Education: structure and content

Modern American students face a double dilemma, the structure of our educational systems is wrong and content is lacking—not that they much care, but education is critical to their future. Proper adult-structured guidance is necessarily needed. All American students must learn traditional subjects: English literature, math, science, American history and civics. Their citizenship and future depend on it.

George Leef, research director at The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh, N. C., writes about the obsolescence of our public education models, based on “Germany’s regimented approach.” Mr. Leef refers to a currently published book “The New School” by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a Tennessee law professor. (link)

In the 19th Century American intellectuals became enamored with students as products— designed to be “useful as future tools.” They thought that the German K-12 system of mass education was necessary to produce workers in our industrializing northern states. The German university system was adopted to further academic research.

But these systems now fail to provide proper student education because of “low-standards, fad prone schools of education” and “warm and fuzzy, education-lite teaching” rather than “rigorous, intellectually demanding work.” Author Reynolds believes that the low academic ability of many American young people and “the social trouble that is caused by feral teenagers” results from the “artificial extension of childhood.” Leef thinks “going to college often extends it by (at least) four years.”

Mr. Leef and many other serious thinkers about education have observed that lack of intellectual adult guidance has failed our students. They’ve largely been allowed to take any path they want to—usually the one of least resistance; having neither proper structure nor a standard study curriculum that must be followed. Dr. Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College in Michigan, has also written about this.

Dr. Arnn reminds us that the word “education” comes from Latin meaning “to lead forth.” I say that we should ask: how and where are American students being led? Arnn believes that the center of education,” has been abandoned in America. Hillsdale College preserves that model.

Hillsdale has a core group of courses that every student must take—with a unifying principle: “that there is a right way to live that one can come to know.” He contrasts this classic educational quality (content) with modern education that “treats students chiefly as factors of production.” Without proper structure and content students are left to wander in an academic wilderness with little to show for large amounts of time and money spent.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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