K-12: Marked for Extinction

Aug 5, 2019 by

Bruce Deitrick Price

Study education for any amount of time, you will be struck by the disappearance of many things once thought essential and permanent. Such useful features as direct instruction, maps and geography, cursive writing, multiplication tables, phonics, important dates and events, in short, basic skills and foundational knowledge taught in an orderly classroom. Where did they all go? Why did they go?

You’ll start to suspect that a lot of effort must have gone into eliminating these valued practices that most schools around the world still consider essential. Who exerted all this effort? 

And these traditional practices, these popular methods, are not simply downplayed. They are exterminated and buried. You can hardly find a trace of what was once commonplace in every school.

You have to be impressed by the thoroughness, the relentless pursuit of extinction. It’s like a Greek tragedy, or a modern Mafia vendetta. It’s not enough to kill Joe the Bookie. You have to kill his associates, maybe his family, perhaps his dog. There must be no trace of Joe left in the world. 

Thoroughness, that’s the most striking thing in American public education. All the practices once viewed as normal and desirable are aggressively expunged, erased, obliterated, deleted. It’s a totalitarian sensibility, a fascist sensibility. Mussolini demanded: “Everything in the state. Nothing outside the state.”

For example, roughly in 1931, Whole Word was pushed into public schools almost overnight. Phonics books were not just abandoned but destroyed. They disappeared from public libraries. Very quickly, the only phonics books left were secret possessions hidden away by smart teachers for furtive use. What a remarkable development: real reading was forced underground.

In the American education wars, overkill is clearly a virtue. Shooting something one time doesn’t count. One bomb is nothing. You have to attack the problem, the offender, again and again.

If you really want to destroy something, attack it simultaneously from every direction. Artillery officers call this interlocking fields of fire. “Target neutralization requirements” are simple. Nothing survives.

These terms are aggressively military. That is appropriate. John Dewey and his Progressive followers operated like a smart, disciplined cult. Then circa 1921 came the Comintern (Communist International), the USSR’s gift to the world. These people were worse: nondescript subversives but hard core. They were not playing games. They were at war with everyone who was not in their orbit. Like Khrushchev, they came to America to bury America.

It’s not easy for ordinary Americans now, or 100 years ago, to grasp the nature of the enemy. Americans are easy-going. They say: live and let live. Except in rare cases, they’re not looking for a fight. So they don’t recognize a vicious enemy even though the enemy struts in front of them.

Americans, even now after many decades of declining academic attainments, are surprisingly naïve. They don’t imagine that anyone would want to dumb down public education. They can’t imagine that someone might deliberately use teaching techniques that don’t work.

Rudolf Flesch wrote Why Johnny Can’t Read in 1955 to explain the creepy situation. The Education Establishment, he warned, had insisted on using a dysfunctional method the past 25 years. Literacy was in decline, dramatically. He explained the details, mainly, you can’t learn a phonetic language without phonetics. For Flesch, it was all so obvious. If you hit yourself on the head with a hammer, expect a headache. 

The central problem is that our Education Establishment has a far-left ancestry and a totalitarian mentality. They never stop. There’s so little opposition now, they no longer need to push very hard. So they keep on knocking down whatever is left of traditional approaches. 

In particular, knowledge is no big deal to these people. Why should students waste time learning useless information that they can look up on the Internet? This cliche is louder than a jet plane passing overhead. Knowledge was once the whole point of school. But now it’s marked for destruction.

Ignorance is the overriding strategy for making sure the Education Establishment controls the heartbeat and brain waves of the population.

 If you want to help the public schools, steer them away from John Dewey’s ghost. This guy is always giving bad advice. And stop doing all those things you know an enemy would want you to do. Ignorant, illiterate, and befogged is not a shrewd survival plan.

Ignore what totalitarian gangsters recommend. Instead, Americans should start doing what’s good for their children. That would be reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, science, and literature. Start with those and your kids will flourish.

All these things were marked for extinction by an avowed ideological enemy. That suggests you should do the opposite.


Bruce Deitrick Price’s new book is Saving K-12 – What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?” 

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1 Comment

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    Michael Paul Goldenberg

    Wow, having started public school in 1955, I am amazed that I have a world-class vocabulary, was able to read ULYSSES last year with deep enjoyment, make headway in FINNEGANS WAKE, earn three master’s degrees (including one in literature and one in mathematics education in my late 40s from the University of Michigan!

    Must be my devout atheism and far-left politics.

    I would say that most of this article is creative fiction and conscious exaggeration of the changes in education over the last century, designed to create and exacerbate feelings of fear and resentment. And I bet the author knows his audience.

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