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Inside American Education Paperback – March 14, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
The American educational system, from grade school to grad school, is bankrupt, teachers are incompetent and schools cause social maladjustment, moral confusion and alienation, according to this blistering indictment by Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is critical of values education and ethnic studies, claiming that they brainwash students. His critiques of "research barons," athletic scholarships and their toll on black athletes, education fads and academia's publish-or-perish syndrome are well reasoned. But he often goes wildly askew, as when he argues that sex education causes teen pregnancy, or that dependence on federal funds causes hardship to schools, which often waste resources in their attempt to avoid any suggestion of racial discrimination. And certain of Sowell's solutions, such as discontinuing the tenure system, smack of abridgement of academic freedom.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
"The purpose of education is to give the student the intellectual tools to analyze, whether verbally or numerically, and to reach conclusions based on logic and evidence." With these words begins a treatise on the failure of American education--elementary, secondary, and college levels--to prepare today's students for the future. Among the many causes of this failure are the poor intellectual capabilities of elementary and secondary school teachers; the politicizing of education, especially the emphasis on world-saving agendas; the affective approach to curriculum (striving to reshape the attitudes of students); and the presence of "assorted dogmas," including multicultural diversity, relevance, and educating the whole person. All these causes and more are clearly discussed, with some frightening true-life examples, to illustrate that students aren't learning the basics because the basics aren't being taught. Recommended for public libraries.
- A.R. Huggins, Memphis State Univ. Libs., Tenn.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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He mentions that many schools are going away from actually educating and are instead emotionally conditioning their students. For the first time I was able to understand the never-ending talks on "diversity" and "adversity" in middle school and the crazy rhetoric, such as a teacher saying that America was wrong to not get into the Second World War sooner because it was acting as a guilty "bystander" (I'm not going to say anything about the timing of America's entering that war, but to say we were at fault for not sending our people to die and spending huge amounts of money for no reason other than to help people of another country (as opposed to what is best for our country and national security) is such an absurd argument I find it hard to believe anybody would ever dare to use it). These kind of statements were crazy to me, and I couldn't comprehend why we had suddenly stopped learning about English in English class.
Sowell's research into college education shows that America's abilities are also decreasing on that front, and that people from other countries who go to colleges here tend to do better. He also brilliantly shows the absolute fallacy of admitting students who wouldn't have gotten in otherwise based on factors other than ability-not only is it unjust, the students will also not do well at that school, because it's not the right school for them (the same applies to quotas for faculties).
He also explains how tenure can greatly harm the education taking place in a classroom. To get tenure, you have to spend a lot of time writing papers and not so much time teaching. Therefore, a lot of students are not getting access to professors and thus receiving subpar education. His research indicates that teacher's colleges and teacher's courses are at such a low level that most smart people simply leave. The majority of people who become teachers come from the bottom portion of scorers on the SAT, and the minimal quality courses are likely a big factor.
Sowell uses his logical thinking ability to show that government-sponsored loans for college students are extremely harmful. Colleges charge crazy amounts that they never would in a free market because they know the government will give loans to people who can't afford it. We have now seen education costs soar to a remarkable degree, while the government (i.e. the taxpayers) is picking up more than ever. If the government loan program was stopped, there is very good reason to believe that educational costs would plummet back to reasonable levels.
There is a great deal of more very interesting and insightful information provided. This is an easy to understand, clear book that is very good for people looking for more information on America's education debacle. Although almost 25 years have elapsed since the early 90s publishing of this book, it is easy to see that things have only gotten far worse, especially in pre-college schools. Adherence to concepts with no intellectual support that are so easily demolished in this book will only continue to get worse and worse results.
Thomas Sowell is a trained economist, one of the most lucid expositors of economic principles. He is also a cultural commentator, broadly conceived. I have yet to read one of his books that was not clear, trenchant and bold. He deals in hard facts and common sense and while his orientation is generally characterized as `conservative' he makes his points in persuasive, nonideological ways. When he confronts ideology he counters with empirical evidence. He is a social scientist, not a casual observer. He marshals historical evidence, philosophic evidence and anthropological evidence and always has a fresh slant on much-discussed issues.
How candid is he in this book? He argues against racial admission preferences on the grounds that they serve to hurt the minorities they are intended to help. He then demonstrates that there were already concerns that this might prove to be the case, back in the 1960's, on the left as well as on the right. He does this all very dispassionately. He argues that one of the reasons for all of the touchy/feely `affective' education in K-12 results from the fact that education students are the weakest in the university, taught by the weakest faculty in the weakest school, required to take the weakest courses. Their affection for the `affective' derives, in part, from their lack of success in traditional academic subject areas. Hence, they flee from the `basics' because their personal experience with them was unpleasant, even though their very job is to teach the basic, academic subjects and that is what the vast majority of students and parents want them to do. While some of the arguments are carefully modulated there is not a wishy-washy sentence in the book.
Some of the book is dated; we have ameliorated some of the concerns of 1993. On the other hand, the majority of the concerns have increased in magnitude. All we need do to bring his arguments up to date is to move the appropriate decimal points or add a more intensive adjective.
Still highly recommended.
Inside American Education is the BEST book I have ever read on our American educational system; Sowell calls issues as the are, and he does not mince words. As a professor at a university, I make this offer to all of my students in each class: "If you're going into education, or plan to have children in public education, you need to consider this book. I will REFUND your costs, plus shipping, if you do not like this book." Not one student has ever sent me their copy asking for a refund.
Brian Bennett, Ph.D.