You are here

Education fads too expensive

My google search on "Direct Instruction" came across this article. Wow, talk about putting the issues right out there.

Educationists have succeeded in creating jacks-of-all trades, masters of none in public schools throughout this country. Children know a little about a lot of things, but are proficient in almost none. Children are no longer given a rigorous academic curriculum requiring mastery of skills before proceeding to the next step. For example, division should be taught after mastering addition, subtraction and multiplication. You learn multiplication by mastering the times tables. Calculators are not the answer. You learn to write a cohesive sentence, paragraph or report by sequentially mastering basic English skills.

Don't all worthwhile subjects require some kind of mastery before moving on to the next level? The subjects closest to the heart of some; band, chorus, expressive arts, drama all involve mastering certain skills in order to move on to the next level. How can we have children competent in art and music, but be inept on learning such skills? The superintendent has stated that music is taught five days a week, and yet, a proposal to increase the amount of time spent on history was voted down without a whimper from anyone.

Holistic, student-centered learning, learning-to-learn, cooperative education and whole language are popular educationese terms, but they are inferior "reforms" permeating education today. Reading is currently taught by memorizing whole words before phonics is even introduced. Grammar has become unimportant and spelling is irrelevant. Writing cursive is extremely important for young children. The dreaded word "competition" is never used when discussing academics. The only place that competition is allowed is in sports.

Under the current educational philosophy, children are allowed to direct their own education. It is a clever concept that places accountability not on educators, but on children and their parents. Self-esteem therapy is the major concern of educators today, along with providing employment for adjustment counselors, grief counselors and whatever kind of counselors that the NEA can dream up. Is the emphasis on operating schools or health clinics?

Educators are consistent in placing the "not fully funded education" guilt trip on members of a community. In Beverly, $50 million per year is not enough to educate 4,500 children. I'm sorry, but spending more than $10,000 per year per child should be enough to have a quality system beyond compare. Dr. Hayes, you need to stay within this very generous budget and if you can't, then choose a better, less-expensive program than the very expensive and detrimental block scheduling program that is in vogue. It may be a popular fad, but where is the evidence to prove that children are learning more?

To those parents and teachers who work very hard to ensure a good education for the children, I say that you are working with an educational philosophy that is doomed to mediocrity. My experience with "individualized learning" began years ago when my children were victims of this philosophy. It was and still is an unsuccessful "theory" that uses children as tutors in their own classroom and does little to enhance their own learning. The theory is flawed. Children should not determine their own pace. Children should not be directing their own education. Experts agree that direct instruction has a proven track record of success and compared with other philosophies. Teachers need to be instructing students, showing them their mistakes and how to correct them, red pens and all. Children are resilient; they are no fragile little flowers that need shelter from any and all criticism. What better methods of ensuring self-esteem compares to mastering basic skills? Everyone, including children with disabilities need to know when they have made mistakes. Protecting them from every conceivable event that might occur in their lifetime is not only detrimental, but totally unrealistic.

Let's examine what children are actually learning. Can they read and understand books at or beyond their grade level? How are their math skills without calculators? Can children beyond third grade write (not print) a comprehensive, well thought out paper with good grammar and spelling? Do the children know anything about geography, history or government? Do they have meaningful homework or are they drawing posters as a substitute for book reports? How much time do they spend preparing for these "Broadway-style" musicals? Learning can be fun, but having "fun" is not the ultimate goal here. If you are completely satisfied with current educational practices, you will not be convinced otherwise, but if you have begun to question why your child is having problems, it may not be your child, but the schools themselves. If you question certain practices, don't be afraid to speak out. Parents need to overcome the intimidation of teachers, administrators and even other parents in order to advocate for their own children.

Current educational practices will continue to produce overblown budgets that no community can afford, and will make adversaries between some members of the community who have children in public schools, and those whose children are grown or those with no children. I am sure this letter will rattle some cages, but that's OK. If even one parent has begun to doubt the policies of this school administration, it is worth any criticism I may receive. Everyone wants and needs an educated public, our nation depends on it, but it needs to be, and can be, educationally and fiscally sound.
Gail Burke
Boyles Street