Chapter 11 
   * SAT score decline  
   * High School dropout rate  
   * Quality of Education  
   * Quality of the Teachers  
   * Futility of Reform - Principles underlying government schooling  
   * Tragic consequences  

   * SAT score decline 
   For the decade ending in 1962 the mean scores on the Scholastic Aptitude 
Test varied within about a 10 point range (from 471 to 479 on the verbal 
section and from 490 to 502 on the math section). 
   In 1963 these scores commenced a decline which continued for almost 20 
                         YEAR    VERBAL       MATH 
                         1962:    478          502 
                         1981:    424          466 
                                  -11%         -7% 

   From 1981 to 1991 the scores leveled off, holding within a few points of 
425 Verbal and 470 Math. Some of this decline can be attributed to the fact 
that a wider range of students now take the test than took it in the l960s, 
but the Wirtz Commission concluded that about half of the decline represents 
an actual decline among students with qualifications similar to those taking 
the test earlier. 
   However, in early 1990 a nation-wide scandal came to light: it was 
revealed that school administrators and teachers, in their attempts to 
improve their standing in the community and to earn for themselves and their 
schools "improved student achievement" bonuses offered by the state 
governments, had been cheating on the achievement tests by providing their 
students with the answers prior to testing. This makes highly suspect the 
"leveling off" of the SAT score decline that was reported in the mid-1980s. 
   (In any case, the issue will be sidestepped in 1995, when the College 
Board will recalibrate the "average" combined verbal and math score 
(supposedly 500) to the median of the test group of that year. This will 
result in that year's group having a combined score 98 points above that of 
their predecessors.) 

   During this two-decade period there was also a precipitous drop in the 
number of students scoring at the top 1% level (700 or higher) in spite of 
the fact that the total student pool increased by more than one-fourth: 

                         YEAR    VERBAL       MATH 
                         1966:   33,200      55,500 
                         1979:   12,300      38,900 
                                  -63%        -30% 
   To say less than words can say is to commit an intellectual crime. Today, 
the shriveled fruits of that crime are dropping off the vine of education, 
in the form of millions of students who have been prevented, by their years 
of schooling, from developing their capacity for thought. 

   The situation is further aggravated in the field of higher education. 
Observe the number of new Ph.D.s in science: 

    Physical Sciences         Physics          Mathematics 
      1971:  4500           1970: 1500         1978: 619 
      1984:  3400           1986:  900         1988: 341 
             -24%                 -40%              -45% 

   And this sorry situation is by no means restricted to the scientific 
fields. It is taking a terrible toll in the arts as well. Between 1966 and 
1989 there was a reduction of 77% in the number of public school students 
enrolled in music courses. 

   More than a fourth of the science Ph.D.s and 60% of the engineering 
Ph.D.s awarded in 1986 went to foreign students, and two-thirds of 
postdoctoral appointees in engineering were foreign citizens. In early 1989, 
only 7 in 1000 American university students were studying engineering. In 
Japan the ratio was 40 in 1000. The percentage of American students pursuing 
a degree in any science dropped from 11.5 in 1966 to 5.8 in 1988. This 
paucity of American science students extends down into the high schools: 
among the winners of the 1990 Science Talent Search, 57% were foreign 
students. And again, the arts are affected along with the sciences: in 1993, 
thirty-seven percent of the students at the Julliard School of Music were 

   During the 1960s, American colleges and universities expanded as if the 
post-War baby boom that produced the massive youth cohorts of that period 
would last forever. (But what else could they have done - in view of the 
demands placed upon them?) It did not, and institutions of higher learning 
are now confronted by sharply declining enrollments in a period of economic 
hardship and insecurity. Faced with this potentially devastating situation, 
most undergraduate institutions, including some of the most selective, have 
lowered their admissions standards and many have abandoned them altogether. 
   A 1978-79 College Board survey of 2,600 colleges showed that only 40% 
required any minimum grade point average for admission and only 30% set 
minimum cut-off scores on the SAT. As a result, percentages of applicants 
accepted were very high: 
         91% at public two-year colleges 
         86% at private two-year colleges 
         79% at public four-year colleges 
         77% at private four-year colleges 
   The inevitable overall result is that virtually all literate and numerate 
students and many semi-literate or even illiterate ones can find some 
college which will accept them, if they can somehow arrange to pay the fees. 
This is illustrated by University of Wyoming president Terry Roark's comment 
in September, 1988: "My plan to stiffen UW admissions standards will not 
prevent any high school graduate from entering Wyoming's only university." 

   * High School dropout rate 
   While the SAT scores decline, the high-school dropout rate increases: NEA 
data for the '85-'86 school year reveal that 30% of America's teenagers are 
not graduating from high school. (In 1965 the fraction was 24%) In the large 
cities, the dropout rate is 35-50%. Indeed, in Boston for that year more 
kids dropped out (52%) than graduated!! Perhaps partly through actual 
physical fear: many classrooms require two teachers, one to talk and keep 
the pupils amused while the other tries to keep them from killing each 
other. Teaching someone the difference between velocity and acceleration is 
irrelevant if that person is hungry and scared. The social cost of this 
phenomenon is staggering - in part because these dropouts tend not to enter 
the labor force. In 1987, 19% of the labor force had college degrees, up 
from 10% in 1963. Only 18% had less than a high school diploma, down from 
45% in 1963. 
   "So where are all the dropouts?" you may ask. More than half of the 
nation's prison population is comprised of these dropouts. The dollar cost 
of confining a prisoner can be up to $25K/year - a figure higher than the 
cost of a year of schooling at either Harvard or Yale. 

   And this dismal situation exists in spite of an enormous, and growing, 
financial investment: government spending on education consumes 7% of GNP 
($240 billion in 1984). The cost per student of public elementary and 
secondary schooling was $2279 in 1980, $4810 during school year 1988-89, and 
$4929 the following year. Between 1950 and 1976, per pupil spending 
increased nearly 300% (inflation adjusted). In the five years from 1971 to 
1976 total professional staff in US public schools went up 8%. The number of 
administrators increased 44%. The cost per pupil went up 58%. While the 
number of students went DOWN 4%. The number of school districts went down by 
17%, continuing the trend to greater centralization. These massive changes 
produced not a nation of scholars but the least educated generation in our 
   The cost of education is more than just taxpayer and parental dollars; it 
is also the students' time, much of which is wasted. For example, does it 
really take 12 years to produce high school graduates who cannot read, who 
cannot find the USA on a world map and who do not know when WWII was? 
Couldn't the same results be achieved in a lot less time? Is it likely that 
better results will be achieved with longer school years and extra years in 
school, as many educators advocate? 
   The conjecture that schools are primarily custodial institutions is 
corroborated by the observation that in most school districts children are 
forbidden to take the high school equivalency exam sooner than the age at 
which they would complete high school. If a child can demonstrate at age 13 
that she knows what is required of a high school graduate, why shouldn't she 
be able to take the exam and be done with school? 

   * Quality of Education 
   For those who stay in school, the quality of education leaves much to be 
desired. I have seen estimates of functional illiteracy ranging from 25% to 
33% of high school graduates, and up to 13% of the entire adult population. 
The National Commission on Excellence in Education found 23 million adult 
functional illiterates, and Daniel Boorstin, head of the Library of 
Congress, claims the number is growing at an annual rate of 2.3 million. A 
1992 study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 17 
percent of U.S. adults have only the rudimentary ability to pick out facts 
in a brief newspaper article; 4 percent are unable to read at all. 
   Critics of schooling rarely attempt to define the term "functional 
illiterate" but I believe a distinction can be made between two groups of 
people: those who are not able to read/write (correctly described as 
"illiterate") and those whose educational experience has traumatized them 
into a state where they are not WILLING to read/write, even though they are 
able to do so. This is the group being described as "functional illiterates" 
but I believe either "aliterate" or "scriptophobic" would be a more accurate 
term. These are the people who eschew independently initiated literary 
behavior. They have been so thoroughly indoctrinated to passive obedience 
that their intellectual initiative is almost extinct. 
   An NSF survey in 1997 showed that one in 7 American adults - about 25 
million people - can not locate the USA on an unlabeled world map. This 
finding was also made by the National Council for Geographic Education and 
by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Says James Vining, 
executive director of the NCGE: "We have a situation where Johnny not only 
doesn't know how to read or add, he doesn't even know where he is." And, I 
would add, he can't figure out what's going on: the NCEE also found that 40% 
of 17-year-olds are not able to draw a simple inference from written 
material. And as time passes they have less and less access to even the 
simplest written material: In 1950, virtually all American households 
received at least one daily newspaper. In 1970, 98% did so. But by 1993, 
that had fallen to 63%. 
   In 1850, when Massachusetts became the first state to force children to 
go to school, the literacy rate in that state was 98%. Today, after nearly 
150 years of compulsory government schooling, the literacy rate is 91% 
   An NSF poll in 1988 revealed that 55% of adult Americans do not know that 
a year is the time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun. Perhaps even more 
frightening is the fact that 25% of Americans do not even know that the 
Earth goes around the sun. 
   The Third International (among 21 countries) Mathematics and Science 
Study, held in February 1998, showed US high school seniors performing third 
to last in general science literacy, second to last in advanced mathematics, 
and last in advanced physics. 
   In an examination of 17 countries, the International Association for the 
Evaluation of Educational Achievement found that US 14-year-olds ranked 14th 
in their knowledge of basic science. (Hungary was first and Japan second.) 
US students were also among the worst at age 18. A 1989 international math 
test included the statement "I am good at mathematics." The Americans led in 
their agreement with this statement: 68% answered "Yes." (In another survey, 
30% considered themselves to be not just good, but "among the best.") But 
when the test was scored, the Americans ranked LAST in their actual math 
performance. American students do not know their math, but they have 
evidently absorbed the lessons of the newly-fashionable curriculum wherein 
kids are taught to feel good about themselves, thus American kids feel good 
about doing badly. The US high-school grad used to be highly educated 
relative to the rest of the world. This is no longer the case, and the 
economy is now much more globally-extensive. Thus the US grad is relatively 
   Only nine of the states require a geography course for graduation. Thirty 
percent of US high schools do not offer a physics course, twenty percent 
offer no chemistry, and ten percent offer no biology. Almost 75% offer no 
earth or space science courses. In 1990, fewer than 50% of the graduates had 
taken chemistry, and only about 20% had taken physics. 
   A 1988 survey found that half of those who had never taken a course in 
biology did as well in tests as 40% of those who had; apparently, biology 
courses taught most of those taking them almost nothing. 
   In 1997, only 20 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives had a 
science or engineering background. There were 9 among the State governors, 
only 2 in the Senate, and none in the Cabinet. Keep in mind that these are 
the people who make the decisions regarding automobile pollution standards, 
approval of space programs, funding of the superconducting supercollider, 
the human genome project, and developments in bioengineering such as the 
possibility of human cloning. NASA administrator Dan Goldin cites a question 
he received while defending funding for the space agency: "Why are we 
building meteorological satellites when we have the Weather Channel?" 
   Can Americans choose the proper leaders and support the proper programs 
if both they themselves and those leaders are scientifically illiterate? In 
the long term, uninformed control over scientific endeavors is the 
equivalent of denying ourselves and our children the future. 

   What can you expect from an educational process in which reading, 
writing, arithmetic and science are delivered to students in much the same 
way as tires, windows and doors are attached to the frame of an automobile 
on an assembly line? A student moves along this assembly line, at each stage 
having an additional "education module" slapped onto his mental framework. 
It is supposed that the end result of this agglomeration process will be a 
comprehensively educated person. But nowhere during the process does the 
student acquire the ability to integrate the modules into a coherent whole. 
In the public schools the students are, at best, merely memorizing facts - 
they are not integrating ideas, and are certainly not learning to do so. 
   Good teachers are as much victims of this situation as are the students. 
They are forced to comply with government and school administration 
"guidelines" instead of determining them. The result is that students are 
"exposed" to subject material instead of being taught it. 
   But the kids ARE learning something: the fraction of schoolchildren 
believing in astrology rose from 40% to 59% between 1978 and 1984. 
   The institutionalized ignorance described here has another really tragic 
consequence for American teen-agers: partly as a result of grossly 
inadequate - or nonexistent - sex education programs, the rate of abortions 
rose 70% between 1973 and 1988 among American girls under the age of 20. 
   A culture is a collection of values and the behaviors required to achieve 
those values. Schools do not transmit the culture because they do not teach 
children how to set long term life goals in the context of a political and 
economic environment. In fact, what the schools are actually doing is 
culturally retrogressive, as they are instilling a philosophy of value-
deprivation/depravation. A 1989 survey by the National Endowment for the 
Humanities showed that nearly one quarter of college seniors believe the 
words "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" 
are found in the US Constitution.    
   At the time you graduate from high school, everything you know about 
government you learned in schools which are owned by government, operated by 
government, staffed by government employees, financed with government money, 
teaching courses of study which are selected by government committees, and 
which you have been compelled to attend by government law. Can you really 
trust what you supposedly "know" about government? Or about any of the 
ethical ideas which government considers to be important? 

   Sooner or later America will have to face the fact that angry 
denunciations of public education and innumerable studies by committees with 
prestigious appellations have left us blue in the face but have produced not 
one whit of change. In no field is there more rhetoric about change, and in 
no field is there less actual change reflecting real improvement. 
   Many parents turn a blind eye to these phenomena because they don't want 
to face (for example) the prospect of having minority students who should be 
in the seventh grade attending fifth or sixth grade classes with their 
children. People who support this view point to the overwhelming percentage 
of minorities in remedial classes as evidence that it is a genuine concern. 
But when the "right to an education" becomes the "right to a diploma" many 
students are graduated who haven't received an education. 
   * Quality of the Teachers 
   The National Commission on Excellence in Education remarked: "If an 
unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre 
educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as 
an act of war." 
   And what of the soldiers who are waging this war? Observe: 
   The state of Texas recently heaved a sigh of relief that only 3.3% of its 
teachers flunked a basic "see-Spot-run" competency test. Still, that was 
6579 teachers unable to read, write, or cipher - all early grade-school 
material. And you wonder how they managed to finish college and get hired?! 
Medals given to the winners of a Los Angeles scholastic competition in 1992 
misspelled the word "academic" (acadumbic?) 
   Using data provided by ETS, Ron Hoeflin compiled this list of median GRE 
advanced achievement test scores for graduate school applicants in various 
fields. It shows clearly the intellectual position of teachers relative to 
other professional groups: 
         Mathematics   630 
         Physics       628 
         Philosophy    627 
         Biology       609 
         Chemistry     606 
         Economics     590 
         Engineering   583 
         Geology       569 
         English Lit.  549 
         Spanish       549 
         French        544 
         German        535 
         Psychology    533 
         History       529 
         GRE (total)   509 
         Political Sci.498 
         Geography     486 
         Music         485 
         Education     464 
   The decline in the SAT scores of educators has been just as acute. In 
1973, future education majors scored 59 points lower than the national 
average on the combined SAT; by 1982, they scored 82 points lower. The 
negative selection of those going into teaching has been aggravated by 
negative selection among those already in the field: the 1972 National 
Longitudinal Survey of high school seniors shows that the mean SAT score for 
those who enter the field of teaching and then leave it is 42 points higher 
than the score of those who enter and stay. Those who remain permanently in 
the profession have a combined SAT score 118 points lower than the score of 
those who have never taught. 
   In the words of teachers-union president Albert Shanker, "For the most 
part, you are getting illiterate, incompetent people who cannot go into any 
other field." 
   And if you should ask "Well, why can't they clean up their act?" - 
consider this: The American Association for the Advancement of Science is 
attempting a radical redefinition of science curricula. The first phase, 
intended to establish what high school graduates should know, was intended 
to last six months, but took five years! Many teachers who are honestly 
looking for ways to improve their techniques walk away without any answers. 

   In view of the widespread concern for "classrooms without education" the 
simple alternative of "education without classrooms" ought to be readily 
apparent, but no one seems to be aware of it. The belief that classrooms are 
a prerequisite to education leads to the belief that education comes only 
from classrooms - that education is a prerogative of the schools. How many 
times have you heard the remark "When will you finish your education?" when 
what is meant is "When will you get your diploma?" It is unfortunate that 
many people, strutting off the stage while clutching in their hot little 
hands that decorative piece of wallpaper, think "at last my schooling is 
finished" and then commence to stagnate intellectually for the rest of their 
   Merely sitting in a school room for a period of years is not equivalent 
to receiving an education. 
   (See the BOOKLIST file for a large selection of references on home 
   See reference 

   And for those ambitious students who manage to cope with this state of 
affairs and graduate from high school, what awaits them when they do get to 
college? (52% of the graduates of American high schools go on to college.) 
Just what is the educational philosophy of the modern university? Here are 
some representative examples: 
   In metaphysics, the University of Delaware offers a course titled: 
NOTHING. "A study of Nil, Void, Vacuum, Null, Zero, and Other Kinds of 
Nothingness. A lecture course exploring the varieties of nothingness from 
the vacuum and void of physics and astronomy to political nihilism, to the 
emptiness of the arts and the soul." 
   In epistemology, New York University offers THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE. "Various 
theories of knowledge are discussed, including the view that they are all 
inadequate and that, in fact, nobody knows anything." 
   For ethics, we go to Indiana and attend course SOCIAL REACTIONS TO 
HANDICAPS, in which the students will "explore some of the different ways in 
which the handicapped individual...has been regarded in Western 
Civilization. Figures from the past such as the fool, the madman, the blind 
beggar...will be discussed." 
   There was once a time when college students studied facts, knowledge, and 
human greatness. Now they study nothingness, ignorance, and blind beggars. 
The resulting technical incompetence and moral relativism is producing a 
generation of young people who are intellectually impoverished, lacking the 
knowledge, moral standards and the commitment to reason necessary to sustain 
the technologically sophisticated civilization they have inherited. They 
have become innocent people stumbling through a Rube Goldberg world and 
trying in vain to make sense of it. 
   This may seem like an exaggeration, but some philosophers do not shrink 
from spelling out the final consequences of the modern skepticism: "There is 
no truth," holds Richard Rorty, "there is no such subject as philosophy, 
there are no objective standards by which to evaluate or criticize social 
and political practices. No matter what is done to the citizens of a 
country, therefore, they can have no objective grounds on which to protest." 
   In spite of - or because of - the above observations, the importance of 
Objectivism gaining a foothold on campus cannot be overestimated. Many 
people of student age still preserve some vestige of innocence and idealism. 
They haven't yet totally succumbed to the cynicism of the adult world, nor 
have they had their thinking processes totally subverted by their education. 
In the past such idealism would have been channelled mainly into Christian 
and/or Marxist directions. Objectivism offers young idealists something far 
more edifying - a living, vibrant, reality-based philosophy that can both 
provide a comprehensive world view and guide one's own personal life. 
   Nowadays we hear much about the value of our colleges and universities, 
their importance to the nation, and our need to contribute financially to 
their survival and growth. In regard to many professional and scientific 
schools, this is indeed true. But in regard to the arts, the humanities and 
the social sciences, the opposite is true. In those areas, with a few rare 
exceptions, colleges and universities are now a national menace; and the 
more distinguished (and therefore popular) the university, such as Harvard 
and Berkeley and Columbia, the worse its effect is. Today's college 
faculties are hostile to every idea on which this country was founded, they 
are corrupting an entire generation of students, and they are leading the 
United States thereby into slavery and destruction. 
   Most of the colleges of this country have simply classified ignorance and 
are peddling it as knowledge. There are very good reasons to believe that 
the money you pay to a college could be much better spent in other 
investments for your future. (See Chapter 14 - An Alternative Lifestyle for 
an Individualist.)  
   See reference 
   I have asked several students, "What does it cost you to spend a year in 
that school?" And in every case the answer is an amount of money that would 
suffice to support me comfortably for at least two years, with plenty left 
over for the purchase of all the books, journals and educational materials 
that I normally consume during that time. College is a financial rip-off. 
   Consider also that if you take a degree, you will then probably enter 
that particular field of professional endeavor and spend your life pursuing 
it. This tends to make you educationally restricted. I have a vastly broader 
education today than I would have acquired if I had spent my life pursuing 
only the scholastic specialty I began with. 
   Self-education IS a viable alternative! The personal experience of many 
people who have successfully educated themselves proves this conclusively. 
   "I never let schooling interfere with my education." .... Mark Twain  
   * Futility of Reform - Principles underlying government schooling 
   The NEA boasts that in 128 years its goal has never wavered: "Excellence 
in every classroom, for every child." The dismal picture painted here 
suggests a more appropriate slogan: "Ignorance is our most important 
   The effects of NEA policies, and of five generations of John Dewey in the 
public school system, show clearly that that system has failed. Public 
schools have failed and will continue to fail for a very simple reason: 
there is no impetus for success. 
   Because children HAVE to be in school and HAVE to do what they're told, 
teachers almost never get any quick and reliable feedback about their 
teaching. By contrast, people teaching their own children, even if they make 
many mistakes, are soon likely to become effective teachers, because they 
get from their children the kind of unmistakable feedback that tells them 
when their teaching is helpful and when it is not. But public education is 
accountable to no one. Taxpayers must support it and the majority of parents 
must accept its product, like it or not. 
   Much of the legislation concerning educational reform, particularly that 
directed toward "minority" accomodation, is no more than ideology 
masquerading as reform, as conflicting pressure-groups fight for control 
over the school system. 
   Competing educational systems would offer the consumer a wide choice in 
his purchase of education for himself and/or his children. This would end 
forever the squabbles over curriculum (sex education? more athletics? more 
academics? Black Studies programs?), student body (segregated or 
integrated?), control of education (should it be in the hands of parents, 
teachers, voters, the school board, or the colleges?), and all the other 
questions which are unsolvable within the context of government's coercive 
control of education. If each consumer were free to choose, among competing 
schools, the type of education he valued most, all these problems would be 
solved automatically. But the government school system preempts the options 
of the citizens who are obliged to finance it, so that alternatives are 
dependent on the arbitrary decrees of government committees. 
   The government has not solved the education problem because government IS 
the problem. 
   If the government got out of education, would all parents make the best 
choices for their children? Of course not. We don't live in a perfect world. 
But we SHOULD live in a free country - one in which each of us is free to 
make his own choices, good or bad. And those parents who are capable of 
making good choices shouldn't have their children held prisoner in 
government schools because other parents are less competent. 

   As American public schools slowly sink under waves of violence, drugs, 
and illiteracy, supporters search frantically for salvation - but there is 
none. The internal chaos and increasing politicalization of public education 
are inherent in its government ownership wherein, without the necessity to 
compete for customers, and lacking the profit motive, there is little 
incentive for improvement. As long as local school systems are assured of 
state and federal financing, it would be sentimental, wishful thinking to 
expect any significant increase in their efficiency. 
   The application of individual rights and cognitive competence to the 
educational system is necessary before sanity can return to the classrooms. 

   The Japanese educational system demonstrates some interesting contrasts 
with that of the USA. In the mid-1960s math tests were given to 18-year-olds 
in 12 countries. The AVERAGE Japanese scored at the same standard as the top 
1% elsewhere. A second run of these tests in the early 1980s had similar 
results. Another comparison (in 1981) of 17-year-olds in Japan and in 
Illinois showed the average Japanese scoring better than 98% of the 
   In attempting to understand this disparity, it should be noted that the 
financing of state-owned senior high schools in Japan is about average for 
economically advanced nations. But 30% of Japanese high schools are 
privately owned, and although compulsory schooling extends only to age 15 in 
Japan, 94% of Japanese adolescents voluntarily continue their education, 
even though they are all required to pay fees for this continuance - whether 
they choose to attend a state-financed high school or a wholly private 
   Thus, while the American government-controlled schools are barely able to 
attract half the nation's adolescents, the Japanese experience suggests 
strongly that schools sensitive to consumer requirements by virtue of their 
market orientation provide a service which virtually all adolescents (and/or 
their parents) are not only willing to avail themselves of but even to pay 
for. AND which has fabulously successful educational results! 

   We should make the public aware of how much better educated their 
children would be from reading things produced by private institutions 
rather than from studying the social sciences at a university. What happens 
in the American Sociological Association is trivial, but what's coming out 
of think tanks like the Cato Institute is much more central to the real 
problems of American society. The Laissez Faire Bookstore undoubtedly 
provides a better selection of useful educational material than can be found 
in any university's social science department. 

   The erosion of confidence in government resulting from continual policy 
reversals, irresolution in the face of electoral whims, and stifling 
bureaucracy may eventually lead to a trend toward private funding of 
   To ensure the supply of trained talent, business will have to invest in 
the private educational system. And to some extent, it already is doing so: 
the NSF estimated in 1992 that employers in the US spend about $100 billion 
a year retraining high school graduates in basic skills. Of 200 major 
American corporations, 22% teach employees reading, 41% teach writing, and 
31% teach arithmetic. The Savannah symphony orchestra players sign two 
contracts, one to play in the orchestra, and the other to teach music to 
high school students for 20 hours per week. 

   Educational policies in America - from pre-schoool to graduate school - 
are turning out students who are not only intellectually incompetent but 
also morally confused, emotionally alienated and socially maladjusted. The 
destruction begins in the primary and secondary schools, with content-less 
classes designed to inculcate relativism by encouraging students to express 
whatever it is that they happen to FEEL about a subject, rather than teach 
them the facts about the subject. Students taught under this curriculum are 
given no techniques for dealing with facts. They are not taught logical 
principles, nor even any concept of right or wrong answers. It is not merely 
that Johnny can't read, or that Johnny can't think. Johnny doesn't know what 
thinking is, because in the classroom thinking is so ofen confused with 
   While schoolchildren in Japan are learning science, mathematics and 
languages, American children are sitting around in circles, unburdening 
their little souls and expressing themselves on scientific, economic and 
military issues about which they lack even the rudiments of knowledge. Worse 
than what they  are NOT learning is what they ARE learning - presumptuous 
superficiality, taught by practitioners of it. 
   American schools are failing in every subject and on a fundamental level; 
they are doing it methodically, as a matter of philosophical principle. 
Their courses are a hodge-podge of random and contradictory information that 
can't possibly be integrated into a consistent whole, and one of the first 
things they teach students is not to bother to try. The anti-conceptual 
epistemology that grips them comes from John Dewey, who stands on the 
shoulders of Immanuel Kant, the philosopher who dedicated his life and his 
system to the destruction of reason. 
   About 1900, psychologist William James developed what came to be called 
the "pragmatic method." It maintained that the value of anything is to be 
found only in terms of its "usefulness" or actual consequences. It denied 
the existence of "absolutes" of any kind. Shortly thereafter, philosopher 
John Dewey seized upon this concept and developed the theory of 
Instrumentalism. It holds that thought is simply a method of meeting 
difficulties - that its goals are wider experiences and the solving of 
problems. To Dewey, knowledge equals experience, and there are no universal 
truths of any kind. To Dewey, anything in life which satisfies a want is a 
"good." If one concedes that good and evil have no other connotation than 
satisfying or failing to satisfy an individual want or need, then it follows 
that there can be no positive standards of child behavior, no moral code 
except a relative one. Knowledge, in this gibberish doctrine, is never worth 
pursuing for its own sake, only for the sake of problems it might solve for 
the individual. Dewey's pragmatism held the main goals of education to be 
these: To aid the child to live the life of the peer group, and to enable 
him to adjust to unknown and constantly changing environmental conditions. 
There is nothing here, you will note, about the basic essentials of 
knowledge. Nothing about culture. Or teaching children to use the 
intellectual tools which the human race has found to be indispensable in the 
pursuit of truth. Or even simple literacy, for that matter. The American 
education establishment has continued to embrace this balderdash long after 
its failure has become blatantly apparent (except to that establishment), 
and no matter how many kids emerge from its clutches illiterate and 
   The world has long observed that small acts of immorality, if repeated, 
will destroy character. It is equally manifest, though rarely said, that 
uttering nonsense and half-truths without cease ends by destroying 

   * Tragic consequences 
   Incompetence in cognition creates a caste system. Those who can use 
language can think and therefore be independent, rational and productive; 
those who cannot are more ignorant, less productive and more easily 
manipulated, intimidated and controlled. Thus the American school system has 
produced generations of citizens who eagerly embrace the very principles 
which are being used to impoverish and enslave them. 
   If improvements are not made in the educational system, the divisions 
among people in this country will only become more extreme. 
   A nation that does not teach freedom will not survive in freedom, and 
will not even know when it has lost freedom. 

   A few horror stories: 
   City government departments such as Fire, Police, Ambulance, Hospitals, 
Parks, Electricity, Water, and Streets need to employ people who are at 
least moderately literate and who possess sufficient education and self-
confidence to make reasonable judgments in everyday situations. It was 
disheartening to call 911 to report a crime at the playground in Riverside 
Park at 91st Street, only to have the responding city employee ask 
plaintively: "But what is the house number? We have to have a house 
number..." I had managed to get hold of a person who wasn't familiar with 
the geography of her own city, probably didn't know how to read a map, and 
didn't realize that private homes with numbers are not part of the layout of 
the public parks and playgrounds. This is not so unusual. Incompetent public 
service does not contribute to a high standard of community living. 

   A Missouri couple took their local public school to court for failing to 
teach their child to read and write. The judge ruled for the school on the 
grounds that the law specifies compulsory attendance in Missouri, not 
compulsory education. 

   A survey of 600+ hospital consent forms found that 25% required college-
level skills and 9% required postgraduate education in order to fully 
understand the risks and benefits of a given medical procedure. Having 
uncovered the cause of some puzzling doctor-patient relationships, the 
survey takers went on to find that, on average, the patients were reading at 
a 7th grade level. So they redesigned the consent forms to this level. They 
then discovered that, although most patients preferred the simplified forms, 
those who read them didn't seem to gain any better understanding of the 
implications of the proposed treatment. 

   The social sciences are "disciplines" whose connections with reality seem 
to get more and more tenuous every year. This can be frustrating for 
graduates who depart college full of a social science know-how that leaves 
them knowing only how to teach the same stuff to others. A political science 
professor tried to convince me to go to graduate school and get a Ph.D. in 
political science: 
   "What could I do with a political science Ph.D.?" I asked. 
   "Well," came the answer, "you could lecture to other students getting 
political science degrees." 
   "And what would they do with their political science degrees?" 
   "Well, they could teach others..." 
   It sounded like a giant Ponzi scheme, so I left college immediately. 
   As Martin Gardner remarked: "If you're a professional philosopher, 
there's no way to make any money except to teach. It has no use anywhere." 
   One woman, looking back on her scholastic experience, remarked that 
school "was too stifling for me and," she maintained wistfully, "the wrong 
place for people who need freedom and who want to use the energy of their 
youth to ask naive questions. You may be using up a time in life that will 
just never come again." 

   During the 1994-95 school year, the administrators of a high school near 
Boulder Colorado decided to rent its wall space for commercial advertising. 
In an attempt to quell the inevitable opposition to such a decision, they 
held meetings with the students in which they explained their reasons. When 
the students were told that the local voters had not passed an increase in 
the school tax base for over 20 years, the response of one student was 
rather surprising: 
   "Why do you hate us so? You force us to spend 12 years in these schools, 
but then you refuse to pay for their operation. When we go into the 
community we see signs on doors saying 'You are not welcome here if you are 
under 18 years old.' You have recently passed a curfew that forbids us to 
move about in our own community at night. The tone of moral outrage and 
vilification used by the conservatives when they talk about teenage 
pregnancy makes it perfectly clear to us that they hate these young parents. 
Why do you hate us so? In a few years WE will be the adults who run the 
world, and YOU will be old folks whose economic well-being will depend at 
least in part on us. We will remember then what you are doing to us today." 

   If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, 
   It expects what never was and never will be. 
                                              .... Thomas Jefferson 

   On to Chapter 12
Back to the Main Page