Why is K-12 education reform so hard to achieve?

Nov 8, 2016 by

By Bruce Deitrick Price –

Local newspapers in the US don’t cover education in any depth. Maybe they’ll tell you superficial and trivial stuff (for example, that a superintendent was hired or fired, that there will be a meeting next month of the school board). But you won’t find anything about the nuts and bolts that determine whether you child learns to read, or learns anything at all.

At first glance, this non-coverage can seem to be a mystery.

Everybody’s interested in education, especially parents and grandparents with kids in K-12. Probably one of the most valuable things that you could tell these people is how to help their children do better in school.

So, why not cover education more thoroughly?

But look deeper and the mystery goes away.

American public schools are full of failed theories and dysfunctional schemes. In a phrase, there is a lot of bunk and junk. For example, Rudolf Flesch wrote a famous book in 1955 explaining why Johnny can’t read if you teach him with sight-words. But here we are 60 years later and children in elementary schools are being taught in that same way. Think about that for a moment.

New Math, which the country laughed into oblivion around 1965, came back with multiple variations under the heading Reform Math and now Common Core Math. The common denominator is inefficiency. In short, the Education Establishment has a total affection for clunkers.

And now in almost every classroom, the dominant teaching method is called Constructivism, which dictates that teacher shouldn’t teach and children should forage in the intellectual forest for themselves. With teachers not teaching, you will surely get a lot less learning.

That’s just three of many bogus theories and methods. Cynics would say that there are almost no good ideas in the public schools. Our Education Establishment has systematically purged them.

In sum, our public schools are absolutely awash with bad ideas. Apparently the smartest people in the Education Establishment make their bones, as the Mafia guys say, by coming up with creaky, unworkable curricula.


Now you’re seeing the problem. If newspaper started explaining what’s really going on in the public schools, there would be such an outcry. The peasants might even be in a mood to revolt. Irate parents would show up to argue with teachers and principals. Administrators might be stalked on the street. School boards would have to deal with endless complaints. Professors at the nearby ed school would find themselves despised. Publishers of useless textbooks would get hate mail. If the truth brought improvement, most tutors and remediation people would be out of work. Shrinks and manufacturers of Ritalin would find their business way down. And what would Sylvan and Kumon do if the schools stopped crippling children intellectually?

Education is a big trough and it seems that everybody has a place at the trough, except maybe kids and parentsIn short, newspapers do not want all those people mad at them. Better not to rock the boat. Don’t anybody say a word. Better to let the kids be dumbed down.

This sounds pathetic and pusillanimous. And it is. But consider that the editors and publishers of the newspapers are merely human. Probably they are friends with the local NEA bosses and big shots from the federal bureaucracy. They want to stay friends. They don’t want all these parents coming down to the schools every day shouting, “Look what it says here in the paper,” because those angry shouts will reverberate in their own lives.

So it’s a lot simpler just to leave the kids ignorant, let the parents puzzle on in silence.

Education is a big trough and it seems that everybody has a place at the trough, except maybe kids and parents.

Eric Hoffer, the philosopher, said that every great cause— and here one might think of public education—“begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

Source: Why is K-12 education reform so hard to achieve?

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