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Educational Faddism Then and Now

Commentary Among the many brilliant insights of the great Thomas Sowell is the following gem: “Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. In area after area—crime, education, housing, race relations—the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them.” Here, I want to provide a brief personal history that highlights the “education” aspect of Dr. Sowell’s insightful quote. In my lifetime, I’ve personally experienced four education fads, each of which has, in my opinion, had a negative impact on the American educational system. The first of these four is the “new math” that was popular when I was in elementary school. Roughly speaking, the goal of the new math was …

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