Archive for the ‘ Education ’ Category

Why We Are Where We Are

Since education is my primary occupation, I thought I’d let you in on some terrific insights I’ve been holding onto for a while. Remember that thing called the Constitution? Do you recall it has a Bill of Rights as well? Do you ever wonder what your children are learning about it?

Maybe it’s time to check on what they are receiving. Most parents don’t bother; they are confident in their school system and in the progress their children are making. You see it on bumper stickers everywhere:

Hmmm, I wonder if that’s the reason we are where we are educationally? You have to be careful about criticizing our educational system, though, whether at the elementary, secondary, or university level. You don’t want to be labeled:

This commentary has been brought to you by a university professor who sees the fruit of that system on a daily basis.

Does Anyone Remember?

Today used to be George Washington’s birthday. Yes, I know it still is, but how many people are aware of it nowadays? Instead, we have Presidents Day, always celebrated on the Monday of the week and apparently dedicated to all presidents regardless of merit. Washington had merit; some of the others have had very little.

I mean, do I really have this urge to celebrate the presidencies of Millard Fillmore or Chester Alan Arthur? Am I supposed to rejoice in the progressivism of Woodrow Wilson, the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, or the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson? Should I extol the lack of Christian character in John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, to name only a few who demonstrated that lack?

There certainly are presidents I admire. Washington served his country without regard to personal desires. He led an army for eight years without pay; he came out of a comfortable life to lead a nation as its first president. Everything he did set a precedent, particularly his model for stepping down after two terms.

My appreciation for Abraham Lincoln grows with each new piece of research on him. Grover Cleveland was, as one biographer tagged him, “an honest president.” Calvin Coolidge understood constitutional limitations and decided not to run again for the office in 1928 because he didn’t want the position and the power to change his character for the worse. Ronald Reagan, in my view, was the most effective president [in the positive sense of actually doing something worthwhile] of the twentieth century.

I wouldn’t mind if we celebrated all of those presidents on their own birthdays. Of course we used to do that with Washington until the 1970s when Congress decided to create three-day weekends for a number of holidays. In the process, they excised a special recognition of our first president. I like three-day weekends as much as anyone, but the decision to relegate Washington to the dim recesses of our history was inexcusable. We do still see representations of him occasionally on Presidents Day when actors dress up like him to sell cars—but that’s about all.

Why do most people not miss it? Perhaps there’s a dismal reason educationally:

Am I kidding? I wish I were. Generally speaking, we don’t know our own history. My experience teaching American history at the university level confirms this sad diagnosis.

Anyway, for those who remember who George Washington was, have a happy Washington’s birthday.

Mallard-Fest

I’ve stored up a number of Mallard Fillmore cartoons. It’s time to unleash them. For those unfamiliar with this daily comic strip, I hope you find its willingness to take on political correctness refreshing.

For instance, when it comes to civil discourse and hate speech, here are a couple of offerings:

It gets pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Education is also in the “crosshairs” for this cartoonist frequently. Often he bases his cartoons on actual studies:

Now, to be clear, I love the college students I teach, but overall, I cannot really dispute this finding. I can only hope this is not the case with students I get the opportunity to teach. Here’s a followup:

That reminds me of the progressive educator who commented that illiteracy is not so bad—illiterates won’t be reading anything worthless. Of course, there’s the other side of that—they won’t be reading anything worthwhile either. And their ability to evaluate and analyze will be severely impaired.

Well, why should we worry about the future of education? After all, President Obama is on the path to make college a reality for everyone:

Far-fetched? I hope so.

Education Warning

Criticism of the Obama agenda has centered primarily on the most visible projects, such as taking over the healthcare system and the massive stimulus packages. I have also spent most of my commentary time on these. Along the way, though, I have called attention to a quieter revolution that most people have missed. It’s time to bring that one to the forefront now.

In an op-ed in the Denver Post that appeared last month, two former Republican senators who are involved with higher education—one a current college president, the other a former president, Bill Armstrong and Hank Brown—sounded a warning about the intentions of the administration. The U.S. Department of Education, they said, is going “ahead with its proposal to turn both private and public schools into ‘authorized’ institutions.” Here are the details, as they describe the proposal:

As a practical matter, the department’s power grab carries with it an implicit invitation for various pressure groups to seek legal mandates requiring colleges and universities to implement their pet theories about curriculum, degree requirements, faculty qualifications, teaching methods, textbooks, evolution, phonics, ROTC, climate change, family policy, abortion, race, sexual orientation, economic theory, etc.

This is not only an assault on academic freedom, but it’s an attempt to destroy an institution’s liberty to carry out education in its own particular manner. Private colleges, especially Christian ones, are in great danger of being subjugated to state control.

An article last week in The Chronicle of Higher Education talks about how the president is going to use federal funds as leverage,

offering carrots to colleges and states that embrace his goals, and sticks to those that hinder them. More than any of his predecessors, he has demanded results in exchange for federal dollars, requiring grant applicants to set benchmarks for improvement and threatening to withhold aid from programs that fail to prepare students for jobs.

I will repeat my concern again: whenever Christian colleges take money from the federal government, they eventually will have to face demands that will challenge their ability to teach as they believe God wants them to.

Expect an attack on home-schoolers in the future. After all, they are the height of independence from the government-controlled education system. And you know how dangerous they are to the republic:

Absolutely dangerous—to government control.

Education's Inconvenient Truths

There’s a new movie out—a documentary—entitled Waiting for Superman. It’s an indictment of what some people call public education. The more accurate name for it is government-controlled education. I haven’t seen this documentary yet, but the director, Davis Guggenheim, is a liberal who directed Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, which will never qualify as one of my favorite movies. This time, though, he has some genuine inconvenient truths regarding the educational establishment. Apparently, there are some liberals who are scared about the quality of education the current generation is receiving. Will this film wake up the general public?

Now we come to the real problem—the teachers’ unions. They have a stranglehold on the educational profession. Part of the problem is the circle-the-wagons mentality that wants to hold on to tenure and make quality secondary. The other part of the problem is the ideology to which the unions are wedded:

As I noted in a previous post about the NEA, the resolutions it passes every year at its annual convention are the essence of radicalism: the focus is on every progressive icon—racism, feminism, environmentalism, homophobia, etc.

When you combine a radical ideology with a mania for job security, you don’t want anything to interfere with your near-monopoly, no matter how poorly it’s performing:

We keep tinkering around with the externals rather than rooting out the false ideologies. We continue to trust government and the teachers’ unions rather than allowing the free market to determine educational success. I remember when Bill Clinton made a big deal about wanting to put an extra 100,000 teachers in the classrooms. What does that really solve if you don’t deal with the more fundamental problems?

And woe to any students who might really want to learn:

Unless we attack this problem at the root, we’ll never find a real solution.

Baneful Effects of NEA-Led Education

Since it’s Labor Day, what better day to talk about one of the largest and most influential unions in the country—the National Education Association [NEA]. This also allows me to continue my intermittent history of American education.

The NEA was founded in Philadelphia in 1857. The ostensible rationale for its creation was to provide a voice for all teachers in the nation to promote the interests of the profession. A statement from that initial meeting said it hoped to one day see a federal department of education. Well, that certainly has come to pass.

The biggest problem with the NEA is that it quickly came under the control of the progressive education movement, with John Dewey as its head. Dewey became a regular speaker at NEA conventions. Willard Givens, who served as president of the NEA from 1935-1952, called himself a socialist [as was Dewey]. It was Givens who gave the impetus to the policy of requiring all members of state and local education associations to become members of the NEA. He also endorsed world government, hoping thereby to eliminate America’s national sovereignty.

Givens said the following about the nature of the education he promoted:

The major function of the school is the social orientation of the individual. It must seek to give him understanding of the transition to a new social order.

The new order Givens sought was a socialist society.

The NEA began active political lobbying in 1961 and was instrumental in passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the first time the federal government got involved in education at those levels.

The Constitution gives no authority to the federal government to legislate on education, but that didn’t stop the NEA.

In 1981, a reporter for the communist Daily World, after attending the NEA’s annual convention, filed this report:

Nowhere in the basic documents of NEA, in their resolutions or new business items, are there any anti-Soviet or anti-socialist positions. … It [the NEA] will increasingly be fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow trade unionists as the class struggle intensifies.

In other words, the NEA was totally in sync with the aims of the Soviet Union when it existed. What are some of those resolutions the reporter identified? The basic ones have remained unchanged for years.

First, it must be understood that the NEA seeks to be the sole voice for American education. It wants to dictate standards for every school, including all private schools and home schoolers. No one should be allowed to teach, declares the NEA, unless licensed by the state and using a state-approved curriculum. If that resolution ever becomes law, all private education will be destroyed.

Many of the resolutions have little to do with education per se. As you meander through them, you discover that the NEA also takes a stand in favor of homosexuality and abortion, and in opposition to the teaching of any religious doctrines. Also on the agenda are national healthcare, radical environmentalism, gun control, and unilateral disarmament.

Sound like a wonderful organization? Keep in mind it’s the leading voice for the education profession in America, and that it’s very difficult for public school teachers to remain independent of it. In some states, they are required to join; in others, they are pressured to become a member; if they refuse, they are ostracized.

And all the while, our education gets worse. It is a union; it is a lobbying organization; it cares little for actual educational improvement. Education is merely the medium through which its leaders seek to impose their agenda on the nation.

Educational History (cont.)

While my mind is on education, let me continue with a little more of the history of education in America. In previous posts, I mentioned John Dewey and his baneful influence. Known as the Father of Progressive Education, Dewey introduced a number of new ideas: no eternal truths; let the child decide what he wants to learn; minimize booklearning and magnify experiences [which can often be divorced from substance]; socialization of children to fit into his vision of a socialist society.

Grand new ideas, weren’t they?

I’ve also mentioned a couple of his disciples; another one I would like to note today is William Heard Kilpatrick. A colleague of Dewey’s at Columbia University’s Teachers College, Kilpatrick also served as president of the John Dewey Society. It has been estimated that he taught as many as 35,000 students during his tenure at Columbia, many of whom became leaders in this new approach to education throughout the country.

Kilpatrick believed that man only existed in society, meaning that the collective was more significant than the individual. He disliked any diversity in education: there should be only one school system for the nation, he declared. To have more than one will lead to disunity. So much for private education.

The function of a school, according to Kilpatrick, was to teach methods of investigating truth, but not truth itself. He said we should teach children how to think, not what to think. If you read that last sentence and said, “yes, I agree with that,” you may not really understand the implications.

How can one learn how to “investigate” truth if no concept of truth exists? Teaching someone how to think sounds good, but that is merely a process. The substance of what we think is essential. There is truth and falsehood, but progressive education, the banner under which Kilpatrick stood, did not believe in any concept of right and wrong from God. Man was to figure it all out on his own.

I believe that real education begins with premises drawn from Biblical principles. Without firm foundations, the edifice collapses. Learning how to think is important, but you must start with some idea of right and wrong, truth and falsehood. Otherwise, you are trying to think in the midst of an intellectual and moral vacuum.

I make no apology for telling students that some things are right and others wrong, and that eternal truth does exist. They are then free, of course, to think through what I have said and determine if I am off-base in any way. I don’t have a problem with students asking questions if they are genuinely seeking to know and understand truth. But that desire must have a foundation first from which to question.

I realize that sets me apart from mainstream education. That’s fine. My first allegiance is to God and His truths. I firmly believe that students who are grounded in those truths have the potential to be the best thinkers.