K-12: Quacks Rule

Mar 19, 2019 by

In 1950 Harvard-educated businessman Albert Lynd published an attack on our Education Establishment. His book was aggressively titled Quackery in the Public Schools.

 That title resonates with contempt. Quackery?! I suspect the people running our schools had never heard themselves discussed in this insolent manner. Probably this word sounded even ruder, in the more polite 1950s, than it does today. In any case, quackery is the perfect distillation of this spectacularly disingenuous field.

Lynd’s book shows that almost 70 years ago, Education was already deeply corrupted. Its true direction could not be revealed, which was to subvert traditional education and replace it with socialist indoctrination. The challenge for the Education Establishment was to recruit and shape people who would perpetuate this secret sabotage so that, for example, 70 years into the future (i.e., today) the field would still be undermining what has traditionally worked. We must admit that the top brass have been very successful.

Lynd’s shrewd, sarcastic book is one of the best early exposes of how John Dewey and Gang dumbed down the schools. It’s still a good read (and still available on Amazon . Lynd is smarter, better educated, and (I believe) more ethical than the people he writes about. He depicts Education as a wasteland focused on controlling doctrine while generating big bucks. Lynd is alert to something that almost everyone else misses: the quasi-Communists sabotaging the school system are skillful Capitalists. Their ideological crusade funds itself!

Lynd explores a surprising fact: Education is the only field where the practitioners never graduate. Doctors, lawyers, architects and engineers, who must master a far more difficult body of knowledge, earn a diploma and that’s the end of their educational journey. But teachers must go back to school in the summer and on weekends. Lynd points out that the same small amount of content is divided and repackaged in a huge variety of forms. In this way, the professors are kept employed teaching new variations of old courses, and students are made to pay again and again to learn what they already know. This is featherbedding.

Lynd writes, “[T]he courses offered by professors of Education have multiplied by the thousands in regular sessions, summer sessions, and in late afternoon and Saturday sessions. There is no other professorial body anywhere enjoying so great an advantage over its subjects, and none which takes so few chances on attracting students through the intrinsic interest or appeal of courses.”

Lynd scoffs, for example, at the courses offered at Teachers College one summer: “Division I is concerned with  Foundations of Education. There are so many Foundations, and so many courses in each, that a student may conceivably spend his life in the basement of Education, far from the superstructure. A general course in Educational Foundations is only a starter. Social and Philosophical Foundations  is an area subdivided into:  A. Social Foundations (11 courses), B. Historical and  Comparative Foundations (6 courses), and C. Philosophical  Foundations (2 courses). But the social, historical, comparative, and philosophical foundations support only part of the  Educational temple; there are also Psychological Foundations with a score of courses.”

So there is a lot of padding, repetition, and hyping of trivia. Finally, there is an even worse aspect. Everything is in agreement with everything else. It’s all Education According to John Dewey. Strip away the ever-changing jargon, there’s nothing new. (That’s why I refer to K-12 as Groundhog Day.)

The University of Illinois prepared a course for students of elementary education: “Elementary School Core Programs. An exploration of several organizational centers for determining selection of sequence of educative experiences: the social problems approach, the themes approach, the centers of interest approach, and the life situations approach. The role of the teacher in relation to the above considerations is emphasized.”

Lynd  mentions “the luxuriant growth of Education courses in Home Economics,” which compares revealingly with the “few courses in Language Education and  Mathematics Education.” Lynd notes that “altogether, Teachers College offers more than 40 courses under Educational Administration, not counting such specialties as administering the use of audiovisual materials….There is a ‘philosophy’ of practically everything in Educationdom. The University of Pittsburgh  School of Education offers a course in Philosophical Bases of Health and Physical Education.”

Lynd concludes that “The educationists create their own demand  through their influence on definitions of teacher qualifications.” In other words, the people at the top dictate that everybody must jump through certain hoops and must pay repeatedly for the privilege. 

Lynd speaks of “endless multiplication of courses…Ever more elaborate course requirements…. shameless course-manufacturing and course-breeding.” The result according to one critic is “oceans of piffle.” But finally it all has a purpose: forcing everyone to accept the Party Line, and generating income for the Establishment.

The Education Establishment is always whining about more funding. They would like you to forget that many people make good money in this field, probably more than they can make outside the field. While teachers average $40,000 (and college English professors average $90,000), principals, administrators, and superintendents are  often over $150,000 and pushing past $200,000. People at the top get grants, awards, publishing deals, promotions, and sabbaticals. These compensations buy loyalty.

Lynd makes fun of Research; its vast volume reflects meager content. “A publication on the Student Council in the Secondary School contains a bibliography of 31 books and 37 articles; someone earned a Masters with an article titled “effects of coaching on acquisition of skill in basketball free throws.”

Behold the arrogance of the Education Establishment. A professor pouted: “[P]arents wish only the best of school condition for the children; determination of what is best, however, is not a matter for parents to decide, but is the responsibility of the regularly constituted school authorities. It is all too easy for parents, particularly when organized into an association, to get the idea that schools are conducted for their special benefit.”

Lynd’s summary is brilliant: “But the reform has devoured that which was to be reformed. Pedagogical ignorance is now sanctioned by a system which accepts Education as a substitute for education.” 
Here’s his three-word summary of the New Education: “the New Ignorance.”

Lynd quotes a principal who famously concluded in a 1951 speech: “We shall some day accept the thought that it is just as illogical to assume that every boy must be able to read as it is that each one must be able to perform on a violin, that it is no more reasonable to require that each girl shall spell well then it is that each one shall bake a good cherry pie.”

 Ignorance, illiteracy, and maybe some good cooking—that’s the perennial goal of the quackery entrenched in our public schools.

Bruce Deitrick Price explains educational theories and methods on his site Improve-Education.org. (For info about his four new books, see his literary site Lit4u.com.)

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