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Don't fund the federal education system. End it
By Alan Caruba
In his brilliant book, "The Underground History of American Education", John Taylor Gatto, asks, "Do you think class size, teacher compensation, and school revenue have much to do with education quality? If so, the conclusion is inescapable that we are living in a golden age. From 1955 to 1991, the US pupil/teacher ratio dropped 40 percent, the average salary of teachers rose 50 percent (in real terms) and the annual expense per pupil, inflation adjusted, soared 35 percent."
Gatto, who had taught in New York State's schools for three decades, came to fame in the early 1990s when he wrote an essay that appeared in The Wall Street Journal entitled "I Quit, I Think." He was, at the time, the New York State Teacher of the Year. He said, "Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents."
"In 30 years of teaching kids rich and poor I almost never met a learning disabled child, hardly ever met a gifted and talented one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths, created by human imagination. They derive from questionable values we never examine because they preserve the temple of schooling." He went on to say, "We don't need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it."
"Ordinary people send their children to get smart," said Gatto, "but what modern schooling teaches is dumbness."
Something is desperately wrong when a child in the fourth grade cannot read well and is ignorant of the most fundamental facts of U.S. history. In April of this year, the National Assessment of Education Process, a report released by the US Department of Education, revealed that the nation's fourth-graders have made "no substantial progress on federal mandated reading tests during the Clinton administration." From 1992 to 2000, the average scores on the NAEP reading exams had remained "flat." Worse, the gap between the nation's best readers and its most struggling readers has continued to widen.
Education Secretary, Rod Paige, said bluntly, "We can no longer use the social experiences or conditions of children as the excuse for the low performances of children. After spending $125 billion of Title I money over 25 years, we have little to show for it."
There are now seven different versions of H.R. 1, a bill that would spend $5 billion more on the same failed system! This is a noxious piece of legislation that should be scrapped along with the entire US Department of Education. The reason for this is that the Department is the reason for the failure of our schools.
There are mixed signals coming out of the Bush Administration on education. They have the wrong-headed notion that the federal government should impose a national curriculum and national testing standards--a one-size-fits-all approach--on every school child in America. We know this doesn't work. We know that our schools, now totally controlled from Washington, DC, are turning out hundreds of thousands of students who can barely read or write.
When Education Secretary Paige addressed the annual convention of the National Education Association earlier this month, he told the nation's largest teachers union that competition in education is inevitable. "It's tempting to pretend public schools are exempt from the law of supply and demand, " he said. "They are not. This pretension will destroy our system." Some system! It turns out hundreds of thousands of ignorant young people every, single year!
At the same time the Bush Administration, via H.R. 1, is gearing up to spend more money on this failed system, Secretary Paige told the assembled NEA delegates, "For 35 years, we've tried to address our failing schools the same way. We've just given them more money, without focusing on results."
The price tag for the failure of our current education system has been $90 billion dollars since 1990! I will give the Secretary high marks for telling the truth. I give him a failing grade for not understanding that the government has to get out of the business of education.
You can read the US Constitution from start to finish and never find the word "education" in it. That's because the Founding Fathers understood that education, if it was to work, had to be administered at the local level. Generations of early Americans were either home-schooled or received their education in one-room schoolhouses. In the 1700s and 1800s, they were totally literate and knew more about arithmetic, civics, history, literature, and other subjects than today's students!
Samuel Blumenfield, the author of eight books on education, says "Home schoolers are, without question, revolutionary. They are making a clean break with the statist institution of government education. It is government-owned and controlled education which is the very foundation of the secular state, which exerts its power by molding the minds of its youngest citizens to serve the mythical state."
Blumenthal noted that "While religion was the primary moving force behind the early home schoolers, they were also well aware of the academic decline within the public schools, which no longer knew how to teach such basic subjects as reading and arithmetic."
By April 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued a report stating: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre education performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves."
Nothing has changed except that it has gotten worse. The result is that parents who cannot home school their children are asking for charter schools and voucher plans in the hope they can find a school--any school--that can provide their children with a decent education.
Today's parents are astonished to find their children come home from schools that teach them how to use condoms and explain "alternative" forms of sexuality to them. They are loaded up with doomsday environmental propaganda and taught a moral relativism at odds with the religious wisdom that right and wrong does exist in the real world.
They are forbidden to start the day with an act of common prayer and subject to "zero tolerance" programs that won't even permit a student to bring an aspirin for a headache. More than seven million of the students attending school these days have been prescribed mind-altering drugs. Schools have become frightening places filled with bullies, sexual harassment, and even the occasional classmate who kills students or teachers. All discipline is gone from the schools of America.
An estimated 1.2 million American children call mom and dad their controlling educational authorities. They demonstrate success in academic competitions, on national tests, and in college. The response of the Education Mafia has been to threaten those parents with everything, including jail, to force those kids back into the government-run schools. These parents are American heroes.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, 2001
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