A century ago, progressive education introduced a fundamental mistake into the public schools.

Basically, the mistake is that you do kids a favor by deleting content, diminishing substance, and simplifying everything as much as possible.

Here was the theory: if schools wanted all children to become more deeply involved in education, the best way to accomplish this feat was to make everything more kid-friendly, more fun, more like a walk in the park than anything strenuous or difficult. The result was an ersatz kind of easy.

An interesting feature of these progressive ideas is that schools give up before the first day of school. There is total surrender, as if to say: These kids aren’t very smart and probably won’t learn much, so why make them feel bad?

Traditional classrooms aimed high, with the understanding that only some children would get A’s. The rest of the class would master a portion of the material, and get B’s, C’s and D’s. Everyone knew how well they had done.

So the progressive approach has two obvious drawbacks. Nobody is being pushed to go above a mediocre level. And nobody has any sure sense of where they stand. If every student has an A, which students have actually learned the subject? Nobody knows.

But the most profound flaw was noted at the beginning–that you should try to pull children into education by dumbing-down education. This is a glib superficial solution and finally a destructive one. If you dumb-down education, you will end up with millions of dumbed-down students. That is the outcome we are now living with.  … Read More