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10 Worst Things Happening in Schools…Oh, Really?!?

Mar 31, 2016 by


A progressive organization published a list of the “ten worst things” in education. You can learn a lot about why public schools are mediocre by looking at this list.

The ten items provide a distillation of what progressive/liberal educators value, and conversely what they consider not worth mentioning. Progressive/liberal thinking dominates our schools, so this is not idle chitchat.

Some of the ten items may be problems but they are hardly “the worst.” As you’ll see, there is almost no mention of academic failings, namely, that kids don’t master basic skills nor learn much essential knowledge. (You’ll also notice a casual use of the phrase “research shows”; progressive educators always claim their ideas are supported by research!)

Here is the list of “worst things,” slightly edited for length:

  1. Sometimes you have to get up when it’s still dark….
  1. Most schools dispense curriculum from the top down, from distant sources. Children learn best when the approach is learner-centered, based on their interest.
  1. Students are forced to stay in classrooms and are not allowed to leave….
  1. Children in most schools are forced to sit in rows of desks and not move around…
  1. In most schools learning takes place in rigid periods, governed by bells. Research has shown that children need to learn according to their own rhythms….
  1. In most schools bullying is rampant and there is no effective mechanism to control it….
  1. In most schools, irrelevant homework is assigned, which students are forced to do at home and turn in at school. If students are following their own interests, homework is not necessary…..
  1. In most schools children are segregated into classes of students who are their exact age…
  1. In most schools children are forced to compete for grades in every subject. Grades have been shown to be a false motivator, based on someone else’s idea of what they should be learning, rather than their own intrinsic interest.
  1. In most schools students are forced to take many hours of standardized tests, often without ever knowing whether their answers were right or wrong. Teaching to tests pushes students in exactly the wrong direction.

This progressive list embodies what might be called the Summerhill philosophy: leave students alone to do what they want. (Summerhill, shown in photo, is an arch-progressive school in England.) This laissez-faire might work for mature, highly motivated children. Most people, at every age, are not highly motivated. Ten-year-olds don’t typically know which if any subjects are worth study. So why not play video games?

As a results of airy progressive theorizing, the worst thing happening in schools is that many of them are no longer functioning as schools.

The whole point of a school is that adults determine which content has stood the test of time. Adults organize classes and instruction so that children can learn this knowledge as quickly and pleasurably as possible. Not taking these two steps is a violation of the social contract between children and schools.

Stephen Hawking wrote in “My Brief History” about his years at Oxford. Only the very best minds in all of England were there. They were free to follow their interests. Most of them wasted a lot of time as a matter of adolescent honor.

The worst problems in the typical public school is that children are not taught to read in the first few grades with systematic phonics. They are not  taught traditional methods of doing basic arithmetic, so it’s automatic and easy. Students can reach college not knowing what 7×8 is. They’re not taught basic knowledge. Instead, Constructivism dictates that teachers must stand aside while students teach themselves.

To hide all of that, this progressive organization throws up a smokescreen. They complain that students are forced to follow a plan, rather than living free. In the process, these progressives undermine traditional education, which is presumably their intent.

In the United States we have something quite parallel with Summerhill. We call it summer vacation. That’s when students can follow their dreams and desires for three months. Our system of nine-months-on and three-months-off functions very well. Summerhill says children should be on vacation year-round. If you want to make sure our public schools get even dumber, this is a good plan.

Three idle months means that, come September, children are recharged and ready to learn. They are more likely to appreciate the direction that traditional education provides. Now we need adults who are eager to take advantage of this readiness for learning.

(For truly bad things in education, see “Top 10 Worst Ideas in Education.”)


Bruce Deitrick Price’s education site is (His four new novels are presented on his literary site

link to the list

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