Judging by the record, our Education Establishment believes in teaching as little as possible. Indeed, the prevailing attitude seems to be one of pious horror. Teach X, Y, or Z?? Heaven forbid.
Presumably, these elite educators want students to know their own names. Once you reach that achievement, our Education Establishment seems bereft of any good reason why you, a student, might wish to know anything else.
My impression is that the education commissars don t want teachers to teach much, and they don t want students to learn much. The broader goal seems to be a world where people know next to nothing. This, of course, is a world easily manipulated and controlled.
My gloomy sense of the education landscape is that every hot new method, when you really examine its impact, actually functions to diminish knowledge in the classroom. I ve studied Constructivism, Cooperative Learning, Self Esteem, Reform Math, and several others, and found them of questionable value.
In day to day operations, however, the Education Establishment does not need the fancy sophistries just named. Instead, educators rely on several dozen dismissive clichés that can be tossed without thought into any and all situations, should anyone dare to suggest teaching something. Here, in no particular order, are many of the most common excuses:
Our children can t handle this material.
Our children don t need to know that material.
Our children learn this material at home.
Children don t need to learn this. They can look it up.
This material is too exotic and remote we need to teach things that are relevant.
This material is too local. We need to teach about other cultures.
This material will offend girls. No sexism.
This material will offend minority kids. We must avoid racism.
This material is old fashioned and no longer interesting to today s kids.
This material is too trendy, We want substance.
This material is too technical and should be taught at a later grade.
This material is obvious and we don t need to waste time on it.
Children today are not interested in things that happened long ago. History is not a good use of class time.
George Washington is overrated; haven t you read Howard Zinn on this? Thomas Jefferson, too.
This material assumes that people all learn in the same way. Our curriculum must cater to diverse learning styles.
This material is too controversial, we can t possibly mention it in the classroom.
This material is too boring; we don t want to put our children to sleep.
This material is easy kids learn it from each other.
This material will create differences between the children; we can t have that.
War is much too violent and might give children bad dreams. We should skip all the wars. Except the Vietnam War. There you can teach political truths.
All that scientific and mathematics stuff. Who really needs it?
All the stuff about rich people, kings, and aristocrats it s very inappropriate for our kids.
Betsy Ross that s so lame. The American Revolution didn t really have much place for women. Girls will be offended by the exclusionism. Skip the Revolution.
Caring about the environment is one thing. But our kids don t need to know the names of insects, trees, and stuff.
Novels? They are too complicated and far removed from the lives of our children.
Adventure books? Our children don t need trashy stuff like that.
Success stories? No, we don t want to give children unrealistic expectations.
Technology and computers kids learn that on their own. Look what they do with their phones.
Poetry? Maybe a few by Langston Hughes.
See how easy it is!! Everything is either too simple or too difficult, too close or too far away, too blue or not blue enough. Bingo! Nothing is left. Classrooms are filled with a stunned and shimmering emptiness. You can stare a thousand miles in any direction and see nothing.
The only good thing about all these excuses is that they do provide a litmus test. So called educators who say these things are clearly more interested in deleting knowledge than in teaching knowledge. You know them for the non educators they are. (Of course, you can now understand why these people hate testing so much. Tests would indicate how little the children know, and that must be kept a secret.)
What we need is an Education Establishment that loves knowledge and wants children to acquire it. Start early and teach, teach, teach, because facts are fun and knowledge is power. Schools based on any other principles are babysitting services or indoctrination centers. Or, as with too many public schools, both.
(For related analysis, see 41: Educators, O. J. Simpson and Guilt on Improve Education.org. Also see 20: The Quizz. )
Bruce Deitrick Price is the founder of http://www.Improve-Education.org, an education and intellectual site. One focus is reading; see "42: Reading Resources." Price is an author, artist and poet. His fifth book is "THE EDUCATION ENIGMA--What Happened to American Education."