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The Conspiracy of Ignorance: The Failure of American Public Schools


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 - ...
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Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. 1999 Hardcover New 0060194588. FLAWLESS COPY, BRAND NEW, PRISTINE, NEVER OPENED; Signed by AuthorAuthor.

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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.
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Editorial Reviews

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Book ReviewFew of us were prepared for Martin Gross's The Conspiracy of Ignorance and its revelations of unprepared teachers and squandered academic standards. For instance, how many parents knew that most teachers and administrators come from the bottom-third of their class and are outscored on SAT's by their own college-bound students? In hardcover, this educational indictment drew praise from parents' groups and worried glances from hidebound administrators.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060194581
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/25/1999
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin L. Gross, has written more than a dozen books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Government Racket: Washington Waste from A to Z, which began the serious debate over capricious and wasteful government, and A Call for Revolution, as well as The End of Sanity, The Medical Racket and The Conspiracy of Ignorance. His 1995 bestseller, The Tax Racket, exposed the excesses of the IRS and asked for its elimination. He has testified before the U. S. Congress five times. Three of his prior nonfiction works, The Brain Watchers, The Doctors, and The Psychological Society, stimulated public debate in the fields of psychological testing, medicine, and psychiatry, resulting in Congressional hearings and reforms. Mr. Gross has been a member of the faculty of The New School for Social Research and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Science at New York University. He lives and works in suburban Connecticut.

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Read an Excerpt


The Decline of Teaching
and Learning

A large group of eager American 8th graders from two hundred schools coast-to-coast were excited about pitting their math skills against youngsters from several other nations.

The math bee included 24,000 thirteen-year-olds from America, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, and four Canadian provinces, all chosen at random and given the same 63-question exam in their native language.

It was a formidable contest, and the American kids felt primed and ready to show off their mathematical stuff. In addition to the math queries, all the students were asked to fill out a yes-no response to the simple statement "I am good at math."

With typical American confidence, even bravado, our kids responded as their teachers would have hoped. Buoyed up by the constant ego building in school, two-thirds of the American kids answered yes. The emphasis on "self-esteem" - which permeates American schoolhouses-was apparently ready to pay off.

Meanwhile, one of their adversaries, the South Korean youngsters, were more guarded about their skills, perhaps to the point where their self-esteem was jeopardized. Only one-fourth of these young math students answered yes to the same query on competence.

Then the test began in earnest. Many of the questions were quite simple, even for 8th graders. One multiple-choice query asked: "Here are the ages of five children: 13, 8, 6, 4, 4. What is the average age of these children?" Even adults, long out of the classroom, would have no trouble with that one. You merely addup the numbers and divide by 5. The answer, an average age of 7, was one of the printed choices.

How did the confident American kids do on that no-brainer, on which we would expect a near-100 percent correct response? The result was ego-piercing. Sixty percent of our youngsters got it wrong.

When the overall test results came in, the Americans were shocked. Their team came in last, while the South Koreans won the contest. The most interesting equation was one of paradox. The math scores were in inverse ratio to the self-esteem responses. The Americans lost in math while they vanquished their opponents in self-confidence. The South Koreans, on the other hand, lost the esteem contest, but won the coveted math prize.

This bears an uncanny relationship to the American Education Establishment, those in charge of teaching our children. They are self-confident, even arrogant, about their modern theories and methods of teaching, which they believe are doing an excellent job. But once again, self-esteem, this time of the teaching vocation, is challenged by the results.

If our children are not doing well - and they are not - are there other examples to demonstrate a shortfall in student performance? There are many, including contests that show us regularly vanquished by youngsters from around the globe.

In February 1998, the U.S. Department of Education issued the discouraging results of American high school seniors in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), a worldwide competition among twenty-one nations.

" U.S. twelfth graders performed below the international average and among the lowest of the 21 TIMSS countries on the assessment of mathematical general knowledge," they reported.

This was no exaggeration. The American student scored nineteenth out of the twenty-one nations, doing so poorly in math that they only outperformed teenagers from two underdeveloped countries-Cyprus and South Africa. Dishearteningly, their scores were 20 percent lower than those of students in the Netherlands, a nation that must live on its brainpower - as America might someday be forced to do.

But aside from these defeats in international mental battles, how do our kids do in terms of general knowledge, responses that adults can relate to? After all, we were once in elementary and high school ourselves and took similar courses.

The best estimates of schoolchildren's learning skills come from the "Report Card to the Nation and the States," one of the few successful federal efforts in education. Conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the "NAEP" tests in reading, math, science, history, and geography provide biennial scores that give us a rude insight into what's really happening in American schoolrooms.

What do they show? Very simply, the results are discouraging, confirmation of appalling ignorance across the academic spectrum.

From the American history quizzes, it is apparent that youngsters are not properly taught the story of their nation. Two out of three seventeen-year-olds, most ready to go on to college, did not know the meaning of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Less than half the 16,000 high school seniors tested recognized Patrick Henry's defiant challenge, "Give me liberty or give me death."

Even fewer teenagers-punished by a lax, unfocused schoolhouse-knew of the existence of the War of 1812, the Marshall Plan that saved Europe, or Lyndon Johnson's Great Society.

In science, high schoolers displayed frightening ignorance in a nation whose future, in peace and war, depends heavily on technology. The majority could not figure out that a shadow cast by the rising sun would fall to the west. Only 1 in 8 of the 1 1th graders were judged even "adequate" on a test of Analytic Writing. On a map of the world, most could not find Southeast Asia.

But students are only half the school equation. If they are not smart enough, or nearly as smart as parents believe, at least teachers can hold their own in the world of intelligence and knowledge. Correct?

Hardly. In Massachusetts, in April 1998, the state department of education introduced a new examination for the licensing of would-be teachers, almost all of whom had received a bachelor of education degree shortly before.

The test, as we shall later see, was not designed to challenge the teacher candidates at particularly high levels. But it did expect that they could at least write a lucid sentence. If so, everyone involved was disappointed. Of the 1,800 test-takers, 59 percent - 3 out of every 5 - flunked...

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Table of Contents

1 An Indictment of the Education Establishment 1
2 A Tale of American Student Failure 16
3 The Making of a Modern Teacher 39
4 The Debased Reading Curriculum 71
5 Licensing and Certification of Teachers 90
6 The Debased General Curriculum 104
7 The Psychologized Classroom 129
8 Private, Parochial, and Charter Schools 149
9 Alternate Certification of Teachers 175
10 Middle School and High School 185
11 The Teachers' Unions 211
12 The Establishment and the Community 226
Conclusion: How to Reform, Rebuild, and Regain Our Public Schools 246
Endnotes and Bibliography 255
Index 277
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2006

    Time for improvement in our schools

    Gross is not out for malice against teachers he simply wants to examine schools. He wants to explore the superior and appalling while trying to prove that though great intentions are had by many they are sometimes producing an unfortunate product. Gross¿s Conspiracy of Ignorance is a straightforward read with short and to the point chapters. His writing is uncomplicated to understand and chapters cover a wide range of topics all with vast interest for educators. In addition to this, the index in the end can serve as an excellent tool for research. As a teacher this book held my interest right off the bat. The reason being Gross began his book citing facts as to how our students have severally fallen behind academically. I firmly agree with Gross¿s psychologized classroom chapter because many students have to deal with death, divorce, drugs, suicide, and abundant more than ever before. As educators we need to be aware of our student¿s emotions and issues while teaching them, and we should know how to handle their concerns accordingly. At the same time, I disagree with Gross¿s statement pertaining to catholic school teachers being state certified and their pay cut do to devotion. I disagree with this due to personal experience. I attended a catholic school for eight years and my teachers were not certified. I needed extra help and it was not known how to give it to me because of this I lagged behind my peers in a public high school. Maybe the date has ban affect on this but as to my knowledge catholic school teachers are still not certified. This book written in 1999, talks of Clinton¿s call for smaller class sizes, which have since been cut down. Furthermore, back in ¿99 there was much talk of raising the standards for teachers. Since then it is not easy to become a teacher. This book and Bush might have paved the road for the first-rate qualifications. In ¿99 I started college and every year my GPA to remain an education major went up and up. I might have complained, however, today I agree with Gross and others point. Raising the standards got rid of poor educators and let the ones that had the determination prevail. Gross¿s conclusion to this book was one of the best I have seen. Gross restated his thesis at the beginning and followed up one it at the end by listing 19 solutions to the Bill of Indictment stated in the previously. His dedication to education and his follow through relating to his solutions made this an excellent piece of literature. My only suggestion regarding this book would be that there was too much concern dealing with wanting our children to be gifted. There are two different types of children in most classrooms the struggling child and the bright child. Good teachers work their hardest to turn the struggling child around. The students need to know it is okay that they do not learn at the same time or level. I good educator wants the gifted child to realize all his or her potential and reach for the stars. I recommend this book to anyone involved in education parents, teachers, school and board members. It might also help people that are just entering the education program in college and are confused as to why it might be so hard for upcoming teachers. It is a tough job with many challenges and this book will help future teachers to realize they need to be prepared!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 1999

    Education-Truth Be Told

    Martin Gross presents a compelling but devasting review of educational 'principles and practices' which should cause trauma to all associated with public education throughout this nation. His presentations and analyses are well documented and lead to frightening conclusions for parents, teachers and administrators. The entire process of public 'education' is examined from the preparation of teachers - with its uncritical and amorphous college content, inviting students of lower intellectual capacities to enter the lists of future 'educators'to an evaluation of the unchallenged human potential (students) in the classroom (boredom and irrevelance) to the passivity and accomodation of that genre of 'educators' (administrators) themselves without serious learning or adequate teaching experience. It becomes a case of the 'blind leading the blind.' Our record in international academic competitions are close to the bottom achievement - a fact best kept from public oversight. I agree with his recommendation that competition - public 'choice' (unfavorable to Unions) must become a reality if education is to be reformed. In a democracy, education is the one outstanding example of undemocratic procedures. Political forces are strong in resisting a 'reformation'. This intransigence will eventually create a citizenry ill-prepared personally and socially to continue our democratic freedoms. Jefferson stated that nation that believes that it can survive as a democracy without the education of its citizens aspires to what never has been or never will be. This is a book that critically and realistically evaluates the present and presents positive conditions for re-establishing substantive reforms.

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