Charlie Sykes Quote

“The public expects too much from teachers because educationists have led it to believe teachers could be substitute parents, psychotherapists, cops, social workers, dieticians, nursemaids, babysitters, and nose wipers and still do a decent job teaching kids to read, write, and do math. Instead of saying no, educationists have added courses in environmental education, death education, personal hygiene, self-esteem, driver's ed, job readiness, sexual harassment, radon studies, yoga, yogurt awareness, and god-knows-what-else.”

~ Charlie Sykes

Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add (1996)

Ratings and Comments


jim k, austin

5 stars squared.

Emily, C'ville

I'd like to see some quotes that address reality -- the lifeline education offers, given the effect of Welfare Reform (no more extended family members in low-income neighborhoods) and ineffective remedies to poverty.

E Archer, NYC

Here's the thing: Liberty, independence, self-reliance, honesty, productivity, compassion, courage, respect -- all these ideal qualities are a function of taking responsibility for oneself. When our culture promotes being 'saved' by religious (1000s of years) or statist ideologies, we are encouraged to ignore our responsibilities and place them at the feet of 'our lord.' 'Mister' is just a variation of 'master' where only a few short years ago EVERYONE had a master, lord, king. Apparently it is a human quality that can be exploited -- we can become mere domesticted animals if we are conditioned to be. It is because we have given up so much of our responsibilities to others that we are in this mess. As a homeschooling father, I must admit, it is a LOT more work for my wife and I to homeschool our children -- we are involved, we read everything they read, we solve every problem they must solve, and we encourage them to find their own ways to solve things. Heck, they must learn how to take care of themselves. We do hire other people to teach them music, swimming, and art, and they get involved in community plays, events, and field trips. So what are they missing? If anything they are learning about how to live and provide for themselves. They are not without socialization -- all of public life is socialization! They have friends and socialize with adults easily. They do not need to be told what to do all the time -- they have resposibilities and they understand that they are the key to being completely independent. The thing is, children are born dependent, and they can stay dependent all their lives if they are conned into becoming permanent servants by those with armies of employees. You may think this strange, but we actively remind our children to stay out of debt! Easy credit has really ruined the youth of America. You will never hear in a school the dangers of borrowing from tomorrow to pay for today. 12 years of this kind of statist conditioning is very hard to break. I only hope they will learn to live within their means and enjoy this miraculous life as is.

Mike, Norwalk

Thank you Archer, said well!

will, portsmouth

Why do teachers become teachers? Lessons extend beyond a state syllabus. Teachers are one of the better things about society and the fact that through history they have progressed countless persons beyond the life they would have received if they had just taught maths and not looked at their students as projects.

Nancy, Lancaster

This is truth!

RBESRQ
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  • Reply
RBESRQ    1/9/09

Of course teachers are not substitute parents what a silly statement. Well said Will and Emily - thank god there are some people on this blog who are not in rapture over the latest cool-aid. You need money for private education and time if you choose parental choice, neither of which is in the realm of reality for most Americans. Please step down from your ivory towers into the real world. Very good Archer but I'm afraid sad to the point that children need to be with other children they need to know the heartbreaks they need to deal with bullies, they need interaction and all that goes with that (the good and the bad). Do you teach ethics - to do so you must have training. I am astonished how selfish we are. Archer, I do agree we must be responsible for our own actions and be more self reliant. I also agree its the parents responsibility to help in the education of their children but not to exclude them from the wonderful experience of learning with other children. I'm sorry, but your path is a selfish one - I just hope your children agree with your decision to home-school them.

Mike, Norwalk

Robert (RBESRQ), how is it selfish that my youngest was doing 6th grade math at a 2nd grade age or, was reading highschool level at a 3rd grade age? How do children in families (especially with siblings) miss learning about heart break? Can children learn about bullies without being personally beat up and still grow from it? Of course they can. Ethics? I guess you truly are an Atheist. Only an Atheist would say you must be trained in ethics to be able to teach it. (does that mean you you were professionally trained in kindness?) My religious teachings to my child address ethics, as includes by way of very terse example: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only? what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so?" (Jesus, found in Matthew 5: 43-47) I've ben a home schooler for a long time, been associated with many different related associations and groups and have not found 1 home schooler that excludes their children from the wonderful experience of learning with other children. For another very terse example: I used Boy Scout merit badges as starting points of learning topics. Not only did my boys know more about the topic than anybody but, they got practical association with all facets of society and the other boys. One of my children was ranked nationally in an Olympic event - a lot of association there, learning from kids all over the world. My children help at food banks, disaster relief efforts, the elderly's places of abode, etc. I have not had the time or wherewithal to do as much with or for my children as I would like or, as I've seen others do. Each family does what it can. Archer's statement was very good and addressed that very point. How is any of that selfish???

E Archer, NYC

Believe me, I have NO regrets about taking full responsiblility for my children's education. I am not against teachers or learning, I am against mediocrity. As I said, I was always ahead in school (I skipped grade 7 and was offered to skip grade 8, too, but I declined), and now that I am almost grown up, what a bunch of time was wasted by NOT giving me the education I was eager for. My parents were geniuses and got full scholarships to university and even Harvard Law School (and they went to school in one room school houses in rural Indiana). I did not want to waste the time of my children by placing them in institutions -- they are too smart and love to learn and explore. RBESRQ, you have told us that you are gay and atheist, and from what I can gather, school was more fun than being at home -- perhaps your parents were religious and intolerant of you -- if so, that is a shame. But just know that public school is even more intolerant of the individual. Collectivists love to have a gang to hang out with -- individualists prefer to soar alone. For me, those whom I have come to admire the most were individualists. To each their own. Indeed, the family is the core issue -- I don't know if RBESRQ has children, but the state is a poor parent and a horrible example full of hypocrisy and ulterior motives -- just what exactly are the ideals of the state that trump the ideals of the individual and his/her family? Remember, the state is subservient to the People, not the other way around! It should not be up to the state to decide whether a parent must accept compulsory state indoctrination if the parent is willing to live up to their own responsibility for raising (i.e. educating, feeding, caring for) their children. Mandatory government services are authoritarian, totalitarian, and feudalistic. Americans are supposed to be bigger than that...

J Carlton, Calgary

All that on their plate and they still manage to throw in a great big dollop of Socialism. I'm amazed by the fact that we'll refuse to give the state our guns (rightfully so) but give them our children's minds. Insanity.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Children are people too! If adults can take classes in scuba, square dancing, grunting (making worms come to the surface for collecting and fishing) why cannot children be taught these things also. Their is much more to the world than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Get out of your boring mentalities, expand your horizons and let people laugh, play and have some fun! The fact that adults today need to consult so many dieticians and fat doctors is proof that they failed to learn these things as kids. Sounds like we need more of that in school.

RBESRQ
  • Reply
    RBESRQ    1/11/09

    Mike and Archer, you both make good points and your actions are probably honorable - you both sound like good chaps and are well intentioned. All I am saying is that the kind of fun I had at school could never have been experienced at home. My parents were the best in the - I would play chess with my father for hours and when I stared to have more wins than losses he said my job is done - my mother not once raised her voice to me and I mean raised - I believe them both to be Angels. We were not a religious family thought I did attend a religious school. I was a Queen Scout (the highest achievement) I was captain of the school's football and athletic team. My tutors were wonderful and taught me in between my training sessions. I have no doubt that the education I received was the best a child could wish for. Kindness comes from the heart and is my religion (like the 14th Dalai Lama). Ethics is an understanding and the platform from which you say or do is based on that understanding. Please read Understanding Ethics in Development: Rational Reasoning and Cultural Attitudes" by Nitin Sawhney. You can find it on the web. I believe a schooling based on ethics is the foundation of any good education. As a parent it is your responsibility to locate the best for your child.

    Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

    Right on RBESRQ by Dad also taught me chess and he usually argued with me about my latching on to the teaching of my teachers. My parents did not agree with every thing my teachers taught me but of course my parents new little about much of the subject matter like biology, chemistry, alegebra etc. I made choices whether to accept my parents high school educated teaching on these subjects if any or my teachers college educated teaching on these subjects. I usually opted for the teacher except in chess which my Dad knew very well.

    RBESRQ
    • Reply
      RBESRQ    1/12/09

      Waffler, Sarasota has quite a bevy of Chess players so when you are down this way we'll arrange a game.

      E Archer, NYC

      Both Waffler and RBESRQ praise their upbringing -- what I do not understand is why they think that is the ONLY way a child should be raised (and in fact both of their schooling was vastly different). The mistake is thinking that it is the State or the school that 'fulfills' the individual rather than the unplanned experiences of life itself. The similarity of Waffler and RBESRQ's usual comments is that individualism is lonely and unfulfilling while being part of the group (even one with bullies, apparently) IS fulfilling and defines who you are.

      This is a simple difference between collectivists and individualists -- a collectivist's identity is defined by a group, while an individualist's identity is defined by himself.

      My daughter is in university now -- she is paying for it herself, no loans, she has a job. She has lots of friends, is involved in church and charity work -- all on her own, I couldn't keep up with her if I tried. There is a BIG difference between government 'socialization' (i.e. indoctrination) and the natural socialization that occurs in the normal course of daily life.

      You don't need 12 years of schooling to learn MANNERS, but you do need to grow up around it. I find government authority to be just plain RUDE -- and the children pick that up !

      @

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