The charade of education reform
By Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld
When we saw President George Bush and Sen. Ted Kennedy on television billing
and cooing over the new education bill, fittingly called "No Child Left Behind,"
we knew that the reform is as phony as all the previous reforms that were supposed
to leave no child behind. Bush gave the impression that he had to twist arms to
get the Democrats to spend more money on education.
How do we know that the new reform bill is a sham? Because the federal government
will be giving money to the same people who have caused the problem.
These are the same people, or their disciples, who implemented the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was supposed to help the poor and culturally
deprived kids learn to read through Title One. Thirty-seven years and $100 billion
later, the kids are doing worse today than they were in 1965.
How could so much money result in so much failure? Easy, spend the money on fattening
the education establishment and blame the failure on the kids.
Bush, of course, is making some kind of an effort to change that. Since he strongly
believes that every child can learn, he is putting more blame on the schools for
failure to teach than on the kids for failing to learn. He made that very clear
in the speech he gave after signing the bill:
When we find poor performance, a school will be given time and incentives
and resources to correct their problems. A school will be given time to try
other methodologies, perhaps other leadership, to make sure that people can
succeed. If, however, schools don't perform, if, however, given the new resources,
focused resources, they are unable to solve the problem of not educating their
children, there must be real consequences.
So, again, children are at the mercy of their schools and not guaranteed a decent
education. They will be experimented on until the school can actually discover how
to teach reading, writing and arithmetic, as if that were the equivalent of finding
a cure for cancer.
What Bush doesn't realize is that it's impossible to deal rationally with a system
that is so irrational. Thus, while the president may have the best of intentions,
his desire to make public schools more effective by throwing more money at them
will inevitably fail. After all, he's only going to be around for seven more years
at best. But the education establishment will still be there doing what it does
best – dumbing down the American people.
The system is rotten to the core and has to be done away with. It can't be saved
by more money because the education establishment will not change its philosophy,
which is the obstacle to the needed changes.
For example, the present configuration of the classroom based on "progressive"
ideology is chaotic and totally non-conducive to intellectual or academic achievement.
But there is no possibility of going back to the kind of classroom in which America's
greatest generation learned. And yet, that is the only way to "save" public education.
No rational human being can accept the present classroom configuration and expect
anything but intellectual confusion and academic failure. Yet, most parents and
teachers accept that classroom as an absolute given.
Naturally, that classroom is perfect for the progressive curriculum being taught:
whole language, invented spelling, the new math, social studies. It is said that
the new reform bill will get phonics back into the primary classroom. The president
said, "Every school has a job to do. And that's to teach the basics and teach them
well. If we want to make sure no child is left behind, every child must learn to
Funny, back in the days when I was going to school, the federal government did
not have to spend billions of dollars to make sure that every child learned to read.
The teachers knew how to teach children to read. It was as simple as that. Most
primary teachers today don't.
In our classrooms, the desks were bolted to the floor, there was no speaking
out of turn, the floors were immaculate, the teacher maintained discipline knowing
that she had the backing of the principal. She taught everyone the same thing and
used the most rational methods of teaching improved over centuries of experience.
There was no Mickey Mouse, no stupid cartoons papering the walls. There was a portrait
of George Washington.
There is no chance that the classroom that produced the great results of yesteryear
will be restored. The present confusion will persist even though it has caused the
epidemic of attention deficit disorder that requires over 4 million children to
be drugged daily with Ritalin.
What this latest reform actually does is accelerate the takeover of public education
by the federal government. And that is why the liberals just love it. When George
Miller of California, socialist to the core, thinks it's the greatest thing since
sliced bread, you have to wonder what indeed is in the bill's 1,000 pages. At this
moment, I’m trying to get a copy. But I'm not holding my breath.