February 5, 1980


Page 7

Education: Cornelia Reynolds

The Woods Hole Conspiracy
In September of 1959, 35 selected academics gathered at a conference on education in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This conference planned and implemented the curriculum reforms which swept through the education system over the next decade leaving us with the wreckage of a school system that we have today. The ten-day Woods Hole meeting was purportedly a response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik, bringing together the nation's experts to plan new curricula to upgrade our schools to the standard set by Soviet science. What then was wrong with the meeting at Woods Hole? In fact the Woods Hole conference was a cynical manipulation of the national outcry over Sputnik, using the call for reform of our educational system to implement the radical reform doctrines of certain "theorists." The guiding ideologue of Woods Hole was the Swiss child psychologist and linguistician Jean Piaget, who had picked up educational "reform" where John Dewey had left off. The conference was sponsored or aided by virtually all of the core institutions responsible for the continuous 20th century reforms of American education. They include the National Science Foundation; the Ford Foundation; the Carnegie Foundation; and more interestingly the U.S. Air Force and its private thinktank offshoot, the RAND Corporation. RAND and Air Force Intelligence were deeply involved from the early 1950s through the time of the conference in highly secretive experiments in the use of mind-altering drugs. The Reformers The key participants came from curriculum writing projects which had begun as early as 1952, projects sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation and the National Science Foundation. The participants covered fields as wideranging as mathematics, physics, psychology, history, biology, classics, cinema, and teacher training. The only non-American participant was Barbel Inhelder, the leading collaborator of Piaget and coauthor of many of his books, who attended as his representative.

The director of the affair was Dr. Jerome Bruner, director of Harvard's Center for Cognitive Studies, along with his chief assistant, Dr. Richard Alpert, the famous companion and fellow LSD experimenter with Timothy Leary, who now calls himself Baba Ram Das. Another well-known participant was Dr. Jerrold Zacharias, a MIT physicist who in 1956 had begun a project with NSF backing called the Physical Sciences Study Committee whose purpose was to rewrite physics and other science textbooks and curriculum. The most famous of the Woods Hole "reform" products was "new math," the rewriting of math teaching and language that succeeded in significantly reducing the basic math skills of American students over the past 20 years. Woods Hole planned out projects to rewrite textbooks, retrain teachers in the "new" methods, and carry out "parent education" around the country aimed at gaining acceptance of the changes. Selling Jean Piaget The basic method of these reforms came from Piaget, whose ideas had first been introduced into the United States on a large scale by Bruner and the National Science Foundation in 1952. Woods Hole merely planned the campaign to sell Piaget to the American public. Piaget's claim to fame is his theory that intelligence develops in a sequence of physiologically fixed states relating to age. According to this quackery, each stage has certain defined abilities which set the limits and determine the character of what can be learned during that stage. Any teacher who declares that she is not teaching your child because he or she isn't ready yet is reflecting training in Piaget's theories. The other major aspect of his theories is in his linguistic doctrine which aims to strip language of any real meaning in terms of its ability to convey ideas. Instead language is purely defined in terms of symbols (not ideas). This is the method behind the new math, which, for example, replaces the traditional learning of arithmetic ideas with a whole new set of terms, most of them created specially, which the student had to learn. As test results have shown, the words got learned in some cases but the ideas did not. The success of the Woods Hole campaign is well known. Through RAND and the NSF that campaign captured the funds of the 1958 National Defense Education Act whose purpose was to advance science in the schools. In only

four years the entire American school system was transformed along the preliminary lines planned at Woods Hole. The major propaganda piece produced at Woods Hole was Bruner's The Process of Education, a popularized rationalization of the need for the new curriculum and radical school reform. The publication of Bruner's book opened the flood gates to the popularization of scores of radical educators whose deschooling theories were immediately adopted as curriculum in the education departments of our universities and colleges. John Holt, Herbert Kohl, Charles Silberman and others—reformers of the 1960s and 1970s— took their cue from Bruner and Woods Hole. The Woods Hole "reforms" have ultimately resulted in the disappearance of science and mathematics education itself. Two decades after the reforms there are now less math and less science classes than before, a fact which even Dr. Zacharias is quoted recently lamenting and offering to respond to with yet another round of "reform," this time he says based on the "energy crisis."