustainability. The opposite is true for the relationship between education and resource use... Unfortunately, the most educated nations leave the deepest ecological footprints, meaning they have the highest per-capita rates of consumption."
http://www.esdtoolkit.org/discussion/def...

First of all "Agenda 21" is not some conspiracy theory... it already is established law. The UN calls these laws "soft laws" even though 178 nations including the United States have adopted this globalist manifesto coined 'Sustainable Development'....
http://www.rantrave.com/Rant/Agenda-21-S...
24 months ago: A must watch for any with an interest in education...

Charlotte Iserbyt - Deliberate Dumbing Down of the World
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDyDtYy2I...
24 months ago: The parent's have a lot to do with chosing the right education for their children. If they aren't interested, it trickles down to the children.
If they haven't gone to college, most of the time their kids aren't interested in going. If children are to be successful, it starts in the home. Then the battles with the teachers and the school start.
Out Of The Box
Out Of The Box
 Moderator
24 months ago: Bruce,
I know exactly what you mean, but haven't a clue on how to combat it. My daughter was born exceptionally bright and curious. She taught herself to read, first by watching me work at the computer, then by trial and error using the computer herself. She figured out how to download programs, and don't ask me how, downloaded the Headsprout phonics game, which she proceeded to learn. After a few days she had mastered the preview, so I purchaced the whole program. Within a month, she was reading on at least a sixth grade level. That we when she was 4. Now, five years later, after 4 years of public schools, she is actually reading less proficiently than when she started kindergarden.

I have such high hopes for her, but her lack of progress has even led me to imagine that the school lunches contain additives that damage the learning centers in the children's brains. Is my only recourse to pull her out of school and begin home schooling?
24 months ago: I have to answer this too Box.
I think you have the right idea.
I have to admire you for what you are doing for your child. Sunny
Out Of The Box
Out Of The Box
 Moderator
24 months ago: Thanks Sunny, sorry it took so long. I've been burning the candle at both ends and in the middle too. I think it's just what any parent would do for their child.
24 months ago: Box, you care and that is what makes the difference.
Most are wrapped up in their own lives, and others have financial hardships, which can be a dividing factor among students and teachers.
It boils down to parents not taking the time to notice problems which must be dealt with accordingly.
Having to deal with a teacher's discouraging attitude, every day peer pressure, social acceptance, differences of any sort is a distraction from acquiring a deserved education. These conflicts cause emotional turmoil that can be debilitating throughout a student's educational years and effect the outcome of their future success. That's a lot to combat, and it is a battle.
You can see the affects of struggle on the child when they are slow in going to school in the morning, or don't want to go at all. It is an nasty reality of the educational system that we can't side step, unless we choose alternative avenues which are more suitable.
It is the parent's influence overall that will make the difference.
We are dealing with such a big mix of people that have a huge influence over the social and political aspect of the educational system that it becomes a tug of war every day. I don't see it as a deliberate strategy to dumbing down coming from within the infrastructure of the learning system. I do think nobody knows what they are doing.
My choice would be to home school if I had to do it over again. You are doing a good job, and I know it is hard work. It is something to be admired.
Nethel
Nethel
24 months ago: No Box, what you may want to do is take an active role with her during study times and go beyond the lessons. Teacher her to question and look past the basic lesson. Get her involved with additional topics that she can research on her own and the two of you can talk about. It doesn't take much to educate a person by making sure they have the base tools to study on their own. It was how I was taught when the school system intended to drop me as a lost cause.
BruceDPrice
BruceDPrice
Virginia Beach, VA
24 months ago: Box,
Thanks for this comment. Very helpful. There are a lot of people on the sidelines who don't believe that schools do to children what they in fact do. I would hope that people would trust a father's testimony.

Nethel is completely right. You have to provide what she's not getting, and as many additional things as you can throw in there. I call this concept PARALLEL EDUCATION. Some parents fight the school and they do get results; but it can be very exhausting. In many cases, the energy might be better spent in operating a shadow school, so to speak. I also suspect it's good for parents to frankly explain that politics can sometimes get in the way of good education; so children have to step up their own game to compensate. Tell them that education finally is something like lifting weights -- nobody else can do it for you.

(Two years ago I put an article on Improve-Education.org called "43: American Basic Curriculum --Parallel Education" that tries to sell this concept of parents consciously providing a supplemental education to their children. As for reading, sight-words are usually the problem. Make sure she is reading all words phonetically, from left to right.)


Out Of The Box
Out Of The Box
 Moderator
24 months ago: Bruce and Nethel,
Thanks for your replies. Yes, I have been actively teaching her. I taught her the concepts behind addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division well in advance of her class. But then when the class caught up to her, she would seem to, as was mentioned in the OP, "unlearn" it almost completely.

In going over her homework with her, I see methods that contain many many unnecessary steps, which seem to be put there for the sole purpose of making it harder. It seems to be lending a great amount of uncertainty and confusion to a formerly confident learner.

And yes, in her gifted workshop, they spend a large amount of time surfing the web, putting together powerpoint presentations on penguins, recycling, bullying, and so forth.
24 months ago: Bruce. Good comments. Maybe this will open up the eyes of parents to become more aware.
BruceDPrice
BruceDPrice
Virginia Beach, VA
24 months ago: PS I've been wondering about the methods, curricula, & text books used in those early grades...Do you know any names???

The math sounds like Reform Math but which one?

The reading series would be helpful to know.

Bruce Price
Out Of The Box
Out Of The Box
 Moderator
23 months ago: The only trade names I know, and the teachers are very elusive when I question them about the methods they employ, are "unraveling", which they have used for a few years, and now the national "common core" curriculum.
Out Of The Box
Out Of The Box
 Moderator
23 months ago: ok, I see now that "common core" is not a curriculum, but a set of testing standards. I'll pm the schools website, maybe you will have time to look at it. It has some of the tools they use, and yes, it does look like reform math. I still don't have a clue as to the rest of the methodology.
Nethel
Nethel
24 months ago: In that case I would keep up with the home lessons and help her improve her confidence with the work. Based on my own experience with education systems and the school I attend now. They do go out of their way to muddle the waters.

My instructors are at the point where they have realized that I know the subject material and its application better then they themselves. But that is a result from prior training and my initial architectural teacher was both a architect, a engineer and carpenter. So my scope of knowledge is much larger then typical students.

All you can do at this stage is give her confidence boosting materials so she is confident with all her school work. Other then that, talk to other parents and even some of the teachers who have misgivings. You may find that they are trying to start after school hour educational study groups. Worst case, give her the tools to learn on her own independent of the teacher and class room. She just has to attend and hand in the assignments at the end of the day.

Of course she could end up like me, I get penalized in I do not know how many classes for being too competent in the subject material. I even wrote one of the exams that was used to test the students and provided the course materials for a few terms. That went over "well" with the program head and I was failed that year. They did eventually pass me when I contested it, Hard life being the nail all the time.
24 months ago: I believe in home schooling. I don't think it is a deliberate action to dumb down our educational system. Lack of money, bad teachers, bad neighborhoods all play a part.
I don't think there is a conspiracy. Saying all this, home schooling isn't a bad idea because of what our kids are confronted with.
The only thing that has to be consistant is to keep it up so that the child doesn't lose out. Oh hum, I guess I didn't say anything to make a point. I just got a kid in Harvard, so I guess it doesn't mean anything. Just a lot of hard work and jumping over all the hurdles out there. Been through it as a parent. I guess it doesn't count.
Huey Newton
Huey Newton
 Administrator
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Huey Newton
Huey Newton
 Administrator
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Huey Newton
Huey Newton
 Administrator
24 months ago: Hi Bruce.

Good article and information as always.

As parents and guardians, we need to take an active role in the education of our children. All of us need to step up our game and then step it up some more.

It's a shame that our hard earned tax dollars are used more to fuel bureaucracy and promote political and dogmatic agendas than to actually educate our children.

Just bought a VTeck Phonics game for one of my baby nieces. Great educational toy.

Here's something you may find amusing.

http://www.videobash.com/video_show/hulk...

Renting a beach house in your neck of the woods for Labor Day weekend.

Thanks for the research and the work that you do.

All the best.

Huey
BruceDPrice
BruceDPrice
Virginia Beach, VA
24 months ago: Huey, Thanks for your comment. Enthusiasm is always appreciated.

Frankly, I don't understand the Hulked thing. As for the phonics game, I checked the reviews on Amazon. They are mixed but it seems to cost only 15 bucks. So how can you go wrong? I believe there are a lot of great games out there and also terrific videos on youtube. The problem is that each kid will really love each thing during a certain window of time. Assessing something's absolute value is almost impossible, which is what the people on Amazon tried to do with the phonics game. But if the kid gets it at just the right point for him, then it's worth far more than whatever it costs. I love all this stuff because it gives parents a chance to educate children well before they reach the public schools.
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24 months ago: YOU CAN'T TEACH THESE PEOPLE THEY ARE SMART INDIVIDUALS WITH LIVES SOMETHING YOU DON'T HAVE. YOU ARE FROM CHINA. THAT SAYS IT ALL.
THIS IS ABOUT EXPRESSION AND THOUGHT WHICH YOU DON'T HAVE. WHAT DID YOU DO TAKE A GRAMMAR CLASS, YET YOU CAN'T EXPRESS A THOUGHT. YOU JUST TRIPPED UP WHOEVER YOU ARE.
24 months ago: Bruce - I just laughed so hard at this person.
That's all they got. Mentality is questionable here.
24 months ago: It seems that RR is being invaded by some people from China with generic information that we all are well informed on. They can't think for themselves they copy from other writers word for word. They aren't aware of the copywrite laws.
Why do they concentrate on the US. Should stay with their own Nation of China and not represent their country so badly.

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