Why is Public Education Failing?

December 17, 2007

By Tom DeWeese

It’s a fact. Most of today’s school children can barely read or write. They can’t perform math problems without a calculator. They barely know who the Founding Fathers were and know even less of their achievements. Most can’t tell you the name of the President of the United States. It’s pure and simple; today’s children aren’t coming out of school with an academics education.

Colleges know it. They have to set up remedial courses for incoming freshmen just to prepare them for classes. Parents know it. Their children grow dumber everyday.

The politicians say they know it. They hold hearings to grill education “experts,” and they hold high-powered education “summits” to debate and discuss the “problem.”

And they keep coming up with more federal programs and dictate more standards and spend more taxpayer dollars to fix the problem. But the problem continues to explode. Why?

Frankly, any parent can find the answer simply by looking through their child’s textbooks or taking a close look at the classroom structures that their children are forced to endure.

That’s just what I’m going to do for you and when I’m through see if you still wonder why there is an education crisis. And ask yourselves why all the politicians, with huge staffs to do their bidding, can’t seem to find the problem.

Restructuring the Classroom

It comes under many names; block scheduling, group learning, cooperative learning. It’s all part of a radical change in the way children are handled in the classroom.

Children are paired with others for group grades. Individual achievement is de-emphasized. Under block scheduling a number of subjects are tied together in one long class. For example, math, science, health and physical education have been combined in one school. Children are supposed to learn these skills by working on class projects, such as launching an imaginary rocket to the Moon.

Presumably when faced with various problems in building their rocket, students will seek out the necessary information. They’ll need math to calculate the projectory, science to find where the Moon is and health to know what to feed the astronauts. Obviously health is for astronaut training. Children are not instructed on how to do the math calculations or how to find the information they need. They are to find it for themselves. And Children who can’t keep up are to be helped along by other children in their group. It’s called “kids helping kids.” That’s why teachers are now called “facilitators.”

“Cooperative learning” is nothing more than a classroom-management technique that provides a convenient hiding place for bad teachers and under-achieving students. The student who doesn’t care to learn, or has failed to grasp a concept, allows the rest of the group to do the work and yet gets the same grade.

What students coming out of such classes cannot do is perform math problems, recite multiplication tables, conjugate a verb or structure a sentence. Random facts picked up in the rush to complete a project do not supply the proper base or structure to understand a subject.


Perhaps the most bizarre of all of the school restructuring programs is mathematics. Math is an exact science, loaded with absolutes. There can be no way to question that certain numbers add up to specific totals. Geometric statements and reasons must lead to absolute conclusions. Instead, today we get “fuzzy” Math. Of course they don’t call it that.

As ED Watch explains, “Fuzzy math’s names are Everyday Math, Connected Math, Integrated Math, Math Expressions, Constructive Math, NCTM Math, Standards-based Math, Chicago Math, and Investigations, to name a few. Fuzzy Math means students won’t master math: addition, subtraction, multiplications and division.

Instead, Fuzzy Math teaches students to “appreciate” math, but they can’t solve the problems. Instead, they are to come up with their own ideas about how to compute.

Here’s how nuts it can get. A parent wrote the following letter to explain the everyday horrors of “Everyday Math.” “Everyday Math was being used in our school district. My son brought home a multiplication worksheet on estimating. He had ‘estimated’ that 9×9=81, and the teacher marked it wrong. I met with her and defended my child’s answer. The teacher opened her book and read to me that the purpose of the exercise was not to get the right answer, but was to teach the kids to estimate. The correct answer was 100: kids were to round each 9 up to a 10. (The teacher did not seem to know that 81 was the product, as her answer book did not state the same.)”

Children are not taught to memorize multiplication tables. Those who promote this concept believe that memorization is bad. Instead, children, they say, should be taught to “discover” multiplication. Students, they say, learn to multiply over several years by “thinking about math.”

Social, political, multicultural and especially environmental issues are rampant in the new math programs and textbooks. One such math text is blatant. Dispersed throughout the eighth grade textbooks are short, half page blocks of text under the heading “SAVE PLANT EARTH.” One of the sections describes the benefits of recycling aluminum cans and tells students, “how you can help.”

In many of these textbooks there is literally no math. Instead there are lessons asking children to list “threats to animals,” including destruction of habitat, poisons and hunting. The book contains short lessons in multiculturalism under the recurring heading “Cultural Kaleidoscope.” These things are simply political propaganda and are there for one purpose – behavior modification. It’s not Math. Parents are now paying outside tutors to teach their children real Math – after they have been forced to sit in classrooms for eight hours a day being force-fed someone’s political agenda.

English, Reading and Literature

Conjugate a verb? Diagram a sentence? Learn to spell? This is language class. We have more relevant things to learn.

In a seventh grade language arts class in Prince William County, Virginia, children are given a test entitled “What makes you good friendship material.” Children are to circle “yes,” “no” or “maybe” to questions like “Am I someone who is trusting of others; likes to have close personal friends; is able to influence others; enjoys sharing with others; can keep a secret? “If you answered yes to most of these then you are really good friendship material. If not, you need to work on yourself.”

One book being used in classes is called “The Book of Questions.” Designed around situation ethics, the authors openly admits that “this book is designed to challenge attitudes, values and beliefs.” Again behavior modification – not academics is the root of this exercise.

Here are a couple of sample questions from the book of Questions:

    1. On an airplane you are talking pleasantly to a stranger of average appearance. Unexpectedly, the person offers you $10,000 for one night of sex. Knowing that there is no danger and that payment is certain, would you accept the offer?”
    2. A cave-in occurs while you and a stranger are in a concrete room deep in a mineshaft. Before the phone goes dead, you learn that the entire mine is sealed off and the air hole being drilled will not reach you for 30 hours. If you both take sleeping pills form the medicine chest, the oxygen will last for only 20 hours. Both of you can’t survive; alone one of you might. After you both realize this, the stranger takes several sleeping pills and says it’s in God’s hands and falls asleep. You have a pistol; what do you do?

And so it goes, in Geography where, instead of looking for Colorado on a map, children are instructed to make a “Me” map to psychologically profile the children. In Civics, instead of learning how the government runs and of the great checks and balances that the Founding Fathers installed to protect our liberties, children are taught how to be “global citizens” under the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights.” In Health classes children are taught about Mother Earth – Gaia, with lessons on the Sierra Club as heroes.

Children are coming out of school dumb because they aren’t taught academics. They have, instead, become experiments in behavior modification to prepare them to be citizens of a global village. The fault lies with the U.S. Congress, which now dictates curriculum and perpetuates the Department of Education, from which all of these evils flow.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.