'Department of Education! You raise 'em! We raze 'em!'
I used to know a hippie who always answered the phone: "City morgue. You stab 'em! We slab 'em!" That's the artistic inspiration for the title.
The factual inspiration is the steady decline of public schools. This decline is not merely in this or that subject. It's in all subjects, at all levels of K-12 education.
The public hears about low reading scores or the murky mysteries of Common Core Math and thinks that must be the worst of it. No, the worst of it is the cumulative impact of razing every aspect of education simultaneously, and thereby razing every dimension of each child.
Merriam-Webster says that all the following words are synonyms for raze: annihilate, decimate, demolish, desolate, devastate, do in, extinguish, nuke, pull down, pulverize, destroy, rub out, ruin, shatter, smash, tear down, vaporize, waste, wreck.
Typically, the Education Establishment brags about this demolition. No matter what gimmick they come up with, they talk as though it's the consummation of Western history. Circa 1950, Dr. Celia Stendler gushed about "the thrill of seeing a group of children learn to read by the use of modern methods" – that is, the non-phonetic methods causing all the trouble. (Stendler is quoted in Chapter 1 of Why Johnny Can't Read.)
In short, the people in charge of education take a wrecking ball to K-12 and the next generation. There are scores of examples of systematic razing. It's hard to say that any particular one is the worst, because all are interconnected and reinforce each other.
Reading instruction says don't learn phonics; instead, memorize sight-words by their shapes. That foolish recipe has created 50 million functional illiterates.
Here's the kicker: the resulting illiteracy cripples every other part of schooling.
In arithmetic, our experts say, don't bother with mastery. Astonishingly enough, some of the Reform curricula specifically forbid mastery, a prohibition that effectively terminates learning arithmetic. This attack on mastery will undermine every other activity in the school, because half-baked becomes the new excellent.
Another hugely damaging tendency might seem at first hearing to be mild: no more teaching of geography. Countries and continents, rivers and mountains – these used to be the first things that children learned because we all need to know the stage on which history, exploration, and current events take place.
Analyzing each of these attacks will overwhelm us with details, so let's focus on the big picture. The main thing to note is the never-ending cynicism of the educators doing all this damage. They know they are a wrecking crew, but they keep doing it, because before all else, they are ideologically committed to a leveled or classless society.
Here is a list of things that have happened in the last 75 years, each of which has diminished education:
No cursive writing. (Cursive is essential for the quick learning of the alphabet and thus reading. It has many cognitive benefits.)
No memorization of facts in any subject. (If, for example, you don't know any scientific facts, can you be said to know any science?)
No memorization and recitation of poetry. (The best way to learn to appreciate literature is to wallow in beautiful language.)
No history. (Elite educators ridicule the learning of dates, names, places. It's so bad now that most Americans don't know in what century things took place, never mind a decade. Students have little sense of time or chronology. Which came first – the American Revolution or the Civil War? Many college students don't know!)
No grammar, no diagramming of sentences, no emphasis on spelling and punctuation, no emphasis on correctness in general. (That's why so many people are writing "You're ideas r sily. Their dum." We are building the Tower of Babel in every American city.)
No foreign languages. (Children who learn French in the usual way would automatically realize something is wrong about learning English with whole words. In order to avoid this revelation, schools dropped second languages almost universally, especially in the early grades, which is the best time for children to learn a second language. Furthermore, learning foreign languages requires the memorization, discipline, and organization that our Education Establishment is busily trying to eliminate.)
Idiocies like Bloom's Taxonomy are taught as holy scriptures. (Its main but secret purpose is to denigrate the acquisition of knowledge. Here is Benjamin Bloom himself explaining what a con artist he is: "[A] student attains 'higher order thinking' when he no longer believes in right or wrong. … [T]he teacher should be able to use education to reorganize a child's thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.")
Ninety-minute class times. (For a kid, 90 minutes is a long, long time. None of them wants to be doing one thing for all that time. Even adults can be induced to sit in a movie theater for 90 minutes only if it's a really good film. Imagine you're stuck in there with some loon trying to make you read air-conditioner repair manuals. That, in fact, is David Coleman's big idea. May it perish quickly.)
Much reduced exercise and sports. (Principals lament that athletics will cut into much-needed study time, a sick joke, given how little study is occurring.)
Critical Thinking is a phrase but is not actually taught. Facts are not emphasized. Politically correct opinions are emphasized.
Project-based learning (PBL) is much ballyhooed. What it means in practice is that children might spend weeks looking at a single phenomenon. The subject can be anything: the sugar industry, tourism in the Caribbean, ancient pyramids. The bigger and more grandiose, the better. Parents assume that children are learning something. The problem is that children might spend a month wandering through a great deal of detail about a topic that is hardly central to their education. Progressives always loved PBL, apparently because it subverts the traditional curriculum.
Social studies, a constructed subject, absorbed the study of many real subjects: history, civics, government, geography, economics. Social studies is a clever way to raze all those things with one stroke. By pretending to cover everything, it can effectively cover nothing.
Close Reading is a make-believe improvement. Kids who can barely read spend all day analyzing dense text about taxes.
Unnecessary early starting times. Many public schools in America open between 7:00 and 7:30. That means those households have to wake up at 6 o'clock. Nobody in the family is getting enough sleep, and then the kids are dumped on the street at 1:30, which opens up a whole other set of problems. Like many things that public schools do, starting school early seems to be punitive.
Almost every few days, there are articles on the internet about why schools are bad and how they can be improved. The bizarre part (for me) is that the writers typically assume that the Education Establishment actually wants to do a good job but, inexplicably, can't quite figure out how. With this premise, nothing makes sense. Could so-called experts be so incompetent? I don't think so. If you start with the assumption that they are deliberately razing content and kids, then everything makes sense.