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Education Reporter

Education Dip
Did Not Just Begin Yesterday
By Dot Ward

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How many times have we heard that Mississippi has received a failing grade in public education? State Superintendent Henry Johnson is preparing us for some more bad news when nationwide test scores are released in September. The projection is that fewer than 100 of Mississippi's 880 public schools will meet federal student progress requirements.

When schools fail, we try to find somewhere to place the blame. We blame the tests, the teachers, the administrators, the parents, and even the students, when in reality the demise of public education has been a long time in the making.

Education "reform" became a national objective in 1983 when the Reagan administrations National Commission on Excellence in Education reported that the country's education system was "being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people."

We've suffered through one reform program after another ­ BEST, PRIME, Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind ­ and have experimented with new math, whole language, Outcome-Based Education (OBE), Multiculturalism, Global Ed, School to Work and CAREERS. Sadly, 20 years and billions of dollars later, there has been little or no advancement in student academic achievement.

Public education in the United States began its downward spiral just after World War I when Progressive Education theorists James Cattell, John Dewey and Edward Thorndike, influenced by the new behavioral psychology of Wilhelm Wundt of the University of Leipzig, developed new theories that would virtually destroy our educational system.

The new learning techniques were designed to de-emphasize attainment of literacy and to teach "social skills" to assure that students would "fit" into society.

The metamorphosis was gradual. It took years to train an army of new teachers and superintendents and for the teachers and superintendents of the "old school" to retire or die off. But by the 1970s, it became apparent that the United States was facing an education crisis.

The education theorists who today call themselves "social constructionists" continue to permeate every aspect of public education. They control university schools of education where future teachers are indoctrinate to the progressive-humanist-behaviorists philosophy. They write the textbooks, curriculum, and professional journals.

Until that changes, there is little possibility that public education can achieve any degree of academic excellence.

And no amount of money will change a failed education system. More money means perpetuating continued failure and declining literacy.

On June 19, the annual National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) released nationwide test scores in reading. Out of a possible score of 500, Mississippi fourth-graders scored 203 (14 points below that national score of 217), while eighth-graders scored 255 (8 points below the national score of 263.)

The next day, a Clarion-Ledger headline heralded Mississippi's improvement in reading scores. Improvement? When Mississippi students are below the national average and 36 percent of U.S. fourth-graders cant read at what the test defined as a "basic" level?

Who are we kidding?

Education analyst Dot Ward lives in Mississippi. Reprinted from Clarion Ledger, August 7, 2003.

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