Many American newspapers crusade, again and again, for their favorite causes but neglect other, equally vital issues.
These papers often enjoy a monopoly position. Wouldn’t we expect such newspapers to be fastidious about reporting in a neutral way, and allowing voices from all parts of the political spectrum?
All too often, these monopoly newspapers are neither neutral nor helpful.
Equally troubling, their reporting about education stays on the surface. For example, has there ever been a single word in any of these monopoly newspapers about the failed theories and methods so popular in our public schools?
Here, briefly, are eight topics that all newspapers should be explaining to their communities:
1) Reading Theory: The country’s public schools created millions of functional illiterates, because sight-words are still taught in our classrooms. Parents need to understand what phonics is and why it is the only way to teach reading.
2) Math Instruction: Similarly, Reform Math (a phrase which designates a dozen different curricula) is a disastrous way to teach basic math. If parents understood why Connected Math, Chicago Math, Everyday Math, TERC, and many others are third-rate, then the parents could petition for improvement or take immediate steps to tutor their children.
3) Constructivism: This dimwitted, pretentious method says that teachers can’t teach. They must be repositioned as facilitators. In practice, children need to learn a great deal of foundational information as quickly as possible, especially children from disadvantaged homes. They need to play catch up. Constructivism prevents this from happening.
4) Cooperative Learning: This method emphasizes children working together in little groups. After a while, not a one of them can think alone, act alone, or solve a problem alone. This is good training for a collectivist society.
5) Social Engineering: Ever since the time of John Dewey, progressive educators have been slyly using the schools to bring about social transformation. When these people talk about education, they don’t mean reading, writing and arithmetic. They mean cooperation, equality of results, and no special emphasis on academics.
6) Self-esteem: A fascinating sophistry. After all, who could be against Self-esteem? In practice, it demands that teachers praise poor performance. Furthermore, Self-esteem justifies grade inflation and serves as--this is its worse sin --an all-purpose excuse for discarding content in all grades.
7) Memorization: Actually memorizing information is discouraged in all classes. This bias guarantees instant mediocrity at every level. (A French teacher has complained that her students were not expected to memorize anything in their other courses; so her job has gotten far more difficult. Students come into her class thinking they can learn French without learning French!)
8) Common Core Curriculum: This thing is best described as yet another power grab by the federal government. It will mean ever more mediocrity but mandated and regulated from Washington.
Those are some of the reasons why people say our schools are being dumbed-down. Parents need to understand why these theories and methods rarely work as promised, and what other methods should be considered. Newspapers, and all other media, have a profound responsibility to help parents triumph against an often-foolish educational bureaucracy. If the media don’t do this job, who will?
(This material was written for the Virginian-Pilot, the monopoly paper in Norfolk, Va.)
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