Education Secretary William J. Bennett yesterday presented President Reagan a new government report on effective approaches to education, saying it was part of a "counteroffensive on behalf of common sense" against "dopiness in the world of education."
"We cannot overestimate the amount of dopiness in educational practice in the 1960s and 1970s," Bennett declared at a White House briefing after presenting the report, "What Works."
Reagan praised the report before about 250 teachers, principals and researchers in the East Room, saying, "We don't need a lot of government interference and fancy gimmicks to produce good schools. What we need is to concentrate hard on basic academic subjects and fundamental moral values."
The report, a compilation of 41 research findings, says that parents play the most crucial role in determining the educational success of their children. Academic performance is highest, it says, when schools have a rigorous curriculum with large amounts of reading, writing, history and homework.
By contrast, during the high tide of "open education," Bennett said, "everything that was seen as making children do something they didn't want to do was seen as bad . . . . They took out the classroom walls so you couldn't hear anything. They took out American history and put in values clarification . . . that started by saying there is no such thing as right and wrong."
As Reagan finished his talk, Bennett noted that the report recommends memorization. "Do you recall something that starts 'There are strange things done in the midnight sun'?" he asked the president.
"By men who moil for gold," Reagan responded.
The two then recited "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert W. Service, the Yukon poet whom Reagan has said is his favorite.