Know Chiuld Lef Behighnd
A long time ago, the federal government decided that our schools were not doing a very good job of turning out German rocket scientists. They knew this for a fact because the commies had managed to accelerate a 183lb. lump of metal named Sputnik up to 17,900mph with THEIR German rocket scientists. The U.S. meanwhile, had spent over 4 billion dollars and had been unable to make a rice krispie move much faster than 9.8m/sec2. The feds knew they needed some more smart people and they needed them pronto! Thus was born the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which allowed our Prez to throw money at schools like french fries towards pelicans. Now, instead of training young minds in all aspects of adulthood and citizenship, the job of the schools would be to create scientists, mathematicians, engineers and other assorted dweebs. Because, as we all know, Science and Math are "important" subjects that are actually useful in life as opposed to those "unimportant" subjects such as Art, Music and Philosophy which can only be used by sensitive undergrads to get the bra off an impressionable freshman Psychology major. This new paradigm of education did little to create German rocket scientists but much to create a lot of free time for beatniks and their hippie children which led to protesting the Vietnam War, joining the Weather Underground and kidnapping Patty Hearst.
The public schools were happy for the new source of revenue because now they could buy new ashtrays for the teacher’s lounge and get those really nice rulers with the metal in the edge which didn’t break the first time you smacked a kid’s ear with it. And they knew they’d be doing a lot of smacking if they were going to produce enough quality German rocket scientists to get an American to the Moon by 1969 by gum! Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell them that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to get involved in education or maybe somebody did tell them but that person didn’t have tenure so it probably wasn’t true. Either way, the money started rolling in and it hasn’t stopped since even though, to the best of our knowledge, very few German rocket scientists were created. Then again, maybe they were but no one would have sex with them so they died off eventually. What did everyone outside of education learn from the Defense Education Act of 1958? Lots of money thrown at a problem does not necessarily produce results.
Time marched on but our schools still rode in the horseless carriage. Hippies got into teaching because it was "groovy, man" and you got the summers off. Students were told to question everybody else’s authority and "call me Dave". These yarnheads forced the old and sick onto the ice flows of early retirement. Latin teachers were the first to go followed by administrators who knew someone who knew someone who had actually known John Dewey. Next came Mrs. Zamanigian who failed you if you only got one wrong on your multiplication tables. Gradually, spelling bees and dodgeball were outlawed as "negatively reinforcing self-esteem activities" and replaced with more "at task" activities such as "share bear" and sitting on a hard chair for six hours at a time listening to Ms. Freerainbowhug wax poetic about something called the underground railroad which, you are shocked to find out, has no Morlocks and even fewer horsepower. We should have all marched into their classrooms right then and put an end to that nonsense but we didn’t and their demon seed would come back to haunt us in the 1990’s. What did everyone outside of education learn from this new pedagogy? Demanding and knowledgeable teachers are often the best teachers.
Next came the Age of Theories. Whole language vs. phonics, Classical Education vs. Frisbee Golf and who can ever forget the monumental brouhaha which was Didactically Oriented Systems of Axioms for Elementary Geometry vs. Look, A Square! As teachers began losing the respect of their students because, let’s face it, unlike Ichabod Crane, they were not the brightest people in the village anymore; they felt the need to create the illusion that learning was somehow akin to alchemy and only THEY knew how to work the lodestone. Thus, schools of education bloomed. Now, one no longer needed to acquire mastery of a subject in order to become a teacher. You could walk right down to your local state college and major in education even if you were as dumb as a sack of dumb hammers. You would be taught the latest theories of cognitive development, learn how to create lesson plans and sit at the feet of master teachers who, while not ever having actually taught in a real school, had many friends who were teachers. You would graduate with a degree, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, to anyone who cared to notice that you had paid your tuition. Now it was time to get into teaching, snag tenure, coast for 10-15 years, become a principal and retire from a job well done. What did everyone outside of education learn from this? Schools of education can’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears. What makes a good teacher? Knowledge of the subject at hand and high scores on verbal aptitude tests. Simple as that.
The field was now plowed and the seeds of our present situation could be planted. Television failed from its early promise and became a mugwump wasteland which would undermine parental authority and lobotomize our children. In the good ol’ days we had secrets which we kept from the young until they had earned that particular rite of passage. Now with television, everything was out there: from sex to murder and cannibalism. Unfortunately, seeing something is not quite the same thing as understanding something, and our kids grew up thinking that they knew everything but they lacked the maturity and wisdom which would only come with age, booze and a divorce. Parents also should share some of the blame for the sorry state of our society by remaining children themselves. They refused to grow up and accept the responsibilities of adulthood and parenthood whilst livin’ in the ‘hood. Even the "good" parents were culpable by refusing to set limits, instill civility and manners and wanting to be a best bud to their child instead of a parent. Finally, the schools themselves and especially the teachers are the biggest reason for most of the problems we face as a society today. Quite simply, they have not done the job we paid for. Somewhere along the line, they forgot that their purpose was to create a life-long learner not produce fodder for the cannons of industry. The schools have followed the whims and orders of Business and assumed that the goal of education was to provide the local widget factory with entry level widget technicians. Business, much like the Army doesn’t want free-thinkers and poets, they want you to have that report on their desk by 4:00pm or else.
Schools stopped asking "why" a long time ago and they’ve spent the last twenty years chasing their tails and digging themselves in deeper. It’s time for a revolution in education. You know it and I know it. What are you gonna do about it?
NEXT: But wait! It gets worse….