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Educational Wastelands: The Retreat from Learning in Our Public Schools Hardcover – September 1, 1985

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 2nd edition (September 1, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252012267
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252012266
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #868,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Deitrick Price on April 22, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A somewhat unsettling book for me to read. A lot of the research I've been doing on American education, and many of the dark insights I've gained, turn out to be forcefully stated in Arthur Bestor's long-ago book. It came out in 1953 and is thus a wonderful time capsule of how bad things had gotten by mid-century. Recall that Rudolf Flesch published his first Johnny-can't-read book in 1955. So the sky was indeed falling; and some very smart people were there to record the collapse.

Bestor was a distinguished historian and professor; and he waged an absolutely heroic battle against the forces of dumb. Like Flesch, he mostly failed, so wonderfully adamantine were our ed commissars. For a professor of history, Bestor was quite the game guy. Over several years he actually tried to organize the country's scholars and professors. He wanted them to present a unified front, on behalf of the humanities, against the educationists, a common term circa 1950. The educators, as we call them now, had a good time chuckling, sneering, and going ahead with their plans to make schooling as dumb as possible.

Their program was called, at that time, life-adjustment. The basic idea was that students needed to learn how to dress and fill out forms, how to drive and interview for a job, all that practical stuff. The job of the school was to make sure that children were suitably adjusted to life in modern times. The educators bragged, in this most delightful of sophistries: "We don't teach history. We teach children." Isn't that precious?

So if you like deja vue all over again, this is an informative and grimly amusing book. Bestor presents all the reasons why you might want to stress content and thinking. Educationists hated that kind of talk.
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