Intelligent Americans often note two seemingly distinct aspects of America’s schools: (1) The teaching of academic subjects is poorly done (if done at all), and (2) the educational system is a hotbed of anticapitalist propaganda. The fact is that the two observations are intimately related.
The Progressives and their intellectual heirs severely dumbed down the schools as a necessary means of inculcating conformity, dependency, and obedience. Their vision is clear: They, the educated, intellectual elite—the educational and social engineers—will govern in the classroom and in the legislature. The people will conform and obey.
Fortunately, this is not a vision shared by all educators.
ADVOCATES OF LITERACY AND LEARNING
The educational ideas and methods of Maria Montessori (1870–1952) entered United States culture during the early years of Progressive dominance. She was one of the first female medical doctors in Italy, and she developed revolutionary educational techniques that greatly enhanced the cognitive development of her students.
Montessori, recognizing that sensory observation is the foundation of cognition, trained young children to engage their senses, to develop their motor skills, to concentrate for long periods of time, and to learn independently. She scaled down classroom furniture and materials to child size, enabling children to more readily use and manipulate them.
She taught youngsters to read, employing a phonetic method that trained them to sound out letters and words and thus to unlock the worlds of literature, history, and science. She taught them to write and to do basic arithmetic, fractions, decimals, and geometry.
Whereas the Progressives encouraged group projects, social pressure, and social conformity, Montessori encouraged independent activities, independent thinking, independent learning.