Educational Decay: Loss of 18th Century Rigor

I have recently been reading Teaching A Generation of Leaders: A Thomas Jefferson Education for the 21st Century by Oliver Van DeMilleIle.

This book was given to me by my sister, who was leaps and bounds above me in knowing the best way to educate her children.  Having graduated Cum Laude from a University with a Bachelor’s in Education and having experience teaching in the public school, surely I had more expertise in educating children, compared to what she and her ”odd” ideas of homeschooling could.  She and most parents that are seeking an alternative to public school, in most part, are doing so because they have realized, what I have only recently become aware of, that an education today is NOT a true education.

Betty Peters puts it succinctly when she states, ”What is missing from 21st Century Skills? 18th Century Rigor!”

Gone are the days when an 8th grade farmer could read and discuss The Federalist Papers.   What typical 8th grader could read, comprehend, and discuss these words written by Alexander Hamilton?  He writes concerning how important their discussion is and how uncertain the role of motives in politics is:

Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments; and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country…

In my limited experience as a teacher of preteenager students, I know that most would spend their time looking up the majority of the words so they could only hope to glean the meaning of this phrase.  That would of course be those students who have not become overwhelmed with giggles from the word “perverted”.  I do not point this out to dismiss the hard work of teachers and educators as a whole, but merely to point out how decayed our American education system has become.
  Andrew M. Allison, states it well when he said,

We’ve know for a long time that it was the extraordinary, far-reaching vision of America’s founding fathers that produced the freest and most powerful nation on earth. What we have not understood, however, is the rigorous educational experience that gave them such a remarkable vision.

Rigorous, ah yes, rigorous!  That is the catch phrase word to promote and prove that the latest dumbing down of American Education, the Common Core State Standards, will lead to rigorous teaching.  Until it leads to students being able to compete with those educated on an 8th grade level during the founding of this nation, it is closer to rigor mortis than actual rigorous learning.  What is rigor?  All of the definitions, should you look them up, are NOT what I would want my classroom to look like, “stiff, harsh, inflexible, unyielding, severe“…. This definition seems most fitting, “a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable“.  I suppose common core proponents are talking about the “strict precision to exactness“.   Then that that would be a contradiction in terms, especially if you are familiar with the Common Core math, such as Everyday Math or other “fuzzy” math programs, that put the emphasis on the “process” verses the strictness of the actual correct answer!

Please tell me how limiting the classics, as David Coleman, the lead architect of the CCSS, has done, will lead to an improved education?   It is true, it will only lead to being prepared for college and career!  At least in that, they are honest!  Yes, a two year college, maybe… and then of course right into the work force.  Forget educating your mind for goodness, morality and citizenship to become statesmen that could be good and righteous leaders someday!

Allan Bloom points out in The Closing of the American Mind; “When a youngster like Lincoln sought to educate himself, the immediately obvious things for him to learn were the Bible, Shakespeare and Euclid.  Was he really worse off then those who try to find their way through the technical smorgasbord of the current school system, with the utter inability to distinguish between important and unimportant…”

Michelle Malkim points out, in her column, Education’s Shiny Toy Syndrome, how the latest obsession with having the best technology is merely a HUGE waste of our tax dollars!   We do not need to spend another dime on educational technology.  Instead, let’s trade that in for the George Wythe method of educating pupils.  Thomas Jefferson was one educated in this manner, with the Classics, personalized to fit HIS needs (not the box CC puts all students into), lots and lots of reading, writing, and discussion and only accepting quality work!  I’ll trade those in, and in fact already have for my own children.  Good teachers know this and attempt to do this in the confines of what the federal government has laid down as law.  The greatest of teachers can only do so much within the confines of test preparation, testing, evaluations, teacher development, unpacking of standards, meetings, discipline, etc…  Yes, we still find those wonderful teachers that seemingly can do it all and still produce well educated students.  Unfortunately, today’s well educated student is no where near as educated as we once were before the deliberate dumbing down of our nation began.

This dumbing down has been a gradual movement started by, Horace Mann, the very Father of the current education system.  Recently I gave a presentation in my community on Common Core and how it will harm our country.  Part of that presentation describes how Obama speaks of his desire for our country to become more like a German style of education.  A very well informed gentleman commented,  ”I hate to burst your bubble, but our system is already using that model.”  This caused me to do some research, and what I have found, shows how ignorant we are of what our school systems really are based on.  In the 1830′s Horace Mann visited Germany (then Prussia), and became obsessed with the model the Emperor had created for education.  It was designed to generate obedient workers and soldiers who would not question authority.   He then became infatuated with eliminating free thought from the various subjects taught in America.  This concept was put into place in Massachusetts and then began to spread across our nation.

Even with this style of education in place we still find those that educate themselves in spite of it, such as this woman, Bonnie Fisher.

Bonnie Fisher is someone whom we should look to for what embodies a true teacher.  Her experience includes teaching for 22 years,  7th-12th grade high school English and Latin courses, and annotating and reviewing textbooks from America’s decades long past.  Her speech is such that will leave you spellbound and wishing for a day when we were truly educated, and those who received merely an 8th grade education, could speak with eloquence and understanding of the English language.

In her testimony to the Indiana State Legislator, she expresses her concern by stating, “The Common Core state standards are pernicious, because we cannot continue to have a viable Democracy with an ignorant population, or a population that is gullible or a population that is mentally shackled, and have somebody else, some other group, whether it’s the 1%, or whoever they are, be in charge of affairs…. It is not to a great deal ordinary people… (that are in charge anymore).

Please watch her AMAZING testimony

In conclusion of her testimony Bonnie explains how her education included those great classics, mainly Marcus Tullius Cicero!   How many can claim a thorough understanding of that great philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, and constitutionalist?  I know my own children and students will be well versed in his works as well as other great classics.   I desire for my children and students to be prepared for LIFE.   That life may include career and college.  Even so, college and career will not be the motivating factor for their education.   I deem it will allow them much, much more!  Of course, my humble opinion is that we need more than Sunday School to teach those things that our great leaders learned in the 18th Century.  I wish that public school is what it once could have been, as that would make my life of being a mom much more SIMPLE.  If SIMPLE is ever a term that could be applied to motherhood and parenting!

This article has been reposted from Wyoming Against the Common Core with permission from the author, Christy Hooley.

2 thoughts on “Educational Decay: Loss of 18th Century Rigor

  1. There is a meeting at University High School in Spokane on October 16th to discuss Common Core with parents.

    I’m hoping to see more than just myself standing against this

    Erik Bradstreet

    Sent from my iPad


    • I am a mother who has home-schooled my three children from kindergarten through high school. After learning about this “Common Core” that is in our education system I am very passionate about educating myself on the ultimate goal of those who devised it. This appears to be a sad testimony of how far we have strayed from the foundations laid by those who established our country a few hundred years ago. The education of our children should be among the highest priority of a nation, not money!

      Dara Davis

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