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Bending the twig; the revolution in education and its effect on our children

Bending the Twig; The Revolution in Education and Its Effect on Our Children - Augustin G. Rudd NOTE: Pay attention to last names here, because the author of this book is Augustin Rudd, and he spends a lot of time complaining about educational theorist Harold Rugg, as well as an Army director for educational programs named Charles Judd, so between all the Rudds and Judds and Ruggs, there is definitely potential for confusion.Augustin G. Rudd calls it a revolution, but it’s really more like a coup. The main portion of this book deals with how a group of more-or-less radicals took over the National Education Association (NEA) annual meeting in Cincinnati in 1934, and pushed through a sweeping agenda of reforms. The coterie was led by educational psychologist Harold Rugg, who was promoting his "Progressive" program- the centerpiece of which was replacing traditional instruction in History, Geography, and Civics with the omnibus course "Social Studies". Of course one NEA meeting does not set the nation's curriculum; individual states and local communities set standards for quality and content... but once the reforms had an official NEA endorsement, Rugg's followers aggressively pushed their implementation at the local level, with stunning success: by the time this book was written in 1957, nearly every public school had abandoned History and Geography for "Social Studies". Amazing, isn't it? I've been to national meetings within my own profession, and I can tell you from experience it's practically impossible to get anything done at those. How did Rugg et al do it? → With considerable financial and organizational support from the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations, THAT'S how, and THAT was my real interest in the book: Why did those foundations want to push Rugg's vision so forcefully? What did they get out of it? Alas, Bending the Twig does not go into all of that. Most of the text is preoccupied with deconstructing Harold Rugg's thoeries, and building a case that their acceptance was the biggest mistake in American public education. Maybe it was, but it's not what I wanted to read about. Furthermore, Rudd takes pains to show that the catastrophe wrought was not an accident, but an intentional plan to subvert the quality and ideology of American public education, and to promote collectivist ideas to American schoolchildren. The assorted arguments Rudd makes along these lines range from compelling to extremely dubious, but what is not contested is that a very small group of ideologues, who were frankly outside the mainstream of their profession, were able to so completely foist their untested theories on the American public without a word of debate or discussion, and with in fact no input from taxpayers at all. I found that to be outrageous and offensive, but not particularly shocking. I've already read about it in John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling. The two books complement each other. If you care, Rudd traces the roots of Rugg's work back to the 1905 work of John Dewey- a self-styled educational theorist, who wanted to refine and apply a system of "learning through play" instead of through memorization and repetition. To be 100% honest, I don't see the connection between Dewey's work and Rugg's, other than the fact that both of them wanted to replace traditional methods, and wanted classrooms to be less structured, and wanted to tone down (okay, eleminate) the disciplinary aspects of teaching. Rugg appeared much more eager than Dewey to politicize his work. He felt school should be more than just learning information; it should be about conditioning behaviors and promoting positive social themes that would- in theory- make students more harmonious members of society when they got out. If you spin it right, it could sound good, but of course the question comes up "Who decides what themes are positive, or what is needed to make citizens harmonious?" Pretty clearly, Rugg had strong socialist/Marxist leanings (that isn't hyperbole; I'm fairly certain he would agree with that characterization) ...which colored what he thought "positive social themes" were. Yeah; I have a problem with that.Add to the mix the Rockefeller's obsession with world government through bodies like the UN, and suddenly you have a classroom which teaches a lot less information, and spends a lot more time comparing world social and political systems. While you might be able to argue the value of such comparisons in general, Rudd provides copious examples to show the comparisons in Rugg's classes are rigged to present socialist systems in the best light (e.g. -repeatedly pointing out that capitalist societies have depressions and recessions, but failing to mention analogous systemic failures/catastrophes, like the Holodomor, in communist societies). As time is consumed in these activities, less actual history is taught, which is a shame, because history itself can be instructive, and can give one a sense of heritage... but in order for that to happen, students must have actually spent some time learning the events, dates, players and places that we traditionally called the study of History. That is decidedly shortchanged in the course of "Social Studies".Another place where "Social Studies" seems weak is in the study of "Civics", which I never knew in my own years as a public school student, because it was almost completely discarded after 1934. As I understand, Civics class laid out the origins and philosophical underpinnings of the US Constitution, discussed how a democratic republic was supposed to work, and outlined the responsibilities and expectations of its citizens. With participation in our presidential elections embarrassingly low, and with a dumbed-down public quietly accepting fundamental violations of our rights by such instruments as the USA PATRIOT ACT, it is difficult to believe that nothing has been lost by the elimination of a formal Civics instruction. The last part of the book includes Rudd's efforts to tie the Progressive reforms to the spread of international Communism. Whereas much of what he says may have an element of truth to it, with the Soviet Union gone, the rhetoric loses a lot of its punch. Besides, with the Rockefellers and Carnegies behind it all, it seems pretty clear from the vantage of 2013 that Marxist statism was always just a tool of Oligarchical Collectivists in the West anyhow. Sure, the bankers who started Lenin's "workers' paradise" couldn't always control the beast, so I'm not saying Joseph Stalin was a stooge of the New World Order... but Gary Allen does a good job in [b:None Dare Call it Conspiracy|811022|None Dare Call It Conspiracy|Gary Allen|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1202069620s/811022.jpg|796963] showing how Marxist collectivism was conceived as a way to centralize political and economic power in the developing world, so it would be more easily taken over and administrated by the world banking oligarchy, in due time (i.e. about now). If you read this last part at all, it might be for historical interest. Two factors kept coming to mind as I was reading this: (1) that Bending the Twig wasn’t just published during the Cold War, but in 1957- just as the Second Red Scare was passing, where McCarthy and his acolytes had every American believing there was a Soviet spy (or maybe two: Boris and Natasha) lurking behind every bush and tree. (2) the NEA conference of 1934 occurred at the nadir of the Great Depression, when popular faith in the free market system had been shaken, and many well-intentioned Americans did turn their intellectual curiosity towards socialism. It could very well be that some of Rugg’s crowd really did want their educational reforms to be a vehicle for the spread of Marxism. But I can also believe that in 1957, Rudd and his publishers at the Sons of the American Revolution may have had a tendency to see any and every conflict in American civil society as a manifestation, on some level, of a grander struggle between Soviet collectivism and American free enterprise; and that too is probably not appropriate. The nation’s history is rife with quacks, the avante guarde, and oddballs experimenting with assorted utopian schemes, and to a certain extent, some of Rugg's following may have been just deluded utopian dreamers.So... do I recommend this book? In a limited sense I do, just for the connections it draws between the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations, and what appears to be a significant and completely undemocratic change in the character of American education. I think there is a general public perception that the quality of public schooling has been declining for a very long time. After reading this, will most people believe that the Rockefellers engineered and promoted "Social Studies" class as part of an agenda to dumb down the public and promote godless collectivism? The answer may be "no", but it probably should be "yes".