On my recent flight home from Florida, I sat next to a very interesting and articulate gentleman. We talked nonstop, only pausing for shallow breaths, as we discussed the flaws and faults of public schooling. As many may well imagine, once that topic is opened — time stops for me. I explained the "jobs project" infrastructure of our schooling fiasco, as well as the deceptive "educational" decor of the buildings — designs that rise, just like the false fronts that topped buildings in old Western towns, providing cover for evil-doers, both then and now.
I was pleased to learn that my seatmate had already detected the odor of rotting buildings and mildewed philosophies, as well as the damaged souls and destroyed lives of millions of America’s children. He assured me that others are finally becoming aware of the manipulations behind the smoke screen of federal and state educational programs, mandates, and scams. I pointed him to John Taylor Gatto.
He talked of math and arithmetic, especially his great concerns about school math and its use at higher levels in education, and he used a local example to reinforce the broad, generalized but well well-defined, problem. He is angry that taxpayers have to pay high salaries to administrators who do not even know how to count! He went on to explain. His town voted to build a larger high school, which is now almost completed. Recently, while out for a drive, he decided to go look at the new school. As a property owner, he is an investor in the project and he fully expected to be pleased with the building. However, that was not the case. My friend explained that he was shocked, disappointed, and very angry to note that the school district was setting up many portable classroom buildings on the grounds around the new school.
At first, I wondered if he might be joking, but he was not. Indeed, portable classrooms are being added — prior to the completion of the new main building because that new, almost completed, never-used, high school is already too small! Not only will the school fail to accommodate the student population of the present, the problems will increase with each year. The new school was designed with no regard for the future of the community. The school was too small before construction even began; too small before the construction dust could settle; too small for the opening day of classes. This situation has come about because administrators in the school district simply forgot how to count. Next they will be asking for monies to build … a new school. It is shameful!
The district had held public meetings; planning meetings; board meetings; design meetings; architectural meetings; safety issue meetings; transportation meetings. The administrators had hired architects, consulting firms, contracting firms and sub-contracting firms. However, the school district administrators had failed to count kids! The mathematically-challenged administrators had not only failed to do a head count themselves; they had failed to hire any firm to count for them. The administrators had spent millions of dollars of taxpayer money without even doing a demographics study, even in that area of rapid growth. They never noticed, let alone considered, surveyed, and accounted for, the fact that family dwellings are being built at an incredible rate; that whole neighborhoods of family homes are springing up faster than vendors at a public school grant distribution site. Irate hardly describes my seatmate’s reactions to such stupidity; to such misuse of taxpayer monies. Furthermore, he assured me that he is not alone in his assessment, conclusions, and anger.
If people are waking up to the fraud of taxpayer supported schools, I only wish they would wake up at a faster rate.
This sad and wasteful story led us into a discussion about counting and the teaching of mathematics. Well, actually it led us into a discussion about the non-teaching of math and arithmetic. He asked why students, teachers, and even administrators are not learning math. He asked how the public school system could be making such blunders; failing so miserably, at any and all levels, from pre-kindergarten up through the Congress and the President of the United States? I explained about the mis-instruction of math in America. Of course, no one can explain how: inept skill presentation; wasted time on algorithm (re)discovery; discarded arithmetic facts; absence of skill practice; and illogical, out-of-sequence lessons, could possibly be effective math instruction tools; could possibly help students develop into mathematically skilled individuals. I told my seatmate about "progressive" educational fads (Watch this!) and talked about constructivist math; new-new math; discovery math; transitions math; teacher-as-facilitator math; and about fools-as-math-curriculum-developers. I did find his look of total shock more than a bit reassuring. We both expressed our concerns, and our grief, about the loss of the type of mathematical literacy that made possible the inventions and processes that once built and sustained this nation.
"Why?" he asked. "Why would intelligent people even listen to con artists as they describe snake oil, let alone proceed to purchase so many bottles of it?" Well…who said they are intelligent? Remember those SAT scores! Why? Maybe because the National Science Foundation is the pusher and the banker…but the "Money for Preferred Vendors" math lesson will have to wait for another day.
"But math education used to be so simple and straightforward," he said. "It basically involves: Learn a new skill, then practice it until it becomes an old skill. Then use that old skill to learn a new skill, which you then practice until it, too, becomes an old skill, and so on, from first grade math through high school math, then on through all the math past that. Math education used to be sensible!" He is right, and his description of how intelligent and effective math instruction should be done, is priceless. Taxpayers should demand that every potential teacher excel at "Turning New Skills Into Old." I chalked him up as another Saxon Math thinker, although he had never heard of John Saxon. He does now.
Really, every citizen; property owner; parent; taxpayer; should find out: 1) how math is taught, and 2) how kids are counted, in every neighborhood, state, and even in the nation as a whole. The word "accountability" is thrown about by Congress, but it is time that We the People take up accountability as a tool of reinforcement; as a board of education, and demand that teachers effectively teach; that administrators accurately count; that planners carefully plan. It is time that we wipe the fog from our eyes and see our public schools (and the follow-the-feds private and parochial schools, as well) for what they really are. It is time that we demand accountability for dollars spent in comparison to the number of children carefully and fully educated. Every school should educate the children entrusted to its teachers and administrators. If staff are unable, or unwilling, to do the job for which they are paid, they must be made to close the school. If schools will not, or can not, provide scholarship, knowledge, and skills, then they have become nothing but large, unsuitable holding pens. Feed lots for humans.
Hopefully, when the people finally do understand the extent to which they have been intellectually duped and financially drained, there will be hell to pay. I…can’t…wait!
Do let us count the errors and the evil yet to be discovered by the people, and let us hope that:
When citizens finally realize exactly how badly the schools are failing…
When citizens finally understand that teachers, administrators, and legislators are making expensive and life-damaging mistakes with our children’s educations, and with our tax monies, in all areas of schooling, at all levels of government …
When citizens finally stop accepting the lame excuses that the schools offer: Reading Disabled, Dyslexic, Mathematically Disabled, Behavior Disordered, From a Bad Home, Parents Can’t Read… LD, MI, ADD, ADHD, ODD, BD, ABC&XYZ…
When people actually do wake up and do take note the consequences of the failure of the public school system: the bulging prisons; the ever-increasing number of people who live, like parasites, off the taxpayers; the disintegrating morals; the disgusting popular culture; the hit-and-run fathers; the results of illiterate and uneducated people in the workplace; the destruction of families…
When Americans finally notice: The loss of the means for production; the loss of jobs and income; and the overall weakening of America and its economic base…
Hopefully then, people will finally arise and throw the bums out of the schools and out of the government. We need to plan and develop free market neighborhood schools. America is going to need them. But, we must do our math homework. We must accurately count children and neighborhoods before we finalize plans and hire contractors to build schools. We must hire teachers who know how to teach, and especially how to teach children to do math. We must elect leaders who understand and support the idea that the future of America is dependent upon the successes and educational levels of its children. Only then might America count again.
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is a reading specialist (continually seeking ways to improve her methods for Rapid Reading Remediation); a former public school teacher (The nail that sticks out is the one that gets hammered…); and a former homeschooling parent (whose son, now 20, insisted upon growing up, putting an end to all the fun). Linda now teaches English composition at a state university and is writing her first book.