American Education On A Slippery Slope
Part II

George M. Haddad
April 24, 2005

Copyright © George M. Haddad

“I enrolled my ten year old daughter Sally in a program through a School District where a teacher spends one hour a week with her. The next thing we know she is primarily doing puzzles with her "tutor" instead of work assignments. I now have a better understanding on why this "tutor" pushes puzzles over academics. Assembling puzzles does not require accountability. This "tutor" was thinking that she might actually have to come up with correct answers if faced with academic questions.” This statement came from my friend Bill (names fictitious) seeking additional help for his daughter. It wasn’t until the following occurred that he asked the tutor to do her teaching elsewhere.

When Sally submitted her first math work assignment of 6 problems with the tutor’s guidance there were 2 of them completely wrong. The child received a D on this work assignment. When the tutor was confronted part of her reply was as follows: “Sally is doing great. Interestingly, when I make mistakes with kids, I’ve learned to use it as a modeling situation for the fact that mistakes are made. Teachers, parents and smart big sisters even make them. Seeing me as fallible, seems to help kids feel better about themselves. ‘Failure’ is how we learn — it’s about the journey not the end result.” This reply was, of course, astonishing. Proving further that you can’t teach what you don’t know.

Let’s face it – too much of the teaching today is based on feelings rather than substance. As Tom Sowell pointed out in a June 1994 article, “much of the agenda of the schools across the country is a social agenda or an ideological agenda, not an educational agenda..” In grade school we have grade inflation and social promotions in order not to harm their self-esteem. It carries on through high school. Then comes the day of reckoning where they have to take remedial education in order to take the next step. What happens to the self-esteem of this adult-child at this point?

In the recent past the National Geographic Society commissioned Gallup to find out how much the average American knows about geography. 1 in 5 could not name one country in Europe, 3 out of 4 could not find the Persian Gulf on a map. One in 4 could not find the Pacific Ocean. 1 in 2 could not locate S. Africa. 50% could not find the state of New York on a map and 14% could not even find the United States.

It would appear that teaching children the Progressive Educator’s beliefs, opinions and dogma are more important than the location of Illinois, Alaska or even England and France on a world map. Or that Lincoln’s home location is not at the Gettysburg Address or that Washington, Hamilton, Madison and Jefferson were not the defensive front four on the southern California football team. And no, Paul Revere was not in a cross country horse race. This lack of knowledge of educative basics whether it be history, math, grammar, geography and the like, by at least the last two generations would be humorous if it weren’t so tragic.

In his address at Hillsdale college recently, Robert J. Herbold, a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, presented alarming specifics about the issue of American education’s failure to graduate students competent in math and the hard sciences: He said that our share of this expertise is decreasing significantly, both at the bachelor’s and at the Ph.D. levels....among 24-year-olds in the year 2001 who had a B.S. or B.A. degree, only five percent in the U.S. were engineers, compared to 39 percent in China and 19 percent or more in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. He noted that China is producing three times more than the United States.

He related another disturbing trend in the numbers of individuals receiving a Ph.D. in physical science and engineering. In 1987, 4,700 U.S. citizens received these degrees, compared to 5,600 Asians. In 2001, the U.S. figure had dropped slightly to 4,400 and the number of Asians had risen to 24,900. That is a dramatic shift. Professor R.E. Smalley, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist from Rice University compiled figures which depicted that by 2010, 90 percent of all Ph.D. physical scientists and engineers in the world will be Asians living in Asia.”

In 1999-2000, According to Laubach Literary Action, an international nonprofit literacy corporation, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of Education: 50% of American adults could not read at an eighth grade level, 20% were functionally illiterate, 34% had only marginal reading skills, 80% of 21-25 year olds could not read a bus schedule and 73% could not interpret a newspaper story.

In Florida, on New Year’s day, the Orlando Sentinel pointed out that 32 percent of Florida ninth-graders and only 34 percent of Florida 10th-graders could read at grade level. As the reporter wrote “That means two-thirds of Florida public school students are marking time in legally enforced incarceration in government buildings that are euphemistically called schools.”

In Detroit Public Schools and in Michigan, the state is hemorrhaging drop-outs. Of those who stay 44% graduate. Not only have we failed in teaching the key subjects but we are overflowing into another layer of remedial studies.

Former President of General Motors Lloyd Reuss wrote in the Detroit News ten years ago on April 23, 1995 that we must let the market system deliver quality education which means competition. The functional illiteracy rate in GMs vehicle assembly plants was about at the national average of 25% while in Japan, at that time, the literacy rate was 99%. He wrote that GM had spent over 2 billion for remedial education over the last decade. American industry spent over 25 billion annually for the remedial education of its work force. When compounded into today’s educational climate they are astronomical.

The broad brush as manifested above must exclude the thousands upon thousands of highly intellectual, dedicated, devoted and committed to children teachers whose work has been in a constant state of neutralism by forces beyond their control. Aside from the indoctrinates in their midst, whose inferior role has yet to be openly recognized and dealt with, a parental behavior pattern of indifference has made their function an extremely difficult one. Education, in itself, is a non-entity. By design and for success it is a triangle with all three parts functioning and connected. It is the teacher the parent and the child.

On the basis of today’s results in the education of our children it has become quite obvious that the parents have not done their part. Dr. Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic once wrote that “the child is a tiny bit of human protoplasm and must be molded.” From the time that the child and the environment meet each other it is incumbent upon the parents to condition the child that in the world today you must ready yourself with at least a minimal productive education or face the stress of life-long illiteracy and unhappiness. When a nation allows its children to wallow in ignorance, it is losing its future.

Emerson sums it up with his statement that “The true test of civilization is not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the crops, but the kind of man that the country turns out.” We have overwhelming evidence that American Education and parents are flunking their assignments. Unfortunately as the floor is caving in from the rot we are haphazardly attempting to save it by utilizing chewing gum and Elmer’s glue.

Read Part I
Go on to Part III

George M. Haddad has a Bachelors Degree in Sociology and a Masters Degree in Social Administration with extensive work experience with the mentally ill. The former Executive Director - National Institute for Burn Medicine - affiliated with the University of Michigan. He is retired from the National Staff of the YMCA as a troubleshooter in financial management and administration and has worked as a management consultant to non-profit corporations. He has written frequently on medical, social and political issues and has many published articles to his credit. He currently writes from Franklin, Michigan and can be contacted at

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27 apr 2005