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Federal control of education
By Alan Caruba
If your goal was to control the people and you were willing to be patient to achieve it, the best way would be to gain control of the schools. The Federal government, aided and abetted by the National Education Association, a teacher's union, has achieved this. The results, year after year, demonstrate they are successful producing graduates who cannot read and lack other essential, basic skills.
They also cannot begin the day with a prayer and, in a growing number of school districts, they cannot sing traditional Christmas carols. Something is desperately wrong.
What are we doing about it? Nothing. Well, not quite nothing. The Federal government is throwing billions of dollars at programs it knows are failures, while conjuring up new programs that are so frightening it defies the imagination.
Twenty million dollars in Congressional grants will go to the New Freedom Commission to fund, among other things, universal "mental health" screening and treatment of school children that includes prescribing ineffective and dangerous medications. An additional two million in grants was authorized for local educational systems and non-profit entities to treat teenagers judged to be "suffering from mental, emotional or behavior disorders."
The Department of Education is spending $5 million on "Mental Health Integration in Schools" as well as another million dollars for Sen. Kennedy's early childhood mental health program called "Foundations for Learning." All this is a boon to the pharmaceutical industry, but a horror for the children whose mental health is NOT the school's responsibility. It is just one more effort to wrest control of a parent's fundamental rights and responsibility over the welfare of their child.
It's estimated that somewhere between six and seven million school children have been administered mind-altering medications. How many parents have been coerced or seduced into approving this is unknown, but some of these drugs produce suicidal thoughts.
Children in America's schools are not all suffering from some mental health problem, unless you include the boredom that ensues from being forced by the "teach from the test" requirement in order to pass the many standardized, national tests required by the No Child Left Behind program. In its first term the Bush administration has strengthened Federal control over the schools, neglecting the aspirations of Ronald Reagan to actually rid the nation of the Department of Education.
The fact that the nearly 52 million children in public schools do not all learn at the same rate is ignored. Any information not reflected on the tests tends to get ignored because those test scores are tied to funding. NCLB is as cruel and stupid a program as could have been devised and it cost taxpayers some $50 billion. Not surprisingly, many school districts have opted out of the program to avoid the stifling effect on their curriculums.
The simple unavoidable truth, documented year after year, is that America's school children continue to perform poorly when compared to most other nations. Recently, a Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, a test of curriculum taught in all participating countries that includes chemistry, physics, geometry and algebra, revealed that the grades of US fourth graders had remained stagnant and below average yet again. The 2003 test results revealed that eighth graders are just barely keeping up in mathematics compared to 44 other nations.
Recent National Education Assessments continue to demonstrate that only 31 per cent of fourth graders are proficient in reading; only 32 per cent are proficient in mathematics; 29 per cent in science, and 18 per cent in American history. Virtually every scholarly evaluation of history textbooks finds them terribly flawed and inaccurate.
Worse, the Federal government is funding a private group, the Center for Civic Education, that is publishing a national curriculum on the Constitution that undermines a student's understanding of the Bill of Rights (one lone mention of the Second Amendment) and subtly advocates world citizenship as opposed to being a citizen of a sovereign United States. This standardization of education about the Constitution teaches a government-approved version and nothing could be more un-American than that. The Constitution makes no provision for the Federal government to be involved in education. That is a power that belongs exclusively to the States and local communities.
The United Nations has gained a foothold in our schools with its International Baccalaureate program, underwritten by UNESCO. Writing about the IB program earlier this year, one critic wrote her local newspaper to point out that "Administrators do not tell you that the current IB program for ages three through grade twelve promotes socialism, disarmament, radical environmentalism, and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty." And, of course, we all want the UN to be involved in the education of American children, don't we? NOT!
In 2002, taxpayers spent an estimated $108 billion on education at the federal level and nearly half of this money was distributed by the Department of Education, but other federal departments including Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Labor, Defense and Interior also spent large amounts of money. Fifty-three billion dollars went to elementary and secondary school programs and half of that sum was spent on programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) and on special and vocational education.
And every school day, an estimated 3,000 secondary school students drop out. During the 2003-2004 school year, nearly 54,000 young people left without earning a high school diploma. Not that the diploma means much these days. Colleges and universities routinely provide remedial programs to help students secure skills to master higher education.
Is it because teachers are underpaid? No! The average salary for public elementary and secondary school teachers is $44,367. Salaries in the 100 largest cities range from $25,409 to $84,310. To put it another way, teachers earn more on an hourly basis than accountants, computer programmers, engineers and architects.
Are class sizes too large? The average pupil-teacher ratio at public schools is 15.9 to one. For public elementary schools it's 21 to one and it's 23 to one in public secondary schools. Teachers are being encouraged to be "facilitators" as students are organized to teach one another. Apparently the notion of a teacher at the front of the classroom is just passé.
The list of educational deprivations of our nation's children is a long one, but the message is clear. The Federal government has to get out of the education business! There is, intentionally, no basis for it in the Constitution.
Schools are failing the children and a radical return to tried-and-true pedagogic methods that educated Americans prior to the 1960s must become the standard again. Power over the schools must be returned to States and to local communities.
The National Education Association, a mainstay of the Democrat Party, must answer for its funding and participation in political campaigns and its influence over curriculum must end.
Until and unless this occurs, every student passing through the current educational system is being indoctrinated, not educated.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba 2005
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