Poor, Cheated Little Johnny

Poor Cheated Little Johnny epub cover.jpg
Poor Cheated Little Johnny epub cover.jpg

Poor, Cheated Little Johnny

  • A thorough explanation of why public education has failed!
  • A clear explanation for the relative success of home education!
  • Written by a teacher with over 40 years experience, in Public Ed, Private Schools, Universities such as U.S.C., and home education!
  • A great way to introduce "non-believers" to the success of homeschooling!

Every person, be it teacher, home educator, parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, or for that matter taxpayer alone, ought to consider this required reading. If you ever wondered about such things as: how did we get here from there, what do I do now, why am I struggling with my children, why are we no longer as good as we once were, why is it taking so long to teach so little, you need to read this book. It is easy to read but not one easily put down. Get it - it is well worth the little asked for - and read it. You won't regret it one bit.  K.S.  Educator, Parent
Poor Cheated Little Johnny is a nonfiction book about your children. It's about you, too.  A book built in three parts, it tells the tale of what has happened to education, largely in the United States but with clear relevance to education globally.

Part One briefly discusses the history of education, and why we must educate successfully.

Part Two defines the problems in education today – what they are and how they developed.  It discusses how the most systemic and destructive philosophies have become "standard" aspects of education, and the dire results they have had.

Part Three, by far the longest part of the book, discusses solutions, taking apart each problem and offering a series of tools and reversals that can help put education back on track.  In the process, the current condition of schools, private and public, is discussed, and the efficacy of homeschool.  Ways and means are offered in some detail to improve the situation for schools and, most significantly, homeschoolers.

The book offers a straightforward, candid but darkly amusing look at education today, and what we can do as parents and educators to save "Little Johnny". Begun as a series of articles on a blog that Mr. Horwich wrote for homeschoolers, each chapter has been expanded upon, rewritten, and sharpened to make its point.  This book makes available for the first time ever a comprehensive vision of what education has become, and what it could be if we can courageously step away from methods and systems that we have been carefully taught are "necessary" to the education of our children and which are, instead, the very core of what is destroying education today.

As you will see from the chapter titles, presented below, most of the "standard tools" used today in education are discussed and dissected, and better tools are described.

Here's a list of chapters.

Part One - Background

How Old Is Education
Why Educate A Child?

Part Two - Problems

Education – What It Is & What It Should Be
Where Are We Now?
Those Vicious Tools – Tests and Grades
Those Vicious Tools – Grade Levels, Classrooms & Other Groupings
Those Vicious Tools – Evaluation
Those Vicious Tools – School Misallocation of Money
Those Vicious Tools – Dumbed-Down Study Materials & Homework
Those Vicious Tools – Dumbed-Down Teachers
Those Vicious Tools – Dumbed-Down Schools, Administrators & Government
Those Vicious Tools – Dumbed-Down Media & Parents
The Last of Those Vicious Tools – Socialization

Part Three- Solutions

Walk The Education Walk
Education's Purpose Defined
Building A Better Test
Tests & Evaluations Vs. The Educator's Most Powerful Tool - Admiration
A Sample Test & How To Deliver It
National Standards Vs The Student
A Summation of National Standards Vs The Student
Grade Levels & Classrooms Vs Individual Development
Evaluation Vs Admiration
School Misallocation of Resources Vs Individual Targeting of Resources for Students
Dumbed-Down Study Materials Vs A Real Challenge
Homework Vs Effective Programming of Time & Effort
Dumbed-Down Teachers Vs Designed, Smart Materials & Caring Parents & Tutors
Dumbed-Down Schools Vs Smart Schools & Homeschool
Dumbed-Down Administrators Vs Parents & Tutors "On The Ground"
Dumbed-Down Institutions Vs Private Sector & Family-Based Education
Dumbed-Down Media Vs Good News
Dumbed-Down Parents Vs Continuing Education
Socialization Vs Good-Hearted Students with Goals, Purposes & Friends with Mutual Interest - The Club Concept
My Personal Recommendations

This book goes far beyond complaining or philosophical consideration of the problems faced in educating children today.  The "Solutions" part of book provides a complete and thorough description of the "tools" that we should be using to replace those that are currently in use.  It explains exactly how the new tools should be used to help create a creative and effective education for students of all ages.  

No educator can afford to skip this book, no matter how confident they are in their approach to education!   And for homeschoolers, perhaps no single book will provide such a no-nonsense, step-by-step guide to truly and successfully educate.
I read the book "cover to cover" in one day, even though I don't like reading while sitting at the computer.

It is amazing how my views about education have changed over the last 6 years as a homeschool parent after being a "government" school teacher for years before my children were born.  While I was teaching in the schools, I knew something wasn't quite right about what I was doing, but could never quite put my finger on it.  I am a parent whose children were in the public school system for a time.  Our home education process has evolved (rather quickly) over time from a "school at home" type to one that is mostly child led with a few required subjects taught in a non-traditional way.  I can see the enormous difference this type of education makes in my children's attitude about learning and say on a daily basis, "I can't imagine how they could ever enjoy learning if they had to go back to school."

One section that I would like to comment on is "The Educator's Most Powerful Tool - Admiration", Steven I am so thankful for this.  As Cindy Lajoy said in her review:

"On to another topic, admiration. I am grateful to you for hitting this point over and over, for I needed to hear it and internalize it. It is something I do part of the time, of course, but am often probably more corrective and critical than is helpful. After all, that is the example I have had set for me with all my years of education, so that is what is the norm for me. You have established a new norm, and I needed to hear it and will put it into practice...it IS the only thing that makes sense."

As the parent of an "ADHD" child, I have learned this through trial and error.  I wish I had read this 6 years ago.  It's something that isn't stressed enough, not only in traditional school settings but sadly, in homeschools.  Unfortunately, I'm guilty too.  As a former "government school teacher" this did not come naturally to me when our children were first home.  She didn't thrive... in fact, we barely got through each day.

She THRIVES on admiration.  It is my understanding that even though all kids crave it, children who think like my DD *HAVE* to have it.  I am so thankful we have worked through *my disability* (of being a trained teacher) giving her freedom to learn (mostly) as she chooses and me the freedom to admire, praise, and love on her for what she does.  Isn't it sad that I had to "work" to get to that point? Being able to learn about things she loves actually creates the intrinsic motivation for her to learn things I want her to learn.  For example, she is learning to use a new computer animation program (one of her loves) and she discovered her algebra lessons (my desire) actually helped her figure something out for it. Now, she works on her Algebra book a little bit more diligently hoping she'll learn another skill she can use on the computer.

I was convicted when I read it in the book and you were a good reminder.  Although learning generally goes well, we still have issues with day to day life - like her remembering to brush her teeth or hair (at 13 years old.)  I need to remember to admire her successes in all aspects of her life.  
J, Homeschool Mom
Sooooo....read the book on our turn around trip to Chicago Tues/Wednesday and I have some points for discussion or comment.

First of all, this was spot-on in every aspect of the problems with public education.

One item of many that really stood out for me and was articulated better than I ever have been able to do in the past was the point about work being sacred at any age, and that being "constructive and well-intended" is a must. I get frustrated with the attitude of others that comes across as less than respectful of the personhood of children. I have always viewed my children as whole, complete human beings who merely lack experience to continue to mold them. With Steven's points about busy work being demeaning and useless, I saw myself in my total lack of interest in having our kids do any homework while they remained in public school in years past. I was the "bad mom" who never checked to see that it was done (they always did it anyway without my pushing), and who cared less about it finding it exactly that, busy work. I honestly didn't care if they ever did a lick of it!

It is a sign of disrespect to have our children do mindless work, be it homework or regular school work that has no purpose other than to occupy them. Repetition is necessary only in few cases...say math facts, but even then it can be presented in ways that are meaningful. Our kids are not stupid, and it is no wonder they get resentful when treated as if they are.

I was quickly taken back to my own thoughts about education when I was in high school and acutely aware of how meaningless my hours were when spent on campus. My school work (I was an A/B student) was done to the best of my ability, but even I could easily see through the facade at 12 or 13 and knew that almost none of what I was being exposed to was of any applicable value in the real world. That led to missing over half of my classes as I ditched to go to work...and I laughed derisively as I still managed to get good grades.

Steven, your comparison of schools to prisons was shockingly accurate, and sadly not recognized by so many.

On page 41 the issue of IQ is addressed and I learned things I never knew about the test before. I need to read more. We have a son who is obviously quite intelligent, but scored in the low 80's on his IQ tests for IEP's for speech. This puzzled even those who worked with him, but also led to shrugging their shoulders with his learning issues and saying "Well...look at his IQ, he just can't learn." which is far from the truth. 6 months homeschooled and he is learning more than he learned in 3 years in public ed with the wrong approaches. I was very appreciative of these statements regarding IQ as it shores up my own personal circumstances and experience.

The concept of grading teachers in reverse is so utterly logical that I can't believe I never thought that way myself. Penalize my children for not learning what they can't effectively teach? Thanks also for making this point!

I had never thought of unit studies in the way Steven approaches it, having always thought them valuable but finding myself incapable of putting them together and not really sure why. Now I see why...their necessary narrow focus doesn't work, and I somehow knew that and could never put together something so narrow. I always found myself saying "but we need to include this and this" and then it grew to larger than a unit study was intended.  Steven, your point is excellent on this as unit studies can be the Holy Grail of homeschoolers. I do think broad unit studies can be created...but then they cease to be unit studies and become semester classes :-) Hahaha!

Another point on homework that I had illustrated for me perfectly last night...my 7 year old and one of my 11 year olds who has not used a word processing program before both came to me and asked if they could spend some time typing their short journal entries. This was their desire to do, not assigned, and both ended up spending more than 45 minutes playing with it and succeeding with just a little start up help from me. What could have been assigned homework in a class setting became a fun exploration at home, and something they will likely do again "just because".

Having had students in public ed for 5 years, one of whom was labeled low IQ, slow, and less able to learn, I am quite familiar with and frustrated with the usefulness of evaluations, and you are absolutely correct that evaluations do nothing but provide a "tool" to compare our children with other children. What is the point of that? What possible useful information does that provide us? It does nothing more than demoralize a child and has nothing to do with helping them succeed...it measures TEACHER performance, not the child's but no one views those evals that way, do they?

I found many similarities in your suggestions about what COULD work in public ed with the Mennonite schools. I have a close friend who is a Mennonite teacher and we have batted back and forth about education. At first I was stunned to learn that her students graduated with an 8th grade education...until I realized that their 8th grade education is easily equivalent to our public ed 12th grade education without the accompanying twaddle. Core subjects taught well in what are often settings similar to a one room school house or close to it. A teacher will have a student for 3 or 4 years sometimes, even longer on occasion They learn strengths and weaknesses and how best to address them, and are often quite successful.

I did find that I differed on opinion about administrators, as your description of administrators and principals not having real life experience is not what I have seen in our school district. It is definitely teachers coming up through the ranks (albeit of the public ed system, so what can you expect??), there is training and mentoring of those teachers who often ARE the better ones. I have seen two cases and both were excellent public ed teachers who hoped to change the system, which is so monolithic it was laughable, but at least they had the heart to try. Teachers ARE hamstrung in their teaching, and they ARE dehumanized...but so are administrators. The fact is, I think no one can see that they need to tear at all down and create something from scratch that makes public ed different...it seems too huge a task and impossible, so many try to change it internally a little at a time, and finally give up.

Regarding funding, I had a conversation yesterday with a retired teacher (I have many teacher friends) who showed just how much they buy into the standard things you point out as failing. She said she would provide much more funding so teachers could earn a "living wage", and Steven, I had a hard time not laughing out loud over that one!! Teachers here earn about $40,000 a year for what is about an actual 8 months work...and that doesn't include benefits better than anyone else or retirement that is quite good as well...and that is not a "living wage". I'll bet every Walmart worker would beg to differ on that one. But you notice those funds she'd add had nothing to do with anything that really benefits the child...it was not for books or for better curricula. When I made the mistake of saying I'd personally throw out all forms of state or federal testing she become quite upset saying I didn't realize what I was saying... that these were the measuring sticks of education and she thought they were marvelous "tools". However, she sat quietly when I responded back "So...tell me...those testing tools...how does that trickle down to helping my child? When the CSAP (our state test) results don't come in for 5 months and the child has moved on to the next grade, who ever evaluates those results and then tackles the child's weak areas? No one." Then I added I hated how we teach to a test and she said "I think that is exactly what we should be doing...isn't that the information we want them to know?".

And there was the problem..."the information we want them to know".  Crammed facts that are quickly forgotten IS the goal of public ed.

On to another topic, admiration. I am grateful to you for hitting this point over and over, for I needed to hear it and internalize it. It is something I do part of the time, of course, but am often probably more corrective and critical than is helpful. After all, that is the example I have had set for me with all my years of education, so that is what is the norm for me. You have established a new norm, and I needed to hear it and will put it into practice...it IS the only thing that makes sense.

I found myself struggling with balance on your discussion about intensity of study, and I need to revisit that from time to time. I agree with your premise, I really do, but how at the lower levels particularly, does that work or what does it look like? After all, we all need to learn our math facts, we all should learn how to spell and read, and that is not always interest driven. I can see 100% where this works as a guiding principle with middle and upper students once mastery of basic skills has occurred, but what are your thoughts about elementary level and this principle? I'd love to hear more.

Your comment about textbooks that skip from point to point is perfect, and has been why I have struggled to find materials to use that make sense, are secular or religiously neutral in perspective, and have a decent flow to them without an agenda of the "cause of the week". Until now with Connect the Thoughts, it has been impossible for the most part. I am hopeful that your curricula has provided a much needed solution for us and that my kids will "connect" with the way your material is presented. Otherwise, I feel I have pretty much no where else to turn.

Your book also helped me gather my own thoughts about self-directed education and we have been headed there but need to take bigger steps toward that goal. I love working with our kids but want them to take over their education and own it. It takes time, but luckily I have all 5 who are independent learners who never ever have to be begged or bargained with to do work, so it is an ideal situation to encourage them toward taking more control, and your curricula may help us accomplish that earlier than I ever would have anticipated.

Overall, I gained a great deal from reading the book...not just in new ideas but in support for my own entrenched thoughts on education which you don't find too many others hold. I think the time spent reading this was very well spent! I'd encourage others to get a copy, it can serve as a wonderful parent's guide to home education as well as provide you with sound reasons for doing things the way we do.   
C.L.J., Homeschool Mother of 5
I just purchased your book "POOR CHEATED LITTLE JOHNNY" today. I just wanted to tell you Thank You for finally putting into words all the frustration I have felt about public schooling since I entered High School many years ago. I graduated in 1984 and I NEVER really went back to "schooling" although I have spent much time since then getting educated.

I homeschooled my two sons from 4th and 5th grade until their last year before graduation and I am currently homeschooling my eleven year old daughter. The reasons for the choice to do it are clearly put forth in your book!

When I get those dumb questions or nasty comments about my homeschooling choice I now have a book to refer those ignorants to.

Thank you so much for a wonderful read.   
K.C.H., Homeschooling Parent

Add To Cart

Sample Pages