In many ways, the progressive education establishment is akin to a leftist “Hive”—people who think and speak alike and move in concert, even without centralized control or an active conspiracy.
The education Hive exercises power and influence in every state and nearly all Western countries. From the Department of Education, to congressional education committees, to state departments of education, to colleges of education, to the numerous and multiplying individuals and private foundations that dump money and theory into questionable education reform efforts, the Hive is enormous and remarkably monolithic. There are differences, to be sure, on topics such as charter schools, but about the fundamentals there is no disagreement.
What are these fundamentals? Shibboleths about what schools should accomplish, and particular pedagogy. We hear ad nauseum that schools must turn out students who are college- and career-ready and prepared to compete in the twenty-first-century global economy. (Classical educators would argue that the purpose of education is much broader and more fundamental than this, but that’s a topic for another essay.) To create such students, schools must teach less factual content (or knowledge), which is instantly available through the Internet, and focus more on “noncognitive skills” such as critical thinking and collaboration.
There’s a surface plausibility to these tropes. Who could oppose teaching “critical thinking”? And it’s true, isn’t it, that most facts are available in a matter of seconds? So shouldn’t schools focus more on what to do with those facts? But many traditionalists are skeptical of these claims, perhaps without being able to identify exactly why.
Most Sincerely Wrong
Thankfully, there’s a book that explains why these pedagogical claims are 100 percent wrong. To paraphrase the Munchkin coroner, they are not only merely wrong, but really most sincerely wrong.
Daisy Christodoulou wrote Seven Myths About Education after teaching for several years in a British secondary school (British schools, like American, are controlled by the Hive). As a teacher she wrestled daily with “astonishing evidence of the pupils’ low levels of basic skills and knowledge” and began researching why the dominant pedagogy wasn’t working.
She discovered that scientific research about how the brain functions and how human beings learn utterly refutes everything she had been taught in education school. These are the myths Christodoulou explodes:
Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project.