Saturday, March 25, 2006

Reading Moloch

The NYT reports how, driven by NCLB, math and reading is driving out other subjects like science and history.

SACRAMENTO — Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.

Schools from Vermont to California are increasing — in some cases tripling — the class time that low-proficiency students spend on reading and math, mainly because the federal law, signed in 2002, requires annual exams only in those subjects and punishes schools that fall short of rising benchmarks.

I find it curious that educationists regard "reading" and learning science and history as being mutually exclusive. "Reading" is not some abstract, isolated skill but a practical tool that can be applied to many fields. Couldn't you learn a lot of history and science by reading? Whatever happened to reading across the curriculum?

In The Knowledge Deficit , E.D. Hirsch argues that reading instruction should be less concerned with "strategies" and should focus more on domain knowledge:

From Publishers Weekly
The notion of learning how to learn is a shibboleth in America's schools, but it distorts reading instruction, contends this provocative manifesto. Education theorist Hirsch decries a dominant "Romantic" pedagogy that disparages factual knowledge and emphasizes reading comprehension "strategies"—summarizing, identifying themes, drawing inferences—that children can deploy on any text. Such formal skills, he argues, are easily acquired; what kids really need is a broad background knowledge of history, science and culture to help them assimilate new vocabulary and understand more advanced readings. "Process-oriented" methods that apply reading comprehension drills to "vapid" texts waste time and slow kids' progress, Hirsch contends, and should be replaced with a more traditional, "knowledge-oriented" academic approach with a rich factual content. Hirsch repeats the call for a standard curriculum based on a canon of general knowledge (he touts his own core knowledge sequence as a model) made in his bestselling Cultural Literacy. That work drew fire from multiculturalists who accused Hirsch of promoting dead-white-male worship, but here he grounds his case in the latest cognitive-science research (with a healthy dose of common sense). Fluently written and accessible to teachers and parents alike, the book presents a challenge to reigning educational orthodoxies. (Apr. 24)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Teacher Arrested

At New York's Kennedy airport today, an individual later discovered to be a public school teacher was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule, and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, the attorney general said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He is being charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.

"Al-gebra is a fearsome cult," a Justice Department spokesman said. "They desire average solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute value. They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns', but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country.

As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, "there are 3 sides to every triangle."

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes."

Friday, March 17, 2006

Small is radical left

The promise of the small-schools movement was to create manageable, cozy entities as an alternative to the mammoth high-school jungles. Now it turns out that small schools are a vehicle for the implementation of a radical left agenda.

See, for example, this mission statement from a new small school being set up in Chicago that goes by the inspiring name of UPLIFT:

MISSION: Our mission is to continue to adapt and align our curriculum so that it is relevant, student-centered and adheres to the highest national standards. We will transform service delivery so that the theme of social justice is embedded in all subject areas.
Perhaps none of this is surprising since the father of the movement is none other than an SDS (Weathermen) fugitive turned Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Examples of other small schools turned into radical indoctrination centers abound as chronicled by Sol Stern.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Kozol made him do it

Sol Stern discusses how a quasi-official pedagogy permeating pre-collegiate education promotes political indoctrination:

At least the higher education professoriate denies that it favors using the classroom as a political bully pulpit. By contrast, the K-12 public school establishment has adopted a quasi-official pedagogy that encourages the classroom teacher to shape students’ beliefs on controversial issues like race, gender, sexual preference, and American foreign policy.

The documentation on this is so extensive that Jay Bennish might have a pretty good Nurenberg defense: “my union and my professional teacher association made me do it.”

For example, the National Education Association, the larger of the two national teacher unions, supports “the movement toward self-determination by American Indians/Alaska natives” and believes these designated victim groups should control their own education. It believes that all schools should designate separate months to celebrate Black History, Hispanic Heritage, Native American Indian Heritage, Asian/Pacific Heritage, Women’s History, Lesbian and Gay History. This nearly takes up the entire school calendar, leaving scant time for American history – or Geography, the subject that Mr. Bennish was supposed to be teaching when he went off on Bush and Bush’s Amerikkka.

After 9/11, the NEA posted guidelines on how teachers should discuss with their students the terrorist attack on our homeland. It was filled with multicultural psychobabble and stressed the need for children to be tolerant and to respect all cultures – while hardly saying a word about the fact that the country was at war with a vicious enemy out to destroy our tolerant society. The document came so close to apologizing for the 9/11 attack that a public outcry ensued, and the union was forced to remove the teacher guidelines from its website.

NEA-affiliated teacher organizations, such as the National Council of the Social Studies and the National Council of Teachers of English, carry on the political struggle by training teachers to focus inordinate attention in the classroom on issues of “diversity.” The NCSS believes that academic history – which some of its leaders have disparaged as "pastology" – is elitist and irrelevant. The organization has successfully lobbied state education departments to require little or no history. Instead, it has filled the schools with a hodgepodge of "global studies," "cultural studies," and "peace studies" that present all cultures and civilizations as equal in value.

If NCSS had its way, American education’s entire system would reflect a race- and gender-centered pedagogy. The organization's official policy paper, "Curriculum Guidelines for Multicultural Education," is one of the scariest documents in American education today, going far beyond the demand that social studies curricula reflect the grievances of a rainbow coalition of ethnic and racial groups. In the tone of a commissar's lecture at a political reeducation camp, the NCSS exhorts teachers, administrators, and other school employees to think and act multiculturally during every moment of the school day, lest they become accomplices of American culture's invisible but omnipresent racism. Teachers are instructed to scrutinize every aspect of the school environment – from classroom teaching styles and the pictures on the walls to the foods served in the lunchroom and the songs sung in the school assemblies – to be sure they reflect "multicultural literacy."

At the heart of the NCSS paper lies a fundamentally racist assumption: "[T]he instructional strategies and learning styles most often favored in the nation's schools," the guidelines declare, "are inconsistent with the cognitive styles, cultural orientations, and cultural characteristics of some groups of students of color." These students flourish under "cooperative teaching techniques" rather than the "competitive learning activities" that work for white kids.

We are left with this Orwellian conclusion by the Social Studies group: "Schools should recognize that they cannot treat all students alike or they run the risk of denying equal educational opportunity to all persons."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Spelling helps reading

Among the countless educationist lunacies is the belittling of correct spelling. This
article from American Educator shows that correct spelling supports reading.