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Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write or Add

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  183 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Dumbing Down Our Kids is a searing indictment of America's secondary schools-one that every parent and teacher should read.

Dumbing Down Our Kids offers a full-scale investigation of the new educational fad, sometimes called "Outcome Based Education" -the latest in a long series of "reforms" that has eroded our schools.

* Why our kids rank near to, or at the botto/>Dumbing
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 15th 1996 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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Skylar Burris
Sep 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
Dumbing Down Our Kids is an expansive (but not chronologically organized) history of educational fads and failed reforms from the 1920’s through the mid-1990’s, complete with numerous spine-chilling anecdotes of outlandish teachers, classes, and curricula. Sykes doesn’t quite put it like this, but his book shows that U.S. education is largely a story of traditional, fairly successful, basics-focused education giving way to the trendy, “progressive” ideas born of the educational theorists in the ...more
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Numbers tell us that this national is in a academic decline, with its highest 10% of students matched with those of the middle 50% in Asia. It is a reality our nations so called "educationists" are unwilling to accept, and one in which American kids are wholly oblivious to as they wander the halls gossiping about the latest show on mad T.V without a speck of knowledge about how or when the television even came about because such information are labeled as trivial and futile in creating "well-rou ...more
Sep 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Although I could not find it within myself to actually finish this book, I did get quite far, and definitely far enough to know my thoughts about it...
When the author proposes a statement, a viewpoint, or an idea, he then goes to justify his proposal with facts and/or statistics. While I believe it helps him establish his ethos, and it is much more believeable a book when he can sopport his claims, after a few of these, already enough to get you to say to yourself "Okay, I get it," he cont
May 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
More frightening than any Stephen King book. The last section Sykes plays with fire by taking the moral high-ground, but the rest of the book is disturbing and excellent. Sykes is at his best sticking to facts and using anecdotal information.
Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
A fairly scathing review of the school system in the United States. Sykes is not critical of schools Prussian beginnings, but of the direction the school system has been going for the last 75 years or so. He believes not enough time is spent on actual learning and studying, the curriculum is watered down, the teachers union is too corrupt and powerful, and that our national textbooks are severely lacking. Sykes also takes issue with the 'self esteem' philosophy purported by the teaching establis ...more
Jun 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Written in the early nineties, it is only more relevant today. Or maybe because I am living it with my kids now, it's just more relevant to me. In any case, I did not read the book cover to cover, but did skim through most of it pretty thoroughly. I think that if you already feel the way the author does, this book pretty much validates any preconceived notion you may have had about the failure of our schools to challenge our kids now. Inventive spelling from kindergarten on ( my 5th grade daught ...more
Deb Cornell
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
A scathing, yet necessary, vivisection of our current public education system. As an educator for nearly four decades I have witnessed the "dumbing down" of our expectations. A must read for every educator, legislator, school board member and parent.
Jul 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: think-tank
Thought this was pretty darn good. It's like an updated version of John Holt's stuff. It's about time the system was questioned, not the teachers.
carlos f ramey
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I lived this. I grew up with the experience of being home schooled, being enrolled in private school, and finally the public school system.

This laid out what many of us, as students surmised.......that no one knew what they were doing.

Mark Greathouse
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You'll be ready to home school your kids after reading this book!
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
A clear, well-written expose on the appalling state of education in modern America. Sykes chronicles the repetitive history of the progressive education movement and consistently demonstrates the failure by comparison to the tried-and-true traditional methods. The effect of the current self-esteem emphasis can be summarized in Sykes observation that US high school students ranked lowest on an international comparison of mathematics scores but highest in student self-assessment of those same skil ...more
James Carter
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I agree with just about everything in Dumbing Down Our Kids.

If I read the book during the 90's, I wouldn't have believed any word of it. I had a pretty good traditional education that taught me how to read, write, and do math. But a lot of that was done through independent learning, that is, I did it on my own.

Then, I was gone away to college and doing other things in life. Deciding on going back to school to teach math, I taught for three years. Everything I saw in school ran contrary to what I wa
Sep 03, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didnt-finish
My dad passed this book along to me after he read it. I think it always frustrated him that his kids (or, well, at least me—I can’t speak for the others) weren’t learning the “important stuff” in school—history, particularly, dates, wars, people, etc. And, maybe it frustrated him that he used to be a math teacher, and none of his kids really got any of those mathematician-genes of his.

This book’s focus is about how education is being dumbed-down to fit kids that are the lowest denomi
Oct 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Jill, Suz
Though I don't agree with all his conclusions and I tend not be quite so alarmist, Sykes does present plenty of informtion for me to form more focused opinions on education. His theme is: emphasize academic achievement, and then will come self-esteem. He criticizes the education system of the last 50 years for spending too much time trying to falsely build up kids' confidences, while neglecting the thing that does that automatically: teaching children to master tasks and acquire knowledge.

I rec
Rebecca The Files of Mrs. E,
I had bought this book years ago and finally read it since I am on a mission to read all the books I've bought and then forgotten to read. It had some great information but it was also really dated and I wish I had read it sooner. Even though some of the information was older or focused on past education trends, his main point was right on target. And it was helpful to read about where we have been in education. One of Sykes main points was that education tends to just cycle through ideas whethe ...more
Jul 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: homeschooling
Charles Sykes chronicles a detailed (and at times, painfully thorough) look into the declining public school system. This book is a must-read (or a must-glance-over) for every parent of a child attending public education.
The book divides itself into two parts. There are chapters explaining what exactly is failing at schools and why. These include topics on textbooks, declining SATs, omitted curriculum, and the insidious rise of "pychological" educating. Then, interspersed within the book,
Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
By the title, this book sounds like an apocalyptic warning for parents about their children's educations. I was not too far off on that guess. The author emphasises the slow but sure lowering of standards in America's schools, explaining that instead of striving to make students smarter, educators are trying to make schools lower their standards to achieve the same effect without disappointing students with failing grades. The message of the book was good and made me think about my own education ...more
Dec 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
Sykes seems to be a mass producer of junk. Even the title is amazing: "our kids" as opposed to "their kids" whom should go to heck. Anyway, "our kids" feel so good many are on anti depressants, others do not reach that stage and kill themselves, and in some extreme cases they kill many others before being killed by the police. The remaining individuals feel so good about themselves that they need to bully others or are terribly traumatized by the bullying. Yet by OECD standards even if their rea ...more
Apr 05, 2009 marked it as to-read
I'm pretty sure this book will make me pretty angry, based on the reviews of those who have read it. But I'm hoping there will also be some good points that I can incorporate into my ever-changing, vague fixit scheme for the US education system. There are definitely plenty of kids out there who have been taught that their mediocrity is great - how can we encourage students to strive for academic achievement and find something to love about learning? Maybe I just want to create a modern tribe of ...more
Apr 19, 2008 rated it liked it
An expose of the demise of our public school system. I was especially struck by the continuance of Progressive ideologies from the late 19th-century that still pervade our schools. I am also peeved by the political clout of the NEA and other bureaucratic bigwig organizations. I guess the only solution is to teach our children to love learning in spite of all the humanistic garbage they get in the schools. Of course, in order to accomplish this, the adults must wake up, be the examples and love t ...more
Jaime Contreras
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have worked in higher education and secondary education for a combined 27 years and agree with many of the author's criticisms. This book was slammed when it came out but now with other reports and other educators 'blowing the whistle', this assertions are more concrete. This is not just an expose of what is still wrong with the American educational system but a call to arms to educators, parents and leaders. I encourage all to read this book.
Oct 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
While I think his views on the problems certain interest groups cause the American education system are spot-on, I didn't like his dogmatism in choosing what to teach in schools. As someone said earlier, certainly PE shouldn't be the most important part of the school day, but that doesn't mean it doesn't promote some exercise.
Zalee Harris
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I purchased this book in 1997. There are 5 Sections. Section 2 and Section 5 did it for me.
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
So this is a little old but I picked it up hoping for insight on OBE. It was very abrasive in tone and I skimmed/jumped through reading it. Very few insights found.
Nate Jordon
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Though this book presents slightly outdated stats and figures, the education philosophy and social criticism remains poignant and profound.
Holly Jorgenson
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Written awhile ago, but still full of interesting points. Actually, pretty true.
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Scathing it it's criticism of how our public schools are not educating our kids. Even offers some solutions. Is anybody listening?
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely outstanding.
Nov 14, 2008 rated it liked it
ehhh...It was ok but fairly repetitive. Long story short...we're all screwed
Jaymi Boswell
Mar 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents, educators, and everyone else.
Recommended to Jaymi by: Diane Fish, I think.
I love reading books that make me feel guilty for doing ALL THINGS wrong with my children.
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