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Excerpts from
"The Conspiracy of Ignorance" (1999)
by Martin L. Gross

    This book provides a valuable extra element to the debate about America's schools, namely, some insight as to why and how schools take the path they do. Author Martin Gross fixes the blame squarely on the administrators and educational theorists who themselves are lacking in academic rigor.

    For more info or to buy, go to Amazon info and reviews on "The Conspiracy of Ignorance" by Martin L. Gross


    Gross on teachers:

    Discussing those teachers who are truly excellent:

    Obviously we have all met intelligent teachers who are a credit to their vocation. I have known some myself: my students, others as friends and acquaintances, and others as teachers of my own children ... there are many bright teachers ...

    In praise of the dedication of teachers:

    Who are these young people going into teaching, those who choose that as their life's work? Firstly, to their credit, most teachers are dedicated to their job. More than physicians, lawyers, politicians, or businessmen, they come to teaching with a relatively altrusitic sense of duty. ... [S]tudies show most teachers are drawn to their vocation because they like children and want to help them become successful citizens.

    Dedication is not the problem. Teachers work hard and are under continuous stress from school boards, principals above them, and children below them. They handle conflicts in the classroom with general equanimity, much as beleaguered mothers do at home. But the teachers have twenty-five or thirty children to handle rather than two or three.

    But not all teachers are as good as we might like:

    The average college-bound high school senior ... may well have an SAT score that's 50 points higher than the one his teacher earned -- 1,016 versus 964.

    ...the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) ... is taken by those who intend to do graduate work in one of eight fields: business, engineering, health sciences, humanities, life sciences, social sciences, physical sciences, and education.

    "Quantitative means [average math scores] are lower in Education ... than in other fields," the GRE reports dispassionately. In other words, test-takers seeking to enter the field of education came in the absolute bottom of the eight specialties, with an average score of 499, versus 689 for the leader on the quantitative test, the engineers.

    Engineers might be expected to do better on such hard skills as handling numbers. But the disheartening results was that the masters of the slide rule beat the teachers and teacher-hopefuls in the verbal exam as well, by a solid 29 points.

    How did teachers do in all three areas of the GRE test - verbal, quantitative, and analytical? Overall, the combined average score for the 1.1 million test-takers was 1,577. The teachers came in last with 1,477, while the physical scientists were at the top with 1,779, followed by the engineers with 1,762. (Incidentally, the scientists also topped the educators on the verbal scale.)

    Elementary school teachers and teacher-candidates seeking a graduate degree score the poorest among those in education, except for administrators, which is a revealing surprise. Elementary teachers score 33 points below the mean on the verbal test, 56 points lower in the quantitative test, and 32 points below the mean on the analytical test.

    Gross on grade inflation in ed schools:

    How well do undergraduate education majors, many of whom entered with a C+ high school average, do? If you believe the marks awarded by education schools - and you shouldn't - they do amazingly well. ...

    In one teacher education program, the majority of teacher trainees who took the course "Curriculum and Fundamentals" received A grades. In comparison, on the same campus, only 18 percent of those studying either English or physics received an A grade. ...

    A study of 14 Pennsylvania universities showed that the average grade in education was a full letter grade higher than in math. ...

    The National Center for Education Statistics confirms this grade inflation for teacher trainees throughout the country. The average grade in education courses was 3.41 (A-) while it was only 2.67 (B-) in science, even though science students tend to be considerably brighter.

    Gross on "Masters" of education:

    So fervent is the desire for that credential, both for prestige and an automatic pay raise, that the graduate schools are crowded with ambitious teachers. In one recent year, some 106,000 master's degrees were awarded to teachers. ...

    But lest we be impressed, it should be remembered that these are mainly not advanced degrees in knowledge, such as English or biology, but only in the supposed "art and science" of teaching, adding little that is scholarly to the teacher's armamentarium. One study of 481 master's degrees in education ... showed that the graduate students took 26 credits in still more education courses and only 9 in the liberal arts. Only 1 in 5 were required to write a thesis, and 1 in 25 to show proficiency in a foreign language.

    Hardly masters of anything.

    Gross on "Doctors" of education:

    Part of the mystique of the superintendents is their exalted title of Doctor, which is always used in introducing or identifying them. When one thinks of doctors, it is generally in terms of medical doctors, or perhaps professors with Ph.D.'s, especially in the sciences.

    However, in the world of education the title is much less exalted. It generally doesn't mean a Ph.D. at all, but rather an Ed.D., a doctor of education. ... Superintendents are most often possessors of that inferior sheepskin. Initially developed for working school administrators, it is now the basic doctorate in the field. ... the Ed.D. degree now outnumbers the more difficult Ph.D. by some 5 to 1.

    That Ed.D. degree has lower academic requirements than the Ph.D. in virtually every respect. The thesis of an Ed.D. tends to be a "practical" dissertation on some school situation rather than a universal academic concept. Perhaps equally important, certain Ph.D. requirements (such as mastery of a foreign language) are usually waved as being "unnecessary" for Ed.D. candidates. More accurately, the language requirement is often too difficult for education administrators, who are seldom scholarly individuals, either in personality, background, or training. ...

    Altogether, 42 percent of superintendents are "doctors" ... The typical citizen or parent views that individual - with his enormous power in the school system - as a learned person, one who can be trusted to ensure that their children will become as learned.

    The public is naive. ... In fact, most superintendents are not learned people at all, having come up through the administrative, rather than by the academic or even teaching route. They generally have a less cultured background than the typical college-educated parent.

    ... Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the GRE score is that those who intend to take a master's degree in school administration ... score near the nadir. Not only do they score much lower than high school teachers, but even lower than elementary classroom teachers, by over 50 points. Hardly the profile of scholars.

    ...

    So strong is the desire for doctorates that we have developed a virtual assembly line for doctoral degrees in our graduate schools of education.

    In the most recent recorded year, according to the U.S. Department of Education, we produced 6,676 doctorates in the field of education, the overwhelming majority of which were the inferior Ed.D. degree. ...

    How does this doctoral production compare with other fields? Unfortunately, it overwhelms them. There are more doctorates in education that in any other discipline, beating out chemistry, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences and social sciences. In fact, more doctors of education graduate each year than doctors of business, English, math, philosophy and religion combined. ...

    One fantasy of a doctor in education ... is that of an academically versatile person rich in general knowledge and able to direct a diverse group of specialists in all fields. The reality is quite the opposite. Perhaps no group of people in the [education] Establishment is as academically weak ...

    To substantiate this, we have only to look at their graduate school curriculum. Administrators generally come from undergraduate schools of education, where they studied barely more arts and sciences than a graduate of a two-year community college. Then they go on to take a master's and a doctorate in education. What do these programs look like in content? Are they well balanced between administration and the liberal arts?

    Hardly. They are narrow courses devoid of noneducational learning. [Gross than gives examples of the course load at schools of education.] [In a typical such school] it appears that there is not a single required course in conventional knowledge, whether literature, or science, or math, or history, or philosophy. ...

    What kind of academic training is that? What about excellence in general knowledge? What do they know about literature and philosophy, let alone math and science? If they know little or nothing about history, how can they design, or even approve, a course of study in American history? If they have never taken physics or chemistry, how can they design or approve a rigorous curriculum in science? Of course they cannot, nor can most principals with similar administrative backgrounds. ...

    Gross on what school boards should do:

    Given the grave liabilities of superintendents, what can the average community do to make up for them? I offer two suggestions for our school districts nationwide ... designed to buttress the academic default created by Ed.D. training:

    1. Hire a school manager, who has completed the prosaic courses in educational administration to run the practical day-to-day activities of the district. This person would not have earned a doctorate and would not be addressed as "Doctor," with the title's false impression of scholarship. In fact, the Ed.D. degree should be eliminated by state legislatures as being academically insufficient. The only doctoral level degree awarded in education should be the Ph.D., which includes mastery of a foreign language plus strong scholarly content outside the field of education. ...

    2. Hire a true scholar as superintendent of schools. Such a person should be a Ph.D. in any subject except education, much the same qualifications as for headmasters of prep schools and university presidents. The job of superintendent would be to improve the curriculum, the testing and the quality of teaching and to set new, much higher standards for teachers and students. Only he or she should be addressed as "Doctor".

    Gross on leading private schools, and teacher qualifications:

    Choate-Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, one of the leading private schools in the nation ... almost exclusively hires nonprofessional teachers without education training ...

    "Our teachers do not have to be certified by the state, and we hire few who are," said the assistant headmaster at Choate. He points out that of the 172 faculty members, none have the Establishment's talisman - an undergraduate degree in education. Of the 104 faculty members who have a master's degree, only 4 have the degree in education. Nine teachers have their doctorates, but none are in education.


    For more info or to buy, go to Amazon info and reviews on "The Conspiracy of Ignorance" by Martin L. Gross

    You owe it to your children to find out for yourself what's happening in today's schools. Here are some more suggestions for books about schools and education. There are one or two that should be on every parent's reading list, and others that may prove to be just what's needed for a specific concern.

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