K-12 education: The art of the flop

“**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest column by Bruce Deitrick Price

If you try to find something intelligent going on in the public schools,  you’ll probably end up frustrated. Like Diogenes looking for an honest man.

Is it really so bad?

I think so. Our Education Establishment, which is far more ideology-driven than most people realize, has been tossing out content willy-nilly for decades. That’s the simplest way to advance their Progressive (i.e., collectivist) agenda. Kids who don’t know much will be easier to manipulate. (This first point is impossible to refute. All surveys reveal that American citizens no longer know even the most basic things: how many stars are on the flag, how many quarts are in a gallon, where Texas is on a map—the sort of easy information that children should learn by middle school.)

Just as destructive, our Education Establishment works systematically to undermine those habits of mind which schools, for thousands of years, tried to encourage: precision, promptness, industriousness, attention to detail, concentration, self-discipline, etc.

Our schools are abandoning much of what was once designated by the word “education.” Our K-12 schools prefer social engineering and psychological manipulation. So, we see the education commissars arrogantly scheming at the dark intersection of sabotage, surrender, and thespianism.

In sports, they have the perfect term for what is happening: the flop.

That’s when a player, particularly in basketball or soccer, pretends to be bumped aggressively. Picture perfectly healthy athletes, not hit hard, reeling over backward in order to create the illusion that they have been knocked down.

Typically, a single athlete flops. Occasionally you see two flopping in tandem. But imagine you have what would, in the Olympics, be a new event: synchronized flopping. That’s what we have  in education. Every facet is flopping simultaneously. Content is dismissed. Proven methods are deliberately ignored. Memorization is scorned. Discipline is systematically undercut. Ambition is stigmatized. Ennobling goals are mocked. Everything except grand but empty platitudes is flopped and dropped.

Everybody— from Obama and Arne Duncan down to superintendents and principals and all the way to administrators and teachers—knows how to flop. They lie on the ground, grunting and grimacing, Oh, the pain of a school system that never seems able to stay on its feet. Alas, constant flopping is its destiny. Its chosen destiny.

Realize that virtually all the literacy “experts” in America endorse gimmicks that are known not to work. Consider that the entire Education Establishment cheered for New Math and Reform Math, even though all the scores went down. Reflect that Common Core embraces so many bad ideas it can probably be summed up in four words: “biggest flop in history” (in both senses).

There is a long list of things that kids need to focus on and did focus on, once upon a time. Nowadays, the Education Establishment encourages children to wander pointlessly in their own personal voids. Education is an afterthought. I suggest that flopping is the main activity throughout the public schools and has been for at least a half-century.

John Dewey and all his friends (let’s say the top 500 people) had PhD’s in Education, Psychology or Sociology. Basically, these were new fields without any solid content except the raging desire to tell everybody else what to do and how to think. These nouveau intellectuals viewed themselves as world-changers, much like President Obama with his pretentious notion he’s going to fundamentally transform the country.

John Dewey circa 1900 thought exactly the same thing. He and his gang were going to fundamentally transform America. They would do it by flopping –- that is, pretending to fail –-  in every aspect of  traditional K-12 education. It would be failure by careful design. It would be failure by dramatic acting. We are still living with the wreckage and decline caused by this synchronized flopping.

It’s hard not to think in terms of comedy, Ponzi schemes, bank scandals, absurd frauds. Remember when the Mafia robbed the JFK airport in the 1970s (the robbery depicted in Goodfellas). One night, the bad guys just walked in and took what they wanted. That’s what has happened in our public schools. The people in charge turn their backs and let thieves and shysters sneak in and loot the place.

Apparently, an upper echelon degree in education today is a degree in flopping. You learn how to underperform in all of your duties.

Teach children to read? Oh, of course. You will give this task everything you’ve got and somehow make sure that millions of children are still illiterate in the eighth grade. That’s the art of the flop.


Bruce Deitrick Price’s ed site is Improve-Education.org. (His new novel is The Man Who Falls In Love With His Wife, romantic drama set in Manhattan. Info and e-book here. )

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