“Dumbing Down Our Kids” by Charles J. Sykes

Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add

by Charles J. Sykes

If you are a regular reader of Cal Thomas, William Bennett, or Phyllis Schlafly you are familiar with their laments over of the plight of the American educational system. Charles Sykes, with this book, faces off against the education establishment to dismantle the clichés and expose the fallacies. Sykes peels back the layers of deception, bureaucratic self-interest, and liberal hallucinations to reveal the true intentions of the “progressive” education establishment.

Specifically, the pages explain, with common sense and a sprinkling of humor, many of the trendy and untested educational goals and techniques with lofty sounding names such as cooperative work, multiculturalism, diversity, whole language reading, values clarification, peer mediation, mathematical communication skills, problem-solving strategies, higher-order math skills, and schools without failure. For example:

“In its goal statement, Milwaukee’s suburban Whitnall district declared that “By 1996-97, all students will demonstrate 100% proficiency in the District’s performance outcomes.” Whitnall school board member Ted Mueller quotes one astute resident remarking, ‘If we require all students to stuff a basketball to be able to graduate from high school, the only way you’re going to be able to accomplish that is to lower the basketball hoop.'”

Between many of the chapters are short samples of educational life in America called Scenes from the Front. Here’s an excerpt from one entitled “Andrea’s Complaint”:

“Andrea’s frustration was not confined to the new science curriculum. In her math class, students were given A’s just for answering the homework problems — whether or not they got the right answer. Just trying was enough; accuracy was apparently optional.

“But it was the science class that most annoyed her. She had done more experiments as a fifth and sixth grader than she did as an eighth grader, and the year had descended from farce, to wasted time, to insult. Finally, she decided to speak out. In a letter to her science teacher, Andrea poured out her complaints:

“‘I’ve been in this class for almost a quarter, and I haven’t gotten a single thing out of it. Unless you count learning to be a bird, making imitation cereal, or finding out if I can roll my tongue to be valuable learning experiences. Maybe you do, but I don’t …. I would be better off in my sister’s fifth-grade science class.'”

In Chapter Three, “The American Way of Denial”, Sykes makes the point that while a growing number of people acknowledge problems with American schools, too many believe the problems are not in their school. He seems to believe there are two reasons for the lack of public outcry. One is parental complacency; the other is concerned parents held at bay by inflated grade cards which disguise the true severity of the problems.

© Copyright 1998, 2008, Clancy Cross.  All rights reserved.

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Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves
But Can’t Read, Write, or Add