K-12: Fog and Fuzziness

K-12 should be a boot camp.  Students become knowledgeable, resourceful, independent, able to navigate successfully through life.

Instead, our public schools prepare children to be incompetent or, even worse, frightened snowflakes.  Typically, students learn little.  They are kept in a bubble of low expectations.

Martin Luther King summed it up: "Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education."  What an odd outcome.  Many of our students end up with neither intelligence nor character. 

While the decline in academics is obvious, there is a more subtle sort of decline.  Instead of precision, students learn that vagueness and wrong answers are acceptable.  Instead of interesting challenges, students become accustomed to gimme questions and permissive grading.  Instead of trying harder, students learn to cut corners.  It's almost as if the Education Establishment wants to create mediocre students and incapable adults. 

Character counts.

Keen Babbage, a Kentucky teacher, wrote a book explaining his conclusions after 30 years:

I just think we have done our students a real disservice by making school way too easy. Students are less willing to read, to study, to do homework, to behave, to follow rules, to be polite, so we are told to make adjustments and be sure that every student feels good about himself or herself. Well, a student who refuses to learn and who uses awful language and never works should not feel good about any of that[.] ... I think schools got sidetracked with some misguided social engineering or political correctness or bad psychology. I'm for hard work and strict rules because those work. I think we owe our students the truth and we owe them honesty. Life requires hard work and obeying rules.

Children are in school about 1,000 hours each year.  A great deal could be accomplished during all those hours.  Instead, K-12 classrooms seem to be incoherent, anxiety-filled, and finally unproductive.  Schools can't be bothered to teach practical wisdom, and not just the obvious wisdom of who Napoleon is and where Japan is.  Children are often deprived of commonsense preparation for resourceful living.  For example, do they learn how many quarts are in a gallon?  What MPH is and what a cc is?  What is a moon?  Are they learning to read charts, maps, and blueprints?

All of these comments should prompt us to wonder: what should be happening in schools?  I submit that it would be easy to make a list of 1,000 pieces of information that every citizen is better off knowing – how many hours in a day, the names of the oceans and planets, the differences among animal, vegetable, and mineral.  Once you get started, you see that there are a lot of things that ordinary children could easily learn, just as they now learn football teams and movie titles.

K-12 education seems to be the equivalent of two weeks of basic training, and then you're sent off to the front lines.  Rookies, poorly prepared, will most likely be killed first.  They'll be clumsy in what is, after all, a difficult mental and physical challenge.  You prepare people for dealing with challenges by giving them challenges to deal with.

The Education Establishment has deliberately thinned education as a way of making children more pliable and cooperative.  Liberal social engineers think this is a good trade-off.  That's why these people shouldn't be allowed near a school.

An interesting feature of American history is how many famous people are chronicled as having "only an eighth-grade education."  We marvel that people with so little education can be a big success.  A century ago, however, an eighth-grade education was something like a high school education today but better because rigorous.  Public schools used to push children as far as they could be pushed.  That's obviously what should be happening now.

You can almost make the generalization that every feature of today's public schools is designed to get bad results.  For example, this title perfectly illustrates the whole scam: "The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders."

Many schools entirely eliminated recess.  Don't you automatically predict that children will be more anxious and need more Ritalin?

Reform Math has aggressively claimed for decades that mastering basic arithmetic is really a waste of time.  Children are moved quickly to total dependence on calculators.  This practice is an abdication of responsibility to the children to give them mastery of simple math.  What will happen if the grid is down or people are trapped in a survival situation?  Will they be able to figure out which way is north?

A new gimmick in math classes is to make the content so difficult that only a few students ever master it.  The rest have stomach cramps and bad dreams.  It would be far more beneficial to the students, and the country, if everyone mastered the basics.

Our public schools claim to teach critical thinking.  In fact, what they inculcate is the opposite: a sort of blur, where thinking hardly occurs at all.  Everything is relative.  Everything is soft and fuzzy, which is a perfect recipe for failure.  Nothing is more worth learning than anything else.

Too many public schools and colleges seem dedicated to turning out lightweights.  This is not good for the children or our society.  It's also a waste of the society's wealth.  The Education Establishment is making out like bandits while many children are being trained, realistically speaking, to go on welfare.

According to Albert Einstein, "once you stop learning, you start dying."  This process seems to start very early in our schools.  Indeed, if kids hardly start to learn, they are dying almost from the first day.

There is no mystery about any of this.  Good ideas are everywhere, except in our public schools.  Every day, private schools, Montessori schools, classical academies, and homeschoolers engage in genuine education.  Public schools should be forced to start doing it right.

McKinsey and Company, the gigantic consulting firm, observed several years ago that "the longer students stay in our public schools, the less smart they become."  What sort of leaders would allow such a decline?

Bruce Deitrick Price explains educational theories and methods on his site, Improve-Education.org.  For info about his four new books, see his literary site, Lit4u.com.

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