Bruce Deitrick Price
Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press
What ever happened to the “Three Rs”-reading, writing and arithmetic?
According to Bruce Deitrick Price, author of Saving K-12: What Happened to Our Public Schools? How Do We Fix Them, these basics, which form the mainstay of education, have become severely abandoned as key learning tools. What is more, he believes that most Americans barely comprehend how pitiful are the public schools and he further believes that the Education Establishment has done a brilliant job at propaganda and deception in undermining these basic principles. Price rightfully maintains that our public schools live with mediocrity and inefficiency and thus it is little wonder why many students can't read, do basic mathematics, and write a proper sentence!
Price is a novelist, artist, poet, and education reformer who graduated with Honors in English Literature from Princeton University. His Saving K-12 consists of a collection of persuasive essays that for the most part have been posted on several different websites targeting a variety of audiences and problems. These writings have been divided into ten sections treating an assortment of issues.
One of the themes that Price repeatedly examines within his essays is the eternal question that has been around for years concerning literary instruction and focuses on the question as to which is the better method for teaching children how to read: phonics or sight-reading? It should be mentioned that in most parts of the English-speaking world phonics or teaching of the basic sounds associated with each letter in the English alphabet is the preferred method. This enables the reader to capture the correct pronunciation and meaning of a word.
Price is a very strong advocate of phonics and loathes the sight-reading approach where children are given hundreds of the most common English words and taught through rote memorization to recognize them. As he notes, the English language contains far too many words to recognize by sight and memorize, and thus children's confidence collapses. Consequently, they fall behind their peers who have learned decoding methods of reading. Furthermore, they wildly guess words, leave out words, replace words, and even reverse words. They wind up not knowing how to read which is probably one of the main reasons why there are fifty million illiterates in the USA. Even Bill Gates, who has studied the public school system, has weighed in on the subject and believes that schools are so bad that they are a threat to the country's future!
Another subject matter Price analyzes is that of the teaching of mathematics and the raging “math wars” concerning K-12 mathematics education. Did you know that compared to children from around the world, Americans are in the bottom twenty-five percent? As he remarks, could it be that bad? Is the Education Establishment that gifted as non-teaching? We all know that before an infant can walk he or she must crawl. The same is true when it comes to learning a skill or sport. In other words, we must master the basics before moving on to the more difficult. Why can't our educators accept this basic requirement in the teaching of math? If you are a parent of school-aged children you probably are aware of Everyday Math or some other name that has become part of the math curriculum and you are probably as frustrated in learning it as your children. All kinds of math concepts are taught very early in a child's education because there is a belief that teaching math the old fashion way is boring and ruins learning for children. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Among the other topics covered are the dumbing down of our public schools, as they are based on a model of intellectual minimalism, theories and methods in the classroom, Common Core standards and other pertinent problems in our educational system.
Throughout, Price mixes quotes from other writers, authors, educators, business people, and others. He also places a great deal of the blame on the poor condition of the educational system on the shoulders of the American philosopher and educator, John Dewey as well as some of the top-level educators whom he characterizes as socialists. According to him, no matter what they say to us, their real goal is always the “fundamental transformation” of the country.
Price puts forward several solutions for repairing the damage to the educational system and in particular refers to Malkin Dare, a lifelong teacher and education reformer and the founder of the Society for Quality Education in Ontario. Dare has summarized her educational philosophy in an article, Ten Keys to Success: Fundamental Principles of Teaching which Price advises parents and teachers to read and put into practice.
One of the
noticeable drawbacks of the book is its tendency to over generalize.
Another is its lack of content editing as there were too many
sections that were redundant and repeat the same “song and dance.”
Nonetheless, by and large, Price offers a searing take and some very
powerful arguments concerning the poor state of the US education
system. You may not agree with all
he has to say but you have to admit that he is not afraid to speak
his mind as he reminds us that we need to be conscious as to how our
education system is constructed, by whom, and what are the intended
and unintended consequences.