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Memo to Education Establishment: "Stop Making Excuses"

Updated on December 23, 2013

Public schools are burdened by too many bad ideas, and too many faux-educators more concerned with ideology than with education.

For the most part, it’s a sad picture. If there’s any humor, it may be in the excuses department. This is one area where our Education Establishment is as creative as Hollywood.

One of the oldest jokes in American culture has a schoolboy claiming that the dog ate his homework. We laugh knowingly. Of course the dog didn’t eat his homework. He didn’t do a lick of work; and now he has to lie to cover up his laziness.

Almost everything coming out of our Education Establishment is a variation on the claim that the dog ate their homework.

They are not lazy, misinformed, incompetent, ideologically extreme, greedy, or relentlessly opposed to facts and knowledge. No, they have brilliant plans and noble intentions. If things don’t work out, it’s everyone else’s fault.


The three most popular cliches these days are: “There’s not enough money...Parents refuse to help....There’s too much emphasis on tests.”

But there are many other ingenious excuses. They show that our Education Establishment, when it wants to scrimp on education, can always devise an excuse. Variations on these sentiments are commonplace:

"Children don't need to learn this. They can look it up."

"All that math stuff. Who really needs it?"

"Novels are too complicated and far removed from the lives of our children."

"Caring about the environment is one thing. But our kids don't need to know the names of insects, trees, and stuff."

"This material is too technical and should be taught at a later grade."

"This material will offend girls. No sexism."

"Children today are not interested in things that happened long ago. History is not a good use of class time."

"This material will create differences between the children; we can't have that."

"Success stories? We don't want to give children unrealistic expectations. The American Dream is a myth of course."

"Technology and computers? Kids learn that on their own. Look what they do with their phones."

See how easy it is? No matter what a teacher might want to teach, there is a compelling excuse for skipping over it. We see here a kind of genius, almost an art form.

The situation seems to be getting worse. Ordinary teachers have learned how to spit out excuses with hardly a prompt.

I wrote an article about the phenomenon that many Americans think Alaska and Hawaii are off the coast of California. The article suggested that this confusion showed a serious deficiency in how geography and other basic subjects are taught.

To my amazement, former teachers rushed to provide a whole new wave of excuses for bad teaching. For example:

“The problem is that there is information overload today....[T]he total knowledge available is growing exponentially. If you look at any of the technical or scientific areas and what you learn is obsolete in a year or two. So who is to determine the appropriate material to teach?....Instead of teaching specific facts or even skills the teacher should concentrate on three things: #1. Teach them to love learning....#2 Teach them how to teach themselves and show them how to cooperate with friends to help each other learn instead of competing.”

Another person wrote: “Geography’s hard to teach because children don’t have a chance to travel, so it’s hard to maintain an interest in other lands....Poverty has a lot to do with not understanding geography. I constantly say how important it is to take your children traveling. It instills an interest in them to learn about other cultures.”

Then a note from Colorado said: “Knowing where California, Hawaii, and Alaska are is not useful information in day-to-day activities. Knowing such ‘facts’ does not translate into higher intellect or useful skill development....Most knowledge is domain specific. Our education system might be a mess, but not knowing the location of a state is trivial and not proof that the entire system is crumbling. Facts are nearly useless and most ‘facts’ are facts from one understanding only. ‘Facts’ do not equate to teaching intellect.”

Facts are nearly useless? As opposed to what? Lies? Yes, I think he’s got something. The Education Establishment clearly loves and trusts lies ahead of facts. That is the pattern we’ve seen since John Dewey strutted his little self upon the stage.

One commenter said that a lot of the stuff you learn one year is obsolete the next year. Does he think Paris is no longer the capital of France? Does he think all the assertions in French textbooks, chemistry textbooks, and biology textbooks have changed?

We have children in our schools, even in high school, who can’t do decimals and fractions. Has anything about fractions and decimals changed in a hundred years?

Thanks to an abundance of excuses, we’ve lost our devotion to the perennial educational paradigm: learning is good, knowledge is out there, and we want to find it and learn it.

Instead, the Education Establishment likes to pretend that children are becoming expert at critical thinking, creativity, and other soft skills, as a pretext for creating a fact-free universe.

------Never mind the excuses. Do things right.

Facts are fun. Knowledge is power. It's important that children learn, slowly but systematically, all the basic knowledge that an adult needs. It's very simple. You start in kindergarten and you continue every day until high school graduation.

Here are some articles and resources that will help put the education back in education!

“How to teach anything and everything"


MORE WIDE-RANGING ARTICLE ON IMPROVE-EDUCATION.ORG: “The crusade against knowledge -- The campaign against memorization"

How To Teach Science

Teaching One Fact Each Day Is Easy


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