Monday, March 01, 2010

From ‘No Child Left Behind’ to ‘Too Big to Fail’

Obama's idea for "reform" is more centralization. He's essentially looking to bail out failing public schools in the same way he bailed out AIG and the automakers. Real accountability -- that is, accountability to taxpayers -- and choice are nowhere to be found

By Ben Boychuk []

President Barack Obama has bailed out banks, mortgage lenders, and automakers. Now, with his proposed overhaul of No Child Left Behind, he wants to bail out failing, union-dominated, government-run schools. That’s a strategy for encouraging failure. Just as bad businesses should be allowed to dissolve or restructure and let better ones take their place, bad schools should be replaced by better ones. Real, universal choice—not more federal mandates and centralization—is the way to make that happen.

The president outlined his ideas for revamping No Child Left Behind the other day at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, DC. “If a university, state, or school district begins preparing educators to teach to higher standards, we’ll give them the support that they need,” Obama said. “And to make sure that we’re delivering for our kids, we’re launching a competition to reward states that join together to develop the highest-quality, cutting-edge assessments required to measure progress; and we’ll help support their implementation.”

Although the president uses words such as “competition,” “innovation,” and “cutting edge,” it’s not clear he is using the dictionary definitions of those words. What was clear from Obama’s remarks is that he intends to centralize education decisions even more. Under the Obama plan the federal government would dictate what schools may teach, or they’ll be denied their share of $14.5 billion in Title I money intended for poor and minority districts.

Obama’s proposals resemble the same old top-down requirements that have burdened schools for years without raising student achievement. Taxpayers in every state, whether they benefit or not, pay for programs such as Title I. And although it’s true that federal money always comes with strings attached, Obama’s “reforms” would explicitly require states to comply with the new rules or never see a dime of their tax money again.

That isn’t so different from other Obama administration policies. The president’s $4 billion Race to the Top program told states what did and didn’t count as education innovation. If state legislatures didn’t comply, they would lose out on federal funds.

Obama’s new twist is that the federal government would certify public schools’ curriculum, for the first time ever. Understand what that means. Federal bureaucrats would dictate what children will read and how long they will read it. Local school administrators would become mere federal apparatchiks, regardless of who signs their paychecks. Locally elected school boards would be obsolete. Parents would have fewer and fewer choices for educating their kids.

For all of the talk about “accountability,” the only accountability that matters—elected officials’ accountability to taxpayers—would simply fade away.

Meantime, as the president, federal education officials, and Congress weigh how to nationalize the schools most effectively, they’ve just finished off the District of Columbia’s popular and effective Opportunity Scholarship Program. Students in the DC voucher program have shown consistently high marks on standardized tests and have enjoyed greater safety than their peers in DC’s failing schools. An evaluation published in February by the U.S. Education Department pronounced the program a success, noting a $7,500 scholarship was more cost-effective than the $15,000 DC public schools spend per pupil.

Unfortunately for 1,900 low-income, predominantly African-American children who were the program’s main beneficiaries, vouchers are the bête noire of powerful, politically connected teacher unions, so the program had to be killed.

That’s a shame, and not just for the kids who will be consigned to dangerous, “too-big-to-fail” public schools. The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program offered a model for real reform and individual empowerment. Obama could have embraced and encouraged other states to adopt similar scholarship programs. Instead, he intends to give even more power to bureaucrats and teacher unions. That’s a bailout that will cost the nation for decades to come.

Article received by email. Ben Boychuk is managing editor of School Reform News

Billy Graham trumped by Bill Ayers as conservative college drifts Left

There’s hardly an evangelical who doesn’t know about Wheaton College. Alma Mater of the Reverend Billy Graham, Wheaton boasts a student body of superior intellect and an education rivaling much of the Ivy League. Wheaton College graduates can boast of presidential speech writers and Speakers of the United States House of Representatives along with doctors and executives and professors and missionaries and pastors across the globe.

But Wheaton is different. Founded by an anti-slavery father and son, Jonathan and Charles Blanchard, Wheaton was established as a chain in the Underground Railroad to help runaway slaves. Wheaton’s distinctive has always been to educate students not only with knowledge but with wisdom. All truth is God’s truth. The knowledge of God brings greater understanding, not less … the acknowledgement of Him brings order from chaos in science, mathematics and economic systems. To be a Christ follower can bring the highest of intellectual pursuits, not the Bible thumping ignorance Hollywood would portray.

So imagine the dismay of many to learn that, in an effort to educate its students, Wheaton has moved to the left, so much so that in a survey by the Wheaton Record, 60 percent of its faculty voted for President Barack Obama, the most pro-abortion, pro-homosexual agenda, spiritually confused president the nation has ever elected.

How can this be? Perhaps much of it can be attributed to a movement widely embraced by the campus known as “social justice.” In its truest form, justice is synonymous with Christian teaching. Why else would Christians through the ages have left the comfort of their home and culture to go to remote villages and treat the sick and preach the “good news” of a universal savior, Jesus Christ. Why would the William Wilberforces and the American abolitionists have sacrificed so much to eliminate the slave trade? Why would most hospitals trace their beginnings to founders compelled by their faith to treat the sick? Soup kitchens … homeless shelters … inner city missions the same? Why if not for the cause of justice?

But as is often the case for the Left, words are co-opted and meanings changed. To be “gay” is to be homosexual. To abort a baby is to exercise “choice” and to exercise “social justice” is to identify the oppressed and the oppressors and define all of history past and present as a series of injustices. Whites oppress blacks … even 6-year-old white children are intrinsically racist. Big business oppresses the working man…even business owners who are honest and generous. To be successful in business is to oppress and the score must be evened to obtain justice. Heterosexuals oppress homosexuals with no allowance for moral objection. According to this definition of “social justice,” the oppressor and the oppressed must be identified and actions taken accordingly.

In the current document known as the “conceptual framework” of the education department at Wheaton College which must be endorsed by each of its faculty, the thinkers cited include among others, the father of the social justice movement, Brazilian Marxist, Paulo Freire and former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. Just a glimpse at Freire’s foundational treatise “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” will clearly display his sources: Marx, Lenin and revolutionary murderers Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro and Che Guevera (see, “Pedagogy of the Oppressor,” March 28, 2009, in National Review by Sol Stern).

Professor Bill Ayers, co-founder of the Weather Underground, wanted the violent overthrow of the United States Government. Now elevated as a teacher of teachers, Ayers publicly states he has no regrets for his violence and only wished he had done more. The overthrow of the capitalist society was the goal of all these men and violence was their method. Today’s radicals condense their rage into college curricula under the guise of “social justice.” The method is more cunning, but the goal no less sinister.

Why would Wheaton College embrace such a philosophy? “…these are people you can learn from because they’re going to teach us Christians that maybe we have some blind spots here, that we’ve been oblivious to certain areas of injustice,” said President Duane Litfin.

Dr. Jillian Lederhouse, chairman of the department of education defended the conceptual framework by saying “we don’t teach our students to be afraid on an ideology as long as we give them a critical perspective. We do not have a list of people we do not read. Our goal is to produce a thinking Christian teacher.” And that is as it should be in an institution of higher learning, except for one thing. Lederhouse went on to admit that the people who were foundational to Wheaton’s conceptual framework were all on the far left.

There is deep concern by Wheaton graduates over the current trajectory at Wheaton. They are lobbying the board and the administration to make the deep changes necessary to pull Wheaton back from academic fads that threaten its future and guide it back to its true foundations, the wisdom of the ages displayed beautifully at the entrance to the campus: “For Christ and His Kingdom.”


Independence for schools within months of Tory win

Hundreds of the best state schools will be allowed to break free of local council control within months under Conservative plans being outlined today. They will be able to convert into semi-independent academies [charter schools] as early as September this year if the Tories win the General Election, it is revealed. The move would allow England’s most successful schools to expand or take over poor performing schools nearby.

The announcement will be made at the start of a week in which the Tories will attempt to set the educational agenda ahead of the General Election. On Wednesday, Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, will address the first parents and teachers seeking to set up their own primaries and secondaries as part of the Tories’ “free schools” system. Under plans, organisations angered by poor standards of state education will be given powers to establish schools to address local demand.

And tomorrow, the Conservatives will outline proposals to toughen up the teaching of mathematics and science – subjects seen as vital to the creation of a highly-skilled future workforce needed to drive the economy.

The announcements will be made as the parents of 600,000 children prepare to find out today which state secondary school they have got into this year. As many as one-in-six are expected to miss out on their first choice while around five per cent will be rejected from up to six schools. The Tories claim Labour has failed to create enough decent school places – forcing thousands of families to accept unpopular comprehensives often miles from their home.

Mr Gove will announce that a new education Bill will be published within days of a Conservative government sweeping away restrictions on the creation of new schools. It will remove the power of councils to “veto” the opening of academies – independent state schools run free of local bureaucrats. The Bill – expected to become law by the end of July – would allow top schools to win academy status before the start of the next academic year. It will also grant struggling schools similar powers to become academies under the leadership of top head teachers to drive improvements.

The announcements will be made in a speech to the heads of more than 150 outstanding schools in Westminster. Mr Gove said: “Unless we act now our children will lose out in the global race for knowledge. If we win the election, we will act within days to raise standards. “We will immediately change the law so we can set hundreds of good schools free from political interference. We will enable them to reopen as academies this September. “We will also immediately let them take over struggling schools so we can get great heads and teachers into struggling schools. It is vital that we rapidly create a new generation of independent, smaller state schools run by teachers who know the children's names. “We cannot afford another five years of falling down the international league tables for education.”


1 comment:

jimmy said...

The new Constitution does not set age limits: it determines that education is compulsory, aiming at providing the necessary structure to the development of the students potential as an element of selffulfillment, training for work, and conscious exercise of citizenship.