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Here is one of my favorite themes: Almost everything we see discussed is the SURFACE of education. The skin. The outside. The superficial stuff that doesn't really matter.
I think our Education Establishment is truly brilliant at keeping people distracted and bewildered. The trick is to get people discussing things that are not primary. Throw out five or 10 excuses for why the schools are bad – kids are lazy, parents don't care, there's not enough money, the Internet is taking over, the world isn't what it was, schools are full of obsolete ideas-- and stoke these fires 24/7. Consume the community's energy and passion for better education. Leave them exhausted and indifferent.
Meanwhile, we never hear a word about the things that are really killing the country. Analysts, in many contexts, are eager to discuss what they call "root causes." Bravo, those are the things we need to discuss in education.
Specifically, in education these refer to the theories and methods that underlie everything going on in the classroom. If you don't fix the bogus theories and the dysfunctional methods, you will never change anything.
For further discussion, please see the article "How do we achieve genuine reform in K-12 education?"
CODA: I want to give an example of how the process works. An education professor comes up with a theory that subject X should be taught a certain way or kids learn subject Y in a certain way. Another professor devises a method based on this theory. The entire Education Establishment celebrates the professors, the theories, and the methods (think Dewey, Piaget, Goodman). But these theories may be bogus, may be based on slanted or partial proof. They may never have been tested in real classrooms in real cities. But suddenly all the textbooks are thrown out, and a new wave of instruction begins. Five or 10 years later the bad results will be part of the fabric of education. People will not even realize the cause-and-effect that went on. Invariably, ideas for fixing things will produce no improvement.
(Please do not suppose that money is an example of a root cause. That's part of the distraction. You could have multi-million-dollar public schools that are horrible. Conversely, smart sincere people could run an outstanding school in a garage. Homeschooling is an example in that direction.)