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Public Education on Trial

At the 1987 Future of Freedom Conference in California we discussed education malpractice. I was involved with pursuing the topic: Public Education on Trial.
Below are some excerpts from our brochure:
The world is very much as described in Orwell’s 1984.
However, on a small secret island, SANOS, live several hundred people, mostly of the libertarian persuasion. Having detected – as if in an unraveling Greek tragedy – the world’s inexorable, irreversible move to totalitarianism, these people hived-off, with few belongings, to this island. Perceiving the impossibility of resisting the inevitable, they resolve to be the “last man” – the guardians of the human spirit.

They live there quite peaceably. Only rarely, under great danger, do they make communication with the outer world, and only then to rescue some family member.
Very few in the outer world are aware of SANOS. However, an urgent appeal is received, and to the best of their ability to verify, it is a genuine appeal:

Help us to reverse, if possible, our self-destruction.
Have mercy on us.

We are losing the power of intellectual effort to even keep doublethink straight.

We will abide by your judgments and your controls.

The people of SANOS have convened a commission of enquiry to probe the nature of the problem and consider means for solution. The commission has narrowed-down the source of the problem to the public school systems in the outer world.

Having determined the source of the world’s self-sabotage, then the starting-point for reversal (if not too late) is this system – reform, restructure, dismantle ? ? ? The following “crimes to humanity” have been perpetrated by public school systems.

  1.   erosion of the family
  2.   dumbed-down public
  3.   killing the joy of learning
  4.   atrophy of democracy
  5.   growth of obscurantism & mystification
  6.   depletion of choice
  7.   habituation to experts
  8.   dependence on the state – the “free lunch”
  9.   economic sluggishness
  10.  reduction of individualism
  11.  destruction of voluntarism & good samaratinism
  12.  extinguishing introspection

    “School has become the planned process which tools man for a planned world, the principal tool to trap man in man’s trap. It is supposed to shape each man to an adequate level for playing a part in this world game. Inexorable we cultivate, treat, produce, and school the world out of existence." – Ivan Illich, 1971

Our panel to discuss the problem included a Judge, a Prosecutor, an Anthropologist, a Philosopher, a Psychologist, and a Family Advocate.  The responder was the Attorney to the School District.


Education Abuse


Raised awareness helps us see that children’s interests must be protected wherever they are. The schools have their share of practices which hurt children, and parents can be on the alert for these and intervene when needed.


One parent group in the United States actually formed to eliminate drug research on children in schools. There are other experiments, sometimes called innovations, pilot projects, etc. anything new which has not been in your school before should have safeguards built in so that children are not used, either for half-baked amateurish efforts or major shifts in educational practice without the public knowing. Two key documents on human experimentation apply as much to schools as they do elsewhere: Nuremberg Code and the Declaration of Helsinki.(l) The key things to look for are:

1) informed consent of all subjects (if children, parents provide the consent)–informed consent means knowledge of the objectives, methods, expertise being applied;

2) there are fruitful results for the good of the group (not obtainable by other means);

3) all prior knowledge brought to bear (pitfalls, problems, improvements from previous experiences taken into account);

4) avoid physical and mental suffering and injury;

5) ability to leave the experiment at any time,

6) safeguarding the integrity of the individual, especially if the subject is in a dependent relationship as in a teacher-student relationship.

In the recent ‘back-to-the-basics’ trend many teachers are assigning increased homework because they think that’s what parents think ‘back-to-the-basics’ means. Not only are these teachers misreading what parents want, but their homework assignments are taking on a punitive tone. Some of the errors being committed in the name of homework are: overloading, thoughtless or poorly explained assignments, assignments not marked, all students given the same assignments regardless of student’s competence, class follow-up on the assignment done in a way to turn-off students. There is no excuse for homework abuse. There is abundant literature for teachers to know what are good and bad homework practises.


At one time it was easy to show that 100% of the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education dollar was spent on behalf of students K:12. Now, it is harder to justify some of the spending when some of the following are charged: education and social and recreation programs for adults; trustee and officials’ trips to distant locations; memberships for staffs in a myriad of professional organizations ….Without proper monitoring and awareness more and more of the educational dollar will be diverted at the expense of educational programs for children (for whom the money was collected. Accountability, unfortunately is still more theory than practice.


It is known that most children can be taught the basics of most school subjects. It should be a minor scandal that the methods of mastery teaching are being resisted for inconsequential reasons. It is becoming abundantly clear that citizens need a foundation of basic skills and knowledge on which to continue further learning and active citizenship throughout their lives. Educationally handicapping practices which fail to remediate and educate all children in the basics should not be tolerated.


There is ample proof that parent involvement in education improves both educational and social development of children. Failure to work in partnership with the home handicaps the child’s educational potential.
(1) The Test Score Decline, L. Lipritz, Educ. Technology Pub., 1977 (section on “I Don’t Want My Kid to Be a Guinea Pig” page 128)

(2) Positive Mental Health for Teachers, J. Mackiel, March 1979 The Clearinghouse

(3) How One School District Handles Unsatisfactory Teachers. Better Homes and Gardens, Nov. 1979 page 23

Education Malpractice


[My posting today is an article published in Education Advisory newsletter, #10, October 1981. In those times, there was considerable interest in the topic and I will post more material later. It is very telling that in 1980 BC (Canada) school trustees received a letter referring to educational malpractice stating that with respect to special education, “parent involvement is absolutely imperative for the effective delivery of special education services”, and a legal opinion pointed out that parents then “are not as likely to consider having recourse to the Courts”. I find it unfortunate that parent involvement is valued as a means to circumvent malpractice suits. Instead, parent involvement should be valued as sound educational practice.]

We hear sometimes of an action for damages against the unqualified medical practitioner, who has deformed a broken limb in pretending to heal it. But what of the hundreds of thousands of minds that have been deformed forever by the incapable pettifoggers who have pretended to form them!” Charles Dickens, 1830 in Nicholas Nickleby

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