Thomas Sowell

Recent videos of American children in school singing songs of praise for Barack Obama were a little much, especially for those of us old enough to remember pictures of children singing the praises of dictators like Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

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But you don't need a dictator to make you feel queasy about the manipulation of children. The mindset that sees children in school as an opportunity for teachers to impose their own notions, instead of developing the child's ability to think for himself or herself, is a dangerous distortion of education.

Parents send their children to school to acquire the knowledge that has come down to us as a legacy of our culture-- whether it is mathematics, science, or whatever-- so that those children can grow up and go out into the world equipped to face life's challenges.

Too many "educators" see teaching not as a responsibility to the students but as an opportunity for themselves-- whether to indoctrinate a captive audience with the teacher's ideology, manipulate them in social experiments or just do fun things that make teaching easier, whether or not it really educates the child.

You can, of course, call anything that happens in a classroom "education"-- but that does not make it education, except in the eyes of those who cannot think beyond words. Unfortunately, the dumbed-down education of previous generations means that many parents today see nothing wrong with their children being manipulated in school, instead of being educated.

Such parents may see nothing wrong with spending precious time in classrooms chit-chatting about how everyone "feels" about things on television or in their personal life.

But while our children are frittering away time on trivia, other children in other countries are acquiring the skills in math, science or other fields that will allow them to take the jobs our children will meed when they grow up. Foreigners can take those jobs either by coming to America and outperforming Americans or by having those jobs outsourced to them overseas.

In short, schools are supposed to prepare children for the future, not give teachers opportunities for self-indulgences in the present. One of these self-indulgences was exemplified by a letter I received recently from a fifth-grader in the Sayre Elementary School in Lyon, Michigan.

He said, "I have been assigned to ask a famous person a question about how he or she would solve a difficult problem." The problem was what to do about the economy.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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