Friday, February 02, 2007

EDUCATING CHILDREN - Modern Educational Trends

With the likes of big government, and big labor unions molding and shaping the educational horizon, we couldn't possibly be going in the wrong direction. Could we? With all these billions and billions of dollars being spent on education today we should have the best educational system in the world. Shouldn't we? We spend more on education per student than almost any other country in the industrialized world,[1] so it must be going right. But is it? One might think so if all you did was look at who was backing all this education reform and how much they were spending as compared to the rest of the world. You might also think that, as long as you just listened to the education reformers and never look at any of the results. But the truth is, in spite of big government, and in spite of big labor, and in spite of all the billions and billions of dollars in spending per year, if you look at the results, you find American students filling in the last places in every academic area, and not just academics, moral values have also been on a decline for many years. It seems that the only thing American students excel in these days is self esteem. So while they can't perform as well on math or science tests, and while they know less about their own history as a nation, and while they continue to decline in reading and writing proficiency, and while they have little or no moral values, they still think they are doing well. So at least we're getting something for our money! But is it enough? Definitely not!

So is this a new problem. Well, not exactly. The problem itself is an old one, one that dates back, at least in this country to the mid 1800s. But although there has been discussion about the effectiveness of the American educational system for several decades, the official alarm wasn't sounded, at least not very loudly, until April of 1983; and oh what an alarm it was.

Eighteen months prior to this, on August 26, 1981, the then Secretary of Education, Honorable T. H. Bell, created the National Commission on Excellence in Education and then directed it to present a report on the quality of education in America, and that is exactly what they did. The report was titled "A NATION AT RISK: The Imperative For Educational Reform" and it took the country by surprise. While the majority of Americans believed we were doing well, the men and women who created this report had discovered the real truth, and they proclaimed it loud and clear. The report began with:

"Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security, and civility. We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur--others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments." [2]

It was a total shocker, it was completely unexpected. The American people had never dreamed that any other nation would be able to match us in education much less surpass us. But it had apparently happened right under our own noses. How? Why? Can it get any worse? Well, yes, because while the first paragraph of this report took us by surprise, the second paragraph made us angry. It said:

"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament." [3]

So what the report was essentially telling us is that we have in effect done something to ourselves that would have been considered to be an act of war if it were imposed on us by another nation. We would have been ready to go to war to protect our rights to give our children the very best education they could possibly get. But instead of fighting to keep something we might lose, we squandered away those very things we might otherwise have been willing to fight and even die for. We did it to ourselves and never even knew that it had happened.

So what's been done about it? Have there been any major changes in how we do education since the release of "A Nation At Risk?" Well yes, but they have all been much more of the same old thing. Big business and big government have teamed up like never before to combat this invisible enemy. But the problem is, they're losing the war, and it is becoming an increasingly more expensive endeavor. They continue to pour more and more of our money into this broken system and we continue to get less and less in return; reform after reform is introduced and paid for and still nothing changes, nothing improves. So what exactly are we paying for? Is it really the very best education that money can buy or have we been sold a bill of goods? Let's look at some of the current educational trends in modern America.


First a look at communication skills… The ability to communicate is a fundamental skill that is needed by all students. In one way or another, language, whether written, spoken or read, is how we communicate. Without it we couldn't possibly get along in life. We couldn't communicate with each other, we couldn't pass things on, and it would make learning anything new extremely difficult. We would in essence, be stuck in a rut with no way of escape. What would likely occur is that, other countries, countries with a much better grasp of their own language and communication abilities, would likely begin to surpass us. Surpass us in things like technology, manufacturing, and business in general, and that is exactly what has happened. We have literally lost billions in our gross national product,[4] all because we are falling short in education. Communication is one of the most basic educational skills needed, so how is it being taught in the American schools? Well, the most popular trend in the Language Arts arena is what is known as the "Whole Language" approach.

The Whole language approach to reading instruction is currently the most widely used method of teaching reading in the public school systems of the United States. Its development dates to the early 1930s when John Dewey, William S. Gray, and many other educational experts decided to do away with the phonics based approach to reading. Up until this point, from about 1836 till the 1920s, the most widely used text book in America was McGuffey's Eclectic Reader series by William Holmes McGuffey. It was reported that more than 120 million Readers were sold during this time period. McGuffey's reader stressed religion and its relationship to morality and the proper use of knowledge.[5] They also relied heavily on phonics based training for instruction in reading, beginning with the primer or introductory book. But to the education reformers, these books were too strict, too demanding, and the experts felt they might lead to a bad experience in reading, thus giving the child a poor start. So McGuffey's Eclectic Readers were replaced with books like those from the Dick & Jane series, books that contained carefully screened vocabulary lists and lots of colorful illustrations to help describe the action.[6] With these new books, children could be taught to read complete stories and they could grasp complete words and sentences, without having to learn all the boring rules associated with teaching phonics. This new approach was called "look-say" or the "whole word" approach. The primary reason behind the use of this approach is that researchers discovered that experienced readers could grasp the meaning of entire words all at once. In other words, when experienced readers, those who have been reading for some time, pick up a new book and begin to read, they don't normally spend time sounding out the words, they just read them, the whole word at a time. They also discovered that when children talk to each other, they normally do so with complete words, and as they do, they normally don't stop and give any noticeable attention to the individual sounds that make up those words; they just say the complete word. So because of these reasons, the educational experts felt it unnecessary to teach children to read by teaching them the component sounds of words, which is the phonics approach. Why spend all that extra time, when you could simply bypass that step entirely and move directly into teaching them the "whole language"? Besides, this new whole language approach is much more compassionate than the drill and repetition necessary for intensive phonics training. Drill and repetition are after all very boring and would likely inhibit the proper emotional growth of the child or possibly discourage the child that is being subjected to this type of training, and discouraged children couldn't possibly learn to read. Could they?

Well, this all sounds good, except it completely ignores the facts. A child that is taught to read with the whole language approach has done so before he learns the mechanics of reading. He can read and say words, but he doesn't know why.[7] Adults that already know how to read and already know the mechanics or rules of reading, have the ability to pick up new words without having to verbally recite the rules. Also, children whether they give any conscious attention to the individual sounds that make up those words or not, still go through the same process to create the sound. The key is, once they have the rules in memory, they have no need to recite them, they come out instinctively. That is how the phonics approach to reading works. Children are first taught that each letter has an associated sound and then they are taught that they can decode the words by sounding them out. Traditionally, a child that had been taught phonics for a couple of semesters and who has mastered the concepts could easily have a vocabulary of 24,000 words. But a child being taught using the whole language approach would have a much smaller vocabulary. For example, the 1930 Dick & Jane pre-primer only taught a total of 68 different words.[8] The concept is simple, give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he can feed his family for the rest of his life. The same is true with reading. Give a child some words and he can read that book, but teach the child phonics and he can read any book written in his language by using his phonics based rules.

So if children aren't being taught to read, then how are they learning to write? Well the answer is simple, they are not. Inventive spelling is another one of the most popular teaching techniques used in modern America. Today, teachers are instructed to not correct spelling errors. In fact, this type of creativity, the misspelling of words that is, is permitted and in many cases even encouraged.[9] But why, why would we encourage misspelled words or not correct spelling errors on children's papers? Well according to the professional educators who promote "inventive spelling"; they say that this type of creativity, this freedom to spell words however they want, encourages children to write more. Another problem with the restrictive approach, the only one right way approach is this; to tell a child that there is only one way to spell a word would be too limiting or constraining; it would not encourage enough creative thinking. Besides, once they find the real joy in writing, and start using their new found skills, they will eventually learn the right way to spell words. It's a lot like osmoses! By just doing it over and over, all the proper spelling and grammar rules will just pop into their head. It's really all part of the holistic approach to language.[10] At least that is what the educational professionals that promote this philosophy will tell you, and they should know, after all, they are the professionals. It is almost as silly as the new trend to grade all papers in purple, or some other warmer color, a color that's less offensive than red. I mean really, we wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by telling them they got something wrong would we? WELL OF COURSE WE WOULD! That's one of the primary purposes of education! Passing on a truth to someone who doesn't have it! But I guess for the education reformers, the truth is really just whatever they want it to be.


So what about math? There's not really more than one way to teach math is there? Well, actually there is. The date was Friday, October 4, 1957, and the number one enemy of the United States was the Big Red Monster of Communism, AKA, the Soviet Union. But on this night, we learned via the evening news that our greatest adversary had put an object into earth orbit ahead of us. They had beaten us in the space race with the successful launch of the Sputnik I satellite. It was the world's first artificial satellite and was about the size of a basketball. It weighed only 183 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth. With the launch of the Sputnik I, new political, military, technological, and scientific developments were ushered in as our country marked the official start of the space age and the space race.[11] In light of this tragic defeat, our then president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, decided that he would correct the situation by calling for more funds for public education. He wanted to bolster support for math, science and foreign language programs. So in 1958 the U.S. Congress, who was determined to keep the U.S. on the forefront of technology and development, passed the $1-billion dollar National Defense Education Act.[12] This was the first act of it kind; it was the first time that the federal government stepped this deep into the public education arena, an area that was the normal territory of the individual states. But never the less, this was a welcome act for a country seeking to get back into first place. The National Defense Education Act paid for things like student loans, scholarships and even scientific equipment for schools. It also emphasized the study of math, science and foreign languages, and with this new emphasis, a "new math" was born. But although the "new math" of the 60s wasn't much more than a new emphasis on old mathematics, it did encourage many educators to start looking for new ways to teach the old subject. Big names such as the General Electric Corporation and the National Science Foundation, with the encouragement of the Department of Education, were devoting much time and money into developing and promoting "New Math". But schools still had the problem of teaching it. They needed a newer, new math if the students were ever going to make any real progress. This prompted many in the academic community to devote much of their time and resources toward the problem as well. One of the better known projects was one that was carried out at Yale and Stanford by Ed Begle and the School Mathematics Study Group.[13] Some say that this group can be credited for creating the grandfather of the new "New Math." But the problem with this new-new approach was that they applied many of the same "whole" principles to mathematics that had been applied to language just a few decades before. They were looking for a short cut to learning, and in their new-new math, they found it. This new-new integrated approach to teaching math emphasized group discussion, essays, and later calculators and even, you guessed it, guessing! It also de-emphasized basic skills and the direct instruction, the only things that were truly necessary to help children learn the math.

As part of a Congressional debate on education legislation, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) gave a speech on the Senate floor about the mathematics education reform movement. Based on a study of 8th graders published in 1996, it was discovered that United States ranked 28th in average mathematics performance in the world against other major industrialized nations. Also according to this same study, Japan ranked third. Senator Byrd blamed this situation on the current approach to teaching mathematics in our schools. Regarding this new-new math, Senator Byrd said:

"Apparently the concept behind this new-new approach to mathematics is to get kids to enjoy mathematics and hope that that "enjoyment" will lead to a better understanding of basic math concepts. Nice thought, but nice thoughts do not always get the job done." [14]

If you think you have heard this before, it is probably because this is the same nonsense that is said about whole language, and since it does not work for language, I don't think we should expect it to work any differently for math? Never the less, the educational reformers continue to promote it. But Senator Byrd was obviously not convinced. As the discussion continued, the focus turned toward a text book titled "Secondary Math: An Integrated Approach: Focus on Algebra." The book was produced by Addison-Wesley, a well known public school text book publisher. This book had 5 "algebra authors," 20 "other series authors" and 4 "multicultural reviewers." This in itself made the book suspect to Senator Byrd; the idea that an algebra book even needed multicultural reviewers or why were there 4 times as many "other series authors" than there were "algebra authors" in an algebra book? But the real icing on the cake was the opening section titled "Getting Started" with the subheading "What Do You Think?" it stated:

"In the twenty-first century, computers will do a lot of the work that people used to do. Even in today's workplace, there is little need for someone to add up daily invoices or compute sales tax. Engineers and scientists already use computer programs to do calculations and solve equations." [15]

So just exactly what message were they trying to get across with this statement? Senator Byrd seemed to think that it was "Don't worry about all of this math stuff too much. Computers will do all that work for us in a few years anyway."[16] So is this really what we want to teach our students? Well, apparently it is, because it is one of the most popular trends for math instruction in the modern American public school. So popular in fact that, in 1992, the state of California formally adopted this new integrated approach to math for their state wide K-12 math programs. But the results were not what they expected. Not only did it result in lower math scores, but it also resulted in a state wide increase in remedial college level math, and an increase in the failure rate for freshmen taking the state college level math entrance exams. David Klein, a professor in the Department of Mathematics at the California State University at Northridge, stated that, as a result of the overall lower math skills of students across his state, the percentage of entering freshmen failing the entry level math tests has "steadily increased from 23% in 1989 to 54% in each of 1997 and 1998."[17]

In his book "None Dare Call It Education" John A. Stormer gives many other glairing examples of the kind of math problems that are plaguing our children in the public school system today. One such example is that of the plight of a Pennsylvania parent who called a member of her local school board to discuss a question that was on a math paper that her child had brought home. The question was: "there were four birds in the nest and one flew away. How do you think the bird that flew away felt?"[18] Who cares how the bird felt! What in the world does this have to do with teaching math anyway? Absolutely nothing - and if this were not so tragic, and if it were not such a wide spread problem in our public school systems today, it would almost be funny. But the truth is, this new approach to teaching math, whether it goes by the name of "whole math", "new-new math", "fuzzy math", "integrated math", "multicultural math" or what ever other label it's given to disguise it, is a growing trend in our math classes today, and the potential results are devastating!


OK, language instruction has problems, and math class is not doing so well either, but what about history? Isn't history just a set of facts written in stone that we teach to our children so that they can learn from the mistakes of the past? Well, yes. But the history class of today is quite different than the one sixty or seventy years ago. Prior to the 1930s, it would not be uncommon to find stories of historical figures such as Joseph, Moses, King David, Ulysses, Alexander, Horatius, Cincinnatus, Siegfried, Arthur, Roland, Alfred the Great, Richard the Lion Hearted, Robert Bruce, William Tell, Joan of Arc, Peter the Great, Florence Nightingale,[19] and many other great figures of our past. But history has gone through some of the same transformations as the many of the other subjects taught in the public school system. In fact, history was the subject that the educational reformers started with first. Since the 1930s, history has been making a slow transition from a study of historical facts and events into a new subject called "social studies." Harold Rugg, an associate of John Dewey at Columbia University stated, if "A new public mind is to be created. How? Only by creating tens of millions of individual minds and welding them into a new social mind. Old stereotypes must be broken up and new climates of opinion formed in the neighborhoods of America,"[20] and the place to start was the American history book. It was no longer enough to simply teach history as history. The content of history must be selected based on the pupils own immediate needs and the general social significance[21] of the topic or topics being taught. The goal of this new curriculum would not be to teach the events of the past, but to teach good citizenship. All the great historical figures were replaced with common every day people and their humble situations. It was no longer appropriate to give children examples of outstanding people that they could look up to, because they needed simple people that they could relate to. This, according to Mr. Rugg and many of the other educational reformers, is how the new history should be taught. To repeat a not-so-famous quote, "They keep finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity!"[22] But while many thought Mr. Rugg was justified in rewriting the history books for a new generation, and filling them with "mediocrity," there were many that stood in opposition. Groups like the American Legion, the Advertising Federation of America, and the New York State Economic Council all voiced their dissatisfaction with these new textbooks. While this did lead to many school boards dropping the new Rugg textbooks, there were already many more socially correct text books waiting to pick up where Mr. Rugg's and his new social studies textbooks left off.


Not only has the content changed to promote a new political system and a new social order, but many texts were edited simply because they were found to be "offensive" to one minority group or another. As the idea of relativism and political correctness began to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s a new round of attacks started against traditional education; attacks that are still continuing today and they seem to get even more ridiculous with each passing day. So what do you do when you have to please everyone? Well, you either ignore the offensive parts of the textbook, you tear out the offensive page, or you rewrite the books to say what you want them to say so that no one gets mad, and it is the last option that seems to be the modern trend. But not just in history books, it is happening in every textbook and in every subject. Remember the report from Senator Byrd? His big question was "Why [do] we need multicultural review of an algebra textbook?"[23] Well, the answer is clear, to make sure that the language used in the book is not offensive to any one particular group of people. So whether we like it or not, all textbooks must receive the seal of approval from some multicultural review board out to protect the rights of the latest minority group. These reviewers are the people that Diane Ravitch calls the "Language Police." Here is a sample list of some of the words that have been banned from our children's textbooks, along with the reason for their banning:

  • Abnormal (banned as demeaning to persons with disabilities)
  • Aged (banned as demeaning to older persons)
  • America/Americans (use with care, because it suggests "geographical chauvinism" refer instead to people of the United States)
  • Black/blacks (banned as a noun)
  • Brave (banned as offensive when it refers to a Native American person)
  • Colored (banned as offensive, when it refers to specific group)
  • Congressman (banned as sexist, replace with member of congress, representative)
  • Devil (banned)
  • Fisherman (banned as sexist, replace with fisher, angler)
  • Gay (banned, as it suggest homosexual, replace with happy)
  • God (banned)
  • Homosexual (banned, replace with person, child)
  • Housewife (banned as sexist, replace with homemaker, head of the household)
  • Idiot (banned as offensive to person with mental disability)
  • Mothering (banned as sexist, replace with nurturing, parenting)
  • Provider (banned as a synonym for husband)
  • Repairman (banned as sexist, replace with repair person, maintenance person)
  • Satan (banned)
  • White (banned as adjective meaning pure)
  • Workmanship (banned as sexist, no replacement)[24]

    This is just a small sample of the madness of these so called language police - the list goes on and on. But not only have single words been edited out of the text books, but entire topics have been labeled taboo and banned as well. Topics such as behavior that could lead to dangerous situations, e.g., children should not go with strangers, the subject of conflict with authority (parents, teachers, law), or things like Crime, Divorce, Drinking, Lying or duplicity of any kind.[25] Teachers are no longer allowed to say something is morally wrong. They can tell a child the consequences of bad behavior, simply because there are laws governing how crimes are punished, but they can not approach the subject from a moral prospective. Even references to Christmas, Easter and Hanukah are now all to be avoided. The traditional merry Christmas and Christmas break have been replaced with things like happy holidays and winter break. The classic "Away in a Manger" has been replaced with "Here Comes Santa Clause" or "Jingle Bells." We have gone to the extreme to censor every form of "possibly" offensive language from every area of the government public schools and their textbooks, and no subject has been left untouched. We are becoming obsessed with pleasing everyone. As long as the group you're pleasing is politically correct enough and acceptable enough to the desires of the educational reformers. Christianity for example is one of those groups that are considered to be too inclusive, or too closed minded and therefore cannot be tolerated. We tolerate all views they say, but all views obviously do not include Christianity.

    So how are these current trends affecting our children? How can you teach a child that "We hold these truths to be self-evident" and that "all men are created equal" and that all men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights", if God and creation are taboo subjects and can not be mentioned in the classroom or the text book? How can we teach morals to children if there is no standard on which to base these morals? Well, the truth is, educational reformers have come up with a new standard, or at least a replacement standard; a replacement that grew naturally out of the ideas and philosophies of those men who shaped modern education. Ideas like those of the Unitarian Horace Mann, where morals should be taught, only taught without those individual trappings of religion that tend divide us. Or ideas like those of Atheist Charles Darwin, who in his book "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life," popularized a particular view of evolution; a view which teaches that man answers to no one but himself, because there is no creator God; a view that has been taught over and over in the government school classroom. Or even ideas like those of the Humanist John Dewey who replaced the supremacy of God with the supremacy of man, and through the propagation of progressive education techniques that taught that the value of anything is based only on the quality of the experience. In all of these, morals are basically boiled down to be totally relative to the immediate situation. In the modern vernacular, they call it "Values Clarification." It is a concept that is based on a 1972 book with the same title by Sidney Simon, Leland Howe, and Howard Kirschenbaum. The book was designed to "engage students and teachers in the active formulation and examination of values" but "it does not teach a particular set of values."[26] It taught that what was moral or right to one group may or may not be moral or right to another. What was right or wrong, was completely dependant upon whom you were and where you were located. It completely removed the standard of God and the Bible, and replaced it with a new standard of YOU; in other words, it is up to each individual to determine his own value system. But in his book, "Which Way to Educate?" author and Christian educator Philip May stated the truth so clearly when he said that "What the Bible says on the subject of morality is undeniably applicable to the upbringing of children and young people." He goes on to say that the unfortunate problem is "many people today are ignorant and confused about Christian morality. Most children are now growing up unaware [that there is a set] of moral standards based on the law of God."[27] Why, because those moral standards, by law, cannot be taught in the government "public" school system of modern America. They have been edited out of the modern American textbook, and completely removed from the curriculum because they have been found to be offensive to one group or another. So the results of many of these modern trends are not only generation after generation of academically bankrupt children, but also generation after generation of morally bankrupt children.

    So what else has our government done to help? What reforms have they implemented to help us solve the problems identified by "A Nation At Risk?" Actually there have been several. Over the last few decades our government has been very active in promoting education reform. But exactly what kind of reforms are they promoting? Well, the first of these major new reforms are those designed to create a national workforce of skilled labors. They are being carried out under the Goals 2000 Educate America Act (HR1804), the School-to-Work Opportunities Act (HR2884), and the Improving America's School Act (HR6), all of which were passed and signed into law under the Clinton administration in 1994.[28] Lumped collectively under the name of Outcome-Based Education or OBE for short, these programs are not designed to directly improve academics or increase morality, but are focused instead on modifying children's behavior and preparing them to be the workforce of tomorrow. This, according to the government reformers, should result in improved academics and morality. The Littleton, Colorado school system was one of the first test bed systems that the NEA and the government used to experiment with this new educational model. The program was implemented there in the late 1980s. It was basically a testing ground for many of these various educational theories. In 1987 the Colorado Eagle Forum produced a video in which Tara Backer, a student of Columbine High School in Littleton, spoke at length about the focus on death, dying and suicide in her sophomore classes.[29] She explained that the topic of death was integrated into many of her courses. She stated that death was made to look so glamorous that living was difficult, and that reincarnation would likely solve students' problems. So how well did the program do? On November 3, 1993, parents who were part of the Littleton school district voted by a two-to-one margin to oust the pro-OBE school board members and replace them with members who favored a more traditional "back-to-basics" approach to education.[30] Obviously, to the majority of the Littleton school board, this experiment was not successful. One can only judge by what would appear to be very damaging and lasting results. On April 20th, 1999, what is now known as the Columbine High School massacre, occurred in Littleton, Colorado. Two students, who had been indoctrinated with OBE and Values Clarification type teaching techniques, came to school that day with two twenty pound bombs, two sawed-off shotguns, a 9mm semi-automatic carbine, and a 9mm AB-10 semi-automatic pistol. The results, thirteen dead and twenty-four injured, not counting the two deceased shooters. They had decided to take the cowards way out and committed suicide.

    But even in spite of this and the growing number of other like occurrences, many people have not linked the violent behavior of children in the classrooms to the material that is being taught to them. But the sad truth is, if you teach children that they have descended from animals, why should you not expect them to act like animals. If you teach a child that he can come up with his own value system, then why are we shocked when he does exactly that! But for some reason, the Federal Government still does not get it. Their idea of what is wrong is always, we must not be spending enough money on education. But we are now under a new administration, we have a Republican President, and a Republican controlled House and Senate, they must be doing a better job, right? Well not exactly, while the Democratic Clinton administration set aside billions and billions in tax dollars toward their various OBE type education reform programs, the Bush administration would not be outdone in the area of education reform. The latest in government innovation in education is known as the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001, (HR1). As a result of this Act, there are four educational objectives that dominate President Bush's agenda for education, they are: accountability, standards, testing and choice.[31] The one-thousand plus page NCLB education document combined a big spending increase with an increase in conservative buzzwords. The spending increases seemed to please the Democrats and the many conservative buzzwords that were included, such as "accountability," "standards," and "testing," seemed to be enough to please the Republicans. It all sounded good anyway, and everyone was happy. But what has it really accomplished for education? What kind of return are we getting for our lofty investment? Well so far, it has only cost us a lot more money in the form of tax dollars and has not delivered any real improvements in education. Not to mention the fact that it has tightened the reign of government control of the local education system. To me, this would be the opposite of choice. But the government still insists that their new way is much better than the "old" one, which is really no different than the "new" one. But the good news is, many local educators are coming up with ways to get around all these new standards for accountability. They are not letting these new standards of educational excellence keep them from the business as usual process of public education. Instead of improving the teaching methods to improve the test scores, the Texas State Board of Education for example has reduced the number of questions students must answer correctly in order to pass their exams.[32] So now more students pass, and the state gets more funding, but are students learning any more? Absolutely not! They are not learning more simply because the methods have not changed. No real reform is happening. Because the ones doing the reforming continue to ignore the time tested and proven methods for teaching traditional basic education and continue to look for exciting new methods that always seem to fall short, but sound so good in a sales pitch.

    Another part of the "No Child Left Behind" Act is that more funds are being set aside for Mental Health Integration. Millions of dollars have been earmarked specifically for this new trend to help improve our schools and our students. It is designed to give more aid to the handicapped and those considered to be "At Risk." Now again, this all sounds good up front, but exactly who are the handicapped, and what are they really "At Risk" of? Well, the truth is, the majority of the handicapped or "At Risk" students that this funding goes to help are those considered to have a form of mental illness known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It is actually the most diagnosed mental illness in America. These are the students that, according to the federal government, are the most "At Risk". So what exactly is ADHD? Well, ADHD was established as a mental illness back in 1987 by a vote of a committee of psychiatrists belonging to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). According to the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), there are two basic types. One characterized by inattention and the other by hyperactivity-impulsivity.[33] So how can you tell them apart? To me, both of these things would go together; at least they would if you were a "normal" child. Both of the words inattention and hyperactivity seem to describe my children very well. Well, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center and the National Institutes of Mental Health, here are some of the diagnostic criteria for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:

    1. Should have 6 or more of the following symptoms of inattention, persisting for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:
  • Often fails to give close attention to detail, makes careless mistakes.
  • Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow through and fails to finish tasks.
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort.
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities.
  • Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.

  • 2. Should have 6 or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity persisting for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:

  • Often fidgets or squirms when sitting.
  • Has difficulty remaining seated when required to do so.
  • Often runs about or climbs excessively in inappropriate situations.
  • Has difficulty playing quietly.
  • Is often "on the go," acts as if "driven by a motor."
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out answers to questions before they have been completed.
  • Has difficulty awaiting turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others.[34]

    Now, I'm not sure, but I do not believe I've ever actually met a child that wouldn't pass, or rather fail, at least half of this list, and most would definitely qualify for all nine. So does that make all children mentally ill? Well, maybe not, but it's a good excuse if you are looking for a large group of lab rats. According to the official NEA Journal, they "predicted" in 1969 that a "New drama will play on the educational stage as DRUGS are introduced EXPERIMENTALLY to improve in the learner such qualities as personality, concentration and memory. The application of bio-chemical research findings, heretofore centered in the infra-human subjects, such as fish, could be a source of conspicuous controversy when CHILDREN become the objects of EXPERIMENTATION."[35] So as we can see, the NEA has been looking for a legal way to experiment with children for many years, at least since 1969. So now, with "No Child Left Behind," all they have to do is have some under-qualified "public" school counselor diagnose a child as "mentally ill," and then they can legally experiment on them with psychotropic drugs. At least they can as far as the Federal Government is concerned, and once they start experimenting, with drugs like Prozac, Ritalin, Luvox, or Paxil, they can then even have the Federal Government pick up the tab with tax payer's money. All too easy!

    Another interesting aspect is that it is a rather new phenomenon. According to a report given November 1, 2000 to the Texas State Board of Education, in 1970, a best guess was offered that 150,000 children in the United States were taking Ritalin. A realistic estimate for 2000 was 5,000,000. The report went on to say that since Ritalin represents only 70% of the total prescriptions for amphetamine-type drugs, we can add the other 30% and we have about 7,000,000 school-age children in this country on stimulant, psychotropic drugs. That is about 45 times greater that the 1970 figures. That is a huge increase in the number of children on prescribed stimulant drugs in the last three decades.[36]

    So is this some kind of frightful new behavior pattern for children? Are we just now finding out that children have a hard time sitting still? Or are the educational reformers just now getting tired of dealing with "normal" children and are in need of a new way to enforce their mind control and social conversion? In "The Sunday School Manual" a book published in 1923 by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, L.P. Leavell stated in his discussion of the "beginner" pupil that:

    "The beginner is restless. Restlessness is bodily energy expanded aimlessly or without direction toward definite ends. It is a spending of bodily powers rather than a using of them. Possibly the question most often asked by the little child of its mother is "What can I do?" The casual observer notices first of all the wiggling and fidgeting of a child. Parents and teachers often say "Be still" and "don't" Nature says "Do." " [37]

    Was Mr. Leavell talking about ADHD, was he talking about a sick, abnormal, unhealthy child? Absolutely not! He was merely talking about the activity of a normal healthy growing child. He goes on to explain the cause behind the perceived problem, he says:

    "Why is the little child so restless? Because it is growing. It must exercise. The heart pumps away at a powerful rate, sending the blood bounding to the extremities, which are not far away. The child must work off the energy generated. It is nature's provision against one-sided development. " [38]

    So according to Mr. Leavell, a restless, wiggling, fidgeting, and questioning child is a normal healthy growing child. However in today's society, this child is considered to be "At Risk" and in need of medication!

    These are many of the modern educational trends that have been sweeping America for the last century. Some are definitely scarier than others, but none would be what I would call beneficial. But whether they are beneficial or not, these are the trends that are in the traditional government school system of today. So is there no way out? Are we, as parents, stuck with a monopolized system that can not improve itself? Well not exactly, there are alternatives. In the next chapter we will look at many of the educational alternatives that are available to parents today, some of which are better than others.

    [1] Report on education spending per primary school & secondary school students (Copyright 2003-2005),
    [2] National Commission on Excellence in Education, A NATION AT RISK: The Imperative for Educational Reform (April 26, 1983).
    [3] National Commission on Excellence in Education.
    [4] Sykes, 24.
    [5] History Unwrapped – June 2005, (2005 American Vision),
    [6] Ravitch, Left Back, 253.
    [7] Sykes, 102-103.
    [8] Sykes, 102.
    [9] Stormer, 6.
    [10] Sykes, 93.
    [11] Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator, Sputnik and The Dawn of the Space Age, February 21, 2003
    [12] Edward Willett, Sputnik (1997),
    [13] Morris Kline, Why Johnny Can't Add: The Failure of the New Mathematics (St. Martin's Press, 1973), chapter 9
    [14] Senator Robert Byrd, A Failure to Produce Better Students (Congressional Record of June 9, 1997), S5393.
    [15] Byrd, S5393.
    [16] Byrd, S5393.
    [17] Professor David Klein, A Brief History of American K-12 Mathematics Education in the 20th Century (Pre-Print edition)
    [18] Stormer, 6.
    [19] Ravitch, Left Back, 256.
    [20] John Taylor Gotto, The Underground History of American Education, On-line Edition (The Odysseus Group, 2000-2003), Chapter 12, page 15.
    [21] Ravitch, Left Back, 127.
    [22] Bob Parr, AKA Mr. Incredible, The Incredibles, (Disney/Pixar, 2005)
    [23] Byrd, S5393.
    [24] Diane Ravitch, The Language Police, How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 171-183.
    [25] Ravitch, The Language Police, 194-195.
    [26] Glen Schultz, Kingdom Education, Second Edition, God's Plan For Educating Future Generations (LifeWay Press, 2002), 27.
    [27] Philip May, Which Way to Educate? The Christian's role in education today (The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1975), 119.
    [28] Stormer, 141.
    [29] Phyllis Schlafly, What Caused Columbine? (Eagle Forum May 12, 1999),
    [30] Dr. Phil Stringer (Florida), Outcome Based Education,
    [31] Douglas B. Reeves, Ph.D., Crusade in the Classroom, How George W. Bush's Education Reforms will Affect Your Children, Our Schools (Simon & Schuster, 2001), 8.
    [32] Phyllis Schlafly, More Children Left Behind (Eagle Forum, Oct. 29, 2003),
    [33] Bruce N. Shortt, The Harsh Truth About Public Schools (The Chalcedon Foundation, 2004), 208.
    [34] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: 4th Edition (Washington, DC., American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
    [35] Albert Burns, JUST A MATTER OF TIME: DRUG FREE ZONES? (April 8 2001),, quoting Today's Education (January 1969) 29-31.
    [36] John Breeding, Ph.D., Director, Texans For Safe Education, Testimony on the Issue of Psychiatric Drugs in Schools Before the Texas State Board of Education (November 1, 2000).
    [37] B.W. Spillman, L.P. Leavell, and P.E. Burroughs, The Sunday School Manual (Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1923), 84.
    [38] Spillman, 84.