Friday, November 30, 2007

The State’s (False) Theory of Education

(Note: this article was originally written by a friend, Bruce Thomas. I have made small changes and additions with his permission.)

“Our schools should not remain places where the enormous potential of the human brain is systematically eroded, and possibly destroyed.” – Frank Smith, Insult to Intelligence

Almost everyone seems to agree that the government school system is doing a poor job and costs far too much. That is a huge problem for our county, and our future as a successful society depends on solving it. Many also agree that the system uses every excuse for its bad performance instead of examining its own actions and beliefs and theories. In fact, if we ask the state Dept. of Ed. or the local school district for their theory of learning, we find that it does not exist. So, in order to discover the principles on which public schools operate, we must examine what they actually do, and assume that their actions are based on a set of beliefs that, if combined, comprise the State Theory of Learning. Here are those beliefs:

1. Children must be forced to learn
2. Learning requires teaching
3. Schools are the primary site for learning
4. Learning requires rewards and punishments
5. Children should be segregated by age

Do you agree with the theory so far? Try a few more:

6. Knowledge and skills can be learned without context
7. Children’s work must be continuously judged and graded by others
8. Knowledge is divided into “subjects,” studied in “units” in linear sequence
9. It takes twelve years to learn the needed knowledge and skills

Do you believe any of that? What is going on here? There’s more:

10. Education begins and ends when children enter and leave school
11. Central authority must decide what children should know, and when
12. Uniformity is the goal of education

Is that theory valid? In light of what is known about how humans learn, every one of those “principles” is partly or completely wrong. Therefore, the state’s Theory of Education – the basis for the government’s schools – is totally wrong.

If that isn’t bad enough, the school system also has a bad attitude. Consider: Neither teachers nor students are trusted to make important decisions about their lives in school; legislatures, unions and school boards make them. Another part of the schools’ bad attitude is that they do not trust parents and often treat them insultingly, even though most education experts acknowledge that parents are the children’s primary influence. In sum, we see that the schools operate on a bad theory and with a destructive attitude.

And what is the result of the above? Today, after spending more and more years in schools consuming larger and larger sums of taxpayers’ money, too many children are showing fewer skills and less knowledge than ever. Meanwhile, according to John K. Williams, teacher and writer: “A massive empire has been spawned, ruled by a priesthood of bureaucrats, administrators, curriculum developers, and ‘resource personnel.’ They, not children, are the beneficiaries of compulsory, state-controlled schooling.”

While some teachers actually work against the official theory in order to create a learning environment, the system supports teachers who act as willing emissaries of its theory. It disguises and even rewards incompetence, indifference and dishonesty. This conflict results in teacher frustration and the high turnover rate.

Despite the bad theory and practices, we often hear, “If schools are so bad, how come most children seem to do OK?” The fact is that millions do not do OK. Bruce Thomas, of Children’s Learning Project, in Chicago, says, “One of the most disturbing characteristics of the system is that it does least well by those who most need it.”

Children learn what they’re taught. Instead of useful knowledge and skills, today they learn what Benjamin Bloom calls a latent curriculum of docility, competition, conformity and dishonesty in bleak isolation from the real world. Thomas adds, “Students are cast in the role of apprentices in the schools’ negative culture. They attend to what the adults do rather than what they say; and they learn quickly and thoroughly.” Children suffer the consequences of a system that is not only inadequate but also damaging.

Ned Vare is a former private school teacher, businessman, author; his articles appear on line at; he is an unschooling advocate.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fooling the People Most of the Time

“Public education as we know it is a lost cause. Claims of school effectiveness will be met with increased skepticism and even outright opposition.”
- Myron Lieberman, Public Education: An Autopsy

The government schools claim to be educating children. Yet, more and more people (and international tests) now say that they are failing to do so. Worse, when they fail, they blame the children, parents or “society,” but never themselves. Not only are they failing, but they are dishonest. Incredibly, their attitude is, “We are not responsible for the children’s learning.” That, in fact, was the legal argument the teacher union used in court a few years back to defend Hartford’s school meltdown. The system seems to want children to be educated before they arrive in school. Today the schools expect parents to do much of the teaching at home.

Dishonesty is the culture of the school system. Their PR says: “We stand for excellence in education.” When parents hear such a claim, they believe that it means the schools teach the essential skills and useful information (3Rs) that children need for productive and satisfying lives--in other words: a traditional schooling. Instead, what do the public schools offer? Sad to say, the public school system has been changed (decades ago) from offering basic skills to one that is used to condition children to approved beliefs, opinions and attitudes that will make the machinery of government run smoothly and create a predictable obedient populace. That purpose– really social engineering--is the opposite of what most parents want for their children. The result is continuous wars between parents and the schools.

The school employees are trained (wrongly) to think of parents as incompetent--unable to educate their own children. Those employees are also trained to consider themselves “professionals” who take responsibility for “the whole child.” But in fact they have less education than the average college graduate, and are no better qualified or trained to be effective teachers than average parents are. Besides, much of what is taught today is deeply flawed and of suspicious origin. Therefore, teachers’ assumptions and attitudes about both themselves and parents are false.

In order to understand the public school system, we need to know its origin. In about 1840, this country’s industrial, political, and military leaders needed an army and a workforce for the coming industrial revolution–soldiers and factory workers. They admired Prussia’s system that turned out obedient soldiers to fight their frequent battles with Napoleon. The US copied the Prussian system of forced schooling and indoctrination including kindergarten intended to separate children emotionally from their parents. Thus, the system sets up conflicts with parents by “pitting the needs of social machinery against the needs of the human spirit. It is a war of mechanism against flesh and blood,” according to John Taylor Gatto’s Underground History of American Education.

Government schooling has never been about educating the youth. It is about political agendas only. Of course, a certain level of basic skill is needed even by factory workers, but Henry Ford was the first to abandon the hype that robot-like work requires years of “education.” Public schooling has been a watered-down product ever since, becoming more so all the time. Thus, the system became both anti-family and anti-intellect. “Dumbing down” describes it and it’s working perfectly. We have paid the price of becoming a nation of children who consign our own children to state-run factory schooling.

Can a dishonest education system do anything other than constantly attempt to deceive the public about its purpose and intentions, especially when it forces the public to pay for it? No, it cannot. Government schools must constantly tell us that they are serving our interests while doing the exact opposite – turning our kids into a dependent, obedient mass while preventing them from becoming self-sufficient, self-governing well-educated individuals. It seems to fool most people.

Ned Vare is an architectural designer, former school teacher, businessman, author and was Libertarian Party candidate for Governor of CT. His articles appear on line at; he is an unschooling advocate.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Most Children Are Left Behind

“The teachers’ unions, and those they represent, are the perpetrators of the failed American public education system.”
- Martin L. Gross, "The Conspiracy of Ignorance: The Failure of American Public Schools"

“No Child Left Behind” is a marketing slogan selling more federal control over education on the pretense that all children will be better educated. Do you believe it? Does anyone believe that because the federal government has a new expensive program children will get more learning than before from the same bad schools? Are we crazy?

The truth is that MOST children are left behind, and it's on purpose. Why? Because the goal is to offer only an eighth grade level schooling to all, no matter how old the children get. CAPT (CT's "exit exam") is an 8th grade level test, but they don’t give it until tenth grade. Dumbing Down is not a joke, it’s the national policy.

First, the government is not interested in providing the kind of education that most parents want for their children. While parents want their kids to be independent creative-thinking individuals, “the government wants children to become compliant human resources to be used by government and industry for their own purposes,” according to Charlotte Iserbyt’s book, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. The Feds want uniformity -- a workforce and a military -- not an educated citizenry. When the schools say they are "successful," it means they are turning out obedient group thinkers.

According to the Hartford Courant (Nov.12, 04), “57% of CT Public school 4th graders read below the proficient level.” In other words, the majority are failing; most are left behind. Yet, the state claims CT schools are "#1 in the nation." That’s what people mean when they describe the school system as a culture of dishonesty: Massive failure is called “success.”

Local school boards were set up by the state in order to make sure its schools do what the government wants them to do. That means that there is no such thing as local control — local school districts are not run by the local school boards. The school board members merely masquerade as our representatives while, in fact, they obey the state education bureaucracy.

I’ve heard teachers say, “School is the real world.” Nothing could be more false. School, like prison, is intentionally separated from the real world. In fact, some people call school “day prison.” There is little connection between school and reality. Its rules are unknown in the real world; its deceptive and stressful culture must be unlearned after leaving school. Even most of what has been learned there needs to be forgotten in order to operate in the real world. In public schools, children do not even have civil rights.

Public schools claim to offer “education.” Yet what those schools are supposed to offer is schooling -- the basic academic skills. With those skills, we can get our “education” for ourselves, mostly from learning things that interest us. But schools now fail to do even their part for many kids -- few ever get real education because they are not taught the basic skills. Further, the schools make learning a bad experience and bad memory. That’s what many kids take with them in life – the hatred of learning. Each year in school prepares them only for the next school year, not for real life.

“Self-esteem,” there’s a buzz word. Schools promote self-esteem by false messages of achievement -- inflated grades and meaningless honor rolls -- instead of valuable and lasting accomplishments. It’s just another slogan.

If the government wanted the schools to be better, they would be. After all, there are plenty of decent schools they could copy. But since the system claims to be excellent, it’s clear that the government wants its schools to be exactly the way they are – mediocre and worse.

Because the public does not control “public” schools, they offer exactly what they are designed to offer: a minimum education with the maximum number of employees at the greatest possible expense.

Most children are left behind. That’s the plan. It’s working perfectly.

Ned Vare is a Yale graduate, an architectural designer, former school teacher, businessman, author. His articles appear on line at; he is an unschooling advocate.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Public School 101

Connecticut State law says: "Local boards of education are not agents of their towns but creatures of the state." Therefore, the local school board does not represent the people of the town; it gets its orders from the state and federal governments. The same can be said about every superintendent. There is no such thing as local control of public schools, except in trivial details. Bottom line: Public school is a political enterprise having to do with social control. Add to this the fact that the daily operation of the public schools is dominated by the teacher unions, and we have our current septic and ill-fated education situation -- a disaster.

Are the educational interests of the state the same as those of the parents or the children? No, in fact, the goals of the state are largely the opposite of those of parents, children and communities. Parents want their children to learn basic skills and knowledge; but the government wants its schools to turn out a workforce -- masses of docile employees, predictable consumers and obedient soldiers -- not independent, creative-thinking individuals. Thus, we have perpetual conflict -- the school wars.

The "public" school system is not owned and/or run by the public even though we are forced to pay for it. It is owned and run by the government. In contrast, private schools are owned and run, and paid for voluntarily, by members of the public. When there's ownership, there is accountability and control; and with those, there is satisfaction instead of conflict.

How does the government produce this mass populace? The same way states always have: with schools. In 1820 the American public school system was copied from Prussia (which became Fascist Germany) -- an authoritarian, top-down system of obedience training. It was designed to change society from agrarian to manufacturing, from independent farmers to virtual factory slaves, from self-sufficient individuals to dependent groups. Little has changed.

Even though local residents elect school board members who "campaign" for the post by claiming to want "better schools," the fact is that the board is bound by the state, not by any promises made to local voters. Confounding the entire issue are the teacher unions (NEA and AFT) that make constant demands for more money and less work for their members. Those demands, of course, work against the interests of children, parents, and communities.

What about education quality? The schools were never intended to offer more than the basics, and today they have been transformed from academic learning to psychological conditioning; from education to indoctrination. The books have been watered down, the courses are dumbed down; the teachers are poorly educated and trained. The purpose of school is now social engineering -- creating a mass of predictable consumers instead of creative-thinking self-governing individuals.

The result is the worst of all possible worlds: a government monopoly directed by self-serving politicians in concert with special interests (labor unions, business, etc.) with counter-productive agendas prescribed by non-elected bureaucrats in distant offices, all doing the bidding of invisible global planners. Add to that the extreme likelihood that every school district contains large areas of corruption, and you have our sad condition. In case you believe it's for the good of the children, you're wrong. While it serves many political and economic masters, it is designed for the convenience and benefit of its employees, but not our children.

Ned Vare is an architectural designer, and author; a former private school teacher, rancher, businessman, elected official.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Artificial Stupidity

Artificial Stupidity

“According to a 1993 national survey by the Educational Testing Service of 26,000 adults with an average of 12.4 years of schooling, only 3.5% of the sample had the literacy skills to do traditional college level work.”-- Bruce N. Shortt, The Harsh Truth About Public Schools

Are your children bright? Most kids are. Chances are that you see their intelligence and strengths and you are aware of their interests and inclinations. You sent them off to school at a young age with the hope that the school would inform them of needed facts and knowledge as well as encourage their strengths and feed their interests. However, the public schools no longer do what parents expect, and that fact is the reason for the many "school wars."

Today’s schools have reduced the content of all instruction by about four grade levels, compared to fifty years ago. Teachers are now “facilitators” while the children reach “consensus” about their subjects. The CAPT test (Connecticut’s high school “exit exam") is based on material offered up to eighth grade. The courses, textbooks and tests have all been dumbed down to that level or below. International testing shows that, compared to students in other advance countries, “The longer our students are in school, the lower their comparative performance,” says Gordon Ambach, former head of the Council of Chief State School Officers. He should know.

It gets worse: The schools have changed in purpose from education to political and social indoctrination, with “equality” as the goal. Schools don’t care how much children learn, they are primarily interested in what kids “are like.” The schools' goal is to transform children’s varied attitudes, values and opinions from those of traditional families to those desired by the government. The government seeks to turn a population of diverse children into a mass of predictable citizens who know and believe the same things, with no one ahead or behind too far. That is why today’s public schools spend lots of our money trying to raise the bottom children up to the middle mass, but little or nothing to help high-achievers. In fact, they are designed to prevent the brightest kids from reaching their full potential. Now you know why “one-size-fits-all” and “dumbing down” are the major policies of public schools. The only way they can achieve “equality” of outcomes is by continually lowering their standards.

Today, the schools have a far different agenda for our children from the one we expect of them. They are failing to provide the children with the needed basic skills, knowledge and information, but, worse, they are interested in finding children’s weaknesses and psychological “needs” instead of their strengths and interests. The school system makes the basic assumption that all children have “disabilities” and need the school to provide “treatments” for them. The result is that school has become psychological and therapeutic even to the point of requiring many children to take mind-altering drugs such as Ritalin, in order to control their behavior.

The school system has several reasons to do this – all of which work directly against most parents’ hopes and wishes for their children. The government is seeking to mold the citizens of our country into a docile, easily controlled mass that can be employed or will become soldiers who do exactly what they are told to do, and nothing else. What does this all mean? It means that government school is not for the benefit of children, but is for the benefit of a government that seeks to control, instead of being controlled by, the people.

Unfortunately for America, our country needs well-educated people now, not dumbed-down people. There lies the School Wars, pitting the government school establishment against the rest of us. Government school is turning bright kids into ignorant robots; our children need the exact opposite. The schools are turning intelligent children into stupid adults by the millions simply by not offering them what they need, while offering them large quantities of what they do not need, or want. I believe the situation is well described by Thomas Sowell: “In an age of artificial intelligence, too many of our schools are producing artificial stupidity.”

Ned Vare is an architectural designer, artist and author; a former private school teacher, rancher, businessman, elected official. He is a Yale graduate.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

How Public Schools Conflict with Parents

“The mass dumbness which justifies official schooling first
had to be dreamed of; it isn’t real.”
– John Taylor Gatto, former NY state teacher of the year -- go to

While some citizens take the public schools for granted, trust their motives, and never question their actions, many do not. Most citizens, especially parents concerned for their children’s future, have conflicts with the schools in many areas.

Who controls the school system? Government school is a political institution and it teaches only what the government wants citizens to know, nothing else. While politicians and administrators claim that there is “local control,” meaning that communities control the schools they are forced to pay for, the fact is that federal and state agencies and teacher unions run the schools. Elected school boards merely rubber stamp the policies of others and make excuses for the many ways the schools fail children. Parents have no control at all.

The teacher union has twin goals: more money and less work. It constantly seeks smaller class size in order to gain more teacher/members to increase its income. It dominates the schools with work rules that limit the teachers in many ways. Thus, while parents often see teachers as benevolent servants of their children, the fact is that teachers are restrained from doing more than the minimum.

Parents want learning – useful skills and knowledge, perhaps even intellectual stimulation. But instead of that, government schools provide three major functions:
1. Custodial, or babysitting (some say, “lockup”)
2. Role selection--rating children for future employment slots (“meat stamping”)
3. Social conditioning, or training to accept their (low) positions in society and in expecting life to be like school – petty, conformist, snobbish, repetitive, cruel, boring (the schools call it “socialization”).

Parents want high standards, but the school system trots out a marketing slogan: “Educational excellence” – words without substance. Today when we hear about "equalization" or “standards” we should think: "standardization: lowest common denominator."

Parents and taxpayers, who must pay the bill, want the schools to be efficient while the schools see the public as an endless source of funding. The teacher unions and state educrats seek always to increase their employment kingdoms without regard to the quality of their product or its efficiency. In fact, we learn more each day about the corruption within the system. Bottom line: the community seeks value for its tax dollars while the schools seek only to maximize their revenue without regard to quality.

Parents want their children’s curiosity to be satisfied, while the schools want the children (and the parents) to be gullible and trusting. Parents want their children to learn responsibility and independence, but the schools' desired outcome for them is to become passive, manageable and dependent.

Most people harbor the dream that the schools will help make the world a better place, and yet one major goal of the establishment is to keep things as they are, despite all its rhetoric about improving its methods. The conclusion is that the school system is a major player in preventing social and economic advances. School, as we know it, is archaic and determined to remain so.

Parents want the teachers to be well educated. Yet certification does not mean that they are truly qualified or sufficiently educated even in the subjects they teach. We hear from many sources that teacher colleges and Ed. departments are not respected institutions. Even the head of Columbia Teachers College, Harold Levin, admited to the Hartford Courant that the quality of teacher colleges in America ranges between “unacceptable and embarrassing.”

Parents want the schools to serve their children. Instead, we read every day how the schools are designed and run for the benefit and convenience of their employees. The teachers’ contract tells the story. Teachers’ days are micromanaged by union rules and regulations that are agreed to by the very school boards that are presumed to work on behalf of children and the public, but do not. Instead of a learning experience, it is likely that the least beneficial part of a child’s day is the part spent in school.

Ned Vare is a Yale graduate, an architectural designer, former school teacher, businessman, author, and was libertarian candidate for Governor of CT. He appears on Guilford cable access programs; his articles appear on line at; he is an unschooling advocate.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

One Way to Raise a Child: Unschooling


"A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another." -- John Stuart Mill

Soon after Cassidy was born at our ranch in Colorado, Luz handed me a book by John Holt. It said, “Children do not need to be made to learn, or shown how. They want to and they know how.” Also, that if there is one thing that holds children back and often turns them against learning, it's schooling -- sitting in unpleasant schools where intelligence and interests are often ignored.

In town, with Cass on my shoulders, we read the signs, talked to shoppers and clerks. Soon he was speaking in sentences. Luz and I read stories to him and by age four he could read virtually any book. Holt was right: Cass did not need urging in order to learn. He once told a librarian, "I'm interested in everything."

In Connecticut, we let Cassidy determine what, when, where, how much and with whom he would learn. We did no "lessons" but answered his questions and helped him gain access to the real world. We called it unschooling -- no textbooks, no curriculum, testing, assignments, none of it unless he asked for them. We paid attention to his desires for information as well as his basics. Schools claim it is more important to "feel good about yourself" than to know how to read, write and calculate. Our idea was the opposite: if you have skills and knowledge, you will have self-esteem.

As Cass grew, he was still curious and interested in many things. We did not limit his learning. People observed that he was bright, confident and capable, "He must be smart to have learned so much so young." We answered, "Children are born smart. It's just that nobody is dumbing him down."

I believe that because he did not go to school, Cass was able to easily acquire all the essentials while he avoided the many negatives that schools teach. We encouraged his curiosity and helped him gain access to the world. His life was the polar opposite of sitting with peers in boring classes and being told that his interests are not important. We trusted him.

Cassidy learned about dinosaurs and fossils, so that at eleven, he began to volunteer at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History. They had a variety of tasks for him. The next year, because of his knowledge of dinosaurs, they put him in charge of the Information Desk in the Hall of Dinosaurs on Family Days. At fourteen, he was a teacher at the Eli Whitney Museum, once giving an “enrichment” class in origami to public school teachers. He earned his own money with jobs he found. The Hartford Courant published the SAT scores of the valedictorians at all CT's high schools. Cass scored higher than half of them, by soaking up knowledge in his own ways.

Cass went to Hunter College because it was in the middle of his favorite place, NYC. He had an apartment downtown and took the subway to school. His friends told Luz and me that he always seemed to know the right thing to do. That was when we knew our experiment had been a success, because he had always chosen his own path, instead of having others direct him. He breezed through college – always on the dean’s list. He held jobs, worked on a political campaign, was president of the film society, and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

For Cass (and other kids we know), attending school had been not just unnecessary, but irrelevant and, we believe, would have been damaging to his mind and spirit. Today, public schools are worse than ever. From the government's viewpoint, school is for obedience training, not for teaching knowledge. Parents need to weigh the "convenience" of school against the dumbing down that goes on there. Do children belong to the state?

Ned Vare

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What's Wrong with Public Schools?

"The sad truth is that public education has destroyed the American dream for countless numbers of young people by preventing them from acquiring those academic skills needed to achieve success."
- Samuel Blumenfeld, Educator and Author

Publishers turn out book after book about the whys and wherefores of the school failure. The latest is "Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie to Parents and Betray Our Children," by Joel Turtel. He tells us not to accept failure as the norm, nor to accept the lies that are so much a part of the system’s betrayal of our country.

For starters, Turtel sees Destructive and Incompetent Teaching Methods. On reading he writes, “Whole language is a prescription for disaster, and is the main culprit behind our children’s appalling illiteracy and plummeting reading skills...a primary reason why 30 percent of Americans are functionally illiterate.” Citing Charles Sykes’s book, "Dumbing Down Our Kids," he says that what is being taught is reading appreciation, where kids are not taught how to read, but are expected merely to “feel good about books.” Part of the Whole Language/constructivist philosophy is Invented Spelling. He says, “Even knowing that a person who doesn’t spell correctly can’t communicate effectively, many public schools no longer think spelling is important enough to spend time on during the school day.”

Next up: New-Math. Turtel says, “If any discipline requires accuracy and clear thoughts, it is math. Numbers should not be subject to interpretation and invention. Five times four will always equal twenty, no matter how a child feels about it.” The philosophy behind New-Math is similar to Whole Language: the odd belief that children will learn basic skills along the way without being taught. In Guilford, I’ve heard that the schools require lots of help at home by (often bewildered) parents. “With teaching methods like these, it’s no wonder that our kids have become increasingly math deficient. New-Math’s bizarre methods can frustrate kids and turn them off math,” says Turtel.

On dumbed-down textbooks and tests, Turtel writes: “One reason public school authorities use incompetent methods is that they want to protect children’s self-esteem...When schools reduce textbooks to easy reading levels, most students pass their tests, get good grades and please their parents. This makes everyone happy, but the children still can’t read very well” or calculate correctly. On history: “The student is supposed to learn by pictures, not words.” On testing and grade inflation: “Often, the goal is to fool parents into believing their children are doing fine [so that] they don’t complain to teachers, principals or their local school board.” When many students fail a test, officials “redefine failure as success, as if their bar of lead is really gold.”

Social promotion: This is another scheme to protect kids’ self-esteem and parents’ opinion of the school. Guilford’s former superintendent, Mrs. Truex, admitted that the district practices social promotion. According to Turtel, “Some students receive counterfeit diplomas that are nothing more than a twelve-year attendance record...setting up students to fail later in life when they apply for college or a job.”

On the Cheaters: As seen on recent TV documentaries, some schools help their students cheat on tests or invent meaningless grading systems. “This is another way school authorities fool parents into thinking that their child’s school does a good job,” says Turtel. Of course, when that happens, it is years after the fact, when no one can ever be held accountable.

On Outcome Based Education: “OBE is a smoke screen.” The goal of OBE is not to improve children’s academic skills or knowledge, but to teach them government-approved attitudes, values and opinions -- “to feel good and get along with others.” But is that education? No, it’s psycho-therapy.

Turtel concludes, “Public schools cripple children’s ability to read and do basic math. They dumb down their tests, testbooks, and curriculum. they commit educational fraud against parents by hiding their failure and incompetence with rigged test scores and report cards. They indoctrinate children with politically correct “outcomes” that have little to do with learning basic academic skills...If a private school did these things, you’d file charges.”

If children are not being taught the math and reading they need, why send them to school? “Socialization,” you say? See my next column.

Ned Vare

Vare is an architectural designer, former school teacher, businessman, author and was Libertarian Party candidate for Governor of CT (1998). He appears on Guilford cable access TV programs; his articles appear on line at; he is a homeschooling advocate.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


School Is Hell is about the public schools and why they are so bad.

Parents have expressed their dissatisfaction with the schools for years, but they often seem not to know why they are bad. My "job," over several years of writing letters to newspapers and a recent column in my local paper, has been to inform the public of the reasons for the poor quality of the schools. In short, the schools are exactly the way they are intended to be: poor.

The reasons for dissatisfaction are many. Every facet of the schools is an easy target for criticism, from the teaching methods to the lunch services, from teacher certification to the elimination of recess, from homework to the teacher unions. If parents ran the schools, they would look nothing like the state-run disaster we are all forced to pay for with our taxes.

There is no such thing as "local control"

The problem is not "other people's" schools or "big city" schools. All the government-run schools are owned and run by the same people: government employees working in state and federal departments of "education." Those agencies totally control everyone's local public school systems. Thus, the public schools are uniform, and mediocre, everywhere...yes, even in "good" districts.

Yes, I know there are "local" school boards and administrators, but they decide only trivial details of their local schools. The major planning -- the big picture (curricula, rules, etc.) -- is designed and directed by the state education departments, which in turn are directed by Washington. Meanwhile, work rules that govern teachers are written by their unions with virtually no negotiating by local residents.

"The School Wars" -- articles listed in their own section -- describe the constant battle between parents and the schools. The two are always at odds because the purpose of the school system is the opposite of what most parents want. Parents want, and expect, their children to be given the tools of education -- the basic skills and knowledge that they need in order to have productive, meaningful and fulfilling lives.

However, the school system is designed for a different purpose: to turn out a "workforce" -- a mass of docile, dependent workers who will work in the largely government-controlled "workplace" of America. For that purpose, the schools are designed to train, or indoctrinate the children instead of educate them.

Thus, to me, the public school system is gradually destroying the very fabric of our country. It has been doing it for over one hundred years, and it is on purpose. If the schools were intended to be different from what they are, they would be. But unfortunately, the federal Commission that investigated public schools back in 1980 got it right:
"If a foreign power had imposed on us the mediocre school system we have, we would have considered it an act of war.
But as it is, we have imposed it upon ourselves."

Welcome to my blog.
Ned Vare

.........ON TO THE BLOG........

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