The RTT Ruse

On February 25th, while Barack Obama chatted about ObamaCare with members of Congress, the Federal Department of Education – lead by its cabinet level chief Arne Duncan who’s also from Chicago – prepped for release to the public his and his boss’s second assault on our freedom; this time a scheme to further intrude on your child’s education. As an announcement from two think tanks put it: “generationally important Tenth Amendment issues [were] opened on two fronts—the prospect of centralizing health care and education policy.” And that’s pretty much what’s going on, but using expressions like “two fronts” assumes a great deal from the average reader or listener these days. That’s because such expressions harken back to historical events the facts on which the general populace is thin. Doubt me? Ask anyone under 40 why Hitler shouldn’t have invaded The Soviet Union.

I’ve only recently discovered the long history of the federal government’s intrusion into education in the United States. (Readers who are more astute with that history need to bear with me on this.) The Office of Education was begun in 1869. Are you surprised? For those of you who might not pass a history test, that’s four years after The U.S. Civil War ended. In Europe in those days, what we know as Germany was called Prussia and it was a kingdom. Recall that kingdoms were commonplace back then. The United States had only eliminated our “kingdom connection” one-hundred years earlier. How time flies.

According to my source, the first commissioner of education — Henry Barnard — put the case for his new department in these terms: “In Prussia the Minister of Education is one of the most important ministers of the State. The Department of Instruction is organized as carefully as that of War or the Treasury, and is intended to act on every district and family in the kingdom.” Barnard went on to bemoan that, “No serious responsibility in respect to public education [in the U.S.] rests anywhere.” Just so you understand the impact of Bernard’s Prussian love affair: Kindergarten is a German word.

It’s coincidental that when you Google “U.S. Office of Education” you pull up some stories about Indian Affairs. Anyone who has watched a movie about our wild west knows what the government did for Indians, so it’s not much of a surprise to be living with what its done to learning. A real cynic might see some relationship with “Indian Gaming” that proliferates around the country and school charter treaties that let groups of parents delude themselves into thinking public education under new management will teach Billy and Susie their cyphers; or how to behave while mom tries to go it alone after throwing dad out of the house, or visa versa. As both pursue the net income that will allow them to pay their cable bill and keep the ESPN option, they leave educating the kids to the public school; and hope for the best.

What Obama and Duncan are trying to do with RTT – the acronym for Race To The Top – needs as much scrutiny as the “health care” ruse they’re foisting, and folks would be well served to dig deeper. Schools are supposed to be locally run and guided by school boards and parents. But Obama has announced that $900 million more – more than already pumped out with the “stimulus” bill – will be made available for education. I’ve watched as even Catholic school administrators drool at the money pile. It’s intoxicating. But like government healthcare, it comes at a price: Control. And in education control is spelled c-u-r-r-i-c-u-l-u-m. And its synonym is accreditation. Neither should be the government’s business in a free society.

Too few of us are aware of the history of education in The United States of America. In his 2001 best selling biography John Adams, author David McCullough offers glimpses of colonial schooling in his portraits of life in New England. Young John Adams is taught initially to read at home, then attends a “dame school – lessons for a handful of children in the kitchen of a neighbor, with heavy reliance on The New England Primer… But later at the tiny local schoolhouse, [he is] subjected to a lackluster ‘churl’ of a teacher who paid him no attention.” And so we are told young Adams lost all interest. When his father heard of the boy’s dislike for the teacher and desire to go to another school, he enrolled him “the next day in a private school down the road where… he made a dramatic turn and began studying in earnest.” Adams goes on to enter Harvard and, as the phrase goes, the rest is history.

Intercollegiate Studies Institute has just announced findings of its latest study, reporting that over 50% of elected politicians do not know the three branches of the federal government or their responsibilities under The Constitution of the United States. Do you? And these pols include college graduates. Do you honestly think it’s much better among those passing through high school – Hello-OOOOO – and then voting?

If you want to make your own example of public school failure beyond civic literacy, take a look at this Civil War era letter home from a home schooled farmer’s son and compare it to the last email or Twit you received from your son or daughter, or the stuff they receive from their friends. More convincing: take a sober look at the stuff you get at work from associates or hear on radio news.

American taxpayers in 2010 are being charged $667 billion by state and federal taxing authorities to “educate” around 50 million K-12 students. That’s over $12,000 per student, and doesn’t include the additional $900 million Obama wants to throw at the problem. The result has been a public that doesn’t even know when its government is neglecting or stomping on the law of the land.

Mr. Barnard would be pleased–Danke sehr!–but you don’t have to be. Not all may be able to spell STOP; but they can still yell it. And that time has come.

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  • Is it really that bad? I attended public schools (except for one-half of 2nd grade at a Catholic school), and I know why Hitler shouldn’t have invaded the Soviet Union, I know that Prussia was a kingdom, I know the Civil War ended in 1865, and I know what “kindergarten” means. I hadn’t heard the story about John Adams.

    I was fortunate to go to a very good suburban high school with lots of AP courses and excellent teachers; maybe I just got the cream of the crop. But are you sure you’re not painting with a really broad brush when you indict the state of American education? (By the way, I’m 40 years old.)

  • Warren Jewell

    PrairieHawk, the proof of this hideous ‘pudding’ is in the beginning and end of this essay.

    First, there is Barnard’s howling affection for a society (Prussia) that was as authoritarian and statist as they come.

    Then look at the language our school children use – their vocabulary (if their misspellings don’t confuse you) and the clear and obvious lack of knowledge beyond latest music and ‘American Idol’ trivia.

    Have you continued reading history in your adulthood? How much of what you have encountered was never given to you, though it should have been. Though earlier generations got adequate mathematics to do their work of livelihood and home, from looking over my grandchildren’s shoulders, today’s mathematics lacks not simply that practical function, but what we now know as linkage that improves both math and science learning – how math is the definitive language of science.

    Then, too, consider ‘the bang for your buck’. Is what they do learn worth anything like what your taxes pay for? (I mean, discounting paying for baby-sitting for evermore negligent, self-serving parents.)

    Ah, well – I’m getting too old for this stuff. It just isn’t true that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’, even in sin. We seem to deteriorate right before our own day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year observations.

  • fishman

    This isn’t only an Oboma issue. Have you ever heard of ‘no child left behind’ the program created by Pr. Bush jr.. The simple fact is that public schools should not be funded by the federal government. That is the only way for parents to start regain control of the curriculum. Given the way ‘tax’ money is treated right now , the only real option might be just to shut down the public school system. There should be no such thing as a education without

  • Okay, I admit it: most of the history I never learned in high school, I learned from watching National Treasure. In this way I’m probably pretty typical of Americans. Through most of my adult life, I’ve concentrated on learning about the Holy Faith. The way I see it, we shouldn’t all have to be experts on everything; if we had a properly ordered society, we’d be able to trust the schools, the learned, the government officials, and so on. Those days, though, if they ever existed, are sadly gone.