Thursday, May 11, 2006

The State of Education

Education is in truly pathetic condition. My fiancee is a pre-K teacher, and she has her 4 year olds counting up to 100 (she is doing this using number theory), knowing all their letters and sounds (yes, sounds – even though they are discouraged from using phonics, which is the ONLY way students learn how to read), and some are even reading. In fact, she has them so advanced, the kindergarten teachers are complaining that they won’t have anything to teach them. Rather than using phonics to teach children how to read (as my fiancee does), they are using the completely useless look-say method, which requires that students memorize thousands of words without recognizing any connections among them. Students are pushed to read fast, but these same students don’t understand a thing they read. Rather than having students read and re-read until they understand, there is now a ridiculous tally method where students count up words and use the number of words to determine what a story is about or what its theme is. Mere numbers of words does not tell one anything about meaning or content, as research I have done on fictional texts shows. If we were to do a tally, we would say that Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure is about church rather than friendship. Further, 3rd grade students don’t even know what a noun or a verb is, and thus do not know what makes up a complete sentence. And I could go on and on...

Basically, we are in trouble when it comes to foundations. We undermine our students left and right, using tests to determine how many prison cells to make for future inmates rather than to educate. Schools do not teach concepts, they discourage students from math and science, they teach children to hate poetry, literature, and the arts. There is a crumbling of philosophical foundations throughout our country. For many, it is too late once they get to college – for those who get to college. And then they have to be fortunate enough to have professors who challenge them and provide those foundations they lack.

It is time for a revolution. Tinkering around the edges won’t do it. We don’t need educational reform, we need educational revolution (first, abolish "Education" as a major in college) from top to bottom. Our schools need to get back to teaching grammar and logic and foreign languages (especially Greek and Latin) in elementary school. They need to teach music, so every child can play an instrument, and get all the benefits of music, including better math skills. This will allow each child to discover philosophy and art, truth and beauty, to live fulfilling lives. This is what we need if we want our children to have good educations. With the reforms being proposed now, I have little confidence that anyone actually cares that any child learns how to do anything.
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