This article is about negative changes in education that cannot be explained by any competent, professional justification. Although reasons are being given to rationalize them, a quick summary of these changes, shown in a larger political context, is alarming. The fact that all of them started after the collapse of the Soviet Union and all point in one direction indicates deliberate sabotage.
The Second World War did not end in 1945. It continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The term “Cold War” referred not only to the arms race but also to the ideological competition between communism and capitalism in which political propaganda played a major role. In response to the Warsaw Pact, the West created NATO. In response to the Workers’ Rights, the West promoted Human Rights. In response to communist social programs, the West established its own social support networks.
Those who grew up on this continent may not understand my conclusions. While living in Poland from 1950s till mid 1980s, I regularly listened to Polish language broadcasts of Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. These propaganda tubes, funded under the umbrella of the U.S. Congress, consistently painted a picture of America as a paradise in which freedom, democracy, human rights, job security, high standard of living and excellent social programs allowed people to live with dignity. ‘Happy American Families’ was the most appealing theme.
On the other side of the Iron Curtain, communism was run by the “representatives of the working class” and the working families were supposed to have it better there. By investing in people, by creating higher standard of living and decent social conditions in the West, western elites stirred an ideological conflict in the Soviet Block and inspired revolts in Eastern Europe that contributed to the collapse of communism.
In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, the West won the war, and the ideological competition was over. “Restructuring” was implemented promptly and our 46-year-old magic carpet began to roll back. And so did job security, high standard of living, decent social programs, full-time jobs, paid holidays, job security, benefits, democracy and the focus on human rights and human dignity in general. It seems that all the goodies we enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s were not given to us out of a genuine support for decent life of working families. It seems that they were not “won” in a struggle between the workers and the capitalists. Rather, they were temporarily used by the elites as weapons in the ideological war between the West and the East. The war is now over and so is “capitalism with human face.”
… At the beginning of the 20th century, a new science was born in Europe. It was allowed to grow for three decades before being classified and contained in secret institutions. It was called “Historiosophy” or Philosophy of History. One of the leading representatives of Historiosophy was Prof. Feliks Koneczny of the University of Vilno.
Koneczny believed that civilizations were formed by people sharing common priorities and common cultural values. He argued that historical changes have always been enabled by dynamically changing values and priorities. …
How important is culture? Nations that have been wiped off the map know that preserving cultural values, when all other means of resistance fail, is the only way to stay strong and united. People in Quebec have preserved their national identity for hundreds of years. Poland has regained independence after 10 generations of foreign occupation. Culture is a backbone of a nation. This is why the burning of libraries and pauperization of culture always accompany occupation and assimilation efforts. Resistance and patriotism are proportional to the degree of national and cultural identity.
I have a strong feeling that we are experiencing the same phenomena today. It is better camouflaged but I can see many examples of a deliberate destruction of traditional Western culture that is being sacrificed on the altar of the New World Order. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, we witness an unprecedented attack on nationalism, family, religion, education, human rights, labour movement, and every institution promoting patriotism, critical thinking and social solidarity. This also explains why “the system” supports “multiculturalism”, and other modern “trends” opposite to traditional customs and values. The big push to derail the young generation into the virtual culture and virtual world of computer and video games completes the picture. …
Here is what transpired in public elementary schools in Ontario, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991:
1 The School Council system was empowered during Bob Ray and Dave Cooke’s reign. Officially intended to give parents more extensive decision-making powers, the role of parents in School Councils was quickly derailed and limited to various fund raising initiatives. These hidden “user fees” allowed the Ministry to cut funds to schools under the umbrella of the “Social Contract” and the consequent policies.
2 A high school dropout in Mike Harris’s government became a minister of education. By his own admission, John Snobelen tried to create conflict in education. This conflict was then be used to justify changes that people would otherwise oppose. In order to “fix” the alleged problems in education, the government cut more funds and implemented a number of changes that had a negative impact on the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process in the classroom. The new curriculum, new evaluation and reporting, business-like management and organization, commercialization, and bureaucratization, the cutting of programs and Special Education services, additional responsibilities and requirements downloaded on teachers, and many other “inventions” overloaded, dehumanized, and pauperized the whole system. These changes continue to be supported and new changes are being implemented under the consequent Liberal provincial government of Dalton McGuinty. It seems that the policy does not depend on which political party is in power.
3 The Industrial Arts program has been eliminated. As a result, students do not learn how to use simple tools and machines anymore. This decreases independent life skills and increases future dependence of the society on corporate services and on the state.
4 The Family Studies program has been eliminated. Students do not learn basic home-related skills, with the same results as above.
5 Special Education classes are being closed and Special Education services limited. Only 12 years ago, we had many different Special Education services in Ontario. There were self-contained classes for Slow Learners, for Trainable Retarded (later renamed to Developmentally Delayed), services for students with Learning Disabilities, classes for students with Behavioural problems, self-contained classes for Gifted Learners, 1-on-1 assistance and in-class support, scheduled replacement programs on withdrawal basis. Students with special needs received programs and assistance at their level of abilities 100 percent of the time. Regular students had their programs and instruction 100 percent of the time. Gradually, Special Education services were “reorganized” and students with special needs were moved to regular classes without any extra assistance.
In many cases, regular classroom teachers receive directions from Special Education teachers on how to modify the program, the teaching strategies, and the assessment techniques but the regular replacement programs and support by the Special Education staff are no longer there. Teachers have to divide their time between the regular students and the students with special needs. Since this often means two (or more) different programs and two (or more) different assessment/evaluation procedures, all students receive only half (or less) of the teacher’s time and attention. Teachers’ ability to prepare good learning materials for students is also reduced due to increased workload and reduced preparation time.
6 Introduction of the “core” model forces teachers teach all subjects by grade level rather than teaching by subject (specialization). In most European countries, teaching by subject begins in grade 4. In Japan, specialization starts in grade 2. It is understandable that primary children (K-3) benefit from the stability and emotional comfort of being taught by one teacher. The same explanation applied to Intermediate classes (7-8) is preposterous and proves incompetence or deliberate sabotage of the system. Until now, I have not heard one convincing reason why students in grade 7 or 8 could not benefit from programs run by teachers specializing in their subject areas, by teachers who understand better the subjects they teach and show special interest in them. Drawing on strengths of individual teachers would also be a good preparation for the transition to high school environment, in which teaching by subject and working with different teachers are a norm.
It is clear, beyond any doubt, that teachers specializing in one or two subjects have more time to prepare better programs, better materials for students, and better assessment tools, especially if they teach the same subject for a few consecutive years. It surely is more efficient than having to prepare six different lessons in many subject areas every day. Teaching by subject also allows teachers to improve their knowledge and skills by attending workshops and taking courses in selected subject areas, and therefore, developing a better understanding of the subjects taught. Due to insufficient time, such effective professional development is not possible in all subject areas at once.
Every single year during my last four years of teaching, I was assigned a different grade level and different subjects. Even though my specialty is mathematics, geography, science and technology, and computers, this year I am teaching English, history, geography, drama, and dance. As it is obvious that this situation cannot benefit students, I wonder what is the priority here. Why would the boards and the schools avoid using teachers’ strengths? What sense does it make? I know more similar cases and it really looks like a pattern when you see it right across the city.
7 Increased workload and responsibilities assigned to the teachers under the new differentiated model of instruction create a crisis practically impossible to overcome. As a result of the core-oriented model and the elimination of regular Special Education programs, regular classroom teachers have to prepare six different lessons per day, each further multiplied by the number of modifications necessary to meet the needs of special education students. This also means multiple evaluation and assessment procedures.
In each class, students are expected to work in groups reflecting their levels of achievement and individual programs need to be adjusted to these levels. As one principal put it in his letter to parents, “Staff work diligently to organize our classes to provide the best program for each child. It is important to note that within each classroom there are students working at a variety of grade levels in each subject area based on each student’s individual strengths, needs, and interests.”
The hypocrisy of this otherwise attractive model originates in the fact that teachers are not given any time to prepare all these wonderful programs on a daily basis and this alone renders the model useless. Since the expectation is unrealistic, the whole model will not work, providing further ammunition for those who want to privatize the system.
The differentiated model of instruction also reduces the instructional time per student. The teacher’s time to teach a lesson, explain the tasks, and help students do their work is now divided between two and often three different groups of students. The differentiated model is sometimes being used to justify a refusal to purchase full class sets of textbooks. Also, the formalized and lengthy diagnostic testing used to update the achievement levels of all students (called the DPR) further reduces the instructional time.
8 The elimination of Special Education behavioural classes dramatically reduced the remaining instructional time. In the past, students with severe behavioural problems were placed in self-contained classes at the ratio of up to 10 students to one teacher, one assistant, and often one social worker. Many of these students were on medication to help them stay on task and control their tempers.
Nowadays, students clearly displaying behavioural characteristics are placed in regular classrooms of 20 to 30, with one teacher. Following the regular placement, many parents conclude that their children do not need medication anymore. Consequently, in some schools and in some classrooms, teachers spend 80 percent of their time on hopeless crowd control and the remaining 20 percent on attempting to teach (which is not always possible.) Nobody seems to care about the 80 percent of the students who want to learn. Nobody cares about the level of stress in this unhealthy working environment.
Boards of Education and most principals are afraid to confront the parents and to execute parental responsibility for children’s behaviour and attitude. Due to a lack of support by the system, teachers are paralyzed, as any intervention may result in false accusations and disciplinary action against them. Nobody is prepared to enforce the school rules effectively. During my teaching career, I have personally experienced many variations of this situation, firsthand.
9 Computer labs and computer programs are being eliminated. Just a few years ago, schools were running fund raising campaigns in the communities to purchase computers for computer labs. Computer teachers and Computer lab programs were widely advertised, as most future jobs would require computer skills. Then, computer teachers were dropped and teacher librarians were used to supervise the lab activities on a part-time basis. Recently, computer lab programs and schedules are being eliminated all together. Classroom teachers, many of whom are not computer experts, will randomly take their classes to the computer lab, when needed. Progress is being achieved, progress in the New World Order, but not in education.
10 School libraries and library programs are being reduced and, in some cases, eliminated. The number of full-time teacher librarians is decreasing. The number and quality of books in school libraries is decreasing. Some teachers privately buy class sets of books at different reading levels for their students, but they should not be expected to do so. This is not right.
11 Unprecedented and unheard of before, there is an insufficient number of textbooks in schools. Last year, I taught Grade 8 science and technology at a school that had 10 textbooks for four classes, divided between two different teachers. One hundred-eight students went to high school “undereducated” because our school’s priority was to pay for a new computer lab and because new textbooks were to be published soon. New textbooks were never published and the computer lab program is being chopped across the board, as we speak. In my present school, there is a shortage of geography and history textbooks, students use atlases that still show the Soviet Union (16 years later), and teachers don’t have enough teaching manuals or blackline masters. When I was a student in a small and poor country of communist Poland 50 years ago, a situation like that was unthinkable. This is now and here, 21st century, Canada, New World Order.
12 Good old textbooks are being replaced with new and not-so-good textbooks. While older textbooks included relevant information, logically organized and competently presented, the newer textbooks are often confusing, include disconnected pieces of information, ineffective methodology, and a lot of colourful pictures. They look good, especially to parents who don’t know any better, but their quality and educational usefulness are unacceptable. It is often difficult to argue this case, as teachers and administrators are not required to specialize in specific subjects, and most of the younger educators don’t remember the old textbooks. Nevertheless, the difference between the old and the new textbooks is noticeable and alarming.
Probably the best example of a sabotaged program is mathematics. The old textbooks were well organized and the material was presented in a simple, easy to understand way. New concepts and skills were logically derived from concepts and skills learned earlier, each section included the explanation of the concept, related definitions and formulas, algorithms and exercises to practice skills, and problem solving assignments to apply new knowledge in real life situations.
The new mathematics textbooks present material using the “reversed pyramid” technique, where the complex problems are first introduced and then students are expected to discover the underlying concepts and skills. Definitions and formulas are usually missing, and so are exercises to practice basic skills. New, unknown to parents, and unnecessarily complicated algorithms are being taught. Information is not logically and sequentially organized, irrelevant or less important information is presented while more important elements are missing. Many examples are discussed but concepts and skills are not introduced clearly. Material presented in such a way leads to incidental learning and to learning by memorization of isolated skills instead of learning by understanding. Material learned in such a way is quickly forgotten.
Only a small percentage of exceptionally talented students can actually benefit from the modern, up-side-down textbooks, providing that extra help in learning the concepts and practicing the skills is given.
I can understand why publishers, who compete with the old textbooks, develop “different” approaches and “different” methodologies. However, different does not mean better. It would be better, if publishers focused their efforts on a sound understanding of the subject of mathematics instead. It would also be better, if ministry officials, who order and select the textbooks for our schools, were more competent. ”
Actually, I don’t believe that they are incompetent. Welcome to the New World Order in education.
13 Increasing number of administrative duties and other bureaucratic requirements, which result in less time available to teachers for preparation of academic materials and lessons, and for evaluation of students’ achievement.