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I write about education six days a week. My main motivation is that I’m sure the public schools can be much better at less cost.
Another big motivation is that I’m continually disappointed by the powers that be -- big media, the business community, the military. All of them complain about education but none of them actually gets involved. They don’t push the Education Establishment to do a better job. Our movers and shakers, alas, do not move and shake all that much.
I just published a piece titled “A newspaper’s responsibility to the community.” It basically makes the point that the schools are full of dubious theories and methods. Logically, a newspaper would help parents to be better consumers (especially any newspaper that enjoys a monopoly position, as most of our big newspapers do).
I’m in Norfolk, Virginia, where the monopoly paper is called the Virginian-Pilot. In education, this paper covers bureaucracy, administration, scandals, finance, personnel changes, that sort of thing. But there has never been an article about why sight-words are a terrible way to teach reading, or explaining why Reform Math is the wrong way to teach arithmetic, or why Constructivism is the wrong way to teach knowledge. Etc.
Well, I’m a conservative and a contrarian. You may not agree with all of my positions. But I would think everyone would agree with the notion that the media have a responsibility, especially in education, to constantly inform and instruct the parents in the community. Otherwise, the parents are at the mercy of the school. Our national statistics indicate that’s NOT a place you want to be.
Earlier in the year, a father contacted me about his son, who wasn’t learning to read. The key part of the story is that the principal was telling the father, “Your son is getting plenty of phonics.” But that was a lie. Each day the kid would come home with a list of sight-words to be memorized. The boy was discouraged and getting nowhere. In a few more months, the school would have that boy in a remedial program; he’d be diagnosed as dyslexic, ADHD, or something equally dreadful.
None of this could happen if the Virginian-Pilot would do its job. They simply have to explain the conflicting theories. Rudolf Flesch wrote about all this stuff in 1955. It’s not covert intelligence.
Here is another interesting part of the story. The father had spent several years in education at the secondary school level. But he knew nothing about reading. He had no idea what was going on at the elementary level. His attempts to understand had gone nowhere. He turned to Google and found me. So I explained what to do and told him some articles to read. Some more e-mails went back and forth, and a month later he told me the boy was looking at titles on the bookshelves and saying, “I can read that, too!” In other words, a total turnaround.
All of this is making me cynical. Does the NEA threaten everybody so they won’t undercut what goes on in the public schools? Does Arne Duncan come down with more grants (i.e., bribes) to go with the ones that pushed Common Core Curriculum? Are all the editors at the paper married to highly-paid school administrators? There is definitely something too cozy and incestuous going on in education.
Otherwise, we would see a lot more moving and shaking.