43: AMERICAN BASIC CURRICULUM/Beta--Parallel Education
Section I: American Basic Curriculum
Section II: Parallel Education
Section III: Foundational Knowledge
American Basic Curriculum
gives parents a quick way
to know if their children
are making reasonable progress in school.
A big problem in American education
is that the authorities will chatter on
about all their exciting new ideas
how children will be transformed
into critical thinkers with 21st century skills,
etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.,
but somehow at the end of the year,
kids don't know nothing.
Not even the most basic things.
They might not even be able to read
or do simple arithmetic.
(chatter instead of content)
is the biggest problem in the public
It's also one that can be worked on.
1) Do not be fooled by the chatter.
2) Rely on simple benchmarks
to gauge whether progress is being
the function performed by
ABC--American Basic Curriculum.
3) Schoolproof kids with Parallel Education--
I: American Basic Curriculum--K-6
American Basic Curriculum is meant to be A REASONABLE
MINIMUM. You don't allow your child to fall below this level.
important point: these benchmarks are meant to be suggestive and helpful. They are certainly not absolutes. Indeed, parents
are encouraged to create their own versions or send improvements.
Math: count to 10; make change with pennies, nickles, dimes;
play checkers, dominos, Bingo; card games using numbers such as “Go Fish”
Language: recite nursery rhymes,
sing songs, and discuss stories; know alphabet and some sounds
Geography: names of oceans, some countries; learn about
maps and diagrams
Science: observe nearby nature; change of seasons; sun, clouds, moon; how things are alike or different
History: explain holidays, birthdays, anniversaries as they
occur; current events; local history
Math: count to 25; do easy problems, e.g., 1+2 = 3
Language: memorize short poem each month; learn to read using synthetic phonics
Geography: child’s city and state, with use of maps
Science: clouds, trees, sun, moon, earth, rain, birds, magnetism, simple machines, hot air rises; introduction to
simple charts and diagrams
History: as in previous
Math: count to 50; add and subtract 2-digit mumbers
Language: a poem each month; read simple stories; penmanship
Geography: names of nearby states, and most populous nations; learn use of maps and
scale of miles
Science: discussions of things
in child’s environment; puzzles; drawing of diagrams, shapes, and objects; sounds and music
History: as in previous
grade but with increasing depth
Math: add and subtract 3-digit mumbers; learn about bigger numbers
Language: memorize short poem each month, read simple books (not text books, real
books); foreign language as early as feasible; public speaking
Geography: names of 10 nearest states, and 10 main countries
Science: orbits of planets; gravity;
weather; farming; cars, machines
American and World History: as in previous grade
Math: easy multiplication and division
Language: read homework; penmanshp; a foreign
language; magazines and newspapers
Geography: 20 nearest states; 20 main countries by historical connection to USA
Science: simplest parts of biology, chemistry and physics; use of magnifiying glass, microscope, telescope
as in previous grades; learn about years, decades, generations, centuries; a sense of time
Math: more complex multiplication and division; easy algebra (x + 3 = 5)
Language: write small essays
Geography: 30 nearest states; capitals; countries in news; use of newspapers, magazines,
Science: human body; microscopic organisms; and common phenomena, including field trips to discuss trees, grass,
birds, local points of interest, etc.
American History: more systematic, emphasis on major events, periods, and dates;
the structure of history
Math: more complex multiplication and division
Language: reading serious
novels, essays and poetry
Geography: all states, 25 major countires by GDP
Science: more complex parts of biology,
chemistry and physics; experiments and resarch explained; visit museums
World History: more systematic, emphasis on major
events, periods, and dates; the structure of history
American Basic Curriculum has this goal:
a wide foundation endlessly
reinforced, built higher and higher, year by year, into a solid educational structure.
This is a curriculum
for all students; nothing is taught on a deep or advanced level.
The ABC Philosophy: Start early, don’t
The premise is that children absolutely need to know the basics
in each subject--the foundational knowledge--that will allow them to advance to the higher levels.
The second section discusses Parallel Education.
A third section explores the importance of Foundational Knowledge.
American Basic Curriculum
gives parents a quick
to know if their children
are makng reasonable progress in school.
There’s another aspect:
American Basic Curriculum
suggests that the best ways to reform our public schools
might be to work from outside
to work from the flanks,
as military people put it.
Here’s a bigger example of
that I call Parallel Education--
PARALLEL EDUCATION: A PROPOSAL
The Education Establishment
operates public schools weighed down by social engineering,
counterproductive innovations, and a
casual acceptance of mediocrity.
foundations waste millions of dollars
trying to make this Education Establishment
pretend to care about education
as traditionally defined.
Let’s spend that money a better way.
The pro-education foundations
fund a creative alliance
with the mission
of producing short teaching films
with high cinematic quality
and extreme entertainment value
in every subject
and for each grade.
These videos would supplement what is taught in the public schools,
but the videos would try
to do in minutes
what these schools struggle to do in weeks or months.
Typically, these videos
would be 15-minute modules,
with titles such as "Geography/Third
Grade" or "American History/Fifth Grade."
All materials would be available both for home use,
on the alliance’s website, and on TV syndication.
Parents and children would watch the appropriate
for each child during the summer. Several hours at most.
In this way the children would be pre-schooled
Children would arrive in school already knowing a lot
and expecting to learn more.
would expect them to learn more.
Public schools couldn’t continue in their
They would have to deliver.
That is the whole strategy.
Note that not one dollar goes to the schools,
is one word wasted begging educators to improve.
As Archimedes said,
give me a lever and I can move the Earth.
with the right lever,
we can move something as
immovable as the Education Establishment.
The future lies in Parallel Education.
We don’t ask public schools to improve.
We show them what real
education looks like,
and pressure them to keep up.
Fine print: it’s important that professors
not be involved in producing these films
should they contain tests, grades or other echoes of school).
We want TV talent, Hollywood talent, Broadway talent.
And genius graduate students to check the facts.
Fast, fun, factual, and foundational--that’s the formula.
How will we know
if we are successful?
If a big portion of the audience turns
out to be non-students.
That is, adults desperate to remedy
the bad education
they received years ago.
Memo to MBA's:
Whether this project ends up as profit or non-for-profit,
a business person with a business plan
be the perfect catalyst.
Generically speaking, PARALLEL EDUCATION can refer to
everything done OUTSIDE the public schools to compensate for what is done badly INSIDE the schools (e.g., Parallel Education
includes learning centers, tutoring services, homeschooling, self-help books, educational TV, and much else).
I think it helps if we view all this activity as a single response
to a single problem. The massive extent of the response shows how vast the problem is.
The Education Establishment should be ashamed that so many people feel compelled to
try to compensate for their failures. Why don't the elite educators listen and change policies? If they won't, the present
amount of Parallel Education is not massive enough.
III: FOUNDATIONAL KNOWLEDGE
THE WISE PERSON KNOWS:
"YOU CAN'T BUILD ANYTHING WITHOUT A FOUNDATION."
(All of modern educational theory can be summed
There's no need to bother with a foundation.)
What can you teach a child???
perplexes modern education. Typically, I suspect, because the people asking the question are not seeking an answer so much
as a pretext to teach very little. So they come up with concepts like “developmentally appropriate,” “reading
readiness,” "learning styles," "diverse learners," and “Piagetian stages.” Almost always
these concepts are excuses for delay.
So let’s ask this question again and actually try to find an answer.
Here’s mine: YOU CAN TEACH A CHILD ALMOST ANYTHING YOU CAN TEACH AN AVERAGE ADULT.
Imagine a bowling club,
a garden club, a Shriners convention, an old folks home. Imagine 50 ordinary, middle-brow, middle-class people. In short,
average humans. Now the question is, what could you (supposing you were called upon to deliver an after-lunch lecture) attempt
to teach them?
I think we immediately know that we could teach them anything -- archaeology, Shakespeare’s
plays, Roman history -- but we certainly wouldn’t try to do it on a thorough, pretentious or complex level. We would
instinctively sort out the most interesting nuggets, the easy themes, the juicy anecdotes, the bits and pieces that might
relate to their lives or build on things they already know. It’s all rather obvious, isn’t it?
I submit that if were talking about a class of average six- and seven-year-olds, we can teach them all the things that we
might try to teach them if they were 50 years older.
It’s not that children can’t be taught
most subjects. It’s that the Education Establishment specializes in not trying. They have a prejudice against knowledge.
So they concoct gimmicks to justify that prejudice, and complacently teach nothing. If we are going to be irrational, I’d
rather do so at the other extreme, and try to teach everything!
When we look back at John Dewey's baleful influence on American education, one particular sin stands out. He and his buddies targeted the lowest grades. He was part of a group that didn't want reading taught until the fourth grade. Kids
are so open and plastic at that time. Ready to learn, eager to learn. Dewey wanted them confined to cooking, sewing and carpentry.
As a result, schools are only now beginning to realize just how much can be taught to young children.
By the way: instead of going to education schools, where future teachers learn to feel that jargon
and obscurity are normal, and intellectual thinness acceptable, they should go to “finishing schools” that would
do two things: top off their mastery of subject (their major in college); and turn each one into a good speaker-actor-storyteller.
Such teachers would be perfect for teaching foundational knowledge.
Another way to approach this issue is to make a list of all the things that an
adult ought to know. And then go right ahead and teach this information in the first grade (and thereafter).
Here is a list I jotted down in 20 minutes without any deep thought. I suspect you could teach, or
at least touch on, all of these things to young children:
clock, 24-hour clock; AM versus PM
Longitude and latitude
Northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere
The three oceans and the seven continents
North Pole, South Pole
North, East, South, West
Interstates -- what the I on the highway signs means
The cost of postage per ounce; 16 ounces equal 1 pound
4 quarts equals one gallon, using products from
the grocery store
Animal, vegetable or mineral
Cause and effect
AM versus FM
The easy Aesop’s fables
The meaning of the most popular cliches, such as "a stitch
in time saves nine" and "birds of a feather flock together"--this is real "critical thinking"
12 inches equal one foot; 3 feet equal 1 yard; equals about 1 meter
in our currency system
Moose Code (... - - - ...)
The dozen most common tools (hammer, saw, etc.)
Ice, water, steam
AC versus DC current
40W, 60W, 100W (bulbs)
names for roads, streets, avenues, boulevards, lanes, drives, crescents
60 seconds equals one minute; 60 minutes
equal one hour; clocks used in different sports
seeds grow into grass
A history of transportation: walking, horses, boats, trains, cars, airplanes, rockets
Presumably you can suggest others.
A teacher might mention one of these each day, and later cycle back around. Meanwhile, if you like
unpleasant dreams, imagine how many students get through to 12th grade and never hear many of these things explained. Equally
terrifying, imagine how many teachers would not feel up to the task of explaining much of this simple stuff. Martin Gross
wrote a book called "Conspiracy of Ignorace" in 1999. This is what he was talking about: teachers who don't know;
schools that don't teach; kids who don't learn.
When we teach things at a very easy level, it’s remarkable how equal the
human race is. The differences in human abilities manifest themselves as soon as you start teaching anything at a higher level.
Some children will race ahead of others. That’s the way it is.
So what is the socialist or “progressive”
solution for dealing with this? To teach nothing for as many years as they can get away with it. At which point the more academic
kids are pushed up into another world. Meanwhile, the ordinary kids are left ignorant and unchallenged. I keep thinking how
undemocratic and wasteful this is. I was recently startled to read that Germany is the #1 exporting nation. The fact that
they educate their kids probably has something to do with it.
One of the things our socialists say they want is
equality. But they perversely do everything that will guarantee the most inequality.
The obvious solution is to
keep the children at the easy level as long as possible. Let them wallow there for years. Let them play together in the shallow
end of the pool for all it’s worth, learning more and more and more foundational knowledge. (This is education wide,
broad and enduring; versus the usual approach, which is narrow, isolated and transient.) Children can do a great deal in the
shallow end of the pool. Why disdain it? Indeed, think of all the different activities that children (or adults) can do in
the shallow end. Almost everything, that’s the point!
Let’s think of something like chemistry. The
difficulty that will separate children from each other is the math, the formulas. So let’s ignore them as long as possible.
Teach all the chemistry you can teach without mentioning any math. Chemistry then becomes a topic that you could teach to
fourth graders or sixth graders or eighth graders. Teach chemistry the way Mr. Science would teach it. Or the way the Learning
Channel would teach it. Most people will not take chemistry in college; they will never use it on the job. So they do not
need any of the mathematics. In the lower levels you could teach so much interesting chemistry, so much fascinating stuff,
if you think in terms of the audience and how people will actually use the information.
RELATED ARTICLES ON THIS SITE ARE:
20: The Quizz
26: How To Teach History, Etc.
for Helping Your Child Do Better in School
32: Teaching Science
39: How To Teach Physics, Etc.
45: The Crusade Against Knowledge -- The Campaign Against Memory
© Bruce Deitrick Price 2012