Monday, January 26, 2004


"Minnesota's Commissioner of Education, comprehensively relates the history of American middle schools, focusing on a reform movement dedicated to egalitarianism that took shape in the middle of the 20th century. As part of this movement, a body of research and literature grew around the ideas that 1) middle school students cannot learn challenging material, 2) treating students differently based on skill level is harmful, and 3) middle schools should be used to conduct social experiments. The National Middle School Association, founded in 1973, embraced these ideas and led a movement to make all students equal through the suppression of excellent students.

This, says Yecke, is unethical. "Public schools were never meant to be the vehicle for massive social experiments aimed at achieving the questionable utopian goals of an elite few," she says.

Clearly the most destructive and widely-practiced method to accomplish these ends is what Yecke calls "heterogeneous grouping." Here students within classes are broken into groups and given assignments. The groups intermingle talented students with students who, though capable, either do not apply themselves to the same degree or do not grasp concepts as quickly. The result is that gifted students who already understand the material are not challenged by the content, thereby preventing their advancement and attenuating their ability to perform. The students who do not grasp the material do not participate as much in the project at hand, convinced that the talented students can do the work quicker and more completely; these non-participants, who are in need of the practice, then fall further behind their peers. Yecke explains how this process also takes place through peer tutoring and cooperative learning (similar to heterogeneous grouping).

Thus, in an attempt to treat all students equally, proponents of egalitarianism and "heterogeneous grouping" successfully restrain talented students, preventing their success, and completely alienate the perfectly capable students who simply take longer to grasp the same concepts.

"Amazingly, their message is that high ability students should succumb to peer pressure and strive not to achieve, or they will risk making their classmates look bad--and their actions might even go so far as to force these non-motivated students to work harder!" Yecke says.

In her final chapter, "Implications for the 21st Century," a perceptive analysis of the implications of the middle school movement, Yecke argues that the movement's core values are un-American. "American values such as rewarding individual effort, honoring individual achievement, and promoting healthy competition have given way to a capricious smorgasbord of liberal ideas that undermine...traditional values in many of our schools." She goes on to say, "Beliefs driving radical equity include the leveling of achievement and the desire for equality of outcomes. This is in stark contrast with the premise underlying our nation's founding principles."

The middle school reform movement has sabotaged America's schools, and this intellectual genocide needs to be stopped. In one sense, while middle school reformers have not made all students equal, they have given all students subject to their poisonous methods something in common: none can achieve their full potential"

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