Book of the Month

Back to September 2015 Ed Reporter

Book of the Month

The Catastrophic Decline of America’s Public High Schools: New York City — A Case Study, Jeffrey Ludwig, CreateSpace, 2014, $10.99

Author Jeffrey Ludwig says schools are “substituting what to think for how to think.” He has taught at Harvard University, several other colleges, and in New York City secondary schools. His book exposes so-called reforms that have supposedly been put in place to improve education.

Data-driven education reformers look at numbers but forget that teaching students involves more that analyzing numbers. Students must be taught logical thinking, creativity, persistence, study habits, responsibility, values, and self-control. These and other important aspects of education are often neglected, neither measured nor mandated.

The author says those who foisted Common Core on students don’t care about education or students. He says, “Armed with statistics and vast software systems, their intent is to establish one-size-fits-all curricula and success parameters in public education nationwide.” Ludwig says that “their underlying impulse is totalitarianism.”

Bill Gates, Bill Ayers, Arne Duncan, and many others, in conjunction with education mega-companies like Pearson and McGraw-Hill, hope to have from twelve to twenty years to indoctrinate students.

Ludwig points out that although they have issues with some aspects of reform, the NEA and the AFT teachers unions are “actually 100% on board with the political and social agenda of [the] reformers.” The unions sometimes object to student assessments that could influence teachers’ pay or advancement, but they love the chance to “[consolidate] power” and the opportunity to advance their “left-wing agenda.”

Beyond philosophical and curricular matters, Ludwig tells of utter institutional breakdown in New York City schools. For six years, he taught at a school where “students were being slashed by razor blades and box cutters in the hallways,” fires were regularly set, cursing by teachers and students was the “verbal norm,” the walls were full of graffiti, and students had sex in closets and in stairwells. This school had 18 security guards and two full-time armed New York City police officers, yet order could not be maintained.

Ludwig says “the goal of education is to teach students subjects and to build character.” In far too many schools, some students are out of control and the rest are lost in the chaos, while adults are consumed by political ideology, a grab for profits, corruption, or simply trying to keep their jobs.

Meaningful education reform includes the teaching of values and the use of vouchers that provide parents with education options.