Thursday, December 6, 2007

Why Johnny Can’t Think

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

Homeschooling, of course, was once the norm. Throughout most of history and in all places, children got their learning in the home, through family activities and their natural and cultural surroundings. But there arose a mist, a confusion, a turning point in the purpose of education. That mist was created by government. Following the example of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and others, political leaders have wanted pyramidal societies with a few elites at the top and the vast majority subordinated to them. The mechanism they all used to create such societies is schools.

Government school today does not want to turn out independent creative individuals; it seeks to create a mass of predictable voters and workers, obedient soldiers and consumers who know their place in the pyramid and will stay there.

It’s no surprise that our government school system does not do what parents want it to do. It never has. Its purpose has never been the strengthening of families or communities, but exactly the opposite: loyalty to the state. While there has been a persistent chorus of discontent from parents, the system routinely ignores their wishes and carries out its programs of state indoctrination of the children and the public in general. The government has enlarged its school system and its tax support to include almost ninety percent of our country’s children, and now there are few people left who can even imagine a different scenario.

Despite this government process of training children for many years to be predictable and dependent, the majority of children’s knowledge still comes from their lives outside the schools. The schooling, no matter how stultifying, has not yet managed to completely dumb us all down. The problem is, it's getting close.

Teaching children essential knowledge was an accepted parental responsibility in this country until the industrial revolution in the 19th century. That event created the need for people to see themselves as economic units -- cogs in the wheels of industry (or bees in the hive) -- instead of individual human beings. The transformation played into the hands of statists (those who believe in state control over society) and social engineers by breaking up families and eroding traditional and community values and replacing them with a secular ("progressive") society dominated by governmental institutions.

The early leaders designed the public schools (about 1840) merely to indoctrinate the masses along with immigrants and freed slaves to become the "workforce," but not to become well educated. Those leaders, and other informed people, have always sent their children to tutors or independent schools to get real education rather than government obedience training and false “socialization.”

Most people have come to accept the idea that the government should be the entity to educate children. It is a big mistake. According to John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down, government schools train our children in three ways -- to follow orders, to do repetitive tasks, and to be consumers. The state only wants compliant citizens who can be controlled. It does not want thinking individuals who will make independent decisions. Government-mandated curricula complicate and confuse the learning of basic skills and limit genuine achievement while offering a
mediocrity of feel-good programs and political correctness training. The slide we are in has been a long time coming.

In the 1960s, the decline became obvious, and books such as Why Johnny Can’t Read, by Rudolph Flesch, began to appear. Among the objections were the watering down of academic subjects, tenure as an obstacle to firing bad teachers, and the vastly increased psychological aspects of schooling that allowed self-esteem to become the main objective instead of learning.

Today, parents realize the perversions and corruptions of the government schools. As a result, many choose private schools and homeschooling. Many new books give us ever more awareness of our government’s intentions for its school system. They are alarming. Johnny can’t read, he can’t even think, but he’s been told to feel good about himself.

In education, government is the problem -- it will only teach what it wants us to know. It’s sobering, frightening, disillusioning to see our government and its employees systematically denying our children the very education we send them to receive, while we foot the bill.

Ned Vare is an architectural designer, author and artist; formerly a private school teacher, rancher, professional athlete, elected official

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