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A meticulous documentation of decline

The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America: A Chronological Paper Trail - Charlotte Thompson Iserbyt

For some reason, the book cover, etc are not showing up. 

This review is for the book

The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America

by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt  (c) 1998

ISBN: 0-9667071-0-9



I guess this book exists somewhere between reference book and a book you would sit down and read cover-to-cover. I tried the latter, and ended up skimming parts, because it did get dry in parts. No wonder; the book comprises book reviews, summaries of point papers delivered at national teachers' meetings, minutes from local and state Boards of Education meetings, "White Papers" published by tax-free foundations, newspaper articles, policy papers by the Dept of Education, and the author's own commentary on these.


Like I said, it's meticulous. 


The format is arranged chronologically, beginning around 1900. Everything that the author could find of significance, pertaining to the quality and content of public education is included. Over time, one gets the effect of seeing the slow-motion shift in attitudes and values of the nation, and the germane institutions, towards what a public school education is and should be. 


Painting with a very broad brush, the large, long-term trends are:


1. Shift from a view that an education should result in a moral, upright, well-rounded, American citizen to the view that it should result in a trainable and re-trainable worker who can adapt to the changing demands of a fast-paced global economy. 


The shift away from citizen to worker orientation was not achieved by natural means; it was the explicit and intentional work of the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation, as well as several prominent corporate-sponsored education-themed "think tanks" which enjoy the tax benefits of being nominal charities, but which in fact are powerful forces which have been shaping American education policy for over a century now, bending it to better suit corporate needs.  Being multinational, these corporations have also made a hard push for...


2. Shift from national civic pride to globalist outlook. 


A public school education 100 years ago stressed American history, and prized among other things our founding documents: The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, and The Bill of Rights -as emblematic of why our system has prospered and become the desired destination of immigrants worldwide, looking to improve their lives.  A large number of factors have slowly bent this toward an impulse of internationalism- a view that international institutions should be revered over national ones (even if they are unelected and unaccountable to the public), even if Americans (and hardly ever anybody else) need to subvert their self-interest to bodies like the United Nations (which does not share our Bill of Rights).  In the sphere of education, this has meant a long road of replacing Civics and History with Social Studies. It may smack to some readers of 1950's "Red Panic", but the author Ms. Iserbyl documents the intentional injection of a good deal of socialist rhetoric into the curriculum throughout the 1950's, 60's and 70's. 


3. A surrender of more and more time in the lessons from teaching hard facts and critical thinking, to subjective commentary promoting "positive social themes" and class discussions designed to build consensus.


"What consensus?" you may be wondering.  The answer is whatever consensus supports the Ford- and Carnegie Foundation-approved views to various topics. (e.g. should America be "the world's policeman?" etc)


4. Inner workings detailing how and why the U.S. Federal "Dept of Education" was created (in 1978, under President Jimmy Carter). 


By almost every measure, American education was better when there was no national Dept of Education. Its creation is part of a larger movement to increase standardization, and to form national curricula by unelected panels of hand-chosen "experts" (who unfailingly represent the status quo vision of the large charitable foundations which fund their work). The result is less control by parents locally over what their kids are taught. At the time it was established, many prominent figures in American education lamented that America was backwards and provincial for being a "holdout" by not having a national cabinet-level equivalent of most nations' "Ministers of Education."  Behind closed doors, this was perceived as a necessary step to the long term goal of integrating American with other nations' curricula, to form a "world standard" education.


To state the obvious: this would be part of the propaganda drive to promote acceptance of a supranational worldwide government, and to manufacture international consensus around certain questions (in the 1970's it was the need for America to unilaterally disarm its nuclear weapons; today I'm guessing it is the need to embrace a global "carbon tax" system to combat real and imagined climate change.)


5. A shift away from subjective, wholistic, individual attention between teacher and student, towards purely objective "metrics."   


In practical terms, this is the move away from essay questions, where a teacher has to sift through a student's nuanced presentation, to the fill-in-the-bubbles #2 pencil "Scantron" tests. The idea is to phase out teachers' judgment in the classroom, and to measure students by the criteria dictated by the above-mentioned panels of "experts" at the national level.


Several policy papers explicitly state that the long-term "ideal" (better than saying "goal") is the "teaching box" (i.e. computer) posited by B.F. Skinner in the 1950's. 


This book was published in 1998, so some of this may have changed by technology. I can imagine some time in the near future where an A.I. program could read a student's essay and grade it according to a programmed formula, so maybe kids in the future may go back to writing essay questions... so long as the globalist corporate forces can control how exactly it will be graded. 


6. A lengthy explanation of how the RAND Corporation-developed "Delphi Technique" has been employed against American parents and taxpayers attempting to fight the above changes through local means at their city and state Boards of Education, and through the national Parent Teacher Association (PTA). 


It's basically a population manipulation technique to convince a group of people that they naturally arrived at an authentic consensus supporting a predetermined conclusion they were in fact intentionally led into. Here's a little more about that.








It is fascinating stuff, but like I said, a lot of this is policy papers, so beware of that.