Something new in Cayman education? Let’s return to the old

The recent story of 17 students passing a math exam out of 139 re-taking it points out the sorry state of education in Cayman’s public schools. We have spent millions of dollars on new physical facilities which turn out the same unacceptable results. Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and expecting different results.

Want a different result? Go back to the tried and true old ways. Ever since educators bought into “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” in other words, into the “new math,” that there is no need for teaching English grammar nor sentence construction, and into the fantasy that every child is intellectually curious, many high school graduates cannot read, write or do basic math, let alone know very much about the wide world around them. This is the product being foisted on unsuspecting, but increasingly aware, employers.

The “new” math has befuddled many parents, and continues to do so, let alone the poor students attempting to master it. The results are clearly not only disastrous for pupils, but also our whole country.

Why is it that a 1950s or early 1960s high school diploma is the equivalent of a university degree today (and I am being generous)? Why is it that, using Canada as an example, today’s students cannot pass a test which students of all ages in a one room schoolhouse in rural Saskatchewan could pass in 1913?

This is a phenomenon which occurs all over the world. The economist Thomas Sowell has called it the “vision of the anointed”. In other words, the elite educational bureaucracy bought into methods of teaching which do not benefit the majority of students who need a foundation of basic skills and knowledge on which to build their real-life experience.

Any attempt to challenge the “vision of the anointed” and to say that the “emperor has no clothes” is met with ridicule by the educational establishment – as in, you must be stupid to challenge the vision of all those government bureaucrats and expensive consultants.

I do not blame teachers who are caught up, along with students and their parents, in this grand charade. However, it is time to stop the charade and tell the truth. Why were methods of teaching and doing math, which had been successful for centuries, thrown over for the “new” math, the new utopia? I would venture a guess that Linton Tibbetts, when growing up on the Brac, was not taught the “new” math. I would also venture that, along with the “old” math, he was taught English grammar, geography, physics and civics.

Therefore, do you want to change the results? Go back to the old ways. They are tried and true. I recognise that the apologists for the “anointed” will have more excuses for not doing so than Carter has liver pills. However, the time for excuses is over. The time for accountability has arrived and must be demanded.

Paul Simon