Bruce Deitrick Price
Public schools are a threat to national security
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By Bruce Deitrick Price
May 13, 2016

Judging by columns that appear occasionally in our newspapers, the Defense Department is not happy with the quality of students coming out of our K-12 system.

The young are not in good physical shape; they don't have constructive personal values; and they are uninformed about history and the world. In short, they are badly educated and often unfit for service in the military.

The problem, according to one advocacy group, is that "more than 70 percent of 17- to 24-year olds in the U.S. cannot serve in the military, primarily because they are too poorly educated, too overweight, or have a serious criminal record."

So, here's the obvious question. Why doesn't the Pentagon do something about this glaring problem? This is where things get interesting.

I've seen several of these columns over the years. Often, they are written by retired admirals and generals. When I've tried to contact the writers or the organizations behind the columns, they seem passive and lacking further thoughts on the subject. That's peculiar. Wouldn't we expect military people to be gung-ho and even combative?

If public schools do a lousy job and thereby undermine the military's ability to fulfill its mission, how come admirals and generals complain so passively?

Surely, the Military Establishment has an obligation, indeed a duty, to make the Education Establishment do a better job. There is no choice here. It's a basic matter of national security.

Typically, people interested in education reform are small and powerless. But the Pentagon is huge and powerful. If there is one organization in our country strong enough and prestigious enough to take on the Education Establishment, it's the military.

They can do it. They should do it. So why aren't they doing it?

Can Obama's DoE go to the DoD and say, "Stop yapping; we're turning out the kids we want to turn out." Can the NEA stop by the Pentagon and say, "Forget it, boys. We believe in leveling. Things aren't getting any better as long as we're in control." One hates to think the elite educators have this kind of power. One hates even more to think that our military leaders would surrender so quickly.

Here is another way to state the problem. Is the Military so naïve they think a polite request will change anything? Our Education Establishment has been in the dumbing-down business for 80+ years. One never gets the impression that they care what anyone else thinks. If a bunch of generals think a polite request will help, they are as poorly educated as the typical high-school graduate.

Or can it be that the military people are bamboozled by the supposed credentials of our PhD professors? There does seem to be a pattern where high-level organizations ask professors for advice; the professors, after much head-scratching, tell the military to do exactly what everybody's been doing, although new names may be provided for the same old stuff. In other words, the education experts double down on all the half-baked sophistries that caused the trouble in the first place. Is the Defense Establishment so lacking in strategic thinking they don't know when they're being outmaneuvered by a smaller, more nimble opponent?

There is the scary possibility that year after year, our Education Elite simply bamboozle the slow-witted Military Establishment. I hate to think it's true. However, this fits with what we see happening around us. There is constant whining about the poor quality of high-school graduates. But no serious demands are made and nothing changes.

But a lot could be done. First of all, stop trusting people who have misled you in the past.

Second, it would be an easy job for a PR firm to help the Pentagon win this battle. Simply start making demands, softly at first but tougher as time goes by. For example, the Chief of Staff could make a TED speech, and say he's deeply puzzled by the low quality of public school graduates. Why in the world can't the professors of education do a better job? There would also be editorials in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Generals would appear on Fox News and say they're trying to figure out why public schools are so inept. They've been looking at the low NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores; they have also noted that the college board scores have been falling for years. What's with these people?...This would be the opening salvo; each year the tone would get rougher, and the demands more aggressive.

The pointy-headed professors in Education cannot stand up to the Military Establishment once the military has stood up. Public opinion will be with the military; common sense will be with the military. The only people who will support the Education Establishment will be the people making money as things presently stand.

The third thing the Military Establishment needs is a thorough understanding of the bogus theories and methods used in K-12. You can't tell the public schools to do a better job unless you understand why the present results are so bad. For example, why don't sight-words work? Why does Constructivism keep children ignorant? Why is Common Core Math so unpopular and so unsuccessful? Experts at the Pentagon have to understand how every gimmick functions in the classroom. Broadly speaking, the top brass needs to know why every "innovation" in our public schools has typically been a step backward and downward.

If you understand how the counterproductive theories function in practice, then you can say to the military: Why not do it this other way? We have research that shows this method works better.

Point is, the military bosses have to understand how the education bosses rigged the system, and then the military can re-rig it. Professors of education pretend to believe in their own guff; but they don't really believe in it. They know most of their ideas grew out of social engineering, which is what they really care about. There is little evidence that academic engineering is on their radar.

Top educators, one might say, live in rickety intellectual cages. Rattle those cages. Then you'll get improvement. The country's future security depends on this.

CODA: please give this column to military people you know.

© Bruce Deitrick Price

 

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Bruce Deitrick Price

Bruce Deitrick Price is the author of six books, an artist, a poet, and an education reformer. He was born in Norfolk, Virginia, earned Honors in English Literature from Princeton, served two years in the Army, and then lived many years in Manhattan.

Price explains educational theories and methods on his ed site Improve-Education.org (founded in 2005). He has 400 education articles and videos on the Internet. More forcefully than most, Price argues that the public schools are mediocre because our Education Establishment wants them that way.

Price's literary site is Lit4u.com .

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