Reclaiming American Education

LFC Comments: Thanks to “Jan Just Thinking” for this article on reclaiming American education.

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Reclaiming American education will take a moral and dissenting view of the current system by parents, teacher trainers and teachers with a model that rebukes worthless innovations but infuses what works. Standards are for the human race but in the current culture have been compromised, exploited and politicized in schools with race, gender and sex issues. Teacher training colleges, unions, superintendents and school boards have been complicit in the degradation of our education system.

What would it take for them to say no more experimental social engineering of children?

The “how” of pedagogy is key to the art of teaching per the article below. Content is not the only way that student learning has changed but also how that content is taught.

Reinstate lectures from the front of the room, not open ended group discussions; revert to “objective truth-correct and incorrect answers rather than individual experiences; require phonics based reading programs. What courageous educators will take on the challenge to raise children into functioning citizens, not social justice advocates?

It will be led by us. Who else will do it?

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LFC Comments by Brian Massie, Executive Director
As I read this great article by Mr. Ellwanger, it is apparent that public education needs a “reboot”, and we will probably see home schooling and other alternatives making great strides in the near future. The key is to give the State funding to the parents so that schools will have to compete for the children, and parents can select the school that are better aligned with their value system. The taxpayers also have to realize that if they keep voting for property tax school levies they are funding their own demise.

Jan ‘Just Thinking”
May 17, 2022

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https://www.nas.org/academic-questions/34/4/the-art-of-teaching-and-the-end-of-wokeness

The Art of Teaching and the End of Wokeness

Adam Ellwanger

Excerpts from the article:

Any enthusiast of classical liberal education will be much dismayed at the current state of education in America, both in K-12 schools and our colleges and universities. In addition to the schools’ incessant propagation of the modern leftist worldview, there is the new war against standardized means of assessing student performance—and even a growing conviction that any formal measure of academic success is a way of perpetuating the injustices of the “status quo.”

For over thirty years, when surveying the unfolding crisis in the nation’s schools, conservatives and their allies have centered their critique on matters of curriculum. Almost without exception their arguments revolve around the conviction that we are teaching the wrong things, and the solutions that they propose usually consist of recommitting ourselves to teaching the right things. These critics aren’t wrong. American students are being taught the wrong things. History has been reduced to a cataloguing of Euro-American failure, injustice, and violence. Literature serves as a springboard from which to launch attacks on “uninterrogated” traditional values and “assumptions.” Social studies are now a vehicle for gender ideology and Critical Race Theory, which teaches a moralistic race essentialism where whites are de facto bigoted oppressors and minorities are virtuous victims of “systemic” brutality and hatred. In the wake of the racial unrest in the summer of 2020, some public schools have abandoned advanced mathematics courses on the grounds that they marginalize minorities.1

Suffice it to say, then, that there are many ways in which the curriculum can be improved. Nevertheless, focusing on curricular concerns as a way to “reclaim” the schools is a deeply misguided approach. The conservative fetishization of the whats of American education (i.e., considerations of what is being taught) is largely responsible for the success of the left in conquering these institutions. Put simply, an exclusive focus on the whats has been self-defeating, because the left’s successes in turning schools into houses of political indoctrination were largely achieved by ignoring the question of content: their victory was secured through an elevation of style over substance, of form over content. Their conquest was achieved through a resolute dedication to the hows of schooling; that is, the methods by which content is conveyed to students and how teaching techniques and strategies can be instrumentalized to serve ideological ends. They also devoted themselves to changing how the schools are run at the administrative and procedural levels. This elevation of the hows over the whats allowed the political left to take over education at a time when their activists were a minority within what was then a culturally conservative institution. This hostile takeover was consolidated mainly throughout the 1980s. By the time that educational reformer William Bennett was appointed to the post of Secretary of Education by Ronald Reagan in 1985, many were sounding the alarm that American schools were in intellectual decline.2 But by then, the left’s alternate model of education had already substantially dislodged the older model that had been defined by strict standards and rigorous monitoring of student performance. By the mid-1990s, the new educational order had received the tacit (if oft-unspoken) approval of administrators and school boards.

In what follows, I highlight how critics of American education have neglected the issues of procedure and pedagogy—the hows of schooling— and I argue that a new consideration of methodological concerns related to teaching holds the most promise for changing the culture of American schools. I do not offer a fully-articulated pedagogical method adapted to these ends: rather, I call for those opposed to the dominant trends of the schools to begin an urgently-needed discussion of how extra-curricular elements of the educational process can be utilized as forms of political resistance.

Additional excerpts from this great article:

“Consider the prominence of the “decentered classroom,” which assumes that the physical arrangement of the traditional classroom is another means to establish pedagogical authority and encourage a passive attitude among students. Devotees of this theory worry that the lectern at the front of the room is a draconian symbol of authority. They fret that only the teacher has easy access to the blackboard, an arrangement that implies that only he can dispense knowledge. Students’ desks—clearly designed around a flat surface to use for notetaking—are one more way that the oppressors encourage passive acceptance of curricular content. Thus, the decentered classroom is common today. Teachers will sit in a student’s desk, symbolically laying down their intellectual authority by joining the rest of the class in a circle. Like Arthur’s Round Table, the circle implies that no one exists at the “head” of the class. No one has exclusive access to the blackboard. The circle expands the gaze of the students, further decentralizing the exchange. But sitting in a circle with Arthur didn’t make Galahad a king, and thus the “decentralizing” teacher partakes in stealth power of the very sort he deplores. Some more examples of the hows are in order.”

“There is the movement that seeks to normalize plagiarism, insisting that it is unfair to penalize students for passing off others’ writing as their own.10 After all, an author’s “ownership” of his work is just a way to adapt students to the values of Western capitalism. And don’t forget the movement among teachers to stop penalizing students for non-attendance or tardiness.11 Obviously, these penalties are a form of “injustice.” Not all students have the same access to transportation, and “neuro-divergent” students may have depression that keeps them from getting out of bed, or social anxiety that demands they take a more roundabout route to class to avoid crowds of people. Class must be “accessible” for these students, and thus, it must be optional.”

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