In a series of shocking revelations, Mr. Gross describes how the typical teacher learns little more than a two-year community college graduate; how the average college-bound student scores fifty points higher on his SAT exams than most of his teachers; how the great majority of school teachers are less trained in their own specialties than other college gradua...
In a series of shocking revelations, Mr. Gross describes how the typical teacher learns little more than a two-year community college graduate; how the average college-bound student scores fifty points higher on his SAT exams than most of his teachers; how the great majority of school teachers are less trained in their own specialties than other college graduates in the same field; and how "untrained" teachers in both private and public schools perform better than Establishment graduates.
The usual remedies - from federal aid to smaller class sizes - have done nothing to alleviate these problems because they make no attempt to challenge the Education Establishment's control. In a powerful Bill of Indictment, Mr. Gross shows how the teaching vocation, aided by its unions, maintains a self-perpetuating cycle of low performance, and he offers his own detailed prescription for change that will raise public education to the level our children - and society - need and deserve.
Martin L. Gross has made a career out of books that attack "the establishment," whether it be the medical community (The Doctors) or the general powers that be (The Government Racket). In The Conspiracy of Ignorance, he takes aim at a lumbering, elephant-sized target: public education. Armed with statistics and research papers--the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) being his most prominent sources--Gross rails against the declining performance of U.S. students. While his criticisms--which encompass everything from teachers' unions to "useless" education degrees, PTAs, psychological services in schools, even honor roll bumper stickers--are not new, they make an imposing indictment when presented all together.
Gross poses a number of radical solutions, including the elimination of undergraduate schools of education (replaced by a one-year postgraduate course that prepares scholars to become teachers in their specialty). He believes the entire education system should--and can--be overhauled without spending any more than at present. One of his suggestions to make funds available for reform is to cut support personnel, but he doesn't address how schools would then clean themselves without custodians or how high school crime would be affected by the loss of security guards and police officers. While Gross's tendency to use his own high school experience as a model of excellence grows tiresome, his points are well taken. The Conspiracy of Ignorance will have you either nodding in agreement or aching to wring the author's neck.
--Jodi Mailander Farrell
Longtime institutional critic Gross is always fluent, persuasive, and uncranky. He skewers conservative bugbears like taxes and liberal ones like the medical establishment without spouting either party's line. Now, in one of his best books, he takes aim at an institution, the public schools, that is usually a conservative's target. Unlike many conservatives, though, he advocates reform, not replacement. What really needs to be changed, he says, is the education establishment consisting of colleges of education, teachers' unions, school psychologists, and educational administrators. Proceeding from 19 indictments--items such as "teacher training is lax," "the doctor of education degree . . . is inferior . . . and requires little academic knowledge," and "the Establishment dislikes traditional [teaching] methods" --he presents evidence of their accuracy and of who bears responsibility for them. In the manner of 1960s schools critic Paul Goodman, who believed that carpers must also propose improvements, Gross suggests 19 changes that are ambitious (otherwise, why bother? Goodman would have said) and particular; for instance, "close all undergraduate schools of education." The predicaments (e.g., "dumbed-down" curriculum, the therapeutic classroom, unions protecting incompetence) that Gross points out will be familiar to those who keep up with the public schools debate, but his knack for citing the cogent and authoritative statistic, test ranking, or poll finding at the right time makes his distillation of the massive public-school critique the book those in a hurry should read first.