Bruce Deitrick Price
Sages on stages--please come back, we need you
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By Bruce Deitrick Price
July 17, 2019

Suppose you have been accepted to a major university and all you think about is the joy of attending lectures delivered by brilliant minds. Your life will consist of going from one great sage on a stage to another sage on a different stage. These are people who spent their lives mastering a subject, so they can distill all the important information into an elixir for you to enjoy.

Now suppose you go to your first lecture and the famous professor says, "Please visit my website. You will find a form to fill out explaining what you know about this subject."

You sit there with a sense of emptiness. You are hungry for an exciting lecture but some strange cosmic twist prohibits this.

The VIP professor says, "I want to give you some things to ponder." He then proceeds to ask you what you think about the Russian Revolution or French tapestry or whatever he teaches. He assures you you will find some wonderful information on the Internet and he can't wait to read your discoveries.

Now you realize you have come to a bad community college by mistake, and this imposter is a farm hand pretending to be a professor. No, someone assures you, this really is Oxford or wherever. But it is the New Oxford where everything is taught with Constructivism, which is to say it's not taught at all. You have to teach yourself.

Please freeze this frame and multiply it times ten billion. Then you experience the great wasteland of American K-12 education. No, this malady has not yet taken over at the university level. At the moment, people pay a lot of money to go to college and won't put up with shoddy goods. It's mainly public schools which can get away with pretending that plastic bananas are real bananas.

Constructivism is a major weapon in the long-running war against knowledge. Going back at least 100 years, progressive educator John Dewey and Co. were focused on cooperative behavior and creating a harmonious new society. Academics were a secondary concern, if that.

But even this wasn't enough. Forty years ago, the bosses of the Education Establishment apparently concluded, "There is still far too much teaching and learning. We have to put a stop to this. Ideas??"

One of the young whippersnapper graduate students probably said, "Why don't we forbid teaching?"

Everyone looked around in stunned amazement. Could that work? Could they get away with it? Well, they had gotten away with teaching reading in a way (i.e., look-say of sight-words) that didn't work. Why not just move on to the next big goal?

They decided to call the new idea Constructivism. That sounds impressive, doesn't it? In fact, this general idea of been around for years, sometimes under the heading of Discovery or Inquiry. But now the Education Establishment had a fancy new name and fancy new sales pitch. They would give credit to an obscure French biologist named Piaget who had such wonderful insights into how children grew up. Ohh la la, quel cachet.

But all it added up to, in the final analysis, was that teachers could no longer teach. And why not? Because a French biologist said that kids don't really know something until they figure it out for themselves. Apparently that settled that. Although one can't help supposing that on trillions of occasions, children had figured things out for themselves precisely because parents explained things to them.

In the future, teachers would only be facilitators. They would be at the sides of students. Professors who probably didn't have a creative bone in their body managed to create a cotton candy confection which said that non-teaching was good teaching. That the absence of scholarship and learning in the classroom was an excellent way to encourage children to care about scholarship and learning.

The key to this whole scam was that the Education Establishment laid down the law: no further teaching allowed. They demonized the very idea of a sage on the stage. The goal of all schools throughout all of history was to put sages on stages. But our Education Establishment flipped this and said that up is down, and left is right. Experts in propaganda call this technique the Big Lie.

A clever component of the lie was to say that when a teacher was dynamically teaching, this dreadful situation was teacher-centered (i.e., selfish) and it was very very bad. But when teachers refused to teach, ignored their professional responsibilities, and let the students wander in a void, this neglect of students was hailed as student-centered, and it was very very good.

In general, the Education Establishment spoke with one voice: a sage on the stage was a horrible mistake. How could educators have been so stupid as to allow teaching to take place in a classroom?!?

The Education Establishment did not want too much education to take place. They made sure the discussion ended up at that exact point: no teaching is good teaching. So they achieved one of the most brilliant coups in history, where the people in charge of a particular function figured out a way to avoid their responsibility. You let the kids hang around and play in the sand pile and you say, yeah, we did our job. We are fine people.

Probably this was one of the most destructive of all the scams pulled off by our education professors. Basically, schools had to stop providing the service they were there to provide.

If you want to fight back, find something interesting and teach it to children. Make sure they understand why you find it interesting. And then teach them a second and a third thing.

Bruce Deitrick Price's new book is "Saving K-12 – What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?" He explains educational methods on Improve-Education.org.

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© 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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