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Educating for Ignorance
by Alan Caruba
08 September 2003High School

No one seems to care that our education system is failing an entire generation of young Americans.


As schools open their doors again, one wonders how much longer the disastrous system will be tolerated by parents who want their children to receive a decent education. Instead, the new school year will insure that those entrusted to its tender mercies will continue to be indoctrinated as politically correct, but ignorant citizens.

It’s been going on now for decades. Every year a new report comes out to lament the fact that the education system in America is no longer educating another generation of young Americans, no longer providing the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, along with any real knowledge of civics, geography, or history.

What worries me is that no one seems to care anymore. Other than polls that say people are concerned about education, there is no evidence that they have a clue how to fix the problem or disagree with the politician’s answer of throwing billions at it while expanding federal control over it. I always remind people that you will not find the word “education” in the Constitution because the Founding Fathers understood it was best provided at the local level.
 
It is no accident that in the same time period since the 1960s as our educational system has been undermined we have seen our society undergo ugly changes. They have included an attack on marriage and the family, and even the Boy Scouts of America, advocacy of “alternative” sexual lifestyles, the legalization of pornography, the deprecation of religious faith, the rise of the drug culture, and all those things that lead any great society to decline and failure.

Largely unnoticed is that, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, every day that school is in session, 3,000 secondary students drop out. In the 2003-2004 school year, nearly 540,000 students will leave before earning a high school diploma. The graduation rate is 69 percent and far worse in urban school districts where fewer than half graduate. The education of children is not that difficult if done correctly, but that process is now in shambles.

I regret to tell you that President Bush is just one more in a long line of Presidents who have permitted the education system to come under the control of the federal government. Indeed, under Bush 43, the Department of Education, the chief perpetrator of this obscenity, has virtually doubled in size due to his advocacy of “teach to the test,” the absurd cookie-cutter notion that all children learn at the same pace and must, from coast to coast, regurgitate the same answers. We have come a very long way from the one-room schoolhouses that taught all grades and somehow managed to produce students with excellent skills.

On April 26, 1983, “A Nation At Risk,” a report on the state of education, was released, stating that “The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.” By then, the process of undermining our educational system had been in place since the 1960s. It began by modeling our system on one used by the former Soviet Union. The fruits of that effort had shown up by 1983 and they have gotten steadily worse since then.

In June, “The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2000,” issued by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, reported that the nation’s fourth and eighth grade students had shown only slight improvement in reading ability over the past years and that the nation’s high school seniors entering the workforce or heading for college were worse readers than those in the twelfth grade in 1998. For years, many colleges have had to teach remedial reading to freshman.

In April, the Pulitzer Prize winning historian and author, David McCullough, told a special hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, that “We are raising a generation of people who are historically illiterate” and ignorant of the basic philosophical foundations of our constitutional free society. He noted that only three colleges in the United States require a course on the Constitution in order to graduate. They are the US Military Academy at West Point, the Navel Academy at Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy.

In May, McCullough charged that the teaching of American history was being deliberately destroyed by “rotten” history books that embraced “multiculturalism” and “cultural equivalence” as opposed to demonstrating why some cultures have proven superior to others. McCullough called the history books in today’s schools “deadly.”  He said, “It’s as if they were designed to kill anyone’s interest in history rather than encourage it.”

Noted education professor, Diane Ravitch, has just published a book, “The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Children Learn.”  Sharply criticizing today’s textbooks, she said, “Students who learn about the world from these texts are unlikely to understand why some civilized nations flourished and others languished, or why people vote with their feet to leave some places and go to others…Nor will they have any deep knowledge of the great ideological, political, economic and military struggles between democratic nations and their totalitarian adversaries in the 20th century.”

There was a time when local school boards were in charge of local schools. Those days are long gone. Today the teacher’s unions control all aspects of education in America and they dominate the Department of Education. They are considered a keystone of the Democrat Party and acknowledged by all as extremely liberal. As such, they have worked hard to deconstruct the former system of education that produced well educated students up to the years of the 1950s and replaced it with a system that now produces children deliberately rendered ignorant of the basic skills, of history, of civics, of geography, et cetera. Add to this, the massive infusion of lies about the earth’s environment throughout the entire curriculum.
 
Little wonder that one of the fastest growing trends in America today is home schooling. So long as parents have a choice between sending their children to the failed schools of the nationally imposed educational system or teaching them at home, many are choosing the latter. They are heroes. The students passing through our system have become its victims.

Alan Caruba is the author of Warning Signs, published by Merril Press. His weekly commentaries are posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center.

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