The educational establishment is a monolith that cannot easily be defeated. But it can be circumvented.
There are numerous signs of this possibility in American education, trends that Americans can build on to vastly upgrade the quality of education in this country. One is the resurgence of interest in Montessori training. Progressive schools eclipsed Montessori schools in America between the world wars. But in the 1950s, as the deleterious effects of Progressive education became glaringly apparent, Montessori schooling regained support, albeit limited. Today, approximately four thousand certified Montessori schools dot the nation. Creative minds such as Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and numerous others credit a part of their success to early and effective Montessori schooling. So, one thing we can do is advocate Montessori training and support Montessori schools.
Further, homeschooling is once again legal in every state. In 2003, approximately 1,096,000 American students were being homeschooled; by 2012, the number had swelled to 1,773,000, approximately 3.4 percent of the country’s students age five to seventeen. As the nation’s public schools continue to decline, the number of homeschoolers will no doubt increase. Another thing we can do is advocate and support homeschooling initiatives.
As for reading, many parents now realize that phonics opens up the rich world of books to their children, and companies such as Hooked on Phonics offer products that make it easier than ever for parents to teach their children at home.
Another powerful and largely untapped resource that parents can use are the many full-time graduate students working toward advanced degrees, not in “education,” but in math, science, literature, history, and every other academic subject. Generally, these graduate students know their field better than many (if not most) teachers. Many do not yet have full-time jobs, so they tend to need money. Parents can use social media and other online sources to find such graduate students in their area and, at reasonable hourly rates, hire them as tutors for their children. Even if a graduate student is not local, he can conference with students anywhere in the world using Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and similar free tools.
At the college level, the influence of Hutchins and Adler has been revived at a few schools. For example, the Great Books program at St. John’s College provides superb training in the classics of Western civilization at both its Annapolis and Santa Fe campuses. So do the programs at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, University of Chicago, and several other colleges and universities. There is even a Great Books program dedicated to promoting the foundations of freedom and capitalism—the Lyceum program at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism.
Although opportunities for and outposts of intellectual training still exist, the dominance of the same failed educational theories remains a travesty. To fight it, we must speak out at whatever level is open to us, public or private, among friends or among strangers, in person or online, via Twitter or letters to congressmen. We must champion the mind, intellectual training, and a rigorous academic curriculum. For the sake of justice on behalf of the countless minds already stunted, and to protect countless more, we must tell the bitter truth about the American educational establishment.