September 13, 2010
by Tammy Drennan, NEO Senior Writer
U.S. researchers are planning to study a math program developed in Russia, with the hope it will help American students.
American educators often look to other countries for teaching ideas. It started with the very beginning of public schools, when Horace Mann and others became enthralled with German education. Japanese math methods have been studied, as well as classroom methodology in many European countries. Now it's Russian math.
There's nothing wrong with learning from others -- it's a good thing. But there's one model that never seems to be studied -- the early American model of independent education that was so successful before social activists and politicians became discontent with their lack of control.
Freedom and variety fuel innovation and excellence, and that's what early American, pre-1850, education did. That's what independent education does today. The enforced conformity espoused by social and education activists is what has given us the dismal state of schooling we're now grappling with.
Maybe Russian math will offer some hope to public school children in America. Maybe not. Most big reform ideas seem to peter out after a while, as soon as the next plan to "get it right" comes along.
In the meantime, millions of parents and private educators have chosen to do what works for their students. That's the beauty of the original American way and the current way of American independent educators -- their only agenda is the excellent education of children and they have the freedom to pursue it.