Taking Back the Public Schools

By:  Sam Blumenfeld
Taking Back the Public Schools

If conservatives truly want to take the schools back, they will have to use a strategy that works from the bottom up. We must first start with the local school board, which still depends on the votes of local taxpayers. I have heard all kinds of discouraging stories of how conservatives managed to get elected to the school board, found out that they were impotent to change anything, and usually lost the next election because of negative publicity from the socialists on the board and the local newspaper, which generally sided with the town education establishment.

For years I’ve been arguing that the idea of taking back the public schools or advocating reforming the schools was a waste of time and energy for parents whose children needed an education now, not 10 years from now. A child is six years old just once. And so I advised parents to either educate their children at home or place them in private schools. The grip the progressive liberals have on the public schools is too strong, and the likelihood of “taking them back” was impossible. That pessimistic view led many parents to private schools and spurred the creation of the homeschool movement.

Indeed, I even wrote a book, How to Tutor, telling parents how to teach their children the three R’s in the traditional manner. I also created a reading program, Alpha-Phonics, so that parents could easily and inexpensively do all of the teaching at home, thus ensuring that their children would become highly literate.

But while I consider homeschooling to be the superior way to educate a child and am still trying to convince as many parents as possible to homeschool, the unhappy reality is that 85 percent of American children still attend the government schools where they are subject to ruinous evils by their teachers. I’ve written extensively of these evils that destroy thousands of young lives. Indeed these children are at risk in five specific ways:

First, they are at risk academically because of the flagrant use of faulty teaching methods that produce functional illiteracy, dyslexia, and reading disability. Look-say and its latest version, whole language, have done more to destroy the literacy of American children than any other reading programs. Invented spelling, which is part of the whole language philosophy, actually teaches children to disregard accuracy in writing. In case you’re unfamiliar with whole language, here’s a description of the philosophy given by three whole-language professors in their book, Whole Language: What’s the Difference? published in 1991:

Whole language represents a major shift in thinking about the reading process. Rather than viewing reading as "getting the words," whole language educators view reading as essentially a process of creating meanings ... Meaning is created through a transaction with whole, meaningful texts (i.e., texts of any length that were written with the intent to communicate meaning).

It is a transaction, not an extraction of the meaning from the print, in the sense that the reader-created meanings are a fusion of what the reader brings and what the text offers ... Although students who learn to read in whole language classrooms are, like all proficient readers, eventually able to "read" (or identify) a large inventory of words, learning words is certainly not the goal of whole language.

So, if you’ve wondered why little Johnny isn’t learning to read, it’s because he’s been told that reading is “creating meaning,” not decoding the author’s words.

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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)

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