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Education’s Great Divide: My Time in the Trenches

Home - by - December 10, 2012 - 09:30 America/New_York - 17 Comments

American Thinker

In thinking about how valuable education is in cultivating the next generation of Americans, my mind took me back nearly twenty years to when I was a graduate student functioning as a substitute teacher at La Puente High School in Southern California.  On one assignment, I was to cover a social studies class of some old-timer; he had written down in his instructions that since his classes were on a field trip, my sole duty was to show a movie at 6th period to those who did not attend.  What I found that day opened my eyes.

In a dusty corner shelf of the room was a set of thirty-year-old textbooks from the mid-1960s, and although my memory cannot now relinquish their title, their contents burned themselves into my brain.  As I flipped through the pages, I was astonished to find what I would now consider an upper-level college textbook under color of what in the high schools used to be termed “civics.”  This text contained a very detailed understanding of political theory, constitutional law, macroeconomics, American history, and comparative political systems.  I spent the rest of the day in slack-jawed amazement, perusing what a student in a working-class town was expected to know before the mavens of education began tinkering with the curricula of our schools.

When the instructor returned at the end of the day, I revealed my astonishment to him, and he informed me that he had used those texts when he first hired on.  Now, however, could not do so, since they would be incomprehensible to nearly every student — especially considering that the nature of history and American government had been changed in the current texts.  The teacher related to me that the current texts had been scaled down to what used to be a grammar-school understanding, and they carried within them a jaundiced view of America, preferring to accentuate the warts and blemishes rather than the achievements of our political system.

I then made it my business, when finding an older teacher, to ask if education had been “dumbed down.”  To a person, I found that this question unleashed volatile diatribes on how dull children had become since the responders had begun as idealistic young men and women in the field.  Algebra teachers informed me that every year they were forced to eliminate problem sets that previous years had mastered.  English teachers who once taught Shakespeare and Dante were now reduced to leading seniors through Orwell’s Animal Farm or postmodern novels featuring teens in existential moral dilemmas.  Moreover, the analysis of themes in book reports had been deconstructed into not what the author was attempting to portray, but what personal emotions were elicited in the reader.

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» 17 Comments

  1. Callmelennie

    December 10th, 2012

    When I was in Catholic elementary school my school had this monthly newsletter which had lists and descriptions of books that you could order from a Catholic educational service. When I was in fourth grade, Animal Farm was on the list.

    The blurb for Animal Farm was a little misleading and made it sound like a cute fable of animals taking over a farm, so I was a little surprised at the actual book. Thing is, I knew what this book was getting at almost immediately — that it was a metaphor for the Communist revolution.

    So I guess if I were in school today. I could have just skipped the next eight grades and gone straight to Stanford

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  2. Menderman

    December 10th, 2012

    I wanna read more…but the links don’t work…off to their page.

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  3. Xavier

    December 10th, 2012

     
  4. bitterclinger

    December 10th, 2012

    When a 70-year-old said he was relieved to escape the dumbing down of U.S. curriculum, he happened upon the following book, available in a FREE download. Look for “Underground History of American Education,” by John Taylor Gatto.

    I haven’t read it, but those who had, agreed wholeheartedly that this was THE blueprint to destroy the U.S. ed system, beginning in the EARLY 1900s!

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  5. norman einstein

    December 10th, 2012

    “Link not found”
    Here’s one that works: http://tinyurl.com/by6ydm7

    What I don’t understand is why do parents accept the low standards set for their kids these days?
    Is it that they don’t pay attention to what’s being studied, that they don’t care, or that they themselves are too ignorant to realize what’s going on?

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  6. jeckelmyhyde

    December 10th, 2012

    Our public school have already gone through the same transformation that the left has planned for American healthcare. Do-goody bureaucrats infiltrating and controlling the system to be all inclusive and thus sacrificing quality for quantity. Our school system would be so much for the better if we could dissolve the Dept. of Education and give control back to state and local levels.

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  7. Menderman

    December 10th, 2012

    condom demonstrations in high school…..our country is really starting to suck.

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  8. bitterclinger

    December 10th, 2012

    norman — re the 70-year-old who mentioned this book, he said it really opened his eyes. He was under the impression that he had still had a 1st-class education because of his age, but this book showed him how much the system had been dumbed down, STARTING in the early 1900s, and he didn’t know half of what his predecessors learned!

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  9. Xavier

    December 10th, 2012

    Until we address the real problem – liberal teachers and indoctrination – there won’t be any solution.

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  10. sileceal

    December 10th, 2012

    Great and true article. After iniitially teaching in a top-rated private school the passion for “making a difference” ceased for me 20 years ago when I’d then had my fill of trying to work in gubmint “education”. Not only are K-12s progressively (literally and figuratively)being so dumbed down, some school districts spend more of your tax dollars fighting parental lawsuits against such crap as teachers who hug and parents demanding that their little snowflake not be seated next to a learning disabled child in class than they do on salaries and classroom teaching aids.

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  11. Tim

    December 10th, 2012

    Can’t address the real problem until we, as a nation, wake the fook up!

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  12. RosalindJ

    December 10th, 2012

    Good find, bitterclinger. I found it online – it’s 400+ pages.

    From Russ Kick from The Memory Hole, via Wiki (about the work):
    “In other words, the captains of industry and government explicitly wanted an educational system that would maintain social order by teaching us just enough to get by but not enough so that we could think for ourselves, question the sociopolitical order, or communicate articulately”

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  13. RosalindJ

    December 10th, 2012

    You aren’t compelled to loan your car to anyone who wants it, but you are compelled to surrender your school-age child to strangers who process children for a livelihood..

    http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/prologue.htm

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  14. Claudia

    December 10th, 2012

    In my job reading and scoring student essays for the standardized tests, I have been stunned at the dumbing down of kid’s education. We received a new contract (a state that you would be surprised to learn the name of but which I can’t tell you or I’d be fired) about 10 years ago.

    It was so pleasant to read the essays (well, most of them – there are always the kids who don’t care or can’t write) and the rubric (what the state expects the kids to be responsible for ie spelling, paragraphing, etc. and tells us how to score the essays) because the standards were so much higher than many of the states we did.

    Then after a few years I started to notice that the papers weren’t quite as good as they used to be. As the years went by the rubric changed to allow more and more errors and essays that would have received a failing score before were now allowed to pass. Now this state has reached a level that some of the poorest (as in education, not money) states perform.

    Guessing the reason, I have decided that this state has become the recipient of a deluge of recent immigrants. That may not be the entire reason for the state’s fall, but one of the factors.

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  15. RosalindJ

    December 10th, 2012

    I am on a tear right now (thanks, bittercliner!). If only the internet had been so widely available in ’95, we all would have been aware so much sooner what we are up against. This is a short read with a bad ending, and very much worth the few minutes it takes to get through it.

    “The Logical Tragedy Of Benson, Vermont”

    http://johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/17k.htm

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  16. Annie

    December 10th, 2012

    Academic credentials including PhD degrees are worthless unless in a specialized hard-science field.

    They only mean someone was willing to sit in class for 4-6 years. The newest hires cannot write a sentence. Fact.

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  17. Tim

    December 10th, 2012

    I have it on good authority that a PhD in Engineering isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit without the proper socialist credentials.

    (at least to teach at the University level)

    I know a guy, who after successfully defending his Thesis, was congratulated by one of his professors who said: “Congratulations Doctor! You only have two things to overcome – your sex and your color.”

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