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Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add Paperback – September 15, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 341 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 2nd edition (September 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312148232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312148232
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #694,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Nowhere has the flight from quality plaguing American life these days been more obvious than in our primary and secondary schools -- on the whole, the graduates seem less well-read and less well-spoken, less knowledgeable and less able to compute. In this book, Charles Sykes asks why, and lays most of the blame at the feet of the trainers of teachers, the writers of textbooks and the educational policy wonks who influence them. He convincingly shows that in many different school systems, and in many different academic fields, with the help of goofy text-books, watered-down requirements and "recentered" test grade scales, American students have come to value feeling good about a subject over being good in it. Sykes's recommended reforms include abolishing the federal Department of Education and its state counterparts, abolishing undergraduate schools of education, establishing more alternative routes to teacher certification and merit raises for good teachers. Good ideas all -- now if we can only get politicians to put them into action! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Sykes argues that educators' emphasis on egalitarianism and building self-esteem have caused an eroding of true learning in the American classroom.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

I read their materials.
The Strife of Love in a Dream
I first read this book when I was in college and then periodically after that.
Jason M. Waskiewicz
This book is one of the best things I have ever read as a parent.
Jane James

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

113 of 117 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Hubbell on January 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There is that moment of sublime revelation experienced by Winston Smith in George Orwell's 1984 when he reads a book that explains everything he already intuited from his experiences with the bureacracy and Big Brother. I experienced the same epiphany as soon as I began reading Dumbing Down Our Kids.

As a teacher, I have already endured the idiocies chronicled in this book. Cooperative learning? That was a two-day seminar. Self-esteem? Another inservice. Hey, I attended one in which the presenter passed out a packet of information including - so help me God - a "hugging homework" assignment. Did someone say "mission statement?" As a member of the campus Site-Based Decision Management Committee, I put in my two cents' worth when I tried to insert the notion that education should develop individual knowledge and responsibility. It was okayed and seconded by fellow teachers. Somehow, the version now hanging in our school district boardroom omitted my input. Equity? Been there, done that with our equity specialist. Here's an updated version of Mother Goose rhymes from an inservice handout I saved:

Jack be nimble,

Jack be quick,

Jack jump over the candlestick.

Jill be nimble,

Do it, too.

If Jack can do it, so can you.

If Winston Smith were a teacher, he'd know the party line is preceded by the phrase "research is showing." Party committees are headed by hacks with self-important titles like "equity specialist" and "curriculum coordinator". The language is corrupted to the same extent as Oceania. Students engage in "cooperative learning" formerly known as cheating. "At-risk students" is preferred to "just plain lazy".

The aeries of districts are crowded with doctors of education.
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202 of 216 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
As a 30-year-old returning to school for teacher certification, I was distressed by the "cooperative learning" techniques currently trumpeted at the university I attend. After several courses in which I was encouraged to "discuss with my group" the objectives being tested (in lieu of a formal review), given "group tests" for final exams (which were also open-book), and being assigned in yet another group to divide up chapters of text and "discuss what was learned" with each other (without any input or insight from the Professor), I began to feel abnormal for being less than enthusiastic about the methods my instructors were promoting. By showing me that I am not alone in my criticism of such shallow techniques, and my desire to teach in a manner that focuses on skills and knowledge, Sykes' book has somewhat eased my disillusionment. What passes for instruction in schools of education across the country is nothing more than theory, rhetoric, and a lot of coddling that insults the intelligence - a simulation of what teaching has become in K-12 schools across the country. Something needs to be done about the schools of education that shape our nation's fledgling teachers, many of whom gobble up this nonsense eagerly, content with easy A's in their education courses and final exams that require little preparation. This book should be required reading on all college campuses where students are prepared to teach in our public schools, in place of the fatuous textbooks we are forced to consume.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a parent and psychologist who works in a special education preschool, I found this book unsettling and accurate. Unfortunately, my co-workers have almost all been converted to the latest fad and are increasingly militant in their desire to "include" children in regular education when they enter kindergarten. More and more children with severe diabilities are being placed in classrooms who cannot follow directions, are very disruptive and who cannot possibly understand the lessons. The trend in New York City and Long Island is to give these children their very own "behavioral paraprofessionals", who sit with them all day to try to keep them engaged in the routine as much as possible.As Mr. Sykes pointed out, there is no research supporting this practice, or any of the other fuzzy-headed, feel-good theories currently in vogue. His analysis of the research that is out there was informative, compelling and wryly amusing, when it wasn't frightening me.This book inspired me to stand up for high educational standards, both in my job and in my district.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 1997
Format: Hardcover
With over two hundred studies conducted
nationwide showing the tenuous relationship
between school spending and quality education,
you would think those who make school policy would look elsewhere for a reason why our schools are such failures.
In this compelling and informative book about our educational decline
Charles Sykes gives us a glimpse into the insanity of a system which rewards political correctness, student failure and poor teaching habits. Dogmatic iberals
won't like it, but concerned parents and others should
look at this study before pouring any more funding into a failed system. Paul J. Walkowski, Co-Author, "From Trial Court to the United States Supreme Court"
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More About the Author

Charles J. Sykes is senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and a talk show host at WTMJ radio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has written forThe New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today and is the author of six previous books: A Nation of Victims, Dumbing Down Our Kids, Profscam, The Hollow Men, The End of Privacy, and 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School.

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