Sunday, August 29, 2010

Our Schools, Dumb and Dumber


By Alan Caruba

As the nation’s children return to elementary and secondary schools, it is increasingly essential that their parents and communities coast to coast realize how poorly served they are and how their learning environment is increasingly tainted by a socialist agenda.

Our nation’s schools have long been factories of boredom, centers of academic incompetence. High school graduation rates have been in a fairly steady decline. At its peak in 1969, the rate was 77 percent. By 2007 it was 68.8 percent.

In mid-August, The Wall Street Journal reported that “New data show that fewer than 25% of 2010 graduates who took the ACT college-entrance exam possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level courses, despite modest gains in college-readiness among U.S. high school students in the last few years.”

What caught my eye was a quote from Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, who said that “if our kids aren’t dropping out physically, they are dropping out mentally.”

The subject of education is important because they are the generation to which the future of the nation must be entrusted and “A recent study found the U.S. ranks only 12th in the percentage of adults aged 25 to 34 who hold college degrees.”

The failure of our nation’s schools, to my mind, coincides with the creation of the U.S. Department of Education in 1979, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter, and which began operating on May 16, 1980.

The word “education” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution and, until the Department of Education came along, it was the responsibility of States and local communities. A government that has managed Conrail since 1976 without once making a profit should not have been trusted with the nation’s educational system.

I opposed No Child Left Behind when former President Bush proposed it and, like former President Reagan, I have long believed the Department of Education should be ended and that responsibility be returned to the States and local communities. The DOE exists today as little more than an obstacle to learning in the classroom and a giant funding machine.

The DOE is pretty much owned by the National Education Association which is not an “association”, but a powerful union, the largest with an estimated 3.2 members. The Democrat Party is heavily indebted to it for funds and campaign workers.

It is doubtful that most Americans know that, for the past several months, the NEA’s website has recommended that its members read “Rules for Radicals” by the late Saul Alinsky, a dedicated communist. If NEA members adopt its political agenda, the enemy will literally be in our nation’s classrooms.

It has not gone unnoticed that Obama’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act”, otherwise known as the “Stimulus Act” enabled the education lobby to suck up billions more from taxpayers.

The Act allocated $5 billion to early learning programs, including the failed Head Start and Early Head Start, child care and programs for children with special needs. It also allocated $77 billion for “reforms” to allegedly strengthen elementary and secondary education, including $48.6 billion to “stabilize” state education budgets. It was a Full Employment Act for teachers and school administrators.

Apparently those billions were not enough because on August 11, President Obama signed a bill authorizing an additional $10 billion to states for education salaries. The Senate was so concerned the money might be spent for other purposes it included a provision that the money could not be used for anything else.

It apparently was not enough because in July the NEA president, Dennis Van Roekel, was calling for a complete overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act, one that is entirely test-based without any notice of the fact that individual children learn at different rates. He didn’t much like the Obama Race to the Top program where schools competed for grants if they demonstrated any improvement in learning and graduation rates. Another $3.4 billion in grants is at yet unspent. Roekel didn’t like the idea of competition.

Clearly, schools that are graduating students ill-prepared to go onto college and that continue to experience high dropout rates are doing something wrong. Putting kids into teach-to-the-test straight jackets is not working.

In a new book by Dr. Tim Elmore, “Generation iY: Our Last Change to Save Their Future”, the author who founded a non-profit organization, Growing Leaders, writes that “I have spoken to employers who told me they will never hire another new graduate. I have heard teachers say they can hardly wait for retirement since they can’t do a thing about kids today. I’ve had parents confide in me that they don’t know what to do with their kids except scream at them.”

Statistics published by UNESCO and the CIA reveal that, while American students spend twelve years in school, ranking them first out of a hundred, they rank fifteenth out of twenty-seven in terms of literacy. Their math and science scores are poor. They poll at 35%, fifth out of seventeen, for their dislike of school, and 61%, second out of seventeen, find school boring.

The schools are failing, the students are being cheated of the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to become productive adults, and the U.S. government thinks that, if it just spends a few more billions, this will change. It won’t.

The federal government must get out of the education business, must devolve responsibility back to the states and local communities, and they in turn should refuse to deal with teachers unions in order to regain control over the education of the nation’s most precious resource, its children.

© Alan Caruba, 2010

11 comments:

ThinWomanTryingToGetOut said...

To any one who agrees with this post, I say put our money where you mouth is.
"Tax cuts!" You say...and so there were. Now we cannot afford to pay GOOD teachers what they are worth in order to keep them in the educational system rather than leaving to find a more lucrative job. Now we get the less passionate who just need a job. I realize there are exceptions to this rule, I've met some and I know a few quite well.
Music and the creative arts are cut while money is dumped into sports programs. If we don't feed our children's creativity, we lose. It is that simple.
Children are taught memorization and rules. There is no creativity because there are so few creative teachers.
We say how important education is, but there are way too many hypocrites out there: uninvolved in their children's education, expectations of the schools to raise our children, expectations for excellent education but we don't want to PAY for it. Where is the money supposed to come from??? In California, the biggest problem is Proposition 13 from the 70's.
I was a junior high school student when it passed and I've watched over the years, as all the wonderful programs I enjoyed and learned from have been cut, chopped, hacked and maimed.
Maybe we do need to take long, hard look at the DOE and what they are and are not doing for education in our country, we also need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and reassess our values.
Just what are we worshiping - God? no. Humanity? absolutely not. What then? The almighty Dollar.
As long as we value money over everything else in the world - and are willing to do whatever it takes to obtain it - we will continue on this destructive path.
All of the mess we are in in this grand country of ours comes down to the worship of money.
We need to get back to more meaningful values - family, caring for one another as much as we care about ourselves, valuing life more than material possessions.
We've lost our way and frankly, I'm tired of hearing what the far far left and the far far right think about all that's happening. I'd like to hear what those of us in the thick of it have to say. Those of us intelligent enough to organize without creating "mob mentality." Those of us who are less affected by the in group/out group need to belong to something. Those of us who care and can see the bigger picture that has no "simple truth" with a "simple solution" There isn't one, not with so many people with so many different viewpoints. But there are many things we can agree upon...let's find those and begin the work.
Nothing fires me up more than the issue of our education system and the stupidity of the finger pointers.

ThinWomanTryingToGetOut said...

To any one who agrees with this post, I say put our money where you mouth is.
"Tax cuts!" You say...and so there were. Now we cannot afford to pay GOOD teachers what they are worth in order to keep them in the educational system rather than leaving to find a more lucrative job. Now we get the less passionate who just need a job. I realize there are exceptions to this rule, I've met some and I know a few quite well.
Music and the creative arts are cut while money is dumped into sports programs. If we don't feed our children's creativity, we lose. It is that simple.
Children are taught memorization and rules. There is no creativity because there are so few creative teachers.

ThinWomanTryingToGetOut said...

We say how important education is, but there are way too many hypocrites out there: uninvolved in their children's education, expectations of the schools to raise our children, expectations for excellent education but we don't want to PAY for it. Where is the money supposed to come from??? In California, the biggest problem is Proposition 13 from the 70's.
I was a junior high school student when it passed and I've watched over the years, as all the wonderful programs I enjoyed and learned from have been cut, chopped, hacked and maimed.
Maybe we do need to take long, hard look at the DOE and what they are and are not doing for education in our country, we also need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and reassess our values.
Just what are we worshiping - God? no. Humanity? absolutely not. What then? The almighty Dollar.
As long as we value money over everything else in the world - and are willing to do whatever it takes to obtain it - we will continue on this destructive path.
All of the mess we are in in this grand country of ours comes down to the worship of money.
We need to get back to more meaningful values - family, caring for one another as much as we care about ourselves, valuing life more than material possessions.
We've lost our way and frankly, I'm tired of hearing what the far far left and the far far right think about all that's happening. I'd like to hear what those of us in the thick of it have to say. Those of us intelligent enough to organize without creating "mob mentality." Those of us who are less affected by the in group/out group need to belong to something. Those of us who care and can see the bigger picture that has no "simple truth" with a "simple solution" There isn't one, not with so many people with so many different viewpoints. But there are many things we can agree upon...let's find those and begin the work.
Nothing fires me up more than the issue of our education system and the stupidity of the finger pointers.

Alan Caruba said...

I think, if you check into it, that US students per capita are the recipients of more dollars than anywhere else in the world. Millions are poured into schools and the results speak for themselves.

More money? I think not. Granted, it is a new era with new challenges, but earlier generations were able to teach the 3 R's with far less money and far more enthusiasm.

Ronbo said...

Before this country had public (government) schools and education was a private affair, we produced Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Abe Lincoln.

After the creation of public schools we produced Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama.

I rest my case.

Kerry said...

I had to check out the NEW site when you said it recommends teachers read Rules for Radicals. Indeed, I found it here http://www.nea.org/tools/17231.htm.

But there is hope. Check out the teachers disgusted by the recommendation on this page http://www.nea.org/tools/10400.htm including the NEA response on 8/13/10 to them:

To those who have expressed anger at us recommended books by Saul Alinsky, GO SCREW YOURSELVES! We couldn't care less what you think. We have the money and the power to do as we wish. If you don't want your kids to "accidently" fail classes in coming years then SHUT YOUR MOUTHS.

erwin said...

1566er"Our schools, Dumd and Dumber' is best understood
within the propoganda of schoolslaying off thousands of teachers...

Why not?

Has not American industry lost enough jobs? Why should the Ed racket not face the same tune?

Where did these thousands of jobs come from in the first place? 50 years ago
the public schools HAD competition with the private schools - until the public schools discovered the beauty of the zero-sum game. This is the game that's been plyed with all the new construction, the excessive wages and unfounded policies and programs which all do one thing - WASTE A LOT OF THE TAXPAYERS MONEY!

Which is the real purpose of new schools, high wages and lousy programs. o we have anything to show for ANY of the TAJ MAHALS built over the last 25 years - TAJ MAHALS calling themselves schools. As MR. Caruba points out, the results have not just been stagnant, but have declined.

OH, but why was there never an outcry from the politicans when private schools had to close, because people couldn't afford high property taxes and tuition?

Whiskey Jim said...

Beautifully written article sir.

I've hired hundreds (more than a thousand?) of people in the last 25 years. Given the choice between a single mother with a community college degree and a newly minted college grad, I take the single mom every time. She's accustomed to hard work and is more emotionally stable.

I no longer believe dissolving the federal department of education is enough to solve the education problem. Technology and the world is moving too swiftly for any bureaucracy to monopolize anything, much less education.

In a world of mass customization, and falling prices due to productivity gains, only government programs (every one) face rising costs. They will bankrupt us. IN the case of education they will bankrupt us economically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

Privatizing education would also have one more benefit. Within 20 years, socialism and progressivism would be dead.

Rich Kozlovich said...

Whiskey Jim,

Well said.

cabby said...

One of the scariest true stories I've heard recently about schools was from a friend who's daughter has two school age boys.
When they went back to school last fall they had to put all their school supplies into a large basket in the class room so that everyone could share and those who didn't have supplies could help themselves.
From the ridiculous to the sublime is what passes for schooling in many places. This same school requires parents to take turns helping out in the class room. We're spending thousands of dollars per student for indoctrination, collectivism and free helpers for teachers. I agree Washington needs to get out of education and we need to start changing school boards locally to get rid of these incompetent socialist idiots. Instead of trying to make all students college ready we should be making those who don't want to go to college, life ready. Many a good living is being made by Electricians, carpenters and others. I do agree the arts and music should be part of any curriculum but those are the things they always threaten to cut first.

cabby said...

Whiskey Jim said, "Privatizing education would also have one more benefit. Within 20 years, socialism and progressivism would be dead."

That's why socialist don't want it and that's one reason we should leave no stone unturned to get it.