The Education Enigma is a book of essays pertaining to America’s education system. The question Price poses is: What Happened to American Education? Price proclaims, “The simultaneous decline of American education and the language used by America’s educators is a historical fact.” Over the years I have done some research on this topic, in particular through editing and proofreading of college papers. I found this book very interesting and agree with much of what Price states.
The main crux of Price’s essays deal with the failure of our teaching methods to actually teach children to read. He explains the difference between teaching children to read using whole word strategy and phonics, favoring phonics. According to Price, “When we examine education throughout the 20th century, we see a puzzling array of unproductive ideas. But no failure is as primal and destructive as the inability of American public schools to teach reading-the one essential skill.”
Through his essays Price also touches on the subjects of math, history, science and art. In addition, he provides a history of the American education system along with its downward turn referring to it as the “dumbing down” of America. From John Dewey to Maria Montessori to Rudolf Flesch to Gilbert Highet, Price explains their philosophies and the affects on this country’s education system. He concludes, specifically in regard to Dewey and his followers, “Make no mistake, this was a secret conspiracy.”
Along with this Price argues an excellent point that I always disagreed with: children need to memorize facts and figures even if they can look the answers up, whether in a book or online. I always believed that as long as children were taught where and how to look up answers there is no need for state tests that cause stress for many of our children from fourth grade up. His comment toward this kind of theorizing is: “But will they? No, people usually muddle through with what they actually know in their heads.” I do tend to agree with this point even though I still feel there is too much emphasis placed on state tests.
The Education Enigma is full of information and history pertaining to the American education system. Through some of the titles of his essays it’s easy to see that Price has a sense of humor: Jay Leno: Educator of the Year; Phooey on John Dewey; and Educators are Best Understood as “Ignorance Engineers.”
It is important to mention that Price is not hurling these jabs pertaining to the ineffectiveness of the school system at the teachers in the trenches. It is aimed at those in control of creating and enforcing inadequate teaching strategies. In Price’s words, “When I speak of “educators,” I never mean teachers. I mean that small group of managers at the top, with Ph.D.’s, who effectively control the public schools.”
A final quote from this book that I especially liked: “…Another famous government report, A Nation at Risk (1983) concluded that our public schools seem to have been created by an enemy power. Exactly. An enemy that would want Americans to read feebly and count inaccurately.”
About the author: Bruce Deitrick Price is a novelist, painter, poet and education activist. He graduated from Norfolk Academy and Princeton (with Honors in English Literature). Throughout his career, Price was writing about education. Aside from the arts, his main passion is Improve-Education.org. Price is a member of PEN and Mensa.