- Some 35 years ago, social scientists
began unveiling unworkable philosophies of child management, characterized
by a lack of adult guidance and punctuated with heavy doses of pop psychology.
For openers, they told parents to lay off the discipline and let kids express
themselves. Professors at university departments of education joined in
with admonishments to prospective teachers against putting red markings
on pupils papers and criticizing youngsters' work, manner of dress, and
speech. School counselors took up the cause and levied a cease and desist
order against adults who persisted in "shoving" their outdated
moral and religious values on children.
- Eventually, the suggestion that parents
had the right to direct the upbringing of their children became synonymous
with overprotectiveness, then with child abuse, while tolerance of bad
manners and obscenities was viewed as "being flexible."
- By 1987, what kids wanted at any given
moment had become more important than their knowledge base. Children were
made drunk on their own importance. Teacher training was taken up with
courses in behavioral psychology ("ed psych") instead of academic
- Standardized tests started looking more
like opinion surveys than cognitive assessments. By 1996, even math courses
had started placing correct world views and teamwork (read: "peer
pressure") over correct answers.
- Last week the cumulative effect of therapeutic/socialization-style
education hit critical mass. Parents in Littleton, Colo., got a good jolt
of the "mental hygiene" approach to schooling, up close and personal.
- Psychologized education, which first
came to Littleton in 1991 under the name "outcome-based education,"
changed labels when it came under attack from parents and the public. But
in typical fashion, curricular "standards" and the thrust of
programs remained the same. Rocky Mountain News reported in June 1994 that
the Jefferson County Education Board voted to continue funding the renamed
outcome-based - i.e., psychology-based - education to the tune of $1 million,
over parent protests. Drug education, refusal skills, self-esteem, and
relationships became centerpieces 4 -the curriculum, pushing academics
to the back burner. Yet, in the aftermath of the Littleton tragedy, the
president and pundits are calling for more of the same.
- Only a few seem to connect the sudden
surge of high-profile student violence with the progressive undermining
of adult leadership, denigration of religiously based moral values, lurid
media entertainment, and lack of substantive tasks to occupy the child's
mind and time.
- Today, we have human warehouses, not
institutions of learning. The peer pressure approach to teaching has unleashed
a "Lord of the Flies" mentality which even police, stationed
in school hallways and on rooftops, can no longer be expected to control.
This result should have been predictable, especially among those calling
themselves "child experts - psychologists.
- "Trench-coat Mafia"? Heavy
eye makeup? Black hats and knee boots? What on earth did we expect when
we started allowing kids come to school permanently decked out in Halloween
costumes? When we stopped giving youngsters more to do than primp, preen,
strut, intimidate, and spout filthy song lyrics what we reaped was swastikas
and vampire cults.
- Curriculums and activities that revolve
around psychological calisthenics instead of serious learning fuel a morbid
preoccupation with self. They don't increase self-esteem or instill self-respect.
It doesn't take a psychiatrist -- or, for that matter, a priest -- to
figure out that youngsters who are allowed to spend the largest part of
their days acting out fantasies, who are drilled with "antiauthoritarian"
theology, who can get easy A's under phony "standards" are eventually
going to unleash an environment of social chaos that in 10 years will transform
even a United States of America into a Kosovo, Iraq, or Bosnia.
- The Littleton incident, added to those
in Jonesboro, Arkansas; West Paducah, Kentucky; Springfield, Oregon; and
Edinboro, Pennsylvania, among others, signals that the public school system
is about to implode. More importantly, it indicates that schooling isn't
about literacy, basics, or proficiency at anything, no matter what educators
pretend. It's time for Americans to send an unequivocal message to legislators
and school boards to pull the plug on psychology-based education programs
- B.K. Eakman is executive director of
the National Education Consortium and the author of "Cloning of the
American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education."