Wednesday, November 13, 2002


There's a good book out that exposes the ripoff that "modern" education theories and philosophies in districts such as the Omaha Public Schools have carried out against both taxpayers and students, particularly disadvantaged ones.

It's called "Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms" by Diane Ravitch (see more on www.amazon.com).

Most of the "reforms" that she blasts are exactly what are taking place in OPS and other school districts today and the cause of so much financial strain on taxpayers.

If OPS and state legislative officials would read this book, they would see how today's diluted and bloated public-school curriculum and instructional methods have actually blocked educational opportunity, not offered it. Since many educators were indoctrinated with "progressive" education techniques back in teachers' college, this book might expose what's wrong with them for the first time, to many of them. I'm convinced that most educators who are committed to the ineffective, expensive status quo are sincere and don't even realize they aren't providing what kids need in the way of education. Maybe this book could be a breakthrough for them.

I bet they would reverse course immediately away from seeking yet more taxpayer money to fund this mistaken path -- that which I indelicately call "throwing more money down a rathole" -- and instead would focus on what they need to do in order to do what we're paying them to do: meet children's academic needs.

Ms. Ravitch, a respected education advocate, blasts the kinds of social engineering and political indoctrination that have cost us so much in tax dollars diverted to education, and in declining academic achievement among our youth, especially those in the inner cities.

She calls for a return to a strict focus on academics and positive, pro-active character development in sports, art, music and other school programs that are developmental, civilizing and energizing for young people.

Ms. Ravitch says school districts have made three main mistakes:

1. They believe schools can fix any political or social problem.

2. They believe some kids don't need a high-quality education.

3. They believe knowledge isn't as important as activities and experiences.

Think what a return to a focus on a solid, demanding liberal-arts education could mean for kids of all demographic groups, but especially those who are now falling through the wide cracks of progressive education. And time's a-wasting.

The holidays are coming up. This book is available for as little as $4.50, used. How about buying a copy for a teacher, school-board member or education official you know?

It may not be what they expect . . . but those are often the best gifts of all.

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