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Interview with Professor Martin Kozloff, Education’s Iconoclast

Dr. Martin Kozloff,  a few years back, possibly explaining some of the problems in the field.
Dr. Martin Kozloff, a few years back, possibly explaining some of the problems in the field.
--[Kozloff]

For more than 30 years, Dr. Martin Kozloff has been a professor of education and a critic of the damage done to children, teachers, and our nation by the fads, political agendas, and loose thinking in his field.

He is widely known for his sharp commentary on schools of education. For example: “Ed schools dominated by so-called progressives infantilize ed students with useless 'projects' and 'activities' such as making 'personal teaching philosophies' and magazine cut-out collages of ideal classroom furniture arrangements, but spend little time on exactly how to teach. Many courses focus on evaluating and shaping 'students' dispositions'---which turn out to be embracing the party line.”

Prof. Kozloff teaches at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. His specialties are autism, teaching students with special needs, and instructional design.

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Q: Give us your overall sense of education. Better than when you started, the same, or worse?

A: Worse. Many middle schools and high schools resemble prisons or day treatment centers, with male students jive talking nonstop, and teachers looking as if they are about to have a nervous breakdown.

Q: Looking back, what were the things that first offended you about your field?

A: Fads were forced on young teachers, based on no experimental research, no questioning of efficacy, or the ethics of experimenting on children. These fads were based solely on consensus among the dominant “progressives.”

Q: So what are the biggest problems today?

A:. Sham. There is a pretense that things are other than they really are, as seen in statements of missions that can’t possibly be achieved: “All our students will have the skills needed for global citizenship in the 21st century.”

Meanwhile, the paperwork is endless and destructive, as every level of administration requires more and more “data” to show that classrooms, schools, districts, and states are meeting their impossible objectives. The people overseeing education often have no idea what is important in education. Finally, public education is used as Trojan horse for cultural Marxism. Lots of sham.

Q: Now, coming back to the present, do you see areas of possibility and hope?

A: The expense is so high, that I don’t think the present system can be sustained. There are cheaper and equally effective alternatives, such as homeschooling networks.

The contradictions in education are so blatant that the public is going to start waking up, contradictions such as boasting about “Excellence” when 70% read on a fourth grade level. We hear a lot of chatter about “21st century global citizenship” when kids know little about science, history, and geography. Global citizens who know nothing about the globe, that’s where we are.

Q: On your website, you emphasize your Greek heritage. You value the military tradition. You used to have a picture of yourself with a .45 lying on the table.

A: I’m not Greek. I have strong feelings for the ancient Greeks. I am mystified and awed how they knew so much and said it so well in their memorials, plays, philosophy, cities, and actions on the battlefield. I’m Polish---I like that heritage, too. The .45 was merely a paperweight.

Q: You seem to be posting less commentary. Are you softening?

A: No, just busy. After 15 years learning more about instructional design, I am back to writing books for families and teachers of children with autism.

Q: What’s the most aggressive thing you said that you’re still proud of?

A: “Our work on social justice involves sitting on our butts talking about social justice. How about going downtown to the projects and teaching kids to read?” Here’s another: “Marxists use the phrase social justice all the time. But Marxists have murdered about 150 million of their own people.”

Q: Are you walking a tight rope? Have you been criticized?

A: It happens. It was alleged by a few persons who teach reading differently than I do, that I was “making teachers use Direct Instruction,” when I helped schools to use Direct Instruction reading programs. I was also accused of “getting kickbacks” from the publisher. And I was criticized for chewing out a doctoral-level class that complained that I gave them too much to read. Apparently, whining and laziness are 21st century global citizenship skills. I‘ve rightly apologized when my comments were a bit too sharp. I get along with most because I am a kindly and friendly fellow. They realize that my criticisms of their field of interest are not based on my self-interest, but on the interests of children.

Q: Here’s a big question. Has anybody ever confided in you, or confessed to you, what the big shots in education are really trying to do?

A: No, they keep it well hidden!

Q: There is so much dumbing down, so much mediocrity, it’s easy to assume that the people at the top want it that way.

A: I think it’s like the old Soviet Union. I believe that the rulers believed (based on pure ideology) that collectivized, tightly-controlled industry would be highly productive. When it wasn’t, they simply did more of the same. And down she went.

Our rulers believe that they can make all students above average in happy little “learning communities” by such steps as these: Adding political content to schools. Assessing “teacher proficiency” with items so vague that they are meaningless, for example, “This teacher designs lessons that enable all students to excel.” Adopting new textbooks every few years (books that are increasingly leftist) and adding more “technology” (“21st century”!). But these steps have nothing to do with education, mastery, student investment, teacher proficiency, or learning communities. Again, sham.

Q: The big debate facing most people who examine education is the question of malicious intent versus incompetence?

A: They are quite competent at spreading leftist ideas through textbooks, classroom teaching, teacher training and certification, and stated missions, and at disguising what is going on. It is partly conspiracy, as seen in the agendas, speeches, research, and publications of different education organizations. They talk and publish together. But it is mostly affinity.

Q: Let’s fantasize for a moment. Blue sky. Let’s say you’re the Secretary of Education. What would you do to make the public schools as good as they could be?

A: I would want schools to use curriculum and instruction that involve focused, direct instruction in reading, math, and science in elementary grades. We would create a website that provides free videos that tell teachers how to establish productive interaction.

I would insist that everyone “keep it simple.” I would like to see incentives for hiring more men and former military.

In general, we want to incentivize better ways of doing things. We want to conduct research that identifies the most effective forms of school organization, teacher support, curriculum, and instruction, and then give money to schools that make the most use of those effective forms.

We would also have a website for families that provides free instructional materials.

Q: There’s a new book out called “Credentialed to Destroy” by Robin Eubanks. Her thesis is that all the different programs we hear about the last 50 years are basically the same program: take facts out of the classroom and make the kids unable to think abstractly.

A: Instead of logic, we have “comprehension strategies.” I think all of the “programs” on comprehension---“finding the main idea”; asking “What would happen if?”; and “How does this make you feel?”---show that the developers don’t see that without students learning logic, their work on “comprehension” is superficial baloney (a good name for a rock band).

Q: What's the big truth you wish every parent would understand?

A: They aren’t on your side. Teachers, yes. The rest? No.

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In the future, Professor Kozloff hopes, he says, "to leave this life a little wiser; with everything I’ve managed to learn (usually from persons a lot smarter than I) made available to anyone who needs it; with children whom I’ve well prepared; and a wife who realizes that it’s not that I wasn’t listening. Sometimes I just didn’t get it."

Someone should publish a book of great quotes by Martin Kozloff. In the meantime, here are some links where readers can learn more about his thoughts.

Everybody should read If It Quacks Like a Duck, It’s Probably Baloney [Dr. Kozloff’s Ed Theory]

Kozloff On Reading: A Whole Language Catalog of the Grotesque” [Dr. Kozloff patiently explains all the nonsense introduced into reading instruction.]

The Education War by Dr. Martin Kozloff [That is, the war ON education!]

Dr. Kozloff's personal site is Educationation.org.

Every teacher should look at these two videos about Siegfried Engelmann, the great man of Direct Instruction and one of Dr. Kozloff’s heroes. 32 minutes. 8 minutes.

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