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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xcdreading said...

Thank you for your blog. I felt like you were writing it for me, and I couldn't agree with you more. I am impressed as a former teacher that you acknowlege the problem, because most teachers deny a problem or become so defensive when you ask the 'hard' questions and then blame the child (labled learning disabled) or the parent (bad parent).

I now work as a reading tutor due to my daughter's failure to learn to read through Whole Language (Reading Recovery) through the public school system. I was told when she was starting 4th grade that she would never read. (I was told the previous 4 years not to worry, not to compare her to others and that she would catch up)

I would not accept that she would never read and became educated in reading methodology and spent money taking numerous reading programs so I could teach her myself. That is what I did. However, the trust in the school system and waiting I did caused her reading fluency and to dislike reading. She is reading but not as she should be had she received effective reading instruction from day 1.

What the school system is doing is nothing short of child abuse. My daughter is only a fraction of what she should be. Her self esteem, confidence and ability have been compromised due to poor teaching methodology. The majority of these kids are not learning disabled they are curriculum disabled.

VAST said...

Wonderful article! I too have had a nightmarish experience with our public schools since they instituted the Everyday Math program. Can you believe they stated, "we're not concerned with the child getting the right answers, we're more concerned with them using the correct technique". HELLO, anybody home??? I immediately removed her from public and put her in private only to move her back 2 years later due to religious fanaticism.

We are still dealing with the consequences of a 5 year curriculum contract for Everyday Math. Those kids that "missed the boat" are now going off to college and all of them need remedial math classes. Hard to believe isn't it?

I am amazed and appalled that the education my children have received has been so inferior than my own. It is truly a sad situation that we have allowed these public school administrators to obliterate the critical period for learning and allowed them to turn it into nothing more than a 12 year brainwashing session.

Angry in South Jersey!!

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