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A Bill of Rights for Students 2014

 
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SUMMARY: A blueprint for improving public schools 

A Bill of Rights for Students 2014

 
Given the many counterproductive ideas that sweep through education,
given all the endless, murky debates conducted in our media,
it is helpful for the American people to focus on what, at a minimum,
young people are entitled to in our schools:

1) THE RIGHT TO LEARN TO READ. All progress in education depends on literacy. It is imperative that children learn the alphabet and the sounds early, and that they are reading in the first grade. Children have a right to be reading age-appropriate books by the second or third grade.

2) THE RIGHT TO MASTER BASIC ARITHMETIC. Again, as fads have undermined effective teaching for many decades, millions of children never learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. These are such basic skills--easy enough to teach, easy to test. If administrators can’t ensure that all children can do these essential things, find other administrators.

3) THE RIGHT TO WRITE, IN BOTH SENSES. One essential goal in the first years of schooling is to be able to write a small essay or a letter to grandmother, signed with a real signature. Cursive handwriting, according to many experts, is an indispensable assist in learning to read, write, and spell. 

4) THE RIGHT TO KNOW CORRECT SPELLING. Very quickly children need to know that there is a right and wrong way to spell words, just as there are right and wrong ways to compose and punctuate sentences. Correctness and precision are birthrights that children are entitled to. Fuzziness and guessing are detrimental.

5) THE RIGHT TO GEOGRAPHY. Children have a right to know the names of their city, state, and neighboring states. During the first eight years of school, one reasonable project is to learn the names of the 50 states. A parallel project is to learn the names of the 25 countries most often mentioned in the news. Without basic geography, children cannot understand history, literature, environmental science, current events, etc. Geography was once called the Queen of the Sciences--it’s that important. 

6) THE RIGHT TO LITERATURE. Children need to experience the rich legacy of their own language--nursery rhymes, poetry, fairy tales, scenes from Shakespeare, popular songs, limericks, novels, anything that shows children what the cleverest people have done with English through the centuries. (Ideally, children study a second language, which will sharpen their skills in English, and make them more appreciative of language in general.)

7) THE RIGHT TO HISTORY. Children need a sense of history and time. They understand when people talk about Colonial Times, the Middle Ages, Greco-Roman Civilization, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and Ancient History. They should learn first abut their own culture, and then the world. When a teacher says, “Vasco da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope looking for China,” children should be able to go to a map and explain what that sentence means. 

8) THE RIGHT TO SCIENCE. Children need to know how the world works. What, for example, is snow? What is a moon? Kids should start learning General Science in the first grade. This leads by easy steps to biology, chemistry, physics, math, etc. Studying the physical reality around us is an obvious introduction to scientific thinking, cause and effect, and a systematic approach to solving problems.  

9) THE RIGHT TO MEMORIZATION. Children have a right to know things in a permanent, and intimate way, as they know the memories of their own life. Children learn facts, names, and dates, because all of these together make history and all other subjects more meaningful and three-dimensional. Students should be encouraged to learn knowledge now so they won’t have to look it up later. 

10) THE RIGHT TO REAL CRITICAL THINKING. First, children learn the facts of history, science, etc, and then they learn to sift and analyze those facts. Additionally, they study Aesop’s fables, famous quotes, and maxims. Things we sometimes call clichés are, in fact, the collected wisdom of the human race. Why is it true to say we can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink? Creative thinking, independent thinking--these are possible only when children have knowledge and are free to reach new answers about it. 
 
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THIS BILL OF RIGHTS states the need for a knowledge-based education. For most of human history, and in good schools everywhere today, this sort of education is the goal and the essence of what real educators are trying to do. 

UNFORTUNATELY, SINCE THE TIME OF JOHN DEWEY, many schools have been obsessed with social engineering, and indifferent to what might be called intellectual engineering. This mistake in emphasis needs to be corrected. The goal of education is not indoctrination but to take each child as far as each child can go. 

GENUINE EDUCATION is the cement that holds the people in a society together, and connects past, present and future.

ONLY WHEN CHILDREN acquire knowledge and master essential skills can we speak of education that will make children college- and career-ready.

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Bruce Deitrick Price is an author, artist, poet, and education reformer. He founded Improve-Education.org in 2005. This site provides analysis of education’s main theories and methods. 

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Here's the joke, if you want to call it that.
75 years ago all this went without saying. It was the norm.
Then our Education Establishment went to work,
eliminating the proven, imposing untried theories.
 
Now, all these common-sense recommendations
will be considered REVOLUTIONARY.
We're sure to hear laments like this: 
Math? Geography? Literature?
History and Science??
Man, that is so radical.
Don't you know our kids can't handle that stuff?
What about their self-esteem? 
 
 
PLEASE SEND THIS TO LOCAL SCHOOLS WITH A NOTE:
THIS IS WHAT WE WANT. AT A MINIMUM.
 
 


  
 

 

The same basic thoughts are presented below in an even shorter form--

 a FREE THE SCHOOLS manifesto

 

Free The Schools

a simple four-step plan 


 Our Education Establishment has an 80-year record

of praising and protecting bad pedagogies. Enough. 

Here is what we need instead, starting now:


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1. REAL READING. That means systematic phonics for several months until children learn to read. That means no Whole Word, no sight-words, no Dolch words, no high-frequency words. These gimmicks are all the same thing and the reason we have 50 million functional illiterates.

 

2. REAL ARITHMETIC. Schools use sensible, coherent programs such as Saxon Math, Singapore Math, or the like. (They do not use Reform Math in any of its forms-- Everyday Math, Connected Math, TERC.) Children master basic skills, know the multiplication tables, and can find answers. No more spiraling, fuzziness, or dependence on calculators. 

 

3. REAL LEARNING. It’s knowledge-based and fact-filled. Children learn basic information in the fields of Geography, History, Science, Literature, etc. Students advance in a logical way from the simple to the complex--which leads to genuine critical thinking. 

 

4. REAL EDUCATION. It’s academically correct (as opposed to politically correct). The emphasis is on building study skills and scholarly character. Students know a great deal, and know how to learn more. They can do independent work. They understand that precision, rigor, and honesty are the same things.

 

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FREE THE SCHOOLS 

is simply what all good schools have done throughout history 

and are now doing around the world.  

 

Good education is not rocket science.

Get the asinine theories and methods out of the way.

Real education will thrive.

 

We especially need this in the early grades, 

where lots of children have to play catch-up. 

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If you can use this material or advance this campaign, please go ahead. 

 

If there are people or groups I should contact, 

leave info at: Word-Wise, 757-455-5020. 

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A short article on what NOT to do: 

56: Top 10 Worst Ideas in Education. 


 

THE LAST STRAW, MARCH 2013: The paper in Norfolk just ran an article praising local schools for adopting all the recycled bad ideas from New Math, Reform Math, Constructivism, Cooperative Learning and all the rest. There is nothing new, not one good idea. But this newspaper is all aglow. How can parents defend themselves against this nonsense if the media always aid and abet the Education Establishment? The short answer is that parents should not expect much help from the school system. Parents need to familiarize themselves with the bogus theories and methods, understand why they don’t work, and know that we can easily do better.

© Bruce Deitrick Price 2014