A Reviewer's Notebook - 1963/9
SEPTEMBER 01, 1963 by JOHN CHAMBERLAIN
James d. Koerner calls his book The Miseducation of American Teachers (Houghton Mifflin, $4.95). The title is not quite apt, for Mr. Koerner is not aiming his shafts at the parochial schools on the one hand, or the many secular private institutions on the other. They have teachers who are both scholarly and literate. Indeed, by implication or inference (or both together), Mr. Koerner’s indictment of the public schools amounts to a brief for private schools.
True enough, Mr. Koerner does profess to hold out some hope that the worst ravages of the "educationists" who now control the major power centers in the American public school system will be overcome. But the bulk of the book is so steeped in pessimistic reporting that one wonders about the nature of
Mr. Koerner’s trust in a saving remnant consisting of a "handful of independent-minded school boards in each state."
The reason for deriving a pessimistic conclusion from Mr. Koerner’s exceedingly well-documented study is that the "revolution" of the past thirty years has become an entrenched orthodoxy on practically every level of influence and control. The teachers’ colleges, stuffed with dull and repetitive courses in "method," grind out the annual crop of neophyte instructors who have only a halting command of the subject matter they are supposed to impart to their future students. Presumably an intelligent neophyte could go on to get up his chosen specialty for himself. But brainy lads and lasses are repelled by the teachers’ college curricula in the first place, and the few lively individuals who put up with their "miseducation" just to get coveted jobs soon discover that they are expected to take more dreary courses in nothingness just to qualify for salary raises. There is no time to read Elizabethan drama or critiques of Keynesian economics in a "progressive" school system that puts its stress on conforming to "educationist" theory.
Even if the bright teacher resists, he finds that he is compelled more or less to use the texts and the methods prescribed by an Administration that is itself a product of the orthodoxy. And so things go from bad to worse as enthusiasm is killed.
Mr. Koerner’s book, when it consists of the author’s own prose, is sparkling. But, as befits a good reporter, Mr. Koerner has included many examples of the stuff he is inveighing against, which means that the book has its long dull stretches. Sometimes the quotations from "educanto" or "educationese" are unconsciously funny. There is, for example, the list of dissertations on page 187. The Ph.D. or the Ed.D. in Education has actually been awarded to people for grinding out wordage on such topics as "A Performance Analysis of the Propulsive Forceof the Flutter Kick," or "The High School Student’s Perception of Most-Liked and Least-Liked Television Figures," or "A Study of Little League Baseball and Its Educational Implications." But the fact that such stuff is not offered as parody material for college comic magazines soon causes the reader to wipe the smile off his face. And when Mr. Koerner piles up his examples of the lingua franca of the educationist in his "L’Envoi" chapter, the humor is quickly buried under the weight of what is listed as "the extended cliché," or "the enervating fugue," or "the forward passive," or "the grandiloquent bromide," or "the jargonized pyrotechny." The "educantoids" who write "educanto" are masters of meaningless sentences about "meaningfulness" and unstructured paragraphs about "structures." A teacher is never a teacher; he is a "critical inquirer," or a "director of experiences," or a "producer of effects," or a "motivator," or a "creator of learnings environments," or a "substitute parent."
Naturally the textbooks written by the educationists are themselves filled with enervating fugues and grandiloquent bromides. And the textbooks publishers, who might be willing to commission a few masters of clear, simple English to write texts, are stymied, for how could an educantoid recognize a first-rate product if he saw it?
Is There No Hope?
Sterling M. McMurrin, former
Take Carl Hansen, the superintendent of the
In NEA’s Backyard
Since Dr. Hansen’s office is only a stone’s throw from the
Again, the new head of Teachers College at
To take one other example, there is the town of
Do examples such as the foregoing constitute much ground for hope? I’d like to hear more from Mr. Koerner on this.
Nothing to Do
The necessity of labor may, indeed, be regarded as the main root and spring of all that we call progress in individuals, and civilization in nations; and it is doubtful that any heavier curse could be imposed on man than the gratification of all his wishes without effort on his part, leaving nothing for his hopes, desires, or struggles. The feeling that life is destitute of any motive or necessity for action, must be of all others the most distressing and insupportable to a rational being. The Marquis de Spinola asking Sir Horace Vere what his brother died of, Sir Horace replied, "He died, sir, of having nothing to do."
SAMUEL SMILES, Self-Help