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Bruce Price
Author and artist
Author and artist
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Why are Public Schools so Mired in Mediocrity?

Despite endless talk about reform and dramatic new ideas, American public schools have been declining relentlessly for almost a century.

The underlying dynamic is not immediately obvious. The Education Establishment is cunning when it comes to jargon, nomenclature, lies, phony research, agitprop, and sophistical shenanigans. One might almost get the impression that something positive is going on. Nothing is going on. Here's why...

Starting almost 100 years ago, John Dewey's so-called "progressives" began what is in effect a coup d'état against the educational sector of our country. Dewey's gang seized control of the ed schools, commandeered the training of future teachers, and in general moved to seize power in every aspect of K-12, especially including the unions, government bureaucracies, dozens of foundations, and the media that might report on these things. The goal of these progressives is that public schools should be indoctrination centers.

Meanwhile, all the traditional forces in the society want the public schools to be places where children go to learn facts and knowledge. Wherever possible, the public almost always pushes back against the progressives. That's why there are so many private schools, so much homeschooling, so many Montessori schools, and so many classical academies. That's why wherever the public is given a choice, they will invariably pick most of the theories and methods that were common 100 years ago.

So there is the battle, the endless struggle between two opposing forces. The public knows what it wants. The progressives take everything they can get. So we have the watered-down, debased K-12 that we see around us. And we seem permanently stuck in this wasteful rut.

The especially annoying aspect for me is that so many forces in the society are passive and effectively out of combat. Our media is smugly silent. The Chamber of Commerce has been bought off by Bill Gates. The Ivy League universities stand aside as if education is no concern of theirs. Most of the famous foundations have been shifted from conservative forces to liberal forces. Religious and political leaders are suddenly tongue-tied. Wall Street is silent. Hollywood hardly has a word to say about K-12. Just looking casually at the educational scene, you would think America does not care about its children. (We seem to have 40+ million functional illiterates. Our leaders stood by and let this happen.)

It's more accurate to say that America doesn't care ENOUGH to overcome the never-ending "community organizing" of our Left. Really, if you want to understand K-12, merely consider that it's a straight line from Dewey to Obama, people who will turn the society upside down to achieve their ideological goals..

Trump and DeVos now run the Department of Education. This is our last, best hope.

I especially urge every individual citizen to get more involved. Educate yourself about education! It's intellectually fascinating if morally repellent. A lot of what goes on in it education is not in the least educational. You can help stop this if you understand the gimmicks.

The accompanying article discusses many of the same points under the title "Why K-12 is Groundhog Day."

(I have articles on the Internet about most of the main gimmicks: sight-words, phonics, constructivism, Reform Math, cooperative learning, common core, and many others. Enter a topic in Google with my name.)

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Let's drain the K-12 swamp. There is nothing more important.

Much is dysfunctional and overpriced in Washington DC. I can't address the cost of guided missiles. But not counting high tech equipment, the most overpriced thing in Washington has to be K-12 education.

It's overpriced and wasteful at every level. There are dozens of bogus methods – such as constructivism, cooperative learning, and sight- words – that do not function as advertised. Children don't learn as much as they used to. But the cost of the operation is doubled and tripled. Any common-sense person will see that this is absurd.

If your new Ford cost $50,000 but in every way it's inferior to the Ford you bought a few years ago for $25,000, you would know you were the victim of a gigantic scam.

The simplest solution is to get rid of all the bad ideas. I think of these ideas as functioning exactly like viruses in your computer. These things do not appear naturally or by accident. Some person – eager to hurt you or steal from you – has to put the viruses in your computer, deliberately and systematically. It's bad news that someone wants to do this.

However, it's great news that this process can be reversed. Take the parasites out and trash them.

The paradigm for everything I'm saying here is Look say, a phony way to teach reading. It was introduced in 1931 and has done nothing but create millions of functional illiterates. Flesch wrote an expose about this method in 1955. But the Education Establishment circled the wagons around their scam and have kept it going until this day.

But reading instruction is just one of many similar viruses. They might also be called parasites. They make everything more expensive. They keep the children ignorant and illiterate. If you go to a real school, a great college or law school or whatever, you will not find "progressive" remedies. You will find traditional, practical, efficient ways to teach.

Here's an interesting perspective I'm thinking a lot about this past six months. If we were to go back to 1925, we would find that virtually every school embraced and celebrated the same set of principles and goals. We should get back to those principles and goals. As far as I can see, the only mistake the schools made was that they were too severe, especially by our standards today. In other words, there was too much stick and not enough carrot. I believe education should be fun. We need the spirit of Hollywood and the talents of Broadway. All that is easy now. We should merge traditional standards with the goal of having fun. We should use every trick in the entertainment toolkit to make education more appealing and effective.

But the main thing now is to drain the K-12 swamp. Hopefully Trump's people will be doing this. It's very important the public be involved. If people understand why the viruses are in fact viruses, they will support the reform effort. They will be able to participate in the reform effort.

This American Thinker article is in effect, a citizen's guide to getting rid of the garbage, and taking schools to a higher plane.

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A school's fundamental task is teaching facts and knowledge to children. That was always considered obvious until Progressives took over our school system.

In practice, our progressives hate facts and knowledge. This is hugely bizarre. Think about it, not just for a few minutes but for a few days. You will be increasingly stunned and depressed.

We have the most elaborate and expensive school system in the history of the human race. But basically it's organized around a nihilistic core. It's structured to achieve the goals of academic minimalism, of limited intellectual growth, and of children learning as little as possible.

Put in pedestrian terms, this is like having a 400 hp Ferrari but you never drive it over 20 miles an hour. That's our school system. I know we have AP and Gifted Programs that are more accelerated. I'm speaking about the average students in K-12. They are dumbed down. They are not pushed. They are graduated knowing just about what they knew when they got there.

Our Education Establishment devotes all of its considerable brainpower to perverse goals. They never ask how to teach more, they always ask how do we justify teaching less? The basic technique is simply to dismiss most knowledge as not necessary or relevant. Other knowledge is dismissed as being too difficult for "our kids." Still, other knowledge is condemned because it's old-fashioned, not multicultural, or likely to injure self-esteem. The amount of honesty in our public schools could hardly fill a thimble. The top-level professors know very well that children thrive on memorization, on information, on learning more and more and more. Kids think that knowledge is an exciting game. Certainly it can be presented that way.

But you have to remember at all times that our education commissars are typically disingenuous. They pretend to believe that sight-words will teach children to read. They know that's a lie. They pretend to believe the children don't really need to learn grammar and spelling – they'll just pick it up. These experts know that's a lie. They pretend to believe that learning so-called "factoids" is a waste of time. They know that's a lie. So-called factoids are the whole point of being in school. These professors use the term factoid as a prejudicial gimmick. (Imagine inventing a word to belittle the very essence of education, that is, facts. There, in that one maneuver, they show you their empty souls.)

At bottom, our Education Establishment is engaged in a collectivist enterprise. Facts and knowledge get in the way of creating a cooperative, homogenized group. So facts and knowledge have to be destroyed, or in any case denigrated. Sophistries must be invented that will make parents comfortable with more and more sterile classrooms. Nothing there but the unhappy squirming of ignorant children.

The attached article leads to other reflections and material on the general issue of what might be called the "War against Knowledge."

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The first thing you need to know about public schools:

Our official experts will conflate and confuse everything. They seem to like to keep the public in a perpetual state of confused debate. Nobody knows exactly what they're discussing, everybody has a different opinion and a different parcel of information, and no final resolutions are ever reached.

One of most fundamental distinctions you can make about teaching and education is that between what is taught and how it is taught. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about changing a tire, cooking a meal, learning to speak French, or the history of the Roman Empire, you first have to designate the CONTENT, as our professional educators like to call it, that you want the children to learn. In the beginning you're wide-open but finally you have to have a list of facts and information that the class will focus on.

Whether that list is a page or 100 pages, that's the WHAT. Now we reach an interesting insight. That WHAT can be taught in lots of different ways. There is no necessary connection a correlation. Bad teachers at bad schools will find bad ways to do it. Good teachers at good schools will find the best ways to do it.

The main thing is to keep the WHAT and HOW separated when you review success and failure. One gimmick we see a lot is that the Education Establishment will recommend bad methods, and then when the kids can't learn the subject, our experts will say: this material is just too difficult for our children. That is a lie. For example, if you use sight-words, you'll find the children don't learn to read. So what do our public schools do? They announce that reading is just so difficult and kids from disadvantaged families don't have the skills and support to make them successful. No, what these kids don't have is a public school actually interested in making sure those children learn to read.

This kind of trickery is made easy if everybody jumbles up what to teach and how to teach.

If you are using bad methods, you would first want to identify that problem.

One of my favorite themes is that you can teach any subject to any kid. Now admittedly, if we're talking about nuclear energy, you can't teach the math. But you could teach some basic stuff about how these reactions generate heat, and what happens next is a lot like a steam engine. There, that's not so hard to understand.

The problem for the last hundred years, ever since John Dewey, is that the progressives don't want to teach much. And they will reach desperately for any pretext they can find. What they should be doing is conducting systematic research on what methods work best. They never do that, for the simple reason that they don't care. All they want is an excuse to stop trying.

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Some of the smartest people in the country seem to spend their careers devising educational theories and methods that don't work.

Or they spend their careers propping up well-known frauds.

It's remarkable to think that Dr. Samuel Orton explained completely that sight-words or whole-words would not work. That was in 1928. He was a neurologist conducting a large scale field experiment. His work was paid for by the Rockefellers, useful idiots right from the start. Everyone assumed that Dr. Orton would prove that look-say was the right way to go. Instead, he crushed it. But our Education Establishment proceeded as planned.

(These people did not want high literacy. That's the thing everyone has to understand. Our socialist educators wanted low literacy. They wanted all the kids to be more or less alike. They didn't want some kids sprinting ahead. You still see this today in the battles fought over grades, valedictorians, and other signs of success. Our socialists hate success. Inevitably they end up in the mediocrity business. That's their one goal and their one skill, making all children mediocre.)

Not much later, Rudolf Flesch once again explained completely that sight-words or whole word would not work. This was in 1955 in his famous book, "Why Johnny can't read."

Point is, everyone at the top of education knows that sight-words don't work but they keep pushing them. The result is that kids get dyslexia, ADHD, and all manner of psychological problems. This is how you know that these commissars have hearts made of ice.

They are following Walter Duranty's advice: you can't make omelettes without a breaking some eggs.

Okay, socialists will be socialists. But that doesn't mean parents have to put up with it. They have to get in the way, that's all, quietly, with good manners and tact. When that first list of sight-words comes home, the parents have to show the kids that these are not exotic strange words, as the teacher my claim. These are just English words that can be pronounced phonetically like all other English words.

The main defensive weapon is the alphabet itself. Make sure children can recite the alphabet at the age of four or five. Encourage them to identify letters on the wall or in the newspapers. When they can name all the letters instantly, then you communicate the idea that each letter represents a sound, which is similar to the letter but a little different. When they know the sounds, then they learn to blend the sounds. At that point they are reading! Most phonics experts say the process is simple, and can usually be accomplished in less than five months.

Think about that. Our public schools claim that reading is very difficult and can't be accomplished in less than 3, 4, 5 or 6 years, if ever. These claims are inherently a joke and should disqualify these so-called experts from further involvement with reading.

I have a lot of videos on YouTube, one of which is titled "Reading Is Easy." Only three minutes, then you will know what should be happening for every child:

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Our public schools are bad by design--here's the proof.

It's always been astonishing to me that sophisticated, educated people cannot see that we Americans are the victims of a huge hoax. Our so-called Education Establishment is making K-12 dumb by design. And they're so good at it, people stand back and say: I wonder why everything is so dumb in America???

Take 10 minutes and read this list of quotes. They are mostly from 50 to 100 years ago, mostly by famous people in American society. They show you exactly what the oligarchs, aristocrats, and plutocrats wanted to do. Namely, they wanted to keep you barefoot and pregnant, so to speak. They want to keep you on the reservation. They want to keep you fat, dumb and happy. Or all of the above.

My specialty in education is explaining the theories and methods used in our public schools. I've got hundreds of articles on the Internet about sight-words constructivism, reform math and all the other impostors. I'm real good at writing short articles that can help the average parent understand why their kids are coming home dumber each day.

The harder part, it turns out, is to explain to the same parents why anybody would want to do anything so evil. Make a child illiterate? Keep a child ignorant? That's not even conceivable. What sort of monster would do that? Read this list and you'll find out.

Our situation today is much like Catholic parents 30 years ago. There were rumors of pedophilia, but nobody wanted to believe them. Didn't all those rumors turn out to be true? We went from an unspeakable problem to one that was undoubtedly true. I submit to you that the same evolution should occur in education. There is cognitive child abuse rampant throughout K-12. Children are sub-educated. They are kept down, dumb, and depressed.

Virtually every theory and method used in our public schools is counterintuitive and counterproductive. But not accidental! As these quotes reveal, the people in charge want the schools to underperform. They want the children to be less than they could be. It's perverted and evil. The so-called educators have an obligation to fulfill the implied deal they have with the parents in each community. We are up against an endless criminal conspiracy. The only way it will be stopped is if people understand that's what it is.

So please read these quotes and send the list to everyone you know. These quotes can be the foundation for genuine education reform. People have to understand that we are not dealing with bizarre accidents. We are dealing with carefully plotted subversion. Stop that subversion and we will see improvement immediately.

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Why do our public schools hate knowledge?

The point of all education, for thousands of years, was to transmit knowledge from the present generation to the future generation, so to speak. This goal has been lost. Certainly, it's widely neglected.

You watch a school, and you may see a lot of activity, a lot of wheels turning and gears scraping together. But at the end of the month, the children know hardly more than they did at the beginning of the month. You would think that with just a little effort, children would be brimming with new knowledge. But no. They are kept-- and this is almost a mysterious achievement – running in place and perpetually empty.

Our public schools have two techniques. First, just obliterate half of the traditional curriculum. Say that it's too difficult or irrelevant or old-fashioned. The other half – the more ordinary stuff that parents may assume is being taught-- is paraded in front of the kids and the parents. Sometimes this is done quite ostentatiously. Kids carry book bags full of big thick books, for example. But the general idea is to teach everything in such an incoherent and indeed pointless way, the children don't learn it, can't learn it, or forget it one week later. Again, many wheels turn, but little is learned.

So we have the situation described by Charlotte Iserbyt: the deliberate dumbing down of America.

Truth is, we could teach much more if we simply bothered to try. People analyzing this sad and pathetic spectacle have to accept the reality: our Education Establishment does not believe in knowledge. It's more accurate to say they believe in killing it off, as if it were some unpleasant childhood illness against which everyone should be inoculated. These people are shameless nihilists. They feel no need to apologize for the ignorance of their students, or their own ignorance.

I submit that the brain is wired to acquire facts. This is what the brain calls fun. Furthermore, knowledge (when you have lots of facts) is power. These are the two basic premises on which all good schools are built.

Our Education Establishment seems devoted to imposing socialism on the country. They seem to have decided that ignorance is an asset for them. Citizens who know very little will have no reason to resist any one idea over another. How can you argue a case, for something or against something, if you have no knowledge?

So there's really no mystery about the decline of American public schools. The people in charge have put them into decline. The impetus for this goes back to John Dewey and his "progressive" visions. If a country once became socialist, it could probably have some good schools. But when everything is hanging in the balance, the betting proposition for commissars and revolutionaries is to obliterate any sort of factual frame of reference.

Dumb, dumber, dumbest. That's what John Dewey has given us. And I can assure you that his ghost flits through every classroom in America. Burying that ghost is a good first step toward recovery.

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K-12 reading failure explained.....

Everyone connected to education should read this short article. You will understand in five minutes why we have 50 million functional illiterates. and fewer and fewer people who can sit down and enjoy reading a book.

When our eyes look at an object such as a face or a car, the eyes flicker over the object until the brain recognizes it. This may take 5 or 10 or 20 or 30 flicks. These flicks are called saccades.

This was the way universally that eyes deal with objects, for millions of years. When people invented symbol languages like Egyptian hieroglyphics, nothing changed. The eyes had to flick over these symbols just as if they were a face or a leaf or an ant. This turns out to be a very inefficient method when the hieroglyphics are small, quite similar to each other, and very numerous

So along came phonics. Along came something never seen before: a phonetic word. This word had a built-in chip, so to speak. It had to be processed a certain way: left to right, syllable by syllable. If you do this, you have entered a whole new realm of efficient reading.

If you are a fool and you like doing things the slow way, then you will resist this efficiency. You will try to memorize all the words in the English language as visual objects. We call these things sight-words. A hundred is doable. 1000 is virtually impossible for the entire population of our country. What kind of extremists would try to make children learn to read in this fashion?

There is a tiny category of people with photographic memories. Except for them, sight-word reading is slow, painful, tedious, and very inefficient. Odds are, you would not use this method unless you were trying to level the population down to something less than human.

Many people speculate the John Dewey and our so-called "progressive" educators were intent on that very thing. They did not want a world where lots of children were smart and moved ahead. They wanted a world where everybody was a C student. So instead of teaching all children to read well, they invented a method that virtually no one can master. They leveled the playing field in the most drastic way imaginable. So drastic it invites comparison with science fiction and fluoride in the water supply.

What makes this whole sorry saga so infinitely painful is that Rudolf Flesch explained the fraud in 1955. Everybody knows about his book and its message. So how does our Education Establishment refute or attack this book? It does not. It looks the other way, like a prim Victorian seeing sexual misbehavior. And it dribbles out bits of misleading instructional information, in the hope that the future teachers will go on using the bad things that created the 50 million functional illiterates that we have now.

Bottom line, we do not need sight-words in our public schools. We don't need the phrase and we don't need the concept. We need phonics. Not heavy-handed phonics that never ends. We just need children to learn the alphabet, and then that each letter represents a sound. Very quickly, the children's brains will see the efficiency in this method. Every time you see a B, you know it's a buh- sound. Experts say that half the children learn to read even if you don't teach them, because the efficiency is obviously there. The human brain does not want to do extra work. Show the brain a shortcut, and the brain will love it. Phonics is basically a vast mnemonic device, a shortcut of the most extraordinary ingenuity.

It's truly an embarrassment, or should be, for this entire country that we allow children to be tormented by an inefficient method such as Whole Word or sight-words.

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Starting in 1931, the Education Establishment discarded phonics and forced little children to memorize so-called sight words.

Ever since that date, the United States has been plagued by poor reading skills throughout the school system. In 1955 Rudolf Flesch explained the whole sad phenomenon and how it could easily be turned around.

With remarkable tenacity and one might also say ruthlessness, the Education Establishment dug in for the long war against reading. The United States has at least 40 million functional illiterates; and some would say 50 or 60 million as the term is somewhat loose. This is a completely idiotic problem that should not exist. It could easily be fixed. It adds tens of billions of dollars in wasted expenditure each year. Millions of children are dumbed down and ground up.

The jargon and the marketing slogan change every few years. But the central error remains unchanged since 1931. Please see this article for a quick explanation of what the schools are doing wrong.

What's the answer? Stop doing the same dumb things that Rudolf Flesch explained 60 years ago. Want headaches to go away? Stop hitting your head with a hammer. It's that simple.

The only real skill shown in this whole tragedy is the propaganda and disinformation produced by our Education Establishment. They knew that look-say didn't work in 1931 when they first introduced it. Dr. Samuel Orton conducted research circa 1927 which concluded that this method not only did not work but it also created cognitive impairments. Illiteracy and dyslexia, in other words. Knowing all that, our Education Establishment charged ahead.

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Military Establishment versus Education Establishment

Bottom line, K-12 public schools have gotten so bad they are a threat to national security.

Have you heard the phrase "deliberate dumbing down of America"? That's what is going on in our public schools. And that's no way to create future soldiers.

Arithmetic, geography, general science, literacy – there are lots of fundamental facts and skills that every adult should know, especially if that adult is fighting in a war.

But it's worse than that. Public schools do everything possible, it seems, to undermine character and discipline. Children are allowed to be late, they get credit for bad work, they are tested in very subjective ways, they are not held accountable. In summary, they are not told to be polite and stand up straight.

There almost seems to be a plot not only to make children ignorant but to make them wimps and sissies. That's why we see the coinage of the word "snowflakes"-- young people so delicate that they cannot survive outside their own personal bubbles. A snowflake is exactly NOT what the Army would like to have as a recruit.

Here is a another aspect of this issue. Pentagon planners talk a great deal these days but how complex war has become. Armies are often fighting several battles at once, in complex geopolitical terrains, against a whole range of enemies and threats that didn't even exist until recently – drones, cyber warfare, satellite warfare. What that means is that a simple dumb soldier is no help anymore. These people, even at the low ranks, are working with million-dollar machines and complex technology. Soldiers need basic smarts and in addition they need at least a traditional high school education. They certainly do not need the shallow, almost fact-free charade now encountered in many public schools.

As this article explains, the Military Establishment should pressure the Education Establishment to do a better job. They may be the only group that can bring off this difficult but essential task.
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