K-12: Knowledge Containment Protocols
Schools have always been devoted to passing knowledge forward to the next generation. Not now.
The Education Establishment treats knowledge as if it were a toxic spill that must be kept away from students. Board up the windows; tape the doors; wrap the buildings in three-mil. plastic.
This might sound comical or far-fetched. But I assure you that the Progressives in charge of our schools are methodical about using any pretext to minimize contamination by knowledge. Everyone should wonder why.
In the beginning of the Progressive era, the attack on knowledge was straightforward. The basic claim was, who needs it? John Dewey sneeringly dismissed academic progress as "mere learning."
Two famous professors, in their 1929 textbook, unapologetically stated that most school material is a waste of time: "Subjects such as arithmetic, language, and history include content that is intrinsically of little value." That clearly reveals an ideology.
But communities sometimes fight back, so the Education Establishment had to be ever creative, ever conniving.
During the last 40 or 50 years, the attack on knowledge became more ingenious. In one example, teachers were told not to teach; students must create their own new knowledge. This remarkably successful gimmick, called Constructivism, crushed the amount of knowledge mentioned in the nation's classrooms each day.
But telling teachers not to teach was apparently too blatant. Maybe the Education Establishment worried that the public would one day wake up to how silly Constructivism is. Stop teaching in a school? Who would accept that?
Just in case, the Education Establishment devised a slew of new gimmicks. One of the stranger ones is called Prior Knowledge. The premise is that you can learn something, and it can stand there like a roadblock and stop all further progress. Why should this happen? Humans, all the time, find new knowledge that corrects old knowledge, and life goes on just fine. Apparently, the Education Establishment hoped that if every professor contended that this sophistry made sense, the public would say: Oh, yeah, that Prior Knowledge can mess you up. Better not take any chances. Don't learn anything ever again.
More recently, the Education Establishment has appropriated Google to create another absurd sophistry. All information is on Google, so you don't need to bother knowing anything. A hundred years ago, everything was in encyclopedias. Nobody thought to say students don't need to know anything in them. Now they say that.
The main point here is to take cognizance of how diligently the Education Establishment works. All this effort has to tell you something. They are not going to take a chance that an American kid learns anything.
A new tactic is to talk about memorization as if it were an illness or malfunction. The Atlantic actually had an article called "When Memorization Gets in the Way of Learning: A teacher's quest to discourage his students from mindlessly reciting information." Savor that.
So this is the mega-problem in education? Some kids can actually recite information. Really? Try to find a kid like that. Seriously, anecdotal evidence suggests that ordinary Americans have very little information in their memories.
The author nonetheless complains: "Memorization is a frontage road: It runs parallel to the best parts of learning, never intersecting. It's a detour around all the action, a way of knowing without learning, of answering without understanding." Oh, please.
But the typical teacher, reading this kind of fizz, naturally feels that memorizing is somehow dirty. Nice people just don't do it.
That lots of students have ignored all common sense and actually memorized stuff is one of the oddest conceits loose in the world. Most children don't know what century the Civil War occurred in; they don't know what a moon is; they don't know where the nation's capital is. And so on, ad infinitum.
Here's more of the same puffed-up piffle, from (no surprise) the National Education Association: "As students work their way through school, they may be memorizing information in each grade level, but are they really learning? ... The focus on memorization, fueled by standardized testing, has obstructed learning, according to Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University, who argues that students have been losing or squandering most of the information they acquire in school."
The pervading noise is against memorizing. This title speaks of "moving students beyond memorization." Savor that.
Alfie Kohn is a reliable spokesperson for Progressive dogmas: "It's not just that knowing (or having been taught) facts doesn't in itself make you smart. A mostly fact-oriented education may actually interfere with your becoming smart. ... Yet schools continue to treat students as empty glasses into which information can be poured."
That's how he explains the vast swamp of ignorance we live in. Schools should stop trying to fill those glasses. Then everything would be fine.
EliteDaily presented a piece titled "6 Ways Too Much Education, Knowledge And Information Can Hurt You." Again, is this a problem afflicting people you know?
The Education Establishment speaks from the position that many students wasted half their lives learning stuff they didn't need to learn. The poor fools. They were silly enough to think they needed more knowledge.
The modern blitzkrieg against knowledge is conducted with many a cute sophistry, but we know from what the professors wrote in 1929, way before anyone thought of the sophistries, that the goal of Progressive education has always been to strip away as much knowledge as possible. "It's intrinsically of little value." Pay attention to what these people clearly want: a citizenry that does not know enough to think for itself. The plan seems to be, keep people dumb; our time will come. Knowledge is power, and our Education Establishment doesn't want the peasants to have any.
So there is the essence of the pathology: your knowledge gets in the way of their power. And they won't put up with that.
Once you have a Progressive classroom, you inevitably have a dumber classroom. This is the American experience.
Knowledge is also a problem for collectivists because it creates divisions in the classroom. Joe knows something that Mary doesn't. Mary will feel bad, and we can't have that. So we must give Joe a K-12 lobotomy.
Teaching kids to play chess would open up social chasms. Even checkers would seem entirely too focused on achievement. Ergo, K-12 must be reduced to a tic-tac-toe curriculum. That's what we've got.
We need to inject some sanity back into this discussion. So let's listen to Professor E.D. Hirsch. He has often addressed the question: what should first-graders need to know?
This man, a very demon of common sense in education, thinks first-graders should know the names of the seven continents and the four oceans. I agree, and you probably agree. So the next step is to ask your local school how it feels on the primal question of what first-graders should know.
Push for oceans and continents. If a principal says that's too demanding for his kids, you know this is a good person to fire.
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.