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MAINTENANCE OF NATIONAL SCHOLASTIC STANDARDS WITHOUT LO88 OF LOCAL
A third feature of English education that has relevance for us are the techniques she has evolved for raising scholastic achievement levels nationally while leaving the management of public education under local control. Or, to put it differently, we can learn from England how she maintains national scholastic standards while per mitting schoolteachers, local authorities, and universities the widest freedom in running their affairs. Now, as I see it, this combination of freedom with standards of excellence is the most pressing of our educational problems. For this reason we should be eager to find out
In my book Swiss Schools and Ours, 1 describe how it is done in Switzerland, which has the same
federe! form of government as we.
I would now like to describe how it is done in England—a unitary state that does not have our Federal versus States rights problem, but does share our desire to allow local communities the utmost liberty in educational matters.
The Swiss and the English have had much experience with selfgovernment. They also have great political skill. So have we. We could solve this problem just as well, if only we recognized the necessity for doing so. Although innumerable studies, public hearings, and so on have brought out the need for action, we simply keep on going through the motions, debating the issue over and over again while taking no really effective action. We have been treading water for years. The same things are said over and over again. The same people appear before Congress taking up a lot of your time, repeating the same arguments, submitting the same facts. The same case is made by those urging reform-like myself—and by those opposing reform who use the same old cliches of “Federal tyranny" and the glory of local control of American education.
Just so did England procrastinate a century ago. In her case it was a battle over church versus state control, combined with a private versus public education controversy, that prevented necessary and timely action. As we observe English dilatoriness and the consequences to her of postponement of needed school reforms, we may recognize the danger to us of our own inaction if we don't get on with the job. We haven't any time to lose.
THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN ENGLAND AND WALES
Mr. CANNON. That is a matter of particular interest. Could you explain in a little more detail?
Admiral RICKOVER. I will be glad to, sir. I will describe in main outline how English children get educated today. I shall confine my description to England and Wales which comprise the bulk of English children. Northern Ireland and Scotland have somewhat different school systems and there isn't time to go into them here.
The total population of England and Wales is 45 million, slightly less than one quarter the population of the United States. It is packed into an area the size of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey Overall, Britain has about 1 acre per person compared to almost 11 acres per person in the United States. English agriculture is highlı efficient, 80 percent of total land area being farmed or used for pasture and rough grazing, but she cannot feed herself and has to depend on food imports
. In mineral and fuel resources Britain is very poor compared to us and to some continental countries. These facts must be kept in mind when comparing American and English education statistics,
PRIMARY AND JUNIOR GRADES
C! Schooling is obligatory for 10 years—from ages 5 to 15. It is free un to age 19 in the state system, in which 94 percent of England's children are enrolled. Only 6 percent are in private schools receiving no
6 peter tar support. Children attend primary school for 6 years or until the e fall of the year in which they have reached age il. Education is
comprehensive during the primary stage. Children usually stay 2 pears in an infant's and 4 in a junior school; sometimes the two are
combined. Five-year olds get into solid work immediately, doing Dy much reading, writing, and arithmetic every day. In large schools
ther are "streamed,” that is grouped by ability. The school year is De divided into three equal trimesters separated by vacations. This
makes it easier to let the very bright accelerate since they can do it
a third of a school year at a time. Acceleration is more common in ba te ' private than in state schools. vid Primary schools are usually housed in sunny pleasant buildings. want The atmosphere in school is friendly and relaxed yet the children nuove keeper abead at a fast pace and by age ii are usually 1 to 2 years ahead of
American children who have completed the sixth grade. And this in se despite the fact that English children are a year younger, having begun 1schooling at 5 while in this country it is usual to start at 6. They are
ahead because the school has concentrated on basic education, the
teaching has been skillful, and the need to study is more clearly underbecome one stood by the children and their parents. It is better understood at
in part because primary school ends with an examination that
will determine what kind of secondary education each child is to In De = receive
. Finally, there is about 20 percent more class instruction in a giren English school year.
The schoolday lasts from 9 to 4 with time out for lunch. Incider tally, England has since 1906 had school lunches at nominal cost, and free for those unable to pay. Medical care goes back to 1907. The primary school curriculum is so arranged that children devote the biggest block of class time to study of the English language--7 to 10 hours per week. The less able get more instruction to help them
keep pace with the more able. Arithmetic and geometry-in some cribe ce sa schools some slightly higher mathematics also-take up roughly 3%, se to 4 bours & week; about 1 hour each goes to nondenominational re
ligious instruction, to history, to nature study, and to geography. Art
, music, and some craftwork take 2 hours, and every day there is some form of physical education, with or without apparatus, some swimming, dancing or games.
As regards mastery of the English language, all but a small percentVenstre of English children will be reading well by age 10 or 11. During
the last 2 years in primary school, children will be doing compositions. By 11, as one official håndbook puts it, they will know that con
ventional spelling is a necessary civilized convenience." I know American college students who have not yet grasped this simple truth
An interesting comparison of arithmetic achievements here and abroad is made in a booklet by the Council for Basic Education, entitled "Teaching the Third 'R'" This divides arithmetic into 12 separate "study units,” such as “multiplying whole numbers by deci. mals” or “percentages.” By means of textbook comparisons it then shows when these several units are begun and completed. We find that of these 12 units only 2 are studied in England in the same grade as in this country, 6 are studied 1 grade earlier, 2 are studied 15 grades earlier, 2 are studied 2 grades earlier. Lest we think this is some particular English virtue, let me hasten to tell you that in France children are 2 years ahead of us in siz units, 12 years in 2, and 1 year in 2. Incidentally, I notice in Max Raeff's "Report on Russia's Big Red Schoolhouse," an algebraic problem that is studied by Leningrad fourth graders but which usually occurs for the first time in American eighth grade textbooks.
Mind you, this is in the state system, in common or comprehensive schools attended by children with aptitudes through the full range from slow to bright. We have no excuse for teaching our children so badly that they are behind English and continental children u this early age. And just in case it is objected that the health of England's children will be ruined by all that studying let me mention that in a number of comparative studies on physical fitness, Englishand other European--children consistently outdid our own pampered children.
THE HAMPERING OF U.S. SCHOOLS BY "PROGRESSIVE" EXPERIMENTERS
Since English primary education is carried on in comprehensive schools, we could easily, if we wished, set ourselves the goal to match her achievement levels at age 11, at least for our 12-year-olds. There is nothing in English primary school objectives or practices that would go counter to our own educational philosophy. We would merely need to lengthen the school day and year somewhat, make certain all our children receive a full day's schooling--we still have some areas where the schools are on double shifts-require of our teachers better subject mastery, and jettison "look-say," "reading-readiness," and the whole nonsense of progressivism and life adjustment. The last item is the most important one. If our teachers are to succeed in bringing normal children to the point of literacy and-to use an English expression-numeracy, both of which are achieved by normal English children in 6 school years, they must be freed from the incubus of the experimenters and the so-called scientific researchers who produce all the notions that prevent our schools from doing their technical task.
The intellectual and educational qualifications of most of these experimenters and researchers are unimpressive but, on the strength of having majored in sociology or psychology at a teachers college, they consider themselves qualified to research the American child and lecture the American teacher and parent on the learning process." These "researchers” have an aura of precision about them-8 satisfied certainty of having the right answer-yet their theories are never quite the same for 2 years in a row.
As one teacher remarked who finally quit in disgust:
that children could be taught to read without the boring and unlifelike process het of learning the alphabet. Yet again it would be a revised social studies cur
riculum, according to which students were to spend weeks on "orientation to sebool," "my family," and "our neighborhood," while ancient history was resolutely dropped from the course of studies altogether.
Sociology and psychology, in the hands of intelligent, well qualified professional persons, can be of great benefit. But indiscriminately applied by unqualified people it can do great harm. And much of the educational research" in this country has been harmful. I have shelves of books and pamphlets in my library, filled with the outpouring of educational researchers. As I force myself to read through page after page of muddled thinking and murky writing, two thoughts are uppermost in my mind. Regret that so many trees had to be felled to produce the paper on which the stuff is printed; how much better off we should be if we still had the trees! And a strong desire to cry out, "Won't someone stay home and keep shop?
Won't someone stay in class and teach our children the fundamental by skills of the three 'R's'"'?
We are plagued with a chronic shortage of teachers, but we have an overabundance of researchers. For some odd reason educational
research" seems to bestow a higher status than teaching. And so HI DCthe classrooms get more crowded but the "research” just goes on and
It always amazes me that our educational officialdom looks down on Europe's allegedly outmoded teaching methods—“rote” teaching is the stereotyped epithet that educationists use even though the schools abroad are so much more successful in getting children through given study course. Consider the recent report of a conference of reading experts who spent the winter of 1961 on a "project” financed by the Carnegie Corp. and intended to dispel the "confusion” in the public mind as to methods of reading instruction used in our schools. Urwittingly the report acknowledges that the simple task of teaching children to read is just too difficult for our schools to accomplish in 12 short years. Twenty-seven of the twenty-eight education professors and administrators participating in the project concluded that "reading instruction is needed beyond the high school!” As Oliver Wendell Holmes said: At this time we need education in the obvious rather than investigation of the obscure.
American educators now sometimes admit that European children do move faster, but they still criticize European schools for allegedly paying no attention to modern sociology and psychology. To my mind, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Our wonderful
"scientific" and up-to-date teaching methods produce inferior results, home why continue them? And as to the constant accusation that
European schools go in for “rote” learning—the truth is quite the
system of rote learning with the children being made to read endlessly repeated idiocies such as “Oh, oh! Come, come! Look, look!" just to learn three simple words. No one has brought out the absurdity of this system so well as Rudolph Flesch in Why Johnny Can't Read And now we have a book by the Council for Basic Education, Tomorrow's Illiterates, that spells out in terms of massive inability to read among large percentages of our youth just where this ridiculous progressive method has taken our children. Another progressive error, the “reading readiness" dogma, postpones and postpones the moment when an American child finally comes to grip with the printed word. His English cousin has meanwhile happily gone ahead learning to read at age 5 and nothing has happened to his tender psyche.
In arithmetic, too, the readiness dogma holds our children back while the teaching itself is inferior since our elementary schoolteachers, with few exceptions, are less well trained to teach the subject than English or_continental teachers. Arithmetic is particularly well taught in England. An observant American visitor will note how quick everyone is in handling, the complicated English monetary system. In contrast clerks in American stores have quite a time of it if they have to figure something out themselves. Without adding machines many of them would be lost. Great emphasis is laid abroad on mental concentration in computation processes, on careful development of basic number concepts, and on constant daily exercises and frequent tests. Virtually all European children acquire mastery in arithmetic and geometry in less time than do ours.
That primary school reform is possible in this country and would not take overlong to accomplish is proved by the ease and speed with which Dr. Hansen has been able to set up the Amidon Elementary School right here in Washington. This school has been a great success and is to become the model for elementary education in this city. It is the kind of school Europe has had for a long time but which ow educationists have consistently criticized as archaic, fossilized, obsolete, and what have you. The same epithets are currently being launched at the Amidon School by unreconstructed progressives. But I think their day is coming to an end. All they can do is continue to throw up roadblocks and delay the inevitable. Given the importance of speedy reform for our Nation's future, they might however just succeed in causing enough delay to do serious harm to the country, I feel we have given them enough time to prove their theories. These theories aren't working, so let's throw them out and get on with the job of truly educating our children.
To recapitulate: English primary schools give children & better foundation in the elementary subjects so that all of them are ahead of American children of equal ability when they begin secondary schooling at age 11.
TYPES OF ENGLISH SECONDARY SCHOOLS At this point their paths diverge. On the strength of their school record, of an IQ test, and written examinations in English and arithmetic, children are placed in one of the three types of secondary schools Grammar School, Technical School or Secondary Modern School. The first two are "selective," that is, to be admitted children must have the ability to pursue a rigorous academic program. We have no