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What If Schools Aren’t Failing?

LandscapeIt’s a controversial question: what if it’s a mistake to say that schools are “failing”? Students today clearly have a weaker grasp of the “three R’s” than they ought, but what if many school administrators have a private, and different, set of goals defining success in education than Joe Public does?

Sure, politicians of every stripe decry how education is failing our students, and pledge to “do better”. Doing better means shoveling more money, equipment, or books at the problem, or maybe testing new educational theories on our kids.

But specifically how are schools failing? By what standard do we measure, and what constitutes a failed outcome? Many school models exist, with widely differing objectives, and methods. Against whose standard are we measuring results?

If the public assumes that the main goal is literacy, numeracy, competency and learning, many schools have objectively failed. But measuring the success of our schools in that way would unknowingly misinterpret their results — IF the system has a different goal.

Hannibal’s exploits in Cannae proved that yielding a little ground can win a larger battle.

The Carthaginian General Hannibal allowed his army to be pushed backwards in the center. The Roman attackers saw that Hannibals’ army was losing ground. If they thought they were winning, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Hannibal drew them into a trap, surrounding the larger Roman army The battle that had promised Rome an easy victory, became one of history’s famous catastrophes. Tragically, the Roman leaders lost because they could not distinguish between a Roman advantage, and a Carthaginian tactical retreat.

Could we be making a similar mistake? More fundamental than school curriculum itself: what are the philosophical objectives of our system? Without that information, we cannot truly evaluate it.

The Chinese school system is intensely competitive, and rigidly structured, with a 6 day week, and a flurry of planned activity from before sunrise until after dark. The old Soviet system deliberately dissolved familial bonds, indoctrinating kids with a higher allegiance to the State. They were intentionally anti-theistic and discouraged inquiry and free expression.

The Classical method, first in Athens, and later tweaked by Christians like Augustine, emphasized inquiry, critical thinking, and mastery of multiple disciplines. The Western World as we know it today is the outgrowth of that system.

Islamic Madrassas, especially radicalized Wahabbi ones, are yet another example.

It would be foolish to say that all of these systems define success the same way. They have radically different goals, even if each would claim to educate their kids in the “basics”.

What fundamentals are our schools being built upon?

Critics of recent Teachers Strikes might conclude that Teachers, Unions and Political parties are just in a symbiotic political relationship, viewing students either as pawns or an afterthought to the warring factions.

The British Education systems have sharply declining international scores on literacy and math. Their solution? That Evolution be taught even in Independent schools. They favoured a push for ideological ‘conformity’ over goals in literacy.

The American Education system is currently replacing classic English literature with non-fiction “informational texts” and government publications.
The Canadian system has so elevated the “distinctiveness” of various factions that they have created schools that exist only for certain groups.

One is an LGBT school with an emphasis on issues relating to sexuality. Another is Toronto’s “Afro-centric” school. Yes, you read that correctly. Late to the party, Canada “finally” has a racially segregated school. And don’t forget the teachers that call themselves “co-parents”.

Is it any wonder so many students cannot use numbers or words properly? With so much energy spent on having students conform to the values our “betters” deem necessary: environmentalism, sexual permissiveness, party-affiliated political activism, anti-Western propaganda, a narrow brand of tolerance, social justice, etc, who can find time for math or literature?

Forget the sad state of our student’s ability to work with numbers and words. Forget their inability to critically evaluate flawed arguments. Schools aren’t failing, if their goals are something other than education.

What if we are actually dealing with undisclosed goals of indoctrination?

Prominent American Humanist Paul Blanshard said, “I think the most important factor moving us toward a secular society has been the educational factor. Our schools may not teach Johnny to read properly, but the fact that Johnny is in school until he is sixteen tends toward the elimination of religious superstition.”

And Vladimir Lenin said, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have planted will not be uprooted”

And A.A. Hodge predicted in 1887 “… a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.”

We must seriously consider what the stated and implicit goals of our schools and curricula actually are, and hold them to account. If you have children, and they teach values contrary to your own, find another educational option.

Regardless whether you have children, challenge wrong-headed educational philosophies — possibly even seeking election — because the ideas and values these children graduate with will one day govern the country.

Image: St. Gil, Marc, 1924-1992, Photographer (NARA record: 8464473); Current location:
National Archives and Records Administration, College Park; public domain

Wes Walker

Wes Walker is the author of "Blueprint For a Government that Doesn't Suck". He has been lighting up since its inception in July of 2012. Follow on twitter: @Republicanuck