Education: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
Feb 2, 2009 Teaching 5247 Views
Our educators aren't very good at raising SAT scores, increasing literacy, or spreading knowledge. But they are world-class at making excuses.
Let me rattle off a few. Money! You know money is always the problem. If only taxpayers weren't so selfish. Violence! This is a big deal. All the students are in gangs or fighting in the halls. Broken homes, divorce, domestic tensions! How can children concentrate? Even if the home is stable, kids are watching TV or goofing off on the Internet. That's a huge problem. Or they're sending text messages on their phones. Or spending hours with their video games. No wonder that schools can't get good results! Did we mention drugs? Kids are shooting up or stoned on marijuana. What else? They're hanging around malls, wasting time and going to bad movies. What can you expect when most kids are lazy or ADD? The parents are ignorant and won't help. The problems never stop. Not to mention, all the schools are too crowded. Teachers are overworked, and the whole system is broken from top to bottom and about to collapse...
In fact, there is only one thing our educators are better at than making excuses. And that is coming up with bad ideas.
Gee, probably there's a connection. Maybe if our elite educators stopped inventing pedagogical gimmickry, they would not need excuses.
Here's just a quick survey of education gone bad:
Starting in 1930, our educators have been insanely devoted to a reading method variously called Look-Say, Sight Words, Dolch Words, Whole Language, and Balanced Literacy (with so many aliases, you know it's a criminal). This gimmick has resulted in 50 million functional illiterates and a million dyslexics. Whole Word requires that children memorize words by their shapes, at a pace of about 300 words per year. Do the math. By the end of high school, students will know only 4000 words and be, for scholastic purposes, illiterate.
Speaking of math, our educators show a similar incompetence when they pick math pedagogies. Around 1960 educators said that New Math was the answer. Five years later they said, never mind. In fact, they went back to their laboratories and devised variations of New Math, which they called Reform Math, but the rest of the world sarcastically labeled New New Math. Some of the familiar variations are Everyday Math, MathLand, TERC, etc. All these pedagogies engage in the same trick: they mix in college-level terms and perspectives, while refusing to teach any of the standard methods for addition, multiplication, etc. Such approaches virtually guarantee children will never master ordinary arithmetic.
Meanwhile, a non-subject called Social Studies (truer name: Socialism Studies) appropriated everything it could grab--geography, politics, economics, civics, history--and tries to substitute PC opinions for knowledge.
Meanwhile, across ALL subjects, and all ages and grades, our educators sabotage what's left of the traditional curriculum by insisting that children need not memorize anything. Not a single fact. Additionally, educator are in love with constructivist thinking, whereby students are supposed to invent their own versions of everything. Which can take a long time. Our educators are similarly enamored of cooperative learning, whereby children do everything in groups, thereby guaranteeing that children will not be able to think independently. Another fad that cuts across all subjects is what might be called sloppy thinking--fuzzy math, fuzzy English, fuzzy everything. Close is good enough.
Imagine the cumulative impact of all the shoddy pedagogies described so far. You will easily imagine schools doing a very bad job. You will easily imagine a perpetual need for excuses, excuses, excuses.
I suggest it doesn't matter how much money you give these people. Nothing will improve until you take away their bad ideas. Educators are not a very glamorous group but I now think they have one thing in common with our Hollywood stars. They need to go to rehab now and then. For their own good. Somebody needs to take away their pills and bottles. Give them back their self-respect. Give them a life without excuses.