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How to Bring Back Traditional Education

Sep 28, 2018 by

Bruce Deitrick Price

Traditional education has taken a real beating the last 75 years.  The entire Education Establishment lined up to demonize everything that teachers and schools had done for many thousands of years.  The result is the vastly dumbed down classrooms we have now in K-12 education.

But how, at this point, can we resurrect a vanishing paradigm?  As we will see, there is one example left, as if preserved in a time capsule.

Apparently, giving children lots of knowledge is what our socialist professors hate about traditional education.  So these ideologues came up with a parade of insults, all designed to stop schools from fulfilling their essential function.

We were told that traditional schools regard students as  “empty vessels” to be filled with facts.  Clearly we’re supposed to think this is a terrible thing.  But what if these vessels are filled with intellectual silver and gold? Why is that so bad?

People like Ken Robinson make speeches attacking the factory method of education. Robinson wants you to believe that schools are soulless conveyor belts.  Students are merely products, assembled by careless hands, and then shipped to a Kmart.  In fact, this image is incoherent.  Factories make many wonderful things that function exactly as they are supposed to function.

The attack on traditional education has been so unrelenting, and so successful, that many people may struggle to remember what this approach looks like.  The distinguishing feature is, students are there to learn as much as teachers can teach.  Isn’t that an interesting concept?

Compare that to what we have now.  Children run (or sit) in place.  There is a lot of pointless make-believe activity and far too much disorder.  As a matter of doctrine, very little factual information is allowed in these schools.  The Education Establishment has virtually outlawed memorization of anything.  In many schools,  Constructivism prohibits teaching altogether. Reform Math specifically forbids mastery.  Self-esteem says that you should not have to learn anything that makes you feel challenged.  Finally, multiculturalism says you can learn only about foreign countries, while relevance says you can only learn about your own neighborhood.  Satisfying both of those requirements means eliminating everything.  That is pretty much what has happened.

These counterproductive methods have devastated the  teaching of science, history, math, and literature.  Children spend 30 hours a week in the classroom, or 1,000 hours a year.  At the end of all that time, they might know not one bit more than they knew at the beginning of the year.  That’s the sick triumph of progressive education.

Fortunately, there is one area where traditional education survives.  If you want to know how to fix our schools, just look at this one area, and copy all of its salient features.

That area is the study of foreign languages.

Let’s consider the typical French class.  The students arrive ignorant and empty.  The teacher is a Sage on the Stage, a towering expert on the French language.  The clearly understood goal of this class is for the teacher to transmit all of his knowledge to all of the students, as rapidly as possible.

The teacher starts with the smallest bits of knowledge.  You learn the things that most people would want to know first: the words for boygirlstreetmomdad.  You learn to say la plume de ma tante.  You learn the simplest words and sentences.

There is a feeling of naturalness, of inevitability.  You can’t do it any other way.  It would be crazy to teach the words for the parts of a car or terms from physics (although that’s probably the way Common Core would do it).

In all traditional education, you start at the smallest, simplest spot, and you steadily build outward and upward.

Imagine the French class in operation.  The teacher presides – teaching, teaching, teaching.  The students listen respectfully – learning, learning, learning.  Everything the teacher is asking the kids to do is reasonable – not like Reform Math, where each step seems to be devised by insane psychiatrists.

Imagine how history or biology, or English literature, would be taught if it were taught exactly as French is taught.  French class preserves for us the naturalness and logic of traditional education.  You see it as the perfectly normal, perfectly self-evident world that it is.

It’s only progressive education and Common Core education that are twisted.  Things are done in illogical, unnatural ways.  Everybody has to stand on his head and count backwards.  Here is the essence of progressive education: doing nothing at all, or doing something that’s intellectually perverted.

In fact, modern education seem to have only one big idea, which is that students should interact more.  The Education Establishment often pretends that working cooperatively is some bold new concept that is the answer to everything.  So I’m always amused when I think back to a comment in the 1955 book titled Retreat from Learning by a teacher named Joan Dunn.  She complained that “[e]verything is done in a group. The child loses his identity and his responsibility for himself. Praise is group praise; blame is group blame.”  So you see that the idea isn’t new at all.  It was already getting tiresome 60 years ago.  And you can probably figure for yourself that the real goal was never education, but that part about the kids losing their identity.  Socialists love that.

As for recovering traditional education, everyone can visualize the foreign language courses he or she took, assuming they were done with reasonable competence.  Then transplant into that course any other subject you want: American history, arithmetic, biology, whatever.  There you have it.  Now you know how the course should be taught.

QED: the best antidote for Common Core (click DELETE) is traditional education (click INSTALL).
Bruce Deitrick Price’s new book is “Saving K-12 —  What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?” He deconstructs educational theories and methods on Improve-Education.org.  

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1 Comment

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    Joseph A (Joe) Wharton

    Sign me up! Where could I visit your organization?

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