Tag Archives: literacy

THE BAIT AND SWITCH GAME OF MODERN SOCIAL-LIBERAL EDUCATION

An old fashioned con-man’s game of fraud is alive and well. It is called “Bait and Switch” and is sometimes used to sell products. It works very simply. The con-man offers to sell one thing at a given price, but when the customer arrives to get the merchandise, he is told that it has suddenly been sold out and a product of lower quality put in its place, usually at  higher cost.

“Bait and Switch” is not the exclusive practice of unscrupulous crooks. It is alive and well in American education, in which one thing is promised and another thing is delivered in its place that is astonishingly more costly and of vastly lower quality. In this case, they promise education, but, instead of a platform of studies which sets high standards of achievement and that demands students work to reach the objective goals of literacy, numeracy, clear critical thinking and uncorrupted reasoning, they deliver a platform of deliberately lowered standards, and political correctness in the form of a range of excuse-making devices. These devices take various forms, such as special education ploys for often fictitious and exaggerated “disabilities” that suspend the natural human challenge inherent in education, destroy accountability for failure and create an egregiously debilitating government dependency through ignorance and propaganda.

The Bait is the false promise that, through enormous funding, too often squandered in patronage grants for useless studies, a superior education is ensured. The Switch is that, for all the investment and graft, you get illiteracy, bad behavior through permissive conditioning and the continual failure of incalculable numbers of high school graduates unable to read, write, add, subtract, divide,  multiply, or generally to think.

There is only one reason to become educated. It is to free the mind so that it can govern the process of living. The purpose for being educated is not just to get a job, as is widely asserted. That is the main purpose of training, or the detailed learning of specific skills related to a profession or job. The real end purpose of becoming fully and truly educated is freedom, because only a free person can truly make life choices and decisions without being limited by anything but his ability and civilized society’s rules. To be free, a person must be able to depend on knowing reality, which requires the skills of clear thinking and uncorrupted reasoning. These alone enable a person to make wise and beneficial decisions, and without them, i.e., without education, there can be no freedom.

The methodology of education is learning to learn, a process which is guided by teachers, but which is something students must ultimately acquire for themselves. It cannot be instilled or instantly injected in anyone. You cannot simply tell someone how to play the piano or how to build a house. You may guide that person through a set of steps and explain various details, but the skills that make up piano playing or house building must be learned, fully understood and practiced until they are mastered. The ultimate ability of learning is the ability to teach oneself whatever one needs to learn. This should be the clearly recognized goal of every student and every teacher. The ultimate result of learning is not limited to specific facts or content, but to mastering the disciplines of clear, critical thinking and uncorrupted reasoning. It is the mastery of skills, not exclusively of content, because grasping truth and comprehending reality are skills that enable a person possessing them to learn anything and everything for the rest of his or her lives. Contrary to the argument that disciplined learning is constricting, a mastered set of disciplines, of reading, writing, reasoning, etc. is itself freedom from constriction. The intent of education should never be to cram data into a student’s head.

Neither is education the process of manufacturing self-esteem through grandiose notions or false narratives of history. That is the intent of propaganda, not education. The intent of educating students should be to teach them to evaluate data by objective standards and to expose them to many possible opposing explanations of a thing, until they have enough data to arrive at the truth objectively and it becomes a part of their experience. It is the truth and not the data which sets them free.

Author Dana R. Casey has put it succinctly: Teach students how to think, but never what to think.

This is vitally important for people to realize, because, a free, fully educated people are much stronger and less vulnerable to oppression than ignorant masses, long fed on propaganda. Therefore, governments often pervert education, so that facts are replaced with propaganda and the vital skills of objective critical thinking and a traditional liberal arts education are replaced by technical training. Freedom to think objectively strengthens people, while ignorance weakens them and makes them vulnerable to oppression or manipulation by government.

Corrupting an entire educational system takes a long time and must be done slowly and subtly. The advent of social liberalism and the theories of John Dewey, who praised the Soviet Union in its early days, introduced the concept of educating the masses, i.e., of collectivizing education. Dewey’s notion was that an educated population could be mass produced. He believed that the purpose of education is social reform. He wrote that “education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction.”

Dewey tried this in the USSR in the 30s, but the Soviets did not take Dewey’s notions entirely to heart, although they recognized that his methods and rationale might effectively create an educated collective population. Recognizing that a functioning nation requires a high rate of literacy and of all the other basic skills, they kept the traditional principles of education intact and instead placed their emphasis on slanting the content of education.

They stressed technical subjects and rewarded science students with government subsidy of their work, because they knew that technological advances were advantageous to their national power. Students in the Soviet Union had a high rate of literacy, mastery of foreign languages, especially English, which they recognized as the global standard, and the arts. Students of history were taught a carefully constructed propagandized view, even to the extent of manipulating and even inventing historical accounts. They were not given opportunities for an objective, many-faceted examination of such events. Thus students “learned” history which was skewed to the purposes of the Soviet regime.

The arts were also fiercely controlled, especially literature, because the Soviets understood the power of arts, especially of the written word, to shape the spirit and soul of a people, and punishments were exacted for violating the rules regarding what one could draw, paint, compose, write or disseminate. Even what was read by the people was tightly controlled. The works of Kafka and others were banned, and anyone copying prohibited text, called samizdat, often went to jail where they were harshly treated. In some respects, dissident artists and writers were treated more harshly than murderers on the logical theory that a murderer only killed people, whereas a powerfully written poem could inspire rebellion.

We in the US do not have a collectivist culture. The founding principle of our free republic is the freedom and rights of individual citizens. The founding documents upon which our nation was formed, was the diametric opposite of Soviet Socialism, thus, we have never believed in collectivizing anyone. In the US, these values and principles are also the purpose of the US education system. But that has gradually been corrupted.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, many former citizens of the USSR fled to the West. They knew that here they could fully appreciate what real freedom, freedom of the individual, was like. One component of Soviet life that was valuable and which they retained, was the skills had gained from their traditional education. One of the most encouraging things to draw from this is that many chose to reject Communism and become American citizens, praising American values, especially its extraordinary and unusual concept of individual rights.

Many of these former Soviet citizens were also shocked by the condition of education here in the US today, many claiming that education, minus the propaganda, was better in the USSR. This is hard to argue with. While in the Soviet Union people were not allowed to read the works of Kafka and other writers that would clash with Soviet values, they were encouraged to read, write and master many languages, all the sciences, and arts. Many mastered musical instruments and later established themselves in the West as soloists and orchestral musicians. Most Soviet and Soviet Bloc schools taught chess as a regular course of study, a game that most American children in public schools have either never heard of or ridicule as absurd, as they continue to fail to read on a high school level, preferring instead to spend their time listening to rap on their iPods and cell phones.

This is because American education has been degraded, deliberately and gradually, to its present state, so that students in schools are often encouraged to use excuse making and threats of litigation as a technique for achieving high grades, instead of the vital process of real learning. This degradation has come about through the yielding of control over education by local authorities to the Federal government.

The Soviets controlled the content of education while preserving the value of traditional standards and methods. But they lacked something that we in the US do not lack, money and its concomitant of greed. The Federal government uses money as a tool to control education by giving large grants to those who develop the so-called theories which promote standards prone to ideological propaganda and to school systems willing to implement these standards. It has also used money as a weapon to demonize standard education, ridiculing traditional methods as outdated or outmoded and instituting such corrupt standards as Common Core, a huge false-bottomed boat from which innumerable so-called “experts” drop their nets in search of big wads of cash. In a version of Bait and Switch, they offer idiotic fads and notions masquerading as theories in exchange for small fortunes of grant money. All that is required is that their cleverly invented “theories” always support and reinforce the ideology of big central government, thus making not only the students, but also the professionals in education, dependent upon it.

It will take brave educators, teachers in the classroom already overburdened with so much chaff that they cannot impart the kernel of wheat students badly, even desperately, need. They will need the courage of their convictions and great strength to insist on the restoration of traditional standards of a real learning environment, and to overturn the bandwagon of money, in order to right the course of American education. The first step will be to seize it back from the Federal Government and put it again where it belongs, in the local laps of teachers, parents and school officials who have been immunized against trendy notions and are confidently dedicated to bringing back proven traditional methods that actually educate students and teach them to appreciate what it really means to be educated. But it will also take dedication from parents not to allow the ultimate destruction of their children that illiteracy and a false conception of reality will cause.

*Social Liberalism is not true Liberalism, which was a product of the Enlightenment and celebrated freedom and the rights of individuals. Like so many other concepts, the Left has co-opted and corrupted the concept of true Liberalism, thus, it cannot be used in its original meaning without confusion.

FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American conservatism. Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital to human discourse.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Federal Department of Education, National Standards (Common Core)

A Monstrous Story for a Monstrous Curriculum: The Ugly Heart of #CommonCore

Photo by artur84 from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo by artur84 from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is a guest post by Dana R. Casey.

I am a high school English teacher. I became a teacher because I believe that literacy, which goes beyond just reading the words on the page, is an absolute necessity for maintaining our Republic.  Proof of that is found in the many laws against reading certain texts, or against reading altogether, that have been passed down by every tyrant since literacy became available to the general population. A few examples of such tyrannical laws are the Taliban banning reading for any female or laws against teaching slaves to read or the Soviet Union’s banning of such books as A Wrinkle in Time, Where’s Waldo, and To Kill a Mockingbird. The communist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia so hated literacy that just wearing glasses was cause for execution. Literacy leads to freedom and tyrants know it.

I have been teaching for over twenty years. Generally, I have been given either no curriculum or curriculum that was focused on skills, not specific texts. I would have to get those skills taught in whatever way I wanted to get there and with the texts that I chose. Sometimes I was given more direction and that direction was generally pretty good, including texts, key terms, supplemental stories, and suggested writing assignments. These directions were created at a school level by the teachers in the school. I helped write some myself. Mostly, I have had a lot of freedom in how I could achieve the learning goals.

Not anymore.

Today I was in a professional development session for my school district. Our school system has swallowed Common Core whole. Why wouldn’t they? The federal system has said that it is “voluntary”, but “voluntary” means that the district gets cut off from major federal funding if it does not adopt the standards, so “voluntary” is subjective. Here is what the Washington Post reported Sen. Charles Grassley has to say about Common Core:

Current federal law makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of state assessments. Nevertheless, the selection criteria designed by the U.S. Department of Education for the Race to the Top Program provided that for a state to have any chance to compete for funding, it must commit to adopting a “common set of K-12 standards” matching the description of the Common Core.

The Washington Post also reported, “The Republican National Committee recognizes the CCSS for what it is — an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children…”

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Common Core, it is a set of standards created in the private sector but pushed onto states by the federal government and largely financed by Bill Gates. The cost of implementing the program runs from millions to billions, depending on the state. It is untested and unresearched. It has been criticized for being not as rigorous as proponents claim, clearly biased to a liberal perspective, so much so that many see it as indoctrination, and it is being forced on the states in spite of the fact that a federal curriculum is unconstitutional, violating the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which established the principle that “…the “power” to oversee education belongs to the states. This longstanding principle of local control of education is reiterated throughout our laws and government codes.”

All of that sounds like something that makes NO connection whatsoever to most parents or teachers or American citizens as to why they should fight this federal intrusion into education. Here, I am going to provide you with a concrete example that shows the ugly heart of Common Core. There is something deeply dark and offensive in this lesson, created to support Common Core. It is a lesson designed to corrupt essential human decency.

The unit – sorry “module” – that I am using as an example is centered on To Kill a Mockingbird with the theme of “How individuals demonstrate individuality in the face of outside pressures.”  At the beginning of all of this, it looks good. I love the book; it is a great American classic and I have taught it many times. The module includes 30 days of lessons associated with the novel and multiple additional short reading assignments. However, as I looked this module over, I became more and more concerned. For me to break down the many problems with this module in detail would take quite a while, so I am going to show you an example of one lesson, on one short reading assignment, that left me speechless with horror.

This assignment in the module includes a short story by Guy de Maupassant, 19th century writer famous for The Necklace. Again, this seems rather innocent; de Maupassant is often included in high school texts, but not this particular story of his and, more importantly, not with this particular writing assignment.

The short story is The Mother of Monsters (link below). A quick summary of the story is that a gentleman on vacation is introduced to The Mother of Monsters, a local oddity described as a “peasant” and the “Devil”. Her story is that she finds herself pregnant while she is working as a simple serving girl. She binds her body with boards and cords to hide her growing belly. Her child is born horribly deformed. She takes care of the child, but resents it, until a sideshow man comes along and offers to buy the “thing” and to pay a yearly stipend for its use.  Once she realizes how much money she can make, she repeats her pregnancy pattern by birthing monster after monster after monster of intentionally deformed children to sell to showmen. She lives a “bourgeois” life as a result.

The narrator is reminded of this “Devil” when he later sees a popular “Parissiene” strolling on a beach followed by admirers. Her three children are also all deformed because she wants to maintain her trim figure throughout her pregnancies, so she keeps her corset tightly cinched. Peasant and lady. Different, yet the same. Both The Mother of Monsters. Both display a level of selfish evil that most humans would revile.

Now, as a high school story, this story may have a lot of meat to chew on for discussion…for maybe 11th or 12th graders, but this is a story assigned to incoming 9th graders, students who are 13, 14 or 15 years old. Students this age are not ready to handle the truly disturbing elements of a story which reveal some of the most perverse sides of human nature. That is bad enough; however, it gets worse. You may wonder what this story has to do with To Kill a Mockingbird and the theme of individuality.  Here is the writing assignment associated with this story:

Write an essay that compares the cultural experience reflected in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Mother of Monsters and explain how this experience helped a character demonstrate individuality in the face of outside pressure.

Individuality! Outside Pressure!!!! These women chose to deform their children for their own selfish gains or selfish vanity! The first pregnancy of the peasant woman we might forgive out of mercy, based on her ignorance, but the purposeful birthing of the rest of the 11 children that she intentionally deformed is unconscionable and unforgivable. The same holds with the Parisienne.

To judge these women as demonstrating their INDIVIDUALITY in the face of outside pressure is absurd and defies human decency. It is like insisting that Jeffery Dahmer was expressing his individuality through cannibalistic murder. Additionally, it is not a major leap to conclude that if deforming your children in order to express your own individuality is acceptable, then killing your children to protect your individuality (or selfish inhumanity) is perfectly fine too. This story paired with this assignment is a repulsive perversion of the concept of “lesson”; it is a corruption of anything descent and good.

There is something deeply repulsive in this lesson, especially as it is aimed at students as young as 13. I have been told that I must teach this module. I can make some adjustments, but not too many. I am struggling to find a way NOT to perpetuate the ugliness found here.  I am certainly NOT going to teach this story, though I may find myself in trouble with the system as a result. Some things are worth refusing to do even if there is a cost.

This is what is going on in our schools. This is what you need to see with open eyes. They are doing more than trying to increase rigor; they are indoctrinating our children into one way of thinking—their way! Many will argue that the Common Core is “not curriculum” and this example is curriculum, but example after example after example of curriculum inspired by the Common Core seems to contain disturbing or clearly biased elements. It is not irrelevant to look at the fruit of the tree which produced it and the fruit of Common Core is rarely healthy and is often clearly biased.  Schools should teach how to think, but never what to think. This is why we must fight what some are trying to sell us as “hope and change” to America as seen in Common Core.

Link to the story “The Mother of Monsters”:  http://www.classicreader.com/book/1238/1/

Dana R. Casey is a veteran High School English teacher of more than two decades in an East-coast urban system.  She is a life-long student of theology, philosophy, and politics, dedicated to the true Liberalism of the Enlightenment, as defined by our Founders and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

4 Comments

Filed under English/Reading/Literacy, Guest Post, National Standards (Common Core)

#Teachers, It’s Time to Spark a #Literacy Revolution in America!

This is a guest post by Annie Palmer. She is a reading interventionist and literacy coach in a suburban Kansas City school district. At the time of original publication of this article, she was a classroom teacher. You can follow her on Twitter @palmeram. She blogs over at Breaking Education Barriers.

It is time for teachers across the nation to join a literacy revolution.   Many of us have heard the alarming statistics about reading and literacy in America.  Among the numbers to worry about are the facts that two-thirds of eighth-grade students do not read on grade level (NEAP, 2009) and students with below grade level reading skills are twice as likely to drop out of school as those who read on or above grade level (Adolescent Literacy: A National Reading Crisis). Are you convinced yet that we need a literacy revolution?

The components of this revolution are not in a basal program.  The answer is not more book reports, more ditto sheets, and more whole-class novels.  The answers lies in the fact that our kids are severely lacking in a motivation to read when we drown them with these traditional ways of teaching. We must first ask ourselves what will motivate our students to read.  According to Krashen (2004), 51 studies prove that students in free-reading programs perform better than or equal to students in any other type of reading program. Not only does research back this claim up, so does evidence-based research conducted by Donalyn Miller, a sixth-grade Texas teacher and author of The Book Whisperer.   Miller’s students are passing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test with flying colors, and more importantly, they are motivated and inspired to read. I have to admit, after reading The Book Whisperer three years ago, I doubted that free voluntary reading (FVR) could make such an impact. I was proven wrong.  After implementing FVR through an 18-book challenge in fifth grade and a 40- book challenge in third grade, I am convinced this is the key to our literacy revolution.

My classroom was transformed from mundane skills-only instruction to a classroom where students took part in daily conversations about higher-level questions about their reading, excitement about what they were going to read next, and a sense of pride simply from the sheer amount and depth of reading.  And yes, that was without any extrinsic incentives!  The reward was the reading itself. (Yes, kids do read without extrinsic rewards). 

There was definitely an adjustment period for the students, parents and for me as we underwent this new approach.  Questions from the students included “You mean I have to do 18 book reports?!”  No, was the answer to that; they did not do book reports.  One does not need a book report to know whether students are comprehending text or even to know whether they can summarize.  Suggestions from parents included making the kids take an Accelerated Reader test.  Again, one does not need a test to know whether a child comprehends or even to figure whether they actually read the book.  The point of free voluntary reading is to get students excited about reading, to make them life-long readers and to facilitate intrinsic motivation to read.  I used my classroom lessons and assessments to gauge their ability to comprehend text.  Free voluntary reading was about creating the love of books, which is way more likely to encourage someone to read the rest of their life than a book report, an Accelerated Reader test or any classroom lesson.  Lessons, assessments, and comprehension checks need to be a part of a communication arts classroom, but without free voluntary reading, a classroom teacher is only helping students pass their class, not helping them be a life-long reader and thinker.

The first year I took this approach was the first year I started receiving notes from parents, saying “thank you, my child now loves to read.”  One of the most impactful responses I received from a parent and her child was as follows:

“My son and I we were discussing his day at school and if he had homework this evening. He mentioned that he needed to read, which lead me to tell him that I have noticed an increased interest in him wanting to read. His response was enlightening! He said, “Oh yes, mom, Mrs. Palmer has changed my life”. It was a very sincere statement and just wasn’t quite what I was expecting in reply. He continued to say that he likes to read and when he gets a good book, he just can’t put it down. Jake has always read books because he needed to and because we’ve encouraged him to; however, he has never enjoyed reading or picked up books at the spur of the moment until this year. Thank you!”

12 Comments

Filed under Professional Development