Among the many causes of the failure of education in America today is the refusal to teach fundamental skills. Modern teaching methods especially target three essential skills—memorization, organization, and objectivity.
Of course, these skills build upon the primary foundation of morality that no school can entirely provide. Without morality, education often makes “a bad child into a wise demon.” Thus, the good child must develop the three mechanical skills to become a clever saint.
There is no skill that any child needs more than the ability to remember things. However, none is more demeaned and decried by modern “educators.” Education once sought to imbed basic information that would stay in the child’s brain forever. Memorization of multiplication tables is an example of information needed before going further into mathematics. Grammar and punctuation are essential to written communication—and so is handwriting.
Recommend memorization to most educators, and they will gasp in horror. The whole system teaches them to avoid it because it is not “creative.”
Yes, seven times eight equals fifty-six is not creative. However, students must memorize this fact before moving on to more complex mathematical processes. Subject-verb agreement, spelling and punctuation are not creative but essential to constructing a sentence. Despite the exception and irregularities of the English language, students need phonetic skills to pronounce unfamiliar words.
Such memorized skills are best taught in elementary school. The young child’s mind is best disposed to these non-creative tasks at early ages when the brain has not yet acquired abstract thinking. They will help children express their creativity as their brains mature.
Another essential skill for the developing mind is organization, which is a more creative skill than memorization. Students must organize material according to purpose and established forms. An automobile owner’s manual isn’t organized like a novel because other forms apply to the reasons people read them.
At the same time, organization is not automatic but acquired. Many knowledgeable people are unable to communicate their thoughts. This paradox of the “absent-minded professor” image comes to mind.
For example, the “five-paragraph essay” was a standard tool for English Composition teachers for decades. It gave students a highly effective method of organizing their thoughts as they wrote their first essays. It is also a rather painful process until it is mastered. It prevented the childish mind from spewing out thoughts in random order. Organizing those random thoughts is difficult.
As with memorization, most modern educators eschew the five-paragraph essay because it is a strict formula rather than a creative process. They fear that their students will be “turned off” to writing because it will stunt a child’s individuality. They could not be more wrong. Without a formula, writing is continuous agony. That same formula, once mastered, makes writing far more manageable.
The final skill is objectivity, the act of looking at reality as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices or biased interpretations. This skill is opposed to the more “woke” practice of “advocacy.”
Educators reject objectivity because they do not understand it. They mistakenly believe that objectivity replaces their progressive values system and threatens the use of advocacy. Objectivity also is opposed to subjectivity, by which individuals develop their own values, identity and feelings over all others.
True objectivity is understanding and explaining an opponent’s position without necessarily accepting it. It presupposes a well-formed conscience that guides the child to the truth. Without a strong sense of morality, children are often deceived by spurious arguments, especially if promoted by popular sentiment.
The Rationale and The Restoration
Why are schools so eager to abandon these essential and time-proven practices?
First, modern schools teach students to construct opinions, often with little information. Since the teacher can manipulate the information that the children do possess, the resulting opinions are predictable and always seem to lean leftward. Worse, the children believe these opinions are their own, thus embedding leftist ideologies in their thoughts and attitudes.
The educationists refer to this process as “critical thinking,” although it may have other names. When labeled this way, most parents support these practices. No one explains that the school’s use of that term is more related to Critical Theory, where knowledge becomes a vehicle of Marxist class struggle rather than a creative thought process that expands students’ horizons.
Second, memorization, organization, and objectivity aren’t “fun.” They involve actual effort and work, which can be tedious. Children resist them for the same reasons they resist washing dishes, cleaning their rooms or doing homework. However, all people must complete tasks that are not interesting or immediately rewarded. Such considerations do not render those tasks unnecessary.
Third, the educational establishment has spent the last fifty years diminishing the teacher’s role as the authority in the classroom. A successful teacher must lead students with an authority that takes two complementary forms. The students need to understand that the teacher knows more about the topic than they do. Teachers must know how to encourage students to do things they do not want to do.
However, any hierarchy is anathema to the leftists who run the schools. These attitudes severely damage the teacher-student relationship, often with the teachers’ consent and approval. The result is a chaotic classroom where nobody learns anything.
Restoring the role of the teacher is crucial to improving America’s schools. Learning to memorize, organize and be objective is essential for students to grow in knowledge and wisdom.
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