But here again, these efforts are largely going to be directed by or defined by the federal government, and, after decades of so-called federally-managed education, it is clear that Uncle Sam has screwed this up royally. Public education is too expensive, too inefficient, too influenced by those who want to see it preserved and is producing the highest number of dummy graduates in our 224-year history.
Consequently, overall I believe any further federal efforts to “fix” the public school system will similarly fail not because of the particular administration in power now, but because all previous administrations Republican and Democrat alike have failed to “fix” this incredibly poor performer known as public education.
Our nation's public schools are becoming less about teaching our children the basics they need to function reading, writing, arithmetic and non-revisionist American history and more about indoctrinating them into a newest political fad/flavor of the year.
More and more of our kids may “feel good about themselves,” but, compared to graduates 100, 50, even 25 years ago, kids today through no fault of their own are much more stupid. Test after test, exam after exam, study after blessed study has proven this time and time again.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and the same principle holds true for public schools. We're a big country and we have lots of public schools and tens of millions of public school students some of whom are exemplary.
However, we really should stop kidding ourselves by continuing to believe that only the public schools in this country can produce the best students, are worthy of government (read: “taxpayer”) support, and that any alternative to the public school system is a fanatical joke endorsed by freakazoids whose only motivation to send their kids elsewhere is “cuz thay hate the gubmint.”
A convenient and colorful dismissal, but an incorrect one nonetheless. Millions of American parents have, when they can afford it, chosen to send their kids to private or parochial schools, or even homeschool them (which is an incredible feat and burden) because they don't want their kids dumbed-down to the intelligence level of an amoeba. In short, they want their kids to succeed, and in far too many communities, the public school institution just isn't producing.
Countless recent studies have shown that American students rank well behind western counterparts in math and the sciences. Also, zillions of kids graduate high school but, colleges say, cannot adequately spell or write complete sentences, and cannot understand why they can't do these things because reading comprehension is also abysmal.
In fact, one report a few years ago said some major corporations were sending new hires fresh out of college to remedial language arts, English and reading courses which, naturally, costs you and me more money for the product these companies sell because the college-educated graduates had also been taught poorly.
That's pathetic; how many more trillions of dollars are we going to pour down the non-productive, scandal-ridden, national teachers' union-influenced public schools before we “figger out” that “shucks, this ain't workin'”?
Reform real reform, which means getting Uncle Sam out of the education biz won't be easy. Powerful leftist education groups like the National Teachers Association (a union) and their congressional allies refuse to even consider alternatives, let alone suggest any of their own. It's probably because they're too cowardly to admit their system has failed big time, even though millions of American parents (and former students) already know.
That's why Mr. Bush's plan, albeit admirable, is likely doomed to failure. His approaches may supply a temporary band aid, but the institutional opposition to real reform will most likely dominate any “reformist” efforts and water them down so much that they will, in essence, become meaningless.
That's why the opposition to federally controlled education must come from Americans who are sick of paying exorbitant taxes (in most districts, personal property taxes go mostly to education) to support our public schools especially adults who don't even have kids in school anymore.
The real answer here is privatization.
Generally speaking, as I use the term “privatization,” I mean that the federal government ought to surrender control over our public schools to private companies that would have to compete for contracts to operate those schools.
Such competition would:
• Break the government's monopolistic, expensive and over-regulatory hold on public education;
• Break the stranglehold the teachers' unions have on the system, thereby ending the American counter-culture influence and kicking out of the system thousands of non-productive teachers and bureaucrats who hold onto their jobs through tenured union-secured contracts, no matter how ignorant the students they churn out;
• Force down the overall price parents have to pay for schooling their children because in a lean, mean corporate environment, there is usually very little waste, fraud and abuse and no regular stream of guaranteed tax money to fritter away on trivial, non-education related programs and activism;
• Allow parents not pre-determined school “districts” to pick and choose where their children will be educated, enhancing competition and allowing them to bypass the non-productive “child warehouses” now posing as schools;
• Allow educators and privatized school administrators the latitude and freedom to be more creative in choosing curriculum, teaching plans and techniques with proven track records, rather than forcing them to teach kids watered-down, mediocre and “issue-based” curriculum like “racial issues” and “how to use a condom” from a small collection of textbooks that are all the same;
• Allow educators and parents not the federal, state and local governments to decide how best to discipline kids (and to allow them to actually mete out some discipline), thereby improving the learning environment for all children.
But wait, you say what about poor children? Who educates them? Not everyone can afford to pay to send their children to school, you say.
True, and the answer just may be that we will have to maintain some government-run schools. But these should not be under the auspices of the federal government with its rules, regulations, mandates and expensive bureaucracy. States used to and could again run their own school systems for children whose parents cannot afford the privatized school system, and local bureaucrats are a heckuva lot more sensitive to parental concerns and anger than are faceless 'crats on the federal level.
Also, if your state's entire system is busted, then at least you can move to another state that has a better system. As it stands now, federal control embodies every state and every school district.
Even local authorities could set up their own schools, thereby freeing them even from state-imposed regulatory authority as well.
My guess is, however given the huge windfall in personal property taxes that eliminating most public schools would bring to parents most would be able to afford the privatization system.
Besides, as it stands, there are millions of low-income parents who aren't paying anything towards the education of their children. Their “tab” is picked up by taxpayers. That isn't, and has never been, fair to all users (and non-users) of the system.
Until there is some incentive for schools to become leaner, better, more affordable and more accountable, few will. I just don't see any Bush administration measures doing much good in the long run because eventually his administration will be replaced by another, perhaps more government-school oriented, president someday.
Then, our problems will simply return unless Washington is out of the education industry beforehand.
Backers of the current federal system have claimed that we have a “national interest” in making sure our children are “properly educated.” Future generations will bring future leaders, and heck, we have to make sure they know something about something.
I agree, but let's get real: Most of our “leaders” come from the incredibly rich and elite group of about 1.5 percent of all Americans. Their parents send them to only the most prestigious private schools and they can afford the best education money can buy. This is fine; I don't mind affluence. But the point is, if we're really concerned about our “national interests,” then we wouldn't be so hard-headed about continuing to foster the western world's most laughable, non-productive education system in history.
We can't afford this anymore. We cannot afford to waste one more generation of young people because we cannot remain the world's pre-eminent power with dummies for citizens.
Kids who can't read, can't add, don't know our own language and who know little or nothing of the history that brought our country to the pinnacle of its success will grow up to be adults of similar intelligence.
Such nations are conquered eventually; they do not remain leaders of a free world. This “education thing” is that important, and only our free-market capitalism will bring out the best in our children because such an approach would bring out the best education system.
(This article originally appeared on WorldNetDaily.com).
(For e3mil contributing columnist Alan Keyes' take on the education issue click here.)