Princeton, Harvard, and Yale can help improve K-12 education

Oct 22, 2013 by

Bruce22_biggerBruce Deitrick Price -I’ve often had a fantasy where, circa 1955, the Chairmen of the Departments of English at Princeton, Harvard and Yale stand on the steps of Library of Congress and proclaim, “We support Rudolf Flesch!” This small gesture could have saved tens of millions of children from misery. But nobody from these places did a thing. Much to their shame.
 In 1956 Flesch’s enemies created the International Reading Association to discredit him, sabotage phonics, and keep Whole Word dominant. The damage continues.
Let’s start with a safe generalization: our public schools are dumbing down multitudes of children. They can’t read or write at an acceptable level, they don’t know much history, science or anything else. All of this is empirically verified by tests of various kinds.
Even worse, all of this is anecdotally verified by millions of horror stories.  A student at James Madison University, majoring in education, told me about a fellow student who didn’t know who George Washington was. Note that JMU is in Virginia; and the ignorant student is a Virginian. I asked how is this even possible. The teller of the anecdote shrugged and said, “It happened, that’s all I can tell you.”
Who is going to defend those semi-educated kids? Who is going to say to our Education Establishment: enough already.


 Most businesses and organizations don’t have any special interest in intelligence or academic achievement. But the ones that do should take more interest in protecting public school students. For example, Princeton, Harvard, and Yale.
 I’m been thinking about all the thousands of professors in all the colleges in the United States. What are they doing to help secondary education in America? Anything at all? We need these people to get out and fight, even if only a little.
For example, they could explain to their communities what’s gone wrong in the public schools and why children receive such bad educations. They could explain why Flesch was right about reading in 1955 and still is. Professors could start making up for all the years when they were silent.
There are two factors for people in elite organizations to consider. First, all levels of education are connected. If public schools are doing a dreadful job, this mediocrity will wash over into colleges. The smart, self-serving thing for higher education is to be more protective of all education.
 Second, the sophistries wrecking public schools are not that hard to understand. For example, you cannot teach children to read with sight-words. End of story. Flesch explained this impossibility in the simplest terms. But how many professors understand that statement?
 There are a dozen main sophistries embedded in our public schools. Take a few minutes and you will understand why they are fake. For example, Reform Math is a concatenation of bad ways to teach math. “No mastery” is official doctrine. Contemplate the insanity of that.


Perhaps what we need is intellectual big brotherism. An awkward phrase but all it means is that elite organizations, especially ones with power, take a greater interest in the organizations lower down. Intellectual big brothers could issue statements, make demands, express solidarity, lean on society’s leaders, and encourage children to aim higher.
Modern Language Association (MLA), National Association of Scholars (NAS), the American Historical Association (AHA), and similarly distinguished organizations should insist that public schools be improved.
The Chronicle of Higher Education should announce its own plan for helping k-12 education.
A lot of people  remain confused about why Flesch was right in 1955.  Maybe it’s not too late for the Chairmen of the Departments of English at Princeton, Harvard and Yale to explain these matters.
RELATED ARTICLE: “56: Top 10 Worst ideas in Education” on Improve-Education.org
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