Letter from the trenches: Parent describes K–12 dystopia

On a regional Mensa forum, I posted analysis of problems in education.  To my delight, an indignant parent left her assessment of how bad our schools have become.  First-person reports from the trenches are the most reliable intelligence you can get about this murky and unintelligent demimonde.  (What follows has been slightly edited for clarity.)

I read your article and couldn't agree more.  I have lived it with my twins for the last 13 years.  I nearly cried when we moved from a NYC public school to a school district in an affluent part of NJ only to find out they had the same mind-numbing constructivist Math program (TERC, Everyday Math, etc.).

As someone who loved Math in school, I couldn't believe how much I hated and was confused by their math homework.  There were many tears and much throwing of pencils across the room.  At one point, I think around 6th grade, every single one of my son's friends was being privately tutored.  Which made me think the school system shouldn't really have any bragging rights if their math scores are presentable since they are more a reflection of parents who can afford tutors, not an excellent program.

This issue was apparently raised shortly before we moved here and shot down by the school board.  Every time I have raised the issue, I have been told, "Everyone loves it."  Why they are so married to this abysmal program is a mystery to me.  I personally think it is an abomination.

I do believe it's a follow-the-money situation.  All that expensive "retraining" of experienced math teachers so they can teach the Egyptian lattice method?  And don't get me started on whole word reading.  So ridiculous.  I recall being stupefied when we were told not to correct misspellings because that would damage their confidence and that somehow they would magically learn the correct spelling on their own.  Seriously?

My twins are now seniors in high school and doing well in spite of, in my opinion, not because of, their horrific foundation.  I ended up doing flash cards and phonics at home.  I pulled my kids out for one year to homeschool them when I realized my son still couldn't add after 3rd grade.  The idea of kids learning from other kids who are equally clueless is just so insane.  And I want my kids to be well educated world citizens.  But I did think it was a bit odd when they were studying Africa in 2nd and 3rd grade at their NYC school before they had even learned anything about their own country.

I don't think this should have anything to do with political leanings.  On most issues, I am usually progressive/liberal but would happily align myself with anyone who thinks our educational system needs some common sense injected into it.  People need to stop worrying about offending "their side" and speak the truth as they see it.  It is the kids who are suffering needlessly and our entire country that will pay the price for a poorly educated populace.

Every line is, in my opinion, a bombshell and truthful.  My favorite example of arrogant contempt is the lie that "everyone loves it."  It's not bad enough that these so-called educators want to destroy the children; they also want to sideline the parents by making them feel unable to understand what's going on.  Truth is, nobody loves it.

Another point worth reflection is that the media have not helped the education situation at all.  They are silent, passive, and useless.  Parents really are alone in their war with dumbing down. 

The best thing most people can do is to read and reread this mother's testimony and then discuss it with friends.

(Addenda: Egyptian Multiplication Algorithm.  This video is mind-numbing and hard work, but please take a glance at it.  Problems with Everyday Math, Constructivist Math.)

Bruce Deitrick Price is the author of Saving K-12.  A good gift for smart people.  His podcast is Let's Fix Education.

Image via Public Domain Pictures.

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