Volume 9, Issue 4: Repairing the Ruins
The Great Education Expiriment
Over a year ago it was reported that the state of California had a decade before made a serious error in judgment in how the state's schools were to instruct children in reading. It was clearly demonstrated and even admitted by state educators that they had made a grave mistake. Ten years of instructing children to place emphasis on stories rather than reading skills radically reduced the level of literacy of the approximately five million students in California's school system during those years. It was an experiment gone wrong. There is no easy or inexpensive way to reeducate five million children to read.
When it comes to our children's education, most of us want the best for our offspring. Just as many would not want to be among those who bought a first-year model of a new make of automobile (since they wouldn't want to pay a lot of money to find out they had purchased a lemon), so parents should be skeptical about new and unproven fads in education. Learning that five million kids in a single state have been used as guinea pigs for ten years in an experiment that failed is sufficiently painful in and of itself. But the anguish would be even worse if we were to learn that instead of someone else's children, it had been our very own who had been used in this way.
Look at all of the clamoring and acrimonious accusations that have been leveled against our federal government for abusing its citizens by experimentily exposing many to radiation during the testing of atomic weapons following World War II. The loss to the individuals and families involved is incalculable because of the physical suffering that the government caused in the name of furthering science and knowledge, and the betterment of mankind. What if, instead of damaging the physical health of these individuals through such radical experimentation, the government had seriously hampered the mental capability of these people, destroying their ability to learn? Would this not have been an even more inhumane and egregious experiment?
Was the disaster in the California education system the only state-sponsored experiment in education in this country? Let's consider the historical facts, the ones we were never taught.
Prior to 1830, the adult male literacy in our nation ran from 70 to 100 percent, higher than the level in our country today. In addition, there was no government-controlled, mandatory educational system. The high level of literacy was provided instead by numerous private schools and charity schools for the poor (which were not state mandated, funded or operated). Most people received a Christian education either at home or from private schools. With such success, why found a "public" school system?
There are two basic reasons. The first was "to destroy the Christian foundation of the nation." The second was based on the humanistic ideal that education was the means to salvation for the nation, not in some "mythological hereafter," but here on earth.
"The public school movement was always more than simply an effort to have schools provided at taxpayer expense. Nor was it simply an effort to have an educated electorate as the franchise was extended to more people, [as] is sometimes alleged. The most zealous of the reformers were determined to use the power of the state by way of the schools to break the hold of religious tradition and the inherited culture and to change society through the child's training."
Is this beginning to sound like an experiment in education (not to mention social engineering)?
Read the following quote from Horace Mann, considered by many as the father of our government school system. "[T]he common [government] school system is the greatest discovery ever made by man. . . . Let the common school be expanded to its capabilities, let it be worked with the efficiency of which it is susceptible, and nine-tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete; the long catalogue of human ills would be abridged; men would walk more safely by a stronger tenure; all rational hopes respecting the future brightened."(Emphasis added.)
Now, almost 160 years later, we have squandered billions of dollars and the minds of millions of children, including many of our own children. Are we any closer to realizing the results predicted by Mann and others? It's sadly ironic, but in Idaho where I live, the state legislature has been struggling to decide which will receive more state funding: the educational system or the penal system. One may legitimately wonder if there is more than just a coincidental tie between these two institutions vying for the same tax dollars. And indeed there is.
The Great Education Experiment (GEE!) has failed. From our great-grandparents to our grandchildren, all have been a part of this hideously failed government experiment in education. But what are we to do? Should we throw more money at it as many demand? Should our government charter others to carry on the experiment in their stead? Should we sacrifice the minds of another generation of our children to see if maybe it just might work this time?
No, the experiment has failed. It's time to pull the plug. We need to acknowledge the cold, painful facts and return to a pedagogy that produced results without the coercion, extortion, and intimidation of federal and state governments that have, for so long, over-extended their constitutional authority. Parents must assume their God-given responsibility for the education of their children whether through homeschooling or private schooling. While we're at it, we should also have charity schools for the poor, without government involvement, please!