Dumbing Down: Outcomes-based and politically correct--the impact of the Culture Wars on our schools
Hardie Grant Books
If the problems facing America's schools seem too enormous, consider Australia. Like the U.S., Oz trails most of the industrialized world on TIMSS and other international assessments. But it seems slower in coming to grips with the damage that's been done to its education system over the past 30 years. Enter Kevin Donnelly, among the leading Antipodean education thinkers, who has chronicled how progressives hijacked the curriculum beginning in the 1970s and shifted the focus from traditional disciplines (English, history, science, and math) and norm-referenced testing to "child-centered" teaching and criterion-referenced tests with very wishy-washy criteria. The result is "transformational outcomes-based education," whose (im)measurables are driven by the belief that no child should ever fail. But Donnelly's book goes beyond fingering those who have undermined Australian schools (though he does this well). It also builds the case for a strong traditional curriculum (chapter 4), and outlines the states in Australia that are fighting back, as well as how they're doing it (New South Wales and Victoria, in particular). Much of the content will resonate with American readers--the struggles, for example, to root constructivism out of Australia's schools of education sound all too familiar. Still, much of the book will cause one to stop and appreciate, if only for a moment, how very far school reform has come in this country. Purchase it here.