Progressive education bears some of the blame for the rise of Donald Trump, argues Sol Stern in the Daily Beast.
He starts by quoting the conclusion of Dover Beach, an 1861 poem by Matthew Arnold, who was Britain’s chief school inspector, as well as a poet and cultural critic.
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Arnold “scorned the individualistic, child centered, and haphazard pedagogy prevalent in British schools at the time,” writes Stern. He “proposed that government schools be required to teach a core curriculum of liberal, humanistic studies similar to the French schools he had come to admire.”
The primary aim of education in an industrial democracy, Arnold believed, was to introduce all children—rich and poor alike —to the achievements of western civilization and culture, which he famously defined as “the best which has been said and thought.”
A half century ago, U.S. “progressives” began “stripping away any semblance of a coherent grade-by-grade curriculum,” writes Stern. That has disrupted “the transmission of civic values and traditions from one generation to the next.”
“History” classes focus on “hot-topic social issues” rather than reading historical texts or remembering historical dates, figures or events, writes Esther Cepeda, a teacher and parent.
. . . most students on the last NAEP civics test could not correctly answer questions about checks and balances or understand the policy implications of a trend using a graph. And they’re supposed to someday understand the implications of our current reality-TV presidential election?
“There’s a lot of overtly anti-American ‘American History’ instruction going on in public schools,” she concludes.