How Did Schools Get So Bad?
by MARTHA GIES-CHUMNEY
November 9, 2011
Bridgette A. Wallis
Former elementary educator and online journalist, Bridgette Wallis is a natural for synthesizing and exposing the failures of American education. She has an in-depth, fresh-from-the-trenches insight into the malaise that faces American public schools. Wallis affixes blame for the lack of academics in our well funded schools on omnipresent reformers whom she dubs Society Shapers. “Our public education system is dysfunctional and inconsistent. It also values social engineering over academic achievement.”
Wallis’ style is clear, unequivocal, and free of educational jargon. Public Ed Dread answers the timely questions uppermost in the minds of thinking Americans: Why are American students so ill prepared academically and what can we do about it? Due to the desire of Society Shapers to create a utopian American society, academic achievement has lost its relevance. This destruction has occurred through the constant manipulation of the educational system. Wallis chronicles accurately with facts, quotations, governmental laws, and regulations the demise of public schools. She provides factual explication of the litany of reforms dictating curriculum, teacher preparation and methodology and their intended and the unintended consequences.
The author gives an understandable, layman-friendly history of the educational reforms supported by both reliable research and personal anecdotal experience. Wallis’s litany of misguided Society Shapers begins with the very inception of public schools in America and its eventual mandatory attendance. From Horace Mann and John Dewey to the Obama administration’s current “Race to the Top,” Wallis guides the reader through a long list of reforms, and re-reforms.
“Equality has become the central focus of public schools even though it has nothing to do with student academic achievement; it never has, and it never will.” Due to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the1972 Title 9, like-ability grouping was replaced by small group instruction, child centered learning, and individualized instruction. “Society Shapers will never achieve their goals without setting up an artificially created equality where academics is dumbed down or squeezed out entirely, which is what we have today.”
Multiculturalism, bilingual education, teacher quality issues, self esteem, sex education, earth day, red ribbon week, fuzzy thinking, cooperative learning, constructivism, whole language, inflated grades, college for all, and going green have all been destructive diverting time from the basic core knowledge. Add Title 1 of the War on Poverty, The President’s Council of Physical Fitness and Sports, Anti Bullying Legislation, Dietary Demands, National School Lunch Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, No Child Left Behind etc. to the mix. “The never-ending list of society shaping should’s disguised as reforms, the eternally bright and shiny magic bullets that misfire, the subsequent unintended consequences and the constant supply of patches to fix, mend and re-reform the reforms has become standard operating procedure in America’s public schools.”
Wallis, however, does not leave us without a possible solution to these problems. Her solution is simply to rid public schools of all reforms. Her concept of half day academic public schools is intriguing and would cost the tax payers much less. Academics: reading, writing, literature, math, history, geography, and science would be taught in the mornings. There would be no mixed ability classes; tracking would be reinstated to optimize the opportunities of each individual student; regular class sizes would be maintained by appropriate discipline; tax payer money would be spent wisely; academics would be the primary focus with fact based student grades; direct instruction would be utilized when appropriate; and alternative education would be instituted for the students with diverse life goals.
“In an academic half-day school, all the social aims of Society Shapers would be eliminated. Obviously the other half of the day is left free. Students would attend private half-day schools—voluntarily.” Parents could make the choice of private afternoon school for their children to study music, sports, ethic instruction; the choices would be endless. “The private afternoon alternative removes the tug of war of competing philosophies and competing goals.” Society Shapers could ply their trade at their will in the private schools because attendance would be voluntary. The vast expenditures of today’s education system would be cut drastically; thereby, lowering school taxes. This would enable parents to afford market-based afternoon private school. Perhaps public school buildings could even be leased to private afternoon schools. Government assistance would be available for those children whose parents could not afford to pay tuition. “All students would still get a basic academic education from public half-day schools without all the political bias or experimental methods of instruction.”
Bridgette Wallis chose her title insightfully-Public Ed Dread. “Dread is a perfect word to put in a title that describes the hole America has been dug into by well-meaning Society Shapers and their reforms with dreadful consequences.”
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Martha Gies-Chumney is a retired educator. She spent 43 years of teaching at the secondary and college levels in the United States and in South Korea. She has traveled extensively and writes both fiction and nonfiction. Currently, she lives in the Los Padres National Forest at Pine Mountain Club, California, and her present focus is political activism at the local, state, and national level.