Where and How Did We Go Wrong? – Part One

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

It has been said; “You can know the tree by its fruit”.  This is probably true, wouldn’t you say.  Apple trees don’t give us oranges, after all.

So what of education today?  The fruit of our modern educational system is rotten to the core. We teach fewer subjects than we used to, placing all of our educational eggs into one dysfunctional basket we call “national standards”.  We no longer offer any serious approach to the arts, language, literature, history, comparative religions or much of anything outside of math and science, not in anything other than a cursory lip-service manner.   What do our schools do with our children for six hours or more, outside of science and math, and lip-service to other studies?  Nothing good.

Our schools claim to be bankrupt.  Many school districts either talk about or actually do drop the school week from five to four days.  Test scores plummet.  Jobs soar like the jet stream overseas.  Our students do ever more poorly when compared to their peers around the globe.  Yet, teacher’s pay and benefits go up and up.

Some fruit.  Don’t eat that apple, kid, it’ll kill you!  That teacher, that administrator, that school is no sweet old lady, that’s the nasty old queen!  Haven’t you seen Snow White?

We know the tree is rotten through and through.  Its fruit stinks and rots on the vine, and drops off prematurely.  But long ago, we had what appeared to be a healthy tree, a good and vital educational system.  At least, that’s what we’re told by our history books and our grandparents.

Certainly, our grandparents seemed to have had the opportunity to live better lives, informed and supported by a more liberal and thorough education.    (My use of the word “liberal” is not political in this context; this is not a political discussion.  At least, education should not be about politics.)  In fact, in a recent national poll, students said that, for the first time in the history of the United States, they feel that they have less of a chance for a productive or happy life than did their parents.  And the results we see from national and global tests sadly support their feelings.  The international financial situation grows darker by the day, and the darkness is fed by far more than simply increased numbers of human beings, it’s also fed by increasingly inadequate education and ignorance on a global scale.  The arts are unquestionably in decline from what history may someday regard as a “golden age”, one that held sway from the mid 1800s through the 1940s (or so) in music, theater, literature and even in film.  The arts revert to primitivism, particularly notable in today’s music.

Such a reversion in the arts has historically been a sure indication of a civilization on its way out.  The amount of proof behind this is staggering.

If education used to work well (or at least better than it does today), what happened?  What changed?  Or, to return to our metaphor, who killed our tree?

There is a lot of shouting coming out of Washington about education.  This is not a new noise.  In fact, the din that politicians make about education goes back to the 1860s, when public education first became required in America.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of public education – that every child deserves the opportunity to receive an actual and useful education which will improve that student’s life – is a valid and valuable one.  Can there be any question that a civilization filled with bright, well-educated people using what they know to create and produce, and improve the world, would be a civilization experiencing a renaissance of historic measure?   Another lesson history teaches us is that it is the enlightened individual who leads the world into change and invention.  Groups can and do support the individual’s efforts, but it is the Newtons and Edisons, the Jeffersons and Madisons, the Shakespeares and Bachs who push open new doors.  And is anything clearer than the idea that religions are founded terrestrially by individuals with vision, from Judaism to Christianity to Islam to Buddhism?

From religion to politics, economics and business to the arts, it is the enlightened (and often self-educated) individual who leads the charge into the future.  A civilization truly succeeding at educating ALL of its young ups the odds enormously that it will produce a higher percentage of individual adults with vision and genius to lead that charge.

This makes education the central key to the future of any civilization, including yours and mine.  Given the results we see from public education today, where is our civilization headed?  Is there a trash bag big enough to dump our current civilization into?  We’re going to need it, and soon, unless things change.

The idea of universal education is not a bad idea.  It’s the actuality of public education that has failed.

So who has had control over the way we educate?  Who has controlled both the processes and results of our educational system?  Who generated and inculcated into the system the absolutely destructive and terrible methods that are, today, standard practice in the education “business”?

Who poisoned the tree?  Whose touch turned education into slow death?  Who really lives behind the mask of that sweet old lady with the apple?

Answers to follow.

As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

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