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Now that back-to-school season is in fullswing, let me tell you about the single most pressing unmet need of my ethnicminority community: education. Like other Russian-speaking Jews, I am foreverthankful to this country for taking me in and for giving me liberty. Yet when Italk to people in our community about their wishes and anxieties, they alwaysexpress discontentment with U.S. schools.


“How is it,” some ask, “that we are all engineers, but our childrencan’t do basic math?”
“What do the students read, exactly?” Others wonder.
“The only reason my child is doing well academically,” stated one momof a second grader, “is because he attends a Russian program on Sundays.”




Math was the dissident’s favorite in theSoviet unx. It was believed that the subject is so logical and abstract, theparty could never impose its will on it. After all, two plus two equals four —in the 10-digit system, at least — regardless of the edicts of the Politburo.


Maybe the Soviet bureaucrats weren’t cleverenough, because the American educational bureaucracy did ruin mathematics.That, of course, was accomplished via the 1960s’ “new math,” which has beenreincarnated yet again in Common Core. Those who didn’t subscribe to the newmath teachings weren’t exiled to Gulags, but the kids who were taught in thismanner failed to learn. Sometimes, the soft managerial power of destructiveinnovation is mightier than the NKVD.


With generations raised after the new math,schools are hard-pressed to find anyone who can teach the subject — not thatthe administrators would know, anyway. U.S. instructors readily admit theydon’t understand or like the discipline. They end up confusing the students. Afew years ago at my child’s back-to-school meeting, a third-grade teacher was chirpingaway about Common Core math and how it shows that in math, too, there is morethan one way to find an answer.


After spending a week or two on anindividual language rule, we would have a dictation test. Is it naive to expectan equal rigor from American public edutainment?



Russian is a vicious language, but Englishshouldn’t be that hard to master. It has more words, but fewer rules to followand fewer exceptions to those rules. Teachers can take these rules one by one,explain, and practice over a period of a few weeks. With the kind of system Iwent through, most children graduating elementary school should be decentspellers.


(译注:《汤姆·索亚历险记》(The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)是美国小说家马克·吐温1876年发表的长篇小说)

What do American children read? Peppyagitprop that, even when competently written, is merely a fit for the editorialcriteria compliant with current politically correct talking points. Because ofthe ever-evolving nature of political discourse, many of these books becomeoutdated soon after they come out. They are, by definition, ephemeral anddisposable. The message we are sending to children is that nothing is eternallyvaluable.