Author Archives: Jeffrey

Dorothy Sayers: The Lost Tools of Learning

In this essay, Miss Sayers suggests that we presently teach our children everything but how to learn. She proposes that we adopt a suitably modified version of the medieval scholastic curriculum for methodological reasons.

Dorothy Leigh Sayers

That I, whose experience of teaching is extremely limited, should presume to discuss education is a matter, surely, that calls for no apology. It is a kind of behavior to which the present climate of opinion is wholly favorable. Bishops air their opinions about economics; biologists, about metaphysics; inorganic chemists, about theology; the most irrelevant people are appointed to highly technical ministries; and plain, blunt men write to the papers to say that Epstein and Picasso do not know how to draw. Up to a certain point, and provided the criticisms are made with a reasonable modesty, these activities are commendable. Too much specialization is not a good thing. There is also one excellent reason why the veriest amateur may feel entitled to have an opinion about education. For if we are not all professional teachers, we have all, at some time or another, been taught. Even if we learnt nothing – perhaps in particular if we learnt nothing – our contribution to the discussion may have a potential value. Continue reading

The iPad is a Far Bigger Threat to Our Children Than Anyone Realizes

Ten years ago, psychologist Sue Palmer predicted the toxic effects of social media. Now she sees a worrying new danger…

When the little girl pointed at the sweets at the checkout, her mother said: ‘No, they’re bad for your teeth.’ So her daughter, who was no more than two, did what small children often do at such times. She threw a tantrum.

What happened next horrified me. The embarrassed mother found her iPad in her bag and thrust it into her daughter’s hands. Peace was restored immediately.

This incident, which happened three years ago, was the first time I saw a tablet computer used as a pacifier. It certainly wasn’t the last. Since then, I’ve seen many tiny children barely able to toddle yet expertly swiping an iPad – not to mention countless teenagers, smartphone in hand, lost to the real world as they tap out texts. Continue reading

N.H. Takes Action to End Common Core Mandate, But Feds Still a Threat

Common Core took a hit in New Hampshire last month.

Although the state adopted the Common Core standards, Republican Governor Chris Sununu signed Senate Bill 44 into law, which “prohibits the department of education and the state board of education” from requiring schools to implement Common Core. The bill will go into effect September 16.

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut also said he plans an informal review of the Common Core standards, despite the state Board of Education voting against a formal review. Edelblut campaigned against Common Core in his unsuccessful run for governor last year.

Common Core is a set of education standards developed under the auspices of the National Governor’s Association to encourage uniform standards across state lines. It received flack from opponents who say the standards don’t help students and that local schools should be more autonomous. Continue reading

North Carolina’s Civil War Story: The Complete Series

Part I ~ The Road to Secession: Antebellum Society and Politics

President Abraham Lincoln

Introduction
North Carolina waited longer than any other state except Tennessee to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. This is not to say that the Old North State had no secessionists. Rather, North Carolinians had conflicting ideas about leaving the Union. Although staunch supporters of slavery, many North Carolinians hesitated when it came to taking such a significant step as secession. Some felt it better to stay in the Union and enjoy the Constitutional protections offered there, rather than give up those protections to embark on a new journey. However, when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter and President Abraham Lincoln asked for troops from North Carolina to put down the rebellion, the state acted swiftly and decisively. North Carolina seceded from the Union on May 20, 1861, and the state’s involvement in the Civil War began. The following narrative details North Carolina’s antebellum political, economic, and social circumstances that led up to this decision. Continue reading

Congress Ignores Obvious Problems with State-Run Preschool at Hearing

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Preschool, Elementary, and Secondary Education recently held a hearing titled “Opportunities for State Leadership of Early Childhood Programs.” Although some on the subcommittee made an effort to focus on the duplicative and fragmented nature of the 44 different preschool programs, there was only one brave effort to discuss the preponderance of evidence that government preschool programs are not only ineffective but also, in several cases, harmful.

That courageous member, Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.), who will be quoted in a moment, was a refreshing oasis in a desert of outrageous statements, such as this one by subcommittee Ranking Member Jared Polis (D-Colo.): Continue reading

The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America

Slavery in America, typically associated with blacks from Africa, was an enterprise that began with the shipping of more than 300,000 white Britons to the colonies. This little known history is fascinatingly recounted in White Cargo (New York University Press, 2007). Drawing on letters, diaries, ship manifests, court documents, and government archives, authors Don Jordan and Michael Walsh detail how thousands of whites endured the hardships of tobacco farming and lived and died in bondage in the New World.

Following the cultivation in 1613 of an acceptable tobacco crop in Virginia, the need for labor accelerated. Slavery was viewed as the cheapest and most expedient way of providing the necessary work force. Due to harsh working conditions, beatings, starvation, and disease, survival rates for slaves rarely exceeded two years. Thus, the high level of demand was sustained by a continuous flow of white slaves from England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1618 to 1775, who were imported to serve America’s colonial masters.

These white slaves in the New World consisted of street children plucked from London’s back alleys, prostitutes, and impoverished migrants searching for a brighter future and willing to sign up for indentured servitude. Convicts were also persuaded to avoid lengthy sentences and executions on their home soil by enslavement in the British colonies. The much maligned Irish, viewed as savages worthy of ethnic cleansing and despised for their rejection of Protestantism, also made up a portion of America’s first slave population, as did Quakers, Cavaliers, Puritans, Jesuits, and others. Continue reading

Allsup: The Girl Who Didn’t Line Up

Reesa was lost in golden October. Shining maple trees bridged the concrete walk down the gentle hill. Brown-gold fallen leaves carpeted the hillside. Bright gold leaves floated toward this mottled carpet where, upon landing, they glittered like brilliant stars.

Alone in this golden splendor, Reesa seemed unaware that she should be with her classmates. Tall, slender, and light on her feet, she danced gleefully from falling leaf to falling leaf, catching a dazzling yellow bouquet of falling stars.

I was tempted to open the door and call out to Reesa. I knew I had only seconds before I must return to the classroom or risk disruption. But I didn’t call out. I wanted Reesa to learn to line up with the class. But I also wanted her to have this sacred moment. I made one of the one thousand judgment calls a teacher in a wonder-centered school makes each day. I just waited.
Continue reading

Teach Your Children Well: Parts 1 ~ 3

Part 1: When I Think Back on All the Cr*p I Learned in High School

In free education, you get what you pay for.

At one point, in the six long years of infertility before the birth of number one son, we were going to homeschool. In fact, I collected books and all, planning on using them to teach the child.

And then the child arrived. At some point when Robert Anson (Yes, when you name your child that, you get exactly what you deserve) was three, a friend gave me a book called “Raising the self-willed child.” Don’t bother finding it, or at least not that particular one (I imagine there’s more than one book of that name). It was based on the idea that if your child had sufficient self-esteem he would be miraculously docile. Continue reading

How Classic Cartoons Created a Culturally Literate Generation

I recently picked up Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for the first time. Finding the plot rather amusing, I began relaying it to my father over the weekend. Because he had never read the book, I was rather surprised when he began asking informed questions about the story. In no time at all, he was the one schooling me on plot elements I had not yet reached.

“Wait a minute,” I asked. “Are you sure you’ve never read this book?”

“No, never have,” he replied, “but I saw a cartoon version of the story when I was younger and everything I know comes from that.”
Continue reading

Why Today’s Students Can’t Pass This 1922 College Entrance Exam

For generations, each autumn has bestowed the unofficial arrival of adulthood on young people as they head off to college for the first time.

But while the entrance into the Ivy Halls has occurred for years, one part of that ritual seems to have disappeared, namely, the entrance examination.

Oh sure, we have SATs and ACTs which are taken with religious fervor by any student who wants to advance to higher education, but there seems to be quite a different flavor between those and the examinations of the past.

Take, for instance, the 1922 English entrance examination for the University of Illinois. The first section contains five elements with multiple questions. Students were asked to choose two in each group and answer them in written form. This requirement – written, not multiple choice like a majority of today’s SAT-like exams – is the first difference between the two. Continue reading

Three Reasons Why Our Educational System is Failing

It’s no secret that the American education system is failing. The evidence is plain as college students extol socialism but then can’t describe what it means. SAT scores are tanking even as high school grades are on the rise thanks to the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality of many teachers.

Of course, critics of higher education culture have known this for years. But how did we get here? Following are three of the largest problems facing the system that is meant to prepare young adults to run the world but is instead turning out intellectual dwarfs.

Ideological Intolerance
The world is not a “safe space”, and universities shouldn’t be either. Anyone who is serious about learning history and economics will need to wade through at least one or two books from classical writers such as Adam Smith or Friedrich Hayek. Banning such books from reading lists limits student perspectives to a single point of view, making it hard for them to understand the world at large. Continue reading

President Trump to Drain the Swamp in Education!

“American Schools Must Return To Their Original Design of Providing For The Common Defense!”

Today, there is an urgent need for schools to play their part in providing for the common defense. What the schools do will prove in the long run to be more decisive, than any other factor, in preserving the form of government We The People cherish. Only We The People can help President Trump win this battle!

Education in America is in a most sorry state! In this area, President Trump will have to act fast to Make America Great Again! The urgent process will have to be simultaneous on several fronts! All wars overseas may be won, but unless the epic war on education is won in America, all will still be lost! Continue reading

K-12: Sight-Words are Hoax Words

Hundreds of websites broadcast the same misguided message: children must memorize Sight-Words.

This message is false. Probably the most aggressive falsehood is that such memorization is easy to do.

One popular site proclaims this malarkey: “Because many Sight-Words are phonetically irregular, tend to be abstract, have limited visual correspondence, or even easily understood definitions, students must memorize them to read quickly and fluently.”

The children do not typically know the alphabet, which is considered irrelevant. Children are not pronouncing the letters.
Continue reading

Steve Jobs Explained How to Fix Education in 1995

Since Donald Trump got into office and appointed school choice supporter Betsy DeVos as the national education secretary, a good deal of ink has been spilled on the issue of school vouchers.

On the one hand, vouchers seem to promise a better choice and education for students at a lower cost. On the other hand, recent studies suggest that vouchers don’t improve reading and math scores, and therefore are simply a rabbit trail in the quest for better education.

The takeaway from these two viewpoints? Vouchers are an emotionally charged issue which require some careful thought by concerned citizens.

With this in mind, it’s interesting to note what the late Steve Jobs had to say about vouchers. In 1995, Jobs, generally viewed as a political liberal, expressed his support for a school voucher system in an interview with Daniel Morrow: Continue reading

Cell Towers At Schools: Godsend Or God-Awful?

School districts — hard up for cash — are turning to an unlikely source of revenue: cell towers. The multistory metal giants are cropping up on school grounds in Chicago, Milpitas, Calif., Collier County, Fla. and many other places across the country.

The big reason: money. As education budgets dwindle, districts are forming partnerships with telecom companies to allow use of their land in exchange for some of the profits.

Last year, for example, cell towers on seven school sites generated $112,139 in revenue for the schools in Prince George’s County, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. Continue reading

Conclusion: Why Our Kids Never Went To Pubic School

As my wife and I settled into the concept of home schooling we found that we needed some sort of structured curriculum that we could be comfortable with. Even in the late 1980s there were quite a few home school curriculum out there, though probably not as many as today. One of our daughter’s friends, one time, commented to us “You guys home schooled before home schooling was cool.” I hadn’t thought of it that way but I guess she was right. In 1986 it hadn’t been all that long since people in some states had had their kids removed out of their homes because they refused to put them in public schools. After all, for many officious bureaucrats Government schools were the sacred cows of the hour.

So my wife and I started attending home school book fairs and conventions when we could get to them. We started checking out books and listening to various speakers.

One thing I found with various home school curriculum was that the selection of history books was, for me, somewhat discouraging in the main, and the same held true for books I saw on government. Some of the books I saw at fairs looked pretty much like government school material with a few Bible verses sprinkled over it–just enough to make them palatable to home school families that didn’t know an awful lot of history (and weren’t likely to learn much with some of these books). Continue reading

The dumbing of an age: America’s public schools are failing

Let’s get down to brass tacks: the American public education system has hit rock-bottom. Exorbitant amounts of money are being funneled into public schools, and yet the students aren’t getting any better. In fact, you could say they’re actually getting worse. America’s public schools are tumbling downwards with little hope of recovery, and if you don’t believe me then consider the following:

When compared with other countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the United States has abysmal scores. This cross-national survey gauges the knowledge and skills of 15-year old students in the country, and going by the most recent results from 2015, they’re lagging behind their foreign counterparts. Out of 71 countries, the U.S. ranked 38th place in math and 24th place in science. Continue reading

3 Examples That Show How Common Core Is Destroying Math Education In America

Whenever you let federal bureaucrats get their hands on anything they are probably going to ruin it. During the Obama administration, the Department of Education spearheaded a transformation of American education that was absolutely breathtaking. Over a period of about five years, Common Core standards were implemented in almost every state in the entire nation. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a huge step backward for public education in this country. Common Core has been called “state-sponsored child abuse”, and it is a big reason why U.S. students are scoring so poorly on standardized tests compared to much of the rest of the world.

According to Wikipedia, at one point 46 states had adopted Common Core, but now some states are having second thoughts… Continue reading

Part 4: Why Our Kids Never Went To Public School

The reactions to our decision to home school our kids were fairly quick and followed certain patterns. A couple of folks decided that, as long as we were going to do this, they could help us out by giving us lists of books we should get and make sure our kids read. I recall two such lists, if I remember correctly. I did look over the lists to see what they had.

Interestingly enough, one of the books near the top of both lists was Catcher in the Rye. When I had worked at a college back in the East, many of the kids I knew there had that one as required reading, so I had a chance back then to browse through it on several occasions. Now maybe it’s just that I am old fashioned, but my first reaction to seeing that on both lists was “I don’t want our kids reading that!” Maybe some of you all have read that one and don’t think it was as questionable as I did. There were several other offerings on both lists that I frowned at. There wasn’t an awful lot on either list that I wanted our kids messing with. Now our kids were both readers and we bought them books when we could afford to and they read and reread many of them until the covers literally fell off them. We bought them C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series and they read those until they were literally falling apart. I realize some folks disagree with some of Lewis’ materials, but it was a lot better than some of what was out there. Anyway, the book lists were a flop. Continue reading