- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 31, 2009

Public school reformers are like a fellow who scoops a bucket of water from one end of a swimming pool, carries it to the other end, dumps it back in, and then repeats the sequence endlessly, convinced he is making the latter end deeper. In the meantime, his labor causes the cost of the water to skyrocket as it becomes progressively — no pun intended — more contaminated.

Our reformer obviously is suffering from some learning disability because despite the fact he’s been at this for years, he seems incapable of understanding he is accomplishing nothing and causing problems in the process. Nonetheless, he can be heard constantly complaining he needs more money with which to increase the pool’s water level and improve the quality of the water.

The bankruptcy of the reformer’s argument, as well as his myopia, is easily exposed. One of his objectives is to reduce the student-teacher ratio. He maintains that smaller class size improves learning. Oh, really? In the 1950s, when class size was much larger than it is today, and the student-teacher ratio was larger still, children at all socioeconomic levels achieved at much higher levels than their contemporary counterparts. And many of those kids — including yours truly — came to first grade not even knowing their ABCs!

Since the 1960s, reformers have succeeded in bringing about significant reductions in both class size and the student-teacher ratio. Their efforts have coincided with dramatic declines in student achievement. Yet, oblivious to facts, they continue to carry water from one end of the pool to the other.

The reason 1950s kids could be taught successfully in overcrowded classrooms — I’ve met women who in that decade taught as many as 95 first-graders, by themselves, and with relatively few problems — is because the children had been and were being properly disciplined in the home.

They were not the center of parental attention in their homes; rather, they were expected to pay attention to their parents. They were not the object of great doing on their parents’ parts; rather, they were expected to do, to carry their share of the weight. (Does anyone remember when children had chores and were expected to find their own entertainment after school?) They were expected to do at school what they had been trained to do at home — pay attention and do what they were told. (Did I mention that these kids also were expected to do their own homework, without their mothers’ help?) This training obviously paid off. The good news is this training will pay the same dividends today.

The problem, of course, is that few parents realize the solution to American’s education woes lies in their hands. They have been convinced that the reformers, given enough money, will solve the problems. When his efforts fail, they demand he carry water faster, to which he responds with demands for even more money. And the beat goes on.

The problems in American education will be solved through home reform, not school reform. When parents wake up to the misleading they have endured for the past 40 years and re-embrace a traditional (read: everlasting) point of view and restore traditional practice (the emphasis of which is not on spanking, but on leadership); when they once again back teachers when it comes to discipline; when they once again send children to school who have been properly prepared at home, not through academic exercises beginning at age 3, but through such things as chores beginning at age 3; then and only then will American schools be restored to their former glory.

Call it trickle-down edu-nomics.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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