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112 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars numb with dumb
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...
Published on January 1, 2006 by Patrick Hubbell

versus
14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars repeat...repeat...repeat
I actually agree with the author's basic premise that the public education system is too worried about everything except the academic education of our children. I started reading this book prepared to nod my head and say, "uh, huh" while agreeing with his clever way of stating what I already think.

I read the first several chapters and then just started...
Published on November 6, 2008 by just.a.reader


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112 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars numb with dumb, January 1, 2006
By 
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. It should come as no surprise that universities dole out honorary doctorates in education to distinguished guests because they are less likely to perpetrate the least amount of damage, unless he or she attempts to put it to use as an administrator or, worse, a consultant.

"Dumbing Down Our Kids" is filled with samples of impermeable writings by people who are so besotted with their own self-importance that sarcasm would be wasted on them. A dissertation for a doctorate in physical ed stated "The purpose of this research was to create a connectionist model for simulating contextual interference effects in motor skills. The model was a multiple layer, heteroassociative, nonlinear, feedforward interpolative recall network trained by back-propogation of errors."

Oh.

Another pioneer in New Math curriculum frankly admits that "I do not do long division or long multiplication anymore." He helpfully and frankly admits he's lazy and found a better method of doing math which "involves pushing a few buttons on my calculator." Incredibly, this pioneer is the founder and director of a mathematics project at the University of Chicago. From the same people who brought us the A-bomb, yet another bomb. I leave it to you to decide which bomb is more deadly.

Textbooks are largely "books without authors. . . slaves to readability indexes, and mandated never to offend any conceivable special interest group."

It simply amazes me that so many dunderheaded fools, from federal to state to local level, actually get to make decisions that affect how I work in the classroom. I work in a business that is ostensibly set up to make people smarter. And yet the very same people who run the business are as dumb as a crate of anvils. It is as if NASA contracted a company that specializes in running fireworks stands to design heat shields for the spacecraft. I can't make people walk a mile in my moccosins, but if reading this book makes them boil with anger, then at least I'm not alone.
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202 of 216 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book every aspiring teacher should read., August 14, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful and well-reasoned critique, June 7, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling, informative read, January 14, 1997
By A Customer
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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60 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sykes Hits The Nail on The Head, September 24, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add (Paperback)
I used to be a teacher, now I'm a homeschooling parent. So many people are afraid to really take a good look at public education in our country. What is happening to our children is shocking. Quality teaching(1+1=2)(cat is spelled c-a-t) has given way to "progressive teaching"(great job on 'inventive spelling'Susie, cat does sound like k-a-t) because of this our children are learning next to nothing.
I'm not saying we should go back to breaking rulers over children's hands. Learning can be fun,creativity is wonderful. What we need to create is a balance of hard work and play which is appropriate to one's age group. We need not be afraid to tell children when they are wrong. Goal setting and hard work contribute to a child's self worth, not "I love me" worksheets.
I've recently been exploring OBE and this is by far the best book I've come across. I wish more parents would wake up and see what is going on with their kids, and our future!
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92 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Someone who's been there knows Sykes is right., December 12, 2001
By 
Cas (the Idaho mountains) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add (Paperback)
My boyfriend (who is, it must be said, very clear-thinking) thinks that Sykes is biased severely to the right and he didn't even finish the book because he felt so strongly that Sykes had to be overstating many things, but then again, my sweetie went to a parochial school and has never had extensive contact with teacher education.
I, however, went to public school, and worked for many years in a well-known university's teacher education college (one which one reviewer here attended, but I won't name names). I worked with fledgeling teachers. I read their materials. I set up their AV equipment. I saw their lesson plans.
We are in very big trouble, America, is all I've got to say. If I ever have kids, they are getting home schooling or going to a reputable private school that values achievement -- and I'm not the only person who worked there who thought the same thing. Sykes is RIGHT ON, and the Amazon reviews of the book are totally accurate. My stomach turned as I read the book, because I knew from personal observation that he was writing the truth. I hope more people read this book and see what's going on in our schools.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars on the nose!, January 22, 1999
By A Customer
i was a teaching assistant at ucla for two years and i am currently in my third year of high school teaching in the los angeles unified school district. this book is deadly accurate on all points. i see first-hand every day high school students who can't read without difficulty or who can't read at all. i see students who can't compute simple fractions. and we continue to be forced to spend every "staff development day" working on "student learning standards", which are another name for outcome based standards. this is by day. at night, i take classes at a local university to earn my credential. they are useless and don't help me teach better. the united states is in trouble. i have read this book twice. and i intend to read it at least every other year to remind me that if i conform to these ridiculous outcome based standards, that i will be doing my students a disservice. this is a great, great book.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing but the truth..., January 11, 2000
This review is from: Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add (Paperback)
I am currently an exchange student at an US High School and I was amazed how much basic knowledge US students are missing. This book mirrors exactly the problem that the US school system has and it needs rapid improvement the way described in the book. Very good!
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An empassioned appeal for our children's education, May 9, 2006
By 
K. L. Zimmerman (Northern Illinois, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add (Paperback)
Overview

Declining test scores, increasing employer dissatisfaction with the academic preparedness of graduates, and worsening ranking in international academic comparisons give evidence of a disturbing decline in the quality of American elementary and secondary education. In an astonishing contradiction of documented achievement and ability, our students' self-esteem and assessment of their skills is higher than ever. Mr. Sykes explores this phenomenon, offers convincing explanations as to why this situation exists, and sets forth a number of sound suggestions for improvement.

Dumbing Down America's Kids

Content in American education seems to be going the way of the dinosaur - what was once commonplace and pervasive has ceased to have a niche. Students are no longer expected to demonstrate any knowledge of important historical figures and events, geographical facts, mathematical operations or a host of other traditional bastions of education. In a statement symptomatic of "progressive" educational thinking, William Glasser rails against the "fallacy that knowledge remembered is better than knowledge looked up", prompting Mr. Sykes to comment that "Glasser thus redefined knowledge as something that did not need to be known." (p. 71)

Dumbing Down Our Schools

What has replaced knowledge, facts and information in our curricula? The exploration of feelings and the cultivation of self-esteem has become the new mission of educators. Equity has become the buzzword and is translated into practice by watering down instruction to the lowest possible denominator, eliminating opportunities for students to excel beyond their peers, and any "elitist" expression of comparative achievement, such as grades. Sykes identifies the reason behind the attack on traditional grading by saying:

...the assault on rewards also has a strong psychological pull for the educational levelers who are suspicious of any distinctions among students and who interpret equality as equality of achievement rather than equality of opportunity. (p. 71)

Moral Dumbing Down

Our students seem to lack a moral compass: lying, cheating, stealing and fraud are viewed as acceptable by as many as 40% of teens, while as many as two thirds of teenage boys (and up to half of teenage girls) feel it is acceptable for a man to force sex on a woman if they have been dating for six months or more. The practice of providing students with historical role models of ethical behavior and fictional examples of values such as perseverance, hard work, loyalty and duty has been largely replaced by a "jumbled smorgasbord of moral choices." (p. 159).

The Attack on Learning

In 1947, this statement appeared in the yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development of the National Education Association:

Far too many people in America, both in and out of education, look upon the elementary school as a place to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. (p. 197)

This statement heralded the reform movement focused on "life adjustment" rather than academic pursuits. The new curriculum emphasized the child's emotional well-being, beliefs and attitudes, encouraged cooperative learning, and was characterized by suspicion of grades and tests, the blurring of subject matter lines, and a rejection of traditional teaching methods such as phonics. The ideas of the romantic naturalist Jean-Jacques Rousseau provided the inspiration and basis for this educational reform movement that has persisted, in one form or another, to this day.

Reform and Counterreform

In the early 1950's, Arthur Bestor described the "interlocking directorate" that controlled American education: a mutually supporting web that included schools of education, local school administrators, and assorted officials, experts and bureaucrats in state and federal departments of education. With the later addition of the National Education Association, the power of this force grew to the extent that former Education Secretary William Bennett described it as "The Blob," a reference to the science fiction creature capable of consuming anything in its path. This educational establishment formed a solid phalanx to resist the back-to-basics movements and other grass-roots reforms that began emerging in the 1970's, and instead has implemented wave after wave of "reform", often recycled ideas from previous failures in new forms, that promise expansive results that simply do not materialize.

Schools that Work

Sykes concludes his book with a look at what successful schools have in common, finding that they share certain qualities and commitments. Successful schools:

...all have forceful administrators, high expectations among the faculty for student achievement, involved parents, and an orderly school atmosphere. Successful schools...all tend to give absolute precedence to academic achievement by emphasizing cognitive learning. (p. 274)

He contends that due to the bureaucratic and monopolistic nature of public education, there is little incentive to or likelihood of change. He puts forth the opinion that the private sector is more likely to support innovative and effective changes.

While Mr. Syke's rhetoric is often emotional and inflammatory, his ideas are compelling and resonate with truth.

My elementary and secondary education spans the 1960's and 1970's; I have long believed that I received an extremely poor education (despite having lived in a solidly middle-class community), devoid of the most basic of factual knowledge. Seeing the confirmation of this and the explanation of how my "non-education" came to be was nothing short of an epiphany.

This book also cast a new light and understanding on my experiences sheparding my two sons through a public school education. The younger of the two is mentally handicapped and we struggled for years with required inclusion that left him hopelessly floundering, unable to keep up despite near-heroic efforts by teachers to water-down the curriculum, reduce expectations and bolster his grades. After reading this book, I was left wondering about the effects of my son's inclusion on the other students - particularly any gifted students who had the bad luck to be "included" in the watered-down class that crept along at my son's pace. No one was served by those exercises in misguided equity. Mr. Sykes' book has given me an understanding of how that situation came to be, the challenges to be overcome to change it, and the proven direction toward success that any changes should follow.
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definite must read for teachers and teachers-in-training., May 9, 2003
By 
This review is from: Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add (Paperback)
I am a senior in college majoring in elementary education; this book is therefore very relevant to me. I was shocked and horrified at the things that some school districts classify as education.
I am not that long removed from my own elementary and secondary schooling, and I would like to say that self-esteem was never an issue with me. Doing poorly on an assignment did not make me feel so terrible that I just couldn't learn anything. In fact, if it had any effect on me, it simply made me work harder on the next assignment. Without a least a little negative feedback students are never motivated to try harder and do better, a very sad outcome indeed.
I was also displeased with the negative reviews of this book, although not at all surprised. The critics offer no hard evidence that the book is wrong, but rather use the typical, liberal practice of flinging unfounded, slanderous phrases such as "narrow-minded, right-wing bellyaching" and "typical bubble-brained right-wing blather."
Let me tell you, I am not even a teacher yet and I have seen these teaching methods in action; it is not fiction, it is real. I realize that these methods are based on bleeding-heart good intentions, but they are not what our children need. If a student feels all warm and fuzzy, that is a wonderful bonus; however, the purpose of schools is to prepare students for college and careers. Knowledge is required, good feelings are not. And what about the students who are capable of completing coursework that even goes above and beyond the traditional curriculum? If self-esteem is such a big issue, is it fair to sacrifice theirs by making them do degrading work that is completely beneath them?
This book is most definitely not a "misguided attempt by freak reactionaries to uproot one of the only public insitutions [sic] worthy of its existence," as one reviewer claimed. It is in fact a genuine attempt to offer criticism of America's educational system, and advice on how to improve it.
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