I just read an article in The Objective Standard that was interesting. It included a lot of stuff that I knew or was aware of, but didn't know why. The article begins with an assessment of American education today. For example, 15-year-old students in the United States placed near the bottom of 35 industrialized nations on the math portion of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. Students in Massachusetts, which scored higher than those in other states, scored above the US national average, but ranked two years behind students in Shanghai. Only 5% of 17-year-old high school students could read sufficiently to comprehend information disseminated in historical documents, college textbooks, or literary essays. 60% did not know why "The Federalist" was written, 75% did not know when Abraham Lincoln was president, and only one in five knew what Reconstruction was. Although well publicized, this warning did no good. The Educational Testing Service found in 1994 that 50% of college graduates in the United States could not read a bus schedule and that "only 42% could summarize an argument presented in a newspaper article." As a nation, we did this to ourselves, and we didn't start out that way. The article discusses the Mid-Atlantic colonies during the pre-Revolutionary period, during the Revolution, and on through Civil War times, in which all indications were that, although not everyone participated in it, the American education system was very good in comparison with other countries. Thomas Paine's pamphlet, "Common Sense," enunciating sophisticated political principles, sold 120,000 copies during the colonial period, which is akin to selling 10,000,000 copies today. "The Federalist" essays were published in newspapers, written for and read by common people. Book sales in the early and mid-19th century also indicated a high national literacy level. In 1800, two French educators reported on the educational levels of American education, stating that Americans received an education "far superior to that of other peoples." Several decades later, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in "Democracy in America" that Americans were the most educated people in history. What happened? The author blames the Progressives "War on Learning," stating that the essence of the Progressive education movement is the idea that the primary goal of education is the "socialization" of the child, and that this is more important than academic training - more important than literature, history, science, and math. During the early 1900s, tests were redesigned to test, not a student's actual learning, but his capacity to learn. The Stanford-Binet intelligence test (IQ Test) was developed in order to determine what students were capable of, so that their education could be structured according to their abilities, as measured by the test. By the mid-1920s, psychologists had developed seventy-five IQ tests to measure the intellectual abilities of students of all ages. These were used by public schools to predict which students were likely to go to college and which might be better served by vocational programs. However, these decisions became self-fulfilling because only those who were deemed to be on the college track were guided into the courses that would prepare them for college. Shortly after World War I, the Progressives, who by then were in full control of the American educational system, created the field known as "Curriculum Studies," arguing that curriculum design was a complex field that could only be mastered by experts who were fluent in the new scientific approach to education. Before World War I, a school's curriculum was designed by community school boards and educators who knew the local parents and their expectations. At that time, nearly all towns and neighborhoods wanted their children to learn reading, writing, arithmetic, history, geography, and nature studies in elementary school, and for high schools to teach Latin, a modern foreign language or two, mathematics, literature, grammar, the sciences, ancient history, English history, American history, drawing, and music. This is what parents wanted, and this is what the schools delivered. This was not the case when the curriculum was placed in the hands of the experts. Bobbitt's book, "Curriculum," was for years the standard textbook on the subject in the teacher's colleges. These principles were encoded in the Cardinal Principles, which remains the foundational document in modern American education. Within these Cardinal Objectives is one dealing with "Worthy Use of Leisure," which assumed that most people, devoid of "proper" schooling, did not know how to enjoy themselves or relax -- and that training in leisure activities was a productive use of school time. Another objective was "Ethical Character," which raised the rather scary question: Which moral code would government-run schools inculcate in young students? Given the emphasis on collective responsibility and collective thinking, this might provide answers to the thinking of recent generations. These, I might add, are all things that we used to criticize the Soviet Union and Communist China for. Before, high schools offered, some even requiring, a four-year development in history that covered ancient history, European, English, and American history. After, this was replaced with Social Studies. History lost its place in American education, pertinent only when it advances a social purpose. Social Studies includes some history, but focuses on social efficiency, or teaching students the attitudes necessary to fit into the social order. Another Progressive educator was John Dewey, who mixed some good ideas with the poison of Progressive education. Still, his aims were further Progressive education. He held that all learning is ultimately for the purpose of saturating students with the spirit of service. He believed that the purpose of education is not to convey "bodies of information and skills that have been worked out in the past," not to teach the child "science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography," but rather to prime him for "social cooperation and community life." If it seems that you, as it does to me, that the schools are putting more emphasis on indoctrination than on education, then they are doing as they are told. Dewey's disciple, William Heard Kilpatrick, was an admitted admirer of the educational system of the Soviet Union. Of the Soviet Union, he said that "no school system in history has been more thoroughly and consistently made to work into the social and political program of the state." Dewey also visited the Soviet Union, and was moved by what he saw there. He wrote that Soviet educators "realized that the goals of the progressive school were undermined by the egoistic and private ideals and methods inculcated by the institution of private property, profit, and acquisitive possession." He excused the inclusion of Soviet propaganda into its education system as being "for the good of humanity rather than private gain." Dewey also criticized the influence of familes on public school students, complaining that influence of the family "is individualistic and pernicious to communal living." There were others, since the days of Dewey and Kilpatrick, who also modeled their educational views on the Soviet Union. George Counts, another Progressive educator, was convinced that American schools must take the lead in transforming the United States from a capitalist into a socialist nation. The article goes on to acknowledge some of the heroes of American education, including Maria Montessori, who encouraged independent thinking and independent learning, and others, most of whom have abandoned the public school system. It also details the more modern steps to dumb down the rest of the US curriculum, and offers some suggestions, but I think this has gone on long enoug for an opening post. From an article in The Objective Standard, written by Andrew Bernstein. I subscribe to the magazine. I don't think the article is available online yet.