Bruce Deitrick Price
K-12 methods: Bugs? Or features?
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By Bruce Deitrick Price
August 3, 2021

In the computer’s early days, when complex code was still spawning unpredictable results, almost every new piece of software had bugs. Clever product managers started claiming that failure (a bug) was actually a desirable feature, if only dim-witted customers would learn how to use it properly. When the marketing people could confuse customers enough to suspend judgment, that could be a valuable victory. Instead of rejecting the product, these customers suffered through a long learning curve.

We have recently seen the same duplicity as so-called experts try to blame a multitude of problems on so-called computer glitches (i.e., alleged bugs), even though we know from our personal experience that computers almost never change one number or word to another. But somehow our banking and voting machines change anything willy-nilly. In fact, such weirdness probably never happens, but claiming it became a handy excuse. “Computer glitch,” vague and somewhat folksy, is accepted by the public even though it's statistically unlikely and probably a con.

Similarly, public schools have sometimes introduced new methods so inept they hardly work at all. If helpful, the Education Establishment would quickly jump in with claims of "That's not a feature, it's just an accidental bug. Ignore it.”

However, as the Education Establishment became more confident and indeed brazen, a scary thing happened. They simply announced: “That's how this feature is intended to work. If it doesn't work for you, that's your fault and the fault of your kids.”

Isn't the arrogance endearing? We have things like Common Core Math where kids cry themselves to sleep and parents must take children to the doctor because of anxiety and stomach pains. Did the Education Establishment blink? No, they went right to the mattresses, Mafia term, insisting: “We are telling you the best way to teach whatever you teach. Parents should spend more time studying this course and its exciting new vision. They may have to send their kids to expensive tutors. This new approach may destroy your marriage and your household finances. No problem. We know this is the ultimate triumph of all education.” Such is the Party Line we hear all too often. Remember that the Education Establishment has decades of experience in this flimflammery.

Recently, we started to see something startling and depressing in mainstream media: a total, shameless lie. One of the most interesting things about the 2020 campaign is that newspapers would say whatever most helped their candidate. The New York Times, in 2016, strongly advocated this partisan approach. For example, the media proclaimed there is no evidence whatsoever for voter fraud even as the evidence keeps piling up. Finding the truth these days is very difficult because our far left accepts the Communist dogma that noble ends justify the most repulsive means, i.e., anything goes.

We should never forget that our public schools enthusiastically promoted sight-words circa 1932 even though the experts knew at that time the method did not work Then came Rudolf Flesch and his skillful 1955 indictment: Why Johnny Can't Read. Did the Education Establishment waver? No, we have to admit they were stand-up guys, another Mafia term. The education professionals said to the country: You can't prove anything. You’re peasants and you are going to make your kids memorize sight-words because that's what we want. There's nothing you can do about it.

So, after decades of confusion, genuine and contrived, about what is a feature and what is a bug, I submit to you that virtually everything bad in our public schools is in fact a feature, i.e., an intentional flaw. These days, there are hardly any bugs, i.e., unexpected accidents. Destructive features are working exactly as they were designed to work, i.e., destructively. They are comparable to voting machines that deliberately help one candidate and hurt another.

If you want to improve the schools, you have to understand why the schools are in such bad shape. There are dozens of handicaps dragging down the students and the system. There is endless duplicity, as PR hacks look for the best spin, anything but telling the truth.

Common Core Math’s most famous brand, Everyday Math, is a weirdly complicated approach to teaching a basic subject. Years of research must have gone into concocting this cluster of gimmicks. The goal seems to be to leave nothing real in the child’s head, only a meaningless buzz. But that’s not a bug, it's the main feature and a perfect illustration of what is wrong with our public schools.

How do we know these bad methods are being used? Simple. The scores on national tests are declining. If this were a Fortune 500 company, all the people at the top would be fired. But the public schools are allowed to do a bad job today and those responsible are promoted next week.

Look at the NAEP, National Assessment of Educational Progress, and you'll see that all scores are basically flat for many decades. It's shameful; and the people perpetrating this nonsense are shameless. They find something that doesn't work, and they lock onto it. So courses are stuck on Whole Word because, arguably, this method has dreadful effects. Similarly, ed professors love Constructivism because, I believe, nothing is taught directly so the kids don't learn very much. Our weird experts love Common Core Math and other kinds of Reform Math because children don't learn even basic arithmetic.

Aren’t bad methods proof of bad intentions? Our education professors are not ignorant people wandering in a fog. If they put a bad method in schools, I think they knew very well what would happen.

Even as valuable statues of our heroes are defaced and destroyed, lots of worthless methods seem to be set in concrete.

We have another major problem. The public is too passive. We need more people mad as hell and complaining loudly.

Bruce Deitrick Price is the author of "Saving K-12: What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?” His weekly podcast is "Let's Fix Education.

© 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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