Stephen Smith | Our Education System’s Race to the Bottom

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

Part 1 of 2 

America’s education system is winning its “race to the bottom” compared to the industrialized countries in the world. California’s education system is winning its “race to the bottom” compared to the other states in the U.S.A. 

The California Department of Education has obfuscated school performance data, making it nearly impossible to compile and compare relevant information. Add to that, ever shifting and lowering of standards, which further conceal what is happening in the classrooms of the Golden State. Only the very naive would believe that this is not intentional. 

Perhaps the best indicator of the growing lack of literacy in our high school graduates is the changing standards and offerings of our colleges and universities. To survive, colleges must have students. Many are now offering one- and two-year college preparation programs to bring the newly matriculated up to a level where they have a chance of succeeding. Recently we have seen a preference for home-schooling, many as young as 15, because, presumably, they know they are better prepared for college work.    

There are reports that only 30% of California K-12 students test at minimum acceptable levels. Clearly many schools and districts are much worse. Regarding the Los Angeles Unified School District, I have seen a California Department of Education report saying that seventh-grade males are reading at only 18% of the minimum acceptable level. Recently I checked a very modern, high-tech charter school in Silicon Valley (charter schools are government schools) who had the finest faculty teaching the students who were the sons and daughters of the high-tech elite. Everything was the best of the best, yet in math they tested at only 60% of minimum acceptable and at reading 70%. 

Clearly low-income neighborhoods did poorly, but those who had every advantage still were not achieving as they should. This informs me that the problem is with the system and not just socioeconomics. California’s education spending is equitable compared to other states. 

Most of the failings in our public schools can be attributed to the pressures put upon our elected and government officials by the leftist-dominated teachers’ unions. It was just publicized that the American Federation of Teachers lobbied the Centers for Disease Control to further restrict schools opening, ignoring the science that indicated that it was safe to open the schools. The CDC succumbed to the union to the point of adopting, nearly verbatim, the union’s language for the CDC’s directives.  

The question is, what has led to the failing education system we are experiencing today?  

Our founders had what today we call a classical education. Classical schools produce students with truly remarkable knowledge and the ability to think critically. Public schools have rejected this methodology in favor of social engineering and an indoctrination-oriented curriculum.  

In our early post-founding era, most children were either home-schooled, or people employed tutors. In his seminal work “Democracy in America” (1835), Alexis de Tocqueville was impressed by how literate and well-informed even the rural farmer was. He also wrote, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” He was impressed with the number of churches. It should not be surprising that nearly every household had a Bible, which was a major source of “The King’s English” (King James Bible) literacy and that the Revolution grew out of the first “Great Awakening.” Using the belief in natural law, our founders embraced an idea that the purpose of government was to protect individual liberty against tyranny of the state, monarch or dictator and the tyranny of the majority. They held that our rights come from a higher power or Creator and not from man or the state.   

The famous McGuffey Readers were the primary reading text for first- through eighth-grade students from 1837 until the mid-20th century. I have a reprint from 1837. Through study lessons it increases reading skills, teaches morality, often using commonly known Biblical examples, and practical math problems needed to prosper on a self-supporting farm. I believe most college students would fail the seventh-grade reader. More frighteningly, many would have serious problems with the fourth-grade reader. Today’s students are seriously being dumbed-down.  

The end of the 19th century brought us Marxism and the progressive movement with their education poster boy, John Dewey. History started being viewed in terms of race, class and gender, and an understanding that everyone is either an oppressor or the oppressed. Democracy is embraced because the group becomes more important than the individual. 

Thus, the door was opened to celebrate the tyranny of the majority. Notice only leftist talk about democracy and never about liberty. Dewey’s advocacy for the whole word method of learning to read is far less effective than phonics, yet that is what is now embraced by California’s leftist-progressive public education system. In the early 20th century, Woodrow Wilson began America’s Road to Perdition by establishing that all education majors must also study the leftist-progressive-Marxist thought and John Dewey. Soon the leftist-indoctrinated dominated all levels of education, the fourth estate, the judiciary, unions and growing factions in government. 

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt even tried to establish a new bill of rights based on Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Constitution. He also tried to pack the courts with leftists. Congress rejected his proposal. 

Stay tuned for part 2.  

Stephen Smith is a Santa Clarita resident. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.

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